Pharaohs and Kings Confused: David Rohl’s New Chronology -- By: Gary A. Byers

Journal: Bible and Spade (Second Run)
Volume: BSPADE 10:2 (Spring 1997)
Article: Pharaohs and Kings Confused: David Rohl’s New Chronology
Author: Gary A. Byers


Pharaohs and Kings Confused:
David Rohl’s New Chronology

Gary A. Byers

Over the past two years, British historian David Rohl has captured the imagination of many Bible students and at the same time created quite a stir among scholars. Through his book Pharaohs and Kings: A Biblical Quest (Crown, 1995) and a video by the same name, Rohl has attempted to completely overhaul ancient Near Eastern chronology. His purpose is to tie together Biblical personages and events to similar sounding references in ancient historical records. To bolster his case, he quotes a number of experts in their respective fields of Egyptian, Mesopotamian, Assyrian and Israelite history.

While the scope of his work is vast and hinges on a number of technical issues, it can be summarized as follows. Rohl proposed a realignment of ancient Near Eastern chronologies, shifting dates up to 350 years. His work attempts to fill the gaps we presently have in ancient chronologies, allowing the identification of Biblical personages with ancient representations known from other sources.

The material Rohl focuses on is quite technical. His case centers on dropping the 21st Egyptian Dynasty (1069–945 BC) into being contemporary with Egypt’s 22nd Dynasty (945–715 BC). This allows him to connect names and events from ancient history with similar sounding Biblical events and people, even though they were separated by as many as 350 years.

Admittedly, Rohl’s idea is quite appealing to those frustrated by the lack of connection between Biblical and secular history. Conservatives want to tie Biblical events to ancient history, and the connections he makes sound reasonable and offer some interesting possibilities. Due to the technical nature of his work, however, few are capable of responding authoritatively. Consequently, his work has received widespread media attention and has become popular among conservatives. But all is not well in Rohl-land!

One of the experts who appeared in Rohl’s videos is Egyptologist Dr. Kenneth Kitchen, a conservative evangelical scholar. Kitchen says he was interviewed in his Liverpool England home by Rohl on May 17, 1995, for seven hours. Kitchen only appears in Rohl’s three-video series for a total of about three minutes. Professor of Egyptology at the University of Liverpool, Kitchen was not at all happy with Rohl’s finished product.

Sour grapes? Probably not. Angry that he did not get more air time? I doubt it.

Kitchen later said he had great reservations about giving the interview because he understood Rohl’s arguments all too well. “The easy way out,” he said, “was simply to s...

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