Israel Seen From Egypt: Understanding The Biblical Text From Visuals And Methodology -- By: Kenneth A. Kitchen

Journal: Tyndale Bulletin
Volume: TYNBUL 42:1 (NA 1991)
Article: Israel Seen From Egypt: Understanding The Biblical Text From Visuals And Methodology
Author: Kenneth A. Kitchen


Israel Seen From Egypt:
Understanding The Biblical Text From Visuals And Methodology

Kenneth A. Kitchen

This study is in two parts: (i) Egypt as a source of illustration, primarily visual, serving as illuminative background to the biblical text; (ii) Egyptian (and allied) documentation as an exemplary (even, admonitory) paradigm in considering historical methodology and the Old Testament.

I Illustration

1. Visual Illustration.

Clearly, ancient (and sometimes modern) Egypt is the logical place in which to look for possible illustrations of those passages of the Old Testament set in Egypt or concerned with Egypt. One thinks immediately of the Joseph narrative and the account of the Exodus, besides later and briefer episodes. It is relatively easy to leaf through the publications of brightly-painted or carved Egyptian private tomb-chapels of the Old, Middle and New Kingdoms, c. 2600-1070 BC (later material being sparser), and find scenes and details which, in principle, exhibit items identical in subject-matter with features mentioned in the Old Testament. However, this tends to be done on rather haphazard lines, without much regard for the relative dates of the parallels adduced not to mention the enormous time-gap between the biblical text and modern parallels. Such haphazard selection of illustrations can be found in major modern compendia.1

While it is true that there are vast continuities across time, both during antiquity and from antiquity to the present, yet it is surely preferable to match as closely as possible, in time, the biblical and external data. Thus, for examples of the dress of Western Semites of the patriarchal age (still early 2nd millenium

BC, despite unjustified carping), it is wholly proper to refer to the well-known wall-painting at Beni-Hasan showing just such people at that general period (19th century BC), but not to Egyptian scenes of Canaanites of the later 2nd millenium BC (Eighteenth Dynasty and later), when fashions in dress had changed.2

However, it is often just not possible to achieve an exact time-match; nor is it always absolutely essential. The famous brickmaking scene in the tomb-chapel of the vizier Rekhmire, c. 1450 BC, is universally used to illustrate the brickmaking episodes in Exodus 1:11-14 and 5:6-19 in a milieu of up to 200 years later (early Ramesside). But there is no other such scene extant, hence for illustration we have no choice in the matter.You must have a subscription and be logged in to read the entire article.
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