The Egyptian Name Of Joseph -- By: Harold M. Wiener

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 068:269 (Jan 1911)
Article: The Egyptian Name Of Joseph
Author: Harold M. Wiener


The Egyptian Name Of Joseph

Harold M. Wiener

Speaking of the age of Solomon, Dr. Carpenter writes: “To this age, likewise, does Brugsch on contemporary monumental grounds assign the origin of such names as Zaphenath-paneah and Potiphera Gen. 41:45, while Lagarde believes them to be still later, ascribing them to the time of Psammetichus I and Necho, 663–595 B. C.”1 Similarly Professor Barton has

recently written: “Brugsch and Steindorf had pointed out years ago that the Egyptian names which occur in Genesis, such as Potiphar and Zaphenathpaneah, are not found in Egyptian earlier than XXII dynasty, or the tenth century B. c. Professor W. Max Müller informs me that Egyptological research during the last twenty years confirms this statement.”2 It is therefore well to point out that Egyptologists are by no means agreed on this point. In any case it would be a mere argument from silence, but Professor Naville, the distinguished excavator of Pithom, has recently argued strongly against the view set out above.

His paper “The Egyptian Name of Joseph “will be found on pages 203–210 of the “Proceedings of the Society of Biblical Archæology” for June, 1910. Here I can give only some of the less technical points.

It appears that there are at least three rival explanations of Joseph’s name in the field. Professor Naville himself thinks it should be translated “the head” or “the master of the school of learning,” or of “the Sacred College.” Professors Spiegel-berg and Steindorff make it “the god speaks and he [the newborn] lives”; Professor Mahler, “the feeder of the land, who gives life.” This in itself should be enough to give those who are not Egyptologists pause. Professor Naville states some of his less technical arguments as follows, and I think that every reader must be impressed by them: —

“It seems to me that the fault of Prof. Spiegelberg’s translation Is that It Is based on a wrong principle, viz., that transcriptions from one language to another are made according to rules fixed by philology. In this respect I believe that the ancients did not differ from us, and that difficulties which occur to us in relation to the past may often be solved by comparison with the procedure of the present day.

“Let us think of what happens for instance, when a French or English name Is written in Arabic by an Arab writer; or let us look at the way the names of Egyptian railway stations or telegraph offices are spelt when they are written in Roman Charac...

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