A challenge to established academia

A Test of Time - David Rohl

I have always wondered how the historians actually work out the chronologies of some historical periods when the evidence that we have at hand is incredibly scarce. At least in the post Roman European world we have a consistent dating system that allows us to track historical progress (as well as a lot more dated primary sources) but the further back in time we go the less reliable the documents, and the more difficult it becomes to actually date events. However, the archaeological (or should I say academic) community seems to have accepted a specific chronology and pretty much pushed it on to the rest of us.

Thus having been said I would have to congratulate Rohl on going out on a limb and proposing that the current dating system with regards to Ancient Egypt is out by some three hundred years and then to document over the next 800 pages how a readjusted time line makes a lot more sense. Granted, he was not the first to propose this, but unlike Immanual Velikovsky, he does not suggest that there were interplanetary collisions either, but rather he works on the principle that the current method that we are using simply does not align with the evidence at hand.

The problem with this whole three hundred years thing is that when we are looking back on a period that occurred about three thousand years ago, a three hundred year mistake does not actually seem like much. Personally, depending on your view of Ancient History, you may think that this is completely irrelevant, but then if you are thinking along those lines you are probably looking at the wrong book and maybe should go and read something live [book:Divergent] or [book:The Wind-up Bird Chronicle]. However, if you are interested in Ancient History and some new theories as to dating methods then read on.

As I have mentioned, Rohl's belief is that the Hebrew and Egyptian chronologies are out by around 300 years and by readjusting them he creates a chronology that makes a lot more sense. The one date that he uses as a reference point is the Battle of Carchemish, a battle between the Egyptians and the Assyrians (in which the Egyptians lost) that is mentioned in the Bible. From that point Rohl then moves back in time to a point where he believes he has found Joseph's house (as in Joseph and the Technicoloured Dreamcoat) and even a statue of him (though I find the statue a little doubtful).

What I found really interesting about his adjustments is that King Ankenhaten becomes a contemporary of King David (which is why one of the Psalms and one of the Amarna tablets are almost identical), and Rameses is shifted forward in time to come up in line with the Pharaoh Sisak in the bible that loots Jerusalem after the death of King Solomon (and no doubt at this time Rameses was re-establishing Egyptian dominance after a period when they were subject to Israelite rule, which a strong government in the form of King David and King Solomon would have entailed). As for the Exodus, Rohl goes on to demonstrate that by making the Pharaoh of the oppression Rameses (and the only reason they use Rameses is because a store city of the same name is mentioned as being built by the Israelites, which personally I think is ridiculous – why would a Pharaoh name a store city after himself, wouldn't he give his name something a little bit more impressive) the chronology does not work, since the effect that the plagues, and then the Exodus itself, would have had on the Egyptian empire would have been devastating. Rather he flags that the Exodus occurred just prior to the Second Intermediate Period (which makes sense because a close reading of the Exodus account indicates that the Pharaoh of the Oppression is actually the father of the Pharaoh of the Exodus so the Pharaoh of the Oppression would have had to have ruled for at least forty years, which was the period of time that Moses was in exile in the desert).

From a quick glance over Wikipedia it does seem that debate has opened up with regards to the dating of Exodus and the Egyptian Chronology, which suggests that even though initially people thought Velikovsky was a little strange with his ideas, people have come to accept that something on the scale of the Exodus would no doubt have had a huge impact upon the empire, which is flagged by the second intermediary period, since the collapse of the Red Sea pretty much wiped out Egypt's army, leaving them open to invasion.

Obviously one's acceptance of Rohl's new Chronology does also raise matters with regards to the authenticity of the Old Testament, however from a cursory glance at some of his other books (as well as having read this particular book), it is clear that Rohl does accept the Old Testament as a legitimate historical document. Mind you there is some debate as to why the Old Testament (and the Bible as a whole) is held up to greater scrutiny than, say, Ceaser's Diaries, but that is basically because, unlike the Bible, Ceaser does not purport his writings to be at all religious (despite the fact that the Romans did end up elevating him to godhood).

 

I also discuss these theories in my blog post on Exodus: Gods and Kings.

Source: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/955329335