Rohl: An Evaluation

Dave Washburn dwashbur at
Wed Sep 29 10:59:08 EDT 1999

Peter wrote:
> It seems to me that Rohl's thesis can be divided into two. I choose to 
> present them in the opposite order to that which he does:
> 1) He has found (or borrowed from others e.g. Bimson) a number of 
> plausible correspondences between people and events named in the 
> Hebrew Bible (from the time of Jacob to the middle of the Divided 
> Monarchy) and archaeological finds in Egypt and Palestine, which are 
> not generally accepted because the Bible apparently dates these 
> considerably later than the conventional chronologies for Egypt and 
> for Palestinian archaeology.

Yes.  The two major ones he presented that gave me trouble were 
his identification of the tomb of Joseph, and his identification of 
Labayanu (sp?) of the Amarna letters with King Saul.  I thought his 
linguistic arguments there were a little weak.  On the former, as he 
pointed out, the work is continuing and he may well turn out to be 
right.  Time will tell.

> 2) He has found some internal inconsistencies in the conventional 
> chronology of Egypt and other Near Eastern nations, and has developed 
> his own new chronology in the light of these inconsistencies. Perhaps 
> inevitably, in eliminating some inconsistencies he has, according to 
> his critics, introduced new ones. But with this new chronology (which 
> is fairly flexible) the date discrepancies disappear for the 
> correspondences which he has noted between Egypt and Palestine. One 
> noteworthy point here is that, while Rohl is very sceptical about 
> traditional chronologies of Egypt, he generally sticks rigidly to a 
> chronology for the Israelites derived straight from the Biblical text, 
> as interpreted by Thiele.

One of the more informative things in his book for me was his 
explanation of just how much our interpretation of chronology in the 
ANE, including Palestine, depends on Egyptian chronology.  I did 
not realize just how dependent we are on Egypt for the plumblines 
by which to gauge the dates of places, events, pottery and all the 
rest in other parts of the region.  In that sense, it was quite 

I should also point out that, as Rohl himself makes explicit, he 
didn't start this project with a view to vindicating the biblical 
chronology or historicity.  His goal was to follow the historical 
evidence wherever it led, and his view of the biblical chronology 
actually started out in fair agreement with the critical consensus.  
In the course of examining his Egyptian chronology, he began to 
see holes in the chronology of that consensus as well, and 
followed the evidence where he felt it led him.  Throughout this 
thread there has been a constant accusation of fundamentalism, of 
overarching desire to vindicate the Bible, and that is simply not 
true.  He's a historian, nothing more, nothing less.  Historians may 
err, but to accuse one of having ulterior motives without even 
reading him is the worst kind of un-scholarliness.  Whether Rohl 
has interpreted the evidence correctly or incorrectly, he deserves a 
fair hearing and deserves not to be misrepresented or imputed with 
false motives, the same as we all deserve.

Dave Washburn
"Ich veranlassenarbeitenworken mein Mojo."

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