[b-hebrew] Ark of the Covenant

MarianneLuban at aol.com MarianneLuban at aol.com
Fri Aug 20 12:52:08 EDT 2004

In a message dated 8/20/2004 4:43:23 AM Pacific Daylight Time, 
hholmyard at ont.com writes:

> Dear Marianne,
> Thanks for your reply.
> >What about Poti-phera, the priest of On, whose daughter Joseph married?  It
> >is obviously the same name.
> HH: I read the article on Potiphar in the International Standard 
> Bible Encyclopedia, and the author, Gary Pratico, says that the name 
> "is probably an abbreviated form of Potiphera with the loss of the 
> final 'ayin.'" So he essentially agrees with you. The names are quite 
> similar, but in Hebrew Potiphera has an extra consonant and is 
> divided into two words. So there is a clear difference. Since the two 
> names are in the same book, they most probably reflect some sort of 
> difference in the original Egyptian words.
> >  > >   As it happens, such a name was not used in Egypt until the latter
> >  > >part of the Late Period of Egyptian history (1070-378 BCE).
> HH: Pratico agrees with you about this too, as he accepts the current 
> scholarly reconstruction of the name, giving the meaning for 
> Potiphera as "he whom Re has given." However, he states that "one 
> cannot rule out earlier use, since many inscriptions from the time of 
> the Hyksos (approximately Joseph's time) were destroyed."
> >  > HH: First, you are forming the name in Egyptian
> >>  on the basis of the Hebrew.
> >
> >Why blame me?  The consensus is that the name is "P'di-Pre", going by the
> >Petepres of the Septuagint.
> HH: Right, but the Septuagint was translated from the Hebrew over a 
> thousand years after the original Hebrew was written, and was 
> translated by Jews living in Egypt. If they were not familiar with 
> the language used over a thousand years earlier, they may not have 
> transcribed the Hebrew reflection of two ancient Egyptian names 
> correctly into Greek.

That the BOG was written a thousand years before the Septuagint is a huge 
assumption--based on what?  To recap--I said earlier that I found it strange that 
the name of the pharaoh Joseph served was forgotten--but that the names of a 
captain of his guard and the priest of On (Heliopolis) were not.  Why should 
these have even been recalled at all?  A midrash even assigns a name to the 
lady who attempted to seduce Joseph--Zuleika!  I can't even think of a reason why 
it should even have been recalled that the seduction attempt was made on 
Joseph.  What seems more likely is this part was cribbed from an Egyptian 
novel--"The Tale of the Two Brothers", written in the late part of the 19th Dynasty, 
where a farmer's wife lusts after the younger brother of her husband, asks him 
to sleep with her, is rebuffed, and then fixes herself up to look as though 
she had been beaten and raped.  When her husband comes home and asks his wife 
what happened, she tells him "The last one to speak with me was your younger 
brother."  So the younger brother is forced to flee and all kinds of adventures 
follow--with the younger brother ending up becoming king of Egypt by various 
magical means.  But the reason for the scholars of the Septuagint assuming 
"Petepres" is that this was a name still current and had been for the last couple 
of hundred years.  But not before that.  
> >So there is some room > for error there, isn't there? Second, it would be
> >>  hard for me to say that a name had not been used
> >>  in the United States for a two hundred year
> >>  period. So to say that a name that appeared in
> >>  Egypt at a late date could not have been used at
> >>  any time prior to that, a period of thousands of
> >>  years, seems a stretch.
> >
> >Have you studied Egyptian prosopographia?  I have.  Until you do, just 
> trust
> >me. Any Egyptologist would tell you the same.
> HH: I have not studied Egyptian prosopography. However,  I am used to 
> the claims of academics, who sometimes claim to know things they 
> don't know. While the scholarly reconstruction of the name might be 
> true, the claim that the name could not have been used before the 
> late period certainly is questionable.

You cannot compare the kinds of names used in America to those of ancient 
Egypt.  Every Egyptian name was a phrase (unless it was a nickname) and meant 
something.  Every few hundred years a new type of name came into vogue--although 
earlier names continued to be used, as well--up to a point.  Well, I guess the 
same can be said to be true in most cultures.  During the time of Ramesses 
II, for example, a new type of masculine crops up--never before seen.  Perhaps 
it was invented by that king, himself, for his own sons.  An example is 
"Amun-Hr-Khopesh-f", or "Amun is at his right hand".  The names of other gods were 
substituted for Amun.  Later, this "P'di-whatevergod" started--never before 
seen.  And then most men began to be called "P'di-whatevergod".  There could be a 
lot of variations on this name--because there were numerous gods and goddesses 
in Egypt.  
> >Fine with me.  Believe as you like.  I say the names are one and the same. 
> >But how does one being Poti-phera and the other something else make any
> >difference to what I said about the name not being in vogue until 
> >the Late Period?
> HH: The two forms are alike in the Septuagint, but they are not alike 
> in the Hebrew, which is the original. There was some distinction, so 
> that means that you are ruling out two names, even if one is only an 
> abbreviation of the other. I far prefer Pratico's conclusion that a 
> record of the name might have been lost due to an eradication of the 
> records of the Hyksos.

Well, I certainly can't agree with the last sentence--but I am nothing if not 
thorough ;-)
I covered all bases in my own book and here is a footnote I included: 
"Curiously, the name "Potiphar" or "Petepre" comes up one other time in connection 
with Moses.  Two men who were known in legend as magicians in the court of the 
pharaoh and whose names were recalled as "Jannes and Jambres (or Mambres).  It 
is written that their father was named "Balaam the son of Potiphar"."  But, 
okay, I can suggest something.  Just in case the names of the two men *are* 
different, the first can be accounted for.  Because it is written "Potiphar, an 
officer of Pharaoh", perhaps it means exactly that--in Egyptian.  "an officer of 
Pharaoh" can possibly be "P3-wdw-pr-a3" (the officer of pharaoh) and could 
very well have been vocalized "Potiphar".  But nothing like that can account for 
the name of the priest of On.  So we are stuck with that one, I'm afraid.  As 
for the "records of the Hyksos"--no name there, had there been such a record, 
would have begun with the masculine article "p3", which is the beginning of 
all those names like "Petepres" (as rendered in Greek).  The reason is this 
article was never used at this time in writing.  The article was "pn", then.  Few 
texts survive from the Hyksos time but there is one very interesting one 
called the Papyrus Rhind.  It is a document from the Delta and actually tells of 
the onslaught of the Egyptians on the Hyksos strongholds.  In it, a certain 
Theban prince, probably Ahmose, is called "pn rsy" or "the one of the south".  
See?  Now the article "p3" is derived from this "pn" and reflects how it came to 
be pronounced at some point (because Egyptian /n/ was always a weak phoneme). 
 And yet, this article, "p3", never appears in any Egyptian text until the 
time of Akhenaten of the 18th Dynasty.
The reason for this was is because Akhenaten was the type of guy who believed 
in "let it all hang out".  He allowed scenes involving members of the royal 
family to be executed in the iconography that had never been seen before.  No 
one had ever drawn or carved an Egyptian pharaoh kissing anybody--but at this 
time and only at this time--it was shown.  Not only that, but the queen of 
Egypt and her children are actually depicted sitting on the pharaoh's lap!  The 
same thing happened in the writing.  One can hear the pharaoh saying to his 
scribes "Look, we say p3 now instead of pn--so we might as well start writing it 
like that.  What's the difference?"
So it happened, and that is when "p3" began to be written and continued to be 
as long as the Egyptian language lasted.  Yes, even in Coptic.


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