[b-hebrew] Shishak

Peter Kirk peterkirk at qaya.org
Thu Aug 26 16:29:40 EDT 2004

On 26/08/2004 20:10, MarianneLuban at aol.com wrote:

> ...
>>That is not the point. I am quoting Rohl's book as a convenient source 
>>of data which needs explanation. If Rohl or his associates have found 
>>data which seems to contradict "established" Egyptology, this 
>>establishment needs to provide explanations for this data, and not write 
>>it off by ad hominem arguments against its source.
>But it is the point.  Egyptologists are learned in the field.  The is a good 
>reason why Rohl is popular with those who are not.  Think of Rohl as a kind of 
>lawyer.  He is articulate and knows how to make a good case.  Someone who 
>does not know the law could be swayed by his arguments quite easily.  But a judge 
>or another attorney can spot the weaknesses in the case.  They know the 
>precedents and can tell when another lawyer is making a point that "will not wash" 
>within that framework.  You may think this is "apples and oranges"--but it 
>isn't.  Precedents are set only in unestablished law but the arguments for them 
>becoming precedents still have to be based on established law and deemed to be 
>sound and, of course, the buck stops at the highest court--or with congress, so
>metimes. ...

This analogy doesn't work. There are I suppose two kinds of legal 
decisions, one where judges have to decide on how something fits in with 
existing law (e.g. was X breaking the law when he shot Y, or could it 
have been justified e.g. as self-defence?) and the other where they have 
to decide on the facts (e.g. did X in fact shoot Y?). In the former type 
of decision, what the judges decide on the basis of legal precedents is 
a binding decision, unless overturned in a higher court. In the latter 
type, the judges may make a decision, based on good evidence or bad, 
they may even rule inadmissible the best evidence, but whatever decision 
they come to it doesn't change the actual facts: even if they declare X 
guilty of the shooting, even if he is sent to the electric chair for it, 
if in fact X did not do it the facts are not changed by the verdict.

Similarly with Rohl's datings. Just because he operates outside the 
framework and his evidence is ignored or declared inadmissible by the 
establishment, that doesn't change the facts. The date of (to take 
something which incontrovertably took place at a single definite time) 
the accession of Rameses II took place at a definite date, a definite 
number ot years before the present. The date given by the establishment 
may be right (at least approximately), or Rohl's date may be right (at 
least approximately), or both may be wrong.

>... By the same token, an Egyptologist has to operate within a 
>framework, too--that is rely on previous scholarship--points of which have been 
>extensively argued in the journals and books until a consensus has been reached.  
>This can be a very lengthy process, indeed, and is receives the contributions of 
>various specialists in aspects of the field.  However, in the instance of 
>Rohl, he has chosen an area where there is no consensus, that being the Bible vis 
>a vis Egyptian history.  Unfortunately for him, though, he has elected to 
>alter ANE chronology, a matter that has received very much consideration.  
>Therefore, unless his arguments are very excellent, they are bound to be rejected 
>within the framework. ...

Yes, but that does not mean that his arguments are wrong.

>... But Rohl knew that when he went in.  Your statement that 
>the "establishment" is required to make sound arguments to disprove him if 
>they do not agree with his assertions is incorrect.  If Rohl wants to set new 
>precedents, it is *he* who is required to make the sound arguments, not vice 
>versa.  If not, he loses in the lower court or it is simply a matter of "case 
>dismissed" because of a brief that relies on an untenable premise.  It is not 
>encumbent upon Egyptology to address any and all "crackpot theories". ...

Rohl may fail to convince the establishment, but still be right. This 
may be another case like the Copernican revolution. Decades after 
Copernicus, the academic and religious establishments persecuted Galileo 
for holding to Copernicus' conception of the universe, and for writing 
about it in popular books (and not only in Latin). Galileo never did 
prove that he was right in their court. But he was right, and gradually 
even the establishments were forced to accept that.

>... I am not 
>calling Rohl a crackpot because in a certain area he has done well--and that is 
>in dealing with the TIP.  But the TIP is late in Egyptian history and the 
>alteration of its chronology does nothing to change the chronology in retrospect.  
>Only prospectively.  And only by around 140 years. ...

What do you mean? If Rohl has reduced the length of the TIP by 140 
years, and assuming that it has a fixed end date e.g. the Assyrian sack 
of Luxor in 664 BCE, its start must be 140 years later than commonly 
understood. If those 140 years are all in the 22nd dynasty and later, 
that puts Sheshonq I 140 years later than the conventional chronology, 
and so dates his accession around 805 BCE, rather than 945 which is 
Kitchen's date.

>...  No matter what, this 
>still does not make Ramesses II the "Shishak" of the Bible by anybody's math. ...

I am confused again. This certainly implies that Sheshonq I could not 
have been Shishak. I realise that another 200 years, not just 140, have 
to be lost to identify Rameses II with Shishak. Rohl does this as far as 
I can tell by cutting out the 21st dynasty as local rulers and by 
drastically shortening the late 19th and 20th dynasties.

The following part of Rohl's argument is not well known as it is found 
only in passing in his relatively recent "From Eden to Exile". Here I 
report Rohl's words without offering them support.

Rohl argues from Manetho and Papyrus Harris for civil war in Egypt 
following the death of Rameses II in 877 BCE - equating 
Amenophis/Amenophthis son of Rampses with Merenptah. Merenptah was 
forced to flee and meanwhile Amenmesse (= Mose = Osarsiph) competed for 
the thone with Seti II, Siptah and Tausert. Manetho's Sethos son of 
Amenophis is identified with Setnakht, who reestablised centralised rule 
in 865 BCE. Rameses III became his co-regent in 863 BCE, and in the same 
year the Trojan War ended. Rameses III ruled until 832 BCE, followed by 
another civil war in the "Repeating of Births" period (829-820 BCE). And 
this was terminated by Sheshonq I who was crowned in 822 BCE and ruled 
in Bubastis, with Rameses XI (Pi-Ramesse), Psusennes I (Tanis) and 
Pinudjem I (Thebes) subservient to him.

>... All it can do is make the dates assigned to world history higher until the Dark 
>Ages when perspective becomes muddied.  The fact is, we say it is 2004 CE, but 
>nobody really knows exactly what year it is. ...

I don't understand you here. I know there are people who argue that 300 
years of Dark Ages have been added to CE chronology and that Charlemagne 
and his entire era are fictional. Surely you aren't one of them? Or are 
you referring to the Dark Ages at the Bronze Age/Iron Age boundary?

>... You may notice we are 
>discussing Manetho and the viability of what he wrote, but you would be surprised to 
>know just how much of accepted Egyptian chronology is based on him--and the 
>dates given in the Bible, as well.  There is no alternative because the Egyptians 
>did not use a running calendar like the Julian, Gregorian or Hebrew.  Each 
>time a new king was crowned, it was Year One all over again by their civil 
>calendar.  And, if some dynasties happened to be ruling concurrently, so much the 

Understood. I suppose we can put our heads in the sand and use purely 
conventional dates (based on unreliable sources like Manetho and perhaps 
the Bible) with a caveat that these may be inaccurate by a century or 
more either way, and rule out of order anyone who brings evidence which 
might make things more accurate. On this basis Rohl's evidence is 
inadmissible. But is this acceptable scholarship? Well, there certainly 
are reputable Egyptologists e.g. Kitchen trying to give absolute dates, 
so not all agree with this.

But there are alternatives, ways of finding absolute dates. There is the 
kind of comparative method Rohl and many others work with, finding 
synchronisms between different rulers in different areas and so basing 
less secure chronologies on more secure ones. But of course they are 
then all as good as the weakest link. And there are various methods of 
getting absolute dates. There are astronomical data, and Rohl has made 
good use of this, especially a strong case for the fall of Ugarit 
shortly after a rare sunset eclipse of the sun in 1012 BCE - something 
which certainly did not happen at the more conventional date more than 
300 years earlier. Then there are C14 dating and dendrochronology, which 
both seem to have serious problems. And in principle there is data from 
Thera, but since neither an absolute date nor one relative to Egyptian 
chronology are agreed (and there is a possibility that there were two 
separate eruptions), that doesn't get us very far.

I would conclude that the type of approach which Rohl is following 
offers a possible way of getting reliable absolute dates. And so if we 
care about the truth, rather than only about not upsetting the status 
quo, his data and that of other "new chronologists" must be looked at 
very carefully.

Peter Kirk
peter at qaya.org (personal)
peterkirk at qaya.org (work)

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