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chronological revision

Updated on February 23, 2012

The chronology of ancient Egypt is full of gaps, conjecture, misinterpretations and speculation. In addition to the normal idea of a date, plus or minus so many years, it is not always clear in which year a given Pharaoh may have reigned. In one history (Breasted’s Ancient Egyptian Records) Thutmose III comes to the throne before Thutmose II and Hatshepsut, and Thutmose II is co-regent with Thutmose I during the reign of Thutmose III. Archaeologists also complained that they could find no evidence of Israel in Egypt within the chronology found in the Bible.

It was to clarify this situation that Immanuel Velikovsky wrote his Ages In Chaos. This was not his first venture into ancient history. Immanuel Velikovsky was a psychoanalyst who believed that our understanding of the past was flawed by disbelief. He believed that the myths of the classical civilizations contained recollections of real events that were modified into tales that were easy to remember rather than recorded as scientific observations. His first researches were published as Worlds in Collision in 1950. This was not simply an historical revision but questioned astronomical theories of the time, proposing that Venus was a latecomer to the solar system and that the ancient myths recorded both its entry and the resulting displacement of Mars. His ideas were met with disdain and ridicule (even by those scientists who had not read his book), yet now most anomalies in the solar system are explained by recourse to collisions among minor planetary bodies.

Velikovsky followed up this work with Ages in Chaos , a reappraisal of ancient Egyptian chronology bringing it inline with the literal Biblical chronology (it should be noted that Velikovsky was a materialist and that his acceptance of the literal Biblical chronology was not support for a young earth or creationism, young or old). It is this work which most affects Young Earth Chronology as it has been accepted to a great degree by Bible believing Christians including young earthers. This work was concerned entirely with the documentary evidence available, primarily in the el-Armana letters. His conclusion was that the standard ancient Egyptian chronology was off by about 600 years. Thus the 18th dynasty, generally accepted among literalists as being the dynasty of the Exodus, was in fact contemporary with David and Solomon and their successors.

This, however, does not displace the Exodus by 600 years for that event, according to Velikovsky, occurred as the Hyksos were entering Egypt, indeed, the Exodus is the reason for the success of the Hyksos. In the current chronology the Hyksos entered Egypt about 1620 B.C., thus the displacement is only 80 years, unless you allow for the older date of 1720 B.C. which would then make for a difference of 180 years.

Of great significance is the debate taking place over the queen of Sheba and Shishak. The archaeologist David Down, a Biblical literalist, believes that Hatshepsut was the queen of Sheba and that Thutmose III was Shishak. This moves the 18th Dynasty 400-500 years closer to the present. As can be seen from the dates already mentioned, the Velikovsky chronology is not a simple date adjustment, but rather an adjustment of dynasties and periods, making what was is considered consecutive periods in the standard chronology into concurrent periods and dynasties in his chronology.

Velikovsky followed Ages in Chaos with Earth in Upheaval , a book that details the catastrophes that occurred at the time of the Exodus. The chronology supports Ages in Chaos but the main element is the catastrophism. Today we are familiar with the eruption of Thera (Santorini) and the effects of tsunamis, but theses events at one time were not used to explain major events in history.

In 1958, Charles Hapgood, a history professor, published his book Earth’s Shifting Crust. He proposed that earth’s crust could and had shifted many times in the past and that this accounted for the movement of continents. He followed this with Maps of the Ancient Sea Kings in which he shows that the continent of Antarctica was known to ancient civilizations before it was covered with ice. This challenged the standard chronology of the development of civilization and the ice ages.

According to the standard chronology at the end of the last ice age there was no such thing as civilization. Mankind existed as groups of hunter-gatherers with stone tools at this time. Hapgood’s theory would have at least one group of humans capable of over the horizon seafaring and mapmaking. This group would then have led to the legend of Atlantis with Atlantis being on the continent of Antarctica. This theory has been taken up by a number of writers.

The journalist Graham Hancock has taken up this theme of civilization existing at the end of the last ice age. Graham Hancock is more of an anomalist than a historical revisionist. His idea follows that of Charles Hapgood in suggesting an advanced civilization living on coastal lowlands that were flooded as the ice sheets melted at the end of the last ice age.

Young Earth Creationism allows for one ice age at the end of Noah’s flood. Prior to that there was an extensive civilization, of which some structures may have survived the flood to become anomalous artefacts to the standard paradigm. In addition another civilization or civilizations could have sprung up during the ice age on the coastal lowlands just as Graham Hancock suggests, but thousands of years later than he suggests. Within young earth chronology this would have happened about 3500-2500 B.C.

The variance in time is the result of varieties of chronology among young earth creationists. Most will agree that the flood occurred approximately 1500 years after creation, but some of us have creation occurring about 5000 B.C., others at 4000 B.C. Regardless of this difference there was only one ice age. The civilizations that occurred would have arisen after the Tower of Babel with differing degrees of technology depending on the skills of the various groups dispersed from that site. This would have occurred over a period of 600 to 1000 years.

As the lowlands flooded, flood legends would have become confused with Noah’s flood and lowland flooding overlapping within the legends. Therefore the Black Sea flood, which may have been documented in the Epic of Gilgamesh, is confused with Noah’s flood. The flooding of the Mediterranean, dated to several million years ago in the standard paradigm, would have actually been recent.

The trouble with each of these writers is that they may be right to some extent. For those of us who are young earth creationists we recognize that the standard chronology is flawed. Therefore, when someone suggests a plausible idea that challenges the standard paradigm and its chronology we see a potential ally. While Velikovsky may have been an ally to some extent, neither Charles Hapgood nor Graham Hancock support any of the ideas in Biblical literalism. There are a whole host of writers that support some sort of chronological revision. Some of them are recognized scholars, some are merely writers, most have something interesting to say and many have merit to their arguments.

It has long been known that there are differences in ancient Egyptian chronology and other ancient Near Eastern chronologies that cannot be reconciled within the standard chronology. That being the case a revision is required, but what sort of revision is necessary. Even those, such as David Down, who find a great deal of merit in Velikovsky’s chronology also find it flawed. While it can be exciting to read the works of revisionists who bring to light many anomalies with the standard chronology, it is important to realize that most revisionists are not Biblical literalists and may even be hostile to such literalism. As such, revisionism is a divergent field, with items of interest to be found among the various authors, but few authors worthy of whole hearted support.

It is possible to become so enamoured of the merits of an argument that we fail to see its flaws. The chronological revisions of Velikovsky and David Down have just such merits and such flaws. As with any branch of human knowledge, chronology must be subject to revision, but any such revision must be handled with care.


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