Professor A. Yahuda’s Egyptological Contribution to Mosaic Influence in Genesis


Taken from:


It could be said that the ancient literary methods pointed out by Wiseman in favour of Mosaïc compilation of Genesis were also around much later than Moses, prevailing even into New Testament times (e.g. Matthew 1:1 gives a toledôt of Jesus Christ in the Gospels), and hence these literary methods could therefore have been inserted into texts composed at the time of, say, the Babylonian Exile (C6th BC), almost a millennium after Moses, to give these texts an air of sacredness or antiquity. After all, what Wiseman was drawing his information from were Babylonian scribal techniques, not, say, Egyptian ones, which were quite different.

So, why would Moses necessarily have had any involvement in the Book of Genesis (let alone the patriarchs who preceded him)?

Well, this is where the linguistic contribution of Professor A. Yahuda [100] comes in to deal a shock blow to both the documentary theory and to the related Pan-Babylonianism. Yahuda, unlike Wiseman, was an expert in his field. His profound knowledge of Egyptian and Hebrew combined (not to mention Akkadian) gave him a distinct advantage over fellow Egyptologists unacquainted with Hebrew, who thus could not discern any appreciable Egyptian influence on the Pentateuch. Yahuda however realized that the Pentateuch was absolutely saturated with Egyptian – not only for the periods associated with Egypt, most notably the Joseph narrative including Israel’s sojourn in Egypt, but even for the periods associated with Babylonia (presumably the Flood account that we have already discussed, and certainly the Babel incident). For instance, instead of the Akkadian word for ‘Ark’ used in the Mesopotamian Flood accounts, or even the Canaanite ones current elsewhere in the Bible [112], the Noachic account Yahuda noted [110] uses the Egyptian-based tebah (Egyptian db.t, `box, coffer, chest’)[115].Most important was the linguistic observation by Yahuda [120]:Whereas those books of Sacred Scripture which were admittedly written during and after the Babylonian Exile reveal in language and style such an unmistakable Babylonian influence that these newly-entered foreign elements leap to the eye, by contrast in the first part of the Book of Genesis, which describes the earlier Babylonian period, the Babylonian influence in the language is so minute as to be almost non-existent. [Dead Sea Scrolls expert, Fr. Jean Carmignac, had been able to apply the same sort of bilingual expertise – in his case, Greek and Hebrew – to gainsay the received scholarly opinion and show that the New Testament writings in Greek had Hebrew originals: his argument for a much earlier dating than is usual for the New Testament books].While Yahuda’s argument is totally Egypto-centric, at least for the Book of Genesis, one does also need to consider the likelihood of ‘cultural traffic’ from Palestine to Egypt, especially given the prominence of Joseph in Egypt from age 80-110. One might expect that the toledôt documents borne by Israel into Egypt would have become of great interest to the Egyptians under the régime of the Vizier, Joseph (historically Imhotep of Egypt’s 3rd dynasty), who had after all saved the nation of Egypt from a 7-year famine, thereby influencing Egyptian thought and concepts.The combination of Wiseman and Yahuda, in both cases clear-minded studies based on profound analysis of ancient documents, is an absolute bomb waiting to explode all over any artificially constructed literary theory of Genesis. Whilst Kikawada and Quinn have managed to find some merit in the JEDP theory, and I have also suggested how its analytical tools may be useful at least when applied to the apparent multiple sourcing in the Flood narrative (and perhaps in the Esau and Jacob narrative), the system appears as inherently artificial in the light of archaeological discoveries. Cassuto may not have been diplomatic, but nevertheless he was basically correct in his estimation of documentism: “This imposing and beautiful edifice has, in reality, nothing to support it and is founded on air”. It is no coincidence that documentary theory was developed during the era of the German philosopher Immanuel Kant, who proposed an a priori approach to extramental reality, quite different from the common sense approach of the Aristotelian philosophy of being [130]. The philosophy of science is saturated with this new approach. Kantianism I think is well and truly evident too in the Karl Heinrich Graf and Julius Wellhausen [135] attitude to the biblical texts. And Eduard Meyer carried this over into his study of Egyptian chronology, by devising in his mind a quantifying a priori theory – an entirely artificial one that had no substantial bearing on reality – that he imposed upon his subject with disastrous results. Again an “imposing and beautiful edifice … founded on air”.


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