Ahmed Osman: No Stranger to Revisionist PaleoBabble

Ahmed Osman has authored a number of books promoting fringe revisionist history with respect to ancient Egypt and the Bible (basically, the intersection of the two). His books have apparently sold well (no surprise there). Here are some titles (I love the one with the word “brilliant” in it – how humble):

* Stranger in the Valley of the Kings: Solving the Mystery of an Ancient Egyptian Mummy (1987)
alternate edition: Stranger in the Valley of the Kings: The Identification of Yuya as the Patriarch Joseph (1988)
alternate edition: Hebrew Pharaohs of Egypt: The Secret Lineage of the Patriarch Joseph (2003)
* Moses: Pharaoh of Egypt: The Mystery of Akhenaten Resolved (1990)
alternate edition: Moses and Akhenaten: The Secret History of Egypt at the Time of the Exodus (2002)
* The House of the Messiah: Controversial Revelations on the Historical Jesus (1992)
alternate edition: The House of the Messiah: A Brilliant New Solution to the Enduring Mystery of the Historical Jesus (1994)
alternate edition: Jesus in the House of the Pharaohs: The Essene Revelations on the Historical Jesus (2004)
* Out of Egypt: The Roots of Christianity Revealed (1999)
* Out of Egypt: Embracing the Roots of Western Theology (2001-2)
* Christianity: An Ancient Egyptian Religion (2005)

It’s pretty evident by the titles that Osman is a fringe pseudo-historian of which PaleoBabble readers should take note. His message is, like so many other fringe researchers, “everything you thought you knew about the subjects I’m writing about is wrong.” The  message to Osman by those real scholars who have reviewed his books is similar: “Basically every revisionist position you espouse is demonstrably wrong.”

I offer here two examples. First, there is this 1992 review in the Jewish Quarterly Review of Osman’s book “Stranger in the Valley of the Kings” (had Osman’s book been found there, it would have indeed been stranger than anything else). This review tries to be gracious, but it’s a thorough dismantling of Osman’s work. The review by Egyptologist Donald Redford (excerpted below from BAR 15:2) is anything but. It’s brutal. Can’t say it isn’t deserved.

Stranger in the Valley of the Kings: The Identification of Yuya as the Patriarch Joseph, Ahmed Osman (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1988); Reviewed by Donald B. Redford

This ingenious work is one of those books whose author inexplicably fails to do his homework in one part, and lets his critical judgment lapse in the other. Sadly, Mr. Osman has no new evidence to offer, nor any new reconstruction of history other than that which, at one time or another, has suggested itself to many an undergraduate, only to be dismissed upon sober reflection. I find myself wondering, then, why Mr. Osman felt obliged to write the book at all. But he did write it, and my remarks are directed toward those who might be misled into taking it seriously.

The author seems to accept (p. 117) the notion that the Exodus must have taken place early in the XIXth Dynasty (1307–1196 B.C.). Accepting a four-generation span for the sojourn in the desert on the basis of Genesis 15:16 (“And they shall return here in the fourth generation”), he concludes that Joseph must have come to Egypt under Thutmose IV (last quarter of the 15th century B.C.), and that the family of Jacob lived during the following reign (Amenophis III [called Amenhotep III in the book]). Then, working backward chronologically, our author designates Thutmose III (c. first half of the 15th century B.C.) as the pharaoh of Abraham’s descent. He claims that Thutmose III sired Isaac by Sara (save the mark). Joseph himself is found to be none other than Yuya, the father-in-law of Amenophis III and the source of the monotheism that came to the fore during the reign of Yuya’s grandson Akhenaten. To bolster this pastiche of remarkable brainwaves, our author has recourse, from time to time, to passages not only from the Bible, but also from the Talmud and the Koran. His solemn trotting out of what can only be called a “Child’s Guide to the Documentary Hypothesis” does not save his theory from complete disaster. Mr. Osman certainly fails to make the case that Yuya and Joseph are identical.

The author treats the evidence as cavalierly as he pleases. He presents himself as a sober historian, yet when it suits him, the Biblical evidence is accepted at face value and literally. See, for example, Osman’s treatment of the chronological implications of Moses’ age on the supposed sequence of pharaohs (pp. 118–119), and his handling of the age of Joseph (p. 120). When the Biblical evidence does not suit Osman, it is discarded (pp. 114ff. on the length of the wilderness wandering of the Israelites) or ignored completely (e.g., the age of Jacob [Genesis 47:28], which by Osman’s reconstruction would put his birth well before that of his father, Isaac!). The narratives need not be binding, Osman advises, since they “were handed down over several centuries by word of mouth” (p. 31), yet we are invited to marvel at the precision in the numbers of the genealogy of Genesis 46 (p. 131). Again, all the author thinks he has to do is to state that there is a scholarly consensus, and this automatically becomes (for him) compelling evidence (pp. 71–73, 132). Needless to say, it is not “generally thought,” as Osman claims, that monotheism “had its origins in Yuya” (p. 139).

The work betrays a profound linguistic ignorance—for example, the ludicrous distinction implied between “Amurrites” and “Semitic elements” (p. 73); or the author’s inability to translate Hebrew (p. 73); or his outlandish derivation of the Turkish word wazir, “vizier,” from Egyptian wsr, “powerful” (p. 126). Anyone who would derive the Philistine seren, “ruler,” the West Semitic sar, “magistrate,” and the Latin personal name Caesar from the “same root” and the “same source” (p. 36, note 2) simply has a world of linguistic training ahead of him.

The work abounds in outright errors of fact. The -ham in the name “Abraham” has nothing to do with Egyptian h?m, “majesty” (p. 35); there is no cat-goddess “Bes” (p. 65; he has confused Bes with Bast); Dharukha is not Sile (p. 111); the Yo- and Ya- in the names “Joseph” and “Jacob” are imperfect (or precative) preformatives of Amorite, and have nothing to do with YHWH (pp. 122–123); Yuya was priest of the ithyphallic Min, not the pious monotheist Osman conjures up (p. 123); the Hyksos were not “shepherds” as the author several times claims, completely misled by the erroneous folk-etymology in Josephus. This list could easily be doubled.

Osman’s bibliography is only 50 items in length, and over half consists of works published prior to 1945! The gaps are enormous. He talks about Yuya’s physical remains, yet never cites the epoch-making x-raying of the Cairo mummies; he ponders the location of Pi-Raamses and Goshen (p. 107), and completely ignores the revolution in our knowledge of the eastern Delta brought about by the work of Alan Gardiner, Manfred Bietak, John Holladay and others within the last two decades. The enormous amount of research during the same period by Biblical scholars on the Exodus and the sources relating thereto are passed over in silence. “Recent studies” for our author (p. 95) means works written 35 years ago!

If this work had been submitted as a term paper by one of my undergraduates, I would have felt constrained to fail him or her. Mr. Osman is not an undergraduate, but I don’t see why he should be let off the hook: Stranger in the Valley of the Kings deserves nothing but an “F,” and its author a rap on the knuckles for wasting our time.

Noah’s Ark “He Said, She Said”: Hoax Confession Now Denied

This keeps getting better — or worse for those of us who wonder why these Christians can’t just “let their ‘Yes’ mean ‘Yes’ and their “No’ mean ‘No’ (to quote James 5:12).  Now we learn that those who (supposedly?) made the confession to the hoax really didn’t. Here’s the first paragraph from this link:

The Hong-Kong based organization Noah’s Ark Ministries International (NAMI) announced in April that they had discovered Noah’s Ark.  Their press release included brief video clips showing wooden beams of the alleged ark.  Yet many noted major problems with their purported discovery.  These suspicions appeared to be confirmed with the release two weeks ago of a letter written by two Turkish brothers who confessed to constructing “the ark” for what they thought was a movie set.

Oh, what tangled webs we weave …

The Talpiot Jesus Tomb

An emailer asked me about this today, and I was quite surprised that I had never posted this paper I wrote on the so-called Jesus tomb.  I blogged about the tomb back in 2008, but I never posted this link (at least that I could find quickly). So, here it is.

Quick Introduction to How the Dead Sea Scrolls Help Establish the Text of the Hebrew Bible

I’ve posted this link over on my Naked Bible blog as well. It’s a good introduction to the topic, and pertinent to paleobabbling on the web in several ways. The myth of scroll secrecy and how “Bible believers” fear the scrolls come immediately to mind. Thanks to the ETC blog for the link!

X-Box PaleoBabble: The Book of Enoch as a Video Game

Someone sent me this link today, knowing I’ve spent a good deal of time studying 1 Enoch. The book of 1 Enoch is now the basis for an impending X-Box video game (there is a sample trailer at the link – Japanese version).  Check it out. What I saw looks cool, but I’d say a more appropriate description would be “very loosely based” on 1 Enoch. For instance, it was *not* Enoch’s mission to bring the fallen angels back to heaven. In the story he was sent by God to tell them they were toast and would never be coming back — having been asked by the offending angels to try and soften up God on their behalf.

As far as the link goes, there’s also some paleobabble to that. The blog calls 1 Enoch “heretical.” I guess he’s unaware that the Qumran sect were very theologically conservative, that 1 Enoch was known and used in Judaism outside Qumran, and that the NT imbibes on its content in various ways. It was never considered canonical in the Church (though it had its defenders in the early church, namely Origen), but that does not mean it is heretical. The book was well-respected in early Judaism and Christianity, despite not being bumped up to the level of canon.  It was only with Augustine (who knew neither Hebrew nor Greek, and so should not be considered a biblical theologian) that 1 Enoch fell into disrepute, no doubt due in part to Augustine’s own falling out with the Manicheans, who revered 1 Enoch.

I would suggest that blogger (and anyone else so interested) try to obtain the following for reading:

Studies in 1 Enoch and the New Testament: Proceedings of the Nineteenth Meeting of the New Testament Society of South Africa (Stellenbosch, 1983)

R. H. Charles’ commentary on the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha (Charles notes OT and NT connections all the time).

Parables of Enoch, Early Judaism, Jesus, and Christian Origins, ed. Darrell Bock and James H. Charlesworth

1 Enoch, Enochi Motifs, and Enoch in Early Christianity,” Chapter Two in The Jewish apocalyptic heritage in early Christianity, by James C. VanderKam

Using Google Books to Combat PaleoBabble

I mentioned a while back that I was reading a book called Building in Egypt. It’s about construction and masonry techniques in ancient Egypt. I’m still hitting it (among other books) a few pages here and there. But the thought struck me today that I could share some of it with you all via Google Books. For those unfamiliar with Google Books, you can see a lot of the content of books on the site — even those under copyright. You can navigate to specific chapters, so it’s better than Amazon’s viewing (even though you may not always get all the pages). Let me suggest that you peruse Building in Egypt. You can see specific examples of ancient texts and artifacts that enlighten us as to how Egyptians did what they did, without the aid of aliens!  For example, if you go to chapter three the author discusses a mathematical text that deals with Egyptians moving large stones by water barges on the Nile. No UFO transport required for the long trip. There’s another such book that goes into these sorts of issues as well entitled Architecture and Mathematics in Ancient Egypt. Have a look!