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.

11 thoughts on “Ahmed Osman: No Stranger to Revisionist PaleoBabble

  1. If a stupid person gets a high degree of education, the result is somebody like Donald Redford. The man has the vision of a tree ant. His inability to recognize something so obvious as, say, a co-regency betwixt Amenhotep III and Akhenaten (though joint-regency might be a better term) is staggering to anyone who has devoted serious thought to its likelihood. His adherence to dogma and his bullish — nay, childish — unwillingess to see new discoveries in Egyptology for what they are has served only to impede progess in the science.

    Yes, Osman has made errors in his work, some through accepting the word of scholars before him, but history will prove the core of his findings are sound. His books are to be discussed and debated with a view to expanding on his research; they should not be a target for nitpicking by the likes of Redford, who’s notorious for his tunnel vision regarding any discovery which doesn’t accord with his own limited ideas. His own claims are routinely pulled apart by real scholars in the field of Egyptology. The most frightening thought is that Redford has the temerity to set himself up as a teacher of others! Pity those unfortunate students.

    An admirer of Ahmed Osman’s work.

  2. My proper response to Redford’s limited thinking is on its way, a work in progress. But anybody with a brain they’re willing to put to work can check out Osman’s findings for themselves rather than agree blindly with someone whose criticism is guided not so much by logic, but by the desire to suck up to Zahi Hawass — the man who decides who digs, and who doesn’t, on Egypt’s archaelogical sites. This is behind most of the attacks suffered by Osman to date. I took the trouble to examine the scholar’s claims thoroughly. Yes, I found his errors, but I also found that he’s absolutely correct in identifying Yuya as Joseph, Thutmose III as King David, Amenhotep III as King Solomon, Akhenaten as Moses and Tutankhamen as Jesus. Anyone doubting the latter can research for themselves the role of a pharaoh as “son of God”, his “virgin birth”, his “miracles, etc. (Tutankhamen — not King Aye as is erroneously believed — is depicted on his tomb wall raising his deceased predecessor from the dead during the Opening-Of-The-Mouth ceremony. Here is the biblical Lazarus, aka Smenkhkare.)

    One day, people who ridiculed Osman’s books will slap their foreheads and say, “Gosh, it’s so obvious. How ever did we not see that for so long?” That’s the path these discoveries always take.

    • it’s not blind resistance if the data lines up against Osman. It’s data-driven. I expect primary text data from you that contradicts Redford and supports Osman. Otherwise, I will highlight here for being bluster.

  3. Plenty of what you seek has been committed to electronic memory. This site isn’t the place for such a publication, nor is there enough space to accommodate it. Call that “bluster” if it gives you temporary satisfaction. Time is a friend of the truth.

  4. Interesting…I’ve seen Osman’s titles before, usually in “conspiracy” circles, and was curious about them. Now, having read what has got to be the most hysterical review I’ve ever seen in academia, and following this exchange, I get a better grasp of his research. Thanks, Mike.

  5. The story of Akhenaten points to the origin of monotheism–a desire to reduce the cost of the priestly establishment. Those who lost their jobs or whose livelihood was cut back were, naturally, unhappy and they struck back. Hard. The biggest drawback to monotheism, however, is that it’s still got one god too many.

    That said, however, whether god or any god exists depends entirely upon the definition of god. If we define god to be something like the biblical God, of course it doesn’t exist. But, if we define god as “a vast non-anthropomorphic creative force of unknown origin” it’s likely that some of the foremost atheists of our time would agree that that god exists!

  6. Biblical historians have harmed the history of the Middle East. I don’t deny that. But to say the foreign Phoenician kings of Avaris weren’t shepherds because that is based on folk etymology of the term Hyksos is absurd. The Hyksos were shepherds. The term Hyksos may not have meant shepherd kings but this does not mean they were not shepherds because they were. Almost all ancient sources describing the Hyksos refer to them as shepherds or “the shepherds”. This and Osiris and most likely they original non-demonized Set carry a shepherd’s crook. This depiction was adopted in Phoenician idols of Ba’al and Melqart and IMO they were the ones who probably introduced it to Egypt in the first place but that’s just my opinion.

    My point here though is that the Hyksos were shepherds. Again not defending the book, I’m just sick of the ignorance that the denouncing of the folk etymology has caused. All that means is Hyksos does not translate to shepherd kings. But they are shepherds everywhere else. Even Herodotus alludes to them when referring to the pyramids. Educate yourself. He objective, don’t be a skepdick

  7. I.am no much of an historian but my understaning of the scientific approach to problems is EVIDENCE. The entire Old Testament or much of it vwas written by Jewish scribes in Babylon circa 570 BC o r roughly a thousand or so years after the past p eriod in Osmans book and had much more evidence – physical evidene not available to said scribes – Osman’s work has at least the merit of justifying further research
    B

  8. In the 2004 paperback edition of Jesus in the House of the Pharaohs, p. 194, Osman wrote: “…the early Church Fathers looked upon Joshua and Jesus as the same person, a belief still echoed in the King James Bible where references to Joshua have an accompanying marginal note identifying him as Jesus and vice versa.”
    I found the marginal notes at
    http://en.literaturabautista.com/exhaustive-listing-marginal-notes-1611-edition-king-james-bible
    and I do not see the identifications Osman wrote about. I would really like to see those notes. Can anyone help me out here?
    Thank you,
    Paul Buchman
    rpaul.buchman@gmail.com

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