Friday, June 10, 2016

Fact-Checking the Torah -- weak analogy

Why look at 17th dynasty depths for evidence of the Exodus at all? Why isn’t the 19th dynasty good enough?
There are two reasons. One is something the archaeologists have said and the other is a fallacy.
Some of the archaeologists who have worked at Tell el-Maskhuta say they’re pretty sure something happened that produced the story of the Exodus. They have support from a different field of study, but that comes at the end of this blog and they might not have known about it when the statement was made. At any rate, they are not accepting the false argument from silence because they know that without a complete dataset – which they know they will never have – they cannot absolutely rule it out. And they are the people who give a low probability that the 26th dynasty site of Pi-Tum historically hosted a city of similar population in the 19th dynasty.
The fallacy that goes with this is something called weak analogy.
The more like the facts your analogy looks, the more likely your analogy will help you with your proof. The converse is true for the period of Ramses II as the time of the Exodus.
·         The absence of a treasure city where Pi-Tum was known to have existed in the 26th dynasty;
·         The absence of reports of natural disturbances and mass emigrations;
·         The fact that Hapiru either doesn’t mean Hebrews, or the fact that the Hapiru were still living in Egypt all during the reign of Ramses II.
Now, you’re going to say that’s a false argument from silence and you’re right, but things stack up positively for the 17th dynasty.
·         The volcanic eruption and its geologic evidence in the capital of the Hyksos explaining some of the plagues;
·         The explanation of “the Pharaoh who knew not Joseph” when the Hyksos took over, ignoring previous history;
·         The fixed residential nature of part of Tell el-Maskhuta in the 17th dynasty;
·         The mass movement of the Hyksos out of Egypt;
·         The explanation of why the Israelites went southeast instead of northeast where they would have experienced war;
The end of Hyksos rule allows 5 centuries for development of a culture in the Holy Land that would produce the pigless hilltop settlements. The 19th dynasty barely gives Merneptah time to realize that there are Israelites living in the Holy Land.
Now you’re going to point me to Bronk, Ramsay, et al. who provided radiocarbon dates about some 37 pharaohs which buck the conventional dates. GOOD FOR YOU!!!
The radiocarbon dating pushes almost all pharaonic reigns earlier than the conventional dates; Ramses II began his reign about 20 years earlier than we thought. The start date for Ahmose I is 50 years before the conventional date, but 1570 is still 50 years after the pumice fell on Avaris due to the Thera explosion.
Nevertheless, the Tempest Papyrus produced in Ahmose’s reign records abnormal weather which might be associated with atmospheric disturbances relating to the explosion. Either Ahmose knew about this firsthand before he took the throne, or it’s a record of a tradition.
The Egyptians had no reliable history of their own pharaohs, except possibly the Turin king list of which Column 10, which covered the Hyksos period, is damaged. The Abydos inscription lists pharaohs up to Amenemhat IV, and then it skips from the 12th dynasty, completely over the Hyksos, to Ahmose I, founder of the 18th dynasty. It skips Akhenaten, Tutankhamen, and Ay. In other words the Abydos inscription says “these are the only legitimate pharaohs.”
We might find data that will close that 50-year gap.  I’m not going to wait for that miracle.  I’m going to point out that we don’t know how old Ahmose was when he re-united Egypt, we just know the best-established date of his first regnal year.  I suggest that the north experienced an interregnum while they tried to pick up the pieces of a shattered economy and deal with the usual outcomes: famine; epidemic; loss of trade and inability to import enough food to make up for the crop disasters. It might have just started to work when Ahmose decided not to allow the north any more time to recover; he attacked, and took it back, and saved himself tons of grief because some of the repairs had already been made and the workforce had already been re-stocked through  enslavement and reproduction.  (The Israelites were already in the Holy Land.)
Nevertheless, this all happened over a century before the dates that Bietak reported, and his extremely late dates cannot be accepted because he didn’t provide radiocarbon dating.  There is also evidence that the stratigraphy he relied on was badly done and attempts to reproduce his stratigraphic results have failed.
Next week I’ll give another example of a weak analogy that produced an urban legend about the Exodus. First I want you to read Numbers 22:2-24:25.
© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights Reserved

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