“Sit down before a fact as a little child, be prepared
to give up every preconceived notion, follow humbly
wherever and to whatever abysses nature leads, or you shall learn nothing.”
Thomas Huxley (British biologist and “Darwin’s Bulldog)
Then you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”
-Jesus Christ (Messiah)
There has been much confusion over the past two centuries regarding events described in the Hebrew Scriptures as they relate to the history of ancient Egypt. Most of this confusion has centered on the Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt. The Bible dates it to the fifteenth century B.C., while conventional history dates it to the thirteenth century. Christian and non-Christian scholars alike have come to accept the thirteenth century date, upheld on the authority of non-Christian scholarship; however, by conventional reckoning, either date places this momentous event, and the destruction of Egypt, in the reigns of either Thutmose III or Ramses II, Egypt’s two greatest pharaohs, during whose reigns no such momentous event took place.
This has rendered the Exodus story to the status of a fable, a myth, a legend, a nice Biblical story good for moral instruction, but not historically true. And Christian and Jewish scholars have grasped at the flimsiest of straws in trying to make the two histories fit.
But, does it end there?
In 1950, one man dared to suggest that it was true, and it was not only true, but historically verified by sources outside the Bible.
Immanuel Velikovsky was neither a scientist nor a historian. He was a medical physician and psychoanalyst, trained in the school of Sigmund Freud. Yet, he undertook a massive revision of the history of the earth and the solar system, and the publication of Worlds in Collision in 1950 caused a furor in the academic world that has subsided only in recent years but has never been resolved.
With the publication of Ages in Chaos in 1952, Velikovsky presented the first of five volumes of a reconstruction of the history of ancient Egypt which paralleled the Old Testament with amazing, unheard-of precision. Others ~ most notably Donovan Courville, John Bimson, David Rohl, Peter James, and Gunnar Heinsohn ~ have carried it on.
Velikovsky turned conventional twentieth century science upside-down and, more by the direction in which he pointed than the theory he proposed, pushed it in entirely new directions. Nearly six decades after publication of his first book, and nearly 30 years after his death, six journals have been devoted to his work and its awesome impact. More than twenty-five symposia, dozens of books, and hundreds of published papers have carried it on. The century’s leading scientific heretic spoke at two NASA installations and proposed tests the results of which helped achieve a truer understanding of our solar system. Universities offered entire courses on his theories; professors used his books in their classrooms; and his ideas, once dismissed as the ravings of a crackpot, have ~ for the past half century ~ been finding their way into conventional mainstream scientific thought.
Velikovsky upended the uniformitarian theory of the gradual, peaceful evolution of the earth and the solar system and returned us to catastrophism, on which all of science is now based. He dismantled the conventional history of ancient Egypt, a scheme to which the histories of all other ancient Middle Eastern civilizations are aligned; and, rather than rewrite the Bible, as conventional scholars continue to do, he rewrote Egyptian history instead, upholding the Scriptures as accurate historical documents. His followers are now dismantling the accepted history of the ancient Middle East and showing it to be the fabrication it really is.
He revealed the cosmic origins of ancient myths, customs, and beliefs that had long been dismissed by modern scientists as the vivid imaginations of our primitive and child-like ancestors, who were actually neither primitive nor child-like.
His work encompassed, and stimulated new directions of thought in, a vast number of academic fields, including archaeology, anthropology, geology, paleontology, astronomy, physics, celestial mechanics, religion and folklore. That alone is no mean feat, but he also showed us, as the Washington Evening Star put it, to “not be afraid to stake out new intellectual territory in defiance of fashionable thought.” He dreamed of unraveling the mysteries of the universe, and he came closer than most. He sought answers to our most perplexing questions, discovered many, and inspired inquisitive followers to search for more.
“He shook the shoulders of our minds,” Henry Bauer wrote in his history of the controversy, and it was true. For that, more than for his theory itself, he should be remembered as one of the most profoundly influential scholars of all time.
Velikovsky broke new ground in 1930 by correctly suggesting that pathological encephalograms could be used to diagnose epilepsy, suggesting that an epileptic fit resembled an electrical short-circuit; it was the first of an avalanche of successful predictions. He helped start Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Chaim Wizeman, Sigmund Freud and Albert Einstein were his colleagues and friends.
But his greatest work began in 1940 when he and a friend discussed the Dead Sea, which had been a plain in the time of Abraham but had turned into a lake by the time of the Exodus. Had a natural catastrophe altered the landscape? They discussed the plagues on Egypt: were they myth and legend, or did they really happen? If they were real, why was there no Egyptian record of them? Conventional scholars had long declared that no such record of the plagues existed, and Biblical scholars believed them. Velikovsky did not.
He soon discovered the record of a sage named Ipuwer describing many of the same things as Moses: the river turning to blood; the consuming fire; the massive destruction of trees and crops; the dense and prolonged night; crying throughout the land; the escape of slaves; and even the disappearance of the king.
Yet this document was not connected to the Exodus because A) scholars did not believe the plagues really happened; B) it was dated to an earlier epoch because of the miscalculated chronology; and C) it had been passed off by scholars as a collection of proverbs, a literary prophecy, or an admonition on profound social changes. Only Velikovsky saw it as a description of a great natural disaster. He sent a draft of the first chapter of his historical reconstruction to Professor John Garstang, excavator of Jericho. Garstang responded that the Bible and the papyrus appeared to describe the same event.
[For an in-depth discussion of this remarkable document, see The Papyrus Ipuwer, Egyptian Version of the Plagues, here.]
It occurred to Velikovsky (right) that, if these catastrophes really happened, then other ancient people must have recorded them as well. He searched on and found the same events (the plagues, the manna from heaven, the sun standing still, and other cosmic phenomena) described by ancient peoples all around the world. Down through the millennia, the ancients presented to him their historical evidence. Unlike his conventional colleagues, Velikovsky listened to what they had to say.
He released his findings in the 1950 publication of Worlds in Collision, in which he revealed that, according to eyewitness accounts, in the far distant past Jupiter convulsed and exploded a chunk of itself into outer space. That chunk became a comet which fell into an elliptical orbit around the sun. About 1450 B.C., the comet passed close to the earth, disturbing its rotation with its magnetic pull and enshrouding it in its gaseous tail. This, Velikovsky surmised, caused the plagues recorded by Moses and Ipuwer and launched the Israelites on their exodus from Egypt.
The comet circled the sun and returned at 52-year intervals, causing the sun and moon to stand still over Beth-horon as Joshua battled the Canaanites. The Mexican Annals of Cuauhtitlan record that “during a cosmic catastrophe…in the remote past, the night did not end for a long time.” The American Indians remembered the sun and moon rising just over the horizon and remaining there for a very long time.
[What is always overlooked in the Joshua account ~ thought by skeptics to be entirely mythical ~ is that, immediately before the halting of the sun and moon, there was a shower of meteorites which killed more Canaanites than Israeli soldiers killed. Such a shower would never have occurred to a myth-maker, and meteorite showers always accompany the passage of a comet.]
More than once, as the comet came and went, the face of the earth was altered by global cataclysms. As the earth’s crust folded, seas emptied onto continents and mountain ranges disappeared, only to be replaced by new ones. The earth was pulled out of its orbit and rolled over, the sun retreating across the sky to rise in the east instead of the west. The terrestrial axis shifted and the magnetic poles reversed. Climates changed drastically and some animal species suddenly became extinct, the woolly mammoths freezing where they stood, and land and sea animals alike being thrown convulsing into common graves.
Liquid fire (flaming petroleum) and red hot stones rained from the sky.
Frightened out of their wits, our ancient ancestors recorded these cataclysms by whatever means they had at their disposal. For the first time they became terrified of the heavenly bodies, and Jupiter replaced the sun as the chief deity in the skies. For generations, ceremonies and sacrifices were made every half century to the new fiery creature in the heavens to pacify her and prevent further devastation. Finally, on the night of March 23, 687 B.C., the comet encountered Mars in a three-way electromagnetic battle with the earth. An electrical blast from Mars (soon to be the new bloodthirsty god of war) charred Sennacherib’s Assyrian army ~ 185,000 men ~ as it lay encamped around Judah. And the fiery daughter of Jupiter that caused it all was thrown into an orbit around the sun to become the new morning and evening star, Venus.
Can it be true? Venus, the most conspicuous planet in the heavens, sits peacefully amidst each sunrise and sunset. Yet ~ as quoted in Worlds in Collision ~ the Hindu table of planets from 3102 B.C., the Venus Tablets of Ammizaduga from the First Babylonian Dynasty, and the records of ancient Chinese, Brahman and Central American astronomers describe her movements as those of a comet. The Chinese reported that Venus spanned the heavens, rivaling the sun in brightness. The Chaldeans called Venus “the bright torch of heaven.” The Toltecs called her Quetzal-cohuatl, “a feathered serpent.” To the Mexicans she was “the star that smokes,” their description of a comet.
Within historical memory people saw her explosive birth from Jupiter. According to both Hesiod and Homer, the goddess Pallas Athene (Venus) suddenly sprang from the head of Zeus-Jupiter; Aristocles said that Zeus had hidden the unborn Athene in a cloud and then split it open with lightning; in the sixth century, Pythagoras (of Pythagorean Theorem fame) told of the comet that was one of the planets but which appeared at great intervals of time and rose only a little above the horizon; and a Babylonian chronicler wrote, “the planet Venus receives the appellative: ‘The great star that joins the great stars.’ The great stars are, of course, the four planets Mercury, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn…and Venus joins them as the fifth planet.”
Velikovsky’s theory of the comet that became the planet Venus has been legitimately challenged by a number of prominent scientists (Carl Sagan and Isaac Asimov not among them), but it was drawn from, and backed up by, testimony such as this from ancient civilizations around the globe as well as geological evidence from the four corners of the earth. It drew enormous ridicule and slander, yet produced a long series of successful predictions. That, however, is not the subject here.
Velikovsky considered his work to be a rewriting of the recent history of the Earth, and in so doing he published three of the five volumes on his revision of ancient Egyptian history. The major parts of his reconstruction (much better documented than his cosmic thesis) appeared in three volumes beginning with Ages in Chaos in 1952 and following up with Peoples of the Sea in 1977 and Ramses II and His Time in 1978. The Dark Age of Greece and The Assyrian Conquest remain unpublished, but are available online from The Velikovsky Archive.
And, as you read this little summary, bear in mind that 1) we are dealing with a civilization thousands of years old whose very scanty history was left to us in rags and tatters; 2) nineteenth century thinking was shaped by preconceived philosophical and anti-Scriptural prejudices; and 3) there is more than abundant documentation that could not be included here, but it is abundant, and the parallels are very real.
Ages in Chaos
Velikovsky had tried to make sense out of the confusion of ancient history; but, the more he tried to sort it out, the less sense it made. Finally, he realized that there was a massive error of about six centuries in the accepted historical chronologies of the ancient Middle East. Either Egyptian history was off by six centuries, or Biblical history was off. The conflict of chronologies was so acute that the modern perception of ancient history was thrown into complete confusion. Having put the pieces back together, Velikovsky visualized a state of historical chaos which he “modernized” to help the reader see what those studying bygone eras were up against:
- In order to understand the scope of the displacements in the history of the ancient world, one must try to conceive of the chaos which would result if a survey of Europe and America were written in which the history of the British Isles were some six hundred years out of line, so that in Europe and America the year would be 1941 while in Britain it would be 1341.
- As Columbus discovered America in 1492, the Churchill of 1341 could not have visited this country, but must have visited some other land ~ the scholars would be divided in their opinion as to the whereabouts of that land ~ and met its chief. Another chief, not Franklin Delano Roosevelt of Washington, would live in history as co-signer of a charter with Churchill of Britain in 1341.
- But as American records would speak of Churchill who crossed the ocean in the early forties of the twentieth century, British history would also have a Churchill II, six hundred years after the first one. Cromwell would also be doubled by the same process. He would have to live three hundred years before Churchill I and also three hundred years after him, or three hundred years before Churchill II.
- The First World War would be fought twice, as would the Second. The First World War, in its second variant, would follow the Second World War, in its first variant, by five and three quarter centuries.
- By the same token, the development of the Constitution, the cultural life, the progress of technology and the arts, would appear in chaotic distortion.
- Newton in England would become an early forerunner of Copernicus instead of following him. Joan of Arc would revive the old traditions of the suffragettes of the post-Victorian days; she would be burned twice with an interval of six hundred years between; or, with the growing confusion of history, she would have to return to the stake a few centuries from today to suffer her death again.
- In the case presented, not only the history of the British Isles would be doubled and distorted, but also the history of the entire world. Difficulties would, of course, arise, but they would be swept away as oddities. Complicated theories would be proposed and discussed, and if accepted, they would establish themselves as new, strong obstacles to a correct perception of past history.
- Ancient history is distorted in this very same manner. Because of the disruption of synchronism, many figures on the historical scene are ‘ghosts’ and ‘doubles.’ Events are often duplicates; many battles are shadows; many speeches are echoes; many treaties are copies; even some empires are phantoms.
Velikovsky now brought the ancient past up to scrutiny. The cataclysmic break between the Middle and New Kingdoms of Egypt, so well described by Ipuwer, perfectly matches the Exodus story recorded by Moses, and so he began his reconstruction there:
- The end of the Middle Kingdom of Egypt, -1780 in accepted chronology, actually took place in ca. -1450 ~ a difference of over 200 years. The following Hyksos period endured, not 100 years, but over 400 years in close agreement with the old Egyptian (Manetho) and Hebrew (Ages in Chaos, I, ch. 2) sources. The beginning of the 18th dynasty (New Kingdom) falls not in -1580 but in ca. -1050 ~ over 500 years difference. Thutmose III belongs to the second part of the tenth century, not to the first part of the fifteenth. Akhnaton belongs not in the first half of the fourteenth but in the middle of the ninth century. Thus, as I showed in detail in vol. I of Ages in Chaos, there exists an error of ca. 540 years through the entire period covered by the 18th Dynasty.
- Even more important is that the dynasty of Seti the Great and Ramses II, termed the Nineteenth Dynasty, did not follow the Eighteenth; the Libyan (Dynasties 22nd and 23rd) and the Ethiopian (Dynasties 24th and 25th) periods intervened. The Libyan Dynasty of Sosenks and Osorkons reigned for 100 years only, instead of over 200; the Ethiopian Dynasty, however, is the only one that in the conventionally written history of Egypt, maintains its proper place. During the Nineteenth Dynasty the error of the accepted Egyptian chronology reached the high figure of over 700 years; and together with it the time of the contemporaneous rulers of the so-called Hittite Empire is equally misplaced by over 700 years. Finally the Twentieth Dynasty ~ that of Ramses III and his adversaries ~Peoples of the Sea ~ needs to be brought closer to our time by a full 800 years and placed just a few decades before Alexander of Macedon. The Twenty-first dynasty began under the Persian kings, continued contemporaneous with the Twentieth ~ its rulers reigned in the Libyan Desert oasis ~ and lasted until the second Ptolemy.
Velikovsky’s solution to the chaos was to shift Egyptian dynasties forward about five to six centuries, beginning with the Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt in the mid-fifteenth century B.C. (Biblical date), and to eliminate later Egyptian dynasties that were duplicates of earlier ones. Pharaohs through the nineteenth Dynasty bear Egyptian names, while those from the twentieth Dynasty on mostly bore Greek names; Velikovsky saw the Greek-named pharaohs as repeats of the earlier Egyptian-named pharaohs, and so eliminated the later dynasties.
When he was criticized for using literary sources like the Bible and other ancient writings to date ancient events, he correctly pointed out that ancient dates had all been derived from literary sources to begin with (holes in the ground have no calendars). And Velikovsky solved one mystery after another.
“The problem of the time of the Exodus in Egyptian history had never been solved,” he wrote. “In the Papyrus Ipuwer and the Naos of El Arish I found descriptions of a natural upheaval very similar, sometimes identical, with the description in the Book of Exodus… These parallels compelled me to fix an unorthodox date for the Exodus. Collating the historical texts of following generations for twelve hundred years, I could establish numerous correlations between the histories of Egypt and of Israel which could not be accidental; my reconstruction demonstrated that Egyptian history and the histories of the nations which are written in harmony with it are out of line with the historical past by about six to seven hundred years.”
Velikovsky established the mid-fifteenth century ~ circa 1450 B.C., the Biblical date for the Exodus ~ as the proper date of the Exodus. The Hyksos invasion of Egypt ~ conventionally dated to the seventh century B.C. ~ was thus connected to the Exodus, since Ipuwer’s papyrus actually describes the Hyksos invasion but also contains many parallels to the plagues. In this scenerio, the plagues destroyed Egypt, the Israelites left under the leadership of Moses, the entire military might of the Egyptian Middle Kingdom perished in the Red Sea, and the Hyksos invaded and conquered a now defenseless Egypt.
Velikovsky identified the Hyksos as the Amalekites encountered by the Israelites on their way out of Egypt, an unheard-of but sound identification. There is no mention of Egypt in the Old Testament for half a millennium after the Exodus. The lack of Egyptian interference during the Conquest of Canaan and the era of the Judges can best be ascribed to the Hyksos domination of Egypt which conventional history relegates to less than a century but which ancient historians said lasted 500 years. There was no contact between Israel and Egypt, in fact, until Solomon married the pharaoh’s daughter, but greater contact was soon to come.
Before long Solomon, renown throughout the Middle East for his wisdom, received the most mysterious, the most glamorous, and the most misidentified visitor of them all ~ the Queen of Sheba.
Velikovsky identified the Queen of Sheba as Hatshepsut, the Eighteenth Dynasty Queen of Egypt whose voyage to the land of Punt (“Punt” was an early Egyptian name for Palestine) exactly matches the Queen’s voyage to Jerusalem, including her pursuit of the riches and prosperity of Solomon’s kingdom and the gifts she and Solomon exchanged. The temple she built upon her return ~ the Most Splendid of Splendors at Deir el Bahari, which she referred to as “another Punt” ~ was modeled after the Temple in Jerusalem and was totally unlike any other structure ever seen in Egypt.
When Hatshepsut disappeared, her nephew Thutmose III ascended the throne. The Napoleon of Egypt, Egypt’s greatest pharaoh and greatest conqueror, had no love for either his aunt or her relations. And, with the death of King Solomon and the division of the kingdom of Israel, Israel no longer posed a threat. Thutmose III invaded Palestine, and it is he whom Velikovsky identified as the pharaoh who sacked the Temple in Jerusalem after Solomon’s death. Nearly item by item, the Temple treasures described in Kings and Chronicles can be seen pictured on Thutmose III’s Karnak temple walls.
By its importance in the time of the Eighteenth Egyptian Dynasty, Velikovsky placed the el-Amarna correspondence in the era of the mid-ninth century and discovered a wealth of correlations to the Old Testament history of the divided kingdom of Israel, including identifying several personages in the text.
In his most provocative work, Oedipus and Ahknaton, he identified Ahknaton (son of the solar disk, father of Tutankhamen) as the historical original of the mythical King Oedipus, who murdered his father and married his mother. Drawings from the time show Akhnaton and his mother together in scenes hardly typical of mother and son, but vaguely typical of lovers. And the surrounding historical details of the Akhnaton saga match nearly perfectly the mythological details of the Oedipus myth, including the fact (not revealed until 1957) that Tutenkhamen and Smenkhare were brothers.
Among the mysteries conventional scholars could never solve was the mortuary temple of Ramses III (left) at Tell-el-Yahudieh in the Delta. Ramses III is conventionally assigned to the twelfth century B.C., and his mortuary temple stands today as it was built at the time of his death. Velikovsky identified Ramses III as Nectanabo I of the fourth century B.C. and, in his Thesis on the Reconstruction of Ancient History, published in 1945, he wrote, “The Greek letters of classical form incised on the tiles of Ramses III during the process of manufacture (found at Tell-el-Yahudieh in the Delta) present no problem. They are Greek letters of the fourth century.
“The inlay work and glazing of the tiles of Ramses III are innovations introduced from Persia. And the hunting motifs in the art of Ramses III were inspired by Assyrian and Persian bas-reliefs; some motifs of the Greek art also made their influence felt in the murals of Ramses III.”
This, in a temple supposedly built 700 years before these art forms and classic era letters even appeared. Velikovsky did not make this up. This information is taken from the archaeological report of the excavation of the mortuary temple, and the confusion has not only perplexed scholars in succeeding decades, it perplexed the two men who excavated the site and could not agree on its proper date. One claimed a fourth century date because of the evidence, and the other claimed a twelfth century date because that was when Ramses III was declared to have lived.
This led Velikovsky to conclude the obvious: that Ramses III did not live in the twelfth century, but in the fourth century.
The Battle of Kadesh
But, far and away, Velikovsky’s most provocative discovery concerned the greatest battle of antiquity, the Battle of Kadesh.
There have been, in world history, certain battles that had a major, even world-wide impact, long felt through the ages.
The Battle of Hastings in 1066 AD allowed William of Normandy to lay claim to the English throne, launched three centuries of Norman occupation of England, Scotland, Wales, and later Ireland, propelled Great Britain toward her place as a major world power, and marked the last time this nation would be invaded by a foreign foe.
One of European history’s most decisive and far-reaching conflicts, the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, ended forever the reign of terror imposed on Europe by Napoleon Bonaparte, and marked the eclipse of French power and signaled the ascendancy of the German Empire. Napoleon’s defeat was so complete that the name Waterloo came to be a synonym for crushing defeat.
The Battle of San Jacinto in 1836 resulted in the defeat of Mexico’s El Presidente, Santa Anna, and paved the way for the fledgling United States to reach to the Rio Grande River in the south and the Pacific Ocean in the west, thus becoming a continental power and eventually the most powerful nation in the world.
The Battle of Gettysburg in 1863 turned back the last major Confederate invasion of the Union and left Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia too weak to wage another major campaign, thus ensuring the eventual reunification of the northern and southern states into one Union and America’s place on the world stage of the fast-approaching Industrial Age and Twentieth Century.
And, the Battle of Stalingrad in 1942-43, the bloodiest battle in recorded history, was the major turning point in the war in Europe until D-Day, resulted in the liberation of the Soviet Union from the Nazi invasion, and propelled the Soviets to eventual victory in 1945, which in turn led to the division of Europe by the Iron Curtain for more than 45 years.
The Battle of Kadesh (right), variously dated about 1275 or 1285 B.C., was fought between the two greatest powers in the world and was called by Rob Wanner “truly the mother of all battles, in every sense. Fought on the banks of the Orontes River in Syria, this is the earliest battle of which true military tactics are known…
“Few single battles in the history have determined the most powerful empire in the world; the Battle of Kadesh was one. Control over the Mediterranean, trade routes, large stretches of land, and massive populations that could be mobilized for war all hung in the balance. In the period from 2000 B.C. to 1200 B.C., the indisputable most powerful civilizations in the world were the Egyptians, the Hittites, and the Assyrians. Secondary players in the same region were Amurru, a kingdom of united lands in coastal and central Syria; Canaan, the coastal land south of the Orontes River; the Hurrians of Mitanni in the east; and Babylonia. Whoever could maintain favorable relations with them or could directly control them would have a major advantage over the others. As rapid expansion of all three civilizations came to a head, there emerged border disputes. All eyes eventually turned to the narrow strip of land that connected Asia, Europe, and Africa, where civilizations incorporated the rich networks of trade from east and west.
“With around 5,000 chariots involved, it may have been the largest chariot conflict of all time. However, it also marked the high water mark for both empires. The Hittite empire soon began its decline, and was destroyed; and Egyptian influence in the eastern Mediterranean also declined.”
It was a battle that changed the course of history. Yet, because of the historical chaos, we have been deprived of the true drama of the showdown between two of the very greatest monarchs in all antiquity because, according to conventional history, ancient armies fought the same battle twice.
Check this out: By Ramses II’s own account, he began to build a canal connecting the Mediterranean Sea to the Persian Gulf. He suddenly halted construction and invaded Palestine. His records tell us that he was forced to fight a Palestinian prince who was mortally wounded by an Egyptian dart-thrower (archer), and whose army was subsequently routed. Ramses carried off the princes of Retenu (a New Kingdom designation for Palestine) as “living prisoners” to Egypt. Ramses then plundered the chiefs of the Asiatics in their own lands, returning every year to his headquarters at Riblah to exact tribute.
Four years later, Ramses moved on Kadesh, north of Bab, along a river designated variously in hieroglyphics as r-n-t, n-r-t, and p-n-r-t. He set up camp by the fortress at Kadesh, which had a double wall and moats, was surrounded on all four sides by water, and projected into a large stream near a sacred lake. Ramses’ army consisted of the divisions of Amon, Ra, Ptah and Seth; Lydian mercenaries (hired men) were employed, and chariotry took part in the battle. As the Egyptian army camped, Hittite King Hattusilis, aided by his Syrian allies, came around from the south and attacked. The Egyptian army panicked and fled to the north ~ away from Egypt. (Ancient armies always retreated in the direction of their homelands, so as not to sever their supply lines.) Ramses rallied his forces and counterattacked, and a cease-fire the following day ended hostilities, whereupon Ramses returned to Egypt with precious few spoils to show for his efforts. He then spent the next few years subduing revolts in neighboring provinces. All of this occurred, we are to believe, in the thirteenth century B.C. (conventional date).
Six centuries later, in the seventh century B.C., the Greek historian Herodotus tells us that Pharaoh Necho II began to build a canal to connect the Mediterranean Sea to the Persian Gulf. Convinced he was building it for the heathen, Necho halted construction and invaded Palestine. According to II Kings and II Chronicles, Necho was challenged in the Megiddo Pass by Josiah, King of Jerusalem. Necho requested that Josiah let him pass by, but Josiah refused and in the ensuing battle was mortally wounded by an Egyptian archer. His army was subsequently routed. Jehoahaz was made king of Jerusalem, but Necho soon put him in chains, carried him off to Egypt, and replaced him with Jehoiakim, who paid an annual tribute of 100 talents of silver and one talent of gold.
Four years later, according to the Hebrew prophet Jeremiah, Necho moved on Carchemish, north of Baw, on the Euphrates River. He set up camp by the fortress at Carchemish, which ~ according to excavation reports ~ had a double wall and moats, was surrounded on all four sides by water, and projected into a large stream near a sacred lake. Necho’s army consisted of the divisions of Amon, Ra, Ptah and Sutekh; mercenaries from the Sardana, from Sardis in Lydia, were employed, and chariotry took part in the battle. As the Egyptians set up camp, Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar, aided by his Syrian allies, came around from the south and attacked. The Egyptian army panicked and fled to the north ~ away from Egypt. Necho rallied his forces and counterattacked, and a cease-fire the following day ended hostilities, whereupon Necho returned in disgrace to Egypt with Nebuchadnezzar hot on his tail. He then spent the next few years subduing revolts in neighboring provinces.
Each campaign exactly matches the other, but wait! It gets better!
Some years later the antagonists signed a treaty ~ the first recorded act of diplomacy in history ~ and they became the best of friends. Both copies of this treaty survive, one in Egyptian hieroglyphics in Ramses’ temple, and the other in Babylonian cuneiform on a tablet from a seventh century layer dig at Boghazkoi. Both versions bear Ramses’ name, for which reason the cuneiform copy, and the dig at Boghazkoi, were dated to the thirteenth century in spite of all evidence to the contrary, and the entire scenario was duplicated.
There is no record anywhere in Egypt of a pharaoh named Necho, even though he was a great monarch who sent a sailing expedition around the African continent and kept the Middle East in a state of turmoil for more than twenty years; and no document outside of Egypt, except for the cuneiform treaty from a late-century dig, mentions Ramses II, the second-greatest pharaoh in the history of Egypt.
The site of Kadesh has never been found, though Ramses’ description of it is identical to the excavated site at Carchemish. The canal both men built is still there, but with Ramses alone identified as its builder. And Hattusilis is a biographical and psychological twin of Nebuchadnezzar.
Velikovsky’s conclusion was that the most famous battle in all antiquity pitted Ramses II, Pharaoh of Egypt, against Nebuchadnezzar, the King of Babylon, and Nebuchadnezzar won.
While astronomers foamed at the mouth at the mere mention of Velikovsky’s name, historians were more sympathetic, particularly the leading American historian, Dr. Robert H. Pfeiffer of Harvard University. Upon the publication of Worlds in Collision in 1950, Pfeiffer wrote to Velikovsky, “Allow me first of all to congratulate you, not of course for the fact that your book has become ‘a run-away best seller,’ but for the magnificent qualities of contents and form of your book. I read it with utter fascination and absorption, being carried away by the cosmic drama which you unfolded before me. I was amazed at the depth and vastness of your erudition, which I have not seen equaled except possibly in O. Spengler’s Decline of the West. Aside from expressing my admiration, I am unable to make any valuable comments: my ignorance of astronomy, physics, chemistry, far-eastern, and Aztec literatures, etc. is abysmal, complete. I shall have to sit on the sidelines as you and the scientists discuss your theory about the comet which eventually became the planet Venus.”
Upon publication of Ages in Chaos in 1952, Pfeiffer wrote, “Dr. Velikovsky discloses immense erudition and extraordinary ingenuity. He writes well and documents all his statements with the original ancient sources. His conclusions are amazing, unheard of, revolutionary, sensational. If his findings are accepted by historians, all present histories for the period before Alexander the Great (who died in 323 B.C.) must be discarded, and completely re-written. If Dr. Velikovsky is right, this volume is the greatest contribution to the investigation of ancient times ever written.”
And Professor Etienne Drioton of the Service des Antiquités, and General Director of the Cairo Museum, wrote to Velikovsky, “You certainly overturn ~ and with what zest! ~ many of our historical assumptions, which we have considered established. But you do it with a total absence of prejudice and with impartial and complete documentation, all of which is most gratifying. One might dispute your conclusions point by point: whether one admits them or does not admit them, they will have posed the problems afresh and obliged us to discuss them in depth in the light of your new hypotheses. Your fine book will have been in every way very useful to scholarship.”
When his revised chronology was, on occasion, put to the test, the results were startling. Generally, Carbon-14 test results that did not conform to conventional dating were discarded because, obviously, they had to be wrong; but, on occasion, some were released. Among them, Carbon-14 dating proved that Old and Middle Kingdom artifacts were several hundred years younger than had been believed; and in 1958 National Geographic reported that North and Central American civilizations were thousands of years older than previously thought, both finds vindicating Velikovsky. Wood from the foundation cribbing of a Hittite fortress at Alisar III was carbon-dated with a divergence of 800 years from the conventional chronology.
Tutankhamen is linked to Mycenae by his grandparents, Amenhotep III and Queen Tiy, whose scarabs were found at Mycenae and who received Mycenaean products in Thebes. All are conventionally dated to the fifteenth and fourteenth centuries, but uncontaminated material from Tutankhamen’s tomb was carbon-dated by Willard Libby, who invented the process. The date? The eighth/ninth centuries B.C.
Velikovsky had long stated that Tutankhamen and Smenkhkare (who had briefly ruled along with him) were brothers, which fit neatly into his Oedipus theory. This was not generally accepted until Cyril Aldred announced in 1957 that blood tests had shown that Tutankhamen and Smenkhkare were, in fact, brothers.
But, no other single event was as important to Velikovsky’s historical reconstruction, or to classical studies in general, as the deciphering of the Linear B script from Crete.
When scarabs from the Eighteenth Egyptian Dynasty were discovered at Mycenae, its date was fixed to the fifteenth and fourteenth centuries B.C. [All ancient sites in the Middle East are dated by Egyptian artifacts found there.] Evans’ discovery of the Linear B tablets at Knossos and Pylos established a firm connection between Mycenae and Late Minoan Crete: fifteenth and fourteenth century. No Mycenaean script survived past the destruction of Mycenae (conventional date about 1200 B.C.), and the Greek alphabet did not appear until the seventh century.
Because Mycenae is dated in the fifteenth and fourteenth centuries B.C., and because Greece did not arise until the seventh century, between Mycenae and Greece there is postulated a gap of six centuries, the “Dark Age of Greece,” about which virtually nothing is known. According to conventional history, the entire Mycenaean civilization suddenly and completely disappeared, and then ~ 600 years later ~ the Greek civilization just as suddenly appeared, fully formed in all its glory, out of no where. However, Homer, in the early seventh century or later, accurately described Mycenaean practices and artifacts, and facts about the fall of Troy, which he could not have known in such detail if the Dark Age had intervened. Oral tradition could not have preserved them so accurately; and, within the bounds of poetic license, Homer ~ like the Hebrew Scriptures ~ has never been proven by any archaeological discovery to be historically wrong.
Among the most asinine statements historians made concerned fifteenth-century Mycenaean artifacts found in seventh-century Greek homes. Perhaps, the archaeologists concluded, farmers during the Dark Age had kept the Mycenaean artifacts in their homes for 600 years. Archaeological reports from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries are filled with this kind of idiocy, forced upon intelligent and educated scholars by misaligned historical chronologies and the blindness of those scholars in adhering to the accepted paradigm in the face of factual and conflicting evidence.
Discovered at various sites beginning in 1900, numbering about 3,000 clay tablets consisting mostly of minutely detailed bureaucratic records of petty commercial transactions, and dating (conventionally) from 1400 to 1240 B.C., the Linear B script had confounded scholars for half a century. By 1950, no ground had been gained.
Because the Dark Age supposedly separated the two cultures, Evans insisted that Linear B could not be Greek, and Homeric Greek authority Helen L. Lorimer wrote in 1950, The result is wholly unfavorable to any hope entertained that the language of the inscriptions might be Greek.
Velikovsky, however, synchronized Mycenae and Late Minoan Crete with the 8th-9th century divided kingdom of Israel, immediately preceding the appearance of Greece. He thus deduced that Linear B was Greek, and said so before the Princeton University Graduate College Forum on October 14, 1953.
Just six months later, on April 9, 1954, the New York Times announced that Michael Ventris and John Chadwick had deciphered Linear B. It was Greek. Not only that, it had much in common with Classic Era Greek dialects. Historians were aghast.
How, they asked, could a highly literate, cultured, and productive society become wholly illiterate, uncultured, and unproductive so quickly and remain so for half a millennium, and then suddenly reappear ~ brilliant, fully literate, and fully productive ~ as exemplified by Homer?
And How, when civilization was rampant throughout the Mediterranean, could 600 years of history simply disappear so completely that not one shred of evidence confirms its existence?
Civilizations do not completely lose their literacy and then regain it centuries later, yet no scholar except Velikovsky has ever supplied a satisfactory explanation. Velikovsky’s answer was that the 600-year Dark Age never existed, that Mycenae immediately preceded Greece, and that Homer in the seventh century wrote of Mycenean things he saw and knew about first-hand.
Take Your Pick
So which is right: the Old Testament or the conventional history of Egypt? They do not agree. The Hebrews were the first people to compose a narrative history of their nation; but it was the fashion in the nineteenth century to discredit ancient writings and deny the authorship of those credited with writing them (i.e., Moses of the Pentateuch, Homer of the Iliad and the Odyssey), so the Israelites have long been denied the credit due them. Instead, nineteenth and early twentieth century historians rejected the Old Testament outright as a collection of myths and legends written down five centuries before Christ. Still, the long list of kings and dynasties had no dates, and historians needed an anchor point in time on which to pin the king-lists in order to rebuild the history of Egypt.
The Egyptian chronology is the basis for the chronologies of all Middle Eastern nations, so it had to be a mighty trunk to support such a wide-ranging tree. Yet, rather than consider the Old Testament sequences and dating of events, historians looked elsewhere for an anchor; and, in constructing the history of Egypt, here is the mighty piece of documentation they chose over the Bible on which to hang the history of the ancient Middle East:
- The list of Egyptian dynasties comes to us from Manetho, a third century B.C. priest and historian who lived in Sebennytos, the capital of Egypt, during the thirtieth Dynasty, during the reigns of Ptolemy I and Ptolemy II. His Aegyptiaca, a collection of three books about the history of Ancient Egypt commissioned by Ptolemy II in order to bring together the Egyptian and Hellenistic cultures, gave us a string of dynasties stretching back more than 10,000 years. This formed the backbone of Egyptian history.
- In the fourth century A.D., Theon, father of the pagan priestess Hypatia, and a teacher and one of the most educated men in Alexandria, Egypt, was a commentator in the great library there. In the margin of one of his manuscripts an unknown hand wrote in barbaric Greek, “From Menophres to the end of the era of Augustus, or the beginning of the era of Diocletian, there were 1605 years.” The era of Augustus ended about 284 A.D. That placed Menophres in about the year 1321 B.C.
Hang on! The plot now sickens!
- In vain, historians searched Manetho’s king-lists for Menophres, who was no where to be found. Desperate, they picked pharaohs whose transliterated throne or royal names began with the letter “M”: Mernere of the Sixth Dynasty, Minnofirre of the Hyksos, Amenophes or Merrhes of the Eighteenth Dynasty, and Ameneptas or Merneptah of the nineteenth. It was a grab-bag.
- The two favored candidates were Ramses I (throne name “Menpehtire”) and Seti I (throne name “Menmaatre”). No one could agree, so by default, and purely arbitrarily, Ramses I was identified as Menophres on the bland assumption that he founded the nineteenth Dynasty, which ~ if you believe Manetho ~ he did not. His one-year reign was dated 1321 B.C., and both Seti the Great and his son Ramses II followed.
On that basis, and on that alone, Ramses II landed in the thirteenth century B.C. This, and this alone, is what historians chose over the “mythological” Old Testament to be the anchor point for the conventional history of ancient Egypt.
Using records of moon festivals, and relying on controversial readings of ancient papyrus dates relating to 1460-year cycles between first risings of Sirius before the rising sun on the Egyptian New Year (called the Sothic Period), dates were assigned to other dynasties fore and aft.
If names which Manetho did not have were found on monuments, they were inserted in likely places.
The edifice of Egyptian history was complete. The histories of other surrounding nations, including Israel, were rewritten to conform to it. Archaeological digs, no matter where, are still dated by Egyptian artifacts found there.
So, it is entirely correct to say that on that one inscription in the margin of Theon’s manuscript rests the entire history of the ancient Middle East.
But now for the difficulties:
- Manetho’s king-lists are a mess. Because he was trying to prove to the Greeks how very ancient the Egyptian civilization was, contemporary dynasties in Upper and Lower Egypt, or overlapping kings and dynasties, were all laid end-to-end, and his history goes back more than ten thousand years. Furthermore, major portions of the lists are entirely fictitious, and the whole compilation is mangled and sloppy. Not only that, we don’t even have the original Aegyptiaca. It is left to us through the writings of Africanus, Syncellus, Eusebius and Flavius Josephus, who mostly don’t agree. The Aegyptiaca was extensively commented on, adulterated, and falsified for political and religious motives, and these false renderings were often the sources from which later writers quoted him. Scholars recognize Manetho’s difficulties, but can do nothing about it.
Ramses I is not listed by Manetho in the nineteenth Dynasty, and Manetho would have been the only source available to whoever wrote that inscription on Theon’s manuscript.
- And, finally, it is now generally agreed that “Menophres” did not refer to a king at all, but to Memphis, the Old Kingdom capitol of Egypt. Men-Nofre was the ancient Egyptian name for Memphis.
- One of the two storage cities the Israelites built early in their enslavement was Raamses, which historians obviously linked to Ramses II. However, there was an entire early Middle Kingdom (about the 18th century B.C.) dynasty of Raameside pharaohs from whom Raamses could have derived its name, so there is no legitimate reason to link Raamses to Ramses II.
- In 1883, Swiss archaeologist Eduoard Neville excavated what he thought was the storage city of Pi-Thom, and found Ramses II’s name inscribed all over the place. Neville concluded that Ramses II was Pharaoh of the Oppression, and his son Merneptah the Pharaoh of the Exodus. The Exodus date was then shifted to the thirteenth century to accommodate Ramses. However, within thirty years, and well before the First World War, it was determined that the site Neville excavated was not Pi-Thom at all, but some other town, so any assumption that Ramses II was Pharaoh of the Oppression or the Exodus is wholly unfounded. Ramses II has not one archaeological link to the thirteenth century, although he has several unexplained archaeological links to the seventh. Remember that, the next time you read in a Bible handbook or commentary that the Exodus is archaeologically linked to Ramses II (Halley) or that it took place in the thirteenth century B.C. (Tyndale).
- No historian today upholds the Menophres inscription because of its spurious nature and because most now agree that “Menophres” referred to Memphis. Sothic dating, by which other dates were achieved, was finally abandoned in 1985 because hieroglyphic inscriptions are often undecipherable. Besides, the length of the year appears to have changed several times in antiquity, rendering retrocalculation meaningless. Velikovsky showed that “Sothis” in the papyri referred to Venus, not Sirius. And Sothic Dating was unknown to the Egyptians anyway.
The conventional history of Egypt remains engraved in stone, a huge monolith of epic size but little substance. Like the theory of evolution of species, it hangs on by the skin of its teeth; but those who are hard at work dismantling it are achieving a wider and more profound respect among conventional archaeologists and historians who have tried to refute them and failed. And they are no longer published in private papers and Velikovskian journals alone; they are now being published in such conventional voices as The Journal of Near Eastern Studies and Biblical Archaeology Review.
Why is this important?
Scripture places the Exodus in the fifteenth century B.C., 480 years before Solomon began building the Temple in Jerusalem (I Kings 6:1); but this is the conventional date for the reign of Egypt’s greatest pharaoh, Thutmose III. The conventional date for the Exodus is the thirteenth century based solely on the erroneous connection with Ramses II, Egypt’s second-greatest pharaoh. Neither of these two great rulers was troubled by such a disaster as the plagues (which totally destroyed Egypt) or the Exodus, and Bible scholars clutch at straws trying to fit the terrible holocaust described by Moses into these two extremely successful reigns. The claim that pharaohs did not record their defeats, so often used as an excuse for lack of documentation during these two pharaohs’ reigns, is wholly erroneous. They recorded their defeats, but extolled their own valor over that of their armies.
The Exodus was to be God’s memorial to us for as long as men inhabit the earth; but, because of the historical confusion generated by misplaced dynasties, many believe that the plagues never happened and the Exodus story is a lie. God’s great memorial has become a Sunday School fable, good for moral instruction but of no historical significance, because academics biased against the Lord and against the Scriptures tell us to believe them and not the Word of God, even though it’s the history and science books, and not the Bible, that are continually being rewritten!
Ken Ham, President of Answers in Genesis USA and Joint CEO of Answers in Genesis International, is a well-known Young Earth Creationist who declares that Sunday School teaching has ruined Christians in their attempts to defend Scripture. He declares that Christians are taught neat little Sunday School lessons from Genesis without the scientific and historical evidence to back it up, which has rendered too many Christians impotent in intellectual debate on Creation. Add to that the historicity of the entire Old Testament, and you see Ham’s point: Christians rely on the moral and spiritual lessons from the Old Testament but cannot defend it against secular science and history.
Velikovsky may have been wrong about the role Venus played in those ancient dramas. We really don’t know, and there is strong evidence that Venus, while obviously a former comet and a young planet, was not the culprit Velikovsky thought it was. Many of his readings and interpretations have been legitimately challenged since, as a psychoanalyst, he sometimes wrung more interpretation from a source than it really had to give. He may have missed on some of his cultural connections or even specific historical events. But, then, nobody is always right; and, after all, he didn’t write a Bible.
He also shot himself in the foot by publishing his reconstruction piecemeal rather than all at once, and only three of the five volumes at that. A full 25 years separated Volumes 1 and 2, by which time few people cared.
But overwhelming space age confirmation of his celestial predictions and subsequent terrestrial discoveries compelled both interest from the open-minded and wrath and condemnation from the bigoted who would rather destroy him than listen to what he had to say, even though what he said in 1950 is standard thinking today. His breadth of view alone was staggering, since in this age of extreme specialization no single expert has the broad interdisciplinary knowledge to dispute him.
“How could one man be so right about so much?” someone asked. Good question!
Finally, his historical reconstruction is important because it makes a glaring statement about academic bias and misinterpretation, and about the willingness of Christians and Jews to allow ungodly men to rewrite their Scriptures. His work revealed the earth’s cataclysmic historical past, which the Bible fully describes, and he demonstrated the reality of Biblical events that are also described in the written records of other ancient civilizations. In fact, whenever it has been put to an archaeological test, the Bible ~ both Old and New Testaments ~ has never been proven wrong, and has been consistently upheld against secular history books. All the theories of the composition of the Old Testament were put forth before the rise of archaeology. Unbelievers still spout them, but archaeology is the skeptic’s greatest enemy.
People turn pale at the thought of cometary impacts 3,000 years ago, or the history of Egypt being wrong. But they aren’t scared when they scratch for rare hints of the Exodus in the accepted time slots, and they aren’t overly bothered when ungodly scholars tell them not to expect or look for historical confirmation of Biblical events. Christians and Jews have blindly accepted the lie that the Scriptures have to be taken almost totally on faith in the face of overwhelming historical difficulties, if not outright refutation, and that all we can realistically expect from the Bible is sound moral guidance.
That is the biggest vat of snake oil anybody ever bought. If the Bible is the Word of God, then its history will be accurate and true. And Velikovsky was the first non-Christian scholar to say so. And, even if it isn’t the Word of God, it is still accurate history and describes real historical events.
As Velikovsky told Carl Sagan, “Whatever happened, happened.”
And he made it clear, even if only by the respect he gave the Scriptures as historical documents, that we who believe the Bible to be the inspired Word of God have no need to bow down to the sacred cows of secular history and science. Considering the perfect archaeological batting record which both the Old and New Testaments have over conventional science and history books, and considering the wholly vacuous base on which the conventional history of ancient Egypt rests, perhaps it’s about time we do what Velikovsky did and rewrite the one that needs to be rewritten.
Unpublished work © 2006 Henry Zecher
[Photo of Immanuel Velikovsky courtesy of Ev Cochrane, Editor and Publisher of Aeon, Ames, Iowa]