Chaeremon was an Egyptian priest who lived in Alexandria in the first half of the first century and who subsequently moved to Rome where he became the tutor to Nero. Josephus tells us of his version of the Exodus.
Chaeremon is the first to introduce distinctly biblical motifs into the story. The names of the 250,000 lepers being expelled are Moses and Joseph. In Pelusium they encounter 380,000 would-be emigrants who had been refused permission to emigrate with them. These two groups in fact combined forces and conquered Egypt. Later Ramses was able to drive them out of Egypt, pushing them back to Syria.
I omit Josephus’s criticisms of his account.
32. And now . . . I will inquire into what Cheremon says. For he also, when he pretended to write the Egyptian history, sets down the same name for this king that Manetho did, Amenophis, as also of his son Ramesses, and then goes on thus:
“The goddess Isis appeared to Amenophis in his sleep, and blamed him that her temple had been demolished in the war.
But that Phritiphantes [or Phritibantes, = “the scribe of the temple”], the sacred scribe, said to him, that in case he would purge Egypt of the men that had pollutions upon them, he should be no longer troubled with such frightful apparitions. Continue reading “Moses and the Exodus according to . . . . the Egyptian Chaeremon”
The next account is by another Greek, Lysimachus, possibly from the second century B.C.E. His account is preserved by Josephus in Against Apion:
34. I shall now add to these accounts . . . somewhat about Lysimachus . . . [See Josephus’s account for his criticism of what he takes to be a most unfair and false account by Lysimachus]. . . His words are these:
“The people of the Jews being leprous and scabby, and subject to certain other kinds of distempers, in the days of Bocchoris, king of Egypt, they fled to the temples, and got their food there by begging: and as the numbers were very great that were fallen under these diseases, there arose a scarcity in Egypt. Continue reading “Moses and the Exodus According to the Ancient Greeks. . . : Lysimachus”
After reading Jan Assmann’s Moses the Egyptian I’d like to set out here the various alternative versions of the story of Moses and the Exodus as written by ancient Greek and Egyptian historians. (These will be known to many readers but I want to have them all set out together and perhaps discuss their significance in relation to “what really happened” afterwards.)
Here is the apparently earliest non-Jewish record, written by the Greek Hecataeus of Abdera in the fourth and third centuries B.C.E. after he settled in Egypt. It comes to us via another Greek historian, Diodorus Siculus [= of Sicily] of the first century B.C.E. I will highlight significant sections that overlap (however obliquely) with the biblical narrative.
 Since we are about to give an account of the war against the Jews, we consider it appropriate, before we proceed further, in the first place to relate the origin of this nation, and their customs.
In ancient times a great plague occurred in Egypt, and many ascribed the cause of it to the gods, who were offended with them.
For since the multitudes of strangers of different nationalities, who lived there, made use of their foreign rites in religious ceremonies and sacrifices, the ancient manner of worshipping the gods, practised by the ancestors of the Egyptians, had been quite lost and forgotten.
2 Therefore the native inhabitants concluded that, unless all the foreigners were driven out, they would never be free from their miseries. Continue reading “Moses and the Exodus According to the Ancient Greeks and Egyptians: Hecataeus”