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.
That Amenophis accordingly chose out two hundred and fifty thousand of those that were thus diseased, and cast them out of the country:
that Moses and Joseph were scribes, and Joseph was a sacred scribe; that their names were Egyptian originally; that of Moses had been Tisithen, and that of Joseph, Peteseph:
that these two came to Pelusium, and lighted upon three hundred and eighty thousand that had been left there by Amenophis, he not being willing to carry them into Egypt;
that these scribes made a league of friendship with them, and made with them an expedition against Egypt:
that Amenophis could not sustain their attacks, but fled into Ethiopia, and left his wife with child behind him, who lay concealed in certain caverns, and there brought forth a son, whose name was Messene,
and who, when he was grown up to man’s estate, pursued the Jews into Syria, being about two hundred thousand,
and then received his father Amenophis out of Ethiopia.”
33. This is the account Cheremon gives us.
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