Artapanus of Alexandria was a Jewish historian living in Egypt in the late third or second century B.C.E. We read the relevant excerpts of his work On/Concerning the Jews in another work by Eusebius, Praeparatio Evangelica (= Preparation of the Gospel). Artapanus gives a new twist to the narratives we have read so far by making Moses a Jew but also the founder of the Egyptian religion and civilization. (He is even identified with Hermes, the inventor of the sacred hieroglyphic script.) As Jans Assmann comments,
[Artapanus’s] picture of Moses is pure counterhistory . . . : it is the exact inversion of Hecataeus’ and Manetho’s Moses, written in contradiction to their texts and with very little reference to the Bible or other Jewish traditions. (Moses the Egyptian, p. 36)
Enjoy the Jewish counter-history! From Book 9, chapter 27 of Praeparatio:
AND Artapanus says, in his book Concerning the Jews, that after the death of Abraham, and of his son Mempsasthenoth, and likewise of the king of Egypt, his son Palmanothes succeeded to the sovereignty.
‘This king behaved badly to the Jews; and first he built Kessa, and founded the temple therein, and then built the temple in Heliopolis.
‘He begat a daughter Merris, whom he betrothed to a certain Chenephres, king of the regions above Memphis (for there were at that time many kings in Egypt); and she being barren took a supposititious child from one of the Jews, and called him Mouses (Moses): but by the Greeks he was called, when grown to manhood, Musaeus.
‘And this Moses, they said, was the teacher of Orpheus; and when grown up he taught mankind many useful things. For
- he was the inventor of ships,
- and machines for laying stones,
- and Egyptian arms,
- and engines for drawing water and for war,
- and invented philosophy.
- Further he divided the State into thirty-six Nomes,
- and appointed the god to be worshipped by each Nome,
- and the sacred writing for the priests,
- and their gods were cats, and dogs, and ibises:
- he also apportioned an especial district for the priests.
‘All these things he did for the sake of keeping the sovereignty firm and safe for Chenepbres. For previously the multitudes, being under no order, now expelled and now set up kings, often the same persons, but sometimes others.
‘For these reasons then Moses was beloved by the multitudes, and being deemed by the priests worthy to be honoured like a god, was named Hermes, because of his interpretation of the Hieroglyphics.
‘But when Chenephres perceived the excellence of Moses he envied him, and sought to slay him on some plausible pretext. Continue reading “Moses and Exodus: an Ancient Jewish Counter-History”