Thompson on the Execration Texts

I’m continuing my way through Thomas Thompson’s Historicity of the Patriarchal Narratives.

On page 113, Thompson states: “When all the above material is taken into consideration, the earliest conceivable date for any of the Execration Texts seems to be about 1850 B.C. and the latest date about 1760 B.C., though both these dates are extreme.  The more probably dates would seem to be c. 1810-1770 B.C., that is, from the latter part of the reign of Amenemes III to the beginning of the Thirteenth Dynasty.  On the basis of the chronology alone it becomes extremely difficult to identify the Early West Semites of the Execration Texts with either the ‘3mw of  the First Intermediate Period of Egypt or the proposed immigrating nomads of the Middle Bronze I Period of Palestine.  Such an identification would demand that we bridge a chronological gap of about two centuries…

“An examination of the content of the Execration Texts offers little confirmation to those attempts to find a process of sedentarization in Palestine at this time which developed into the Middle Bronze II culture, on the basis of a comparison of the levels of culture presupposed by the earlier and later sets of texts.  Whether the Execration Texts reflect the rising power of the Palestinian city-states, or the Egyptian interest to protect their trade routes in the North, is by no means clear.  That, however, there is no fundamental political or sociological distinction between the two sets of texts that can be ascertained, and that in both texts we are dealing with a settled culture centered around major population centers is without doubt.”

These quotes clarified to me why Thompson was spending a lot of time arguing for a specific date for the Egyptian Execration Texts, which refer to West Semites in Palestine.  I wondered what exactly Thompson’s argument had to do with his overall thesis: that there is no evidence that the patriarchal narratives are historically-accurate.  But the above quotes explain the argument’s relevance.  On page 98, Thompson says that scholars have tried to bring together Genesis 11 with the Execration Texts and the “transitional archaeological period EB IV/MB I, supported by the Egyptian records of the First Intermediate Period, the Story of Sinuhe, and the Egyptian tomb painting found at Beni Hasan.”  Their conclusion was that Early West Semites migrated from Mesopotamia to Palestine, as the patriarchal narratives present Abraham doing.  But Thompson’s argument is that the Execration Texts have nothing to do with a migration of Early West Semites, for its chronology does not coincide with the other sources, plus the Execration Texts concern a culture that’s settled, not on the move.

I want to check out some of the dates that Thompson mentions.  James Hoffmeier lists one of them in his Ancient Israel in Sinai.  Hoffmeier dates the First Intermediate Period of Egypt to 2190-2106 B.C.E.  Thompson in Mythic Past links the First Intermediate Period with the Early Bronze IV Period, which began in 2300 B.C.E.  William Dever in the Anchor Bible Dictionary dates Middle Bronze Age I to 2000-1800 B.C.E.  So Thompson’s point appears to be that the Execration Texts (1810-1770 B.C.E.) date later than the First Intermediate Period, and so one cannot link First Intermediate Period evidence with the Execration Texts to support a migration of Early West Semites from Mesopotamia to Palestine, nor can one link the Execration Texts with the time of transition from Early Bronze Age IV to Middle Bronze Age I.

What baffles me is that scholars appear to be dating Abraham to the end of the third millennium B.C.E. rather than the second millennium.  The First Intermediate Period of Egypt was in 2190-2106 B.C.E., whereas Archbishop Ussher dates the call of Abraham to 1921 B.C.E.  But I may be wrong on scholarly views, for Thompson states on page 98 that scholars use “historical analogy”, which appears to be their way of saying that a few centuries make no difference.  But Thompson thinks that the two centuries separating the Execration Texts from the First Intermediate Period are significant.  After all, would one suggest that the American Revolution and the Civil War were “roughly contemporary”, even though these events were separated by less than a century?

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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