Unwrapping the Pharaohs

John Ashton and David Down

Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 2007.

Synopsis: 

Dr. Ashton and Mr. Down take a look at the Egyptian dynasties, chronicling their most important members and presenting an alternate chronology that “confirms the Old Testament accounts of Moses, the Exodus and Joseph.” It is printed in full-color with many photos and pictures of ancient and modern Egypt.

Evaluation: 

Beautifully illustrated, and well-written, this book is none-the-less shallow and barely sets out to do what it claims on the cover. The chronology set forth in the book is very interesting and definitely worth a second look, however the structure of the book does very little to support the importance of what the authors are proposing. The book feels more like a storybook than a serious work. The authors claim that the book is written for the lay-person, but it seems to me that it is aimed more at people who won’t ask questions about its contents rather than the serious thinker, whether lay-person or scholar. Their argument for their time-line amounts to little more than, “We’re right and you’re not. So there!” Certainly, Scripture does contain an accurate record of events, but for a book that purports to be so ground-breaking and revolutionary in its explanation of how world history, biblical history and Egyptian history line up, very little explanation is done as to how exactly the authors came to their conclusions.

One example is their use of ancient sources to “prove” their point. Arguing from the writings of Josephus, which claims that Abraham taught the Egyptians arithmetic and astronomy, Dr. Ashton and Mr. Down say that the pharaoh of Abraham’s time must be Khufu (Cheops), because from that time on the Egyptians took a giant leap forward in their understanding of arithmetic, architecture and astronomy. While it is certainly possible that this is true, it must also be remembered that Josephus’ works were pieces of propaganda to explain the Israelite nation to a hostile Roman empire. Thus he would paint things in a rather rosy light and claim more than might necessarily be true. The thing is that the authors do not write “maybe” or “possibly”, which would be more accurate, they simply write “was.” This is weak scholarship and ends up being more sensational than realistic in the understanding of history.

All-in-all this is not a bad resource, if it is taken with a grain of salt and it is made sure that the primary sources that the authors cite (some of which are out of print and unobtainable) are consulted for more detail.