Reliability of Sources


'His zeal caused him to challenge the scientists, the theologians, the philologists, the anthropologists and sociologists. However, he did not rest his case there. He was too much the honest scholar for that. Therefore, he presented to his peers the abundant evidence resulting from his immense research, which had been sifted through the most reliable authorities.'1

But just how reliable were Massey's sources?

Many of Massey's critics were quick to point out the dodgy ground from which he drew his material. This reflected on his own works. The eminent Assyriologist Prof. Sayce described one of his as a 'mass of ignorance and false quotation,'2 whilst another scholar connected with the British Museum, who preferred to remain anonymous, described him as 'an ignoramus of the worst kind,'3  and others attacked him for the same reasons; that his knowledge was inadequate, not deep enough to attack the vital issues of biblical criticism, and his data suspect. Massey, always ready to defend himself, was quick to jump at the chance to prove his assertions stating that he had 'spared no time to get at his facts, and neglected no source of knowledge. He had learned the Egyptian Book of the Dead nearly off by heart, and consulted with Dr Samuel Birch regarding variant texts, who had also corrected his proofs and gave him advice.'4 As Birch was the one of the leading Egyptologist's of his time and head of the Egyptian Antiquities in the British Museum, one would think Massey could appeal to no higher authority. Indeed Birch is one of the most quoted of authorities in Massey's works, drawing on at least thirty six of his texts and translations and the series he edited for the Society of Biblical Archaeology, Records of the Past. Although we know now that the translations in this series have been largely superseded, for the time he was writing they were standard works of reference. Therefore it would be an indiscretion to state that these particular volumes, in the light of the philological advances that have been made over the last hundred years, weren't that reliable. They were one of the few works Massey had at his disposal. Hence the proliferation of quotes in his works.

Although Massey had studied the Egyptian hieroglyphics for forty years5 Massey would never be content to rely solely on his own translations, except where he disagreed with other authorities including Birch (see for an example, BB 2:132.).

My purpose in this essay is look at those works that have since been discredited and some of the authorities known to be unreliable and to determine if he was aware of the inadequacy of these sources. For reasons of space I will only touch on those texts that are of importance in referential terms in the Masseian corpus.

The first authority I would like to bring under discussion is the Church Father, Eusebius. This was a man who deliberately falsified his quotes, interpolated his texts, stole from others and passed them off as his own. Not only was he a plagiarist, he was also a known compulsive liar. Yet he is still highly regarded and his Church History is one of the most reprinted histories of the early years of Christianity. He is not only highly regarded by other Church Fathers, but also by scholars contemporaneous with Massey. For example, McGiffert, in his introduction to the works of Eusebius, says, 'His claim to greatness rests upon his vast erudition and his sterling sense. His powers of acquisition were remarkable and his diligence in study unwearied. He has at his command undoubtedly more acquired material than any man of his age, and he possessed that true literary and historical instinct which enabled him to select from his vast stores of knowledge those things which it is most worth his while to tell to the world. His writings therefore remain valuable...'6 The heaps of praise this writer bestows on Eusebius is due more to his being a Catholic theologian than an objective scholar. Therefore he fails to see how Eusebius distorted 'the vast stores of knowledge' at his disposal to further the cause of Christianity. His reputation preceded him, and undoubtedly Massey must have been aware of his failings.

It is unfortunate that the most essential of his works, Preparations for the Gospel, is one of the few texts which preserve some of the ancient traditions from which Massey draws heavily. It is an important work for it preserves texts which would otherwise not only be lost but would have remained totally unknown, like the Berosian account of Creation, also preserved in part by Syncellus and, to a lesser extent, Josephus; On the Jews by Eupolemus; the unknown work by Philo Byblius; The Theology of the Phoenicians by Sanchoniathon; the unknown work by Epeis; Grecian Histories by Polemo; Hieroglyphica by Chaeremon, also preserved in Josephus; Judaica by Artabanus; and On the Jews by Alexander Polyhistor, most of which can be found translated in Cory's Ancient Fragments. As the original texts have been lost, it is impossible to judge the accuracy of Eusebius' quotes, there be nothing we can compare them with. We are in the unfortunate position of having to take his word for it, which is hardly satisfactory.

Although we cannot level the same charges at the other Church Fathers, it is to them we have to look to find preservation of other fragments in their writings which contain notices of the theories and doctrines of the sects Massey saw as providing a positive link between the Egyptian mythos and early Christianity; the Gnostics. When having to read the interminable Patristic tracts it is rather like wading through an ocean of gush to find the one morsel of truth, a nugget of gold in a mire of dark, deadly delusion. For they would have every reason to distort the doctrines of the 'heretics' around them in order to preserve their own position. Self-preservation is instinctual, so we cannot be too reliant on how faithfully they have recorded the sayings of their opponents. Needless to say, the texts have to be approached with caution. We would expect gross exaggeration of the principles of the Gnostics to offset the Fathers' own claims to truth. We would expect distortion in the quotes to make the Gnostics appear ridiculous in our eyes. And again, we are in the same position, as Massey was, on being wholly reliant on these Fathers as few of the original writings of the Gnostics have been preserved elsewhere. It wasn't until the 1940's that some of them came to light in Nag Hammadi. The Coptic Gnostic Library, as these fragmentary texts are now so designated, would have given Massey a field day had he survived another forty years. And the same sentiment can be said for the so-called Dead Sea Scrolls discovered throughout the forties and fifties. These would have provided him with ample ammunition since he saw the Essenes—who have been largely credited for the writing of these texts7—as similar to the Gnostics.8  But Massey is not here to compare the quotes given by the Fathers against the original texts. We are, and have at our disposal the material of the Gnostic sects in two excellent books, The Nag Hammadi Library in English, ed., J. A. Robinson, and Bentley Layton, The Gnostic Scriptures, which draws on all the Gnostic texts, those from Nag Hammadi and the Church Fathers, as well as others. Or at least theoretically this would be possible. Unfortunately this is not the case for the texts are only cited by some of the Fathers, and hardly ever quoted in full. For example, Irenaeus only cites the Gospel of Truth by Valentinus and never quotes it. 'Unfortunately the heresiologist reveals little about the content of the work, except that it is different significantly from the canonical gospels. Given the general Valentinian affinities of the text of Codex I, it is quite possible that it is identical with the work known to Irenaeus.'9 And Layton is in partial agreement, 'the second century father of the church, St. Irenaeus of Lyon, states that the Valetinian church read a Gospel (or Proclamation) of Truth. Since this is the opening phrase of Gtr, some scholars have concluded that Irenaeus must be referring to the present work.'10 We shall never know if this is one and the same text. The Gospel of the Egyptians quoted by both Clement of Alexandria and Clement of Rome is not the same as the one that was found in Nag Hammadi. Although bearing the same name, it is also called The Holy Book of the Great Invisible Spirit and 'is not related to the apocryphal Gospel of the Egyptians which is cited in Patristic literature.'11 In these two particular instances we have to rely on the authority of the Fathers, as for the first one, it is not extant and is only available in the snippets given by the two Clements.

This is generally the case for the sayings of the Gnostics as a whole since few of their actual writings have come down to us. The heresiological works of Irenaeus, Hippolytus and Epiphanius are the sole guides to our real view of the early centuries of the Christian era. They are assumed by most authorities to be trustworthy. Since Massey, like other writers of his time, could only glean information on the Gnostics—and more particularly so with Massey since their ideologies are central to his thesis of the mythical Christ—he had to go to these Fathers and use them at his discretion.

But this in itself raises important textual issues as it is not merely a matter of how faithful these Fathers were in recording the heresies around them, but also the authenticity of their own writings. Due to the passage of time from the actual transcription to when they reach us, most of the tracts of the Fathers have gone through several recensions, being copies of copies by at times competent copyists, at others by copyists who weren't even familiar with the language they were copying. Added to this, there is also the problem of interpolations and deletions.

Origen, for example, can be considered as trustworthy in his documentation as he came from a diverse background having studied in Alexandria. He was familiar at first hand with Platonic doctrines, the Gnostic sects, the Stoics and Pythagoreans. So we would expect a faithful report from him as he was conversant with his subjects. Yet we have to be wary, for as Forlong says, 'but what remains to us—being chiefly in Latin translation—has been garbled by later orthodox scribes, so that we often remain uncertain as to the real ideas of Origen.'12 In those early formative years of the Church, Origen's allegiance was closer to the Gnostics and the first Christians who were not that different from each other. It was only later, from the time of the first Council of Nicea onwards that unorthodox views were denounced, and Origen himself was treated with distrust later after his death for his dubious faith. Therefore, it is extremely likely that his texts would have been tampered with to paint the Church in a more favourable light. The extent of these manipulations can never be known, but with a work like Against Celsus, the main one by Origen Massey refers to, we can conjecture it would be minimal as it is essentially a defence written on behalf of the Church against the Platonist (as some authorities have deduced) Celsus. As Origen was a learned Platonist himself at an early age, it would be reasonable to assume he was perfectly equipped to unfold the diversity of opinion between the two, and there would be little reason to suspect any misinformation from a later hand as Origen's expertise would have demonstrated the superiority of his faith.

As Massey was multilingual—or at least able to read European languages as well as Greek and Latin—the errors of translation are only applicable to those texts where he has consulted versions other than the original, some of which we know to have been carelessly undertaken. This is of course applicable to all types of works, the Bible being a good example. Massey relied on two versions; the King James Authorised Version and the Revised Version when it became available after BB. But he did not stop there. He consulted the Septuagint (i.e. the LXX) and Jerome's Vulgate to establish the differences in the texts, as well as the Alexandrine version of John's Gospel and the Sinaitic version of the New Testament. In this way, he hoped to have the nearest authentic copy of the text. We all know each diverges radically from the other, and none are in themselves reliable. Even today, this is the case as none of the translations are satisfactory being based on corrupt, interpolated texts.

Massey is one of the few writers who have placed great emphasis on the Egyptian hieroglyphic interpretations of Horapollo 'which have been considerably undervalued by certain Egyptologists,'13 probably because they were considered unreliable and wholly off the mark.

The Hieroglyphica, as it is generally known, is an attempt to understand the ancient Egyptian symbols by an outsider, a Greek who had no knowledge of Egyptian and who attempted to 'reconstitute a lost tradition from fragile and partly spurious ingredients.'14 It was unfortunate for Horapollo in that he was misled by the Egyptian priests with whom he consulted, for he believed what they told him and his work was considered reliable up till the time Champollion put us on the right path. Before then, the Hieroglyphica had achieved authoritative status. It had a profound effect on the rebirth of science and mysticism, on philosophy, on symbolism in general, the Renaissance and the study of classical writers on ancient Egypt, inspiring a wave of Egyptomania. It was believed, through a total misconception, that the hieroglyphics Horapollo describes in his book were of the equivalent value as the ones on the monuments; therefore the meanings Horapollo assigns to his hieroglyphics, by a process of analogy, must be a key to the meanings of the ones carved in stone on the monuments. In other words, they believed they were symbolic, not phonetic, ideographic or alphabetic as was later the case, or a kind of universal language that could be interpreted once the underlying theory had been understood. Once the rule was known, anyone could converse using them, no matter what country they came from. This demonstrates the importance symbolism had from the beginning of the 16th century onwards.

It is easy to see why Egyptologists of Massey's time and later were so dismissive of Horapollo's interpretations, probably because they were apt to be untrue, fabulous and, in some cases, absurd. Horapollo's detractors have missed the point. The approach to the Hieroglyphica is best given by an analogy; Dream Books. These were very popular in the same period, especially with the women of upper classes, and even till the late nineteenth century. They were written in a quaint, almost fairy tale-like manner giving the meanings of dreams and what certain symbols meant. The Hieroglyphica of Horapollo is no different, for granted that none of the meanings have any verity in reality, they do, however, hold good on the dream level, i.e. the mythic. This is more so the case with Book Two with its striking and condense explanations of incongruous images: 'An anemone flower means human disease,' (ch. 8); 'A bull's horn means work,' (ch. 17); 'A hippopotamus means an hour,' (ch. 20); 'A wolf or a dog turning back means escape,' (ch. 22); 'Seven letters surrounded by two fingers mean a muse, the infinite, or fate,' etc. Boas, in his modern translation of the Hieroglyphica, also draws the same parallel and turns the reader's attention to Artemidorus' Oneirocriticon, first published around 1518. 'Artemidorus distinguishes between two kinds of dream, the oneiron and the enhypnion, of which the former foretells the future, and the latter reproduces "the things that are".'15 And lays stress on the former for in them is to be found the symbolic value that can also be found in the interpretations of Horapollo, with the oneiron being divided into two categories; the representative and the allegorical. It is the latter that speak through others giving them the meanings. This is perfect typology for it suggests things are drawn on through the senses in the outer life and conveyed to the mind as ideas; the whole of nature can thus be read as a book. Boas, however, does not make that analogy. It is mine, and I suggest that is why Massey, as I said, places great emphasis on this work, for as a book of types it is a veritable Bible. He quotes from it one hundred and thirty two times throughout the corpus, using mostly the English translation by Cory and once or twice the Latin of De Pauw, the basis of Cory's translation.16

It is sadly the case that another writer closely connected with Horapollo through the title of his work has not been so kindly preserved to posterity, the Hieroglyphica of Chaeremon of Alexandria, the Egyptian priest and Stoic philosopher. For the fragments of this work and others we have to look to Eusebius, Josephus and later writers.17

The importance of this writer cannot be underestimated. Massey had high regard for him, calling him an 'unimpeachable Egyptian authority' through the writings of Josephus, and also Eusebius. He says in AE 1:509, 'Chaeremon was one of the most learned men in Egypt, and the contemporary of Apion, against whom Josephus wrote his reply. He was the keeper of the rolls and books. He was an Egyptian historian in the library of the Serapaeum. He also composed a hieroglyphical dictionary, fragments of which are still extant and have been of service to Egyptologists. Chaeremon, therefore was one of those who knew.' The extent of his knowledge is questionable since we only have what is left to us through Eusebius and Josephus, as well as brief hints in Iamblichus and Porphyry, to name but a few. As I have said above regarding the writings preserved in others, we have to rely on them rather than the original author. If their writings have been distorted, then so have those of our author. We are therefore at a disadvantage. For this reason, I will only discuss how much Massey's perception and understanding of Chaeremon is correct, since he has only got the same information from the same sources we have available.

The first question is, how much did Chaeremon really know? I have already linked him to Horapollo through the title of the work he is best known by, his Hieroglyphica. This treatise, despite not being extant, we can at least suppose was recondite and correct as to the meanings of the glyphs themselves. As Chaeremon belonged to the priestly school of scribes, his understanding regarding the glyphs would be of a high degree, and being a grammarian, having written a treatise on the subject, confirms the fact. He was also the head of the Alexandrian school of grammarians, and possibly the 'keeper of the famous Museum in Alexandria'.18 His fame as a scholar had surpassed him since he was summoned to Rome to teach the young Nero who was shortly to become Emperor. He was also anti-Semitic, which does not bode well considering one of his presevers was a Jew, Josephus.

It is now accepted that Chaeremon flourished around the middle of the first century, although the exact dates of his birth and death are not known. Yet is seems strange, going on the information provided, and if we accept all that we know of Chaeremon is true, that his Hieroglyphica, which must have been written around 50 AD, was passed on to Horapollo—as van der Horst leads us to believe—but that it should become so distorted by the time it reaches him it is unrecognisable. That is to say, that within the space of 400 years, given the assumed date of composition of Horapollo's work being circa 450 AD,19 Horapollo's text bears no relationship to its predecessor. And we have to assume, given Chaeremon's background and position, that his original text would have been approaching something like the hieroglyphical dictionaries we have today, although bearing in mind the knowledge of hieroglyphic writing had fallen into disuse by the time Chaeremon was writing, and therefore we would perhaps expect a closer approximation akin to a Coptic dictionary, for example. Four hundred years may seem like a long time, and given that the text would have been hand written, probably a copy of a copy, etc., this would allow for a certain amount of distortion, but not for an entire rewrite that ends up being almost on a completely different subject. It would rather be like your great-great-grandmother's recipe for humble apple pie being passed on down the generations through different hands and by the time it reaches you, you end up with a chicken curry instead.

There are two ways out of this quandary. Either Horapollo never came across a copy of Chaeremon's Hieroglyphica, and possibly only heard about it, then wrote his text based on hearsay—this would seem most probable since we can allow for a far greater distortion through the oral channel than the written—or he received a copy in a language he never understood. There may be other possibilities, yet these two seem the most likely, and it would deflect from a far worse conjecture; Chaeremon too did not understand them.

The latter is worth considering on several points. As he was Greek living in an Egyptian milieu he may not have been allowed into the adyta of the Egyptian mysteries where the real knowledge of the glyphs would to some extent be intact and therefore his access was limited, or there was already a gross distortion in the meaning of the glyphs, which would explain the escalation by the time it reached Horapollo. Iversen suggests that really the two are not that dissimilar going by his reading of a work by the Byzantine grammarian Tzetzes in the 12th century. This work was an attempt to provide a commentary on Homer's Iliad, seeing it as being allegorical. He draws on the glyphic meanings as given by Chaeremon to prove his point. If the text is correct, then the allegorical interpretation has to be in the work by Chaeremon which leads directly to the allegorical interpretation of Horapollo. 'Generally speaking we find the same theoretical conceptions and the same methods applied.'20 It would therefore seem that allegorical meanings had already become attached to the hieroglyphs and were in circulation by the time Chaeremon was writing.

Tyson remarks, going by the evidence from Suidas, that Horapollo wrote commentaries on Sophocles, Alcaeus and Homer.21 If this is correct, then would it not be possible to suggest that the work Tzetzes is using for his exegesis of Homer—which is allegorical—is not the work of Chaeremon but Horapollo? After all, this would explain the incongruities and the fact that Horapollo's work has reached us, whereas Chaeremon's has not. It would be ironic if the work of Horapollo had by-passed Tzetzes and the work of Chaeremon stops at Tzetzes then disappears from the pages of history. The only citations of Chaeremon's work, supposedly, we have is in Tzetzes' writings circa 12th century. Where did he get his information from, and why is it not quoted by other classical authors? I will came back to this point later. But first, let's look at the evidence.

Tzetzes lists the definitions of nineteen (according to Iversen, p. 47) or twenty (according to van der Horst who gives the passage in full) hieroglyphs, only a few of which parallel Horapollo's interpretations, and fewer still are essentially correct. The reader is referred to van der Horst page 25 where these readings are listed and his notes on pages 62-3. It is worth quoting his remarks in full:

The first to draw attention to this fragment of Chaeremon was S. Birch in his article—'On the Lost Book of Chaeremon on Hieroglyphics', Transactions of the Royal Society of Literature. 2nd series, 3 (1850). 385ff See also C. Wendel, Zum Hieroglyphenbuche Chaeremons. Hermes 75 (1940), 227-229 and H. Felber, Quellen der Ilias-Exegesis des Joannes Tzetzes, diss. Zurich 1925, 24-26. It is to be noted here that no Greek or Latin author of non-Egyptian origin ever took the trouble to learn Egyptian. The various reports about the hieroglyphs (which proved of much greater fascination to the ancients than the other types of Egyptian writing) are almost always erroneous. Several hieroglyphic compilations are known to have existed already in Hellenistic times, but only two have survived, the one of Chaeremon only in this small excerpt by Tzetzes (a twelfth century Byzantine scholar) and the Hieroglyphica of Horapollo in its entirety (probably compiled in the fourth century CE). In both authors an allegorical conception of the signs is found. That even their most extravagant allegorical fancies can be traced to one of the established functions of the Egyptian signs is due to the fact that they were undoubtedly based on genuine Egyptian sources. If the introductory lines of the present passage derive from Chaeremon himself (which is not wholly certain: they might be Tzetzes' own), it would appear that Chaeremon, in spite of his being an Egyptian priest, adhered to the erroneous Greek symbolic conception of the hieroglyphs which has had such a fateful influence in the West till the nineteenth century. That even Egyptian priests in the Hellenistic-Roman period often no longer knew the exact significance of many hieroglyphs is probable ... One of the difficulties of the present fragment is that some of the interpretations are based upon the Ptolemaic sign system, which was much more complex than the classical system.22

Only 6 of the 20 readings given by Tzetzes bear any resemblance to Horapollo's, and only half of these have a direct connection. (I should state at this point that what is needed is a thorough examination of the correlation between the two, and their possible derivations as given in the Gardinerian lists. To be expedient we will pass on to some conclusions.) Given this information, and based on the evidence, Tzetzes must be using a different lexicon, possibly two or three of the ones available as suggested by Iversen in the above quote, and possibly also a corrupt text from Chaeremon.

We can look at the perplexity of the problem in another way. Chaeremon had intimate knowledge of the glyphs on more than just one level and the level he chose to write upon the glyphs in his book was the allegorical, withholding the other levels which would or could have comprised the phonetic, ideographic, etc. and the three different systems of writings by the Egyptians which also included the hieratic and demotic.

In the 'notorious difficult' passage quoted by van der Horst from Clement's Stromata, his fragment 20D in the list of dubious possibilities, Clement expounds on the different levels of writings of the Egyptians, and is often quoted by modern Egyptologists. He says:

'Those instructed among the Egyptians learn first of all the genre of Egyptian letters which is called 'epistolographic' [demotic—type 1]; secondly, the 'hieratic' [type 2] genre which is used by the sacred scribes; finally and in the last place, the 'hieroglyphic' [type 3] genre, which partly expresses things literally [type 3, division 1] by means of primary letters and which is partly symbolical [type 3, division 2]. In the symbolical method [type 3, division 2, subdivision 1—the ideograms or perhaps determinatives], one kind speaks 'literally' by initiation, a second kind writes as it were metaphorically [type 3, division 2, subdivision 2—possibly the phonetical use of ideograms], and a third one is outright allegorical [type 3, division 2, subdivision 3—with no phonetics, purely symbolic—ideographic?] by means of certain enigmas.'23

Although there is no direct connection with Chaeremon, van der Horst has included it based on the assumptions of other Egyptologists who suggest this is where Clement got his information. I suggest Clement had direct access to a complete copy of the lexicon by Chaeremon who possibly in his introduction expresses the differences between the scripts Clement is quoting perhaps verbatim. Then Chaeremon goes on to explain the meanings of the glyphs using the different levels of interpretation—since Clement cites a couple of examples—then on the allegorical level, as in Clement's third type, division 2, subdivision 3. And it is this portion of the text that eventually reaches Horapollo who assumes this is the meanings of the glyphs per se, and that there are no other interpretations, which also may have reached Tzetzes but in a more disjointed form. This would explain why it is that it is only Clement, with the exception of Porphyry in his Life of Pythagoras, who is able to distinguish the three different types of writing. Not long after he wrote the above passage, the book in its complete form disappeared apart from the latter half with its allegorical explanations.

All of this is of course complete conjecture simply because at the end of the day we don't really know.

I have gone into the whole complexity of this matter at length to illustrate how certain writings cannot be taken for granted, and the imperative of sifting through all the evidence available, not just in the writings of other scholars, but also what we know through history confirmed by archaeological records, etc. For Massey to take the stance that he has done all his research is a matter of opinion. But to write on all the vast fields he covered suggests his research hadn't been diligent enough, no matter whether he had been doing it for ten years or even forty. To try and embrace the whole gamut of knowledge he attempted to cover would not only be an extraordinary feat, it would also be beyond human endeavour. He mocks the work of Bopp, for example, a well respected philologist who spent painstaking years comparing the parallels between Greek, Latin and Sanskrit, to name but a few, and resolved to examine their interconnected roots. Bopp was a specialist in his field. Massey was, or claimed to be, a specialist in all the fields of human research he examined. This would have been an impossibility since he would have had to live to at least 400 years old if, as he claims, he had done all of his homework. This is only resolved if we take the dubious proposition that he was in fact a genius. I leave that for you to decide.

If the Hieroglyphica was corrupted, then how does that affect the other works Massey also cites? The fragments which have come down to us, supposedly written by Chaeremon, show a man of keen intellect who sought to reconcile the different strands of wisdom, one being the Hellenic and the other the Egyptian, in a syncretism that was remarkable for its time. And being a Stoic philosopher, he must have been peculiarly aware of the current trends of thought flowing around the hive of activity that was Alexandria. (Massey states he was an historian in the library of the Serapζum. I can find no evidence of this.)

Luckily we are on firmer ground with the citations he makes from Chaeremon's History of Egypt (through the allusions made by Josephus in his Against Apion) as there are other classical writers who also discuss the exodus from Egypt and there are many versions of this story reaching back into the earlier antiquity of Egypt, the prime example being Manetho who I will come to shortly. But what Massey here seems to forget with regard to Joseph and Moses is that this is a later accretion and was a basic narrative-model applied to other invaders into Egypt, namely the Hyksos, which could also be used for the far later invasion by the Jews. As the Hyksos were kicked out in the earlier narrative, so were the Jews in the one attributed to Chaeremon. He was only drawing on what was already by then a myth. Whether the narrative he portrays has any basis in reality is debatable, but it is what Assmann in his book Moses the Egyptian calls 'normative inversion'—a means of ostracising the other, the enemy, the inflicted, the leprous, etc. It is a psychological attempt to establish a barrier between us and them, and make them appear to be worse than us. It was used by the Nazis in the second world war, again on the Jews, as it has been on other ethnic cultures throughout the whole history of the world. Assmann, in the account given by Manetho (which has consonance with Chaeremon's account) likens it to the return of the repressed (using Freudian jargon) and possibly has its origins in the much maligned saga of Akhenaten and his rebellious break from the priesthood with the establishment of his new cult of the Aten many dynasties earlier. As the events of this period were literally forgotten, i.e. repressed, through the almost complete obliteration after his downfall of any signs of him and and his cult ever existing, so this later manifested as a myth which was applied by successive historians, including Manetho and Chaeremon, to other 'traumatic' upheavals in history. The foundation of the expulsion is probably true, the number Chaeremon quotes of 250,000 may, however, be a gross exaggeration. As Chaeremon's account is only preserved in the writings of the Jew Josephus, we have to be wary, for the account endorses Chaeremon's own anti-Semitism and his hatred for the Jews in Alexandria. Josephus would not have taken this kindly and may have distorted the literal, original narrative.

As a matter of history, we are fortunate enough to possess good accounts and archaeological support from various sources, and this matter has been adequately dealt with by Egyptologists.

Note firstly the anachronism of Joseph and Moses who lived in separate eras and were not contemporaries, as the Chaeremon account suggests. In his story they have been conflated, which is a common practice of writers in the Graeco-Roman period; the truth is not as half important as the meaning the story is trying to convey. Also, some scholars have suggested that this is a later interpolation—if so, this affects Massey's argument. Both Manetho and Chaeremon ascribe different Egyptian names to Moses. Manetho has Osarseph.24 Chaeremon has Tisithen, a radical departure from Manetho. This proposes enormous textual difficulties I'd rather not go into. Those interested should consult van der Horst's translation and his expansive notes.25 In Manetho the expulsion is due to the desire of the king to see the gods; in Chaeremon it is due to the appearance of the goddess Isis in a dream to the king. Chaeremon has a Phritibautes; no such personage appears in the Manetho narrative. Manetho has parallels with the narrative given by Chaeremon as well as wide discrepancies, but both have moulded their narrative on an ostracised people; Manetho = the Hyksos (or Shepherd Kings), Chaeremon = the Jews (or lepers). Since Chaeremon was writing after Manetho, we can assume his narrative is based on that of Manetho; the Jews now take the position of the Hyksos (who we know were later expelled in actuality) and conflates the other incidents of the narrative with the Manetho account.

Strict comparisons between these two accounts cannot be drawn as they both come from Josephus who has abridged the account by Chaeremon and yet given the account by Manetho at full length. But it is possible that both draw on the initial narrative-model dating back to the time of Akhenaten. As Manetho was writing around 290 BC, a thousand years after the reign of Akhenaten, who would have by then disappeared from the historical records, Manetho is here blending together connected stories with the archaic myth of the rebel king from the historical records he had at his disposal held in the archives at the libraries in the Egyptian temples. As he himself was a priest these would have been perfectly accessible to him. However, we know from external evidence the existence of the Amenophis mentioned in his text, also the priest Amenophis son of Papis, and can successfully identify them as Amenhotep III and Amenhotep son of Hapu (also known as Huy, who was actually a priest and was later 'canonised' like Imhotep not long after his death) who both lived in the eighteenth dynasty, circa 1390-1352, and Amnehotep III was the father of Akhenaten. In Manetho's account Amenophis (the king) is told by Amenophis (the priest) that 'certain people would come to the assistance of these unclean persons, and would subdue Egypt, and hold it in possession for thirteen years.'26 Now, as 'these unclean persons' could not possibly be the Hyksos who ruled 300 years earlier (in the 15th dynasty to the beginning of the 17th dynasty, the 16th being coexistent with the 15th), they must be the rulers who were later to appear on the scene, i.e. the Aten-worshippers. And it is instructive to note that Akhenaten, the head of the Aten cult, ruled just over thirteen years, according to the standard Egyptological reckoning, from 1352 to 1336 BC. This is only three years out and even some modern Egyptologists disagree with these dates. But let's settle for thirteen. This then allows us to identify Akhenaten with the Osarsiph (Moses) of Manetho. The unclean people in the narrative are given a city of their own (Avaris) after it had been deserted by the Hykos. This is denoted a 'Typhonian' city principally because the Hyksos were worshippers of Set (=Typhon) in that city, this god by now having been denigrated to a devil-god, and thus to be abhorred. The Aten cult, although not given a city of its own, established the city of the Aten (now known as Tell el-Amarna) and was soon, after the overthrow of the Aten cult when Akhenaten disappeared from the pages of history, was abominated and deserted, left to fall into ruins. In other words, it was treated as leprous, the unclean place, etc. Prior to that, Osarsiph (Akhenaten) establishes the law of monotheism. 'Osarsiph then, in the first place, enacted this law: that they should neither worship the gods, nor abstain from any of those sacred animals which the Egyptians held in veneration, but sacrifice and slay them all; and that they should connect themselves with none but such as were of that confederacy.'27 This is a prime example of normative inversion; if the Egyptians worship many gods, we shall worship one; if they worship animals, we shall kill and eat them, etc. This sets up the dichotomy of us and them, and the rigid bounds that sets them apart are psychologically in place, just as Akhenaten set up boundary stones round his new city to keep the other out and replaced the cult of the Many with the cult of the One, Aten, who had no form and could not be worshipped in statues or images. This is further reinforced by the words Manetho (Josephus) uses; 'When he had made such laws as these, and many others of a tendency directly in opposition to the customs of the Egyptians ...'28

Sadly the parallels stop there as the narrative moves off in a different direction, detailing the battles with the Hyksos, etc. Essentially what has happened in the Manetho narrative (and consequently in that of Chaeremon) the history and myth have fused to produce a gross distortion of the original truth. The cult of Amun gained ascendancy once more after the overthrow of the cult of Aten which was banished from memory, the successor of Akhenaten went through a name change to become Tutankhamun to dissociate himself from the past, and the preceding tumultuous period became a blank gap later to resurface in the collective memory under a different guise.29

The rest of the material supplied by Manetho has been scrutinised by countless Egyptologists, yet it has provided, despite the fabulous myths, a useful account of the rulers of the early dynasties in Egypt. Manetho's division of dynasties formed the basic chronological arrangement for establishing the regnal years, although it took some doing, having to sift through the mythic to identify the actual. But on the whole, most of his material has proved to be unreliable.

As his name has been mentioned many times, it is only fair to round off this brief treatment of Massey's ancient sources by discussing the value of Josephus and his writings.

The importance of Josephus relies solely on the fact that he was around when the world of the Jews was in turmoil, politically and socially, and the emergence of Christianity in the first century of our era was still in its infancy. Massey draws on all of his extant works (except his biography). His history of the Wars of the Jews was originally written in Aramaic since he was a Jew, and later translated into Greek, although Josephus had learnt to speak and write Greek perfectly well. His Antiquities of the Jews was, according to Forlong from whom I draw my facts,30 written in Rome in or around 93 AD. His Against Apion, however, cannot be so confidently assigned a date, and is by far more important in the Massey source list.

Massey makes use of several translations making it hard to establish which one he is using at any one time. The translators can be found listed separately in the Bibliography. I will here give just their names; Bernard, L'Estrange, Lodge and Whiston, and possibly others if not the actual Latin or Greek texts themselves. But it is the latter translator I think Massey uses more than the rest. If so, we again have to be wary because Whiston is not rated highly as a faithful translator. Forlong says of his translation that it is 'defective, and taken from corrupt MSS. of the 16th century. In all such matters as numbers, dates, distances, weights and measures, the chief passages have been garbled, so that they are now discordant.'31 Be that as it may, it seems rather trifling when we have to establish how much of the writing is actually genuine (written by Josephus) and how much they have been redacted and interpolated by other hands. This chiefly rests on the name of Jesus being mentioned in the text which doesn't seem to have been noticed by some of the early Church Fathers and has consequently been regarded as a later interpolation. As this is central to Massey's thesis, the denial of the historical Christ, it is worth considering at length.

In NG 2:492, Massey says:

This reading will account for the total absence of contemporary testimony or recognition, and explain how it is that no voice breaks the blank silence outside the gospel narrative, save one or two forgeries that may be laughed into oblivion. The existence of the passage in Tacitus concerning the name of Christ was obviously unknown to the Christian Fathers, and therefore non-extant. The allusion in Josephus's history is manifestly interpolated between the two calamities that befell the Jews. Besides which, Photius states explicitly that Josephus made no mention of Jesus Christ. Another Jewish historian, Justus of Tiberias, 'does not make the least mention of the appearance of Christ, nor say anything whatever of his miracles.'

The infamous passage in question is Antiquities of the Jews, Bk. 18, Ch. 3, 3. It reads as follows:

Now, there was about this time, Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man, for he was a doer of wonderful works—a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews, and many of the Gentiles. He was (the) Christ; and when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at first did not forsake him, for he appeared to them alive again the third day, as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him; and the tribes of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day.32

The first thing that strikes anybody when encountering this passage is that it is totally unlike the rest of the style of Josephus. A Christian would of course respond that since he is talking about Christ, he is showing Him the utmost piety by speaking of Him in reverential terms. Yet it is so incongruous with what precedes it and what comes after that it is manifestly an interpolation obviously forged by a Christian. The interesting thing is when. And why does Whiston the translator not allude to it?

One possible period for its creation was when the Christians were feeling persecuted and oppressed. For them to actually warrant the unbecoming conduct of such a violation it would appear to have been done when they needed most to justify their own existence. This says more for Josephus—although he had nothing to do with it —since it reinforces the belief that he was a reliable historian, the Christians realising that by such an act they would be taken seriously for the name of their leader now exists in the authentic work of a scholar. Volney, in his Ruins, posits the third century for its occurrence and is worth quoting here for it might also reveal where Massey got his original information from. Volney asserts emphatically:

There are absolutely no other monuments of the existence of Jesus Christ as a human being, than a passage in Josephus, (Antiq. Jud. lib. 18. c. 3,) a single phrase in Tacitus, (Annal. lib. 15. c. 44) and the Gospels. But the passage in Josephus is unanimously acknowledged to be apocryphal, and to have been interpolated towards the close of the third century, (see Trad. de. Josephe, par M. Gillet); and that of Tacitus is so vague, and so evidently taken from the deposition of the Christians before the tribunals, that it may be ranked in the class of evangelical records. It remains to enquire of what authority are these records.33

Forlong, on the other hand, is also in agreement stating that Dean Farrar, a respectable figure of the Church, had also to reluctantly admit it was a forgery. Photius in Bibliotheca states no mention is made of Jesus by Josephus. This is also confirmed by Forlong who says Photius also speaks of Justus of Tiberias who 'has not taken the least notice of Christ,'34 which is where Massey gets his information but his reference does not make this clear. The Church Father Eusebius notices it about 330 AD. This would roughly agree with Volney and his dating, whereas Chrysostom makes no mention of it, although he came after him.

The editor and translator of Eusebius' History (1.11) draws our attention to the fact that the passage cited by Eusebius in Josephus has long been disputed, although it was considered to be genuine up until the end of the 16th century, principally because it exists in all the MSS. of Josephus that have come down to us. He goes on to say, 'A Christian hand is unmistakably apparent—if not throughout, certainly in many parts; and the silence in regard of it of all Christian writers until the time of Eusebius is fatal to its existence in the original text. Origen, for instance, who mentions Josephus' testimony to John the Baptist in Contra Celsus 1.47, betrays no knowledge of this passage in regard to Christ.'35 He then weighs up the opinions of others, how some suppose it is half genuine and half interpolated. This, in my opinion, bears little relevance as the passage possesses no continuity between the events that have preceded it, and does not relate to those that follow either. So it must be a total interpolation. The editor is in agreement. He says, 'To me, however, the decisive argument is the decided break which the passage makes in the context.'36 Therefore it must be spurious.

Now, having ascertained that the passage is an interpolation, it only remains to discuss the identity of the interpolator. There is only one possible person who could be responsible for this forgery, and who stands out amongst all of the Fathers: Eusebius of Caesarea. He is the only writer who quotes the passage in full with a statement. I give it here in full with his statement. (Bear in mind it is Eusebius quoting his own words as they appear in Josephus.)

After relating these things concerning John, he makes mention of our Saviour in the same work, in the following words: "And there lived at that time Jesus, a wise man, if indeed it be proper to call him a man. For he was a doer of wonderful works, and a teacher of such men as receive the truth in gladness. And he attached to himself many of the Jews, and many also of the Greeks. He was the Christ. When Pilate, on the accusation of our principal men, condemned him to the cross, those who had loved him in the beginning did not cease loving him. For he appeared unto them alive on the third day, the divine prophets having told these and countless other wonderful things concerning him. Moreover, the race of Christians, named after him, continues down to the present day." Since an historian, who is one of the Hebrews themselves, has recorded in his work these things concerning John the Baptist and our Saviour, what excuse is there left for not convicting them of being destitute of all shame, who have forged the acts against them? But let this suffice here.37

When reading this passage with different eyes the last sentence (supposedly from Josephus) swings it. As I stated above, Josephus' Antiquities was written in 93 AD, or thereabouts. That is, 63 years after the death of Christ if we assume the standard biblical reckoning of 30 AD for his crucifixion. Sixty-three years is not a long time for somebody to still be held in high esteem with his own following which 'continues down to the present day.' This phrase would make more sense if it applied to 200 years or even 300 years. Given that Eusebius wrote his Church History in 330 AD (or 324 when the chronology ends), then the interpolation would have been perhaps a few years prior to that date inserted in the MSS. of Josephus. Volney says end of the third century, i.e. 275-300 AD. Eusebius was born circa 264 AD. Let us assume he interpolated this passage in his mature years, round the time when he was forty, then 310-315 AD would be a safe assumption. It was then that Eusebius became Bishop of Caesarea; some believe it was 313 AD but there is no confirmation of the fact. If he was Bishop then he would have had the power to draw upon the most important texts available, including the Josephus MSS. At this time the Christians were seeking power. What better way than to gain the monopoly by falsifying the documents to prove an authentic heritage to bring Constantine, the Emperor of Rome (from 306-337 AD) round to the Christian way of thinking, which was obviously effective as Constantine embraced Christ in 325 AD with the first Council of Nicea. And let us not forget that it was Eusebius who wrote a laudatory account of Constantine's life, usually thought to be after his death and shortly before Eusebius' own death in 340 AD. It would be a fitting way to pay the man some respect having duped him into believing in a Christ who never existed except on paper, and that in Eusebius' own hand.

It is also interesting to note that Eusebius is confused over the order of events as they appear in the Josephus account as John the Baptist is spoken of after Jesus and not before it (i.e. in Ch. 5, whereas Jesus is in Ch. 3). The opening lines of the passage quoted above should therefore relate to Jesus, not John. They are basically the wrong way round. This is because the events were mixed up due to his meddling with the text, and the passage relating to Christ, with other Christians interpolating their account of John later. Or perhaps before, as the copy Origen possessed contains an account of John the Baptist but not Christ, as we gather from his Contra Celsus. Either way, it is strange that a diligent researcher like Eusebius should get his facts mixed up. Nobody has explained this, probably dismissing it as trivial. It may be, yet it is a good indication that there is something seriously amiss when Eusebius can't get this little fact right. Unless of course he's doing it from memory; having written the passage himself, he does not need to know where it appears because it was already in his head.

The faithful editor of Eusebius, who he respects as a god, also raises the possibility that Eusebius may be responsible for this forgery. He says in the footnote to this passage:

It has been suggested that Eusebius himself, who is the first one to quote this passage, introduced it into the text of Josephus. This is possible, but there is no reason to suppose it true, for it is contrary to Eusebius' general reputation for honesty, and the manner in which he introduces the quotation both here and in his Dem. Evang. III. 5, bears every mark of innocence; and he would scarcely have dared to insert so important an account in his History had it not existed in at least some MSS. of Josephus. We may be confident that the interpolation must have been made in the MSS. of Josephus before it appeared in the History.38

Note the meaninglessness of that last line. It had to be in the MSS. before it appeared in the History, for it could never have been after when, I have already stated, he became a Bishop in 313 AD and his History was written in 324 AD or thereabouts. Thus his remark can be ignored. So can his remark before that for there was undoubtedly more than one copy with his interpolation in circulation. It would be futile for only one copy to be falsified. Therefore, he would search out all the copies he could get hold of so that they all carried the same lie. Also, the editor's remark about Eusebius' reputation for honesty can be dismissed with little forethought. He was a compulsive liar who sought self-aggrandisement, as any man would do. And the innocence of his remarks is highly debatable and not even worth considering.

The only way he can be absolved of all blame is for another writer writing after Origen and before Eusebius to be discovered who also happens to quote the exact same passage. Until then, Eusebius cannot possibly be let off the hook as easily as his editor has done.

After that lengthy discourse, I would like to mention that that my supposition was based on only a few sources available to me. I feel grossly inadequate in knowing that I have not even touched the tip of the iceberg to qualify my findings; how much more so must this apply to Massey. And going back to my original point, source material is everything. If you claim Christ never existed historically or personally, then you had better be aware of your facts. Massey, admittedly, working in a limited field, and with limited resources, had to make do with what he had at his disposal. Nevertheless, he tried to make ample use of his sources, and was not, like any other scholar, infallible—nor were his predecessors.

[Endnote: This essay was originally written in 1995, way before I had access to the internet. Since researching for other information to back up my findings on the Josephus testimony, I have discovered many sites and page after page of evidence backing up the theory posited above. And, having read only a partial amount, it is quite apparent that I am not the only person who thinks Eusebius was responsible for the grossest error to inflict mankind. The following link should be consulted for discussions of Josephus' testimony and speculation upon the historicity of Christ: for an excellent discussion of the Christ passage in Josephus. More links can be discovered by a Google search.]



1. Sibyl Ferguson, Introduction to Gerald Massey's Lectures, reprint, Samuel Weiser; NY, 1974, p. v.
2. Quoted in Shaw, biog., p. 176.
3. Ibid., p. 176.
4. Ibid., p. 177. See also, Lectures, p. 133, his reply to Sayce, where he describes him as an 'authority passably orthodox, whose word will be taken for gospel for those who are not qualified to question it. I am not an acknowledged authority. I can only plead that my facts have a hearing. Without knowing the facts we cannot attain the truth, and short of the fullest truth there is no final authority.'
5. According to Kuhn—see Lost Light, pp. 595-6.
6. Nicene & Post-Nicene Fathers, 2nd series, vol. 1, p. 26.
7. See Geza Vermes, The Complete Dead Sea Scrolls in English, Allen Lane the Penguin Press; London and New York, 1997, pp. 3 & 14ff, and Wise, Abegg, Cook, The Dead Sea Scrolls, A New Translation, Harper Collins; London, 1996, pp. 14-20. The Essene hypothesis still stands largely undisputed as no evidence internal or external has vitiated against them being the original authors.
8. See Lectures, pp. 76-83, particularly p. 80 where he says, 'The Essenes as Gnostics held that every man must be his own Christ,' ergo, the Essenes were Gnostics in his eyes.
9. Attridge and Macrae in Nag Hammadi Library, p. 39.
10. Gnostic Scriptures, p. 251.
11. Bohlig and Wisse in Nag Hammadi Library, p. 208.
12. Faiths of Man, vol. 3, p. 50.
13. NG 1:8.
14. Anthony Grafton, introduction to Boas' translation of Horapollo's Hieroglyphica, p. xiv.
15. Boas, ibid., p. 12.
16.  For a modern assessment of Horapollo, his work and his place in the Renaissance, see Boas' introduction in his book The Hieroglyphics of Horapollo, Princeton University Press; NJ, 1993. It should be noted that Boas' translation is not too highly thought of. Van der Horst, in his collected fragments of Chaeremon, regards it as very unreliable (p. 72). As it is widely available and in English, it is a good starter before moving on to the French of B. van de Walle and J. Vergote in Chronique d'Egypte, 18 (1943), pp. 39-89, or the original Greek in F. Sbordone, Hori Apollinis Hieroglyphica, Loffredo; Naples, 1940, and his extensive commentary, or Alexander Turner Cory's Greek and English text, London, 1840. It was reprinted by Chthonios Books; London, 1987 (I have cached a copy of this text based on Cory's translation here.). See also Erik Iversen, The Myth of Egypt and its Hieroglyphs, Princeton University Press; NJ, 1993, p. 47 passim, where he describes Horapollo's work as the 'only true hieroglyphic treatise preserved from classical antiquity' and places it in the context of Renaissance thought and its bearing on contemporary scholarship. He recognises that it is not without merit, despite the 'undoubtedly directly erroneous' assumptions drawn by Horapollo and that 'there is nevertheless in the greater part of his explanations a fundamental element of truth.' He also states, as I have mentioned, the negative effect it had on the science of Egyptology, for it 'became fatal, because its contorted, but from a speculative, artistic as well as literary, point of view fascinating, conception of the hieroglyphs, impeded the rediscovery of their true nature for centuries.'
17. For the modern reader, these fragments have been expertly collected together in Pieter Willem van der Horst, Chaeremon, Egyptian Priest and Stoic Philosopher, Brill; Leiden, 1987. I draw most of my conclusions from this work.
18. Van der Horst's conjecture, intro p. ix., although this is not probable.
19. Suggested by Iversen, see p. 47, and Boas. Donald Tyson, the editor of Agrippa's Three Books of Occult Philosophy, places him in the reign of Theodosius I, i.e. 378-395, therefore date of composition would be earlier. Op. cit., Llewellyn Publications; MN, 1993, p. 808.
20. Iversen, op. cit., p. 47.
21. Op. cit., p. 808.
22. Op. cit., p. 62.
23. Op. cit., p. 35.
24. Or Osarsiph in Cory who has compiled his narrative from the accounts of Manetho given in Josephus, Against Apion, a couple of chapters before the narrative of Chaeremon. See Cory's Ancient Fragments, London, 1876, p. 132, also The Phenix, NY, 1835, p. 265, which in part reproduces Cory's work.
25Op. cit., pp. 9, 50, 51.
26. Cory's translation, and The Phenix, p. 262.
27. Cory, op. cit., p. 263.
28. Ibid., p. 263, my emphasis.
29. Information for this and the preceding paragraphs was drawn from the following works: Jan Assmann's Moses of the Egyptians, SUNY, Albany, 1997, the findings are my own, and British Museum Dictionary of Ancient Egypt, eds., I. Shaw and P. Nicholson, BMP, 1995, for the Egyptian dates/reigns.
30. See Faiths of Man, vol. 2, pp. 344-6.
31. Ibid., vol. 2, p. 345.
32. Whiston's tr., Works, Edinburgh, 1856, p. 379.
33. The Ruins, p. 88, 1819 ed.
34. Op. cit., vol. 2, p. 345.
35. Nicene & Post-Nicene Fathers, 2nd series, I.98.
36. Ibid., p. 98.
37. Ibid., p. 98.
38. Ibid., p. 98.





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