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for the occasion: undesigned coincidences, therefore, (particularly when found in documents having no connection with, or reference to, the same principal subject,) are never to he slighted in weighing testimony.
These are important considerations to be borne in mind upon the very threshold of the investigation on which we are about to enter. What, for instance, are the facts? We are in possession of a very ancient documentary history, the Bible, the truth of which is established satisfactorily to our minds by distinct and independent testimony, directly applicable to the question of its truth or falsehood. Almost within the present generation, the interesting discovery has been made of the mode of interpreting the characters, long illegible, delineated on the monuments and in the writings of an ancient country, a part of whose history is found incidentally written in our Bible, because it was connected with the progress of another people, of whom our book professedly gives the history. Now it is very obvious, that if these moder n discoveries bring to light historical events which synchronize with the relation of them given in our book; or if they illustrate, in hundreds of particulars, national usages, or manners, or arts, all of which are found to harmonize with what our document casually illustrates of customs, &c., among the ancient people to whom it incidentally refers; then cumulative testimony is afforded thereby to the truth of our document, so far, at least, as our book and the monuments professedly speak of the same thing.
It is true, indeed, that the Bible does not actually need this cumulative testimony to its authenticity. Every subject of investigation must primarily be examined by the species of testimony applicable to the proof of its truth; and of this suitable proof, we apprehend there is quite enough to sustain the Bible. It is not, therefore, because there is a deficiency of evidence that investigations like the present have been made: they have been called for, rather, by the bold assertions of those who have proclaimed their discovery in the monuments, of evidence directly contradicting the truth of the Bible. It is not pretended by them, that some of the facts and circumstances mentioned in the Old Testament are not confirmed by the monuments; but their objection is founded chiefly on the chronology of the book: they affirm an existence and occupancy of Egypt by man, many thousands of years anterior to the supposed date of the creation of man. It is no part of our purpose in this work, (as we have already said,) to enter into the examination of their supposed chronology. We would, however, here simply say, that, even on their own grounds, it is, in the judgment of men as learned as themselves, beset with insuperable difficulties; and is so far from having reached the certainty of proof \ that great differences of opinion exist among themselves, on the subject. Beside, even supposing the commonly received chronology of the Pentateuch, or that of the Septuagint, to be erroneous, (which, as to the latter, we are very far from conceding.) it would be difficult to perceive how this disproves the existence of a fact distinctly recorded, in its historical statements; such as the exode of the Israelites, for instance. That may have occurred, though the precise time of its occurrence be inaccurately stated. It does not affect the respect due to the book as an inspired volume of fact or doctrine, to consider its general chronology an open question: that it has been so considered and treated by some of the most pious and learned men, is a fact well known to the Biblical student. When time is not of the essence of a fact recorded, it is unimportant. There are few, even of modern histories, that harmonize in dates; yet no one doubts the facts they state.
In this case, as in the kindred one of geological science, it would seem that the simple purpose for which the book was written has been overlooked. The Bible was never intended to be a system of chronology, nor a treatise on geology. Its chief purpose (we speak now of the Pentateuch, the part more immediately before us) was, first, to communicate the great truth of one only God, the Creator, thus giving a death-blow to idolatry; and secondly, to preserve the leading facts connected with the origin and progress of a nation, designed by God to preserve, in the midst of error and corruption, certain religious truths important to man to know. If matters connected with science be mentioned or alluded to, the occurrence is incidental; and though what is said is true, it does not necessarily embody all truth on that subject, nor profess so to do. These remarks are not made as an apology for the Bible, in its supposed disagreement with the discoveries of science: we say supposed disagreement; for we are free to confess that there is not, in our view, one syllable in the Bible contradicted by the discoveries of the geologist, however ancient he may make the oldest strata; nor have we any belief in the assumption that a chronology derived (as it is pretended) from monumental evidence in Egypt, proves the falsehood of the ancient and only authentic history of man, contained in our Bible.
But may it not with truth be said, that the Bible has not been treated with fairness by those who would find, in the monuments, its refutation? By common consent they seem to have rejected its aid, though it is the only written record in existence professing to be contemporary with some of the events sculptured on the monuments: they have turned away from it, to rely upon the classical authorities, the oldest of which dates at least 1000 years after the temples on which the sculptures occur. Now, that a record of the same fact is sometimes preserved both in the Bible and on the monuments, is undeniable; should not this coincidence have at least begotten the suspicion that possibly, as a mere history, illustrative of the monuments, the Bible was actually the best help to be had'? Indeed, had it been presented to the world as a mere history of human events, without any other claim to acceptance than that which belongs to Herodotus, for instance; had it not professed to fulfil the higher object of being a guide from God, authoritatively addressed to man; who can doubt that many a modern archaeologist would have gladly availed himself of its aid, and trumpeted forth the accuracy of his hieroglyphical interpretations as proved by the wonderful confirmation they received from that veritable historian, Moses? Very sure it is, that, as yet, the perfect certainty in some instances of correct hieroglyphical interpretation can be proved only by referring to the narratives of the Bible. The book is not indebted to the monuments for confirmation of its truth, as much as the monuments are to it, for proof of their correct interpretation. It would seem, too, that there has been an error even on the part of some of the friends of revelation, in presenting the coincidences between the Bible and the monuments, as exhibited in the pictures merely, while the inscriptions that accompany them, and, in truth, form their explanation, have been neglected.
Entering upon a comparison of the Bible .with Egyptian monuments, these preliminary remarks may not be without use, as indicating, in some degree, what we may expect to find. Whoever supposes that he will meet with a continuous sculptured history of Egypt, or even of that part of her history to which the Bible refers, will find disappointment. The memorials that we now see were not designed by those who made them to present any such history; they are the records of single events, most commonly conquests and triumphs in war, and were erected by pride to perpetuate the atrocities of bloodthirsty ambition: they never tell a story of Egyptian humiliation. No success over Egypt, no national misfortune or disgrace ever called forth the labor of her teeming population, or employed the skill of her artists. If, therefore, we find aught to repay the toil of research, it must be gathered, here and there, in isolated facts: grouping them all together they form a mass of testimony, the more valuable from being incidental; and interesting as tending, if not to confirm, yet to shed light on many portions of that book, the truth of which is, by other and independent testimony, already, to our minds, satisfactorily established.
Egypt was formerly divided into three great provinces. The most southern part, or Upper Egypt, was known as the Thebaid, and is that portion of the great valley of the Nile, in which was situated one of the great capitals of the whole empire, the city of Thebes. The grandeur and extent of this once great city are attested by the colossal ruins which still remain to mark its site, now occupied in part by the modern towns and villages of Luxor, Karnac, and other places of inferior note.
Middle Egypt, as it was called, lies immediately on the north of the Thebaid; and was anciently known as the Ilepta