Today, Egyptian chronology is deemed more credible than Jewish chronology. One reason is that Israelis were shepherds and Egyptians built monuments in stone. Egyptian relics are impressive, but they only depict points in time. Our timelines come from king lists. Two king lists stand out above all others as candidates for the backbone of ancient history. One king list is in the Jewish historical writings, the other was produced by Manetho, an Egyptian priest. We need to take a moment to compare these sources for their reliability.
Edwin Thiele is an eminent Bible scholar who wrote The Mysterious Numbers of the Hebrew Kings, the classic and comprehensive work for reckoning dates and calendars from the Old Testament and extra-biblical sources. We know a lot today about the precise dates in the Bible, beginning from ancient times until the fall of Jerusalem in 586 BC. Even without modern discoveries, Cardinal James Ussher of Ireland, in the 17th century, was able to establish an unbroken timeline going back to creation in 4004 BC. He was joined by Bede, Scaliger, Kepler, and Newton. Although there is some tweaking, for coregencies, for example, there has never been any doubt that the Old Testament contains a very long and consistent timeline.
Six to seven hundred manuscripts exist for the Old Testament. The earliest complete corpus dates to 1000 AD, but the Dead Sea Scrolls were transcribed between the third century BC and the first century AD. Hundreds of thousands of fragments exist, as well as many translations, such as the third century BC Septuagint and the fifth century BC Samaritan Pentateuch. Entire schools of copyists were dedicated to the accurate preservation of the text.
Radical higher criticism has promoted the idea that the Old Testament is a hodgepodge of writings that were not put together until 621 BC for Deuteronomy and 500 BC for the Priestly Code. Not only does it doubt the miraculous, but it also discredits the history. Higher criticism is merely speculation fueled by doubt. The Old Testament was written as if the writers were entirely convinced of its accuracy and the importance of living according to the absolute honesty of Jehovah. Archaeology has also done much to confirm history that was once in question.
Now check out the competition. Manetho’s list of 31 dynasties of Egypt is considered to be the golden standard for history, but there is no complete copy of his History of Egypt. None! Nada! Zilch! What we have are lists from Josephus, Sextus Julius Africanus, and Eusebius writing between the first and fourth centuries AD. Egyptian, Jewish, and Greek histories were written to prove which civilization was the oldest. These copies disagree. Because of the known fanciful stories and the prejudice of the copyists, our knowledge of the original text is limited.
Many of the kings and dynasties are questionable. None of the kings have been confirmed for the 7th, 8th, 10th, 13th, 14th, and 16th dynasties. For the seventh dynasty, for example, Africanus refers to 70 kings that reigned for a total of 70 days. Eusebius lists 5 rulers that reigned for 75 days for the same dynasty. Most Egyptologists consider this dynasty to be pure fiction. Since many facts are known to be wrong while others have been verified, the trick is to choose which ones seem reliable. Accepting the entire length of time of 2800 years would be a serious mistake. Although the problems are well-known, most Egyptologists are reluctant to reduce the length of Manetho’s history to synchronize with the Bible.
On one hand, we have a single Egyptian priest who is responsible for the worship of gods which believers consider to be inspired by the Father of Lies. He is writing after the last dynasty ended in 322 BC. Neither his writing nor the sources he used exist. Those who cited him are known to have a prejudice for exaggerating the length of timespans. On the other hand, we have an entire nation that has carefully preserved its history at the heart of its unbroken existence. Israel represents a miracle-working God who both revealed truth and preserved it. Who, believing in God, can deny the spiritual warfare that surrounds the chronology of ancient history?