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Joseph's Historical Father-in-Law

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  • jimstinehart
    Joseph’s Historical Father-in-Law Genesis 41: 45 tells us that Joseph’s father-in-law was “Potiphera”, an Egyptian priest from On, where the Egyptian
    Message 1 of 2 , Mar 7, 2013
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      Joseph’s Historical Father-in-Law
      Genesis 41: 45 tells us that Joseph’s father-in-law was “Potiphera”, an
      Egyptian priest from On, where the Egyptian god Ra was honored. The first
      two Hebrew letters of the name “Pothiphera” are peh/P – vav/W, which
      suggests that the beginning of this priest’s name was pA wa in Egyptian, or in
      English: Pawa. Though he was from On, Genesis 41: 45 implies that Pawa had
      now moved to Pharaoh’s capital city.
      Does that match the historical record?
      In seeking to identify Joseph’s historical father-in-law, we’re looking
      for (i) a priest of Ra, (ii) from On, (iii) who had now moved to Pharaoh’s
      capital city, where he had a high position as a priest and was close to
      Pharaoh, and (iv) whose name starts out “Pawa”. What does the historical
      record reveal as of Year 14?
      “Heliopolis [On] was the city of the sun-god [Ra] whose doctrines deeply
      influenced the rest of the pantheon. …May was but one example of the
      Heliopolitan officials who were to appear among the young prince’s [Akhenaten’s]
      entourage. Others like Bek, and Pawah the High Priest in On, and their
      wives, were also destined to play influential roles [at Amarna]….” Cyril
      Aldred, “Akhenaten: King of Egypt” (1988), p. 260.
      “South of the [Amarna] Central City lay the Main City, which…contained
      extensive suburbs of estates belonging to courtiers and high officials…. The
      most imposing residences in this area were those of the priest, Pawah….”
      Barbara Watterson, “Amarna: Ancient Egypt’s Age of Revolution” (1999), p.
      82.
      Note that e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g checks out perfectly. The
      p-i-n-p-o-i-n-t historical accuracy of the Patriarchal narratives in the context of Year
      14 is truly astonishing.
      Jim Stinehart
      Evanston, Illinois

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    • jimstinehart
      At first glance it might seem harmless to accept the traditional analysis of the name of Joseph’s Egyptian priestly father-in-law, even though, as we shall
      Message 2 of 2 , Mar 11, 2013
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        At first glance it might seem harmless to accept the traditional analysis
        of the name of Joseph’s Egyptian priestly father-in-law, even though, as we
        shall see, it does not correlate at all well with the Hebrew letters in the
        received text. But in fact that would be lethal, not “harmless”, because
        that traditional, erroneous understanding of this Biblical Egyptian name turns
        out to have a 1st millennium BCE pattern that could not have applied in an
        historical Bronze Age Patriarchal Age.

        The conventional view of “Potiphera” is that the first four letters, peh/P
        vav/W teth/+ yod/Y, render pA di in Egyptian, meaning “the gift”. On that
        basis, university scholars claim that this name is a 1st millennium BCE
        name, long post-dating any historical Patriarchal Age in the Bronze Age:

        “Potiphar and its variant [Potiphera] are modeled on a very common type of
        name, namely p3-di [pA di] + god's name, meaning "He-whom-God-N-gives";
        these BEGIN at the close of the New Kingdom [ending 1069 BCE], increase in
        frequency in the 21st [1070-945 BCE] and 22d [945-860 BCE] dynasties, and become
        very common from the Kushite 25th dynasty [747-656 BCE] to Greco-Roman
        times.” Donald B. Redford, “Egypt, Canaan and Israel in Ancient Times” (1992),
        p. 424.

        But in fact, there’s no way that the first four letters in this Egyptian
        name, peh/P vav/W teth/+ yod/Y, render pA di in Egyptian, meaning “the gift”.
        From the second half of this same name, we know that Hebrew peh/P, by
        itself, is the Egyptian word pA, meaning “the” (where either capital A or 3 is
        used to represent Egyptian aleph). So the second letter, Hebrew vav/W,
        cannot possibly be an Egyptian aleph, as scholars would have it, because (i)
        Egyptian aleph would be rendered by Hebrew aleph, not by Hebrew vav/W, and (ii)
        in any event we know that pA is rendered by only a single Hebrew letter
        anyway, peh/P. So that vav/W must be a consonantal vav. P W in Hebrew renders
        pA wA in Egyptian. As to the third and fourth letters, the Hebrew letters
        teth-yod are not the Egyptian word d or di (likely pronounced dji) meaning “
        gift”. Teth is Egyptian t; Hebrew dalet/D would be used for Egyptian d or
        dj. And just as the Egyptian aleph in pA and wA is not represented by any
        separate Hebrew letter, the same is true for the Egyptian true vowel I, which
        will not be rendered by its own separate Hebrew letter. So P W+ renders pA
        wAt, which comes right out of Akhenaten’s Hymn to the Aten and means “the
        distant [god]”. The Hebrew yod/Y that follows is a xireq compaginis, and
        functions as a dash, just as in the Amarna Letters name Milk-i-Ilu that
        appears at Genesis 46: 17 as MLK -Y- ’L.

        My point is that we should not passively accept the great linguistic
        stretches that underlie the traditional view of the Biblical Egyptian name “
        Potiphera”. Egyptian aleph would not be rendered by a separate Hebrew letter in
        this context, and in any event could never be Hebrew vav/W (as opposed to
        Hebrew aleph). And Hebrew teth/+ is Egyptian t, not Egyptian d or dj. Rather
        than accepting those “more or less in the general ballpark” semi-matches
        that university scholars have proposed, we should instead look for
        letter-for-letter exact matches. Those purported scholarly semi-matches would have the
        most unfortunate consequence of requiring a post-Bronze Age historical time
        period. By contrast, note the p-e-r-f-e-c-t , letter-for-letter match of
        the first three letters in the name Potiphar, P W+, to pA wAt. The match is
        absolutely perfect (where the Egyptian alephs/A are not rendered by a
        separate Hebrew letter), with no stretching whatsoever being needed -- so unlike
        the fanciful semi-match to pA di that is claimed by university scholars.
        wA.ti or wAt appears four times in the Great Hymn to the Aten, describing
        Ra/Aten as being a “distant”/wAt god.

        Rather than showing that the Patriarchal narratives are “late”, as
        university scholars would have it, the Biblical Egyptian name “Potiphera” instead
        shows that the Patriarchal narratives are truly ancient, having been written
        down in Akkadian cuneiform during the only time period in the Bronze Age
        when any significant writing of any kind is attested in south-central Canaan:
        the Amarna Age of the mid-14th century BCE.

        Jim Stinehart
        Evanston, Illinois



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