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Who and What was Manetho?

Because Destiny Magazine and Rand quote Manetho in their postulations about the SHEPHERD KINGS, we need to learn more about this Egyptian priest. For a brief explanation of this man, we will quote from the "World Scope Encyclopedia (1951)," volume 7: "Manetho...a historian of ancient Egypt, flourished in the reign of Ptolemy Soter, at the beginning of the 3rd century B.C. He was a priest in Lower Egypt and is the author of two important works, one on the history and the other on the religion of his country. Both books have been lost, but fragments have been preserved by later historians, including Eusebius and Josephus. In the Armenian version of Eusebius is a list of the Egyptian dynasties according to Manetho, the dates of which appear to have been derived from genuine documents, including the sacred books of the Egyptian priests."

For a more detailed account on Manetho, we will use the "Encyclopædia Britannica," ninth edition (1894), volume 15, pages 485-486:

"Manetho. Manetho Sebennyta...'beloved by Thoth.' Egyptian priest and annalist, was a native of Sebennytus...in the Delta. His name was connected by Plutarch with the reign of Ptolemy I, and he is usually stated to have written under Ptolemy II Philadelphus, though the only authority for this is an epistle to that king of the Pseudo-Manetho, author of the FORGED BOOKS OF SOTHIS preserved by Syncellus.

"He was instructed in Greek; so Josephus tells us, and the three books of his !Ê¢BJÊ"V composed in that language opened to foreigners the history of Egypt from the mythical period downwards, as it was preserved in the records of the priests. Undoubtedly the book is now known only by lists of fragments preserved by Josephus in his treatise AGAINST APION, by Eusebius in his CHRONICA, and by Syncellus. Syncellus used the work of Eusebius (also known through Jerome and the Armenian version) and lost PENTABIBLON of Africanus.

"Thus the little that was known of Manetho's history has reached us through A PROCESS OF TRANSCRIPTION AND RETRANSCRIPTION very unfavorable to the correct transmission of the lists of kings and dynasties, to which Josephus alone adds any considerable narrative excerpt. It seems indeed that our AUTHORITIES THEMSELVES USED VARYING AND PARTLY CORRUPT REVERSIONS OF THE ORIGINAL TEXT, AND THAT DELIBERATE CORRUPTIONS OF THE MANETHONIC TRADITION WERE NOT WANTING appears from the existence of the 'Book of Sothis' cited by Syncellus, WHICH WAS UNDOUBTEDLY A SPURIOUS WORK.

"That Manetho himself made honest use of his Egyptian sources is generally recognized, since the Egyptian monuments have afforded confirmation of many, though by no means all, of his statements; but how the corrupt and varying data we now have should be used, or whether the Egyptian tradition can be made the basis of a rational chronology of the oldest historical period is doubtful."

The above quotation should give you some idea of what to expect in Manetho's writings. The Egyptian pharaohs were so notorious for trying to erase the history of the pharaohs before them; that, undoubtedly, Manetho may have had a lot of spurious records from which to work. Whether or not he was biased in his own writings cannot be easily ascertained, but what motive would he have had for changing the record 1000 years after the fact? But, whatever conclusion we arrive at, we must realize there are problems with the data ascribed to him.

Josephus On Manetho. The Works of Josephus has a good amount of comment concerning this Egyptian scribe. In "Against Apion," 1:12. Josephus starts quoting Manetho. He continues quoting him until 'Against Apion," 1:16, where he says:

"In the first place, that we (Israel) came out of another country into Egypt; and that withal our deliverance out of it was so ancient in time, as to have preceded the siege of Troy almost a thousand years; but then, as to those things which Manetho adds, NOT FROM THE EGYPTIAN RECORDS, but, as he confesses himself, from some stories of an uncertain original, I will disprove them hereafter particularly, and shall demonstrate that they are NO BETTER THAN INCREDIBLE FABLES."

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Published on: 2005-09-13 (7588 reads)

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