December 27, 2017 | Author: Maria Antonietta Ricci | Category: Bibliography, Bible, Manuscript, Writing, Religious Texts
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The Ancient Egyptian Book of Thoth: A Demotic Discourse on Knowledge and Pendant to the Classical Hermetica, by Richard Jasnow and Karl-Th. Zauzich. The Ancient Egyptian Book of Thoth: A Demotic Discourse on Knowledge and Pendant to the Classical Hermetica by Richard Jasnow; Karl-Th. Zauzich Review by: Ghislaine Widmer Journal of Near Eastern Studies, Vol. 70, No. 1 (April 2011), pp. 113-116 Published by: The University of Chicago Press Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/658845 . Accessed: 17/03/2013 16:41 Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at . http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp

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Book Reviews  F 113

may originally have represented a procession of gods before Ptah since only the latter faces left while all the other gods face right. As far as the date is concerned, it is suggested that the text is early Ptolemaic and the vignettes are perhaps late Ptolemaic or early Roman. The fragments are reproduced in beautiful color plates (pls. 41–48). Through the bibliographical database Trismegistos 2 I have come across two demotic items that seem to have been overlooked. Both are bilingual texts, one a Greek/demotic/hieratic mummy label (Brooklyn 16.644 = TM 16388) and the other a Greek/demotic receipt for the payment of salt tax (Brooklyn 12768 1648 = O. Wilb. 1 = TM 50412). The omission of the former is surprising since Hughes himself pro­ vided a translation of the demotic text for K. Herbert, Greek and Latin Inscriptions in the Brooklyn Museum (Brooklyn, 1972), 37–38, pl. 12; cf. note 1. The catalog of texts is followed by lists of “dat­ able texts in chronological order” and “regnal years of unknown rulers” as well as four concordances: cata­ log numbers, Brooklyn Museum accession numbers, New York Historical Society inventory numbers, and C. E. Wilbour serial numbers. A few accession num­ bers are missing from Concordance 2 (p.  94): acc. no. 16.580.260 (Wilbour serial no. [12768] 1754; Cat. no. 73), acc. no. 16.580.261 (Wilbour serial no. 2  http://www.trismegistos.org. The Trismegistos reference num­ bers cited are prefixed TM.

[12768] 1568; Cat. no. 74), acc. no. 16.580.305 (Wilbour serial no. [12768] 1632; Cat. no. 180), acc. no. 16.644 (text not included in the catalog; TM 16388; see above), and acc. no. 37.1647E (Cat. no. 213); and a single Wilbour number is missing in Concordance 4 (p. 96): Wilbour serial no. (12768) 1648 (text not included in the catalog; TM 50412, cf. above). The volume concludes with detailed indexes of selected words and phrases, divine names, place names, personal names, and proveniences of texts (pp. 97–115), followed by forty-six plates, the last ten of which are in color (cat. no. 213). It is unfortunate that neither the many improved readings suggested by Brian Muhs, nor the suggested readings by K.-Th. Zauzich that are cited in the original notes, have been incorporated into the indexes. The volume provides a good overview of the de­ motic material in the Brooklyn Museum. It does have a number of bibliographical shortcomings, and, as mentioned, it is regrettable that certain items are not reproduced in the plates, above all the numerous ostraca that are translated for the first time. There are still batches of numerous smaller, unsorted frag­ ments that remain to be studied, but it was not the purpose of the catalog to present a detailed study of every item, and we should be grateful to the author for turning the catalog into something more than a mere checklist.

The Ancient Egyptian Book of Thoth: A Demotic Discourse on Knowledge and Pendant to the Classical Hermetica. By Richard Jasnow and Karl-Th. Zauzich. Vol. 1, Text. Vol. 2, Plates. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag, 2005. Pp. xx + 581 + 67 pls. Reviewed by Ghislaine Widmer, Université de Lille. The “Book of Thoth” is the name given by its editors to a collection of papyri forming an extensive compo­ sition attested in several Demotic manuscripts—and (so far) one hieratic, two-columned papyrus—from the Greco-Roman period. These fragmentary texts, scattered in various museum collections (Berlin, Co­ penhagen, Florence, New Haven, Paris, and Vienna), originate not only from the Fayum—in particular Tebtynis and Soknopaiu Nesos/Dime—but appar­ ently also from Upper Egypt, thus indicating a wide circulation for this composition. The book under re­ view is the result of a titanic work started by K.-Th.

Zauzich some forty years ago and carried on in col­ laboration with R. Jasnow since 1989; both authors deserve the highest praise for carrying it through and providing us with this valuable editio princeps.1

1  An extensive review of this book was recently published by J. Fr. Quack, “Die Initiation zum Schreiberberuf im Alten Ägyp­ ten,” SAK 36 (2007): 249–95; because of space limits, I shall just refer to suggestions and comments made by the reviewer, without expanding on his arguments. See also J. Fr. Quack, “Ein ägyp­ tischer Dialog über die Schreibkunst und das arkane Wissen,” AfP 9 (2007): 259–94, and Fr. Hoffmann, BiOr LXV (2008), 86–92.

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114  F  Journal of Near Eastern Studies

The editors often emphasize that, because of the nature of the composition, its style, the condition of preservation of the papyri, and the fact that fragmen­ tary texts continue to surface in museum collections, the contents are not easy to summarize. The composi­ tion is in the form of a dialogue—mainly in a questionand-answer format—between a teacher or an examiner and his pupil. Learning and writing are central topics of the text, which might present connections with the Hermetic corpus. The original title of the Book of Thoth is apparently preserved in a unique fragment (B07, line 1): “[The word]s which cause a youth to learn and a son of a Wen-ima to question.”2 Because of the quantity of frag­ ments and manuscript sources,3 the editors decided to use as a guideline the best preserved document (B02), which is also the oldest, dated paleographically to the first century b.c. However, textual variants are fre­ quent and the manuscript tradition is, as often with Egyptian literature, more “creative” than “straight­ forward” (p. 132). The major papyri are designated according to their museum location (B01–B14 = Ber­ lin; L01–L02 = Louvre; V01–V04 = Vienna, etc.), with the additional fragments considered to be part of the same manuscript—no matter their present lo­ cation—indicated as subgroups, for instance, B03.1, B03.2, etc. (list on pp. 79–88). The translation and transliteration of each fragment are found on pages XIII to XV. The Ancient Egyptian Book of Thoth consists of two volumes. The plates (vol. 2), reproduced in a large format and supplied with concordance tables, are presented according to the alphabetical order of the papyri designation. The first and most important part of the text volume (vol. 1) is devoted to introduc­ ing the recurring figures, places, animals, and plants (pp. 1–78); very cautious essays on contentious is­ sues, such as initiation and mysticism (pp. 54–61) as well as hermetism (pp. 65–71), are also included. Part 2 deals with the description of the physical appear­ ance of the manuscripts and their peculiarities, i.e., their orthography, script, grammar, and vocabulary See Book of Thoth, 8 and 369, and Quack, SAK 36: 251. 3  According to the editors, fourty-four different manuscript sources could be distinguished, but they cautiously admitted that some of them may belong to the same papyrus roll (p. 2). Quack, SAK 36: 262–63, lowered the number to twenty-five or thirty pieces. 2 

(pp. 79–132). The transliterations and translations are found in parts 3 and 4 (pp. 139–471, including a tentative consecutive translation), supplied with sev­ eral addenda (part 5). Volume 1 ends with detailed glossaries and a general index (pp. 497–581). Because of its language and the complexity of its occurring themes (not to mention the problems in the reconstitution of the text), determining the contents and the real purpose of such a composition—which consists of at least 18 columns, according to B02—is a major difficulty. The editors chose to call it the “Book of Thoth,” because they believe the main figure con­ ducting the dialogue is a form of Thoth. J. Fr. Quack in his review argued that this figure might just be an examiner, as the god of writing is mentioned as an autonomous figure in the papyri.4 In fact, as pointed out by R. Jasnow and K.-Th. Zauzich, the text tends to avoid obvious names and titles, resorting instead to periphrases with archaic grammatical constructions; this elusiveness, which might be related to the Egyp­ tian idea of restricted knowledge, seems to indicate that the composition was somehow intended for an elite group. Thus the dialogue takes place between “He/one-who-loves-knowledge” or, depending on the translation, “He-who-wishes to learn” (mr-rḫ), i.e., the aspiring student, and “So-he-says-(namely)He-of-Heseret (var. He-who-praises-knowledge)” or, depending on the translation, “So-he-says-in-He­ seret/Hesrekh” (ḫr=f-n-Hṣr.t  var. ḫr =f-n-ḥs-rḫ), i.e., the examiner.5 The discursive form of the text and the hypothesis of the figure of Thoth as the divine instructor have led the authors to consider the relationship between this composition and the Hermetic corpus. Remaining very cautious, they stress the “essential differences” between both writings (p. 70); although there are sim­ ilarities in the general content, the “Book of Thoth” remains Egyptian in its nature: there is “no verbal parallel, no evidence for uniquely Greek thought or distinctive Greek philosophical terminology” (p. 71).6

4  I would tend to agree with this hypothesis; cf. Quack, SAK 36: 250. 5  Heseret is the name of a necropolis near Hermopolis Magna. We should also note that the expression is not always followed by the divine determinative, as indicated by the authors on p.  9; in B02, for instance, it uses the geographical sign. 6  See also Quack, SAK 36: 261.

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Book Reviews  F 115

Further participants break in on the dialogue, in particular “He-created-the-thoughts” and “He-hasjudged-namely-the-one-who-is-upon-his-back/uponhis-standard,”7 but since they are also designated by periphrases, their identification remains problematic. Seshat, the goddess of writing, is not explicitly named: she appears through one of her epithets, Sefekh-abui,8 and possibly as “She-who-has-initiated” (pp. 19–23). Other unclear designations, for instance “the crafts­ man” or “the assistant” (pp. 32–33), occur regularly in the discourse. Places are also named in a cryptic way. The “chamber of darkness” (pp. 36–38) seems to be a concealed room accessible under certain conditions; it may denote an area in the underworld or a crypt.9 The mention of “the secret compartments” of Thoth is also remarkable, as it goes back to a long Egyptian literary tradition concerning a “book of Thoth” hid­ den in it (p. 193). Thus, according to the Demotic tale of Setne I, reciting a spell from this work permits one to “charm the sky, the earth, the netherworld, the mountains and the waters,” as well as to understand the language of all animals—a theme also occurring in the “Book of Thoth” (pp. 43–44).10 Despite the help of rubrics, the stichic layout of a few manuscripts, and the occurrence of verse points, the narrative reconstruction remains hypothetical. I shall describe just a few sections to give an idea of its remarkable metaphorical style, using a fecund imagery derived from the animal, vegetal, and mineral worlds. The first column of the text is apparently devoted to the description of the state of renouncement that the pupil should embrace.11 The following sections are concerned with scribal art, including the way to hold the writing tool: “Your three fingers, place the brush between them. Your two fingers, let them make a grasping [. . .]” (B02, col. 5, line 13). To the question “What is writing?” (B02, col. 4, line 12), He-wholoves-knowledge is answered through a series of com­ For this last suggestion, see Quack: SAK 36: 250. On this puzzling epithet, for which no definite translation is available, see D. Budde, “Die Göttin Seschat,” in Lexikon der ägyptischen Götter und Götterbezeichnungen, ed. Christian Leitz. Kano­ bos 2. Orientalia Lovaniensia Analecta (Leipzig, 2000), 13–24. 9  For the latter suggestion, see Quack, SAK 36: 261–62. 10  As mentioned several times by the editors, Setne I bears notable similarities with “The Book of Thoth;” cf., for instance, p. 76, n. 265. 11  For this interpretation, based on new readings and reconstruc­ tions of a rather damaged section, see Quack, SAK 36: 251–52. 7  8 

parisons and metaphors: writing is a “sea (?)” in which the student might be allowed to swim one day; “its reeds are a shore” (B02, col. 4, line 13). With fishing and fowling images, the pupil is encouraged to gain knowledge (V01, col. 3), a desire he expresses meta­ phorically several times in the text: “ . . . my mouth is open, may one give to it milk” (B02. col. 6, line 7). Although this kind of imagery is at first sight not very common in Egyptian literature, Ramesside scholastic texts often resort to similar comparisons to describe the superior advantages of the scribe’s profession and the immortality of writings. In papyrus Chester Beatty IV, v. 2,5–v. 3,11, for instance, the teachings left by wise men are said to be their “pyramids,” the reedpen, their “child,” and the stone surface, their “wife.” In B02, column 7, line 10, the pupil recognizes with gratitude that he has acquired a special knowledge: “You have caused that I achieve old age, I being (still) young.” This long section appears to end with a hymn of praise to the “foremost one of the temple of Ptah, in the festival of Imhotep, before Osiris-Neferhotep” (B02, col. 8), possibly indicating that the text was used in a Memphite ritual context. However, once again, the figure mentioned here is not explicitly designated, leaving us with many open questions.12 The contents of the remaining columns are hard to summarize; He-who-loves-knowledge seems to dem­ onstrate knowledge in sacred terminology and geog­ raphy, as in the so-called “Vulture Text” (V.T., pp. 332–58), a section available in essentially one version (L01), where the disciple names and describes (from south to north) forty-two vultures corresponding to the forty-two Egyptian nomes. The end of the text is not preserved. The so-called “Book of Thoth” appears to be “a scholastic work written for and by priests” in the con­ text of the House of Life (p. 77). Although the text was probably written in Demotic, it was compiled at some point in the Ptolemaic Period, drawing on var­ ied sources.13 The resort to such a metaphorical style, For the relative importance of Imhotep in our text (in connec­ tion with the Famine Stela) and the intriguing mentions of OsirisNeferhotep (a divine form attested mainly in the region of Hu, in Middle Egypt), see Book of Thoth, 17–19 and Quack, SAK 36: 260–61. 13  According to the editors (p. 77), the compilation most prob­ ably took place in the later Ptolemaic or early Roman Period; for a slightly different point of view, see Quack, SAK 36: 262. 12 

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116  F  Journal of Near Eastern Studies

supplied with numerous plays on words, makes one “wonder whether it was not one of the purposes of the composition to illustrate the possibilities of word play, or to impress on the student the potential for puns embodied in the Egyptian language” (p. 114). In view of this, my deepest regret lies in the absence of facsimi­ les in the glossaries, a task I realize would have been troublesome because of the number of manuscript sources. However, confronting the different hands and orthographies would no doubt have been of great help in bringing out, for instance, the variations in the determinatives and identifying the paleographic

peculiarities of each scribe as well as, possibly, each temple school.14 In conclusion, I would like to reiterate the immense value of this book and the perseverance of both editors who managed to give life again to one of the most dif­ ficult Demotic text collections ever published.

14  It should be noted that although ten to twelve manuscripts are said to come from Dime, only B07 clearly presents the typical Roman Soknopaiu Nesos hand occurring also in documentary texts.

Ancient Near Eastern Thought and the Old Testament: Introducing the Conceptual World of the Hebrew Bible. By John H. Walton. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2006. Pp. 368. $24.99. Reviewed by Joel S. Baden, Yale Divinity School. In this volume, J. Walton has gathered and synthesized material regarding what he refers to as the “cogni­ tive environment” of the ancient Near East (ANE), focusing particularly on Mesopotamia and Egypt, in an attempt to elucidate the literature of ancient Israel through comparison with its neighboring cultures. Walton begins his study by laying out a very brief history of the origins of comparative study of the He­ brew Bible, turning quickly in the first chapter to his own methodology. This is a clear, useful guide to the practice of comparative studies; especially helpful—to the beginning student as an introduction or to the advanced scholar as a reminder—is his list of “Princi­ ples of Comparative Study” (pp. 26–27). These serve as a guide for the rest of the work, and, for the most part, Walton follows his own principles admirably. Chapter 2 describes the challenges that compara­ tive study presents to both critical and “confessional” scholarship. In the case of the former, Walton sug­ gests that aspects of certain areas of critical scholar­ ship are vulnerable to challenges by comparative data (although these areas are somewhat limited, at least as Walton presents them, and the challenges posed by the comparative data are as open to interpretation as the ideas being challenged). In the case of the latter, Walton does not define precisely what he means by “confessional scholarship,” though he apparently is referring to any scholar with an acknowledged reli­ gious affiliation who also defends the authenticity or historicity of some or part of the biblical text. Even if

Walton may have caricatured these scholars somewhat, his emphasis on the need for knowledge of the “cogni­ tive environment” of ancient Israel for a more com­ plete understanding of the biblical text is well taken. Chapter 3 is no more than a broad, yet brief, sum­ mary of the major texts from the ANE, with little description. Most useful, at least to a beginning stu­ dent, is the (necessarily) abbreviated bibliographical information provided for each text. The majority of the book comprises a detailed study of various aspects of culture (including deities, temples, cosmology, historiography, kingship, and wisdom, among others), each of which is approached in essentially the same way. The body of the text is devoted to a discussion of the Egyptian and Mesopo­ tamian views on each topic, and comparison with the view of the Hebrew Bible is given in sidebars entitled “Comparative Exploration.” Because Walton deals with so many major topics, and because this is but one volume, his treatment of the Egyptian and Mes­ opotamian material is of necessity somewhat broad throughout (although the major works in each field are referred to in footnotes and in the bibliography). Perhaps more troubling is the flattening of the Hebrew Bible (and the Egyptian and Mesopotamian material), such that Walton presents the perspective of the biblical text, to be compared with the ANE perspective(s). Although one cannot expect a vol­ ume of this limited size and scope to deal with the many variant traditions encompassed in the biblical

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