The Ipuwer Papyrus & the Christian

Many people do not care

When it comes to history and archaeology there is a lack of caring about what the ancients did and when they wrote their masterful works. These people have a lot more on their minds than what ancient people put down on ‘paper’.

Whether they admit to it or not, the Ipuwer Papyrus and a large majority of history impacts their faith, if they have one, in Jesus. If left to the unbelieving world, much of the Old Testament and foundation for the New is lost, replaced by ideas heavily influenced by unbelief.

That cannot take place as the truth cannot be hid even if the truth offends many unbelievers and keeps them from converting and taking Jesus as their Savior. The story about the Ipuwer Papyrus cannot remain in the hands of the unbeliever.

What is the Ipuwer Papyrus

One of the most interesting aspects of the Ipuwer Papyrus is that it is recorded on the Papyrus Leiden 344 and it contains information that resembles the different plagues that God sent to afflict the Egyptian people (Barry, et al, 2016).

This is what causes the controversy as there is so little physical evidence to support the biblical era that records the Hebrew sojourn in Egypt. Having this piece of ancient physical evidence would go along ways to proving the Bible true.

One of the problems that keep this piece of ancient Egyptian literature from being accepted as an account of the pre-Exodus trouble is that most scholars do not date the contents to the time of the Exodus even though the papyrus it was written on dates to about the 13th century BC. The contents are dated to between 2000 & 1700 BC (Barry, et al, 2016).

Why is there controversy

One of the main reasons why there is any controversy at all about the contents of this document is that the majority of scholars do not believe there was an actual Exodus from Egypt by the Hebrew people. That disbelief naturally influences their view on the Ipuwer Papyrus (Habermehl, A. 2018)

This attitude is an important one as unbelief tends to blind the eyes of scholars to the truth. This means that their dating of the document even though it is written on Exodus era, give or take 100 years, parchment is suspect.

But there have been scholars over the decades that have disagreed with such an early date of the contents. Most do not like being mentioned in the same sentence as Immanuel Velikovsky and have omitted his name from some of their works when those contents agree with the controversial historian. He stated that the Ipuwer Papyrus was written by someone who experienced the plagues and saw the Exodus take place (MP, 2020).

It does not read like someone was creating a scary bed time tale or a fairy tale in the likes of Hans Christian Anderson or Aseop. The Papyrus has the feel of an actual event thus it must be treated as a true story based on an actual event. Which is what Velikovsky also determined as did Von Seter (MP, 2020).

Why the early dating

This is hard to explain as there is no real reason for why the contents were pushed back between 400 and 300 years. The papyrus itself comes from the New Kingdom era, 1550 to 1070 BC, but for some reasons the contents are given a Middle Kingdom date, approx., 1885 to 1773 BC (Sutherland, 2017)

This is close to what other scholars have concluded as the correct time of the writing of the contents. One scholar has stated that the contents should be placed in the First Intermediate Era which dates to about 2123 to 2040 BC. (Murnane, 2001)

The only problem with these early dates is that there is no real historical record depicting  such a similar calamity to befall Egypt. If there was the many scholars who talk about the early dating of the contents could produce the historical record, the manuscript detailing such an invasion and so on. None have and none exist.

Yet that doesn’t stop scholars pointing to the large gap between the events described in the Papyrus and the book of Exodus. They go as far as stating that the two records are not depicting actual historical events (Kennedy, 2016).

This random categorizing of historical events is what is to be expected from those who do not accept the Bible as true. If they do not believe the Exodus is true why would they believe that any evidence for it exists or is even true?

This is what messes up people’s faith when they listen to these unbelieving scholars and accept their opinion of God’s word.

Who was Ipuwer

This is another point against the early dating of the papyrus bearing his name. It is not like he did not exist. What is not known is which Ipuwer is the author. His name or title is found in the Old, Middle and New Kingdoms. In fact, his name appears in a 19th Dynasty tomb. These are not the only pieces of physical evidence that remain for this or some other Ipuwer (Habermehl, A. 2018).

It should be pointed out that since this 13th century papyrus is the only copy available it cannot be determined to be a copy of an earlier document. There is no reason that a copy should be made. What purpose would it serve?

At least with Manetho we know he was commissioned to write his histories of Egypt but no such information is found for Ipuwer. It is possible that he recorded it for posterity so that everyone would know that the Egyptians endured a terrible storm of plagues, etc.

With the ancient Egyptian reputation of altering their history, it is no wonder corroboration is not found in official ancient government records. Nothing stops ordinary Egyptian citizens from recording what took place so their family would know the truth about their history (Habermehl, A. 2018)

The criteria used to determine the actual date

One of the main criteria that is used to determine the date of any manuscript is the writing style or the genre often applied by modern scholars according to modern definitions. Yet these different writing styles are not exclusive to the dynasty to which they are credited (Bledsoe, 2016)

People, even ancient Egyptians, are free to write in any style they want no matter what era, Kingdom or decade they happen to reside. This literary criteria is more of a straw man argument than actual fact. Many manuscripts have probably been misdated because of the accepted methods of classification.

Modern scholars do this with the Pauline Epistles trying to down grade his words to fake rather than genuine writing. It is no wonder that they would do it to the Ipuwer Papyrus as the unbeliever does not want to give credibility to the biblical record.

There is nothing else to help date the contents to a previous Kingdom or back up to 400 years in history. The fact that it is considered a  poem does not render the contents to an earlier date nor to the realms of fiction. Even poems can relate the truth and record actual events of a cataclysm (Graves, 2014).

What the existence of this Papyrus does prove is twofold. One, as Kenneth Kitchen has said, the Exodus account and the Ipuwer Papyrus speak about the same topic. Two, the Exodus remained in the minds of the Egyptians for centuries after the fact (Graves, 2014).

In other words, the writer of the document considered the events real and wanted them recorded for whatever reason he may have had. It is possible that the author recorded those events because he was in opposition to the ancient Egyptian habit of altering their history.

What is the truth

One of the problems with dating an ancient document is that the date given to those documents are based on what the scholar believes, not what is true. Given the close relationship to the Biblical Exodus the bias against the Bible is a powerful influence that leads scholars to misdate important physical evidence like the Ipuwer Papyrus.

There is no reason to date it earlier than the Exodus. Because there is no historical event prior to the plagues and the Exodus that would inspire someone to record those traumatic events.

Scholars have tried to place the writing to the accepted Hyksos invasion of Egypt in the 1700 BC and onward but without success (B.A., 2001). The Hyksos probably arrived after the Exodus when Egypt was at its weakest point ever in its history save for when its people arrived in the area after the Babel Diaspora. They were not the cause of the Exodus or the plagues but the end result after the cataclysm finished its work on the Egyptian people.

There is nothing to support any conclusion other than the fact that this document records the plagues prior to the Exodus. The Ipuwer Papyrus is extra biblical support for that biblical event and shows that they Bible is true.

Some Final Words

Secular scholars may and will lie but God does not. It is time to take his word seriously and use it in daily life correctly

Works Cited

 (2001). Biblical Archaeologist 1-4, 36(electronic ed.).

Bledsoe, S. (2016). Egyptian Literature. In J. D. Barry, D. Bomar, D. R. Brown, R. Klippenstein, D. Mangum, C. Sinclair Wolcott, … W. Widder (Eds.), The Lexham Bible Dictionary. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

Graves, D.E., (2014), “Bonus 29 – Ipuwer Papyrus”, Biblical Archaeology, https://biblicalarchaeologygraves.blogspot.com/2014/12/bonus-29-ipuwer-papyrus.html

 Habermehl, A. 2018. The Ipuwer Papyrus and the Exodus. In Proceedings of the Eighth International Conference on Creationism, ed.J.H. Whitmore, pp. 1–6. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: Creation Science Fellowship https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/4b1d/4f6874ab5e24509d2d307cc7185aac9651e6.pdf

Kennedy, T. M. (2016). Egypt, Plagues of. In J. D. Barry, D. Bomar, D. R. Brown, R. Klippenstein, D. Mangum, C. Sinclair Wolcott, … W. Widder (Eds.), The Lexham Bible Dictionary. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

Major Contributors and Editors. (2016). Ipuwer, Admonitions of. In J. D. Barry, D. Bomar, D. R. Brown, R. Klippenstein, D. Mangum, C. Sinclair Wolcott, … W. Widder (Eds.), The Lexham Bible Dictionary. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

MP, (2020), “THE PAPYRUS IPUWER”, Mikamar Publishing, http://www.mikamar.biz/Pensee%20III/3-13-papyrus-ipuwer.htm

Murnane William J. (2001). Review of First Civilizations: Ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt by Robert Chadwick. Biblical Archaeologist: Volume 60 1-4, (electronic ed.), 187.

Sutherland, A., (2017), “Is Ipuwer Papyrus A Report Of An Ancient Catastrophe?”, Ancient Pages, http://www.ancientpages.com/2017/08/07/ipuwer-papyrus-report-ancient-catastrophe/

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