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Full text of "The Legacy Of Egypt"

Writing and. Literature                      67
with their north-easterly neighbours either as conquerors or as
traders. In Ramesside times witness is borne to the intensive
traffic between the two countries by the number of Semitic
words which were adopted into the Egyptian tongue, and
Hebrew similarly displays a considerable number of loan-words
taken over from Egypt. An erudite, but none too judicious
scholar recently wrote a large book to show that the language
of the Pentateuch is absolutely permeated with Egyptian idioms.
He has doubtless greatly exaggerated his thesis, but there may
well have been more borrowing than is actually demonstrable.
A celebrated satirical composition contained in the first Anastasi
papyrus draws a vivid picture of the journeyings of Egyptian
scribes in Philistia and Syria, and from such visitors the natives
will have learnt something of the Egyptian classics. Nor did
this intercourse slacken appreciably when, after the close of the
Twentieth Dynasty, disruption and feebleness befell the land
of Egypt. In the reign of Solomon, who ascended the throne
about 970 B.C., the friendship between Israel and Egypt was
particularly close, and it was just about this time that Hebrew
literary activity began to bear its first-fruits.
Happily the dependence of the so-called Wisdom literature
upon Egyptian models is no mere speculation, but can be
demonstrated by cogent testimony. The best proof is afforded
by one of the six collections of sayings which together constitute
the canonical book known as The Proverbs of Solomon. Almost
every verse in Prov. xxii. I7~xxiii. ri finds its fellow in an
Egyptian didactic work that came to our knowledge about
fifteen years ago. The Teaching of Amenope is found in a
papyrus purchased for the British Museum by the late Sir E.
Wallis Budge, and first edited by him. The date of the actual
manuscript is not quite certain, but Griffith, a judge of the high-
est qualifications, placed it somewhere between the Twenty-first
Dynasty and the reign of Darius. The composition of the book
may have been a good deal earlier, and competent authorities