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Full text of "The Legacy Of Egypt"

70                     Writing and Literature
Amenope having used an earlier Hebrew collection of precepts.
It is claimed that the Teaching of Amenope is too religious and
too truly ethical to be regarded merely as the last example of
a long line of Egyptian didactic treatises. No Egyptologist is
likely to subscribe to such a view, which takes insufficient
account of the ever-growing tendency to monotheism manifest
in all Egyptian writings of post-Akhenaton times. New evidence
of this can be found, for instance, in the maxims incorporated
in the recently published Chester Beatty Papyrus No. IV, where
reference is more than once made to the will of God and to the
1 kind of conduct demanded by Him. A strong argument in
favour of the priority of Amenope concerns a passage already
alluded to. The reference to behaviour at the table of a promin-
ent man goes back to the oldest of all Egyptian moralizing
works, namely to the Precepts of Kagemni and the Maxims of
Ptahhotpe, both of them at least as old as the Twelfth Dynasty.
A well-documented and persuasive book by Paul Humbert
extends the same argument to a wider field, and discovers
Egyptian influence in Job, Ecclesiastes, the Wisdom of Ben-
Sirach (Ecclesiasticus), Tobit, the third book of Esdras, and the
story of Achikar. The author has industriously ferreted out all
passages which could lend support to his thesis, and uses them
with discretion and able self-criticism. The one thing we miss
is attention to the rival claims of Babylonia, but so far as the
restricted domain of the Wisdom literature is concerned, the
Hebrews seem unlikely to have derived much from that quarter.
It is indisputable that the Book of Job transports us into the
pessimistic atmosphere of several old Egyptian compositions,
among which the Dialogue of the Pessimist with "his Soul is the
most interesting example. Humbert scores many good points
in matters of detail. The monster Leviathan, for instance,
seems to bear more resemblance to the serpent Apopis, the
enemy of Rec, than it does to the Babylonian divinity Tiamat;
and Job's protestations of innocence are undeniably reminiscent