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Full text of "The Legacy Of Egypt"

Writing ani Literature                     71
of the Negative Confessions in the Book of the Dead. It is clear,
of course, that any such utilization of ancient material could in
no way detract from the sublime genius of the Book of Job, and
in spite of the suggestive descriptions of the ostrich, the hippo-
potamus, and the crocodile in Job. 39-41, it is perhaps going
too far to infer that the writer had lived in Egypt. As regards
the other Hebrew books discussed by Humbert it is impossible
here to review his evidence,, but mention must at least be made
of Ecclesiasticus xxxviii. 24-39, where the son of Sirach descants
upon the profession of the scribe and its superiority over other
callings. This theme is a commonplace of the Ramesside literary
Miscellanies, which derive their inspiration from a much earlier
work, the so-called 'Satire of the Trades'. The occupations
characterized by Ben-Sirach by way of contrast, those of the
field-labourer, the carver in stone, the metal-worker, and the
potter, are all among the occupations treated in the Egyptian
original.
There is no issue raised in the study of mankind more con-
troversial or more strictly unprovable than that of the influence
of one people upon another, and the well-worn debate between
diffusionists and their opponents is unlikely ever to result in
agreed conclusions. That fact must be borne in mind in judging
the suggestions of the last few pages. This portion of my
chapter may be fittingly summed up in the sober words with
which the late Professor Peet closed his brilliant Schweich
lectures on the compared literatures of Egypt, Palestine, and
Mesopotamia:
'This literature (i.e. that of Egypt) seems to have run to seed in
later times, and it was left for a greater nation, the Greeks, to make
the advances in conception which alone made literature in the modern
sense possible. At the same time, Greek literature cannot have sprung
full-grown like Venus from the waves, any more than did Greek art,
and though we may never learn the manner in which Egyptian influence
made its way into Hebrew and into Greek literature, it may reasonably