The School Tradition of the Old Testament: The Bampton Lectures for 1994

By E. W. Heaton | Go to book overview

III School-Books from Egypt

Contrary to the general impression of familiarity which has been created by spectacular exhibitions and beautifully illustrated books, our knowledge of ancient Egypt is thin and patchy. Egyptologists are emphatic about the scantiness of their evidence and lament the fact that the Egyptian scribes, unlike their counterparts in Mesopotamia, wrote on their home-produced papyrus and not on clay. Papyrus, of course, is fragile and cannot long withstand damp, with the consequence that only those writings which originated in the arid zones of Egypt, safe from the annual inundation of the Nile, have survived. 1 To this totally fortuitous selection of papyri, all there is to add are the potsherds and limestone flakes used by schoolboys for their class-room exercises; these cost little and were thrown away in heaps. From these meagre remains, it is reckoned that altogether we have evidence for some seventy different works, but of these only fifteen are more or less complete. In these circumstances, it is astonishing that we can identify so many connections and so much common ground between the school literature of Egypt and the school literature of Israel; we can only speculate about how much greater Israel's indebtedness actually was. 2

One of the writings which has survived intact is not only among the earliest, but is also, perhaps, the most representative of its distinctive genre—the didactic 'Instruction'. 3

-45-

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The School Tradition of the Old Testament: The Bampton Lectures for 1994
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • The School Tradition of the Old Testament iii
  • Preface vii
  • Acknowledgement ix
  • Contents xi
  • Abbreviations xii
  • I- a Jerusalem School Inspected 1
  • II- Schools and Libraries 24
  • III- School-Books from Egypt 45
  • IV- Education in Wisdom 65
  • V- Prophets and Teachers 93
  • VI- Story-Writers 115
  • VII- Honest Doubters 137
  • VIII- Belief and Behaviour 159
  • IX- Retrospect 183
  • Chronological Tables 191
  • Index of Biblical References 195
  • Index of Subjects 204
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