The Demotic Chronicle

by Koot van Wyk 

Also called Papyrus 215 in the Bibliotheque nationale de France dating to the early 2nd century BCE (Bresciani). It is an ancient Egyptian prophetic text. Oracular sayings with (pesher, compare the pesharim at Qumran with a similar style, pesher Habakkuk) or exegetical prophetic paraphrases run in VI columns ending in line 21 (Spiegelberg). Some scholars recognize history in the list of rulers and others consider that their length and prosperity of reigns are weighed as an expression of the will of the pagan deities. For Adventist theology, this document is important for the following reasons: The conquerors of Egypt were Medes not Persians originally (see Darius the Mede and Babylon’s fall in 539 BCE followed by Cyrus the Persian in Daniel 8:20; 9:1; 6:28 compared to Demotic Chronicle III.18 “The first ruler who came after the foreigners who are the Medes (Persians) was Pharaoh Amenirdais (Amyrtaios)”. “Der erste Herrscher, der nach den Fremdländern kam, welches die Meder sind, Pharao Amyrtaios.”(Spiegelberg) “The Persian conquerors of Egypt are called “Medes” (hieroglyphic Mdj, Demotic Mtj probably < Aram. mdy).” (Bresciani). “the ‘Medes’ are first mentioned (col. 3.18-20) as a point ‘post quem’ for the indigenous dynasties” (Bresciani). It is not clear that the Medes came after the Persians since the text does not say that explicitly. Scholars read into the text here. Bresciani’s use of a political text the “Prophecy of the Lamb” (Staatsbibliothek, Vienna, Pap. Vindob. D.10.000): “I will rule Egypt after the Persian (Darius III, q.v.) who had turned his face to Egypt will be gone (from Egypt)” to show the Persian-Mede order, cannot be equated uncritically. A syncretistic Hellenistic Jew wrote in Column IV.7 the interpretation: "’Er ist nicht gewesen’. Das heißt, er war nicht auf dem Wege Gottes = bn-p=f ḫpr ḏd bn-p=f ḫpr ḥr t3 mj(.t) p3 ntr.” “’He was not’. Saying/meaning: He was not on the way of God”. This is the hand of a Jewish person in Alexandria for this expression is common in the Old Testament (see Spiegelberg 1912: 18 and footnote 3; page 11 for the original). The number seven is important in Column II.1-5. It is another fingerprint of a Jew with Jewish pagan syncretism (Spiegelberg 1912: 14; see also Table 6 lines 2-3 at Spiegelberg 1912:7). Six days are connected by interpretation to a pharaoh but on the sixth day the god Thoth will write and the records of his deeds [Books in Heaven concept] and the following day the deeds will be Investigated by Ptah [Investigative Judgment], namely, what the pharaoh did in Memphis (see Daniel 7:10) (Spiegelberg 1912: 10 line 4 for the original in Column II.4 and Ptah in Column II.5). Daniel predates the Chronicle by 300+ years. Year-Day Principle in the Chronicle: In Column IV line 16 is the prophetic utterance of one day allocated in the Interpretation to one year, thus the year-day principle in prophetic genre in this text is honored (Spiegelberg 1912: 18 and footnote 15): “’Der erste Monatstag’. Das heißt: Ein Jahr [original at Spiegelberg 1912: 11 line 16 middle to last part, jte sw I ḏd w`.t n(?) rnp.t] laßt man ihn herrschen.” Spiegelberg commented on this expression as also in Column 5 line 1: “Wortlich ein Jahr ist es, das man ihn machen laßt (lassen wird), um Herrscher zu sein”. Spiegelberg then commented saying: “Die Deutung des Monatstages als Jahr ist dieselbe wie in 5/1.” (Spiegelberg 1912: 18 footnote 15). “’The first day of the month’. Saying/meaning: One year he was allowed to reign”. Spiegelberg said: “The meaning of one month day as a year is the same as in 5/1”. Compare the interpretation of the seventy weeks (Daniel 9:24-27); the 2300 days as years (Daniel 8:14) and the 1260 days as years prophecies of Daniel including Revelation 12:14 for the last mentioned one.

Rain or water in the Chronicle’s prophecy is interpreted as “people”. In Column V lines 3-4 it is stated that in prophecy rain or water means people just as it is also in the prophecies of the Old Testament predating this text. Line 3 “Er sagt: ‘Der Himmel ist rein’. Das heißt: Die Sonne sieht sie. Er sagt: ‘Es regnet auf den Stein’. Das heißt: Die Menschen werden ins Ungluck gesturzt. . . Wasser bedeutet Mensch,. .Der Stein bedeutet das Ungluck.” Line 3 “He said: ‘The Heaven is pure.’ Saying/meaning: The Sun saw you. He said: ‘It rains on the stone’. Saying/meaning: People are thrown in accidents….Water means people….The stone means accident”. (Spiegelberg 1912: 19). Compare the theology of the Rock of Daniel 2 which crushes all empires on earth represented by parts of the image. Possible case of the eating of Taboo food: Dogs. In Column VI line 21 there is a case of eating dog as food: Line 21: “’Es leben die Hunde.’ [Das heißt:] Line 22. Der große Hund, er findet zu essen,” (Spiegelberg 1912: 22). “’It lives for the dog’ [Saying/meaning:] Line 22. The big dog, that he finds to eat”. Hope is medicine in the Chronicle and Proverbs. In Column VI line 1 it reads that "?Mut, ihre Heilmittel." that hope is a medicine which is also a concept in the Book of Proverbs 13:12 “Hope deferred makes the heart sick” earlier by Solomon, which was a popular Hebrew Book also in Egypt as the Wisdom Literature of Amenemope dating to 650 BCE illustrates with the links scholars have tried to show. Again it is a case of Jews living in Egypt due to Assyrian Invasions in Israel in 723 BCE and Sennacherib in 701 BCE and his second and final entry near Jerusalem in 689 BCE.  Of course many Jews also lived in Egypt during this time. C. McCown. (1925) in his zeal to reject pan-Babylonianism wanted to substitute Israel religion with pan-Egyptianism as origin. Since then a host of modern scholars also maintain this fallacy until modern times like Stewart Moore 2015. He is correct that Jews in Alexandria were suffering with bifocal identity: their own monotheistic religio-culture and the pagan polytheistic and superstitious religio-culture (see Moore 2015: 2). How to adapt without giving up their identity was the key problem. However, that does not make them borrow their religion from the Egyptians. If they did, it was not part of the biblical canon. It is also the Demotic Chronicle that was copied and interpreted by a syncretistic paganized Jew so this source cannot serve to explain biblical apocalyptism or eschatology. It is the other way around. As McCown coined it for Babylonian sources one can add Egyptian or other Umwelt sources as well: “The long-accepted theory that Hebrew literature is largely the product of Babylonian influences is now discredited, both because of the unquestionable originality of Hebrew thought, in general, and in particular because the use of cuneiform models and materials is recognized to have been greatly overrated.” Methodologically the sources are dating to 650 BCE or later and most of the biblical books, dodging Wellhausen et al, are dating to 1460 BCE for Genesis by Moses; also Job and Psalms; 950 BCE for Solomon’s Proverbs as opposed to 650 BCE Wisdom of Amenemope; and here the Demotic Chronicle as source for prophetism and eschatology in Egypt outside the Bible albeit in 290 BCE. They were written by secularistic Jews who blurred their bifocal cultural vision and “mixed” biblical traditions dating earlier into Egyptian and Umwelt texts dating later.



Joachim Friedrich Quack: “As he Disregarded the Law, he was Replaced During his Own Lifetime”. On Criticism of Egyptian Rulers in the So-Called Demotic Chronicle. In: Henning Borm (ed.): Antimonarchic Discourse in Antiquity. Steiner, Stuttgart 2015, 25-43.

E. Bresciani. (1994, December 15). "DEMOTIC CHRONICLE". Encyclopaedia Iranica Vol. VII, Fasc. 3, pp. 276-277. Downloaded on 16th of October 2018 from

J. Johnson, “The Demotic Chronicle as an Historical Source,” Enchoria 4, 1974, pp. 1-17.

A. Blasius: Zur Frage des geistigen Widerstandes im griechisch-romischen Ägypten ? Die historische Situation; in: A. Blasius / B. U. Schipper (Hrg.): Apokalyptik und Ägypten ? Eine kritische Analyse der relevanten Texte aus dem griechisch-romischen Ägypten, Leuven / Paris / Sterling, VA 2002, pp. 41-62.

A. Blasius / B. U. Schipper: Apokalyptik und Ägypten? Erkenntnisse und Perspektiven; in: A. Blasius / B. U. Schipper (Hrg.): Apokalyptik und Ägypten? Eine kritische Analyse der relevanten Texte aus dem griechisch-romischen Ägypten, Leuven / Paris / Sterling, VA 2002, pp. 277-302.

A. Blasius / B. U. “Die ‘apokalyptischen’ Texte aus Ägypten − ein Forschungsüberblick.”; in: A. Blasius / B. U. Schipper (Hrg.): Apokalyptik und Ägypten? Eine kritische Analyse der relevanten Texte aus dem griechisch-romischen Ägypten, Leuven / Paris / Sterling, VA 2002, pp. 7-20.

Demotic Text online in English:

C. McCown. (1925). “Hebrew and Egyptian Apocalyptic Literature.” Harvard Theological Review. Vol. 18. Pp. 357-421.

W. Spiegelberg. (1914). Die sogenannte Demotische Chronik des Pap. 215 der Bibliotheque Nationale zu Paris nebst den auf der Ruckseite des Papyrus stehenden Texten, Leipzig. Downloaded on 16th October 2018 at

Stewart Moore, (2015). "From the Mouths of Beasts: Ethnic Identity in Apocalyptic Literature from Egypt." Jewish Ethnic Identity and Relations in Hellenistic Egypt. With Walls of Iron? Supplements to the Journal for the Study of Judaism 171. Brill: Leiden-Boston.