Book review: Rediscovering the Pharaonic Books of Genesis

Mahmoud El-Wardani, Tuesday 15 Feb 2011

Al-Alfy documents the oral heritage of "Gyptana" in his book, published 22 years after its completion, and raises questions about Pharaonic influences on ancient civilizations

Aly Aly Al-Alfy has just completed the documentation and re-writing for this edition of the Pharaonic Books of Genesis, known as “Gyptana”, first completed in 1988, yet unpublished for twenty-two years, until finally the Cairo-based publishing house Dar Rawafed printed it and it is now in its third edition.

Al-Alfy, who’s a teaching supervisor, has uncovered a rare treasure, for the original manuscript is at least two thousand years old, with an original version in one of the ancient Egyptian languages and another in the Coptic language, stored in obscure locations before reaching us hundreds of years later.

The Gyptana, as presented by Al-Alfy, represents the one authentic source for some of the writings of the Hebrews, and in particular some sections of the Old Testament. It is one of the highest manifestations of the Egyptian enlightened consciousness, which spread throughout the old world, impacted many of the cultures at the time, and designated the “Dawn of Conscience” by the archeologist Breasted.

The journey of the “Gyptana” text itself is rather fascinating. Al-Alfy told the story of how during the 1940s he was introduced to Father Abib Al-Naqady (from Quena Governorate in the south of Egypt) who became his mentor and teacher. Reflecting the tolerant Egyptian spirit at the time, Al-Alfy, a Muslim, became the student of a Coptic Christian priest. Father Abib was leading a group of intellectuals in Mansura (north of Egypt) that involved a number of Christians and Muslims, including the poet Aly Mahmoud Taha, Gawdat father of the poet Saleh Gawdat, the father of Al-Alfy, Mahmoud Al-Alfy who headed the Teacher’s Institute, and finally Khawaja Basiliy Abdo, the owner of a farm, among others.

When Al-Alfy asked him about his origins, Father Abib told him, “I’m a Hellenistic phenomenon. I’m an Egyptian Coptic from Naqada, while my mother Catherine, comes from a Greek family that lived in Mansura. And to satisfy your curiosity, I was also a deacon of a church in the south of Egypt. My family owned a small eatery attached to the train station. I have travelled to Greece, Italy, the Levant, Sudan, and even the black mountain in Yugoslavia. I have served in many churches in the south of Sudan, Uganda and Ethiopia, had close relations with many foreign archeologists such as Breasted, and Egyptian ones such as Selim Hassan, Samy Gabra, Kamal Pasha and others.”

All this information was quite important because Father Abib played a major role in keeping the treasure safe until it reached us. Although he died in the 1950s, the Gyptana heritage still managed to reach us through his student Aly Al-Alfy.

One of the surprising facts is how Father Abib was able to memorise the Gyptana, which had been handed down to him over 55 generations. He was able to recite it in the Coptic language, which he mastered and became an expert in. Yet, the Gyptana itself was never written as a manuscript per se, which makes us wonder whether it’s an oral heritage, and what the chances are that such a long, nearly 400-page script can be handed down over that many years, many generations and many languages!

The author of the script, according to Father Abib, was the Egyptian historian Maniton, from whom the order of the Pharaonic ruling dynasties in Egypt was revealed and used by later historians. Despite the fact that Maniton’s records on papyri were all discovered, this Gyptana script has reached us orally, handed down from one generation to another. According to Al-Alfy it was Father Abib who named it “Gyptana", which is its common name in Coptic.

Starting in the 1950s, Al-Alfy collected and wrote the script of the Gyptana and handed it to Father Abib for approval. It contained 16 chapters, each with five sections. In 1959 Father Abib died, while the documenter graduated from the Faculty of Sciences. Lawyers Emil Dous and Nasif Boutos supplied him with everything written about the script in Arabic or English. They had some idea about the Gyptana from an old man, and they put him in contact with Al-Alfy through another lawyer, Mounir Guirgis. However he discovered that what the old man had memorised was different from Father Abib, although he considered Abib more accurate and consistent.

Al-Alfy had to edit the Gyptana a number of times after reviewing the old historical works by Herodotus and others who wrote the texts that have reached us from ancient times. The final edit of the Gyptana was completed in 1988. However, it remained unpublished until now.

The main issue is that there is no historical or scientific evidence of the presence of the Gyptana’s oral script, which has definitely undergone additions, changes and omissions, etc. With all respect to Al-Alfy and the late Father Abib, the Gyptana does not hold any historical truth in comparison to similar ancient texts, which have been properly and scientifically documented, and prove that the old Hebrew thinking was influenced by ancient Egypt. There are a number of exact copies of Egyptian text in the Hebrew manuscripts.

Still, the Gyptana remains without proof even if it is in agreement with our general knowledge of history. Another surprising fact is that although it’s been published for months, no mention of agreement or disagreement was referenced anywhere, despite the many scholars working on ancient Egyptian civilisation, leaving us to wonder as to the true value of the book, in the context of scholarly understanding of our history.

Gyptana, by Maniton from Samanud, documented by Aly Aly Al-Alfy, Cairo: Dar Rawafed, 2010. pp 251.


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