Is E. A. Wallis Budge still worth reading?
September 17, 2006 11:28 AM   Subscribe

Egyptologists and other experts: are the works of E. A. Wallis Budge on ancient Egyptian religion still considered somewhat accurate? If he has been superceded, who are the new authorities?

I understand that his texts on hieroglyphics are not particularly well thought of today, but what of his works on religion, the massive Gods of the Egyptians for instance? Are they only useful for understanding what western scholars thought in the late 19th and early 20th centuries?
posted by PinkStainlessTail to Religion & Philosophy (6 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
The hilarious criticism of Egyptian concepts of magic—and their gods—in the introduction to "Egyptian Magic" (wherein he seems totally unaware that every single one of the things he's "making fun" of could be levelled at Christianity) make me think he's quite dated. So I'm looking forward to answers to this question as well.
posted by interrobang at 11:35 AM on September 17, 2006

Here's the passage I was talking about:

From the religious books of ancient Egypt we learn that the power possessed by a priest or man who was skilled in the knowledge and working of magic was believed to be almost boundless. By pronouncing certain words or names of power in the proper manner and in the proper tone of voice he could heal the sick and cast out the evil spirits which caused pain and suffering in those who were diseased, and restore the dead to life, and bestow upon the dead man the power to transform the corruptible into an incorruptible body, wherein the soul might live to all eternity.

Early in the book, he also makes some statements that presuppose the existence of the god of the Hebrews, assume the existence of Moses, and pretty much flatly state that Moses's powers came from a "real" god, whereas the Egyptian magicians he was battling were just using trickery.
posted by interrobang at 11:46 AM on September 17, 2006

I'm under the impression that Budge got everything more or less wrong. I'd have to hunt for sources, though. For modern Egyptology, try looking at suggested reading lists in some of Pat Zalewski's books, or possibly Kraig.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 11:52 AM on September 17, 2006

Check out How to Read Egyptian Hieroglyphs: A Step-By-Step Guide to Teach Yourself by Mark Collier and Bill Manley for an up-to-date and quite approachable guide. (Budge is pretty much worthless except as a useful quick reference to what a particular hieroglyph looks like.)
posted by languagehat at 12:35 PM on September 17, 2006

Best answer: (posted from my girlfriend Margaret from Oxford)

I'm an Egyptologist and I have to say that in Egyptological circles, Budge is considered laughable. The only reason for the continued prominence of his work is that it's out of print, meaning that for publishing companies it's a license to print money. Religion is not my field of specialization at all, but one can certainly find a number of good scholarly books on religion that are accessible to a general audience without having to resort to the wild inaccuracies of Budge.

My main suggestions would be:
'Religion in ancient Egypt: gods, myths, and personal practice' edited by Byron E. Shafer
'Ancient Egyptian religion' by Stephen Quirke
'Conceptions of God in ancient Egypt: the one and the many' by Erik Hornung
and maybe even the older 'Ancient Egyptian religion' by Henri Frankfort.
Also important is 'The search for God in ancient Egypt' by Jan Assmann but some consider it a bit difficult going at times and the author is *slightly* controversial.

And getting into the magical side of Egyptian religion there is 'Ancient Egyptian magic' by Geraldine Pinch. If you're interested in getting right down to some of the original religious texts, there are nice translations of the Pyramid Texts and the Coffin Texts by RO Faulkner. My favourite is the famous Coffin Texts Spell 1130, dealing with creation, equality, and evil. Good stuff.
posted by adrianhon at 3:37 PM on September 17, 2006 [5 favorites]

Response by poster: That's exactly what I was looking for. Thank you Margaret and adrianhon.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 7:32 PM on September 17, 2006

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