“Who the hell translated this? It’s completely wrong. They must have used Budge; I don’t know why they keep reprinting his books!” – Daniel Jackson, from the movie, “Stargate”
Using Budge = BAD IDEA!
By Fanny Fae, 2013
People: I am here to tell you once and for all, ditch the Budge translations that you have. Stop using them in your arguments and your writings. You are making your work and yourself into a laughing stock. I don’t care that you have meticulously collected all of his works over time or how much you spent for that gold embossed, leather bound volume of the Ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead It’s as of this writing, about 150 years out of date. If you do choose to ignore the advice and use him anyway, any of your “translations” are likely riddled with inaccuracies. They may be nice to look at on the shelf lining your office and to utilize their pubic domain illustrations, however, they are *really* problematic hieroglyphically.
And need I bring up that Budge was known to plagiarize his students? No. I didn’t think so.
Sir Ernest Alfred Thompson Wallis Budge was born in 1857 and died in 1934. Commonly referred to in his title of Sir E. A. Wallis Budge. Budge was the curator of Egyptian and Assyrian Antiquities at the British Museum in London from 1894 to 1924. He was knighted in 1920. He began working for the British Museum in 1883, making archaeological excavations in Mesopotamia, Egypt, and the Sudan. During these expeditions, he managed to accumulate many Mesopotamian cuneiform tablets, Egyptian papyri, and manuscripts written in Arabic, Coptic, Ethiopic, Greek, and Syriac languages. Budge was quite prolific and the author of many books such as “The Ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead”, “The Egyptian Hieroglyphic Dictionary”, “Egyptian Vocabulary”, ” An Egyptian Hieroglyphic Reading Book for Beginners”, “The Gods of the Egyptians”, “The Egyptian Heaven and Hell”, “Egyptian Magic”, and on and on.
Dr. Barbara Mertz, aka Elizabeth Peters in her novels frequently mentions Budge. In the novels, the heroine’s husband repeatedly refers to Budge saying, “Budge is a poor archaeologist and an unscrupulous plunderer of Egypt.” Very true. By today’s standards, he was most certainly that.
If you read Budge, then you must examine what he is writing through his cultural lens of Protestant Christianity via the Church of England. Much of how Egyptology expeditions got funded in that day was by convincing rich, nobles in the Empire that the study was a worthwhile endeavor. Aside from the prospect of discovering a rich cache of treasure, forwarding the idea that the ancient Egyptians had beliefs quite similar to those of Christians, of course, before the benefit of Christ having come. etc. was how those expeditions got the much needed dosh. We all know, however, that this notion of Egyptian religion being just like Christianity, is just downright incorrect. (Or we should know this, at least). Budge ignored much of the progress of the German schools of Egyptology and the various advances in translation even in his own day – probably out of sheer Victorian arrogance more than anything else. Today, translations by R.O. Faulkner and others are much better and are easily available in print and in eBook form.
The bottom line is this. There are those, like me, who will more than likely discount any book or paper if that author cites as a resource, books written by E.A. Wallis Budge. The only way around this is if that author would also cross-reference those sources written by Budge with newer, more accurate ones as well. Some readers will simply see the name ‘Budge” and pitch it over their shoulder, unread. Really, I can’t blame them. That little jab at Sir Ernest by the screenwriters of “Stargate” was for a reason. Using a translation by Budge would be the equivalent of relying on the diaries of Charles Darwin to explain modern stem cell and DNA research. Historical, Egyptoligical and scientific research has moved on. A layperson or independent Egyptophile knows far more about ancient Egypt or ancient Kemet today than we did in Budge’s day. That is because back then, Egyptology was a very young science – and even today it can be a very underfunded science. With the recent events in Egypt, moving further may be even more difficult. We will have to see about that one.
If you are an author of anything Egyptian or Kemetic, you have the duty and the obligation to use good, current resource materials rather than cheap reprints in the public domain. Those public domain works, more often than not, do not take our greater understanding of Egypt and Egyptology into account since Budge’s day. To not fulfill this obligation and duty is not only a case of simple ignorance of better material, but rather it shows a flagrant disrespect for the time and intelligence of readers. We now have, via the Internet, wider availability of either free or inexpensive access to scores of current material that is historically sound. Why someone would choose not to avail themselves of these resources is inexplicable. Bear in mind, someone like me looks at newly published books on ancient Egypt with a very critical eye. If an author use a less than reputable resources, the review of the newly offered book will reflect this. In Kemetic circles, that can be death to any viability in the marketplace.
So, please. Put down and put away the books by Budge; or at the very least, use a stack of them as doorstops.
The same goes for using the works of Leonard William King (1869 – 1919) — a colleague of Budge’s, professor of Assyrian and Babylonian Archaeology at King’s College, and eventual “Assistant to the Keeper of Egyptian and Assyrian Antiquities” at the British Museum — who is still sometimes cited by those not-in-the-know for his work in the field of Ancient Near Eastern Studies, despite being outdated by roughly a century. Modern scholarship in these fields has well since progressed past that point. Additionally, Budge was considered even in his own time to be less than reliable, as Fanny Fae details [above].
Please, take Fanny Fae’s advice: while (some of) their contributions may have been important during King’s and Budge’s own time, ditch the Late Victorian scholars and check the publishing information and copyright dates on your sources! Go for the works of scholars such as Jan Assmann, John Baines, Leonard Lesko, David Silverman, Geraldine Pinch, David Klotz, Dimitri Meeks, Jean Bottéro, Jeremy Black (d. 2004), Francesca Rochberg, Lise Manniche, James P. Allen, and Stephanie Dalley instead.