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THE EXODUS MYTH
Wayne Everett Orgar
March 2001 (Updated April 2012)
About 15 years ago, a friend asked me if I wanted to look at a video about Bible archeology. I eagerly accepted. The tape was interesting but what was most profound about this experience for me was the clear statement near the end that there was in fact no historical or archeological evidence that the Israelites were ever enslaved in Egypt and there was no evidence of any exodus from Egypt. Since it was the first time I had heard this, I filed this controversial idea away until I could get more confirmation and then form an opinion. I wish I had been able to keep the video or remember who produced it. This finding would destroy one of the major foundation blocks of the Christian and Jewish religion. It is not to be taken lightly or dismissed out of hand if it comes from reputable archeologists.
I offered to lend the tape to a Christian friend who I thought naturally would like to view a video on this topic. I was wrong. This person had no interest in viewing a video on Bible archeology. Religious people often refuse to learn about their religion. Learning new facts complicates faith.
I grew up hearing much of the religious misinformation claiming that archeology " proved" the bible. The religious claims of early archeologists saying that the city of Jericho was conquered by Joshua was frequently announced along with other isolated examples. It was as if the existence of a particular spring, river, or building proved the entire Bible. The reasoning was akin to saying that since Athens existed, the stories about Hercules and Zeus must have been true. With regard to Jericho, I read other articles from later studies that used better dating methods that clearly showed that Jericho had been destroyed long before the mythological Joshua would have come along and tried to take the city.
The controversy surrounding the alleged enslavement and exodus is not new. Sources dating back to 400 BCE already contained conflicting accounts of the Israelites' origins and supposed expulsion from Egypt because they were diseased (1). As early as 1100 CE, a church father noticed radical errors in the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Hebrew Bible or "Old Testament") and concluded that Moses could not have written these accounts (2). Of course, the church, in the fine tradition of Christianity, threatened to kill this man if he did not retract this finding.
Recently, the archeologists Israel Finkelstein (Tel Aviv University) and Neil Asher Silberman (director of historical interpretation, Ename Center for Public Archeology and Heritage Presentation, Belgium) summarized the archeological findings and latest corrections regarding the historical origins of the Jewish nation. In their words, "The process that we describe here is, in fact, the opposite of what we have in the Bible: the emergence of early Israel was an outcome of the collapse of the Canaanite culture, not its cause. And most of the Israelites did not come from outside Canaan - they emerged from within it. There was no mass exodus from Egypt. There was no violent conquest of Canaan" (3).
Finkelstein and Silberman point out that there is still no evidence for the existence of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Lot, Moses, and Joshua. There is no evidence that Jewish people existed as an identified people that were enslaved in Egypt. There is no evidence that over 600,000 men (plus women and children - the number could have been over a million) had an exodus from Egypt and wandered in the desert for 40 years. According to the Bible, 38 of these 40 years were actually spent encamped at Kadesh-barnea. This area has been turned upside down for decades, looking for even a tiny piece of pottery from this supposed time. It is not likely that this many people would have lived here this long and not left archeological evidence.
The archeological evidence contradicts the Biblical theme of Joshua taking control of the Israelites from Moses and conquering Canaan. For example, the Egyptians had a strong presence in Canaan at this time, yet the Biblical accounts make no mention of this. The Biblical themes of the origins of Israel are myths. Like the gospel accounts of the New Testament, they were fabricated in later times and inserted into earlier times as a tool of religious and political propagandists (2, 4, 5).
One thing is certain. If a god existed, it could not be the god of the Bible or any religion claiming origins from the Bible. Any self-respecting god of average wisdom would not want to be held responsible for inspiring such a collection of myths and ridiculous sayings.
Update, 4/2012-You may also want to review the NOVA 2-hour program aired on 11/18/2008 on the lack of evidence for the Exodus and the origins of the Hebrew Bible on the pbs.org site. It caused quite a stir. Someone recently informed me that Gerald Aardsma is still attempting to revise Biblical chronology. Scholars have not taken his work seriously. The scientific community has yet to find support for his beliefs in Noahs Ark/the Flood, the Exodus, creationism, etc. The study of genetics has clearly disproven the Adam and Eve myth.
1. Kurtz, Paul. The Transcendental Temptation. Prometheus Books: Buffalo, NY, 1991.
2. Friedman, Richard Elliot. Who Wrote The Bible? Prentice Hall: Englewood Cliffs, NJ, 1987.
3. Finkelstein, I. & Silberman, N. A. The Bible Unearthed. The Free Press: New York, 2001, p. 118.
4. Helms, Randel. Who Wrote the Gospels? Millenium Press: Altadena, CA, 1996.
5. MacDonald, Dennis. The Homeric Epics and the Gospel of Mark. Yale University Press: New Haven, 2000.