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Ice_nine

Did Exodus really happen?

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As in, did the enslavement of Israelites in Egypt and the subsequent wandering in the desert actually happen in human history? Should the book be taken as historical, mythological, an epic, or what?

Apparently there's no archaeological evidence outside of Biblical text that indicates such an occurrence took place in ancient Egypt. And I know the Bible is the word of God and we're supposed to assent to it, but I've been troubled by this for some time.

I don't really buy into the excuse that Egyptians did not record the event because it was embarrassing to them. They were pretty meticulous record keepers by all indications.

Does Exodus have to be an historical event for the Christian faith to be valid? Jesus talks about it a lot in the gospels and His life and resurrection are in some ways entangled in the exodus story. Is there any way for Exodus to be figurative without falling into heresy?

I'm hoping some more knowledgeable folks can help me out. @Archaeology cat you're an Egyptologist right?

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Biblically, we think that Exodus is the oldest story in the bible. It would have originally been an oral story passed down. 

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8 hours ago, Ice_nine said:

As in, did the enslavement of Israelites in Egypt and the subsequent wandering in the desert actually happen in human history? Should the book be taken as historical, mythological, an epic, or what?

Apparently there's no archaeological evidence outside of Biblical text that indicates such an occurrence took place in ancient Egypt. And I know the Bible is the word of God and we're supposed to assent to it, but I've been troubled by this for some time.

I don't really buy into the excuse that Egyptians did not record the event because it was embarrassing to them. They were pretty meticulous record keepers by all indications.

Does Exodus have to be an historical event for the Christian faith to be valid? Jesus talks about it a lot in the gospels and His life and resurrection are in some ways entangled in the exodus story. Is there any way for Exodus to be figurative without falling into heresy?

I'm hoping some more knowledgeable folks can help me out. @Archaeology cat you're an Egyptologist right?

You believe that a man was born of a virgin, that a wafer is changed into God, but the Exodus presents a faith difficultly for you?

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14 hours ago, Peace said:

You believe that a man was born of a virgin, that a wafer is changed into God, but the Exodus presents a faith difficultly for you?

In fairness, the others are matters of faith, but the historical validity of this depends on human record. Which, yes, still requires some faith because it requires that you believe the record, but it is a different type of faith.

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On 3/20/2017 at 11:46 AM, CatherineM said:

Biblically, we think that Exodus is the oldest story in the bible. It would have originally been an oral story passed down. 

But that doesn't explain why there are no records anywhere else, when the Egyptians were meticulous record keepers. Yet, as far as I understand it, there are no records of Israelites being in Egypt as slaves.

On 3/20/2017 at 8:02 PM, Peace said:

You believe that a man was born of a virgin, that a wafer is changed into God, but the Exodus presents a faith difficultly for you?

FP addressed this well. Also, one doubt leads to another. If a totally non-supernatural event supposedly happened in history (such as enslavement of a population) there should be a record of this. It becomes a little suspect when there is no corroborating evidence.

BG45 props this

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You'd be surprised by the ego of the Egyptians.  I mean, how many plagues and they still wouldn't budge?  

I wouldn't doubt they wanted to bury this history, it would make their kingdom look extremely weak, and Rameses wouldn't stand being looked upon as the idiot who let his slaves go free...

Speaking of burying, chariot wheels have been found at the bottom of the Red Sea, as well as human remains.  

 

Jewish people kept meticulous records themselves, it's called the Torah...

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Actually there is some evidence in Egypt. One is cave carvings in an ancient script that is a precursor to Hebrew crying out to God for help and release from slavery. The caves were outside the city Ramses built. 

The second is an inscription about a people called a different name that I can't remember right now that they believe referred to a group that evolved into or joined the Israelites. 

The ancient God of Middian was called Yaho which they think is the background of Yahweh. I suspect the number coming out of Egypt was much smaller than what we were taught, but the experience was so important it was repeated in oral history. 

The largest portion of Israelites were actually nomads settling down and refugees from the collapse of the city state system. In a way they were oppressed by the city state's elite. That experience also affected the story. 

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There's a lot that's not known about the Egyptians. They didn't write down the mechanism by which the pyramids were built, although the record IS pretty clear it wasn't slaves. The Romans were also meticulous record keepers and had no surviving contemporaneous record of Pilate, which was pretty damning evidence he didn't exist. He is mentioned in the New Testament and some non-original, late histories (where you can speculate he may have been inserted by pious Christians with an agenda). Then in the 1960s they discovered the "Pilate stone" during an archeological dig. This stone remains almost the only historical evidence that a man like Pilate ever existed, but it's been authenticated. It corresponds to what's been written down about his life and career.

It may also help to understand how history is made and written down. The most accurate records are supposed to be made by eye witnesses - they aren't relying on word of mouth, they can write down what they saw with their own eyes! Except, research is showing that the human senses are not a faithful recorder of reality. This has a devastating potential effect on even the most sincere eyewitness testimony in court cases, certainly, but it has ominous implications for historians as well. 

What I'm saying is, we don't have convincing evidence of ancient stories, up until the moment we do. And even when we do, that doesn't mean we are interpreting the evidence correctly. The likelihood that the brain actually manufactures some of what we experience as reality and history is pretty high in my opinion.

This doesn't mean that history is pointless of that we have to treat everything as "just an allegory" - that would not be consistent with the Christian faith or most faiths period. But we have to look at it knowing all of the above. Maybe instead of the entire Jewish people it was just a smaller band of Jews who were enslaved and found their freedom. Personally I think that's the most likely story. Maybe it wasn't Egyptians after all but some other powerful people and "Egypt" was just a stand in familiar to people hearing the story generations later. 

One thing for sure is that most ancient stories are rooted in some historical reality. This was always the best proof that Pilate existed; it may be easy to invent the virgin birth and the resurrection, but it's difficult to completely make up a celebrity spiritual teacher (Jesus) and a Roman governor (Pilate). A Jewish rabbi didn't just wake up one morning and start talking about the Exodus. Something traumatic happened to a group of ancestors which was considered worth remembering and spiritually significant. 

In the end, although it would be nice if the Bible people had GoPros, it doesn't really trouble me. 

DominicanHeart, BarbaraTherese and Basilisa Marie prop this

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Thank you @Maggyie. That makes a lot of sense. I know there's all sorts of methods and theories about interpreting history, and I guess it's easy to say, if this or that event didn't happen, then it must be reduced to allegory or symbolism, when perhaps there are other shades betwixt and between.

You da best.

DominicanHeart and Maggyie prop this

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