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Ice_nine

Did Exodus really happen?

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Ice_nine    2,270
Ice_nine

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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CatherineM    6,168
CatherineM

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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Peace    777
Peace
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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PhuturePriest    6,559
PhuturePriest
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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Ice_nine    2,270
Ice_nine
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.

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dominicansoul    4,457
dominicansoul

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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CatherineM    6,168
CatherineM

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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Maggyie    2,541
Maggyie

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. 

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Ice_nine    2,270
Ice_nine

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.

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Amum    0
Amum

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

Yep, the non-existent plagues didn't move them 

"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..."

Yeah, especially since he died. Also they wouldn't have need to bury this history because the country would be in ruins, during a time when it was prospering. 

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

Nope, Ron wyatt didn't find that, because he was a fraud. 

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Norseman82    856
Norseman82
On ‎3‎/‎20‎/‎2017 at 10:32 AM, Ice_nine said:

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.

 

Please also remember that a lot of ancient records were lost when the library at Alexandria burned down. 

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Era Might    1,537
Era Might
On 3/22/2017 at 1:02 PM, Maggyie said:

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.

Reminds me of this Seinfeld scene, where George and Jerry discuss whether Moses picked his nose. George's reasoning is, Moses lived in the desert, he had to get itchy from all the dry air. Jerry's reasoning is, there was no Commandment against picking, so it had to be okay.

All history is story. And there are no new stories. They're all the same, just different ways of telling them. The Exodus is a primordial story, as is the Iliad, the Odyssey, the Gospel, etc. You can reduce any story down to a primordial story (and if you can't, it's not a well-told story). Messiah saves people. Boy meets girl. Evil ruler oppresses people. Girl becomes woman. Man faces death. The modern novel is "novel" because it takes people seriously as individuals...it tells story through the lens of individual experience, whereas primordial stories didn't care about individuals. Nobody cared whether Moses picked his nose or not, and they weren't "historians" in a modern sense. They were story-tellers. So are we (people talk "about" history all the time, but they're just using it to prop up their stories. When Trump says "make America great again" he's telling a story as old as Israel and Rome, decline and resurrection, destruction and rebuilding. There's nothing "historical" about his slogan, it's mythology (and propaganda -- the modern form of mythology).

All of us are living in myths. In America, we have a lot of myths, one being that America is the modern Israel, specially favored and protected and blessed by God. WWII was a sort of meeting of myths...the Jews died as a mythological people, Americans emerged as their successors. (For some, America's mission in the world is to restore Israel, literally, as a mythological people in the holy land). WWII was America's exodus, where America emerged as the savior of all the world and took its place at the head of all nations.

I don't know whether there was a literal Exodus. But that doesn't make the story any less true. Even if Moses did pick his nose.

 

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Kia ora    84
Kia ora
On 3/22/2017 at 1:24 AM, dominicansoul said:

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

Right...that's not conflict of interest or anything. ;)

 

On 3/20/2017 at 3:32 PM, Ice_nine said:

Does Exodus have to be an historical event for the Christian faith to be valid?

I don't think Exodus has to be a historical event for the Christian story to be valid. Why would it?

Does Adam and Eve and the talking snake have to a historical event for the Christian story to be valid? Did God really make man out of clay and Eve out of his side?

Edited by Kia ora

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Era Might    1,537
Era Might
2 hours ago, Kia ora said:

Right...that's not conflict of interest or anything. ;)

 

I don't think Exodus has to be a historical event for the Christian story to be valid. Why would it?

Does Adam and Eve and the talking snake have to a historical event for the Christian story to be valid? Did God really make man out of clay and Eve out of his side?

I think how you approach the story does have implications for belief. If there is a supernatural God, what is his relationship to the real, historical world? There are ways to interpret (or re-interpret) stories, but once you start doing that, you are getting away from the idea of a personal God who has a relationship with the world, you are getting into literature, mythology, science, etc. Much in the way writers and artists during the Renaissance used classical mythology as a way to speak "about" the world -- they were able to use the mythology because it was no longer a real belief system, it was a symbolic stand-in for their world. Instead of speaking about God, they could speak about the gods, and they could avoid the complications of speaking about the God in a direct way which could open them up to trouble from the authorities, etc...the same way artists use stories to speak about politics and political rulers in an indirect way.

If the Exodus was symbolic, what becomes of a historical God, a God who rules the stars and intervenes with miracles and raises up prophets and saints and mystics, who guides the destinies of nations? What becomes of a Bible directly inspired, word-for-word, by God?

Edited by Era Might

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Kia ora    84
Kia ora
58 minutes ago, Era Might said:

 

If the Exodus was symbolic, what becomes of a historical God, a God who rules the stars and intervenes with miracles and raises up prophets and saints and mystics, who guides the destinies of nations? What becomes of a Bible directly inspired, word-for-word, by God?

 

Well then, we're up the creek. Because if what you say is true, that it´s all for naught unless it really happened, then my faith is for nothing and is nothing.

However, I do not think that. I don't think Christianity is false if Exodus didn't happen like the Bible says it did. 

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Era Might    1,537
Era Might
1 hour ago, Kia ora said:

 

Well then, we're up the creek. Because if what you say is true, that it´s all for naught unless it really happened, then my faith is for nothing and is nothing.

However, I do not think that. I don't think Christianity is false if Exodus didn't happen like the Bible says it did. 

I'm not saying anything, just trying to point out the questions that it raises if you answer one way or the other. It's like the resurrection or the miracles...if you want to de-historicize it, that takes you down a certain path. But, at the same time, if you try to defend the Bible on historical grounds, you're going down another path...you're taking on the question on the terms of reason rather than faith.

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Kia ora    84
Kia ora

Well, let me be clear, I don't think we are dehistoricising anything. We are actually historicising the Bible, putting it in the context and time and place when its makers made it. I think people who want to say that everything in the Bible really happened are the ones dehistoricising it.

And I think this critical spirit that is the fruit of the last 300 years has done more to shed light on what really happened than 1700 years of what came before, as interesting and spiritually enlightening as all that was. That is to say, a spiritual and allegorical intrepretation of the Bible as developed by the Catholic Church is just as valid today as it was when it was first developped, but you can't deny it's not exactly historically accurate and it wasn't  meant to be.

We know more about what really happened now and we are in better condition to understand the Bible from a historical perspective than any Christian in history (including the earliest Christians, who were centuries removed from the events of the Old Testament). I see this as a blessing, not a curse...

 

 

 

Edited by Kia ora

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Era Might    1,537
Era Might
36 minutes ago, Kia ora said:

Well, let me be clear, I don't think we are dehistoricising anything. We are actually historicising the Bible, putting it in the context and time and place when its makers made it. I think people who want to say that everything in the Bible really happened are the ones dehistoricising it.

And I think this critical spirit that is the fruit of the last 300 years has done more to shed light on what really happened than 1700 years of what came before, as interesting and spiritually enlightening as all that was. That is to say, a spiritual and allegorical intrepretation of the Bible as developed by the Catholic Church is just as valid today as it was when it was first developped, but you can't deny it's not exactly historically accurate and it wasn't  meant to be.

We know more about what really happened now and we are in better condition to understand the Bible from a historical perspective than any Christian in history (including the earliest Christians, who were centuries removed from the events of the Old Testament). I see this as a blessing, not a curse...

I don't see how historical criticism gives us any more religious insight. I think that the religious meaning of the story can only be understood if you take it literally. What use is a God if he has to be contextualized? Once you reach that point, God becomes an idea, a story, a myth, not a personal actor in human history. Historical criticism is about us, not about God. If religious stories are just myth-making, then what do we know about God? When does myth stop and God begin? If Exodus was a myth, what isn't a myth? What do we know about our own selves? Are we not just the stories we tell about ourselves?

 

Edited by Era Might

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