The Exodus Story – History or Myth?

God’s chosen people, the Israelites, are held captive as slaves by the Egyptians for over 200 years.  After Moses pleading for the people and many calamities God put upon the Egyptians (the last the most severe where God kills the first born males of every Egyptian family), finally they are almost pushed out of Egypt by the Egyptians after the realize life might be safer without them.   After Israel gets out of dodge, the Egyptians have second thoughts and go running after them.

Archeologists have scoured the area trying to find proof of the Exodus story – to date, they haven’t found any evidence even suggesting that there is any truth in the story.  Lawrence Stager fro Harvard University says”… It’s very likely that it was a kind of story, told in poetic form, that you might tell around the campfire. Just as our poems are easier to remember, generally, than prose accounts, so we generally think that the poetry is orally passed on from one to another, long before they commit things to writing” (NOVA).   The one truth they have found though is one of the cities mentioned in Exodus as a site they Israelites were enslaved at is  the city Pi-Ramesse; Ramesse was one of the pharaohs during their enslavement.  Ramesse is present day Tanis. This convergence between archaeology and the Bible provides a timeframe for the Exodus.   The Exodus couldn’t have “…happened before Ramesses became king, around 1275 B.C., and it could not have happened after 1208 B.C., when the stele of pharaoh Merneptah, Ramesses the Second’s son, specifically locates the Israelites in Canaan.  That is the only evidence found and you are left thinking that’s the end of the story – the Exodus story is a myth.

However, Dr. Mohamed Abdel-Maqsoud, the head of the excavation looking for evidence to prove the Exodus story says “…People always have doubts until something is discovered to confirm it” (NY Times) and goes on to suggest another theory:

“A pharaoh drowned and a whole army was killed,” he said recounting the portion of the story that holds that God parted the Red Sea to allow the Israelites to escape, then closed the waters on the pursuing army.   This is a crisis for Egypt, and Egyptians do not document their crises” (NY Times).

Some of the Bible has been proven; other parts of it seem to be myths and stories – the Exodus story being one of them.  Barbara Organ (2004) feels you have to look at the Bible as a glimpse into cultural history and not get so caught up into proving if the Biblical stories are fact or fiction – the value is learning about the culture.

References

Organ, Barbara.  Is the Bible Fact or Fiction?  Mahwah : Paulist Press.  2004   Print.

Slackman, Michael.  “Did the Red Sea Part? No Evidence, Archaeologists Say”.  New York   Times.  3 Apr 2007.  Web.  10 May 2013.

The Bible’s Buried Secrets.  NOVA.  18 Nov 2008.  Web.  10 May 2013.

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