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Responding to WaPo on Moses's Existence

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  • Responding to WaPo on Moses's Existence

    Did Moses exist?

    Link

    -------

    Did the great leader exist? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

    A reader sent me this old article from the Washington Post wanting my thoughts on it. Did Moses exist? Let’s say at the outset that while I think he did, the case is definitely not as clear as it is for someone like Jesus. I can understand Moses mythicism whereas Jesus mythicism is just a crackpot theory.

    The article is by someone named Ishaan Tharoor and can be found here. Something I notice right at the start is that a similar argument is used against Moses as is used against Jesus. That is the argument from silence.

    The reality is the record is not completely silent. One can say he’s not mentioned outside of the Jewish Scriptures of the time, but so what? Do we automatically throw out those Scriptures because they are Scriptures? If anyone would have a reason to write about Moses, it would be the Jews, and a writing does not suddenly deserve hyper-skepticism because it is considered holy by some specific faith.

    Now who else would write about Moses? The Egyptians? Doubtful. What would the record say “So these ragtag Hebrews managed to escape after their God kicked our gods to the curb and we couldn’t overtake them when our soldiers drowned in the Red Sea.” Nah. Historians of the time would write about their victories, but they would not write about their defeats.

    It is true that we don’t have the exact timeline on when things took place. The most common dates I hear for the Exodus are either 1446 BC or somewhere around 1290. A lot of it depends on the reference to 480 years in the book of Kings. The Pharaoh on the throne is not named, but this is also not a surprise. Pharaoh is not the main character and is a figure portrayed in a shameful light. Another great way to do that would be to not even name him.

    What about the Red Sea? Again, there are people who say that what happened was a natural occurrence really, and they could be right. It could be the winds could make the sea part at times. In this case, the miracle would be that it happened when it happened. I do not know of any accuracy of reports of Egyptians and chariots being found at the bottom of the Red Sea, but sadly, even if that was true, it should not surprise us that a sea near Egypt would have dead Egyptians in it. It would be evidence for something, but it would not necessitate it.

    I have seen the comparison to Sargon. My ministry partner has an article on that one so no need to reinvent the wheel. I was really amused to find a claim that this is a copy of Krishna. This is the same kind of thing that happens with Jesus Mythicism, as if the Israelites would have known about the story of Krishna and choose to use it, even if you go with a late date such as with the Welhausen JEPD hypothesis.

    The author also says that:
    Some researchers believe the “Hymn to the Aten,” inscribed on the walls of the ancient city of Amarna, prefigures Psalm 104 of the Hebrew Bible. Both are paeans to the power of one god. Here’s the hymn:

    The earth comes into being by your hand, as you made it. When you dawn, they live. When you set, they die. You yourself are lifetime, one lives by you.

    And an excerpt of Psalm 104:

    You hide your face, they are troubled,
    You take away your breath, they die,
    And return to dust.
    You send forth your breath, they are created,
    And you renew the face of the earth.

    As I look at this, it is extremely flimsy. The first one is describing the movement of the sun. The Psalm is not and both of these are statements that could easily apply to a supreme being.

    Noteworthy also is no interaction with anyone who believes in the historicity of the accounts. Do you see any interaction with someone like James Hoffmeier? Nope. Not a bit. Of course, he could be entirely wrong, but if you give your audience only one side of the story, what a shock that most readers walk away thinking that one side is true.

    Also, for Christians, one of the main evidences is that Jesus seemed to treat Moses like a historical figure. Now it could be the incarnation does not entail Jesus as a human has perfect knowledge, but many of us who are Christians tend to take Him a bit more seriously. If you’re a skeptic of the resurrection, that won’t mean anything to you. If you believe in it, it means a lot to you. I realize my point here then won’t convince skeptics, but it should give Christians something to think about.

    In the end, I don’t think the article really delivers. The evidence is one-sided and arguments from silence. It doesn’t convince me with mythicism and it doesn’t do so here.

    In Christ,
    Nick Peters
    (And I affirm the virgin birth)

  • #2
    I would recommend people also read the material from Egyptologist such as Dr Charles Aling, Clyde Billington, Randal Price, Richard Dack and Edwin Yamauchi to name a few that actually provide good evidence that Moses existed. And yes some of this stuff is still based on the JEDP hypothesis that was refuted long ago and its amazing its still being touted as fact.

    Comment


    • #3
      What? The Egyptians wouldn't have fessed up about getting their butts handed to them by a bunch of ex-slaves?

      That would be like Ramses II (the Great) lying about winning a great decisive victory against the Hittites at the Battle of Kadesh. A great victory that historians regard as either a defeat for Egypt or at the very best a draw. The "victory" resulted in the Egyptians permanently losing influence over Kadesh and becoming restricted to Canaan. Similarly, Ramses claims of decisive victories against the Libyans during a time they were at peace, have been called into doubt.


      So who could possibly believe that a country that depicted defeats as victories and made up conquests wouldn't talk about how their slaves rose up, left and gave them a bloody nose when they tried to stop them?

      I'm always still in trouble again

      "You're by far the worst poster on TWeb" and "TWeb's biggest liar" --starlight (the guy who says Stalin was a right-winger)
      "Of course, human life begins at fertilization that’s not the argument." --Tassman

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      • #4
        I suppose the question remains as to why the Israelites spent all those years in the desert only to arrive in Canaan which [at the time the Exodus is alleged to have taken place] was under the suzerainty of Egypt.

        I do find the suggestion that the absence of evidence in the Egyptian record is [in some wise] a valid argument, somewhat risible.

        By that logic then unicorns, goblins, and pixies abound. The fact that we have no evidence for such creatures does no presuppose their non-existence.

        "Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful" Attrib. Seneca 4 BCE - 65 CE

        Comment


        • #5
          Such questions are not suitable to binary answers, like with the historicity of Robin Hood. Did someone exist with that exact name? Did he have most of the characteristics attributed to him? Some? A few? None? It's a large palette of possibilities.

          IMO, a person named Moses existed and some of the activity attributed to him is true. How much ... ?

          Comment


          • #6
            You're responding to a movie review framed with some background scholarship that doesn't actually take a position on Moses' authenticity. This is scraping the barrel even for a blog post.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by rogue06 View Post
              What? The Egyptians wouldn't have fessed up about getting their butts handed to them by a bunch of ex-slaves?
              Short answer - because it never happened.
              "Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful" Attrib. Seneca 4 BCE - 65 CE

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Ronson View Post
                Such questions are not suitable to binary answers, like with the historicity of Robin Hood. Did someone exist with that exact name? Did he have most of the characteristics attributed to him? Some? A few? None? It's a large palette of possibilities.
                To some extent I would agree.

                Nor can it be denied that folklore and comparative literature are evident in the traditions surrounding the character of Moses. His infancy narrative is almost identical to a Mesopotamian tale about the early childhood of Sargon the Elder. Furthermore the word “moses” is a suffix of an Egyptian theophoric name and simply means “son of” e.g. Thutmose, Kamose, Ahmose, Ramesses/Rameses/Ramoses, depending on the transliteration. One also has to ask that if he is a character of such primary importance why is he not attested outside of the Hebrew texts?

                The answer probably lies that, like so many other characters, Moses is a folk hero.
                Tales of heroic figures can be found in most folklore and tales and folktales and foundation myths form an important part for most cultures and civilisations. These tales are often embellished and elaborated as oral traditions but when a written language becomes available or develops these are written down. The Babylonian tablets from Ninevah are not the original source of the Enuma Elish creation myth, nor is the tenth century CE poem that we have of Beowulf the original of that tale.

                It also seems to be a common human trait that all societies have culture heroes, such as Siegried/Sigurd who has Regin forge him a sword from the shattered pieces of his father’s blade. He then kills Fafnir, drinks the dragon’s blood and is able to understand the language of the birds. Such personages may be presented like Siegried/Sigurd as a warrior, or they may be great rulers, sages, law-givers, or hunters, those depictions being dependent upon the type of society being considered. It is also a fact that people enjoy listening to, and telling, stories. Today we usually receive our narratives from the moving image, books or radio/audio-book rather than by sitting around the camp fire or gathering in the mead hall, but we still take pleasure in the experience.

                We therefore should not presuppose those Bedouin/Hebrews nomads were any different when they sat outside their tents around the camp fire in the desert night. No doubt the stories they told would have involved heroes and magical events and deeds. It therefore follows that the personage of Moses may be an entirely fictitious figure or he may have echoes of a tribal leader or clan chief who did once exist among those Bedouin/Hebrew nomads, as has been suggested for a possible Romano-British tribal chief behind behind the character of King Arthur.

                However, like the stories that have come down to us today about King Arthur, that does not suppose that the account of this personage we find in the Hebrew bible is historically reliable and accurate.





                "Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful" Attrib. Seneca 4 BCE - 65 CE

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