Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Witness to the Exodus

i) Unbelievers say there's no evidence for the Exodus. Of course, the fact that we have a detailed account of the Exodus in the Pentateuch is prima facie evidence for the Exodus, even if you don't presume the inspiration of Scripture. Most of what we believe about historical events is based on historical testimony. 

ii) But here's another consideration: on the face of it, we have multiple attestation for the Exodus. It isn't just the Pentateuch. The OT contains numerous references to the Exodus, viz. Jdg 6:8-9,13; 1 Sam 12:6,8; 1 Kgs 8:51; 2 Chron 7:22; Neh 9:9ff; Pss 77:14-20; 78:12-55; 80:8; 106:7-12; 114; Hos 11:1; Jer 7:21-24; 11:1-3; Dan 9:15. 

iii) Now, unbelievers might try to argue that these are all secondary references. All literarily dependent on the Pentateuch. But there are problems with that claim:

a) It generates a dilemma: liberal scholars don't think the Pentateuch was written first.

b) If the Exodus happened, then that would be a part of family lore for descendants of the Exodus generation. 

c) In addition, due to its religious significance, you'd have collective memory. There'd be a motivation to perpetuate those anecdotes.

d) Consider the Mormon Trek. Misguided followers of Brigham Young who accompanied him to the Salt Lake Valley. It wouldn't surprise me if anecdotes of that journey were passed down from one generation to the next. 


  1. I recently listened to "The History of Ancient Egypt" lectures from The Great Courses series on Audible. The lecturer was Bob Brier, a senior research fellow at LIU. A very highly regarded scholar--NEH fellow, Fulbright scholar, etc.--who's done a lot of well-received peer-reviewed research.

    He actually talks about both the Joseph segments of Genesis and the account of the Exodus during his lectures. Apart from disagreeing about the number of Israelites who fled Egypt, he actually endorses the stories as pretty reliable firsthand accounts. He says that while we don't find any real physical evidence of these events, we shouldn't expect to given a number of factors and actually tells people that they shouldn't discount the biblical narratives because of that. Also points out that the customs and geographical markers from the biblical narratives could only have come from someone personally familiar with Egypt during the time period of the Exodus. He even specifically rules out the idea that the Exodus narrative is the creation of Jews living in the exilic/post-exilic period, saying that they'd have given incorrect place names and geographic markers. Pretty amazing to hear someone who seems to be a straight secularist with impressive academic credentials admit all this.

    If anyone's got an Audible subscription, they should check these lectures out. Brier's an excellent presenter and the lectures are fascinating.

  2. A few months back I watched the documentary Patterns of Evidence which attempts to marshal the evidence for the Exodus. Recently apostate scholar Hector Avalos critiqued the film. I'd be interested reading a response from believing archaeologists like James K. Hoffmeier.

  3. What do the skeptics expect to find? Egyptian reliefs describing the slave nation that kicked their behinds and the slaves' God that humiliated Pharaoh and the Egyptians' gods? 

    Unbelief can always find a way not to believe no matter the state of the evidence.