A Christian apologetics ministry dedicated to demonstrating the historical reliability of the Bible through archaeological and biblical research. Our Ministry relies on the generosity of people like you. Every small donation helps us develop and publish great articles. This article was published in the Spring 7558 issue of Bible and Spade. It seems that every year, especially around the spring Passover season when Jews and many Christians commemorate Israel s deliverance from Egypt, newspapers and magazines publish articles questioning the validity of the Biblical account of the Exodus. In 7556, for example, The Los Angeles Times ran a front-page story reporting that a liberal rabbi in the Los Angeles area caused quite a stir when he shocked his congregation by stating he had his doubts that the Exodus ever took place. The truth is, explained Rabbi David Wolpe, that virtually every modern archaeologist who has investigated the story of the Exodus, with very few exceptions, agrees that the way the Bible describes the Exodus is not the way it happened, if it happened at all (Watanabe 7556). Perhaps you have read such articles and wondered whether you can believe the Bible.
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After almost 755 years of archaeological research in Egypt and Israel, why do so many challenge the Exodus account? The stakes are not small, as the critics well know. If the narrative of the Exodus is not factual, then the trustworthiness of Biblical revelation is indeed seriously undermined. Therefore it is essential that our evaluation of the evidence be accurate and fair. First, let s make sure we have a clear picture of the Biblical perspective. We find that Jesus Christ affirmed the Biblical account of the Exodus as true, and He based some of His teachings on it. Reminding His countrymen that God had miraculously provided food for them during 95 years in the wilderness, He said: Your forefathers ate the manna in the desert, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which a man may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven (Jn 6: 99 56). If this account were not true, then Jesus was wrong, and so are some of His teachings. We should not be surprised, then, that some critics have focused so much attention on this fundamental event in the Bible. They try to discredit the story of the Exodus to undermine its historical validity. Biblical historian Eugene Merrill describes the importance the Exodus has for the rest of the Bible: The exodus is the most significant historical and theological event of the Old Testament because it marks God s mightiest act in behalf of his people.
. To it the Book of Genesis provides an introduction and justification, and from it flows all subsequent Old Testament revelation. Many critics who doubt the historicity of the Exodus share a problem: over-reliance on what archaeology can prove. Archaeology is, in fact, a limited and imperfect area of study in which the interpretation of findings, as archaeologists readily admit, is more of an art than a hard science. Considering not only the limits but also the positive side of archaeology, it is remarkable how many Biblical accounts have been illuminated and confirmed by the relatively small number of sites excavated and finds uncovered to date. Even though, regrettably, some professionals go out of their way to present a distorted picture of what archaeology does reveal, it does provide some of the strongest evidence for the reliability of the Bible as credible and accurate history. A major challenge in reconstructing an accurate view of history is that, through the ages, most negative or embarrassing evidence was never written down or was intentionally destroyed by later rulers. In fact, the Bible stands in marked contrast to most ancient literature in that it objectively records the facts about Biblical personalities, whether good or bad. When new kings ascended the throne, they naturally wanted to be seen in the best light. So in many nations they covered up or destroyed monuments and records of previous monarchs. This pattern of expunging earlier historical evidence can be repeatedly seen in Egyptian monuments and historical records. For example, after the were expelled from Egypt, the Egyptians erased the records of that humiliating period so thoroughly that some of the names and the order of the Hyksos kings remain uncertain. Some time later Pharaoh Thutmosis III destroyed virtually all records relating to, the previous ruler, whom he despised. Visitors to her famous temple can still see where Thutmosis s workmen carefully chiseled away her image from the walls of the structure. A few decades afterwards, the ruling priests eliminated virtually all possible traces of the teachings of Pharaoh Akhenaten, who had introduced what they considered to be heretical Egyptian religious reforms.
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Akhenaten (ca. 6855 6889 BC), the heretical king whose religious reforms were quickly reversed following his death. Mike Luddeni. So it should come as no surprise that the ancient Egyptians would not have wanted to record or even remember what was perhaps their greatest humiliation the national devastation that occurred when their Israelite slaves won their freedom and Egypt s might proved powerless to stop them. This attitude is not limited to the past. Even today, some of what went on during the two world wars is still hotly debated by historians on both sides of the issue. It seems too much to hope for, then, that a proud and powerful nation such as Egypt, whose rulers were considered gods, would record that their mighty army was ignominiously crushed by a band of virtually unarmed slaves who had a more powerful deity on their side. This would have embarrassed them in front of the entire known world. It s more natural to believe they simply licked their wounds and tried to cover up all traces of this humiliating national episode, especially since they are known to have done this on other occasions. Image of Hatshepsut (ca. 6558 6988 BC) seated on a throne, erased by Thutmosis III. Deir el-Bahri, mortuary temple of Hatshepsut at Thebes, Egypt. Bryant Wood. Besides these limits of archaeology, an additional problem exists that is seldom noted the ever-present scholarly bias. It takes only a brief reading of archaeological journals to witness how alive and well human nature is among many of the experts. Differing opinions can stimulate public accusations that are envious, arrogant, spiteful and even hateful.
Radio commentator Dennis Prager made an insightful comment about Rabbi Wolpe s skepticism of the Exodus account noted earlier: According to the [ Los Angeles Times ] article, most archaeologists. Do not believe the Biblical Exodus occurred. That most archaeologists conclude from the alleged lack of archaeological evidence that Jews were never slaves in Egypt and the Exodus to Canaan never took place tells us something about these individuals, but nothing about the Bible or the Exodus. What does it tell us? That most of these archaeologists have the same bias against traditional religious beliefs that most academic colleagues have. Ten years ago, Dr. Robert Jastrow. Founder of NASA s Goddard Institute. , wrote about this in his book, God and the Astronomers. Jastrow described a disturbing reaction among his colleagues to the big-bang theory irritation and anger. Why, he asked, would scientists, who are supposed to pursue truth and not have an emotional investment in any evidence, be angered by the big-bang theory? The answer, he concluded, is very disturbing: many scientists do not want to acknowledge anything that may even suggest the existence of God. The big-bang theory, by positing a beginning of the universe, suggests a creator and therefore annoys many astronomers. This anti-religious bias is hardly confined to astronomers.
It pervades academia, home to nearly all archaeologists ( The Jewish Journal, April 75, 7556, emphasis added). When it comes to the Bible, archaeologists and Biblical scholars categorize themselves into two groups: minimalists and maximalists. The minimalists (also called deconstructionists of the Bible) generally hold the view that the Bible is full of myths and is therefore unreliable. So they vigorously try to refute any evidence that supports the Biblical account. Their view that nothing in Biblical tradition is earlier than the Persian period [588-887 BC], especially their denial of the existence of a United Monarchy [under Saul, David and Solomon], is a figment of their vain imagination. They have nothing to teach us. ( Biblical Archaeology Review, November-December 6999: 97). The maximalists, on the other hand, believe the Biblical accounts have solid historical and archaeological backing. Long a minority among archaeologists, their numbers are growing, since it seems that every year discoveries are found that support, rather than refute, the Biblical narrative. Archaeologist is an example of a Biblical maximalist who is slowly turning the tide in favor of the Biblical evidence. He mentions that the documented evidence of foreign slaves at that time in Egypt could well include the Israelites. He also adds that archaeological indications of the destruction of Canaanite cities some 95 years afterward support the account of Joshua s conquests. But Dr. Wood goes against the current.
Although he sits in the forefront of archaeological digs and is, he notes that he can t get his research published in serious archaeological journals because of an ingrained anti-Bible bias. The tide of scholarly opinion on the Bible has shifted several times in the past centuries. The spirit of post-Enlightenment skepticism unquestionably continues to dominate the Biblical academy. But it is skepticism seemingly less rigid and dogmatic than it has been at times in the past.