Board index The Exodus

Did the Exodus ever happen, or is it all legend? What is the evidence for it, or is there evidence at all? Let's talk.

Re: The exodus never happened

Postby Can't Tell You » Fri Jul 24, 2015 10:27 am

I think it’s safe to say that you’ve done your homework. I sent an email to and they said; “The Hebrew word for thousand is "elef," and it means - 1,000. A related word, "aluf" means general.” So if the exodus account is to have any seed of history your points make sense as a sort of hagiography. Don’t forget to add Samson’s killing of a thousand with a sheep’s jawbone to your list there. I haven’t done much research on it lately but, what’s your take on when exodus was written?
Can't Tell You

Re: The exodus never happened

Postby jimwalton » Tue Oct 20, 2015 3:38 am

Did you ever see the "Bad Lipreading" of the Hunger Games? SOOOO funny.

Right at the end she goes, "You are the devil," and her sister responds in a "devil" voice, "No! NO!" So funny. Have you seen it? Well, if you gave me my 666th vote, then I guess I'm the antichrist!!

As far as the date of the writing of Exodus, here's what I have from my research:

1. The oldest extant manuscripts are the Dead Sea Scrolls (none complete). According to the accepted analysis of handwriting, some of those were made in the 2nd c. BC and one in the mid-3rd c. BC (4QExod-Lev). That is unlikely to be the first copy of the text, so the age of the Exodus should be set well before 250 BC.

2. The earliest known fragment of Exodus in Greek was copied about 100 BC (LXX 805, a Dead Sea Scroll manuscript containing Ex. 28.4-7), but there are copies of other books of the Pentateuch that are dated to the 2nd c. BC, and it is unlikely that they circulated without Exodus. The Greek manuscript witness leads us to the same conclusion as the Hebrew, to a date before the 2nd c. BC for the composition of Exodus.

3. The spelling and grammar are from much later than the 13th c. BC, but the age of the present form doesn’t determine the age of its contents. Modernizing old works was not uncommon in the ancient Near East.

4. The absence of Aramaic, Persian, or Greek influence in grammar and vocabulary or the sort visible in the books that are dated by obvious criteria after the Babylonian Exile (6th c. BC) makes it likely that the Exodus text is earlier than 6th c. BC.

5. The historical details in Exodus indicate that it accurately preserves information from the times it describes: The Late Bronze Age, or about a thousand years earlier than the oldest surviving manuscripts of Exodus. It's reasonable to believe that some of this information had changed or would no longer have been known during the exile, so there is credible reason to believe an early source of this information.

6. The Bible early and consistently mentions the Book of the Law (starting at Josh. 1.8), as if at least a body of work was written rather than merely passed on orally from its historical context of roughly 1300 BC.

7. Are there anachronisms in Exodus? No. To argue for a later date involves assuming that all the necessary information was accessible at that later time, including the fact that the city of Ra’amses had been the Delta capital before Tanis, although by then Ra’amses had long ceased to exist.

a. The name of the pharaoh is not mentioned. But it was normal for people in Egypt to refer simply to “the pharaoh” in the New Kingdom period, when the Exodus presumably occurred.

b. The place names Ra’amses and Pithom in Egypt accord with the late Bronze Age (16th-11th c. BC) when there was extensive construction in the Nile Delta. The city of Ra’amses was a royal city in the Delta during the period of the Exodus, but was replaced by Tanis (Biblical Zoan) in the middle of the 12th c. BC. The other Exodus store city, Pithom, may be located at Tell-el-Retabeh, or, less likely, Tell el-Mashkuta. At Tell er-Retabeh, building blocks have been found bearing the cartouche of Ramesses II (1279-1213 BC), thus confirming a Late Bronze occupation, so Tell er-Retabeh could well be Pi-Atum (Biblical Pithom). Tell el-Mashkuta also appears to have been occupied at this time, but it may be Succoth rather than Pithom.

c. The desert Tabernacle is described as a portable prefabricated shrine. The structure has close Egyptian parallels in the 2nd millennium BC. The Ark of the Covenant may be compared with the portable clothes chest found in the tomb of King Tut (1336-1327 BC). There is no reason to believe that such an artifact could not be manufactured by the Israelites.

d. Worship of a single deity, not acknowledging any others, had been the policy of the “heretic” pharaoh Akhenaten in the 14th c. BC. That the Israelites adopted his doctrine seems unlikely, centered as it was on the figure of the king. Still, the appearance of Akhenaten’s revolutionary cults warns us against assuming that another form of monotheism could not appear in the next century.

Obviously, everyone has a theory about Pentateuchal authorship. The Bible itself claims that Moses is the writer (Josh. 8.31; 23.6; 1 Ki. 2.3; 2 Ki. 14.6; Mt. 8.4; 19.7; Mk .7.10, and many others). Jesus affirmed repeatedly that Moses was the author. Dr. John Walton, in "The Lost World of Scripture," says: "Though the authorship of the Pentateuch by Moses cannot be verified, it is clear that he was considered the authority behind the Torah that we have. His words, teachings, and actions can be considered to be represented with accuracy in the biblical text. As the leader of the people, 'Moses was generating information…that would be considered important enough to preserve in written documents. Some undoubtedly would have been recorded in his time and under his supervision. Others may well have been produced by later generations after some time of oral transmission. It matters neither how much material is in each category nor which portions are which; the authority derives from Moses and he is inseparable from the material.' Even if Moses didn’t actually write it, there is no verified reason to doubt that the material is his, even if it was not written down until much later."

I believe that parts of Exodus (particularly the law) were written down in the time of Moses. Other parts of Exodus were carried on in oral transmission and written later, but still early. There is no way to know when the work was written as we know it, since papyrus doesn't last that long. But I find plenty of reason to believe that Exodus is an early work.

For instance, Brevard Childs, in his commentary on Exodus, is talking about the "Book of the Covenant" (generally speaking, Ex. 21-23). He says, "During the era of form criticism, this text was originally assigned to J, while others attempted to assign it to E. Since then, a growing consensus has emerged that the Book of the Covenant is an older collection of laws that are independent of and preceding the usual critical sources.
"The 'Book' shows many signs of redactional activity. Still, a case can be made for seeing an integral connection between the Book of the Covenant and the Mosaic office of the covenant mediator. The laws are permeated with covenant theology and God's revelation. All of these indicate a historical setting for this section prior to the rise of the monarchy. It is evident that some of the material stems from a very early period that may reach back into the wilderness period. Many of the prohibitions are unconnected with a settled agricultural life, though the festival calendar et al. clearly point to the period after the conquest.
"The differences between these laws and the parallel Babylonian laws are often considerable. The stamp of Hebrew national law is everywhere."

Walton, Matthews & Chavalas also believe that at least the Book of the Covenant is reliably before the monarchy (pre-1000 BC), and possibly more.

I go for an early date.

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