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Dirk Marinus
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PostSubject: Exodus   Exodus EmptyTue 30 Apr 2019, 19:34

The evidence of Moses 's existence is derived from the Bible but is there ( apart from the Bible story of Exodus ) any independent evidence of an Israelite presence in ancient Egypt?




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PaulRyckier
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PostSubject: Re: Exodus   Exodus EmptyWed 01 May 2019, 21:23

Dirk,

I am so glad that I nearly immediately found a representative discussion among people from universities about this question. But seemingly it is not necessary that you are objective if you are from a university...
Why is there no evidence of the Exodus?
https://www.researchgate.net/post/Why_is_there_no_evidence_of_the_Exodus
And the about us
https://www.researchgate.net/


Dirk, you don't have to read it all, as I nearly did. Read just the contributions of Stanley Wilkin of University of London and from the American Barry Turner from University of Lincoln. Have a look also to Roger M. Pearlman, but after some statements I stopped to read his replies...

If you Dirk or any other has questions, seemingly you can copy and past from this discussion.

I am so glad that we have nowadays people as that Stanley Wilkin and Barry Turner. And for instance an Israel Finkelstein from Israel.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Israel_Finkelstein


And I am glad that we have also a nordmann on board.

PS. Dirk if you don't want to read it, I will try to copy the essence about your question. Or ask a specific question.

Kind regards from Paul.
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Dirk Marinus
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PostSubject: Re: Exodus   Exodus EmptyThu 02 May 2019, 06:38

Paul,

 thanks for those links .
Will open and read  the contents.

Another question what maybe can be answered in one of those links  is, in what language would  God have communicated with Moses and would Moses have been writing down the ten commandments in hieroglyphics?


Dirk
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Tim of Aclea
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PostSubject: Re: Exodus   Exodus EmptyThu 02 May 2019, 10:07

As noted on another thread, busy with an essay on Iconoclasm but will get back later.

The quick answer is there is no evidence outside the Bible.  However, some OT scholars consider that the very strong belief that Yahweh acts in history had an historic origin such as Moses (which is an Egyptian name) leading an escape of a few hundred slaves (not 2 million) from Egypt.

Tim
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nordmann
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PostSubject: Re: Exodus   Exodus EmptyThu 02 May 2019, 12:43

I agree with Tim on this one - when you strip away the more fantastic elements of the narrative, and when you acknowledge that the narrative was never intended by its authors anyway as corroborative text for future rigorous historical research, then you end up with a plausible scenario regarding an opportunistic "escape" of migrants - who, bearing in mind more modern events related to such refugees who share common ethnicity and culture while moving in sufficiently large amounts, may also indeed have resulted in a protracted itinerary in which the community's self-identity was reinforced and which ended up with a probably disproportionate cultural effect (often a profound one) on the population in whose area they finally settled.

I read an interesting history of the Vandals in which this phenomenon also occurred, though admittedly the numbers concerned were very likely way more than in the biblical Exodus event. The tribe's "name" comes from proto-German "wandljaz", which simply meant "wanderer". So in a society where tribal affiliation and identity was of supreme importance this group seems to have started out simply as an incidental mish-mash of people for various reasons alienated from their true tribal origins (presumed to be in Southern Scandinavia) and of insufficient size or authority to ever be worthy of adoption by the other tribes operating in Northern Europe at the time. They are assumed to have settled for a considerable period in Silesia, but again with little or no cultural impact on fellow Silesians - though they may have lasted there for three centuries they are not listed among other more notable Silesian tribes, at least by the Romans. This seems to suggest they occupied an "underclass" in society, and may even have been slaves, but certainly they were low-key enough to escape the historical radar in as much as we can deduce two thousand years later.

This purely eponymous description seems to have become an identity in its own right, one as strong as any more typical Germanic tribe, once circumstances forced them out of Silesia and they began their long and circuitous ramble throughout Germania, Gaul, Iberia, and North-West Africa. By the time they settled in what once had been Carthage they not only had forged themselves into a sophisticated political and culturally distinct race, but their tenure in Carthage emulated (if not even surpassed) Roman administration there in terms of development, economic management, and legislation. Locally they were lauded as the "New Carthaginians", quite a compliment given that the phrase itself would have had quite the opposite meaning and intent only a short time before, showing how much they supplanted and even reversed the notion of the Romans as being sole claimants to being the epitome of civilized standards.

The important parallel with Exodus isn't so much the wandering bit, or even the probable low social status of each within the context of where they started, but in the fact that the migration itself seemed to define their cultural character and identity, and in fact became the most important element of their "origin" story in which those things that they valued most in their culture, once established in a new location, could be seen to have been established en route.

Like the Jews, the Vandals were also eventually later "encouraged" into diaspora after a large scale military assault (by Romans too) that wiped out their political class and system. In their case the emigrants concentrated themselves amongst Berber and Spanish communities, and in fact Vandal cultural influence can be traced within literature and art in both areas, surviving even the most tumultuous religious and social upheavals occasioned by the advent of Islam and everything else that came later.

When you think about numerous other recorded examples of such migrations throughout time, and especially the ones that resulted in strengthening a group's identity to the point that they establish a "nation" on that basis, then the Exodus story isn't as fantastic a proposition as all that - in fact given the Egyptian practice of mass ethnic enslavement that they themselves frequently recorded as standard practice, it is probably more surprising that there weren't even more communities in the general area who included such an "exodus" within their own origin myths as circumstances had historically afforded them an opportunity to migrate from the vicinity of their slave-masters, even if the actual historical detail of the event had been superseded by the requirement for quasi-historical justifications of important cultural and social proofs of their distinct identity to be included in the narrative. Maybe there were - we just don't have extant texts to indicate their existence any more.
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PaulRyckier
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PostSubject: Re: Exodus   Exodus EmptyThu 02 May 2019, 22:06

nordmann,

as you start with:
"when you strip away the more fantastic elements of the narrative, and when you acknowledge that the narrative was never intended by its authors anyway as corroborative text for future rigorous historical research, then you end up with a plausible scenario regarding an opportunistic "escape" of migrants"

then you can come up with a possible plausible scenario of a migration from Egypt. Or was it still within the Egyptian Kingdom, while Palestine, as I understand it, within the Egyptian empire at the time mentioned by the Torah?
And with your example of the Vandals, can it be, that that migrant people remained "under the radar" of the Egyptian written sources, as it was too unimportant to write about in the statu nascendi of the migration?
In the "university discussion" they spoke also, that when the "story" was written there was already a return of an elite from the Babylonian exile and that a lot was written in the light of that exile? Although that would not say in my opinion that there was not an oral tradition of a migration from Egypt embellished as myth, but nevertheless with a core of real event?

And thank you for this as always well written and coherent message from you.

Kind regards from Paul.
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nordmann
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PostSubject: Re: Exodus   Exodus EmptyFri 03 May 2019, 08:24

From a purely historical point of view, as the other (quite interesting) discussion to which you linked also demonstrates, there is too little information within the account as traditionally presented to confirm with any great confidence or exactitude correlation with any specific period of Egyptian history as presently understood, such correlation depending on a coincidence of narrative detail with equally detailed knowledge of events, sequence and time of occurrence in the historical record. The discussion also demonstrates the usual obstacle to intelligent debate between historians and theologians when addressing historicity, in that they each assume quite a different semantically accurate definition of the term "evidence" - the (good) historian reserving its use for when something is preferably proven as fact, whereas historians of lesser lights and almost all theologians prefer to assume that it suffices as a term to indicate probability, and often simply possibility.

For myself, I see no reason why the basis of the Exodus account - the capture and enslavement of a people from an area known to have been the object of such large scale military campaigns in which taking people en masse regularly figured, the retention of ethnic identification within captivity even over some generations and then, when circumstances afforded the chance, an opportunistic break for freedom and the establishment of a new territory by a sufficient number of these people to retain cohesion and social organisation until they eventually succeeded in that ambition - should not be deemed plausible. However in the absence of evidence then we are left with the same conundrum as usual when attempting to piece together historical events from a purely mythical source - namely the fact that we cannot eliminate the possibility that the myth has conflated events, misreported events, borrowed events from other stories and histories, created others purely from imagination, and then in other manners underwent periods of subsequent redaction in order to deliver a narrative with a point that has less to do with historical accuracy than it has to do with establishment of cultural justification for the status quo that persisted many years after the supposed events occurred.

Verisimilitudinous stories involving things that allegedly happened in the past, for all their attraction as potential historical sources for the events described within them, are of far more value historically in assessing the mentality and motives of those who ultimately compiled them and adopted them as true. Beyond that they rarely meet the historian's criteria for "evidence" of any alleged "fact" contained within them, though they frequently meet those of the theologian, and unfortunately therefore also those of any historian operating with theological bias.
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Temperance
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PostSubject: Re: Exodus   Exodus EmptyFri 03 May 2019, 11:17

@nordmann wrote:
  I agree with Tim on this one - when you strip away the more fantastic elements of the narrative, and when you acknowledge that the narrative was never intended by its authors anyway as corroborative text for future rigorous historical research, then you end up with a plausible scenario regarding an opportunistic "escape" of migrants - who, bearing in mind more modern events related to such refugees who share common ethnicity and culture while moving in sufficiently large amounts, may also indeed have resulted in a protracted itinerary in which the community's self-identity was reinforced and which ended up with a probably disproportionate cultural effect (often a profound one) on the population in whose area they finally settled. 

I always sigh when I start reading threads like this, and I think of Matthew Parris's observation that the mantle of historical truth and divine authority has placed upon the Bible an "intolerable weight, crushing it as a creative work of immense imaginative and inspirational power". I sometimes think both theologians and historians miss the whole point. But I speak from a different viewpoint, of course. For me, the Book of Exodus, like so much else in the Bible, is clearly a major element in our own imaginative tradition, whatever else we may think we believe or know about it. Exodus - the very word still means something profound even with those who haven't a clue about what or who the Bible story is about -  is up there with Homer's Odyssey: it is one of mankind's great myths - that of the Wanderer on his (or her) heroic journey. As H. Northrop Frye observed in his The Great Code: the Bible and Literature, "Why does this huge sprawling, tactless book sit there inscrutably in the middle of our cultural heritage... frustrating all our efforts to walk round it?"

Migrant people maybe -  all sounds very reasonable - but that doesn't resonate quite so much somehow as the great cry: "Let my people go!"

PS But go where? What exactly is "the heroic journey"? Now there's a nice woolly topic that could exasperate us all!
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Temperance
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PostSubject: Re: Exodus   Exodus EmptyFri 03 May 2019, 11:29

PPS And I'm not talking National Geographic, of course.
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nordmann
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PostSubject: Re: Exodus   Exodus EmptyFri 03 May 2019, 11:36

I hope you don't think I was attempting to denigrate the mythological import of Exodus, or indeed the importance of any mythological trope that has ever held a long and venerable place in humanity's effort  to transcend the purely experiential in ascertaining its purpose and worth.

However this is ostensibly a "history" forum, and it would be remiss to fail to at least acknowledge the shortcomings of these myths when examined purely in that light, especially in a discussion that opens with a question directly related to precisely this aspect to the subject raised:

Dirk wrote:
The evidence of Moses 's existence is derived from the Bible but is there ( apart from the Bible story of Exodus ) any independent evidence of an Israelite presence in ancient Egypt?

Dirk's question, despite adopting the usual obfuscated reference to "evidence" that tends to launch rather disjointed debates confusing theology with history, does however finish with a valid historical inquiry, which I attempted to answer as best I could.
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Temperance
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PostSubject: Re: Exodus   Exodus EmptyFri 03 May 2019, 11:51

I accept that, and I'm sorry if I gave the impression that I was being critical of what you had posted. I was not. 

I was simply trying to make what I believed to be a fair point that could - perhaps - add to the discussion.
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Temperance
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PostSubject: Re: Exodus   Exodus EmptyFri 03 May 2019, 17:20

Nordmann - I hope you see the above altered post: I think I misunderstood your post when I first read it, interpreting it as a criticism of my contribution to the thread. A bit of projected touchiness from me, I suspect - at least I hope so. Difficult sometimes to know what is acceptable on a history site and what is not - and what is an acceptable deviation from the original post. I hope Dirk - and you - understand - that no intentional derailment was intended. I wish I didn't always react like this, but somehow I seem to read censure when none is intended - unless of course it was!

I've fretted all afternoon about this which is pretty stupid, but there you go.
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PostSubject: Re: Exodus   Exodus EmptyFri 03 May 2019, 21:43

Temperance,

"of course. For me, the Book of Exodus, like so much else in the Bible, is clearly a major element in our own imaginative tradition,"
I think that I understood what you meant right from the beginning when you started your comment.
"C'est une histoire magnifique" It's a magnificent story...I still remember from the childhood the imagination of the "brandend braambos"

Magnificent stories for young people and we had it in "bandes dessinées" (strips) from Casterman Tournai. The biblical stories. I read them from the local library together with the first editions after the war of Tintin from Hergé. I still see them for me, although from the Fifties.

And yes that narrative spoke to the imagination of everyone and during that process, as those stories had a message to make it understandable to the people, the core of the thinking was given through in an easy way.

And yes it learned us a lot about the way people thought in that particular time and particular place, but I will use what nordmann said because I think it is better explained:
"Verisimilitudinous stories involving things that allegedly happened in the past, for all their attraction as potential historical sources for the events described within them, are of far more value historically in assessing the mentality and motives of those who ultimately compiled them and adopted them as true"

And yes, Temperance, during that narrative one becomes I think without knowing it, embedded in the thinking world of the people of whom the narrator (as that other great work that I studied from Homer) is a member of and the values that people stays for. If I understood it well,  I suppose it was that what you wanted to explain?

PS. As I mentioned the Casterman Tournai edition of the Fifties about the "gewijde geschiedenis" (l'histoire sacrée?) (the sacred story?), there is that more availlable I see now, as about the "brandend braambos" (the burning thorn?)
https://www.kuleuven.be/thomas/page/bijbelfiche-mozes-en-de-brandende-doornstruik/
https://www.rijksmuseum.nl/nl/collectie/RP-P-1988-312-53




Kind regards from Paul.
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PostSubject: Re: Exodus   Exodus EmptyFri 03 May 2019, 22:00

@nordmann wrote:
From a purely historical point of view, as the other (quite interesting) discussion to which you linked also demonstrates, there is too little information within the account as traditionally presented to confirm with any great confidence or exactitude correlation with any specific period of Egyptian history as presently understood, such correlation depending on a coincidence of narrative detail with equally detailed knowledge of events, sequence and time of occurrence in the historical record. The discussion also demonstrates the usual obstacle to intelligent debate between historians and theologians when addressing historicity, in that they each assume quite a different semantically accurate definition of the term "evidence" - the (good) historian reserving its use for when something is preferably proven as fact, whereas historians of lesser lights and almost all theologians prefer to assume that it suffices as a term to indicate probability, and often simply possibility.

For myself, I see no reason why the basis of the Exodus account - the capture and enslavement of a people from an area known to have been the object of such large scale military campaigns in which taking people en masse regularly figured, the retention of ethnic identification within captivity even over some generations and then, when circumstances afforded the chance, an opportunistic break for freedom and the establishment of a new territory by a sufficient number of these people to retain cohesion and social organisation until they eventually succeeded in that ambition - should not be deemed plausible. However in the absence of evidence then we are left with the same conundrum as usual when attempting to piece together historical events from a purely mythical source - namely the fact that we cannot eliminate the possibility that the myth has conflated events, misreported events, borrowed events from other stories and histories, created others purely from imagination, and then in other manners underwent periods of subsequent redaction in order to deliver a narrative with a point that has less to do with historical accuracy than it has to do with establishment of cultural justification for the status quo that persisted many years after the supposed events occurred.

Verisimilitudinous stories involving things that allegedly happened in the past, for all their attraction as potential historical sources for the events described within them, are of far more value historically in assessing the mentality and motives of those who ultimately compiled them and adopted them as true. Beyond that they rarely meet the historian's criteria for "evidence" of any alleged "fact" contained within them, though they frequently meet those of the theologian, and unfortunately therefore also those of any historian operating with theological bias.


nordmann, thank you very much for this well written message. I read it word for word and it seems to me a fair description of the problem and although I can't express it that excellent way as you I subscribe it all.

Kind regards and with esteem, Paul.
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Temperance
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PostSubject: Re: Exodus   Exodus EmptySat 04 May 2019, 07:21

Paul wrote:

And yes it learned us a lot about the way people thought in that particular time and particular place, but I will use what nordmann said because I think it is better explained:

@nordmann wrote:


"Verisimilitudinous stories involving things that allegedly happened in the past, for all their attraction as potential historical sources for the events described within them, are of far more value historically in assessing the mentality and motives of those who ultimately compiled them and adopted them as true."

I'm afraid  both my comments on this thread have simply shown that I am a careless reader, Paul. I feel a bit silly, to be honest. But thank you for responding anyway - and for the link.

In my defence, i will just add that I was mulling over how these apparently fantastic - but utterly brilliant - stories and dramas are still of relevance to us today - and what our continuing fascination with them reveals about our "mentality and motives" - and needs.

EDIT: Read something that amused me earlier: in our postmodern, relativist world, God would never get away with issuing commandments - Moses would have to offer us The Ten Suggestions.
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PostSubject: Re: Exodus   Exodus EmptySat 04 May 2019, 21:37

Temperance,

"I will just add that I was mulling over how these apparently fantastic - but utterly brilliant - stories and dramas are still of relevance to us today - and what our continuing fascination with them reveals about our "mentality and motives" - and needs."

Temperance, I think! I even there understood what you meant, as such utterly briljant stories and dramas are in my opinion timeless and stay in the actuality as they in a "mensentaal" ( a language on the human level) "plain language?" explain what are the real values of humanity and as such appeal to our nowadays mentality, motives and needs, perhaps because these real values of humanity are indeed timeless.

Kind regards from Paul.
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Tim of Aclea
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PostSubject: Re: Exodus   Exodus EmptySun 19 May 2019, 15:32

I am surprised at how much I agree with what Nordmann wrote on this.  I would just note concerning the comment of 'historians operating with a 'theological bias', that when it comes to the Bible that it is very few, in my opinion, take a neutral approach ot it and that the bias can work both pays.

Tim
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PostSubject: Re: Exodus   Exodus EmptySun 19 May 2019, 23:58

Tim, I see that we can reach Res Historica again. But now too late to reply.

Kind regards from Paul.
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PostSubject: Re: Exodus   Exodus EmptyMon 20 May 2019, 16:17

Below is my attempt to precis the case for the defence of the biblical account of the Exodus by K.A.Kitchen, written in 2003 when he was prof of Egyptology at Liverpool University.  I met Kitchen had had a chat about biblical archaeology in the late 1970s.  He is a conservative evangelical and so there is no doubt about his theological bias.

1. The setting of Exodus 1 to 14 is that of the Nile Delta.  This is an area of alluvial mud with stone having to be imported and reused.  It is therefore not surprising that there are no signs of the Hebrew slaves left.  I would add that Kitchen accepts that the numbers given in the book of Numbers of 600,000 men of fighting age and hence 2 million slaves are clearly incorrect. 

2. The Egyptian records from this area are virtually all lost and Pharaohs did not make a habit of recording their defeats.

3. In terms of the conscription of foreign labourers for work in Egypt a) This is no evidence of this occurring during the period of the Old Kingdom; b) During the Middle Kingdom, increasing numbers of Semites were employed either through slave tribute from local rulers, by purchasing from merchants, prisoners of war, and immigration; c) The New Kingdom (1540 – 1170) brought back considerable numbers of prisoners as a result of their campaigns in Canaan and Syria.

4. A scene in the tomb of the Vizier Rekhmire c1450 shows Semites and Nubians working making bricks for work at the temple of Amun. 
 
5. Exodus chapter 1 refers to the Hebrews working on the city Rameses which Kitchen equates to the city Pi-Ramesse A-nakhtu meaning ‘Domain of Ramesses II, Great in Victory’ built by Ramesses II (1279 – 1213).  Kitchen equates this to the remains of a city that was abandoned in 1130 in favour of Tanis, much of the building material being removed to Tanis; Tanis though was never referred to as Pi-Ramesse.  According to Kitchen, the name Rameses disappeared from use and that it must reflect a tradition originating in the 13th or 12th C BC.

As I mentioned previously, an Egyptian Stela from the middle of the reign of the Pharaoh Merneptah (1213-1203BC) includes a long account of his defeat of the Libyans and the ‘Sea Peoples’ (which does not on this occasion include the Philistines).  Appended to this is a short poem celebrating a victorious campaign in Canaan and further north:

The princes are prostrate saying “Shalom”!
Not one is raising his head among the Nine Bows
Now that Libya [Tehenu] has come to ruin,
Hatti is pacified, [in Anatolia]
The Canaan has been plundered into every sort of woe:
Ashkelon has been overcome; [coastal city north of Gaza]
Gezer has been captured [inland city to the north of Ashkelon]
Yanoam is made non-existent; [near Lake Galilee]
Israel is laid waste and his seed is not;
Hurru has become a widow because of Egypt. [Northern Canaan and Syria]

This is the first reference to Israel outside the Bible.  In Egyptian the names of foreign countries, provinces and cities are treated as feminine, but ‘Israel’ is treated as masculine and is deemed to indicate a people.  The view of the majority of scholars then is that there was a people identified as ‘Israel’ present within Canaan in 1209BC and that the Egyptians viewed them as being comparable in importance as the city states of Ashkelon, Gezer and Yanoam.  What the stela does not say is as to how Israel got there.
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PostSubject: Re: Exodus   Exodus EmptyTue 21 May 2019, 07:44

According to Prof Carol Redmont the majority of OT scholars consider that ‘a historical core [of the Exodus] is mandated by that major tenet of faith that permeates the Bible: God acts in history.’ I might add that it could be argued that the majority of such scholars come to this conclusion because they are either Christians or practicing Jews.  

Prof Coogan points out that, unlike Joshua and David, as portrayed in the book of Chronicles, Moses is a rounded character and that there are aspects of him that he considers do not fit with an entirely fictional character.  These include his name being Egyptian, marrying a non-Israelite wife, the possibility of him not being circumcised at birth, his leadership constantly being challenged, his frequent anger and Yahweh’s anger towards him.

Coogan’s proposal for the origin of the Exodus myth, and that the reason Israel became convinced that Yahweh acts in history, is that Moses led an escape by a few hundred Hebrew slaves (note Hebrew here denotes more a class of people rather than an ethic group).  They headed for wetlands (Sea of Reeds) where pursuing Egyptian chariots became bogged down.  This was of only a minor consequence to the Egyptians, but to those who escaped it was a miracle.
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PostSubject: Re: Exodus   Exodus EmptyWed 22 May 2019, 23:44

Tim,

"Coogan’s proposal for the origin of the Exodus myth, and that the reason Israel became convinced that Yahweh acts in history, is that Moses led an escape by a few hundred Hebrew slaves (note Hebrew here denotes more a class of people rather than an ethic group).  They headed for wetlands (Sea of Reeds) where pursuing Egyptian chariots became bogged down.  This was of only a minor consequence to the Egyptians, but to those who escaped it was a miracle."

You said it already, nordmann and you and I seem to agree about this paraphrasing

And we discussed already as you said the stela...
https://www.jstor.org/stable/1357179?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents
If I have time, I will try to enter the Jstor article, while it takes a lot of manipulations to have access and I have it to do each time for every new article...
And as that one word is that important, there is of course a lot of discussions even under academici...
And here is again a controversial book, even if I understand it well, not only about one word but about one Egyptian letter in the word...
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_Davidovits
https://www.davidovits.info/error-or-forgery-on-the-stele-of-merneptah-known-as-israel-stele/


As you see there are interpretations all over the place and you were very right when you said:
"I would just note concerning the comment of 'historians operating with a 'theological bias', that when it comes to the Bible that it is very few, in my opinion, take a neutral approach ot it and that the bias can work both pays."
Davidovits has even a theory for the building of the pyramids.

Kind regards from Paul.
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Tim of Aclea
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PostSubject: Re: Exodus   Exodus EmptyThu 23 May 2019, 19:50

Hi Paul

'You said it already, nordmann and you and I seem to agree about this paraphrasing'

yes, but on a different thread.

Tim
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Res Historica History Forum :: The history of ideas ... :: Religion and superstition-