[b-hebrew] Question for moderators/Year of Exodus

K Randolph kwrandolph at gmail.com
Thu Jan 15 20:33:38 EST 2009


On Thu, Jan 15, 2009 at 12:41 PM, Bill Rea <bill.rea at canterbury.ac.nz>wrote:

> ...
> I thought I would combine these two threads as in many cases history and
> language are inseparable.
> But what do you do when the historical date is deficient, or even lacking?
Or how about when a certain interpretation of history becomes such a matter
of faith that it is held onto with a fervor that would make a country fundy
proud (please no one take offence, I'm making a literary allusion here)?

> I thought Yigal's original post was quite clear in its intentions, namely
> that he was presenting the mainstream view in answer to Oun's question.

As well as he should, and I think he did a good job of it.

> On
> the point that one's opinion shouldn't contradict the evidence there are a
> couple of things to say. One is, as Uri has rightly pointed out, that the
> text says there were *lots* of people in the Exodus. If I recall correctly
> a
> number of 605,000 men is given. Its not convincing to argue that all
> evidence of that number of people wandering around the Sinai peninsula for
> 40 years would just vanish. So a belief in the historical accuracy of the
> Exodus as presented in the texts we have is unsupported by the evidence. If
> we wanted to save some of the accuracy of the text we would have to ask the
> question -- do we really know what eleph means? I suspect we don't, and
> further I suspect its meaning changed over time so that what it means in
> Exodus is different to what it means in the David narratives. But evidence
> is hard to come by.
> This is what I was referring to above.

There is a certain view of history that already 60 years ago thinking people
could see was crumbling under the weight of contrary archaeological data.
The earliest champion of redating Egyptian history that I know of did not
believe the Bible, so his goal was not to try to prove the Bible correct.
Yet today that view of history is presented to the world as a done thing,
not to be questioned, in the same manner as a blind faith religious belief.
The most influential spokesman for this view of history is K. Kitchen.

On the contrary side, we now have even Egyptologists and field
archaeologists claiming that those dates and that view of history are

Now we get to the language. The Bible, as it has come down to us, has
certain claims. This is an objective statement. Whether one agrees with
those claims or not is irrelevant to this discussion. Among those claims are
that around 600,000 men, not counting women and children, left Egypt
suddenly, wandered in the wilderness for 40 years, then invaded Canaan. It
is very unlikely that such an event could have happened without leaving a

We are now left with three options: 1) There are those who claim that they
have found evidence for the Exodus account, but only if the mainstream view
of history championed by K. Kitchen is recognized as being hopelessly wrong.
2) The mainstream view of history is correct, meaning that there is no
evidence found of the Exodus and related events as recounted in the Bible,
therefore the Bible is wrong. 3) Both options are wrong. What is not
possible is that both views of history are correct.

> The second point really is an issue of methodology. This list is supposed
> to
> work according to scholarly principles but often the arguments posted are
> really nothing more than statements of religious belief. Uri's point is
> well
> taken by me but I expect other list members reject it outright. Some are
> intentionally ignorant of the evidence and quite vocal in holding that
> position. Religion can work that way, though I do not think it is required,
> but scholarship has to work within the evidence available. Relabelling
> scholarship as religion is a feeble line of defence.
> Well said. Except the last sentence. Taking an article of faith, in other
words a religious belief, and calling it scholarship obfuscates matters and
makes true scholarship more difficult.

> So to conclude I think the often stated position that history is off topic
> is detrimental to studying the text. Often the questions of language are
> interconnected with history. So a more pragmatic approach, which I think is
> the one used in practice, would be that historical discussions are
> admissible where they have a bearing on the understanding of the language.
> This is why "history" is off limits: it is lacking. In the absence of data,
two main schools of thought have come up: 1) represented by you, Yigal, Jim
Stinehardt, Uri, Yitzhak and others, accepts a "mainstream" view based on
certain beliefs that contradict the Bible as it has come down to us. This
school of thought has subschools, from the minimalists to the maximalists,
and a few odd ones as well. 2) represented by Oun, myself, and others, that
the Bible is accurate history excepting copyist errors, therefore the
"mainstream" is wrong. There is not enough hard data to prove either side.
Each school has its own view on the history and development of the language,
therefore understanding on certain aspects of the language, that is
incompatible with those of the other school. Therefore, to keep comity on
this forum, we have made history off limits.

> Bill Rea Ph.D., ICT Services, University of Canterbury \_
> E-Mail bill.rea at canterbury.ac.nz                       </   New
> Phone 64-3-364-2331, Fax  64-3-364-2332               /)  Zealand
> Unix Systems Administrator                           (/'

Karl W. Randolph.

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