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Were the Israelites Enslaved in Egypt?

Did the exodus really take place?

Relevant Links
Did the Exodus Really Happen?  David Wolpe, Beliefnet. Three years after his noted sermon, Wolpe says again that absence of any historical evidence of the exodus “does not ultimately change our connection to each other or to God.”    
Why Were the Israelites Enslaved?  Michael Carasik, Bible Guy. An extended treatment of the question, with a byway through Genesis 12 and 13.

To many, this will seem like an absurd question.  The book of Exodus has a dozen chapters explaining that it did.  Yet recent decades have found at least some biblical scholars casting doubts on the historicity of this story.  The sociological approach pioneered by George Mendenhall outlined a plausible scenario in which the rise of the Israelites in Canaan was a "peasant's revolt."  The so-called "Minimalists" deny that any of the biblical texts describing pre-Hellenist events are really historical.  The mere fact that Exodus describes this period at length offers no proof to the skeptical mind.  A Los Angeles rabbi created a tremendous, well-publicized furor when he followed this scholarly approach and told his congregation that the exodus may not have happened at all.

But one aspect of the biblical account should give even the most skeptical mind a reason to reconsider—not the book of Exodus, but the book of Genesis.  The literary function of Genesis is to establish the necessary precondition for the exodus, by changing the Israelites from a family in the land of Canaan (Gen 46:27, Exod 1:5) to a nation of slaves in Egypt.  And why were the Israelites enslaved in Egypt to begin with?  The Bible gives no fewer than four different reasons:

First, the political, essentially demographic reason—the ostensible immediate cause of the Israelites' enslavement, described briefly at the beginning of the book of Exodus:

A new king arose over Egypt, who had not known Joseph.  He said to his people, "Look, this people of the sons of Israel is bigger and more numerous than we are.  We must have a plan to deal with them, lest they grow even more numerous.  If there should be a war, they might join our enemies and fight against us and go up from the land."  So they set taskmasters over them, to afflict them with burdensome labor. (Exod 1:8-11)

Just like that, as potential enemies or potential emigrants, all of Jacob's descendants are enslaved.

Next, the theological reason: The Israelites must be enslaved as part of the divine plan.  God's promise to Abraham during the "covenant between the pieces" in Genesis 15, that the land of Canaan will be given to him and his ancestors, contains a minor bit of bad news:

[The LORD] said to Abram, "You must know that your offspring will be strangers in a land that is not theirs; [the inhabitants of that land] will enslave them and oppress them for 400 years." (Gen 15:13)

God promises to free them at last "with great wealth" (Gen 15:14) and bring them back at last to Canaan; the reason for the delay is that the Amorites who currently dwell there have not yet committed sin enough to deserve to lose their land (Gen 15:16).  Why Abraham's innocent descendants must be enslaved in the meantime is not explained.  It is a given.

Third, the social justice reason:  Joseph, as prime minister of Egypt, collects the extra grain produced during the "seven years of plenty" (Gen 41:34) to serve as the emergency supply for the "seven years of famine" (Gen 41:36).  But when the famine comes, instead of redistributing the grain, he sells it to the Egyptian people.  Eventually, they have nothing left to exchange for it but their own bodies:

Joseph said to the people, "I hereby acquire you and your land this day for Pharaoh.  Here is seed; sow your land.  When the crop is produced, give one-fifth to Pharaoh and keep four-fifths for yourselves, to sow your fields and to feed yourselves, your wives, and your children."  They replied, "You have given us life!  We hope to continue to find favor in your eyes—for we are Pharaoh's slaves." (Gen 47:23-25)

Joseph has enslaved the Egyptians unjustly, buying them with the crops they themselves grew.  Implicitly, it is only fair that, once he is gone, they will enslave his family in return.

Finally, the novelistic reason: The largest single chunk of the book of Genesis is essentially a family saga, a two-generation battle of brothers.  Jacob tricks his father Isaac into giving him the blessing intended for his brother Esau (Genesis 27), and the deceit and rivalry slowly but inevitably snowball until the moment, decades later, when Joseph brings the entire family down to Egypt, telling his brothers:

"God sent me ahead of you to make you a remnant on earth, to keep you alive with a 'great escape' [from the famine].  Now, it was not you who sent me here, but God.  He turned me into a father to Pharaoh, lord over all his house, and governor of the whole land of Egypt." (Gen 45:7-8)

Joseph is correct but clueless: The purpose of luring Jacob's family to Egypt is not to save them but to enslave them, propelling the story of Jacob's betrayal of his brother to its inevitable end.  Call it Exodus:  The Prequel.  As Rava b. Mehasia said in the name of Rav Hama b. Guria in the name of Rav, "A man should never make a distinction between one of his sons and the others.  For on account of two extra shekels worth of silk that Jacob gave Joseph, his brothers were so jealous of him that our ancestors ended up in Egypt" (B. Shab. 10b).

Jewish tradition understands Exodus 12:2 as the first of the commandments given to the Israelites: "This month shall be the beginning of the months for you."  In a larger sense, the commandment implies a great truth.  Israelite history begins—somehow—at the moment when the freeing of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt becomes inevitable.  The Bible's four explanations of how the Israelites were enslaved represent a desperate attempt to make sense out of a historical situation whose real origins were no longer remembered except in legend.

At the moment of the Israelites' actual enslavement, the Pharaoh "who knew not Joseph" cites the first, political reason—that they are "more numerous and mightier than we."  But this "current events" explanation is treated so casually, in a verse or two, that it seems relatively unimportant.  Instead, it looks as if the author of Exodus took enslavement to be the inevitable consequence of the stories in Genesis—or, rather, the necessary background for the story of the plagues and the deliverance that he knew must follow.

We are left with a view of Genesis as a kind of historical novel desperately trying to explain how the Israelites were enslaved.  Even Mendenhall was convinced that the "peasants' revolt" must have had a core group of slave laborers who had succeeded in escaping an intolerable situation in Egypt.  Their history became everyone's.  For if there was no Israelite slavery in Egypt at all . . . why does the Bible have so much trouble explaining it?

Michael Carasik is the creator of The Commentators' Bible and of the Torah Talk podcastHe teaches at the University of Pennsylvania.

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Jeremiah Unterman on April 6, 2012 at 8:12 am (Reply)
The most obvious and compelling evidence that Israelites were enslaved by Egypt is that no nation has ever made up a story about itself in which it was descended from slaves.
    Bert on October 7, 2012 at 12:27 pm (Reply)
    That is not evidence. Everything that has ever happened will have happened for the first time, once, somewhere sometime.
    betika on March 6, 2013 at 3:32 pm (Reply)
    and that the bible says it
    Edersandro Lopes on April 1, 2013 at 3:09 pm (Reply)
    The purpose of Genesis is to establish a timeline of futures events .If Genesis and Exodus didn't happen no future event will happen also .Which events are these ? First the fall of man (Adam) and sin entering the lives of all mankind and the promise of a "Mashiach " .Second ,in the desert the Lord ordered a bronze snake to be made and lifted high on a pole to save the lives of those who were bitten by the venomous snakes .The bronze snake represents the "Mashiach "saving man from sin .He is the one punished for our transgressions(sin) as in Isaiah 53:5 .What is more important ? To be saved from Israel's enemies or to be saved from sin ?Isaiah prophesied of a of a Spiritual Mashiach .Therefore , if Genesis and Exodus didn't happen , there's no need of a spiritual Mashiach .This LIE is a plan of the devil to separate the Jewish people from G-d forever.G-d's plan was for the Mashiach to be the living sacrifice for the sin of man as in Isaiah 53 and later to rule the earth as a political and spiritual Mashich as in Zecharah 14 .
Jordan Helfman on April 6, 2012 at 8:51 am (Reply)
The more I read, the less skeptical I am of the approach taught to me by Rabbi Dr. David Aaron: Egypt is an allegory for Babylon.
Jacob Silver on April 6, 2012 at 9:10 am (Reply)
I have not doubt Moses existed. He was a prince of Akhenaton and had to escape Egypt when there was a priestly revolt against the Akhenaton rule. This was the concept of one God, which Moses brought to the Hebrews. He and his descendants settled in Shiloh. When the Assyrians defeated the north, the Mosaic priests fled to Judea. There was uneasy mingling with the Aaron priests. Then the Chaldeans conquered Judea. They took the leadership to Babylon. There, the leadership did two things. First, they made Moses and Aaron brothers. Then, they had all of the Isrealites, north and south, come out of the same cauldron. They were slaves--in Babylon? No, too strong. Persia? No, too strong. But Egypt, at this time, was weak. OK, slaves in Egypt. They wrote the Torah, and created one people out of two or three. An amazing feat.
    Carlton Timmons on May 11, 2013 at 8:46 pm (Reply)
    An interesting idea: I too believe in the prince of Akhenaten Moses. That the peoples in the Promised Land were "two or three" peoples is probably more like dozens and dozens prior to unification. Certainly the great story of the Exodus carries a grain of historical truth along with it's ability to be keep the traditions and the unique Jewish perspective of the world and hold an entire people together over volatile history they have suffered over the last two thousand years alive: a tradition that was understood by the apostles and Paul, and which similarly kept the early Christians together over wide geographic differences.
PJW5552 on April 6, 2012 at 9:58 am (Reply)
Bunk. The purpose of Biblical stories was never to describe historical events accurately, any more than Greek or Roman mythology was. The purpose was and remains to make sense of a chaotic world of random events, social and individual spiritual needs. Read Genesis. There was no Adam or Eve if humans evolved slowly over many millions of years, so why have such a story? Because it helped provide a foundation for where people came from and an allegory of what it takes to be wise and knowledgeable. You can't become wise and knowledgeable by eating an apple any more than you can by sleeping with a book under your pillow every night. Wisdom and knowledge require experience, failure, trying, and learning from mistakes. The Book of Exodus is not about what did happened to the Jewish people but about what could happen when they ignore what they should have learned. It is a story of contrasts and suffering caused by errors, misdeeds, lies, and deceit. It is about finding one's way out of that hell and into a better life and what is required to not repeat those very human mistakes. Only a fool would look at the Bible as a historically accurate representation of past events. It is not. It is about human behavior, human limits, mistakes, hope, faith and understanding.
Mitchell First on April 6, 2012 at 12:36 pm (Reply)
Please see my April, 2011 article at
Jerry Blaz on April 6, 2012 at 5:54 pm (Reply)
The work of modern exegetes has astutely noted that the idea of large numbers of people leaving Egypt with Moses and wandering around in Sinai for 40 years without leaving a trace is "counter-factual." However, absence of evidence is not the same as evidence of absence. This story is our Jewish civilizational founding story. It has little to do with facts but much to do with placing ourselves in the world. Kant said that a fact is a "statement about reality," and no statement can say everything. You can call it our national mythos; and whatever "science" states, our foundational story is our canon and is bracketed in our faith.
Henry Tobias on April 8, 2012 at 4:09 am (Reply)
Does one have to prove everything? I am not observant, but I believe in G-d. I don't need proof of something not provable. Faith should not be confused with science or history.
BenTzur on April 8, 2012 at 9:35 am (Reply)
Multiple explanations for events are not unusual in the Torah, since they reflect a deeper view about reality. That view is elaborated further in the Talmud. The reality under God is more complex and multileveled than we know, and multiple perspectives (if valid at all, which is another matter) may reveal various sides and aspects of what lies beyond any one of them. Rav Soloveitchik termed this perspective "pluralism" (in his The Halakhic Mind). So, rather than four explanations of the enslavement of the Children of Israel "desperately trying" to explain how they were enslaved, they should be seen in the normal (and undesperate) Torah and Talmudic fashion as being complementary and all part of the larger truth, along with other explanations not even mentioned. Something extraordinary occurred to the Bnei Yisrael at the time of Moses. It is simply inconceivable that somebody long afterwards made up a story about that out of whole cloth and was able to convince not a small group of acolytes but a whole nation and people, without dissent or violence or alternative narratives, that this was their own authentic story, replacing their own traditional account of themselves. To suppose that is to suppose something without parallel in history, a greater miracle than the splitting of the Red Sea. Add to this the fact that the allegedly new account of the whole of past history also included a radically novel understanding of God, society, ethics, family life--the whole works, making it even less likely to convince an entire nation that this is their ancestral heritage and not anything recently made up. There is another problem with the "historical novel" thesis: It fails to explain the coherence and logic of the annual festival calendar. As pointed out by Evan Zuesse in his "Calendar of Judaism" article in The Encyclopaedia of Judaism, eds. Neusner, Avery-Peck, and Green (2005), the entire festival calendar, aside from Purim and Chanukah, which were added much later, was established anciently by name and set out in the festival year in a way that follows exactly the spacing of days and weeks specified in the Torah (Book of Exodus), stretching from Passover through Shavuot to Tisha B'Av (Golden Calf) and Moses' descent from Mt. Sinai and breaking of the Tablets (start of month of Elul); then, after a month of self-purgation leading up to formal repentance (Yamim Noraim, Days of Awe), climaxing in Moses' descent with the second set of Tablets on Yom Kippur, followed by the immediate construction of the Tabernacle (Succot, etc.). All of this exactly follows the Exodus account and its spacing of the days between festivals. Every festival is part of that Exodu-Sinai sequence and is already meaningful in terms of it, which means that none of them could have been a haphazardly imitated, merely agricultural Canaanite festival, given happenstance dating within the festival year and given Jewish meaning as late as the Maccabean period (a still-common academic claim, at least for Shavuot). Every religious community in history develops a festival structure within the first generation of its founding to celebrate its primal self-understanding and genesis. None waits a thousand years to create a festival so crucial to its own identity as Shavuot is to Judaism--celebrating the arrival of the Jewish people at Mt. Sinai and their reception there, as a nation, of the first revelation of God. If a hundred or a thousand years had elapsed before this entirely new Torah-centered explanation was created for this or that previously just Canaanite festival, we can be sure that there would have been a massive refusal to accept the entirely novel justification. After all, the entire people would know and would testify that this was indeed novel, and not the traditional explanation. It is too much to believe that an entire people would agree that a novel explanation was the ancient one. Seeing, too, that so many Jews by the Hellenistic period lived in other lands, there is just no way that every Jewish community would accept any radical innovation as being the authentic ancient understanding. So, there was an Exodus in reality: The Jewish people were witnesses and, down through the ages, preserved this testimony in their festivals and sacred books. Whether the account we have in Exodus is accurate in every detail is another matter, but the overall narrative had to have a firm historical basis.
    Tzvi on March 22, 2013 at 2:30 pm (Reply)
    There is nothing wrong with accepting the rabbinic understanding of our history as related in the bible if you stay within that framework . However Ben Tzur is quick to use biblical scholarship (Tigay, Milgrom) or archeology (Albright) to support his claims when the overwhelming scholarly evidence using those same tools do not support the rabbinic version of how or if the events occurred. The old argument of “It is simply inconceivable that somebody long afterwards made up a story about that out of whole cloth and was able to convince not a small group of acolytes but a whole nation and people” is outdated and simply a misunderstanding of any of the theories of the origins of Israel and the documentary development of the Torah. ( Imagine someone 1000 years from now asking how Joseph Smith could have founded the Mormon religion with millions of followers within a generation of his appearance.) Intersting that Ben Tzur uses the (non-biblical) 13th century BCE as a date for the Exodus which coincides nicely with the appearance of settlements in the highlands. However, the number of settlers is not millions or even hundreds of thousands – but thousands- not quite the whole “nation and people” envisaged by Ben Tzur. In addition Ben Tzur has to explain how the overwhelming archeological evidence of that period of time does not coincide with the biblical account- not Jericho, not Ai etc (Yes, we have moved on from Albright) . Because of those difficulties many Protestant biblical archaeologists use what it says in the Tanach to date the Exodus to the 15th century BCE (1 Kings 6:1). But this creates a whole slew of other problems such as the Torah being written in Proto-Sinaitic, no mention of Egyptian rule in Israel during the time of the Shoftim, no mention of Israelites in the Amarna letters of the period etc. The point is that if you want to be intellectually honest and use modern scholarly techniques, you cannot pick and choose which facts support your arguments. Many biblical scholars will agree that there is a kernel of truth in the Exodus story but that does not correspond with the story as we have it in the Torah or the rabbinic tradition.
      Vince on April 7, 2013 at 8:43 pm (Reply)
      While far from being observant I am well versed in the Jewish Bible.
      It seems clear to me that 2000 years of nay Sayers about anything Jewish/Israelite has led to many Jews willing to accept that the Bible was all a myth... well, up to a certain famous Jew resurrection from the grave after being crucified by the Romans, and going back to his father. This cannot be denied.It is written in the new testament, which 1 Billion people would agree is all truth.
      The fact that He, Yeshu was reading the same Haggadah and celebrating the freedom of his ancestors from bondage in Egypt, never phased any of the Billion believers...up to the the point where his surviving brethren, dare believe in it.That's when it becomes a myth (the enlightened Christians and Jews), or a lie (our Islamic cousins).
      That the Bible was embellished, until the conquest of Canaan by the Israelite, would be undeniable. all human history was.
      But when the realities of wars settled in, even the Bible, had to find extra reasons as to battles lost, military debacles, thousands of men not coming back home. That's when "they were punished for having disobeyed god commands" was the perennial reason.
      For the Bible to try to explain for example why King Saul and all his army were vanquished by the Philistines is hard, after all he was a good man chosen by god, so where was god when the Philistines killed him and most of his army?
      Oops, did the Philistines exist? and all their 5 cities, and their mentioned kings ? ooh yeah ,of course they did, but not Saul, nor king David, nor Samson and the others... that would confuse the deniers. Now the Palestinians have to come up quick with another version.
      The fact that the Phoenicians were on friendly terms with the kings of Israel, and their language was very similar to old Hebrew, is another "myth", the "Bible historians" have problem hiding deep inside some books.
      In conclusion, to all the "Liberals" out there. While the Jewish Bible has a lot of religious references and beliefs, it is acceptable for those far away times, all the nations had (many still unfortunately do today, talk about evolution!).
      Let us not forget that like all Histories of those days, there was always a god,or many ,who won the battles, or when lost, it was a punishment. why should the Jews/Israelite/Hebrews be different?
      I personally think Ben Gurion made a big mistake by using The word Jew for the inhabitant of modern Israel. I prefer Israelite. Jews is a negative connotation purposely used by the Catholic church fathers to demonize the Israelite nation by associating their name with their favorite folklore villain "Judas", and thus perpetuating their animosity towards those who brought this religion upon them, while retaining the title of "the originals"
      My two bits, thank you for your time . Vince
J. M. Rice on April 8, 2012 at 10:01 am (Reply)
Fortunately, there is non-biblical history to provide clues.
Public works were an ongoing activity in Egypt through the millennia. According to the archaeology, workers were not customarily slaves but paid laborers. Thus, Egypt would have drawn workers from near and far. The Hebrews, starting with, say, Joseph's people, would doubtless have been one of the laboring peoples. Time passes, and the Egyptians begin to depend on Hebrew labor and skills. At some point the Hebrews decide to pick up stakes and move on, to settle in their own land. Perhaps Moses had gone out to look around and had come back with stories about this great place called Canaan. Anyway, the Egyptians stood to take a big hit in their labor pool and said, No, you have to serve out your contract first. The Hebrews said, "Sorry, no," with Moses saying, "Let my people go." The rest, as they say, is history. The Bible added the drama.
PJW5552 on April 9, 2012 at 7:02 am (Reply)
It does not matter whether the mass migration and the biblical stories are true. There is also nothing wrong with faith to fill in the missing pieces. What is objectionable is the failure to embrace the difference between "truth and facts" and "faith." Faith should always be accompanied by an "open mind" to alternative possibilities as the facts present themselves. We should all understand that "faith" is there to fill in what cannot be known, not to substutitue for the truth but to serve as a working basis for life until the truth is finally provided to us. Here is why this is important. If one embraces "faith = truth," one ends up with a perspective that automatically conflicts with that of others who have different "faiths" or "beliefs." Instead of being open to alternative possibilities, you end up with a closed mind, which makes assumptions that are totally dependent on that perspective and could be totally incorrect. Endless conflict ensues, none of which was the purpose of religion and faith. So, embrace your faith and believe. Those are fine human attributes. However, never forget that faith and beliefs are "fillers" for what we do not understand, not what we do understand with certainty.
Rik heller on April 9, 2012 at 7:57 am (Reply)
The content of this discussion is worth reading, even with such a gratuitous revisionist premise. Most interesting is the investment that the strident Exodus denier puts into such belief. Pesach is, more than any one thing , a celebration by the souls of Sinai of the blessing of freedom. And the exodus deniers need to deny us that? Maybe such deniers think they are eating of the fruit of the tree of knowledge; I'm staying put here in Eden. Yours in allegory , Rik
Jacob Silver on April 9, 2012 at 8:54 am (Reply)
I am impressed by and fully support J.M. Rice's explanation. We need a common story to celebrate our common festivals and observances. When Cyrus allowed the Hebrew leadership to return from Babylon to Eretz Israel, they brought the Torah, or at least the first four books of the Torah. Then, with the new temple, this time committed to monotheism, they instituted the pilgrimage festivals. These were conducted until the Romans destroyed Judea. Then the reconstituted Knesset haGadol spelled out the way to observe these festivals without the temple. And we still do.
Ken Besig on April 9, 2012 at 11:53 am (Reply)
If someone, even someone Jewish, chooses not to believe the Torah's Exodus narrative, fine with me. The Exodus of the Jewish people at the Hand of God, from slavery in Egypt to being an independent Jewish people in Israel, is perhaps the most powerful and exciting series of events in the history of mankind. And that is what is important.
SW on April 9, 2012 at 12:25 pm (Reply)
The distinction in artificial intelligence research is interesting. Belief is said to be the "unsupported" proposition, with knowledge the "supported" proposition. Because by definition belief is poorly supported with proof, it functions on the level of myth and metameanings, often with lessons of a social nature. Because knowledge is simply factual, demonstrable, and true through many proofs, it cannot capture the romance and meanings of life itself. Exodus is a myth; but a good friend of mine, a Dominican priest with whom I cheerfully debate religious notions because he is often interested in a Jewish perspective, offered me an interesting definition: A myth is that which never needed to be true, but always is. The movement from slavery to freedom is a shatteringly important story for mankind, in every language and every venue. May it carry its potent lesson -- ours being the Exodus -- around the world to free yet more peoples.
PJW5552 on April 9, 2012 at 12:27 pm (Reply)
Actually, history is based on fact, not belief. You cannot call something history until you can prove it happened. You can call that denial, but the reality is that beliefs are not truth. If they were, the universe would still revolve around the earth, the earth would still be flat, and man would still be searching for the means to turn lead into gold. Fact and truth can and often are different from what one wishes to believe. Explain to me why Buddhists and Taoists do not believe in a God at all, yet embrace many of the same ideals as those who have monotheistic beliefs. Was God just to lazy to enlighten them, or is the whole concept of religion and belief a far more complex construct than some wish to entertain openly?
Ben Tzur on April 9, 2012 at 7:42 pm (Reply)
There is evidence for the celebration of the festivals long before the Babylonian Exile. The historical books of the Torah tell of those observances starting in the first generation after the Exodus (Joshua 5:10-11) and continuing through the period of Judges and the reigns of kings Saul, David and Solomon: We read that Solomon made sure to have the Temple ready for dedication during Sukkot, Tabernacles (I Kings 8, sections of which are the haftarot read on the second day of Sukkot and Shemini Atzereth in the Diaspora). The pre-exilic prophets also speak of the festivals (have a look at a concordance). These references are usually made in passing and show that these were things were taken for granted and needed no elaborate justification, in the same way that we today do not mention our regular celebration of Sabbaths and festivals in biographical accounts, etc., unless it is central to specific events. As for the rather silly post-modern relativist and/or psychologizing comments of some on this page to the effect that it does not matter whether the Exodus really occurred or not, I would suggest that if we understand the Torah as telling the truth about the past, and not just our fantasizing, we have a totally different understanding of what it means to be a people of God in a world that scoffs at God, including those who comfortably take it or leave it as mere personal belief of no especially binding commitment. The usual approach of those who take the secularist approach is that the Tanakh (Torah, Nevi'im veKetuvim, Torah Mosaic books, Prophets and Writings) is lying unless there is external evidence of this or that matter. The testimony of dozens of different sources within the Tanakh anthology itself, drawn from accounts written over a thousand years from very different authorities, does not constitute any evidence at all; it is all coincidence and "historical fiction." Other sources tell the truth; the Torah distorts it unless proven otherwise. The presumption is of falsity. We are then told that whether or not something is confirmed by other sources, it does not matter anyway, because of "faith." Pat the believers on the head and turn to other, more important matters. Thus, secularists are really patting themselves on the head, as judge, jury, and executioner.

Actually, however, the basic historicity of the Tanakh account is shown in the most obvious way possible: There is an almost complete absence of idolatrous figures of gods found in archaeological digs relating to ancient Israel, completely unlike the multitude of such figures found in all the societies around ancient Israel during those centuries and in layers pre-dating ancient Israel and post-dating Jewish residence or in Roman cities like Caesarea and Petra near to or in Judea. That by itself confirms the historicity of the Tanakh account.
PJW5552 on April 10, 2012 at 7:22 am (Reply)
Much of the writing about religious perceptions was, then as now, driven by beliefs. There is a huge difference between simply recording historical observations and attempting to understand the world through beliefs. The fact that Israel had one God when Greeks and Romans had many does not make the Jewish belief correct. Budhists don't have any God. Some may call that more evolved. It is also incorrect to believe that all historical sites, going back thousands of years, do not show any idol worship in the region. That is not true. There was a transition between these beliefs (it was not a marked here today, gone tomorrow), which is apparent in certain archeological sites. The point is, religion is embued with the need to embrace beliefs as a means to understand the world. So, religious writings (while they are historical) are not strictly accurate records. It is like suggesting that Dick Cheney's autobiography is an accurate historical record of his White House years. One does not get a true, accurate picture of history until one takes off the blinders, looks at all the evidence with an open mind, and atempts to understand the world from all perspectives. By focusing on the one perspective you wish to believe, you will see a picture of what you prefer instead of the truth that is. I fear this is a problem with all religions: It is because I believe it is.
Jacob Silver on April 10, 2012 at 7:52 am (Reply)
Ben Tzur uses the Torah as his source of pre-exilic celebration of the festivals. But if the Torah was written in Babylon, the festivals are all post-exilic. And it is just as well. After the Assyrian conquest of the northern kingdom and the migration of the priests and many people to Judea, the Judean leadership had a problem with people from multiple tribes and priests with different beliefs. The priests from Shiloh were monotheists, from Moses. The Aaronists in Judea practiced an historical polytheism. These factors produced tension. The Babylonian exile allowed the leadership to solve these problems. They "made" Moses and Aaron brothers and wrote a Torah which demonstrated that we were all one people. The leaders we have had in recent years couldn't even tie the sandals on our exiled leaders.
Amateur Archaeologist on April 10, 2012 at 10:29 am (Reply)
There is a considerable number of archaeological proofs of Habiru enslavement in Egypt and subsequent flight. The "minimalists" are destroying Jewish heritage simply for notoriety; they should be prosecuted.
Jerry Blaz on April 10, 2012 at 4:22 pm (Reply)
A view of literal biblical truth would have eliminated the entire tradition of rabbinical Judaism. Because the world is changing, we have to understand truth in the light of how to apply it in the world we live in, which may not be applicable to our forefathers' world. The Scopes trial made teaching evolution illegal in Tennessee, and there are still people trying to enforce a prohibition on teaching evolution in Tennessee today. Why hasn't this problem been a plague on Jewish understanding of the Torah, the Nevi'im, and the Ketuvim? Because the Jews have long recognized that truths change with context. OK, there is evolution, but there also is the story of creation, which teaches other lessons which may be more important in our daily lives. Thus, we have two different truths for two different purposes--to help humans, using their God-given intellect, understand the moral side of life and the scientific side of life.
PJW5552 on April 10, 2012 at 6:14 pm (Reply)
Actually, there is one truth, but there are multiple perspectives. The truth doesn't change, but ones perspective on the world can and often does. This is why one must keep an open mind. Morality is a religious construct, and certainly that changes over time as people become more tolerant of other views, values change, etc. It is strongly affected by religious beliefs. But the basic truth is not something really open to interpretation or change. For example, one cannot travel faster than the speed of light. The earth revolves around the sun. The earth is round. Elements are not really transmutable (e.g. cannot turn lead into gold), etc. One might like to believe otherwise, but that does not change the truth.
Ben Tzur on April 10, 2012 at 7:33 pm (Reply)
If the Torah, Prophets and Writings were all written in Babylonia, with all their different voices and differing historical contexts and references, then again we have a new and greater miracle than the splitting of the Red/Reed Sea--a writer or committee surpassing in skill and spiritual depth and richness, as well as historical knowledge of the past, any other known person or group in history (e.g., duplicating customs and even the form of covenant treaties present in the distant past but long since forgotten by the 6th century BCE--the sort of things pointed out by W.F. Albright and his school). I recall listening at a scholarly conference in Chicago in the early 1970s to a lecture by Moshe Held showing that the Mosaic books made use of terms with meanings that echoed ancient Ugaritic texts from the 14th century BCE but had been misunderstood or applied to different things in the discourse of historical and prophetic texts from the times of Kings David and Solomon and later. Held showed, however, that Rashi, the 11-century CE exegete, still preserved the scribal oral interpretations of the true meanings of the Pentateuchal terms, validating the Rabbinic claim to an authentic oral tradition going back in to the Mosaic period. But never mind: To the secularist true believer, all coincidences and wonders are possible.
There does remain a niggling little problem, though: the general absence of god-images and inscriptions in the Land of Israel stretching back to the 13th century BCE. See, on this, Jeffrey Tigay, Thou Shalt Have No Other Gods: Israelite Religion in the Light of Hebrew Inscriptions (1986), which remains a chief authority on this question. Tigay does not claim that there were no such images at all but shows that they lingered here and there in domestic cult alone but were again and again stamped out in formal cult, just as the historical prophetic literature tells us. There is evidence archaeologically for new settlement of the hill country of Judea-Samaria around the 13th & 12th centuries BCE. Another big problem with all the deniers' claims is that in their eagerness to explain away Biblical Judaism as not even existing, they fail to explain how such a radically new worldview and culture, held by an entire people, came into existence in the first place. There is a total silence about that. We have no Moabite Torah. There was no people of Edom in exile still preserving their practices (like child-sacrifice to Moloch). The Mosaic monotheism is not like the Egyptian monotheism of Akhenaten at all, but has linguistic links instead to the terminologies and cultures of Ebla, in Mesopotamia, around 1,800 BCE--confirming, by the way, the accounts about Abraham and the Patriarchs/Matriarchs; nevertheless, Abrahamic monotheism, and Mosaic monotheism, remain unique.
Ben Tzur on April 11, 2012 at 3:52 am (Reply)
Having dealt with Jacob Silver (although the post has not yet appeared as I write this, I presume that it will), I turn to Jerry Biaz. A view of "literal" Biblical truth (problematic though the term "literal" is) would not have eliminated the entire tradition of Rabbinic Judaism, but confirmed it and the presence of an Oral Tradition going back through the scribes and prophetic circles to the time of Moses. I mentioned the analysis of Moshe Held, z"l, in the post dealing with Jacob Silver, but repeat here that the language of the Mosaic books shows their antiquity according to glottochronological analysis, and Rashi preserves amazingly well the scribal knowledge of their meanings, which were obsolete (and forgotten by common folk) even by the middle of the Biblical period. This proves both their antiquity (contrary to Wellhausen's Documentary Hypothesis) and the existence of a reliable Oral Torah that grounds Rabbinic Judaism. Also see on this topic the commentaries of Jacob Milgrom on Leviticus and Numbers, in which he shows the antiquity of the language of those texts and their linguistic continuity with the Ugarit texts, not with later forms of Biblical Hebrew. As for the alleged discontinuity between science and Judaism itself, a typically erroneous either-or (either-ors being so very much loved in Greek-influenced thinking), there is room in traditional Rabbinic exegesis for the scientific approach, and Orthodox Jewish scientists have long been able to reconcile the Biblical account with their work in physics, etc. There is a lot more latitude for this in traditional Rabbinic Judaism than there has been in traditional Christianity, because the attitude to Scripture, truth, reality, and language itself fundamentally differs in Judaism from the Hellenistically derived Christian literalistic either-or view of truth. So much harm has flowed from the Christian-civilizational literalistic approach to reality, including the conception that only one true religion and salvific doctrine can exist, producing wars of conversion to "save souls," wars splitting even Christendom based on doctrinal differences, false formulations of self and other, sin and damnation, spirit and flesh, that have warped so many good Christian lives down through the ages. For a radically different understanding of language and truth, one that quite independently comes close to the Biblical and Rabbinic uses of language and views on these matters, see George Lakoff and Mark Johnson's Philosophy in the Flesh: The Embodied Mind and Its Challenge in Western Thought (1999). There are not two different truths, but one truth on many different levels, each one of which (including the scientific) is embodied, metaphorical, and perspectival and none of which is the sole truth that abolishes all other perspectives and truths. Along with that understanding comes a proper humility--which has still been only very imperfectly attained by contemporary scientists, even though they now grasp, at least notionally, the hypothetical nature of every scientific theory, however well supported it may currently seem to be. Scientism and religion are at odds, yes, but not science and religion.
Jerry Blaz on April 11, 2012 at 3:57 pm (Reply)
If the meaning of "literal" is a vague to anyone, how can we understand and explain the figurative, the metaphorical, the allegorical, the poetic, etc.? We could have an entire discussion on the nature of language and symbols; and these words and symbols have different meanings to different individuals, and the meaning are by no means fixed for these individuals. With all the investigation into the nature of language, we can state with a fair degree of certainty that the word is not the "thing" it represents. That anyone believes meaning is carried along into differing settings and situations unchanged is a great leap of faith. I saw a demonstration by some Jews in Israel attempting to celebrate Passover by sacrificing a paschal lamb. Since there was no Temple, it had to be different. But then, it was similar to commemoration of Passover by the Samaritans, who are derisively referred to in our literature as the "Kutim." This is a good example of how contexts change the meaning of words and symbols. The Talmud represents a great change in Judaism. Certainly the rabbis wanted to create continuity with the Scriptures, but the changes started even before the loss of the Temple. Messianic ideas abounded, and crystallized as a prime mover in what became Christianity; so the rabbis had a reason to keep to the laws that created a new form of Judaism without need of Temple rituals, a set of laws and rituals by which to live in differing situations. Because of the difference between Eretz Yisrael and Babylonia, we have two versions of the Gemorah. Things important to the rabbis in Eretz Yisrael were not as important for the rabbis of Babylonia, and vice versa.
Steve on April 19, 2012 at 2:51 pm (Reply)
I would recommend to all David Graeber's Debt: The First 5,000 years for some context on the concept of slavery in ancient Egypt and the dynamics between the urban centers and nomadic pastoralists at the fringes of cultivated land
    Sally on December 18, 2012 at 5:57 pm (Reply)
    huh? do you guys do this alot
Ben Tzur on April 19, 2012 at 9:33 pm (Reply)
The supposition that the rabbis created "a new form of Judaism without need of Temple rituals" (thus denying the validity of the rabbinic claim to be continuing a mainstream Oral Teaching going back through Ezra's Great Assembly and the pre-Exilic scribes and others to the Mosaic period) runs up against one great problem: Most Jews, even during the time when the Temple still stood, did not have ready access to it for their religious observance. They lived far away in the Diaspora, millions being spread from Spain to central Asia and India, and at best they only came a few times in their lives in pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the "Pilgrimage Festivals." Are we supposed to believe that they had no form of Judaism, then? Actually, the answer has long been known. Local community forms of worship that had no everyday need for Temple rituals went back to the First Temple period and beyond it into the past. That alone explains the persistence of the Jewish religion from the time of the Babylonian Exile in the sixth century BCE. Indeed, the Diaspora provided the basis for the renewal of Jewish observance and even the rebuilding of the Temple under Ezra. While the Second Temple still stood, synagogue worship sustained Jews throughout the world, including Jews in Judea itself; and while some prayers were added to the daily service after the destruction of the Temple (the paragraphs relating to the Shema, for example), daily, weekly, and festival observances and halakhic practices continued on as before in all basic respects. The rabbis who guided worship and daily life and observance of pious Jews in Judea (even within the Temple precincts, where there was a synagogue for regular non-sacrificial prayers, and in the Great Sanhedrin, which was also located on the Temple Mount) did the same throughout the Diaspora in the Second Temple period, and we read of a good deal of rabbinic coming and going between Judea and Babylonia, Rome, Arabia and elsewhere in the late Second Temple period as well as afterwards. There is a reason why there was no significant dissent from rabbinic authority and teachings throughout the Jewish world after the fall of the Temple, which was so markedly different from the treatment of the Essenes and the Sadducees: They were small minority groups who simply disappeared from Jewish society and religious observance after the fall of the Temple, around which their cults centered. The reason for this lack of dissent is that the rabbis already represented, to nearly all Jews, the authoritative ancient tradition. Josephus highlights the inability even of the Jewish kings toward the end of the Maccabean period to dominate over the nearly universally accepted authority of the rabbinic authorities of that time. Despite intense persecutions of the Pharisees, the kings finally had to give in. The fierce polemic in the New Testament against the rabbis and their halakhic authority (stemming from the late Second Temple period) also reflects the resentment felt by the separatist Christian sectarians at the enormous respect the Jewish people gave to the rabbis. They were seen as the chief authorities on what Judaism traditionally is about and how it should be practiced, and the Church could make little headway against that. No, the rabbis did not create a new form of Judaism. They merely continued the still living and dynamic thousand-year-old tradition already disseminated among and known to the entire Jewish people.
Jacob Silver on April 21, 2012 at 11:00 am (Reply)
Ben Tzur is quite correct in stating that there was a lot of respect for rabbis, especially those in the Knesset haGadol (Sanhedren), although the Christians, who were supported by the Greeks, were among a number of dissenting groups during the Roman occupation. Some were very close to Christianity as it was practiced in Judea prior to Emperor Constantine. It was Bar Kochba's revolt that produced the exile of all leaders and learned Jews, as well as the Christian sect, which fled to Alexandria. After that, the Knesset haGadol functioned to educate and lead the diaspora. With respect to the Jewish communities in India and Egypt, these people derived from Jewish refugees during the Hellenic and Roman periods. They knew they were Jews but were ignorant of Channukah and many of the teachings of the Talmud. The first Temple, built during King Solomon's reign, with Aaronite priests, was probably polytheistic. Archeological findings have produced a number of god figures. This Kingdom of Judea encompassed the Judeans and some Benjaminites. There was no Shabbat, nor were there pilgimage festivals. It was only when the Assyrians conquered the northern kingdom that the idea of monotheism came to Judea. This idea came from the priests fleeing Shiloh, who considered themselves descendants of Moses. They were monotheists. They also represented other, foreign tribes. So there was religious tension in Judea over the dispute between Aaronist polytheism and Mosaic monotheism. And there was tension over the mixing-in of foreigners, people of other tribes. It wasn't until the Babylonian exile that the leaders there worked out a solution to these problems. They made Moses and Aaron "brothers" and adopted monotheism. They also wrote the first four books of the Torah, which described the pilgimage festivals. They learned about the week from the Zoroastrian Chaldeans and adopted Shabbat. When Cyrus allowed most of the exiles to return to Jerusalam, they rebuilt the Temple, in which monotheism was worshiped, and they brought the Torah and instituted Shabbat and the pilgimage festivals.
Don't try to cast the Torah writing back to Moses. In 1,350 BCE, the Hebrew language had not yet adopted a written form; and its spoken form was not yet clearly distinct from ancient Coptic or Canaanite. The written form started during King Solomon's reign and took a couple of hundred years to become standardized. The Samaritan Torah represents the earliest form of the early standardized Hebrew. The Babylonian exiles returned 2,230-50 years ago. This span of time was long enough to generate many fictional stories about the origin of the Torah and many other things.
Jerry Blaz on April 21, 2012 at 9:04 pm (Reply)
Jacob Silver's statements are very interesting, but it would help were we to be provided sources. There are two disciplines available to answer the questions that arise during a discussion like ours, the actual facts vs. the texts. One of these disciplines is "religious studies" and the other is "theology." When we use the findings of "religious studies" to support our "theology," we agree, and peace be unto you. However, when the findings of religious studies deviate from the theology, the theological supporters find the information to be anything from inaccurate to evil, depending upon the theological outlook of the individual.
Your answer is a valid one in religious studies--which does not make more accurate than another answer in religious studies without providing the sources and evidence. So, stipulating that we are not going to get a theological answer, sources would be clarifying.
Ben Tzur on April 21, 2012 at 9:43 pm (Reply)
The account given by Jacob Silver is remarkable for its errors. Taking the last points first, alphabetic proto-Sinaitic and proto-Hebraic texts appear from the middle of the second millenium BCE; the first alphabetic text known in the world comes from the Sinai in ca. 1,500 BCE and reflects a Canaanitic (proto-Hebraic) language. The forms of this script are directly continuous with the script of Biblical Hebrew. Therefore, written Hebrew certainly existed by the time of Moses. There is nothing anachronistic about that. Cuneiform archives from Ebla in Mesopotamia also indicate long before Moses that a proto-Hebraic language was spoken and written there in phonetic form as early as 2,500 BCE through 1,800 BCE (and disclose that names like "Abraham," "Benjamin," "Sarah," and even "Israel" were used by the people during those centuries, so that the appearance of such names in the period of the Biblical Patriarchs belongs to their claimed period and place and was not inexplicable). For overviews on these matters, see, for example, the articles on "Alphabet, Hebrew" and "Hebrew Language" in the Encyclopaedia Judaica; since the publication of these articles in the 1970s, Ebla was discovered and the case for ancient Hebrew and the general historicity of the Torah account of the Patriarchs has been strengthened even more. Similarly, the bizarre account offered of Sabbath and festival observances, and the alleged god figures in the first Temple that (it seems to be claimed) were found in archaeological digs, have no evidentiary basis. There are no such god figures discovered by archaeologists in the first Temple site. There are not even any such public cult figures from the whole of Biblical Israel, and down through the centuries of its predominance, as already mentioned. See Jeffrey Tigay's book, already mentioned. The comment also ignores the accounts from the time of the building of the Temple, which are monotheistic and have no place for other gods (e.g., I Kings 8 takes for granted that God is supreme over the entire earth and controls the destiny of all nations, and that the service there is on behalf of all peoples). It also ignores the consistent testimony of all the pre-exilic prophets down through the generations (whether from Judea or Israel), whose references to the weekly sabbaths and annual festivals being practiced, and whose monotheism and firm and explicit rejection of polytheism and idolatry, are a matter of open record. Further, if all of this was created de novo in the Babylonian Exile, cleverly writing with historical precision in each age in the different voices and styles of all the different prophets and scribes of the historical books, and in the priestly/scribal voice of the Torah itself, what of the Egyptian and other diasporas? Why would those diasporas, with their own religious leadership and traditions, accept a completely novel "Torah" and radically new interpretation of Jewish identity and religion from Babylonian Jews? That is nonsense. The Babylonian Exile thesis, unsupported by anything other than wishful thinking, here completely dissipates in smoke. As for the authoritative status of the rabbis in diaspora communities, this is evident even from the accounts in the New Testament about the fledgling Christian sect throughout the Roman Empire. No doubt more remote Jewish communities did not follow all the rabbinic practices, since the Talmudic Sages might not visit or visited very rarely, and the practice of Chanukah in any case took some time to be established everywhere, as is well-known within Rabbinic circles. But the status of the rabbis as the authorities in the Oral Torah foundations of traditional Judaism was accepted almost universally.
Ben Tzur on April 23, 2012 at 2:15 am (Reply)
An error: In a parenthetical comment in an earlier post, I wrote that the rabbis introduced the recitation of the Shema into the synagogue service after the destruction of the Second Temple. Actually, according to most academic accounts, it was the Amidah that they added; the Shema was part of the synagogue service from much earlier times.
Michael Tupek on April 24, 2012 at 11:06 am (Reply)
From my ebook, "Torah of Sin and Grace:"
"An important corollary to this observation is the evidential historicity of the Torah document. The sheer facts that the Pentateuchal narrative entails, not only the unheard of account of a purely theocentric origin for the establishment of the Israelites as a covenanted society with absolutely no credit to the Hebrews themselves, but also the sad and shameful conclusion of that very people’s failure to be a respectable covenant-keeping nation! Can it be seriously contemplated, according to modern criticism, that this people group would fabricate the glorious tale of their God lovingly rescuing them from slavery and oppression because of covenantal promise to their patriarchs and give them the highest ethical standards, including the condemnation of false testimony? And would they then continue the tale with their inability to love their God in return as demonstrated in the appalling rebellions and covenant-breaking on their part as the final conclusion to the most important document of their existence? And would this very tale be faithfully maintained throughout this people’s collective memory, copying it as their sacred scriptures, generation after generation, with the damning recollections and rebukes through the noble office of Prophetism? And then ultimately would they close the developed canon of Hebrew Scriptures with yet renewed and continued rebellions and covenant-breaking? No! Only a people who had been really dealt with, as described in the scriptures, and the honesty of the sanctified few prophets, can possibly wish to maintain such a disappointing story of their origins. This must have happened." Every Jew and Christian should read this book.
Ben Tzur on May 9, 2012 at 8:03 pm (Reply)
Excellent points, Michael Tupek, and apologies for not saying so earlier. They are manifestly true points that the secular and Christian, and in both cases often anti-Judaic, academic Biblical Studies scholars have willfully ignored. The Torah is constituted by the praise and grateful acknowledgment of God, not of the people, who are indeed portrayed as sharing with the rest of humanity the tendency to idolatries and self-gratifying pretenses and sinful evasions. Yet the covenanted Jewish people did, after all, and in every generation, remain faithful to the covenant and to God, and we cannot ignore that (I am sure you do not in your book, as even your comments here show). The chain of the generations remained unbroken. That is why we still have a Torah preserved to us, and Judaism itself, still flourishing after so many millenia of extreme pressures. Through the ages, even in the worst trials, the Jewish people as a whole kept trying to renew their covenantal bond, since there was always a highly respected portion of them that had never betrayed God's trust. In the Biblical period, their cultural custodians, the priests and scribes, were already preserving the Torah as such, the historical records, and even the prophetic literature that so criticised them. They did this with loving faithfulness as a people, when all is said and done. On that sanctified heart, responding with gratitude and the opposite of self-laudatory chauvinism, everything else rests.
Michael Tupek on May 14, 2012 at 9:49 am (Reply)
Thank you, Ben Tzur. Regarding how Israel kept the covenant throughout her generations, the prophets put it that the majority have not kept covenant faithfully (Deut 32, Dan 9), but because the Abrahamic covenant is really a unilateral initiative by Yahweh, he is determined to have it realized by his powerful grace in a remnant throughout every generation (Isa 6) until the latter days when all Israel will be made devout (Isa 2, Ezek 37, Rom 11).
Ben Tzur on May 14, 2012 at 6:33 pm (Reply)
A good comment, but the easy reference to the Name, as it is usually referred to in Hebrew (HaShem), can be misconstrued to signify that God has a personal name like any other god, like a human persons, as we find in the polytheistic religions of antiquity (e.g., Baal, Ashtarot, Adonis, Mars, etc.). Actually, we are urged in the Ten Commandments themselves not to use such references to God lightly, as if we were talking in a literal way about another Tom, Dick, or Harry. Even HaShem is not a name but a descriptor, as is Eiyeh Asher Eiyeh and the longer declaration of God's "name" at Exodus 34:5-7. The Tetragrammaton consists of the verb "to be" in all its tenses, indicating that God is beyond ordinary being and time, eternal, and present at all times. That is why the practice among many Orthodox of breaking all words referring to G-d has a correct understanding behind it.

The reference to the New Testament raises questions. There, God is presented as three persons, each with its own name. That is at least quasi-polytheistic. God is One: "I am God, and there is none like Me" (Isa. 46:9). The God of Sinai, which, according to the NT is merely God the Father/Creator, is also, according to the Torah, already the Savior who took Israel out of Egyptian bondage, and "there is no other," according to God's own proclamation at Sinai and consistently through the prophetic literature (Hosea 13:4; Isa. 43:11, 45:passim, etc.). Thus, he has and needs no Son as savior; rather according to the Torah, he declares that only Israel itself is his "first-born son" (Exo. 4:22, which Isaiah repeats in the Servant passages)--metaphorically so, not an incarnate divinity. Further, we are all equally God's children inasmuch as we are all in the divine image. That is the traditional biblical and, later, Jewish understanding of scripture. It does not accord with Christian exegesis, and Rom. 11 is not an authority.
Jerry Blaz on May 15, 2012 at 3:49 am (Reply)
An expression like "often anti-Judaic, academic Biblical Studies scholars," used to debate a viewpoint, is at the least "name-calling" and at the most a display of ignorance; many good Jews are "academic Biblical Studies scholars," and their scholarship is worthwhile. During the 19th century, when the discipline was still quite formative in its boundaries, certain dating errors occurred, but anyone who has looked at the literature will find that current dating of material is generally presumed to be at best tentative, pending further discovery and analysis. This is the difference between theology and religious studies, which is a more descriptive and accurate term for what was labeled "often anti-Judaic, academic Biblical Studies scholars." The problem of lack of physical evidence for a 40- year sojourn of such a large group as described in the Bible in an area so obviously unable to support such a group for such a period without miraculous intervention may be a good test of faith, but for non-fundamentalist approaches, it raises questions. One of the foremost "minimalists," William Dever, converted to Judaism, so in the 21st century, religious studies for Jews is apparently much more receptive and coherent.
Michael Tupek on May 15, 2012 at 10:36 am (Reply)
To be clear but not to debate, I am the rare evangelical Christian who rejects the doctrine of the trinity as a Roman Catholic error; it is not Hebraic. However, the prophets are clear that: 1) a (human) son would be provided who is also Yahweh (Isa 9:6); 2) Yahweh not only almost required a human sacrifice in the Akedah (Gen 22) but does require blood sacrifice (really, forfeiture of life) for sin, temporarily in the form of animals, but eventually through a chosen man that would give his life as a guilt offering for Yahweh’s devoted people (Isa 53); 3) the real test of true devotion is believing and appropriating the plain-sense revelations of all the prophets (Deut 18, Isa 50: 10, Dan 9), not just keeping Torah (which none of Israel does fully), which prophets would include Yeshua and his apostles.
Jerry Blaz on May 15, 2012 at 5:08 pm (Reply)
The verse you referred to as Is.9 vs. 6 is actually the preceding verse which states "For a child is born unto us, a son is given unto us; and the government is upon his shoulder; and his name is called Pele-joez-el-gibbor-Abi-ad-sar-shalom." The Hebrew name means "a wondrous advisor, to a heroic father and unto a prince of peace." Whether it refers to a messiah is a conjecture because while the term messiah was current, its meaning meant anointed (from the line of David), and verse 6 refers specifically to the David lineage. The Christian messiah was derived from the desire to find "prophecies" in the Hebrew Scriptures when the real meaning was much more closer to what was going on at the time of the prophecy. Actually, in Judaism the blood of animal sacrifice was strictly ceremonial, but Jewish law prohibits the intake of blood by Jews, and the priests often shared in these sacrifices and would not touch blood as food.

The rest of Michael's commentary is based on Christian, not Jewish theology. And, in spite of the fact that the first Christians were Jews, we are talking about "Jewish ideas."
Michael Tupek on May 16, 2012 at 10:24 am (Reply)
@Jerry Blaz, I can read the Hebrew. Nobody fools me. The plain-sense reading is that this son’s name is “Wondrous (one) Counseling, Mighty God, Father of time/future/everlasting, Prince of Peace”. The Masoretes understood the term “el” as God, not “to”, and there is no prepositional symbol (-). It is the same term the prophet uses in Isa 10: 21 (Mighty God). Also your anti-missionary reading destroys the obvious chiasmic structure of the names: “wonderful counselor” mirrors “prince of peace”, and “mighty God” mirrors “Father of time”. My ideas are not only originally Jewish but also biblical (I always provide scripture). Your ideas are modern, trendy, cultural, diasporic, but not Mosaic.
Jerry Blaz on May 16, 2012 at 5:02 pm (Reply)
@ Michael:Nobody is "fooling"or attempting to fool you. As a Christian, you cannot help but looking for and finding justifications for all the attributes for the man whom Christians refer to as the Christ. Understanding an appellation in its setting is therefore more difficult for you. You are attempting to understand the phrase theologically, and you are simply faithful to that theology. There are many ways to twist the words of the phrase. Most of verse 5 is not my translation but the translation at the Mamre site which gives the entire Hebrew scriptures in Hebrew and in English. The attempt of some people who study religious studies and theology to get the "right outcome" is based on desire and anxiety. I do not need miracles to understand Scripture. The prophets simply did not make "long-time" prophecies. It is very Jewish to be engaged in the here-and-now.
bob on October 8, 2012 at 12:04 am (Reply)
Wrong on all counts. An apple really? It was fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Nowhere in the bible does it say apple. Its obvious you have never read the bible so how can you argue that it is wrong. It is history and real evidence has been found to support it as history such as the walls of jericho or to support this article the weapons and chariots of the pharoahs army found at the bottom of the red sea where moses parted it and caused it to fall back on pharoahs army.

There was no adam and eve if humans evolved really? You realize there is no evidence whatsoever of evolution. It is a religion based on assumptions and backed up with no facts. I can say this as I've studied it extensively and have debated it with real scientists. Can you say the same? Do you know as much about evolution as you do the bible? Because if so you know nothing.
Mike M. on November 24, 2012 at 3:52 pm (Reply)
So then...

There was once an Alien race that ruled the entire Earth, having enslaved all humans, they made them separate in to different groups. After forcing them in to differing groups, they made them all mate with each other other the course of millions of years. They created all the races of the Earth by using segregated breeding. After creating all the races of the Earth, they tried to set them upon each other, to make them hate each other. So about two thousand years ago, the Aliens came back, and created the books of the NT, letting the church decide which books would be in the final version (but it didn't matter, they all pretty much contained the same message). They did this to create war, and strife between the people, so they would never work with each other to throw off the chains of bondage.

Today, we are still fighting over the NT (the alien created/crafted book), and still unable to throw off the chains of bondage.

Remember though Jerry... These claims might seem retarded, outlandish, and foreign... Hell, none of these claims even have evidence (except for this story here that I just posted, documents from other forums, and, books from "night watching historians", but, as you've said yourself "absence of evidence is not the same as evidence of absence."... So until you can prove with evidence that none of these things happened; (IE: "They are absent from history completely") then, you can't really say that these claims are false.

Just like the Jews being enslaved in Egypt, all the evidence points towards it not being true. Yet, there is nothing conclusively saying it isn't true, and we have sources saying otherwise.

So, do you see how it works Jerry?

"absence of evidence is not the same as evidence of absence"

If we hold true to this line you've posted up, we can claim anything at all... The great thing about it too, is, it shifts the burden of proof.

Prove the "story" ("historical account") above isn't true. You can't prove it false.

"In some circumstances it can be safely assumed that if a certain event had occurred, evidence of it could be discovered by qualified investigators. In such circumstances it is perfectly reasonable to take the absence of proof of its occurrence as positive proof of its non-occurrence." -Irving Copi
Marj on February 24, 2013 at 11:52 pm (Reply)
Maybe someone here can help me with this

The Hebrews credit much of their history and culture to the influence of their God. Describe at least two (2) things the Hebrews say were given to them by God. What is the significance of these things in history?
Jacob Silver on March 23, 2013 at 6:34 pm (Reply)
At the time of the Torah telling of the Exodus from Egypt, Canaan was controlled by Egypt. It would make no sense to flee Egypt to Egypt. But Egyptian officials in Canaan were instructed to produce and ship grain to Metro-Egypt. They required our fore bearers to work to plant, weed, and harvest the grain. But these ancestors had to produce their own grain for their families and for the priests. This required them to do double labor. This had the earmarks of slavery. So, it may be said that our fore-bearers were slaves TO Egypt, while having continuing residence in the Land of Israel.

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