Monday, December 15, 2014

"Exodus" Story Reveals Bible's Dishonesty

By MARC McDONALD

Although some might be loath to admit it, many educated adults (even non-fundamentalist Christians) are aware that the Bible is perhaps not the best source of history.

I mean, how many people still take the story of Adam and Eve seriously any more? But I suspect that most people are still unaware of just how totally wrong the Bible is as far as anything remotely approaching real history.

This wouldn't be that big a deal, except for the fact that so many people take the Bible very seriously as a profound book of wisdom. The massive and growing population of Fundamentalists continue to believe the Bible is nothing less than the divinely-inspired, inerrant Word of God.

But the Bible is profoundly wrong in its historical accuracy. The "Exodus" story (recently the subject of a big budget Hollywood Ridley Scott film) is a good example. Some people might question certain fantastic aspects of the story (like the parting of the Red Sea). But I think most people accept that there must be at least a kernel of truth to the story's main points (such as that there really was once a big enslavement of the Israelites in Egypt). Many people continue to believe that this has been confirmed in the archaeological record.

But there's a big problem to this belief: it's simply not true. Nothing in the Exodus story has ever been confirmed by any serious archaeologist, despite long quests to try to confirm anything remotely related to the Bible story.

The fact is, even many Bible apologists have quietly abandoned their quest to try to confirm the Exodus story. The problem is that there is simply not a shred of historical evidence that any of this really happened. Forget wild tales like the parting of the Red Sea---there isn't even the slightest bit of evidence that there was an Exodus captivity in the first place.

This whole story is a fairy tale. The fact is, the story of Exodus is one big lie. And if this well-known Bible story is a lie, then, really how truthful is any aspect of the Bible?

The Bible is a dishonest book, period.

A lot of agnostics spend their time attacking the absurdities, contradictions and sheer nonsense of the Bible's philosophical teachings. But if they're trying to convince believers, they're wasting their time. The Bible is so vague and archaic that the sort of people who take it seriously are never going to be dissuaded via that approach.

What agnostics should be doing is attacking the historicity of the Bible itself. People should be aware of just how many of these Bible tales lack the slightest shred of historical evidence to support them.

It's time for humanity to move beyond the fairy tales, nonsense and superstition of absurd books like the Bible.

In much of Europe, this is already taking place. Sadly, in America, large numbers of people continue to take the Bible seriously (and try to ram their twisted beliefs down the throats of other people).

12 comments:

Buford said...

the statement about forcing their beliefs down our throats is the whole story...the rest is about tactics on HOW to force feed us their beliefs...but they chose to ignore the first story of the Bible...about a war, and about the "right hand of GOD" wanting to force the people to worship HIM...today, the Christian Soldiers are waging the same war...

Hunter said...

A couple of thoughts: first off, as Joseph W. Campbell has pointed out, we're dealing with a group of religionists who simply don't recognize metaphor unless they're beaten over the head with it -- they get the Parables of the New Testament, because they are held up as "teaching stories" -- metaphors -- but they take the rest of the Bible as fact.

And "history" as it was understood three thousand years ago is something that we would call "propaganda," sort of like the National Organization for Marriage claiming a routine stay of a court decision as a "major victory." (Yes, they actually did that.)

Anonymous said...

My reading seems to point to the period known as the Babylonian Captivity as the time when the myth of Egyptian Captivity was created.

You have to think of these stories as a kind of political cartoon, much like the story of Jonah being swallowed by a whale and surviving.

Only an idiot would think that they are literally true, but alas, there never seems to be an Idiot Shortage.

Anonymous said...

Some scholars believe the Exodus story was contrived to persuade Jews to leave Babylon and return to Palestine following their emancipation in that land. Many Jews were doing well financially in Babylon and weren't happy with the notion of a long road trip and an uncertain future--hence the Exodus myth, which purports to demonstrate the enormous sacrifice made by their forebears to populate Palestine in the first place.

Anonymous said...

I appreciate your frustration with the rigidity of fundamentalists, but frankly sense a similar response in this post. To make the blanket statement that the Bible is a lie suggests an understanding of the text that is the mirror image of fundamentalists' construction of its being literally true. One might just as well describe The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn as worthless because it is not literally true. The most effective works of art always provide a different meaning to those who read it idiosyncratic to their abilities and needs. To a child or a holiday movie producer, Exodus is a hell of a great adventure tale. To a Christian or Muslim, it can serve as a possible illustration of the importance of following the inner voice to do what is right even when doing so may seem daunting. To a Jew, it might serve both of those functions but most importantly works as a powerful statement of group identity (Regardless of historical accuracy, this story is part of a rich literature and custom that has bound this culture for millennia. That is certainly not nothing). To an atheist, the tale provides a sense of self - satisfied intellectual superiority (and that is not nothing, either).

Attacking a fundamentalist for not thinking logically about issues of faith is just as frustrating and self-debilitating as a fundamentalist's attempts to convert an atheist by quoting the Bible.

The best approach to these conversations is to ignore first principles and go straight to behavior derived from first principles. Every religious tradition I have studied boils down to one basic message: "Don't be a dick." Sprinkling vs. Emersion, Circumcision, not working the Sabbath, one god, three in one, polytheism, no god at all, personification of a superior power of indifferent meaning, no pork vs. no beef vs. no meat at all, Truth via inspiration vs. scientific method, text as literal truth vs. metaphor. All of these things are mere garments adorning the central message: Don't be a dick. The only thing that should separate any of us is"what is the best method of eschewing dickishness?" Here we will still find challenges and differences, but in 95% of cases commonality.

And 95% correlation should be good enough for both the believer and the empiricist.

herlanderwalking said...

I don't know if the word "metaphor" is actually IN the vocabulary of the sorts of Biblo-twits who insist the earth is 6000 years old.

Kaleberg said...

I seriously doubt that the Exodus story is chock full of facts, but there were literate communities in Egypt, and old Hebrew script did resemble Egyptian demotic. The Exodus story may have some truth if some literate Egyptian group did head off and take over Palestine and concocted the whole Abraham-Isaac-Jacob thing as a justification. National origin stories are full of this kind of metaphor. Look at the Aztec founding myth, the Aeneid, the Secret History of the Mongols or Shakespeare's Tudor apologetics.

Marc McDonald said...

Hi Kaleberg, yes, well I'm sure that even most old fairy tales like Cinderella were probably originally inspired by something that actually happened long ago. The problem is that the fairy tale that results (be it Cinderella or Exodus) is so far removed from whatever inspired it that it is practically useless info.

I've long been a skeptical agnostic who has been very leery of the Bible's historicity. And yet, even someone like me assumed that at least the basic outline of Exodus (namely the Egyptian enslavement of the Israelites) had some sort of historical record that had been at least vaguely confirmed by archaeology. But as it turns out, even I wasn't as skeptical as I should have been. The entire story is a fairy tale. No serious archaeologist has ever confirmed any part of the story. And there are extensive existing Egyptian archives that mention absolutely nothing about any of this.

The whole Exodus story has no more historicity than the ancient Japanese "Namazu" tale that claims that earthquakes are caused by a giant catfish. I guess the difference is that nobody in modern Japan still believes this fairy tale. By contrast, hundreds of millions of Christians still fervently believe the Exodus story really happened.

Anonymous said...

These godless ideologues have no faith and dont understand faith. I have faith in gods word. Man is faulted and the bible was written by mans fault ed hand. There are so many scripture written that have direct relationship to how god wants us to live and people w faith choose to. God died for our sins so that man could be saved. Libs dont understand that... did alah die forus no.. he askes us thru Muhammad to die for eternal life. He is an example of a false god and the bible warns us of these. The 10 commandments r simple but people who fall to the devil will hold them in contempt. Its sad but I pray for all who fall to evil ways. I am not perfect as I do sin. Lie and have stolen. I have coveted and questioned god maby times. I have always come back to god and asked forgiveness and his help to help me be a better person. Its my faith in god that helps me thru. Its not an excuse.. god just asks u to be failthful and do the best u can. Treat others as u want to be treated. Just remember, satin does his deeds thru man and will stop at nothing to mislead you away from gods word. Like the bible is bogus.. i know stories in the bible seem crazy but thats for each person to decide and believe in his word that it is good or false. Become a muslim and move to the middle east if u hate america so much. Otherwise speak ur belief but dont tread on my faith.

location de voiture said...

i appreciate your frustration with the rigidity of fundamentalists,

James S. said...

Maybe the account of the exodus is not intended to be history. Attacking the texts for failing to be what they do not claim to be, is not reasonable. Atheist critics of the Bible would be doing themselves a very great favour, of lasting value, if they would only take the trouble to familiarise themselves with OT Biblical criticism. Where atheist critics of the Bible so often go wrong, is in reading the texts in a Fundamentalist way. Little is gained by being atheist, if one has lost the theism, but not the Fundamentalism. I'm not an atheist - far from it ! - but I was once a Fundamentalist. It is not a good thing to be - it stultifies one's ability to read the Biblical texts terribly - and it is a great pity to see atheists still reading the Bible in this woefully inadequate way, because that way of reading it shuts off many ways in wihich it could be read, ways the texts themselves show it was read in, that Fundamentalism neglects.

The reason the accounts of the Exodus - there are two accounts, the "expulsion" account and the "flight" account - look as though they are intended to be history, is because of the way they have been edited. There may be an historical core, but the geographical difficulties, like the difficulty in identifying the Yam Suph, the so-called Red Sea, are a warning not to be hasty in coming to conclusions. The census stats in Numbers 1 and 26, like the stat in Exodus 12.37-40, are impossible in that context, if read as historical. It is much more likely to be a way of saying that during Israel's stay in Egypt, Israel had increased greatly from the 70 souls of Genesis 46 and Exodus 1.

The Song of the Sea in Exodus 15 gives a different account of the Crossing of the Sea from the account in Exodus 14. The language in 15 is notably mythological. Both Genesis and Exodus contain doublets of accounts of events: there are two creation-narratives, two flood-narratives, two accounts of the naming of Bethel, two accounts of the selling of Joseph, two accounts of the call of Moses, two accounts of the Crossing of the Sea. All of this is very familiar to Biblical scholars, and is a valuable clue that the authors of these books simply did not have the same concern for historical accuracy as Fundamentalists have. They were not historians, and should not be read as though they were. They are interested in the past, but as theologians.

Marc McDonald said...

Hi James, thanks for your comment.
re:
>>Maybe the account of the exodus is not
>>intended to be history

I agree, this is possible. I also am of the view that the Four Gospels were probably never intended to be regarded as history.
In any case, the hard historical evidence that Jesus ever actually existed is virtually zero, although I'd suspect that very few "Christians" are aware of this.