Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Did the Exodus Really Happen?

Today's nytimes.com posts an article called "Did the Red Sea Part? No Evidence, Archaeologists Say." Egyptian archaeologist Zawi Hawass says, "Really, it [the Exodus] is a myth."

We read: "But nothing was showing up that might help prove the Old Testament story of Moses and the Israelites fleeing Egypt, or wandering in the desert. Dr. Hawass said he was not surprised, given the lack of archaeological evidence to date. But even scientists can find room to hold on to beliefs.
Dr. Mohamed Abdel-Maqsoud, the head of the excavation, seemed to sense that such a conclusion might disappoint some. People always have doubts until something is discovered to confirm it, he noted.
Then he offered another theory, one that he said he drew from modern Egypt.
“A pharaoh drowned and a whole army was killed,” he said recounting the portion of the story that holds that God parted the Red Sea to allow the Israelites to escape, then closed the waters on the pursuing army.
“This is a crisis for Egypt, and Egyptians do not document their crises.”"

A counter-archaeological-historical argument is that of James Hoffmeier, in two texts - Israel in Egypt, and Ancient Israel in Sinai: The Evidence for the Authenticity of the Wilderness Tradition (2005: Oxford University Press). I have read the first book. For a review of the second, go here.

Both of Hoffmeier's books are well-reviewed by some important scholars. Ancient Israel in Sinai is probably the book to get in defense of the historicity of the Exodus tradition. Here are some editorial reviews:

"Biblical Scholarship and Egyptology are brought together with uncommon skill in this important study. The book contains a wealth of evidence which is as fascinating as it is well-researched."--Richard H. Wilkinson, Professor and Director, Egyptian Expedition, The University of Arizona

"As the director of numerous archaeological surveys in North Sinai and current excavations at Tell el-Borg, James Hoffmeier is one of the world's foremost authorities on Egypt's northern border defenses during the New Kingdom (c. 1550-1069 B.C.). Any new work of his will be read with interest by Egyptologists and biblical scholars alike." --Ellen F. Morris, Department of Classics, Ancient History, and Egyptology, University of Wales Swansea

"Egyptologist and ancient Near Eastern scholar, James K. Hoffmeier, has produced an important work for the ongoing study of Israel's wilderness traditions. It is an excellent example of the integration of archaeology, philology, religion, history and biblical studies by a scholar who has demonstrated over the years his outstanding abilities in all these matters. While it gives an up-to-date accounting of what is known about Israel's wilderness traditions, it makes important contributions to the study of the toponymy and history of ancient Egypt's eastern frontier, as well as that of ancient Sinai. There can be no doubt that this volume will become the standard work in these areas for years to come."--K. Lawson Younger, Jr., co-editor of Mesopotamia and the Bible: Comparative Explorations

"Hoffmeier furnishes a sophisticated fresh approach to the Biblical Exodus traditions filled with detailed Egyptological background, and utterly indispensable because of its basis in recent, and in many cases as yet unpublished, archaeological data. This is a virtual encyclopedia of the Exodus." --Baruch Halpern, Chaiken Family Chair in Jewish Studies, Penn State