Separating Biblical Mythology from Biblical History

By Rabbi Joshua M. Davidson

Published in The Jerusalem Post, Opinion section – April 24, 2019

Eighteen years ago this week, Rabbi David Wolpe of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles stunned many in his congregation. “The truth is,” he announced, “virtually every modern archaeologist who has investigated the story of the Exodus, with very few exceptions, agrees that the way the Bible describes the Exodus is not the way it happened, if it happened at all” (Teresa Watanabe, Los Angeles Times, April 13, 2001).

Quite a provocative assertion on Passover, the festival recalling Israel’s deliverance from Egypt, but also a fact long acknowledged by many biblical scholars and historians.

No extrabiblical evidence verifies the Bible’s account of the Exodus. If a small band of refugees fled Egypt (some scholars suggest it was the tribe of Levites to which Moses is linked), the much greater mass of would-be Israelites was already living in Canaan, a population that had perhaps liberated the land as a suzerainty of the Pharaoh.

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