Krista Dalton has a great reflection on what she’s learned from Jews about the historicity of our sacred text:
I remember early on in my academic career when I was startled by a revelatory statement. I was sitting in my advisor’s office, attempting to understand Jewish interpretations of the Exodus, naively wondering how the historicity of the event would alter participation in the Passover ritual.
Suddenly realizing my error, my advisor interjected, “You know, most Jews don’t believe the Exodus literally happened, in the very least, not the way the biblical text recounts.”
I’m not sure why I was so surprised by that statement. In my own academic work, I knew scholars doubted the historicity of the Exodus account. Yet, to think Jewish participants were conscious of this, when many of my own Christian peers rejected the notion, was shocking to me.
My advisor explained, “Jews know this didn’t happen, but they just don’t want to hear about it on Passover.”
This conversation led me on a journey in pursuit of the answer to the question: “If one is not remembering a literal fact, what is one remembering?” I thought of my own Christian tradition, particularly the memory-ritual of communion, and found myself mimicking my advisor’s words, “I know not everything happened as the gospels recount, but I just don’t want to hear about it when I partake of the bread and the wine.”