The Exodus Debunked: Analysing some “Counter-Evidence”

The Exodus Debunked: Analysing some “Counter-Evidence” April 9, 2018

Time to take the defenders to task. And, I must say, we have a dismal failure on our hands here.

As many of you will know, I have been running a series debunking the historicity of the Exodus accounts in the Old Testament. The importance and ramifications of doing this is that if you find no historical basis for such accounts, then the reality of Moses as a historical figure is called hugely into question. If this is the case, then Mosaic Law and the foundation of Judaism and Christianity crumbles into nothingness. Jesus announces that he will fulfil every jot and tittle of…nothing.

There is a lot at stake here for the Christian.

Here is the series, as it stands:

I want them to act as a series and case as I have done with the Nativity and Easter.

One of the most prevalent commenters has been a Christian biblical maximalist and Young Earth Creationist (to boot) named Theodore James Turner. He has shown a heavy reliance on an apologist called Gerard Gertoux. TJT neither likes Gertoux being defined as an “apologist” or likes me stating he (TJT) “relies” on the work of Gertoux. TJT claims to have come to the same conclusion, doing the same work, independently. Well done to him. The point is, when TJT makes all of his claims here, they are almost universally through quotes from Gertoux. That, to me, is reliance.

My claims about the Exodus are pretty well summed up in the piece “The Exodus Debunked: Concluding Matters” where I state that the apologist comes to the debate with no positive evidence whatsoever; indeed, they merely move dates around here and there to allow for the Exodus rather than show positive evidence that it definitely happened.

And this is what TJT seems to have done when asked for evidence. Here is his main point made in response to that article:

“What Gertoux, and thus Turner, is doing is moving things around to make space for the Exodus rather than positing actual positive evidence. This is the weakest form of evidence that can be given.”

This is an absolutely false assertion. We clearly show that the traditional and historical view that the Hyksos were of Israelite descent.

Manetho, an Egyptian historian and priest, wrote (c. 280 BCE): “When this people or shepherds (Hyksos) were gone out of Egypt to Jerusalem, Tethtmosis the king of Egypt, who drove them out, reigned afterward 25 years and 4 months [Ahmose], and then died (…) and then ejected them naked out of the country. It was also reported that the priest, who ordained their polity and their laws, was by birth of Heliopolis, and his name Osarsiph [Auserre-Apophi], from Osiris, who was the god of Heliopolis; but that when he was gone over to these people, his name was changed, and he was called Moses” (Against Apion I:75-91, 237-266).

Tatian, an Assyrian early Christian writer and theologian, wrote (160-170 CE): “Ptolemy, not the king, but a priest of Mendes, is the interpreter of their affairs. This writer, narrating the acts of the kings, says that the departure of the Jews from Egypt to the places whither they went occurred in the time of king Amosis (Ahmose), under the leadership of Moses. He thus speaks: Amosis lived in the time of king Inachus. After him, Apion the grammarian, a man most highly esteemed, in the 4th book of his Aegyptiaca (there are five books of his), besides many other things, says that Amosis destroyed Avaris in the time of the Argive Inachus, as the Mendesian Ptolemy wrote in his annals (…) Wherefore, if Moses is shown to be contemporary with Inachus, he is 400 years older than the Trojan war, in 1184 BCE (To the Greeks XXXI, XXXVIII, XXXIX).

TJT’s (and thus Gertoux’s) entire case, then, revolves around linking the Hebrews to the Hyksos. As I showed in the piece “The Exodus Debunked: the Hyksos and the Land of Goshen“, this whole project is doomed, and for a whole host of reasons. I will return to his later.

For now, I want to point out some massive flaws in the evidence he brings above. He is being very disingenuous, and here’s for why.

Firstly, it is worth noting that TJT has posted and pasted huge tracts of Gertoux’s work, and if one wasn’t so skeptical and didn’t have time to look at it, one might be impressed, prima facie. It all looks technical and clever, if a little poorly written (Gertoux is French and several of his online pieces seem to just be Google Translated, his books also being difficult to read in this way). The devil is in the details, of course. Don’t be fooled by things that sound or look clever! These quotes, I imagine, are to be found somewhere therein.

Let’s look at the above Manetho quote. The first thing to note about this evidence to bring for the Exodus is that it is a non-contemporaneous claim from the Jewish historian Josephus about Manetho. This is claimed after the Old Testament was constructed by several hundreds of years, probably some 400 (in the case of Manetho), but later still in terms of Josephus interpreting Manetho (for Jewish ends). And the distance from Moses is over a thousand years.

He said: “We clearly show that the traditional and historical view that the Hyksos were of Israelite descent.”

His post does demonstrably not do this.

Does this sound like the actual biblical claims? Over to Wikipedia for some illumination on Manetho under the entry on Osarseph:

Osarseph /ˈzərˌsɛf/ or Osarsiph /ˈzərˌsɪf/ is a legendary figure of Ancient Egypt who has been equated with Moses. His story was recounted by the Ptolemaic Egyptian historian Manetho in his Aigyptiaca (first half of the 3rd century BC); Manetho’s work is lost, but the 1st century AD Jewish historian Josephus quotes extensively from it.

The story depicts Osarseph as a renegade Egyptian priest who leads an army of lepers and other unclean people against a pharaoh named Amenophis; the pharaoh is driven out of the country and the leper-army, in alliance with the Hyksos (whose story is also told by Manetho) ravage Egypt, committing many sacrileges against the gods, before Amenophis returns and expels them. Towards the end of the story Osarseph changes his name to Moses.[1]

Also much debated is the question of what, if any, historical reality might lie behind the Osarseph story. The story has been linked with anti-Jewish propaganda of the 2nd and 1st centuries BC as an inversion of the Exodus story, but an influential study by Egyptologist Jan Assmann has suggested that no single historical incident or person lies behind the legend, and that it represents instead a conflation of several historical traumas, notably the religious reforms of Akhenaten (Amenophis IV).[2]

The story of Osarseph is known from two long quotations from the Aigyptiaca, a history of Egypt by the Egyptian historian Manetho, in Josephus’s Against Apion.[3][4] The first is Manetho’s account of the expulsion of the Hyksos (the name is given by Manetho) and their settlement in Judea, where they found the city of Jerusalem. Josephus then draws the conclusion that Manetho’s Hyksos were the Jews of the Exodus, although Manetho himself makes no such connection.[5]…

My own emphasis because I wanted to highlight the idea that Manetho’s work is lost, and rather like Celsus, we must derive what he said from other secondary sources. And yet this is worse. Manetho himself was at least a tertiary source written a good one thousand three hundred years after the Hyksos. And the claims that TJT is making are actually from Josephus, who is interpreting the lost Manetho for his Jewish audience.

What TJT is quoting is non-contemporaneous Jewish propaganda. And he still has to make the claim that the Hyksos were the Hebrew slaves in captivity, a claim that is demonstrably false. The way he presents this quote is disingenuous. And even if you can find some mention of a Moses, it does not necessarily mean the Moses, since it is a general Egyptian name.

Of The Hysos, I stated (though please read the whole piece for the greater evidence for the claims):

In the 12th century BCE, Canaanite traders and herders were allowed to settle in the Delta, eventually setting up a capital of sorts at Avaris (Tell el-Daba) and a line of rulers. This was all pretty peaceful and actually became the Fourteenth Dynasty. Famine and potentially an epidemic weakened the area and allowed for an aggressive invasion from Canaanite/West Semitic people in around 1650 BCE. These people were famously known as the Hyksos about which much has been written by secular and Christian/Jewish writers and archaeologists.

Josephus (1st century CE) was the first to associate them with Israelites as many conservative scholars try to do in order to harmonise history and the Bible (Josephus and others also mistranslated their name).

Ancient Egyptian traditions paint a very different picture to enslaved Israelites, however. These warlike people invaded the Nile Valley and conquered up to Thebes. They became the Fifteenth Dynasty.

More recent research now hints that these were not, as the Egyptian consensus had it, a foreign invasion, but one that came out of the existent Canaanite regime already in place. The Hyksos prospered until 1540 BCE, when a stronger force in Thebes arose and expelled the Hyksos. The Hyksos were driven back to Negev and this allowed the Egyptians to reclaim the Delta and work on annexing Canaan and Nubia.

Egypt’s New Kingdom arrived.

Later Egyptian recollections of the Hyksos were that they were pretty egregious people. Probably not so: history as written by the victors.

The questions are: Is this Canaanite presence evidence of the biblical Hebrews enslaved by the Egyptians? Is the nineteenth-century influx actually Jacob and progeny? Is Joseph a Canaanite king of Avaris? Are various rulers nice or nasty Pharaohs in the story? Are the Hyksos the Israelites?

Short answer: no. No, they are not.

Again, the piece details a whole host of reasons why the Hyksos simply cannot possibly be the enslaved Hebrews. If this is the one thing that TJT’s case relies on, then he is in seriously big trouble.

He then quotes Tatian, an Assyrian early Christian writer and theologian, writing in 160-170 CE. This is his best evidence? This is his counter-argument? Wow, colour me utterly unimpressed.

Of course, this is as to be expected because there is no positive evidence.

But what is absolutely diamond about this quote, and again, it takes time to unpick the subterfuge here, is that Apion relies entirely on Manetho for his claims on Moses (we know this through Josephus). As even the Jewish Encyclopedia admits, Apion is:

to have heard from Egyptian sages the true account of Moses and the Exodus, an account which he simply copied from Manetho (Josephus, ib. ii. 2);

What amazes me is that TJT is happy to take this claim of Apion but apparently conveniently forget or ignore the other wildly spurious claims:

It was divided into five books, the first three corresponding with the three of Manetho’s books, the other two books with two other works of Manetho, and presented in popular style whatever seemed to be marvelous and interesting to a credulous age. While collecting his stories thus from the most dubious sources in Egyptian history, he assumes to speak with the authority of one who has made personal researches regarding the things which he relates, and on the very spot where they occurred. It appears that he made it his especial object to explain animal-worship and other religious practises of the Egyptians by observations of the marvels of nature, and so he wrote a special work on the study of nature and its forms, wherein he also follows Manetho’s example and adopts his pantheistic view. As has been clearly shown by Schürer (“Gesch. d. Jüdischen Volkes,” iii. 408), it was in the third book of his “Ægyptiaca” (and not in a special book against the Jews, as was erroneously assumed by the Church fathers, and asserted ever since) that those slanders were made by Apion against the Jews which found their way to Tacitus (“History,” v. 1-5) and many other writers in Rome, and against which Josephus wrote the second part of his splendid apologetic work, known by the title “Contra Apionem.” In the polemical portion of his book, Apion repeated whatever Manetho, Apollonius Molo, Posidonius, Chæremon, and Lysimachus had ever written against the Jews. He first attacks them from the point of view of an Egyptian. He reiterates with considerable embellishment the slanderous tale told by Manetho, of the Jewish people having been led out of Egypt, a horde of lepers, blind and lame. He pretends to have heard from the ancient men of Egypt that Moses was of the city of Heliopolis, the city of the sun, and that is why he taught his people to offer prayers toward the rising sun. To account for the origin of the Sabbath, he tells a story current among the people of the time (if not invented by him) as follows: When the 110,000 lepers (this is the number also given by Lysimachus), expelled from Egypt, had traveled for six days, they developed buboes in their groins, and so they rested on the seventh day for their recuperation. The name for this malady being Sabbo in the Egyptian language, they called the day of rest Sabbath (Josephus, “Contra Ap.” ii. 2-3). (my emphasis)

Holy cow. If TJT was being consistent, he would agree with all of these claims, too, no? But. again, he is depending on Manetho who did not make a single claim about Moses – it was Josephus who made the Moses connection.

Need I go on?

Not really.

All I will say is: stay skeptical everybody. Question everything and everyone. Including me. Tell me where I have erred here, because, to me, it looks like the claims of TJT are woefully, terribly poor: inaccurate, disingenuous, very low quality “evidence”.

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