|Moses and Bible Chronology|
By Robert J. Heyer
Many persons dismiss the stories of Moses and Exodus as mythology. It seems that the secular press is quick to accept these so called experts and assume that there is no archaeological and scientific evidence to support the Biblical accounts of Moses and the Exodus. When a person takes the time to examine the facts they will see there is actually quite a bit of evidence to support both the existence of Moses and the Exodus. In fact, there is no evidence to be found that would prove the Biblical accounts to be false. What follows is a brief examination of how the study of Bible chronology affects the understanding of Biblical accounts of Moses and the Exodus.
Many of the problems that are commonly cited to discredit the existence of Moses are related to dates. Biblical chronology has always been problematic and been a prime source of citation for Bible skeptics and detractors. The best starting point for Biblical scholars would be to rethink many of the oldest chronologies that are currently in use. For many years scholars have been working backwards, assigning dates and then looking for the archaeological evidence to support the timelines. The opposite method should be used, letting the archaeological evidence create a new and useful chronology.
Numbers are the main problem with our understanding of the Bible. We hear accounts of men that lived what seems to be impossible ages. We also see measurements that make accounts seem unlikely, Noah's Ark is a good example of this. Modern engineers are quick to point out how unlikely it would have been to build Noah's Ark to the dimensions listed in the Bible. Many seize on this fact and say that scientists dispute the existence of Noah's Ark. When however the measurements are looked at scaled down some we see that what would have resulted would have been a highly stable and seaworthy craft. It seems more likely we have interpreted the measurements wrong in our many translations and handing downs of such an ancient story. The same can be said for measurements of time.
For many years scholars have been trying to assign a timeline to events of the Bible. Almost all of these accounts rely totally on the Bible for starting points and time markers. The problem with this approach is that if we are using dates and numbers that are incorrectly understood, then all the measurements we make with them are erroneous. Most chronologies are based on the passage in 1Kings 6:1 where it states that the Exodus from Egypt occurred 480 years before the fourth year in the rule of King Solomon. This places it somewhere near 1445 B.C.. This has been the starting point in the search for archaeological proof for the Exodus. But, what if we assume that the number 480 is not an actual number. Instead, it might be a symbolic number that represents a certain number of generations. Or even more possible what if the real number was lost in oral passing of the stories and changed with written down for the first time. This would mean we have been looking in the wrong place for archaeological evidence.
My suggestion is that we let the archaeology tell the story instead of trying to bend it to fit. The sad fact is it may be decades between relevant archaeological finds that relate to Exodus. So it is only natural that scholars, in their haste, have tried to set the time line to their own needs. Perhaps there is plenty of archaeological evidence there we can use to get the actual dates of Exodus if we just look for it. Let's start with an examination of the events most likely to be preserved in the archaeological evidence.
It doesn't seem likely there would be much written about the great exploits of Moses in ancient Egyptian writings. We know of very few people that were not directly related to the rulers of Egypt and their continuation of their religious practices. There is little popular literature available, especially when it comes to news of common people. We must remember that the written history left for us by the Pharaohs is what they wanted us to know and believe. They went to great lengths to extinguish the writings of their forbearers so there is very little chance they would memorialize an enemy of the state like Moses. There are some events that would, however, be preserved. One would be proof that there were indeed Jews in Egypt. Another might be for evidence that young Jewish males were ordered put to death. The finding of these events in the written or archaeological record would seem a good place to date the life of Moses.
Of all the Biblical events involving Moses, the ten plagues would seem the mostly likely to have left both written and archaeological evidence. We would expect to find some type of political accounts of such suffering as caused by the plagues. A large scale dying of young male children would also leave some strong physical evidence behind for some lucky archaeologist to stumble on. We should be looking for these types of evidence to use as time markers for finding the true date for the life and exploits of Moses. Other archaeological markers could be looking for evidence for settlements in the desert for the wanderings of the Jews. There should be physical evidence left behind from all their wanderings. Not only will their discovery be useful in the dating of Exodus, but will also be invaluable in the plotting of the actual routes taken.
In Summary, it seems to me that many of the issues with proof of the existence of Moses and the Exodus revolve around an incorrect Bible chronology for this time. There is a tremendous amount of archaeological evidence to support the events when one steps away from the currently used chronologies. A good review of this evidence can be seen in the Universal Life Church Seminary course on Biblical Egyptology by Rev. Nick Federspiel. Another less conventional, but highly interesting account of archaeological evidence, is presented by Simcha Jacobovici in his documentary on the subject. When the erroneous current time line is removed there is little reason to doubt the Bible accounts. It is hoped that further archaeological evidence will help clarify the time line to better fit the available artifacts.
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