Glenn Morton wrote:
<< Let's take your scenario to illustrate what I see as
the two different reactions of the conservatives on the
one hand and liberals on the other. This case is fascinating
because there is NO archaeological evidence for the Exodus,
especially one with so many people.
There are certainly problems with asserting that Abraham
onward (and particularly the Exodus) *must* have some sound
historical basis. However, I think there is no choice because
we assert that God acts in history. If the Exodus didn't
happen, then the basis for that claim is false. I could
call the Bible "inspired" (whole cloth that is), but not
"inspired" as used by evangelicals.
I agree that there is no archeological evidence, but as far
as I understand, at least we can show that the Biblical
account is _consistent_ with other information of the same
time period. It would be nice to have the extra biblical
sources to help support the account and more physical
evidence, but as of this time at least, it seems we don't
From what I understand,
the large numbers of people can be somewhat resolved
by considering whether the word "elef" should be read as
"clan" or as "family unit". That would bring the Exodus down to
a resonable size of 5000 people. It also would allow for a more
reasonable scenario since 2 million people would have easily
overwhelmed the Egyptian army anyway and it would not have required
God's intervention. Moreover, Moses would have been working 500
hours a day judging cases with so many people. Of course, that
wouldn't explain Numbers 3:43. With my extremely limited scholarship
of OT literature (effectively nill), I might hedge that Numbers
reflects a greater population of Hebrew people in diverse places
most of whom were not originally involved in *the* Exodus. That's a
bit of intellectual wiggling, but I don't think that is taking
The parting of the "Yam Suf" (Sea of Reeds or Red Sea depending
on the context), is clearly faith on my part. I don't think
there are any reports of a flash floods or tsunami in the
Sea of Reeds. Again, the historicity of Moses and the Exodus
are essential before I would grant my credulity to lull me into
believing the parting of the "Yam Suf", talking donkeys and other
incredible events recorded in the Torah. A god acting in a good
story is not a God I should bow down and worship.
The conservative, in order to maintain his belief and
avoid leaving Christianity, can reject the total lack of
scientific observation as being important. This is what
they do with creation. THey reject the observational data
that contradicts their views or say it really isn't important.
The liberal on the other hand, in order to maintain his
belief and avoid leaving christianity, will say that the
Exodus was not meant to be taken literally--it was meant
to teach us about humans and the human conditions and our
relationship to God. It simply doesn't have to be historical.
This is why I reject both approaches. They are heads I win,
tails you lose approaches.
It does seem that you and Dick Fischer have both struggled
to keep the integrity of the Biblical text from Genesis 1.
I admire your dilligence: although it seems the two of you
can't seem to agree on anything :-).
I can see from your scenario that an extreme conservative
approach can lead to something akin to irrationality,
and an extreme liberal approach can lead to mere muddle.
Neither seems like a sound basis for faith when taken to
the limits you describe. Frankly, I doubt that Howard
is going that far in a liberal direction, but he would
have to speak for himself.
by Grace alone do we proceed,
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