Did the great leader exist? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
A reader sent me this old article from the Washington Post wanting my thoughts on it. Did Moses exist? Let’s say at the outset that while I think he did, the case is definitely not as clear as it is for someone like Jesus. I can understand Moses mythicism whereas Jesus mythicism is just a crackpot theory.
The article is by someone named Ishaan Tharoor and can be found here. Something I notice right at the start is that a similar argument is used against Moses as is used against Jesus. That is the argument from silence.
The reality is the record is not completely silent. One can say he’s not mentioned outside of the Jewish Scriptures of the time, but so what? Do we automatically throw out those Scriptures because they are Scriptures? If anyone would have a reason to write about Moses, it would be the Jews, and a writing does not suddenly deserve hyper-skepticism because it is considered holy by some specific faith.
Now who else would write about Moses? The Egyptians? Doubtful. What would the record say “So these ragtag Hebrews managed to escape after their God kicked our gods to the curb and we couldn’t overtake them when our soldiers drowned in the Red Sea.” Nah. Historians of the time would write about their victories, but they would not write about their defeats.
It is true that we don’t have the exact timeline on when things took place. The most common dates I hear for the Exodus are either 1446 BC or somewhere around 1290. A lot of it depends on the reference to 480 years in the book of Kings. The Pharaoh on the throne is not named, but this is also not a surprise. Pharaoh is not the main character and is a figure portrayed in a shameful light. Another great way to do that would be to not even name him.
What about the Red Sea? Again, there are people who say that what happened was a natural occurrence really, and they could be right. It could be the winds could make the sea part at times. In this case, the miracle would be that it happened when it happened. I do not know of any accuracy of reports of Egyptians and chariots being found at the bottom of the Red Sea, but sadly, even if that was true, it should not surprise us that a sea near Egypt would have dead Egyptians in it. It would be evidence for something, but it would not necessitate it.
I have seen the comparison to Sargon. My ministry partner has an article on that one so no need to reinvent the wheel. I was really amused to find a claim that this is a copy of Krishna. This is the same kind of thing that happens with Jesus Mythicism, as if the Israelites would have known about the story of Krishna and choose to use it, even if you go with a late date such as with the Welhausen JEPD hypothesis.
The author also says that:
Some researchers believe the “Hymn to the Aten,” inscribed on the walls of the ancient city of Amarna, prefigures Psalm 104 of the Hebrew Bible. Both are paeans to the power of one god. Here’s the hymn:
The earth comes into being by your hand, as you made it. When you dawn, they live. When you set, they die. You yourself are lifetime, one lives by you.
And an excerpt of Psalm 104:
You hide your face, they are troubled,
You take away your breath, they die,
And return to dust.
You send forth your breath, they are created,
And you renew the face of the earth.
As I look at this, it is extremely flimsy. The first one is describing the movement of the sun. The Psalm is not and both of these are statements that could easily apply to a supreme being.
Noteworthy also is no interaction with anyone who believes in the historicity of the accounts. Do you see any interaction with someone like James Hoffmeier? Nope. Not a bit. Of course, he could be entirely wrong, but if you give your audience only one side of the story, what a shock that most readers walk away thinking that one side is true.
Also, for Christians, one of the main evidences is that Jesus seemed to treat Moses like a historical figure. Now it could be the incarnation does not entail Jesus as a human has perfect knowledge, but many of us who are Christians tend to take Him a bit more seriously. If you’re a skeptic of the resurrection, that won’t mean anything to you. If you believe in it, it means a lot to you. I realize my point here then won’t convince skeptics, but it should give Christians something to think about.
In the end, I don’t think the article really delivers. The evidence is one-sided and arguments from silence. It doesn’t convince me with mythicism and it doesn’t do so here.
(And I affirm the virgin birth)