Reading Time: 17 minutes / Laszlo Honti
Reading Time: 17 minutes

“It is thus clearer than the sun at noonday that the Pentateuch was not written by Moses, but by someone who lived longer after Moses”

Spinoza, 1670

I will continue my deconstruction of the Exodus accounts by concentrating on the issues surrounding the claims concerning the typology and the sources of the Exodus account itself. A big piece of the jigsaw to read about in this one concerns the Elephantine Papyri. Strap yourselves in…

The articles so far have been:

I want to compile them all into a series as I have done with the Nativity and Easter.

As I have stated many times in this series, the evidence for the Exodus account as derived from the Bible amounts to somewhere around nothing. Well, nothing. The rationalisations around the chronology, as seen by some of the Christian commenters during the series, shows you how tenuously they try to hang on to the literal truth in light of there being nothing else to use. They can only seek to find gaps and potential harmonisations about when it could have happened rather than resort to good solid evidence that shows when it did happen.

As we come to wrap up this series, this piece will be referring to the work of my friend and Skeptic Ink Network colleague Rebecca Bradley and her chapter, “The Credibility of the Exodus”, in John Loftus’ Christianity in the Light of Science (in which I also contribute a chapter on free will).

Where I have shown that the archaeological scenario strongly suggests that the Exodus claims are mythological as opposed to veridical history, we can now turn to the actual base source of the story itself. It appears, and this is borne out by claims I have already made (such as with regard to Moses’ birth), that the account relies on “folk memes” (Bradley, p. 270) that were prevalent in the area at the time. Heck, even Horus was raised in secret among the reeds in the Nile delta. As Bradley states of the birth story of Moses (p. 271-2):

Baby Sargon floated downstream for a bit, until a palace gardener found the little boat and brought the foundling up in humble circumstances to be a palace gardener himself. He was not destined to stay in lowly circumstances. the King of Kish saw him and, struck with his fine qualities, appointed the lad to be his cup-bearer; but once he became part of the king’s court, Sargon was troubled with prophetic dreams, which in turn troubled the King of Kish,m because the dreams, which in turn troubled the King of Kish, because the dreams were about him (the king) drowning. To avert this doom, the king of Sargon to another city to deliver a message, which boiled down to “kill the messenger.” Fortunately, with the help of the love-smitten goddess Ishtar, Sargon was able to navigate the hazardous shoals of royal Kish and end supplanting the king….

We see similar details in the story of Romulus and Remus, the scandalous bastard offspring of Mars and a vestal virgin, cast adrift on the Tiber in a basket; or Karna if the Mahabharata, whose little ark is drawn out of the Ganges. these, and other baby-in-a-basket stories, are part of a more general “Hidden Child” folkloric motif, where the birth of a hero is accompanied by dire prophecies – often, that the child will cause the downfall of the city or the reigning king. The king orders the child to be killed as a precaution, often by exposure, but the child survives. The underling entrusted with the murder may take pity on the child, as in Oedipus all the fine folkloric example of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. The prophetic element is not clear in the Biblical version of Moses’s backstory but is made explicit in the later rabbinical literature: Pharaoh’s soothsayers warn him that Hebrew child will be his downfall, which leads to the order to drown all male Hebrew babies at birth. The rabbinical literature even throws in a touch of marital irregularity in the relations between Moses’s parents. In all cases mentioned, the future here row/liberator grows up in obscurity, hidden behind a false identity until his true exceptional nature is revealed. Moses, in a neat reversal, is presented as a son of slaves raised by a princess, but the story arc is unmistakably part of the same tradition.… The Judaean composers of the Pentateuch may or may not have drawn directly on the Sargon a legend, but the character of Moses draws on the same widespread archetypal memes.

This typological analysis and finding is commonplace in ancient literature:

As we examine the stories of the patriarchs we find a number of motifs which repeat through the generations, some of them going on into the Book of Exodus and beyond. These motifs are referred to as typologies. Typological tales often indicate that what is being related is not so much a true history as a literary convention or the survival of a ritual in story form, just as in the case of the common birth stories of heroes which involve abandonment and miraculous survival. Thus, it is unlikely that either Sargon or Moses was set adrift on rivers in baskets caulked with pitch, just as it is unlikely that the founders of Rome were ever suckled by a wolf. (The Secret Origin of the Bible, Tim Callahan, p.79)

So, which better explains the Exodus accounts in light of points like the above?

a) that the Exodus account is a true, accurate, historical account, including some of the most amazing supernatural events known to man.
b) that the Pentateuch was written later as an attempt to garner national identity in time of exile, drawing on the culture surrounding them (ie Sargon), creating a mythological text akin to every other holy book in the history of humanity (e.g. the Epic of Gilgamesh, which the Bible steals its flood account from).

One fairly popular position outside of biblical literalist circles, is that the accounts are not derived from a single source but are the conclusion of a collective memory of certain events:

A proposal by Egyptologist Jan Assmann suggests that the Exodus narrative has no single origin, but rather combines numerous historical experiences into “a coherent story that is fictional as to its composition but historical as to some of its components”. These traumatic events include the expulsion of the Hyksos; the religious revolution of Akhenaten; a possible episode of captivity for the Habiru, who were gangs of antisocial people operating between Egypt’s vassal states; and the large-scale migrations of the ‘Sea Peoples‘.[25]

Given that:

Despite the Bible’s internal dating of the Exodus to the 2nd millennium BCE, details point to a 1st millennium date for the composition of the Book of ExodusEzion-Geber (one of the Stations of the Exodus), for example, dates to a period between the 8th and 6th centuries BCE with possible further occupation into the 4th century BCE,[40] and those place-names on the Exodus route which have been identified – GoshenPithomSuccothRamesses and Kadesh Barnea – point to the geography of the 1st millennium rather than the 2nd.[41]

…can a further analysis of the text itself support a later date for its composition?

Here are a few arguments against Moses writing the Pentateuch (Christians have “answers” for many these, of course):

  1. There are multiple names for God, how would this be explained if a single author composed the Pentateuch?
  2. How could Moses record his own death in Deuteronomy 34?
  3.  In certain points of the Pentateuch, later names are used in the text. For instance, the city of Dan (Gen. 14:14), the city of Bethel (Gen. 28:19), and the names of Israelite kings (Gen. 36:31) are all anachronistic titles. That is, these titles did not exist at the time. These places were named with these titles later in history. Critics argue that this proves post-exilic authorship.
  4. How could Moses write this before the monarchy (Gen. 36:31)? This passage refers to a time “before any king ruled over the Israelites.” But, critics argue, this was supposedly written 500 years before Israel became a monarchy. If this is truly Mosaic authorship, how could the author have known about the future kingship in Israel?
  5. The Jewish community at Elephantine, which was founded pre-exile, appears not to have had the Torah based on the absence of any knowledge of the Torah in their documents from the 4th century BCE (see page 49).

And so on.

Here, we need a crash course in the Documentary Hypothesis (DH):

If Moses did not write the Torah, who did? Most likely several people, for, as is well known, the Pentateuch is rife with internal contradictions and duplications (doublets). Each,  taken alone, proves nothing; traditional Jewish and Christian scholars have effectively dealt with most of them piecemeal. Cumulatively, they constitute a major challenge to the tradition of a single author. It rather appears that an editor (or multiple editors) produced the Torah by combining several written sources of diverse origin, relatively un-retouched, into a composite whole. This is the Documentary Hypothesis [and here, let me remind American readers of the unfortunate definitions we have ascribed to words such as “hypothesis,” “theory,” and “myth”].

The number of sources appears to have been small.  First, no story is told more than three times. Second, it is hard to imagine an either countenancing so many duplications and inconsistencies were he at liberty to weave together isolated fragments from dozens of documents. Third and most important, if we arrange the doublets in four columns and then read across, continuity and consistency replace contradiction and redundancy. These columns approximate the original sources.

While the exact process by which the Torah coalesced is impossible to reconstruct, here is a commonly accepted model, which may be pretty close to the truth. After the demise of the Northern Kingdom of Israel, refugees brought south to Judah a document telling the national history from a Northern perspective. We call this text “E” and its author the “Elohist,” because God is called (hā) ‘ělōhîm’ (the) Deity prior to Moses’ day and sporadically thereafter. In Judah, a scribe we call “Redactor” combined E with a parallel, southern version, “J,” which calls God “Yahweh” throughout (except in some dialogue). We call J’s author the “Yahwist.” The composite of J and E is known as “JE.”

Precisely a century later (621 BCE), a work called “D,” essentially the Book of Deuteronomy, was promulgated to supplement JE.  It purports to be Moses’ final testament deposited in the Tabernacle (Deut 31: 24-26) and rediscovered after centuries of neglect (2 Kings 22). In fact, D appears to be a rewritten law code of Northern origin, with stylistic and ideological affinities to E. The author/editor of D. the Deuteronomistic Historian, also continued Israel’s history down to his own era, producing the first edition of Deuteronomy through 2 Kings (a second edition was made in the Exile). Some think JE was also reworked so that the Deuteronomistic work properly began with Creation.  If so, however, the editor added relatively little in Genesis-Numbers.

If D was intended to complement and complete JE, another work, the Priestly source (P), attempted to supplant JE with its own partisan account of cosmic and national origins. The date of P is disputed, with most scholars favoring a late pre-exilic, exilic or early postexilic date (i.e., c. 700-400). Subsequently, a second priestly writer, the final Redactor (R), thwarted P’s purpose by combing it with JE, inserting additional genealogical and geographical material. The Redactor also detached D from Joshua-2 Kings, producing the Pentateuch.

For Exodus, our main concern is with P, E, and J, although there is some D-like language, too. It is likely, moreover, that the Song of the Sea originally circulated independently and should thus be considered another source. P is the document most easily recognized, thanks to its characteristic vocabulary, style and agenda. P’s main concern is mediating the gulf between God’s holiness and the profane world through priestly sacrifice. P stresses distinctions of clean and unclean, the centrality of Tabernacle service and the exclusive right of the house of Aaron to officiate. Its rather austere Deity sends no angelic messengers. P also evinces a scholarly interest in chronology and genealogy. In JE, in contrast, sacrifice is offered by a variety of men in a variety of places. Thee is more interest in narrative and character portrayal, less in ritual, chronology and genealogy.  god communicates through angels, dreams or direct revelation.

The most striking difference among J, E and P involves the divine name. E and P hold that the name “Yahweh” was first revealed to Moses (3:14-15 [E]); 6:2-3[P]). Previously, God was called “God” (el),” God Shadday (‘ēl šadday)” or “(the) Deity ([hā]) ‘ělōhîm’).” In J, however, the earliest generations of humanity already use the name “Yahweh” (Gen. 4:26, etc.); Moses is merely granted a more detailed revelation of God’s attributes (Exodus 34:6-7). Consequently, virtually any text prior to the Burning Bush containing the name “Yahweh” is from J. When it comes to the Mountain of Lawgiving, however, J and P line up against E and D: J and P call it “Sinai,” while in E and D it is “Horeb.” A final difference between J and E is that the former calls Moses’ father -in-law “Reuel,” while the latter uses “Jethro” (Jethro/Reuel does not appear in P or D).

Because separating J from E is difficult outside of Genesis, prudence would dictate partitioning Exodus simply between P and JE. However Propp undertakes the dubious task of disentangling J from E, because the results are surprising.  If J is the dominant voice in Genesis, in Exodus we probably have more E than J.  This flies in the face of all previous scholarship, which unanimously ascribes the bulk of non-Priestly Exodus to J. This is simply an unexamined dogma, however, put baldly in D. N. Freedman’s methodological postulate that, “in dubious cases, one must opt for J rather than for E.”  In fact, we find far more E than J in Exodus.  Recurring idioms, characters and themes all point to the Elohist.

Serious textual scholars have long dismissed Moses as being the author of the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Old Testament), which might seem blindingly obvious because it appears he would have to write about his own death (response – it was later added)… For a more in-depth review of Exodus in light of the Documentary Hypothesis, see Callahan, p. 131-140, 144-148. It is also worth noting that other hypotheses exist, such as the fragmentary and supplementary hypotheses.

Interestingly, a computer analysis of the words used in the Pentateuch also defends a multiple authorship. The DH is something that, whilst refined and edited from its original form in the days of Julius Wellhausen in 1878, still exists in one form or another. The conclusion would be that there is no definite consensus on exactly what the sources were, and whether E is now part of another source, or fragmentary. Even given this, Wikipedia concludes:

The final Torah is increasingly seen as a product of the Persian period (539–333 BCE, probably 450–350 BCE), although some would place it somewhat later, in the Hellenistic (333–164 BCE) or even Hasmonean (140–37 BCE) periods[35] – the latter remains a minority view, but the Elephantine papyri, the records of a Jewish colony in Egypt dating from the last quarter of the 5th century BCE, show no knowledge of a Torah or of an exodus.[36] There is also a growing recognition that Genesis developed separately from Exodus-Leviticus-Numbers, and was joined to the story of Moses by the Priestly writer.[10]

It seems like the Elephantine papyri are a really significant piece of the jigsaw:

It wasn’t until almost 2,000 years after the Great Pyramid received its capstone that the earliest known record shows evidence of Jews in Egypt, and they were neither Hebrews nor Israelites. They were a garrison of soldiers from the Persian Empire, stationed on Elephantine, an island in the Nile, beginning in about 650 BCE. They fought alongside the Pharaoh’s soldiers in the Nubian campaign, and later became the principal trade portal between Egypt and Nubia. Their history is known from the Elephantine Papyri discovered in 1903, which are in Aramaic, not Hebrew; and their religious beliefs appear to have been a mixture of Judaism and pagan polytheism.

Other documentation also identifies the Elephantine garrison as the earliest immigration of Jews into Egypt. The Letter of Aristeas, written in Greece in the second century BCE, records that Jews had been sent into Egypt to assist Pharaoh Psammetichus I in his campaign against the Nubians. Psammetichus I ruled Egypt from 664 to 610 BCE, which perfectly matches the archaeological dating of the Elephantine garrison in 650.

Vridar summarises what they tell us:

These papyri confirm

  • the Jewish worship of the god Ya’u alongside the worship of ‘Anath, Bethel, Ishum and Herem;
  • the Jewish observance of the Days of Unleavened Bread and probably the Passover;
  • the religious authority of the Jewish high priest at Jerusalem: Jews in Egypt could appeal to him to have their temple at Yeb rebuilt.

The papyri are silent concerning

  • the existence of the Pentateuch or any part of it;
  • the priesthood being related in any way to Aaron or Levites;
  • Jewish names found in the Pentateuch (there are over 160 Jews mentioned in the papyri, not one with a “Pentateuchal” name)
  • any biblical history of the Jews, such as the Exodus, or of the tribes, or any prophets;
  • any knowledge of the Laws of Moses or any other authoritative writing;

The observance of the Days of Unleavened Bread were

  • allowed on the authority of Darius II and the Egyptian governor to whom Darius wrote, permitting the Jews to observe the festival,
  • and to a Jewish official who added further instructions;
  • without any reference to the authority of the Torah;
  • and without reference to the Exodus.

The actual practices of this festival

  • omitted any instruction to read the Torah;
  • were not said to be in accordance with any Jewish law code.
  • were governed by direct decree from the Jerusalem temple priests without any reference a written Law.

The temple at Yeb

  • possessed altars for sacrifice and incense offerings
  • was destroyed by Egyptians in a local uprising in 411 BCE (presumably over sacrifices of animals sacred to Egyptians)
  • was clearly in violation of the Deuteronomic code that forbade any temple or sacrifice outside Jerusalem.

Yet the Elephantine Jews had no problem appealing to the Jewish high priest and his colleagues in Jerusalem to help them rebuild their temple. Their relations with Jerusalem priests were evidently cordial and mutually supportive.

The Elephantine papyri demonstrate

  • the Jewish colonists in Egypt followed religious practices emanating from Jerusalem;
  • the Jewish colonists recognized the authority of the Judean high priest and his colleagues;
  • the Jewish colonists remained loyal to Jerusalem’s practices and remained on friendly terms with the Jerusalem Temple hierarchy;
  • yet indicate that they and the Jerusalem priesthood had no knowledge of the contents of the Pentateuch, both following practices contrary to its injunctions.

That is, the Papyri show

  • no knowledge of a written Torah or Pentateuch
  • no knowledge of names of figures in the Pentateuch
  • but clear knowledge of a Jerusalem priesthood with religious authority
  • and knowledge of a Jerusalem Temple priesthood supporting another temple and altars of sacrifice as well as non-Levitical priests.

Historical accuracy is also called into question when such textual analyses previously mentioned also throw up inconsistencies, as we can see with Joshua’s conquest (claims about which I have already shown to be dubious):

Both the historical validity and the supposed divine inspiration of the Bible are called into doubt when one book contradicts another. For example, Josh. 12:8 says that Joshua gave the land of, among others, the Jebusites, to the people of Israel, and Josh. 12:10 lists the king of Jerusalem as among those defeated by the children of Israel. At the time Jerusalem was also called Jebus. So, according to Joshua 12, it was in Israelite hands before Joshua’s death. Yet Josh. 15:63 says that the tribe of Judah could not drive out the Jebusites, who remain there “to this day,” and Jud.l:8 says that the men of Judah took Jerusalem after Joshua’s death. Judges 1:21 says that the tribe of Benjamin could not drive out the Jebusites who dwelt in Jerusalem, and it is an important part of the story of the outrage at Gibeah that Jebus is still in Canaanite hands (see Jud. 19:10-12). We find, in fact, that Jebus is still a Canaanite city until it is taken by King David (2 Sam. 5:6,7), hundreds of years after the time of the supposed conquest. Here we have three different versions of the conquest of Jebus/Jerusalem: that it was taken by Joshua, that it was taken by the tribe of Judah after Joshua’s death, and that it was independent until David took it and made it his capital. Clearly we have a problem in historical validity: They cannot all be right. (The Secret Origin of the Bible, Tim Callahan, p.2)

This can produce certain problems and questions that further arise, such as why the conquest of Joshua is only mentioned in one source:

Not only are the Transjordan conquests part of the J and E narratives, those prophets who lived before the time of Jeremiah and his Deuteronomist contemporaries, such prophets as Isaiah, Amos, Hosea and Micah, allude to the Exodus but not to the conquest of Canaan. Micah 6:4 mentions Moses, Aaron and Miriam, and Micah 6:5 mentions Balak of Moab and Balaam. But none of these prophets mention Joshua. The only mention of the conquest of Jericho and Ai are in Joshua and 1 Kings, both of which are part of the Deuteronomist history. (The Secret Origin of the Bible, Tim Callahan, p.181)

As AJ Moss agrees, the post-exilic evolution of the Pentateuch is widely held:

The oldest historical work is probably the book of the Yahwist, designated by J, and ascribed to the priesthood of Juda, belonging most probably to the ninth century B.C.

Akin to this is the Elohim document, designated by E, and written probably in the northern kingdom (Ephraim) about a century after the production of the Yahweh document. These two sources were combined by a redactor into one work soon after the middle of the sixth century. Next follows the law-book, almost entirely embodied in our actual Book of Deuteronomy, discovered in the temple 621 B.C., and containing the precipitate of the prophetic teaching which advocated the abolition of the sacrifices in the so- called high places and the centralization of worship in the temple of Jerusalem. During the Exile originated the Priestly Code, P, based on the so-called law of holiness, Lev., xvii-xxvi, and the programme of Ezechiel, xl-xlviii; the substance of P was read before the post-exilic community by Esdras about 444 B.C. (Nehemiah 8-10), and was accepted by the multitude. History does not tell us when and how these divers historical and legal sources were combined into our present Pentateuch; but it is generally assumed that there was an urgent call for a compilation of the tradition and pre-exilic history of the people. The only indication of time may be found in the fact that the Samaritans accepted the Pentateuch as a sacred book probably in the fourth century B.C. Considering their hatred for the Jews, one must conclude that they would not have taken this step, unless they had felt certain of the Mosaic origin of the Pentateuch. Hence a considerable time must have intervened between the compilation of the Pentateuch and its acceptance by the Samaritans, so that the work of combining must be placed in the fifth century. It is quite generally agreed that the last redactor of the Pentateuch completed his task with great adroitness. Without altering the text of the older sources, he did all within man’s power to fuse the heterogeneous elements into one apparent (?) whole, with such success that not only the Jews after the fourth century B.C., but also the Christians for many centuries could maintain their conviction that the entire Pentateuch was written by Moses….

The theory of the historical evolution of Israelitic religions leads us from Mosaic Yahwehism to the ethical monotheism of the Prophets, from this to the universalist conception of God developed during the Exile, and from this again to the ossified Phariseeism of later days. This religion of the Jews is codified in our actual Pentateuch, but has been fictitiously projected backwards in the historical books into the Mosaic and pre-prophetic times.

Without labouring the point, the Exodus account, and the Pentateuch as a whole, was written far later (somewhere between 700s-500s BCE) than the conservative Christian will admit since they want the pedigree of Mosaic authorship, derived from internal biblical sources, at around the claimed date of 1400-1550 BCE or thereabouts. The rough dating of the DH sources are:

J: From the German “Jahweh” or Yahwist source (dated ~950-850 BC).

E: From the Elohist source. Northern kingdom (~750 BC).

D: From the Deuteronomistic source. Southern kingdom (~650 BC).

P: From the Priestly source. Post-exilic (~587 BC).

Moses clearly didn’t write the Pentateuch, and, as mentioned in a previous piece, the Jews at the time of the Babylonian exile seriously needed a nationalistic boost, a creation of a national identity stretching back into pre-exilic times. This would have naturally stolen off the culture and history of the people around them, their captives and neighbours, in a syncretisation of history and religion, or culture.

Of course, this is nothing unusual: cultures and peoples the world over do this and have done this over time. What would be unusual would be the insistence that the Exodus account didn’t do this. Everyone readily sees, say, the Epic of Gilgamesh in the historico-cultural milieu in which it sits, and no eyelids are batted. But the Bible? That must be entirely true!

Of course, as with many mythological tales that once paraded as (pseudo-) historical, kernels of truth, elements of real-life events, may underwrite some of the claims.

I will leave you with the words of Donald B. Redford, in Egypt, Canaan and Israel in Ancient Times (Princeton University Press, Princeton NJ, 1992), p. 420-422):

Sources contemporary with the expulsion of the Hyksos apprise us of curious atmospheric disturbances, strange for the Nile Valley, although not entirely unknown there. The snippet of a diary now preserved on the verso of the Rhind Mathematical Papyrus records the final events leading up to the fall of Avaris: “Year 11, tenth month – one entered Helipolis; first month, day 23 – the Bull of the South(?) gores his way as far as Tjaru; day 20 [+ x] – it was heard tell that Tjaru was entered; year 11, first month, ‘Birth of Seth’ – the sky rained.” This rainstorm may or may not be identical with another downpour that proved very destructive and was recorded on a stela of Ahmose together with the measures the king took to alleviate the resultant misery of the people. “The sky came on with a torrent of rain, and [dark]ness covered the western heavens while the storm raged without cessation … [the rain thundered(?)] on the mountains, (louder) than the noise at the ‘Cavern’ that is in Abydos. Then every house and barn where they might have sought refuge [was swept away, .. and they] were drenched with water like reed canoes … and for a period of [x] days no light shone in the Two Lands.”

The striking resemblance between this catastrophic storm and some of the traditional “plagues” seems more than fortuitous. The subsequent interpretation of such an event by the Canaanites as divine punishment on the Egyptians in this moment of triumph would be a natural construction to place upon it. And it is but a step from interpreting the disaster as punishment on Egypt for an expulsion, to construing it as pressure exerted to effect a release. One other legend helped to shape the tradition, and this was a native Egyptian reworking of the Amarna event. Here the “renegade leader” entered the Canaanite tradition and partly transformed it. …

It is ironic that the Sojourn and the Exodus themes, native in origin to the folklore memory of the Canaanite enclaves of the southern Levant, should have lived on not in that tradition but among two groups that had no involvement in the historic events at all – the Greeks and the Hebrews. In the case of the latter, the Exodus was part and parcel of an array of “origin” stories to which the Hebrews fell heir upon their settlement of the land, and which, lacking traditions of their own, they appropriated from the earlier culture they were copying. One batch of tales centered upon an “ancestor” called Abram whose memory lived on in Beer Sheva and in the Negeb; another took its rise at Shechem in the highlands and revolved around the figure of a Canaanite leader Jacob. The Canaanite origin of these figures is now only dimly reflected, as most of the Biblical stories told about them took shape much later and served etological needs felt by Israel in the first millennium B.C. But they themselves were undoubtedly bona fide historical figures of the Middle Bronze Age

One final irony lies in the curious use to which the Exodus narrative is put in modern religion, as a symbolic tale of freedom from tyranny. An honest reading of the account of Exodus and Numbers cannot help but reveal that the tyranny Israel was freed from, namely that of Pharaoh, was mild indeed in comparison to the tyranny of Yahweh to which they were about to submit themselves. As a story of freedom the Exodus is distasteful in the extreme – I much prefer the account of Leonidas and his three hundred at Thermopylae – and in an age when thinking men are prepared to shape their prejudice on the basis of 3,000-year old precedent, it is highly dangerous.

My final piece will concern how we best interpret all of these claims that I have made. It’ll be one for fans of probability!

A TIPPLING PHILOSOPHER Jonathan MS Pearce is a philosopher, author, columnist, and public speaker with an interest in writing about almost anything, from skepticism to science, politics, and morality,...

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