Biblical History: Jewish slaves in Egypt

This is an interesting 12 minute podcast from Skeptoid.com where author Brian Dunning provides historical evidence that the stories told in Biblical account of the book of Exodus, from his perspective, are factually inaccurate.

“Was there a mass Exodus of Jewish slaves out of Egypt? There is no record of any such thing ever happening, and the simple reason is that there is no time in which it could have happened. No Egyptian record contains a single reference to anything in Exodus…”

Challenging Fact

What I found most interesting about this podcast wasn’t the lack of proof of the Exodus, but the fact that it had never occurred to me that the account from the bible wasn’t true (the Jewish slaves in Egypt part). I was raised a Christian and heard these stories over and over again. Repetition lead me to assume that there was a large body of archaeological and historical evidence that corroborated the account. No such evidence exists.

Whether or not you believe the story from the Bible or history as recorded in the podcast is up to you, but the takeaway from this, at least for me, is to always challenge your assumptions and remember just because a story is repeated enough doesn’t make it fact.

You can read his entire article here for additional references and resources.

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18 thoughts on “Biblical History: Jewish slaves in Egypt

  1. John Barron

    I have a question. Skeptics always claim…ALWAYS claim that history is written by the winners, why then should we expect an Egyptian source admitting they were bested by a bunch of slaves?

    Reply
    1. Atticus Post author

      It’s not that they were bested, but there is no evidence they were there at all. No carvings, no living quarters, no artifacts pointing toward a large settlement of Jews. Rather the settlements of workers appear to be non-Jews.

      I don’t claim to know for sure either way, just something interesting to think about.

      Reply
    2. Holden

      I don’t think religious people should concern themselves with it too much regardless, unless simply out of curiosity and interest.

      Religious texts are meant to be taken on faith and used to convey wisdom, guidance and life lessons.

      Archaeology and anthropology on the other hand are meant to search for collaboration and evidence.

      Don’t be offended or upset by what either say or find. Different paradigms of thought.

      Reply
        1. Holden

          WHAT? Dude, religion is all about faith.

          Can you prove God actually spoke to Abraham and tested him to kill his own son?

          Can you prove that God created Adam from the dust of the ground and Eve from his rib?

          Can you prove Jesus made wine from water or walked on water?

          Can you prove Jesus in fact rose from the dead and ascended to heaven?

          Holy crap, I could write these examples all day! Religion is meant to be taken on faith and faith alone. The bible says so multiple times in many different ways.

          Hebrews 11:1
          Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.

          If you are a supposed man of faith endlessly looking for science (a method of testing hypothesis) and religion (a system based on faith and non-provable miracles) to reconcile, I promise you, you will die a man who never found the answers or closure he so desired. Men have been trying to reconcile the two for centuries!

          It isn’t possible. Faith and Science are two different paradigms of thought. One based on cause and effect, another on based on, well… faith!

          Reply
              1. John Barron

                No you didnt say that. But the fact is that for ancient history of any kind we need to rely on the written record. That applies to Abraham and his son as well as the assassination of Julius Caesar.

                Reply
            1. Atticus Post author

              No. They found the bodies of Jews in Germany. They found the slave camps.They found clothes and artifacts. They had first hand accounts. That was proof the event happened.

              Similarly we have accounts and physical evidence that proves such events of other ancient civilizations.

              They did not find such evidence in Egypt that proved the book of Exodus. There are many other such incidents that Holden pointed out. .

              Reply
                1. Atticus Post author

                  It seems like they would at least say negative things about the Jews, but they don’t mention them at all. Not even any legends. It’s just absent from their history and replaced by an alternate version of who built the pyramids. It just seems to natural to have been erased. It’s not a gap in their history, just an alternate version of events that conflicts with the story told in the bible.

                  Reply
                    1. Atticus Post author

                      I don’t know, to be honest. But there is no Jewish symbolism in their hieroglyphics, the archaeological evidence they found near the pyramids wasn’t that of slaves (rather skilled labor, and permanent residents) and no Egyptian account of Jews being in the area.

                      I’m, by no means, an expert on the topic. Could be something that merits some research.

                    2. John Barron

                      What should you have found? Would slaves have been able to keep identifying unique pieces? Just our american history tells us that slaves had minimal personal belongings.

                    3. Atticus Post author

                      Here are the resources sited by Skeptoid.com. That might be a good starting point: http://skeptoid.com/episodes/4191

                      Awad, M. “Egypt tombs suggest pyramids not built by slaves.” Reuters. Thomson Reuters, 11 Jan. 2010. Web. 2 Feb. 2010.

                      Comay, J. The Diaspora Story: The Epic of the Jewish People Among the Nations. New York: Random House, 1983.

                      Kraeling, E. Brooklyn Museum Aramaic Papyri: New Documents of the Fifth Century B.C. From the Jewish Colony At Elephantine. New York: Arno Press, 1969.

                      Lindenberger, J., Richards, K. Ancient Aramaic and Hebrew Letters. Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1994.

                      Omer, I. “Investigating the Origin of the Ancient Jewish Community at Elephantine: A Review.” Ancient Sudan-Nubia. Ibrahim Omer, 1 Jan. 2008. Web. 2 Feb. 2010.

                      Porten, B. Archives from Elephantine: The Life of an Ancient Jewish Military Colony. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1968.

                    4. Atticus Post author

                      Nope. I just wanted to make the resources available in case you were interested. I want to at least read that first one though – I’m sure I’ll write a follow up about it.

  2. Holden

    I think John just likes to argue. Give up.

    I will offer this one last tidbit though.

    What is the single thing that empowers Christians most in regards to the validity of Christ? COLLABORATION.

    The Gospels collaborate each other. That’s what is supposed to make it valid.

    There is a lack of collaboration that the Jews were ever enslaved in Egypt. There is a only single source of truth. That’s the focal point of the entire argument.

    Reply

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