Wednesday, February 28, 2007
[The eruption of Pinatubo in the Philippines, 12 June 1991. Relatively mild, about 1/6 the size of Thera, 1600 BCE.]
The Bible tells us that 600,000 adult Israelite men together with their families left Egypt (according to rabbinical sources) in 1313 BCE.
Many people have questioned this claim, primarily because there are no Egyptian records that make any reference to such a momentous event or to the plagues that preceded it.
Professor Israel Finkelstein in the “The Bible Unearthed” page 59 writes “in the abundant Egyptian sources describing the time of the New Kingdom in general and the thirteenth century in particular, there is no reference to the Israelites, not even a single clue”. Therefore, concludes Professor Finkelstein, the Exodus could not have happened (page 63).
The question can be asked however: How complete are the Egyptian records from this period? There is no real literature, no actual books or chronicles, which have survived from that period of Egyptian history. (Actually the Bible is by far man’s earliest chronicle.) We have only a very limited number of inscriptions that have been recovered and translated. Seemingly, studying Egyptian history is like trying to reconstruct the history of the United States based on a smattering of tombstone inscriptions and the inscriptions on a few monuments. Our primary source of Egyptian history is in fact Aegyptiaca by Manetho written c. 300 BCE. And in fact we don’t even have Manetho, we only have portions of Manetho recorded about 800 years later, by writers who quote other writers, who quoted other writers, etc. who had read Manetho!
The eruption of the Thera volcano c. 1600 BCE can help to illustrate the problem. The eruption was perhaps four times as powerful as the Krakatoa eruption in 1883. The eruption occurred 450 miles from the Nile delta with the force of a 600 megaton hydrogen bomb. There would seem to be no question that the sound, smoke, ash and tsunami had a major impact on Egypt. However there is no reference to it, “not even a single clue”, in surviving Egyptian records even though we know from geological evidence that this certainly did happen.
It therefore seems silly to draw any conclusion from the gaps in Egyptian records. Obviously, in this case an absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.
Posted by jewish philosopher at 1:01 PM