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by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.
A sermon preached at the Fundamentalist Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord's Day Evening, April 22, 2001
"Had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me: for
he wrote of me. But if ye believe not his writings, how
shall ye believe my words?" (John 5:46-47).
To celebrate the Jewish Passover and the Christians' Easter, the Los Angeles Times printed an article titled, "Doubting the Story of Exodus." It was an attack on the truthfulness of Exodus, a book in the Bible which was written by Moses. This attack should be no surprise to those who read the Times regularly. Once a conservative newspaper, the Times has become a bastion of liberalism over the last three decades. It is no friend to Orthodox Judaism or Biblical Christianity, as any regular reader can testify. So, we should not be surprised that they marked the Passover, and the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Christ, by printing an article attacking Exodus, the second book of the Bible.
Radio talk-show host Dennis Prager, a Bible-believing Jew, said this about the article:
The timing was typical of the insensitivity often shown in mainstream media to religious Jews and Christians (Dennis Prager, quoted in the Jewish Journal,4-20-01, p. 11).
Several people in our congregation mentioned that they had read this front-page story, so I will read the main points of the article and then answer them.
Doubting the Story of Exodus
Many scholars have quietly concluded that the epic of Moses never happened, and even Jewish clerics are raising questions. Others think it combines myth, cultural memories, and kernels of truth.
By Teresa Watanabe
Times Religion Writer
It's one of the greatest stories ever told: A baby is found in a basket adrift in the Egyptian Nile and is adopted into the pharaoh's household. He grows up as Moses, rediscovers his roots and leads his enslaved Israelite brethren to freedom after God sends down 10 plagues against Egypt and parts the Red Sea to allow them to escape. They wander for 40 years in the wilderness and, under the leadership of Joshua, conquer the land of Canaan to enter their promised land.
For centuries, the biblical account of the Exodus has been revered as the founding story of the Jewish people, sacred scripture for three world religions and a universal symbol of freedom that has inspired liberation movements around the globe.
But did the Exodus ever actually occur? On Passover last Sunday, Rabbi David Wolpe raised that provocative question before 2,200 faithful at Sinai Temple in Westwood. (This is not an Orthodox synagogue. Regarding the Bible, this rabbi is a liberal). He minced no words.
"The truth is that…the way the Bible describes the Exodus is not the way it happened, if it happened at all," Wolpe told his congregants.
Wolpe's startling sermon may have seemed blasphemy to some. In fact, however, the rabbi was merely telling his flock what scholars have known for more than a decade. Slowly and often outside wide public purview, archeologists are radically reshaping modern understanding of the Bible. It was time for his people to know about it, Wolpe decided.
Archeologists say there is no conclusive evidence that the Israelites were ever in Egypt, were ever enslaved, ever wandered in the Sinai wilderness for 40 years or ever conquered the land of Canaan under Joshua's leadership. To the contrary, the prevailing view is that most of Joshua's fabled military campaigns never occurred.
Among scholars, the case against the Exodus began crystallizing about 13 years ago.
It added to previous research that showed that Egypt's voluminous ancient records contained not one mention of Israelites in the country, although one 1210 BC inscription did mention them in Canaan. ( Los Angeles Times, April 13, 2001, p. A-1).
Here are my answers:
1. The article says, "Among scholars, the case against Exodus began crystallizing about 13 years ago."
As usual, the Times is editorializing under the pretense of reporting. They do not tell us which scholars say this, and they deliberately make it appear that all scholars (except a few lunatics) agree. This is, of course, not true.
2. The article says, "The case against Exodus began crystallizing about 13 years ago." Then the article says that this attack on Exodus is "what scholars have known for more than a decade."
I say, hogwash! If that were true why did they teach me these exact ideas at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, and at San Francisco (United Presbyterian) Theological Seminary nearly thirty years ago? I had a professor at the United Presbyterian seminary who railed at the historicity of the book of Exodus. At Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, Dr. J. Kenneth Eakins taught me the exact same ideas which appear in this article. It is an outright lie to say, "the case against Exodus began crystallizing about 13 years ago," and implying that this has only been known for "a decade." Bible critics have been saying this sort of thing for over two hundred years! In fact the historical-critical approach to the Bible was started by Johann Semler, who was born in 1725. Dr. Harold Lindsell said this about Semler, the father of Biblical criticism:
In 1757 he (became) head of the theological faculty at Halle. He was the one who developed the principles of textual criticism of the Bible. He departed from the orthodoxy of his father when he challenged the idea of the verbal inspiration of the Scriptures (Dr. Harold Lindsell, The Bible in the Balance, Zondervan, 1979, p. 280).
Knowing this one fact - that Semler began this sort of Bible-criticism over 200 years ago - casts a shadow of doubt over the entire Times article, which says that such criticism of Exodus "began crystallizing about 13 years ago," and that this is "what scholars have known for more than a decade."
There is nothing new in the article - just the same sort of attack on the Bible that has been going on for two hundred and fifty years!
3. The Times article itself admits that there are many archaeologists and Old Testament scholars who do not agree with the things they report, such as Dr. Gleason Archer of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. However, they did quote one of these scholars, Dr. Bryant Wood, who maintains that the account in Exodus is factual:
Bryant Wood, director of the Associates for Biblical Research in Maryland, argued that the evidence falls into place if the story is dated back to 1450 BC. He said that indications of destruction around that time at Hazor, Jericho and a site he is excavating that he believes is the biblical city of Ai support accounts of Joshua's conquests.
He also cited the documented presence of "Asiatic" slaves in Egypt who could have been Israelites, and said they would not have left evidence of their wanderings because they were nomads with no material culture. But Wood said he can't get his research published in (liberal) archeological journals.
"There's a definite anti-Bible bias," Wood said.
4. Then, the article brings up the old liberal-critical attack on the authorship of Exodus, as though it were new!
But the modern archeological consensus over the Exodus is just beginning to reach the public.
Neil Asher Silberman raised similar doubts and offered a new theory about the roots of the Exodus story. The authors argue that the story was written during the time of King Josia of Judah in the 7th century BC - 600 years after the Exodus supposedly occurred in 1250 BC - as a political manifesto to unite Israelites against the rival Egyptian empire as both states sought to expand their territory.
Dever (another liberal) argued that the Exodus story was produced for theological reasons: to give an origin and history to a people and distinguish them from others by claiming a divine destiny.
So, the Times says that this is a "new theory!" Only a brain-dead reporter at a liberal newspaper could say something that foolish! I read these exact ideas thirty years ago. And they were taught in liberal seminaries for well over a hundred years before the article was written.
The so-called "new" theory states that Moses did not write Exodus, but that it was compiled by others in the time of Josiah.
If this is really a new theory, why did Dr. Henry M. Morris answer it in detail in 1951, in his book, The Bible and Modern Science (Chicago, Moody Press, 1951, pp. 100-102)? Way back in 1951 Dr. Morris showed how absurd it is to think that a group of priests wrote the book of Exodus long years after Moses, in the time of Josiah. Dr. Morris said:
It is impossible to imagine why those writers would have gone to such great pains to deceive people by clothing their writings with specious antiquity, claiming them to be the work of Moses. How is it possible that no one, down through the centuries, seems to have had the slightest suspicion that the writings were not genuine works of Moses until the modern higher critics went to work on them? If they were not really what they are represented to be, it seems impossible that they could ever have been accepted in the first place. Their record of the initiation of the detailed rituals, laws, and ordinances, including the institution and continued observance of the Passover, were presented in (Exodus) as having been in effect since Moses. None of those could ever have been accepted at any later time if they were not actually in existence at the time and were believed by the people to have been continually in force since Moses initiated them (Dr. Henry M. Morris, The Bible and Modern Science, Chicago: Moody Press, 1951, p. 102).
5. I must go back one more time to debunk this absurd and blatant attack on the book of Exodus. The Times says, "scholars have known for more than a decade" that Exodus is a forgery. The Times says, "The case against Exodus began crystallizing about 13 years ago." If they are right, why did Sir Winston Churchill feel the need to defend Exodus against these same attacks sixty-nine years ago - in 1932? Churchill defended the historicity of Exodus when he said this:
We reject, with scorn, all those learned and labored myths that Moses was but a legendary figure upon whom the priesthood and the people hung their essential social, moral and religious ordinances.
We believe that the most scientific view, the most up-to-date and rationalistic conception will find its fullest satisfaction in taking the Bible story (in Exodus) literally, and in identifying one of the greatest human beings (Moses) with the most decisive leap forward ever discernable in the human story (Winston S. Churchill, Amid These Storms, New York, Scribners, 1932, p. 293).
6. The entire article makes it seem that there is no evidence for the Exodus or the conquest of Canaan. But this is not true to the facts of archaeology at all. I will now quote at length from Dr. W. A. Criswell's landmark book, Why I Preach that the Bible is Literally True.It should be remembered that Dr. Criswell was twice the president of the Southern Baptist Convention, the nation's largest Protestant denomination. He is a great scholar as well as a pastor. He holds a Ph.D. from Southern Seminary and could easily have been a professor or even the president of a theological seminary if he had not chosen to be a minister. Dr. Criswell wrote this:
Let us tell several…instances that come from the confirmations of archaeology. Formerly it was thought incredible that Moses could have written the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible) since he lived before the days of the invention of writing. This was one of the assured results of modern (liberal) criticism. We now know, however, that writing in the Near East was a well-established art 2,000 years before Christ. Instead of writing being unknown in the days of Moses, we have discovered that centuries and centuries before the time of Moses writing was a most extended, well-developed art, far antedating the time of (Moses).
Early in the book of Genesis we find one of God's heroes, Abraham, living in a city called Ur of the Chaldees. From this city God called Abraham to go out to the Promised Land. However, the (liberal) critics had a field day here. No one had ever heard of an Ur of the Chaldees. Where was it? It seemed most certainly to have been a mythological city and was a part of a fable that was woven by some romanticist. But what of it now? Did the writer of Genesis just pull its name from the air? Is it a mythological place like the Land of Oz? The (liberal) critics of the Bible said so. But they are no longer able so to avow, thanks to the labor of the archaeologists. Today a great portion of the ancient city of Ur has been discovered. It was a city with wide streets and lovely homes containing spacious patios and sanitary systems. As an added touch the name "Abram" has been found inscribed on some of the columns in the ancient city.
Another archaeological witness to the truth of the Bible is found in the treasure city of Pithom which was built for Ramses II by the Hebrews during the time of their hard bondage in Egypt. This city has recently been unearthed, and the walls of the houses were found to be of sunbaked bricks, some with straw and some without straw, exactly in accordance with Exodus 5:7!
Up until the (20th century) the (liberal) critics laughed at the biblical presentation of a people called the Hittites. They scoffed at the Bible delineation of such an ancient empire. Over fifty times in the Scriptures this name "Hittite" is used, and the people are described as rich, powerful, warlike, and industrious. But the (liberal) Bible critics claimed that this entire story was a figure of the imagination. In no uncertain terms they claimed that a people such as the Hittites never existed. The biblical accounts dealing with this nation were nothing more than legendary. None of their inscriptions had ever been discovered. None of their cities had ever been seen.
Here again…the archaeologists came to the rescue. The Hittites are now shown to be everything that the Bible (said) and more. The uncovering of the Hittite civilization is one of the miracles of modern archaeology…One of the great magazines of America just put out an issue wholly devoted to the marvelous capital and conquests of these ancient Hittites. Once again Bible history has proved to be accurate, while the scoffing of the (liberal) critics has proved to be ridiculous and absurd.
It would be impossible for me in this brief space to go into what the (liberal) critics have said about Daniel. Daniel, in the mind of the critics, has been nothing other than a thinly disguised forgery, purporting to describe the events of the sixth and fifth centuries B.C., while actually it was written in the second century B.C. and reflects the background and events of the Maccabees. Historical blunders and linguistic anachronisms were referred to as proof of pseudepigraphy (forgery).
But what has archaeology done to the book of Daniel? I have written a book upon these discoveries, published in the fall of 1968. The discoveries of the archaeologists, without exception, have confirmed the historicity and authenticity of the book of Daniel.
We can take just one instance. The critics scoffed at the idea that there was such a person as (King) Belshazzar. From the historical records of the kings and from the writings of profane historians there was no place for any such ruler as Belshazzar. The critics made their case watertight, then laughed at the Bible believer. No such person as Belshzzar (the king in the book of Daniel) could have existed because there was no place for him in the records.
But once again the archaeologists have come to the rescue. Not only was there a Belshazzar whose name is written on the tablets of Babylonia but also he now stands before us as one of the greatest figures of that period. We know the names of his secretaries. We are introduced to his sisters. We know him to be the son and coregent of Nabonidus, his father, and we know that the two reigned together in Babylon, when the city fell to King Cyrus. Thus, once again, what was a subject for ridicule on the part of the critics has been discovered to be one of the great, historical facts of the Bible. It is a marvelous thing that this Belshazzar whose very name fell out of human history should have been introduced to the world by the Holy Scriptures which have been once again proved to be correct (Dr. W. A. Criswell, Why I Preach that the Bible is Literally True, Nashville, Broadman Press, 1969, pp. 51-56).
Two other illustrations of what Dr. Criswell said about the reliability of the Bible have been unearthed by archaeologists since his book was published. The liberal Bible critics said there was no such person as Pontius Pilate. There was no archaeological evidence, they said, that such a person ever existed. Then one day they turned over a large stone, carved in Roman times. On the underside of the stone were carved the words "Pontius Pilate." Once again the critics were proved wrong and the Bible was right all the time.
A friend of mine in Israel told me a few days ago about one more incident like this. For years the liberal Bible critics said there was no such person as King David. He never existed, they said. Yet just a short time ago archaeologists unearthed a piece of pottery, from the exact time of his life, with the words "King David" clearly written on it. Again, the critics were wrong and the Bible was right!
Rabbi David Eliezrie, president of the Rabbinical Council of Orange County, said:
Just a few years ago, the same archeologists that doubt the Exodus told us that King David never lived. This theory was deflated when an inscription about King David was discovered in Israel (Quoted in the Jewish Journal, 4-20-01, p. 11).
Why does it often take years for these things to be discovered? My seventeen-year-old son Leslie gave me a brilliant answer the other night, right after I read him that blasphemous article from the Los Angeles Times. He said, "If these things had taken place in a normal part of the world, like China or England, they would have found the evidence long ago. But it wasn't 'normal' in the Middle East. They had constant war and friction. Since the Book of Exodus was written, the Jews have twice been scattered throughout the world. The places in the Bible have been plundered and pounded and destroyed for thousands of years. We shouldn't expect to find everything laid out perfectly after all that."
When he said that, I thought to myself, "A seventeen-year-old boy has more brains than a liberal Bible critic!"
The L.A. Times article said of the liberal research,
It added to previous research that showed that Egypt's voluminous ancient records contained not one mention of Israelites in the country (Ibid).
What these liberals don't mention is this: ancient peoples never recorded or mentioned those who defeated them. They
only recorded victories. The Egyptians were very definitely defeated by
the God of the Hebrews. This undoubtedly caused them to expunge most
references to the Hebrews from their records. However, I have personally
seen an Egyptian hieroglyphic clearly depicting bearded people making
bricks. Conservative scholars say they are Hebrews. If they are not
Hebrews, who are they - since no Egyptian ever had a beard? Also, a
carving of a Hebrew with a beard has been discovered in Egypt. I reproduce
it here from the Historical Atlas of the Jewish People (copied from the Jewish
Journal, 4-20-01, p. 11).
This takes me back to the verses I read at the beginning of this sermon, words from Jesus Christ, the Saviour of mankind:
"Had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me: for he wrote of me. But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words?" (John 5:46-47).
The Bible critics I have known personally in two liberal seminaries are quite clearly unbelievers. They go from one unbelief to another. When they are proven wrong again and again, as Dr. Criswell so eloquently showed, they merely move on to the next criticism. They never go back and say they are sorry for confusing people. They just go on in their fanatical attacks on the Bible. Yes, they are fanatics. And no one ever described a fanatic better than Winston Churchill. He was describing Nazis, but he could just as well have been speaking of the Bible critics. He said, "A fanatic is one who can't change his mind and won't change the subject." That is what the Bible critics are. They won't change their minds and they won't shut up! They are the true fanatics!
Rabbi David Eliezrie said about these liberal scholars:
Their lifestyle and education produce a mindset that
creates a perspective predisposed against any proof of the Exodus. Only
when they have absolutely no alternative will they acquiesce that something in
the Torah (Old Testament) may be true (quoted in the Jewish Journal, 4-20-01, p.
I say to you tonight, stop criticizing the Bible and begin criticizing yourself.
Look deeply into your own heart and life and you will see sin there. You will see sin in yourself that needs forgiveness. That's why Jesus Christ died on the Cross, so your sins could be forgiven. That's why He rose from the dead on that first Easter, so you could have forgiveness of sin and a new life - forever - through Him. "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved" from sin both now and eternally (Acts 16:31).
Solo by Benjamin Kincaid Griffith: "I Know the Bible is True"
by B. B. McKinney (1886-1952).
You can read Dr. Hymers' sermons each week on the Internet
at www.rlhymersjr.com. Click on "Sermon Manuscripts."