Carol Redmount: The Exodus and History

Carol A. Redmount, “Bitter Lives: Israel in and out of Egypt,” in The Oxford History of the Biblical World, Michael D. Coogan, editor (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998), 87.

A study of the Exodus narrative raises many questions about the historicity and historical setting of the Exodus events, but provides few definitive answers. The biblical text has its own inner logic and consistency, largely divorced from the concerns of secular history. Over time, various hands shaped and edited the biblical narrative, combining and blending different sources and literary categories according to theological truths rather than historical imperatives. Historiographic methods alone can never do full justice to the spiritually informed biblical material; conversely, the Bible, never intended to function primarily as a historical document, cannot meet the modern canons of historical accuracy and reliability. There is, in fact, remarkably little of proven or provable historical worth or reliability in the biblical Exodus narrative, and no reliable independent witness attest to the historicity or date of the Exodus events.

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