Tag Archives: Book of Genesis

The Exodus Story: History or Myth?

A biblical scholar reviews the historical claims of the biblical book of Exodus.

The Book of Genesis ends with the story of Jacob going down to Egypt with his family. The first chapter of Exodus tells how the 70 members of Jacob’s s clan evolved into a large people, cruelly enslaved by the kings of Egypt. The enslavement is presented in the Bible as a crucible that forged the nation of Israel. Oppressed for several centuries, the Hebrews suffered until Moses, of the tribe of Levi, brought up in Pharaoh’s household, led them to freedom in the name of God, an omnipotent deity unknown to the Hebrews prior to their liberation.

The Exodus Narrative

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Moses empfängt die Gesetzestafeln – Karolingischer Buchmaler

The story of the Exodus is related in a few dramatic chapters: 600,000 men left Egypt on a long trek to freedom. God punished their enemies (the ten plagues of Egypt), drowned Pharaoh’s army with its chariots and cavalry in the Red Sea, and brought them to Mount Sinai where they witnessed the revelation and received the DecalogueGod’s commandments to his people.

The First Commandment is the essence of Jewish monotheism:

“I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt have no other gods before me” (Exodus, 20:2‑3).

By the time they reached the frontiers of Canaan after forty years in the desert, the Israelites had become a strong, united nation, and were ready to conquer the Promised Land.

Is Exodus History?

The historical validity of this narrative is controversial. Some scholars stress the lack of Egyptian evidence testifying to the enslavement of the Israelites, pointing out that very little Egyptian influence is discernible in biblical literature and in ancient Hebrew culture. Other scholars, how­ever, claim that it is highly improbable that a nation would choose to invent for itself a history of slavery as an explanation of its origins. If such a tradition exists, it must reflect an historical truth.

Were the Israelites Slaves?

Statue of Akhenaten in the early Amarna style.

Statue of Akhenaten in the early Amarna style.

There is no doubt that slavery played a major role in the structure of the Egyptian state. It is also true that some form of single‑god worship was introduced into Egypt by Akenaton in the middle of the fourteenth century B.C.E., and this may have been a source for Jewish monotheism. Finally, the reign of Ramses II (1290-1212 B.C.E.), known for its costly wars and vast building enterprises, may well have been the era of cruel oppression described in Exodus.

But the only contemporary Egyptian source which actually mentions Israel is the stela (pillar with inscription) of King Merneptah from the fifth year of his reign (1207 B.C.E.), recording among his many victories:

“Carved off is Ashkelon, seized upon in Gezer…Israel is laid waste, his seed no more.”

This inscription implies that an entity named Israel existed in Canaan at the time, yet it is difficult to determine precisely what it was. One thing, however, may be regarded as certain: if the Israelites indeed emerged out of Egypt, their migration took place before the end of the 13th century B.C.E.

Explaining the Passover Miracles

This single fact, however, does not resolve the enigma. Obviously, the orthodox tradition accepts the biblical account literally, despite all the miracles it describes. There are scholars who seek to explain the miraculous events in rational and natural terms. They refer to ancient disasters which befell Egypt – floods, drought, slave rebellions, and invasions. Could these not be the ten plagues of Egypt? And the drown­ing of Pharaoh’s army in the Red Sea – can it not be explained by the ebb ­and flow of the marshes between the Nile and the Sinai Desert?

Problems and Contradictions in Exodus

Ipuwer Papyrus (officially Papyrus Leiden I 344 recto) – often put forward in popular literature as confirmation of the Biblical account, most notably because of its statement that “the river is blood” and its frequent references to servants running away, but these arguments ignore the many points on which Ipuwer contradicts Exodus, such as the fact that its Asiatics are arriving in Egypt rather than leaving, and the likelihood that the “river is blood” phrase may refer to the red sediment colouring the Nile during disastrous floods, or may simply be a poetic image of turmoil.

Other scholars, however, totally reject the historical validity of Exodus. The story of Ipu‑wer, they say, describes the anarchy in Egypt at the end of the third millennium B.C.E. and has no bearing on the biblical story; and 600,000 men (“not counting dependents”) means that approximately two million Hebrews left Egypt– is it possible that such a vast emigration left no trace in Egyptian sources? The biblical narrative, they point out, is full contradictions concerning the topography and the sequence of events – a feature typical of folktales, not of historical texts.

Intermediate Theories about Exodus

Between the two opposing views there are several intermediary theories. One hypothesis is that the Israelites left Egypt in two waves, and that by the time the second wave departed – in the middle of the thirteenth century – the first group had already settled in the land of Canaan, mostly around the town of Shechem in Samaria. Another possibility is that there was no organized mass emigration, but rather a constant flow of thousands of people from different Semitic tribes who left Egypt, roamed the desert, slowly infiltrating the land of Canaan where they eventually formed a single nation.

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Preceding articles

Adar 6, Matan Torah remembering the giving of Torah

The smaller the miracle the greater the wonder

Commemorating the escape from slavery

Days of Nisan, Pesach, Pasach, Pascha and Easter

The Best Bedtime Stories

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Additional reading

  1. Today’s thought “God spoke all these words” (February 15)
  2. Today’s thought “Ability to see that God is not dead” (May 12)
  3. 14 Nisan a day to remember #5 The Day to celebrate
  4. Most important weekend of the year 2016
  5. 1,500 to 1,700 years old Chiselled tablet with commandments sold at auction

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Related

  1. Reading the Jacob story as a prequel
  2. Out of Egypt
  3. Passover celebrates freedom to worship
  4. A Seder Supplement for Passover 5778: “The 10 Sacred Acts of Liberation”
  5. 10 Things You Should Know About the Exodus
  6. Exodus 14: Making Pharaoh Obstinate
  7. The Book of Exodus, Chapter 34
  8. The Book of Exodus, Chapter 35
  9. #36 – The Ten Commandments [Part 2] (Exodus 20b)
  10. The Leaven of Bitterness
  11. Not So Polite Dinner Conversation – Exodus redux

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Filed under History, Religious affairs

Fake News Goes Back to the Garden of Eden says Pope Francis I

On this day of “News and communication” we can’t escape to ponder on the last two years where we got bombarded with continuous streams of fake news and attacks on people and organisations.

All people who write on the internet should be aware of their social function and be conscious of their responsibility and impact on others. The last few months social media also showed its bad and dangerous side in being a weapon of opponents and misleader of the people. When you look at the fake news that could be spread  in one week it should really alarm us.

Today the Roman Catholic Church Father Francis I looked at what is going on in this world and said

Made in the image and likeness of our Creator, we are able to express and share all that is true, good, and beautiful. We are able to describe our own experiences and the world around us, and thus to create historical memory and the understanding of events.

He is also aware and tells about what happened very early in the history of man, what too many have forgotten. We should remember that there was the inner thought of the mannin or first woman who doubted the sincerity and honesty of her Creator. Pope Francis has denounced fake news as evil, comparing it to the snake in the Garden of Eden, and urged journalists to make it their mission to search for the truth.

In his annual social communications message, Francis said fake news played on stereotypes and prejudices, and praised efforts to make social media users aware of false reports. Question hereby can bye how we ourselves want to see the world around us and how we want to be honest to others. Lots of our way of reaction against others has to do with our background, attitude of life and our pride.

The pope opened his sermon today with a warning.

But when we yield to our own pride and selfishness, we can also distort the way we use our ability to communicate. This can be seen from the earliest times, in the biblical stories of Cain and Abel and the Tower of Babel (cf. Gen 4:4-16; 11:1-9). The capacity to twist the truth is symptomatic of our condition, both as individuals and communities. On the other hand, when we are faithful to God’s plan, communication becomes an effective expression of our responsible search for truth and our pursuit of goodness.

In 1972 Pope Paul VI already for the World Communications Day had its theme: “Social Communications at the Service of Truth”. The present pope want also to contribute to our shared commitment to stemming the spread of fake news and to rediscovering the dignity of journalism and the personal responsibility of journalists to communicate the truth. for this pope it is not the first time he has scolded those who spread false news reports. He called it a “very serious sin” that not only hurts those who have been slandered but also hurts journalism itself.

We have come into a time when it looks like a sport or competition to bring the most deceiving and manipulating messages to the reader. Clearly the spreading of fake news can serve to advance specific goals, influence political decisions, and serve economic interests, and is as such used.

The effectiveness of fake news is primarily due to its ability to mimic real news, to seem plausible. Secondly, this false but believable news is “captious”, inasmuch as it grasps people’s attention by appealing to stereotypes and common social prejudices, and exploiting instantaneous emotions like anxiety, contempt, anger and frustration. The ability to spread such fake news often relies on a manipulative use of the social networks and the way they function. Untrue stories can spread so quickly that even authoritative denials fail to contain the damage.

In Christendom we can see that lots of people are so caught by the arrangement between the clergy and the Roman emperor Constantine. Their agreement to equal the Roman gods with the Christian figures (or better the other way around) made that the Trinity was born and fostered.

The difficulty of unmasking and eliminating fake news is due also to the fact that many people interact in homogeneous digital environments impervious to differing perspectives and opinions. Disinformation thus thrives on the absence of healthy confrontation with other sources of information that could effectively challenge prejudices and generate constructive dialogue; instead, it risks turning people into unwilling accomplices in spreading biased and baseless ideas. The tragedy of disinformation is that it discredits others, presenting them as enemies, to the point of demonizing them and fomenting conflict. Fake news is a sign of intolerant and hypersensitive attitudes, and leads only to the spread of arrogance and hatred. That is the end result of untruth.

In Facebook Groups lots of people go very hard against people who have an other opinion than they or than mainstream groups. Many want others to believe as them and when they do not do that they come to abuse them and call them names.

It is not an easy task to get people to see what really happened and to get rid of the false information Awful is it when such false news is to blacken people or organisations. Since disinformation is often based on deliberately evasive and subtly misleading rhetoric and at times the use of sophisticated psychological mechanisms, plus when it gets multiplied or shared via social media it starts running its own life and often turns up a few years later when people have forgotten about the matter and do not recollect that it was classified as fake news.

The Pope finds it good that

praiseworthy efforts are being made to create educational programmes aimed at helping people to interpret and assess information provided by the media, and teaching them to take an active part in unmasking falsehoods, rather than unwittingly contributing to the spread of disinformation. Praiseworthy too are those institutional and legal initiatives aimed at developing regulations for curbing the phenomenon, to say nothing of the work being done by tech and media companies in coming up with new criteria for verifying the personal identities concealed behind millions of digital profiles.

Yet preventing and identifying the way disinformation works also calls for a profound and careful process of discernment. We need to unmask what could be called the “snake-tactics” used by those who disguise themselves in order to strike at any time and place. This was the strategy employed by the “crafty serpent” in the Book of Genesis, who, at the dawn of humanity, created the first fake news (cf. Gen 3:1-15), which began the tragic history of human sin, beginning with the first fratricide (cf. Gen 4) and issuing in the countless other evils committed against God, neighbour, society and creation. The strategy of this skilled “Father of Lies” (Jn 8:44) is precisely mimicry, that sly and dangerous form of seduction that worms its way into the heart with false and alluring arguments.

The world is taken by its greed. So many people do want it all for themselves. Politicians do whatever they can to degrade their opponents and to let themselves look the better one.

What is at stake is our greed. Fake news often goes viral, spreading so fast that it is hard to stop, not because of the sense of sharing that inspires the social media, but because it appeals to the insatiable greed so easily aroused in human beings. The economic and manipulative aims that feed disinformation are rooted in a thirst for power, a desire to possess and enjoy, which ultimately makes us victims of something much more tragic: the deceptive power of evil that moves from one lie to another in order to rob us of our interior freedom. That is why education for truth means teaching people how to discern, evaluate and understand our deepest desires and inclinations, lest we lose sight of what is good and yield to every temptation.

At Facebook Groups we often find people, claiming to be Christian, using words unworthy for a lover of God and for a follower of Christ, calling those who are not in line with their thinking all sorts of names. By bringing all sorts of false ‘news’ they also try to bring others in discredit. In many of those groups we can see a constant contamination by deceptive language which can end up darkening our interior life.

Dostoevsky’s observation is illuminating:

“People who lie to themselves and listen to their own lie come to such a pass that they cannot distinguish the truth within them, or around them, and so lose all respect for themselves and for others. And having no respect, they cease to love, and in order to occupy and distract themselves without love they give way to passions and to coarse pleasures, and sink to bestiality in their vices, all from continual lying to others and to themselves.” (The Brothers Karamazov, II, 2).

Many people are thrown form one side to the other and become so confused, not able to see what is true , half-true and what is false. Lots of false messages look so engrossing that one can not resit the excitement and love to share it on social media which makes the ball rolling.

So how do we defend ourselves?

The most radical antidote to the virus of falsehood is purification by the truth.

In Christianity, truth is not just a conceptual reality that regards how we judge things, defining them as true or false. The truth is not just bringing to light things that are concealed, “revealing reality”, as the ancient Greek term aletheia (from a-lethès, “not hidden”) might lead us to believe. Truth involves our whole life. In the Bible, it carries with it the sense of support, solidity, and trust, as implied by the root ‘aman, the source of our liturgical expression Amen.

Those who call themselves Christian should have the aim in them to purify their body and spirit and to share the love of Christ with others, not wanting to hurt them by false sayings or awful words. they should work on their character, trying to become like Christ. By their daily meditations and reading of the Word of God they should discover and rediscover the truth when they experience it within themselves in the loyalty and trustworthiness of the One who loves them.

every person should know that the truth will set them free (Jn 8:32).

Freedom from falsehood and the search for relationship: these two ingredients cannot be lacking if our words and gestures are to be true, authentic, and trustworthy. To discern the truth, we need to discern everything that encourages communion and promotes goodness from whatever instead tends to isolate, divide, and oppose. Truth, therefore, is not really grasped when it is imposed from without as something impersonal, but only when it flows from free relationships between persons, from listening to one another. Nor can we ever stop seeking the truth, because falsehood can always creep in, even when we state things that are true. An impeccable argument can indeed rest on undeniable facts, but if it is used to hurt another and to discredit that person in the eyes of others, however correct it may appear, it is not truthful. We can recognize the truth of statements from their fruits: whether they provoke quarrels, foment division, encourage resignation; or, on the other hand, they promote informed and mature reflection leading to constructive dialogue and fruitful results.

When looking at news channels, social media (tweets and Facebook messages) we always should use our common sense and examine the truth as well as the value of the message.

The best antidotes to falsehoods are not strategies, but people: people who are not greedy but ready to listen, people who make the effort to engage in sincere dialogue so that the truth can emerge; people who are attracted by goodness and take responsibility for how they use language. If responsibility is the answer to the spread of fake news, then a weighty responsibility rests on the shoulders of those whose job is to provide information, namely, journalists, the protectorsof news. In today’s world, theirs is, in every sense, not just a job; it is a mission. Amid feeding frenzies and the mad rush for a scoop, they must remember that the heart of information is not the speed with which it is reported or its audience impact, but persons. Informing others means forming others; it means being in touch with people’s lives. That is why ensuring the accuracy of sources and protecting communication are real means of promoting goodness, generating trust, and opening the way to communion and peace.

The pontiff wants to invite everyone to promote a journalism of peace. He said

By that, I do not mean the saccharine kind of journalism that refuses to acknowledge the existence of serious problems or smacks of sentimentalism. On the contrary, I mean a journalism that is truthful and opposed to falsehoods, rhetorical slogans, and sensational headlines. A journalism created by people for people, one that is at the service of all, especially those – and they are the majority in our world – who have no voice. A journalism less concentrated on breaking news than on exploring the underlying causes of conflicts, in order to promote deeper understanding and contribute to their resolution by setting in place virtuous processes. A journalism committed to pointing out alternatives to the escalation of shouting matches and verbal violence.

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Preceding articles

Americans their stars, pretension, God, Allah and end of times signs #1 Abrahamic religions

Americans their stars, pretension, God, Allah and end of times signs #2 War on God’s Plan, Name and title

Americans their stars, pretension, God, Allah and end of times signs #3 Cyberwars and prophesy

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Additional reading

  1. An openingschapter explaining why things are like they are and why we may have hope for better things
  2. The figure of Eve
  3. Bereshith 3 Fall of man
  4. Messianic prophesies 1 Adversary – Root of the first prophecy
  5. Messianic prophesies 2 Adversary – Root of the first prophecy
  6. Delph Radio – Spreading God’s Word to All Nations

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Related

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  2. Why Journalism?
  3. So What Happened to the Journalism?
  4. Journalism: A Slow Death
  5. Dumb journalism makes for a dumb nation
  6. The problem with modern “journalism” summed up in one story
  7. Crossed Lines
  8. Sturgeon sets media and Tories straight after latest round of fake news
  9. JT Blog: Examiner analysis
  10. Content analysis of the Huddersfield Examiner
  11. What a ______ time it is to be a journalist
  12. Can you trust social media?
  13. Fake News and the Good News
  14. Politicians Intermix Cyberwar, Information Warfare, And Fake News
  15. Pope condemns ‘evil’ of fake news and its use for political gain
  16. Pope: ‘Fake news’ is evil, journalists must search for truth
  17. Be more responsible journalists, Pope Francis says…
  18. Pope Francis weighs in on fake-news – a sign of intolerant and hypersensitive attitudes pope decries unthinkable barbaric treatment of Yezidis audience cate
  19. Pope Francis Denounces Fake News
  20. Pope Warns Against ‘Fake News,’ Likens It To ‘Crafty Serpent’ In Genesis
  21. Pope Blames Eve for Listening to “Fake News” Serpent
  22. Pope condemns ‘evil’ of fake news and its use for political gain
  23. Be more responsible journalists, Pope Francis says…
  24. Edelman Trust Barometer 2018 – Redefines Media & Gives Journalism Hope
  25. BuzzFeed: This Is Facebook’s News Survey

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Filed under Crimes & Atrocities, Educational affairs, Headlines - News, History, Lifestyle, Political affairs, Religious affairs, Social affairs, World affairs

Seeds of promise

I work as a professional gardener and I am surrounded by seeds! They come in the amazing shapes and sizes and perform little miracles on the way. If it were not for seeds our world would not function we would not be able to survive!

I often wonder where the first seeds were and what they were. The only way I can consider it is that in Genesis we are told

       ‘And the earth brought forth grass, the herb that yields seed according to its kind, and the tree that yields fruit, whose seed is in itself according to its kind.’

So the seed was already in the plant. Well, that makes sense; they were there to start with packed with the individual DNA required to produce the plant and fruit.

Every year I go online or wander around garden centres to look and plan different seeds to order so I can grow for the gardens I look after. There is a fantastic variety out there, too many to comprehend. For me it is like being a child in a toy shop!

When they arrive I look at the instructions to see what the requirements of the seeds are. Some will germinate quite easily in a tray of compost at the right time of year. Others need ‘stratifying’ by placing in a refrigerator or freezer to convince the seed it has been through a winter period. Some actually need to be passed through the insides of a certain rare animal before the seed will germinate and then the plant has to be pollinated by an illusive moth to produce flowers and, in turn, seeds! I don’t order those! Check out the Brazil nut story.

The Judean Date Palm at Kibbutz Ketura, nicknamed Methuselah.

Some of the seeds I order are not successful and I abandon them only to find sometime later they germinate after being thrown on the compost heap. Some seeds are very old and then germinate given the right conditions. The oldest mature seed that has grown into a viable plant was a Judean date palm seed about 2,000 years old, recovered from excavations at Herod the Great‘s palace on Masada in Israel. It is amazing that a seed can lay dormant for so long.

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Impatiens scapiflora at Silent Valley National Park, South India

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An exploding pod of Cardamine impatiens, a common weed in Europe and America. This manner of dissemination is called auto-dissemination or autochory.

Seeds are also fun and exciting when they use different methods to spread their seed. Many years ago when my children were young we walked through a park and in the flower beds were some Impatiens flowers, ripe with seed pods on them. I showed the boys how if you brushed your finger along them they would do a remarkable thing.
They would fire a spring loaded mechanism and with a pop fire the seeds into the air. Each pod has a segment that weakens as it ripens ready for the time of explosion. I can remember the children having fun watching this happen.

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Pop-fired impatiens seeds

Some seeds are really tiny and almost like dust, others huge like coconut pods that float in the sea ready to find land to sprout when washed ashore.

Of course seeds don’t often have much success just being on their own. They need other elements to succeed such as animals brushing against them when they will attach themselves sometimes with hooks such as the burr. There is an interesting story behind the burr:

The hook and loop system Velcro, a portmanteau of the French words velours (“velvet”), and crochet (“hook”), the invention for which de Mestral is famous

The inventor of Velcro, more generically known as a “hook and loop fastener” or “touch fastener” (as “Velcro” is technically just a brand of that product), was Swiss engineer, Georges de Mestral.  After going out on a hunting trip with his dog in the Swiss Alps, his trouser legs and his dog’s hair were covered in burrs from the burdock plant.  As an engineer, he naturally began to wonder how exactly the seeds stuck so effectively. He examined the burrs under a microscope and discovered that they had very tiny hooks which allowed the seeds to catch on to things like fabrics, which have tiny loops.

Wow, it made him a wealthy man and produced a very useful product.

Also of course many seeds become plants with flowers which are pollinated by insects (another fascinating story) ready for them to become seeds again.

Without seeds plants and flowers and insects such as bees our whole existence would be in jeopardy. Our food supply depends on the whole cycle of life. There are in existence seed banks to enable us to retain heritage seeds to plant in the future should problems arise with extinction.

A Lite-Trac four-wheeled self-propelled crop sprayer spraying pesticide on a field

God has promised us that “seed time and harvest will never fail” and when you look at seeds and how they reproduce it is highly unlikely but as a human race we may worry about the consequences of using too much pesticides and chemicals on plants. Each year I collect seeds and dry them off ready to store in envelopes with the name clearly written on the outside. They appear to be dead and lifeless but they are waiting for the time to explode into life again on the passing of winter into spring again.

Dandelion seeds (achenes) can be carried long ...

Dandelion seeds (achenes) can be carried long distances by the wind. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

C. Peel

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