The Orthodox Pages


































































































Question 63

Are the Old testament characters such as Samson and Moses actual historical characters?  Also was the exodus an actual event? There are no historical records that the Israelis ever were in Egypt and there are no records which shows that any Egyptian pharaoh was drowned!    



Answer to Question 63


To answer the question of whether certain characters and events mentioned in the Bible are true we must first be convinced of the historical credibility of the first Book Genesis, because if Genesis is not genuine then neither are the other books that follow. How can we be sure, especially of what is written in the first eleven chapters, which describe events belonging to the pre-history of mankind, that these events are true? Also the second part from chapters 12-50, which refers to life 2000 years before Christ when the Patriarchs lived, how can we be sure that the details are trustworthy? These are questions that must first be answer because all the other books of the Old and New testaments hang on whether Genesis is a genuine account. If is isn't then the Jewish expectation of a Messiah is in vain and also the Christian belief in Christ as the Messiah come into the world is also in vain. 


Let's then see the historical credibility of each period.  The opponents of our faith, looking from a scientific point of view, see the historical facts mentioned in the pre-history of mankind as events impossible, thus the pre-history of Genesis must be a myth. Of course, from a scientific point of view, direct proof of the events mentioned in Genesis is impossible, because science, having at her disposal two ways to gain knowledge, experiment and observation has nothing to show concerning the first man. On the other hand we can claim that Moses, the author of Genesis, was revealed all this information by God himself who told him to write it down for later generations, but again this cannot be proven because it relies solely on faith. 


But where no direct proof is available, indirect proof and indications based on logic and science must be shown to defend what is possible or impossible concerning a very ancient divine revelation and tradition. We say that this very ancient tradition was possibly given by God, because that is logical. This revelation of the beginning of mankind was absolutely necessary. If the Bible didn't give any information on the creation of heaven and earth, of the first man and his progress up to Abraham, about the original source of evil and the promise of a Saviour, the whole history of salvation and the basic lines of revelation would be without any weight. Thus God had to reveal at the beginning the history of mankind, because it was impossible for man to know all this from personal experience and because it was necessary for man's success and purpose. It is logical that all this information concerning the pre-history of mankind had to be given to the first man and for him to pass on this information to the next generations under the guidance of divine providence through tradition. This tradition, at a much later date, is then written down by God-inspired writers in the form we have now in the book of Genesis written by Moses.


According to the Church, the creation of the world is said to have happened about 5500BC. Moses lived about 1400BC, so with a difference of about 4000years is it possible for a verbal tradition to have faithfully reached Moses without being adulterated with mythical stories?


One Biblical story we can verify with historical facts is the Great flood, which took place in 3250BC. We have many historical facts and folklore traditions from many nations that thousands of years ago there was a flood that covered the face of the earth. These sources are not always Judaic of Christian in origin. In Cyprus for example we celebrate together with the Feast of Pentecost the Festival of the Cataclysm (Cataclysmos) which means a disastrous flood. It was a pagan festival celebrated in Cyprus before Christian times to ward off another flood. When Cyprus became Christian the pagan feast was replaced with the Christian feast of Pentecost, but it left behind traces of its origin.


In 1850 archaeological digs in Old Nineveh, the Capital of Assyria, brought to light many tablets of Assyrian sphenoidal writing which were taken to London. In 1872 George Smith presented at the Archaeological Museum translations of these writings which referred to the Great Flood. The Daily Telegraph paid him then 100 guineas for the exclusive. Within eight days he produced more writings which also referred to the Flood. After this, there followed Babylonian writings which mention the building of the Ark and a Sumerian version of the Flood.


There is no question that Archaeology has unravelled a historical fact and confirms that the Biblical account of the flood is true. From after Noah until Moses certain facts are more easily accepted as true because some of the great personages like Abraham who lived between this time span can be verified historically. Thus we only need prove that the verbal tradition could reach Noah without it becoming tainted. From Adam until the birth of Noah we have a total of 1642years. Adam we are told lived nine hundred and thirty years. His son Seth lived nine hundred and twelve years. His son Enos lived nine hundred and five years. In fact everyone lived almost to a thousand years. This was man’s lifespan up to Noah’s time. According to the Septuagint Bible, Adam was 230 years old when he had Seth, Seth was 205 when he had Enos, Enos was 190 when he had Cainan, Cainan was 170 when he had Mahaleleel, Mahaleleel was 165 when he had Jared. Adam then had almost reached his great, great, great grandson Jared. If God had revealed to Adam the creation story and the prehistory of mankind, the truth of this information could be verified by Adam himself up to that time. Jared who then lived 962 years was still alive when Noah was born and lived on another 280 years. It is not therefore impossible or incredible to accept that the creation story was handed down through tradition intact as it was given to Adam. It needed only two people to reach Noah: Adam and Jared.


The last chapters of Genesis deal with the story of Jacob's son Joseph, how he was sold as a slave into Egypt and how he rose and became the second most important person after Pharaoh. Egyptology does not reveal Joseph's name, and scholars are divided when it comes to dating which Pharaoh was in power during the time of Joseph. In fact most scholars reject the Biblical evidence because the events, like the Exodus, do not coincide with the dates they have accepted as correct concerning the various Egyptian Dynasties. Many new scholars like Dr Immanual Velikovsky claim that the fault lies, not with the Biblical information, but with the generally accepted chronology of Egypt, and that the Egyptian dates need to be reduced by some 600 years at the time of the Exodus. This would mean that the ruling dynasty of Egypt at the time of the Exodus would be the 13th dynasty, rather than the 18th or 19 dynasty as is generally believed, and the pharaohs at the time of Joseph and Moses were the rulers of the 12th dynasty. When this system is adopted there is found to be remarkable agreement between the histories of Egypt and Israel.


Joseph, the son of Jacob, was sold into Egyptian slavery by his jealous brothers. In Egypt he was able to interpret Pharaoh's dream to mean that there would be 7 years of plenty and then 7 years of famine. Pharaoh appointed Joseph as vizier of Egypt, and entrusted him with the task of collecting the grain in preparation for the famine. (Genesis 41) This was an astounding event, and there should be some record of it in Egypt. In the time of Sesostris I, second king of the 12th dynasty, there is such a record.


Ameni was an officer under Sesostris I. In his tomb he left an inscription which is very relevant. It reads: "No one was unhappy in my days, not even in the years of famine, for I had tilled all the fields in the nome of Mah, up to its southern and northern frontiers. Thus I prolonged the life of its inhabitants and preserved the food which it produces. No hungry man was in it. I distributed equally to the widow as to the married woman. I did not prefer the great to the humble in all that I gave away."


Ameni could well be one of Joseph's deputies who "gathered up all the food of the seven years ... and laid up the food in the cities." (Genesis 41:48)


The Faiyyum is a vast oasis in the desert west of Meidum. It today supports a population of two million people. This great oasis was developed during the period of the twelfth dynasty. The whole area is watered by a canal dug during this dynasty. This canal is today known as Bar Yusef or Joseph's Canal. No one seems to know how it got this name. It may have carried this name ever since it was dug in the twelfth dynasty. It could have been the work of Joseph in preparation for the seven years of famine.


As for Joseph himself, there was a vizier under Sesostris I who had extraordinary powers. His name was Mentuhotep. Mentuhotep, was invested with several priestly dignities and was Pharaoh's treasurer, and appeared as the alter ego of the king. When he arrived the great personage bowed down before him at the outer door of the royal palace.


The Bible record states, "Pharaoh took his signet ring off his hand and put it on Joseph's hand ... and he had him ride in the second chariot which he had; and they cried out before him 'Bow the knee.'" (Genesis 41:42, 43) This Mentuhotep could very well be Joseph. The fact that he is not named as Joseph is of little consequence. The Egyptians as well as Bible characters frequently had more than one name.


Recently, a group of Egyptian researchers and archaeologists have discovered a collection of coins from the time of the Pharaohs. The researchers discovered the coins when they sifted through thousands of small archaeological artefacts stored in the vaults of the Museum of Egypt. Initially they took them for charms, but a thorough examination revealed that the coins bore the year in which they were minted and their value, or effigies of the pharaohs who ruled at the time of their minting. Some of the coins are from the time when Joseph lived in Egypt, and one bears his name and portrait.


Moses, the author of Genesis, grew up as a prince in the Egyptian palace and was more than aware of the many Egyptian customs and practices. He writes that when Joseph was to be presented before Pharaoh for the first time, he shaved himself and changed his garments and came in unto Pharaoh. Anyone who appeared before pharaoh had to be clean and shaven, because the Egyptians were offended with facial hair. If the author of Genesis was not a contemporary of Joseph and had not lived in Egypt, he would have overlooked this detail. Only a witness of these customs would have written about them. 


What has been said so far cannot be discarded as coincidental or circumstantial. Most of the events or persons mentioned in Genesis can be verified historically, which is enough proof to say that not only is the Genesis account genuine and trustworthy, but also the other Books of the Holy Bible. The Bible has proven to be more historically and archaeologically accurate than any other ancient book. It has been subjected to the minutest scientific textual analysis possible to humanity and has been proven to be authentic in every way.


Two of the greatest 20th-century archaeologists, William F. Albright and Nelson Glueck, both lauded the Bible (even though they were non-Christian and secular in their training and personal beliefs) as being the single most accurate source document from history. Over and over again, the Bible has been found to be accurate in its places, dates, and records of events. No other “religious” document comes even close. Archaeology continually refutes the views of many modern critics who still insist that the Bible is fictional.


The Bible is not fictional, but neither is it a history book and was never intended to be a history book. It is educational and an insight into the relationship between God and his people. Nonetheless, whenever God's Word touches on any aspect of history it is always accurate. Discovery after discovery has established the accuracy of innumerable details, and has brought increased recognition to the value of the Bible as a source of history.


The denial of the authenticity of Genesis is only to be expected by critics, but we see that many Christians also have relegated the first eleven chapters of Genesis to the category of myths and not real history. They believe in the rest of the Bible but have difficulty accepting that God created the world in six days, that Adam and Eve were real people who were a special creation and did not evolve from apes, that God would cast them from Paradise simply because they ate of some forbidden fruit, that all mankind was destroyed in a flood and only Noah and his family were saved because God told him to build an ark that would keep them safe along with all the species of the animal kingdom, and that the confusion of languages at the Tower of Babel produced the many different languages that are found around the world today. 


But this denial is in fact a denial of God. If they believe in God whom they claim is all powerful and knowledgeable and never makes mistakes, if the Bible is as they believe the Word of God, then it must be truthful, even when it touches upon matters of history and science, otherwise the Creator God is a liar so why should we believe in the rest of the Bible. The very character of God requires the first eleven chapters of Genesis to be a trustworthy record. If the Creator God of the Bible is who He says He is, then not only is He capable of accurately telling us about the early universe, the earth, and man, but He is capable of having the details truthfully recorded and transmitted through successive generations. 


If we accept that Jesus Christ is the Creator God become man, then his pronouncements are always and absolutely trustworthy. Jesus referred directly to details in each of the first seven chapters of Genesis fifteen times. For example, Jesus referred to Genesis 1:26-27 when He said in Mark 10:6, "But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female." Man was created male and female "from the beginning of the creation," not after millions of years of evolution. In the very next verse, Jesus quotes directly from Genesis 2:24 when He said, "For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife; and they twain shall be one flesh." Five times Jesus refers to Noah and/or the destructive global Flood as real history. If He, as the Creator, was actually a witness to the events of Genesis then we have no alternative but to regard these opening chapters of the Bible as reliable history. 


In the Old Testament, Adam is mentioned in Deuteronomy, Job, and 1 Chronicles, while Noah is mentioned in 1 Chronicles, Isaiah, and Ezekiel. There are at least 100 quotations or direct references to the first eleven chapters of Genesis in the New Testament. Every New Testament author refers somewhere in his writings to these chapters. 


The Reliability of the Whole Bible depends on Genesis as History. It is impossible to reject the historicity of the book of Genesis without repudiating the authority of the entire Bible. If Genesis is not true, then neither are the testimonies of the prophets, who came before Christ, or of God himself in the person of Jesus Christ and the apostles who wrote and believed that all that is written in the Bible is true. 


 In not one of these Old or New Testament references to Genesis is there the slightest evidence that the writers regarded the events as myths or allegories. 


 Genesis records for us God's provision of the only reliable account of the origin of the universe, the solar system, the earth, the atmosphere, and the oceans. Of man's life we are given the existence of man as a special creation, his relationship to God, the meaning of marriage, how evil entered into his life, the reason for the many languages and origins of the various nations, the development of culture and the need for religion. Thus Genesis is of such foundational importance to all history that without it there is no true understanding of ourselves or our world.


 What we believe about our origin will inevitably determine our beliefs concerning our purpose and our destiny. A rationalist concept provides no hope of there being anything more than what we see around us. On the other hand, the explanation of our origin from the all powerful, loving God guarantees a meaning to our existence, and an eternal future in the kingdom of heaven. By not taking Genesis seriously, many Christians have in fact undermined the rest of the Bible they claim to believe and follow. They are also in danger of unwittingly accusing Jesus Christ, whom they accept as God, of being a false witness, of being a deceiver of mankind.


Jewish and Christian Traditions both testify that Moses is the author of the first five Books of the Old Testament, known in Greek as the Pentateuch and in Hebrew as the Torah meaning the "Law" except for a few passages which refer to Moses’ death which he could not have written and which tradition ascribes to Moses’ successor Joshua of Nun. In the New Testament Christ, himself, verifies this tradition when he said to the Jews: "Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father: there is one that accuseth you, even Moses, in whom ye trust. For 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: 45-47) Historically there isn't much evidence to support that Moses was a real person, but if we believe that Jesus is God incarnate, then his word is proof enough.