Christianity and Iconoclasm

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The parishioners of St. Jacob’s Catholic church, Enugu, were shocked beyond words in January 2019 when a woman went to their Marian grotto on a Sunday morning, doused their statue with fuel and set it ablaze.

Conversely, in several parts of Southern Nigeria, it’s not uncommon for mobs of zealous Christians to seek out pagan shrines, burn them to the ground and destroy their idols.

The same trend is reported in other countries where Christians vandalize Buddhist or Hindu temples, decapitating their images and spray-painting words like “Jesus is the only true God” on their walls.

Many of these Christians fondly see themselves as warriors defending the faith, and would identify themselves as iconoclasts.

The term iconoclasm comes from the word icon (from the Greek eikon, “to resemble”), signifying a religious picture or image, and klan (Gk., meaning “to break”). Hence, an iconoclast was one who advocated the destruction of images.

From history, the use and adoration of images in the church began toward the end of the third century. This was a common practice in the Eastern branch of the church due to the influence of heathen worship (E. H. Klotsche, The History of Christian Doctrine, Grand Rapids, 1979, p. 118).

This trend spread to the West and continued until 726 A.D. when Emperor Leo III issued an edict forbidding the use of images in the church and commanding them to be destroyed. This resulted in the Byzantine iconoclastic movement provoking riots, persecution and destruction of entire monasteries.

Even though some Catholics were also opposed to image worship, the practice began to gain impetus at the Second Council of Nicea of 784.

During the 16th century Reformation, Calvinists led waves of iconoclasm which swept through many Protestant cities and territories in Europe:

“The destruction was radical, but orderly. It was effected by the co-operation of the preachers and the civil magistracy, with the consent of the people. It began at Pentecost, and was completed June 1524 … the churches of the city were purged of pictures, relics, crucifixes, altars, candles, and all ornaments … The Swiss iconoclasm passed into the Reformed Churches of France, Holland, Scotland, and North America” (Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, VIII ch. 3, S. 19).

This, of course provoked riots from the people, including Lutherans, who favoured such religious arts in their churches and homes.

Other instances of iconoclasm also occurred in several parts of Africa and Polynesia during the colonial era, between the 19th-20th century. Though, the extent of aggression or cooperation involved in these movements is quite debatable.

Those in the West where religions enjoy legal protection, would find it puzzling that someone would have such fanatical zeal to destroy the objects of worship of marginal religions.

But for many of us raised in cultures that were steeped in paganism, the constant tension between indigenous religions and a more civilized religion/faith is an extant reality.

On the one hand, the Christian seeks to eschew idolatry and on the other, in his fervour to please God, he feels the need to obliterate what is detestable in His sight.

How one can balance both levers without falling into the ditch on either side needs to be vigorously discussed in the church, otherwise, we can negate our message with certain actions and stir up bitter hostility where there ought to be none.

Here’s the lingering question: is it biblically and logically right for a Christian today to carry out mass destruction of physical images and structures of other religions?

1. The motive behind every iconoclasm should be weighed. To be sure, iconoclasm has also been (even more) executed by non-Christian religions.

(a) In ancient Egypt, Akhenaten instituted a state monolatristic tradition focused on the god Aten, the solar disk. So he sent his officials to destroy temples and monuments and chisel out every reference to Amun and the names of other deities besides Aten on tombs, temples and cartouches.

(b) When Muhammad and his armies captured Mecca, they destroyed the physical images of all the deities in the Kaaba, though retaining some of their rituals.

Later in the 8th century, the Edict of Yazid ordered the destruction of crosses and Christian images within the caliphate. Islamic conquests also executed iconoclastic agenda against Hinduism, Buddhism, Egyptian religions and the Shi’ite sect. Up till today, historic sites and minority religious structures are being destroyed in Islamic climes.

(c) During the French Revolution, numerous monuments, religious works and other historically significant pieces were destroyed in an attempt to wipe out the memories of the Old Regime.

(d) During the Chinese Tang dynasty and Xinhai Revolution, there was widespread destruction of Buddhist temples, images as well as historical artwork – whether secular or religious. The same occurred during the Northern Expedition in Guangxi in 1926 and the Cultural Revolution led by Mao Zedong.

Iconoclasm in these instances was about power – one side with dominant political power seeking to establish itself by eradicating others. Iconoclasm can have purely political, expansionist and triumphalist motives.

2. Granted, God commanded the Jews to “destroy their altars … break down their sacred pillars… cut down their wooden images” (Dt. 7:5), “burn the carved images of their gods” (Dt. 7:25).

However, these were directed at the pagan nations inhabiting the Promised Land which God had given to the Israelites. They only carried out iconoclasm on specific pagan nations as God directly commanded them.

These iconoclastic commands have not been given to any other nation since then, and it can’t be properly applied to the Church – since it’s worldwide and doesn’t have an earthly Promised Land. Thus, those passages have limited application.

3. When Israel became an identifiable nation with God-chosen Judges, Kings and Prophets, national repentance was often signified by collective destruction of pagan artefacts, altars and shrines and renunciation of pagan worship (e.g 2 Kgs. 10:27-28; 2 Chr. 17:5-6).

These were purgings initiated by converted hearts, even if mediated by monarchial or prophetic orders. An analogy can be drawn from these today when a community forsakes their idols and turn to the Living God.

This is by far the most legitimate expression of iconoclasm. This occurred during the 20th century revivals held by Apostle Joseph Babalola in the South West.

4. Christian iconoclasm, however, can have a boomerang effect if it’s ignited by legalistic and totalitarian objectives. It can have both good and bad outcomes.

Let’s take the Protestant Reformation as an example. Though Calvin himself did not support iconoclastic violence, many of his associates and followers did.

In Switzerland, in the Rhenish and Netherlandish territories, and in England, 16th century Calvinists defaced, destroyed, and confiscated a great many works of art, paintings, sculpure, stained-glass windows, ecclesiastical furnishings and whole buildings.

Libraries were burned, pianos were removed, tapestry and other ornaments were sold or given away. Though their intentions were to purify Christendom, their methods were extreme and severe. Eventually, it didn’t fare too well.

When iconoclasm is animated by legalistic impulses, what qualifies as “sacred” and “abominable” is often subject to the view of the iconoclast.

For instance, some Christians believe jewelleries, hair extensions, make-up, body ornaments and even statues or paintings of animals like frogs, fishes and fishes are demonic and detestable before God. If they should carry out a mass purging of a city they deem to be ungodly, all these materials will fall under their destruction category.

Such a move may be touted as a discontinuity with the past, but it can actually revive a need for continuity with the old trends. This is a consequence of imposing true worship with the arm of the flesh.

5. In addressing iconoclasm, we also need to understand that idolatry is nuanced and complex. It is more than just physical images. It has spiritual, mental and psychological hold on people.

Spiritual, in the sense that whenever people make an idol – whether with wood, clay, bronze or gold – and gather to worship it, some evil spirits are assigned by Satan there to hover around the shrine and influence the lives of those worshippers. They can also speak through the priests and priestesses to the adherents and from there, rites of worship develop.

Mental, in the sense that an idol is often a representation of a god or gods conceived by the mind of man. So an idol may not necessarily be a physical image or representation. A person can have an imagination or false conception of God (or a god) and direct his worship toward that false god. It’s still idolatry, but a mental one.

Psychologically, most idolaters make physical images from the archetypes embedded within their psyche. No Catholic has seen the actual Mary before. No Hindu has seen Vishnu either. But they attach that name to whatever image has been made with human hands and infuse it with certain features and attributes which they desire in themselves or seek to banish.

Therefore, merely destroying physical images of idols or pagan deities doesn’t solve the problem. The worshipper can simply pick up the same idol in another form.

This is obviously why God didn’t command Christians to go from house to house destroying people’s physical idols in the New Testament like it was done in the OT.

The reason is simple: it would be a useless exercise if the spirits behind those idols are still influencing the people and those image archetypes still exist in their minds.

6. Indeed, some Christians have shared genuine experiences where they were led by the Holy Spirit to engage in spiritual warfare prayers and some pagan idols or altars were supernaturally destroyed.

While I do not discredit such experiences, I will say that these are exceptional cases.

I know that many Christians involved in “spiritual mapping” and territorial warfare prayers visit shrines or temples and pray against the idols there, with the intent that the ruling demon would lose its hold and the worshippers will be saved.

Some Christians even proceed to deface and wreck religious artefacts, like the examples given at the outset, drawing on the example of Gideon in the OT.

My take is, unless God specifically directs you to go on such an assignment, you are skating on thin ice. One, because you can’t successfully fight a battle that our Captain (Jesus) hasn’t authorized you to fight.

Two, you can’t expel an evil spirit from its residence unless its legal right to rule has been revoked. As long as its altars, images, emblems and the shrines are there, the demon still has the right to reign there.

Three, having studied the book of Acts over and over, I can’t find a place where the apostles or early Christians (who lived in pagan cultures) were praying against the spirits of Zeus, Mars, Artemis, or Castor and Pollux or destroying their images and temples so that pagans would massively come to Christ.

Instead, they went about preaching the Gospel by the power of the Holy Spirit and many were saved. That’s the power of God’s Word. When the people were truly converted by the Holy Spirit, they gathered their own occult books and burnt them in public (Acts 19: 19).

7. The Bible says, “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5)

In other words, our battle is not really against physical structures or images and it shouldn’t be fought with physical weapons.

Therefore, as true Christian iconoclasts, we are to demolish arguments and imaginations that fuel false worship and bring down false ideas, philosophies and imagery that enslave people to them.

When those freed now decide to physically destroy their objects of false worship, we know the victory won in the spirit has been sealed in the physical.

“Christian” Hoaxes and Urban Legends (I)

The work of a Christian apologist centres on combating cultic doctrines, theological, philosophical and moral errors which enslave and prevent many from believing and living out the truth of the gospel.

Every Christian dedicated to truth has a moral responsibility and obligation to “demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God” (2 Cor. 10:5). Many people trapped in dangerous religious groups have been cruelly deceived and they need the truth. This is one of the reasons we must uphold the banner of truth in what we present to them.

There’s a biblical standard of honesty, faithfulness and credibility to which we are expected to adhere. We are to “live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse [us] of doing wrong, they may see [our] good deeds and glorify God” (1 Pet. 2:12). We are to “put off falsehood and speak truthfully” to people who listen to us (Eph. 4:25).

Unfortunately, when one examines some books, write-ups, videos, stories and personal testimonies being widely circulated among contemporary Christians – ostensibly to present the gospel to unbelievers and convey an apocalyptic message – they are found to be no more than cheap hoaxes, urban legends and fantasies all dressed up to look “Christian.”

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary:

Hoax: to trick (someone) into believing or accepting as genuine something false and often preposterous.

Urban legend: an often lurid story or anecdote that is based on hearsay and widely circulated as true.

“Christian” hoaxes and legends may well function as barometer of collective anxiety. They may ignite people’s emotions and even serve as props for their faith (or lack of it), but these do not make them any less false. In fact, such tales are often tools of exploitation, manipulation, slander and spreading doctrinal errors.

The rapidity with which such unfounded stories and claims circulate (especially via social media) and the fervency with which they are believed are quite alarming. This is why critical thinking is a vital tool in evaluating materials. Here are some examples of such hoaxes and urban legends:

Christian woman buried for 15 days

This was a story of a Muslim man in Egypt who killed his wife (according to a version, because she was reading a Bible) and buried her along with their infant baby and 8 year old daughter. He reported to the police that an uncle killed the kids. But 15 days later, another family member died and when he was about to be buried, they found the little girls under the sand – alive!

The older girl when allegedly interviewed on Egyptian national TV, by a veiled Muslim woman news anchor, said: “A man wearing shiny white clothes, with bleeding wounds in his hands, came every day to feed us. He woke up my mom so she could nurse my sister.” Then the Muslim woman exclaimed, “This was none other than Jesus, because no one else does things like this!”

The anonymous writer ends it by reminding us how Jesus is still turning the world upside down and appeals to the reader to share the story. I first read this story in December 2004, in a magazine called Christian Alive. Actually, the story started making its rounds on the Internet in April of that year.

But there is no news report from Egypt about this tale. It contains no dates, no name of persons, city or institutions to corroborate it. Its origin has been traced to an anonymous e-mail received by a woman and her pastor husband in the U.S. It’s a hoax!

Nigerian baby born with a message

The story says an infant was born at a General Hospital in Kubwa, Abuja with her hands clasped together as though in prayer. The doctors eventually conducted an operation to separate the fold of skin joining her hands. When her hands were separated, the message written therein was “Jesus is Coming Back!” Then she died.

This is a recurring hoax, because I’ve been hearing this story since 1998 with variations in location, details and gender, yet not a shred of authenticity has been provided to support it. It’s understandable why the baby in the tale had to die. It makes for easy burial of hard evidence.

The Corpus Christi movie

This came from an alarmist message that has trended online.

I can’t believe it,” says its opening line, “There is a movie that is coming out saying Jesus and his disciples were gay! … Maybe we can do something! Please send this to ALL your friends to sign to stop the movie from coming out. Already certain areas in Europe have started to ban it from coming to their country and we can stop it too! We just need a lot of signatures and you can help! … Show your faith and respect for our Lord and Savior.”

I first came across this rant in a letter by a reader to a newspaper editor in 2004. In fact, the rumour about a “gay Jesus film” has been on since 1984 in the United States – stirring many Christians to spill much ink writing protest letters. The fact is there is no Corpus Christi movie!

In 1998, Terrence McNally did a promotional stage play by the name Corpus Christi. Though it played in some theatres, it was never released as a movie.

The vanishing hitchhiker

The story goes that a couple on their way home from a crusade gave a stranger a free ride. As they drove on, he declares: “Rapture would have taken place some minutes ago. I am an angel and I just came here to warn you” (another version: “Only 12 people in that crusade would have made heaven”) and when the couple turned to look at him, he had disappeared.

There are different versions of this Vanishing Hitchhiker legend: the American versions and Nigerian versions. The words of this angelic hitchhiker also seem to change each time the story is narrated, but no one knows (and will ever know) the identity of the couple to whom he appears.

Originally, this was an old legend about a stranger foretelling war, death and pestilence to some folks. Now, it has become a “sanctified” legend wielded on some pulpits. The story dates back to 1948 and be rest assured, it’s not going away any time soon.

They dug into Hell

This was a story about a team of geologists in Siberia who were drilling a hole in the ground, but they went too deep and ended up punching a hole through to hell.

Their drill began to rotate wildly and the geologists measured a temperature of 2000⁰C in the deep hole. So they lowered super sensitive microphones to the bottom of the well and they heard the sounds of thousands, perhaps millions of suffering souls screaming.

I read this story for the first time in year 2000 in a Christian bulletin about hell. It made a lasting impression on me. I now believe the intent of the “well to hell” tale (which is curiously similar to the pit to Purgatory tale in the medieval era) was to paint a scenario of atheistic scientists screaming from a digging site in terror when they found the proof of hell and mass conversion to Christianity taking place as a result.

Actually, the tale was an embellished account of a 1984 experiment in Russia’s Kola Peninsula (published in Scientific American). The Kola well reached 12km into the ground, where scientists encountered rare rock formations, flows of gas and water, and temperatures up to 180⁰C. There was neither a digging into hell nor screams recorded.

But somehow the story of “scientists digging to hell” in Russia aired on TBN and it reached Norway and from there gained a life of its own. There are even some websites with audio clips purportedly of screams of the damned. A friend in Lagos informed me that his pastor played this clip for them during a church service.

You may be wondering why some folks would resort to myth-making to convey a Christian message. The reason: there is power in storytelling. Stories have the abilities to shape minds and act as vehicles for ideas – whether true or false. Those knowingly spreading such urban legends believe they are justified since they have benign intents, but they are wrong.

People make up legends because they want the world in their own form rather than what is reality. This is the root of deception. Many Christians believe such hoaxes and legends without double checking to see whether there’s any validity to them mainly because they fit with their worldview.

Actually, there is nothing wrong in believing credible stories and testimonies, but just because a thing is possible doesn’t always mean it is true. Fiction should be termed fiction. Legends shouldn’t be called true stories and hoaxes shouldn’t be presented as reality.

Continue in part 2

Was the Exodus a Myth?

 

Colossus of Amenhotep IV

Almost every year around the time of the Jewish Passover, debates about the validity of the Biblical account of the Exodus frequently come up.

A number of scholars and Jewish rabbis claim that the biblical account of the Exodus is legendary, contrived, or if true at all, embellished, because there is no evidence to support the idea that people worshipping Yahweh were ever enslaved in Egypt or left it en masse as depicted in the Bible.

These arguments seek to undermine the truth of the Bible and the typology the Passover embodies – the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ.

If the narrative of the Exodus is not factual, then the trustworthiness of Biblical revelation is doubtful.

First, Jesus Himself affirmed the Biblical account of the Exodus as true and appealed to it as basis of His teachings:

Your forefathers ate the manna in the desert, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which a man may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven” (Jn. 6:49-51).

Since Jesus staked His credibility, authority and confidence on the reliability of the Exodus, that the Israelites did actually eat manna in the desert as recorded in Scripture, then it was no contrivance or lie, otherwise, these critics are saying Jesus was being a party to deception by affirming fiction as fact.

Anti-Bible Bias

One problem that should be acknowledged is the strong anti-Bible bias prevalent in secular academia which largely reflects in the experts often quoted by the media.

When these people make sweeping, dogmatic and disparaging conclusions about the Bible, Christians need to be circumspect before hanging on to their words.

For instance, these Bible critics allege that the Exodus vaguely relates to Egyptian history because none of the Pharaohs were mentioned by name, but according to Egyptologist Kenneth Kitchen, this was how the title was first used in the 15th century BC:

“The biblical and Egyptian uses of ‘pharaoh’ correspond closely. Thus in the Pentateuch ‘Pharaoh’ is used without a proper name precisely as in Egypt … From the 10th cent. B.C. onward ‘Pharaoh’ plus a proper name became common usage; cf. Pharaoh Hophra [Jer. 44:30] and Pharaoh Neco [2 Kgs. 23:29-35]” (Pharaoh 1986, p. 821 in The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, p. 3)

There are two groups of archaeologists and scholars with different views about the Bible:

(1) The minimalists or Bible deconstructionists – they generally view the Bible as a book of myths and thus unreliable.

Thus, they try to refute any evidence that supports the Biblical account. Professor and archaeologist Anson Rainey says of them:

“Their view that nothing in Biblical tradition is earlier than the Persian period [538-332 BC], especially their denial of the existence of a United Monarchy [under Saul, David and Solomon], is a figment of their vain imagination … Biblical scholarship and instruction should completely ignore the ‘deconstructionist school.’ They have nothing to teach us” (Biblical Archaeology Review, Nov-Dec., 1994, 47).

(2) The maximalists – those who believe the Biblical account has solid historical and archaeological backing. They may be a minority among archaeologists, but with the discoveries found each year supporting Biblical narrative, their numbers are growing.

Wrong dating

Those who believe that there was an actual Exodus fall into two camps: those that believe that it happened in the 13th century BC, and those that believe that it happened in the 15th century BC. Minimalists usually fall into the first camp.

An emerging pool of scholars have adduced several reasons for a revision of traditional Egyptian timeline because the whole chronological framework upon which current interpretation of Egyptian history rests is in error by several centuries.

The Biblical account of the Exodus contains several tiny details that place it within a distinct historical and chronological context. For example:

a) In the events leading up to the Exodus, the book of Genesis records that Joseph’s brothers sold him for 20 shekels to slave traders who took him from Canaan to Egypt (Gen. 37:28).

As an Egyptologist noted, the price of 20 shekels is the price of a slave in the Near East in about 18th century BC.

If these accounts were invented during the Exile (6th century BC) or the Persian period by some fiction writer(s), then the price for Joseph would have been 90-100 shekels because that is the cost of a slave at that time the story is alleged to have been written (Kenneth Kitchen, Patriarchal Age: Myth or History? BAR 21:02, Mar-Apr. 1995, 52).

b) In 1 Kings 6:1, the Bible mentions that the fourth year of Solomon’s reign was “the four hundred and eightieth year after the children of Israel had come out of the land of Egypt.”

Scholars agree on the dates of Solomon’s reign and his fourth year would be in the 960s BC. Subtracting 480 years will place the date for the Exodus in the 1440s BC.

c) In Judges 11:26, Jephthah tells the Ammonites that Israel had been in the land for 300 years. Scholars agree that Jephthah’s victory over the Ammonites took place circa 1100 BC.

This implies that the arrival of the Israelites in Canaan occurred near 1400 BC. Thus there’s Biblical evidence for the time the Exodus occurred.

d) In Chronicles 6:33-37, the genealogy of Heman results in 19 generations from the time of Moses to Solomon. If we take 25 years for a generation, we will get 19 x 25 = 475 years which also places the exodus in the 1440s BC.

Archaeologist Bryant Wood argues that the archaeological data for the Exodus fall into place if the event is dated back to 1450 BC, the approximate date the Bible indicates for the Exodus. He also highlighted that the documented evidence of foreign slaves at the time in Egypt must have included the Israelites.

The archaeological indications of the destruction of Canaanite cities (Ai, Hazor and Jericho) some 40 years afterward support the account of Joshua’s conquests.

But minimalist scholars believe the Exodus took place around 1260 BC – a date that contradicts the Biblically-derived dates and history by almost two centuries.

Were Jews ever Slaves in Egypt?

In the traditional chronology adhered to by minimalists, the Egyptian oppression of Hebrew slaves would have occurred in the 13th century, but there is little to no historical evidence of Hebrew slaves in Egypt at this time.

However, when placed in the 15th century (the 12th dynasty) under a revised chronology, there is substantial evidence for Israelite slave labourers in Egypt.

Dr. Rosalie David, the head of the Egyptian department of the Manchester Museum writes about Semitic slavery in Kahun during the second half of the 12th dynasty:

“It is apparent that the Asiatics were present in some numbers, and this may have reflected the situation elsewhere in Egypt. It can be stated that these people were loosely classed by Egyptians as ‘Asiatics,’ although their exact homeland in Syria or Palestine cannot be determined … The reason for their presence in Egypt remains unclear” (The Pyramid Builders of Ancient Egypt: A Modern Investigation of Pharaoh’s Workforce, Guild Pub., 1986, 191).

From the Bible, however, we know why the Israelites slaves resided in Egypt (see Exodus 1:8-14). Dr. David also points out that though there is no clear answers “there is nevertheless firm literary evidence that Asiatic slaves, women and children were at Gurob” (ibid, 192).

Boxes have also been discovered beneath the floors of houses excavated in Kahun. Sir Flinders Petrie excavated a number of these boxes which contained the skeletons of babies up to 3 months old, sometimes up to three in a box (Ashton John and Down David, Unwrapping the Pharaohs, Master Books, AR, 2006, 100).

These were possibly the baby skeletons of Hebrew babies killed by Pharaoh Amenemhet III’s direct orders in an attempt to limit their population (Ex. 1:16).

A leather scroll dating to the time of Ramesses II (1303-1213) describes a close account of brick-making apparently by enslaved prisoners of the wars in Canaan and Syria very much resembling the biblical account. It describes 40 taskmasters, each with a daily target of 2,000 bricks (cf. Exodus 5:6)

The tomb of vizier Rekhmire (c. 1450 B.C.) shows foreign slaves making bricks for the workshop-store place of the Temple of Amun at Karnak. Semites and Nubians are shown fetching and mixing mud and water, striking out bricks from moulds, leaving them to dry and measuring their amount, under the watchful eyes of Egyptian overseers, each with a rod (cf. Exo. 1:11-14) (Philippe Bohstrom, Were Hebrews Ever Slaves in Ancient Egypt? Yes. April 14, 2016).

The Exodus

The ten plagues is an important feature of the Exodus story. A papyrus in the Leiden Museum in Holland provides a graphic portrayal that closely resembles the biblical account.

There is no consensus among archaeologists as to when it was originally penned. Part of it says:

“… Plague stalks through the land and blood is everywhere … Nay, but the river is blood. Does a man drink from it? As a human he rejects it. He thirsts for water… Nay, but gates, columns and walls are consumed with fire … Nay but the son of the high-born man is no longer to be recognized … The stranger people from outside are come into Egypt… Nay, but corn has perished everywhere … Everyone says ‘there is no more’ (Immanuel Velikovsky, Ages in Chaos, London, 1973, Vol. 1, 25-26).

The ten plagues culminates in the deaths of the Egyptian firstborn, including that of the Pharaoh.

Interestingly, Neferhotep I, who must have ruled during this period, was not succeeded by his son, Wahneferhotep, but instead by his brother Sobkhotpe IV. Historians are not sure why this was so, but the Biblical account tells us why.

The sudden departure of the inhabitants of Kahun is another evidence. Dr. Rosalie David writes:

“It is evident that the completion of the king’s pyramid was not the reason why Kahun’s inhabitants eventually deserted the town, abandoning their tools and other possessions in the shops and houses … The quantity, range, and type of articles of everyday use which were left behind in the houses may suggest that the departure was sudden and unpremeditated” (The Pyramid Builders of Ancient Egypt, Guild Publishing: London, 1986, 195).

This appears to confirm Exodus 12:33 “And the Egyptians urged the people, that they might send them out of the land in haste…

As Pharaoh and the Egyptian army pursued the Israelites, they were drowned as God miraculously parted the Red Sea for His people (Ex. 14:28). It’s no coincidence that the mummy of Neferhotep I has never been found.

Some experts argue that the Exodus never occurred because there are no signs that the Israelites wandered in the desert of Sinai for 40 years. But one fact they omit was that the Israelites lived nomadic lives during their sojourn.

They didn’t live in cities or villages or build house structures or leave behind artifacts that would have survived as evidence.

They were in the wilderness, and they obviously had to re-use every item. The Bible also indicated they lived in tents during those years, which would have left few or no traces that could be found in the desert sand 3,000 years later.

Interestingly, satellite infrared technology has revealed ancient caravan routes in the Sinai.

George Stephen, a satellite-image analyst discovered evidence in the satellite photographs of ancient tracks made by massive number of people going from the Nile Delta straight south along the east bank of the Gulf of Suez and around the tip of the Sinai Peninsula.

He also saw huge campsites along the route which fits the description given in the book of Exodus (Price Randall, The Stones Cry Out, Harvest House OR, 1997, 137).

Limits of Archaeology

Many critics who reject the historicity of the Exodus question how it’s possible that 2 million people would leave Egypt without it reflecting in Egyptian records.

These critics are neglect the fact that ancient history is a patchwork of information where certain answers aren’t clear. Much of it have come down to us in fragments that have to be pieced together to have a complete picture and there is no 100% certainty.

These critics are over-relying on what archaeology can prove. But Archaeology is not infallible; this field of study is fraught with its own limitations. Dr. Edwin Yamauchi, a respected archaeologist point out some of them:

  1. Little of what was made or written in antiquity survives to this day
  2. Few of the ancient sites have been surveyed and a number have not even been found
  3. Probably fewer than 2 per cent of the known sites have been meaningfully excavated
  4. only a fraction of the fraction that have been excavated have been published and their data made available to the scholarly world (The Stones and the Scriptures, Philadelphia, 1972, ch. 4).

Perhaps the most challenging impediment to having a complete archaeological evidence of the Exodus event is destruction of evidence.

The Egyptians were known to have expunged historical records when the truth proved to be embarrassing or obliterate records if it doesn’t suit their political interests.

In fact, this practice has made it difficult for scholars to determine Egyptian chronology because the names of conquered rulers were literally chiseled out of their place in history.

For instance Pharaoh Akhenaton (c. 1350-1334 BC) tried to introduce monotheistic reforms into Egyptian religion and had the names of his rival god, Amon removed from Egyptian monuments throughout Egypt.

After Akhenaton’s death, the scribes entered his father’s tomb and re-carved all of it, and while at it, eliminated all references to Akhenaton from it!

Pharaoh Thutmose III also virtually destroyed all records relating to Queen Hatshepsut (c. 1503-1483 BC), the previous ruler whom he despised from Egyptian history after he ascended the throne.

Thutmose and his son, Amenhotep II, systematically removed her image from monuments, reliefs, statues, and the official list of Egyptian rulers.

A scholar suggests that Hatshepsut is the most likely candidate for the princess who adopted Moses (Ex. 2:10) and the obliteration of her memory was for her adoption of Moses – regarded as a rebel (Hansen David, Moses and Hatshepsut, Bible and Spade, 2003, 16:14-20).

The mass exodus of the Israelites was a national embarrassment to ancient Egypt and her religion (since each of the plagues was a slam against their deities) therefore it’s understandable why records of it wouldn’t be preserved.

And there is no valid reason why the Israelites would invent a tale about a beginning birthed in slavery in an era where most nations invented tales linking them to the highest races or gods.

Biblical accounts however includes the failures, defeat and sins of God’s people. The Exodus account is also reiterated in 1 Samuel 4:8, Psalm 7:8, 95, 106; 1 Cor. 10:1-5, reminding us that this event has much significance both to Israel and the Church.