The story of Passover

Today is the first day of Passover as well as the anniversary of the beginning of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising in 1943. I’m sure theists of all stripes could have a field day with that.

Atheist Rabbi Jeffrey Falick has an interesting post on his blog. He has written a supplementary account of modern archaeological findings which pretty much contradict the traditional story of the Exodus of Hebrew slaves from Egypt. It’s written in the style of the Haggadah, the Passover story book. I first came across this thesis in Melvin Konner’s book Unsettled: An Anthropology of the Jews. Here’s Falick:

For the last twenty years or so the prevailing hypothesis, based on a growing number of corroborating sources, shows that the Israelites came together out of a social upheaval in Canaan.  This is because, even without a shred of evidence for a conquest or massive settlement from abroad, they did find substantial growth in the Canaanite highlands in the mid-13th century C.E.

The idea is that the Jewish people were native to Canaan. They didn’t conquer it by divine command or any other way, though this became part of their national mythology over time. And it still is.

This is something I’ve been trying to bring up for years during whatever Jewish holidays I end up celebrating with friends: that the “official” versions are myths based in history. And doesn’t it make for a richer experience when we can ground an implausible escape with consequent wandering for forty years in a desert with (almost) no water in what we can actually know about those events? And the answer I almost always get is this: “Don’t ruin my Passover/Chanukah with your atheism. I like this story.”

Anyway, Hag Pesach Sameach to my Jewish friends!

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