This Week’s Guest: Joshua Berman
In just over a week, Jews around the world will recount the biblical story of the exodus from Egypt and celebrate ancient Israel’s journey from slavery to freedom. Many will wonder if there’s any evidence for the Bible’s account of the events surrounding the exodus. In other words: did the exodus really happen?
The answer of most contemporary academic Bible scholars is “no.” Pointing to the lack of any corroborating written records and the absence of archaeological evidence, these scholars assert that there is simply no proof for the scriptural account.
But Joshua Berman, both a rabbi and an academic scholar of the Bible, has come to a very different conclusion. In his landmark Mosaic essay “Was There an Exodus?” (2015), he marshaled Egyptological and scriptural sources to show that the author and first audience of the book of Exodus possessed detailed knowledge of ancient Egypt, its culture and its ruler, as well as a keen sense of the geography and natural conditions along the route taken by the Israelites in their flight and subsequent wanderings. This evidence is far too salient to be ignored.
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In this pre-Passover podcast, Berman joins us in the studio to make the case again for the historicity of the exodus. We discuss why scholars came to doubt the biblical account, the comparative evidence that points to the historical reality of the exodus, and how a greater understanding of what the concept of history meant in antiquity can help people today become better readers of ancient texts.
Musical selections in this podcast are drawn from the Quintet for Clarinet and Strings, op. 31a, composed by Paul Ben-Haim and performed by the ARC Ensemble, as well as “Great Feeling” by Alex Kizenkov.
Every Thursday, the Tikvah Podcast at Mosaic will bring to to your car/earbuds/home stereo/Alexa the latest in our efforts to advance Jewish thought. For more on the new podcast, check out our inaugural post here and listen to our background episode here:
A final note: If you would like to share your thoughts on the podcast, ideas for future guests and topics, or any other form of feedback, just send us an email at email@example.com. We’re grateful for your support, and we look forward to a new year of great conversations on Jewish essays and ideas.