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Book 4. Sacred History or Phoney History?

Moses And the Exodus 

(Part III)



Historical Criteria


The biblicists use different criteria for the Jewish scriptures than they use for other historical accounts in the ancient Near East in the same period. They recognize that Egyptian Pharaohs glorified themselves and their reign by building grand temples inscribed with their public benefits and deeds, and monuments and stelae similarly inscribed. Other great kings of the ancient Near East did the same. None of this applies to the Jewish scriptures, however. While all these other public declarations are heavily laced with propaganda, the bible is true!

Unfortunately, it is just as much propaganda as the others—or more so. It was aimed at winning over a dissident people to the side of the Persians. The Persian kings realized they could not get a subjugated people to love them but they thought they could get them to love a common god—the universal God of Heaven. That was why they wrote the books of the Jewish bible. Their ploy worked far better than they had reason to expect. Doubtless they would be astonished to know that their propaganda still survives though the civilisation that founded it was destroyed 2,300 years ago by the Greeks.

In all honesty, there is no even remotely contemporary evidence, literary, inscriptional or archaeological of Moses or the Exodus outside of the Jewish scriptures, and the internal chronology of the scriptures is useless historically because it is manifestly symbolic. Despite this utter lack of evidence, the biblicists tell us it does not mean the account is not true.

Herodotus, a Greek writer born in Asia Minor about 484 BC, was known as the Father of History, even though the work of Moses was supposed to have been written a thousand years earlier. In his famous Histories, written about 450 BC, he knew of the peoples of Syria but did not mention Jerusalem or Judah nor the Jewish settlements in Egypt. Notionally, based on the bible, the two peoples had been in contact on the Nile Delta of Egypt since 600 BC, but Greek writers betray no knowledge of these Egyptian Jews. Herodotus was silent on Abraham, Israel, David, Solomon, Moses, the temple, and all of that famous long history.

Aristotle did not mention the Jews, not even in connexion with his comment on the Dead Sea, but his student, Clearchus of Soli, around 300 BC, quoted Aristotle as describing a Jew he had met in Asia Minor. This Jew, like many subsequent ones, tried to compare favourably the principles of the Greeks with the teachings of the Jewish God. Clearchus is the earliest Greek writer to give a decent transliteration of “Jerusalem”, but, despite his information, the Greeks remained unaware of the Jews as a separate nation in the Levant. The extract implied he was the first of his kind met by the Greeks. Alexander brought Jews and Greeks together, and revealed the Jews to the Greek world. From the date of Clearchus, the Jew he spoke of might really have been met after Alexander’s invasion, making even more significant the Greek world’s ignorance of the Jews before it.

Josephus relates that the High Priest Jaddua refused to obey the conqueror’s summons from Tyre because of his oath of fealty to the Persians. To punish him Alexander marched on Jerusalem from Gaza, and Jaddua, told by God in a dream, met him at Sapha, dressed in his robes of office and wearing the mitre bearing the sacred name. To the astonishment of his generals, Alexander saluted Jaddua and adored the name, for Jaddua had appeared to him in a dream in Macedonia and urged him to march against the Persians. Alexander went with the High Priest into the temple, offered sacrifices, was shown the prophecies of Daniel concerning himself, and gave permission to the Jews, not only of Judah but of Media and Babylonia, to live under their own laws.

No other writer states that Jerusalem was visited by Alexander, and it looks strange that a gentile would be allowed to sacrifice in the temple of the peculiarly exclusive Jews. Moreover, the prophecies of Daniel were not yet written. Typically of biblical prophecies, they were written about 160 years later! Arrian mentions no detour from Gaza to Jerusalem but rather implies that Alexander went straight to Egypt. Some recollection of such a visit would surely have been preserved by other Jews. Alexander appears by name in only one Jewish book (1 Macc 1:1-8; 6:2) with no suggestion of a visit to Jerusalem, or of special treatment for the Jews. Nor do the histories of his expedition mention any acquaintance with the Jerusalem temple, its ceremonies and its books, even though they carefully describe his visit to Gordium after the battle of Issus, his relations with the oracle of Amon, and his worship of Bel at Babylon. Nor do those Greeks who took an interest in Jerusalem once it had been revealed to the west ever mention Alexander’s visit.

Not until the second century before Christ, did Hellenist historians and tragic and epic poets—Demetrius, Eupolemus, Artapanus, Aristeas, Ezekiel, Pseudo-Philo, and Theodotus—begin to describe Jewish history, more than a thousand years after it was supposed to have started, and sang of the Exodus, Jerusalem, and the rape of Dinah. This burst of activity and interest in the Jewish scriptures, rabbis and parsons explain by the translation of the Jewish scriptures into Greek. In fact, the Septuagint was not fully translated into Greek until the middle of the second century BC, as the Jewish Encyclopedia admits, and perhaps even later still. Nothing at all had been heard of Judaism or the Jewish scriptures before this time. But in Egypt, the Egyptian priest, Manetho—who provided the the Egyptian list of kings still relied upon by Egyptologists—under Ptolemy II Philadelphus (282-246 BC) had written a history of Egypt in Greek, in which he related the fables of the Jews. What he wrote could have been the earliest form of the Jewish scriptures as we know them. The great Jewish leader Moses was heard of nowhere else before.

Jewish Forgeries

So, Hellenistic Jews cleverly sought to forge ancient works in the name of Pagan authorities, and in Pagan form as propaganda for Judaism. The poet Phocylides of Miletus of the sixth century BC, has his name on a fragmentary book which includes, maxims of various kinds, that closely echo the Old Testament, especially the Pentateuch. It is a first century AD forgery.

Jewish and Christian apologists claim other verses by Greek poets suggest a Jewish inspiration. Most of these lines are forgeries from a source called On the Jews or On Abraham, a glorification of Judaism supposedly by Hecatæus of Abdera (c 300 BC), a companion of Ptolemy I Soter (323-282 BC), and near contemporary of Manetho.

Pseudo-Hecatæus related Jewish origins and customs in what purports to be a digression from his main work on Egypt, apparently the work of the genuine Hecatæus. He had a legend of the Egyptian origin of the Jews who, according to a surviving fragment, fled Egypt after plagues and made their way with Moses to Jerusalem. Manetho, shortly after, expanded the story, then Lysimachus added his contribution, according to Josephus in Contra Apionem. Moses was a rebellious Egyptian priest who made himself the head of a colony of lepers, and was expelled from Egypt with his leprous gang by some Pharaoh. The leper colony does not have to be taken literally. Leper was an insulting word.

Hecataeus offered several alternative versions, all derogatory to Moses, showing that these “historians” were seeking an alternative to the Egyptian bondage and liberation story propagated by the Persians. Extracts supposedly of Hecatæus in Josephus show the author cited there was ignorant of Greek augural lore. They cannot be what any educated Greek writer must have known. The attitude to the destruction of Pagan temples and altars is unimaginable in a Greek author, and the impossibly Jewish ideas it attributes to the Greek playwright, Sophocles, shows it to be a Jewish forgery. Aristeas the Exegete, Josephus, Clement of Alexandria, Diodorus Siculus and Origen all quote from it. In the third century AD, Origen noted that Herennius Philo doubted the authenticity of this same book in the second century.

The forger of Hecatæus attempts an excuse for the absence of any references to Judaism until then. Josephus quotes Hecatæus as writing that earlier poets and historians have not mentioned the Law or the Jewish people because the Law was holy and “not to be discussed openly by profane mouths”, these latter words being an explanatory gloss. Josephus also says that the High Priest, Hezekiah, in the time of Ptolemy I, a man “expert in business” went with a group of followers under an agreement with Ptolemy to Alexandria. It sounds right. Ptolemy doubtless wanted to pander to the large number of Jews in Alexandria, and to the Jerusalem priesthood, at the same time. A period of Ptolemaic indulgence with Jerusalem culminated in the revision and translation into Greek of the Pentateuch in the decades coming up to 200 BC. Just at that point Seleucia took over Jerusalem, and a new stage began. The trouble is no high priest named Hezekiah is otherwise known in this period, but perhaps it was expedient to erase his memory.

When were these works of Hecatæus forged? Jewish attitudes to persecution and martyrdom are implausible before the age of Antiochus Epiphanes. Josephus in Against Apion attributes to Hecatæus the story that Alexander the Great gave Samaria to the Jews tax-free for their loyalty to him. Alexander seems to have made Samaria a Macedonian colony, but 1 Maccabees 11:34 says Demetrius II made a partial gift of three districts in 145 BC. It suggests the forger worked some time after this, so not before about 100 BC. N Walter and B Z Wacholder distinguish two pseudo-Hecatæuses. The first wrote On the Jews towards 100 BC, and another author, also confused with Hecatæus, wrote On Abraham between then and Josephus. The Letter of Aristeas, to Philocrates on the Greek translation of the Jewish law, is similarly dated between 118 BC and 113 BC.

The Letter of Aristeas

The story of the Exodus has been built up in layers, and, soon the Ptolemies realised they were taking the wrong tack. They were alienating the Jews when they needed them as allies, just as the Persians did. They began sponsoring the Jerusalem temple and its priesthood financially, and offered to help them write up an accurate history of the people and their temple. These they would place in the massive library they were collecting in Alexandria in Greek and Hebrew, the Jerusalem priests having decided to use sixth century Hebrew as their sacred language though everyone was speaking Aramaic in everyday life.

The Letter of Aristeas, paraphrased by Josephus in Antiquities, relates in mythical form how the Jewish Torah was translated into Greek. The name, Septuagint, of Jewish scriptures in Greek comes from this story. It relates to the time when Demetrius Phalerus was the librarian of the Alexandrine Library in the reign of Ptolemy Philadelphus (285-247 BC) and specifically to the time of Queen Arsinoë (278-270 BC). The Greek king, Ptolemy, allegedly wrote to the High Priest in Jerusalem saying he wanted to translate the Jewish law into Greek for the wonderful new library the Ptolemies were creating in Alexandria. It would benefit the many Greek speaking Jews of that city, some of whom had been “uprooted” from Jerusalem by the Persians, and others who were brought into Alexandria more recently as captives by “our fathers”—Alexander’s conquering Greeks.

The mention of the Persians in this context was probably propaganda intended to relieve the Greeks of the whole burden of displacing Jews from the Palestinian hills, and to distance the first century Jews who would be reading this “letter” from their own founding fathers, the Persians. When the Persians had set up the temple state, they had moved in new colonists and thereafter had no wish to alienate them and risk driving them back into the sphere of the Egyptians.

Given that there were a large number of Jews in Alexandria, many of whom, even if not most, ought to have spoken Hebrew—especially as many had been taken as slaves and had only recently been ransomed from slavery—it is hard to know why translators had to be requested from Jerusalem. Hebrew might have been better understood in Jerusalem but Greek must have been better understood in Alexandria. The myth is to puff the Jerusalem temple and its priesthood, and the names of the translators are given as Jerusalem names not Egyptian or Greek ones. Giovanni Garbini, whose expertise is in language, highlights the passage in the letter that gives away the truth—that the books were not simply being translated but were being re-written. Demetrius is described as writing:

Scrolls of the law of the Jews, together with a few others, are missing from the library, for these books are written in Hebrew characters and language. But they have been transcribed somewhat carelessly, and not as they should be, according to the report of the experts, because they have not received royal patronage.


Here are two contradictory reasons for the work of translation. The original scrolls are missing and replacements were evidently needed. Yet, the library’s Hebrew experts knew they were wrong, anyway, so replacements were needed to correct faulty translations! It sets a perfect scene for the legal experts from Jerusalem and Alexandria to get together and remodel the Jewish laws. The translation exercise had led them to realise the errors in the originals so that the originals were altered too! Aristobulus at the time of the Maccabees claimed the exodus and conquest stories had already been translated—he says at the time of Pythagoras—but they were really translated about 100 years before Aristobulus wrote, effectively re-written in the form more of less we have them now—by the Ptolemaic priests. Before that there had been no exodus, though the Jews had been slaves of Egyptian colonists, and the conquest was an allegory of what is now called the “return”.

In these revised histories of the Jews, in the third century BC, the original story will have been ameliorating for the Egyptians. They could not change the, by then, well established story of Egyptian bondage, but the Egyptians were to be prresented as generally generous and helpful to the Aramaeans and Israelites in giving assistance to them in hard times, promoting them to high office and showing Pharaoh as being kind to Abraham and his wife, Sarah, as soon as he realised they were married and not brother and sister. Pharaoh allowed the Israelites to leave, as he did the Hyksos of Avaris centuries before, and the incident of the Red Sea will have been taken from the recent exploit of Alexander, whose army crossed a bay in Asia Minor as the tide came in to save a long diversion, and only just made it across, his men ending up wading deep in the water.

The part that had to be presented as harsh, because of the established folk tale, was made into a drama directed by God with impossible miracles to mark it all as myth, but believers can believe anything, and, when Egypt was taken over by the Romans, the guardians of the truth vanished, and soon so did the temple in Jerusalem itself, so that only the impossible myths remained, recorded apparently as true history. Not only that, but the myth became the cement that kept Jews distinct, with their Passover ceremony celebrating the exodus from Egypt, and thus keeping alive an absurdity.

The next layer was added by the Seleucid kings of Syria, the new rulers of Judah, whose enemies were the Egyptian Ptolemies. They wanted to make the Egyptians anathema again to the Jews, and perhaps added the wicked Pharaoh, the plagues and modified the incident of the swamping of pharaoh’s army. It seems, from Maccabees, that during the civil war of the Hasmoneans against the Greeks and Hellenised Jews in the second century, that the library of Nehemiah, presumably left by the Persians for their colonists and added to, as noted here over the succeeding years, was attacked and the sacred texts damaged and scattered. When the Maccabees won the war, they attempted to piece the remains together again, but took the chance to add new compositions, where they had been lost or new ones seemed appropriate. It is the reason why some incidents appear as doublets or even triplets, from different earlier versions, and why some stories are virtually complete romances, hardly edited at all. The exodus story is mainly a late romance as is evident from even a reading of the English versions.

The collaboration of the Alexandrine library with the Jerusalem priesthood under the patronage of Ptolemy allowed the Torah to be extended from a single book of Deuteronomy to something much closer to what we now have, except perhaps for Genesis, which Aristobulus seems to know nothing about. There was no Genesis in the original Pentateuch, but it was still five books because then Joshua was the fifth one. As Garbini notes, the beginning of Exodus probably contained some elements of Genesis which otherwise was contained in separate writings. When it was enlarged by compiling them all together and adding new compositions like the Joseph saga, it became a new book, and Joshua had to drop out of the Pentateuch, if it was to be the first five books of the Jewish scriptures. Joshua is obviously the continuation of the saga of Moses, and so looks uncomfortable separated from the Pentateuch, accounting for the development of the theory of the Hexateuch. That is, of course what it really is, but the tradition of the Pentateuch was too strong to admit of a Hexateuch.

Elsewhere in the Letter of Aristeas, the author, supposed to have been the contemporary historian, Aristeas, confirms our suspicions:

I have previously sent you an account orf what I regarded as the most memorable matters. We received this account of the people of the Jews from the most renowned high priests in renowned Egypt.


The author is excusing the extension of the story by saying it came from reputable Egyptian priests. Egypt had a long history that everyone admired, and its priests were guardians of it. Any Egyptian Moses must have been in their archives, and naturally they were claiming he was, whence their authority to write about the exodus properly. So, here is confirmation that Exodus and Numbers were written in collaboration with the scholars of Ptolemy Philadelphus. Leviticus will have been added at this time too, and the conquest by Joshua adapted and added to.

G Larssen (JBL, 1983) dates the priestly redaction of the Pentateuch to the latter half of the third century BC, under the Ptolemies. He says “P” is a collection of old and new source material “supplemented with new written texts”. Opinion puts the date of the Pentateuch to the end of the third century.

The texts which were to be put into Greek at Alexandria were new texts which gave a new face to Judaism.
G Garbini, History and Ideology in Ancient Israel


The repeated mention of Hebrew characters in the Letter of Aristeas is now known to mean the old Hebrew (Phœnician) script, and not the Aramaic characters that are paradoxically now used for Hebrew. Hebrew script was used in some of the Qumran fragments. Garbini has shown that this script is phony in that it never was used continuously from the sixth century. It never evolved from then, when it stopped being used. It was only revived again at the end of the third century, coinciding with the translation of the Pentateuch into Greek. So, in fact, the Pentateuch was being translated twice, into Greek, and into Hebrew written in the archaic script. The old disused alphabet was copied as it was on old inscriptions for re-use in this Hebrew revival. Jews stopped using it again about the time of the Bar Kosiba revolt, when the Samaritans started to use it.

The Age of Scriptural Invention

Demetrius, a Jew living at Alexandria in Egypt also under the Ptolemies, wrote a work on the Jewish kings. One fragment takes the history up to Ptolemy IV Philopator (221-204 BC). Proper names and characteristic expressions show Demetrius used the Septuagint not the Hebrew scriptures, the first writer to do so even though he was a Jew, and so this date gives a good idea of when books of the Septuagint were first available. The fragments of this history that have been preserved by Alexander Polyhistor (80-40 BC), whose own works have also been lost but appear in fragments in Josephus and Eusebius, are about the legends of Jacob and Moses, and say nothing about the Jewish kings, but Moses has appeared outside the bible.

The Palestinian Jew, Eupolemus (158 BC), the son of John, the son of Accos (1 Macc 8:17 and 2 Macc 4:11) drawing upon other traditions besides the biblical accounts, wrote On the Kings in Judea, fragments from which are in Alexander Polyhistor. Eupolemus, a diplomat and a friend of the Jewish ruler Judas Maccabee, was sent with Jason, son of Eleazar, on to Rome in 161 BC to get support from the Romans for the Hasmonean uprising against the Greek rulers. The Romans gave it, boosting the rebellion. Eupolemus wanted to show that the Jewish people went back further in history than the Greeks. In one fragment, Eupolemus says Moses taught writing to the Jews, who gave it to the Phœnicians, who passed it on to the Greeks.

A work On the Jews was excerpted by the Greek historian Alexander Polyhistor and attributed to Eupolemus. Polyhistor’s excerpts were used by Eusebius in Praeparatio Evangelica. This Eupolemus is not, though, the Jewish writer, Eupolemus, but an earlier Samaritan, so called Pseudo-Eupolemus. Pseudo-Eupolemus combined Greek tradition and Babylonian mythology with biblical narrative to yield a history of the Jews, now lost except for two fragments consisting of sixteen verses. It was written between 200 and 150 BC, and speaks of Mount Gerizim as “the mountain of the Most High”, betraying its authorship. In these fragments, Abraham is the Jewish Orpheus, the father of the world’s science. After the deluge, he built the tower of Babel, emigrated from Chaldaea to Phœnicia to teach the Phœnicians, helping them in war. Famine drove him to Egypt, where he taught the priests of Heliopolis. Meanwhile, Enoch received astrology from the angels.

More evidence is the work of Artapanus who wrote about 50 BC, only a century before the Christians decided themselves to add their own books to the Jewish canon. Artapanus was an Egyptian Jew with a Persian name, known to us only through excerpts in the Church Fathers, but apparently keen on Egyptian and Greek culture. Moses is Musæus, the teacher of Orpheus, called Hermes, and superior in all things to his pupil. The Jews were called Hermioth before Abraham called them Hebrews!

His work, On the Jews, knew of Abraham, Jacob and Joseph but still emphasised Moses. The prominence of Egyptian references show the author was an Egyptian, but Artapanus glorified the Jewish people by elaborating even on the bible! There was even a tradition that Moses did enter the Promised Land. Perhaps that was the work of Artapanus. He makes the Egyptians indebted to the Jews for everything they knew. Abraham taught astrology to the Pharaoh Pharethothes. Jacob and his sons found the sanctuaries at Athos and Heliopolis. Joseph showed the Egyptians how to cultivate. Moses became the greatest benefactor of Egypt, founded the Egyptian religion, directing each of the 36 provinces to honour God, and introduced circumcision. He prescribed the consecration of the Ibis and of the Apis bull. Moses taught the Egyptians hieroglyphics! Moses was himself deified.

Aristobulus was a Hellenized Jew of Alexandria in Egypt, living about 160 BC, and might be the same Aristobulus as he to whom the letter in 2 Maccabees (2 Macc 1:10) was addressed. There, he is of the family of anointed priests and is the teacher of Ptolemy the king—presumably Philometer VI (181-145 BC). A fragment of a paraphrase and commentary on the Pentateuch, for a Pagan readership and dedicated to Ptolemy Philometor, has been preserved by Clement of Alexandria, and by Eusebius.

Aristobulus says the Pentateuch had been put into Greek so long before the Greek translation of the Pentateuch made under Ptolemy Philadelphus that even Homer and Hesiod were indebted to Moses. Clement confirmed he aimed to prove that all the Greek philosophers and many Greek poets, as well as Aristotle, took from the law of Moses—the Pentateuch and the prophets—and so Greek culture was entirely derived from the Old Testament. The whole system of Aristotle could, he thought, be found in the bible, and philosophers as prominent as Pythagoras, Socrates, and Plato all copied Moses. Later Jewish Hellenists—notably Philo—accepted that Moses was the father of Greek philosophy and culture.

That ancient Greek philosophy had no detectable sign that it had ever heard of Moses did not deter Aristobulus. Typically, he invented the historical evidence, making spurious citations from Hesiod, Homer, Linus, and especially from Orpheus, even though Musæus and Orpheus are mythical! In fact, these citations themselves are forged, and transparently by someone Jewish. If the forger was Aristobulus, then the whole work is dubious. Moreover, since he particularly drew upon Hellenized Jewish works like Proverbs, Ben Sira, and the Wisdom of Solomon, Greek influence was clear, but, on the familiar conviction that the Jewish scriptures are terribly ancient, he put the cart before the horse. The old cons are the best ones! What is interesting is that one of the fragments discusses the Jewish calendar. Aristobulus established that the Passover always falls immediately after the vernal equinox.

Hellenistic Judaism and Christianity also used the Sibylline Oracles, first written about 160 BC, in Egypt, but easily added to, various copies being accessible for adaptation for religious propaganda. The forgers recast the classical theogony in a Jewish Old Testament mould—Noah becomes Uranos, Shem Saturn, Ham Titan, and Japheth Japetus. The ancient oracles—of the Erythraean predicting the fall of Troy, and of the Sibyl of Cumae that Tarquinius Superbus deposited in the Capitol when Rome was new—became propaganda for the Jewish God. The earliest sentences, besides a few Pagan oracles, are Jewish in form, while most of the later ones are Christian. The dates of these forgeries are first and second century AD. Diodorus of Sicily (Siculus), writing in the first century BC, mentions the expulsion of foreigners from Egypt, including Danaus and Cadmus who went to Greece(!), and Moses who went to Judaea.

Certainly, the Moses legend was elaborated late, then started growing and suppressing the Babylonian tradition. This tendency left unmolested by developments like Christianity would have probably ended with the stories of the Patriarchs suppressed, and so too the return from Babylon. By around 100 AD, Justus of Tiberias was writing a history of the Jews beginning with Moses. The legends of Abraham and the origin of the Jews in Ur of the Chaldees, Babylonia, had been suppressed by the Alexandrines. Tacitus also refers briefly to the origins of the Jews as being Egypt, the Jews having been evicted by the Pharaoh, Bocchoris, on the instructions of the oracle of Amon, were led by Moses in a six day march. Arriving in a thinly populated land on the seventh day, they expelled the locals and founded a temple and a city.

The propaganda of the Ptolemies, whose aim was the same as the policy of the earlier Persians, but in reverse, so to speak—to gain the favour of the Jews of Jerusalem—evidently became the tradition in the Mediterranean. Egypt under the Ptolemies wanted Judah as a buffer against their rivals the Seleucid Greeks of Syria, and so set about favouring the Jerusalem temple and priesthood, helping them to revise their holy books to suit Egyptian geopolitics. Manetho, Chaeromon and Apion all call Moses an Egyptian priest, Josephus says. It is hard for believers nowadays, conditioned by a peculiar reverance for the Jewish scriptures, to accept that they evolved as a consequence of ancient politics.

Other Jewish works not included in the biblical canon are no more help. None are older. Stephen C Meyers reckons the oldest non-biblical Jewish chronicle is Seder Olam Rabbah or Book of the Order of the World, written by Jose Ben Halafta who died about 160 AD, but edited in the eighth century AD. Jubilees (c 100 BC) is non-canonical and has the novelty of giving a history of the Jews dated in Jubilees, periods of 49 years. Pseudo-Philo’s Biblical Antiquities, a scriptural history from Adam to David, is dated in the first half of the first century AD. The Testament of Moses, a dying testament by Moses to Joshua, dates in the first century AD.

Exodus a Late Addition to the Jewish Scriptures

The Essenes were still compiling, revising and composing psalms, at least until the first century BC and probably until they were dispersed after the Jewish War, and the exploits of some of the Hasmonaeans were written into the stories of Moses and David, most obviously the story of Phinehas.

The Genesis Apocryphon of the Dead Sea scrolls, relates Abraham’s journey to Egypt, naming the Pharaoh as “Pharaoh Zoan, the king of Egypt”. Zoan is a place not the name of a Pharaoh, once considered the same place as Avaris, Raamses, and Tanis. The Pharaoh lived at Zoan, confirmation for biblicists that the Hyksos were the Jews, because the Hyksos had their capital at Avaris.

Now, Tanis (cognate with Zoan) was unimportant until it became the residence of the Pharaohs in the twenty-first and twenty-third Dynasties, 1070-946 and 828-715 BC. Thereafter, Sais became the main Egyptian city. So many monuments were found at Tanis inscribed with the name Rameses, it was thought that Tanis was the store-city of Rameses mentioned in Exodus 1:11. Then these monuments were found to have been moved to Tanis from Qantir or Tell ed-Dab’a, some fifteen miles south on the Pelusiac Branch of the Nile, the proper site of the Hyksos capital of Avaris. Tanis or Zoan was therefore not Avaris or Raamses and could have had nothing to do with Moses!

Significantly, Zoan (later, San al-Hagar) was again an important political and commerical center during the Ptolemaic period from 300 BC—and remained so until the sixth century AD. Numbers 13:22 states parenthetically that Hebron was built seven years before Zoan, an apparently pointless remark, but the name “Talmai” (Ptolemy) appears in the same verse, crying out the period when it was written. The authors of Isaiah and Ezekiel (Isa 19:11,13; Ezek 30:14) speak of it. It implies that Numbers and these prophetic works were written in the Ptolemaic period by people who knew Egypt at the time.

Even in the bible, considering that Moses is the Jewish lawgiver, he is rarely mentioned in the Jewish scriptures outside of Exodus. The founder of any religion ought to be frequently and multiply mentioned, as Christ is in the New Testament. Few texts of the bible outside the Torah mention Moses, surely a remarkable and inexplicable fact if Moses was as important to Jewish identity as he seems to be, and was as early in their history as they claim. Moses appears in 40 passages of Exodus, 16 of Numbers, 6 of Deuteronomy, 6 of Joshua, 5 of Psalms. Elsewhere the “law of Moses” appears occasionally but Moses himself is never mentioned more than twice (Leviticus, 1 Chronicles). In the prophets, Moses is only mentioned in Micah 6:4, Isaiah 63:11-12 and Jeremiah 15:1.

All this cries out that Exodus was a late addition to the collection of biblical books, and that the prophets certainly knew nothing about the amazing founder of the Jewish race and religion. The psalms in which Moses appears are all Persian period, and the other citations are recognized as post-”exilic” editorial insertions. The reason is that only after the “exile” was the figure of Moses invented.

Only with the Babylonian exile did the figure of Moses acquire the importance that the Jewish tradition attributes to it.
J Alberto Soggin


A Parable of the Return from Exile

Soggin accurately notes that the Moses myth is also a parable of the “return” from “exile” in Babylon. Moses brings the true Israel from a foreign oppression into a home provided by God as His theocracy despite the opposition of the false Israel who prefer to worship idols. Moses is Ezra, the last and greatest of the “returners”. Moses found refuge in Midian as the son-in-law of the priest of Midian. Midian seems to be biblical code for the Medes (and Persians). It was while he was a shepherd in Midian that he saw the burning bush. The Zoroastrian religion venerated fire which was also their name for truth.

The Christian librarian, Julius Africanus, born about 200 AD, and a pupil of Heraclas in Alexandria, declares there is no certain history before the first Olympiad (776 BC). It is an honest enough statement but he then goes on to establish the date of Moses, even though it is long before the first Olympiad! Plainly enough, even for the Christian Fathers, concepts in Exodus, (19:1ff) like a “kingdom of priests” and a “holy nation” as alternatives to a corrupt monarchy, cannot have been written by Moses who knew nothing about monarchy because he died before the Promised Land was ever entered, let alone run as a kingdom. They were written by priests sent from Persia to do just as they said.

Professor Sarna wants us to believe that no biblical writer could have had any reason to invent the bondage in Egypt and the Exodus, and would have written down a proper historical account if it differed from the one in the bible. He quotes Bright who wrote a well known “history” of Israel:


It is not the sort of tradition any people would invent! Here is no heroic epic of migration but the recollection shameful servitude from which only the power of God brought deliverance.
John Bright


This defence is nonsense. The British still celebrate a shameful defeat by the Nazi tank brigades in WWII because the defeat was ameliorated by the evacuation from Dunkirk’s beaches in small boats of a substantial part of the BEF. There is no way of seeing it as other than a disastrous defeat but the British succeed in seeing it as a victory. Without it, and demoralized, the war might have been lost. The Romans equally note the tragedy of the defeated Aeneas fleeing the flames of Troy, carrying his elderly father on his back and holding his young son by the hand, into exile in Italy where his dynasty becomes the Alban kings, scions of whom, Romulus and Remus, found their city. Bright, anyway, assumes that the Jews wrote the story of Moses themselves. They did not.

Professor Sarna also puts the same argument in his own words:

We are at a loss to explain the necessity of fabricating an uncomfortable and disreputable account of Israel’s national origins, nor can we conceive how such a falsity could so persuade the national psyche as to eliminate all other traditions and historical memories, let alone become the dominant and controlling theme in the national religion.


Sarna is not a professor for nothing, but whatever it is, it is not for scientific objectivity. He steadfastly puts his telescope to his blind eye! Let us put it up to his good eye.

The account was fabricated to justify the imposition on Israel of the Persian religion. It is uncomfortable and disreputable because it seeks to depict the polytheistic Israelites that remained in Judah as apostates from the true God, Yehouah, a mirror image of the Persian God, Ahuramazda. The story shows the benefits of acceptance of this god and the horrors of refusing to accept him, or of apostatizing, having initially accepted him.

It succeeded in eliminating earlier traditions only with difficulty, but after about four generations and the construction of a thoroughly mythical history, Jews not only had accepted it as the controlling theme in the national religion, they jealously guarded it as proof that God had chosen them as His elect. By 300 BC, the Greeks had defeated and replaced Persia as the ruling culture, had destroyed the Persian holy books and priesthood, and the remaining Persian tradition was left in the hands of the Jews, now convinced that the religion they had had imposed on them was their own, and the mythology that had been used to justify it was true history.

In the second century BC, the Jewish holy books were in turn largely destroyed in the war between the Maccabees and the Greeks. Only the success of the Maccabees allowed them to be restored from what fragments remained, the memories of the priests and the imagination of the Hasmonaeans seeking to justify their newly established kingdom. They were largely re-written or newly written. From this period the religion factionalized and then spun off Christianity and itself was consciously modified into Rabbinism.






The Hebrews: People of Abarnahara





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