Everything the Lord Has Said, We (Can’t) Do

While in Egypt, the Israelites maintained a tenuous connection to their Jacobean lineage but not to Jacob’s God. In fact, it could be argued they had no God. Of course, they had some knowledge of—and probably believed in and worshipped—the many gods of their adopted country. But they did not know their patriarch’s God. This is excusable in that they lived among the Egyptians for 400 years. That was roughly 15 biblical generations, which by any measure is likely too long for any ethnic group in a foreign land to hold on to their unique ways.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/12129

Jesus also said the vast majority would be lost and there would be weeping and gnashing of teeth. He said for some it’s be better to tie a stone on their next and throw themselves into the ocean than face what God will punish them with. He also said if you love me, keep my commandments. Jesus was living just as the OT God was loving, he preached for 120 years for people to repent, He promised Adam and Eve a savior when they sinned, etc.

It’s true Jesus ame to dispel the misconceptions of God. But He didn’t come to deny that the OT stories happened or imply that how they are narrated is due to human error or opinion, Which is basically what the author is saying. This article like so many Christians today undermines the Bible. In their opinion the narrative of the Israelites in the dessert and God testing them is a product of the author’s (Moses) flawed understanding of God. However, Jesus clearly taught most people would be burned by God at the final judgment. He clearly said only a relative few would be saved.

We cant changed the stories as written because then God ends up being whatever “we” want him to be. If we say this story is not accurate, well how do we k own the stories cited in the article about Jesus being loving are accurate? How do we know which stories depict the “real” God and which are humanly flawed version of God? Why do we trust Matthew and not Moses? Why do we accept John but not Moses?

How do we know it wasn’t their flawed view of Jesus that lead them to write things that were too loving or too accepting? The Bible must be accepted as wholly inspired or it is worthless.

With the mismatch between the OT God and Jesus we are often presented with two alternatives: 1. God doesn’t change. Jesus shows us real God. Or, 2. God doesn’t change. God still does vengeance.
Maybe there’s another option. We see change in ourselves as positive, and describe it learning or responsiveness.
Are we to deny God the possibility of learning or being responsive?
I think there are multiple transitions in God from the time of the patriarchs to Jesus. And what if time is as deep as science reads in nature? How did God relate to our pre-historic ancestors?
I praise God for being open to dialogue.

If we are created in god’s image it seems axiomatic that god changes and grows just as we do.

The exciting implication of Genesis being that our maker’s intellect can and does improve, becoming more sophisticated and refined just as ours can and does…in some people!


Or…the Bible authors can be seen as the shoulders upon which we can stand and see god even better than they did.


In order words there is a trajectory of knowledge and ideas that enable every generation to know a bit better than the one before. We should know and understand God better today than our forebears did. Our children and grandchildren should do better than us.” There is so much to tell you but you can’t take it now,” we were told long ago. Thanks for stating it so succinctly.


I see the Bible as an anthology of ancient writings, written through the local filters and customs of the various authors with no idea that thousands of years later human beings would try to live out their ideas with exactitude. Can we gain wisdom from them? Sure. Shall we take it all literally and start stoning our mouthy teens? Better not. We know and grow as we grow and know - I don’t want to make a god out of my feeble certainties.


Are you sure you wanna go there, Matthew?!?!

Sounds kinda “evolutionary”…


I do appreciate your articles and comments, though.

Every other day I swear I’ll never look at what people are saying here, as some of the arrogance and ad hominem attacks take me back to the darkest time in my life.

But then it seems I almost always find something by others who have come through something similar to what I have and I think almost all of them would agree with me when I say that if there’s anything I can do to be that little light at the end of the tunnel, I’d gladly suffer the unsubstantiated assertions, ridiculous claims and fallacious arguments in order to encourage even one person that brighter days are possible and a better understanding of our maker’s mind is available to all of his creatures.

1 Like

Matthew accurately rehearses the stories of the Pentateuch relating to Israel’s origins in Egypt, the exodus, and the portrayal of Yahweh as a despotic, thoroughly harsh, petty, and cruel deity. But Yahweh doesn’t need to be rescued from that portrayal. Rather, it should be recognized that the entire account is a national founding myth and has no basis in actual history. The account of Yahweh in that myth is more reflective of the creators of those stories in the 6th century and after who wished to present their national god in that manner.

Generations ago, it was simply assumed by archaeologists and historians that the biblical account of Israelite enslavement in Egypt, of the exodus of a vast multitude out of Egypt, 40 year sojourn in the wilderness, and the conquest of Canaan was historical. But after many decades of the most intense examination of the evidence from Egypt and archaeological research of the entire region, it is now the consensus of the vast majority of scholars that those events never actually occurred. The Hebrews were never slaves in Egypt. They never escaped into the Sinai peninsula. They never spent 40 years in the wilderness. There was no conquest of Canaan. Rather, the Hebrews were an indigenous group of Canaanites who migrated from the coastal areas to the Judean highlands. They shared the most high god (El) of the Canaanite pantheon with the other groups in the region, also frequently worshiping the son of El (Ba’al) but finally conflating their war god (Yahweh) with El in an evolved and amalgamated monotheism, passing through henotheism on the way.

Nobody wants the Hebrew founding myth to be true more than the Israeli’s, for obvious modern political claims to the land, yet Israeli archaeologists have conceded that the stories are not historical.

Israeli archaeologist Ze’ev Herzog provides his view on the historicity of the Exodus: “The Israelites never were in Egypt. They never came from abroad. This whole chain is broken. It is not a historical one. It is a later legendary reconstruction of a history that never happened.”

Not only does the record show an entirely different historical sequence than that of the Pentateuch and Joshua, evidence which should have been expected if those events had actually occurred is absent. There is simply no detritus of hundreds of thousands or millions of people to be found in the Sinai; no mass burial sites, no garbage dumps, no latrines, no masses of broken pottery…nothing which would indicate large scale habitation.

In capitulation to the truth, the Israel museum has a dramatic section on the Exodus and conquest: The most provocative items in the huge archaeological exhibition at the Israel Museum are the ones that aren’t there. The exhibition, “Pharaoh in Canaan: The Untold Story,” is about the long relationship between the land of Israel and ancient Egypt. The hall devoted to the best known part of the story — the Exodus from Egypt — is an empty room with exactly one exhibit on display: a movie featuring co-curator and Israel Museum Egyptologist Dr. Daphna Ben-Tor, who explains that the hall is empty because there is no archaeological evidence whatsoever to support the biblical tale.

So the picture of Yahweh as given in the Pentateuch and Joshua are simply myth and legend made up by later chroniclers meant to push the people into a unified Yahweh worship and to see themselves as “other” from the surrounding city-states.

Of course the New Testament accepts these stories in totality but attempts to soften them, even though both Jesus and the epistle writers continue to threaten horrible outcomes for the vast majority in the final judgment. And lest one think that the vengeful warlord Yahweh has disappeared in Christianity, just read Revelation…He’s baaaaack.


Given the above, what are we to make of the fact that despite being an very small percentage of the world’s population, Jews have won 20% of the Nobel Prizes?

Obviously, there are many possible explanations but here’s one scenario from theisraelbible.com:

What is the secret to that intellectual success? The educational principles passed along in Jewish families. Nobel laureate in physics, Isidore I. Rabi, recalled that when he was a child and came home from school his mother did not ask him, “Did you learn anything in school today?”
Instead, she would ask her gifted son, “Did you ask a good question today?” Rabi credits this attitude – highlighting the importance of curiosity and asking questions – with playing a major role in his accomplishments.

IOW, rather than taking the Torah literally, or looking to the NT for answers in what god supposedly said, we could be asking harder questions of both books, such as, why wouldn’t an omnipotent god write the Bible himself rather than leaving it to flawed vessels and verbiage?

1 Like

Serious bible scholars do not think that Moses wrote any of the Pentateuch, which can be dated far later than when Moses is said to have lived, nor that there was actually an Exodus as described in the bible, which is mostly the stuff of legend.

An interesting assertion, since the authors and redactors that assembled the stories into what we have today felt quite free to do that. They updated many older stories as their understanding of Yahweh changed, so that the stories were more in line with their current thinking & beliefs.

I’m about half way through this book, which is amazing. It discusses how the Hebrews understanding of El and Yahweh changed over time, from seeing Yahweh as a thunder sky god - one of many gods in earlier days - to the only god for them, and later to the only actual god that exists, and uses many passages in the bible to support her case. Great stuff!


1 Like

I have long had a theory on this. In European culture, the two main philosophical groups were the majority Christian population and the minority Jewish population. They lived by different rules and perspectives.

Throughout the centuries, Christians were characterized by an other-worldly or next-worldly teleology. They sacrificed natural human desires in the hope of rewards in the next life. Asceticism, monasticism, altruism were seen as the preferred attitudes. Jews, on the other hand, lived for this life. Financial success was deemed to be a proper desire rather than a moral failure. That being the case, they developed societal structures which promoted learning, earning, and pride of excellence. The end result was that Jews were better fitted for life in the here and now. The reaction among Christians looking on was jealousy and resentment/hatred.


I hadn’t thought of that but it seems most reasonable.

I have another theory-or perhaps a corollary-which says that when you’re born into a culture which is convinced, rightly or wrongly, that they are god’s chosen people, you have a leg up on those who are taught from birth that they have committed their first sin in the act of being born into the human race!


1 Like

I would see that as a corollary. Inherent guilt is a Christian concept. Jews find guilt in overt actions rather than as an ontological characteristic.

I would point out also that one reason Western Europe and its grandchild (US) is more successful than Catholic Europe is that in 17th century Calvinism it became an obsession to know who was part of the elect, predestined for salvation. Financial success became a sign of election and heavenly blessing, giving some assurance that one was among the “chosen”. This led to the Protestant work ethic. In this way, albeit coming from a very different motivation, Western Europeans to some degree mirrored the Jewish desire for success in this world.

1 Like

I’m haven’t read the book and it certainly sounds interesting but how can I order it when there is absolutely no chance of me pronouncing the author’s name!?!?



So what we do is more important than what we say or think about god!?!?

As Robin Williams might have said, “What a concept!”


Yale Bible Study

… there is not a single archaeological find in the Sinai desert that would indicate the journeys of a substantial number of people, much less the two million or so that the biblical account says made the trip; nor is there evidence for a conquest of Canaan by incoming Israelites as the book of Joshua describes. There is reason to think that the entire story is not a complete invention, however. Perhaps the foremost argument in that regard is: what people, given the opportunity to create from whole cloth the story of their origins, would choose to start off as slaves in a foreign country? This is known as the criterion of embarrassment:[…]The most we can say with any measure of probability about the historicity of the exodus is that some Semitic bands may have left a situation of enslavement in Egypt and made their way through the desert into Canaan, where they joined up with the emerging Israelite population in the hill country.
Exodus → Introduction to the Course – Study Guide - Yale Bible Study


While trying to accommodate traditionalists to some small degree, this article misses something which may negate this assertion; The book of Exodus, or at least the part of it rehearsing foreign enslavement, was probably written after the Babylonian/Persian exile/captivity. Egypt, in the story, was a stand-in for Babylon/Persia in the story of miraculous release from captivity by Cyrus. It was during the post exilic period that Judea became monotheistic regarding Yahweh.

1 Like

I’m guessing we’re dealing with a tradition that links Israelite history to Egypt.

It seems like it always ends in the same topic…which is why these topics are so important, can we trust the Bible as the inspired word of God and the standard for truth.

Seems like many people’s opinion is that the word is little more than humanity writing about their concept of god and not God inspiring people with truths beyond themselves.

And again, if that we’re the case, why would men write about all their flaws and failings so openly. When we hear about US history we hear that it’s been white washed and their flaws ignored to present a pristine image of our founders. However, the Bible presents the patriarchs with all of their flaws including some truly horrible and embarrassing stories. If they just wrote whatever they wanted to present, many of those stories would be left out.

And if we accept that the exodus didn’t happen, how do we know the crucifixion happened? Or the resurrection? Many scholars don’t believe that happened either.

To put it more precisely, all “holy books” are written about the writers’ conception of whichever god(s) they believe in. All writers about gods present their case through the lens of (their) authority to have some sort of special insight into the truth of their case. You deem the particular god you believe in to actually exist while dismissing the thousands of gods others have so fervently believed in. Your “holy” books are assumed to be special and the result of some sort of telepathic communication to a few individuals while dismissing the same claims made by the writers of competing “holy” books. The reasons for your dismissal of the books about other gods are probably somewhat accurate, but I doubt that you would turn the force of those reasons around and critically examine your own special books. A critical examination of the particular books which some anonymous persons chose to include into the Bible while excluding others, shows writings with all the hallmarks of normal human origin, with all the internal contradictions one might expect, and with all the reflections of the cultures from which they emerged.

This begs the question that they would have left out embarrassing information unless it were truly inspired. But they didn’t leave out the information. Is there a reason for that? Yes, it is called illustration. When the writers/compilers of the Jewish scriptures were trying to push the people into a monotheistic religion built around Yahweh, the local storm/war god, it was in their interest to frighten them of the consequences of disobedience to Yahweh (and his spokesmen/priests/prophets). The stories of past failings, the punishments which followed, the inevitable repentance, and the return to blessing from on high, formed a pattern of warning for the people not to step out of line. It mattered not that the stories were either rewrites of previous stories from other places or composed out of whole cloth; the importance of the tales was to promote the Yahweh religion and to warn against worshiping the gods of their neighbors. Remember, the stories were about previous generations, legendary or mythological, not about themselves other than to warn them not to repeat the falling away and punishment which would surely follow. No one could have possibly fact checked the stories set centuries in the past.

The exodus didn’t happen. It was a founding myth. Asking if the crucifixion is a known fact in the event that the exodus didn’t occur is based on the idea that the Bible is a unity, all originating from the same source of telepathic communication with Yahweh to a few guys over hundreds of years. Each claim should stand on its own, to be assessed with the evidence available.

The evidence for a historical Jesus and a crucifixion is weak, but plausible, though not the full story of the Jesus of the Gospels. There were countless Yeshua’s and lots of crucifixions. However the evidence for non-historicity is also plausible and I think stronger. The evidence for a bodily resurrection is extremely poor and totally implausible. One can believe it, but the case for its reality is not a road you want to explore unless you can accept the consequences of critical analysis.


You’ve obviously have studied the scriptures and decided it is little more than a common book. Fair enough, but then I imagine you don’t adhere to it as a guide for the sda church. I disagree with you but we’ll each have to answer to God for our decisions.

What I can’t understand are those leaders within the church that don’t believe things like the exodus occurred, but then then supposedly believe in the Gospels or the resurrection.

I see you use the critical analysis method to judge whether scripture can be believed and as you said most cannot be proven. That’s true but then I understand that I believe the exodus, flood, resurrection etc. by faith. It takes faith to believe as I do and it takes faith to operate a church.

What I don’t understand is someone who will say don’t believe in the flood, for the creation because they see no scientific evidence for it. Then why did he believe in the crucifixion? There’s no scientific evidence for that either. I apply faith to the whole Bible, you apply critical analysis to the whole line. Fair enough. But my point is how can church leaders apply some scientific critical analysis method to disprove the exodus/flood/etc and turn around and accept the incarnation\resurrection/etc?