Tuesday, June 20, 2017

"Blessed be ye poor" - Historicity of Abraham and Moses

The Ueno Park, Tokyo

Historicity of Abraham and Moses

How much can we trust the Old Testament in terms of correctness of its historical descriptions?
Hebrew Bible/Old Testament 
An educated reading of the biblical text requires knowledge of when it was written, by whom, and for what purpose. For example, many academics would agree that the Pentateuch was in existence some time shortly after the 6th century BCE, but they disagree about when it was written. Proposed dates vary from the 15th century BCE to the 6th century BCE. One popular hypothesis points to the reign of Josiah (7th century BCE). In this hypothesis, the events of, for example, Exodus would have happened centuries before they were finally edited. This topic is expanded upon in dating the Bible. 
An important point to keep in mind is the documentary hypothesis, which using the biblical evidence itself, claims to demonstrate that our current version was based on older written sources that were lost. Although it has been modified heavily over the years, most scholars accept some form of this hypothesis.
The Old Testament tells that Abraham's family came out of Ur of Mesopotamia about 2000 BC and Moses led Hebrews out of Egypt about 1300 BC.  What about historicity of them? 
In the early and middle 20th century, leading archaeologists such as William F. Albright, and biblical scholars such as Albrecht Alt, believed that the patriarchs and matriarchs were either real individuals or believable composites of people who lived in the "patriarchal age", the 2nd millennium BCE...
By the beginning of the 21st century, archaeologists had given up hope of recovering any context that would make Abraham, Isaac or Jacob credible historical figures.
The scholarly consensus is that the figure of Moses is legendary, and not historical. Although a "Moses-like figure" may have existed somewhere in the southern Transjordan in the mid-13th century BC.[32] Certainly no Egyptian sources mention Moses or the events of Exodus-Deuteronomy, nor has any archaeological evidence been discovered in Egypt or the Sinai wilderness to support the story in which he is the central figure.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moses#Historicity  

Can stories, records or information passed down by word of mouth of tribe members for centuries or more before the birth of Christ Jesus be genuine and correct?  

In the case of the Records of the Grand Historian,  known as the Shǐjì, of China written around 94 BC by the Han dynasty official Sima Qian, it covered a 2500-year period from the age of the legendary Yellow Emperor till the time it was written.  Its description about a kingdom that existed between 1600 BC to 1000 BC was found authentic.
However, according to Joseph Needham, who wrote in 1954 on Sima Qian accounts of the kings of the Shang dynasty (c. 1600–c. 1050 BC):
It was commonly maintained that Ssuma Chhien [Sima Qian] could not have adequate historical materials for his account of what had happened more than a thousand years earlier. One may judge of the astonishment of many, therefore, when it appeared that no less than twenty-three of the thirty rulers' name were to be clearly found on the indisputably genuine Anyang bones. It must be, therefore, that Ssuma Chhien [Sima Qian] did have fairly reliable materials at his disposal—a fact which underlines once more the deep historical-mindedness of the Chinese—and that the Shang dynasty is perfectly acceptable.
Generally speaking, in old communities where a writing system was not used, there were some people with great memory ability.  For example, one of old women of the Ainu tribe of Japan who lived 100 years ago could recite long stories whose written volume was worth 70 notebooks or about 15,000 pages, although the Ainu tribe did not use letters unlike Japanese in the main land. 

Especially, when there was strong motivation related to religion of a tribe, some tribe members would correctly store memory of old stories of the tribe.  Hebrews are well known for their religion-centric governance of their own.  Chinese are, even from ancient times, well known for their respect of their ancestors.

Ancient people had great ability of memory beyond our imagination.  Critical matters to their identity and religion must have been transmitted by word of month generation after generation.

We must believe existence of Abraham 4000 years ago and Moses 3300 years ago, since Christ Jesus and Mohammed did not deny their historical existence.

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Luk 6:19 And the whole multitude sought to touch him: for there went virtue out of him, and healed them all.
Luk 6:20 And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said, Blessed be ye poor: for yours is the kingdom of God.