Passover Saga, Myth or History – 21st Century Verification of Bible, UCLA Study Group

The summons from Professor Barrett – for that is what it amounted to – was cursory, emailed the day after their customary third-Thursday sessions:

“Dear Students and Co-Investigators, Yesterday evening – absent our normal session – was a “bummer” for me – I missed our get-together. Also, I now feel we haven’t properly finished off our year-long project, so: next month – third Thursday – 7 p.m. – my home – everyone please bring a bottle of champagne – look sharp (I’ll be wearing my red bow-tie, short-sleeved shirt, creased pants and moccasins), also be mentally sharp: session subject; ‘Biblical Exodus, 21st Century Verification,’ Let’s really nail it down. No excuses short of a heart attack. Prof. Barrett.”

As Avi would later tell it, on reading the email, Bethe got that “look” on her face, grinned at him and grabbed the phone. The professor wasn’t in, so she rapid-fired into the message machine: “Professor, remember my comment at the end of the final session? I’ll have a surprise for you. Please have your secretary copy all the power point summaries of our sessions – will pick them up at 3 p.m. today.”

Professor Barrett, on hearing her message, guffawed out loud, quickly called Bethe’s number. Her answering machine responded: “Bethe, I’m guessing what you’re up to. Great idea! Looking forward to it. Don’t tell others – great surprise for them. Thought you were into arcane mathematics – not fiction. You and Avi have fun. Barrett.”

On the Tuesday before the now-final session, Professor Barrett, Bethe and Avi had dinner (at a kosher restaurant) going over their plans. Bethe gave the professor a sheaf of papers which he quickly skimmed, the smile on his face broadening as he read the first paragraph. He clapped the two young people on the shoulders, “Wonderful – I’ll read the rest later. This is just fabulous. Congratulations. Now, let’s order and eat, then we’ll plan the session.”

After the meal, as they parted, the professor said, “OK Bethe, you’ll start it. Work with my secretary, make seven hand-out copies to distribute to the others, chapter by chapter – no reading ahead for them. After each chapter, I’ll take over. I want some real, solid judgment-estimates from all of us as to how much of the biblical narrative we’ve validated. Great idea and job, this – I’m proud of you two, every one will love it. Come an hour early.”

On the evening of the final session, Professor Barrett met all his students at the door, escorting them to the bar where open bottles of champagne were being poured into cocktail glasses. Everyone was neatly but not overly dressed, all eager to learn what was going on. As his grandfather clock toned seven-fifteen, the professor waved them to seats, stepping to the lectern.

“OK, let’s begin. Our imaginative Bethe and Avi have done themselves and us all proud. They’ve written a fictional account of Hebrews living the Exodus experience, the Passover saga – interacting with Moses and Pharaoh – just as told in the Bible.” The reactions from everyone were exclamations of pleased laughter. The professor continued, “They’ll pass out the first chapter now – then we’ll go over the charts of our first sessions, and begin progressively evaluating how much of biblical historicity we’ve validated by hard 21st century science.”

Everyone eagerly grabbed the sheets as Avi passed them out – Bethe then began reading aloud: “Chapter 1, Circa 1300 BC, Egypt; the Royal Palace of Pharaoh Dudimose, 36th Ruler, 13th Dynasty”. Bethe paused, looking around, and seeing everyone had sheets, she smiled and her voice deepened as she read the first words of the story, “As Binami, lying flat on the gallery floor, peered down through the open weave of the curtains onto the Throne Room below, – ” Bethe stopped, noting everyone was reading by themselves – many chuckling or openly laughing. some serious and quiet. Bethe slid onto the sofa next to Avi.

As they all finished, putting down their sheets, one by one they lifted their glasses of champagne to Bethe – silent toasts of approval. Looking up from her sheet, Lanit said, “Good writing, I particularly like that touch of implied future romance.”

The professor stood up, walked to a large “white-board” and cleared his throat, getting everyone’s attention. “OK, now let’s get to the business part. Our interest here is not as pious believers in religion, or dis-believers; it is to try to prove – whether or not – the Bible contains the literal words of a God-Creator, possibly written by humans as inspired writing instruments – whether or not the biblical tale of the Exodus is historically true or a myth. So, while we can enjoy reading Bethe’s and Avi’s fictional chapters, we now have to review our briefing charts, session by session, point by point – making our individual judgments as to the degree of verification we’ve unearthed. I’ve started with a number of questions – as we progress through the chapters, I expect we’ll think of many more. We’ll accept or reject them by majority vote, including mine. Then we’ll all judge each of the questions as to “relative significance” to the overall Passover story, a factor or percentage number, by majority average. Then finally, each of us will assign our own individual judgment factor of ‘credibility-validation’ for each question – using the following four criteria.” He wrote them on the white-board;

Credibility-Validation Factor (21st Century Artifacts):

  • Verified beyond reasonable doubt (.9 – 1);
  • Partial verification (.7 -.9);
  • Implied verification (.5 -.7);
  • No verification (0.0).

Laurence raised a hand, “What’s that “Relative Significance Factor” you mentioned before?”

The professor answered, “Let’s say we can’t find anything regarding some biblical passage – for example ‘manna’, supposedly provided miraculously for 먹튀every day. So we give it a zero for Credibility-Validation. But, after all, what’s the importance of manna to the overall Exodus story? There’s so much proof that a Semitic people did live as slaves in Egypt for centuries, evidenced by irrefutable archaeological ‘digs’; then there’s the Imhotep-Joseph statue and references to him, his position and accomplishments; then of the Moses story and the high percentages of buried Semitic infants; Pharaoh wanting to kill Moses; etc. And then there are so many Amarna letters, verifying that Hebrews lived in Canaan-Israel centuries later – thus, there had to have been an actual Exodus of Hebrew slaves from Egypt. In addition, the Hebrews would hardly have starved without ‘manna’, having their cattle for milk and meat; also, there was grain and produce gleaned from the land – their traveling rate during the forty years was relatively slow, the area covered during the decades not large. So, while there’s no proof for “manna”, its significance to the overall story should be minimal, perhaps five per-cent or so. With the two factors, ‘significance’ and ‘validation’, we can rate everything in context – as to both importance to the overall Exodus story and for 21st century data verification.”

As almost all nodded in agreement, the professor handed out a sheet listing his start-up questions.

Questions Seeking Proof:

  • Was Egyptian Imhotep the Joseph of the Bible?
  • Was there a Moses, an Egyptian Prince?
  • Was he a Hebrew, saved from death in infancy?
  • Did a Semitic or Hebrew people live as slaves in Egypt for centuries?
  • Did the plague-miracles occur?
  • Was Prince Tuthanhumen the first child of Pharaoh, killed in the Tenth Plague (Death of the First-born)?
  • Was there an Exodus of the Hebrew people from Egypt?
  • Did Moses lead them?
  • Did they cross Yam Suf (Red Sea)?
  • Did the sea split (whether or not by an East Wind) revealing the traversable under-sea path?
  • Did Pharaoh’s chariot army drown? Did Pharaoh drown?
  • Are the alkaline wells on the eastern shore of the Gulf of Aqaba the “bitter waters” of the Bible?
  • Is the oasis town Al Bad, the site of “springs and palm trees” of the Bible?
  • Is the story of the Moses splitting a rock for water verified by what can be seen in book photos and on the Internet – a giant cleft rock?
  • Is the story of Mt. Sinai validated as Jabal al Laws in Saudi Arabia?
  • Do the two rock altars verify the biblical account?
  • Do the mounds of stone found surrounding Jabal al Laws verify the biblical account?
  • Do the remnants of twelve stone pillars verify the biblical account?

As the group began looking up from his listing, the professor continued, “We are serious students and pursuers of historical accuracy, so we want to assess the biblical tale – the millions of words that we all have absorbed on this subject this past year, versus what 21st century facts and artifacts have confirmed.”

The professor paused, then continued, “I’ve given much thought on how to evaluate our exposure to so many items, from major considerations such as the reality of that undersea path-way and those coral-covered chariot wheels.” He looked around. “Any comments by anyone before we proceed?”

Ranah spoke up, “That cleft rock to me, is the most dramatic proof of the general verification of the Bible story, followed by Mount Sinai. A sixty-foot-high, solid rock double boulder, with such a constant and parallel gap is just so un-natural, that it truly speaks to abnormal powers involved in this story.” There were many grunts of agreement.

Serah coughed, all eyes swinging to her. She spoke quietly but firmly, “As I elaborated in my ‘hypothetical’, that topography set-up is just overwhelming to me on a probability basis – so unusual yet so completely essential to the complexity of the Exodus saga: the land-layout first entraps the Hebrews, then it saves them, then it drowns the pursuing Egyptians. And all the topography is provable by artifacts existing today for any doubting eyes. Even to an atheist and skeptic – which I had always regarded myself as being – it is just extra-ordinary: starting with that undulating dried river, or wadi, between rugged hills, that leads to the mile-sized open beach – thus those pursued by the chariot army were truly ‘trapped’, just as the Bible phrases it. The only potential for safety was that undersea path-way, built-up by river silt run-off – from a mile-deep sea floor – to traverse a seven-mile-wide-crossing. Can all that unusual physical, land and sea layout be just shrugged off?” Serah’s rising voice emphasized her question – she then continued, “Then there are those coral-covered ancient Egyptian chariot wheels to prove it all happened – distributed along the under-sea path across seven miles of deep sea! It’s just too much to be accepted as ‘natural’ – yet there it all is – so easily verifiable by doubters.”

Everyone was silent, absorbing Serah’s words. Then the professor took over in a quiet voice. “There are also considerations such as, ‘Did the Nile really turn to blood? Did the staff of Moses really turn into a snake? Did alkaline well-water become sweet? Therefore, let’s get started – my secretary, Rosie will join us and help – we’re going to dredge up a bushel-full of numbers.”

At his words, his secretary emerged from the kitchen area, waving a “hello” to everyone, and going to a small table-chair set-up in a corner of the room. On the table was a stack of folders and a computer. She took the top folder and began passing out sheets to each of the group.

“OK,” said the professor, “Let’s start with the power-point listings of our first session, almost a year ago. Using the list of questions I passed out before, let’s finalize our group questions for the first chapter that was covered by Bethe’s fictional story. Rosie will type them up – then we’ll vote to accept or reject each one. Then we’ll establish a ‘Relative Significance Factor’ for each question by majority vote; then, finally, each of us will state our personal ‘Credibility-Validation Factor’. Rosie will tote it all up – and we’ll be done.”

He looked around the room. Some had looked at their watches and groaned. Others, however, laughed. “Great”, said Bethe, “Let’s get started.”

When they were done it had taken over three hours – the final figures were:

  • Number of Questions – the professor’s initial list of 18 had grown to 28;
  • “Relative Significance” percentages, established for each question by group majority decision – varied from 1.0 (for many questions) down to .1 and .05;
  • “Credibility-Validation Factors” – varied from 1.0 (complete validation) to 0 (no validation).
  • The number of separate confirming discoveries were 107, with only a single numerical count being given for the totality of about fifty Semitic names of slaves in the Brooklyn Papyrus; the Amarna letters with many biblical names; stelae with many names of ancient Hebrew cities; the Ipuwer scroll describing many of the Ten Plagues; all the coral-covered chariot wheels discovered; the total of all the skeletal bones of horses and men; etc.
  • The final totals of the individual overall validation numbers varied from 73% to 90%, the professor’s number being 83%. The average group value – from their detailed assessment of the overall validation by 21st century data of the biblical Exodus story – was 84%.

It was now after 11, but no one seemed anxious to go. Some were rereading the Bethe-Avi stories, with chuckles and comments.

“I sure enjoyed the military description of sword-spear-shield combat ” enthused Rick,” where does one learn about such things?” Bethe’s laugh was self-conscious, “Our imagination.” She said.
Stewart’s comment was measured, thoughtful, “I liked best the escape-scene over the undersea-path, it seemed realistic.”

“I’m a romantic”, said Lanit, “My favorite part was Binami, at the end of their lives, remembering his first embrace of Lansel, and the contented, philosophical sum-up of their love together and their lives of happiness and fulfillment – from slavery to a promised land, with an inspiring leader, Moses.”

“As for me,” said Dana? “Oft-times, I now think about the Bible – this small book that’s been around for millennia, the foundation of Judaic-Christian morality; I think about the Hebrews, the Jews, this tiny sliver of humanity that has somehow survived for thousands of years despite pogroms and holocausts and attacks every few decades – 8 million Jews at the time of the Romans, not even twice that today, two thousand years later. One has to wonder about this Bible of the Hebrews that we all have inherited.”