On Friday we received copies of Do Historical Matters Matter to Faith edited by James K. Hoffmeier and Dennis R. Magary. According to the Preface the catalyst for this work was Kenton Sparks’s book God’s Word in Human Words (Baker Academic, 2008). The book also addresses issues which were raised by Peter Enns in his book Inspiration and Incarnation (also Baker Academic, 2005). Do Historical Matters Matter to Faith is the result of “a panel discussion by faculty members of the Department of Old Testament and Semitic Languages at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in February 2009.” (21) The editors say their “desire is to offer thoughtful, substantive responses to questions raised by critical scholars, regardless of their theological orientation, rather than ad hominem retorts.” (21)
As I was pursuing the chapter by James Hoffmeier, “Why a Historical Exodus is Essential for Theology” I came across this section which I found particularly interesting. As a backdrop many critical scholars are skeptical of a historical Exodus because no archeological evidence has been found to support the Exodus as it is recounted in the Old Testament.
“The reality is that historians of the ancient Near East have often accepted the witness of written documents without corroborating archeological data. During the fall of 2010, I participated in a conference in Germany on the exodus and conquest. In a panel discussion, a distinguished German colleague repeated the mantra that there is no Egyptian evidence for the exodus, which raises questions about the historicity of the biblical tradition. I asked if he believed that Thutmose III invaded Canaan in the mid-fifteenth century BC, besieging and taking the city of Megiddo. He responded, ‘Of course.’ Then I pointed out that this military campaign is one of the best documented reports from the ancient Near East as it is recorded both in royal sources (e.g., Annals of Thutmose III, Gebel Barkal Stela, Armant Stela, Buhen Temple Text, Karnak Seventh Pylon Text, Karnak Toponym lists) and in private documents and bibliographies of officers who accompanied the king. Despite all this textual evidence (from a variety of genres of literature) for the battle of Megiddo in 1457 BC and a seven-month siege of the city (according to the Bakal Stela), I reminded him, there is still no archeological evidence from Megiddo for the Egyptian attack! Megiddo, as it turns out, is probably the most excavated site in ancient Israel, having been investigated with regularity since 1903, and work is ongoing. This scholar was prepared to accept the claims of various Egyptian texts, although they were shaped by religious, ideological, and propagandistic agendas, despite the absence of any clear archeological evidence to support the written claims. I concluded my observation by saying that as historians were willing to give Thutmose III’s written claims the benefit of the doubt, I was prepared to do the same for the exodus narratives.” (109-10)
Hoffmeier also observes that the “delta of Egypt, within which the land of Goshen, where the Hebrews resided, is the least excavated area of Egypt.” Also because of the “moist environment of northern Egypt from millennia of annual Nile inundations, objects made from perishable materials do not survive. In fact, not a single scrap of papyrus document has survived from the delta from pharaonic times.” (108)
I look forward to reading this volume. Do Historical Matters Matter to Faith is from Crossway and is paperback with 542 pages and sells for $35.00.
And the book contains the D.A. Carson stamp of approval:
“Standing athwart the tide of strident voices currently demanding that we abandon confidence in the truthfulness and reliability of the Bible, the chapters in this volume constitute a defense of historic Christian confessionalism on the nature of Scripture. Mercifully, however, they are not mere regurgitations of past positions. Rather, they are informed, competent, and sometimes creative contributions that urgently deserve the widest circulation. In months and years to come, I shall repeatedly refer students and pastors to this collection.” -D. A. Carson, Research Professor of New Testament, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School