Out of Egypt: Israel’s Exodus Between Text and Memory, History and Imagination

Watch full-length lecture videos as dozens of top scholars discuss new Exodus research at a recent UCSD conference

“The closest parallel to the Book of Exodus in the ancient West is Homer’s Odyssey. Both are stories of migration—of identity suspended until the protagonist—Odysseus or Israel—reaches a home. Neither account records events of the sort that are likely to have left marks in the archaeological record, or even in contemporaneous monuments… But the Exodus is not the story of an individual; it is the story of a nation. It is the historical myth of an entire people, a focal point for national identity.”
–Baruch Halpern, “The Exodus from Egypt: Myth or Reality?” The Rise of Ancient Israel, 1991.

The Exodus sits at the heart of Israelite religion, literature and identity, and aspects of the narrative helped shape independent Islamic and Christian traditions. Yet challenging textual and archaeological evidence has led some scholars to question whether the Biblical narrative reflects a single historical event or if it should be read, as Ronald Hendel wrote in Bible Review, as “conflation of history and memory—a mixture of historical truth and fiction, composed of ‘authentic’ historical details, folklore motifs, ethnic self-fashioning, ideological claims and narrative imagination.”

A recent international conference hosted by Calit2’s Qualcomm Institute at UC San Diego addressed some of the most challenging issues in Exodus scholarship. According to the Out of Egypt: Israel’s Exodus Between Text and Memory, History and Imagination website, the conference “brought together more than 40 of the world’s leading archaeologists, Biblical scholars, Egyptologists, historians and geo-scientists. In tandem, the Qualcomm Institute staged an exhibition, EX3: Exodus, Cyber-Archaeology and the Future … as an experiment in trans-disciplinary research, team science, and scholarly communication using technologies developed for the museum of the future.”

Watch the conference’s full-length lectures online for free on Bible History Daily, courtesy of conference host Thomas E. Levy, distinguished professor and Norma Kershaw Chair in the Archaeology of Ancient Israel and Neighboring Lands at UCSD. For more on research at UCSD, visit the Levantine and Cyber-Archaeology Lab.

Lectures

Watch the opening remarks at the bottom of this page, and click on lecture titles in the list below to watch.

Egyptology & Exodus

*Keynote Lecture* On the Historicity of the Exodus: What Egyptology Can Contribute Today in Assessing the Sojourn in Egypt. Manfred Bietak, director emeritus, Institute of Egyptology, University of Vienna. Keynote introduction: Thomas Schneider.

Out of Egypt: Did Israel’s Exodus Include Tales? Susan Hollis, State University of New York.

The Ark of the Covenant and Egyptian Sacred Barks: A Comparative Study. Scott Noegel, University of Washington (video unavailable).

Traditions Regarding a Great Going Forth from North-East Africa: Date and Reliability. Antoine Hirsch, Canadian Institute in Egypt on behalf of Donald Redford, Pennsylvania State University.

The ‘Image’ of the Pharaoh in Judahite and Israelite Society According to the Glyptic Evidence, Stefan Münger, University of Bern.
 


 

Archaeology & History

*Keynote Lecture* The Wilderness Itineraries: Who, How and When Did Biblical Authors Know About the Southern Deserts? Israel Finkelstein, Tel Aviv University.

Dates for the Exodus I Have Known, Lawrence T. Geraty, La Sierra University.

Egyptian Text Parallels to the Exodus: The Egyptology Literature, Brad C. Sparks, Archaeological Research Group.

Can Archaeological Correlates for the Mnemo-Narratives of Exodus Be Found? Aren Maeir, Bar-Ilan University.

The Emergence of Israel in Retrospect, Robert Mullins, Azusa Pacific University.

The Emergence of Iron Age Israel: The Question of “Origins,” Avraham Faust, Bar-Ilan University and Harvard University.
 


 

Geography & Exodus

Har Karkom: Archaeological Discoveries on a Holy Mountain in the Desert of Exodus, Emmanuel Anati, University of Lecce.

Which Way Out of Egypt? Physical Geography Constraints on the Exodus Itinerary, Stephen Moshier, Wheaton College.

Egyptology, Egyptologists and the Exodus, James Hoffmeier, Trinity International University.
 


 
In the FREE eBook Ancient Israel in Egypt and the Exodus, top scholars discuss the historical Israelites in Egypt and archaeological evidence for and against the historicity of the Exodus.
 

 

Text & Memory

*Keynote Lecture* Exodus and Memory: Remembering the Origin of Israel and Monotheism, Jan Assmann, University of Konstanz.

The Exodus and the Bible: What Was Known, What Was Remembered, What Was Forgotten, William Dever, University of Arizona and Lycoming College.

The Exodus Based on the Sources Themselves, Richard Friedman, University of Georgia.

The Omerta on the Exodus, Baruch Halpern, University of Georgia.

The Exodus Account in Recent Pentateuchal Interpretation, Konrad Schmid, University of Zurich.

Sources of Judicial Power in the Moses Story, Stephen Russell, Princeton Theological Seminary.
 


 

History & Memory

Hero and Villain: Outline of the Exodus Pharaoh in Artapanus, Caterina Moro, University of Rome Sapienza.

Leaving Home: Jewish-Hellenistic Authors on the Exodus, Rene Bloch, University of Bern.

Exodus in the Quran, Babak Rahimi, University of California, San Diego.

From Liberation to Expulsion: The Exodus in the Earliest Jewish-Pagan Polemic, Pieter van der Horst, University of Utrecht (delivered in his absence by Kathleen Bennallack).

The Despoliation of Egypt: From Stealing Treasures to Saving Texts, Joel Allen, Dakota Wesleyan University.

In Search of Israel’s Insider Status: A Re-Evaluation of Israel’s Origins, Brendon Benz, William Jewell College.

What Was the Exodus? William Propp, University of California, San Diego.
 


 
Interested in the latest archaeological technology? Researchers at the University of California, San Diego’s Calit2 laboratory recently released the FREE Biblical Archaeology Society eBook “Cyber-Archaeology in the Holy Land — The Future of the Past,” featuring the latest research on GPS, Light Detection and Ranging Laser Scanning, unmanned aerial drones, 3D artifact scans, CAVE visualization environments and much more.
 

 

Myth & History

*Keynote Lecture* The Exodus as Cultural Memory: Poetics, Politics, and the Past, Ronald Hendel, UC Berkeley.

Outside of Egypt: Joseph, Moses, and the Idea of Pastoralism Across Distance, Daniel Fleming, New York University (video unavailable).

Moses the Magician, Gary Rendsburg, Rutgers University.

The Revelation of the Divine Name to Moses, Thomas Römer, University of Lausanne.

The Exodus Narrative Between History and Literary Fiction, Christoph Berner, Universität Göttingen.

Mythic Dimensions of the Exodus Tradition, Bernard Batto, DePauw University.

Exodus and Exodus Traditions After the Linguistic Turn in History, Garrett Galvin, Fransciscan School of Theology and Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley, and University of San Diego.
 


 

Science & History

“The First Memory of Things”: Isaac Newton on Exodus and the Chronology of the Egyptian Empire, Mordechai Feingold, California Institute of Technology.

How Calculations Invaded the Deep Past, Jed Buchwald, California Institute of Technology.

Times of Darkness: Extreme Events, Long-Term Environmental Change, Mythology and History, John Grattan, Aberystwyth University.

Radiocarbon-Based Chronology for Egypt Over the Periods Relevant to the Exodus Tradition, Michael Dee, University of Oxford (co-authors C. Bronk Ramsey, T. Higham).

The Thera Theories: Science and the Modern Reception History of the Exodus, Mark Harris, University of Edinburgh.

Exodus: A Geophysical Perspective, Steven Ward, University of California, Santa Cruz.

Inspired by a Tsunami? Computer Simulations of Potential (Tsunamigenic) Scenarios Related to the Exodus Narrative, Amos Salamon, Geological Survey of Israel (with co-authors S. Ward, F. McCoy, T. Levy).
 


 

Exhibition

EX3: Exodus, Cyber-Archaeology and the Future. Thomas E. Levy, UCSD.
 


 

Opening Remarks Video


Exodus Welcome and Introductions, Thomas Levy, Conference Chair; Jeff Elman, Dean, Division of Social Sciences, UCSD; Ramesh Rao, Director, Qualcomm Institute; Pradeep K. Khosla, Chancellor, UC San Diego

Welcome, Seth Lerer, Dean, Division of Arts + Humanities, UCSD

 


 

Closing Remarks

Out of Egypt Conference: Summation, Thomas Schneider, University of British Columbia.

Closing, Thomas Levy, University of California, San Diego.

 


 
Lecture videos courtesy of conference host Thomas E. Levy, distinguished professor and Norma Kershaw Chair in the Archaeology of Ancient Israel and Neighboring Lands at UCSD. All videos originally published on the Out of Egypt: Israel’s Exodus Between Text and Memory, History and Imagination website, which features additional Exodus research and more information on the UCSD conference. For more on research at UCSD, visit the Levantine and Cyber-Archaeology Lab.

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16 Responses

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  1. D says

    It is amazing how blind and confused the “experts” are when it comes to the Bible. They begin with assuming it is only an ordinary history. The Bible was dictated by God the those who wrote and has an amazing unity, harmony and continuity throuhout.
    Much of it was written by eyewitnesses. They were there an wrote about others who were there. Parts of the Bible were revealed by God and kept true to real history by God’s guidance. It is not as Peter said “a cunninly devised fable” as the “experts” seem to say.
    How do they know? Were they there? Do they have knowledge of events that they did not witness from some source better than God? Do they know all things. To imagine that they know better than the eye witnesses and God is extremely arrogant. Such arrogace is irrational and cannot even be considered to have any validity.
    Trust God and His word The Bible.

  2. Kurt says

    An Issue Greater Than Deliverance
    On commissioning Moses, Jehovah emphasized the importance of the divine name. Respect for that name and the One whom it represents was vital. When asked about his name, Jehovah told Moses: “I shall prove to be what I shall prove to be.” Further, Moses was to tell the sons of Israel: “Jehovah the God of your forefathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.” Jehovah added: “This is my name to time indefinite, and this is the memorial of me to generation after generation.” (Exodus 3:13-15) Jehovah is still the name by which God is known to his servants around the earth.—Isaiah 12:4, 5; 43:10-12.
    Appearing before Pharaoh, Moses and Aaron delivered their message in the name of Jehovah. But Pharaoh arrogantly said: “Who is Jehovah, so that I should obey his voice to send Israel away? I do not know Jehovah at all and, what is more, I am not going to send Israel away.” (Exodus 5:1, 2) Pharaoh proved to be both hardhearted and deceitful, yet Jehovah urged Moses to deliver messages to him again and again. (Exodus 7:14-16, 20-23; 8:1, 2, 20) Moses could see that Pharaoh was irritated. Would any good come from confronting him again? Israel was eager for deliverance. Pharaoh was adamant in his refusal. What would you have done?
    Moses delivered yet another message, saying: “This is what Jehovah the God of the Hebrews has said: ‘Send my people away that they may serve me.’” God also said: “By now I could have thrust my hand out that I might strike you and your people with pestilence and that you might be effaced from the earth. But, in fact, for this cause I have kept you in existence, for the sake of showing you my power and in order to have my name declared in all the earth.” (Exodus 9:13-16) Because of what would be done with hardhearted Pharaoh, Jehovah purposed to demonstrate his power in a way that would serve notice on all who defy him. This would include Satan the Devil, the one whom Jesus Christ later called “the ruler of the world.” (John 14:30; Romans 9:17-24) As foretold, Jehovah’s name was declared around the earth. His long-suffering led to preservation for the Israelites and a vast mixed multitude that joined them in worshiping him. (Exodus 9:20, 21; 12:37, 38) Since then, the declaration of Jehovah’s name has benefited millions more who have taken up true worship.
    http://wol.jw.org/en/wol/d/r1/lp-e/2005366#h=8:0-11:1072
    http://wol.jw.org/en/wol/d/r1/lp-e/1200272060

  3. Scott says

    Jehovah’s Witnesses (JWs) say as referenced by Kurt, “Because of the chaotic state of Egyptian chronology, it is not possible to determine with any certainty who this Pharaoh was.”
    Let me say this. It is impossible for JWs to determine with any certainty or even a clue, who the Pharaoh of Moses was. That is because God goes no where near them. Spiritual cooties, you understand ;-) Just kidding ya, Kurt. But if you look for the circumstances that should point out the Pharaoh loud and clear, by the destruction of Pharaoh and his army, which certainly would have left Egypt devastated for some time, then you just might have your answer. I got it. Had it since 1987. One you have the Pharaoh, then you can straighten out the chronology problems indicated by the 1628 BC dendrochronology determination, rather than the much later approx 1500-1550 BC dates that come from Carbon 14 dating. the problem was a dark age in the 20th dynasty, after Rameses III. It leaves Egyptian time accounting missing as much as 150 years. I say about 140 years. That is why Rameses II and all before him should have dates pushed back a good 100-150 years. But unless you had a date of certainty somewhere in the 18th or 19th dynasty, you would be lost since the 2nd intermediate period between the 12th and 18th dynasties is a hopeless quagmire. I guts it all, though. Someday you’ll read about it.

    What makes it evern tougher for JWs is that they do not have an accurate bible Chronology of their own. They contaminate it with their 1914 (Dan. 4: “7 times”) baloney. Here is the real deal:
    http://www.truth1.org/chrono-over.htm

  4. Jonathan says

    Jehovah?

    Shortened name forms:
    Yah: Hallelujah –> Hallu Yah
    Yaho: Benjamin Netanyaho (Jewish news media says it “Netanyao”)
    Yaho: Iao (Greek Old Testament), Iaou (Clement of Alexandria)

    Full name:
    Yahoah/Yahwah: Ieoua (Philo of Byblos), Ioa (Severi of Antioch), Yah Wah (“History of the Native American Indians” by James Adair, 1775), Y’Wah (Karen tribe, Burma), …

    Yah –> Yaho/Yao –> Yahoah/Yahwah

  5. Jonathan says

    Tomas Romer – The Divine Name

    This man’s presuppositions lead to extraneous interpretations of Hosea 12 among other passages. Hosea 12 states Yahwah is related to Egypt? This is a (misguided) opinion stated as fact on his PowerPoint and in his lecture. What else is he presenting as fact that is should be opinion?

    He cannot even pronounce the name of Yahwah correctly according to the historical manuscripts, using a modern Hebrew phonetic alphabet for an ancient name, and adding a Greek suffix “Yahvay.” Yet his lecture is on the name?

    Shortened name forms:
    Yah: Hallelujah –> Hallu Yah
    Yaho: Benjamin Netanyaho (Jewish news media says it “Netanyao”)
    Yaho: Iao (Greek Old Testament), Iaou (Clement of Alexandria)

    Full name:
    Yahoah/Yahwah: Ieoua (Philo of Byblos), Ioa (Severi of Antioch), Yah Wah (“History of the Native American Indians” by James Adair, 1775), Y’Wah (Karen tribe, Burma), …

    Yah –> Yaho/Yao –> Yahoah/Yahwah

    Elohim a name? Elohim means “judge” or “deity.” It was used interchangeably with Yahwah in the same time periods, not as a name but as a title. ????

  6. JZ says

    Do you know how I can get in touch with Professor Bietak? I would like permission to use his diagram of the Israelite 4-room house for a curriculum video I am producing.

  7. JZ says

    Hello, I am trying to contact Professor Bietak. Would you happen to have an email address for him? I am producing a curriculum for chldren and I would like to use his diagram of the Israelite style 4 room house and a photo of the Avaris dig site, it possible.

  8. mario says

    please put subtitles in Spanish or translated

Continuing the Discussion

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  3. Video: Har Karkom–Archaeological Discoveries on a Holy Mountain in the Desert of Exodus | Joshua and the Colourful Judges of Israel linked to this post on February 26, 2014

    [...] << Back to Out of Egypt: Israel’s Exodus Between Text and Memory, History and Imagin… [...]

  4. Video: The Exodus and the Bible: What Was Known, What Was Remembered, What Was Forgotten | newsantiques.com linked to this post on March 1, 2014

    [...] “The Exodus and a Bible: What Was Known, What Was Remembered, What Was Forgotten” during a new Out of Egypt: Israel’s Exodus Between Text and Memory, History and Imagination discussion hosted by Calit2’s Qualcomm Institute during UC San Diego. Watch a full harangue video [...]

  5. Video: What Was The Exodus? | newsantiques.com linked to this post on March 12, 2014

    [...] San Diego academician William Propp delivered a harangue “What Was The Exodus?” during a new Out of Egypt: Israel’s Exodus Between Text and Memory, History and Imagination discussion hosted by Calit2’s Qualcomm Institute during UC San Diego. Watch a full harangue video [...]

  6. looking for Biblical Mt. Sinai | newsantiques.com linked to this post on March 31, 2014

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  7. Video: Hero and Villain: define of the Exodus Pharaoh in Artapanus | newsantiques.com linked to this post on March 31, 2014

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