The Exodus and Passover


The annual Seder meal points to a nation-defining event–the Exodus.

If the Exodus didn’t happen, how did this ceremony begin? A distortion of something else, like our practice of Christmas? A complete fabrication?

(George Brooks) #2

There is some evidence that the Passover was inspired by a Persian annual festival … (The Essenes borrowed much of their world view from the Persians.)

Below is a discussion of the similarity between Nowruz and Purim … there could be other religious feasts that are similar…

“in 539 BC the Jews came under Persian rule thus exposing both groups to each other’s customs. According to Encyclopædia Britannica, the story of Purim as told in the Book of Esther is adapted from a Persian novella about the shrewdness of harem queens suggesting that Purim may be a transformation of the Persian New Year.[64] …”

“… The Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics notes that the Purim holiday is based on a lunar calendar while Nowruz occurs at the spring equinox (solar calendar). The two holidays are therefore celebrated on different dates but within a few weeks of each other, depending on the year. Both holidays are joyous celebrations. Given their temporal associations, it is possible that the Jews and Persians of the time may have shared or adopted similar customs for these holidays.[65]”

" The story of Purim as told in the Book of Esther has been dated anywhere from 625–465 BC (although the story takes place with the Jews under the rule of the Achaemenid Empire and the Jews had come under Persian rule in 539 BC), while Nowruz is thought to have first been celebrated between 555–330 BC. It remains unclear which holiday was established first."


You seem to be suggesting that Purim was inspired by Persian festival.

I was talking about Passover, not Purim.

(George Brooks) #4

I made some edits to clarify my awkward wording.

The most interesting evidence we have on Passover is the Jewish settlers at Egyptian Elephantine island… where there was a Jewish temple… circa 400 BCE I believe.

While some consider this evidence of Passover’s antiquity … I find it interesting that it was during the high times of Persia.

The Hittites had similar “religious bread” traditions… but “Passover” could be connected more to “passing over the river Jordan” than to some fictional “Destroyer passing over” the Jewish people…


I’ve asked something similar before, but why it is always “better” to start from a position of skepticism–everything must have been borrowed?

If, for example, the Hittites had a “bread ceremony,” how would it have been converted to such specific meaning tied directly to core national identity?

(George Brooks) #6

Even by the Bible’s description, Jewish religion is a sequence of innovations every few generations… with the cult practices being rather obvious copies of the religions around them.

Do you REALLY think there was a Destroyer god that went around killing the first born EXCEPT where there was blood on the doorways?


How do you decide what is possible and what is impossible? What are your criteria for making this decision?

(George Brooks) #8

So let’s count the ways …

  1. Yahweh doesn’t tell anyone his name until he recruits Moses … which is supposedly around 1250 BCE?
    Pretty late in the religion game.

  2. Yahweh seems to have a high affection for BLOOD… sprinkled about and thrown about … a practice that was associated with Molech and Nergal … perhaps a few of the other lesser pleasant deities.

  3. Judaism’s Kosher practices reflect the kind of zeaous food practices shared by either Egyptian or Persian religions (depending on who you talk to).

  4. The religious stories included in their history (Tower of Babylon, the Great Flood) are newer versions of stories from OLDER religions.

  5. Even the purported antiquity of Monotheism comes AFTER Akhenaton’s innovation of monotheism.

As for what is possible and not possible… if we are only told about the Destroyer ONCE … and nobody has seen it since … it just might be because it doesn’t really exist.

(Robert J. Kurland, Ph.D.) #9

Looking at most of the replies they seem to confuse borrowing of Scripture text in the Babylonian exile (and drasticlly modifying it ) for the Creation story of Genesis with the Exodus and Passover.
I’m reminded of another counterfactual, a series of SF stories by Robert Silverberg, "Roma Eterna" in which the Jews were recaptured, there was no Israel, no Christ. Like all counterfactual given in the comments, they’re thought-provoking as to what futures might have been.


So…if it happens more than once, then it might be true? That’s your criterion?

Like…crossing the Red Sea? “Only reported to have happened once”…then it’s not true, but if it’s reported to have happened more than once, it’s true (or might be true)?

Do I have it right?

(George Brooks) #11

Here’s some more background …

If we read page 257 of Sarah Johnston’s “Religions of the
Ancient World: A Guide” the author tells us that
Deuteronomy (Deut 16:1-17) was a product of the
late 600’s BCE. But even this is based on the
belief in a continuity between Jewish cult PRE-EXILE
and the cult AFTER exile.

The author goes on about Deuteronomy manifesting
"… several interesting shifts and adds much detail
to the two rather reticent earlier calendars. "

“The festival of Unleavened Bread began with
the sacrifice of the pesah … The pesah sacrifice,
not mentioned in earlier calendars, was to be boiled
according to this text (contrast Exod. 12:9,
where it is to be roasted), unleavened bread was
to be eaten throughout the festival, and all leaven
was avoided.”

“The pesah sacrifice was to be performed at the
central sanctuary - - Deuteronomy’s major innova-
tion is cult centralization - - and the rest of the festi-
val was to be observed at home.”

“The other major shift manifested by this calendar
is in the name of the fall festival, now called Booths
(sukkot). Although no historical explanation is given,
the name change appears to reflect historicization of
the festival, as it apparently alludes to the story of
Israel’s anccestral wanderings in the wilderness,
during which the Israelites lived in booths or tents.”

“The most elaborate and detailed calendars are found
in Lev. 23 and Numbers 28-29: these also appear to
be the latest in date. The most significant change to
which these versions of the cultic calendar bear witness
is a major augmentation of the fall festival.”

“Where Exod 23:16 and 34:22 speak of a fall festival.
Where Exod 23:16 and 34:22 speak of a fall harvest
festival at year’s end and Deut. 1613-15 bears witness
to a seven-day festival of Booths, Lev. 23:24-36 makes
provision for a three-part observance in the seventh
month: a holy convocation on day 1 of the month
(later identified with Rosh Hashanah [New Year]);
a holy convocation for self-affliction and purgation
on day 10 of the month (Yom Kippur; see also Lev. 16);
and the festival of booths (sukkot) beginning on day
15 of the month.”

" In addition, the festival of Booths now has an
explicit historical explanation: Israel was to
live in booths during the festival in order to remember
YHWH’s saving acts at the time of the exodus and
wanderings in the wilderness. The emergence of a
distinct New Year’s observance at the time of the fall
festival is not surprising, given the older tradition,
attested in Exod. 23:16 and 34:22, that this was the
time of the “going forth” or “turn” of the year."

“Development of the cultic calendar would continue
throughout the Second Temple period (515 BCE to
70 CE). By the 2nd century BCE, there is evidence
that the feast o Weeks had - - in some circles at
least - - come to be associated with the making of
covenants between YHWH and humans, including
the revelation at Sinai (see Jub. 1:1; 15:1-4). This
association would become the norm in rabbinic circles
(see Babylonian Talmud, tractate Shabbat 86b).
Other regular observances, such as Hannukkah
(1 Macc. 4:59; Josephus, Antiquities 12.323-26)
and Purim (Esth. 9:26-28; Josephus, Antiquities
11:284-96), were added to the cultic calendar
during the Second Temple period.”

To respond to your comment about crossing the Red Sea … it is ironic that so many people question this particular miracle. It’s one where there is actually plenty of historical support for the inspiration of the story. We have historical accounts that Napoleon’s army took advantage of an exposed sand bar in the middle of the water (not in the middle of the Red Sea … but in a BRANCH of the Red Sea) … and the sand bar began to go under water so quickly that Napoleon himself was almost drowned!

Crossing the Red Sea on a temporary basis was actually the HISTORICALLY ESTABLISHED part of the
story of Exodus …


Okay…so the Exodus itself is historically verified (because it happened more than once), but Passover has no legitimate connection to that event because it is contrived from other sources…?

(George Brooks) #13

You are so QUICK on the draw… It is not Exodus that is verified. It is “crossing the Red Sea” that can be substantiated … but not quite in the manner as described in Exodus. And certainly there wasn’t time for a
million people to cross it.

The term “Passover” appears to be the crux of the issue. Do you really think the term “pesach”, which derives from the word for “to pass over” or “to spring over” or even “to skip” or “to limp” has anything to do with Exodus?

It is a rationalization … much like the name Moses is said to come from the Hebrew from “lifted up” … when the term “Mus” is just as reliably related to the cuneiform word for “Priest”.


Certain positions just seem to me to default from a skeptical position–skepticism to the point of irrationality.

Since the presumption is that “it couldn’t have happened like that,” alternative explanations are explored, regardless of how convoluted and contrived.

I don’t know, I’ve just learned too many things “that we know” that turned out in the long run to be false–always from the point of view of “the text couldn’t possibly be true.”

(George Brooks) #15


So when you read the Latin story of Romulus and Remus being raised by a she wolf… you think that is the PLAUSIBLE place to start your interpretation ???

When we read this about Samson in Judges 16:27, do you think it is reasonable?: "Now the temple was crowded with men and women; all the rulers of the Philistines were there, and on the roof were about THREE THOUSAND MEN AND WOMEN watching Samson perform."

So when Samson pulled down the pillars, 3000 were killed.

Which is more than the number of Americans who died on the beaches of Normandy on the first day … and it is more than were killed in the collapse of the two twin towers on 9/11.

Of course, the towers were mostly empty at the time … but 3000 people on a roof of ANY temple that could totally collapse because of the failure of 2 pillars … well, like the MILLION PLUS people of Exodus - - it is just realistic.


Based on what? You really think knocking out two pillars wouldn’t compromise the structural integrity of an ancient building? Do you think the Parthenon would remain standing if a couple of pillars were knocked out? Do you have a background in ancient architecture?

(George Brooks) #17


  1. The Plutarch story (“The Life of Romulus”) tells us about the she-wolf.*.html

  1. If you look at a sample capacity chart, an exhibit hall that holds 2300 (stadium style seating) has the dimensions of 120′ x 193′ (23,160 sq ft). There isn’t a structure ANYWHERE that size ANYWHERE in Philistine archaeology… Even the vaunted King Solomon’s Temple’s dimensions was only approx. 40’ x 140’ !!!

  1. The Parthenon was built half a millenium later … and despite it’s size … there’s still no place for spectators on its roof. But let’s suppose we could put spectators on the roof - - the collapse of 2 columns certainly wouldn’t trigger the collapse of the whole temple.

(Henry Stoddard) #18

I believe that the Passover and Exodus really did happen. They represent what is called in theology a typology. What was this typology? I believe Moses was a type of Messiah and the Exodus represents the coming tribulation that will one day happen. God protected the Hebrews during this period when the plagues came to Egypt. Jesus is the true Messiah and Son of God. Since I am a Classic Premillennialist, I believe God will protect his New Israel, i.e., the Christian Church during the Great Tribulation. When Jesus returns, he will lead the Christian Church, i.e., the Israel of God, into the millennial kingdom on this earth, which is our Exodus. At the end of the millennial reign, Jesus will lead the Church into Heaven, which is our final promised land. Dr. George Eldon Ladd, an American Baptist Church minister and graduate of Harvard University with a PhD, accepted this view. Why should we believe that practically everything in the Torah is myth in the negative sense because we accept evolutionary creation? Dr. Joseph Priestley even took prophecy seriously. He was an Arian where I am a Trinitarian.

(Henry Stoddard) #19


I believe the Exodus did happen, and therefore it is not a complete fabrication.

(George Brooks) #20

If you have been reading related threads … you know that there is a problem placing something as dramatic as the Exodus (and the subsequent 2 or 3 centuries of significant history in Palestine - - an historical “tail” so to speak) any time between 1500 BCE and 1130 BCE.