When John Loftus (God or Godless, chapter 5) claims that ‘archaeologists have shown us there was no…exodus by the Israelites from Egypt’ I believe that I can easily show this to be mistaken and misleading.
Of course, if I were to point to the standard Christian reference works, then my assertion that most or all of them accept the historicity of the exodus might be met with the response, “Well, they would, wouldn’t they?” I was interested, therefore, to check what some ‘neutral’ but reasonably authoritative sources of might have to say on the matter.
I turned first to the Encyclopaedia Britannica. Its article on ‘Judaism’, refers to ‘a migration to Egypt, an enslavement by Egyptians, and an escape from Egypt’, and adds, ‘to disallow these events, it can be argued, would make their centrality as articles of faith in the later religious beliefs of Israel inexplicable.’
Another entry in the Encyclopedia signposted me to this article on the BBC web site. Here, an epidemiologist, a climatologist, an oceanographer, and a tsunami expert are cited in order to present a case for linking the ten plagues and the crossing of the Red Sea with a huge volcanic eruption that is known to have devastated the Greek island, Santorini, to the North of the Egypt delta.
Turning now to another non-sectarian source, the Archaeological Encyclopedia of the Holy Land, I find that the article on ‘Egypt’ accepts the historical nature of the exodus without question:-
The only thing in dispute, according to this article, is the date of the exodus (was it during the reign of Rameses II, or near the beginning of the reign of Merneptah?)
Alexander writes: ‘The absence of external references to the exodus is not surprising for two simple reasons. First, no Pharaoh would commission an inscription on stone that would speak unfavourably of Egypt (Kitchen 1992: 707; Wheeler 2002: 259). Secondly, non-inscriptional literary evidence on clay tablets and papyrus is exceptionally rare for the Delta region in the second millennium BC. In 2008 Wood (2008: 98) noted that in forty years of excavations at Tell el-Dab’a, the site of ancient Raamses, only one small fragment of a clay tablet was recovered.’
Remember: I am not saying that this proves that the Exodus actually happened. All I am saying is that John Loftus is quite wrong to allow his readers to assume that it its non-occurrence is an indisputable fact.