Andrew Brown, writing in the Observer, comments that Ridley Scott’s latest movie, Exodus: Gods and Kings has reignited the debate over whether Moses actually existed and if he did, what kind of person was he? Christian Bale, who plays Moses, has equated him to a schizophrenic and “one of the most barbaric characters I ever read about in my life.” Brown concludes that the movie doesn’t reveal anything new or interesting about Moses because there simply wasn’t a person named Moses. “There is no historical figure of Moses, and no reason from archaeology or history to suppose any of the exodus story is true.”
Hollywood seems to have a knack for making a mess of Biblical stories. Anyone who had the misfortune to watch Noah can attest to the fact that the movie had nothing to do with the Biblical story outside the name Noah and the Ark. What amazes me is how quickly our mass media jumps on anything to do with Christianity in order to belittle it, deny it or undermine it. Are writers like Mr. Brown, actors like Christian Bale and moviemakers like Ridley Scott really the last word on what is true or not about the Bible?
I often wonder how much searching columnist and opinion writers have to go through to find a Rabbi, Priest or Pastor who agrees with their preconceived opinions. These writers seem to rely heavily upon liberal theologians, skeptics and malcontents for support of their views and then make sweeping conclusions regarding the historicity of the Bible based on their suppositions. When was the last time the media searched out a conservative Christian scholar for their opinion regarding their views and understanding regarding the Bible?
In all fairness, for many years scholars based their criticism of Moses on the chronological problems in the story in relationship to what they believed about the history of Egypt. But much of what archaeologists believed about the chronology of time is now highly debated by a diverse group of scholars who are calling for a drastic reduction of Egyptian history.
Scholars and authorities on Egyptian history like Sir Alan Gardiner admit to the problems surrounding Egyptian chronology. “Even when full use has been made of the king lists and of such subsidiary sources as have survived, the indispensable dynastic framework of Egyptian history shows lamentable gaps and many a doubtful attribution …What is proudly advertised as Egyptian history is merely a collection of rags and tatters.”Egypt of the Pharaohs, p. 53
Another problem for accepting fixed dates to Egyptian history accurately is the disagreement of the dates by a host of ancient writers. Herodotus, Manetho, Josephus, Africanus and Eusebius all provide historical insight but disagree with one another over the calculation of Egyptian chronology. Because of the confusion over Egyptian dating, scholars have been trying to cross reference Egyptian historical events with more accurate historical sources like the Assyrian chronology. If the Assyrian records and Old Testament records line up then it is logical to revise Egyptian chronology to harmonize with the two independent sources.
In fact, there is much interesting history and reading on the subject of the children of Israel and Moses out there for anyone interested in doing any amount of research. And this post isn’t written in a defense of Moses and the Bible story (though I believe very much in it) as an insight how easily Christian beliefs are dismissed by the media. The result is that thousands of people who read the reviews, articles and opinion pieces come away with the perception that stories like Moses are simple myths.
On the contrary there is much evidence outside the Bible that he existed and the story of the captivity and exodus are based on truth. Not that many years ago liberal scholars were proclaiming that Nebuchadnezzar, David and a host of other Old Testament figures didn’t exist but today we have archaeological and historical evidence for their existence.
As Christians we need to remember that much of our culture is opposed to the reality of Jesus and the Bible. The movie industry, newspapers, writers and skeptics are not interested in presenting the reality and truth of the Bible but in promoting their own views and selling product. We simply must listen to or read their dribble with a grain of salt.
However, they do raise one interesting question out of their belittling of the Bible; are we as Christians prepared to defend the validity of the Bible?
Far too many Christians believe the Bible without question because we travel in circles where the Bible is respected and studied for spiritual content. But for the millions of non-believers the Bible doesn’t hold the same truth as it does for us. One of the tools we should have is a basic understanding of the problems atheists and skeptics have with the Bible and we should be able to at least give somewhat of an answer for our faith.
Today we have access to wonderfully well written and thought out books on Christian Apologetics, websites dedicated to defending the faith, as well as online lectures and debates that all help build our trust in the Bible.
I remember reading books like The God Delusion and God is Dead and thinking anyone with a basic understanding of Christianity could respond to the nonsense the authors are pushing. But the sad reality is that many Christians, when reading the books, became discouraged and thought the authors made good cases for their disbelief. For thousands of atheists the books strengthened their resolve to not believe.
As Christians we need to stop thinking that standing at a Sunday evening church service with our hands in the air while singing praise songs is going to win the lost to Christ. We need to become students of the Bible that will then give us confidence to share our faith without fear. It is important to not only know the message of the Bible, but the accuracy and reliability of the book as well.
Do we need to be scholars to witness? Of course not, but we do need to have an understanding of what it is we wish to say to the world. If we don’t, men like Andrew Brown, Christian Bale and Ripley Scott will continue to set the agenda for what is Biblical and what isn’t.
* Please remember to pray for the thousands of Christians who are standing firm for Christ resulting in relentless persecution , for many even unto death. It seems that the media doesn’t have much interest in the continual slaughter of people who’s only crime is believing in Christ – they need our constant prayers. Go to http://thebeggardanced.com/nine-oclock-club/ for some of their stories.