Purpose in Exodus

June 5, 1998

IN HIS disparagement of John Habgood's doubts about the Exodus account, Theo Balderston ("Habgood, have faith", Letters, THES, May 8) displays an uncritical attitude toward the biblical sources that I hope does not normally characterise his work in the field of history.

The biblical story of the Exodus developed over many centuries and has a theological purpose. In recent years a great deal of work has been done on the Israelite settlement by archaeologists and biblical scholars.

It shows that whatever event may or may not ultimately lie behind the Exodus, the biblical story cannot be taken at face value. Religious faith does not require one to believe that black is white; the book of Ecclesiastes shows that questions, doubts, and uncertainties are also a part of life.

The Exodus story has a powerful theological message, regardless of its historicity, just as one can appreciate the value of Jesus's parables without insisting that they are literally true.

Lester Grabbe Professor of Hebrew Bible and early Judaism University of Hull

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