Five Views on the Exodus – Ron Hendel

Episode: This begins the first of a series on five views on the exodus based on a book by that named that Biblical World host Mark Janzen just edited. Our first guest in this series is Ron Hendel, who presents the cultural memory view. 

Hosts: Mark Janzen (Louisiana College) and Chris McKinny (Gesher Media)

Guest: Ron Hendel is Norma and Sam Dabby Professor of Hebrew Bible and Jewish Studies at the University of Berkeley. Professor Hendel has been a member of the Berkeley faculty since 1999 and has served as chair of Jewish Studies, the Department of Near Eastern Studies, and the Graduate Program in Ancient History and Mediterranean Archaeology. Hendel approaches the Hebrew Bible from a variety of angles – history of religions, textual criticism, linguistics, comparative mythology, literature, and cultural memory. He is the editor-in-chief of The Hebrew Bible: A Critical Edition, a new critical edition of the Hebrew text, whose first volume (Proverbs, by Michael V. Fox) was published in 2015. He is also writing a new commentary on Genesis for the Yale Anchor Bible. In 1999, he received the Frank Moore Cross Publications Award from the American Schools of Oriental Research. His books include The Text of Genesis 1-11: Textual Studies and Critical Edition (Oxford, 1998), Remembering Abraham: Culture, History, and Memory in the Hebrew Bible (Oxford, 2005), Reading Genesis: Ten Methods (editor and contributor; Cambridge, 2010), The Book of Genesis: A Biography (Princeton, 2013), Steps to a New Edition of the Hebrew Bible (SBL Press, 2016), and How Old is the Hebrew Bible? A Linguistic, Textual, and Historical Study (Yale, 2018). (from the University of Berkeley website)

Summary: In this episode, Mark and Chris interview Ron Hendel about the following:
The Egyptian evidence for the Israelite Exodus
“Egyptianisms” in the Pentateuch
The historicity of the Exodus events and its importance to the Old Testament as a whole
The importance of the Exodus to Jewish and Christian believers and its connection to Passover and Easter

Additional Resources: 2021 Janzen, Mark (ed.). Five Views of the Exodus. Zondervan; Ron Hendel’s Academia page.

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8 Replies to “Five Views on the Exodus – Ron Hendel”

  1. John W. Morehead

    What are your thoughts on Richard Elliott Friedman’s thesis on the Levites in his book The Exodus? Would seem to connect the cultural memory view with some historical considerations as well. Enjoying the podcast.

    • John winford

      Let’s be a little more academic please. The text as written is not a remote possibility and 4 of your views a non starter academically. Mr Hendel needs to take a stand and realize the cultural memory only has the probability of cultural memory from a late period. And only can represent a small portion of the different early Semitic cultures that made up proto and early Israelites cultures. Sounds like he is on the right track with a few exceptions. The factual Cannanite heritage of Israelites is what should be taking place. I value Mr Hendel exploring possibilities. But his view is the only one with value out of the 5. Dever. Finkelstein, Faust cover this well, with Faust showing to much bias with his conclusions. Hendels opinion interesting, but his historical conclusions not really possible. Proto Israelites defeated so many times, they had no idea of their own cultural heritage even was. The fictional exodus mainly created as method to build loyalty to Yahweh as a 6th bce creation, based on memories from this time period. At this time The multiple Israelites cultures had lost their own Cannanite heritage. Thus we end up with the pseudo historical accounts in the text. That’s the only fault I can find in Hendels conclusions. Oral traditions lost in many of the battles these cultures went through before the exile. And last you can’t look at Israelites as a single culture which sort if shoots holes in said conclusions. Just my 2 cents. Hendel a great professor doing good work.

    • Matt

      I think the comment may have been in response to the podcast series as such (but I’m not sure!). I’m not familiar with R. E. Friedman’s thesis, but it sounds like it might align as you suggest. Thanks so much for listening!

  2. Tsemaye

    The biblical text really only requires only a few political leaders of some canaanite ethnicities to have been descended from a population that left Egypt (geneologies were often artificial ways of representing political realities)

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