Does the Biblical Story of the Exodus Need to Be True?

by Steven Thompson July 27, 2017

I recently read an article on Patheos by Fr. Sean O’Laiore, Ph.D., with which I take exception. Dr. O’Laiore is an ordained Catholic priest, who is co-founder and Spiritual Director of Companions on the Journey, a community whose blog channel is hosted at Patheos. Dr. O'Laiore holds a BSc in Mathematics and a Ph.D. in Transpersonal Psychology. He is a licensed clinical psychologist in private practice in Los Altos, California. Dr. O’Laiore was born in Ireland and ordained as a Catholic priest in 1972.

The initial statement in the article read: “A story doesn’t have to be true in order to be inspirational. In fact, the greatest stories of all never even happened and, yet, have been the foundational myths of great nations and powerful religions.  Take the Passover-Pentecost-Promised Land legend for instance. There is not a serious bible scholar alive today, who believes that the Exodus ever happened or that Moses ever existed.”

Seemingly, the drumbeats of the liberal theologians of a by-gone era are still to be seen in the comments and writings of an ordained Catholic priest, who is clearly not in agreement even with some of his fellow priests. Dr. O’Laiore wishes to paint every Christian theologian with the same broad brush. When one is so careless as to make such a statement as the lead-in statement made by Dr. O’Laiore, the statements one makes following such a statement are all worthy of doubt. Of course, liberal theologians are still abundant, albeit the success of the conservative resurgence in the SBC, a movement I supported as a messenger to twenty of its past annual meetings.

There are numerous, serious Bible scholars who would tell us that both the Exodus narrative and the Pentecost narrative are true. I work with, and have worked with, a number of such scholars on our own faculty who hold terminal research degrees (Ph.D. or Th.D.) from the following universities: Cambridge, Edinburgh, St. Andrews, Aberdeen, Hebrew Union College, The University of South Africa, etc. The world-wide community of Bible scholars is divided on these issues, just as other communities of scholars are divided on issues relevant to their own fields of expertise. No such community of scholars is as monolithic as Dr. O’Laiore contends the community of Bible scholars is. Reading some of the presentations given at the Society for Biblical Literature, an organization of Bible scholars that convenes annually, would serve to make my previous statement abundantly clear.

His article’s thrust indicating that no serious Bible scholar would tell anyone that both the Exodus narrative and the Pentecost narrative are true is absolutely misleading. Dr. O’Laiore makes numerous disturbing, inaccurate comments throughout the article. I would suggest that readers of the article written by Dr. O’Laiore, and readers of my brief response, take time to read the works of serious conservative Bible scholars before being led astray by what was written by Dr. O’Laiore. 

Read, compare, and seek the truth.