© Charles Chandler
Considering the volume of evidence that falls into place when the Torah is interpreted this way, why didn't this thesis gain broad acceptance a long time ago? Actually, there are a number of reasons why it didn't.
First, many people study the Torah, and many people study ancient history. Some people study both. Of those, most are either Literalists, who insist that the Torah be taken at face value. So they use ancient history to try to validate the Torah. All the way to the other side, there are those who interpret the Torah as historical fiction (i.e., the context might have been real, but the story was fabricated). Both groups are convinced that acceptance of one paradigm precludes the other — either the Torah is the metric of truth, and secular history just isn't correct, or history is correct, and the Torah is wrong. Anyone insisting that both are correct forfeits the support of both camps.
The work done by archaeologists in the late 1800s and early 1900s didn't help — it actually created the polarization. Until the emergence of modern archaeology as a true science, everybody figured that the events in the Torah happened so long ago that nobody would ever find an overlap with secular history, and the question of reconciliation just never came up. Then sites were found that matched Biblical accounts, and the popularity of archaeology grew enormously, since religious folks had been under attack from the scientific community, and loved hearing that modern science might now validate the Bible. Historians such as Breasted (1865~1935), Albright (1891~1971), and Durant (1885~1981) played into that environment. To do so, they had to leave the Bible as-is, and read in the historical connections. Re-arranging the events in the Torah would have forfeited the religious support. For a time, this turned popular history into a branch of Christian Apologetics, but not without creating a backlash within the historical and archaeological communities. Some people seem to believe that the study of history should be free to draw its own conclusions, whether or not they support any particular religious framework. Considering the solidarity within the Apologetics movement, secular historians decided to dig in their heals, and put up a fight any time anybody was caught blending history and religion. Now Biblical historicity gets no support from serious historians or archaeologists, and only gets religious support if it doesn't reinterpret scripture.
Second, the same thing could be said of different camps within the secular community. When people choose majors in college, they choose favorite paradigms, and then they get educated in that mode of thinking, which subordinates all other methods, and where the depth of the education is non-trivial. The historian considers history to be the truth, archaeology the means to the end, and inspired literature a curious diversion. The other disciplines do the same thing in their own way. Unfortunately, fusing all of these methods seems to break all of the rules. Archaeologists don't discount the legitimacy of comparative literature — they dismiss it as something that will never be quantifiable. Likewise, literary experts swear by the infallibility of incontrovertible conceptual connections between cultures, even if the hit-or-miss archaeological evidence doesn't yet support it. So how does one invoke the metrics for verity from history, archaeology, and comparative literature, in the same analysis, and successfully dodge the exclusivity of such metrics? Archaeology might acknowledge something, and so might literature, but combining the results also brings in the reasons why archaeology should be considered suspect, and so should literature, leaving the thesis doubly suspect, not doubly confirmed.
Third, the discovery of Amarna, and of Tut's tomb at Thebes, generated a great deal of sensationalism, and greatly increased the popularity of ancient history. Scholars enjoyed the increased funding, but serious scholars have stayed away from the study of the Amarna pharaohs, for fear of being accused of pandering to popular fads. So it's OK to patronize the general public if it's just sensationalism that doesn't pretend to be solid academic work, but don't expect any serious scholar to invest time or effort into it.
Fourth, the idea that Moses was at Amarna has been further stalled by the fact that its earliest proponent (i.e., Sigmund Freud) wasn't an historian. So the idea that the Amarna heresy was the inspiration for Judaism was born discredited.
Nevertheless, fads and backlashes come and go, while the facts remain. If we didn't know that we were engaging in confirmational bias, nor fighting hard against it, and if we just had the facts, the inescapable conclusion is that Atenism was the prototype for Judaism.
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