Beliefs Culture Ethics Jonathan Merritt: On Faith and Culture Opinion

‘Exodus’ underwhelms at box office. Did #BoycottExodusMovie work?

Courtesy of 20th Century Fox

Even though Ridley Scott’s ‘Exodus’ won the box office crown this weekend, it only earned an estimated $24.5 million, performing lower than studio executives hoped. While it is difficult to determine why many moviegoers chose to stay home, some have speculated that Scott’s casting decisions had something to do with it.

The film received criticism early on for placing white Westerners in most leading roles and relegating people of color to lesser roles such as “Ramses servant.” Many people called for a boycott of the whitewashed film, inspiring twitter hashtags such as #boycottexodusmovie. Last week, I argued in another column that it was one of three religious hurdles facing the film. It seems likely to me that race was one of many factors that led to the low earning weekend.

In light of the controversy, I discussed the film’s race problem in an interview with CNN:

About the author

Jonathan Merritt

Jonathan Merritt is senior columnist for Religion News Service and a contributing writer for The Atlantic. He has published more than 2500 articles in outlets like USA Today, The Week, Buzzfeed and National Journal. Jonathan is author of "Jesus is Better Than You Imagined" and "A Faith of Our Own: Following Jesus Beyond the Culture Wars." He resides in Brooklyn, NY.


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  • Good point. I agree that the racist casting of the movie decreased it’s appeal. In addition, the data on movies this years suggests that Christians/Biblical movies as a whole have little appeal.

    Using Box Office Mojo’s top movies for 2014 (without The Hobbit yet), one has to go all the way down to #26 before finding any of the movies that made some people refer to 2014 as the “year of the Bible movie”. At #26 is “Noah”, which many Christians saw more as heresy than as a Christian movie.

    The others (Heaven, God is not dead, and Son of God) come in at #30, #43 and #44. So Exodus appears to have had at least two things going against it – it was a Biblically based/Christian movie, and it also had racist casting.


  • Jonathan Merritt has apparently never heard of Occam’s Razor, the notion that the most simple and straightforward explanation for a phenomenon is often the right one.

    So…..which is the more likely explanation for the Exodus movie’s lackluster box office performance:

    (1) Not enough actors of color in key roles or…..

    (2) “The portrayal of God as a willful, angry and petulant child” — to quote from Jonathan Merritt’s prior article on the movie.

    Tough one, eh, Jonathan?

    I’m going to go out on a limb and say it is [drumroll, please] — option (2)……

    Just a……wild guess…..

  • There is no story here. Underwhelming is in the eye of the beholder.
    It took in about $24.5 Mil at the box office on opening week making it #1. If #1 BO with a higher gross than nearly the next three films combined is underwhelming its because people aren’t rushing to the theaters in general.

    Middling reviews, weak box-office period, and an appeal to a rather capricious and whiny demographic would have nothing to do with it at all. Its just some barely known boycott which nobody has heard of. Riiiiight

    BIble thumpers are always going to complain about Hollywood films depicting the only book they read for some silly minor reasons. The only recent exception I could think of was when Mel Gibson bamboozled them into watching a low budget torture-p0rn period piece which will remain nameless.

  • I’m not sure if I agree that replacing Christian Bale with an unknown Jewish-Egyptian (is that what would be accurate?) actor would have boosted the film’s box-office take. Twitter hashtags from social justice activists didn’t get “The Colbert Report” cancelled, and I’m not inclined to give them credit for tanking a movie without any real evidence.

    The problem might be something as simple as the fact that, in a year where the biggest hit movie was a candy-colored comic book adaptation featuring a talking raccoon and an insipid oldies soundtrack, audiences weren’t all that interested in a dour, gloomy, gray-and-brown film about plagues and God’s wrath and sweaty, angry men glowering at one another. Especially after the year’s previous film to fit that description, “Noah,” was widely loathed by audiences. “Noah” made more money than “Exodus,” but this weekend’s take might have been a “fool me once…” situation.

  • Many problems with this sort of movie:

    1. “Exodus” is a fictional story pretending to be history.
    2. The character of Moses never existed.
    3. God is a jerk.
    4. The character of God never existed.
    5. The story is racist from the outset as the Chosen People with the Chosen God do some Chosen Genocides.
    6. Christians now know that religion is a grab bag of nonsense.

    7. It is a spectacularly DUMB story:
    An All-Powerful, All-knowing God hires Moses as a tour director to travel the deserts of Egypt for 40 years to find a city that would have taken a week to GET TO if they only had a map!

    What pile of rubbish!

  • “All-knowing God hires Moses as a tour director to travel the deserts of Egypt for 40 years to find a city that would have taken a week to GET TO if they only had a map!”

    Of course the great joke being that God picked for his people the one spot in the Middle East which didn’t have oil. 🙂

  • Larry, if your claim about comparative box office numbers for this film is correct, that’s a really good point… indeed becomes a non-story since if you’re correct, it was a box office hit.

    As for the rest of your post, it’s the usual downhill slide when you move from your Jekyl of dealing with objective facts to your Hyde of radical-left tub thumping culture warrior.

  • I haven’t seen the movie, so I can’t comment directly, Max, but I will comment on your 7-pointed post:

    1. Exodus is a claim about history, which, like other such claims, is not refuted through lack of corroboration but by the higher bar of presence of contradiction — In other words, Max, you still don’t understand how historians decide what’s historical and what isn’t.

    2. See #1. The way historians work, Moses is presumed to be a historical figure until something either within or outside of the biblical text suggests otherwise. Again, it’s the presence of contradiction, not the absence of corroboration, which is the normal standard for refuting the historicity of a text or a figure in a text.

    3. God is a “jerk” for freeing the Jews from Egyptian slavery? That is, after all, the story of Exodus, Max. I thought you said you weren’t an anti-Semite. Oh well…

    4. So in MaxWorld, God is a “jerk” and also never existed. And he gets both ideas from reading the text of Exodus. Must be the hallucinogens, Max.

    5. Ooops — Max’s anti-Semitic slip is showing yet again…..Jews are now the ultimate racists in Max’s book because the Bible says they’re the chosen people. And since Max doesn’t believe in God, that means he believes the Jews chose themselves.

    6. Incoherent — How and why would Christians “know that religion is a grab bag of nonsense?”

    7. Most Jews think the Passover story is quite amazing — hence the Passover seders held for 30 centuries. Don’t expect an invitation to one any time soon, Maxie Boy. You obviously hate the Jews and despise their pivotal holiday.

  • I left a link to last weekend’s box office totals in my last post.

    You can see that for yourself. Exodus made 24.5 Mil on opening weekend
    #2 Hunger Games 13 Mil (4 weeks in)
    #3 Penguins of Madagascar 7 Mil (3 weeks in)
    #4 Top Five 7 Mil on opening weekend
    83 Mil for the entire weekend

    A nice opening. As you can see, it makes up a significant amount of total box office for the week.

    As for the rest. I am just remembering the crap that Mark Burnett and Roma Downey went through with their Jesus film. Also how notoriously thin skinned Christian audiences are when it comes to the Bible on screen for anything made after 1965. The only Hollywood film of the type to get a “pass” from that crowd was Mel’s well marketed gore film.

    [I challenge you to find a Biblical movie made after 1965 which didn’t catch flak by conservative Christians]

  • 1. The Criswell Defense. “Can you prove it didn’t happen!!!”
    [See Plan 9 From Outer Space for the reference]

    2. The Biblical text is not considered objective credible evidence of history on its face. Egyptians were a fairly literate people as ancient cultures go. You would think there would be a record of the Exodus coming from them as well considering all the major stuff happening to them in the story. Again, using the Criswell Defense to the same level of credulity.

    3. He took his good sweet time in doing it. 🙂

    5. From the perspective of Egyptians and Canaanites, Exodus is a collection of stories featuring mass murder, insurgency, disaster and genocide.

    7. Seders are generally open to people outside of the Jewish faith. Misery loves company. My uncle’s usual Passover includes at least 3-4 people who would be considered idol worshiping polytheists. People condemned by the Bible in general. (The Buddhist and Hindu contingents of my extended family)

  • Box-office success/failure has more to do with the movie’s budget (production AND promotion) than with how much it made relative to other movies that week. $25 million is definitely not what the studio was looking for.

  • True enough. You would figure the movie’s business might pick up around Christmas Day along with the usual surge by Chinese restaurants at that time.

  • Jack-

    On point #1 –

    Archaeology has clearly shown that the Exodus story never happened, and that the Jewish people were Canaanites who always lived there. There are many lines of evidence leading to this conclusion, including the fact that there is no evidence of an entire nation of people living in that area of the desert for 40 years (evidence would have been all over the place), that many parts of Exodus show that it was written later, that the Egyptian records show that the Hebrews were never enslaved there, and so on.

    One overview of the evidence is available in the book “The Bible unearthed” by Finkelstein (a professor in Tel Aviv), or check any of a number of other up to date sources. Modern Jewish Rabbis even recognize this. Like the mythical creation story, the mythical flood story and the mythical tower of Babel story, the exodus story is a myth – a meaningful myth to many people, but still a myth.

  • @Jack,

    There is no evidence of any Exodus or Moses.
    AND…There is a tower of evidence to the contrary.

    According to all of the Archeologists at the primary Antiquities Research facilities in Israel the evidence is conclusive that Moses and the Exodus are fiction:

    Prof. Ze’ev Herzog who teaches in the Department of Archaeology and Ancient Near Eastern Studies at Tel Aviv University states:

    “Moses did not exist, the Exodus never happened.”
    – Ze’ev Herzog

    “We have absolutely no evidence of an Exodus or a Moses, the proof goes the other way…”
    – Israel Finkelstein, Senior Professor of Archaeology at Tel Aviv University.

    I trust the Jewish researchers and the Israeli scholars 100% on this matter.
    My repeated defense of Israel and the Jewish People is well-known on the boards here – I won’t dignify your slander by responding further.

    It is notable that you offer no evidence for any of your claims.
    My evidence is a bibliography on the subject:

    Finkelstein, I & Silberman, N (2001), The Bible Unearthed, The Free Press, New York
    Gospel Pedlar, James Ussher: The Annals of the World
    Merling, D (1999), Did the Israelites Cross the Red Sea or the Gulf of Aqaba?
    Shaw, I (2000), Oxford History of Ancient Egypt, Oxford University Press, Oxford
    Uphill, E P (1968), Pithom and Raamses: Their Location and Significance, JNES, Vol.27 No.4

    And I have bad news about Jesus and Mohammed Also.

    For Peace, Civility and The Separation of Church and State

  • @Jack,

    I feel like I am schooling a child who never read any books.

    I said “the character” called God is a nonexistent being. The Character is depicted in the Bible as a jerk: i.e., he sends people roaming through a desert for 40 years for no good reason – that is a jerky thing to do.

    I said “The chosen” people
    who are yet another non-existent entity since nobody was ever chosen at all because there was no real god to choose anyone – limp their way across the desert aimlessly and wipe out (supposedly) the Hittites, Canaanites and all the other tribes living around there. These are just a few of God’s wonderful genocides. There are more (supposedly) later. A little story about Noah and an Ark comes to mind.

    Please read some books. You seem completely behind the curve around here.

    All religions

  • Well no it was not jerky to for the Jews to roam for forty years. The Jews were slaves and it took 40 years for the jews to develop as a free people

    The story of exodus can be understood as a metaphor for spiritual liberation you don’t have to believe it is literally true for it be meaningful

  • You are on to something, Larry, about Christian audiences, but I don’t think the problem is being thin-skinned so much as being picky. It starts out with a commendable passion for getting things theologically right, but somehow it ends up with finding a theological or doctrinal problem with nearly everything. There is always someone who will read something into a film or a book that was not intended by the writer or producer.

    At one point, for example, Dr. Dobson was attacked by self-appointed cult watchers for allegedly promoting New Age concepts in his books.

    Dr. Dobson? Really?

    And the gentleman who attacked him was otherwise a solid guy whom I respected.

  • 1. If “Criswell” used this concept, well then, it MUST be wrong, right? Nah…..It’s the way historians operated, long before “Criswell” was born. The rules of historical evidence are similar to the rules of legal evidence. Corroboration (the more the merrier) is nice, but far from essential.

    2. See #1.

    3. He did. But so, seemingly, did our parents at times when we were young and wanted something. Sometimes, they even uttered the dreaded word, “no.”

    5. A bit of a non sequitur, Larry, since the immediate issue, with which Max takes issue, is chosenness. Max appears to reject it on its face and call it a racist concept. Since he doesn’t believe in God, it follows he thinks the Jews made up that concept. Connect the dots, Larry.

    7. True….and that’s the point. One can be of a different religion or of no religion and get an invite….Otherwise, the whole question of whether someone would invite Max would be a moot one. It is his visceral antipathy to every aspect of the story that might preclude his being invited. Going on a tirade about the whole thing while the seder was being conducted would ruin it for the other attendees.

  • Apparently, Max, you blew right past the whole discussion of what constitutes historical evidence and what doesn’t.

    You still cling to the mistaken notion that corroboration, rather than contradiction, is key. It isn’t….and if historians changed burden of proof to make it so, we would have to question much if not most of what historians previously claimed as validated history, on a host of events unrelated to anything religious or biblical.

    If you want a further explanation of why historians work this way, I’d be glad to provide it. It’s based on the same common-sense notions that are behind what constitutes legal evidence, but you really don’t need me to do it for you. Do your own research on historiography. Again, it isn’t so difficult, if you care about approaching the issue honestly.

    The problem with the researchers you cite is that they are departing from the way historians and others who analyze ancient documents have operated. They apparently believe that when it comes to the mundane facts of the Bible, we should suddenly change the rules of the game. (Note I said “mundane facts,” such as whether individuals mentioned actually existed or not. I don’t mean miracles, which is another issue.)

    In other words, to arrive at the conclusion that Moses never existed, you have to change the rules of historical inquiry in the middle of the game. You have to make absence of corroboration, rather than presence of contradiction, your disqualifier. Historical analysis begins with the assumption that a person mentioned in a text is presumed to have existed until proven otherwise. To change that basic rule when we’re looking at the Bible is to depart from objective and honest scholarship. It is to suddenly raise the standard due to bias and prejudice against the text for other reasons.

  • Christian audiences generally have a very low tolerance for anything more than a validation of their own views of the faith. It has a very anti-intellectual, anti-contemplative nature to it. They tend turn off at any artistic license or interpretation which doesn’t follow what they are expecting. Even when the filmmaker’s intention is reverential, the reception can be outright hostile. [ex. Last Temptation of Christ, Hail Mary, Jesus of Montreal…]

    “Theologically right” and “doctrinal problems” are simply a euphemisms for a depiction coincides with the interpretations and ideas one is used to accepting. They will find it all over the place because depiction of doctrine and theology generally makes for poor drama and drifts towards didactic statements of faith in lieu of dialogue (a common complaint of “Christian Cinema”). The point of a film, even one with religious overtones is to entertain in some form or another. Catering to such sentiments is poison to interesting dramatic depiction.

    You didn’t see much of this with the Old Hollywood Biblical epics because there was a level of cynicism running behind them which appealed to wider audiences. Nobody needed to appeal to the devout to make up the box office.

    Your typical DeMille epic loaded itself with as much violence and depravity that the Production Code could allow. They would get away with it because it would always end with the dull pious characters winning (or martyring themselves gloriously). Nobody watches Ben Hur for the scenes with his mother and sister being healed by the crucified Jesus.

  • 1 & 2

    “If “Criswell” used this concept, well then, it MUST be wrong, right? ”

    Pretty much.

    When you are parroting an obscure television psychic who was a frequent fixtures in Ed Wood films, it undermines the seriousness and intellectual rigor of one’s argument. 🙂

    As for “the way historians always operated”, that is a load of junk. Like any field which requires a level of academic rigor, one does not rely on assumptions, but evidence. Something which undermines any notion of serious study. Glorified assumption. The burden of proof belongs to the person making the claim. To claim Exodus is true and actually happened requires production of objectively credible evidence. The Bible isn’t that.

    3. I was being facetious.
    5. It is hardly a non-sequitor to note that Biblical views of an event do not necessarily mean they should be the only ones out there. It throws light on the subjective nature of Biblical narratives and notions of morally justified conflict. It would hardly be anti-semitic to show that another perspective would exist outside of a given narrative.

    7. The point is that of course Max would be invited. He wouldn’t even have to be asked to participate. Everyone gets invited. At least 1/3rd the people who attend my Uncle’s seder are atheists. Several people are of faiths which are outright offended by many passages of the Haggadah. By giving the impression that it is “for believers only” is a rather insulting take on it. Spirited discussion is EXPECTED as part of the Passover rite.

  • Larry, very few people don’t have a “very low tolerance for anything more than a validation of their own views,” regardless of content. I’ve found that to be true across the ideological, religious, and political spectrum…..So to single out Christians or any other group for this is to have the blinders on.

    Reinhold Niebuhr once said that the true test of tolerance was how we treat others when they disagree with us on what we consider to be our core values and beliefs. People can talk a good game about it, until they face that critical test.

  • I had and still have no idea who “Criswell” is, and since I’m not into psychics, I feel I haven’t missed anything in not knowing.

    What I do know is that ad hominem arguments — ie if Hitler says 2 and 2 make 4, it must be wrong — are worthless.

    And I have made it my business to know how historians go about their business — how they try to determine what constitutes history and what doesn’t.

    And once again, historians do assume the veracity of mundane assertions in texts of any kind, so long as there is nothing either within the text or outside of it which contradicts those facts.

    If an ancient text mentions a man named John Jones, historians assume that John Jones existed….until they find something either in the same text or outside of the text that suggests otherwise.

    Again, it is not the absence of corroboration that calls a text into question — it is the presence of contradiction, internal or external, that does so.

    Put another way, when it comes to mundane, unremarkable statements in a text, such as names, dates, and places, the burden of proof rests on the claim that these are inaccurate or fabricated. Historians assume their veracity until internal or external evidence contradicts them.

    This is similar to legal evidence, where witnesses are presumed to be telling the truth, so long as there is nothing internal or external to their testimony which contradicts it in a material way. It’s the job and the burden of cross-examiners to impeach their testimony.

    Shifting burden of proof, in the case of both the field of history and courts of law, would upend both history and the law. Much of what is deemed history would have to be tossed away, and court business would ground to a screeching halt.

    To fully understand the absurdity of such a change, imagine normal, everyday conversations where on both sides of the conversation, each would demand the other furnish proof for the veracity of every sentence uttered. All communication would ground to a halt.

    The way communication works in real life is that we assume people are telling us the truth on mundane matters until we have good reason to believe otherwise. Reasons would include contradictions within the conversation or with what we already know to be true — ie contradictions external to the conversation. (An obvious corollary would be if one of the people in the conversation were a known, habitual liar.)

    That’s how normal communications between people are treated, and that is why the rules of historical and legal evidence work that way, too. There is no practical alternative.

  • Nice try, Max, but it goes a lot deeper than that. I’m hardly the first person on these boards who’s noticed repeatedly how your anger at the God of the Bible goes far beyond anger at an imaginary god. You seem to keep forgetting your own supposed belief that the God you’re fuming against doesn’t really exist. I’ve read enough of your myriads of posts and mechanical dronings on to ask some obvious questions about what’s really going on with you.

    As for your problem with a chosen people, I don’t think you realize the hole you’ve dug for yourself when it comes to the Jewish people.

    The logic of your own particular position, that the God of the Bible is the absolute monster of all monsters, a grotesque fiction, leads inexorably to the conclusion that (1) Jews from the past created this uniquely wicked monstrosity and (2) every Jew who believes in Him is acquiescing to a unique monstrosity.

    Coupled with your implicit threats to call Israel an “apartheid state” (your words) if it doesn’t become a surrender monkey, and your coupling of Jewish dissenters from your view with the KKK, the Rwandan genocide perpetrators, al Qaeda, and Hamas, it is obvious that you have a real problem with (1) Jews who have any connection to their religion and (2) Jews who take seriously the right of a Jewish state to exist, as it has since 1948.

  • Jon, prove it.

    Hint: The conjectures of one and only one archeologist — Dr. Finkelstein — don’t cut it. These conjectures flatly contradict the conclusions of the late Dr. Albright, the dean of 20th century biblical archeologists.

    And the only difference here is that Finkelstein’s methodology differs completely from that of Albright and many others. It takes burden of proof and turns it upside down. It replaces “presence of contradiction” with “absence of corroboration” as the standard of refutation — without any grounds for doing so.

    And you couldn’t be more wrong about “modern Jewish rabbis,” unless by “modern Jewish rabbis,” you deliberately exclude (1) modern Orthodox rabbis (2) many modern Conservative and even many modern Reform rabbis.

    Again, based on common-sense understandings of what constitutes burden of proof, you can’t say a figure mentioned in a text is fictional just because that figure isn’t mentioned elsewhere. You have to find something within the text to contradict the person’s existence, or something outside of it that does it. Mere absence or lack of corroboration does not cut it.

  • Max, that can’t be true unless you change the rules of evidence for refutation from “presence of contradiction” to “absence of corroboration.”

    But if you do that with the Bible, you must be consistent and do it with every other text from the past — secular or religious.

    I don’t think you would relish the result, though. It would be the equivalent of building a huge bonfire and burning much of what’s in the history books.

    It would be a deliberate retreat from knowledge into a new world of deliberately chosen ignorance about the human past.

  • “I had and still have no idea who “Criswell” is, and since I’m not into psychics, I feel I haven’t missed anything in not knowing. ”

    Nor know of Ed Wood, his films, their reputation, nor bothered to check out the youtube link I used as part of the reference or use the interwebs in any way to fill in such a gap in knowledge. I bet you didn’t even see Tim Burton’s film with Johnny Depp.

    Your laziness and ignorance is duly noted.

    As for what you know of historians, you seem hell bent on describing the kind of psuedo research of the type seen on “The History Channel” rather than describe what actual historians do. Assumptions without evidence are not accepted at face value in any academic field [except Theology and Biblical Studies].

    Your description of how legal evidence works makes my eyes hurt in how completely off the mark it is. I can add this to the list of things you think you know about, but are completely wrong about.

    A person making a claim, such as a prosecutor or plaintiff must make what is known as a prima facie case. Meet the bare minimum of presentation of evidence to support the claims being made. You can’t just hurl an accusation and expect people to disprove it as you suggest.

    A witness is someone who is PRODUCING EVIDENCE to support a given claim. If their account has some reason not to be taken seriously (hearsay, speculation, fails to provide pertinent details), one need not require to disprove the statements to throw it out.

    When it comes to Exodus, you have nobody producing evidence which supports the claim of the story being factually true. The Bible can be discounted for numerous reasons which do not require counter-evidence.

    But in this case there is a mountain of counter-evidence which you are trying to ignore or discount. You are refusing to follow any kind of rational thought on the subject in favor of extolling what amounts to be mythology.

    Your attempt to shift burdens of proof make a mockery of history or any serious work done on an academic subject. Its why such tactics are typically used by people pushing ideas which lack any rational support.

  • Its nice to think that the most negative traits of a given group or view are shared by everyone, but frankly it isn’t. Most people don’t go out of their way to protest and complain when someone depicts something which disagrees with their views. Certainly not like Christians do on a regular basis. Most just ignore it.

    I don’t agree with the views featured in Michael Moore’s or Dinesh D’Souza’s films. Do I complain and lodge protests? No. I just don’t bother to see their stuff. Atlas Shrugged Parts 1-3 met with a shrug of indifference. Most left behind Left Behind, without even a mention.

    “Reinhold Niebuhr once said that the true test of tolerance was how we treat others when they disagree with us on what we consider to be our core values and beliefs.”

    Then he would probably have a very dim view of what passes for discourse among “Christians”. As a group they are more than willing to engage in sniping of those in the same faith, to declare themselves as the only arbiters of scripture and of God’s word. When you talk about things such as “inerrency”, “literalism” and “theological correctness” you are not being open to alternative ideas. You are trying to shut the rest of them out.

  • “you don’t have to believe it is literally true for it be meaningful”

    Right. God is a metaphor, just like Gandalf.
    And why would anyone claim anything to be true just because Gandalf says it is?

  • @Jack,

    If you will agree to put ‘The Bible’ in the same LITERARY space as Homer’s Illiad, Marcus Aurelius, The Egyptian Book of the Dead, Gilgamesh and so on……..if you will agree that The Bible is a work of MYTHIC history and NOT the DIVINE WORD OF A REAL GOD – then I am happy to lump it in with other works of literature and grant it permission to survive as such.

    You are not going to get away with smuggling your God into this nonsense!

    The Bible is ancient Mythic History – NOT literal.
    The God depicted in the Bible is not real. It is Myth.
    There is no evidence for Moses or the Exodus.
    Moses is nothing but a metaphor.

    All religions stemming from this story: Judaism, Christianity and Islam are just nonsense and pathetic myths.

    If you’ll agree with that, then yes, the Bible is a useful work of literature to help give insight into ancient cultures and how they told their stories.
    Yahweh isn’t real. And Moses isn’t real – get over it.

  • @Jack,

    “The logic …that the God of the Bible is the absolute monster of all monsters, a grotesque fiction, leads inexorably to the conclusion that (1) Jews from the past created this uniquely wicked monstrosity and (2) every Jew who believes in Him is acquiescing to a unique monstrosity.”


    Why are you focused so much on Jews?
    Yahweh is the God of Abraham, the God of Christians and The God of all of Islam!

    Yes, Yahweh is a monster. But so are all other Gods ever created by every community in all of history! That is the point!
    The monstrous power is exactly the appeal to these primitive cultures.

    I am so sorry you have no education regarding Hercules or Zeus.
    You are apparently completely unaware that the Hellenic tradition of creating Gods is exactly the source of Judaic construction of Yahweh.

    The Jewish Seder, a ceremony which invites younger members of a family to discuss philosophical ideas over a meal with their elders – is exactly one such Hellenistic tradition which survives through the centuries. These are ancient Greek traditions.

    To blame the Jews for this would be an outrage and a misreading of history. The Greeks had created Gods long before the Jews. The early Jews were only following their forebears in Greece. The Christians and Muslims have only distorted and deranged these gods further.

    You need to read some books.

  • Judaism, Christianity and Islam had their foundations in the Hellenic traditions in Greece and even those traditions had forebears in Egypt.
    We KNOW all this today. It is not speculation.

    This is who we are:

    1. All humanity is one species, Humans – Homo Sapiens (meaning ‘wise man’)
    2. We evolved from ONE SINGLE hominid species in Africa. All other hominid species have gone extinct. We are classified as Great Apes.
    3. 500,000 years ago we were all living in Africa.
    4. For climate reasons, humans moved from Africa northward into Europe and elsewhere bringing thousands of stories and oral traditions.
    5. The rise of Agrarian culture led to quick improvements in our societal development.

    Desert cultures invented Sky Gods.
    Jungle cultures invented Jungle Gods.
    Cultures near volcanoes invented Volcano gods!

    How transparent does this have to be for you?

    There have been thousands of gods created over these countless millennia – ALL GODS have been manmade by frightened tribes who sought answers to their big questions. Funny how ALL GODS CAME UP WITH IGNORANT, STUPID ANSWERS.

    Instead of behaving like a modern person,
    you are acting like those scared primitives. You are insisting that God is real when it is too obvious that all of this is nonsense.

    And religion is nothing but a time-waster.

  • “When it comes to Exodus, you have nobody producing evidence which supports the claim of the story being factually true. The Bible can be discounted for numerous reasons which do not require counter-evidence.”

    Larry, I’m afraid what Jack has said is quite true.

    By claiming that “nobody has produced evidence” of Exodus being factually true, you have clearly missed the entire point. Exodus itself IS evidence of the factual truth of its story. You are under no obligation to accept it as credible, of course, but there is nothing wrong with it from a purely evidentiary standpoint. And if you wish to convince others that it is not credible, then you can produce your own competent evidence to the contrary.

    “Your attempt to shift burdens of proof make a mockery of history or any serious work done on an academic subject.”

    Larry, to identify a mockery of “serious work on academic subjects,” one must first have some knowledge about “academic subjects” and “serious work” thereon. Let’s not put the cart before the horse.

  • “Historical analysis begins with the assumption that a person mentioned in a text is presumed to have existed until proven otherwise.”

    So tell me more about how real Hercules is.

  • Max, you completely missed my point, but I didn’t expect you to be able to understand it.

    One of the major messages of the Exodus is that the Jews should remember that they were strangers and therefore to treat strangers well. It is a message of liberation from mental and spiritual bondage as well as physical bondage.

  • Susan,

    “the Jews should remember that they were strangers..”

    They “were” ?
    You don’t seem to realize you are bobbing back and forth from literal to metaphor – calling it a metaphor in one tone of voice – and a literal event in another tone of voice.

    These are just stories, nothing more.

    Some Native Americans believed the earth was made by a giant turtle.
    They believed the turtle gave them the power of kindness.

    It is a metaphor to explain the origination of kindness (they had no better answer at the time) it is not a validation of the turtle metaphor!

    Kindness between strangers exists whether there was a giant turtle or not. The lesson of Moses and the Exodus is just a poor attempt to explain the struggle of a group of people – it is not real any more than a giant turtle was real.

  • So Max, now you’re denying that the God of the Old Testament, which is most of the Bible, is the God, first and foremost, of the Jews? Do you really think that Christians or Muslims wrote it? If you do, your ignorance of history is appalling. Literally every word of the Old Testament was written by Jewish hands. There is not a shred of evidence that anyone from any other group had anything to do with it.

    When you are slamming and ridiculing it, you are slamming and ridiculing the 30-century-old Jewish explanation for Jewish origins and Jewish destiny. It is a logical impossibility to slam the very heart of the culture and traditions and self-identification of a people while not having contempt for that people. The only reason you are able to wiggle out of that dilemma of your own making for even a second is that a large percentage of contemporary Jews are secularized and hence themselves have struggles with the Bible. But even there, you are basically traducing their ancestors who wrote the Bible. You’re saying they are descended from ancestors who created a monstrous god — the one you’ve been bashing non-stop on these boards from the day you set foot here.

    I don’t see you ransacking and trampling on the Koran or the Bhagavad Gita or any other book from other religions. You are focused completely on the Bible. And since you believe it was written solely by humans, and since all of those humans were Jews, you have quite an interesting dilemma on your hands.

    But of course it doesn’t stop there… I’ve pointed out, you are demonstrably hostile to the right of the Jews in Israel to live within secure, defensible borders.

  • Max, again, your ignorance of history appears to be nearly total. You should be embarrassed by it.

    Where did you get the laughable idea that ancient Judaism came from the Greeks? Jews did not even come into contact with Greek culture until the time of Alexander the Great of Macedonia, almost a full millennia after they built their first Temple in Jerusalem.

  • Max, all you’re doing is posting and reposting your own dogmatic and baseless declarations. You undoubtedly did exactly the same thing when you were a theist. What’s missing with you is any ability to think critically and engage in linear thought and conversation.

  • Max, you’re bashing the ancestors of the Jewish people. There is no getting around it. You have nothing but contempt for their writings — both in terms of literal and figurative meanings and usages.

  • I hope you’re enjoying your conversation with yourself, Max. At this point, your posts are unresponsive to anything that I or anyone else has said. Having been refuted repeatedly, you’re now reduced to babbling mantra-like in a corner the same silliness that’s already been discredited.

    You are only proving the old adage that it takes way more faith to be an atheist than a theist of any kind.

  • Max’s belief that ancient Judaism derived from Greece is like saying that the ancient Aztecs’ religion in Mexico came from the Spanish conquistadors of the 16th century.

    His claim that the Jewish Passover seder derived from the Greeks is just icing on the cake.

    I shudder to think what Max thinks Hanukkah is about. Maybe he thinks it’s about the Jews fighting to maintain Hellenism rather than battling to resist its imposition on them by the Greek-speaking Syrian tyrant, Antiochus.

    What a complete ignoramus.

  • What an inane retort….Hercules was a name in a type of literature that was self-consciously fictional. It made no claim to being historical. In contrast, Moses was a name in a type of literature that was self-consciously historical. And over the centuries, other books written by the Jews mentioned Moses over and over again as a historical person, and the account of his leading the Jews out of Egypt as the central historical fact of the Jewish people. Jesus in the first century mentioned Moses as a historical figure, as did the apostle Paul in his writings. And there is no record in Jewish history of Jews ever treating Moses as a mythical character, nor the Exodus event as anything less than historical.

    But keep digging your hole deeper, Max. You are looking more and more like an anti-Semite.

  • Max, you live in a world of simple black and white, true or not true. The world is not that simple. I don’t believe that the Bible is just stories, nothing more. You can learn a lot by reading and studying them whether they are literally true or not. They have been studied and analyzed for centuries and people are still finding new interpretations in them. Whether you believe they were written by God, inspired by God or written by humans, you can still find by beauty and truth in it. I don’t think that myths are pathetic.

    If you are going to quote archeologists then you should realize that Jews living in Canaan were probably a slave or underclass in Canaan and Canaan was under Egyptian rule.

    Whether Jews left Canaan or not, they were under Egyptian rule.

  • @Susan,

    “Whether you believe they were written by God, inspired by God or written by humans, you can still find by beauty and truth in it. I don’t think that myths are pathetic.”

    The pathos is not in the myth.
    The pathos is that people believe it is REAL.

    Why not Zeus, Hercules, Romulus, Remus, Aphrodite, etc being true? Why only Yahweh/Jesus?

    I don’t mind people having myths.
    Call it a myth and I’m fine.

    I mind it when people make a claim that a real God exists who then commands me to do a boatload of ridiculous things like “eat of his body” or “drink of his blood” or I am literally going to be shunned!

    The world is black and white because religious nuts make it that way – they are forcing their beliefs on me:

    Hobby Lobby,
    Creationism in schools,
    The coming Caliphate
    Intelligent design replacing science,
    subversion of women’s rights to medical care…etc.

    Yahweh, Jesus, Allah, Mohammed – I really don’t care about your myths.
    Just don’t tell me I must believe them!

    Yes – Separation of church and state is a black and white issue.
    There is no room for gray.

  • “you’re bashing the ancestors of the Jewish people”

    No. I’m bashing all of the baseless claims of all of the people who ever lived.

    There was no giant turtle.
    There was no zeus.
    There was no Hummingbird Wizard
    There was no Athena
    There was no Romulus and Remus
    There was no Hercules
    There was no Jesus
    There was no Agamemnon
    There was no Dolphin God
    There was no Ursula
    There was no Daedalus
    There was no Vishnu
    There was no Ganesha
    There was no Mohammed
    There was no Allah
    There was no Yahweh

    If you don’t understand the difference between bashing a myth and bashing a real person you need more help than RNS can provide.

  • @Jack,

    Your lack of knowledge is what is on view here. Not mine.

    Hellenistic Judaism of 350 BCE is when the tradition of Jewish Monotheism began – the idea that there was only one God. This was a reaction to, not a direction from, the influence of Greek culture.

    It was during the Hellenic period (Greeks) where the Jewish Philosophy was blending with Greek Philosophy and the two fed
    each other to form what later became Rabbinic Judaism.

    “The most important event of the Hellenistic period, though, is the translation of the Torah into Greek in Ptolemaic Egypt. The Greeks, in fact, were somewhat interested (not much) in the Jewish religion, but it seems that they wanted a copy of the Jewish scriptures for the library at Alexandria. During the Exile, the Exiles began to purify their religion and practices and turned to the Mosaic books as their model. After the Exile, the Torah became the authoritative code of the Jews, recognized first by Persia and later by the Greeks as the Hebrew “law.” In 458 BCE, Artaxerxes I of Persia made the Torah the “law of the Judaean king.”

    “So the Greeks wanted a copy and set about translating it. Called the Septuagint after the number of translators it required (“septuaginta” is Greek for “seventy”), the text is far from perfect. The Hebrew Torah had not settled down into a definitive version, and a number of mistranslations creep in for reasons ranging from political expediency to confusion. For instance, the Hebrew Torah is ruthlessly anti-Egyptian; after all, the founding event of the Hebrew people was the oppression of the Hebrews by the Egyptians and the delivery from Egypt. The Septuagint translators—who are, after all, working for the Greek rulers of Egypt—go about effacing much of the anti-Egyptian aspects. On the other hand, there are words they can’t translate into Greek, such as “berit,” which they translate “diatheke,” or “promise” (in Latin and English, the word is incorrectly translated “covenant”).

    “Despite these imperfections, the Septuagint is a watershed in Jewish history. More than any other event in Jewish history, this translation would make the Hebrew religion into a world religion.”
    —- from “Ancient Jewish History, ‘The Greeks and The Jews'”
    The Jewish Virtual Library

    The blending of Greek (Hellenistic) and Judaic traditions over hundreds of years is crucial in understanding how Jews became monotheists.

    Yahweh is an INVENTION built on myths blended from Greek culture and Ancient Judaism. And that means Jesus was not the SON of this NON-god!

  • @Jack,

    “I don’t see you ransacking and trampling on the Koran or the Bhagavad Gita or any other book from other religions. You are focused completely on the Bible”

    Because The Bible is the Book which is sticking its laws in my face!
    If the Q’URAN tries to run America I’ll be glad to speak up against that crap too!

    Creationism is destroying our young people. The states of Texas, Kentucky and Tennessee are literally NOT BEING TAUGHT any Science today – MILLIONS OF AMERICAN kids are taught the world is only 6000 years old!