Science Myths and Historical Facts


Copyright © 2002  -
Published in Swedano Journal, September 2003 (No 9, ed.2, pp.34-36)

In the new-orientating book-series, “Assassinating Moses”, new and sensational material about the historical Moses are presented by Ove von Spaeth. The publishing are contributing to new insights in an essential part of our history and cultural background. Nobody had ever before written five books about this, not even a two-volume work about Moses.

          The reception of the books has been surrounded by the most positive interest - and also some pyres. From the latter, mostly academic, group the books have often been met with a peculiar attitude and even an actual stage of war - i.e. circumstances that have caused interested parts to put forward their objections against the methods of the attackers. Also based on the radical impact raised by the books it has been concluded that the importance of the books cannot be neglected.

          Critical resistance against new theses - and against old and tested theses as well - are science’s vital guidelines. Critical resistance can give a recharging and also push forward our knowledge to increased recognition. And, concerning the unfortunate actions from the aforementioned group, this article are going to illustrate essential principles which have an effect on all of us when we are recipients of results from the sciences.

Pros and Cons

Initially, here a reply is presented to all the many kindly expressions about the books - on the Internet and in many letters: thank you for your kind interest and co-insight. Indeed, undeniably the material, which forms the background in the information of the books, has proved to be very inspiring. And now it appears, that the many new facts presented in the book-series - which certain groups (within some university lines) chose to find provocative - eventually are giving even further support to the material’s already strong foothold. Note, however: from the beginning and continuously, these books on Moses have not been aiming at being provocative. And the text of the books is not at all intentionally polemical.

Definitely, it has been a positive experience that so many - especially also academic people - have taken the opportunity to contradict a special kind of academic behaviour (in a number of typical cases) towards the books. The following presents some interesting features.

The question here is not, of course, whether the books have been positively reviewed or not; that is not essential in connection with the subject. What really matters, however, is the fact that the books contain an unusually amount of research material collected during 25 years - and also a bibliography on almost everything of 120 years’ informative publications on Moses, now concentrated in one edition or collection. The books are thoroughly analyzing much material which was so far neglected, and are pointing out a number of new, expanded historical perspectives inevitably obtained by that.

Whether or not the results can be agreed upon on this background is rather unimportant taking into consideration that now for the first time a major, coherent material is finally presented and available to be used for further research. In future no explaining may be acceptable for researching in Moses without focusing on these sources, being now generally accessible to such a broad extent. Being without could be scientifically unserious.

Neglecting Important Sources

A qualified opposition is an essential part of the scientific process. Nevertheless the priority of the material of the books has caused compulsive disturbance and inexplicable anger despite the fact that the official research so far had avoided to deal with the majority of the material. The frequently generalising accusations against the books, e.g. in reviews and on the Internet, make it difficult to know exactly which subjects may have caused some molestation of the academic representatives in question, and for that reason: a more professional way of expressing their disagreement with the books should have been possible to deliver.

From Antiquity a comprehensive number of sources are known (for instance the ancient writers and the early Rabbinical text-collections), which in connection with the material arriving from especially modern archaeology have necessitated a new evaluation of Moses as a historical figure with a long-range influence on posterity. If we will open to this knowledge and new orientation we shall be able to better understand many circumstances in our history as being also a background for our present culture and standards.

Sometimes we can experience, for instance, after a politician have been warned against unwanted consequences, that he uses a certain cliché by saying, “I cannot imagine that”; this may reveal that this ability in fact is to be desired or alternatively he should have hold another job. It cannot be denied, that similar situations also are observed within science, where solutions to problems there have no unambiguous interpretation can be experienced to be met with an automatic denial, if the solution is found not to be in accordance with “local” trends. For instance, one of these trends is the idea that “the Bible is a myth”.

This is in particular the case within Egyptology and Theology - if not in general then at present among dominant schools, where the mentioned trends’ often less well-reflected, so-called reality images are meticulously maintained, and upheld although having been radically ill reputed for a long time due to an abundant, new material and its new perspectives.

In this way a lot of new data from different scientific areas have been rejected, for instance more exact data about a better determination of time for one of the most important Egyptian periods (i.e. the 18th and 19th dynasties). Likewise, it is rejected that John Garstang’s archaeological excavation of Jericho - published in 1940 - contains important indications, although these are corresponding in minute detail to the biblical narrative about the actions of the Israelites at this city. Poorly informed critics, in fact, should criticise their own steps, when they place themselves as targets for present day lack of history.

The rejection of the biblical information is maintained by the influential academic schools, although Garstang’s results are confirmed multiple, for instance by modern ceramic dating methods (e.g. by John J. Bimson), and have never been proved wrong, but have been hidden conveniently. The selection of this kind of material of the book-series on Moses has also been disputed for being too “one-sided”, which is curious because so many of these important sources in particularly are not at all to be observed as forming a part of the same critics’ own foundations and texts.

Competency or Diffuse Discontent

On the exact analysis methods to be used by the research in question a short overview can be given here for laymen. To the critical procedure when dealing with historical subjects, distinctions - although not completely - are made between especially three main groups of historical sources, i.e.  1)  written documentation (for instance inscriptions and archive items); and  2)  non-written documentation (normally called material sources, for instance archaeological artefacts and dating); and  3)  traditions (for instance still living traditions and anthropological traces).

For extracting further knowledge from the factors, three indirect ways can be used:  4)  the negative argumentation (substantiated contradictive testing);  5)  the decision stemming from experience/suppositions; and  6)  the independent deduction by logics (a priori argumentation) based solely on facts. All the means could be included with the process of evaluation of sources. The methods were chosen and arranged into a concept by Ch. de Smedt in “Principes de la critique de historique” (Liège, Paris 1884) and are being used internationally, not the least in English speaking countries. Also they are often seen being in official use, even by the Catholic Church’s academic biblical research and history research.

In addition, an important condition (method) also being used in exact science is this: a theory actually has to be self-consistent (i.e. not self-contradictive). Also here, however, the “bible-myth” hypothesis is seen to be failing, because of its refusal of any Israelite invasion and their action of destroying Jericho, approx. 1400 BC. By the fact that the city remained a ruin in 1200 BC the schools in question are placing the dating thus 200 years later than 1400 BC, and hereby maintain that the “proof” of the myth-hypothesis is that the destruction of the city was not possible (obviously not) at this late.

A more recently accepted discipline is the so-called contra-factual history writing, a method already used by Pascal for special hypotheses. However, this method is now seen being “misunderstood” by certain reviewers, who have produced unrecognizable accounts from the book-series on Moses - but professional people when making reviews should have abstained from misquoting to a great amount.

On these backgrounds it seems peculiar that documented counter-argumentations have not been existing in the critical resistance against the book-series’ presentation of historic-factual relations. As a prior matter, of course, questions for instance about to the degree of success of the use of methods in the books, should have been asked, (whereas the very selection of method would generally have been approved within of today’s recognised and defendable method of pluralism).

Another important point is the fact that substantial founded questions have not been asked about the correctness (or plausibility) or incorrectness of data of the books. It should be evident that even in case of possible less avoidable incorrectness in the latter (data), this does not necessarily hit the first (the goals achieved). But it is inappropriate, for taking stand of any kind, only to criticise the books by mobilising diffuse discontent just the way this has happened. In short, the book-series on Moses have not been evaluated according to scientific criteria by opponents from certain theological schools and their from a scientific view non-defensible biblical myth-theories.

Unverified Hypothesis Used as an Indisputable Fact

Such a denial-of-problem (the myth-hypothesis) as being exposed here (above) should be met with a certain indulgence; - also because the presented frustration of many of the critics in question should be understood by observing an often seen practise of limiting focus to only the information usable to maintain their own views - often done to satisfy alone what is expected.

To them it may present a problem thus undesirable to find conditions not fitting into the previously accepted patterns. To know what you are looking for is being limited by what you know already. As pointed out by Karl Popper (1902-1994), the Scientific Philosopher, observations are depending on theories; and furthermore, that probability is a poor target for the science. Also reality shows that openness and contact to controversial subjects (the less probably for the time being) can be strengthening to scientific capacity. Whereas “traps of conception” may easily appear, when somebody in fact believes to know more about their own subjects, if they know less about the fields of others.

Of course the problem is more serious when information and arguments are being pretended to be over and above debate, - like the so-called antinomies, e.g. as the medieval clerical dogmas, which in principle should not be refuted. But science must not work as a religious authority or a totalitarian inquisition - if somebody should dare to commit ‘the ‘crime of going against the established opinion. A closed system creates monopolies of lines of approach and the evaluations. The books with new research on Moses present controversial material - a fact that hardly can be non-existent, so instead the messenger can be punished.

Typically, several theological-academic reviewers have based their rejection of the data and evidential material of the books by asserting that their maintaining that the Bible (the Old Testament) consists of a number of myths without special real-historical connections. This was a trendy hypothesis long ago, but through the last hundred years many relating hypotheses have been added, which have caused people involved to refer to this untenable construction’s latest off-springs or issues, as if these were a full-proof fact.

The unfortunate ‘science myth’, which without arguments has promoted itself from hypothesis to ‘fact’, can be seen as an actual attitude of research policy almost favouring, that past events have never took place, but are existing as fiction only. From this stage of disrespect for the ancient reports, a number of important findings are also being rejected despite that their very existence are in the strongest opposition to be subject for rejection, and that they are destabilizing the researchers’ own myths. The fact becomes even more evident on the background of the broad perspectives appearing when the number of professional lines are being combined, for instance when executed as by the book-series on Moses.

When these books openly and meticulously state the sources and clearly refer about which capacities have been saying what, where, and how about exact findings and historical relations, it is far from professionally relevant to continue - without the least moderation - to refuse it all as myths, especially not when this myth-argumentation never in the specific cases is seen supported by exact sources.

It has never been the intension that scientists should appear as bureaucratic commissioners defending themselves against perspectives of other kind. In that way they will never be able to live up to scientific integrity and objectivity - because when, for instance, two interpretations of a material seem to be possible, a serious and honest evaluation should be an obligation. Yet, the intension with these examples is not to refute a number of factual errors, but only to present a basic reason for their appearance: if some biblical texts may contain “myths” it is obvious a mistake to let this be automatically valid in general for text groups alså of almost all the other periods of the Old Testament.

When Provisional Models Are Mistaken for Facts

The Bible is the most scrutinized book in the world - and yet something goes wrong. 400 years ago Steno (Niels Stensen) - although very religious - was able to present two new scientific lines about the history of the planet separated from the clerical edition of religion. He did it by the use of principles so logical that it contributed as a decisive element in the basis of modern scientific methods.

Thus, all the now presented progresses through history of science  - including examples of what scientific views appropriately can be based on - have been known for a long time. So there is actually no excuse for having not comprehended this and used it in serious, scientific procedures - and also  in alternative research results of the biblical narratives on Moses.

Two ideas of attitude seem to be preferred among research lines on the Bible: - Either to be over-careful in interpreting the findings. Actually, reactions can here be seen due to previous wrong tracks, where confidence was lost to the biblical texts as real-history material due to those researchers’ own lack of knowledge. - Or, the findings are interpreted with such a narrow focus on the mini-area locally, historically, and text-wise, that the influence of the surrounding world is systematically forgotten. Especially the majority of the comprehensive and so especially important Egyptian  influence is “neglected”.

Still, in science a critical opposition has to watch out for the Pavlovian conditioned reflex deeply rooted in habitual opinion. Because - as for instance Jean-Paul Sartre said about the idea of history - almost nothing changes as often as the past: later generations are creating their own image of history. The related changing sets of assumptions - called paradigms by Thomas Kuhn, the Physicist and Science Historian - have for various generations been the operative basis for the scientific work, through times. In a historical analysis Kuhn shows that paradigms would typically cause a sort of collective blindness connected with irrational motives.

However, by entire generations within bible-related research it is again and again forgotten the hypothetical  background - e.g. the historical sequence, which covers the biblical period where Moses’ Pentateuch should be placed, has no definite image but only provisional models. Considerations, whatever reasonable they may be, are not facts! Lack of knowledge has given rise to a vast number of opinions. Opinions are frequently mistaken for knowledge.

To be tracing to the widest extent the exact sources and informing data is, of course, a necessity. When interpreting this material the disagreement will often arise - always so necessary for science. When at this basic level new sources and data are being dismissed or even not inspected, it is really regrettable.

And it is not unusual that an expert-tyranny is sheltering themselves behind exorcise formula like “everybody knows” or “it is obvious that” - referring to their present prioritized trends. Actually, it requires quite some courage of one’s conviction to go against this. Especially the book-series on Moses presents an unusually amount of sources, allowing the readers to get acquainted with many different points of views and research alternatives - including those they would not themselves have selected in advance. Simultaneously it can even be avoided that these possibilities beforehand will be subject to a sentence of being expelled when competing with the hitherto trends.

The material’s richness, possibilities, and presentation appears thus to have caused problematic reactions by certain university people. Written on the official letter paper of his Institute one of the academic teachers of the University of Copenhagen has sent a detest-letter to the personnel of the publishers of the book-series on Moses now presenting completely undocumented and defamatory accusations against the books and their writer.

Also, by false disguising as reviewers from a magazine, and hiding that the magazine did not existed any longer, two other persons from the same (Carsten Niebuhr-) Institute tried - with no luck - to perform a negative pressure on a group of scientific people, who were supporting the book-series. Apparently, the considerable amount of sources structuring the books were too hard to produce an argumentation against. This ought to have suggested the unfortunate actors some humility by experiencing thus, that several angles of history can still teach us something.

Perspectives By New Insights

If the trendsetters are always right, then how do we collect new knowledge? Non-agreement is what drive science forward, so that we can grow wiser. Staying one-eyed will limit, whereas two eyes present a stereo vision in several dimensions on things. Phobia and opinions against those perspectives which are going outside of the researchers’ myths about Moses, prevent recognition and analyses of the right-under-our-eyes historical reality of many old and new findings.

Thus, it is a fatal blunder to use also later offshoots of the aforementioned and from the beginning very insecure complex of hypothesis. Although the hypothesis was never able to deliver any significant proof of either history or the justification for its continuance, it is now seen used as a kind of verity parameter to evaluate the reliability of the book-series on Moses.

This kind of “test” has thus been executed erroneously by being based on definite incompetent premises which, also, create considerable doubt as to whether the books at all have been read by the reviewers in question - e.g. because the book-series do not  maintain that the Bible in its present edition is always historically correct. Whereas the contents of the books instead are referring to the fact that several parts of the oldest biblical core  prove surprisingly plausible and well-founded - and thoroughly logically cohesive with a outstanding amount of findings and ancient sources.

In 1942, Robert K. Merton, the American Science Sociologist, presented certain rules (the Cudos norm) - widely used internationally in connection with scientific integrity. So, according to these, for instance, “disinterestedness” must be adhered to as: research must be impartial. But the aforementioned, narrow, selective information has proved also to influence textbooks and examination requirements. Within humanities an irrational scenario is here to be seen, in which well-tested results from other lines of research may be rejected or ignored by trusting own discourses as being representative of reality. The unfortunate imbalance benefits judgemental ideas and arrogance of preferences, i.e. an unscholarly manner which can obstruct the possibility of a real debate. Nevertheless, reviews might be written without respect for special background knowledge. The result will reflect the method, however.

And yet it can also be seen that representatives of the new generation of researchers may show the way to a break through the formerly often narrow, academic limits. The way is being prepared for constructive, scientific work and for turning disagreements into a positive tension, hopefully leading to improvements. As for the research on Moses is concerned, it is encouraging that also that many outsiders have proved a severe interest in this project.

Ove von Spaeth

Writer, Historian, Independent Researcher  -  Copyright © 2002

Ove von Spaeth’s book-series "Assasinating Moses" - C.A. Reitzel Publisher and Booksellar, Copenhagen -


Copyright © 2007 (& © 1978) by: Ove von Spaeth   -   -   All rights reserved.