Who truly am I? The quest for a sense of identity: an exploration of the Book of Exodus
In previous weeks, we established that unlike traditional doctrine that the Old Testament was written by Moses, it was in fact written retrospectively by multiple contributors.
Most scholars now agree that the recording of their oral history, compilation and redaction started during the Exile, and was completed at some point after the Exile.
By way of background, amidst the disruption of political and spiritual institutions, and the destruction of The Temple; they needed to come to terms with their understanding of the Divine, and the geopolitics of their time.
Much like we have today, the competing powers of that era were: Egypt, Babylon, Greece and Persia. And as a result of the location of the Israelites (the bottle beck between Africa and the Middle East), geopolitically they became an important nation for these competing super powers.
Consequently the book of Exodus is not historic or biographical, but what is known as a founding myth. Although more comprehensive in terms of depth, it is not dissimilar to the founding myths of African Kingdoms like the Yoruba’s in western Nigeria, which is centred around a mythical figure – Oduduwa.
Therefore, it’s purpose was not to account for what happened in terms of historicity, but as a reflection and commentaries on the historical experience of the exile community in Babylon, and later Jerusalem.
Like all founding myths, the primary goal was to galvanise the people towards a metaphysical and physical identity, and for the purposes of nationhood.
With the benefit of hindsight, we can see the positive impact of these stories on the Jewish people, and in the same vein, the detrimental impact of competing ideologies and beliefs on the psyche of people that have been enslaved and colonised.
In the absence of a central narrative that provides a sense of identity, co-existence and nation building becomes an impossible task.
Here lies the challenges of Africans and our dear brothers and sisters of African descent.
After years of being educated to believe that we are pagans, that we are backward, that we are cursed, that we are black, that we are uncivilised, that we are primitive, that we are uneducated, that we are ugly; and that God was angry with us because we were not Christians or Muslims.
Scriptural focus: Exodus chapters 7-9 (NRSV)
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