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 over a prolonged period.
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.
The only way the elites can maintain the social order is through the proper functioning of institutions. The survival of the elites was dependent on the masses. They needed the people to work their farms, pay taxes, serve in their equivalent of the police and armed forces, and to maintain their spiritual and cultural institutions through participation.
Therefore, amidst the disruption of political and spiritual institutions, the destruction of The Temple, and subsequent Exile; the need to consolidate and revise existing narrative of the Divine, and, to understand the geopolitics of their time emerged as a priority.
On a macro level, much like we have today, there were competing powers. Empires like: Egypt, Babylon, Greece and Persia were the ‘super powers’ of the era. 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 forces.
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 contrast, the detrimental effect of the disruption of the political and social order in Africa. And the establishment of competing ideologies, institutions and beliefs; on the psyche of Africans.
Here lies the challenges of Africans and our dear brothers and sisters of African descent. In the absence of a central narrative that provides a sense of identity, co-existence and nation building becomes an impossible task.
After years of being educated by foreign invaders 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 neither Christians or Muslims.
Join us at 3pm
Scriptural focus: Exodus chapters 7-9 (NRSV)
St John the Evangelist Hall
Sidcup DA14 6BX
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