Book Review: Where Moses Stood by Robert Feather
Robert Feather has devoted much of his life to researching a very important issue: the origin of the three great western monotheistic religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam. It is an issue that should concern the millions of adherents of these faiths but Feather encounters much opposition from committed authorities intent on defending their orthodoxies. In this situation, the author deserves the support and acclaim of all free and objective thinkers and he may be forgiven for an overabundance of enthusiasm and a tendency to offend academic susceptibilities.
Feather’s main thesis, expounded in this book and in several earlier works, is that monotheism has its roots in ancient Egypt where Pharaoh Akhenaton, perhaps with the help of the biblical Joseph, founded the religion of the worship of the Aton and established a new capital city, Akhetaton, near modern Amarna. Akhenaton built a great temple, and the memory of its structure, adornment and ceremonies persisted throughout the period of the Old Testament, and was eventually preserved by the Essenes at Qumran, near the Dead Sea, until the time of the Roman conquest, to influence the Christian scriptures and later the content of the Quran.
An essential link in Feather’s chain of events is the Exodus, the epic journey more than a century after Akhenaton when Moses carried the worship of the Aton on a forty years meander across Sinai, accompanied by an estimated 60-70,000 freed Hebrew slaves. Feather asserts that the holy mountain where the Israelites produced their golden calf and Moses manifested the stone tablets of the Ten Commandments was at Timna, a few miles north of the port of Eilat at the head of the Gulf of Aqaba. As always, Feather presents copious evidence to support his views and shows once again his impressive tenacity of purpose in seeking out obscure links, helped, he admits, by occasional instances of serendipity.
Feather has a problem shared by other authors with a serious mission: whether to write a scholarly tome to be read by only a few specialists, or to target a wider readership by adopting a more popular style of writing. Compared to his earlier work: Black Holes in the Dead Sea Scrolls, Feather has moved towards a more formal presentation but his use of phrases like, ‘Moses does a Schindler,’ ‘the stark naked archaeologist,’ and, ‘smoking/big guns,’ show that the issue is not yet settled.
Feather is winning his arguments and writing his chapter in the history of religion but his message would be clearer if he focussed only on essentials and resisted the temptation to try to tell us everything he knows. His book has many words, including repetition, and quite a few illustrations, some duplicated, that add little or nothing to the main argument. He would also do well to find a better publisher, as his book has many typographical errors, some affecting the understanding of the text, for example: one photograph shown twice dates a gold pendant to 600 BCE and again to 600 CE! This book deserves to be carefully proof-read and copy edited before it is distributed to the millions who need it.