Sacred history  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

A sacred history is a retelling of history, in either a literary or oral format, with less emphasis on historical fact and more upon instilling faith, defining a group of believers, and/or explaining natural phenomenon.

Sacred histories have meaning and context for a specific group regardless of their historic verifiability; they may or may not be founded on historical fact, which is often a source of contention between believers and non-believers. Such types of accounts may include the Creation, Fall, and Exodus in the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament), the Book of Mormon, and the Yakub narrative.

Sacred history commentary

Rabbi Neil Gillman, professor of Jewish philosophy at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, states {{cquote|"I prefer to understand the plagues and the broader narrative of the Exodus from Egypt as redemptive or sacred history. There is a historical kernel to the story, as Tigay notes, but this kernel was elaborated and embellished by generations of Israelites as they told and retold the story from generation to generation, first orally as a folk tale, then later in highly crafted literary documents that even later were conflated into the biblical narrative we read today. The thrust of the entire narrative is our ancestors' conviction that Israel's Exodus from Egypt was part of God's redemptive work, the fulfillment of God's promise to our forefathers.

"Martin Buber puts it this way in his book titled "Moses." It may be impossible to reconstitute the course of the events themselves, he notes, but "it is nevertheless possible to recover much of the manner in which the participating people experienced those events. We become acquainted with the meeting between this people and a vast historical happening that overwhelmed it; we become conscious of the saga-creating ardor with which the people received the tremendous event and transmitted it to a moulding memory."

"Not "the events themselves," then, but "the manner in which the participating people experienced those events" is what we are reading in these Torah portions from the Book of Shemot. And it is this version that continues to have such an impact on us when we recite the story annually at our Passover seders, dipping our fingers into our wine in tribute to the suffering caused by the plagues".

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Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Sacred history" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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