In Ani Maamin Biblical Criticism, Historical Truth, and the Thirteen Principles of Faith Rabbi Joshua Berman states on pages 71 – 72:
Here is a thought experiment: Imagine the Tanakh had never spoken about Hebrew enslavement or of an exodus from Egypt. Instead, a story much like it turned up in a first-millennium-BCE inscription from a dig in Transjordan, the land of the ancient Moabites. Telling of the earliest period of this people and their deity Kemosh, the inscription reports that the Moabites were slaves in Egypt but mighty Kemosh defeated Amum and Re at the sea, liberating the slaves and enabling them to set out homeward to Moab while their enemies perished under a storm of hail.
In the face of such an account, scholars would assuredly be skeptical of the theological and supernatural elements, but I suspect they would look for clues of an authentic core, specially if there were peripheral evidence of the kind I pointed to above in connection with the biblical account. They would be impressed, for instance, with the story’s demonstrable familiarity with Egyptian names, its awareness of settlement patterns in the eastern delta and of the correct way of naming the pharaoh, and its cognizance of royal fortifications outside Egypt and the geography of the Sinai Peninsula, the Negev, and Transjordan.
Would these hypothetical scholars also pounce on the lack of any mention of Moabite slaves in Egyptian sources? I doubt it. That so many of the account’s details accord with our knowledge of the period would lead many to assess the source as trustworthy – especially in the absence of hard evidence to the contrary.
The reliability of ancient sources – extra-biblical as well as biblical - is a vexing issue. In the previous chapter I noted that in a wide variety of pre-modern and ancient sources we find embellishment and imagination layered upon a basis of fact. In any of these sources, when does reality end and the sculpting of events to produce a message begin. These questions are not easy ones to answer. But from an academic perspective, the Tanakh should be subject to criteria of analysis applied to other comparable ancient tests. The fact that it is not so treated – that a double standard is in operation – tells us something about the field of academic biblical studies, and about the academy itself.