2014/05/31 by rmstrong1980
There are some books that make a bad first impression. You continue read to see if they’re going to get better, because every author has dry spells, and when the book takes off it can change your life, whether fiction or non-fiction. In some cases, that hope for improvement becomes desire, and ultimately despair. Moses: Steps to a Life of Faith is, unfortunately, one of those books.
Please indulge me a bit of background. I’m currently writing a biblical historical fiction on the Israelite Exodus from Egypt. Moses, of course, is a fairly large part of the story and I was hoping to learn something new about him by reading a book about his life and his journey. I went into the book with high hopes, which were promptly dashed in the prologue. Going into a book such as this, you want to know why the author wrote the book, and why you should listen to them. You want to know that they are at least somewhat of an expert in the field if you’re going to spend the time learning from them. The author, Bob Saffrin, never lists any qualifications, academic or otherwise, for writing the book other than what basically boils down to “I’ve been reading the Bible since I was in my 20s. Oh, and I taught this lesson before to pastors in India.” (No additional qualifications, such as a Christian college education, a pastorship, or even lay leadership, are listed on his website.) At the end of the book, no bibliography mentioned. There are no footnotes listed for the historical data (more on that later).
But, I read on, hoping that I would be able to glean something useful for my own book, as well as something I could apply to own life.
The book follows the life of Moses from birth to death. It is in this first chapter (really a prologue) of Moses’ life that the only non-biblical source of information mentioned. Saffrin paraphrases the Jewish historian (and undisputed traitor to his people) Josephus. This would be fine, but Josephus’ Antiquities of the Jews is given the same historical and spiritual significance as biblical sources and is referred back to many times throughout the telling of Moses’ life. As Josephus (and Saffrin) tells the story, Moses’ father was given a vision when Moses was three months old which showed the father, among other things, his son’s destiny.
Moses, we are also told many times, knew from his parents his destiny to lead the Hebrew people out of bondage. None of this is supported in either the Exodus story, nor anywhere else in Scripture, yet this Jewish oral history is given the exact same weight—moreso, it seems—as biblical accounts.
Saffrin makes much ado about Moses turning down the throne of Egypt multiple times. This would have never happened. Moses, while he was an adopted prince of Egypt, would have never been eligible or even asked to take the throne because he was not Egyptian. Saffrin brings in many historical details about Egyptian culture and Moses’ royal family, but never once names names (and very rarely gets the details correct). He claims that Moses’ adoptive grandfather was in poor health, his adoptive mother was young, that when Moses was 20 his adoptive grandfather died, that Moses refused the throne at that time, the only reason Moses was adopted was to give the royal family an heir, etc. Not one member of the royal family is named to give us an historical reference to even have an idea of when the Exodus took place. However, the worst error Saffrin makes is claiming that royal lineage in Pharonic Egypt was passed down through the mother. This is utterly old information, and has been debunked many times in the last 50 years.
In all honesty, this is when I started wanting to throw my Kindle across the room and stomp on it until it was dead. The 10 Plagues of Egypt were completely glossed over, as was most of the 40 years in the desert.
The rest of the book is just okay. There is some denominational theology in there that I didn’t necessarily agree with, but would not bother other readers. The author makes some great leaps in logic and theology I don’t agree with, but others might. However, all of his assertions are based upon Josephus’ crumbly foundations mentioned above.
The writing is dry and while it is obvious that the author is excited about this information, he failed miserably from the first chapter on to make me excited as well.
The book itself is edited poorly. I will gladly admit that it is better-edited than some other indie books I have read, but there are quite a few commas and quotation marks missing or added, uncapitalized proper nouns, quotation formatting issues, etc. Less important but no less annoying was Saffrin’s insistence of calling the Hebrew people “Jews,” a term that was not applied to the children of Israel until Roman times.
In all, I cannot in any good conscience recommend this book. If you are at all interested in accurate biblical history, run away as far and fast as you can.