In what way did the Exodus influence European culture?

Expert Answers
Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This is a real interesting question.  In a practical sense, the Exodus influenced European culture because of its establishment of the codified conduct of religious devotees.  The Ten Commandments has influenced European culture and religious worship.  It has been seen as the word of God, serving as an essential part of religion in Europe. This can be seen in "the prohibition against making images of God (Exodus 20:4) eventually meant that Jews, Christians, and Muslims would refrain from trying to depict God in two- and three-dimensional art forms and concentrate instead on verbal description and human obedience."  At the same time, the establishment of a covenant with God and one in which God's mercy is showered upon those who are devoted to him has reverberated within European religious culture. Human obedience to God results in good, while human disobedience to God results in bad. This equation has formed much in way of European religious traditions. The Exodus can be seen as influencing European culture and religious expressions of worship in Europe.

Yet, one can see a symbolic impact that the Exodus narrative has had on European culture, as well.  On one hand, the Exodus narrative influenced European culture with the understanding that the Jewish culture was "chosen."  The Biblical narrative is one in which the Jewish people were significantly different from other cultural expressions.  In many ways, this can be seen in European attitudes towards Jewish individuals.  The idea of Jewish culture being "different" from others has been manifested in Europe.  Most of these have not been good.  Patterns of Anti- Semitism, discrimination, targeting, and, of course, the Holocaust have been realities in which the narrative of Exodus has been played repeatedly. The persecution and the need to be delivered have been parts of the Exodus story that has presented itself as a part of European culture's interaction with Jewish people.  In this way, the influence of the Exodus narrative is in its oppression and not its release.

However, one can see the influence of the actual Exodus in European culture, as well.  The establishment of the state of Israel has had a profound influence on European culture as well as Jewish culture.  The "establishment of a Jewish state" in what was British controlled Palestine has been seen as a fulfillment of the Exodus narrative.  In light of the horrors of the Holocaust, this profoundly impacted European culture as there "was a place" for Jewish people, a defined set of boundaries where "they" could reside.  European culture, still fighting through the challenges of anti- Semitism complicated by the Holocaust, was impacted by the establishment of Israel.  Jewish people in Europe were also placed in a challenging predicament as they did not necessarily feel any special attachment to Israel as a place.  Yet, as a concept, a place where they could find sanctuary if needed, it had to exist.  It was in this light where the narrative of Exodus impacts European culture, including the Jewish people who lived in it.  It articulates both the savagery of brutality against the Jewish people and the complex notion of liberation from it.  In these intricate parameters, the influence of the Exodus narrative can be seen in European culture. 

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question