Adam has a nice little comparison of the Sargonic and Mosaic birth narratives up over at his blog. This, at least partially, stems from a discussion he and I had after one of our Theology of the Pentateuch class sessions. You can read my thoughts on the class, specifically dealing with Mosaic Authorship of the Torah here, and general other issues here.
Adam provides a nice, concise summary of the relevant material, so I won’t reproduce it here. What I would like to address is the conclusions that he draws. First, I think he is right to dismiss the first option that he proposes (Moses and Sargon are similar because infants, from time to time, were placed in such baskets in the ANE). This option is a bit too trite, and to be completely honest, it lacks actual support in any way, shape or form.
His second conclusion, and sub-conclusions (which I will here re-title to A and B, hence 2.a and 2.b) are far more possible. However, I still don’t think that they satisfy completely. To begin, Adam is absolutely correct to identify the direction of influence as Sargon -> Moses. Even though the Sargonic narrative is from the 7th century BCE, I see no reason to assume that the Moses birth narrative would have been known well enough at that time in Mesopotamia to have warranted copying. Of course, this could get us into the question of Pentateuchal authorship and a host of other issues, which are peripheral but still related to the issue at hand. I’d like to keep a little more focus than that, so I will allow those topics to pass for the time being.
I think where Adam errors (sorry man!) is in having only two sub-points. By doing so he reduces the possibilities to an either/or dichotomy which, I believe, is possibly over-simplifying the issue. If 2.a were correct, it does not automatically prove the Bible untrustworthy. That is to say, if the Moses birth narrative was copied from the Sargonic narrative (leaving aside for the time being any discussion of a possible, and hypothetical, ur-story behind both accounts) it does not prove the Bible untrustworthy. All it proves is that God allowed/was pleased with/tolerated the use of a literary type in his inspired book. Even if the events surrounding Moses’ birth, as relayed by Exodus, are not what we in the 21st century would term accurate it does not diminish the trustworthiness of Scripture. I think, of course, that Adam is correct to point out that the use of such a literary type does not preclude the “accuracy” of the Moses birth narrative in and of itself.
Having said this, I would favor 2.b over 2.a, but with the understanding that I don’t believe either option bears either on Scripture’s inspiration, or on the accuracy, or lack thereof, of the Mosaic birth narrative. In fact, I think that it is obvious that the Hebrew Bible is here using a type of literary device to inform the readers that Moses is the soon-to-be hero of the story. I believe the story is inspired, not the event, so whether or not Moses was ever in a pitch sealed basket is, in my mind, superfluous to the truth of the narrative. Nevertheless, Adam is right to argue that Genre is central to an understanding of the Hebrew Bible. I look forward to his thoughts on his conclusions and their compatibility with the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, though I am sorry to say that I think the Chicago Statement is a bit too fundamentalist for my tastes.