A perennial question when we are reading Exodus is the possible connection with natural phenomena. The eruption of Thera (=
Santorini) in the eastern Mediterranean often comes up in this context, since it was a noteworthy natural disaster occurring in the mid-2nd millennium BC with the potential to affect Egypt and its inhabitants. This forms part of a larger question: do we allow natural explanations to impinge on our interpretation of the marvels described in Exodus at all? Should we on theological grounds prohibit such explanatory reference to natural phenomena? Do they diminish miracle? Are the stories of the plagues and Sinai all that historically grounded anyway? Does finding some local, on the ground connection for something like the ‘manna’ eaten by the Israelites help us to understand the passage, or hinder our appreciation for the power of God? Big questions.
For my part, I’m a little more open to considering such connections than I think George Athas is in his post, but recognise too the need for care and caution. There is a major study brewing in my mind about tectonic/volcanic phenomena as they affect the Old Testament story broadly, but it isn’t ready to come to birth just yet! For a very recent article on this as it affects Mt. Sinai, i.e. whether it was a volcano, or whether we should even ask this question, see: Dunn, Jacob E. “A God of Volcanoes: Did Yahwism Take Root in Volcanic Ashes?,” Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 38/4 (2014), 387-424.
A few days ago, Simcha Jacobovici made the claim that ‘there’s a dramatic scholarly breakthrough linking archeology to the Biblical Exodus.’ Jacobovici is best known for his TV specials, such as the one in which he claimed to have found the family tomb of Jesus—a claim that the vast majority of specialists in the field evaluated and rejected. In this most recent claim about ‘proof’ for the Exodus, Jacobovici points to the following article:
- Robert K. Ritner and Nadine Moeller, ‘The Ahmose ‘Tempest Stela’: Thera and Comparative Chronology,’ Journal of Near Eastern Studies (Vol. 73, No. 1 [April 2014], pp. 1–19).
In this article, Egyptologists Ritner and Moeller examine afresh an ancient Egyptian stela that has been known for some time: the ‘Tempest Stela’ of Ahmose I.
Previously, this stela was interpreted in one of two ways—either as a description of a localised natural disaster during the reign of Pharaoh Ahmose I (16th…
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