Exodus Revealed, the Sequel
Here’s the second of my two-part review of Exodus Revealed, which airs occasionally on the National Geographic Channel.
I’ll summarize this part of the Exodus story, for those of you who weren’t paying attention in Sunday school. That would probably include me. Here’s how I remember it:
The Israelites run away but hit a roadblock when they come to the Red Sea. Everybody says that they believe in fairies, and they clap their hands. Moses clicks the heels of his ruby slippers, and the ocean parts. Then they escape across the ocean floor, no doubt grabbing some very surprised and disoriented fish as they go.
Pharaoh says “I believe in fairies, too!”, everybody claps their hands, and he sends his army across the ocean floor in pursuit. Unfortunately, there is only one pair of ruby slippers, which the Israelites currently possess. By rights, those slippers belong to Pharaoh. They originally belonged to Pharaoh’s brother, the ruler of the Upper Nile. But then the Israelites dropped a house on Upper Nile Pharaoh and stole the slippers.
Anyway, since Pharaoh didn’t have the slippers, the magic didn’t work for him. When his entire army was on the ocean floor, the water crashed back in on them and everybody melted.
The documentary presented several people, each with their own explanations for the parting of the Red Sea.
Professor Colin J. Humphreys, he of the flatulent ficus (see prior installment), attributes the incident to the phenomenon of wind setdown. Wind setdown occurs when a strong, steady wind blows water aside. This could expose a ridge of land.
Geoarchaeologist Floyd McCoy, of the University of Hawaii, has a different hypothesis. He suggests that a tsunami could have created a land passage across a lagoon. As you’ll recall from the Asian tsunami of 2004, the water rushes out before the giant wave hits. McCoy admits, however, that the timing of such a rare event makes this explanation a longshot.
Stephen J. O’Meara, Vulcanologist with Volcano Watch International, suggests that there could have been a massive land bridge formed by lava. An underwater eruption created a temporary and unstable lava bridge. This could have held out long enough for the Israelites, but given way once the Egyptians followed.
Nobody asked me, but I think that the Israelites somehow got transported to the Bay of Fundy, which they crossed at low tide. Pharaoh’s people tried to cross when the tide was coming back in and got covered. OK, this one is less likely than the tsunami.
Not everybody is foolish enough to take the Bible literally. Professor James K. Hoffmeier, Archaeologist at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, says that the original Hebrew text refers to a “sea of reeds”. The Greeks mistranslated that into “Red Sea”, and we’ve been stuck with that bit of shoddy workmanship for over 2000 years. What’s the world coming to? Translators used to take pride in their work! But for the last 2000 years, nobody cares!
The Nile Delta looked very different 3000 years ago than it does today, so finding a “Reed Sea” is difficult. Professor Stephen O. Mosher, Geologist at Wheaton College, is using declassified spy satellite photos in the hunt. These photos are from the Cold War 1960s, and they show the Nile Delta before all of the massive over-development that exists there today. In these photos, the locations of ancient bodies of water show up as dark splotches in the desert. One of those splotches could be the Reed Sea. Hoffmeier and Mosher have identified an ancient body of water known as Lake Ballah that they think is a likely candidate.
It Must be True. I Read It in the Bible!
Robert Cornuke, Biblical Investigator for Bible Archaeology Search and Exploration, is convinced that the Bible is accurate.
Cornuke holds a PhD from the unaccredited Louisiana Baptist University.
The National Geographic documentary has hurt its credibility both by including somebody whose methods are not recognized as valid by the scientific community, and by not disclosing that Cornuke’s PhD is not recognized as valid by an official accrediting body.
Cornuke has found an underwater land bridge near the mouth of the Gulf of Aqaba in the Red Sea. He found some artifacts at the site. He then makes a leap of logic and claims that they must have belonged to the Israelites and the Egyptian army. That’s scholarship for you!
Professor Eric Cline, Archaeologist at The George Washington University, says:
We do not have a single shred of evidence to date. There is nothing archaeologically to attest to anything from the Biblical story. No plagues, no parting of the Red Sea, no manna from heaven, no wandering for 40 years.
Dr. Kathlyn M. Cooney, Egyptologist at Stanford University, had this to say:
The most likely reason that we’re not finding any evidence for the Exodus in Egypt is that it didn’t happen the way the Bible said it did, or that it didn’t happen at all.
Ouch. Facts. What a way to mess up a perfectly good delusion!
“Doctor” Robert Cornuke, the self-described “Biblical Investigator for Bible Archaeology Search and Exploration (with a compass in the stock and this thing which tells time)” is an example of why real science works. In real science, you make observations, form a hypothesis, make more observations to see if the hypothesis holds, and then publish your results in a peer-reviewed journal. Other scientists will then try to reproduce your results. As often as not, they will either come up with different results (because of a flaw in your experimental design or because you didn’t consider something) or they will have a different interpretation of the data and propose a different hypothesis. Over time and further experimentation, data gathering, and discussion, a scientific consensus emerges.