Red Sea Parting Possible


The parting of the Red Sea and the subsequent escape of thousands of Jewish slaves, which is described in the Bible's book of Exodus, can be explained by science, according to two Russian researchers.

The study, published in the Bulletin of the Russian Academy of Sciences, is one of the first to examine the event using oceanography, weather patterns, and mathematical calculations.

Naum Volzinger, senior researcher at the St. Petersburg Institute of Oceanology, and colleague Alexei Androsov of Hamburg, determined that a reef runs from Egypt to the north side of the Red Sea. They believe the reef used to be much closer to the surface during Biblical times at approximately 1500 B.C.

Depending on the weather and tidal movements, the reef could have been exposed for hours at a time, according to the new theory.

"If the wind blew all night at a speed of 30 meters (about 98 1/2 feet) per second, then the reef would be dry," Volzinger told The Moscow Times. "It would take the Jews — there were 600,000 of them — four hours to cross the seven-kilometer (4.4 mile) reef that runs from one coast to another. Then, in half an hour, the waters would come back."

The theory provides a scientific explanation for the story of the Red Sea parting, which is credited to Moses and Jehovah in the Bible.

"And Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and Jehovah caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all the night, and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided. And the children of Israel went into the midst of the sea upon the dry ground: and the waters were a wall unto them on their right hand, and on their left." (Exodus 14:21-22).

Discovery News contacted three Biblical scholars about the Russian study, and each expressed disappointment with the findings.

Robert Coote, professor of Old Testament studies at the San Francisco Theological Seminary, said the language used to write the book of Exodus, Hebrew Yam Sup, can be interpreted in different ways. Coote indicated that the "Red Sea" might actually have been the Mediterranean, a Suez lagoon, the Gulf of Suez, or the Gulf of Aqaba.

Aaron Brody, assistant professor of Bible and archaeology and director of the Bade Museum at the Pacific School of Religion, agreed with Coote and added, "There are no extra-biblical historic texts that pertain to the Exodus story, and short-term events like the one described in the Book of Exodus very rarely appear in the archaeological record, so we have no textual sources outside of the material in Genesis and no artifactual data to clarify this event."

Along with Coote and Brody, Barbara Green, professor of Biblical studies at the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology, believes history and science provide important tools for studying the Bible, but that they should not be the only ones.

"The Bible needs to be read with many lenses, among which are history and science, but there are many others as well," Green told Discovery News. "The error is to assume that all that is at stake is facticity — how many miles, how much speed. It is ludicrous on its own."
Istanbul, February 07th 2003

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