God Wrote the Bible, Literally!

I wrote this post to try and elucidate, at some length, why I believe the Bible is

1) A human, historical book,
2) Rightly called holy and sacred,
3) But neither an idol nor a magical talisman.

(Version 1.5)

I’ve recently had occasion to discuss with my Christian brothers what the proper understanding of the Bible is. Is it the Word of God? Is it proper to read it literally? Is it infallible? And so on. As I reflected on the conversation, I noticed at times we were speaking past each other. Despite being intelligent, sensitive individuals, our vocabulary got in the way of understanding one another. This happens all too often to me, and that inspired this post.

Specifically, I believe the Bible is

  1. A human, historical book,
  2. rightly called holy and sacred,
  3. but neither an idol nor a magical talisman.

Containing the Word of God in the Words of Men

My spirituality is Jesuit and one of its important tenets is God uses all things to accomplish his will to love, a reflection of God’s sovereignty. So, I try to see things as they are so as to see God clearly. Biblical criticism, the scholarly investigation of biblical writings, is the beginning of that quest (but certainly not the end). After all, the Bible was not magically dictated by God, it was inspired by God. The texts within were written by human minds and hearts using human hands in human circumstances made known to us by our study of history, anthropology, linguistics and the like.

Paul in Prison

As a Catholic, I pretty much follow my church’s teachings on biblical criticism as explained in Catholic Study Bible.

The conciliar statement about biblical criticism appears in paragraph 12 [of the Vatican II document Dei verbum]… It is prefaced by an acknowledgment that since God speaks in Scripture through human beings, and so in human fashion, interpreters should give careful attention to the ways in which the sacred writers thought and expressed themselves
First, it insists that we take into account the various literary forms in which the Bible is written, and it warns us against confusing historical, prophetic, and poetic texts. Next, it urges us to pay attention to the historical setting in which the sacred author wrote, suggesting that such historical awareness is necessary for grasping what the author intended. Finally, it recommends that we learn about the literary conventions and cultural assumptions that people accepted at the time when the biblical books were composed. Thus the conciliar document encourages the literary, historical, and sociological study of biblical texts.
The acceptance of biblical criticism, of course, does not reduce the Sacred Scriptures to the status of other, strictly human books
In this way the conciliar document achieves a balance between the human and the divine contributions to Scripture. Interpreters are thereby encouraged to apply all the tools of biblical criticism, while bearing in mind the Church’s longstanding conviction that the Bible contains “the Word of God in the words of men.” [emphasis mine]

Containing “the Word of God in the words of men” is key for me. Implicit in the phrase is that the Word and the words are distinct. I’ve long said, perhaps provocatively, that the Bible (words of men) is not the Word of God to draw a bright line on this relationship. The vessel is not what it contains. Where my more fundamentalist leaning, literalist friends demand that the Bible also be as “infallible” and “inerrant” as The Word of God is where we part company.

Image of ancient Hebrew cosmology
Image of ancient Hebrew cosmology (click to enlarge).

What does it mean to be “infallible” or “inerrant?” I think for many literalists this means that the Bible can contain no error of any kind. The Catholic Church rightly avoids this error: “the Bible’s inerrancy consists primarily in its being a trustworthy guide on the road to salvation.” (Catholic Study Bible) This is a far cry from creationists who demand that Genesis be historically and scientifically true, i.e. Genesis conveys history and objective facts about the material world in keeping with it’s claimed infallibility. But for any thinking modern this will entail serious problems. Consider “The World of the Hebrews” image on the left. Does this look like our world to you? Of course not. We know the prescientific ancients had a very different cosmology to our own. Our planet doesn’t rest on pillars with floodgates installed in a domed sky.

What does it mean, then, to insist that Genesis is scientifically correct? For starters (and I must be blunt here), it means you aren’t telling the truth (to yourself or others). We erase the author from the equation. As stated above, who the author was, how he communicated, the time and place he lived, etc. All of which are important to understanding the intended meaning of the text. In the case of Genesis, the author weaves two disparate Hebrew myths using a template common to the creation myths of the different peoples in the Near East at that time. In other words, the author’s audience would immediately know from the form of the story what they were hearing: a myth telling them the who they were, from whence they came, and why the world is the way it is. What they did not expect is a science text explaining how the world came to be. Ironically, my literalist friends expecting such a text stray from the literal meaning the scriptural author intended, supplanting their worldview and their assumptions onto the words. (This is why I call creationism bad religion, not just bad science.) This leads to all manner of error including misinterpretation.

Consider an amusing example from one of my favorite comedies, Galaxy Quest: [Don’t worry. No spoilers.]

My intention here is not to mock Bible literalists, far from it. It’s simply to show that reading a text without the proper context can create huge problems. In the clip above, a melodramatic science fiction series becomes a series of “historical documents.” In the movie it made for hilarity, but in real life such misreadings of the Bible can (and has!) lead to tragedy. If the point of reading the Bible is to get to know God, we seriously compromise that goal reading the Bible “literally.”

We should let the text be and let it tell us what it means rather than the reverse. God inspired the biblical texts to be written in a certain time and place by a certain people. As believers, we should deeply, deeply respect God’s choices, so to speak, with more than lip service. Biblical criticism is a tool to help us to do that.

Holy Human, Batman!

So if the Bible is not identical with The Word of God, is it simply “just another book” as literalists fear? The short answer is no. The full name of the book is: The Holy Bible. “Holy” means “to be set apart,” not perfect or infallible. My marriage as a union before God is certainly holy, but it is neither perfect nor infallible! We Christians consider our bodies temples of God and thus holy and sacred. They are by no means perfect or infallible. If our very human bodies are holy, then why not Scripture?

I’ve been told this is a “slippery slope” into a holiness relativism of sorts in the text. “Why not venerate The Purpose Driven Life?” for example. Frankly, that’s utter nonsense. The weakness of the slippery slope argument notwithstanding, if you regard something as holy then by definition you are setting it apart from the profane, from the rest. Scripture is set apart from the NY Times or The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. They aren’t holy. We certainly don’t believe they are inspired by God. I pray with my Bibles (both Hebrew and Christian) not The NY Times. There is a reason for this: prayer is a sacred act where I converse and commune with God. Scripture is a primary means for such an act. Besides, it’s kind of hard to have a two way conversation with God reading about The Seventh Habit: Sharpening the Saw. (I will, however, admit to using Jesuit books on spirituality and God in my prayer primarily at the suggestion of my spiritual director. I contend that the purpose and the subjects of these writings is holy: to know God intimately in prayer.)

Why the Distinction Matters

The short answer to why drawing a distinction between Bible and Word matters is that humans have an enormous propensity for idol making. We almost can’t help it. We evolved that way. So, the temptation to make the Bible into an idol, or “bibliolatry,” is almost irresistible. I am not immune. For years when I flew on business trips, I wouldn’t feel at peace boarding a plane unless I had my Bible with me. Superstitious!

Picture of ...
Israelites worshipping the golden calf, symbol of El, in the wilderness.

Where modern literalists miss the mark is making the words of men the transcendent Word, the very definition of idolatry IMHO. The logic goes this way: Because God is sovereign he would mysteriously (magically?) have made sure the words of The Bible are The Word we need for salvation. If not, how could we be assured of our salvation? Atheist critics call this logic wishful thinking. I am sympathetic. It is all neat and tidy. But to my believing ears it’s more putting God to the test for our convenience: effectively telling God how to satisfy our need for “reliability” and security if we’re being totally honest.

I believe in God and God’s sovereignty and that has ramifications. Seeing the way things are, rather than the way I wish them to be, is critical. The former is of God. The latter is of me. Words are things and I will not turn them into idols if I can help it. Furthermore, they were written by human beings just as fallen and biased as I am. I won’t turn those men into idols either. Why? Because you can control an idol. They become projections of ourselves. God starts to say what we say, think what we think, and support all of our actions no matter how abominable or bloody. We cook the books and get God’s absolute stamp of approval. And that’s the reason why I’m such a stickler about this stuff.

So where does The Word come in? For the answer, I turn to my fellow disciples walking on the Road to Emmaus.

Then they said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning [within us] while [Jesus] spoke to us on the way and opened the scriptures to us?” (Luke 24:32)

The scriptures didn’t open themselves. It was Jesus who opened them to the disciples. And I know precisely what it means to have one’s heart burning within as you contemplate scripture. That is The Word not scribblings on paper or pixels on a screen. That’s what I mean when I say, “I got a Word from pastor today,” or “I got a Word reading Luke 6.” That Word is what changes your life. That Word is living water and the bread of life. The scriptures must be opened by someone to give us The Word.

No doubt many will say, “But how can you be sure you’re getting The Word?” The answer is you can’t. My question in reply would be, “Where is your faith?” Do you trust God or not? Even if the Bible’s words were infallible, readers and preachers are most certainly not. We bring ourselves to every word we read, hear and write. The difference between me and my literalist brethren is that I acknowledge the humanity in both reader and writer and trust God to take care of the rest.

That’s the faith I have in God and his Word.

39 thoughts on “God Wrote the Bible, Literally!”

  1. I am curious to know by what academic methodology did these supposed scholars peer into the minds of the Authors and verify what they were actually thinking? As far as I am aware, you can’t even really accomplish this today in the modern era, and everything is a best guess. Even if you are not a biblical literalist, the bible is so scientifically wrong on so many issues that it’s irrelevant whether you are a literalist or not. Hence you can’t even convert them into being metaphorical or poetic contexts and have them come out correct.

    And a lot of these authors copied from eachother and quote mined the OT.. The stilling of the Tempest for example is essentially ripped from the Psalms and the Odyssey. Matthew dishonestly references Emmanuel from Isaiah as Jesus even though Emmanuel is theophory of the Canaanite GOD head EL / El Shaddai to which Yahwists usurped into the persona of Yahweh. This including the fact that Emanuel was one of the 3 signs given to Isaiah to which were his own children and that the woman in Isaiah was not actually a virgin, but a young woman. This is the sort of thing the Church doesn’t teach you…, and nor will they teach you that the Psalms was they hymns of El and that Yahweh was one of the sons of EL.. Hence they aren’t going to tell you that your entire religion is Pagan, it’s just Pagan monotheism that evolved from Pagan Polytheism. We also know that Genesis is a collection of Pagan oral traditions, beliefs, culture, and rituals. Hence Adam was based on the story of Adapa. Things that these “Authors” took from and plagiarized from.

    However, I applaud your argument against Creationists as they are the worst when it comes to ignorance since at that point it’s woeful..

  2. As far as the academic methodology used, biblical criticism has many forms and if you care to delve just click the link above.

    As far as the scientific accuracy of the Bible, “quote mining,” etc. you have been making precisely the same mistake creationists do. To expect such betrays that you have a lot to learn about the most influential book in Western civilization. That’s mostly our fault. We haven’t done a very good job teaching this stuff. I learned scholarly accurate information about the Bible in Catholic high school, not exactly to bastion of academics in our culture. Kids simply check out unless you were a nerd for this kind of stuff. And I’d wager most Christian schools don’t bother despite the vast majority of seminaries do.

    (Had to update this comment. Left a “not” where it should NOT have been!)

  3. I understand the methods they say they use to say they know what the Author was thinking, but scientifically none of those methods are capable of actual verification.. Hence without actually interviewing the dead Authors themselves, they are assuming, and usually assuming to what suits their beliefs. You have to remember that the bible has been edited countless of times, and most of us educated on the Bible understand that none of us are actually reading the original contexts.. The Dead Sea scrolls for example demonstrated that Yahweh is one of the sons of EL and not actually a god head.. As for example:

    Yahweh as one of the sons of EL noted in the Hymns of the Palams (see: Ugarit and the Bible).:
    http://www.theology.edu/ugarbib.htm

    Here the high court mentioned in the bible is actually in reference to the divine council of the Canaanite Pantheon. And for this I will explain below to which shows how they attempted, in part, to establish Yahweh as a Monotheistic God by editing few words in the bible. Thus to demonstrate, lets start with this well known Line in Genesis:

    —QUOTE—“26 Then God said, Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”—/QUOTE

    Now some may insist this meant in Yahweh’s image, or that “our” is somehow in reference to angels. However both arguments are likely pure apologetics. Genesis here is more likely in reference to the Canaanite divine court. And we can see this by remembering that the Psalms are considered likely the hymns of El coupled with the evidence that Yahweh was one of the son’s of El by examining the dead sea scrolls and the Deuteronomy..

    From the dead sea scrolls:

    —QUOTE–
    “When El Elyon gave to the nations their inheritance, when he separated the sons of men, he fixed the bounds of the peoples according to the number of the sons of God (El). For Yahweh’s portion is his people, Jacob his allotted inheritance.” –/QUOTE

    This is in contrast to what you actually read today in your modern bibles.. This is according to the son’s of EL, and Yahweh is one of the 70 sons of El..You can read the difference here where your modern bible changes a few words to make Yahweh appear to be the God head in Deuteronomy 32:

    Note: the brackets “[]” denote the the correct words.. As in “Adam and “Israel” should actually be “men” and “El” while “Lord” should be “Yahweh”..:

    — QUOTE—:
    “When the Most High (EL ELyon) divided their inheritance to the nations,
    When He separated the sons of Adam (men), He set the boundaries of the peoples According to the number of the children of Israel (EL). For the LORD’s (Yahweh’s) portion is His people; Jacob is the place of His inheritance.”—/QUUTE

    As you can see there is a huge difference here..So what does this have to do with the Psalms? Well, the above is further supported here:

    –QUOTE–The Israelites in history and tradition Niels Peter Lemche – 1998 – 246 “Maybe also the Ugaritic passage KTU 1.1:IV:14-15 should be included in the discussion: sm . bny . yw . ilt, translated by Mark S. Smith in Simon B. Parker, ed., Ugaritic Narrative Poetry (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1997), 89 “of the son of god, Yahweh.”– /QIOTE–

    Thus translated as: “son of EL” as this Ugarit Canaanite text (KTU 1.1IV 14) shows: sm . bny . yw . ilt: “The name of the son of god, Yahweh.” Furthermore, the sons of EL are in reference of the Canaanite pantheon. Hence these are gods, the sons of EL and not angels or even monotheistic in reference to Yahweh what-so-ever. This purposes major change in our understanding the Canaanite culture, and the origins of Yahweh as this is further supported directly in the Psalms itself:

    — Psalm 82:1:
    “Ascribe to Yahweh, O sons of EL, ascribe to Yahweh glory and strength.” —

    This is begging the divine court to ascribe to Yahweh, and basically asking them to make him God Most High.. And this support continues as follows:

    —- Psalm 89:6:
    “For who in the skies can be compared to Yahweh, who among the sons of EL is like Yahweh“ —

    And supported further here to where Yahweh stands in a council of GODs in Psalms:

    — Psalm 82:
    1 God presides in the great assembly; he gives judgment among the gods: 2 How long will you defend the unjust and show partiality to the wicked? Selah
    3 Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed. 4 Rescue the weak and needy;
    deliver them from the hand of the wicked. 5 They know nothing, they understand nothing.

    They walk about in darkness; all the foundations of the earth are shaken. 6 I said,You are gods;
    you are all sons of the Most High. 7 But you will die like mere men; you will fall like every other ruler. 8 Rise up, O God, judge the earth, for all the nations are your inheritance.—

    The attempt to usurp the Pantheon and Equate Yahweh with El (El Shaddai) is profound, and the summary of the above narrative is Yahweh essentially jockeying to take the high seat in the divine court while threatening to destroy the sons of El and the divine court to where he alone is the judge, jury, court, and remaining and only GOD. So when you consider thinking about an Authors intentions and what they are thinking, you need to ask yourself why they are editing, quote mining, and plagiarizing the bible and the original texts.

  4. Btw.. Just so you know how this happened in regards to the authors.. The author J was a Yahwist and the author E was an Elohist. J equated EL with Yahweh. And another example of what is likely another clear edit is in Exodus 1:

    –1 These are the names of the sons of Israel who went to Egypt with Jacob, each with his family: 2 Reuben, Simeon, Levi and Judah; 3 Issachar, Zebulun and Benjamin; 4 Dan and Naphtali; Gad and Asher. 5 The descendants of Jacob numbered seventy[a] in all; Joseph was already in Egypt.—

    Again the clever change of “EL” to “Israel”, and you can see it’s referencing the 70 sons to which is a play on the sons of EL.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sons_of_God

    And you ought to also know that Israel is theophory of the Canaanite GOD head “El”, and that in mainstream academics we have learned that the pre-israelites were in fact the Canaanites deriving from the 12 tribes of Canaan, and that the mass Exodus from Egypt is likely a fictional tale / propaganda piece.. As in the likely case was at best the Eviction of the Hyksos foreign rulers in 1560 BC shortly after the Eruption of Thera that caused the collapse of the Bronze Age..These rulers were known to mix Egyptian GOD’s with their Asiatic GOD Ba’al Har’ran, or the moon god you know as ‘SIN”.. Hence MT Sinai means “Moon Mountain”, and it’s interesting to find that in Exodus you find the equating of Yahweh to the GOD head of the Canaanite Pantheon El (El Shaddai)..See Exodus 6:2-3.. Exodus by the Egyptians was regarded as a military victory, while the Hyksos considered it deliverance to the promise land where each side attempts to claim victory. All Exodus really is, is a description of the Turmoil after the Therah eruption.. Yahweh’s rise from being a son of EL associated to the Moon GOD Sin is most likely due to the Hyksos rulers who were evicted from Egypt after joining the semi-nomadic tribes of the Shasu.. They likely used the Shasu of YHW to equate to their Moon GOD SIN and elevate him to the head of the Canaanite Pantheon.

  5. Uh, no. The entire purpose of written communication is to communicate. No, people can’t mind read and you can’t verify what’s in a person’s head scientifically or otherwise. We are left with their witness living or dead. Now, if you want to defeat the purpose of writing, well I can’t stop you. But I can say that you would be unreasonable and perhaps biased because of the material in question to do so.

    The Dead Sea Scrolls demonstrate what the Qumran community confessed and believed. It’s not a prooftext for other writings. It doesn’t verify that Yahweh is this or that.

    And no, we do not have the autographs. We have what can scientifically be considered close to the original. That’s what having multiple witnesses makes possible. We can survey each manuscript, date it, and surmise the original. Again, if you want to make the perfect the enemy of the good, that’s your business. But I don’t agree.

  6. Most of which I already know:

    • Raphael, Israel, Michael, Gabriel, Samuel, all theophoric names.
    • I’m well aware of the ancient practice of telling familiar stories with “clever” changes. That was the point. The author had a specific agenda. The audience needed to know quickly what they were hearing. Again, this is not news.
    • Linking the eruption of Thira to Exodus is so speculative. No eruption would explain the descriptions of Mt. Sinai or any mountain on the peninsula and there are no volcanos there.
    • The fact that pagans having been mixing gods and beliefs is not news. Humans of differing cultures will influence each other when in contact.

    I’m trying to see what’s you’re point in all this. It seems your making my points for me. None of your conclusions would be possible if you didn’t employ criticism of the sacred text.

  7. “It seems your making my points for me. None of your conclusions would be possible if you didn’t employ criticism of the sacred text.”

    There is nothing sacred about it.. It’s mythology, animism, and anthropomorphism usurped back and forth to what you now call the modern day bible. Humans went from no gods at all to early animism to which evolved into anthropomorphism of natural things and phenomenon around them to which they did not understand. Lightning isn’t being cast by gods, and neither are earthquakes and volcanic eruptions ect.

  8. I didn’t say the description of the mountain wasn’t volcanic. I’m saying that there are no volcanoes in the area. It’s hard for me to take an eruption several hundred miles away can be accounted for by a description of a volcano from the perspective of an eyewitness. Call me crazy but I don’t buy it. It’s coincidence. You can’t see beyond 11 miles from sea level. How are you supposed to see 800?

  9. It’s not sacred to you. And last I checked a few billion people disagree with you. Whatever (unscientific) theories you may have are your business of course. But you’re opinion is hardly definitive.

  10. If it were sacred, it wouldn’t have been a product of constant editing, and especially through geopolitical reasons. Most don’t understand that J and E were playing politics. To me, a sacred thing is something that doesn’t change and has meaning that has not changed. Something sacred to me doesn’t plagiarize or copy the works of others.. And when it comes to academics, we know how that game of usurping played in the geopolitical environment. Also, I would recommend not using an ad populum fallacy Robert, that doesn’t lend you any credulity. This is especially true where there are a billion or more that have no formal education on the subject to know any better, and that there are billions more that don’t even follow this religion. Ad populum arguments are meaningless intellectually.

  11. QUOTE: ” I’m saying that there are no volcanoes in the area.”

    When is the last time you have looked at a map? There are volcanoes in the red sea, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and the Mediterranean. And you could have seen effects of the Thera Eruption from the entire Levant region. There are others in the region such as Bedr that likely erupted in the last 10,000 years.. You are talking about civilizations that literally live in a geologically active region of the world, and one that migrated out of Africa where there were volcanoes up and down the Nile. These civilizations had exposure to volcanic eruptions and one of the greatest possibly ever experienced by human kind.. Hence can you even comprehend how large the Theran Eruption was Robert? You are talking thousands of times more powerful than the Mt Saint Helen Eruption. And you think that would have no impact on the civilizations in the region? That single event itself likely shaped the emergence and existence of your very religion.. It is the single event that likely brought forth the merger of moon and mountain god worship.

    Now you say the following:

    QUOTE: “It’s hard for me to take an eruption several hundred miles away can be accounted for by a description of a volcano from the perspective of an eyewitness.”

    This is probably because you have no understanding of what a super volcanic eruption is.. You also must realize that Therah is not likely the first volcanic event experienced by these ancient civilizations, and they would come to know the signs of such events to which are interestingly the same signs in Revelations. Therah would have been the mother of all volcanic experiences even hundreds of miles away.. To give you some idea, they have found volcanic rock from Thera as far as the black sea and in Egypt. Do you know how far Thera is from the Black Sea Robert? several hundred miles away. We also now know that Tsunami’s from Thera had reached as far East as Israel:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/03/science/03tsunami.html?_r=0

    You can also reference this paper in Nature:

    http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v320/n6064/abs/320733a0.html

    Here is the spread of Volcanic Ash mapped according to collected data:

    http://www.travelingclassroom.org/wp-content/uploads/2006/09/10_thera_ashfall.jpg

    And a lot of new evidence has had us now conclude that the Thera eruption was much bigger than we initially thought:

    http://www.uri.edu/news/releases/?id=3654

    Basically, a lot of the experiences that people had with this eruption throughout the region made it into the book you call the bible. So even though Exodus is considered mythical in its telling, it’s mythical story seems to be based on this single massive event. And the Plagues of Egypt were unlikely confined to Egypt either as the Volcanic winter would have impacted all of the Mediterranean civilizations.. Some more than others of course.

  12. I would recommend seeking to understand a reply before doing so. To YOU something that doesn’t change is sacred. Great. YOUR OPINION is just that. But to the billion or so Catholics the Bible is sacred. That’s not a fallacy, it’s simply a fact. And once again, YOUR OPINION is hardly definitive. You do not get to objectively define what is holy and sacred. To think you do is a fallacy of pride.

  13. The problem with these speculations is their weak analysis of the text. The engineers and scientists, in their ignorance, take the text at face value. A fundamental mistake. When biblical scholars who routinely depend on science to develop their analysis come up with a credible Thera theory rather than a mere speculation, I will consider it.

    Leave the biblical scholarship to the biblical scholars and leave the science to scientists.

    http://www.academia.edu/4387783/The_Thera_theories_Science_and_the_modern_reception_history_of_the_Exodus

  14. Quote: The engineers and scientists, in their ignorance, take the text at face value

    Firstly it’s not just science and engineers, it’s the academic arena to which is not only based on real world evidence and data, but also in study of similar cultures and civilizations to where comparative religion gives valuable insights.. Even here in the modern era where we know what a Volcano is, yet there still exists worship of these types of deities.. These cultures use the same sort of descriptions you can find in the bible. You can read such here:

    http://thejackelscolumn.wordpress.com/2013/02/27/mountain-god-worship-yahweh-god-of-the-mountains/

    Abstract:

    >>>> The Maasai GOD:

    In 1993, the carbonatite has extruded forming the white top of Oldoinyo Lengai and this white peak in the heart of the Maasailand is thought to represent the beard of the Maasai God, which is why the Maasai people call it the Mountain of God. David Maige, a senior warden at Tanzania Lake Manyara, told The Namibian this week that apart from contributing to the country’s tourism sector by drawing a lot of tourists, Oldoinyo Lengai is also a holy mountain for the Maasai people, just like Namibia’s Ovahimba people believe in their holy fire. He said the Maasai people use the mountain as a site to conduct rituals such as sacrifices and prayers.

    Now I have read Mark Harris on the Issue of Exodus, but unfortunately his assessment doesn’t actually address the most recent evidence.. Like I said, the map I gave you, for example, is based on real world data and not some ignorance of taking text at face value.. Basically for you to accept the Theran explanations, you must accept Miracles and magic as the alternative answer. That is essentially what your linked article demonstrates. <<<>>> Theories of this sort attempt to give naturalistic and scientifically acceptableexplanations for the more fantastic and miraculous biblical claims. In our opinion,however, these theories presuppose such hypothetical scenarios, such a catastrophicview of history, and such marvelous correlations of coincidental factors that they createmore credibility problems of their own than the ones they are intended to solve <<<<

    And of course such theories based on real world evidence are not held of interest to many biblical interpreters when most of them have invested interest evidence be damned. Hence they are saying: "Hey, don't believe what it actually says, just believe the bs we make up". Hence don't pay attention to the fact that the descriptions are entirely volcanic, just believe it's magic and miracles.

    Oh and on Egyptian Chronology, you are talking about a mere 50 year window at max.. And never-mind Exodus is written post event in which can be decades after any such event.. We also have further evidence noting Egyptians had likely recorded the event as they would have seen and experienced it as noted in these academic papers:

    http://www.cas.umt.edu/anthropology/courses/anth254/documents/Fosteretal1996textsstormtherajournneareaststudies.pdf
    http://www.academia.edu/303257/Thera_Hatshepsut_and_the_Keftiu

    And the most recent development on the Chronology of Egypt puts it right smack into the time period of the Theran Eruption:

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/04/140401172908.htm

    What I find interesting is the ignorance and arrogance that some people have in believing that such an event magically had zero impact on the civilizations in the region.. You do understand how pleading that is? That would be like saying Yellow Stone erupting would magically have no regional impact, and that everyone would be with the reaction of "Meh" even in the modern era.. You rest your argument on a single paper, and one by a man who's not even a geologist who should also know that most of Exodus is considered fictional in the mainstream academia. The evidence I provided you is recent evidence, and there is little doubt that Exodus's story was framed around a volcanic eruption.

    There is also another volcano on the eastern shore of the Red Sea to which had recently erupted in the last 10,000 years. This to which also would have been visible to much of the Levant region. It's even possible that the Theran Eruption and this eruption could have occurred very close together. However, much of the problems assessing this deal with that this region is extremely hospitable, and hard to date in terms of chronology in regards to eruption events due to very little in terms of vegetation.

  15. >>> No volcanoes anywhere near any proposed Exodus route if in fact it happened in the way the story was told. None. Nada. Zip.<<<

    Firstly, there was no route. This is entirely a mythical part of the story of Exodus. Mainstream academia considers most of Exodus entirely fictional.. It's regarded at best propaganda from the evicted Hyksos as a best case scenario..The only thing we can ascertain from the Exodus narrative is that the description is all consistent with a volcanic event. You don't need a Volcano near the Sinai Peninsula, you only need "a volcano" to base the story on.. And like I said, Thera would have been visible to the entire Levant region, and most certainly at the Nile Delta to where the supposed Exodus journey began. But what you are doing here is pleading to ignore the description in Exodus to which is entirely volcanic. It also doesn't help that it's called Mt Sinai to which means literally "Moon Mountain" / "Shining Mountain", and that EL Saddai means "GOD of The Mountains".. It doesn't take a genius to figure it out..

  16. Thera would have to be better than 100 km tall to be visible as a mountain blowing it’s top. It’s not arrogance to disbelieve speculative theories grounded in bad exegesis. It’s good sense. I don’t rest my argument on a single paper. I rest my argument that after Googling Thera and Exodus dozens of times, I can barely find after several pages of digging any serious scholarship. The silence is deafening.

  17. No, what we can ascertain is that eisegesis is as potent as ever. The glaring problem with the simplicity of the volcano theory is there are no volcanoes anywhere near where Exodus is alleged to have occurred. So you make that mythical. But volcanic details must NOT be mythical. Why? Because volcanoes exist on our planet.

    Again, when there is some biblical scholarship backing any of this, I’ll bother. The task is difficult enough with real data. I don’t need to muck it up with the latest conspiracy theory whitewashed with a patina of science and biblical criticism.

  18. Quote: Thera would have to be better than 100 km tall to be visible as a mountain blowing it’s top.

    We are talking about the Eruption, not the mountain itself. They can easily get the information about the mountain from the displaced Minoans, others having possibly been eye witnesses, sailors who survived, and their prior experiences with volcanic eruptions in the region. These civilizations likely knew enough to recognize a volcanic event. So when I say it would be visible to the entire region of Levant, I will infer you to the following:

    http://thejackelscolumn.wordpress.com/2014/01/17/yahweh-a-volcano-fire-god-of-war-chapter-4/

    I discussed it here, and here is a direct link:

    http://books.google.com/books?id=6LDGY-QJlfEC&pg=PA275&lpg=PA275&dq=thera+visible+from+levant&source=bl&ots=rqFpcrB9iE&sig=4DbNq92OdKT-_jwfuXILEfj9Fak&hl=en&sa=X&ei=LoY1Ube_NeiQ0QHiuYGABg&ved=0CD0Q6AEwAg#v=onepage&q=thera%20visible%20from%20levant&f=false

    Yes it would have been visible as a pillar of cloud and fire.. The Ash cloud would also have been visible from Egypt as well. Now the only thing I can really agree with on the paper you cited is the question of how much damage / impact did Thera have on Egypt and the region. Hence was there enough ash fall to cause problems with crops.. Well probably not since 1cm or less wouldn’t do much.. However, the volcanic winter would, and especially in such a largely dry region. The other problem is that dessert regions such as this swallow up most of the evidence, and things like ash deposits blow away leaving little if any trace evidence. The biggest problem is not any of this, it’s the Chronology, and that has been reduced to a mere 50 year window in which recent evidence has likely reduced to a possible decade or less. This is an extremely small window of error, and especially when you consider the uncertainty of time differentiation to post event written works that could be decades later chalk full of errors, exaggerations, and fictional tales for propaganda ect.. However the one thing that is significant and largely unchanged throughout the bible is this volcanic description that is found throughout the bible. When you read things like Daniel 7, Psalms 18 (note: Psalms in general), and Revelations ect, it’s unmistakable of what is being referenced. The same sort of language and descriptions used by even modern day volcanic worship as noted in my written article. You can actually understand what they mean in Hebrews 1 when they talk about God’s radiance, and how he makes flames of fire is servants ect.. You can understand what is meant when they discuss a river of fire flowing from him. It’s so blatantly obvious that it’s ridiculous. For Pete’s sake, I wrote a 7 chapter article and 2 other articles on the subject. And they hardly even touched on the amount of material there is on the subject. I never expected it, but that is what I uncovered when I decided to dig deep into it.

    This would also be a good read for you:
    http://www.jstor.org/stable/527927

    Abstract example:

    >>>> Nahum’s prophecy begins with a similar theophany:
    The Lord hath his way in the whirlwind and the storm, and the
    clouds are the dust of his feet. He rebuketh the sea and maketh it dry,
    and drieth up all the rivers; Bashan languisheth and Carmel, and the
    fower of Lebanon langllisheth. The mountains quake at him and the
    hills melt; and the earth is upheaved at his presence. Yea the wolld
    and all that dwell therein. . . . . His fury is poured out like fire, and the
    rocks are broken asunder by him (1: 3-6).<<<>>> Micah1:314:
    Behold the Lord cometh forth out of his place and will come down
    and tread upon the high places of the earth And the mountains shall
    be ulolten under hit and the valleys shall be clefts as wax before the
    fire, as waters that are poured down a steep place. <<<<

  19. Quote:

    >> But volcanic details must NOT be mythical. Why? Because volcanoes exist on our planet.<<

    For one we know what Volcanoes are, and the descriptions match real world phenomenon. 2ndly we know what animism and anthropomorphism is and how this applies. 3rdly, people have made up fictional stories about real world events ever since written language existed. It was likely one of the main ways to remember events.. Also, we know the telling of Exodus is largely fictional because there is literally zero evidence for any such mass exodus from Egypt.. You can also read the following to understand how the Egyptians described the Eviction of the Hyksos rulers as a military victory, and how it is likely that the Hyksos told their eviction as being led to the promise lands in what is likely exaggerated propaganda. :

    http://www.bibleandscience.com/archaeology/exodusdate.htm

    As you can note, they had a lot of reasons to disdain the Egyptians and even the Babylonians to which could no longer support their rule economically.. Hence the Thera eruption devastated the economic support of the Hyksos to which largely depended on the Minoan trade and the Babylonians. "

    Thera as the trigger of the collapse of the Broze Age:
    http://geologymuseum.rutgers.edu/downloads/newsletter_-_2005_spring.pdf

    Lecture on Minoan, Babylonian, and Egyptian trade:
    http://www.uncp.edu/home/rwb/lecture_ancient_civ.htm

  20. Sadly I just noticed that Rutgers doesn’t have the pdf up on their server anymore :/ .. I will have to contact them and request the PDF.. So far no alternative link for the PDF..I am going to have to find an alternative academic source on the triggers of the collapse of the bronze age for my article…At any rate, you can see the google search description here:

    https://www.google.com/#q=Thera+trigger+to+the+collapse+of+the+bronze+age&safe=off&start=0

    Sorry about the broken link.. :/

  21. A pillar of cloud and fire close to 100 km high? You do realize that would mean low earth orbit right? Thera is hundreds of miles away and the Earth is round. Do. The. Math.

  22. Robert lower Earth Orbit is 160 km or 99 miles. This would not be in lower Earth Orbit What-so-ever, and yes an Eruption such as the magnitude of Thera would create a such a cloud to the height of 100-113 km. And the zone of visibility is between 48 Km and 113 Km.. As in it doesn’t even need be 100 km to be visible to the Nile Delta. To them they would see the pillar glow at night, and the cloud during the day.. And lest be honest here Robert, when you are talking about a Mountain shaking with loud noise, pillar of cloud, pillar of fire, lightning, hail of fire, darkness ect ect, they can only be talking about one thing Robert.. It is clearly a description of a volcanic Eruption, and the signs they present in the plagues themselves are all associated to the effects and aftermath of such eruptions. But back to the point of my response, it’s important to note that the Thera eruption dwarfed the eruption of Krakatau to which ejected material and a cloud of hot gasses ect up to 96 km into the upper Atmosphere. Hence even Krakatau and much smaller eruptions would have been visible to the Nile Delta.. These people would be able to see that pillar of cloud and fire (really the fiery glow), the volcanic lightning, the ash cloud, and of course a blood red moon to things like the blood red Nile.. The volcanic winter would have caused much disease killing off live stock with an increase of pestilence due to all the things that are dying, cooler temperatures, and due to the increased moisture in the air. Dry aired regions are especially susceptible to the effects of volcanic winters.

    Another big hint is that during this time period there was a lot of disorder in the region to where record keeping essentially came to a grinding halt as the bronze age began to collapse. As we can tell, the Egyptian tempest stele and the bible are the best remaining records of this event. The bible likely being a collection of regional description while made into a propaganda piece for the Hyksos, and the Egyptian stele being a description specific to their own experience of this event.

  23. I’m with Robert on this one. Its not a matter of choosing between either Thera or miracles (i.e. science or religion) to explain what’s in the text of the Exodus. The text (and its evolution to the form that we have it) is far too complex to make such a simple distinction. In any case, the form of the text can be fully explained historically without recourse to either Thera or miracles, as Robert explains. This is what biblical scholarship does – assesses what is the most *likely* historical explanation for the text, given the material evidence we have to go on. In which case, much of the text of Exodus appears to be legendary, quite apart from the eruption of Thera.

    Speaking of which, the map that was discussed above of the distribution of Theran ash – I’m well aware of this and the paper it comes from. No one disputes that Theran ash fell far and wide, including perhaps some on Egypt. We just don’t know how much, because only minute traces have been found. We think the ash cloud could have been up to 100km high, and most of it was carried due east. But we still don’t know what effect it had on Egypt (if any). There’s almost no material evidence (apart from about a dozen tiny shards of Theran ash found in the Delta). Which means that explanations for the Exodus based on Thera are (by definition) speculative. I am a scientist; I work with evidence.

    Oh, and despite what was said above, I am a geologist. Or at least, that’s what it says on my degree and PhD certificate.

  24. Sigh. An ash cloud is not an eruption which accounts for the entire speculation that Yahweh is a “volcano god.” Hints aren’t evidence. And no they wouldn’t see that fiery pillar since the cloud would have reached them obscuring the view. I saw a shuttle launch from across the state of Florida and that was on an exceptionally clear day. The exhaust plume was barely visible as a pin needle on the horizon. Atmospheric moisture quickly occluded the view. To expect to see anything that would inspire the descriptions in Exodus with enough ash in the air to turn the moon red is ludicrous. And since mountains don’t fly, all the Hebrews would have seen is the very top of the plume if it managed to stay molten for that long. The only way to see the pillar of fire would require proximity. Now if your theory includes God parting the Mediterranean…you might be on to something.

    It’s obvious you have faith in this speculation. Go ahead and believe. When you have conclusive evidence and not “hints” that fail up the slightest interrogation, let me know. I do not. I am a skeptic precisely because the math and the physics don’t add up.

  25. LOL. Can I get an Amen!

    Atheist critics of Christianity/religion/Bible I’ve seen appear to be keen to find naturalistic explanations for a face value reading. That’s why this “theory” has any life at all. It just can’t hold water.

  26. Robert, read the link, it’s not claiming Santorini being 48 to 112 Km from Egypt.. At this point I can tell you probably haven’t bothered to read anything presented to you… The eruption would have blasted volcanic ash, gasses ect up to 113 Km into the upper atmosphere.. Anything 48 km to 113 km would be visible not only from the Nile Delta, but visible to the entire Levant region.. Also, the red end of the light spectrum tends to curve with the curvature of the Earth. That Sun you see rising above the horizon at the break of dawn isn’t actually over the horizon yet. You see the sun rise above the horizon because of the refraction index and the higher density of the air at close to the surface of the earth. Hence the pillar of fire at night would have been very visible.. This is basic physics and dealing with Snell’s law.

    The Eruption itself would also have been heard possibly by more than 1,000 miles away. I You severely under estimate how massive this eruption was.

  27. >>> Sigh. An ash cloud is not an eruption which accounts for the entire speculation that Yahweh is a “volcano god.” Hints aren’t evidence<<<>> And no they wouldn’t see that fiery pillar since the cloud would have reached them obscuring the view <<>>> I saw a shuttle launch from across the state of Florida and that was on an exceptionally clear day <<<<>> To expect to see anything that would inspire the descriptions in Exodus with enough ash in the air to turn the moon red is ludicrous.<<<<

    It's not Ludicrous at all, you have no comprehension of what it is you are talking about. And you don't need very much ash in the air to turn the moon blood red.. Do you know anything at all about light refraction? Right now I am suspecting you do not..When light propagates through a medium such as an ash cloud, the red end of the spectrum will bend more while the blue end of the spectrum will bend less or scatter. Hence leaving a red tinge to the sunlight being reflected off the moon to which must propagate through this ash.. Ash also absorbs much of the blue end of the spectrum and tends to reflect more of the red end of the spectrum..

    http://phys.org/news/2011-06-volcano-ash-asian-eclipse-blood.html

    You don't need a blinding amount of ash, just enough to cause the moon to appear to turn red. As you can see, you can still even see the details of the moon and what I think is Venus next to the moon..

  28. And what strikes me most here is your lack of being able to deal with the direct descriptions of the bible itself to which includes exclaiming rivers of fire streaming forth from him ect..

    And Mark Harris, no offense but the only thing I can agree with you is the question of how much physical damage Thera may have had.. Even Exodus does not argue Egypt was physically destroyed. The Impact on Egypt large in part stems from what would have been the after effects. Mostly Stemming from a volcanic winter in which eruptions like this cause. Worse still Mark, you ought to know that this is the only real world phenomenon you can effectively match this to.. Special pleading for magic and miracles is ridiculous here in the 21st century Mark. Fictional tales based on real events such as this, are infinitely far more likely..

    Quote: >>This is what biblical scholarship does <> assesses what is the most *likely* historical explanation for the text,<<> much of the text of Exodus appears to be legendary

    This part we can agree on.. Most of exodus is fictional, but it doesn’t change the fact that its description is volcanic Mark. Furthermore, Revelations is entirely volcanic in description as well while it references back to Exodus. The Deuteronomy does this as well.. This is a consistent theme throughout the entire bible Mark, as in it is not just confined and subject to “Exodus”. And you as a geologist, so you claim to be, ought to know this. And you ought to know what anthropomorphism is. So you as a geologist mark, you can feel free to tell us what natural phenomenon matches the description in Exodus, and among others. And I am curious Mark, have you read my articles on this?:

    http://thejackelscolumn.wordpress.com/2013/02/27/yahweh-the-worshiping-of-a-volcano-fire-god-of-war/

    http://thejackelscolumn.wordpress.com/2013/03/15/yahweh-the-rock-of-israel/

    http://thejackelscolumn.wordpress.com/2013/02/27/mountain-god-worship-yahweh-god-of-the-mountains/

    Quote: >> We just don’t know how much, because only minute traces have been found

    So far I can agree with this..But in such dry aired regions, this is something that should be expected. How much ash do you suppose would deposit and remain in a dessert region such as Egypt over the last few thousand years? Probably very little if any. There should be no expectation to find large amounts of ash deposits in Egypt.

  29. Quote: >>> I am a scientist; I work with evidence.

    So do I.., and I don’t woefully ignore the descriptions in the bible to which I know are volcanic descriptions. Especially when having studied other cultures that have worshiped volcano / mountain gods to understand the sort of language that is used. I am going to tell you right point blank Mark, there is no way this is anything but a volcanic description.., and you as a scientists pleading to magic and miracles is ridiculous when you know full well what these descriptions are.. And the evidence for magic and miracles Mark, is literally ZERO!. There was no magical man spewing rivers of fire from himself Mark..I’m not that stupid, and I would hope that you are not that stupid either.

  30. Thanks for making it clear what you believe. I am not pleading for magic and miracles in place of science. I thought I made that clear above. I think the text of Exodus can be explained in other *mundane* ways – the human desire for story telling and re-telling (including embellishment) being one of them. We simply don’t know what the historical kernel is behind the Exodus events you’re interested in (if there is such a kernel). To me, you are the one who seems to have a near-religious faith in the accuracy of the text to describe what “what really happened”, going beyond what history and science can demonstrate.

  31. Can I get another Amen!

    Mark, I should clarify that Exodus is not merely about a good story. Near East peoples told stories, myths in particular, to express themselves deeply. They didn’t write philosophy per se. The genius who put the Pentateuch together wasn’t going to write “On God and Freedom.” This is the point of my post. It gives us the back story so we can appreciate the Bibke as they really are.

    And do you find it interesting that the more strenuous the apologists become for the Thera “Theory” that they find less and less to support the Exodus as volcanic description? Thera becomes a caldera of massive proportions whose affects can be seen and heard far and wide. (Yellowstone anyone?) Trouble is calderas as far as an amateur science geek like me knows don’t look like volcanoes. They look more like hell on earth. Defeating the premise of the Thera “Theory”. Light refraction trumps occlusion by ash. The mountain itself would need to be the height of the atmosphere, but no worries. It was a powerful eruption! And so on.

    Could you correct me if I’m off base?

  32. —> To me, you are the one who seems to have a near-religious faith in the accuracy of the text to describe what “what really happened”, going beyond what history and science can demonstrate. ,<—

    Do you even know what the definition of "religious" means Mark? You're appealing to ignorance while woefully ignoring the evidence presented. I even asked you a direct question asking you to explain the descriptions cited in geophysical terms, or what natural phenomenon best matches those descriptions. You know the response I got?, yeah I got the above argument trying to assert that it is "I" who is religious. I am sorry Mark, but you come off as a crank.

  33. –> Sigh. An ash cloud is not an eruption which accounts for the entire speculation that Yahweh is a “volcano god.” Hints aren’t evidence.<—

    If it were simply rested on that, I would have agreed… However my argument and evidence doesn't simply rest on that one particular aspect of the subject. These aren't hints, they are descriptions… And it's funny that you go from claiming they couldn't see eruption to "Oh it doesn't look like a volcano", and therefore under the same breath trying to assert that they couldn't be talking about a volcano regardless of the fact that what they are describing is exactly that. Wow, woeful ignorance and goal post moving is strong with you people.. Mark won't address the issue because he knows damn well that if he actually does in terms of geophysics, he would have to agree the descriptions are volcanic in nature. Psalms 18 alone describes the deity as not only the spirit of the mountain, but literally as the erupting mountain itself. Hence claiming it isn't this simple is quite wrong, it is actually that simple..

    We all know these are the Hymns:

    Psalm's 18:

    18 I will love thee, O Lord, my strength.

    2 The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower.

    3 I will call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised: so shall I be saved from mine enemies.

    4 The sorrows of death compassed me, and the floods of ungodly men made me afraid.

    5 The sorrows of hell compassed me about: the snares of death prevented me.

    6 In my distress I called upon the Lord, and cried unto my God: he heard my voice out of his temple, and my cry came before him, even into his ears.

    7 Then the earth shook and trembled; the foundations also of the hills moved and were shaken, because he was wroth.

    8 There went up a smoke out of his nostrils, and fire out of his mouth devoured: coals were kindled by it.

    9 He bowed the heavens also, and came down: and darkness was under his feet.

    10 And he rode upon a cherub, and did fly: yea, he did fly upon the wings of the wind.

    11 He made darkness his secret place; his pavilion round about him were dark waters and thick clouds of the skies.

    12 At the brightness that was before him his thick clouds passed, hail stones and coals of fire.

    13 The Lord also thundered in the heavens, and the Highest gave his voice; hail stones and coals of fire.

    14 Yea, he sent out his arrows, and scattered them; and he shot out lightnings, and discomfited them.

    This is volcanic anthropomorphism by definition.. There is no other natural phenomenon on this planet to which they could ever be inferring to here. Mark knows this, any geologist ought to know this.. You don't get to play the game of woefully ignoring direct evidence..

  34. You were cited a source that has scholarship backing and inquiry.. And there are several volcanoes in the region of Egypt and the red sea.. Get a geological map, and learn that stories can be told in reference to real events such as volcanic events.. You don’t believe a volcano is in LA do you? Or that the hollywood movie that depicts LA being destroyed by one is real do you? Do they even need a volcano near LA to tell the story? No, they only need reference to what a volcano is and experience of an erupting volcano.. Those descriptions in the bible are clearly that of the volcanic nature.. Furthermore, Exodus would have been around 1560 BC, a story likely depicting the eviction of the Hyksos to which ocurred not long after the Eruption of Thera for which could be seen as a red glow on the horizon as far as Israel, and heard as far as Israel.. It is in fact blamed as the trigger to the collapse of the Bronze age..

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