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THE SEARCH FOR THE REAL MT. SINAI : Experts and Scholars Reviews

Excerpts from Pilgrimage and Holy Space in Late Antique Egypt

"Jewish Pilgrimage and Jewish Identity"
Edited by David Frankfurter
Authored By Dr. Allen Kerkeslager
Brill, Leiden, Boston, Koln; 1998

"Exodus traditions played a central role in Jewish identity in the Greco-Roman period. The mythology of national origins, the distinctive outlines of Jewish ritual and legal practice, and the Jewish liturgy read in the synagogues were all based directly upon the exodus traditions. Jerusalem appropriated the ritual potential of these traditions through the yearly pilgrimage festivals celebrated in the temple. Jews who could not go to Jerusalem to celebrate these festivals also usually could not go to distant sites associated with the events of the exodus. Instead they developed alternatives by which Passover and other festivals associated with the exodus could be celebrated within their own homes and synagogues. Jewish identity therefore became almost completely detached from concrete sites associated with the mythology of the exodus. This made it easy for Byzantine Christians to attach traditions about the exodus to new sites that had never been associated with the exodus in Jewish tradition."

"The following discussion of post-biblical Jewish traditions concerning Mt. Sinai will demonstrate that Jews in the Hellenistic and early Roman periods had only a minimal interest in pilgrimage to Mt. Sinai and other sites along the route of the exodus. Those who did make pilgrimages to Mt. Sinai must have gone to a site somewhere near the city of Madyan in northwestern Arabia. A continuous tradition extending from ca. 250 BCE to the present has persistently located Mt. Sinai near the city of Madyan. The city of Madyan was identified with the home town of Jethro, the father-in-law of Moses, in the Greek version of the Jewish Scriptures (LXX/OG), later Jewish sources in the Greco-Roman period, early Christian sources up through the Byzantine period, classical Islamic sources, and Islamic sources from the early modern period. The traditions found in these sources have long ceased to exercise any influence in Jewish tradition and interpretation. But they continue to be elaborated and transmitted in the modern Saudi Arabian town of Al-Bad', which occupies the site of ancient Madyan. One of the mountains near Al-Bad' even may be identified with the Mt. Sinai of early post-biblical Jewish tradition."

"Biblical and post-biblical evidence consistently suggests that most Israelite traditions identified Horeb and Sinai with some location in northwestern Arabia east of the Red Sea rather than anywhere in the Sinai Peninsula."

"Recent archaeological surveys and excavations in northwestern Arabia have revealed thousands of inscriptions, previously unknown archaeological sites, and a vast body of new material evidence that archaeologists and historians who work in this region have only begun to digest. The paucity of evidence for Israelite pilgrimage in the literary sources should warn us not to hope for too much new evidence of Israelite pilgrimage even from this region. But so much new material is already available that it has become inexcusable to ignore the archaeology of northwestern Arabia. Surely this region deserves as much attention as has been given to the Sinai Peninsula, which has yielded only meager evidence for Israelite and early Jewish history despite all the work expended on it."

"Philo provides a probable witness from the Roman period to the Alexandrian tradition of locating Mt. Sinai in northwestern Arabia."

"Josephus provides the most explicit testimony to a precise location associated with Mt. Sinai in all of ancient Jewish literature. The witness of Josephus offers direct confirmation of the Alexandrian tradition of locating Mt. Sinai near the city of Madyan in northwestern Arabia. As in the case of Paul, Josephus' perspective on the location of Mt. Sinai may have been derived from Alexandrian traditions, indigenous traditions from Palestine, traditions from some other region, or a variety of different traditions."

"Josephus himself clearly located Mt. Sinai in northwestern Arabia where he indicates that Mt. Sinai was 'the highest of the mountains' in the region of 'the city of Madiane'. 'Madiane' is probably the city of Madyan located by Ptolemy and other sources in northwestern Arabia east of the Gulf of 'Aqaba."

"Christian and Islamic traditions provide more explicit testimony to the persistence of Jewish traditions that located Mt. Sinai in northwestern Arabia. In the middle of the third century Origen reaffirmed the tradition of locating "the city of Madiam" (Madyan) in northwestern Arabia to the east of the Red Sea."

"Islamic sources ultimately became the primary avenue for the transmission of the tradition that identified Madyan with the home of Jethro and Moses. These traditions seem to have persisted with unbroken continuity into the early modern period. Associated with these traditions is a persistent Islamic tradition locating Mt. Sinai near Madyan. The Islamic traditions about Moses and Jethro continue to survive in local legends in the town of Al-Bad' (Mugha'ir Shu'ayb), which occupies the large oasis at the site of ancient Madyan. Not surprisingly, these local legends include a tradition of identifying "the mountain of Moses" with one of the mountains near Al-Bad'."

"Jews who traveled through northwestern Arabia for business and other reasons may have taken advantage of the opportunities that they had to visit what they thought was Mt. Sinai. In contrast to the southern Sinai Peninsula, Jewish interest in northwestern Arabia is attested in nearly all periods from the preexilic period to the modern period. Jews in northwestern Arabia surely must have noticed the coincidence between the name of the city of Madyan and the biblical traditions about ancient Midian (=Madyan). This may have inspired numerous visits to some mountain near Madyan that was locally identified with Mt. Sinai. These visits then may have contributed to the further development of traditions associating Mt. Sinai with the city of Madyan."

"Identifying the Mt. Sinai of early post-biblical Jewish tradition requires that the following considerations be taken into account:

1. The mountain must have enough similarities to the Mt. Sinai and Mt. Horeb described in the Bible to have attracted the attention of Jews in the early post-biblical period.

2. The mountain must be in northwestern Arabia (LXX/OG, Demetrius, Josephus, probably Philo; possibly Jubilees and Paul; among later sources, Origen, Eusebius, Jerome, et al.).

3. The mountain must be near Al-Bad' (ancient Madyan; LXX/OG, Demetrius, Josephus, probably Philo; among later sources, Origen, Eusebius, Jerome, et al.).

4. The mountain must be the highest mountain in the surrounding region (Philo) or, more precisely, the highest mountain near the city of Al-Bad' (ancient Madyan; Josephus).

The only possible option in this case is Jebel al-Lawz. At 2580m, Jebel al-Lawz is uncontested as the highest mountain in the region of ancient Madyan. Jebel al-Lawz also fulfills every other criterion stated above."

"Jebel al-Lawz is probably the most convincing option for identifying the mountain with which Jews identified Mt. Sinai in the Hellenistic and early Roman periods. But the present state of research on Jebel al-Lawz requires that this remain only a rather tentative hypothesis. It is nevertheless by far the most attractive hypothesis available."

"Jebel al-Lawz may also be the most convincing option for identifying the Mt. Sinai of biblical tradition. Like many other mountains scattered throughout the Near East, Jebel al-Lawz is reportedly identified with Mt. Sinai in the legends of the local Arabs. But the potential antiquity of the traditions associated with Jebel al-Lawz is without parallel in the traditions associated with other sites. The evidence discussed earlier in this study demonstrates that traditions relating Mt. Sinai to the site of ancient Madyan at modern Al-Bad' extend at least to the time of the oldest portions of the LXX/OG in ca. 250 BCE. In contrast, the earliest solid date for the appearance of traditions locating mt. Sinai in the southern Sinai Peninsula is ca. 350 CE. One cannot be certain whether the mountain identified with Mt. Sinai when the LXX/OG was translated is the same mountain identified with Mt. Sinai during the preexilic phases of the redaction of the Hebrew Bible. But perhaps it is time for research on the location of the Mt. Sinai of Preexilic tradition to shift its focus to Jebel al-Lawz, which is associated with local traditions 600 years older than the traditions locating Mt. Sinai in the southern Sinai Peninsula."

Scholarly Opinion on Cornuke's Findings

Dr. Roy Knutson: Leading authority on Exodus route, former professor of New Testament and Greek and Bible Archaeology; researcher, biblical scholar, explorer.

Moses parting the Red Sea "Bob Cornuke and Larry Williams did what I was unable to do - find a way to get into Saudi Arabia and photographically document the topography and features of Jabal al Lawz. It was quite a remarkable feat. I tried to get into the country years ago on a legitimate basis with a team of archaeologists and scholars, but couldn't get clearance. They don't like American tourists over there who aren't working. So while little things still need to be confirmed for a positive identification, the fact is no other mountain has those types of features. I have taught biblical archaeology in Christian colleges and have been involved with digs involving prominent archaeological ruins. I have researched and studied the route of the Exodus for years. What Bob and Larry Williams discovered only lends credence to what I've long believed was the true Exodus destination point. The visible evidence is quite overwhelming: the location of the true Mount Sinai has been discovered in the ancient land of Midian, known today as Saudi Arabia. Bob Cornuke's presentation about this discovery is simply fascinating."

Location of Mount Sinai

Ken Durham: Th. M. in Bible Exposition and M.A. in Christian Education; professor of Old Testament history, historical geography and grammatical biblical interpretation; Assistant Dean of Professional and Biblical Studies of Colorado Christian University; has conducted on-site research throughout the middle east.

"I feel Bob Cornuke's work concerning the locale of Mount Sinai is right on the money. I hold a very high view of the veracity of the biblical text, and Scripture speaks for itself as to the correct Exodus route. Academic scholarship is always learning to find an easy way out, away form the supernatural and divine accuracy of Scripture - but the Bible is quite clear. I could list, for example, a dozen reasons why the location of the Red Sea crossing is precisely where Bob Cornuke and Larry Williams contend it is, with or without the underwater land bridge. And their contention that the traditional site of Mount Sinai in Egypt is false is, if anything, grossly understated. Due to both the location and specific features of Jabal al Lawz in Saudi Arabia, I would call that mountain the most viable proposed site for Mount Sinai that's ever been presented. I believe it is the real Mount Sinai. And I don't think it can be disputed from the evidence."

View From Mount Sinai

Dr. Robert Stewart: Ph.D. of Ministry; Professor at New Geneva Theological Center in Colorado Springs.

"As a professor, archaeology buff, and former attorney, I'm trained to gather and sift through evidence. I can tell you that Bob Cornuke is very credible in his finding. I believe what he's found is quite likely the real Mount Sinai. Given the fact that Bob's whole mission is to prove the truth of the Scriptures, the most compelling factors lie in that most all of the evidence he's gathered comes straight from the Bible - from the fact that Mount Sinai was said to be in the land of Midian or Arabia, that it's surrounding geography supports a great battle with the Amalekites, that the top of the mountain is blackened without volcanic activity, that all of the altars and pillars are where they should be, and the proposed Red Sea crossing the Gulf of Aqaba is precisely where a close reading of the Scripture leads us to believe it should be. I can see where Bob would meet with some resistance from parties interested in preserving the traditional site of Mount Sinai - such as the Egyptian tourism boards - but the circumstantial evidence for Jabal al Lawz as the real Mount Sinai is quite convincing. It all adds up."

Base Institute Testimonials

"This could be the discovery of the millennium."
- Jim Tomberlin, Pastor, Woodmen Valley Chapel, Colorado Springs, CO

"Bob Cornuke has fascinated audiences nationwide with his powerful yet humorous presentations of his many searches for ancient biblical locations."
- Gary Bauer, President Family Research Council: former Undersecretary of Education, under President Reagan

"Bob Cornuke's presentation will captivate you as he takes you along on his incredible adventures."
- Hon. Dan Quayle, former Vice President of the United States

"Your explorations are fascinating. Your story is remarkable!"
- National Geographic Television

"When I watched the video footage of Mount Sinai in Bob Cornuke's presentation - the black charred rock where God descended, the ancient stone altars, the boundary markers, the split rock that Moses struck with his staff and water gushed out - it was the most powerful thing I've ever seen. It testifies so uniquely to who God is, it ignited my heart. So much of what we Christians believe is strictly faith. But what I saw brings the Bible to life in an extraordinary way, presenting us with physical evidence of God's presence, and attesting to the Bible's incredible accuracy. I believe. I believe his findings, as perhaps nothing else I've seen or heard, will both strengthen and encourage the heart of believers, and provide many skeptics with the empirical evidence they demand. It blessed my heart that Bob Cornuke trusted the Bible in his search for the real Mount Sinai. He brought back the evidence behind the reason for our hope."
- Coach Bill McCartney, Founder and CEO, Promise Keepers