Defending the Faith: Where is Mount Sinai?

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  • Craig Clark Boulder, CO
    March 7, 2014 4:32 p.m.

    Sinai is not the only mountain of sacred significance in the Bible. Mount Moriah is the place Abraham took Isaac to offer him as a sacrifice. Mountain of the Lord is a literary allusion in Micah regarding the temple mount, also known as Mount Zion. And it was from the top of Mount Nebo that God allowed Moses to gaze across the Jordan into the promised land.

    Sacred mountains or holy mountains in the ancient world were thought to bring man into closer proximity to heaven in that they reach upward towards the sky like a bridge between earth and heaven. Mount Seir (Sinai?) was believed to be the dwelling place of Yahweh (God).

    Mount Olympus, the highest mountain in Greece, is where the Greek gods dwelt. To Jews and Christians, that’s pagan myth, or idolatry, to put it in Old Testament language. But it may also evidence a common cultural thread across the ancient world. Today’s Judeo-Christian believers shouldn’t be afraid to explore that possibility.

  • sharrona layton, UT
    March 7, 2014 3:26 p.m.

    Re: Latter-day Larry,"...the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God. True,

    And ”Howbeit that was Not First which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and Afterward that which is Spiritual”. (1Cor 15:46) Vs Mormon pre-existence.

    RE;als Atheist,I’m Married to a Mormon as well, but I became a Christian.

    The difference between Christian thinking and non-Christian thinking is that man is normal now, but biblical Christianity says he is abnormal now(total depravity), because at a point in time (the Fall)he changed himself not epistemologically but morally. Christian answer:

    1. Man is cruel, without God being a bad God.

    2. There is hope in the substitutionary propitiatory death of Christ.

    3. On this basis we can have a real ground for fighting evil, including social evil and social injustice.

    4. The Christian has real morals and moral absolutes for God is absolutely good, with total exclusion of evil from God. Francis Schaeffer

  • LDSareChristians Anchorage, AK
    March 7, 2014 3:20 p.m.

    Russell Spencer,

    I wholly agree with your first paragraph.

    Can you tell me which chapter/verse this appears in? "yam suph" ?

    The local Arabs in Midian today can tell you all about Moses and Israelite's passing through that area. They don't hesitate to point out the Jabel al Lawz as that mountain Moses meet God. The locals can also point out Jethro's well in al Bad.

    Earlier maps of the middle east show the Gulf of Aqaba being labeled Gulf of Lihyan, named after the peoples called: Lihyanites. They were formerly called the Dedanites people (todays Al Ula), but changed their names around 600 BC, makes one wonder the influence a man name Lehi had on these peoples as they passed through.

  • LDSareChristians Anchorage, AK
    March 7, 2014 2:47 p.m.

    For those handy with Google Earth, try the following coordinates: 28°35'04.50" N 35°22'41.43" E

    Also, while at it, here is coordinates for Elim: 28°34'04.39" N 34°49'56.90" E Exodus 33:9
    This is also believed by some as possible candidate for the Vally of Lemuel/river of Laman. Nephi 2:8

    Coordinates for Marah 28°23'49.18" N 34°44'54.88" E Exodus 33:9

  • Craig Clark Boulder, CO
    March 7, 2014 9:08 a.m.

    This is a fascinating column by Daniel Peterson. I love this stuff.

    The saga of the Exodus and forty inexplicable years of wandering in the wilderness is so shrouded in diverse traditions and composite history. We may never be able to ascertain with any certainty exactly what happened and what is more legend than fact.

    Religion doesn’t depend on it. But historically, the nature of religion does rely on what it insists are incontrovertible absolutes.

  • Tyler D Meridian, ID
    March 7, 2014 9:00 a.m.

    @happy2bhere – “Science has not corrected religious truth as you put it.”

    Strange that you say this and then immediately follow it with examples of science doing precisely that. And you’re right… heck, just read Genesis 1:1-8 and see how it stacks up against known science (hint: it is impossible to have water before we have sunlight since water is party composed of hydrogen and we only get hydrogen from stars).

    And just to clarify, there were no scientists prior to around 400 years ago. Before modern science (testable hypotheses, ability to falsify, etc…), even the most brilliant thinkers (e.g. Aristotle) were all speculating.

    Your last comments are interesting, but if you really want to blow your mind read a book like The Tao of Physics. Talk about intuitive truths being later (thousands of years later, in this case) confirmed by modern science!

    @1.96 Standard Deviations – “My intent was not to condemn or criticize.”

    Same here… as long we agree that speaking the truth is not the same as criticizing. Peace brother…

  • Weber State Graduate Clearfield, UT
    March 7, 2014 8:35 a.m.

    "Intuition often precedes firm evidence."

    But once the evidence firms in favor or against a hypothesis, intellectual honesty and reason dictates that evidence must trump intuition.

    Intellectual honesty is often missing from the argument of an apologist.

  • 1.96 Standard Deviations OREM, UT
    March 7, 2014 8:26 a.m.

    als Atheist:

    I am sorry if I struck a nerve. My intent was not to condemn or criticize. Please accept my apologies.

    In my personal experience, I had to be very patient and work very hard to get a spiritual confirmation of the truthfulness of the gospel. For example, I have had to repent a lot -- principally of my own pride -- and exert a lot of effort in terms of pondering, praying, fasting, and making personal changes to be in harmony with gospel teachings.

    For me, the process was like it says in the scriptures, "[...] wherefore, dispute not because ye see not, for ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith." (Ether 12:6)

    With regards to this article and the story of Moses, my testimony of Moses comes primarily from the Book of Mormon. The Book of Mormon has a promise that all can know of its truthfulness and what it teaches. Because I know the Book of Mormon is true, I also know Moses was a prophet since the Book of Mormon testifies of Moses.

    This took a lot of personal effort -- it wasn't [mentally] easy for me.

  • Thid Barker Victor, ID
    March 7, 2014 8:17 a.m.

    Can God be proven or disproved? No, but there are vast evidences that He exists. Failure to observe is the problem of unbelievers! Just because some people will not see the evidences does not mean billions of other people have not seen and marveled concerning them! There is no absence of evidences only failure to observe evidences!

  • Latter-day Larry Bountiful, UT
    March 7, 2014 7:57 a.m.

    "...the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." (1 Corinthians 2:14)

  • DocHolliday reno, NV
    March 6, 2014 5:35 p.m.


    What is more amusing is that people continue to accept these fantastic leaps of logic as if they are fact.

  • sharrona layton, UT
    March 6, 2014 5:26 p.m.

    RE:the LORD passed by, when the priests were come out of the holy place, that the cloud filled the house of the LORD=(Jehovah), 1Ki 8:11 So that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud: for the *glory of the LORD=(Jehovah) had filled the house of the LORD=(Jehovah). (1Kings 8:10-11)

    Moses said,Now show me your *gloryAnd the LORD(Jehovah) said, I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name[is] the LORD=(Jehovah), in your presence…. I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.(Ex 33:18-19) God's Shekinah *glory, God is Spirit.

    RE: Archaeology and the BoM: I Nephi 10:9 &, John 1:28 KJV)Bethabara beyond the Jordan. Older and more reliable Greek MS support,Bethany i.e(John 1:28 NET,NIV,ESV).
    Bethabara was probably not on the Jordan River. Bethany in {Papyrus, 66,75.(175 A.D.), B Codex Vaticanus.

  • als Atheist Provo, UT
    March 6, 2014 5:24 p.m.

    1.96 Standard Deviations wrote:

    "I suppose it is mentally easier to ignore it for as long as possible or set it aside as a fable, instead of taking the effort to know of its truthfulness through prayer, fasting and scripture study."

    No, it is mentally easier to launch ad hominem attacks against those who do not believe in your religion - in the same way the Tailors attacked the social position, intelligence, and worthiness of those brave enough to confess they saw no clothes on the Emperor.

    Being married to an active LDS woman, I have invested the effort in prayer, study, and fasting, for thirty years! and gotten nothing but that kind of criticism and condemnation from believers.

  • happy2bhere clearfield, UT
    March 6, 2014 3:37 p.m.

    Tyler D

    Science has not corrected religious truth as you put it. If you are referring to 7 days to create the world, or the Earth is 6000 years old, or flat, well that may have been mistakes of clerics of the past, but it was also at one time the mistake of scientists too. And maybe some believers in the Bible understand a literal 7 days, but many would argue that taking it that literal is not what is important anyway. Scientific knowledge does not correct or answer the important questions of religion. Number one. GOD. Either he exists or he does not. Its a simple 50/50 chance. Nevertheless, the natural world, as you put it, has to some degree been dealt with rather impressively by religious texts such as Moses in the Pearl of Great Price. Speaking of the unimaginable size and scope of the universe we live in. And other worlds on which people live. This long before the Hubble telescope "scientifically" backed Moses up. So sometimes religion can actually be ahead of science. In the end science and religion are 100% compatable.

  • Russell Spencer Boise, ID
    March 6, 2014 3:25 p.m.

    Interesting discussion, but regarding the article...

    I didn't realize it was Meyer who proposed the Sinai in Midian theory--or that the theory was (relatively) so young! I always thought that was the interpretation of everyone who closely read the Bible. I mean, there aren't many bodies of water to cross from Goshen into the Sinai peninsula that wouldn't be easily circumvented by an army of chariots; far fewer (none at all) when you recognize that Moses was instructed to not travel to Canaan along the coast; Moses first approached the Mountain of God when he was tending Jethro's flocks in Midian; when Israel later camps at the Mountain of God, they are visited by Jethro, the Midianite; etc. Where else would one look for Exodus's Mountain of God but in Midian?

    Considering "yam suph" appears in Kings and refers to the body of water extending from the Gulf of Aqaba through the Red Sea, I think Meyer's proposal of a Midian setting must have been the ancient understanding as well. (Traveling from the Nile Delta across the Gulf of Aqaba, where do you end up? Midian.)

  • Tyler D Meridian, ID
    March 6, 2014 2:53 p.m.

    @happy2bhere – “Well, consider this…”

    That’s an interesting retort… not sure I would use it to defend religion though.

    On the one hand we have science and the role of imagination (even science fiction), where what we can imagine either comes to fruition or it doesn’t (still waiting for the Jetson’s flying bubble car). Nothing troubling about this sequence of events…

    On the other hand we have religion which typically makes two types of claims – 1) claims about subjective experience and 2) claims about objective facts (i.e., the natural world).

    It’s difficult to analyze the first since, how do you test/falsify a claim like “I feel the holy spirit?” Although from a phenomenological standpoint it’s worth noting these experiences often sound remarkably similar across different religious traditions and even some non-religious, suggesting they might be open to lots of cultural and indoctrinated interpretation.

    Regarding the 2nd claim, religion’s track record here is nothing short of abysmal. Science has been correcting “religious truth” about the natural world for hundreds of years without suffering a single defeat (religion disproving science) that I know of going in the other direction.

  • Cats Somewhere in Time, UT
    March 6, 2014 12:41 p.m.

    I love the way those who want to rationalize their non belief go through all kinds of contortions in order to make it sound merely like an intellectual exercise. It really is quite amusing.

    I love Dr. Petersen's articles. They always give insight.

  • happy2bhere clearfield, UT
    March 6, 2014 12:41 p.m.

    Tyler D

    You speak of "fantastic logical leaps" religion makes. Well, consider this. You and I are living in say 1700. I, knowing the future, tell you that one day you will be able to hold in your hand a small piece of glass and metal, and be able to talk to and see another person anywhere in the world. That would be beyond human comprehension of that time. Yet it is, as we now know, nothing more than a scientific reality today. My point being, that science too, has taken fantastic leaps to a truth of today, that in times past would have been considered insanity by most. And if the very best scientists of the day said it was impossible, they would have eventually been proven wrong. Religion and faith can also take those great leaps, as you pointed out, but it doesn't necessairly add up to being wrong.

  • Tyler D Meridian, ID
    March 6, 2014 11:08 a.m.

    @1.96 Standard Deviations – “Is the true underlying issue you have with the article that a possibility a real Mt. Sinai actually exists?”

    Not at all - my main issue is the fantastic logical leaps religion often makes (as you did) in going from “a mountain exists” to “Moses received stone tablets from God, etc.” The logical gap here borders on a complete non-sequitur.

    As to the truth (true in what sense?) of scripture I can only say the Bible contains numerous errors & inconsistencies which have been detailed by many over the last 400 years (once the church lost its monopoly on public discourse - Spinoza was the first and probably the most brilliant to offer a critique of the Bible).

    Your point about “personal changes” is extremely presumptuous. Not in any way am I claiming to be perfect, but are you really suggesting that I (anyone) cannot be moral without believing in God (specifically, the God of Abraham… sorry Hindus, Buddhist, etc)?

    The validity of the story of Moses is indeed troubling, but not for any of the reasons you suggest.

  • DocHolliday reno, NV
    March 6, 2014 11:02 a.m.

    Doesn't matter where it is. It doesn't pertain to your salvation.

  • Twin Lights Louisville, KY
    March 6, 2014 10:55 a.m.

    Tyler D,

    I don’t think most believers compartmentalize (as in wall off) their intellects from their spirituality. Any more than athletes (or any of us) wall off their physical selves from their intellectual selves. Rather that there are different spheres of our being and they intertwine if not fully intermix. I personally don’t find that I need to hold one at bay while exercising the other.

  • Henry Drummond San Jose, CA
    March 6, 2014 10:49 a.m.

    The writing of ancient history is fueled by evidence in the form of archeology and documents that survived the ravages of time. Unfortunately these clues to the workings of past civilizations are vague, open to interpretation and basically leave us "looking through a glass and darkly." I have found that the greatest value comes in the small findings.

    I remember reading an ancient Sumerian text only to realize that it was a story about a father with a rebellious teenage son. Since I was then raising two rebellious teenage sons I found an instant connection with this man who lived some 5,500 years ago. His counsels of being firm but patient somehow resonated with me. It may not have been as exciting as finding the location of Mount Sinai, but is was infinitely more useful.

  • 1.96 Standard Deviations OREM, UT
    March 6, 2014 10:16 a.m.

    Tyler D:

    Is the true underlying issue you have with the article that a possibility a real Mt. Sinai actually exists? And by extension, a real prophet like Moses existed, and that he received 10 commandments from a real and living God?

    If the account of Moses is true, and all that accompanies it (like the existence of God), it would be troubling for a non-believer because that automatically implies a lot of personal changes would be required on the non-believer's part.

    For instance, if God is real and Moses was a prophet, does that mean I should pray? Should I repent? Etc, etc. Naturally, the validity of the story of Moses becomes troubling to a non-believer. I suppose it is mentally easier to ignore it for as long as possible or set it aside as a fable, instead of taking the effort to know of its truthfulness through prayer, fasting and scripture study.

  • Tyler D Meridian, ID
    March 6, 2014 9:28 a.m.

    Commenting on Dr. Peterson’s articles is becoming something of a habit, often because I disagree with his caricatures (of non-believers) and straw man arguments, but if I’m being honest it’s mostly because I’m fascinated by his cerebral approach to often obscure topics.

    Case in point here…

    Dr. Peterson likes to dig deep and this can result in some accurate insights (e.g., “Intuition often precedes firm evidence”).

    Of course his overall conclusions are colored (falsely from my non-believer perspective) by religious belief, and no doubt Dr. Peterson would want to make the connection between subsequently proven true intuitions like Einstein’s and the religious (intuitive?) beliefs he holds dear.

    I doubt that connection would stand up to scrutiny, but I applaud his efforts to not compartmentalize his religion from his intellect… folly as that effort may be.