THE BASALT DESERT with its rock inscriptions was and remains, according to Ahmad Al-Jallad (“Jesus in Arabia: Tracing the Spread of Christianity into the Desert,” Spring 2022), a home to nomadic pastoralists. The article goes on to state that “writing came to the nomads of North Arabia as early as the beginning of the first millennium B.C.E.” This contradicts my own experience, that present-day pastoralists have a low rate of literacy, far lower than that of more settled populations. Is it possible that the inscriptions were left by peoples other than nomads? Or, if they were written by nomads, what could have been the source of their education?
New York, New York
Historical context leaves no doubt that the ancient inscriptions were indeed left by nomadic pastoralists. In fact, this epigraphic habit continues to this day, as the desert is filled with modern graffiti left by the local nomads.—Ed.
I WANT TO THANK BAR for including the article “Silent Labor: Dig Workers in the Middle East” and the notice of the “Unsilencing the Archives” online exhibit sponsored by the Badè Museum (both Strata, Spring 2022). Both help redress the lack of public acknowledgement and awareness of the important roles played by local Middle Easterners on excavations in that region going back over a century. BAR readers may also be interested in a companion set of online talks that go along with “Unsilencing the Archives” exhibit that can be found on YouTube. One of the talks is a summary of my own research on Labib Sorial, an Egyptian who was the dig architect (and so much more) at Tell en-Naṣbeh (1926–1935) and also worked on a dozen other excavations from Thebes to Antioch between 1917 and 1935. Sorial is probably the best documented local worker of that era, and was quite well regarded for the skills and expertise he possessed, and yet he is almost unknown today.
Jeffrey R. Zorn
Adjunct Associate Professor of Biblical Archaeology
Ithaca, New York
FROM TIME TO TIME we hear from yet another person who advocates the Reed Sea as the crossing location for the Exodus (“A Sea Change” by Barry Beitzel, Spring 2022). Although it is indeed very possible for God to send a “strong east wind” to divide a swamp, marsh, or bog, so that a couple million people could cross over on dry land while the waters became “a wall” on both sides of them (Exodus 14:21–22), the pundits of such a crossing rarely address the second half of the story. How can the collapse of such a shallow pathway cause the destruction of 600 chariots and the deaths of their charioteers and horses (Exodus14:7, 23–28)?
Klamath Falls, Oregon
BARRY BEITZEL RESPONDS: The issue of how many people were involved in the Exodus opens up another entire vista of questions that divert one’s attention beyond the strictly geographical intent of my essay. However, based primarily on Hebrew lexicography and semantics, my understanding of the size of the biblical Exodus does not rise to the level of several million people, a view coincidentally shared by one of the champions of a Gulf of Aqaba Exodus (see Colin J. Humphreys, “The Number of People in the Exodus from Egypt: Decoding Mathematically the Very Large Numbers in Numbers I and XXVI,” Vetus Testamentum 48.2 (1998), pp. 196–213).
BEITZEL’S ARTICLE STATES: “…It is better situated on Egypt’s eastern border—either at the Gulf of Suez or one of the reedy lakes that separated Egypt from Sinai. This traditional interpretation remains the best.” I say, “Why?” Why, when so many other places mentioned synchronize with the route that Glen Fritz discusses in his excellent book? His work is convincing, and his conclusion is the most logical. The Exodus traversed the Sinai Peninsula along a well-established trade route to Nuweiba by way of the Wadi Watir, about halfway down the Gulf of Aqaba. It stands to reason that the real Mt. Sinai is Jebel al-Lawz in Arabia, as the Bible indicates that it is (Galatians 4:25). You even stated that this other location was one of the six that could be the place of the crossing of the Red Sea. Why would that be discounted as the Exodus crossing when it lines up with so many places mentioned in the Bible, as Dr. Fritz’s scholarly paper indicates?
BARRY BEITZEL RESPONDS: The Arabian theory (set forth by Glen A. Fritz), with which I disagree, is precisely why I wrote Where Was the Biblical Red Sea (Lexham Press, 2020). Published reviews of that book seem to agree with the location of the Exodus in close proximity to Egypt’s delta and of Mt. Sinai on the Sinai Peninsula.
HAVING TRAVELED TO SANTORINI and hearing the story of the cataclysmic eruption in 1600–1500 B.C.E. and the tsunami that followed, it brought up a question of how this might have affected the Levant and, even more significantly, the Exodus from Egypt, since these seem to have occurred possibly around the same time.
BARRY BEITZEL RESPONDS: Relating the Exodus event to the tsunami associated with the massive Middle Bronze Age volcanic eruption on the Greek island of Santorini is not new. In fact, the late Hans Goedicke’s (Johns Hopkins University) theory that made such an association appeared in BAR. This view has not been widely embraced, not least because the date of that explosion remains in dispute, with many archaeologists placing the event in the late 16th century and most radiocarbon scientists dating the eruption to the late 17th century. In any case, this event clearly did not take place in the Late Bronze Age (c. 1550–1200 B.C.E.), either in the 15th or 13th century.
THANK YOU FOR PRINTING the exegetical article by Ben Witherington III, “Paul on the Resurrection” (Spring 2022). “It is sown a physical body; it is raised a spiritual body.” Anthony C. Thiselton makes comments similar to Witherington’s in his commentary on First Corinthians.
This verse come up in my preaching recently, and I came up with an illustration that may help others. It is sown a “natural” body; it is raised a body enlivened by the (Holy) Spirit. My sermon illustration was a picture of a rowboat and a sailboat. Under natural power, a person can take a rowboat wherever he wants—until the muscles give out. With a sailboat, a person can go forever, until the wind gives out, and if that wind is the (Holy) Spirit, it never gives out.
Keep up the good work of BAR, and continue to treat us with these wonderful exegetical articles.
Father Les Singleton
WE ARE TWO RETIRED SCHOOLTEACHERS and have been getting together to study the Bible for more than a year. Our studies are interesting, but the highlights of the year come with the arrival of our issues of BAR. My friend was a high school librarian and I taught foreign language.
In the Winter 2021 issue, we were amused to see the script charts since they closely resembled the squiggles turned in by our students (Ronald S. Hendel and Matthieu Richelle, “The Shapira Scrolls: The Case for Forgery,” p. 43). We both like maps and diagrams. I always enjoy anything about translation. My friend is also an artist and was greatly taken by the beautiful “Mona Lisa of the Galilee” mosaic on p. 57.
We love the letters, and even read the ads! When we tell our friends about our wonderful new find, the reaction is nearly always a blank stare. Thanks so much for the hours of pleasure and learning.
Nancy Hardin and Patricia Twilla
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