Wednesday, August 23, 2006

When Science Supports Religion: Exodus Decoded

There are no coincidences.


That's a belief I like to live by, though sometimes I really like the coincidence explanation. So just recently, I was (still) dead on my feet tired and flipping through channels for something to distract my brain from all of the other less fun yet still pressing responsibilities. And I stumbled across a show called Exodus Decoded on the History Channel.


There are no coincidences.


The host's accent was the first thing that caught my attention, followed by some really cool computer graphics. And once I figured out that this was an exploration of Exodus from a Jewish and archeological and geological and historical perspective, I was hooked.


Now, just for the record, my own religious life is not predicated on science. I've had enough experiences that either couldn't be explained by science or simply defied science to know that there's Something far beyond my limited understanding. So what science does or does not say has no real effect on what I believe. I don't need a scientific explanation before I accept Judaism, and I don't think that this show tries to distill religious beliefs down into a nice little scientific story. I also don't think that the show tries to remove the supernatural from the natural. I saw it as very much pro G-d, and I consider it an adjunct, additional perspectives and ideas that get me thinking about my own religious life a little more.


Too often, science is used to undermine religious belief, to prove that something didn't, couldn't, won't happen, or to cast anyone with a belief in an unseen, unknowable great mystery we sometimes call G-d as primitives with religion as a crutch and an aversion to the all-powerful Fact.


But what amazing things I saw on Exodus Decoded. The host, Simcha Jacobovici, presented a somewhat modified theory of the Exodus - the primary difference being when it took place - and came as close to proving it happened as I'll probably ever see in my lifetime. According to Jacobovici, earlier estimations of when the Exodus took place did not take into account timelines found elsewhere in the Tanakh. When he retraced those timelines, names and dates and other textual landmarks, he arrived at an earlier time for the Exodus: approximately 1500 BCE.


And when he did that, he found archeological, geological, historical, and cultural evidence that didn't just support the theory; it came darn close (in my opinion) to proving it.


One of Jacobovici's statements (paraphrased from my memory) that gave me goosebumps: But why use the effects of a volcano [Santorini] to inflict the Ten Plagues on Egypt? G-d doesn't defy the laws and forces of nature; He manipulates them.


And the most awesome moment for me was the finding of a small gold piece of artwork, on display at a museum in Greece as some sort of unknown jewelry, that could very well be a two-dimensional representation of the Ark of the Covenant. How is this possible? Watch the show!


I highly recommend watching Exodus Decoded. Not to have any bearing on your beliefs or to change your mind about religion and history. It's a stunning theory, and opens the door to possibilities that humanity once thought science had closed. And to all of the Exodus Deniers, it's a strong argument that our narrative may have more than just a little bit of history in it.


Exodus Decoded can be seen next on the History Channel tomorrow (Thursday), August 24, 2006 at 8pm ET/PT. There are other showings! Check your local listings to confirm, or visit http://www.historychannel.com and search Exodus Decoded. Or click here.

5 comments:

Rachack said...

I also saw this program. Despite the fact that I don't agree with what they said, they still still didn't do a good job. Most of their ideas were assumptions and huge stretches. I blogged about this program on my blog here. It's too good to be true.

Yael said...

I'll have to watch this with my youngest son. He's a walking encyclopedia of history who is always thrilled to see something Jewish on TV.

malka said...

very interesting.

I think that people who don't want to believe, won't no matter what. We can give people a bunch of arguments and they'll always have one to counter it. I think G-d made it like that so we have free choice, whether or not to believe. What non-believers need to know is that all the info and proof in the world is Not going to help if they don't take that leap of faith.

Sheyna Galyan said...

Rachack - I read your blog entry about Exodus Decoded. I understand that you aren't in the least bit open to the theory put forth in the show (and yes, I consider it a theory, not a fact), but I'd be interested in a more detailed criticism. Anyone could say it made assumptions and misunderstandings. On what, specifically ("Torah" isn't a good answer) are you basing your criticism? Can you be more detailed rather than making a broad condemnation?

Yael - I hear ya. And sometimes when there is something purportedly Jewish on TV, it turns out to be horrible, as in a Law & Order episode I wrote about here.

Malka - good point. Sometimes it's a good thing to be set in our ways and interpretations; it preserves security. And sometimes it leaves us unable to learn and grow and see new ideas, new possibilities. Following up on your comment about free will, I sometimes have to wonder if G-d is enjoying the fact that, after all this time, after all our technological developments (or so we think), we're still pursuing this among other religious mysteries. I wonder if that's the point: whether we figure out when or if the Exodus is historically accurate, or the exact location of Sinai or Gan Eden is irrelevant, so long as we keep thinking about it.

Thanks for your comment!

Yael said...

Well some of my co-workers need places to pick up their stereotypes, right? It's not like they've ever met a Jew besides me! Sometimes I just shake my head.