Explaining Away the Plagues: Bibhistctxt Takes on ‘The Exodus Decoded’

In my series “Invasion of the Bible Snatchers,” I tackle concordist interpretations of biblical texts that attempt to ascribe to those texts some sort of prescience that anticipates later scientific discoveries. My problem with such interpretations is that they attempt to wed texts written for ancient people to ideas formulated by modern ones. Such an activity is both anachronistic as well as eisegetical. Christians who persist in such mishandling of the Bible would do well to abandon the project entirely, if for no other reason than it makes their beliefs appear ridiculous.

A related but no less problematic course of action is to take the supernatural elements of the biblical text and (for lack of a better word) tame them such that they can be explained using natural phenomena. Young Earth Creationists often do this with the Noachian Flood. While the biblical authors[1] envision a world in which an ocean of water exists above the firmament dubbed “windows of heaven” (Genesis 7:11; cf. 1:7-8), these creationists will often posit other explanations that feel more scientific, like the idea that the antediluvian world was surrounded by a canopy of water vapor.[2] Since the scientific evidence is clear that our planet is surrounded by the vacuum of space and not an ocean of water, the “windows of heaven” that allowed water to pour on the earth cannot refer to such an ocean and there must be some more “scientific” explanation. 

Such an approach has also been applied to the plagues that Yahweh brought upon the Egyptians in the book of Exodus. One of the premiere examples of this is the 2006 documentary The Exodus Decoded. In it Simcha Jacobovici and his peers suggest that the events described in Exodus 7-12 coincide with the eruption of a volcano in nearby island of Thera sometime in the middle of the second millennium BCE. But while this attempt at taming sounds scientific, Twitter user and blogger @bibhistctxt shows that it is fraught with difficulties. He has begun a series over at his blog explaining why Exodus Decoded is wrong that is both enlightening and accessible. The first article covering the first plague can be found here.

[1] The story of Noah and the Flood is a pastiche of two different stories. See Richard Elliot Friedman, Who Wrote the Bible? second edition (New York: HarperOne, 1997), 54-60.

[2] E.g., https://www.genesispark.com/exhibits/early-earth/atmosphere/

1 thought on “Explaining Away the Plagues: Bibhistctxt Takes on ‘The Exodus Decoded’

  1. “The Naked Archeologist” is neither; naked nor an archeologist. I don’t get why he even has a show on the History Channel. But then again, I don’t understand why “Ice Road Truckers” do either!! He makes tremendous leaps of “faith” (no pun intended) in order to make it all fit together. Sort of like what all believers do, make the pieces fit so the show can go on.


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