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Chacham's Journal: News: Mathematicians try to figure Bible Story of Red Sea 20

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The Moscow Times has an article on a couple mathematicians trying to figure out the biblical story of the parting of the Red Sea

It took a stormy night and a strategically placed reef to pull off the biblical miracle of the parting of the waters of the Red Sea when the Jews fled slavery in Egypt, according to a new study by two Russian mathematicians.

A number of researchers around the world have tried to determine the probability of such an event taking place and to calculate the odds, but Naum Volzinger, a senior researcher at St. Petersburg's Institute of Oceanology, and a colleague based in Hamburg, Alexei Androsov, decided instead to study the conditions needed for the miracle to happen.

"I am convinced that God rules the Earth through the laws of physics," Volzinger said in a telephone interview.

"In purely professional terms, I can say that it [the study] was done through a system of differential equations."

The six-month study, published in the Bulletin of the Russian Academy of Sciences, focuses on a reef that runs from the well-documented starting point of the Jews' escape to the north side of the sea. In biblical times, the reef was much closer to the surface, Volzinger said.

The questions the researchers were interested in answering included what wind speed was needed to leave the reef high and dry at low tide, how long the reef could stay dry, and how quickly the waters would return.

"If the wind blew all night at a speed of 30 meters per second, then the reef would be dry," said Volzinger, who specializes in various ocean phenomena, including flooding and tidal waves.

"It would take the Jews -- there were 600,000 of them -- four hours to cross the seven-kilometer reef that runs from one coast to another. Then, in half an hour, the waters would come back," he said.

To Jews and Christians alike, the parting of the Red Sea was nothing short of a miracle. "And Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the Lord caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all that night, and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided," reads the biblical book of Exodus. "And the children of Israel went into the midst of the sea upon dry ground: The waters were a wall unto them on their right hand, and on their left."

The pursuing Egyptian army tried to follow but drowned in the sea.

Mark Grubarg, the head of the Jewish community in St. Petersburg, said the spiritual value of this miracle is immense for Jews. It is mentioned in the Shema, a prayer said by religious Jews three times a day. "Jews were the first nation in history to accept monotheism, but they could hardly assert it while in slavery in Egypt," Grubarg said. "God told them to return to the Promised Land, and this is why it was so important. When the Jews reached the sea, they needed a miracle to complete their journey, and they were granted that miracle as a reward for their strong faith. The idea of monotheism is reflected in the Shema prayer."

The event has long preoccupied people's minds. Medieval philosopher Thomas Aquinas, among others, argued that the parting of the Red Sea was possible.

Volzinger said he and Androsov studied the issue "strictly from Isaac Newton's point of view."

Yet he acknowledged the religious importance of the miracle. "To fulfill their historical mission, the Jews needed to return to a free land," he said.

Volzinger said he and Androsov have not informed any religious organizations about their findings and have not received any reaction yet.

But the parting of the Red Sea, he said, is not likely to happen again -- the reef has been severed to create a passage for ships and the water is now much deeper. Unless, that is, another miracle occurs.

I think it's both funny and interesting, no matter what you believe.

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News: Mathematicians try to figure Bible Story of Red Sea

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  • ...or is this whole drive to archeologically or historically verify the scriptures (Jewish, Christian, Moslem, or whatever) just completely missing the point?
    • I personally see no issue with folks attempting to prove/disprove the scriptures.

      Keep in mind the scriptures cover ~2600 years from start to finish. The number of authors is unknown and the many of the events seem, well obviously, miraculous.

      It is interesting to look at the Bible as a historical text, beyond the divine inspiration of what is taught in it. Consider the Kings and Chronicles, a history of the kings following through the generations of David's line. We then find a name of one of the kings,
      • I don't have a particular issue with it either, though neglecting the relationship you brought out in your last paragraph in favor of obsessing over the relationship of scripture to historical facts is definitely a bad thing. Part of my thinking was also that focusing on the attempt to find natural explanations for Biblical phenomena devalues their spiritual meaning. Velikovsky comes to mind in this context - I read one of his books, and it was a somewhat entertaining fantasy. Not even a little bit compe
      • What they fail to realize is the years previous to that the Hebrews had half of it.

        Over two-thirds of it, actually.

        As far as this claim as to how the Red Sea was split? I dunno, maybe God did use special winds (though that is not mentioned in scripture as I would have expected, if memory serves)

        The relevant verse was quoted in the article. Exodus 14:21: "Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and all that night the LORD drove the sea back with a strong east wind and turned it into dry land."

        • I was ofcourse using "half" as in the Old Testament, not necessarily half of the content. Granted, then again if I am right the Jews use the pentateuch, prophets, and psalms (Chacham? Is that in a single book usually, or separate?).

          Evidently memory didn't serve. :-) Thanks. I should be truly shamed as my wife and I read right before bed, and we covered Exodus 14 probably less than two weeks ago...
          • Psalms is it's own book, though Kind David wrote/compiled it as five smaller books.

            The third category you probably meant to say was "Writings".
      • What they fail to realize is the years previous to that the Hebrews had half of it.

        Not to challenge, but i feel compelled to ask. Is there a reason you say "Hebrews" as opposed to "Jews"? Actually, i can think of a few reasons, but somem people may want to think that "Hebrews" and "Jews" are two completely different entities.

        special winds (though that is not mentioned in scripture

        Actually, it is explicitly mentioned. THe KJV translates Exodus 14:21 thusly: And Moses stretched out his hand over the sea
        • Not to challenge, but i feel compelled to ask. Is there a reason you say "Hebrews" as opposed to "Jews"? Actually, i can think of a few reasons, but somem people may want to think that "Hebrews" and "Jews" are two completely different entities.

          Children of Israel, Israel, and Israelites are typically what I think of while reading OT. Children of the covenant.

          My mind usually uses Hebrews for the times of Christ as obviously the book of Hebrews is called such and not Jews. Perhaps I also think of it this
          • em, I should have known my memory was crap, its superyooser. Maybe I should just give up for the day. ;-)
          • There isn't necessarily a correct version, so use what you want. Though the popular version today in the secular world is "Jew" (comes from the name Judae, the Roman given name to the Kingdom of the two tribes, rules by the tribe of Judah).

            The name "Hebrew" comes from the Hebrew word "ivri", which was a name given to Abraham who came from the "other side" of the Jordan. So, basically, Abraham was called "Abraham the Hebrew", referring to whence he came.

            The only reason i asked is to know if you specificall
            • I popped over to dictionary.com after I wrote that just to see if they had much of a difference between Hebrew and Jew.

              The etyomology for hebrew noted with the "Easton's 1897 Bible Dictionary" at the bottem of the page mentioned that.

              Now, you mention Hebrew as being children of Abraham, yet does that only include Isaac (following the line of the covenant), or would you also consider ... um, Abraham's son with Sarah's maidservant, and his descendents Hebrew also? I guess I have never heard of that being t
              • Abraham's son with Sarah's maidservant, and his descendents Hebrew also?

                I guess, technically. But, as you said, never really used that way.

                He was probably designated as he was different, and taught monotheism. Since Isaac took on that tradition and made it famous (Muhammed wasn't due for a couple millenia). So, while it could also apply to Muslims, it just never has.

                I guess I have never really considered that they would not be considered Jews at this time though.

                As for the name, while technically no,
        • Is there a reason you say "Hebrews" as opposed to "Jews"?

          I don't know why FroMan, but the Jews are a subset of the Hebrews, we've been over this before. The Jews passed through the Red Sea just like the rest of the Hebrews.

          Moses wasn't a Jew he was a Levite, if I remember correctly.
        • I have always understood "Jew" to denote the religious affiliation, and "Hebrew" to designate the ethnic group. Is that correct?
    • ...or is this whole drive to archeologically or historically verify the scriptures (Jewish, Christian, Moslem, or whatever) just completely missing the point?

      It's just you--or rather, it's you and a very misguided point.

      The scriptures are, theologically and sociologically, a mechanism to the guide mortals on a path to higher spiritual understanding. A necessary part of their efficiacy is that certain key events are (or, "are believed to be") true.

      Using scientific methedology to affirm verifiable claim
      • Well, one can hardly call oneself a Christian if one does not believe that certain key events are true. If one believes that God intervenes miraculously on Earth, how does a scientific "explanation" contribute to the spiritual "efficacy" of the scriptures? Keeping in mind that the act of faith is impossible where certain knowledge exists. In this particular case, is the miracle that God caused sixty plus mile per hour winds to blow all night, or that God parted the Red Sea? Or are the two things even di
        • "A necessary part of their efficiacy is that certain key events are true" is a complete misstatement of the nature of spirituality and Christianity.

          No, it isn't.

          If Jesus Christ "didn't actually" die on the cross, then the whole basis of how Christianity is taught (the bible) is flawed. If Moses "didn't actually" lead his people out of Egypt with miraculous protection, then the basis of how Judaism is taught (the Torah) is flawed.

          One can learn about God and appreciate His creation through science, but
          • "A necessary part of their efficiacy is that certain key events are true" is a complete misstatement of the nature of spirituality and Christianity.

            No, it isn't.

            If Jesus Christ "didn't actually" die on the cross, then the whole basis of how Christianity is taught (the bible) is flawed. If Moses "didn't actually" lead his people out of Egypt with miraculous protection, then the basis of how Judaism is taught (the Torah) is flawed.

            I think that I did not state my position correctly. I'm not saying

            • I'm not saying that those facts are not a necessary part of Christianity. I'm saying that whether or not they are actually true is not a necessary part of the efficacy of scripture as "a mechanism to the guide mortals on a path to higher spiritual understanding". Faith is the key, not the historical truth behind scripture.

              Agreed on the faith bit--but being able to prove the factual reference to the same standard as any other historical "fact" will let more intelligent and capable humans grow in faith.
        • I believe that "A necessary part of their efficiacy is that certain key events are believed to be true" is exactly correct, and that "A necessary part of their efficiacy is that certain key events are true" is a complete misstatement of the nature of spirituality and Christianity. The former states a faith in God; the latter expresses hubris. One can learn about God and appreciate His creation through science, but assuming that that knowledge defines God is misguided at best.

          Isn't this an argument in the

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