Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Was Moses on Dope?

Throughout my years as a college student and then as a grad student I came across many interesting if not fantastic explanations of difficult things found in the Bible. It seems that critical scholars will go to any lengths imaginable to explain away the supernatural in the scriptures. As I was doing to some net surfing here recently I came across an explanation of Moses on Mt. Sinai that really took the cake. In an article Moses was high on drugs: Israeli researcher, Benny Shanon, a professor of cognitive psychology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, argued that, "Moses was on psychedelic drugs when he heard God deliver the Ten Commandments." Apparently, the bark from accacia trees can produce a strong hallucinogenic effect under the right conditions. Shanon thinks that this concoction accounts for the things Moses heard and saw(e.g. burning bush, which he thinks is another apparent hallucinogenic episode).

Why resort to such fantastic explanations? Well, the answer is obvious, we can't just take the Bible at face value. After all, it is wrong about so many things, right? Actually, no, it is not wrong on so many things, and it is not full of errors, and false statements. Critics used to say that the Bible, in the early chapters of Genesis, named cities and Mesopotamian kings that never existed, only to be proved wrong with the discovery of the Ebla tablets in the 1960's. We used to be told that the walls of Jericho could not have fallen outward, as the book of Joshua says, because an attacking army would naturally batter the walls until they fell inward (even though Joshua specifically says Israel didn't touch the walls), until the 1990's, when renowned archeologist Kathleen Kenyon proved that available evidence suggests they fell outward. Many other instances of critics attempting to explain away the facts of the Bible only to be later disproved by hard evidence could be cited, but it is unnecessary to do this. The Bible is reliable, as Nelson Glueck (renowned Jewish archaeologist) once said, “it may be stated categorically that no archeological discovery has ever controverted a biblical reference.”

Just because Prof. Shanon got lit up on psychodelic drugs once doesn't mean Moses did, at least not on Mt. Sanai. This kind of unfounded speculation leads one to ask, "what will they come up with next? Moses was abducted by aliens? The 'burning bush' episode took place on Tralfamadore?" I think Prof. Shanon better stick to studying the behavior of white rats rather than interpreting the Bible if reading his own experiences into the text is all he knows how to do.

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