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The Science of Passover

March 26, 2010

Just in time for Pesach, Slate has republished Michael Lewis’ article Pesach, Demystified: Scientific Explanations for the Miracles of Passover. The piece covers the biblical events of the burning bush, the plagues and the crossing of the Red Sea (sic!) and mentions perspectives from Colin Humphrey’s The Miracles of Exodus to Simcha Jacobovici’s Exodus Decoded (see the massive, systematic rebuttal of the latter by Chris Heard). It’s materialistic matzah for your scientific Seder.

However, Lewis’ article fails to address what I would consider the most important angel to any and all queries into the “science of the Bible”: the conflicting epistemologies that underlies such endeavors.  What makes theories like Humphrey’s interesting to me is the way they try to shoe-horn an ancient text into a modernists paradigm. With the changing zeitgeist I wonder how much longer such an interpretation will hold traction. The article already feels like a sideshow attraction of modernist curiosities.

Ironically, there will probably be a faithful remnant to this paradigm comprised of two very different ends of the ideological  spectrum: biblical literalists arguing for the “historicity” of the biblical events and hardcore secularists looking to explain them away. Neither such fundamentalism does justice to the beauty and literary power of the text.

One Comment
  1. March 31, 2010 8:42 pm

    Amen to that. How irritating both types of fundamentalist are!

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