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Does Orthodox scholarship invalidate The Exodus?

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#1 Brad D.

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Posted 29 July 2013 - 03:45 PM

Can anyone tell me to what extent Orthodox scholars accept the details of the account of The Exodus?  Do Orthodox scholars discount the plagues as natural phenomenon, do they convert the pillar of fire and cloud to a large lamp leading the group (smoking by day, fiery by night), and do they discount the effect that The Exodus had on the Egyptian state?


Just curious if Orthodox scholarship approaches issues such as these from a similar viewpoint as Protestant ones.




#2 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 29 July 2013 - 03:57 PM

There is at least one "recognized" Orthodox scholar, Fr. Paul Tarazi, who is a "naturalist" when it comes to explaining the miracles of the Old Testament, but I don't think the hymnody nor the mainstream of the Church support that view. I am not a Tarazi fan myself.


But we certainly would not "invalidate" in any way, shape or form the Exodus. It is the foreshadowing of the Resurrection!

#3 Father David Moser

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Posted 29 July 2013 - 05:00 PM

A couple of years ago, I was on pilgrimage to the Holy Land.  On the feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord, our group (along with throngs of others) ascended Mt Tabor on foot to celebrate the divine liturgy at the Church on the summit.  The night was beautifully clear and cool.  During the liturgy, all of sudden there was light (both as in not heavy and as in luminous) mist that appeared as we sang the "Holy God".  This light mist stayed high above the ground and lasted only during the singing of this hymn. Again the sky was clear. Later on, as the Chalice was brought out for the communion, the light mist reappeared, this time just above our heads.  During the giving of the communion the mist remained and then disappeared again when the Chalice was taken back into the altar. The sky was again clear.  When at the end of the liturgy, the Patriarch brought out the cross for all to venerate, the mist again descended, this time to the ground, enveloping all in its light embrace.  This miracle of the holy light that appears every year on Mt Tabor at the feast of the Transfiguration. 


Now I've lived in the mountains a lot of my life and I know how the fog comes and goes during the cool nights and I suppose one could easily say that this was just a natural phenomenon of mountain fog.  However that does not make the miracle any less a miracle.  Even if it were a natural phenomenon, how is it that the mist "knew" to appear and disappear at these particular points of the Divine Liturgy and only on this night?  Just because there is a "natural explanation" for some miraculous phenomenon does not make it any less miraculous.


There is an old (and iirc generally discounted) book by a Russian scientist, Immanuel Velikovsky called "Worlds in Collision"  In this book he describes a series of planetary events regarding "close" passes to earth by large comets which resulted in a number of atmospheric and even planetary phenomena which he relates to the Great Flood, the plagues of Egypt, the parting of the Red Sea, the pillar of fire and cloud, the manna in the wilderness, the extension of the day of Joshua and a number of other things.  Do his explanations (however true or misguided they might have been) in any way impact their miraculous nature?  No, not at all.  In fact it only points out the marvelous power of God which plans even from the origins of the solar system the orbits of the celestial bodies so that they occurred at the exact time and place that they would be needed by men who had not even been created yet.  Think about it; how God plans a celestial near cataclysm set in motion at the birth of the solar system and determined by the laws of orbital physics in order to meet the needs of His chosen people at exactly the right time and the right place.  Truly the heavens declare the glory of God.


Fr David Moser

#4 Reader Luke

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Posted 29 July 2013 - 09:25 PM

Giving some natural interpretations doesn't invalidate the miracles, God works through his creation. If those things happened in different parts of the world at different times, it would just be "nature", but that they happened to Egypt at that time and place, God was simply working through his creation.

#5 Lakis Papas

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Posted 29 July 2013 - 11:03 PM

Numbers 20:8-13
“Take the rod; you and your brother Aaron gather the congregation together. Speak to the rock before their eyes, and it will yield its water; thus you shall bring water for them out of the rock, and give drink to the congregation and their animals.”
1 Corinthians 10:1-3
Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that all our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea, all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ.
The explanation by natural phenomena is deterministic. Natural phenomena have natural causes. Even if produced by divine intervention, natural phenomena are created. We take all miracles in Bible to be uncreated energies of God. As Christians we proclaim the presence of God Logos in all miracles, as creation meets the actions/energies of the Uncreated.

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