The Very Blustery Day

What is it with car service and religion? After a long drive to and from Montclair yesterday to teach my mythology classes, I realized the poor car was due for an oil change. I try to be religious about auto service since the gods of mechanics seem to have bypassed me when handing out their gifts. I am pretty good at taking things apart, but when it comes to reconstructing them, well, they seem to work in new and interesting ways when I’m done. I don’t trust too much auto repair to myself. At the same time, Jiffy Lube is not my favorite hangout. I always take a book along, but the waiting area always has a television going and stale coffee perking, and other people chatting. It is sometimes hard to concentrate. A Friday afternoon seemed like a good time to go since weekend warriors would not be spending their first free hours at the Lube.

I had a choice of seats. I sat behind a Plexiglass divider from the television, figuring it might muffle the sound a bit, and began trying to focus on my work. The TV was on ABC, an early news show was running. I hadn’t been reading ten minutes when I heard the Bible mentioned on the news. I scrunched forward to peer around the windshield wipers suspended from the rack on the other side of the Plexiglass. An official looking authority named Carl Druze of the National Center for Atmospheric Research was explaining to an unseen journalist how he’d discovered the miracle of the Exodus! The government scientist explained, with a fancy graphic illustration, how if the wind blew all night the Red Sea would part into a marshy bit of mostly dry land for up to four hours, giving the Israelites an opportunity to walk right out of Egypt. The woman tending the register was so curious about my bent-over posture that she came around to see what the story was about. When she saw, she gave me a doubtful smile. The story concluded by mentioning that Carl Druze is a devout Christian, but that had nothing to do with his research.

Scientists have long tried to explain mythological episodes. Over the years I have read many implausible conjectures of “perfect storm” conditions that could lead to a dried sea bed, a series of horrific plagues, a world-wide flood, or even the earth itself holding still on its axis for 24 hours. While clever, these scientific fictions miss the point. The Bible is presenting miracles as unaccountable acts of God. No formulas or figures can explain them. I was bemused since four hours would hardly be time enough for the (at least) three million Israelites cited by Exodus to have made it across marshy swampland with their considerable material goods. The fact remains that no archaeological evidence for the exodus exists, claims of chariot-wheel shaped coral in the Red Sea notwithstanding. If the Bible had been intending to be literal here, it would have been the end of Egypt since the army was completely wiped out. And this was on the eve of the invasion of the Sea Peoples. There is a reason I let automotive experts work on my car. It is always interesting when scientists tinker with the Bible, but I’m glad that such tinkering doesn’t involve a half-ton of metal that is capable of racing down the highway at speeds the fleeing Israelites would have been overjoyed to have achieved on the road out of Egypt.

Dive low, sweet chariot

4 thoughts on “The Very Blustery Day

  1. It’s pretty amazing. This story is getting a long life for a dog bites man story. It Jesus, Moses and the bible are big business. References have been coming up in many of the blogs I follow on google reader. Thank goodness I don’t have a TV, and don’t have to watch any of the actual crack pot video of this dopey story first hand. 🙂

    Enjoyed your Liffy Lube adventures. Here is a hint, “get away” from the Liffy lube. Meaning, they start your work, go take a walk, and get lunch accross the street. Then you won’t have to put up with that “I’m basically in a damn dentists office waiting room”. I did like your very accurate description “TV & stale brewing coffee”. I would have added on more item that I always think of when I think of those places. MAGAZINES!

    Notice you teach at Montclair State (right in my neighborhood) , and Rutgers (my former school). Does Michael Kogen still at montclair? Years ago I had two shoe boxes full of cassette tapes of a intro to jewish schriptures course he gave. Excellent stuff. And Montclair state is the college that I contacted wen I first got curious about christianity, to ask if I could talk to a bible scholar. They ended up directing me to Robert Price, and I ended up learning from him for a few years.

    Someone could keep track of these stories that are promoted to take advantage of folks interest in supernaturalism. Remember that James Ossuary? That one was a hoot.



    • Steve Wiggins

      Thanks for stopping by and for your comments. Michael Kogan is still at Montclair, but I’ve not met him. One of the ironies of my officially unemployed position is that I’m teaching in the Classics Dept. at Montclair rather than the Religion Dept. The chair of the Religion Dept. is a friend of mine from years ago, but I’ve not met anybody from that department since I’ve been coming to campus. I hear good things about them, but I never meet them.

      I surely remember the James Ossuary. I wrote a little piece on it some time ago, and even got to see it up close in Toronto. I’m no epigraphist, but even I could tell the inscription was tampered with. At least at gave us something to talk about for a few years!


  2. Hey Steve,

    I think the Classics department is better than the Religion department. In fact, I would eliminate Religion departments, and have folks in them choose if they want to work/teach in either the Philosophy departments (if they are interested in theological speculation) or the History department (if they want to do factual history of religious groups). So hearing you DON’T work in a Religion department, instantly raises your respect level in my sophisticated blogger ranking. 🙂

    In fact, I am currently working on a essay/project where I hope to show why Religion departments should be eliminated, and which departments the pieces that we currently work on in religion departments should be moved to.



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