Probably don’t need to tell you what movie this is from and what’s going on in this scene.
This is my list of movies I hope to see soon: Wild. The Imitation Game. Birdman. Foxcatcher.
This is my list of movies I wouldn’t mind seeing but probably won’t get around to: Interstellar. Into the Woods. Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb. Big Eyes. Top Five. Unbroken.
This is my list of movies you couldn’t pay me enough to see: Annie. The Gambler.
And this is my list of movies I have no feelings about one way or another because I can’t believe it actually got made and released: Exodus: Gods and Kings.
For all I know or care, Exodus: Gods and Kings might be the finest biblically-themed movie ever filmed, manna from heaven for the believing and non-believing movie-goer alike, with the kind of performances that cause even the savviest critics to ask “Charlton Who? Yul Who?”, although I suspect its target audience is people who never saw The Ten Commandments or even Prince of Egypt or read the bible, for that matter. The trailers look phony to me, that is, they look like parody trailers for a fake movie, like the biopic of Thomas Jefferson Tracy Morgan’s character on 30 Rock wanted to make, the one that included a climactic duel between Jefferson and King George.
Something else I suspect is that the filmmakers weren’t terribly concerned about biblical or historical accuracy.
Or scientific accuracy either.
I’m pretty sure the movie’s depiction of the parting of the Red Sea doesn’t look like the actual event.
It happened, you know. Or it could have. I mean the parting of the sea not the drowning of Pharaoh’s army. Moses made up that part. But there’s science---or SCIENCE!---supporting the possibility that the waters parted so that the Israelites could cross on foot.
I’m not kidding. Somebody’s published a paper!
[The parting of the Red Sea] is, of course, thought by believers to have been a miracle -- an act of divine providence to save a chosen people. However, for software engineer Carl Drews, it might have been something else. According to Drews -- who describes himself as "one of many Christians who accept the scientific theory of evolution" -- the story of the parting of the Red Sea, as described in the book of Exodus, might have originated in real life as a weather event.
"I’m arguing that the historical event happened in 1250 B.C., and the memories of it have been recorded in Exodus," says Drews. "The people of the time gloried in God and gave God credit."
The idea may sound hard to believe -- and it certainly has its many detractors -- but Drews's research was conducted for his atmospheric and ocean sciences master's thesis at the University of Colorado, Boulder, published in a peer reviewed journal (PLOS One), and then promoted by his employer, the National Center for Atmospheric Research, a top U.S. research center. Taken as a piece of science that establishes the physical possibility of a body of water parting, it is solid work, says Greg Holland, a hurricane researcher and colleague of Drews who is familiar with the paper.
"Did the parting of the sea really happen? We will never know," says Holland. "But Carl Drews has used impeccable science to show both where and how it may have happened."
You should read Chris Mooney’s whole article at the Washington Post’s Wonkblog, No, really: There is a scientific explanation for the parting of the Red Sea in Exodus, but briefly: Drews’ contention starts from the fact that “Red Sea” is a mistranslation that resulted in a mislocation and it wasn’t the Red Sea standing between the Israelites and freedom but a “sea of reeds” which might have been a lake, specifically the Lake of Tanis, a lagoon where the Nile flows into the Mediterranean, which is shallow enough for an unusual but not historically rare weather event involving high winds to have pushed around the water in such a way to open up a temporary land bridge. If the Israelites happened to wander up to the shore of the Lake of Tanis at just the right moment they wouldn’t have seen anything on the scale depicted in Exodus: God of Kings but they would have seen what they could have only explained to themselves as a miracle.
What’s interesting to me about this isn’t that it “explains” the Book of Exodus or gives the story a basis in reality. What’s interesting to me is that I heard all this before. A hundred years ago. In my sixth grade religious ed class!
I’ve mentioned plenty of times that I had a rather progressive Catholic education. Our parish school was run by the Sisters of the Presentation, a teaching order, and most of the nuns who taught us had a master’s degree or were working on one. I learned about Darwin and evolution in eighth grade science class from Sister Mary Catherine who I believe was working on a Ph.D. so that she would have become Doctor Sister Mary Catherine. She wasn’t “teaching the controversy”. She was teaching science. In religion class we learned that God created the world and in science class we learned how the world He created actually worked and there was no contradiction because as far as the Church was concerned the biblical story of creation was just that, a story. That’s part of what we were taught in sixth grade, that the bible is full of stories that are just that, stories. And myths, legends, and fables, with the same amount and same kind of truth as is found in all stories, myths, legends, and fables. Which is quite a lot and meaningful, it’s simply not literal truth.
And that, of course, is a way of saying that large portions of the bible, particularly of the Old Testament, are not literally true.
Sixth grade religious ed wasn’t taught by a nun. It was taught by one of our lay teachers, Mr Schick, one of my favorite teachers of all time. He also taught history, which was far more important to me than religious ed, altar boy that I was, and health, and he oversaw us altar boys. I probably learned more from him that year than I learned from all my other teachers in all my years at that school, and, as you would guess, they were not a bunch of slouches. Mr Schick’s religion class was devoted to reading, studying, and understanding the Old Testament and a key thing we were to understand was that there was no historical or religious basis for believing many of those old stories and the upshot of that was that we didn’t need to believe in the stories of Adam and Eve or Noah’s Flood or any of the bible’s other tall tales to be good Catholics.
This wasn’t enlightened on the Church’s part. It was chauvinistic. We were being taught how the New Testament superseded the Old Testament in order to provide us with an intellectual basis for believing that Christianity superseded Judaism.
Mr Schick told us about the Red Sea versus the Reed Sea question and how it was an example of the mistranslations the English bible’s plagued with, and, although I don’t remember him out and out saying it, if you think about it, if there was no miracle that saved the Israelites then God’s Chosen People begin to seem a little less chosen.
Our school wasn’t the only Catholic school where this Red Sea/Reed Sea/Sea of Reeds business was taught. When I posted the link to the Washington Post story on Facebook a friend and fellow parochial school survivor wrote:
Sister Herman Joseph told us "A stiff wind, I'm talkin' about a breeze stiffer than the highball Father has after dinner, could part the waters.Never be too quick to write off as a miracle something just because **you** don't understand it. Maybe it's not so much a miracle as a sign that you need to study up."
So the Church was busy all over the place creating little skeptics.
The risk for the Church here is that once you show how one miracle was probably not a miracle, you’ve called into question all miracles. If God didn’t work that way for His Chosen People then maybe He doesn’t work that way for their supposed successors either. Maybe he doesn’t work that way at all. Or work at all.
But apparently that was a risk the Church was willing to take with us, I guess preferring that we lose our faith than grow up willful ignoramuses.
If you’re thinking the Church has come a long way since Galileo’s day, it has, but keep in mind that what got Galileo in trouble wasn’t as much his science as that he didn’t take it through proper channels.
He defied authority.
This is another upshot of teaching that the bible is not literally true: if it isn’t or if all of it isn’t then how do you know what parts of it are true? How do you know what to believe and what to believe in?
The Church tells you.
At any rate, sixth grade was a very long time ago now, which is why I’m getting a kick out of seeing Mr Schick’s lesson turning up now as SCIENCE!
You really should read Mooney’s article, but in addition: My brother Lyle Mannion, who holds a master’s degree in biblical studies from Notre Dame, left this comment on Facebook:
There's a lot of debate on not only where the "Red Sea" or 'the Reed Sea" was. The Nuns and Mr Schick were following a tradition of thought that went way back to St Jerome, who also struggled with the meaning the Hebrew Words "yam sup" (Can't make all the right extra markings to get the Hebrew transliteration.) People who speak English like us, really like the "Red Sea" versus "Reed Sea" debate. The "is it one e or two e's??" makes the debate easy to teach. The Hebrew Meaning and multiple translations make it even harder.
The linked article has a theory that's been around for a long time. It goes great with a view of the story as as literal as possible, but throws out the Magnitude of the Event. The other theories do place it in the Red Sea and as the result of a major Tsunami perhaps caused by the Volcanic Eruption at Santorini that destroyed the Minoan Civilization. (known as Thera eruption ) I used to like the old strong winds over the sea of reeds making a dry path. I felt a bit more "Scientific" and not following the God does Mircales explanation shortcut.
But these days I go with a more Hebrew Historical Perspective. In some place, still unknown, a major Tsunami did wipe out a large portion of the Pharaoh's Army (more likely his personal contingent). The real point in the view of History in the Bible is that God is in charge and writing History. The Israelites came to "The Sea of the End" (The more likely translation of "Red Sea" ) They had come to the End of History and there God/ Yahweh/Elohim opened up a New History for them and the world. The Volcano eruption as the cause is so perfect with that theme. The end had been reached by the two great civilizations at that point. But the new beginning would lead to the Greek and Roman Civilizations and the Jewish people. The meeting of the two would then lead to our Western Greco-Roman-Jewish Civilization.
So was Mr Schick right? Of course! He is Mr Schick! I'm still amazed at how much i remember from what he taught. But then He was wrong. They forgot to think Big Enough.