• Cracked Pot Archaeology Comments Off on Where is Mount Sinai in Arabia (Galatians 4:25)?

    by Gordon Franz

    In Galatians 4:25, the Apostle Paul identifies Mount Sinai as being in Arabia. He writes: “For these are the two covenants: the one from Mount Sinai which gives birth to bondage, which is Hagar – for this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia, and corresponds to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children –“ (4:24-25 NKJV, emphasis GWF). The questions to be asked regarding this passage are:

    • “Where was Arabia in the 1st century AD, and what area did it cover, when the Apostle Paul wrote the book of Galatians?”
    • “Where would a Jewish person, living in Jerusalem in the 1st century AD, understand Arabia to be?”
    • “What was the Apostle Paul’s geographical understanding of the term Arabia?”

    The short answer is that in the days of the Apostle Paul the term “Arabia” included the Sinai Peninsula and did not correspond just to modern-day Saudi Arabia’s boundaries as some today mistakenly assert. The area of Saudi Arabia was one part of First Century Arabia, but not the whole of Arabia. Thus the Biblical Mount Sinai, located in the Sinai Peninsula, which in my opinion should be located at Jebel Sin-Bishar (Franz 2000: 112; Faiman 2000; Har-el 1983; Rasmussen 1989: 89-91), was in “Arabia.” The traditional Mount Sinai at Jebel Musa was also located in the Sinai in ancient “Arabia.” So Mount Sinai (either site) was in both the Sinai and in “Arabia,” which overlapped, and there is no disconnect with the Bible, ancient geography, or modern scholarship.

    Based on this verse in Galatians, some have insisted that the Apostle Paul is referring to Mount Sinai being in Saudi Arabia, and not in the Sinai. For example, Robert Cornuke, the president of the BASE Institute states:

    “It’s [Galatians 4:25] one of several Bible references plainly describing the location of Mount Sinai. It’s in Arabia. Not in Egypt. Not in the Sinai Peninsula. And how does the Bible define Arabia? In both the Old and New Testaments, Arabia has always been located south and east of Palestine, the area of present-day Saudi Arabia. The Sinai Peninsula, on the other hand, lies south and west of Palestine. The apostle Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, informs us that Mount Sinai is in Saudi Arabia. Not Egypt!” (Cornuke and Halbrook 2000: 170-171; emphasis GWF).

    His associate, Larry Williams, basically says the same thing (1990: 70-71), as did Ron Wyatt, who also placed Mount Sinai at Jebel al-Lawz in Saudi Arabia (Wyatt 1994; Standish and Standish 1999: 195-200).

    A word of caution though, as we have already read, all the Bible actually says is that Mount Sinai is in Arabia, not Saudi Arabia. It is not wise to read into the text that which is not stated, or to simplistically interpret 21st century political boundaries as applicable to a 1st century Biblical text without any substantiation.

    Where was Arabia According to the Ancient Sources?
    Unfortunately no actual maps of Roman Arabia exist from the First Century AD, so we are limited to the accounts of the geographers, historians, and contemporary travelers. As one examines these accounts, it will be seen that the vast territory of Arabia goes from the Nile Delta in eastern Egypt and the Arabian Gulf (Red Sea – Gulf of Suez) on the west, all the way over to the Persian Gulf on the east. It goes from Damascus in the north, to the tip of Yemen in the south. Today, the territory of First Century Arabia, would cover the areas of eastern Egypt, including the Sinai Peninsula, southern Israel, Jordan, and parts of Syria and Iraq, all of Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and the Gulf States on the Persian Gulf. It is not limited to Saudi Arabia or the northwest quadrant of Saudi Arabia as Cornuke has stated.

    Moses never uses the word “Arab” or “Arabia” at the time he wrote the Pentateuch. The Book of Exodus thus cannot be used to located “Arabia” which did not exist yet as a geographic term and so, of course, “Arabia” does not appear in that book of the Bible. The words “Arab” and “Arabia” appear later in the Bible (1 Kings 10:15; 2 Chron. 9:14; 17:11; 21:16; 22:1; 26:7; Neh. 2:19; 4:7; 6:1; Isa. 13:20; 21:13; Jer. 3:2; 25:24; Ezek. 27:21). So the Apostle Paul does not have a Mosaic use of the word “Arabia” in mind when he uses the word in Galatians 4:25 because “Arabia” did not exist in Moses’ day.

    Shalmaneser III
    The word “Arab” first appears in an extra-Biblical inscription from a monolith found at Kurkh from the time of the Assyrian king Shalmaneser III (853 BC). It describes the coalition of armies led by the rulers of Damascus, Hamath, Israel, and “Gindibu’ the Arab and his 1,000 camels” that battled against Shalmaneser III at Qarqar (Eph’al 1982:21). Throughout the Assyrian period, various Assyrian kings describe the activities of the Arabs, or desert nomads, in their inscriptions (Eph’al 1982:21-59).

    The first time the word “Arabia” is used as a term for a designated geographical area is in the mid-fifth century BC by the famous Greek historian and traveler, Herodotus (ca. 450 BC). He traveled to Egypt and wrote about his trip in his book, The Persian Wars.

    In his monumental work on ancient Arabs, Dr. Israel Eph’al of Tel Aviv University, points out that:

    “Herodotus, an important source for the demography of the mid-5th century B.C. Egypt and Sinai peninsula, calls the entire region east of the Nile and the Pelusian Branch, from the Mediterranean to the Red Sea, ‘Arabia’, and its population ‘Arabs’ ([Herodotus, Persian Wars] 2:8, 15, 19, 30, 75, 124, 158 [LCL 1: 283, 291, 297, 309, 361-363, 425, 471]).

    The Gulf of Suez is called “the Arabian Sea” and the mountainous region [in Egypt] east of Heliopolis “the Arabian mountains” (2:8, 124 [LCL 1: 283, 425]). [In Egypt] Daphnae (Biblical Tahpanhes, present-day Defeneh) is described as a border town with a garrison “against the Arabs and the Syrians” (2: 30 [LCL 1: 309]), and the town of Patumus (biblical Pithom) near Bubastis at the approach to Wadi Thumilat as “city of Arabia” (2:158 [LCL 1: 471]).”

    (Eph’al 1982: 193-194, emphasis added; the Loeb Classical Library, LCL, bracketed references […] were added by GWF).

    Herodotus’ description would therefore include all of the Sinai Peninsula in Arabia of his day.

    In the mid-third century BC, when Jewish scholars translated the Hebrew Bible into Greek (known as the Septuagint, abbreviated LXX) and followed the contemporary use of the word “Arabia” they referred to Goshen as “Goshen in Arabia” (Gen. 45:10; 46:34; LXX English translation). The Children of Israel resided in Goshen during their 400 years sojourn in Egypt, which is located on the eastern most branch of the Nile Delta connected through to the Wadi Thumilat canal. Though Goshen is part of Egypt (Gen. 37:6, 27; Ex. 9:26), the translators of the Septuagint obviously considered it and the Sinai Peninsula in between the Egyptian Goshen-in-Arabia and what is now modern Saudi Arabia as all part of ancient “Arabia,” of course. The Eastern Nile Delta land of Goshen was Arabia, the Sinai was Arabia, and (Saudi) Arabia was Arabia.

    Alexander the Great and the Arabs in Arabia
    Alexander the Great went to fight the Arabians in the area of the Anti Lebanon Mountains, also known as Mount Hermon (Dar 1988: 26-27). This is situated in modern day Lebanon and Syria. Alexander the Great fought the Arabs in Arabia, but he was never in modern-day Saudi Arabia.

    Flavius Arrianus, better known as Arrian wrote a book about AD 150 about the life of Alexander the Great. He gave great details about Alexander’s campaign against the Persians. After the Greeks had taken Sidon, Alexander was preparing to move on Tyre. Because of harassment by the Arabs: “Alexander marched some of the cavalry squadrons, the hypaspists, the Agrianians and the archers in the direction of Arabia to the mountain called Antilebanon. Here he stormed and destroyed some places and brought others to terms; in ten days he was back at Sidon” (Anabasis of Alexander 2.20.4; LCL 1:195).

    Plutarch (ca. AD 45-120), in his Parallel Lives of Alexander the Great (about AD 120), recounts the same incident by saying: “While the siege of the city [Tyre] was in progress, he made an expedition against the Arabians who dwelt in the neighborhood of Mount Antilibanus” (Alexander 24.6; LCL 7:293).

    Quintus Curtius (First Century AD) wrote a history of Alexander the Great and also recounts this same incident in these words: “On Mount Libanus also the peasants of the Arabians attacked the Macedonians when they were in disorder, killed about thirty, and took a smaller number of prisoners. This state of affairs compelled Alexander to divide his forces, and lest he should seem slow in besieging on city, he left Perdiccas and Craterus in charge of that work and himself went to Arabia with a light-armed band” (History of Alexander 4.2.24 – 4.3.2; LCL 1:185). After this short campaign Curtius informs us: “And Alexander, on returning from Arabia, found hardly any traces of so great a causeway” (History of Alexander 4.3.7; LCL 1:187).

    For these historians, the part of “Arabia” that Alexander the Great was fighting Arabs in, was in what is today Lebanon and Syria, not Saudi Arabia.

    Josephus, the First Century AD Jewish historian, lived in Jerusalem for a number of years before its destruction by the Romans in AD 70. He was well familiar with the topography of the city as well as its walls, towers, and monumental buildings. In fact, he was a contemporary of the Apostle Paul who would understand the term “Arabia” the same way Josephus understood it.

    In his Jewish Wars, written sometime between AD 75 and 79, Josephus describes the line of the third wall enclosing the northern part of Jerusalem. He mentions that there are ninety towers on this wall and the most important was the Psephinus Tower:

    “… which rose at its north-west angle and opposite to which Titus camped. For, being seventy cubits high [thirty-five meters], it affords from sunrise a prospect embracing both Arabia and the utmost limits of Hebrew territory as far as the [Mediterranean] sea, it was of octagonal form” (Josephus, Jewish Wars 5.159-160 [LCL 3: 247-249]; see also Wars 5.147 [LCL 3: 243], emphasis added, brackets material added by GWF).

    When Josephus uses the word “Arabia” in this passage, he is not referring to the area of Saudi Arabia, but to the Trans-Jordanian Plateau. If he stood on top of the Psephinus Tower, he would observe first-hand Arabia to the east, as well as the Mediterranean Sea through a saddle in the hills by present-day Abu Gosh to the northwest.

    When I was doing graduate work in archaeology and geography of the Bible at the Institute of Holy Land Studies in Jerusalem in the late 1970’s, I was able to climb onto the roof of a bank building, (with permission of the guard), to have a similar view. This bank was approximately 35 meters high and close to where the Psephinus Tower had been located. I observed the mountains of Transjordan to the east (ancient Arabia), but could not see the Mediterranean Sea because of the haze. I have archaeologist friends, however, who have seen the Mediterranean Sea from the top of this building on several occasions. One can also calculate the visibility with the aid of a good topographical map. Josephus wrote this passage from first-hand experience. For him, Arabia included what is today the Kingdom of Jordan.

    In the first century AD, the Nabatean kingdom, with its capital in Petra (today in southern Jordan), occupied part of what was known as “Arabia.” Josephus noted on several occasions that Petra was in Arabia (Wars 1.125, 159, 267; 4.454 [LCL 2:59, 75, 125; 3:135]). He also describes the extent of the Nabatean kingdom as from the Euphrates River to the Red Sea (Antiquities 1.220-221 [LCL 4:109]).

    Josephus gives a description of Lake Asphalatis, known today as “the Dead Sea,” in which he mentions that the “length of this lake is five hundred and eighty furlongs, measured in a line reaching to Zoara in Arabia” (Wars 4.482 [LCL 2:143], emphasis added). Zoara is the Biblical Zoar and is located in the southeastern portion of the Dead Sea (Gen. 13:10; 14:2, 8; 19:22, 23, 39; Deut. 43:3).

    Herod the Great fortified several sites on the border of his kingdom to keep an eye on the Nabateans in Arabia. One fortress was Machaerus (Voros 2012). It is situated on the east side of the Dead Sea because Herod understood how strategic the site was in “its proximity to Arabia, conveniently situated, as it was, with regards to that country, which it faces” (Josephus, Wars 7.172 [LCL 3:555], emphasis added). The territory of Arabia was fourteen kilometers to the south of Machaerus on the south side of the Arnon River.

    Another site that Herod the Great fortified was the Herodium, the only building project named after him. The fortress is located a few kilometers to the southeast of Bethlehem in the Judean Desert “on the Arabian frontier” (Josephus, Wars 1:419 [LCL 2:199], emphasis added). From the top of the Herodium, one today can get a splendid view of the territory of Arabia to the east of the Dead Sea, but one can not see Saudi Arabia from the top of the Herodium.

    Josephus describes the territory and borders of Perea to the east of the Jordan River. He states that:

    “Perea extends in length from Machaerus to Pella, in breath from Philadelphia to the Jordan [River]. The northern frontier is Pella, which we have just mentioned, the western frontier is the Jordan [River]; on the south it is bounded by the land of Moab, on the east by Arabia, Heshbonitis, Philadelphia, and Gerasa” (Josephus, Jewish Wars 3.46-47; [LCL 2:589]; brackets and emphasis added by GWF).

    Ancient Philadelphia is located under Ammon, the capital of the modern kingdom of Jordan.

    Josephus also mentions the southern border of Judea and states “it is marked by a village on the Arabian frontier, which the local Jews call Iardan” (Wars 3.51 [LCL 2:591], emphasis added). The village of Iardan has been tentatively identified with Arad in the Eastern Negev Basin [LCL 2:590, footnote d]. Arabia would include areas south of Judah, including the Beersheva Basin and the different wildernesses to the south of Beersheva, basically the southern part of Israel today.

    This brief survey of Jewish Wars by Josephus demonstrates the First Century understanding of the term Arabia. It included more than just the area of northwest Saudi Arabia. His understanding of the term included territory in modern-day Jordan and southern Israel, as well as the Sinai Peninsula, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria, and part of Iraq. The Apostle Paul would have understood the term in the same way.

    Strabo, a Greek geographer from Pontus on the Black Sea (64 BC to ca. AD 25), describes the territory of Arabia in his books on the geography and nature of the ancient world. In his Geography, he states:

    “The whole of Arabia Felix (… is bounded by the whole extent of the Arabian Gulf [Red Sea] and by the Persian Gulf). And all the country occupied by the Tent-dwellers and by the Sheikh-governed tribes (which reaches to the Euphrates [River] and Syria)” (Geography 2.5.32 [LCL 1:499]; emphasis added, bracketed material added by GWF).

    Elsewhere in his writings, Strabo delineates the eastern border of Arabia as the Persian Gulf (Geography 16.4.2 [LCL 7:307]).

    Strabo, who visited Egypt during his lifetime, understood the geography of that area quite well and wrote about it in detail. For him, the western border of Arabia began at the east side of Egypt’s Nile River and the Arabian Gulf (today the Gulf of Suez) and went eastward, thus placing the Sinai Peninsula in first century Arabia (Geography 16:4:2; 17:1:21, 24-26, 30,31 [LCL 7: 309; 8: 71-79 85-87]).

    The Apostle Paul would have been familiar with the writings of Strabo and would concur with him that “Arabia” went from eastern Egypt, across the Sinai and the Arabian Peninsula, all the way to the Persian Gulf. This would clearly put the Sinai Peninsula within Arabia of Strabo’s day as well as the Apostle Paul’s day.

    Egeria, one of the early church mothers, travelled to the East between AD 381 and 384 and wrote a book about her pilgrimage. She visited Jebel Musa which she mistakenly, in my opinion, thought was Mount Sinai. She also visited the Land of Goshen (Wilkinson 1981: 91-103). She stayed at Clysma, the modern-day Suez City in eastern Egypt at the northern end of the Gulf of Suez, and from there went to visit the “city of Arabia” in Goshen in Egypt (Wilkinson 1981: 100). She wrote, “It gets its name from the region, which is called ‘the land of Arabia, the land of Goshen’, a region which, while it is a part of Egypt, is a great deal better than any of the rest” (Wilkinson 1981: 100-101, emphasis added). Egeria followed the Septuagint reading of Gen. 46:34 in her description of Goshen being in the Land of Arabia.

    The Conclusion of the Matter
    The ancient sources, both the contemporary and near-contemporary to the Apostle Paul, speak for themselves. When the Apostle Paul wrote that Mount Sinai was in Arabia, he was drawing on the contemporary understanding of the geographical location of “Arabia.” Ancient Arabia would include the territory from the Eastern Nile Delta and the Arabian Gulf (Red Sea – Gulf of Suez) across the Sinai Peninsula to the Persian Gulf. It would not be limited to just the northwest quadrant of Saudi Arabia as the proponents of Jebel al-Lawz would contend.

    Based on the above, the ancient historians and geographers differ with Mr. Cornuke’s recent statement that “Arabia has never been in the Sinai Peninsula when Paul wrote this [Gal. 4:25]” (August 8, 2012, AM session, Camp-of-the-Woods, Speculator, NY). Biblical and secular first century geography did include the Sinai Peninsula in “Arabia.” In summary, it seems that the Apostle Paul would have disagreed with Mr. Cornuke’s assertions about Mount Sinai never being in the Sinai Peninsula.

    Further Discussion
    For a more detailed, scholarly, discussion of the ancient sources and related issues, see: Bowerstock 1971; 1983; 1990; Donner 1986; MacAdam 1989; Montgomery 1934; Murphy-O’Connor 1993.

    For links to other critiques of Cornuke’s ideas, see:

    How Accurate are Bob Cornuke’s Claims?


    Bowerstock, G. W.

    1971 A Report on Arabia Provincia. Journal of Roman Studies 61: 219-242.

    1983 Roman Arabia. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University.

    1990 The Three Arabias in Ptolemy’s Geography. Pp. 47-53 in Geographie Historique au Proche-Orient. Paris: Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique.

    Cornuke, Robert; and Halbrook, David

    2000 In Search of the Mountain of God. The Discovery of the Real Mt. Sinai. Nashville, TN: Broadman and Holman.

    Donner, Fred

    1986 Xenophon’s Arabia. Iraq 48: 1-14.

    Eph’al, Israel

    1982 The Ancient Arabs. Nomads on the Borders of the Fertile Cresent 9th-5th Centuries B.C. Jerusalem: Magnes; Leiden: E. J. Brill.

    Faiman, David

    2000 Digging Mount Sinai from the Bible. Bible and Spade 13/4: 115-118.

    Franz, Gordon
    2000 Is Mount Sinai in Saudi Arabia? Bible and Spade 13/4: 101-113.

    Har-el, Menashe

    1983 The Sinai Journeys. The Route of the Exodus. San Diego, CA: Ridgefield.


    1999 The Persian Wars. Books 1-2. Vol. 1. Trans. by A. D. Godley. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University. Loeb Classical Library 117.


    1976 Jewish Wars. Books 1-3. Vol. 2. Trans. by H. Thackeray. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University. Loeb Classical Library 203.

    1979 Jewish Wars. Books 4-7. Vol. 3. Trans. by H. Thackeray. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University. Loeb Classical Library 210.

    1978 Antiquities of the Jews. Books 1-4. Vol. 4. Trans. by H. Thackeray. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University. Loeb Classical Library 242.

    MacAdam, Henry

    1989 Strabo, Pliny the Elder and Ptolemy of Alexandria: Three Views of Ancient Arabia and Its Peoples. Pp. 289-220 in L’Arabie Preislamique et son Enviornnement Historique et Culturel. Edited by T. Fahd. Leiden: E. J. Brill.

    Montgomery, James

    1934 Arabia and the Bible. Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania.

    Murphy-O’Connor, Jerome

    1993 Paul in Arabia. Catholic Biblical Quarterly 55/4: 732-737.

    Rasmussen, Carl

    1989 Zondervan NIV Atlas of the Bible. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

    Standish, Russell; and Standish, Colin

    1999 Holy Relics or Revelation. Recent Astonishing Archaeological Claims Evaluated. Rapidan, VA: Hartland.


    1989 Geography. Books 1 and 2. Vol. 1. Trans. by H. Jones. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University. Loeb Classical Library 49.

    1982 Geography. Book 17. Vol. 8. Trans. by H. Jones. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University. Loeb Classical Library 267.

    Voros, Gyozo

    2012 Machaerus: Where Salome Danced and John the Baptist Was Beheaded. Biblical Archaeology Review 38/5: 30-41, 68.

    Wilkinson, John

    1981 Egeria’s Travels to the Holy Land. Revised edition. Jerusalem: Ariel; Warminster: Aris & Phillips.

    Williams, Larry

    1990 The Mountain of Moses. New York, NY: Wynwood.

    Wyatt, Mary Nell

    1994 Mt. Sinai. Privately published paper.

    About the author
    Gordon Franz is a Bible teacher who holds an MA in Biblical Studies from Columbia Biblical Seminary, SC. Since 1978, he has engaged in extensive research in Biblical archaeology and has participated in a number of excavations in and around Jerusalem, including Ketef Hinnom and Ramat Rachel; as well as the excavations at Lachish, Jezreel, Hazor, and Tel Zayit. He has taught the geography of the Bible and led field trips in Israel for the Jerusalem Center for Biblical Studies, the Institute of Holy Land Studies, and the IBEX program of The Master’s College. He also co-teaches the Talbot School of Theology’s Bible Lands Program. Gordon is on the staff of the Associates for Biblical Research.

  • Cracked Pot Archaeology Comments Off on MOUNT SULEIMAN, KING SOLOMON, AND NOAH’S ARK

    by Gordon Franz

    How many Mount Suleiman’s are their in the Middle East and are they named after King Solomon?

    Arch Bonnema, an “Ark in Iran” advocate and part of the team Bob Cornuke took to Iran to climb Mount Suleiman, northwest of Tehran, in June of 2006 opined where he thought Noah’s Ark landed. He commented in an interview: “And that mountain is Mt. Suleiman (Solomon), the only mountain in the entire Middle East with a Hebrew name” (Church 2010:6). This was information that he apparently got from Cornuke but did not bother checking out Cornuke’s facts.

    The Wrong Mount Suleiman
    In an article entitled “Noah’s Ark Discovered in Iran?” by Kate Ravilious on National Geographic News for July 5, 2006, it was reported that the BASE researchers used the Book of Genesis and other literary sources, when they journeyed to Iran in July 2005 in order to climb Mount Suliman for the first time. Ravilious explains: “They chose Mount Suleiman after reading the notes of the 19th-century British Explorer A. H. McMahan [sic]. In 1894, after climbing Mount Suleiman [sic], McMahan [sic] wrote in his journal [sic], ‘According to some, Noah’s ark alighted here after the deluge.’ McMahan [sic] also spoke of wood fragments from a shrine at the top of the mountain where unknown people had made pilgrimages to the site. ‘We found a shrine and wood fragments at 15,000 feet [4,570 meters] elevation, as described by McMahan [sic],’ Cornuke said.”

    Apparently the BASE researchers had the 1894 “journal” accounts by British explorer McMahon a year before their second trip to Mount Suleiman in the beginning of June, 2006 on which Arch Bonnema was a participate. Did they carefully read the “journal” account and was it a reliable guide for their trip?

    The BASE website claimed that a “British explorer in 1894 … confirm[s] local Iranians believe the Ark landed on Takht-i-Suleiman (east of Lake Urmiah); the British explorer claimed to see a wooden shrine.” [The section about Captain McMahon has since been removed from the BASE website].

    The British explorer was identified on the website and the National Geographic article as “A. H. McMahan [sic].” In fact, the individual being referred to is Captain A. H. McMahon, British Joint Commissioner of the Afghan-Baluchistan Boundary Commission [not McMahan, note the misspelling of his name and omission of his military rank and official government position]. The website goes on to state that Captain McMahon “noted in his journal in 1894 that he was the first European who had successfully climbed Takht-i-Suleiman.” In fact, Captain McMahon did not note this in his “journal” or diary, but rather, reported it in a published letter to The Geographical Journal, vol. 4, no. 5 (Nov. 1894), pp. 465-466. The article was entitled “Ascent of the Takht-i-Suliman.” [Note again the misspelling of this particular Mt. Suliman, the BASE website spelled it Suleiman and the Geographical Journal article spelled it Suliman]. The McMahon article was apparently posted on a Pakistani website in 2005 but has since been removed.

    Captain McMahon climbed Takht-i-Suliman in Baluchistan (modern Pakistan), not Iran, between June 28 – 30, 1891, with Major MacIvor and local guides (1894: 465). Takht-i-Suliman means “Solomon’s throne,” after a tradition that King Solomon married a woman from Hindustan named Balkia and upon their return to Israel on their flying throne, they stopped on this mountain so Balkia could get one last look at her native land. There is another mountain in Iran with the same name and a similar tradition, but a different wife.

    Upon closer investigation, there are some very clear discrepancies between Captain McMahon’s actual report and what the BASE Institute claimed on their website.

    First of all, the locations are different. Captain McMahon gives a detailed account of his ascent of Takht-i-Suliman as well as where he was when he corresponded with The Geographical Journal. [Note again, the website says “geographical journal”- small letters, not capital letters at the beginning of each word, and no italics to indicate it is a publication]. Captain McMahon wrote the letter to The Geographical Journal from his expedition camp and sent it via Fort Sandeman in Zhob, Baluchistan on August 8, 1894. Zhob, Baluchistan, is in present day Pakistan, nowhere near north-central Iran and BASE’s Mt Suleiman.

    In describing his ascent, McMahon states that Takht-i-Suliman has a sister peak called Kaisaghar (elevation 11,300 feet above sea level) and it is located in “the Suliman range of the north-west frontier of India” in the territory of Sheranis (1894: 465). The identification of this location should have raised red flags for any ark researcher: Baluchistan is not in, or near, Iran.

    Contrary to Bonnema’s assertion, there are at least four Mt. Suliman’s (spelled various ways) in the Middle East. There are three in Iran, one specifically called Takht-i-Suliman located about 80 miles southeast of Lake Urmiah, but not climbed by the BASE team. Another, called Mt. Suleiman (36 24’N 50 59’E) located about 300 miles east of Lake Urmiah, situated in the Elborz range, 55 miles northwest of Tehran, which the BASE team climbed and allegedly found Noah’s Ark. The third is located southwest of Hamadan in the region of Luristan. The fourth, the one that Captain McMahon climbed and described, is in present day Pakistan, about 40 miles east of Quetta (Pakistan), and about 1,360 miles / 2,200 kilometers eastward from Lake Urmiah.

    Second, the elevations are different. The top of Takht-i-Suliman in Baluchistan, now Pakistan, is about 11,100 feet above sea level and the shrine was lower down the slope. The BASE Institute reports that they spotted the Ark at 13,120 feet above sea level (although Ark Fever states the object of interest is at 12,500 feet, page 238, 244) and he found the shrine and wood fragments at the 15,000 feet elevation. There is about a 4,000 feet discrepancy between the shrines that needs to be explained! How is it possible to have spotted the ark and shrine both at altitudes several thousand feet higher than the mountain itself?

    It is safe to conclude from these discrepancies that the BASE team did not climb the same mountain as Captain McMahon, nor see the shrine the captain and major viewed. Captain McMahon’s article was not a reliable guide for the BASE trip because the reference to the landing site for Noah’s Ark was on a different Mount Suliman in an entirely different country (Pakistan), not the one climbed by the BASE team in Iran.

    Concluding Questions for Mr. Cornuke
    After the tentative announcement of the “discovery” of the “ark” in June 2006, I found the Geographical Journal article on the Internet and then Xeroxed a hard copy at the Columbia University library and sent it to Mr. Cornuke on June 23, 2006. Unbeknownst to me, the BASE researchers already had this article and used it more than a year before in order to determine Mount Suliman, northwest of Tehran, in Iran as their target. Perhaps Mr. Cornuke could explain to Ark researchers why the name of Captain McMahon was consistently misspelled. He had the proper spelling available in the copy of McMahon’s article. Why is Captain McMahon identified as an “explorer” and not a Captain in the British Army who was the official British Joint Commissioner of the Afghan-Baluchistan Boundary Commission? Why does Cornuke call it “notes” “in his journal” instead of a published letter in The Geographical Journal by Captain McMahon? I had given Mr. Cornuke the proper citation in my cover letter. Why did he not follow it?


    Church, J. R., editor
    2010 Has Noah’s Ark Been Found at Last? The Evidence is Overwhelming! Prophecy in the News 30/6 (June): 3-7, 38.

    McMahon, Captain A. H.
    1894 “Ascent of the Takht-i-Suliman.” The Geographical Journal 4/5: 465-466.

    About the author
    Gordon Franz is a Bible teacher who holds an MA in Biblical Studies from Columbia Biblical Seminary, SC. Since 1978, he has engaged in extensive research in Biblical archaeology and has participated in a number of excavations in and around Jerusalem, including Ketef Hinnom and Ramat Rachel as well as the excavations at Lachish, Jezreel, Hazor, and Tel Zayit. He has taught the geography of the Bible and led field trips in Israel for the Jerusalem Center for Biblical Studies, the Institute of Holy Land Studies, and the IBEX program of The Master’s College. He also co-teaches the Talbot School of Theology’s Bible Lands Program. Gordon is on the staff of the Associates for Biblical Research.

  • Life of Christ Comments Off on THEY’RE BAAAAACK!: The American Atheists Christmas Billboard 2013

    by Gordon Franz

    During the Christmas season of 2010 there was a billboard in New Jersey on one of the approaches to the Lincoln Tunnel to New York City. It had three wise men riding their camels in the starlit night toward an open-sided shelter with a gabled thatched roof next to a couple of palm trees; a donkey was tied to the stall, a bight star overhead, and Mary and Joseph watching over the new-born Baby Jesus. Then I saw the words: “You KNOW it’s a Myth. This Season, Celebrate REASON!” It was signed by the American Atheists and said they were “Reasonable since 1963.” Well, they’re baaaack! This Christmas season the same sign have been spotted in Sacramento, California.

    “Come now, and let us REASON together,” says the LORD
    The atheists want us to celebrate REASON this season. The prophet Isaiah set forth God’s challenge to His wayward people Israel when he proclaimed: “’Come now, and let us REASON together,’ says the LORD, ‘Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool’” (1:18). Just as God wanted to reason with His wayward people in the 8th century BC, so today, God welcomes the opportunity to reason with atheists in the 21st century AD. The Lord has not changed and He is still long-suffering and is “not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). That includes every member of the American Atheists!

    One of the ways God reasoned with His people was by predictive prophecy. Over 70 times the prophet Ezekiel, at the beginning of the 6th century BC, says that God gave predictive prophecy so that when the prophecies were fulfilled, the people, both Jews and Gentiles, may “know that I am the LORD.” Predictive prophecy was given because it demonstrates that the Lord Jesus is God who knows and reveals the future and is sovereignly acting in history. This might deflate the atheist’s ego because there is Someone greater than the human-centered atheist. It would also show that they would have to be accountable to Someone greater than themselves. Humbling thought!

    The events surrounding the birth of the Lord Jesus were foretold by the holy Hebrew prophets as they were borne along by the Holy Spirit hundreds of years before the Lord Jesus was born (2 Peter 1:19-21). The prophet Isaiah, who recorded that God wanted to reason with His people, gave some of the most powerful and profound prophecies about the Person and work of the Lord Jesus.

    King David was also a prophet and the Spirit of God took him beyond himself and his own experience when he composed Psalm 40 (Cf. Acts 2:29, 30; cf. Matt. 22:41-46). In verses 6-8, David sang: “Sacrifice and offering You did not desire; My ears You have opened. Burnt offering and sin offering You did not require. Then I said, ‘Behold, I come; in the scroll of the book it is written of me. I delight to do Your will, O my God, and Your law is within my heart’.” The Divine commentary on this passage, written a thousand years later, is found in Hebrews 10:1-18. The Spirit of God changed the 6th verse of the psalm and said: “But a body You have prepared for Me” (Heb. 10:5). Thus the Son, not David, is speaking to God the Father and said He would do the Father’s will. The Father prepared a body for His Son in the womb of Mary. Her conception was by the Holy Spirit.

    During the reign of King Ahaz, the prophet Isaiah challenged the king to test the Lord by asking for a sign. The king, with false piety, refused. Isaiah then turned to those in the royal court, including Prince Hezekiah, and announced a profound sign to the House of David: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and you shall call His name Immanuel. Curds and honey He shall eat [= His humanity], that He may know to refuse the evil and choose the good [= His divinity]” (7:14). Matthew records the fulfillment of this sign when an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph and told him that Mary will conceive the Lord Jesus by the Holy Spirit while she was a virgin. When he quotes Isaiah 7:14 from the Septuagint, he uses the Greek word parthenos which can only mean a virgin (1:20-23).

    There are actually three aspects to the nature of this Child in these verses. First, He would be virgin born. Second, He would have a humble beginning. And third, He would have a sinless nature, thus divine. The first part of verse 15 states: “Curds and honey He shall eat.” These are the foods of the poor, not a symbol of a royal diet. The sign to shepherds was that He would be born in poor circumstances (Luke 2:10-12), not royal surroundings. When Mary dedicated her first-born in the Temple, she offered two turtle doves, the offering of the poor (Luke 2:22-24; cf. Lev. 12:8). The wise men did not arrive until a year, to a year and a half after the birth of the Lord Jesus, before they presented Jesus with gold, frankincense and myrrh.

    Verse 15 goes on to say, “that He may know to refuse the evil and choose the good.” In this passage Isaiah is pointing out the sinless nature of the Child. Unlike us (and Hezekiah and Isaiah’s children), who by nature are sinful human beings that choose evil and refuse the good (Rom. 1-3), this Child will have a sinless nature as demonstrated by the fact that He chooses good and refuses evil.

    Later, Isaiah would prophesy the dual nature of the Lord Jesus and His names. He would be fully God and fully Man. “For unto us a Child is born [= His humanity], Unto us a Son is given [= His divinity]; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (9:6).

    J. A. Alexander, in his commentary on Isaiah (1981, vol. 1, page 134), so eloquently summarizes this verse: “These words are strikingly appropriate to Jesus Christ, as the promised child, emphatically born for us and given to us, as the Son of God and the Son of Man, as being wonderful in His person, work and sufferings; a counselor, prophet, authoritative teacher of the truth, a wise administrator of the church, and confidential adviser of the individual believer – a real man, and yet the Mighty God; eternal in His own existence, and the giver of eternal life to others; the great peace-maker between God and man, between Jew and gentile, the umpire between nations, the abolisher of war, and the giver of internal peace to all who being justified by faith have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ (Rom. 5:1).”

    A contemporary of Isaiah, the prophet Micah, would predict the place of the birth of the eternal Messiah: “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be Ruler in Israel, Whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting” (5:2 [5:1 Heb.]). There were three Bethlehems in the Land of Israel during the time of the prophet Micah. One was in the tribal territory of Zebulun (Josh. 19:15); another one was in Benjamin (Neh. 7:26); and the last in Judah (Josh. 15: 60 LXX). Micah singled out the tribal territory of Judah as the place where Messiah was to be born.

    When the wise men visited Jerusalem after the birth of the Lord Jesus they inquired “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him” (Matt. 2:2). The paranoid schizophrenic King Herod heard this and was afraid, so inquired of the chief priests and scribes where the Messiah was to be born (2:3-4). They gave Herod the correct answer, Bethlehem of Judah, and even quoted the prophecy of Micah 5:2, yet they were oblivious to the Messiah because they did not act on their knowledge of Micah’s prediction in the Word of God!

    The reason the Messiah, the everlasting Ruler in Israel, was to be born in Bethlehem was because He was to be from the House and lineage of King David (Luke 2:4).

    The Son said, “Behold, I have come … to do Your will, O God”
    The Holy Spirit gives a divine commentary on Psalm 40 in the Book of Hebrews and explains the purpose that the Lord Jesus came to earth (10:1-18). He was to do the will of the Father and replace the sacrificial system instituted by Moses, which could only atone for (or cover) sins, but could never take away sins or make the sinner perfect.

    The Lord Jesus was a High Priest after the order of Melchizedek, thus His death on the cross was an infinitely perfect sacrifice that paid for all the sins of all humanity, once and for all and it was never to be repeated. There was no more need for any sacrifices after that. After His bodily resurrection from the dead, He sat down at the right hand of the Father and is waiting till His enemies are made His footstool (10:9-13; cf. Ps. 110).

    The prophet Isaiah, looking down the corridors of time, saw the cross work of the Lord Jesus as well (Isa. 52:13-53:12). What this work would accomplish was the salvation of any or all who would put their trust in the Lord Jesus as their Savior. Isaiah writes: “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (53:6). Isaiah elsewhere tells us that all our righteousness, all the best we can do, is as filthy rags in God’s sight (64:6).

    After David’s sin with Bathsheba, he confessed his sins before the Lord (Ps. 51), and trusted Him to forgive his sins. When David realizes that God had forgiven him, he rejoiced by singing: “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man to whom the LORD does not impute iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit (Ps. 32:1-2).

    The way of salvation, a home in Heaven, the forgiveness of sins, and peace with God is open to all who put their trust in the Lord Jesus Christ as their Savior. This invitation is as broad as “whosoever will may come” (even the American Atheists can come to Jesus), but narrow as Jesus’ statement: “I AM the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6). Have you believed on the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior? (Acts 4:12; 16:30).

    Jesus is the REASON for the Season!
    Perhaps Christians should put up billboards with this powerful and pointed response: “You KNOW He’s the Truth. This Season Celebrate the REASON for the Season – the LORD JESUS CHRIST!”


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