Scientists Explain Red Sea Parting and Other Miracles

ByABC News
February 9, 2004, 3:40 PM

Feb. 12 -- Was the mythical parting of the Red Sea triggered by Moses' outstretched hand or an unusual chain of perfectly natural causes? Or both?

And does it matter?

Russian researchers recently took a stab at explaining one of the Bible's most famous miracles. Their version of events describes how a strong, persistent wind and an underlying reef may have made the feat possible.

The research follows a long line of efforts by science scholars to prove religious miracles from claims of sighting the ruins of Noah's Ark to attributing the biblical "trumpet blast" from Mt. Sinai as volcanic activity. Some argue such explanations diminish the concept of miracles while others say they reinforce their power.

A Good Wind and Good Timing

In the latest attempt to lend scientific credence to a supernatural event, Naum Volzinger, a senior researcher at St. Petersburg's Institute of Oceanography, and Alexei Androsov, a colleague based in Hamburg, Germany, analyzed conditions that could have made the parting of the Red Sea possible.

As the biblical story goes: "And Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the Lord caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all that night, and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided."

Volzinger and Androsov calculated that a wind blowing at the speed of 67 miles per hour sustained overnight could have exposed a reef that existed close below the ocean surface. The Israelites could have then fled over the passage before the wind died down and waters rose again, blocking the way for pursuing Egyptian soldiers in their wheeled chariots.

Volzinger explains that some 3,500 years ago, the reef would have been closer to the water's surface so it would have been exposed for just the right amount of time.