By Nathan Jones
Where is the Mount Sinai where God gave the 10 Commandments?
This question was posed to Dr. James Fleming, one of the most knowledgeable teachers of Biblical Archaeology, on our show Christ in Prophecy. Dr. Fleming has lived and taught in Israel for the past 37 years at Jerusalem University College and at the Hebrew University. His first claim to fame is that he discovered the ancient Eastern Gate buried beneath the current one. Dr. Fleming has walked or motorcycled about every square mile of Israel, and is so familiar with Israel past and present that Israeli tour guides come to him for training. He now operates the Explorations in Antiquity Center in LaGrange, Georgia, an interactive museum where people here in the U.S. can experience the life and times of Christ.
Dr. Fleming: There is a problem with identifying the location. In remote areas you don't have people living at the same oasis where they can pass on a tradition from parent to son or daughter without break. Most of these areas are places of sojourn that they just go through. Of the more than 30 places in Exodus mentioned with names where the Israelites stopped, only four of them sound like any modern Arabic name, and in the desert those are the largest oasis where people lived.
We have lot of questions. How large was the Sinai Desert at the time? The same question can be posed for the Wilderness of Zin, the Wilderness of Paran, etcetera.
It is true, we just don't have good archaeological evidence for the traditional Mount Sinai — Jabal Musa — the Mountain of Moses.
It has also been suggested that a site in Saudi Arabia had a volcanic eruption somewhere around 3,000 to 4,000 years ago and so we ask if that could be the fire and smoke of that biblical period. The problem is the Saudi's have not permitted any sound archaeological surveys there. To put all your eggs in one basket for a site that hasn't had proper excavation is very iffy archaeology.
The earliest known tradition we have for that mountain is 250 AD. Again, we are talking about the Exodus period happening between 1400 and 1200 BC.
There has been a mountain from the Nabataeans some 200 BC that we have found "x son of y was here," but it doesn't say why he was there. We just don't have enough to go on because it was a place of sojourn.