Article ID: CBB598420370

Mapping the Miracle: Empirical Approaches in the Exodus Debate of the Eighteenth Century (2017)


The debate about the miracle at the Red Sea began in the late 17th century and remained interesting at least until the last decades of the 18th century. Reading the various learned contributions to it, the impression gained is that the Exodus debate was truly an open question to which participants responded to the best of their ability and, to a large extent, without strong preconceived positions. In the course of this article, we will meet all manner of in-between-positions and shifting explanations that destabilize the clear oppositions between ‘Orthodoxy’ and ‘Enlightenment’. From its beginnings, biblical criticism consisted in primarily detailed source criticism and philological studies. The questions raised by the miracle of the Red Sea, however, could not be solved by philology alone. They demanded an empirical approach involving a number of different fields; arguments on the tides of the Red Sea and its geographical situation required the use of natural philosophical and cartographical knowledge in biblical criticism. It is the empirical approach that leads us to the Jesuit Claude Sicard (1676/77-1726). He was the first to undertake thorough empirical investigations into the miracle of the Exodus that took him – literally – into the Red Sea. This article discusses his interests and research methods from the perspective of ‘historia as a cultural practice’ which connects biblical criticism with antiquiarianism and empiricism. Looking at ‘historia’ as a cultural practice, one focuses more on the dynamics of gathering knowledge and proving interpretations, rather than on the positions taken by scholars as defenders or deniers of the miracle. It also implies discussing all circumstances of the debate - in Europe as well as in Egypt.

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Authors & Contributors
Howell, Kenneth James
Lin, Yii-Jan Chen
Yarchin, William
Wortham, Christopher
Shalev, Zur
Scott, Anne M
Postcolonial Studies
Journal of Military History
Fondazione Museo Storico del Trentino
Palgrave Macmillan
Natural philosophy
Science and religion
Vallisneri, Antonio
Thomas Aquinas, Saint
Spinoza, Baruch
Redi, Francesco
Malpighi, Marcello
Locke, John
Time Periods
17th century
18th century
16th century
Early modern
19th century
United States
Latin America
Jesuits (Society of Jesus)

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