Thanos, I am greatly impressed by your ability to lay out your position and Eli, I can't remember a time when your own commentary hasn't left me very impressed, and the point you raise regarding the ancient Israelites' emphasis on their own laws must count for a lot in terms of the overall debate. I feel like I'm at the front lines of Old Testament subject matter that I haven't visited in quite some time. I think I drifted away because I had considered the relevant material inaccessible; both of you have shown me otherwise. I am quite blown away the eloquence you both display.
Thanos, I think I understand your general position and I respect it. Some of these stories really are crazy-sounding. For that reason I understand why you and others might mock the renderings of Moses parting the Red Sea. I would like to comment on that in a round-about way.
However, as a starting point I really do think it is essential to distinguish between if one regards a story as highly unlikely or 'virtually' impossible, or, 'entirely' impossible because one entirely rejects the possibility of supernatural intervention.
In recent years, when I have looked to this subject of 'supernaturalism' I have preferred to look to the present or near-present for such things because, if they can be identified in the present, then we would have contemporary evidence that is crazy-sounding-yet-real, which thereby tends to corroborate many of those old stories in a general way.
Personally, I feel that I have found such evidence, in more than one setting which include and extend beyond the Christian theatre. I'll only mention one here, with a follow-up, starting with the caveat that to the best of my knowledge the basic narrative hasn't been refuted.
I'm sure you're aware of the Fatima incident from October 13, 1917. We have what appears to be a crazy-sounding solar miracle or anomaly that was witnessed by tens of thousands of people, anticipated to the exact date for two months, and given front-page coverage the following day by a Portuguese national newspaper that was secular-socialist in nature.
In my opinion all of the above represents very strong evidence that something very public and very extraordinary happened in Fatima that day. But which is crazier: a 'dancing' sun or a parting sea? I would say that they are equally outrageous. But as things stand, I think, the former cannot be solely dismissed on the grounds of antiquity.
This may not be a one-off either. A very similar thing happened in the Philipines around ten years ago now, apparently seen by thousands, and recorded on video. I am yet to have anyone refute or more crucially mimic this video which, if you care to look, I found of particular interest around the 3:20 mark. [www.youtube.com]
Here's another that apparently happened in Nigeria on the 100th anniversary of Fatima's most famous incident - [www.youtube.com] (And here, in having a strong interest in synchronicity, I will add that that solar anomaly known as the Great American Eclipse took place 100 days after the 100th anniversary of the first Fatima visitiation.)
Here's some other footage that is hard to source but very interesting. If anybody out there can do this with their camera or cell phone please let me know. I would like to know if these kinds of things can be mimicked. [www.youtube.com]
I have identified other footage which seems credible to me, but in all instances I try to take care to not jump to conclusions on such things. For the sake of argument let's suppose that just one or two of these incidents really did happen, Thanos, as the Fatima incident appears to have. Then, let's jump forward three thousand years, to a time when all we have are some well-reserved written records.
If it is be presumed, on the grounds of antiquity and craziness in general, that these solar stories are also mock-worthy fictions, then it would also be helpful if we could explain the texts in ways that made the best mundane sense. Then the objective third party has a reasonable choice to make, which story sounds the most reasonable.
I might start with the Age of Reason and which dealt the Church various hits, including the Copernican revelation - a convenient starting point for this kind of 'solar' rebuttal. Chances are good that students would know the general narrative there, at least at the better schools. But true students of history, of this 1500AD to now period, like many members of this board are, would have no problem agreeing that the Church had to make room for new institutions which were in many ways more progressive, and that this led to a steady decline of the Church's influence which well underway by the time of the so-called (mock mock) Fatima incident.
And what is more persuasive, a Church concocting a story for the sake of its own survival, in the midst of a threatening demise, or a 'dancing sun'?? For God's sake, people!
And doesn't it make further sense, if that story had desired results - which it did - that the same fiction would be repeated down the line, by the same institution?
That really does 'sound' like the more reasonable explanation. I would have no problem with people who believe that a story was made up, as the rebuttal really does speak to what is to be most expected. However, in this case the evidence is not lost to antiquity, nor has it been refuted or - again to the best of my knowledge - been properly mimicked.
[Whether it has been properly refuted would not close the discussion, as I alluded to earlier, for as I said I have found similar 'supernatural' evidence in other settings, or, to be most correct, what appears to be just that.]
So, to bring this all home, I agree that the story of the Exodus sounds nuts. But when we have things like 'dancing suns' in the modern present, I simply cannot dismiss the notion of parting seas either, on the grounds that something so 'crazy sounding' and very public cannot happen.
But that's just me. Thanks again for laying out your position. It is very well thought out.