Tourists search for Mount Sinai in Saudi Arabia – but does a geographical location even exist?

In any specific place, but rather in the hearts, and minds of those who treasure the meaning of the Hebrew Bible
By: The Conversation
Mount Sinai {CC} Studio 31
Mount Sinai {CC} Studio 31
CAIRO - Aug. 9, 2023 - PRLog -- By: Jacob F. Love, University of Tennessee

Since Saudi Arabia relaxed rules and expanded visas for tourists in 2019, Christians have been increasingly visiting the country, drawn by word of mouth and promotional YouTube videos, in search of Mount Sinai, where the Bible recounts God revealing the Ten Commandments to Moses.

For many centuries people have believed the location to be in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, near the site of a monastery built around 550 C.E. and named after St. Catherine.

But this was entirely based on the word of local tribes living some 2,000 years after the event. Most scholars believe that the location of Mount Sinai is unknowable from the available textual evidence. As a scholar of the Hebrew Bible and language, I agree with them.

The existence of Mount Sinai is likely a legendary myth that is part of the stories of many cultures. There is no corroborating evidence, archaeological or otherwise, to support any particular location.

What's in a name?

The first biblical mention of the holy mountain occurs in Exodus, the second book of the Bible and the primary source for the story of Moses leading the Israelites out of Egypt.

In Exodus 3:1, a mountain is referred to as Horeb and called the "mountain of God." Horeb is mentioned twice more in Exodus but then disappears without mention in the third and fourth books – Leviticus and Numbers – until it reappears in the last book of the first section of the Bible, or the Pentateuch – Deuteronomy.

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