Discovery Channel Special to Explore Exodus Era
- Janet Chismar Senior Editor, News & Culture
- 2004 11 Nov
When the Discovery Channel airs “Rameses: Wrath Of God Or Man?” on Sunday, December 5, many viewers will be led to examine the relationship between faith and science, specifically, the issue of Biblical inerrancy in a science-driven culture. How can faith endure when scientific discovery challenges the very facts that the Bible tells us? Does science have to be an enemy of faith?
As Christian apologist Alister McGrath notes in Intellectuals Don't Need God & Other Modern Myths, it is in the “marketplace of ideas, not the seminar rooms of universities,” that Christianity faces most tests.
McGrath points out in A Scientific Theology, “The fusion of intellectual horizons is one of the most satisfying tasks that anyone can undertake.” He argues for a direct engagement between Christian theology and the natural sciences, without the need to sacrifice faith. Such a perscpective is helpful when watching this special, as it attempts to determine if an ancient skull is that of Pharaoh’s firstborn son, and Middle Eastern correspondent Charles Sennott puts the era of Exodus to a timeline test..
Christians believe that the Jewish slaves in Egypt were released from captivity when God used the 10th Plague to kill the first-born son of Pharaoh Rameses II.
But while conducting archaeological digs in Egypt’s Valley of the Kings, renowned Professor Kent Weeks found a tomb believed to contain many of Rameses’ sons. Four skulls have been discovered that Weeks believes may be those of the ruler’s elder sons.
With the help of the latest forensic science, Dr. Weeks’ team hopes to determine each skull’s identity, death age and scenario. To carry out that research, the team is currently examining the skulls with delicate but rigorous scientific testing.
Facial reconstruction expert Dr. Caroline Wilkinson will try to put “flesh on the bones,” and leading forensic expert Prof. Susan Black will analyze each skull to attempt to determine age and cause of death.
One skull in question – which may be that of Rameses’ first-born son Amun-her-khepeshef – shows signs of a violent death, which leads to the question, "Could Rameses’ son have been killed not by the hand of God … but by the hand of man?"
“Amun-her-khepeshef’s life could be one of history’s most fascinating – if only there were more information available,” says Weeks. “If the Bible is correct and a series of plagues actually brought about an exodus of Jews from Egypt, and if the Exodus took place in the reign of Rameses II, then Amun-her-khepeshef may have been killed by the 10th plague that God visited on Egypt.”
Dr. Weeks goes on to explain how he came to suspect this skull could actually be that of Amun-her-khepeshef. "When I read the broken inscription that said ‘Amun-her,’ I realized this must be the tomb of Amun-her-khepeshef, Rameses’ eldest son. And then we really knew we were on to something, because the team had now found proof for just whom the tomb had been built. A few days later, in the dim torchlight of Chamber 2, we discovered a pit and, in it, ancient human remains. It was a human skull. Obviously a very ancient one ingrained with dirt. Part of its jaw was missing, but the shape matched those I’d seen on the pharaohs before… so I thought this must be it. I’m quite possibly holding the 3,000-year-old skull of Rameses’ son and heir.”
McGrath, who is principal of Wycliffe Hall, Oxford University; Dr. Kent Weeks; Professor Kenneth Kitchen, the leading authority on Rameses; Sheikh Dr. M.A. Zaki Badawi, principal of the Muslim College in London, and Professor Israel Finkelstein, Tel Aviv University will debate science versus religion.
Delving into biblical aspects of the story will be Boston Globe’s journalist Charles Sennott, as he traces the historical path of Exodus. Sennott will try to pinpoint the specific events of Rameses’ reign, and compare the historical account to the Bible’s account, as he journeys to a host of sites: from the city of Pi-Rameses, the international capital of Rameses’ Egypt; to the rugged peak of Mt. Sinai, where Moses received the Ten Commandments; to the Nile where plagues beset the Pharaoh; and to the Red Sea, where the waters were miraculously parted.
Along the way, Sennott will ask hard questions of the world’s leading experts on the ancient world to deepen our understanding of this epic biblical story.
“Rameses: Wrath Of God Or Man?” includes striking visual effects recreating key biblical events, including Rameses’ riding into battle with 600 chariots, the parting of the Red Sea, the striking down of the firstborn and Moses receiving the Ten Commandments.
Driven by faith, science or a confluence of the two, this Discovery Channel special reveals how the discovery of a single skull could lead to new questions about our basic traditions. Will your flock be ready? Are you?
Read more at http://dsc.discovery.com/convergence/rameses/rameses.html
“Rameses: Wrath Of God Or Man?” premieres Sunday, December 5, from 9-11 p.m. (ET/PT).