High on Mount Sinai?

March 4, 2008

There is no end to modern speculation trying to explain how some ancient event in the Bible may have happened. Here’s the latest, picked up by Jeffrey Heller, editor-in-charge in our Jerusalem bureau:

A man prays on Mount Moses on the Sinai Peninsula, 4 March 2007/Goran TomasevicThe biblical Israelites may have been high on a hallucinogenic plant when Moses brought the Ten Commandments down from Mount Sinai, according to a new study by an Israeli psychology professor.

Writing in the British journal Time and Mind, Benny Shanon of Jerusalem’s Hebrew University said two plants in the Sinai desert contain the same psychoactive molecules as those found in plants from which the powerful Amazonian hallucinogenic brew ayahuasca is prepared.

The thunder, lightning and blaring of a trumpet which the Book of Exodus says emanated from Mount Sinai could just have been the imaginings of a people in an “altered state of awareness”, Shanon hypothesised…

Read the whole story here. For Shanon’s article “Biblical Entheogens: a Speculative
Hypothesis,” click here.

What do you think of this kind of speculation? Does it make a serious contribution to understanding faith? Or make the speculators seem like they’re straining science to explain — or explain away — miracles?


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What are the chances of the entire israelite nation being off thier faces at the exact time Moses came down the mountain? I don’t know, but it’s got to be comparable with the chances of an omniscient and omnipotent creator

Posted by McShabby | Report as abusive

So if they wer hellucinating then ,I guess they were hellucinating when the seas parted. I don’t believe that many people were on drugs.

Posted by virginia | Report as abusive

I read recently there was no archaelogical evidence that the Israelites were ever in Egypt and that excavations around Mount Sinai had discovered nothing.
Do we really think the Israelites thought murder was ok before being told it wasn’t? Humans should have more pride at times

Posted by Mark Meadows | Report as abusive