An accomplished physicist correlates Old Testament stories with historical data in a scholarly work.
Casperson, an expert on lasers who has also published papers on Egyptian astronomy and Israelite jubilees, examines the Old Testament period between Abraham and Solomon with an eye toward dating and identifying some of its key figures and events. Casperson doesn’t attempt to confirm or deny God’s involvement in these incidents; he simply presents what might have happened and when it did, drawing on the techniques and work of a variety of academic disciplines. This is used, for example, to deduce a possible Exodus year. Drawing upon reports that the Israelites left Egypt in a year that saw the new moon coincide with the vernal equinox, Casperson uses modern astronomy to work out the positions of the sun and moon centuries ago and arrive at a year matching that criteria: from 1440 B.C. to 1441 B.C. That in itself is impressive, but Casperson takes it further by exploring associated biblical and Egyptian trivia: Who was the pharaoh bested by Moses, and which king initially persecuted the Hebrews? What was the rationale for Moses’ adoption? Similar analysis flows from other major chronological calculations, such as the dates of the famine predicted by Joseph, yielding plausible and enlightening results. Unfortunately, Casperson’s proofs for these conclusions grow long-winded and are likely to put off an average reader. One understands the need for such completeness and appreciates its utility to other researchers, but couldn’t Casperson have published it in a separate paper or moved it to an appendix? The material on Jesus and the Jewish temple feels underdeveloped and out of place in an Old Testament–centered work, and similarly, the chapter on Egyptian jubilees offers little to readers seeking greater understanding of biblical history.
Readers will be enlightened and rewarded by Casperson’s observations, but the book’s formal, academic presentation limits accessibility.