Thera and the Exodus—When Was the Island Destroyed?

By Christos G. Doumas

Sidebar to: High Art from the Time of Abraham

The volcano that destroyed Thera erupted roughly 3,500 years ago. Some scholars believe that this massive volcanic blast, one of the strongest in recorded history, was responsible for wiping out Minoan culture, on the island of Crete, directly to the south. And Professor Hans Goedicke, of Johns Hopkins University, goes so far as to argue that the eruption caused a massive tidal-like wave that traversed the Mediterranean, drowned the Egyptian army that was in hot pursuit of the fleeing Israelites during the Exodus and was forever preserved in the Bible as the parting of the Red Sea.

But just when did the volcano erupt?

That’s the crucial question. Goedicke’s scenario, for example, calls for the blast and ensuing tidal wave to have taken place in 1477 B.C., the date required by a pharaonic inscription that he claims describes the same events (albeit from the other side) as the Biblical account of the Red Sea. Until recently, the commonly accepted dating for the volcano’s eruption has been between 1550 and 1500 B.C., seemingly close enough to the 1477 B.C. date proposed by Goedicke.

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