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VERNES'S 'SINAI AND KADESH'
Sinai contre Kadh. Les grands sanctuaires de I'Exode isra^lite
et les routes du desert.' Par Maurice Vernes. Paris,
Imprimerie Nationale, 1915, gr. 8° (chez Leroux, pp. 132).
America occupied the first place in a series of lectures
delivered at the 6cole pratique des Hautes-Etudes of the Sorbonne,
which have just appeared in the Annual for the scholastic year
1915-16, pubUshed in the section dealing with the science of
religions. Professor J. Raynaud, who holds the chair of Religions
of America before Columbus, devoted one of his weekly lectures
to the Civil and Religious History of Central America preceding
Columbus, chiefly according to native documents ; in the second
course he will decipher the hieratic and hieroglyphic writings of
the same region. Maurice Vernes is at present studying the
origins of the religion of Israel, and investigating the latest hypo-
thesis on this subject ; in the second course he will give a philo-
logical exegesis of Canticles. — Rabbi Israel Levi, Professor of
Talmudic and Rabbinic Judaism, is now expounding the rabbinic
commentaries on the Psalms and the Sefer ha Yashar. Passing
over the other courses on the history of religions, which do not
form part of the present group, it will suffice to note that six of
the courses, the professors of which are with the colours, cannot
be given because of the war. For the same reason many of the
Jewish publications have been compelled to suspend.
In the work to which this notice is devoted the learned
director of studies on the religions of Israel and the western
Semites, president of the section on religious sciences, gives a
long archaeological and geographical study, with a plea for the
ancient Sinai against her young and brilliant rival, Kadesh, in the
^ The map attached by the author is of great importance.
374 THE JEWISH QUARTERLY REVIEW
extreme south of the land of Canaan. This portion merits special
attention all the more, because the author usually denies the
antiquity of the Biblical books," while here he clearly takes a view
in favour of tradition.
In the first place it is well to examine the Sinaitic peninsula,
in particular its situation on the line of transit between Egypt and
Palestine, before attempting even mentally to traverse the penin-
sula from west to east. We must choose one of the two following
routes — either the northern, which goes north-east along the coast
of the Mediterranean, or the southern, which, entering the wilder-
ness of Sinai, passes to the south along the shore of the Red Sea,
then leaves on the north the desert of Paran, to-day called El-Tih,
the desert of the wandering. In the presence of this inevitable
dilemma, one must make a decision to go by one route or the
other. We get a good idea of it from the map of Sinai briefly
sketched from the book of M. Vernes (p. 3) : it leads from
Mts. Serbal and Sinai, bounded on the south by the Red Sea, up
to the Mediterranean on the north, including Jerusalem in the
north-east. It indicates, in approximately large features, the
position of the routes suitable for communication between Egypt
and Asia at the time of Moses.
The most recent critics reject the traditional location ; some
of them accept the imaginary position attributed by Christian
monks of the fourth century of the common era, because they
claim as the scene of the giving of the Decalogue the site of the
convent erected in honour of St. Catherine, whose church was
built at the foot of Djebel Musa (Mountain of Moses). Among
the contemporary historians who have treated this question of the
exodus of Israel in the desert the youngest is an officer, Raymond
Weill, captain in the Engineers, whose competency is not doubted,
but whose theories will bear discussion.'
2 This opinion is set forth positively in other worlts by this author, PrJcis
d'histoire juive (1889), RdsuHats de Vexegese biblique (1890), Essais bibli-
ques (1892), and many other works.
' He has dealt with this subject several times : first in the thesis which
he upheld with great success before the Faculte des Lettres of Paris under
VERNES S ' SINAI AND KADESH — SCHWAB 375
According to M. Weill great stress must be laid upon the fact
that the identification of Sinai with the point of the peninsula
which has taken and kept the name Sinaitic coincides with the
arrival of the monks, and had never occurred to any reader of
the Bible. Nevertheless M. Weill falls in with that view — what
a paradox !
Renan, in spite of all his scepticism, was not so revolutionary.
He held, at least in most points, to the Mosaic tradition as
regards the principal stations during the exodus ; without rejecting
the terms of the Pentateuch he believed in the essential role that
Sinai plays in the journeyings of the Hebrews in the desert.
' Of all these stories concerning the exodus ', he says,^ ' it is possible
that the error was made in preserving merely the fact itself of the
departure from Egypt and the entrance into the peninsula of
Sinai. ... By continuing its route directly toward the south,
Israel would have found only death. It turned towards the
south-east, almost following the sea, or rather the ancient route
which the Egyptians had traced in order to exploit the copper
mines of Sinai.' The writer adds further : ' The criticism which
considers as legendary all these stories relative to Horeb and
Sinai, can hardly attach any value to the topographical researches
that have been made to localize the Biblical scene '.
After pointing out this opinion, which follows that of Eduard
Reuss, M. Vernes presents in turn (pp. 10-16) the adverse
opinions proposed by J. Wellhausen in the Prolegomena zur
Geschichte Israels, by A. von Gall in his Israelitische Kultur-
statien (Giessen, 1898), by Hermann Guthe, Geschichte des Volkes
Israel (Tubingen, 1914). All their arguments notwithstanding,
it is unnecessary to renounce the view adopted up to the present.
The duality of routes which led from the land of Canaan to
the title ' La Presqu'ile du Sinai : fitude de g^ographie et d'histoire (Paris,
1908), then in a very well-developed paper which the Revue des Etudes Juives
published (1909), LVII, 19-54, 194-238 ; LVIII, 23-59. Cf. Journal Asiaiique,
1909, 1, 295-300.
< Histoire du peuple d'Israel, t. I (1887), pp. 161, 165, 195, note 1 ; cf.
t. II, p. 36.
376 THE JEWISH QUARTERLY REVIEW
Egypt is not doubtful. We do not know, it is true, what course
was followed in this direction by each of the three patriarchs,
Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; but the famous text of Exodus (13.
17-18) is explicit ; it furnishes the reason why Israel, led by Moses,
left Egypt by the road of the desert along the coast of the Red
Sea in preference to the road on the north, although the latter
was the shorter and more practical of the two. The people
must not change their minds, says the Bible, on seeinp; war and
return to Egypt ; that is why God made the people take a round-
about way by the route of the desert of the sea of Suf (Red Sea)
or sea of rushes. Let us lay stress upon a single one of the
arguments presented by our author in favour of his thesis ; it is
an argument upon the reading of a word which at first seems
insignificant, but which upon consideration becomes weighty and
A longitudinal plan which accompanies the work of our author
contains the places in dispute.* It is an extract of the Table
romaine of Peutinger, edited by T. Ernest Desjardins (1872, in-
folio), which has been reduced to about two-thirds. It is a
question of determining an intermediate point between the
ancient Klysma — to-day Suez — and Paran in order to proceed by
the south to Kadesh, in accordance with the geography of
Ptolemy. The latter mentions Munychiatis, which was sought
in vain upon the aforesaid Table. On this map one mutilated
word, with an initial syllable cut off, had been erroneously read
deia, and then completed to read [Meldeta, so as to meet the
requirements of the opposite thesis ; while M. Vernes, adopting
the reading ocia, completes it as \_Meti\ocia = Munychiatis^
because he bases his argument upon the actual name Makuan,
in the south, as it is represented upon the map of M. Georges
B^n^dite in the Guide Joanne, 'Syrie et Palestine' (Paris, 1891,
120) j but we know that the original of the Table of Peutinger is
preserved at the Imperial Library of Vienna, and it is fortunate
that, in spite of the obstacles in communication at the present
» 'Name of an Arabic locality of Sinai', according to M. Clement Huart.
VERNES'S 'SINAI AND KADESH ' — SCHWAB 377
time, our author has obtained the verification of the word in
doubt, thanks to the plenipotentiary minister of the Swiss Con-
federation at Paris, who mediated with the Swiss Embassy at
Vienna, and was able to ascertain that the geographical name in
question is written as it was formerly recognized and published.
It results from this identification that the Romans also followed
the south of the peninsula or the Red Sea, not the north or the
Mediterranean, in order to go to Asia.
We shall not follow any further our exegete in his comparative
study of the days of the route as they have been indicated in the
Pentateuch, particularly in Numbers. It would likewise take too
long to discuss his opinion, which is expressed (p. 89) as follows :
' The Israelites, from the time that they were settled in Canaan,
never had occasion to introduce Sinai in the circle of their
religious thought ; Sinai always survived in their minds'. Let us,
therefore, adhere to this conclusion of the author : ' Sinai-Horeb
is lost in the mist, but it is at the same time glorified with an
incomparable splendour. What it has lost in historical exactness
it has regained in the opulence of the teachings which are
attached to it — the wonderful Decalogue. Restored by the most
rigid criticism, though shaken for a moment at its foundation, the
mountain of Moses rests upon one of the highest summits upon
which humanity fastens its eyes '.
Paris, National Library.
VOL. VII. C c