Date sent: Wed, 12 Mar 1997 17:12:52 -0500 (EST)
Priority: NORMAL


It is quite inevitable that religious communities and
believers are attracted by neo-catastrophist research and
new scientific findings in related fields. It happened
with the fundamentalist movement in the US in the 1980s
when the debate about the K/T boundary event and mass
extinctions falsified gradualistic uniformitarianism and
transformed cosmic catastrophism into a new scientific
paradigm. It might just as well happen again should new
scientific evidence point in the direction of historical

Yet, not all comments made by religious people
regarding the historicity of parts of the Hebrew Bible
should be automatically discarded since many believers
are quite able to differentiate between religious beliefs
and ethical convictions on the one hand and hard
scientific evidence on the other. Indeed, astronomical
and natural "wonders" in the Hebrew Bible and other
ancient documents which used to be riddiculed as utter
nonsense by the enlightenment might very well turn out to
be distorted recollections of real historical events.

This said, the biblical record (as well as that of other
ancient nations) should be critically assessed as an
historical document rather than a "divine revelation".
The following letter to the editor of THE TIMES by the
Reverend Richard Dormandy appears to be an attempt to
bridge this dichotomy. However, once we start reflecting
about the many innocent victims of Sodom and Gomorrah, it
becomes clear that these two paradigms are unbridgable
opposites. The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah - if it
really happened - was, after all, not a "devine
punishment" by a vengefull God but a tragic natural
disaster which effected a random population. That
ancient people i n t e r p r e t e d natural disasters
as a form of divine intervention is only too
understandable in view of their limited
scientific knowledge and their inner need to make sense
out of the senseless. But that's another story. BJP

Should you wish to add your comment to this
ongoing debate, please send your letter to the editor of


THE TIMES, 12 March 1997

Letters to the Editor


From the Reverend Richard Dormandy

Sir, Can we now expect another round of "Science proves
the Bible" headlines? Evidence from Dr Marie-Agnes
Courty, to be discussed at a conference in Cambridge in
July, will suggest that the destruction of Bronze Age
cities was caused by the impact of comets or meteorites
(report, March 8).

Sodom and Gomorrah were two such cities, about which
Genesis xix, 24 and 25 (New International Version) says,

"Then the Lord rained down burning sulphur on Sodom and
Gomorrah from the Lord out of the heavens. Thus he
overthrew those cities and the entire plain, including
all those living in the cities and also the vegetation in
the land."

Since scholars normally place Abraham near the beginning
of the Middle Bronze Age (ca 2,000 - 1,900 BC) one cannot
but note the chronological coincidence with Dr Courty's
findings of extraterrestrial deposits in the Middle East,
dated circa 2,200 BC.

The question remaining, however, is what actually
happened to Lot's wife - in modern geological terms that

Yours faithfully,
Holy Trinity Vicarage
1 Sydenham Park Road
London SE26
March 8.

CCCMENU CCC for 1997