Category Archives: Journey of Faith

Moses and the Plagues

While traveling recently I read something amazing. It is generally unknown, yet is the most astonishing, unexpected evidence for the truth of the Bible I have ever found.
I remember watching the movie The Ten Commandments. Charlton Heston plays Moses against Egypt’s Pharaoh, played by Yul Brynner. It was the most successful film of 1956, and ranks eighth in history when box office receipts are adjusted for inflation.

Parts of the movie are about the plagues God brings upon Egypt. The Hebrews were welcome guests when Joseph was governor of all of Egypt. But over the centuries fortunes changed, and the Hebrews were enslaved and badly treated. (Details in the book of Genesis.) God sends Moses, who asks God why me as “I am slow of speech and of tongue.” Of course in the movie Moses is an ultra handsome articulate Charlton Heston kind of guy. Anyhow, God sends a not-thrilled-to-be-there Moses to talk to Pharaoh. Imagine sending a Ukrainian farmer to talk to Putin.

Pharaoh refuses to let the Hebrews go, so God slams Egypt with ten plagues. For details read Chapters 7 through 12 of the book of Exodus. The plagues are also noted in Psalms 78 and 105 and in the book of Numbers. The plagues are horrific. God begins by turning the water in the Nile river to blood, and not just in the Nile, but in all rivers, canals, ponds, pools of water, and water vessels in all of Egypt (except presumably for the water of the Hebrews). This is followed by frogs, gnats, flies, the death of livestock, boils, hail, and locusts. But Pharaoh would not let the Hebrews go. For the ninth plague God stops the Sun from shining for three days, except where the Hebrews lived. For the tenth and final plague, God kills the firstborn male child of every family in Egypt, except for the Hebrew families, who are “passed over” by marking their doorways with the blood of lambs. Finally Pharaoh gives up, and after 430 years in Egypt the Hebrews leave, a total of 600,000 men and women and children. They take their livestock, and, as a final penalty, they ask and the Egyptians actually give them their silver and gold jewelry and fine clothing. The taking of silver and gold and clothing is mentioned at least twice in the Bible.

Pretty inventive right? Like come on, who makes this stuff up? Well what would you think if I told you there is an ancient Egyptian papyrus that tells the same story? It is written as a lament about the problems of Egypt. It’s kind of “how could our sun god let this happen?”

The papyrus is called by some “The Admonitions of Ipuwer.” Ipuwer uses “we” many times in the poem, which suggests he was an eyewitness. The style of a poetic lament was common in the ancient world of this period.

Ipuwer writes “the river is blood” and “throughout the land, blood is everywhere.” Wow! Note both the Bible and Ipuwer do not state the Nile was like blood. Both state the Nile was blood. I’m not an expert on ancient literature or history but surely two documents from the same period stating the Nile was blood is amazing.

Ipuwer does not mention locusts and other insects by name, but he describes conditions that match the effects of these plagues. Ipuwer says even the birds are unable to find fruits or herbs. He says officials are hungry and homeless.

The ninth plague – darkness for three days – is a direct rebuke to Ra, the Egyptian sun god. Ipuwer laments: “Day does not dawn on it.” “There is no pilot on duty. Where is he today? Is he perhaps asleep?” Double wow! For someone who loves astronomy this is a gut check. One can wax poetically about the majesty of God, but to think he actually did stop the sun from shining is pretty amazing.

Ipuwer states that silver, gold, and precious stones are now being worn by female servants. Triple wow! Why would he write this if not true? How often in history does this happen?

The Admonitions of Ipuwer is unexpected and powerful evidence that the Biblical plagues were real events. I never expected such confirmation. The Exodus is now believed by many to have occurred in 1446 BC, when Amenhotep II was Pharaoh.

If you have time, I recommend reading my primary source for all this, an article in the Winter 2022 issue of the magazine Bible and Spade. If you want to learn about the overwhelming new archeological evidence for the truth of the Bible you must subscribe. It’s cheap ($50 a year gets you the magazine and supports their ministries) and they have gradually transformed the magazine from a dusty academic format into a beautiful, color photo, user friendly marvel. Click here for a video from another organization on the amazing Ipuwer papyrus.

Thanks for reading. I hope you will share this new evidence with friends and family. Together we can change the atheist paradigm of a meaningless world.

Doug Ell

Outside the Fishbowl

This January I went to a Sunday service at Saint Thomas Church Fifth Avenue, New York City. The French Gothic design is incredible. The huge stone carving behind the High Altar, called the “Great Reredos,” must have taken lifetimes to carve. This link will give you a 360-degree virtual tour of the church: I was told Saint Thomas is one of only two churches in the world to have a boys’ choir composed of students at the Church’s school, and the other is Westminster Cathedral.

More than the building and music, I was struck by the sermon. The priest spoke about a “lack of theological imagination.” It struck me that he hit upon one of the key reasons why we, as a society, resist God. We are not able to imagine existence outside our fishbowl.

Imagine you are a fish in a fishbowl, and you wonder what it’s like outside your fishbowl. You probably can see out, and although images are blurred, and there is a huge difference between air and water, you sense there are creatures out there who move around like you do. Now imagine a heavy blanket over your fishbowl that blocks all light. Now you don’t know what’s out there. You do realize that periodically food is being added, so you acknowledge an existence of some type out there, although you are literally in the dark. But you would most likely assume it is some sort of creature composed of the same stuff as you – cells and DNA and a circulation system and so on.

For us, the fishbowl is our universe. We cannot see outside our fishbowl. We do know, if we’re honest about it – which admittedly most people are not – that both our universe (fishbowl) and all life were designed. We know this because chance is a pathetically inadequate explanation for the amazingly perfect design of the laws and constants of physics, and the beyond understanding complexity of life (think of the human brain). Let’s call this mind outside our universe “God.” We then ask, what does science tell us about God? Let’s put aside history and the Bible for now. Based solely on science, what can we know about God?

The answer is, not much. We know this mind out there, this God, is immensely powerful and intelligent. A being capable of creating our four-dimensional space-time universe is vastly different from the human minds we encounter in our fishbowl.

If you think along these lines, it becomes easier to see through the so-called “scientific” obstacles our culture throws up against the existence of God. Let’s start with the question “who created God”? Creation is a concept that exists in our fishbowl, where one event precedes in time another event and causes the second event to happen. But the question “who created God” incorrectly assumes that the concept of causation in time applies outside our fishbowl. Remember, God created time (and space), and created our fishbowl. God is outside of time. To ask a question that assumes our concept of time and our concept of causation apply outside of our fishbowl shows a lack of theological imagination.

Another typical, although often unspoken, barrier for many is that they literally cannot imagine a mind powerful enough to do all this – to create our universe and design all life. Again, this shows a lack of theological imagination. Just because the minds we encounter in our fishbowl – minds made up of atoms that exist in time – can’t do these things is no reason to suggest that the mind outside our fishbowl can’t do them. We cannot transfer the restrictions we see in our fishbowl to a mind outside our fishbowl. I think God has absolute control over every quantum phase state in our universe (see Chapter 14 of Counting To God). A being with that attribute could (and in my view has) done things – performed “miracles” – beyond our comprehension (like the resurrection of Jesus, which is by far the best documented event of the ancient world). How can that be? I don’t know, but to say that God can’t perform miracles shows an obvious lack of theological imagination, an incorrect assumption that what we see in our fishbowl applies outside our fishbowl.

One analogy that occurs to me is that the relationship between God and us could be similar in some ways to the relationship between us and a virtual character in a gaming program. We can create such characters and give them characteristics, but these characters, no matter how intelligent we might make them (think of powerful artificial intelligence, powerful AI), cannot appreciate us and our universe except to the extent we create them in our image – just as the Bible tells us we are created in the image of God. Yes we could give our AI characters some capacity to appreciate music and colors, but they can never experience the music and colors in our world. I use this analogy because many people who have had near death experiences, who have had a glimpse of what lies outside our fishbowl, will tell you that the colors and music outside our fishbowl are far superior and far more wonderful than what we experience.

If we make these AI characters smart enough, and give them enough ways to gain information (like our human senses) to learn about their world, they might be able to detect that we exist based on characteristics of their virtual world. But other than that, all they can know about us is what we tell them. In history, and in the Bible, God has taught us a great deal about the nature of God and how we are supposed to live our lives. The Bible is like an operating manual for life. To the extent you can follow it, your life is likely to be easier and less stressful.

Many reject the Trinity, the Christian three-in-one God, because they cannot imagine that kind of being. This betrays a lack of theological imagination, the false assumption that just because something doesn’t exist in our fishbowl it can’t exist outside the fishbowl. Despite the overwhelming scientific evidence that God has built into different kinds of animals the capacity to adapt, to “evolve,” into different species, many (most?) hang on desperately to a Darwinian fable of the “magic” and “power” of natural selection. This inability to conceive of a being powerful enough to build this fantastic technology into all life again reveals a lack of theological imagination.

God is outside our universe, outside our fishbowl, not limited by human concepts of intelligence and power. If we are honest, we know from science that God exists. Let us expand our minds and our theological imaginations to appreciate the wonder of God.

Thanks for reading,

Doug Ell

A Christmas Blessing

The Discovery Institute has issued a second endorsement of my latest book, Proofs of God. You can read the review by clicking here. The title is “Great Christmas Gift — Proofs of God Translates Design Arguments for Young Students, Teenagers.” The review contains cartoons from my book. It also contains within it a second review from a middle-schooler.

Here’s a line I like: “Sometimes the best way to learn is when you’re having fun and don’t realize that you’re learning.”

Hope you are all well and safe. Here’s a post I wrote two years ago on what I believe are actual astronomical events underlying what we refer to as “the star of Bethlehem.” I keep learning more about the history and science relating to the birth of Jesus, and hopefully next season I’ll post an updated blog on that.

Merry Christmas and thanks for reading. May the Lord bless you and hold you in the palm of his hand.

Doug Ell

ID Made Sassy

The Discovery Institute is the world’s leading proponent of Intelligent Design. Their scientists include Stephen Meyer (Darwin’s Doubt, Signature of the Cell), Michael Behe (Darwin’s Black Box, A Mousetrap for Darwin), Michael Denton (Evolution Still a Theory in Crisis), and Douglas Axe (Undeniable).

I was delighted to receive their endorsement of my new book, Proofs of God.

Click here for their review: I invite you to check it out; it showcases many of my book’s best cartoons. It also understands and highlights my purpose, which was to translate the science to make it accessible to young readers, and to all others who may be uncomfortable with technical details. To date, I have not had a single person tell me they were unable to understand my book.

Thanks for reading. Together we can change the world, and free it from this pathetically depressing Atheist paradigm of a meaningless universe. God is real.

Doug Ell

We Saw His Star When It Rose

This is one of my favorite lines in the Bible. Only in recent years, with modern computers and a fuller understanding of ancient texts, can we understand its power.
It appears in the second chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, which begins:

“Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the King, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying ‘Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.’”

This is the story of the Star of Bethlehem. The word translated above as “behold” means pay attention, you are about to read something important.

Who were these “wise men,” these Magi? From Marco Polo we learn they came from Saba, now called Saveh, about 60 miles southwest of modern day Tehran:

“In Persia is the city of Saba, from which the Three Magi set out… and in this city they are buried, in three very large and beautiful monuments, side by side. And above them there is a square building, beautifully kept. The bodies are still entire, with hair and beard remaining.” Marco Polo 1299 AD

The Magi were a priestly order of elite, royal Persian scholars. They were masters of astronomy and doubtless many other subjects. They could have been, at least partially, of Jewish descent, and they were certainly familiar with the Hebrew prophecies of a Messiah. Daniel, who survived the lion’s den, was head of this order five centuries earlier. The Magi came from the Parthian Empire, an empire that lasted close to 500 years, and was at the time of Jesus’ birth a formidable if not equal counterpart to Rome. The Parthians defeated seven Roman legions in 53 BC in the battle of Carrhae, one of the worst defeats in Rome’s history. Around perhaps 37 BC they forced Herod to flee to his fortress at Masada. It is now 2 BC, and an uneasy peace prevails. Yet these royal scholars have traveled 1200 miles, by camel, over mountains, without an army, to Jerusalem.

Why? The answer comes from modern computers, which tell us with precision how the sky appeared from any point on earth at any time in history. Modern computers tell us that about 15 months earlier, in September of 3 BC, there was a spectacular triple conjunction of Jupiter (known to the ancients as the “King Planet”) and the star Regulus. The Babylonians called this star “Sharru,” meaning “the King”, and Regulus was also known as the “King” star by the Romans. Jupiter passed Regulus three times, and traced a crown above it. Regulus is the brightest star in the constellation of Leo the lion. The Bible in different places compares the Israelite Tribe of Judah, the tribe of King David and Jesus, with a lion. This triple conjunction of the two kings happens only twice in every 83 years.

On September 11, 3 BC, as the triple conjunction begins, the Sun rises with behind it (an experienced astronomer would know this) the womb of the virgin in the constellation Virgo. At the foot of the Sun is a slim crescent moon. The Sun appears here only one day every year, and the moon has this shape one day each lunar cycle (29 days), so this combination is a very rare event. All signs point to the coming birth of a King in Judah. This could be the date of Christ’s conception, where the Angel Gabriel appears to Mary. Remember that planets in those days were thought of as wandering stars, because they appeared to move around the heavens. Compare this also to John’s vision in Revelation 12:1-2:

“And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pains and the agony of giving birth.”

And then it happened. The greatest event in history. On June 17, 2 BC, nine months after the Jupiter/Regulus conjunction, the King Planet Jupiter joined the planet Venus, universally associated with femininity, in conjunction. The planets were so close they appeared to the naked eye to be touching. It was the brightest “star” anyone alive had ever seen. It is visible for an hour after sunset. Such an event has only occurred three times in the 2,000 years since, and the other occasions were not visible in the Middle East. This conjunction took place in the constellation of Virgo the Virgin. Jesus is born. The sacrificial “lamb of God” is born in Bethlehem, which is where sacrificial lambs were bred and born for the Temple at Jerusalem. Jesus is born in the early summer, not winter, and the shepherds who cared for those lambs were out in the warmer weather sleeping with the flocks during birthing season.

The Magi are stunned. All the signs, and doubtless there could have been others not mentioned here, point to the birth of a great king of Judea, perhaps the long awaited Messiah. The Magi decide to make the dangerous journey to find out. They need months to prepare, and 1200 miles by camel probably took at least two months. As they traveled Jupiter stayed ahead of them in the Western sky, pointing the way.

They arrive in Jerusalem in late December, 2 BC. (Computers also tell us that Jupiter went into retrograde motion, or “stopped,” on December 25, 2 BC, when the Magi arrive in Bethlehem and present gifts, the first Christmas.) The Magi ask “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews?” They put this to King Herod. (You may read that Herod died in 4 BC, but the original copies of Josephus place his death at 1 BC, after the birth of Jesus.) This is Herod the Great, who had at least two of his own sons killed because he was afraid they might take his throne.

Imagine the irony. The Magi walk into the court of one of the most murderously paranoid rulers in all history, and ask to see the new king. They claim they “saw his star when it rose.”

Why? The Jupiter/Venus conjunction appeared in the West, shortly after sunset. Why do the Magi say they saw it in the East, “as it rose”? I think only one reason. The Magi are showing off; they are bragging. They are saying that, because of their advanced knowledge of astronomy, they knew the Jupiter/Venus conjunction would take place, and they knew exactly where to look for it rising in the morning sky. The conjunction was bright enough to be visible in daylight, if you knew where to look. The Magi are bragging, they are demonstrating knowledge far beyond anything Herod, or anyone else in the Roman Empire, had at that time. Herod is confronted with elite representatives from a rival power who are bragging about their sophistication. Herod didn’t even know the conjunction had occurred; he had to ask his advisors.

You may think the ancients could not have possessed such knowledge. If so, you would be wrong. In 1901 sponge divers discovered the Antikythera Mechanism in a shipwreck in Greece. It dates back at least to 100 BC, and possibly centuries earlier. It is the world’s oldest known analog computer, with over 30 precise gears. It could predict planetary positions and eclipses.

“We saw his star as it rose.” The Magi throw it in the face of the murderous Herod. It is a daring boast, and perhaps claim of hope. When you put it all together, with ancient text and modern computers, it all amounts to a spectacular confirmation of Matthew’s Gospel, and of the truth of the miracle of the birth of Jesus.

I am indebted to Rick Larson and his excellent video The Star of Bethlehem, and to Gerald Culley and his extremely well-researched article The Star of Bethlehem in Bible and Spade magazine.

One final note: The heavens operate like clockwork. For these cosmic events to have accompanied the birth of Jesus, God had to have known the exact dates when the universe was created.

I hope this post will add to your faith this Advent. Have a blessed and Merry Christmas.

Doug Ell