Sodom Back From the Dead
October 30, 1998
Are the lost cities erroneously associated with homosexuality hiding beneath the salty
waters of the Dead Sea?
Although many Bible scholars maintain that the story of Sodom and Gomorrah is not about
homosexuality at all, theres no escaping centuries of tradition labeling gays as
"sodomites." Having disappeared utterly perhaps 5,000 years ago, the two cities
just may have been rediscovered on the floor of the appropriately salty Dead Sea. Bible
scholar Michael Sanders thinks this could be the explanation of anomalies seen in
satellite photos, and is organizing an expedition to get a closer look next year using a
mini-submarine. The anomalies under some 1,200 feet of water look as if they might be
Pointing Sanders in what he believes is the right direction was the discovery more than
30 years ago of an ancient cemetery by the Dead Sea containing the remains of more than a
half-million people, and the ensuing discovery of four other sites in the same area which
also had massive burials. These cemeteries are more than 3,000 years old, and some
archaeologists believe the sites relate to the five Biblical Cities of the Plain, of which
Sodom and Gomorrah were two.
What was interesting to Sanders is that the area has long been so arid that it would be
impossible for it to support anything like the population indicated by the gravesites.
Even at the time the Bible story was written, the land in no way resembled its description
as "well watered in every direction like the garden of the Lord" and as lush as
the Nile delta. He believes that once the Jordan Valley was indeed verdant, but that an
earthquake perhaps 5,000 years ago sent up an explosion of pitch, which caught fire. That
might create a scene to match the verse, "Then the Lord rained upon Sodom and upon
Gomorrah brimstone and fire out of heaven. And he overthrew those cities, and all the
plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and that which grew upon the ground."
If that disaster in itself were not enough to account for the areas
desertification, the rising waters of the Dead Sea itself may have helped; the satellite
photos seem to indicate its north end covering more area now than in the past.
Sanders colleague geologist Rich Slater remarks that, given the preservative
qualities of salt, "We might find that Sodom and Gomorrah are in pretty good
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