Photo by Richard Nowitz

Jebel Musa, the Mountain of Moses, still wields a powerful pull on spiritual pilgrims, as it has for more than 1,600 years. Travelers seeking to visit the place where Moses is believed to have encountered God begin their trek at St. Catherine’s Monastery, a sixth-century C.E. fortress-turned-spiritual-center at the base of the mountain, and climb to the summit, 7,500 feet above the Sinai Desert. Christian tradition has identified Jebel Musa as biblical Mt. Sinai since the fourth century C.E.—but earlier, postbiblical Jewish texts, beginning in the third century B.C.E., place the sacred mountain not in the southern Sinai peninsula but in northwestern Saudi Arabia (see map of Sinai and vicinity). Discussing these earliest traditions, author Allen Kerkeslager demonstrates that the case for an Arabian Sinai deserves wider study.