The theory that Mount Sinai is located in modern-day Saudi Arabia is treated as a fairly new idea, but our research shows that there is a long tradition in support of this theory. Evidence for this alternative theory is substantiated by historical references and maps which are is older than any other tradition about the location of Mount Sinai.
The traditional location for Mount Sinai is at St. Catherine’s Monastery in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula. However, many researchers have been disappointed with the lack of evidence at the site, resulting in dismissals of the credibility of the Exodus story or proposals for other Mount Sinai candidates.
St. Catherine’s/Jebel Musa (read more here) was established as a possible site by Helena during her journey from the years A.D. 331-334. However, there are Jewish traditions that date about 600 years before then which point to Jabal Maqla/Jabal al-Lawz in Saudi Arabia as the true Mount Sinai.
Traditions from Christian, Jewish, and Islamic sources, as well as cartographers, explorers and historians, state or infer that Mount Sinai is located in northwestern Saudi Arabia. These non-Biblical sources describe the mountain as “the highest peak in the region” of Midian, an ancient land located in northwestern Saudi Arabia.
A review of these accounts shows that, even after the traditional location was marked by Helena, a competing tradition placing Mount Sinai in Arabia persisted.
The following sources are organized in chronological order and by religion.
The oldest recorded transition pointing to Mount Sinai as being in Saudi Arabia dates back to the 3rd century B.C., about 600 years before the St. Catherine's tradition was established.
Ancient Jewish Tradition
300 B.C. - 134 B.C. - The Septuagint
The Septuagint (the first known translation of the Original Hebrew Pentateuch and following books, known as the Old Testament in the Christian Bible) was translated and circulated among the Alexandrian Jewish population.
Dr. Allen Kerkeslager concluded in a scholarly study that the Septuagint is among the oldest works to state that Mount Sinai is in northwestern Saudi Arabia.
The Septuagint says that Mount Sinai is near an ancient city named Madyan, also spelled as “Madian” and “Madiam.” It states that Madyan is the land of Jethro where Moses fled to after killing an Egyptian. Madyan corresponds to a city named al-Bad in Saudi Arabia today and the name still shows up on current maps.
Current Bibles state that Moses went to “Midian,” a broader ancient land that would include Al-Bad (read more about Midian & Moses here).
The Septuagint refers to the specific city of Madyan that would be within the broader territory of Midian. It has also been suggested that Madyan would be referenced in the 3rd century B.C. as a way of referring to Midian overall or that Madyan/Madian/Madiam are alternative spellings of Midian.
Dr. Kerkeslager’s study found that these sources report that Mount Sinai/Horeb is near this city, pointing to Jabal al-Lawz/Jabal Maqla, which are both a short distance from al-Bad.
20 B.C. - 40 A.D. - Philo Judaeus of Alexandria
Philo was a Jewish philosopher who was alive in the time of Jesus and lived in Alexandria, Egypt. Philo placed Mt. Sinai east of what is now Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, and south of Palestine. He used the Septuagint as his exclusive source.
In On the Life of Moses, Part II, he described Mount Sinai as "the loftiest and most sacred mountain in that district in accordance with the divine commands, a mountain which was very difficult of access and very hard to ascend..."
Dr. Allen Kerkeslager writes of Philo in Mt. Sinai in Arabia?:
"In addition to his use of the terms "Arab" and "Arabia," Philo gives us an even more direct indication of where he believed Mt. Sinai was. He describes the Israelites wandering eastward all the way across the Sinai peninsula to the southern edge of Palestine just before the revelation at Sinai. Philo thus places Mt. Sinai somewhere east of the Sinai peninsula and south of Palestine—in other words, in northwestern Arabia. Philo adds one more detail to our collection of traditions about Mt. Sinai; he says that Moses "went up the highest and most sacred of the mountains in its region."
Allen Kerkeslager, “Mt. Sinai—in Arabia?” Bible Review 16.2 (2000): 32–39, 52
The last quote above a reference to Philo’s work in which he states:
"For, having gone up into the highest and most sacred mountain in that district in accordance with the divine commands, a mountain which was very difficult of access and very hard to ascend, he is said to have remained there all that time without eating any of that food even which is necessary for life; and, as I said before, he descended again forty days afterwards, being much more beautiful in his face than when he went up, so that those who saw him wondered and were amazed, and could no longer endure to look upon him with their eyes, inasmuch as his countenance shone like the light of the sun."
Philo, On The Life Of Moses, 2:70
This is only the reference to the height of what Philo calls Mt. Sinai. Philo’s commentary also includes other corroborating descriptions of the Saudi Arabia location for Mount Sinai, such as the path walked by Moses. This piece of evidence is further strengthened by how the Septuagint translators wrote that Jethro “went out” or “into the desert” from Midian in Exodus 18:5.
A.D. 93-94 - Josephus
Titus Flavius Josephus was a Romano-Jewish Scholar born in Jerusalem and a well-respected source of history in the 1st century of the Church. In his work The Antiquities of the Jews, Josephus confirms that Midian was close to the Red Sea from when Moses meets with Jethro:
“....And when he [Moses] came to the city of Midian, which lay upon the Red Sea, and was so denominated from one of Abraham’s sons by Keturah, he sat upon a certain well …”
Titus Flavius Josephus, “Book 2, Chapter 11: How Moses Fled Out of Egypt Into Midian,” in The Antiquities of the Jews (93)
In his accounts, he mentions multiple times that Mount Sinai was the highest peak in the region:
“Now Moses called the multitude together, and told them; that he was going from them unto Mount Sinai, to converse with God; to receive from him and to bring back with him a certain oracle. But he enjoined them to pitch their tents near the mountain; and prefer the habitation that was nearest to God, before one more remote. When he had said this, he ascended up to Mount Sinai; which is the highest of all the mountains that are in that country: and is not only very difficult to be ascended by men, on account of its vast altitude; but because of the sharpness of its precipices also.”3
Titus Flavius Josephus, “Book 3, Chapter 5: How Moses Ascended up to Mount Sinai, and Received the Laws of God, and Delivered Them to the Hebrews,” in The Antiquities of the Jews (93)
“Now Moses, when he had obtained this favor of Jethro, for that was one of the names of Raguel, stayed there, and fed his flock. But some time afterward, taking his station at the mountain called Sinai, he drove his flocks thither to feed them. Now this is the highest of all the mountains thereabouts; and the best for pasturage...”
Titus Flavius Josephus, “Book 2, Chapter 12: Concerning the Burning Bush and the Rod of Moses,” in The Antiquities of the Jews (93)
Regarding the Red Sea crossing, Josephus wrote in Book 2, Chapter 15 of the Antiquities:
They also seized on the passages by which they imagined the Hebrews might fly, shutting them up between inaccessible precipices and the sea; for there was [on each side] a [ridge of] mountains that terminated at the sea, which were impassable by reason of their roughness, and obstructed their flight; wherefore they there pressed upon the Hebrews with their army, where [the ridges of] the mountains were closed with the sea; which army they placed at the chops of the mountains, that so they might deprive them of any passage into the plain.
Josephus’ Antiquities is one of the most important historical sources for this project and is cited on many of our various chapter pages.
Ancient Christian Tradition
A.D. 49 - Apostle Paul
Paul, who described himself as a chief Jew among Jews, and author of two-thirds of the New Testament, refers to “Sinai in Arabia” in Galatians 4:25. The book is believed to have been written approximately 49 A.D.
There is a debate about whether the Arabia he refers to (Arabian Petra) would include the southern part of Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, and therefore potentially refer to the traditional Mount Sinai location.
The Greek reads:
“τὸ δὲ Ἁγὰρ Σινᾶ ὄρος ἐστὶν ἐν τῇ Ἀραβίᾳ, συστοιχεῖ δὲ τῇ νῦν Ἰερουσαλήμ, δουλεύει γὰρ μετὰ τῶν τέκνων αὐτῆς·”
The English translation reads:
“Now Hagar stands for Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present city of Jerusalem, because she is in slavery with her children.”
At the time Paul wrote this, Arabia was a region on the outskirts of the Roman Empire. According to Glen Bowersock, scholar of Ancient Rome and the Near East, Arabia in the days of the Roman Empire encompassed an area southeast of Palestine.
In his 1983 book Roman Arabia, he states on the first page:
Although the heartland of the Arab nations was what is known today as Saudi Arabia, the Romans gave the name Arabia to a province of their empire which lay south and east of Palestine, in the corner of the Mediterranean world between Syria and Egypt. It comprehended the Negev, southern Syria, all of Jordan, and northwest Saudi Arabia.
When Paul referred to Arabia in the book of Galatians, it would have been within this context and framework of understanding.
In Galatians 1:17, Paul also stated that he traveled to Arabia after his conversion on the road to Damascus.
I did not go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I went into Arabia. Later I returned to Damascus.
New Testament scholar N.T. Wright theorizes that Paul may have gone to Mount Sinai just as did the Old Testament prophet Elijah. In an article titled Paul, Arabia, and Elijah, Wright states that Paul may have gone to Mount Sinai as a part of his conversion, to deepen his relationship with God.
A.D. 185 - A.D. 254 - Origen of Alexandria
Origen was a well-known early Christian author who also associated Midian with Madiam, and placed it east of the Red Sea. 
A.D. 189 - A.D. 232 - Demetrius
Demetrius was a bishop of Alexandria in the second and third centuries A.D. He said in regards to Moses:
“And they dwelt in the city of Madiam, which was called from one of the sons of Abraham”
A.D. 260 - A.D. 339 - Eusebius of Caesarea
Eusebius was an historian and geographer who mapped the “World” in “The Onomasticon." He described Madiam as follows:
“[It] Lies beyond Arabia to the south in the desert of the Saracens, east of the Red Sea. From this they are called Madianites, and it is now called Madiam."
Eusebius of Caesaria, The Onomastikon, (Concerning the Place Names in Sacred Scripture), trans. G.S.P. Freeman-Grenville, ed. Joan E. Taylor (Carta Jerusalem 2003), 70 (Section M, Genesis)
In reference to Mount Horeb, which could arguably be adjacent to Mount Sinai, he stated:
“The Mountain of God in the land of Madiam. It lies beside Mount Sinai beyond Arabia in the desert.”
Eusebius of Caesarea, The Onomastikon), 95. It should be noted that the English translation by C. Umhau Wolf which is available online actually contains a typo, mistranslating Madiam as “Moab”
A.D 347 - A.D. 420 - Jerome
Jerome was a Latin Philosopher who took part in translating Eusebius’s “The Onomasticon.” Jerome also placed Madyan in northwestern Arabia east of the Red Sea.
Ancient Islamic Tradition
A.D. 704 - A.D 770 - Muhammad Ibn Ishaq
Ishaq was an early Islamic historian who collected oral traditions which became an important part of a biography on the prophet Mohammed. About Midian, he wrote:
“The People of Madyan are descendants of Madyan, son of Midyan, son of Ibrahim. Shuaib was the son of Mikil bin Yashjur. In the Syrian language, his name was Yathrun (Jethro).”
Tafsir Ibn Kathir on Quran 7:85 This translation has been modified by this author in order to make it more readable to a popular western audience.
A.D. 898 - Ahmad al-Yaqubi
Ahmad al-Yaqubi was a famous Muslim geographer who lived in the late ninth-century and spoke the following regarding the modern town of al-Bad:
“Midian is a populous, ancient town with many springs, rivers and an abun- dance of gardens, orchards and plan trees inhabited by different ethnic groups.”
Al-Ya’qubi, 1988, 341 as quoted in Dr. Abdul Rahman al-Tayyib al-Ansary, Al-Bid’ History and Archeology (Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Ministry of Education, 2002), 17.
A.D. 1100 - 1165 - Al-Sharif al-Idisri
Al-Sharif al-Idisri was a twelfth-century Muslim geographer. Quoting from earlier Muslim geographers, regarding Mount Sinai, he said:
“at the coast of Quzlum Sea, lies the city of Midian, which is larger than Tabuk. Inside the town was the well from which Moses (Peace be upon him) extracted water for the livestock of Shu’aib... Midian was named after the tribe of Shu’aib.”
Al-Idrisi quoted in Dr. Abdul Rahman al-Tayyib al-Ansary, Al-Bid’ History andArcheology (Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Ministry of Education, 2002), 17-18.
Modern Archaeologists, Cartographers, Explorers, and Historians: 1500 - 1900
1654 - Chez Pierre Mariette
French cartographer Chez Pierre Mariette drew a map of the Arabian Peninsula in 1654, and identified locations for Madian, Sinai Mont, and Mont Oreb. Though the map omits the Gulf of Aqaba, he placed Sinai/Oreb to the east of Madian.
1682 - Frederick de Wit
Dutch cartographer Frederick de Wit also drew a map of the Arabian Peninsula nearly three decades after Mariette. He identified Madian, “Horeb M.”, and “Sinai M.” on his map. Just as with Mariette, the map did not show the Gulf of Aqaba, but de Wit did place both Horeb and Sinai considerably to the east of Madian, roughly corresponding with the Jabal al-Lawz/Jabal Maqla mountain range.
1840s - Charles Beke
In the mid-1800s, Charles Tilstone Beke, an English geographer, traveler, and Biblical critic, traveled to the Sinai Peninsula in what is now the nation-state of Egypt. He looked for evidence of Mount Sinai and the Exodus in the Sinai Peninsula, but did not find anything convincing.
In a book compiling his discoveries, published in 1878, Beke found:
When relating how Moses fled from Pharaoh, king of Egypt, he [Josephus] says that "he came to the city Midian, which lay upon the Red Sea, and was so denominated from one of Abraham's sons by Keturah." Now we are told in Scripture, that those descendants of the Patriarch were sent into the "east country," that is to say, into the regions lying to the east of the valley of the Jordan and its continuance south- ward to the Gulf of Akaba, and not anywhere within the peninsula west of that gulf, where Moses's place of refuge has been so erroneously imagined to have been situated.
Beke concluded that the likeliest location for Mount Sinai would be northwestern Arabia.
He later traveled to northwestern Arabia and found volcanic fields that believed could have been the reported manifestation of fire and smoke on Mount Sinai. Based on his research, he said that Sinai was likely Mt. Baggir, and Horeb was Mt. Ertowa.
There is no evidence to suggest that Beke was aware of, or examined, Jabal al-Lawz/Jabal Maqla as part of his survey.
1853 - Sir Richard Francis Burton
Richard Francis Burton was an English geographer, cartographer, and writer. He traveled to Arabia in search of gold and the source of Arabian wealth.
Midian and Egypt would not have shared this territory and, around the time of the Exodus, Dr. Charles Whittaker found that the Peninsula was a protectorate of the ancient Egyptian empire. This would make it impossible for Mount Sinai to be in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, as the traditional site and some other candidates are.
According to Burton’s research, he didn’t specify Jabal al-Lawz or Jabal Maqla as Mount Sinai, but he did appear to favor an Arabian location. In his works, he quotes Eusebius saying that he assigned Rephidim and Horeb to “Pharan,” and the Mountain of God to Midian.
Contemporary Research & Study: 1900 - Present
1910 - 1926 - Alois Musil
Alois Musil traveled to Arabia over several years and investigated the topography and ethnology of the region. He noted the purple “range of Lowz” in his notes (Jabal al-Lawz), and 50 kilometers to the south of it, “the half white and half black mountains of al-Makla and ar-Raha.”
Musil departed from Josephus’ claim that Sinai was the highest peak in the region, as Lawz is higher than Maqla. However, he did maintain a Midianite location for Sinai/Horeb.
“According to all our sources of information, Horeb was situated in the land of Midian.”
In 1926, Musil drew up a map of "Ancient Madian." Next to the city of "al-Bed," one can see an oasis of palm trees drawn to the east.
Based on the information currently available to us, this could very well be Elim.
1957 - Harry St. John Philby (Hajj Abdullah)
Harry St. John Philby (Hajj Abdullah) traveled to Arabia and extensively exploreed the region. He used Musil’s maps and published The Land of Midian in 1957.
He didn’t identify Lawz as Sinai, but he referred to Maqla as a twin or sister peak of Lawz with its “basalt cap.” He also refers to it as a “basalt pyramid.”
Philby does appear convinced that this was Midian though, the home of Jethro, giving it a connection to Moses. He said that Musil’s claim for Hurab didn’t yield him any evidence, such as inscriptions.
He also found a strong tradition among the population that Jethro, Moses and the Israelites resided in the area. Not only that, but he also wrote that Jabal al-Lawz/Maqla appear to indicate that it was a qualified candidate for Mount Sinai/Horeb. (Joel Richardson, The Land of Midian, p. 222):
From here [the ridge which had the ‘Circles of Jethro’] I had a magnificent view of the whole of the Midian mountain range, with Lauz [Lawz] and its sister peaks in the northeast and Maqla’a very little north of east, with the valley of al-Numair separating the latter from the low ridge of All Marra, extending from east to south-east, where the two peaks of Hurab stood out in front of the great range of Zuhd, which runs down to a point not far from the sea to our southward ….
The spot that held my imagination was the smooth, double-headed, granite boss of Hurab, an obvious candidate for identification with the Mount Horeb of the Exodus…the only candidate for the honor which can claim to have preserved the name…According to Hasballah, the name Hurab applies primarily to the wadi [canyon], while he calls the mountain itself Al Manifa (which simply means lofty).
1984 – Ron Wyatt
Amateur explorer and controversial figure Ron Wyatt claimed to have found evidence of the Exodus in northwestern Saudi Arabia.
Wyatt and his two sons were arrested by Saudi police after illegally entering the country from Jordan. They were held for 70 days before being released and their photographs were confiscated.
Years after Wyatt’s captivity, pictures started leaking to the outside world showing strange things at Jabal Maqla and the surrounding area.
1988 - Bob Cornuke and Larry Williams
Former police officer Bob Cornuke and Wall Street trader Larry Williams visited the mountain in 1988 and were likewise detained and had their evidence confiscated.
Cornuke recounted the journey in his 2000 book In Search of the Mountain of God: The Discovery of the Real Mt. Sinai.
1990s - Jim and Penny Caldwell
Video and photography of the mountain and associated evidence began anonymously leaking out in the 1990s. The source of the unprecedented photos and videos is now known to be Jim and Penny Caldwell, an American couple that worked in Saudi Arabia from 1990 to 1998 and repeatedly visited the area in question.
1991 - Frank Moore Cross
Frank Moore Cross, a Biblical scholar known for his study of the Dead Sea Cross and tenure as a Professor of Hebrew and Other Oriental Languages at Harvard University, favors the theory that Mount Sinai is in northwestern Saudi Arabia. He said there was also some possibility of it being in southern Jordan. In 1992, regarding the theory of Mount Sinai’s location, he stated:
[T]he consensus is that ancient Midian was south of Eilat on the Saudi side… The notion that the ‘mountain of God’ called Sinai and Horeb was located in what we now call the Sinai Peninsula has no older tradition supporting it than Byzantine times.
Cross would not guess which mountain is Mount Sinai, but held out Jabal al-Lawz as a distinct possibility.
He said that the Saudis would not permit him and a colleague to excavate in the area for the American Schools of Oriental Research and British School of Archaeology.
1998 - Dr. Allen Kerkeslager
Dr. Kerkeslager wrote a scholarly article titled "Jewish Pilgrimage and Jewish Identity in Hellenistic and Early Roman Egypt," in Pilgrimage and Holy Space in Late Antique Egypt, which was edited by David Frankfurter. He affirms the Arabian location for Mount Sinai based on in-depth study of Eusebius' writings.
In the book, he stated:
Because Eusebius located Mt. Horeb and Mt. Sinai next to one another, he must have believed that both were in northwestern Arabia near the city of Madyan.
Allen Kerkeslager, “Jewish Pilgrimage and Jewish Identity in Hellenistic and Early Roman Egypt,” in Pilgrimage and Holy Space in Late Antique Egypt, ed. David Frankfurter (Boston: Brill, 1998), 199.
Dr. Kerkeslager noted in the article that many Western scholars have been hesitant to adopt the view that Mount Sinai is in Saudi Arabia, and that seems to be more because of the "inertia of one stream of scholarly tradition." This is in spite of the fact that Biblical and post-Biblical evidence suggests an Arabian location for Mount Sinai, east of the Red Sea, and not in the Peninsula.
Based on his research, he concludes that it is "inexcusable" to ignore the evidence of the Exodus in northwestern Saudi Arabia, and at least as much attention ought to be devoted to it as has been devoted to St. Catherine's mountain, in spite of the rather scant evidence at the traditional site.
Dr. Kerkelsager was one of the first Western academics to seriously undertake scholarly research on this subject.
2002 - Dr. Lennart Möller
In 2002, Dr. Lennart Moller published his tome, The Exodus Case, an extremely detailed science-based investigation into the theory. Moller is a professor of medical sciences in Sweden with a special interest in archaeology, Egyptian history, and marine biology.
After gaining rare access to the mountain and the sites that may relate to the Exodus account, Moller endorsed Jabal al-Lawz and Jabal Maqla as the likeliest candidates for Mount Sinai/Horeb.
Moller also concluded that the likeliest crossing point for Moses and the Israelites was from Egypt’s Nuweiba Beach into northwestern Saudi Arabia via an underwater land path in the Gulf of Aqaba. He also took part in diving expeditions to explore this land path and believes there is evidence of the destroyed Egyptian army in the coral.
2003 - Dr. Charles Whittaker
In 2003, Charles Whittaker published his doctoral thesis, The Biblical Significance of Jabal al Lawz, for his Ph.D. from Louisiana Baptist University. His 225-page investigation considered over 20 candidates for Mount Sinai and thoroughly reviewed historical accounts, scholarly opinions throughout time, archaeological surveys, old maps, and satellite imagery.
Whittaker concluded that Jabal al-Lawz “is the best candidate for the Biblical Mt. Sinai.” His doctoral thesis greatly assisted the Doubting Thomas Research Foundation in documenting this theory.
2016 - Dr. Miles Jones
In 2016, Dr. Miles Jones, a historical linguist with an expertise in Thamudic inscriptions and the history of the alphabet, published, The Writing of God: Secret of the Real Mount Sinai. He has not visited the sites in-person, but has analyzed pictures of inscriptions found in the area.
Jones determined that the inscriptions are Thamudic and proto-Hebrew. He interprets them as referring to the Exodus events. He believes these inscriptions show the birth of literacy happening in the area, with letters replacing pictographs.
2017 - Rabbi Alexander Hool
Rabbi Hool published his book on the alternative location theory for Mount Sinai in 2017. The book, Searching for Sinai: The Location of Revelation, explores Jewish sources that offer clues for the location of Mount Sinai. He does not believe that Jabal Maqla is Mount Sinai, but does locate the mountain in Saudi Arabia, the ancient land of Midian.
2017 - 2019 - Doubting Thomas Research Foundation
The Doubting Thomas Research Foundation traveled to Saudi Arabia multiple times over a period of two years to see the alleged evidence and document it thoroughly. This website, along with Sinai in Arabia, is the result of those trips and thousands of hours of editing, writing, researching, and interviewing. The Foundation believes that the tradition identifying Mount Sinai in modern-day Saudi Arabia has the most Biblical and extra-Biblical support.
From roughly 250 B.C., when the Septuagint translation was produced, right to this very day, there has been a tradition that supports the theory of Mount Sinai being located in Saudi Arabia. Among the three major monotheistic traditions—Jewish, Christian, and Muslim—all three point us to the same place, the tallest mountains in the range just outside of the city of al-Bad, known today as Jabal Maqla/Jabal al-Lawz.
 Origen of Alexandria, Selecta Genesim (Select Comments on Genesis) PG 12.120, as referenced in Allen Kerkeslager, “Jewish Pilgrimage and Jewish Holy Space,” in Pilgrimage and Holy Space in late Antique Egypt, ed. David Frankfurter (Leiden, Netherlands: Brill, 1998), paperback edition 2015, 196.
 Charles Whittaker, “The Biblical Significance of Jabal Al-Lawz” (diss., Louisiana Baptist University, 2003), 72.
 The Ancient Egypt Site. 6th Dynasty (2323-2150), https://www.ancient-egypt.org/history/old-kingdom/6th-dynasty/index.html
 Whittaker, 73.
 Ibid., 76.
 Alois Musil. The Northern Hegaz. (New York: American Geographical Society. 1926), 269.
 John Philby, The Land of Midian. (London: Ernest Benn Limited, 1957), 210, 215.
 Whittaker, 83.
Last updated March 19, 2019.