“The Myth of Atlantis” and the Weird Parts of Scripture

This is a series about the weird parts of scripture. These are the stories that you learn in Sunday School, but then never revisit because they are too weird. Nobody believes that stuff. Creation. Adam and Eve. Talking Snakes. Heavenly beings having sex with women and producing Giants. Ages of primordial man which leads back to the Garden of Eden. It’s weird stuff.

In fact, this particular post might just be the weirdest thing I’ve ever written. I almost feel embarrassed putting it out there. This is about Atlantis — which I’m about to take seriously. What’s next: UFOs?

No. No UFOs. But regardless, this series might make you uncomfortable. It sure made me uncomfortable finding out this stuff. So yes, this series is about the “weird” stuff in the Bible, but before we move on to that, I first intend to blow your mind.

Detour into the Ancient Greeks

There is an ancient book called The Timaeus, which is a Socratic dialogue. “A Socratic dialogue” is fancy way to say “a conversation that Socrates had.” Socrates lived between 470 BC and 391 BC. It is open-source, and you can read it here.

Like the majority of the Socratic dialogues that we have, this one was preserved by Plato, another famous Greek philosopher who lived between the 420s and the 340s BC.

Most people do not know that this book is one of the two sources we have of the lost empire of “Atlantis.” If you don’t believe me, check the Wikipedia page.

In this book, one of the speakers (Critias) starts talking about “Solon” who went to Egypt. Solon was actually a real person. He was one of the “seven sages of Greece.” Solon apparently lived between 630 BC and 560 BC, as best we can tell. In other words, when you read the Timaeus, you are reading a 2,300 year old book that relates a 2,600 year old conversation. That is fascinating in its own right.

Below is the section on “Atlantis” in the Timaeus. It is surprisingly readable, even though it a bit dense. As a matter of vocabulary, we should note that “the Hellenes” are the Greeks. (This is where we get the word “Hellenistic,” which means “Greek-like.”) Solon was Greek, and therefore, “the Hellenes” or “your country” is “the Greeks.” Now, let’s just read what is said.

Many great and wonderful deeds are recorded of your state in our histories. But one of them exceeds all the rest in greatness and valour. For these histories tell of a mighty power which unprovoked made an expedition against the whole of Europe and Asia, and to which your city put an end. This power came forth out of the Atlantic Ocean, for in those days the Atlantic was navigable; and there was an island situated in front of the straits which are by you called the Pillars of Heracles;

This is the beginning of the description at is the origin of the story of “Atlantis.” A great empire of “the Atlantic.” But here is the thing: we get a location. It was “situated in front of the straits” which are “the Pillars of Heracles.”

We actually know exactly what that is. It is the straight of Gibraltar. It’s the entrance to the Mediterranean Sea. The two mountains on either side — Gibraltar and Jebel Musa — are the “pillars.”

Pillars of Heracles/Hercules: The Rock of Gibraltar in Europe in the foreground and Jebel Musa of Africa in the background

We can connect what this ancient man is saying with the ancient landmarks of the Greek world.

Now, that’s cool and all, but that’s not what I’m writing about. What I’m writing about here is something that I cannot get out of my head. The speaker here is an ancient Egyptian priest. He’s not usually someone we associate with reliable modern scientific information. But the weird part of this passage in the Timaeus is how STRANGELY ACCURATE his description of the world is.

An Accurate 2,500 Year Old Description

Look at what follows in the description of “Atlantis”:

…the island was larger than Libya and Asia put together, and was the way to other islands, and from these you might pass to the whole of the opposite continent which surrounded the true ocean; for this sea which is within the Straits of Heracles is only a harbour, having a narrow entrance, but that other is a real sea, and the surrounding land may be most truly called a boundless continent. 

Now in this island of Atlantis there was a great and wonderful empire which had rule over the whole island and several others, and over parts of the continent, and, furthermore, the men of Atlantis had subjected the parts of Libya within the columns of Heracles as far as Egypt, and of Europe as far as Tyrrhenia.

This vast power, gathered into one, endeavoured to subdue at a blow our country and yours and the whole of the region within the straits; and then, Solon, your country shone forth, in the excellence of her virtue and strength, among all mankind. She was pre-eminent in courage and military skill, and was the leader of the Hellenes. And when the rest fell off from her, being compelled to stand alone, after having undergone the very extremity of danger, she defeated and triumphed over the invaders, and preserved from slavery those who were not yet subjugated, and generously liberated all the rest of us who dwell within the pillars.

But afterwards there occurred violent earthquakes and floods; and in a single day and night of misfortune all your warlike men in a body sank into the earth, and the island of Atlantis in like manner disappeared in the depths of the sea. For which reason the sea in those parts is impassable and impenetrable, because there is a shoal of mud in the way; and this was caused by the subsidence of the island.

Yeah, that definitely sounds like Atlantis. But wait a minute — Wait a minute. In the middle of all of this “myth” talk, we get some very REAL places mentioned.

He mentions “Tyrrhenia,” and we still have that place-name as the “Sea of Tyrrhenia.” We already know what “the pillars” are, but we get descriptions of “in front of the pillars” and “behind the pillars.” We get mentions of “Libya” and “Egypt,” and “your country” which is Greece. He’s describing the Mediterranean Sea.

To get an idea of what he’s talking about, look at this view from Google Earth:

“But yeah, Caleb!” says the reader. And Mount Olympus was a real place, too! Are you saying that just because ONE place is real, therefore EVERYTHING in the story is real?

No. I’m not saying that at all. But what I’m saying is weirder than that.

How Does He Know This Stuff?

The fact of the matter is, this 2,600 year old priest in Egypt has knowledge about both world-geography and submarine landscape that he QUITE SIMPLY HAS NO BUSINESS KNOWING. Look again at that description of Atlantis:

the island was larger than Libya and Asia put together, and was the way to other islands, and from these you might pass to the whole of the opposite continent which surrounded the true ocean; for this sea which is within the Straits of Heracles is only a harbour, having a narrow entrance, but that other is a real sea, and the surrounding land may be most truly called a boundless continent

Look at this map of the ocean and sea-floor. Compare it to what you read in that passage above.

That elevated spot in the ocean is the Azores plateau, which is the location of the Azores islands. The Azores have been speculated as the location of Atlantis beginning around 1901.

On the one hand, it shouldn’t surprise us that an ancient writer knows about the world. But it is strange that an ancient writer THIS ANCIENT knows THAT MUCH about the world beyond the Mediterranean Sea. It is widely accepted that this is a TRULY ancient book. Look at what the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy says about this work:

The Timaeus retained its place in the Platonic corpus throughout late antiquity and the Middle Ages. It was translated into Latin by Cicero (whose translation ends at 47b) and Calcidius, and it inspired commentaries by Plutarch and Proclus. At no point in its transmission was its authorship seriously contested. Confidence in the dialogue’s authenticity remains steady today. Thus, although we may not have the autograph—the original, handwritten text by the author—we have excellent reason to include the Timaeus among, and no good reason to exclude it from, those works issuing from Plato’s hand.

So yes, you’re reading a 2,300 year old book about a 2,600 year old conversation. And yes, it mentions THE AMERICAN CONTINENT!! He somehow knows this, but…

Oh, but it gets weirder. Yes, the Timaeus recognized that there were “other islands” that allowed you to get from “Atlantis” to “the Opposite continent” via Atlantis. These “islands” show up in our map of the Atlantic Ocean:

But here’s the REALLY strange part. Only one of those white “islands” protruding out of the Ocean is on a map: Bermuda. Every other one of those “islands” is NOT ACTUALLY AN ISLAND. They are underwater features not visible from the surface.

Not only is this 2,600 year old Ancient Egyptian priest describing far-distant geography, he is accurately describing SUBMARINE geography. Did he make it up? Did Plato make it up? I mean, anything is possible. But that’s a DARN lucky guess.

The weird part is that the discovery of these underwater features are an INCREDIBLY RECENT event in history. Look at what NOAA says about this data here:

The 1957 publication of Heezen and Tharp’s physiographic map of the North Atlantic was the first map of the seafloor that allowed the general public to begin to visualize the ocean floor. These early maps based on hundreds of thousands of hand-picked depths provided the context for the plate tectonics revolution in the 1960s that finally gave scientists satisfying explanations for the formation of mid-ocean ridges, trenches, mountain ranges and the “ring of fire” around the Pacific.

So why would this Egyptian know about these ancient “islands” that lead to “the opposite continent”? How did he know about them when the “islands” aren’t even visible at all? And how did he know about “the opposite continent” which is obviously America? What is going on here?

Yeah… exactly. This is a man speaking 2,600 years ago, referencing a “myth” about “Atlantis.”

But strangely, the description of “Atlantis,” consumed by the ocean, correlates to the geography and bathymetry of the modern sea floor, only recently discovered. This conversation in 600 BC is around 2,000 years before Columbus came to America.

The Geography of Atlantis and the Geography of the Azores

Even stranger, the other fragment of the dialogue of Critias (also on open source, available for you to read here). We get a description of the size of Atlantis, which also happens to correlate quite well to the size and shape of the Azores plateau.

The whole country was said by him to be very lofty and precipitous on the side of the sea, but the country immediately about and surrounding the city was a level plain, itself surrounded by mountains which descended towards the sea; it was smooth and even, and of an oblong shape, extending in one direction three thousand stadia, but across the centre inland it was two thousand stadia. This part of the island looked towards the south, and was sheltered from the north. The surrounding mountains were celebrated for their number and size and beauty, far beyond any which still exist, having in them also many wealthy villages of country folk, and rivers, and lakes, and meadows supplying food enough for every animal, wild or tame, and much wood of various sorts, abundant for each and every kind of work.

You can convert from the ancient measurement of “stadia” to “miles” using this website. Below is a size comparison of the modern Azores islands, which are located in the Azores plateau. Note the distance.

If you use your imagination, you can see the “oblong shape” of the lightly colored portions of the sea floor. You can also note the islands which would be “mountains” if the sea floor was much lower.

We can also note that there is the account of how Atlantis met its end. It was submerged under the ocean (obviously), but there is an extra detail. We hear of “violent earthquakes.” Coincidentally, the Azores islands are on the geographically active Mid-Atlantic ridge, which separates the African and North American continental plates.

So…. What Does This Mean Regarding the Bible?

Honestly, I don’t know EXACTLY what this means regarding that Bible. But there is a part that does correlate to the Bible. Look at what we read in the Timaeus only slightly before that strangely accurate passage about Atlantis:

-In the Egyptian Delta, at the head of which the river Nile divides, there is a certain district which is called the district of Sais, and the great city of the district is also called Sais, and is the city from which King Amasis came. The citizens have a deity for their foundress; she is called in the Egyptian tongue Neith, and is asserted by them to be the same whom the Hellenes call Athene; they are great lovers of the Athenians, and say that they are in some way related to them. To this city came Solon, and was received there with great honour; he asked the priests who were most skilful in such matters, about antiquity, and made the discovery that neither he nor any other Hellene knew anything worth mentioning about the times of old. On one occasion, wishing to draw them on to speak of antiquity, he began to tell about the most ancient things in our part of the world-about Phoroneus, who is called “the first man,” and about Niobe; and after the Deluge, of the survival of Deucalion and Pyrrha; and he traced the genealogy of their descendants, and reckoning up the dates, tried to compute how many years ago the events of which he was speaking happened.

Here, we get a description of several people. See if you recognize anything familiar:

Isn’t that WEIRD!? Well, it gets weirder. Look what we read in the Dialogue of Critias:

Yet, before proceeding further in the narrative, I ought to warn you, that you must not be surprised if you should perhaps hear Hellenic names given to foreigners. I will tell you the reason of this: Solon, who was intending to use the tale for his poem, enquired into the meaning of the names, and found that the early Egyptians in writing them down had translated them into their own language, and he recovered the meaning of the several names and when copying them out again translated them into our language. My great-grandfather, Dropides, had the original writing, which is still in my possession, and was carefully studied by me when I was a child. Therefore if you hear names such as are used in this country, you must not be surprised, for I have told how they came to be introduced.

Did you catch that? He’s talking about NON-MYTHICAL people whose names are “Phoroneus,” and “Deucalion” and “Pyrrha.” But he also says that due to translations, these are NOT THEIR REAL NAMES. 

Yeah. These are obviously Bible characters, too.

Like I said. It’s weird.

Conclusion and Commencement

And that’s where we’re going to end and this is where we are going to start. We’ve barely scratched the surface.

We’ve found a non-biblical, non-Hebrew, and non-Mesopotamian source of VERY Biblical stories. We need to dig deeper.

The next thing we’re going to talk about is what a “myth” actually is and what its purpose is. There are some surprising connections to things that even ordinary people treat as “real” and “scientific.”

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