Ron Wyatt, the “Indiana Jones” of the SDA Church
Ron Wyatt (1933-1999) was a nurse-anesthetist in a hospital in Madison, Tennessee. At the age of 27 he saw a picture in Life Magazine of the Durupinar site — a large natural, boat-shaped formation — in eastern Turkey. Feverish speculation circulated that this could be the residue of Noah’s Ark. This sparked Wyatt’s interest, and was the beginning of a long amateur career as a sensationalist pseudo-archaeologist.
For the last 22 years of his life he made numerous trips to the Middle East. The claims associated with his “discoveries” would make Harrison Ford’s “Indiana Jones” pale into oblivion. Yet today, more than a decade after his death, the ongoing boasts of his unparalleled “finds” are heralded via the Wyatt Archaeological Research web site, and the various competing factions that publicize his exploits.
His work has been debunked thoroughly by professional archaeologists and respected biblical scholars. On August 8, 1996, Joe Zias, Curator of Anthropology/Archaeology with the Israel Antiquities Authority (Jerusalem), issued the following statement:
“Mr. Ron Wyatt is neither an archaeologist nor has he ever carried out a legally licensed excavation in Israel or Jerusalem. In order to excavate one must have at least a BA in archaeology which he does not possess despite his claims to the contrary. We are aware of his claims which border on the absurd as they have no scientific basis whatsoever nor have they ever been published in a professional journal. They fall into the category of trash which one finds in tabloids such as the National Enquirer, Sun, etc. It’s amazing that anyone would believe them…” (http://www.tentmaker.org/WAR/Zias.html).
Wyatt’s religious affiliation was with the Seventh-day Adventist sect. Ironically, the most thorough exposé of the gentleman’s claims was produced by two scholars of his own denomination, Russell R. and Colin D. Standish.
The Standish brothers were identical twins who were from New South Wales, Australia. Russell (who died in 2008) was a physician, hospital administrator, and a medical missionary; Colin is the founder and president of Hartland College in Virginia. Both were ordained as ministers in the conservative branch of SDA church. They have been prolific writers, co-authoring numerous books, among which is Holy Relics or Revelation – Recent Astounding Archaeological Claims Evaluated (hereafter designated as HRR).
According to the aforementioned book, Wyatt discovered or identified some ninety-two relics or sites (HRR, 7-10). These include:
- Noah’s Home and a Flood-inscription at that site,
- Fences from Noah’s farm,
- Anchor Stones from Noah’s Ark,
- laminated Deck Timber from the Ark,
- Noah’s Altar,
- Tombs with Tombstones of Noah and his wife,
- the precise location of the Red Sea Crossing,
- Wheels from Egyptian Chariots involved in the pursuit of the Israelites from Egypt,
- the Book of the Law written by Moses on Animal Skins,
- Gold from the Golden Calf fashioned by Aaron,
- the Ark of the Covenant,
- Tables of the Ten Commandments,
- the Tabernacle’s Table of the Showbread,
- Goliath’s Sword,
- Jesus’ Tomb and the Stone Seal of the Tomb,
- a sampling of Christ’s Dried Blood, proving the doctrine of the Virgin Birth by means of a “chromosome count,” etc.
If all the claims of Wyatt were true, he would be the most celebrated archaeologist in the history of that scholastic discipline! And yet he had no scientific credibility at all with respectable scholars; he was and is adored only by a band of deluded, though devoted, cultic disciples.
In this brief review of the Standish brothers’ book, we offer two devastating examples of the hoaxes perpetrated by Ron Wyatt. Actually, the ninety-plus examples, touted by Wyatt and his followers, is a “house of cards” that falls under the weight of its own absurdity! Consider the following two most sensational examples.
Bones and Chariot Wheels
Wyatt claimed to have discovered the exact place where the Israelites crossed the Red Sea on dry ground, before the waters returned and drowned Pharaoh’s forces. He contended that he explored the floor of the Gulf of Aqaba, using scuba gear. Supposedly, he discovered “chariot litter” in the form of wheels, body frames, and the bones of both humans and horses, scattered over a lengthy area.
Several things may be said of this claim (HRR, 184ff). First, the site of the exodus route, as described in Exodus 14:1ff, is highly disputed. The three specific sites mentioned in Moses’ record (v. 2) “have been lost in the sands of time” (Bruckner, 2008, 129). No one knows the precise place of the crossing. Conservative scholarship strongly argues that Israel crossed the Gulf of Suez (Vos, 2003, 104ff), and not the Gulf of Aqaba, as Wyatt contended.
Second, Wyatt claimed that he was using simple recreational scuba equipment when he discovered these wheels, etc., at a depth of some 200 feet in the Gulf. However, ordinary scuba apparatus is designed to accommodate only a depth of approximately 125-130 feet. Beyond this more sophisticated equipment is required.
Third, Pharaoh’s army was said to have been destroyed “in the middle of the sea” (Exodus 14:23) which, according to measurements of the British Admiralty, is almost 2,800 feet deep in the midst of Aqaba. This hardly harmonizes with Wyatt’s 200 feet “discoveries”!
Then there is the issue of the “bones” — of both horses and men — that Wyatt reputedly found. Recall that the destruction of Pharaoh’s army took place about 3,500 years ago. Compare this with the following facts. The Titanic went down in 1912 and 1,553 people were lost in the wreckage. In 1985, 73 years following that Atlantic catastrophe, the submerged vessel was discovered and explored. Specially designed underwater TV and video equipment was employed; in addition, more than 53,000 photos were taken. The remains of not a solitary person — neither skin nor bone — was found. Everything had been completely consumed by fish, crustaceans, and the destructive effect of salt water (HRR, 179ff).
After their extensive investigations, the Standish brothers declared that no chariot wheels, or remains of human or horse bones found in the Gulf of Aqaba, were ever submitted to scientific authorities for examination and testing (HRR, 283-284). In spite of this fact, the Wyatt Museum web site states: “Ron actually retrieved a hub of a wheel which had the remains of 8 spokes radiating outward from it.”
In fact, he claimed to have found wheels with 4, 6, and 8 spokes! One authority suggests that the video tape Wyatt employed to show these underwater “artifacts” appears to be a hoax; he challenged him to subject the items to a C14 dating test — if indeed he ever had an actual sample of anything (Zias, op. cit.).
The Blood of Christ Allegation
The problems associated with Wyatt’s alleged discoveries are astronomical — beyond one’s ability to calculate.
Take, for example, the claim that he located a residue of the dried blood of Christ that had dripped on to the Mercy Seat of the Ark of the Covenant, located within a cave associated with Solomon’s original Temple in Jerusalem.
One of Wyatt’s defenders claims samples were taken and returned to Nashville, Tennessee where Wyatt had the “blood” analyzed in a hospital laboratory.
On another occasion, in an interview with Russell Standish, Wyatt claimed that the samples were studied in a laboratory in Jerusalem.
The contradiction is glaring.
Where was the lab? Are there remaining samples, since the claim was made that copious amounts of blood had flowed down? Where are the test records? Can other samples be retrieved? Is there any evidence at all of such a discovery? Why was the evidence never brought forth for critical and scientific examination?
One explanation was that the Israeli authorities did not want the story released because the location of the Ark of the Covenant was very close to one of Islam’s most sacred sites, and the announcement might possibly precipitate a violent conflict between Jewish zealots and Moslems.
At the same time, however, Wyatt was “blabbing” the story of the discovery in Europe, North America, Australia, and New Zealand (HRR, 5, 55, 89), with no apparent censure from the Israeli government! The fact is, Joe Zias of the Israel Antiquities Department (as referenced above) “provided full authority for the public release of the report on Wyatt’s blood samples” (HRR, 90).
Elsewhere Wyatt claimed that an “angel prohibited” him from providing the details of his phenomenal discovery! (HRR, 70, 90, 285). There also were other accounts of “angelic” appearances, and even a claim of seeing Christ (HRR, 127ff).
Incidentally, the reason Wyatt knew he saw Jesus was because the Lord “was dressed exactly as Ellen White [the so-called ‘prophetess’ of the early SDA movement] saw Him in vision, with the blue border at the hem of his garment”!
No rational person is under obligation to accept the assertions of Wyatt in the absence of credible proof. Rather, it was his duty to provide concrete evidence for observation and testing of the claims made. He never did. His boasts were wholly spurious.
Those interested in further investigating the truth about Ron Wyatt should obtain a copy Holy Relics or Revelation (Hartland Publications, Box 1, Rapidan, VA 22733).
- Bruckner, James. 2008. Exodus, Peabody, MA: Hendrickson.
- Standish, Russell R. and Colin D. Standish. 1999. Holy Relics or Revelation – Recent Astounding Archaeological Claims Evaluated. Rapidan, VA: Hartland Publications.
- Vow, Howard. 2003. Wycliffe Historical Geography of Bible Lands – Revised. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson.
- Wyatt Museum – http://www.wyattmuseum.com/red-sea-crossing-05.htm
About the Author
Wayne Jackson has written for and edited the Christian Courier since its inception in 1965. He has also written several books on a variety of biblical topics including The Bible and Science, Creation, Evolution, and the Age of the Earth, The Bible on Trial, and a number of commentaries. He lives in Stockton, California with his dear wife, and life-long partner, Betty.