Between the 1850s and the 1930s, records which had been hidden for countless lifetimes beneath the windswept desert sands suddenly appeared, bearing the names of such well-known characters as Abraham, Esau, Israel, Heber, Nahor, Terah and others from the Bible. These were written during the lifetimes of these men or soon after, whereas the books of the Old Testament were compiled over 1000 years later. However, one-by-one, these documents have been classified as mythology. Why? Because they tell a very different story to that which is taught from the Bible.

By the 1880s, the governing establishments of Christendom were dreading the very word archaeologist. As a result, archaeological digs were brought under strict control, with their funding and undertakings to be approved by newly designated authorities. One of these, the Egypt Exploration Fund, was established in Britain in 1891, and on the very first page of its Memorandum and Articles of Association, it is stated that the Fund's objective is to promote excavation work 'for the purpose of elucidating or illustrating the Old Testament narrative'. In short, this meant that if something was found which could be used to support the scriptural teaching, then the public would be informed. Anything which did not support the Church interpretation of the Bible was not destined to see the light in the public domain.

It is now relevant to take a look at one of the monumental finds from that era - a discovery about which very little is known to people at large. In fact, it is probably the most important biblical discovery ever made and it has stunning implications far beyond the discovery itself - for this is the ultimate story of the phoenix and the fire-stone.

Within the book of Exodus a significant biblical mountain is named. It sits in the extensive range of the Sinai peninsular - an upturned triangular land-mass which lies above the Red Sea between the Gulfs of Suez and Aqabah. In the Old Testament, the mountain is firstly called Mount Horeb; then it is called Mount Sinai and is subsequently called Horeb again as the story progresses. The story is, of course, that of Moses and the Israelite exodus from Egypt. This was the mountain upon which, according to Exodus, Moses saw the burning bush; the mountain where he talked with Jehovah and the place where he received the Ten Commandments and the Tables of Testimony.

Something which should be recognized at this stage is that, at the time of Moses (about 1350 BC), there was no mountain called Mount Sinai. There was no mountain by that name even in the days of Jesus - nor even for another 300 years. It should also be remembered that the Old Testament which is familiar to us today stems from a 10th-century Hebrew text and is, therefore, 600 years younger even than the canonical New Testament compiled in the 4th century.

The mountain now generally known as Mount Sinai sits in the south of the peninsular - quite near to the bottom point of the upturned triangle - and it was given its name in the 4th century by a mission of Greek Christian monks 1700 years after the time of Moses. It is now sometimes called Gebel Musa (or Mount of Moses) and there is still a Christian retreat there called St Catherine's Monastery. However, this is not the Sinai mountain which the Bible calls Mount Horeb.

The book of Exodus goes into some detail to explain the route taken by Moses and the Israelites from the Egyptian Nile delta land of Goshen - down across the wilderness regions of Shur and Paran in northern Sinai, to the land of Midian (which is to the north of present-day Jordan).

From this route it becomes very easy to identify the location of Mount Horeb, which sits a good deal north of Gebel Musa. The word Horeb simply means 'desert', and the great desert mountain which soars to over 2600 feet within a high stone plateau above the Plain of Paran is today called Serābīt el-Khādim (the Prominence of the Khādim).

In the late 1890s, the British Egyptologist Sir William Flinders Petrie, a professor at the University College, London, applied to the Egypt Exploration Fund to take an expedition into Sinai. By January 1904, his team had departed and in the March of that year they took their expedition to the heights of Mount Serābīt. In the following year Petrie published the detailed results of his findings, but added to his report the fact that, to his dismay, this information would not be made available to the Egypt Exploration Fund subscribers who would receive only maps and a general outline. Furthermore, Petrie explained that, from the time of that Sinai expedition (even though he had taken previously funded teams into Egypt), his sponsorship by the Fund was terminated - ostensibly because he had broken the binding rule of the Articles by divulging something which was contrary to Bible teaching. He had, in fact, discovered the great secret of the sacred mountain of Moses - a secret which not only made sense of the Exodus portrayals, but which blew the lid totally from their common scriptural interpretation.

What the Bible does not make clear is that Sinai was not a foreign land to the Egyptians. It was actually regarded as a part of Egypt and came under pharaonic control. So Moses and the Israelites had not left Egypt once they were east of the Nile delta - they were still in Egypt, having the whole Sinai peninsular to cross before they entered the Palestinian land of Canaan.

During the time of Moses, Sinai came under the control of two Egyptian officials: the Royal Chancellor and the Royal Messenger. This was the era of Egypt's 18th dynasty - the dynasty of the Tuthmosis and Amenhotep pharaohs, along with Akhenaten and Tutankhamun. The Royal Messenger of those times was an official called Neby. He was also the mayor and troop commander of Zaru in the Egyptian delta region of Goshen, where the Israelites had lived before the exodus.

The position of Royal Chancellor was hereditary in the Hyksos family of Pa-Nehas, and Panahesy of this family was the official Governor of Sinai. We know him better from the Bible as Phinehas. He became one of the first priests of the new Mosaic structure, but had previously been the Chief Priest at Pharaoh Akhenaten's temple at Amarna.

In order to understand the root significance of Petrie's discovery, it is worth making a necessary distinction between the Israelites and the Hebrews of the Mosaic era. At that time, they were not one and the same as Bible teaching seems to indicate. The Hebrews were the family and descendants of Abraham, whose place of residence was, in the main, Canaan (Palestine). The Israelites, on the other hand, were the family and descendants of one of Abraham's grandsons - the man called Jacob, whose name was changed to Israel. It was his family alone who had moved into Egypt, and it was their descendants who eventually returned with Moses to be reunited, after countless generations, with their fellow Hebrews.

The difference between the strains was, of course, that the Israelites had long been subjected to the laws and religions of Egypt, and they knew very little about the customs of their cousins hundreds of miles away in Canaan. Through more than 400 years they had been in an environment which supported a whole pantheon of gods and, although they had developed a One God concept within their own fraternity, that god was not the Jehovah of the Canaanite Hebrews. Their god was a faceless entity whom they called, quite simply, the Lord. In the Israelite tongue, he was called the Adon. This is one of the reasons why the names Lord and Jehovah were separately identified in early texts, even though they were brought under the wrap of the single God in later times to suit the emergent Jewish and Christian faiths. To the Egyptians, the name of this Lord (Adon) was quite similar, and they called him Aten - from which derived the name of Pharaoh Akhenaten (Servant of Aten).

So, when Moses and the Israelites made their exodus into Sinai, they arrived not as worshippers of Jehovah, but of Aten, and it was for this very reason that they were presented with new laws and ordinances to bring them into line with the Hebrew culture of their prospective new homeland.

When Moses and the Israelites left the Egyptian delta, their obvious route to Canaan would have been directly across the wilderness of northern Sinai but, instead, they pushed southward into the difficult high country to spend time at the Horeb mountain of Serābīt. This was the anomaly which had long puzzled Petrie and his team.

What then did the Petrie expedition discover high on the Bible's holy mountain? Well, to begin, they found nothing very much, but on a wide plateau near the summit there were distinct signs of ancient habitation. Pillars and standing-stones could be seen protruding above the ground-rubble which had been deposited by wind and landslides over some 3000 years. Subsequent to clearing this rubble, however, the truth of the Bible story emerged and Petrie wrote:

There is no other such monument which makes us regret that it is not in better preservation. The whole of it was buried, and no one had any knowledge of it until we cleared the site.

What they found was an enormous Egyptian temple complex. Set within an enclosure wall was an outer temple built over an expanse of 230 feet (c.70 metres) and this extended outwards from an inner temple cut within a great cave in the mountainside. From the various cartouches, carvings and inscriptions it emerged that the temple had been in use from as far back as the time of Pharaoh Sneferu, who reigned about 2600 BC and whose immediate successors are reckoned to have built the pyramids of Gizeh.

The above-ground part of the temple was constructed from sandstone quarried from the mountain cave, and it contained a series of adjoined halls, shrines, courts, cubicles and chambers. Of these, the key features unearthed were the main Sanctuary, the Shrine of Kings, the Portico Court, and the Hall of the goddess Hathor to whom the whole complex was dedicated. All around were pillars and stelae denoting the Egyptian kings through the ages, with certain pharaohs such as Tuthmosis III (founder of the Rosicrucian movement in Egypt) depicted many times on standing-stones and wall reliefs.

The adjoining Cave of Hathor was carved into the natural rock, with flat inner walls that had been carefully smoothed. In the centre from about 1820 BC) stood a large upright pillar of Pharaoh Amenemhet III, the son-in-law of Esau. Also portrayed were his senior chamberlain and his seal-bearer. Deep within the cave Petrie found a limestone stela of pharaoh Ramesses I - a slab upon which Ramesses (who is traditionally reckoned by Egyptologists to have been an opposer of the Aten cult) surprisingly described himself as 'The ruler of all that Aten embraces'.

Also found was an Amarna statue-head of Akhenaten's mother, Queen Tiye of Egypt, with her cartouche set in the crown.

In the courts and halls of the outer temple there were numerous stone-carved rectangular tanks and circular basins, along with a variety of curiously shaped bench-tables with recessed fronts and split-level surfaces. There were also round tables, trays and saucers, together with alabaster vases and containers, many of which were shaped like lotus-flowers. In addition, the rooms housed a good collection of glazed plaques, cartouches, scarabs and sacred ornaments, designed with spirals, diagonal-squares and basket-work. There were magical wands of an unidentified hard material, while in the portico were two conical stones of about 6 inches and 9 inches in height, respectively. The explorers were baffled enough by these, but they were further confounded by the discovery of a metallurgist's crucible.

Ever since this discovery, Egyptologists have argued as to why a crucible would have been necessary in a temple, while at the same time debating a mysterious substance called mfkzt, which seemed to be related to the conical stones and which has numerous mentions in wall and stelae inscriptions. Some have suggested that mfkzt might have been copper; many have preferred the idea of turquoise and others have supposed it was perhaps malachite, but they are all unsubstantiated guesses and there are no traces of any of these materials at the site. Sinai is noted for its turquoise mines, but if turquoise-mining had been a primary function of the temple masters over so many centuries, then one would expect to find turquoise stones in abundance within the tombs of Egypt. However, such is not the case; hardly any have been found.

Other causes of wonderment have been the innumerable inscribed references to 'bread', along with the prominent hieroglyph for 'light', found in the Shrine of the Kings. But the discovery which caused the most bewilderment was the unearthing of something which was identified as the enigmatic mfkzt to which the 'bread' symbolism appeared to be related. Laying some inches deep beneath heavy flagstones in a storeroom was a considerable supply of the finest pure white, unadulterated powder.

At the time, some suggested that the powder could be a remnant of copper smelting but, as was quickly pointed out, smelting does not produce white powder; it leaves a dense black slag. Moreover, there is no supply of copper ore within miles of the temple and the old smelting works are, in any event, apparent in the distant valleys. Others guessed that the powder was ash from the burning of plants to produce alkali, but there was no trace whatever of any plant residue.

For want of any other explanation, it was determined that the white powder and the conical stones were probably associated with some form of sacrificial rite, but again it was pointed out that this was an Egyptian temple and animal sacrifice was not an Egyptian practice. Moreover, despite sieving and winnowing, there were no remnants whatever of bones or any other foreign matter to be found within the mfkzt, which appeared for all the world like a hoard of sacred talcum-powder.

Some of the mysterious powder was taken back to Britain for analysis and examination, but no results were ever published. The rest was left opento the elements after 3000 years to become a victim of the desert winds. What has become apparent, however, is that this powder was seemingly identical to the ancient Mesopotamian fire-stone or shem-an-na - the substance that was made into bread-cakes and used to feed the Light-bodies of the Babylonian kings and the pharaohs of Egypt. This, of course, explains the temple inscriptions denoting the importance of bread and light, while the white powder (the shem-an-na) has been identified with the sacred manna that Aaron placed in the Ark of the Covenant.

The book of Exodus relates that the Master Craftsman who made the original shewbread for Moses in Sinai was Bezaleel, but Bezaleel was not a baker, he was a noted goldsmith - the very man who made the golden accoutrements for the Tabernacle and the Ark itself. This conforms precisely with the function of the priestly Master Craftsmen in Mesopotamia - the vulcans and metallurgists of Tubal-cain who manufactured the valuable shem-an-na from pure gold. As for the crucible, the conical stones and the great array of tanks, tables and equipment which made the Sinai temple appear more like a gigantic laboratory than a church, it emerges that this is precisely what it was.

What Petrie had actually found was the alchemical workshop of Akhenaten and of the numerous dynasties of pharaohs before him - a temple laboratory where the furnace would have roared and smoked in the production of the sacred fire-stone of the high-spin shem-an-na. Quite suddenly, the words of Exodus begin to make sense as we read them again with a wholly new insight:

And mount Sinai was altogether on a smoke ...
and the smoke thereof ascended as the smoke of a furnace,
and the whole mount quaked greatly.

In Exodus we read that Moses took the golden calf, which the Israelites had made, and burnt it in the fire, and ground it to a powder' This is precisely the process of a shem-an-na furnace and it is evident that the Egyptian priests of the goddess Hathor had been working their fire for countless generations before the priests of Aten became involved in the time of Moses.