Explorer’s Quest of Biblical Proportions
By Peter Wooding
It’s not often you meet a real-life Indiana Jones in person. First impressions of Bob Cornuke are of a broad-shouldered, tough-looking, no-nonsense all-American – everything you’d expect when encountering a modern-day explorer.
But what makes Bob even more unique is the fact that he’s risked his life on more than 72 expeditions and even been arrested five times in the Middle East, not for the fame and fortune, but for the sole purpose of discovering the lost locations in the Bible.
These journeys have included searching for the real Mount Sinai in Egypt and Saudi Arabia, following ancient Assyrian and Babylonian flood accounts in Iran and tracking the ark of the covenant from Israel to Egypt and across the Ethiopian highlands. Off the coast of Malta, his research team found the probable location of Paul’s shipwreck – more specifically, the accounting of all four anchors as described in Acts 27 in the Bible. His latest extensive research efforts have been in Israel in search of the true Temple site and the precise location of Christ’s crucifixion.
Bob tells me as a former FBI-trained and SWAT team member this new direction in his life to become a Bible investigator actually came about through meeting a famous astronaut:
“Well, I first got involved in searching for lost locations in the Bible when I met a man named Jim Erwin who was the eighth man to walk on the moon. He was the first one to drive the car on the moon. He said, ‘Bob, how’d you like to do something really fun? Let’s look for Noah’s ark. It’d be the greatest discovery of all time.’ I went, ‘OK, how can you pass up on that?’
“I had a career in law enforcement, got involved in a very bad shooting incident and moved to Colorado and then I met Jim Erwin. So that started this cascading life of adventure and fun and risk and peril, and it was all because of meeting a man who walked on the moon that started it for me.”
As well as becoming friends with a famous astronaut, Bob gives me the ultimate name-drop story when he tells me how he used to hang out with a Hollywood legend during his years as a police officer in Orange County, California:
“Growing up in Van Nuys, California, as long as I can remember, all I ever wanted to be was a policeman. Many years later, I realised my dream when I became a police officer with the Costa Mesa Police Department in Orange County. I admit there’s some truth to those stereotypes about cops and their donuts. Some mornings after a long graveyard shift, I would head to a donut shop for a cup of coffee. On several occasions, around 7 a.m. I would find a wide-shouldered, big man standing next to his car all alone. He lived in nearby Newport Beach and wore an Irish tweed cap and held a steaming cup of coffee in his huge fists. His name was John Wayne.
“He loved hearing stories of the night’s activities, but he once told me his life was completely scripted, and while he was often shot or killed in movies, it was just an act as he always went home unharmed. He often said the police were his real heroes because we weren’t acting and real harm could come to us at any moment.”
It was that risk of danger that led Bob to eventually walk away from his days as a police officer after a fatal shootout with a drunk man:
“One late afternoon while working in plain clothes as a crime scene investigator, I heard a call that a man had set his truck on fire in front of his house. After arriving at the incident and trying to calm the man down for several hours, he started shooting at me. Fortunately, he missed me, but I ended up taking his life. I knew from that moment my life would never be the same.”
Bob never would have believed how different his life would become, but he was able to use his police investigation skills in pursuit of tracking down lost artefacts and locations from the Bible, inspired by his own personal Christian faith. So, of his many adventures, Bob highlights one particular exploration that has led to a Hollywood blockbuster in production:
“One of the key standout things that we think we have been allowed to be a part of would be the Mount Sinai story. Where is the real Mount Sinai? Tradition puts it, of course – and everybody believes that – it’s in the Sinai Peninsula. But the Bible says in Galatians 4:25 Mount Sinai is in Arabia. That’s a red flag for me and as a former FBI-trained homicide investigator I had to check that out because the Bible is shooting a flaming arrow right into Arabia as to where the real Mount Sinai is.
“So, I went there. I met with a man named Larry Williams – we found this peak that’s black on top and all these things around it. There were pillars and altars and writings and a lot of people were saying yes, that is the real Mount Sinai. So, we think the real Mount Sinai has been discovered in the ancient land of Midian. And believe it or not, they’re doing a Hollywood movie that we’re actually in the process of production as we speak.
“It will be called The Mountain of Fire and it’s really fun because we’re talking big Hollywood types. One of the co-producers is Charles Segars who did National Treasure One and National Treasure Two. I’ll be doing some site locations in Jordan where they filmed Lawrence of Arabia so it’s all new and exciting.”
As well as being involved in movies and countless television documentaries, Bob has also written several books, the most recent being his own life story:
“I have 11 books but I have a recent book that just came out called Explore: My Life Searching For Lost Locations in the Bible (Koinonia House Inc.). And that chronicles all my searches. I’ve been involved with 72 expeditions, been arrested five times in the Middle East for carrying a Bible, believed to be a spy … they arrest you because you’ve got a Bible in the Middle East.
“I don’t want to ruin the book but I do live – I survive. The book includes my nine searches for Noah’s Ark 9. I’ve looked for the crossing site of the Red Sea where the fleeing Hebrews were being chased by Pharaoh. I’ve searched for the ark of the covenant in Ethiopia on 22 trips. I’ve actually been on the search looking for shipwreck off the coast of Malta, of Paul the apostle.
“More recently I’ve been involved in searching for Solomon’s Temple. And we’re looking where Christ was crucified and that’s where Golgotha is, of course. I don’t think people are going be too believing of where we say because tradition is such a strong thing, so you have to get past that big rock in the road that’s called tradition to find these locations. You know you take what the Bible says and you bump into these roadblocks of tradition. So we try to go around these traditions and follow God’s words as a road map and as a compass and as a guide.”
Bob concluded by explaining why he’s so motivated to show people what happened in the Bible is actually true:
“I don’t care who you are, you know the Bible is a very difficult thing to believe. There’s the Red Sea parting and you see the world being flooded and you see animals aboard the ark and you start saying, ‘Well, that’s a little far-fetched’ and then you say, ‘Wait a second, God put that in the Bible.’ The Bible is and shall be the supreme standard by which we should live.
“The whole university system is designed to put God out of the divine and say these things didn’t happen. The Red Sea parted from a strong wind. No God parted the Red Sea. He didn’t do it because he was a cosmic show-off. He showed the people because he wanted them to know there was no other way of salvation except through him.
“And so why do I look for these things? Because I try to show people the physical evidence that’s in the Bible. People say … ‘Well, you just need to have faith; why do you need to find things?’ I try to show people the evidence, the physical evidence, that these ancient historical events are real and true; and if we rely on the Bible, every word of the Bible from start to finish … we have the faith of a child, and the world will change … you can move mountains with that kind of faith.”
To find out more about Bob Cornuke and his organisation the BASE (Bible Archaeology Search and Exploration) Institute go to baseinstitute.org.