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The Lack of Evidence in Biblical Archaeology

Lesson 1: Introduction

Everyone has heard of archaeological discoveries.  The major finds are broadcast throughout the world via newspapers, television and the now the internet. The problem with such media proclamations is that the unaware or the uninformed will often assume that the archaeologist has seen far more than what has been reported or that complete information has been found alongside the artifact or discovery.

This is not usually the case and as this course progresses, the student will see how little information is actually found with the find and how the discovery is handled by those who claim to be the experts.  It is an assumption to think that a Biblical scholar or archaeologist is an expert on every subject they encounter on one of their digs.  Not so and the student needs to be aware of the fact that archaeologists and biblical scholars will and do make mistakes as they work.

Throughout this course the student will be exposed to different aspects of archaeology in order to properly explain why there is so little evidence for a particular person, i.e. King David or a nation of people, i.e. the Hittites.

Lesson number two will look at the attitudes, beliefs and agenda of the archaeologists in relation to archaeological discoveries, either made by them or other researchers.  It will also take a look at those people outside the mainstream, who practices often interfere with gleaning knowledge from finds. Some of these people are called pseudo-archaeologists and others are grave robbers or simply nomads needing to make some money. Each factor plays an important role in how discoveries are handled.

Lesson three will look at the size of a dig, how much area is actually explored and the problems that exist with looking into the past.  This lesson will rely heavily upon K.A. Kitchen’s work, The Bible in Its World, for he lays out a very good scenario on the problems of an archaeological dig, whether it is size or some other mitigating factor.

Lesson four turns to the problem of dating, mislabeling, misidentifying the artifacts or manuscripts and the conjecture that is part of the archaeological world.  This happens all the time and how it takes place depends upon the perspective of the discoverer, the corroborating evidence and those that either oppose the conclusions or have a different idea what the discovery is telling us.

Lesson five will be used as an example to illustrate another problem that arises when making discoveries in an archaeological dig. What do we do with a history changing discovery?  Many people are out there trying to prove the Bible true and they will make claims that they have found the ‘smoking gun’, the ‘missing link’ that Biblical archaeology needs to finally silence the skeptics and once and for all demonstrate that the Bible is true.

It happens all the time and this lesson will explore the problems that come with such ‘discoveries’ and why evidence is lacking.

Finally, lesson six will deal with the Christian response to this problem.  The secular world wants to see first then believe, much like doubting Thomas unfortunately that is not how things work with God and the Christian must separate themselves from the secular mentality and desires, so that they can be walking in line with God’s will and please Him.

Archaeology is not an exact science, it is not a science where we can return to the exact spot and review the discoveries where they were found. Once dug up and moved, the context is altered and conclusions are based upon theory, conjecture and guess work.

They say that archaeology is a destructive science and in a way that is true, once a site has been dug, we cannot return to the original setting and start over if a mistake has been made.  That is one reason why, many archaeologists do not dig up the whole site. They leave bits and pieces for future work, technology, and other discovered information to help decipher what will be found in later years.

Unfortunately that means that the archaeologist, the Biblical scholar and other researchers are working with limited and incomplete data which will bring a distorted or confused view of the past. These factors help explain why there is so little evidence discovered in archaeology.  Yes, museums are filled with finds from the past, so much that they have a problem with storing all the items found but these items are not grand individual discoveries, Rather they are just more of the same thing. Pottery was widely used in the past and archaeologists dig up, walk over, and stumble across myriads of shards, and other bits of broken pottery as they pursue their quest to discover information from the past.

What are rare finds are those textual manuscripts (mss.), monuments, and other pieces of physical evidence that definitively show a biblical character, event or group of people existing, living and acting as described in the Bible.  We have two inscriptions that mention the house of David, We may have 1 artifact from King Solomon’s temple (it is in dispute at the moment), we may or may not have discoveries concerning the Israeli sojourn and exodus in and from Egypt (depends upon a person’s perspective and acceptance of what we do have).

This is the reason for this course, so that the student gets a fuller and deeper knowledge of the world of Biblical archaeology and so they will be aware that the conclusions given by professional experts are not always what they claim to be, enabling the student to stand strong in their faith and not be led astray.

Lesson 2: Attitudes, Agendas & Archaeologists

1. Disbelief: One of the main reasons we have so little physical evidence for the Biblical record is that often the archaeologist or biblical scholar are not believers and their lack of faith influences their opinions and their work.  Even when faced with actual evidence they cannot bring themselves to change their minds. Phillip Davies, a known minimalist and who has openly stated that Genesis and other parts of Israeli history just did not happen.  Even when presented with evidence he refuses to change his mind and simply repeated his mantra, ‘it just did not happen’.

This kind of attitude influences the interpretation of the artifacts found and tends to put them into another category making their value lost to the people of the world.  Disbelief is one of the attitudes that hinder archaeological work and helps construct a false record of the past.

The mishandling of the ancient artifacts and the manipulation of the historical record contribute to the loss of physical evidence and why so many items are hopelessly stored in the basement of museums, never to be seen by other researchers and archaeologists.

2. The Lack of Objectivity: usually the principle of any science is for the scientist to be objective in his or her work yet that is never the case. William Dever quotes states in one of his books that ‘not since the death of 19th century positivism has any respectable historian been naïve enough to think that they could be entirely objective…’ (Dever 2005 pg.83)

So we what we have here is that the conclusions of many archaeologist will slant towards their personal ideologies and how they present artifacts will also be influenced by the same attitude. Thus if a non-believer dismisses the Biblical record, we can rest assured that their ‘interpretation’ of the physical evidence will alter the reality of that artifact and change the meaning of the artifact to something closer to their liking.

3. The Double Standard: This attitude makes it very difficult to present artifacts as physical evidence in support of the Biblical record. What is allowed for the secular world to practice is NOT allowed for the believer or for the Bible.

As illustrated above, we see that the secular world does not demand that they be ‘objective’. In fact Dever, in the introduction to his book came right out and boldly stated, “This book…although it hopes to be true to the facts we know, does not attempt objectivity; for that is impossible and perhaps undesirable.” (Ibid pg. ix) Yet later on page 71, Dever makes this accusation, “The perspective of all the Biblical writers is a factor that limits their usefulness in another regard it is no exaggeration to say that all biblical literature…constitutes what is essentially propaganda. The writers make no pretense to objectivity.” (Ibid)

So Dever, and other secular archaeologists, hold the Bible to a standard that they themselves refuse to follow and denounce its words simply because it presents God’s revelation from God’s perspective and not their own.

This double standard then influences how archaeologists see the physical evidence and if the evidence is from Israeli history then it is dismissed because it is not from a secular source yet these same archaeologists will accept physical evidence about a secular nation whose source is from that same nation without requiring corroborating evidence from other surrounding nations.

The double standard plays a large part in limiting physical evidence and contributes to the lack of evidence in archaeology for the Biblical record.

4. The Agenda: Many archaeologist come to Biblical Archaeology with their own personal agenda simply because they do not like what the Bible has recorded and said thus they want to change the record to fit their ideas and the limited physical evidence they have uncovered.

Israel Finkelstein is one such person as he writes, “Although it seems probable that David and Solomon were actual historical characters, they were very different from their scriptural portraits…Our goal is to show how the legends if David and Solomon developed’ (Finkelstein & Silberman 2006 pg. 22)

So here we have a clear agenda that the authors do not accept the Biblical story of either king and now are out to re-write the Bible because of that rejection of the Biblical record. In their attempts to do so, they down date much of the evidence they have uncovered at Megiddo to fit their theory not the truth.

This restructuring of the evidence to fit an agenda also contributes much to the lack of evidence for the Biblical record and short changes the public who assume these people are telling the truth when in reality, they are simply following and working their own beliefs or lack of them.

It isn’t just David and Solomon who are being attacked as we read in Dever’s book, ‘Even the more sensible of the doctrinaire feminists are often characterized by what Susan Ackerman describes to me as wishful thinking. They hope to reconstruct a past in which women’s full equality or even superiority was actually realized, but which in their view has been obscured by make scholars” (Dever 2005, pg. xiv)

This is but a brief glimpse into what takes place in the field of archaeology which influences the amount of physical evidence for Biblical archaeology.  The believer must consider the source of the theories, hypothesis and conclusions that pertain to the Biblical record. There are a lot of personal ideologies, lack of belief, and other factors which play a role in reducing the amount of artifacts and texts which support or validate the Bible.

Just because a person claims to be an expert, or does archaeology professionally does it mean that they are telling the truth, being fair, or honestly attributing the physical evidence to its proper place in history.  The believer must not blindly accept what professionals are saying for the professional does not always share the same beliefs or hopes that the believer does and they are in rush to support the Biblical record.

The believer needs to consider the source, then look to God to help them discern the difference between the truth of the physical evidence and the false conclusion or theory.  Everyone, both secular and believing archaeologists and Biblical scholars, all have the same evidence. There are no hidden pieces locked away waiting for ‘the right moment’ to be thrust upon an unsuspecting world.

The difference is in the ‘interpretation’ of the person making the discovery and that is where the believer has to be careful for not all professionals serve God.

Lesson 3: Factors and Size involved in a Dig

One of the biggest reasons why there is so little evidence for the Biblical record or archaeology is that the amount of  a site that is dug up is so minimal that it is impossible to obtain anything but a minute fraction of information that is buried there.

1. Size of the Site: K.A. Kitchen has done a very good job in documenting the reality when it comes to archaeological digs. His account is honest, accurate and does not sugar coat what is really taking place thus this lesson will quote strictly from his work, The Bible in its World. 

“And normally, only a minute area of an entire site can ever be dug, especially if explored to any great depth. Thu, ancient Ashdod comprises…some 90 acres in all- but only 1 ½ acres of this surface (less than 2%) has been excavated.” (pg. 12)

Less than 2% of the total has been uncovered which tells us that 98% is still lying in wait for the archaeologist to dig them up.  Yet many professionals think they can draw conclusions from this lack of evidence about the city, the people and the major events that transpired throughout its living history. 

“At Tell el-Areini, the excavated areas cover barely 4% of the whole site, and likewise in the Early Bronze Age city at Arad. Only about 1/10 of the area of Et-tell has been dug and similarly at Tell el=Ajjul.”

Granted there are sites with more acreage uncovered but given their size and longevity, for example Jerusalem, the amount being dug is minor in comparison. Jerusalem has about 7,000 years of history to it yet we have barely scratched the surface of what lies underneath. One must remember that, there are places that cannot be dug simply because homes, schools and other modern buildings occupy the site.

2. Gaps and Time: But size is not the only problem when it comes to extracting important information about the past. Sometimes the archaeologist will pick the wrong spot to dig, even though surveys indicate they have found a site that has much information and artifacts to yield.

“But as even ‘full-scale’ excavations rarely touch more than a fraction of a site…important features can still be missed by accident. If levels of a particular period occur in only one part of a site- a part not dug- then the archaeologist’s ‘record’ will appear to show a gap…”

In other words, the archaeologist can miss important data by picking the wrong part of the site to dig.  Thus mistake contributes much to the lack of physical evidence to Biblical archaeology. Now as to time, there are sites where the archaeologist has to toil for years before producing even a tidbit of remains:

“Ancient Gibeon is a good example. Despite the narration in Joshua… which presupposes a settlement there in the Late Bronze Age, the first 3 seasons of a very successful excavation by Professor J.B. Pritchard yielded not a scrap from that period other than a stray Cypriot sherd or two. Only in the 4th season were found a handful of fine Late Bronze Age tombs, refuting the supposed contradictions between Joshua and ‘archaeology’.”

Thus one cannot expect to find the proof they want as soon as the shovel hits the ground, one has to be patient and continue searching before the realize their goal. Both the length of time needed and the picking of the wrong spot, robs Biblical archaeology of much needed evidence and information.  This lack of discovery often fuels the skeptics’ argument that archaeology does not support the Biblical record but such arguments are often dishonest because the skeptics fail to factor in these reasons and the following factors

3. Other Factors: Here we have the most important circumstances that contribute to the lack of physical evidence—destruction; both natural and human.

“Such mud brick buildings were highly convenient, but not too permanent, lasting about 25/30 years. Unseasonably wet winters, accidental fires, or demolition by invading enemies could quickly turn houses, palaces or whole towns into desolate ruins. Then if the inhabitants decided to rebuild, they often just leveled off the debris and built on top…”

But these are not all of the destructive forces that were or are at work in the Middle East.

“At periods where a town site was deserted, driving wind, sand and rains would often erode away the uppermost levels of the abandoned houses and walls. Thus, at Ur, the town of Neo-Babylonian times was largely swept away…, while 20 feet depth of human occupation-remains had been lost from ancient Babylonian Eshnunna…before it was excavated.”

Archaeologists cannot recover what is not there.  Volcanoes, floods, human invasions all play a vital role in destroying the remains of the past leaving the modern world with very little to find or use to investigate the past. It is no wonder that skeptics reject much of the Bible, they cannot find what they are looking for.

One last example of destruction and that is for some ancient societies, their written material was not recorded on long lasting material and time, nature, as well as humans, have taken their toll on their existence.

“It was upon papyri that fine literature, religious texts, and all administrative records were written. Thus, as 90% of Egyptian papyri are lost forever, our losses to knowledge here are enormous.”

Papyri does not last long and with this loss of writings we loss much information about the past. Who knows, maybe the record of Joseph, the Israelite sojourn, enslavement and exodus were recorded after all?  We will never know unless we get lucky and dig in the right spot which contains jars holding the papyrus that contain such data.

Destructive powers, whether natural or human, also contribute much to our lack of physical evidence and it is beyond our control to stop. We hold no authority over such forces because their work has been done hundreds, if not thousands, of years ago. Long before recapturing the past became vogue and a priority for universities and museums.

Lesson 4: The Problem of Dating and Labeling the Evidence

1. Identification and Labeling: Unlike today, ancient discoveries do not come with printed labels stating their manufacture date nor do they come with a date or bar code which contains the information pertaining to date of manufacture. Nor do they come stamped with a ‘made in ____’ tag.

To identify and label the correct nation of origin, plus the approximate date of production takes a lot of work comparing with other discoveries and other notes made by other archaeologists on other digs. Most often any written text which carried a ‘date’ usually used the current king’s reign as a marker. Problem was there was no legend to go with the text to explain how the ‘date’ fit in the over-all context of time.

There were over-laps of reigns, co-regencies, gaps in rulers and so on which make it very difficult to pin down precise times. Even the pottery dating system cannot be of much help as that was done in a manner similar to stratigraphy which the pottery closer to the surface was given a younger date, while those buried deeper, an older one. Even with that concept, one could not be sure if the older pottery was made in 2000 B.C. or 1500 (according to the Julian calendar).

Even the archaeological periods can be of little help for their origination did not come by methodical work and investigation but by one man setting up a display who did not know how to place his artifacts. So he arbitrarily placed all stone tools in one category, regardless of their real era, and called the category, the Stone Age. The Bronze artifacts were placed together and called the Bronze Age and the same for the iron artifacts, which were then labeled the Iron Age.

Unfortunately, history does not go in such neat packages and the timing of the past was thrown off by this effort to simplify a presentation.  Forever after, the scholastic world has had the door open to arguments and disagreement as to when an artifact should appear in the chronological order.

Case in point: the Ipuwer Papyrus. This document describes events similar to those that took place in Egypt prior to the Exodus but, scholars cannot or will not agree as to the age of the text.

“Although Jacobovici states that many scholars date the Ipuwer Papyrus to the Hyksos period, the fact of the matter is that most Egyptologists date it to the First Intermediate Period (ca. 2100 BC) or the late Middle Kingdom (ca. 1700 BC), well before Jacobovici’s Exodus date of 1500 BC.” (Wood, 2006)

As one can see, the labeling of the date plays a large role in the amount of physical evidence available for Biblical events. Scholars, without a firm and honest timeline, will not agree as to when something was written or made.  This disagreement is based upon many factors, the ideologies of the scholars involved, their religious beliefs, or lack of them, the corroborating evidence (i.e. pottery found with the papyrus or other artifacts that can be dated approx. to a certain time) and so on. 

All of these factors play a role in diminishing the physical evidence, as does the archaeological period’s timeline and the pottery chronology.  What also lends a hand in misidentifying the artifact is that we have no knowledge if the item was a family heirloom passed down through many generations or if it was simply a replica of an ‘antique’. Such variables play a part in confusing or misleading the archaeologist when they go to label the discovery.

99% of the time artifacts are found without textual records confirming the date or its purpose and the solution to that dilemma is left up to the head archaeologist and his ‘interpretation’. Unfortunately, the archaeologist’s ‘interpretation’ can further mislead others as it can be wrong and the item be mislabeled.

2. Pet Theories: More often than not, the archaeologist’s ‘interpretation’ is influenced by his favorite (or pet) theories. If they have spent years working on one idea, it is very hard for them to let it go and change course to match the truth. More often than not, the archaeologist will mislabel or misidentify an item simply because he does not want to see his life’s work vanish over one discovery.

“In reviewing Finkelstein’s arguments about terraces, I cannot escape the impression that he is too attached to his theory of pastoral-nomadic origins to see the point of his own data. Consequently he has skewed the evidence for both the relative dating of the sites and for the origins of the settlers.” (Dever 2003, pg. 115)

As we see by this quote, archaeologists will allow their judgment to be clouded because the refuse to let go of their theories and make errors when they come to dating artifacts and origins of people.  This clumsy work contributes much to the lack of evidence for the Biblical record simply because one person or a group of people, independently or corporately, place the date of an artifact long before its time or long after.

3. Personal beliefs: A final example is the personal belief of the scholar or archaeologist. Yehezkel “Kaufmann believed that the Israelite religion was an original creation of the people of Israel…For him, then, the Hebrew Bible’s story of Israel’s divine calling and unique origin is literally true.” (Dever 2003, pg. 129)

So for Kauffmann, his dating would reflect the Bible’s and be very close to what it says concerning when these events transpired and when the people lived. But for others like Martin Noth who “interpreted the biblical stories of a twelve tribe league in the light of Greek tribal confederations known as amphictyonies…”(Ibid pg. 130) His dates , then, would reflect this belief and would be quite arbitrary as there was no real timeline one had to adhere to.

His theories were “abandoned because of a lack of agreement on interpreting the biblical texts on which it rests and because there was never any archaeological support for such an amphictyony” (Ibid). Even with the abandonment, his thinking was influential for approx. 30 years which in turn would influence many other scholars and their labeling of dates.

What the scholar believes, in spite of their efforts to be ‘objective’, clearly reflect their dating, labeling and identification methods and as it happened with Dr. Finkelstein.   All this does is cause the evidence discovered to be mislabeled or misidentified and placed in the wrong era or category leaving the public with less evidence to use.

What is lost is bone fide verification of the biblical events or person in question, allowing for doubt to enter in a person’s, whether a believer or not, mind. This doubt then influences them concerning the Bible and soon many lose their faith as has happened to many a professional scholar.

One other factor plays a part here as the professional expert, if a non-believer will dismiss the data found in the Bible because they label it as religious writings, which were written for a specific purpose and not an ‘honest’ retelling of the history of the Israelites. With such a demotion, it is no wonder the secular expert is often lost when it comes to evaluating and analyzing evidence they have dug up. They have to scramble to invent a scenario to make up for the void.

This act not mislabels and misidentifies the evidence but it reduces available proof or verifications, in one sense, the Biblical archaeologist needs to shore up their defense of the Bible. The believer may accept the evidence but they will have a fight on their hands with those who have no interest in proving the Bible true. {a fact that underlies this whole problem of a lack of evidence for Biblical archaeology}.

Lesson 5: What to do with Discovered Evidence

Throughout this course, it has been emphasized that the Biblical Archaeological world has been left with little or no evidence to support its claims. But what if a major discovery took place? What would happen in the world say, for example, if Noah’s Ark was really found? What are we to do with it?

1. A Scenario: First, there would be big fanfare. Every Christian would make sure all the news outlets carried the news. Second, reporters would be interviewing the successful explorers who persevered until they achieved their objective and have them describe in every detail the minutest parts of their journey. Third, all the talk and news shows would be having these explorers on to tell their story, ad nauseum.

Fourth, Christians round the world would be happy, relieved that the quest is now over and joyful that the Bible has been proven true. Or was it?

Soon, after the euphoria died down, scholars and skeptics started to take a closer look and the questions began to be asked.  How do we know it is the ark?  One of the explorers answered, ‘well we found it on a mountain near Ararat.’ The next question came, ‘but couldn’t someone have planted a copy? After all, this one is in pieces and quite decayed.’ The answer ‘we did C14 testing on the wood and it came back as being approx. 5,000 years old.’ Yes but couldn’t someone just take old redwood cedar and make fake remains?’

By now the euphoria was dying down and started to go quicker with the next questions. ‘How do you know this is gopher wood? From what I have read, we have no idea what gopher wood is or what it looks like.  So how do you know this is the wood that Noah used?’ the answer, ‘We just take it by faith because we found it on a mountain and there was hay still inside. ‘The next question, ‘how do you know that is the same hay? Couldn’t a shepherd leave some up there for his flock and used the boat for safekeeping?’ the answer,’ That is a possibility but this hay is like no other that we have found in the modern world? ‘How so?’

The explorers are getting exasperated by this point as they see their discovery slipping away into doubt and skepticism.  Then the next question, ‘What corroborating evidence do you have that proves this is Noah’s ark?’ the answer, We have none, but this boat meets the Biblical criteria.’ The next question, ‘I do not believe the Bible, it is a book of fairy tales, so why would I accept its criteria? How do I know you didn’t edit those criteria to make this discovery fit your Bible?’…

And on it goes.

2. The Problem: This little scenario presents a common problem that comes with physical evidence. We may make great discoveries with major pieces of missing evidence but how can we prove definitively that the artifact discovered is actually what we say it is?  How can we point to an inn in Jerusalem and say, Jesus was born here. It looks like every other inn of the first century and there is no manger, no angels, nothing but modern items to indicate that it is anything but a modern inn.

We could discover David’s sling, but how could we prove it was the actual sling used in his fight with Goliath? How would we convince the unbelieving world of its validity? There was no notarized text found next to the weapon, there was no Hebrew lettering spelling David’s name, and even there were how could we prove the sling did not belong to one of the myriads of David’s of the ancient world?

Carbon 14 dating would only suggest an age, not make a positive identification. The material used to make the sling could only be used to possibly corroborate the C14 figure but that is about it. And on it goes. Skepticism will always try to find a way to not believe any physical evidence that supports or prove the Bible true.

Those who do not believe will continue probing until they find their escape route which allows them to continue in their present unbelieving lifestyle and not deal with the truth. In reality, we cannot ultimately prove that a major discovery or any discovery is what we think it is because there are too many possibilities which could fit the item under scrutiny.

2. What the Bible Says: The Bible provides us with an explanation why skeptics will always remain skeptics and why they will always find a way to not believe. Just as the illustration of Phillip Davies, in the beginning of this course, demonstrated no matter all the evidence in front of His eyes he still remained in denial and refused to accept what he was shown.

In Luke 16 there is the story of Lazarus and the rich man and in it the rich man dies, goes to hell and is tormented. He makes a request that Lazarus be raised from the dead and sent to his brothers to warn them of their impending torture and suffering. But the response to his request provides us with the answer as to why the skeptic or unbeliever will deny that the discovered ark in the above scenario was real. Verse 31 says:

“But he said unto him, ‘if they do not hear Moses and the prophets neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.’ We can apply that last line to Noah’s ark. It is ‘dead’ and if it were ‘resurrected’ through discovery, the unbeliever would still not believe the Bible or that the discovery was the ark because they still do not hear or believe Moses and the prophets.

In John 5:46-7, Jesus makes a similar comment about Himself; ”For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote about ME. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My Words?’

We, as believers, really do not need physical evidence nor prove the Bible true. We do need to study the past, as Dr. Bryant Wood said, ‘to keep the secular scholars honest’ (Wood, 2005) but we do not need a lot of proof for our faith and the next lesson will delve into this aspect.

To answer the question the initial question that started this lesson, we do not have to do much with any major or minor piece of evidence. We just present it, let the unbelieving world make up their own minds and be prepared to correctly, properly, honestly answer their questions.

We do not have to lament that we have little or no physical evidence to prove the Biblical record true because that is the secular world’s way of doing things, not God’s.

Lesson 6: We Walk By Faith

In the past few lessons many different aspects have been looked at to explain why there is so little physical evidence for the Bible record and Biblical archaeology. We have seen how the attitudes and agendas of many professionals interfere with recovery of evidence and we have seen how their ideologies, theories, preferences and other factors help them misidentify, mislabel and misdate the artifacts and texts that are discovered.

We have also seen how natural destructive forces, along with the human element, play their role in eliminating much of the evidence we seek. It is unrealistic to think that the past will be transported 100% intact into the modern world and it is also unrealistic to think that all the evidence we desire will come into our grasp.

 There is one more important reason why Biblical Archaeology and the Biblical Record lack physical evidence to support their accounts. Simply it is God.  He has designed the world to run by His ways not secular man’s. We will look at this in two ways.

1. The Just Shall Live By Faith: Secular archaeologists, biblical scholars and many others do not walk by faith.  They need to see something in their hands, they need to read the actual words or they need to see some sort of physical proof to persuade them to believe in the Bible and Jesus.

But God has not designed the world to operate by sight, it is designed to operate by faith for humans cannot provide proof of heaven or hell, nor can they provide proof for the Garden of Eden, the flood or many other events and circumstances that have taken place over history. The past is dead and gone and all we have left are broken pottery, texts and other artifacts that only prove that someone existed at some point in time who manufactured such items.

We cannot produce any flood evidence for how would we be able to distinguish it from the destruction of local floods? How would we be able to definitively prove what evidence we do find as being from Noah’s flood?  Sir Leonard Woolley tried with the evidence he discovered but because the flood layer was not uniform throughout the land, his conclusions were dismissed. Yet how would we know if Noah’s flood layer settled uniformly? We have no ancient documents describing any research done and we doubt it was actually carried out for the survivors did not need to research, they lived it.

Their close descendants did not need to research it for they knew the survivors, thus in today’s world we have to take the flood by faith. Even if we found Noah’s ark, it would be next to impossible to prove that it was ‘the’ ark.

Thus we humans are left with faith.

2. One needs to use faith to please God: This is the most important thing in the Christian life, pleasing God and His rules demand that we use faith not physical evidence to meet that goal. God’s way is to accept and believe His words without proof for that shows that those who claim to be his followers actually love Him.

So why do we have so little evidence for the Biblical record and Biblical archaeology? Simple, God will provide only enough evidence to support and strengthen our faith, He will not provide more so that what pleases Him is destroyed.

This is the key. We may not have all the answers, nor will we be able to explain all the details because we do not know them but we can point to what we have and explain that one needs faith to believe and please God. For it is through faith we are saved not through physical evidence.

That is why it seems we have so little physical evidence at our disposal to point to when we are in discussions with unbelievers. But as one looks at different passages of scripture, we can see how what has been discovered adds up to supporting the biblical record and we have a lot more physical evidence than we thought. It just doesn’t come in the form we want or expect.

For example, in the book of Ecc. There is the verse, ‘there is nothing new under the sun’ and through archaeological and historical work we can see the that verse proven correct as discovery after discovery shows that what we in the modern world think is new or novel has actually been done thousands of years before and throughout history.

The Greeks were not the discoverers of math equations and other things, as the Babylonians studied them 2,000 years earlier (Pellegrino 1991).  The physical evidence lines up with the Bible and as has been stated long before this course, there is not one archaeological discovery that has disproven the Bible or made false any of its statements.

What tries to disprove the Bible is the conjecture, the theories and the conclusions of those secular archeologists and Biblical scholars who do not believe and look for alternatives to the Bible. We do not need to lament the fact that we may not have all the evidence we would like, but even if we had more, we could not guarantee that the secular professional would change their minds and accept Christ as their savior.

We can rejoice that we have the opportunity to please God by using faith but that does not mean we stop researching and doing archaeology. No, we must continue, to make sure that the truth is always told and that the people hear it and not the false ideas of those who do not believe.

The New Testament Documents: Who is Copying Whom

Lesson 1: Introduction

For as long as there has been biblical textual criticism there have been charges of copying laid against the Biblical authors.  It has happened against the Old Testament writers as secularists have assumed that the writers of the Old Testament books took ancient myths from other lands and adapted them to their religious agenda.

“It has seemed obvious that the Biblical stories- whatever actual events may have prompted them…” {Dever 2005:32} Then there is the idea that the Bible is a human produced book solely by men for a male objective” “The male chauvinist approach of the whole history of theology, indeed of the Hebrew Bible itself, raises the intriguing question of whether women would have produced a different, and in some way a better, version of Israel’s history, faith and religious practice.” {Dever 2005:61}

It is this type of mentality that the true Christian must do battle with as many scholars and archaeologists continue to put their own beliefs, prejudices and opinions upon the Biblical authorship and record.  Their charges of copying rarely come with any real proof, in fact their musings only have conjecture behind them as nothing they accuse the Biblical authors has any concrete evidence to support the charges.

For the Old Testament, it is said by many, many scholars that the Israelites became aware of the many ancient secular myths during their captivity in Babylon yet not one of them can provide one shred of legitimate, credible proof that this was so. In fact, the copying reputation was held by the Babylonians.

“The scribes of the Old Babylonian period were very zealous copyists and went to great lengths to preserve the literature that came down to them from the past…” {Younger & Chavalas 2002:163} We could assume that the Babylonians copied from the stories they heard from the Israelites but we would not have any proof to hang that assumption upon. It would just be common sense to make such a conclusion since the Babylonians were known to be copyists not originators.

But that is the Old Testament though the New is not free of such charges simply because of the ancient roots of some of the false religions that preceded the life of Jesus and the writing of the New Testament.

One such ancient belief is called Zoroastrianism whose religious writings reflect similar teachings to that of the 4 Gospels but whose religious texts were written some 600 to 1000 years before the birth of Christ. That study will be in the second lesson. In the third the document ‘Q’ will be examined as it is reported by some scholars, Drs. Robinson, Hoffman and Kloppenborg, that it is the source document for 2 if not 3 of the original New Testament gospels.

At this time, these and other scholars are trying to reconstruct the ‘Q; document and glean from the Gospels and other works its original words. They hope to show that New Testament writers used other sources.

In the fourth lesson, the Gnostic literature will be looked at for some scholars say that their writings were in competition with Christ’s disciples work and that it was a big conspiracy which made the great councils reject the Gnostic works and canonize the works of the Christian church which held to the disciples gospels and the other New Testament books.

The fifth lesson will look at the time gap between the writings of the ancient beliefs, and other classical authors, in comparison to the time gap between the life of Christ and the Biblical books, along with a look at some glaring absence of evidence.

In the final lesson concluding remarks will be made concerning the charge of copying and the pointing out the difference between the Biblical texts and those ancient works many secularist scholars and archaeologists claim are Christian writings.

There is a big difference between the biblical books and those written by other religious people and there is a very big error or two being made by the secular scholars, which will also be dealt with in the final lesson.  These errors play a vital role in misleading secular scholars and archaeologists who in turn mislead those who are unwary as they champion the cause of these ancient forgotten works.

There are other organizations out there, like the Jesus Seminar, who makes all sorts of charges concerning Jesus and the New Testament books, but there just isn’t time or space to deal with them all. Suffice it to say that The Jesus Seminar is famous for its voting system and its ability to put modern day scholars in the seat of judgment over words spoken about 2000 years ago.  Their audacity is astounding as is their clairvoyance.

Yet this is the struggle all Christians have had to face over the centuries as unbelievers continually look for some excuse, some fallacy to justify their unbelief and to dismiss the Bible as some sort of fictional work with a religious agenda. The attacks on the Bible and its credibility will never cease until Jesus returns and the devil is finally imprisoned thus the Christian must be aware of the facts, pursue the truth and stand firm in their belief as they and the Bible face all manners of accusations.

Lesson 2: Zoroastrianism

A little background is needed to get a grasp of what is being talked about in this course as too often students will read an article or paper on this ancient belief but and then assume certain details which throws them into confusion about Christ and the Bible. Two quotes from religiousfacts.com:

Zoroastrianism is the ancient, pre-Islamic religion of Persia (modern Iran). It survives there in isolated areas but more prosperously in India, where the descendants of Zoroastrian Persian immigrants are known as Parsis, or Parsees. In India the religion is called Parsiism.

Founded by the Iranian prophet and reformer Zoroaster in the 6th century BC, Zoroastrianism contains both monotheistic and dualistic features. Its concepts of one God, judgment, heaven and hell likely influenced the major Western religions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

Now in this quote we see that this belief was originated in the 6th century B.C. though other articles place the date back to 1000 B.C. but we cannot be sure of the exact date due to lost records and other obscure practices. Now the second quote:

The Zoroastrian sacred text is the Avesta ("Book of the Law"), a fragmentary collection of sacred writings. Compiled over many centuries, the Avesta was not completed until Persia's Sassanid dynasty (226-641 AD). It consists of: liturgical works with hymns ascribed to Zarathustra (the Gathas); invocations and rituals to be used at festivals; hymns of praise; and spells against demons and prescriptions for purification.

Most students will read over this or any other article on Zoroastrianism and assume that because the founding date was before Christ so must the religious writings, no thought of copying comes into their minds. Notice the date of completion of the religious writings of the Zoroastrianism cult- they were not completed until the 3rd to 7th centuries A.D. 

This means that the followers of this belief had ample time to install Christian teachings into their own belief system. We have no idea what their original religious writings taught for they have obviously been edited and changed over time and as they saw the popularity of the New Testament gospels and desired the same response to their beliefs.

This idea is underscored and supported by Edwin Yamauchi in an interview with Lee Strobel who said: “when people begin religious movements, it’s often not until many generations later that people record things about them. But the fact is that we have better historical documentation for Jesus than for the founder of any other religion…For example, although the Gathas of Zoroaster, about 1000B.C. are believed to be authentic, most of the Zoroastrian scriptures was not put into writing until after the third century A.D. The most popular Parsi biography of Zoroaster was written in A.D. 1278 {Strobel 1998:86-7}

So it stands to reason that the New Testament authors could not have copied their ideas from this faith because its religious writings were in constant flux and editing till long after the disciples died out. But we here no charge being laid against the authors of the Gathas, in fact their writings are accepted as authentic, as stated by Dr. Yamauchi, even though there is no legitimate proof their scriptures were written prior to the first century A.D.

The initial quote states that this false religious belief ‘most likely influenced’ 3 other beliefs and it so happens that those beliefs are all monotheistic and two of them originate with God.  Notice that not one shred of credible or legitimate evidence is offered to substantiate that empty charge. And that is all it is, an empty charge because the opponents of the Bible have nothing to stand upon as the seek to demote the Bible to just another human work whose words can be ignored and dismissed.

Yamauchi’s assessment of the belief is supported by the following statement made by the New World Encyclopedia:

“As accounts of religious life in ancient Persia are limited and conflicting, it is difficult to describe ancient Zoroastrianism in detail. However, it is clear that the original teachings of Zarathushtrawere modified significantly by the prophet's disciples,” (bold mine)

So it would be fair to say that the ‘disciples’ of Zoroaster easily incorporated the New Testament teachings into their religious works. In fact according to the same source:

“The Avesta, the primary collection of sacred texts of Zoroastrianism, illustrates the fact that post-Zarathushtra Zoroastrianism incorporated older beliefs and traditions from earlier Iranianreligions, while simultaneously synthesizing the new ideas Zarathrustra developed in the Gathas.”{Bold mine}

Again we see that the reputation for copying is owned by those of false beliefs and not by those who wrote the New Testament. Even the ancient historians, who wrote in and close to the first century A.D. do not bring the charge of copying against the disciples, not one of their works even remotely mention such accusations. Yet as we see in the above quote, other works clearly state with authority that the ‘disciples’ of the false religion did in fact copy and adapt from other beliefs.

In regards to Zoroastrianism, it is very clear that the disciples did not get their ideas of monotheism, Jesus’ birth, angels, and other New Testament staples from the ‘disciples’ of Zoroaster or their religious writings. With the constant modifying of their religious writings and the date of completion long after the completion of scripture, it makes it impossible for those who preach the truth to take from those who do not.

But a good case can be made for the copying of the teachings of the New Testament by the ‘disciples’ of Zoroaster.  Not only do we have record of their efforts but we have no denials by their followers as well. So in this instance we can safely say that the New Testament authors are clear of charges and now attention must be turned to another charge of copying but its source is from scholars who believe in a document no one has ever seen.

Lesson 3: ‘Q’

The next source that is said to be a source for the New Testament writers is ‘Q’, and it is called this as it is short for the German word, ‘quelle’ which means ‘source’ {Robinson 2002:23} and it is theorized that this is an early document upon which Matthew and Luke based their Gospels.

“Throughout the 19th century, the study of ‘Q’ was facilitated by a cluster of factors that succeeded in accrediting ‘Q’ as the most viable solution to the so called “synoptic problem”…Matthew and Luke used the same two sources, Mark and a no longer extant collection of sayings, commonly called ‘Q’” {Robinson 2002:11}

Robinson is not the only scholar who accepts this document as source material for the disciple Matthew and for Luke as well, this idea is quite common in the academic world. Even F.F. Bruce weighs n on the subject as he says: “Now it is striking that the greater part of the non-Markian material common to Matthew and Luke consists of sayings of Jesus. This has led to the conjecture of another early document on which both Matthew and Luke drew for their common non-Markian material, the document usually referred to as ‘Q’…” {Bruce 1981:34}

With this thinking many scholars set out to ‘reconstruct’ this ‘Q’ document even though as Robinson says, “On these terms, Q would never be more than a hypothesis. One could never quote Q itself.” {Op Cit Robinson}.  He also says that ‘The Sayings of Gospel Q (his book) presented here in Greek and English is based on the collaboration of a team of scholars who, since 1985, have been working together…” (Ibid 12)

So here we have a group of educated and intelligent people trying to reconstruct a book they have never seen and could not hope to quote. There are other problems that come with this thinking. First, to quote an interview with Dr. Blomberg, “‘What exactly is Q?’ …’It’s nothing more than a hypothesis.’ He replied.” {Strobel 1998:26}

That is the whole crux of the issue. Here we have these intelligent men studying sayings and trying to reconstruct them based solely upon a figment of someone’s imagination and all because some of the Gospels’ have similar wording.

There is not one shred of evidence that the document called ’Q’ ever existed and there is no ancient record referring to this document or anything similar.

Second, where is the proof that Matthew and Luke actually copied from these sources? How can these scholars make such accusations when they cannot back them up with credible evidence that such copying took place? Matthew was an eye-witness to almost all of the events that transpired during his physical time with Christ, he would not need to have a ‘source’ document to base his book.

We know that Luke had accounts from eye-witnesses as he says so in the first chapter verses 1-4, he also wrote when many or most of those eye-witnesses were alive and could easily check his work if he had a problem. But he says in verse three: ‘it seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write to you an orderly account…’ {Bold mine}

So if we are to take these words as Luke meant them, he did not need a source book, for he too seems to have knowledge of ‘all things’ and ‘from the very first’ so nothing was withheld from him and a source book like ‘Q’ would have been useless to him.

Third, this is also a very major problem, as these scholars ‘reconstruct’ this imaginary ‘Q’ document how will they know they got it right? They have nothing to compare their work with, so how would they know they did not error, did not include something that was not originally there and exclude something that was?

This is a glaring oversight by these scholars and opens the door to allow the scholars or just about anyone, the opportunity to alter Jesus’ words and make Him say something He did not say.  This is a very dangerous project, as is the unsubstantiated charge of copying, for it basically removes the message of God and make it subject to fallible humans who may not like what they read and would want to make changes so it fit their sensibilities or desires.

Fourth, There is no way to determine, when this ‘reconstruction’ is complete to know if they got it right and the ‘reconstruction’ itself would be open to editing from other scholars who think errors were made by the original scholars.  All we have is another human book subject to the opinions of other humans who may disagree with what was included or excluded and the fight for content would be endless.

Fifth, if the Gospels writers quoted or used an earlier work, then the ancient historians would have discovered it and called into question the accounts as written in the Gospels.  With the many opposing eye-witnesses as their source, it would be easy to discredit the Biblical authors but we do not hear any word from them.  There is nothing from the opposing eye-witnesses, nothing from the secular historians, and nothing from Josephus which calls into question the Gospel writer’s work.

It would be logical to conclude, from the textual information we have, that the Gospel writers did not need nor used alternative source material. They did not have to, there is no reason for them to do so and the ramifications if they did, would be immense, which we will see in the conclusion.

As to the similar material which started all this opposition to the Gospel writers writing on their own accord, it is simple common sense. People writing about the same historical events or life will say the same things from time to time because that was what was said and it cannot be changed.

If the Biblical authors wrote the exact same material, then they would be subject to charges that only one person wrote the 4 books or that they plagiarized or copied exactly from someone else. The Christian cannot win when it comes to the secular world for if the Gospels are different then the accounts aren’t true. If they are exactly the same then the accounts are not true, if they contain similar material, they must have copied and it is possible that the accounts are not true.

The believer needs to learn to dismiss such complaints and look at the reality. The accounts will contain similar material for Christ did things only once, said things only once, He was tried and crucified only once thus it stands to reason that the gospels would have similar material. 

These charges of copying, by the secular scholars, are not extended to works that write about the Civil War or other historical events as historians writing on the same events include similar material and conversations; thus their hypocrisy is exposed by their application of a double standard to the gospels.

It is quite clear that the Gospel writers did not use ‘Q’ as their source, they did not need to. The scholars making these charges first need to prove the document actually existed first before they make these charges or waste time reconstructing something that they can’t prove is the correct version of the document. This is why the believer is not supposed to ‘walk in the counsel of the ungodly’, they do not have the truth at heart and they cannot substantiate their false accusations.

One final word, these scholars are looking back 1800-2000 years, how could they presume to think that they know what Matthew and Luke did when they were alive? They can’t but they try.

Lesson 4: Other Gospels

This lesson is not so much on copying as it is on the competition.  There are scholars out there, like Elaine Pagels, who think that all Christians are Christians and it doesn’t matter about right and wrong or truth and error, as long as they claim to be ‘Christian’, then their views need to be accepted.

“The claims to apostolic authorship…belonged to second century battles over whose views would dominate the nascent Christian religion. Certainly those who wrote and circulated the gospels Irenaeus denounced did not think of themselves as heretics but as Christian. Now that we possess not only Irenaeus’s refutation but copies of some of the works he wrote against…we can see how one-sided his presentation was.”{Pagels 2007:7}

So here we have the complaint that those who defended the New Testament gospels and denounced the works of those which came much later are bullies, unfair in their attacks against the heretical works and fought hard to suppress them so their own views would rule the church.

These works in question belong to the Nag Hammadi Library discovered in Egypt in about 1945.Some of their titles are, The Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Judas, The Gospel of Truth, The Gospel of Mary and the Act of Peter, to name a few. These books tell a different story than the New Testament Gospels and it is not hard to see why they were rejected by the Christian Church and the councils which set the Canon of scriptures.

Yet support for these works is not weak: “Few New Testament scholars today would agree with Irenaeus’s reasoning, much less with what he says about those who wrote these gospels…It is highly unlikely that any of them were written by disciples who personally knew Jesus, but we do not actually know who wrote them. Furthermore, many of the gospels that Irenaeus dismisses as illegitimate…also claim to be written by members of the same inner circle of disciples; but we have no independent evidence to verify who actually wrote any of them.” {Pagels 2007:6,7}

But there are problems with this point of view, first, the author makes a generalization about the New testament scholars, whereby giving off a false impression that even true Christian scholars side with her against Iranaeus. That is just not so.  Then, second, she leaves the door open for authorship to be from someone who may have known Jesus, yet we know that these works date to the middle or late second century A.D. onward to the 4th century A.D. so it is very apparent that they were written by those who sought to deceive others.

The key to remember about these later works is that although secular scholars may accept them as Christian works, they do not read like Christian works and often contradict who Jesus is and His views. {Strobel 1998:123}

As noted earlier, the supporters of these alternatives feel that a great battle was going on inside the church. Whose views would rule and determine the path it was to follow. Many charges of conspiracies, many accusations of changes to the text to avoid problems, then still more of making sure the copyists copied the texts the traditionalists wanted and so on. {Ehrman 2007:171ff}

But like the previous lessons’ examples these accusers cannot provide any concrete or legitimate evidence to prove what they say is true. They all rely on empty statements and hearsay along with their own assumptions or conjectures.

These scholars also forget that the ‘gospels’ they champion were buried for over 1800 years. It was not coincidence that this was done and if these advocates for the Nag Hammadi Library stopped to think, they would see that these books were not buried because of some great conspiracy or loss of a battle for control of the church but that they were lost because they were false.

Because these secular scholars do not apply any form of sophistication to their studies, they lose sight of right and wrong and true and false and by doing so allow themselves to be deceived.  They cannot see the difference between the works and feel that they have missed out on works that should be counted as scripture even though their words are far different than the New Testament writers.

Their constant grouping of all ‘religious’ people who claim to be Christian or part of a form of ‘Christianity’, distorts their perception so that they cannot see how far off these alternative books are. They do not see that they are advocating that the church let in not scriptural non-infallible works as the words of God, which would ruin the message of the Bible and destroy the church.

For the believer, we can see that the fact that these books were buried for so long indicates that they are not God’s word and that they need to be ignored in spite of all the calls by secular scholars to include them as ‘Christian’. We can also see the Biblical teachings of false teachers in action whereas the secular scholar does not nor would accept such an idea.

There are other works out there from ancient times, that people claim to be scripture, yet their works are lost, set aside and forgotten, and so on and the advocates for these as well as the above example ignore the passage of scriptures which talks about God’s promise to preserve His word till the end of time.  Preservation does not include being lost, forgotten or buried in the sands for 1800 years for such action would benefit no one and generations of people would be lost and without a chance to hear the good news of salvation.

It is not hard to see the clues God has left us to help us determine what is true or false teachings. Paul mentions cursing those who ‘bring a gospel different than the ones Jesus and His disciples brought’ which is another clue to help the believer determine what they are reading or hearing is true or not.

If it disagrees with the 4 Gospels of the New Testament, which has not been lost, forgotten or buried so no one had access to them over the centuries, then those works are false and it is okay to dismiss or ignore them.

One final word, the honest scholars date the works of the Nag Hammadi library to the second to fourth centuries A.D., long AFTER the deaths of the final eye-witnesses to Christ and His life and resurrection. That is the prime opportunity to strike when one wants to deceive those who believe or will believe if they hear the truth. There is no one left who had first-hand knowledge to refute the alternative and those who have sat under their teaching can only rely on what they have heard or read.

Those believers of the second century onward can only rely on the change in their lives God made in their lives and their faith. If the deceiver can take those people’s eyes off Christ and make them doubt their faith and experience then the door is open for them to be lead astray and lose what they have gained. What better way to do that than to have alternatives written in names similar to the disciples who wrote the true books of the Bible and have them called Christian as well.

Lesson 5: Dating the Gospels

In looking at these false charges of copying laid against the New Testament authors, it is prudent and wise to take time to look at when the gospels and other New Testament books were actually written. The examination of the dating of the gospels helps keep everything in perspective and allows one to see how ridiculous the accusations are.

First we need to establish a couple points to form a boundary for a timeline.  Jesus died approx. 30-33 A.D. after a 3 year ministry, so that will be the bottom marker and it is accepted that John wrote his gospel roughly about 100A.D. so that will be the upper marker.

Here we have a time span of about 70 years between resurrection and the last book of the Bible yet ‘some scholars say the gospels were written so far after the events that legend developed and distorted what was finally written down…’ (Strobel 1998:32} But as we can see, 70 years is not that long after the fact considering that ‘the two earliest biographies of Alexander the Great were written by Arrian and Plutarch more than 400 years after Alexander’s death in 323 B.C., yet historians consider them to be generally trustworthy.’ {Ibid 33}

Again we see that double standard being applied to the Biblical authors when it is convenient for them.  Now let’s look at some of the other books of the New Testament, with the help of two Christian scholars, Dr. Craig Blomberg and the late F.F. Bruce. Dr. Blomberg will be first:

1. Luke and Acts: First Acts ends unfinished and Paul is under house arrest, which puts the writing of Acts around or before 62 A.D. as Paul was martyred approx. 64-5 A.D. Since Acts is the second part of a two part work, that makes the writing of the Gospel much earlier.

2. Mark: Since Blomberg and other scholars believe Luke incorporates the book of Mark in his work that means that the Markian gospel had to be written far earlier, possibly late 50’s.

3. The Letters of Paul: It is said that Paul began his writing ministry before the gospels were written and since these epistles appeared in the 50’s, he must have begun writing in the 40’s and since he met the disciples not long after his conversion that means he was introduced to creeds and other information as early as approx. 35 A.D. {all information taken from Strobel 1998:33-35}

Now for F.F. Bruce:

1. The Gospels: he mentions other scholars who late date these works, Mark about 65, Matthew and Luke in the 80’s and John at 100 A.D.  but Bruce does not agree and puts them at 64/5 for Mark, Luke and Matthew about the 70’s

2. The Pauline Epistles: Here Bruce says; Galatians 48 A.D; 1 & 2 Thess. 50; 1 & 2 Cor. 54-56; Romans 57; Phil., Col., Eph., Philemon all at 60 with the rest nearer to his death in 64-5.

{All information taken from Bruce 1981:7-8}

What is the purpose of all this? If one makes a comparison they will see that the New Testament was basically written within 30-40 years after Christ’s resurrection, hardly enough time for legend to develop and hardly enough time for the disciples to copy from any other source. It should be noted that there would be plenty, if not scores, of hostile eye-witnesses still alive who would have applied opposition if the disciples and other New Testament writers added in legend or copied form alternative sources.

Yet the historical and ancient record is silent on this issue.  We have the writings (or copies) of those secular historians who mention Christians and Jesus in or near the first century and not one of them refer to, allude to or mention any opposition or any charges of fraud, copying or misinformation by the New testament authors.

The charges of copying come long after the second century A.D. by those who do not want to accept the Bible as true and who do not wish to live by its teachings. They also come from those who have no way of proving their accusations true. These charges come from safety, as the acts of writing are so long back in history it is impossible to bring definitive testimony to refute and to provide evidence to substantiate them.

Thus the charges remain in spite of the fact that all the evidence points to the New Testament being authored close to the time of Christ’s resurrection.  Another point in the favor of the New Testament authors is the following:

“It is evident from the recently discovered writings of the Gnostic school of Valentinus that before the middle of the second century most of the New Testament books were as well known and as fully venerated in that heretical circle as they were in the Catholic Church (not RCC).” {Bruce 1981:14}

So here we have acceptance of the New Testament authors’ works by those who disagreed with them long before these charges of copying were laid. If the ancient heretics knew that they were valid, then we in the modern age should not lay false charges against the works.

I close this lesson with one more quote:

“To sum up, we may quote the verdict of the late Sir Frederic Kenyon, a scholar whose authority to make pronouncements on ancient mss. was second to none: ‘The interval then between the dates of original composition and the earliest extant evidence becomes so small as to be in fact negligible, and the last foundation for any doubt that the scripture have come down to us substantially as they were written has now been removed. Both the authenticity and the general integrity of the Books of the New Testament may be regarded as finally established.’”

In other words, the charges of copying, forgery, misinformation, etc., are all false and a waste of the believer’s time. There is no credibility to such claims and nothing historical can be found to provide any support for them either.

The believer can be at peace knowing they are reading the real words of the real disciples about the real events concerning Jesus.

Lesson 6: Conclusion- God’s Promise

As was stated in the beginning of this course, the Israelites never had a reputation for copying other people’s works, nor did the Biblical authors but we know that the secular civilizations and many false religions edited their works and copied from other people and beliefs.

There is no question that the Biblical authors did not copy, or that would be an end to their purpose if they did and their words would hold no value. This is something that the secular scholars either do not see or hope to see take place. If the latter was achieved then they could live their lives as they please without feeling they are doing something wrong. Unfortunately, they would open the door and throw all morality out the window and anarchy would set in as each person strived to be ‘the strongest’ and set their wills over others.

This isn’t the only danger that comes if the Biblical authors copied and relayed false information, there are others but that is not the purpose of this lesson. Being aware of this important ramification is enough for now.

Another major error the secular scholars and archaeologists make is that they ignore what the Bible teaches about true and false beliefs and teachers. In their quest to side step the Biblical message, they lump a majority of ancient people into one group and call them all Christian. Their only real criteria are whether or not the ancient heretics used parts of the Bible or not.

“According to the Divine Myth…There were a great many different varieties of early Christianity, and they produced a large number of different ‘gospels’, all of which circulated in early Christian circles more or less unchecked.” {Wright2006:121}

This is a problem because it is based upon an assumption and a failure to compare the ancient world with the modern and with scriptures.  The ancient world was just like the modern one where people could not bring themselves to believe or accept the truth, and started their own faiths with their own scriptures.  Calling them Christian would be like calling the Jehovah witness Christians (and other cults of today) Christian, simply because they used their version of the Bible and not the accepted Christian translations.

The ignoring of the teaching of true and false doctrines is a key ingredient to these secular scholars being led astray from the truth and allows them to pursue whatever ‘gospel’ suits their fancy. It also allows confusion in to the ranks of the church as the unwary do not know what to believe or which scripture to accept. The often bow to the conclusions of the ‘experts’ even though those ‘experts’ are not believers in God.

Another error made by the secular scholars is the attempt to make the Bible a human book demoting it so they can remove words, teachings, dismiss or declare passages as pure fancy and ignore what the Bible says. They need to do so, so they can replace the Bible with false teachings they accept.

By making the Bible a human book these scholars now feel no pang of wrong doing for they ,in their minds, are not attacking or removing God’s words, but a fellow human’s.  They feel they are just as qualified or more so and by reducing the divine pages to human status, they then are free to alter, through their own translational skills, the text to fit their own sensibilities.

They also can make all the false charges against the church and the biblical authors as they want, without worry and without concern for proof. They stand upon their expert status to provide the weight they need to get their theories and conspiracies across to the public. One such charge:

“And the reason for this choice, it is suggested again and again by the proponents of the new myth, is because the church was interested all along in political power and control, and so was eager to prioritize books that would provide it…” {Wright 2006:121}

For true Christians political power and control was the furthest things from their minds and only unscrupulous men saw an opportunity to achieve that goal when they looked at the church.

The final error that will be looked at here, these secular scholars make is that they either forget or ignore what I call the God factor.  They ignore God’s promises of keeping His word till the end of time and make it seem that God is incompetent because He cannot keep His word from being altered by those who do not believe as Jesus taught.

We know that God keeps His promises and we need to use faith that He has kept His word intact despite all the false accusations that the Bible has been edited or copied and in spite of all the false translations in the world today. 

The second thing that the secular scholars and archaeologists either forget or ignore, are the words of Paul and Peter, who both said that scriptures were given by God (2 Tim. 3:16) and spoken as moved by the Holy Spirit (2 Pet. 2:21).  The words of the Bible are not written by men, not invented by them but have divine origin.

If the Bible was a human production, the secular scholars would be at a loss to explain how a whole nation of people have adopted it as their national identity and have done so for over 2,000 years. Nor can they explain how this book attracts all manner of people from all around the world, from every different culture, and thinking.

If the Bible was false or copied, then it should not have had such long lasting effect on humans and lives would not be changed by the simple act of repentance. This is where all the arguments of the secular world fail, as they have no answer and nothing to replace the Bible.

You will notice that all the scholars are good with presenting accusations but none of them can present an alternative that stands alongside of what the Bible offers.  Their alternatives have been buried in the sand for thousands of years, lost over time or ignored for they have been found out that they do not provide anything that people need or want and quickly cast aside, with only a minute number clinging desperately to their false words.

I close this course with the following words:

“One thing must be emphatically stated. The New Testament books did not become authoritative for the Church because they were formally included in a canonical list; on the contrary, the Church included them in her canon because she already regarded them as divinely inspired, recognizing their innate worth and generally apostolic authority, direct or indirect.

The first ecclesiastical councils to classify the canonical books were both held in North Africa- at Hippo Regius in 393 and at Carthage in 397- but what these councils did were not to impose something new upon the Christian communities but to codify what was already the general practice of those communities.” {Bruce 1981:22}

The believer can be at peace knowing that they do not follow empty words copied form some secular myth or false religion but that they follow the true words of God, kept over time through all sorts of attacks and mistakes so that all have the chance to be saved and live with Christ for eternity.

The Bible was not copied from secular people or false religions; it was the secular people who altered their own works from the Bible hoping to siphon off some of the popularity enjoyed by the Christian church and to deceive others.  How do we know we have the correct and original words—by faith and by the help of the Holy Spirit?

We do not need to be afraid that we have the wrong words, if we did then the secular scholars and world would not be attacking the Bible and making all these false accusations against it. There would be no need for them to do so, for the followers of the Bible, if it was false, would be just like them, lost and blind and no threat to their lives.

We have the correct Bible, let’s live like we do and follow it humbly.

Chronology of the Biblical Record in Conjunction with Ancient Myths

INTRODUCTION

I picked this topic simply because of the charges that have been laid against the Bible and the Biblical writers.  There are two main charges that re-occur in most discussions with atheists, first is the charge that the Bible was written in about the fourth or fifth centuries B.C.

“The early books of the Bible (written down centuries after the events they describe) recount the story of God’s chosen people…in the Promised Land after their escape from captivity in Egypt”(1)

The bolding is mine highlighting the prevailing view of many scholars and archaeologists and is underscored by the following:

“According to many scholars, the Deuteronomistic History (DH) appeared in substantially its present form in the late seventh century BCE, during the reign of King Josiah of Judah (639-09), approx. 300 years after the time of David and Solomon. But that is not to say that the DH was an entirely new or completely imaginative composition when it reached recognizable form.  …It is clearly the result of the editing together of various earlier sources—not a single original work written by an individual or group of authors at one time…”(2)

The most common charge is the one where Christological ideas are found in secular cultic writings:

“There is much speculation that Christian beliefs were influenced by Mithraic belief. Ernest Renan, in The Origins of Christianity, promoted the idea that Mithraism was the prime competitor to Christianity in the second through the fourth century AD”,(3)

These are not the only charges as they extend back to the stories of creation and the flood as well.  What will be done here in this paper in the following pages is trace the origins of a few ancient civilizations, space limits the amount, and sees when they arose, and how they came to be.

Then a look at the chronology of Noah, his place in time, and the details surrounding his life and death. Next this paper will turn to the origins of the ancient myths, the dates they were written, the age of their oldest surviving manuscripts and records and compare it with Biblical stories and their place on the timeline.

Finally this paper will take a look at one last common charge leveled against the Biblical authors and that is the accusation that the Israelites copied from other peoples.  Some scholars feel when the Israelites were in their different captivities, their scribes were given access to the records and myths of their captors and then to cover their shame, invented a glorious past which elevated them higher than their neighbors as ‘the chosen people’ in order to give their descendants something to be proud of and rally around.(4)

The reason these charges are so easily laid, is that there is so little physical evidence to support the Biblical claims but if one looks closely, they will see that there is next to nothing to support the charges and claims made by the opposing scholars. 

But these charges provide an escape route for those who do not want to believe and who want to dismiss the Biblical record for whatever reason.  We shall see through this study how flimsy the argument against the Biblical originality truly is for the dissenting scholars do not rely on much except their interpretation of what they have found. 

Unfortunately for them, interpretation is just a fancy word for ‘opinion’ and that is what we are facing when we are dealing with these accusations—the scholar’s or archaeologist’s opinion.  We are also encountering the arrogance of the unbelieving scholar and archaeologist:

“ In the tombs, pottery forms, and architecture of the Bronze and Iron age societies of the eastern Mediterranean are the raw materials with which archaeologists can reconstruct the economic, social, and political forces of which the Bible speaks so eloquently”(5)

Again the highlighted words, this time by underlining, are mine and are used to demonstrate the attitude of arrogance that exists in the archaeological and biblical scholarship world.  It is presumptuous of these people to think that they can reconstruct much when so little information has been recovered.(6) Most of what they claim to be factual is actually a result of the imagination of the modern day researcher looking back over thousands of years and steeped in conjecture, hypothesis and wishful thinking.

The rarely know if they have it right for they are dealing with fragments of the past, lodged in the dirt sans explanation for why the artifact was left in such a position.  Without ancient contemporary verification the modern day archaeologist and scholar is left to their own devices as to how they will ‘interpret’ their discovery.  Problem is they are not mind readers and have no clue why things are as they are.

Even the written records discovered shed little light on the past and only seem to reflect an earlier version of the modern world except without the modern technological tools to help.  This is the framework we have to work with as we look at the chronology of the Biblical stories and their secular counterparts.

When we take a closer look at the evidence we will see a surprising outcome, one that is often overlooked by secular scholars, and others, simply because they do not want to prove the Bible true.(7) Chronology is important, as we shall see.

 

ORIGINATION OF ANCIENT SOCIETIES

In this section, we will explore the origin of some of the ancient original civilizations but the story is a murky one for there is very little information and much speculation.  As we shall see each scholar or archaeologist have their own ideas and theories, as exampled by the following:

“Civilization in its first really large scale forms came into being at roughly the same time in Mesopotamia and Egypt, in the fourth millennium. By about a thousand years later…civilizations had appeared on the distant banks of the Indus and probably in China as well. The phenomenon did not happen everywhere at exactly the same moment in world history: it was not as if civilizations was somehow ‘in the air’ for all to experience. Rather, history started more or less from scratch, in one place after another.”(8)

And by :

“Perhaps man originated somewhere in Africa; though research has been canvassing the possibility that there was an even earlier form of ancestral humanity on the northern confines of the Indian peninsula.”(9)

In dealing with the past, we do not have the luxury of the use of the western calendar by the ancient societies nor do we have any written record that states, Egypt was founded in such and such a year.  It is all guess work with the aid of comparing what little physical evidence we have.  In modern times we have signs and records which state the exact date a city or town was founded but for now, no such record has been discovered and even if it was it would not or could not say ‘established 3500 B.C.’  Such terminology was not put into use until long after Christ was resurrected.

Colin Renfrew in his contribution to the Penguin Encyclopedia of Ancient Civilizations says that ‘there can only be a single earliest civilization in any area…’(10)  But why just one when earlier we read that Mesopotamia and Egypt arose about the same time and he does not explain why there can only be one.  Where would the other competing societies come form if there is only one original people?

Is he saying that the Sumerians fought themselves and then changed their names as time went on?  Dr. Renfrew does not explain where these other groups arise from nor why would they settle near a dominate civilization if they wanted to survive.

In the same volume Thorkild Jacobson says this about the Sumerians, ‘ Who they were, and where they came from are questions that cannot be answered with any certainty.(11) But the murkiness does not stop here as:

“During the 4th millennium BC, the Uruk culture of southern Mesopotamia marked the emergence of cities, writing, sophisticated administration, massive public buildings and social complexity- the foundation of Mesopotamian tradition of civilization..The Mesopotamian tradition developed significantly during the 3rd millennium BC of Sumerian city states…”(12)

Then we have A. Mazar’s words:

The peculiar nature of the Ghassulian culture is characterized by its extraordinary settlement pattern, pottery, stone tools, advanced copper technology…All of these have no precedent in the previous period and are only to a limited extent continued in the succeeding one…Furthermore its significance in the overall scheme of ancient Near Eastern cultures of the fifth and fourth millennia BCE and its exact times span must be ascertained….If the Ghassulian culture indeed did continue over such a long time it would have overlapped most of what is known as the Ubeid and the beginning of the Uruk periods in Mesopotamia. During the latter period the crystallization of the Sumerian culture began…”(13)

Then finally we have John Bright’s words:

“The creators of civilization in lower Mesopotamia were the Sumerians, who constitute one of the great mysteries of all history. Of what race they were and whence they came we can only guess”(14)

As one can see, the origins of early civilization varies and goes according to the historian who is recording them.  But there is a consensus that the Sumerians were the first civilization, and if that is so then is it possible that the Ghassulians and the Ubeids were part of the pre-flood world?

In all of these quotes, there is a consistent theme that is common to all of the different scholars and archaeologists—there were an early group or groups of people who lived in different types of homes and did different types of farming, hunting, gathering etc. prior to the rise of the Sumerians and the Egyptians and the rest of the ancient societies.

One of the problems with this theme is that none of these scholars can explain nor attempt to explain where these pre-civilized people came from. Colin Renfrew does try to say that it was evolution but none of the others have any credible explanation as to the source of these people or how they came into existence to begin with.(15)

According to Dr. Bright, there are early inscriptions both in Egypt and Mesopotamia dating back to only the early centuries of the third millennium BC or approx. one thousand years before Abraham.(16).   The early centuries of the third millennium places the rise of the Egyptians and Sumerians to a time that dates after the accepted date for Noah’s flood, which is usually placed at about 2500 B.C.

This fact helps us understand the ‘Sumerian problem’ as related by Charles Aling in the Bible and Spade article called, Cultural Change and the Confusion of Language in Ancient Sumer,

The series questions that all this raises is what scholars call the “Sumerian Problem”. Simply put, the problem comprises questions such as: Who were the Sumerians? Where did they come from? What role did they play in the creation of Mesopotamian civilization? And for our purposes, perhaps the most important question, when did they enter Mesopotamia?(17)

And his summary states:

“To summarize: professional archaeologists say that the earliest major people in southern Mesopotamia were the Sumerians; there is no archaeological evidence that there was anyone else. Thus, the Ubaid people were Sumerians. On the other hand, experts on the Sumerian language say that the Ubaid people must have been of some other ethnic and/or linguistic group, whose language is mainly lost today, and that the Uruk people must have been Sumerian speaking newcomers. Thus, Sumerian history starts not with the Ubaid period but with the Uruk Culture”

So after all this, what we have is a confusion as to where the original civilizations originated. No one really knows and their sudden appearance on the scene actually puts them AFTER Noah and his family not before, if we look at the evidence closely and honestly.

But Dr. Aling’s conclusions assume that the Sumerians always were and according to his logic, that Noah and His ancestors could be considered Sumerian.  It is a possibility considering we do not know which people Noah belonged to but not probable because we do not know if the pre-flood world held to nationalities like the post-flood does.  The post-flood world also defines its national identity by its language, something the pre-flood world did not have to do for they spoke in one tongue (at least by the evidence of the Bible).

Since the Diaspora at Babel took place after the Flood then we can conclude that the rise of the ancient civilizations started after the flood as well, providing a clear point in determining the chronology of the Biblical accounts and the myths of the ancient societies. But more on that later.

NOAH’S TIME

To present a chronology of Noah and how he and his family fit into the timeline of history is not easy.  The scholarly world takes a dim view of the Bible, both secular and Christian, when it comes to the area of history.

“To be blunt, there is nothing new here. The present debate is merely the tired old stuff of nineteenth century liberalism wrapped in a new package…Another reason for the lack of study of the relationship between Egypt and the Bible is that a majority of scholars appear to be convinced that the Bible borrowed much of its material , especially for Genesis, from Mesopotamian literature…A final reason that scholars have distrusted the Biblical accounts that relate to Egypt, particularly the exodus story, is the lack of written evidence from Egypt that would support their historicity.’(18)

This quote may refer to Egypt and the biblical stories which relate to that country but this is just an example of the prevailing thought for all of the Biblical accounts that physical evidence is lacking.  Dr. William Dever states:

“Gradually the skepticism…of scholars has trickled down to the general public. And in the past few years, readers who value the biblical traditions have become puzzled and even alarmed by what they perceive as a concerted, hostile attack on the Bible—much of it coming from reputable biblical scholars themselves…Largely as a result of these and a few other similar books, the public is becoming aware that long cherished notions about the Bible as history are being questioned, undermined and often rejected not only by a generation of younger, disaffected, postmodern scholars but even by the religious and institutional establishment. In seminaries the Bible and biblical history are being rewritten by deconstructionist literary critics, etc…(19)

The acceptance of the Bible and its record is becoming less and less as people think they are intelligent, using reason by opting for archaeology and science over the words of the Bible.  They have this notion that the Bible is just another book, subject to modern processes and filled with problems:

“The richest source of information about the biblical Israelites is, of course, the Bible. There are a number of problems, however, in using the Bible as a history text. The Bible was not written all at once by trained historians with access to reliable documents. Rather, it was written by a number of people over a long period of time, and large sections of the Bible were rewritten or re-edited at a still later time (often for propagandistic reasons).”(20)

So here we have not only the secular world doubting the words of God but also the religious one as well.  They feel that the lack of physical evidence disproves the Bible but as John Currid goes on to say ‘ We need to be careful of this line of reasoning because it is an argument from silence.” (21)

Which is quite correct as scholars have found it easy to make the accusations, yet not one of them has provided proof to support such criticism. They assume much based upon the actions and reputations of other societies but have failed to produce one solid, credible piece or pieces of physical evidence to prove themselves correct.

But is the Bible alone in this issue? Not really for Dr. William Shea has produced a paper which looks at possible physical evidence for Noah and his family:

“Identification of this first carved stone led to a search for others in the same area. A total of seven carved stones were found within an area of about 25 feet (8 m.) from the first stone. Four of these depict outlines of the heads of various members of Noah’s family—Shem, Ham, Japheth. The men are named in the inscriptions (which must be read right to left) but the women are simply labeled as “wife (ashat) of….”(22)

The descriptions of what Dr. Shea found continues and he provides much detail. In a discussion with Mr. Stephen Caesar, he dismissed these inscriptions and carvings based upon the idea that the location was too inhospitable to be manmade and that no one would spend their time recording such events on rock because it was too difficult. When it was pointed out that there was a modern example of this in Mt. Rushmore, he ended the discussion.  When faced with the reality many people just will not accept the facts and want their own ideas.

These rocks are well documented and can be found in several different sources but how does this help with dating Noah and placing him in the correct spot in the chronological timeline?  Dr. Shea continues:

“I first noted the script used here on the other side of the border while visiting the Durupinar formation near Dougbayazit, Turkey, in the summer of 1998. It came as a complete surprise to find a couple of brief alphabetic inscriptions there, since I had previously assumed that any writing found in this area near the landing of Noah’s Ark would be cuneiform. But here it was in an alphabetic script related to Proto-Sinaitic, the earliest written alphabet of mankind, known originally from turquoise mines in Sinai from the mid-second millennium B.C. and more recently from the early second millennium B.C. found in Egypt. Here was an earlier form of that Semitic alphabet found first in Eastern Turkey and now in Armenia.”(23)

So here is a written language earlier than the known oldest but related to it, which means we can push the dating of these tombs and inscriptions back further in time possibly to Sumerian days if not sooner. With the inscribing of the names on these rocks and tombs, the question is raised, why would someone do this if Noah and the flood was a copy of ancient Mesopotamian myths?  They wouldn’t. Especially to such detail and exactness:

“This collection of inscriptions indicates that this promontory was not paved just for the use of modern tourists, but in ancient times it served as the site of the burial of Japheth and his wife. To emphasize the connections of this site with the family of Noah, there are carvings of his three sons on top of the columnar rocks just across the road from this lookout. In that location, Shem and his wife were carved on the right, Ham and his wife in the middle, and Japheth and his wife on the left.”(24)

What helps us further in setting the chronology and which supports the Biblical account is the Sumerian Kings list, which puts the or a flood right in the middle of their chronological history:

“…Beginning with the lowering of kingships from the heavens, the list begins with a series of kings, first at Eridu and then at other cities, who ruled for tens of thousands of years; this series ends with a flood. Afterwards, kingship was once again lowered…”(25)

Not only does this list correspond to the Biblical record, both pre and post flood, there is NO reason for the Sumerians to include a flood, especially if it was a minor local one, in their records if it did NOT happen prior to their rise to power and organization.

The flood had to be devastating enough to interrupt their ‘kings’ rule which indicates that a catastrophe took place that was devastating enough to disrupt human life on earth, if it wasn’t or if it did not take place, then there is no reason to include it or even place it in such a prominent position in the list.

These little tidbits of physical evidence help us place Noah prior to any ancient civilization save for his own pre-flood one.  These are not absolute proof but supply the believer with enough physical evidence to support their faith in the Bible, not ruin it. Accepting Noah and the flood in its proper place in history still requires faith, for that is what pleases God and He will not destroy what pleases Him thus we will not be given all the physical evidence required or demanded by the secular scholar or archaeologist, but we will get enough to keep our faith strong and know that the Biblical record is true and accurate.

We can only use faith when it comes to the Biblical record because we are not eye-witnesses to the events transcribed within its pages and we must rely on the word of the One who was. Now some say eye-witness accounts are useless as different people see things differently.

Well that idea may work for human crime as people are often traumatized or shocked by the violence they witness but God is not and these events are under is control thus His accounts would not be affected by human fear or other emotions. We can be assured that what is written in the Bible is accurate, and free from undermining influences that would distort the actual event.

Here we have seen how Noah can be properly placed in the timeline prior to the ancient societies that Israel is accused of copying but there is more to support the idea that the biblical accounts were original and were not taken from other sources. Such evidence will be looked at in the following section.

DATES OF SECULAR MYTHS, RECORDS AND MSS.

It is a common charge one hears when the scholars and archaeologists complain or state that the secular myths were written down long before the Bible was written:

“What many of these people do not realize…is that there are several even earlier versions of the same story, all from ancient Mesopotamia. The oldest known version of the flood account comes form the Sumerians, a civilization that flourished in…the late fourth and third millennia BC. In that story which dates to some time during the third, millennium BC, … A later copy of this original Sumerian flood story was found on a clay tablet in the city of Nippur in Mesopotamia and dates to about 1740 BC…”(26)

Note two things contained in this quote.  The first is, Dr. Cline, (the author of the above quote) calls the early Sumerian version- The Original, yet provides not evidence or proof such is so and the second item to take note are the dates of these versions; the first he states as originating ‘sometime during the 3rd millennium and the second as to being written in 1740 BC.

Both dates can and are easily placed to after Noah’s time making the earlier Sumerian version not an original but a variation of the truth and the second, more of the same as the account had approx. 500 to 800 years to develop before being recorded in its present form. In other words, sinful man had enough time to distort the truth and wrote down what they wanted the past to be not what it was.

Dr. Cline doesn’t stop with just those two examples, he goes on to say:

“ Around the beginning of the second millennium BC, a new version of the story emerged, with the name of the hero changed to Atrahasis. Then around 1800 BC or maybe a bit later, someone took a group of separate earlier stories and wove them together to form one great work, the Epic of Gilgamesh.”(27)

Now this is all plausible but none of the dating reflects that the stories are the original account and Dr. Cline, and others, do not present any proof that these works pre-date the actual account as told by Moses in Genesis 6-9.  They cannot even prove that these accounts were first written, even though they are older than the Bible in its written form. In fact other scholars do not agree that the Atrahasis was a copy but the source for all other accounts:

“The word ‘Atrahasis’ means ‘extra wise’ and is the name for the earliest known version of Noah or Ut-napishtim, who built an ark and saved mankind from destruction. This is that story, which many scholars believe was the original from which all known flood stories came from.” (28)

So what all these accounts suggest is that because their works were produced on stone, they were able to survive longer than anything that Noah or his sons possibly wrote down, nothing here makes them the original account and in a deeper study of these accounts one would be able to see the vast differences between their contents from the Biblical one. Two things need to be looked at here, the first is the double standard that exist when scholars look at the Biblical documents and ancient secular ones; and second, the life of Noah and his sons.

The first problem we have is that the secular sources are readily accepted by secular scholars and archaeologists, even though these works have little to no evidence to support their authorship or date.

As we have seen by the above quotes, the early flood accounts have no proof of authorship, no evidence of when or how they were written, nor even supporting records to show any factual basis for the accounts in any aspect.  YET, they are accepted without pause as being original or authentic, cases in point:

Manethos: Manetho, also known as Manethon of Sebennytos, was an Egyptian historian and priest from Sebennytos who lived during the Ptolematic era, circa 3rd century BC… Although no sources for the dates of his life and death remain…The earliest surviving attestation to Manethos is that of Josephus' Contra Apionem, "Against Apion." Even here, it is clear that Josephus did not have the originals…The king-list that Manethos had access to is unknown to us(29)

Tacitus: the roman historian who wrote his annals of imperial Rome in about A.D. 116…His first 6 books exist today in only one mss. and it was copied about A.D. 850. Books 11-16 are in another mss. dating form the 11th century. Books 7-10 are lost(30)

Josephus: we have 9 Greek mss. of his work The Jewish war, and these copies were written in the 10th, 11th& 12th centuries. There is a Latin translation from the 4th and Russian materials from the 11th or 12th.(31)

Homer: There are fewer than 650 Greek mss of it (Illiad) today. Some are quite fragmentary. They come down to us from the 2nd& 3rd century A.D. and following When you consider that Homer composed his epic about 800 B.C….(32)

Caesar: The Gallic Wars, composed between 58 to 50 BC, there are several extant mss, but only 9 or 10 are good, and the oldest is some 900 years later than Caesar’s day.(33)

Livy: Of the 142 books of his Roman History (59BC –AD 17) only 35 survive; these are known to us from not more than 20 mss of any consequence, one from the 4th century.(34)

Thucydides: His history was written about 460 to 400 BC and is known to us from 8 mss, the earliest belonging to about AD 900 with the same true for Herodotus.(35)

These are but an example of the many ancient authors who are accepted without passing the same strict criteria secular scholars place upon the Bible. As F.F. Bruce said;

“Yet no classical scholar would listen to an argument that the authenticity of Herodotus or Thucydides is in doubt because the earliest mss of their works which are of any use to us are over 1,300 years later than the original.” (36)

So we can see how the secular academic world views ancient authors and how they treat the Biblical passages are quite different.  Even William Dever sides with those who hold to this double standard. He writes:

“ First, all the Biblical texts in their present written form were produced relatively late in Israel’s history. Most were composed no earlier than the 8th century…The late date of composition and editing assumed here (bold mine)is not in debate among mainstream scholars…Despite the evidence the current biblical revisionists reject out of hand an early date for any of the Biblical literature…That leads me to the second limitation of the Biblical texts. Its writers and editors were historians of a sort, but they were highly selective in what they chose to include…The other biblical writers, principally those who produced the Deuteronomistic history, were elitists…The perspective of all the biblical writers is a factor that limits their usefulness in another regard. It is no exaggeration to say that all the Biblical literature constitutes what is essentially propaganda. The writers make no pretense to objectivity.”(37)

That last line is ridiculous as Dever demands of the biblical writers that which he does not practice himself, as he writes in his introduction of the same book,

“This is a book that, although it hopes to be true to the facts we, does not attempt objectivity; for that is impossible and perhaps undesirable.”(38)

So the standard placed upon the Biblical authors is an idealistic one and not even attempted by its secular critics, which makes their arguments hypocritical and moot.

Turning now to the second part we need to look at is the influence of Noah and his family. Since we have established their place in the chronological timeline existing prior to the rise of nations. (As has been pointed out previously secular scholars admit to people being alive prior to the organization of the Sumerians, the Egyptians and other first nations but cannot explain their source). We see the potential for the Biblical account being the original and first recorded story of the flood.

Genesis 9:28 says that Noah lived 350 years AFTER the flood and in Genesis 11:10 & 11 we read that Shem lived 502 years after the event.  This information gives us credible evidence that Noah and his family told and re-told their experience over and over to their descendents, who in turn most likely told their children and so on.  Then as men, once again, strayed further and further from God the story became distorted as people did not want to remember the truth but told the legends or mythic versions to their offspring.

Dr. Cline says  “…someone took a group of separate earlier stories and wove them together to form one great work…’ and he also states:

“ The Epic of Gilgamesh became a favorite tale, and was told and retold, copied and recopied over the centuries.’(40)

So if it is possible for the unbelievers to do so, and without any proof, as Dr. Cline does not provide any nor footnote his point, then so could Noah and his family. The latter makes more sense because they actually lived the event and the former does not simply because if the Flood did not happen, what was the point of creating such a story in the first place or using a flood to base a myth upon? Surely there were other great acts of destruction that could have been used.

We this we see that for at least 500 years, the original account being told was the Biblical one and it would pre-date any secular myth, Sumerian or otherwise.  The reason of oldest discovered is the original just does not fit, for the reason stated above, there is no reason to have a myth if there was no real original event to draw from.

Another reason the idea of the oldest is the original does not work is that we have no idea if Noah or his sons copied down their experiences on materials not suited for longevity and preservation was not an option for too long.  We have no proof that the Sumerian or other Mesopotamian versions are the oldest versions, they are simply the oldest preserved to date.

Which brings this paper to its final point, in the chronological examination, whom copied whom. These accusations abound and they are usually placed against the Israelites for whatever reason.

WHO IS COPYING WHOM

Throughout the history of archaeology, the Biblical authors have come under immense scrutiny and  two of the results of this over-intensified analysis are the accusations that they copied their words from other sources and the other is that they wrote their works well after the events described, embellishing them for whatever purpose. A few quotes to illustrate this point:

“The Biblical texts were heavily edited right from the beginning and they have undergone continual reinterpretation by Synagogue and Church for 2,000 years and more.” (41)

Then we have these words by Jeffery Sheler;

“Moreover, many scholars note that the biblical story seems to borrow directly from the flood myths of other civilizations in the ancient Near East…There are significant differences in the accounts as well. But the fact that the biblical story tracks these others so closely, says professor Michael D. Coogan of the Harvard Semitic Museum, suggests that the Genesis flood is the clearest example of direct dependence on other ancient myths.” (42)

For the later view point we have Dr. Brueggemann’s, ‘…the Old Testament in its final form is a product and a response to the Babylonian exile.”(43) And Finally;

“Since evidence of extensive literacy is lacking in Judah before  the end of the eight century BCE, The History of David’s rise is unlikely to have been put into writing less than two hundred years after David’s time.” (44)

What each of these people are lacking, Dever, Coogan not Sheler, Brueggemann & Finkelstein, is proof. Not one offers any credible, concrete, legitimate evidence that the Israelites or the Biblical authors copied the Bible from other sources. They talk a good game but in the end they are the ones left with embarrassment because their theories do not hold up under scrutiny.

In fact, throughout all of the ancient history, Israel nor its biblical writers ever had the reputation of being copyists.  That distinction fell to the ancient Babylonians of the Old Babylonian period:

“ The scribes of the Old Babylonian period were very zealous copyists and went to great lengths to preserve the literature that came down to them from the past, especially the archives of the Third Dynasty at Ur.”(45)

In spite of this known reputation, the secular scholars and archaeologists immediately charge the Israelites with ‘crimes’ they did not commit nor can be proven that they committed. One reason is that most scholars become literal when it suits them. The Bible was compiled throughout history and at an later date than the discovered tablets were written , so they think, much earlier thus the biblical writers must have copied from these other sources when they were in exile in Babylon.

There is one major problem with that type of thinking.  Why were the older secular myths buried and broken for thousands of years only to be discovered within the past couple of hundred years, while the Biblical version thrived and survived and were read (and still are read) into the present? Israel was NOT that influential to be able to preserve its books, to have them spread across the nations from ancient times to modern, to have them read by people from all nationalities, so we must conclude that the original and true works are contained in the Bible and the copies are the broken, fragmented pieces of stone that came to light only recently.

There is no other explanation for such a fact, regardless of what scholars and archaeologists think or claim, God had promised to keep His word intact for ever and we see that via the archaeological record. William Dever makes the claim,

‘But what we call the archaeological record has not been edited by anyone. The  artifacts are, therefore, more objective than texts, at least until the modern interpretive process begins. Surely such an unbiased source provides a more comprehensive picture of what life was really like in ancient Israel than do the biblical texts.”(46)

There are several problems with this claim. First, the ‘artifacts’ do not speak.  Finding a tablet or fragment of one does not prove that it was written prior to the Biblical account nor does it show that the Israelites copied from it. The fragment is simply a stone tablet in the sand, fallen house or temple or a piece of rock on a cliff edge.

Second, to place the artifact in its ‘proper’ place in the archaeological record, one must use some sort of bias or interpretation, depending upon their belief or lack of it and some sort of text to inform us where it belongs.  If it comes with a King’s name or a year of a king’s rule, then that is text which helps us place the item in the record. It doesn’t just magically place itself in the proper place.

Third, the archaeological record is edited all the time. We all have the same evidence, the same texts, the same artifacts but we all do not have the same opinion, the same bias and the same interpretation thus daily we argue where something belongs in the record based upon our perspective and position.  If things were as smooth as Dr. Dever claims, we would not have competing books, archaeological or scholarly papers debunking or fighting each other nor would we have to have continuous research and investigation.

Fourth, this appeal to something that is fallible, limited, open to corruption, etc., over the Bible shows that the bias is against the biblical record in favor of a theory or hypothesis the scholar or archaeologist agrees with. Dr. Dever, as quoted earlier, claims not to be objective, nor should anyone be, though he demands the biblical authors should be, thus no matter what he or others do, there will always be bias in the archaeological record because no one is being objective.  Such thinking undermines his point when he says ‘the record has not been edited’.

He cannot have it both ways, like he and so many other scholars try to do and it is clear that they cannot prove their position that the biblical writers copied, wrote propaganda, or wrote centuries after the fact. In fact, not even Israel Finkelstein can provide any evidence showing that the books of the Old Testament were written centuries after the events described.

The proof that the Israelites did not copy is found in the chronology of the time line , in the preservation and exposure of their words for all to see and in the fact if they did copy how could anyone explain the acceptance of those words, millennia after the fact?  We have a whole nation of modern people who accept that history plus millions of adherents from other nations. If these books were copies, then such would NOT take place and upon discovery of being forgeries and fakes, dismissed in haste, without guilt.

CONCLUSION

In the space allotted for this topic, we have only been given a brief glimpse into the discussion of chronology and how it affects Noah’s Flood, yet a few words are yet to be spoken and are needed at this time.

As we have seen, scholars and archaeologists do not know where the initial civilizations arose from.  They all agree that there were people in existence prior to the rise of the Sumerians, Egyptians and other nations but they do not know who they were or how they came to be.

Some, like Renfrew, decide to go with the evolution perspective, giving credit to the existence of humans to an unknown, unthinking, etc., process but such does not make sense.  If the Sumerians were, according to Cline,  capable of writing stories of events that never took place and then were able to pass such stories on to their children and grandchildren, then why would their ancestors be incapable of such things or neglect to inform their offspring of their origins via the evolutionary process?

It does not make sense for every child has questions about where they came from and the ancients would be no different in this case. Surely they had tales to tell long before they invented the Gilgamesh Epic.  It is said that the Australian aborigines have oral traditions going back 40,000 years,(47) yet no such claim is made for the Near Eastern civilizations. What we do have are creation and flood ‘myths’ being told and re-told but nothing for evolution, which tells us that evolution is a non-starter and has no ancient support nor foundation. 

There is not one ancient text which refers to an evolutionary process and the argument that they were not sophisticated enough to figure it out is pure arrogance on the part of the modern evolutionist. They are saying that the ancient civilizations were smart enough to figure out how to grow crops, breed animals, build huge buildings but were not capable of knowing their origin? That is just ridiculous as it implies only modern man is able to determine what took place thousands, possibly millions, of years ago.  It is also an insult to the ancient people.

The lack of historical writings does present a problem:

“Regarding ancient historiography, historians of Sumer and Akkad find themselves in a situation radically different from that of colleagues studying the ‘classical’ world, in that they have no historical narratives at their disposal.”(48)

This does not mean there weren’t or aren’t any, it just means that either they have been destroyed or they are waiting discovery still. But one thing we do know, there are no myths incorporating anything that would be considered an alternative to the Biblical record, in general. The stories told follow the Biblical record and because we have this lack of secular works to research, we must turn, and rightly so, to the Bible to see where the original post-flood people came from.

That would be Noah and his family.  Even the Sumerian king’s list provides some circumstantial evidence for this fact, as we saw in the section on Noah’s time.  There is no point in including a catastrophic event in one’s historical regent’s list if one did not take place. It would serve no purpose and would distort the reality, undermining the objective of making the list in the first place.

There is no reason, as well, to place Noah at any other time than prior to the rise of the Sumerians and the Egyptians. He just does not fit for the societies would be well formed and there would be, again, no reason to have a family re-populating the world when it did not need re-populating.  No matter how you look at it, the Biblical placing of Noah is perfect providing the scenario that would place his and his family’s retelling of the event prior to the writing of the ancient myths the Israelites are accused of copying.

Now we must address the question of ‘if Noah did not exist, and the Israelites copied from other civilizations, where did these nations derive their myths?’ As Kenneth Davis wrote, ‘Legends are really an early form of history-stories about historical figures, usually humans, not gods, that are handed down from earlier times.’(49).

So if Noah’s flood did not happen, what would the Near Eastern societies use to base their myths upon? It does not matter if the names in the myths are different than Noah’s for that would be changed depending upon the attitude and nature of the story teller. If they are far from God, then they would obviously pick names and details that would fit their pagan beliefs not the Biblical ones.

No, to be consistent and accurate, the Sumerians and other nations would have known about the real flood from Noah and his family but over time, as they turned away from God, the details would be changed until someone decided to permanently record it on whatever material was available.  The reason would be as varied as the people in existence at the time. It could even have been done to combat the truth which God had promised to preserve till the end of time.

Finally, the empty charges of copying need not be addressed in detailed here as it was clearly shown that the advocates of such thinking cannot and do not have any proof nor physical evidence to substantiate their charges. As was shown in the very first quote for this paper, these advocates just make the empty declaration and then leave it at that, forgetting that they need to clearly prove such allegations.

Their own writings expose their failure to make a case as they rely on conjecture or theory not hard facts when making these claims. They have nothing of substance to point to which discredits the claims of the Bible and biblical writers and shows them to be correct.

Thus no matter how you look at it, the chronology does not support the secular version of events and the non-believing scholars and archaeologists must invent, processes, people, events, and other aspects of life to make their alternatives seem credible and real.  What ancient records we have do not support their position and point to the validity of the Bible regardless of the name changes, the different details and so on.

The mere fact that the ancients were aware of creation and the flood shows that these events were real plus they asked questions about their origins;

“The ancient Babylonians, Egyptians, and Minoans…,asking where they and the world had come from, placed humankind at the center of creation and tracking back as far as their new sciences would allow, placed the beginning of all things just barely ahead of the earliest events reported in their written and oral history- about a thousand years before their own time.”(50)

It is not hard to see that the modern secular scholars and others do what they can to hide the truth and make it seem that the Bible is wrong because it does not have physical evidence to support its words.  Problem for them is, the Bible is a book of faith and we will not be given so much physical evidence that faith is destroyed. We will be given enough to strengthen our faith in God for that is what is important, because faith is all we have at this time.

The secular scholars and archaeologists have decided to place their belief in what they can see, read or touch. For them, it is the physical that counts not the words from one book that is hard to prove via their scientific methods. For them faith in the Bible is being blind and submitting to some ancient hoax ignoring the fact that this ‘hoax’ has lived intact for millennia and crossed all national and cultural borders and forgetting that not one archaeological discovery has proven the Bible false. It is the conjecture, the theorizing, the conclusions that attempt to prove the Bible untrue, without realizing that they have nothing to base such upon; it all supports the Biblical chronology and accounts.

Archaeology and Mormonism

I. Introduction:

One of the interesting things that were discovered while researching this section is that over the past 160 years or so, the Mormon archaeological claims have not changed and all sources dealt with the same ones and said basically the exact same thing when presenting each to the public. When I use the words ‘archaeological claims’ here, I am referring to those items or events that Joseph Smith said took place and should have left some sort of archaeological evidence to confirm their historical existence.

The main claim of the Book of Mormon is the following claim made by Joseph Smith:

Concerning this record the Prophet Joseph Smith said: "I told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book."1

Yet is it? All we have is the word of one man who, according to some, was not very literate or even educated and whom had little knowledge of the past. What the following pages seeks to do is examine some of the claims made by Joseph Smith and his followers and see where they fit with what we know from the archaeological record.

Eight of the most important events described in the Book of Mormon will be looked at in the following pages starting where it all began for Joseph Smith and that is the story of the golden tablets, then this work will move through the issue of the ancient peoples described in the Mormon holy book to their great exodus from the original promised land to the alters discovered in Yemen and claimed by Mormons as proof for their Exodus. 

Then we will move on to their famed Mt. Cumorrah and the tale of the great battle that took place there, followed by an examination of their supposed historic cities that were supposed to have been built by these ancient cultures. Finally, there will be a look at the claim of this special language Mormons call ‘Reformed Egyptian’ and finishing with a look at the book of Abraham, Mr. Smith claimed was written by the patriarch himself.

This section will end with a comparison between the Bible and the book of Mormon and why the lack of physical evidence works for the former but not the latter. Archaeology may be limited and has its problems but it can reveal much when used properly.  One of the problems faced by the Mormon Sect, though, is that their own archaeologists cannot find any physical evidence to support the claims made by Joseph Smith in the Book of Mormon and this issue will be looked at in the conclusion of this section.

People of religious beliefs will always fall back when they run into problems answering the demands for something real, something physical to shore up their faith or their wanting to believe the words spoken by religious leaders. Mormonism is no exception and they rely solely on faith not any physical discovery for proving their claims has turned into an almost impossible task,

The bottom line is that the Book of Mormon claims to be the historical record of millions of people who lived in the Americas for a thousand years, and includes all kinds of detailed descriptions of their everyday lives. These descriptions do not match any known archaeological evidence, with the exception of a small handful of archaeological "anomalies" that are out of sync with the overwhelming amount of evidence2

Now it needs to be mentioned that many have written on this topic before and have done a more extensive investigation and  detailed accounting…

My idea going into this study of the Book of Mormon, especially the section dealing with evidence for and against its historicity, was if the Book of Mormon is true, then it has to stand up to the most rigorous assaults and critiques that skeptics and nonbelievers can make. So I made every effort to honestly, fully investigate every criticism, every objection that's ever been made to the historicity of the Book of Mormon.3

…but many still have not read those works and this is just a catalyst to spur people to further research on this topic and see for themselves the truth of this issue. Why is this included in a book on biblical archaeology? Simply because it allows the strengths of the Bible to be highlighted and shown to be superior to false religions and so that people can see the difference between the Most High God and the gods of other beliefs.

Christians need to be shown that they are following the true faith and need to have their faith shored up and that is the purpose of including this section in this work. It is also the purpose of this whole book as the Christian needs to take their eyes off the secular world, free themselves from secular rules pertaining to these professions and put their eyes back on Christ and be strengthened to do things God’s way not the secular world’s.

The Christian church has allowed itself to be too compromised and as time is running out and drawing to a close, it needs to extricate itself from the mire that has hindered its duty in performing Christ’s work and making an impact upon this world.

II. The Archaeological Claims

1. The Golden Tablets

The Claim: The next thing he remembered seeing was Moroni standing over him, repeating his instructions of the night before, adding that Joseph should now tell his father about the visitations. Joseph did so, and his father, assured that the vision came from God, told Joseph to follow the angel's instructions (JS—H 1:46-50).

Joseph Smith then went to the hill and found the place shown him the night before in vision. He uncovered the plates and was about to remove them when Moroni appeared again, counseling Joseph that the time was not yet right. Instead, he instructed Joseph to return to this spot at the same time the following year and that he should continue to do so until the time had come for obtaining the plates (JS—H 1:51-54).4

There are several questions that arise with this account and one is, why were they left hidden for so many years?  Then one needs to ask, is this Mormon god that cruel that he would let billions of people live their lives without giving them the chance to know the ‘truth’, if Joseph Smith was actually correct? Why couldn’t they have the plates as well so that they might be able to find salvation? Why golden plates? Why can’t people study them?

This is the key- fairness and justice.  It seems quite unfair, as well as unjust, to all those people who were on this earth  for millennia yet were never given an opportunity to see those plates and translate them so more could be saved. Why the 19th century? Why not the 1st or 2nd? Why must all these people die before this angel reveals the tablets secret location? Is the Mormon God selfish and greedy and didn’t want billions of people sharing the universe with him?

One would think that if the Mormon god loved his descendents then he would have made more of an effort to save them and grant them access to those words which Joseph Smith said were vital for salvation and everlasting life.

Finally one must ask, why couldn’t the golden plates remain so that everyone would have a chance to see them and believe? Or even study the language to safeguard against those who would alter the original text of the Book of Mormon?

2. The Historical People

The Claim: NEPHITES. The core of this group were direct descendants of Nephi 1, the son of founding father Lehi. Political leadership within the Nephite wing of the colony was "conferred upon none but those who were descendants of Nephi" (Mosiah 25:13). Not only the early kings and judges but even the last military commander of the Nephites, Mormon, qualified in this regard (he explicitly notes that he was "a pure descendant of Lehi" [3 Ne. 5:20] and "a descendant of Nephi" [Morm. 1:5]).5

LAMANITES. This name, too, was applied in several ways. Direct descendants of Laman, Lehi's eldest son, constituted the backbone of the Lamanites, broadly speaking (Jacob 1:13-14; 4 Ne. 1:38-39). The "Lemuelites" and "Ishmaelites," who allied themselves with the descendants of Laman in belief and behavior, were also called Lamanites (Jacob 1:13-14). So were "all the dissenters of [from] the Nephites" (Alma 47:35). This terminology was used in the Nephite record, although one cannot be sure that all dissenters applied the term to themselves. However, at least one such dissenter, Ammoron, a Zoramite, bragged, "I am a bold Lamanite" (Alma 54:24).6

JAREDITES. This earliest people referred to in the Book of Mormon originate in Mesopotamia at the "great tower" referred to in Genesis 11.From there a group of probably eight families journeyed to American under divine guidance.7

THE PEOPLE OF ZARAHEMLA (MULEKITES). In the third century B.C., when the Nephite leader Mosiah 1 and his company moved from the land of Nephi down to the Sidon river, "they discovered a people, who were called the people of Zarahemla" (Omni 1:13-14) because their ruler bore that name. These people were descendants of a party that fled the Babylonian conquest of Jerusalem in 586 B.C., among whom was a son of the Jewish king Zedekiah, Mulek. Hence Latter-day Saints often refer to the descendants of this group of people as Mulekites, although the Book of Mormon never uses the term. When discovered by the Nephites around 200 B.C., this people was "exceedingly numerous," although culturally degenerate due to illiteracy and warfare (Omni 1:16-17). The Nephite account says the combined population welcomed Mosiah as king.8

Where did these people go?  Why did they disappear? Why can’t we find traces of these people any where? Obviously, they were not slaves so they were free to manufacture their own cultural material goods. What sin or sins did they commit to have all records of their existence vanish? It would seem that if these people were as great as Joseph Smith claimed, why can’t we find them in the archaeological record? Surely some extra-Mormon civilization would have recorded contact with these people. Yet we find no reference to them or their travels anywhere in ancient history.

3. The Mormon Exodus

The Claim: Lehi, a wealthy and faithful Israelite of the tribe of Manasseh, lives in Jerusalem in the late 7th century B.C. Having heard the preaching of Jeremiah and other prophets, he prays to God and receives a vision. Lehi is told by God that Jerusalem will be destroyed and the Lehi should take his family and flee into the wilderness and that they will be led to a promised land. 9

Here one must ask, why so few people were led by God to leave Jerusalem before it was destroyed?  Why were they the lucky ones? When the Israelites were in Egypt, God did not save a few, he saved them all, so why would Lehi and a small band escape slavery and exile and not the rest of God’s people? We know that when the Babylonians took slaves, they took both the obedient and disobedient people so being righteous was not a criteria for avoiding imprisonment.

Also, why did not God tell Jeremiah that he was going to save a select few or make mention of it in the OT? After all, Jeremiah was God’s prophet why wouldn’t God tell him? Then, why do we not have one mention of this group anywhere? Or evidence of shipbuilding of the magnitude needed to carry so many people across an ocean at that time?

4. The Yemen Alters

The Claim: As his first act once his tent had been pitched for his first important camp, Lehi "built an altar of stones, and made an offering unto the Lord, and gave thanks to the Lord" (1 Nephi 2:7).10

The claim is that Lehi built 1 altar but as one researches they find that not 1,not 3 as claimed by S. Kent Brown:

The recent publication of inscriptions from three limestone altars found in the ancient temple of Bar'an in Marib, Yemen, demonstrates as firmly as possible by archaeological means the existence of the tribal name NHM in that part of Arabia in the seventh-sixth centuries b.c., the general dates assigned to the carving of the altars by the excavators and other scholars 11

but 8 such altars exist at this location:

I examined and recorded several inscriptions on the temple walls and noted a further collection of altars from the site—eight largely intact and several broken—bearing differing inscriptions12

Not one of these altars provides any real link or proof that they are connected to the traveling Lehi and his group. Why do we find 8 when the Mormon writings claim that Lehi only built 1?

5. Mt. Cumorrah

The Claim: Hill Cumorah "is a place described in the Book of Mormon where approximately two hundred fifty thousand Nephite soldiers were killed in a final battle with the Lamanites, and where centuries earlier, the last battle of the Jaredites took place which destroyed their civilization.That the location of Hill Cumorah events was in New York has been affirmed by people like Joseph Smith, Orson Pratt, Marion G. Romney, Anthony Ivins, B.H. Roberts, James Talmage, Joseph Fielding Smith, George Reynolds, and Bruce McConkie. It is also affirmed in a current CES institute manual, and was as recently as1990 affirmed in a letter from Secretary to the First Presidency13

Yet, not one sword, chariot, blade, body or even a bone can be found on this mountain nor can any cultural material objects attesting to any of these ancient peoples be fund any where near this mountain or on it. So what is their solution? They move it to another geographical area:

In opposition the historic and authoritative Mormon position, nearly every Mormon apologist has abandoned the belief that the hill described in the Book of Mormon is in New York, and has adopted a position more consistent with the limited geography theory, placing the hill somewhere in Central America14

The problem with that is no one, not even the Mormon archaeologists, find any evidence for such people or great battle in Central America either. Several figures are given for the amount of dead warriors. One figure has it at 275,000 and another has it at over 2,00,000 and both are substantial enough that something would survive 2,000 years +/-, yet nothing has been found at either site to substantiate the claim made by Joseph Smith.

6. The Historical Cities

The Claim: Zarahemlawas the name of the major Nephite city as recorded in the Book of Mormon--part of the official canon of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The city of Zarahemla and surrounding area were not originally Nephite. Around 323 BC a Nephite man named Mosiah found the already built city. The Book of Mormon explains how Mosiah came to this land and was later made king:15

This is but one of the many cities that would needed to have existed to house the millions of people that Joseph Smith claimed to have lived in the Americas in the 6th to 7th centuries BC and onward. Problem is not one has been discovered and no cultural material products have been unearthed to attest to this idea.

7. Reformed Egyptian

The Claim: Moroni said, "We have written this record according to our knowledge, in the characters that are called among us the reformed Egyptian, being handed down and altered by us, according to our manner of speech" (Mormon 9:32).16

We know that there is no such thing as reformed Egyptian yet here is more of their description of the language:

Some Book of Mormon critics scorn this claim of Book of Mormon language, saying, "there is no such language as Reformed Egyptian" — "there has never been a single example found." Is this a case of deliberate misunderstanding? Of course there's no such language! Moroni says, "in the characters which are called among us the reformed Egyptian — a small "r," an adjective. Thus, Moroni makes plain that they are the ones who have given this name to their written language, a language "that none other people knoweth" (Moroni 9:34). Also, Moroni says they "altered" the Egyptian characters. They called it "reformed" because they had altered it. They were using altered Egyptian characters to write their non-Egyptian language.17

Notice that no one else knows this language. That is quite convenient and there is no ancient papyri, no pottery sherd, no monument and so on bearing any character of this language. So how do they know if Joseph Smith got the translation right? How can they verify his work?  How do they know that the language on the golden tablets was actually ‘reformed Egyptian’? They had nothing to compare the letters to, to see if they had the correct language. All they had and have is one man’s word that that was what it was.

8 The Book of Abraham

The Claim: The Book of Abraham is a text published by Joseph Smith, Jr. and thought by many within Mormonism to be the translated writings of the patriarch Abraham. Some Latter Day Saint denominations, including The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, accept the book as part of their canon. Other denominations, such as the Community of Christ, and many Mormon scholars and individuals, consider it to be a work of inspired (or even non-inspired) fiction. 18

How did he know that Abraham wrote the book since there is no record of Abraham doing so?  How did he know that they were not forgeries? With what did he have to compare these documents to ascertain that they were in fact legitimate?

An Analysis: We have seen the claims made by the Mormon sect and we have seen the questions and problems that are raised by these claims. The Mormon faithful say that there is a large amount of evidence to support their central book, the Book of Mormon, as exampled by the following;

"Book of Mormon cities have been found, they are well known, and their artifacts grace the finest museums. They are merely masked by archaeological labels such as 'Maya', 'Olmec', and so on." -John E. Clarkaar (LDS)19

But the reality is:

Blake Ostler, a respected Mormon scholar, states that "in my view, there is not and cannot be any [Book of Mormon] archaeology until we find at least one place or object that we can say with some certitude derives from Book of Mormon peoples. We haven’t done so…20

And we keep running into these words as well:

Despite some LDS member's claims, there appears to be no existing archeological evidence which directly supports the Book of Mormon21

No matter how hard anyone tries, even the Mormon archaeologists, no one has uncovered any shred of evidence that the Book of Mormon is true or factual.22  It is and can be claimed that the Book of Mormon, like the Bible, is a book of faith but unlike the Bible the book of Mormon has nothing to support its stories. The following section makes a comparison between these two books.

III. Biblical Comparisons

1. Religious Sources: As we have seen, the Book of Mormon comes from ‘golden tablets’ which had an original author, much like the Bible save the Bible had more than 1 author and it was not written in one time period, it was written over thousands of years.

It has been stated that the golden plates, once translated into English, was taken back to heaven by the Angel Moroni23. Thus there are no ancient manuscripts, no  fragments nothing that can be examined by scholars to see the original words for the Book of Mormon.

In contrast, we have thousands of ancient manuscripts and fragments for the NT dated back to almost the 1st century AD and for the OT we the Dead Scrolls and other manuscripts which go back to before the 1st century BC. We also have the writings of the church fathers who quote almost every bible verse in their collected works. The Book of Mormon has no such foundation.

The Bible also has the promise of God to preserve His word for all to read and He has done so whereas the book of Mormon has no such promise and laid buried, according to Joseph Smith, for roughly 2,000 years, robbing billions of people the opportunity for salvation. God did not let His word be buried and all had a chance to read what it says and choose salvation if they wanted.

Go did not hide his words so no one could read them, He kept them public and for all to read so that the would be without excuse if they chose to reject His Son.

2. Ancient People: The book of Mormon claims to be a history of at least 3 different ancient societies, yet no archaeological remains can be found for these civilizations, no extra- Mormon records attest to these ancient peoples, no artifacts, no cultural material items nothing.

Whereas, for the Bible we have the people of Israel with us today; a nation that was reborn 2,000 years after their destruction at the hands of the Romans. We also have records of the Hittites, Assyrians, Babylonians, the Philistines and many more of the ancient societies mentioned in the Bible. These pieces of information come from both secular and Christian sources, both modern and ancient, through many different avenues.

3. The Exodus: Yes we have little valid physical evidence for the Israeli exodus from Egypt but there is even less for the Lehi exodus from Jerusalem. The Mormons cannot even prove that Lehi, his people and their descendants actually existed and they certainly cannot attest to the travel via contact with other nations of that time.

But we have the Israelites in existence today, we can prove they existed in ancient times, we have the destruction of Jericho to help prove their entry into the promised land but the Mormons have none of those things. They cannot even explain why only a few people were spared exile and slavery? Since the Mormons also use the Bible, why is not this event and God’s interaction with His people recorded in some fashion in the OT? It would make sense that He would do so, since He has told us about every other major action the people of Israel were involved. Why leave this spectacular event  out, especially when it would bring Him more glory?

4. Physical Evidence: The Mormons make a lot out of the discovery of these alters in Yemen but they forget that nothing ties them to Lehi and his people. They are just alters with the letters ‘NIHM’ carved on them. Yes there are alters and here we would say that it was pure coincidence not fact that Smith seemed to be correct BUT 1 discovery proof does not make. Anyone could have built those alters and there is no corroborating evidence to support the Mormon contention that they are proof for the Lehi exodus and migration.

There is a book called, Lost Treasures of the Bible by Fant& Reddish, which has over 400pages covering the many physical pieces of evidence for the Bible, the people in the Bible and for the Israelites.  It also contains photographs of many of those artifacts plus we have the records of the surrounding nations to help attest to the people mentioned in the Bible. People like, Nebuchadnezzar, Sargon and more.

People have spent their lives digging in the Levant and have found many, many different pieces of ancient life that show that the Bible was accurate when it mentioned cities, rulers and people throughout its pages. The book of Mormon has no rich history and their people also have spent years searching and have not found one item or extra-Mormon literature that corroborates Joseph Smith’s claims.24

5. The Great Battlefields: here is a quote that gives some perspective on what should have been found at Mt. Cumorrah and how devastating it should have been with up to 2,000,000 people dying and not being buried:

To help you understand the magnitude of casualties at hill Cumorah, let us consider another major battle. During the Battle of Gettysburg of the American Civil War, 55,000 soldiers were wounded, including 6,000 of them killed on the battlefield and 4,000 more whose wounds were mortal. Eyewitnesses said that there was so much blood from the dead and injured that there were parts of the battlefield that seemed like streams of blood. So many men and horses died that all could not be buried at once and many corpses were left on the battlefield until a few days later when others were hired to do the task.

If 6,000 men died on the battlefield at Gettysburg, what would a battlefield look like with hundreds of thousands dead? Since they were left unburied at hill Cumorah, wouldn't there be some artifacts made of metal and stone? Bullets by the thousands are found at Gettysburg. Nothing, however, has been found at hill Cumorah.25

Museums are full of weapons and other war materials discovered hundreds and thousands of years after the battle took place.

German archaeologists have located a Roman-era battlefield and retrieved more than 600 artifacts, most of them weapons, in what they are calling "the find of a century". The weapons located in an area measuring 1.5 by 0.5 kilometers near the town of Northeim in northern Germany, about 50 kilometers south of Hanover, include spearheads with DNA traces on them and arrows made from wood that originated in northern Africa. Evidently the Romans and Germans fought a bloody battle in the third century AD, said archaeologist Petra Lönne. Some 1,000 Roman legionnaires may have been involved in the fight.26

1700 years, less men fighting and they are still finding battlefield remains. The Mormons have had 175 years to look and still have found nothing. For the Bible we find results of the destruction caused by the Israelites during their conquest at the archaeological digs at the cities mentioned in the Bible and that is over 3,000 years ago.

6. The ancient urban evidence: We read in the Book of Mormon about these vast and great ancient societies that spanned a continent27 , built cities and so much more, yet not one trace of these urban centers can be found, anywhere.

In contrast, the ancient cities mentioned in the Bible are found and are found in the exact countries the Bible says they are in. Plus, many of those ancient cities are still in existence today- Jerusalem, Damascus, Jericho and so many more. We know where Babylon is, Ninevah, Memphis, Thebes, and so on, yet for some reason and with many years of searching the Mormon sect cannot unearth one of their own.

7. Ancient languages: As we saw earlier, no one knows the ancient language of ‘reformed Egyptian’, which is quite convenient for the Mormon leaders for they get to change what the Book of Mormon says at any time they want and no one could challenge the alteration.

Since the only document that contains reformed Egyptian is gone no one can verify that Smith got the translation right or see if it was a real language or not. If there were these civilizations who spoke this ‘language’ where are their written records? Their fragments of manuscripts? Their pottery sherds that record this language?

And why can’t people learn it? What is so special about it that it must remain a secret from all, even Mormons? Contrast this with the Bible.  Not only do we know the 3 ancient languages used to pen God’s word but we know of the 3 different civilizations that spoke them and two are still in existence today.

Couple that with the fact that both non-Christian and believer can study the language, read the original words in the original language and see for themselves what God said. The Bible is not secreted away in heaven and has left a paper trail that extends back thousands of years with which we can compare with modern versions to make sure we have it right and that the message and words of the Bible have not changed.

Such cannot be done with the book of Mormon, all we have on that ‘translation’ is Joseph Smith’s word that that is what the golden tablets said and that is not enough for Joseph Smith’s life did not warrant blind faith in his words.

8. Canonicity: Even if the Abraham of the Bible wrote books, we know that they were not meant to be part of the Bible despite what Joseph Smith claims. He had no authority to add to the words of God which were set long before he was born.

It would be impossible for an ancient book to be added to the canon in the 19th century for that would add to the unfairness that comes with the Mormon beliefs. Why was it lost till Smith purchased it? Why are there no other copies or fragments of the work? If Abraham’s book were inspired and scripture why is there no ancient record mentioning his work? Why is it not alluded to or referenced in the Bible? Jesus and the disciples quoted the OT quite often, so why wouldn’t they quote from the book of Abraham?

In an interview with Lee Strobel, the late Dr. Metzger had this to say about the books of the Bible:

You have to understand that the canon was not the result of a series of contests involving church politics. The canon I rather the separation that came about because of the intuitive insight of Christian believers…When the pronouncement was made about the canon, it merely ratified what the general sensitivity of the church had already determined. You see, the canon is a list of authoritative books more than it is an authoritative list of books. These documents didn’t derive their authority from being selected; each one was authoritative before anyone gathered them together.28

So even if Abraham actually wrote a book, it was not going to be in the canon because it did not meet the criteria to be included. No matter what Joseph Smith said, it wouldn’t change this fact. The Jewish people had set their canon and this ‘book’ was not included and we know the reason why this was so—it was not authored or inspired by God:

At least that was how the Rt. Reverend Franklin S. Spalding, Episcopal Bishop of Utah, saw the situation in 1912.  It was in that year that he decided to send copies of the three facsimiles from the Book of Abraham to some of the world's leading scholars of Egyptology, asking each for an independent assessment of Joseph Smith's interpretations.

The eight Egyptologists and Semitists who responded were unanimous in their scathing verdict: "Joseph Smith's interpretation of these cuts is a farrago of nonsense from beginning to end," came the report from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, which added that "five minutes study in an Egyptian gallery of any museum should be enough to convince any educated man of the clumsiness of the imposture;" "... difficult to deal seriously with Smith's impudent fraud," wrote another from Oxford, England. "Smith has turned the Goddess into a king and Osiris into Abraham."  From Chicago, "... very clearly demonstrates that he (Joseph Smith) was totally unacquainted with the significance of these documents and absolutely ignorant of the simplest facts of Egyptian Writing and civilization."  And from London, "... the attempts to guess a meaning are too absurd to be noticed.  It may be safely said that there is not one single word that is true in these explanations."29

The book of Abraham cannot be taken seriously and this is evidenced by the Mormon challenge which followed:

And then came the challenge from Mormons, expressed by one Mormon writer:

In 1913, Mormon writer John Henry Evans pointed out in an article in the Church-sanctioned Improvement Era, that less than one-seventh of the whole Book of Abraham was represented by the facsimile portion, and even that only as an accompaniment to the text. Evans argued that in order to give a fair test of Joseph's true ability to translate Egyptian, and before the scholars could get away with charging that the entire Book of Abraham was a false translation, "they would have to examine the original papyrus, or a copy of it, from which the Book of Abraham was translated." (Larson, p. 28)

Evans' challenge, which he no doubt believed an impossibility at the time, was to come back to haunt the LDS Church.30

IV. Conclusion

There is no comparison. The book of Mormon and Joseph Smith’s claims fail at every turn and the situation with the altars in Yemen only demonstrate how desperate the Mormon leadership is concerning the validity of their faith.

They have a right to be worried for as limited as archaeology can be, it can still point to the veracity of a text, especially one that claims to be supernatural.  As is constantly said, there is no archaeological evidence to support the book of Mormon, none, nada, zilch and when one compares it to the archaeological record we see two things.

First, the Bible is rich in ancient discoveries and has evidence or people that extend well into the modern age giving proof that what it says is true.

Second, what this shows is that God does not do things in secret and one does not have to be an elite member of a religious society to gain access to His words. Everyone can see for themselves what he said, they can learn the ancient languages, they can study the ancient fragments and manuscripts, they can study the ancient discoveries and have complete access to them. They can test the words for themselves as well and do not have to rely on 1 man to tell them what something says.

This is the difference between the truth and a cultic lie. The latter is done in secret and only 1 or a few of the elite has this secret knowledge or ability and the rest must rely on blind faith in those leaders. The former, takes this power out of the hands of the elite or the few and allows everyone to see for themselves so that they can make their own decisions. The latter is also unfair as millions, if not billions, of people are void of the opportunity to find this salvation because the ‘truth’ was hidden for centuries. The former is the epitome of fairness because all people at all times can access the same words no matter what the century. No one is left out.

Why is this so? Because God is making sure that all people who reject Him, His Son and the gospel message are without excuse when it comes time for the final judgment. People will not be allowed to say, ‘we didn’t know…’ because God preserved His words and made it available for every generation to see and he left just enough evidence to show that what He said was true.

Yes there are events recorded in the Bible that do not have any physical evidence to support them but there is enough evidence to show that what the Bible says about those events is accurate and true. The Bible has the patriarchal names used in the right setting and century, and it has the right amount for Joseph’s slave price, along with the right ancient civilizations and cities in the correct location to show that what it says is completely true.

This does not mean that the Bible is not a book of faith. A person still has to use faith to make a decision for salvation for God says ‘the just shall live by faith’, and that ‘faith pleases Him’; thus we will never get so much physical evidence that faith will be destroyed. God will not destroy what pleases Him nor will He undermine His own requirements. But we will get enough physical evidence to shore up both of those elements of the Christian life and know that we are following what is true and not something that is the figment of a man’s imagination.

One can only conclude that Joseph Smith perpetrated a great con on the19th century people, one which has been carried on by subsequent leaders of their cult.
 
 
Archaeology and the Believer

 

Table of Contents

1. Introduction………………………………………………………………………………………………..1

2. Objectivity…………………………………………………………………………………………………..4

3. Consider the Source………………………………………………………………………………….10

4. The Amount of Evidence………………………………………………………………………….17

5. Interpretation……….…………………………………………………………………………………..22

6. Archaeological Eras…………………………………………………………………………………….28

7. Dating the Evidence…………………………………………………………………………………..36

8. The Problem of Education………………………………………………………………………..43

9. Chronology……………………………………………………………………………………………………..50

10 Alternative Texts……………………………………………………………………………………….55

11 Conclusion……………………………………………………………………………………………………..60

12 Appendix I- The Exodus………………………………………………………………………….64

13 Appendix II- Sodom & Gomorrah………………………………………………………….69

14 Endnotes………………………………………………………………………………………………………..74

15 Bibliography…………………………………………………………………………………………………..86

 

 

 

 

1. Introduction

Dr. Bryant Wood once said, ‘…that we [believers] do archaeology to keep the unbelieving archaeologists and bible scholars honest…’1 It is no small feat to do so but it is a very good reason for Christians to be involved in archaeological work because the secular world does not accept the Biblical chronology nor its recorded events and they are looking for alternatives.

If believers weren’t involved to discover the truth of the past there is no telling what kind of history would be written by those professionals who spend their lives investigating ancient civilizations. In his book, A Short History of the World, J.M. Roberts had this to say:

History is a word which traditionally means two different things: what happened, and a true account of what happened. In the second sense, it is always a selection from the past. Even the history of the whole world, though, is not selection from all the past. We can ignore most of Time…And, to make things more difficult, not everyone agrees about what sort of creatures in early times might be thought of as ‘human’…2

In other words, as we shall see in the first chapter, the professional archaeologist and biblical scholar all have their own ideas about what took place in history and especially in biblical history. They are not objective, let alone honest, in these views and they are not afraid to proclaim them in publishing their articles and books. They want to prove their ideas true, not find the truth and it is quite evident as one studies archaeology that the truth is the victim in this field as well as the ancient societies being studied.

The field of archaeology is not dominated by true Christians, there are Christians working on digs and biblical scholarship but at times one has to wonder which side of the fence they are really on as they sacrifice truth to maintain scientific principles not founded on biblical teachings.

So the believer must be wary, they must consider the source before accepting the conclusions of the professional historian, etc., for the field is dominated by those who are not believers and who look to re-write the past in their way, according to their theories and preferences.  Archaeology, like all scientific fields does not include the supernatural in its thinking, it looks for physical evidence and often when it is not found, conclusions are made from silence and in archaeology that is the wrong thing to do. Yet it takes place anyways, because of the beliefs, or lack of them, held by the archaeologist, the biblical scholar or the historian.

In reading archaeological books, one must be aware of the simple fact that the amount of evidence discovered is not as grand as they are led to believe:

We must never forget that we have very thin evidence for much of prehistory. Europe for example, has just one cave where tools similar to those of Australopithecus in Africa have been found…3

What is being worked with, as we shall see, is a very incomplete picture of the past drawn from what little evidence we do discover. Pottery is everywhere but it was a common item, much like today’s pots or vases or shovels etc. yet they do not tell a complete tale.

It must be realized that the physical evidence unearthed is vulnerable and subject to the beliefs, preferences, desires and theories of the archaeologist and the biblical scholar with influence from their knowledge of ancient languages and cultural practices as well as their rejection of the biblical record. Those believers who do reject the biblical record are not as vocal as one would like and their ideas are dismissed, many times, because of their religious ‘agenda’ or bias.

Much of the conclusions of the past are secular in nature and the believer must watch out for this bias, even though many secular professionals would deny that it is part of their work as being ‘objective’ is the goal. Unfortunately being ‘objective’ does not include being honest.  One can be objective but lie anyways and one can be based or have an agenda but still be honest.

It is the latter that is preferred by this author, if we cannot be totally honest all the time. Honesty is far better than theory, or the attempt to force the evidence to fit the alternative thought.  The theory should fit the evidence discovered, with room left over for possibilities and future discoveries that may change the theory. Holding a rigid theory, then applying the evidence to it is unprofessional, yet is also done to some extent by those professionals who do not want to waste a life’s work.

Adding to the confusion of the archaeology field is the Age or Period system employed, not uniformly but employed with adaption, for it was not constructed to obtain the ultimate goal but to support the evolutionary thinking that is prevalent in the scientific arena and as we shall see, its construction was not based upon anything remotely close to the truth but done on a whim and an observation without fact.

In this work we shall also encounter the problem of dating the evidence and it is a problem because much of it is solely done on guess work. Yes they are educated guesses but because the piece of pottery or the monument or the buildings discovered are not stamped, ‘made in the year…,’ we can never be totally sure when it was made and for how long it was kept by a family or government officer. For all we know it was a keepsake or an inherited object, that passed down through the family for generations, much like many items, like wedding rings, are today.

Some archaeologists do use C-14 carbon dating but it is not as reliable as one would think and is in need of help through calibration via other fallible dating methods, making it and all other dating systems virtually unreliable and easily manipulated. It is not easy to date the past, for it is basically impossible to say what took place without a written record describing the exact chain of events pertaining to a particular piece of evidence.

Such texts are very rare, rarer than finding school texts in a school from an ancient civilization. Dating is a best guess possibility and it should remain so as the ancients did not use the same type of calendar as the ones in use today and for the past 1,900 years or so, approx... God does not give exact dates for many of the events that transpire and the ones we do get, are recorded according to the ancient standard not the modern one.

What complicates matters the most for the archaeologist is the lack of discovered written texts. Like today, the majority of those who write, do so on perishable materials, that is, if they write much after being taught how to do so. Thus the conclusions about illiteracy in the ancient world are unfounded because millions of modern day people have learned how to write over the centuries yet never record anything more than a note to a loved one or family member.

It is unrealistic to consider the idea that those notes or letters would survive thousands of years of wear and tear or to conclude that the person did not know how to write simply because there is no record of their penmanship.

These are some of the factors that come into play when one is listening to or reading the archaeological reports that are published or recorded on DDs or other media forms and which influence the conclusions drawn by the archaeologist or biblical scholar. When the believer learns the true chronology, it is easier for them to put things into context and see how far astray the secular, and other, professionals go in their work.

The idea that ‘the oldest discovered is the original’ is common in the field, the problem with this that the Biblical record predates all secular discoveries but the Bible is dismissed as a religious book with a religious agenda and cannot be accepted as an actual historical document.

In the nineteenth century the acceptance of evolutionary theory and the application of higher criticism in religion resulted in the Bible being cast as a work of theological fiction. Its history was regarded as legend and its miracles as myths. This radical reassessment of Scripture was argued in part on the absence in the historical record of peoples in the Older Testament such as the Hittites. And because their linkage in the biblical text with larger-than-life personages like Abraham, David, and Solomon, these figures of faith were likewise rendered suspect. Moses was also said to be a myth because critical scrutiny deemed aspects of his biblical description as unhistorical. One reason for this supposed lack of historical reliability was the biblical statement that Moses had written the Torah (Deuteronomy 31:24). The scholarly consensus was that Moses must have been illiterate since the ancient Egyptians were thought to have delegated the work of writing to scribes. As a result, neither kings nor commoners learned the art. The Newer Testament was also regarded with equal criticism. It was viewed as the product of later ecclesiastical invention, with the Gospel of John offered as a prime example of a second century document of Gentile origin.4

The Bible is relegated to the sidelines for much of the archeological work that is being done today and has been done in the past. Though, as we shall see, the alternative religious writings, with far less evidence and far less of a historical trail, are clearly accepted without as much controversy or adherence to the criteria placed upon in the Bible.

These alternatives are accepted by the secular community as alternatives to the biblical record and as a legitimate source to understanding biblical life and books, regardless of their origin, agenda, or religious beliefs. The believer must be cautious when reading the ideas of archaeologists and biblical scholars when they use these alternatives

This dissertation is not written in the orthodox manner, for the intellectual or for intellectual exercise, but for the common believer so that it is easily understood and that the warnings it sounds are not missed by the most uneducated archaeologically speaking. Its purpose is to point out the dangers that are involved in the archaeological field and that ‘all science is not good science’. The believer needs to be prepared and cannot blindly accept an opinion or conclusion simply because an expert in the field has said it was so.

Science, including archaeology, has been elevated to a position of authority that it should not legitimately hold, for it is highly subjective and leaves out data that is pertinent to discovering the truth, something all believers should be striving to obtain. Archaeology is very limited in what it can accomplish, as we shall see, and its conclusions must not be promoted above the biblical record, but must be humbled before it so the believer is not lead astray or lose their faith as has happened to some archaeologists and biblical scholars.

 

2. Objectivity

I. The Definition

This is a comment that all people hear when dealing with academic or scientific work and it is an ingredient most expect when they read or hear scientific reports or documentaries. The field of archaeology is no different as it is considered a science, not a theological field of study.

Because of this membership, those who work in this field and its sub-category, Biblical archaeology, objectivity is demanded for anything else will be tainted by theological bias or beliefs. As a science, Biblical Archaeology (B.A.) is expected to follow scientific rules, unfortunately, those rules originate from the dominate secular side of the field of science in general and Dr. Del Ratzsch gives 3 points on objectivity and how science is supposed to operate:

First, science is to be thoroughly objective. It was to be function totally free of human speculation, choice, politics, preference, emotion, bias and preconception”1

As we shall see in a bit, that is just not happening. It is the ideal. The second point Dr. Ratzsch mentions is:

Science was to be empirical grounded upon empirical data and empirical data alone.2

The problem with this idea is that the data that is coming out of the ground, and we shall look at this later as well, is fragmented, incomplete, and found in locations where one cannot possibly determine how it came to rest in that spot. The third point Dr. Ratzsch brings to light is:

Science was supposed to be utterly rational…Thus the process of theory construction, theory evaluation, theory testing and theory acceptance had to be protected from the infection of human subjectivity, bias, blindness, distortion and dishonesty.3

Yet those of us who study this field and its sub-categories and other scientific areas of study, know that this is simply not is taking place. Agendas do occur and they occur often and have done so throughout the history of B.A.:

In a subsequent issue, Rachel Hallote recounts the 200-year history of archaeology in the Near East and notes that “funders invariably come with agendas and always have.”4

This means that no matter how hard people try, they will have a problem with objectivity, for their theories, conclusions and comments will have the taint of their beliefs or lack of them influencing their words.

The goal of objectivity is well ingrained in people’s psychy as when they hear or read a person’s report they immediately appeal to this invisible standard and often dismiss or diminish a person’s work based solely upon this principle:

Second, nineteenth century scholars, said Schweitzer, were unable to rid themselves of theological commitments that prevented objective research5

This idea is not limited to the 19th century as the academic world has heard the accusations of prejudice and bias throughout the 20th and 21st centuries. It needs to be noted that went these accusers claim ‘bias’ or un-objectivity, they fail to render their ideas or strategies on how one can be unbiased, they simply just dismiss the conclusions of the person presenting the material.

As we can see by Dr. Ratzsch’s description of what was expected of a researcher is that the material presented must be completely sanitized and cleansed from anything remotely human, and for that matter, spiritual, before it would be given a hearing:

The supernatural, the miraculous is strictly out of bounds in science.6

But there is a problem with is ideal as we shall see next.

II. The Problem

There is a problem with this idea of objectivity; it flies in the face of what God has written when He said, ‘He who is not with me is againstme’ 7. God does not present nor does the Bible teach that there is any real objectivity to be obtained, one has either His viewpoint or they have the evil one. There is no middle ground with God.

This truth has been realized by many, even the secular scholars, as one says:

Contrary to the revisionists, biblical criticism, of any school I know, has never claimed to be objective. The distinguished Oxford professor emeritus James Barr has pointed out that that is a caricature. And not since the death of 19th century positivism have, any respectable historian been naïve enough to think that they could be entirely objective.8

This is the key. It is basically impossible to be objective and one should not even try but they should, and this is key for the Christian, be honest.  If an artifact does not fit their beliefs, then the Christian needs to be man enough to say so and categorize it properly instead of trying to fudge the classification or manipulate the evidence to fit what one believes.

In spite of this fact, people still seek to be objective; unfortunately, a majority of them seem to be Christians who are looking for some sort of acceptance by the secular academic world. This is underscored by the early members of the Associates for Biblical Research (ABR) organization when in an early edition of their periodical, Bible and Spade, they made this remark:

We are often asked questions about these fragments and in our desire to be objective in the pursuit of truth we here present some of the arguments raised against the identification.9

The problem for the ABR group is that objectivity is not the standard for obtaining truth, Jesus made that quite clear when he said two things; 1. ‘I am the Way and the Truth…’ and 2. ‘When I am gone My Father will send the spirit of truth and He will guide you to the truth.’10

For the believer, the idea of objectivity is a secular concept that thwarts the reaching of the truth and they should not adhere to it for it is disobedience to what Jesus has said and where one finds the truth.

According to the secular scientific idea of objectivity, a person, to be objective, must not only void themselves of all their humanity but they must also refrain from turning to the supernatural to achieve this desired goal. It just does not work for that means that the believer must rid themselves of all beliefs, which are the motivating factor in investigation in the first place, and they must, in the secular world’s eyes, return to the secular world to achieve what can only be achieved via God.

In other words, this demand by the secular world to be objective means that the believer must divest themselves of all they have gained and return to being blind like the secular world is and that is just wrong. It hinders what Jesus told us when He said. ‘Ye shall know the truth and it shall set you free’11.

Thus the believer does not have to feel guilt or sorrow because they come from a biased, theological position. True objectivity, as the secular world wants it, is un-obtainable and compels the believer into disobedience if they follow the secular demands or want to be accepted by the secular world,(which a believer is not to do regardless if the secular academics reject the findings of the believer or not).

It is fortunate that many of the academics have come to this realization that objectivity is not realistic but more of an idealistic goal or direction but again, sadly, many in the believing community do not share this realization as they tend to fling the same type of accusations back at the secular world that are hurled at the Christian one:

An occasional scholar has maintained that there was a golden image of the Lord in Temple, but this view scarcely rests on solid, objective evidence… There is no agreement as to the latter’s date among scholars, and no external objective evidence from which a compelling conclusion can be derived.12

If the Christian world should not hold to the standard of objectivity, they should not hold the secular world to the same idealistic and unrealistic goal. It is best if the Christian held to honesty, something that is of God and apply God’s standards not only to their own work but to the works of those outside of the Christian faith.

III. The Double Standard

In the previous section, we saw that objectivity is un-obtainable, unrealistic, and considered more of an ideal than a practical standard but when these ideas apply to the Bible; such honesty is thrown out by the secular academic, as they hold the Bible to a standard they themselves refuse to meet. Consider Dr. William Dever, in his book, ’Did God Have a Wife’, who in his introduction wrote the following words:

This is a book that… does not attempt objectivity; for that is impossible and perhaps even undesirable.13

Here we have Dr. Dever who openly admits bias for his own work, and confesses that he did not even try to be objective for to him that would be ‘undesirable’ and most likely, to him, it would ruin his work and diminish it in the eyes of his peers. One can only speculate as to the reason why he did not even attempt to strive to be at least a little bit objective as per the comment he quoted later in his book (and quoted in an earlier section here).

He seems to allow himself the luxury of not having to meet the same demands he ,makes of others or the Biblical authors, for later in the book, he is found to say;

The perspective of all the biblical writers is a factor that limits their usefulness in another regard. It is no exaggeration to say that all the biblical literature…constitutes what is essentially propaganda. The writers make no pretense to objectivity.14

Are his readers to conclude, that since Dr. Dever admittedly did not pursue objectivity, his work is ‘essentially propaganda’? Here Dr. Dever fails to hold himself to a standard or ideal that he criticizes and condemns the biblical writers for failing to do. He forgets that it is not the duty of the biblical writers to be objective. They were not writing an academic work for peer review, they were recording God’s words per his standards and criteria.

One fails in their theological work if they decide to hold ancient biblical writers to modern standards that they had no hope of knowing about nor were governed by when they recorded God’s words. It is an unfair and one-sided condemnation that is without merit and Dr. Dever errs greatly here with his judgment.

A second example of the double standard that is prevalent in the academic world is the following, also found in Dr. Dever’s book:

That leads me to the second limitation of the Biblical texts. Its writers & editors were historians of a sort but they were highly selective in what they chose to include...15

Yet, is that no the prerogative of the modern historian? Are they not highly selective of what they include in their works? Do they not omit material that goes contrary to their own beliefs, perspective or focus of their work?

So why should the biblical writers, be condemned for supposedly doing the same thing?  They should not for they were writing a history but they were under following the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and what they included is exactly what God wanted included. They did not have the luxury to edit or omit anything as they were the servants of God and they would do as God would want not as the modern academic would like to see.

Realistically, if the biblical writers included everything that took place, not only would the Bible be too thick to handle, and that fact would discourage people from picking it up and reading it, but it would take the eyes of the reader of God. The idea of the Bible is not only to present to God’s creation how to live, not only a brief history but the idea of God as He reveals Himself to His people. The Bible is a revelation not a modern academic work; it does not follow the rules of modern society for it is not a product of modern society, for the Bible follows God’s rules for it is a product from Him. His rules trump modern secular ones.

 

IV. Some Examples

In this topic of objectivity we have seen the ideal; we have seen the problems and the double standard that exists with this concept. What follows are examples of how the secular world treats this subject—they ignore the scientific ideals and basically do what they want. As is the case with Eric Cline:

…I will investigate the seven intriguing mysteries of the Bible mentioned earlier. I will put each of them into their proper historical and archaeological contexts and describe what many archaeologists and historians and biblical scholars are thinking. I will be exploring these mysteries primarily as an archaeologist and an ancient historian. I am not a theologian. So I will not be looking at the theological questions that are present in some of the mysteries. I will leave that to others.16

Several questions arise from Dr. Cline’s statement and they are as follows: #1. What makes his viewpoint or analysis greater than anyone else’s? #2. Who is to say that his proper perspective is the correct one or even superior to others? #3 how does he know what ALL archaeologists, etc., agree with his point of view or his idea of what they are saying? #4 if he is not looking at these ‘mysteries’ from all points then how does he think limited data will solve the problem as he sees it?

As it stands, he is mainly just presenting what he wants the mysteries to be, and not being honest or objective in presenting the material. It is all according to his limited viewpoint which depends upon the limited information he has found.

Another example comes from Israel Finkelstein and he says:

Most scholars followed suit, accepting the contention that the major narratives about David and Solomon were originally independent sources written in the early days of the Israelite monarchy. We now know, however, that this theory is mistaken. As we shall see, it is clearly contradicted by archaeological evidence.17

What Dr. Finkelstein omits or forgets to mention is that the archaeological evidence does not contradict the Biblical record. It is the interpretation of said evidence, the conjecture involved with said evidence and the conclusions of the archaeologist or scholar who is handling the evidence. There is not one discovery that has proven the Bible false or untrue, and there is no smoking gun hidden away waiting for the right moment to be revealed.

Also, we can see Dr. Finkelstein’s bias, and that he made no attempt at all to be objective as he claimed on the same page:

The familiar stories of David and Solomon…are the result of extensive reworking and editorial expansion during the 4th century following David and Solomon’s reigns.18

It should be noted that Dr. Finkelstein provides no evidence for this or the previous conclusion and much of his dating is based upon the lack of understanding the word, ‘renovations’.

Another of the biases that is applied to archaeology via the secular world of academia is the one steeped in the theory of evolution. Dr. Colin Renfrew has this to say:

Prehistory is the story of humans becoming. Five million years ago there were no humans on the earth, nor among the then existing apes and monkeys were there any that we could recognize as closely resembling humans in their appearance and behavior.19

Thus the idea of objectivity as secular science describes it, is actually non-existent in the work of the secular archaeologist or scholar. Their rules seem to be ignored and only applied when a biblical theologian, one who actually believes the Bible and God, attempts to present the truth to the world or the realm of academia.

It is an attempt to hinder the work of those who believe so that the secular world can remain hidden from what really took place in the past, enabling the secular scholar or archaeologist to construct their own version of what took place.

For the believer, objectivity is neither a goal nor working criteria they should use in constructing their views of the past or God’s word. They do not belong to the secular world any more, they belong to God’s kingdom, and thus they must adhere to God’s rules, not those constructed by the secular world to hinder the work of God.

It is impossible for the believer to be objective which means that they need to strive to be honest. In being honest one obeys God and will garner for themselves and their work the respect from the secular world, they so desire. Archaeology, as we will see much later, is a very limited field and the data it produces is so minute that it is impossible for the researcher to be as objective as the ideals demand.

To respond to the secular critics, the believer, in their work must strive to do as Drs. John McCray and Hoerth say in their work:

It, (B.A.), answers those who would mythologize the Bible.20

The believer, when answering those ‘who would mythologize the Bible’ need to do as God said and that is to stay with the truth, for the unbeliever ‘can do nothing against the truth’21.  Being honest, being truthful makes an impact for God and goes a lot further than if they followed the secular world’s criteria. The believer is to be the light of the world22 but they cannot be that light if they follow the secular world or the secular academic demands or rules. They must separate themselves from such misleading and untrue ideas setting the example for others to follow regardless if anyone joins them or not.

Objectivity is unobtainable, as said earlier, but the truth is not thus the believer needs to refocus their attention and work on what they can obtain and not destroy their arguments or beliefs in a futile pursuit of secular excellence.

3. Consider the Source

I. What the Bible Says

I am starting off with Biblical texts to set the tone for this next section. For believers, these words are most important as in today’s modern society, the words of the scientific experts carry more weight than they should. Too often, believers, and secular people as well, stop using their heads and rely on what the experts say. Unfortunately not all experts are Christian, not all experts carry the truth and not all experts have the common people’s best interests at heart.

Jesus never taught that one needed to listen to experts to get to the truth, but let’s see what the Bible does teach;

If anyone teaches otherwise and does not consent to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrines which accords with godliness, he is proud, knowing nothing nut is obsessed with disputes and arguments over words, from which come envy, strife, reviling, evil suspicions, useless wrangling of men of corrupt minds and destitute of the truth…1

Then we have:

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly.2

And finally there is:

For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires…and will turn their ears away from the truth.3

For the first quote, we can see this in action at every level of biblical studies and the most widely known debate over words, begins at Genesis 1 and the Hebrew word ‘Yom’ 4. This battle over words is continual simply because people do not want to believe God or His word.

The second passage provides the believer with instructions on what they are not to do. They are not to follow or pattern their lives after what unbelievers say. This includes the field of B.A. because those people who do not follow God, are not getting their inspiration, their theories, and their conclusions from God, they have an alternative source, one that is in conflict with God and the truth.

One must be careful here, as a believer should not throw out evidence simply because an unbeliever has talked about it. Evidence is evidence and holds no theological beliefs; it is the theories, the conclusions, the conjecture, and so on, that come from the unbelieving expert that needs to be discarded.

For centuries, the unbelieving archaeologists and biblical scholars declared the Hittite nation a myth and claimed that proved the Bible false. But to their embarrassment, in 1876 and onward, discoveries were being made that would eventually lead to the Biblical verification of the Hittite people 5.

Then finally, we come to the third scripture which will eventually lead us into the next point, people do not want sound teachings, they want what they want to hear and that desire leads them down a path away from the truth.

Thus W.G. Dever called for the abandonment of the term ‘biblical archaeology’ in favor of the term ‘Syro-Palestinian archaeology.’ This suggestion reflects the tendency to abandon the theological approach of traditional biblical archaeology in favor of a secular, professional approach which defines the archaeology of the Levant as a specific branch of world archaeology with its own methods and goals.6

This falling away from the theological approach has led many an archaeologist down a garden path and opened the door to others, who already did not believe, to advance their non-biblical theories.

One such man is Philip Davies, an ardent subscriber to the minimalist Copenhagen school of thought, who clearly and unabashedly stated in a lecture that the whole biblical history of the Israelite people from at least the 5th century back to the beginning, simply ‘did not happen’7. Even when presented with physical evidence that proved that the Biblical history was viable and took place, Dr. Davies, living in a state of denial, flatly rejected the clear cut evidence and would not discuss it further8.

Simply put, the Bible has described the modern example taking place today and we can see it happen year by year.

 

II. The Evidence

There is one thing that all believers need to know, the evidence is the evidence. Everyone has the same pieces of pottery, the same artifacts, the same buildings, and so on, to look at and study.  The minimalists have no smoking gun hiding in the closet, waiting for the right moment to thrust it upon an unsuspecting Christian world. Once a major discovery is made, everyone knows about it, long before the final report has been published (which can take years or even decades)

It’s been 28 years since we finished our excavations at Nabratein and we’ve just published our final report, a hefty volume of 472 pages.9

Yet even though this gap is common, the discoveries are well known because the archaeological community is small and the Israeli government has a database for anyone to search in pursuit of their studies of the past. This database is not small:

Through the Israeli Antiquities Authority (IAA) database alone, armchair quarterbacks now have access to more than 100,000 archaeological relics discovered in the State of Israel since 1948. 10

Then consider all of the museums of the world which hold treasures from Jordon, Iraq, Iran, Syria, Egypt and so many other Middle Eastern/Mediterranean countries and one would realize that we have a lot of information to use to help us study the past.

Some archaeologists use these discoveries to support their agenda against the Bible as they cite the discovery of evidence as proof of their arguments:

In recent years, dramatic archaeological discoveries have cast important new light on some of the Bible’s deepest and most intriguing mysteries… [and] have provided surprising new evidence about the origins of the People of Israel…and about the historical realities that underlie the scriptural narratives… 11

So they say but, it is not the physical evidence that contradicts the Biblical record,

He [Dr. John McCray] shook his head. ‘Archaeology has not produced anything that is unequivocally a contradiction to the Bible…On the contrary, as we’ve seen, there have been many opinions of skeptical scholars that have become codified into ‘fact’ over the years but that archaeology has shown to be wrong’ 12

It is not the Bible that archaeology or the evidence discovered that has been contradicted, it has been the unbelieving scholars’ opinions, conjectures, and theories, which have long been ‘accepted as fact’ that has proven wrong through discovery after discovery.

Thus, when one hears what Dr. Finkelstein and others claim, that the Bible has been proven wrong by archaeology, it is not true. As said earlier, the evidence is the evidence, it does not take sides, it is how one ‘interprets’ the discovery which influences the conclusions and opinions of the scholars. That interpretation, as we shall see later, is also influenced by a professional’s beliefs or lack of them, their likes, dislikes, their preferences, their favorite solutions, and so much more.

Different archaeologists and scholars can take the same evidence and come to two different conclusions, which is exampled by the recent discovery of King David’s palace.

But recent discoveries and research by Hebrew University archaeologist, Dr. Eilat Mazar, the granddaughter of the renowned archaeologist, the late Prof. Benjamin Mazar, has unveiled convincing evidence that pinpoints the exact location of this most important biblical structure 13

But when another archaeologist visited the site, he just gave a cursory glance to the entire exposed discovery and the pottery used to date the remains and came to a much different conclusion. He had to as he is an advocate of the lower chronology and his acceptance of this evidence would have ruined his theories:

As for Assignment 2, Mazar’s interpretation, according to which the stepped stone structure and the large stone structure belong to one Iron Age IIA complex, is based upon circumstantial considerations that are open to alternative interpretations. 14

The evidence is very easy manipulated as it just depends upon the point of view held by the one handling it.

III The Secular Sources

In science, many people think that ‘all science is good science’. That is just not so, as they forget that the field is rife with the same problems the everyday world faces throughout life. There is right, wrong, good and evil in science and this extends to the field of archaeology as well. There are many, many professional archaeologists and biblical scholars who do not side with the Bible but influence young students and many unwary adults, both believers and not.

Their views are vastly influenced by what they believe and the following examples will show why they are not to be trusted nor listened to by Christians.  One popular writer and speaker, calls himself a biblical scholar yet he has openly admitted, not only in lectures and his books, that he lost his faith due to his scholarship 15.  He also lost faith in the Bible as the words of God:

…my faith had been based completely on a certain view of the Bible as the fully inspired, inerrant word of God. Now I no longer saw the Bible that way. The Bible began to appear to me as a very human book. 16

Another influential archaeologist used to be a Christian minister then one day he woke up and realized that he ‘was never really a believer and it took him 40 years to figure thatout’.17 His views concerning the Bible are very well known:

The biblical texts were very heavily edited right from the beginning and they have undergone continual reinterpretation for 2,000 years and more. But what we call the archaeological record has not been edited by anyone…Surely such an unbiased source provides a more comprehensive picture of what life was really like in Ancient Israel than do the biblical texts. 18

It is very clear that his views, and those of Dr. Ehrman, do not line up with the criteria set forth in the Bible and provide clear warnings that these men, and others like them, cannot be listened to by Christians.  There are other men, whose quotes will be used as examples here to show that they have no intention of supporting the biblical record nor proving it true, providing more clear cut examples for believers to use to guide them when they hear ‘experts’ talk about Israel, the Old Testament and archaeology.

One such person is Andre Lemaire, a fine scholar in his own right and well respected but his words expose his anti-biblical record leanings:

There are a number of problems, however, in using the Bible as a history text. The Bible was not written all at once by trained historians with access to reliable documents. Rather it was written by a number of people over a long period of time; and large sections of the Bible were re-written or re-edited at a still later time. 19

As can be seen, his unbelief dictates his view of how and when the Bible was written and that it should be disqualified from consideration because it does not meet his elitist standards. His problem is, the Biblical writers do not make any claim to be writing a history, they are writing about God, His acts, His laws and interaction with His creation. Much has been left out and the Bible does not pretend at all to be a history book thus his dissent is moot.

Another author who underscores Dr. Lemaire’s point of late writing of the Biblical text is a Dr. Bahn, whose Atlas of the World Archaeology has heavy evolutionary leanings and he says this:

The early books of the Bible (written down centuries after the events they describe) recount the story of the arrival of God’s chosen people… 20

Finally we have Dr. Eric Cline who said:

Plenty of people read the Bible as history even though we cannot correlate and confirm its specific details until the events of the first millennium. 21

In other words, he does not believe the Bible or its record until he can confirm it via ‘unbiased’ scientific research. All in all, the believer needs to be discerning when they listen to those who claim to be experts as those who do not believe the Bible will not be presenting the truth, they will be presenting their manipulation of the evidence, their faulty interpretations of the Bible but are far from God and thus need to be ignored when it comes to their hypothesis, assumptions, suggestions, theories and conjecture because none of it are based upon God or the truth. It is all based upon their secular point of view and beliefs and to listen to them would be opening the door to being led astray.

This does not mean we throw out the evidence they have or are discovering. Far from it, believers are to take that evidence and let God help them apply it correctly, so that they can obtain the real truth and grow as believers. Evidence is evidence and it does not matter who discovers it, it just matters what is applied to it.

IV. The Christian Sources

In the archaeological world, we have many believers who are archaeologists and biblical scholars who feel that their duty is, as Dr. Bryant Wood once said, is not to prove the Bible true, but to keep the secular scholars and archaeologists honest. 22 If there were not these men out there, then the secular professionals would have free reign to re-invent Israel’s past and write any way they want, robbing the believer of support of their faith by the manipulation of the evidence and the unopposed publication of their theories.

These, like Dr. McCray, help keep science and archaeology in perspective as he writes:

Biblical Archaeology is a scientific discipline, which when properly employed, can contribute to the placement of the Old and New Testament narratives in their correct historical and cultural settings for more accurate interpretation of the Bible. 23

In other words, archaeology, and all scientific fields, is a mere tool to aid the person in gaining more knowledge. It, and they, is not the final authority and when archaeology and the other fields disagree with the Bible, and then there is something wrong with archaeology and science, not the Bible.

Israel Finkelstein says much the same thing when he says,

Archaeology is today the most important tool at our disposal. 24

But his meaning is vastly different than that of Dr. McCray’s, as he seeks to rewrite the Biblical accounts not prove them true or validate their words. It should be noted that the majority of Christian archaeologist hold to the idea that the Bible needs no confirmation for it contains the words of God and His words are sound, needing no support.

The Bible does not need confirmation of its theological truths or its historical references in order to do that for which it was written and canonized that is to produce faith in the hearts and minds of its readers. 25

In this work of keeping the secular scholars honest and verifying the biblical records there is much opposition. The secular world feels that such endeavors are a mistake,

Many of the scholars deplored the attempts of evangelicals and conservatives to try to prove the religious truth claims of the Bible with archaeology. Well, this was hard for me to read. That's exactly what I'd been doing. Yet, here were world-renowned archaeologists saying that this annoys them and it's a big mistake. It's an unprofessional thing to do. It's is a misuse of archaeology. 26

In other words, these opponents to the Biblical record do not want conclusions to be published that violate their rules, ones that they rarely adhere to, if at all, and provide support for the Biblical record and message. Now it is true that many religious people are out there and they do not do very good work at all. The late Ron Wyatt was one of them, and was a person who made fantastic claims of discovery, far beyond what would be physically impossible for a human archaeologist to do. 27

A believer cannot just blindly accept the word of those who claim to be Christian for their agendas, their conclusions, and their promotions are not only far outside proper archaeological work but also far too tainted by fanatical religious fervor to be credible.

To give the late Ron Wyatt the benefit of the doubt, he may have been suffering from an affliction that hampered his judgment and cause him to see things that were not really there. 28 Regardless of that fact, it does not excuse the faulty claims that continue long after his death by his museum. Christians have a responsibility to be honest and truthful, which govern our work so that we do not bring shame to Christ.

The oft quoted Kenneth Kitchen is one such responsible Christian scholar and his famous words, the absence of evidence is not evidence for absence, has been proven true time and again as the secular world fails to find certain people mentioned in the Bible  and use that lack of archaeological evidence to say the Bible is wrong or worthless. Yet time and again, the archaeological work of many have shown that the secular world only embarrasses itself when it uncovers the very missing people the secular professionals use as a mocking point.

One famous example was the Hittite civilization. For over 1800 years, the only reference to this empire was found in the Bible and this was used frequently by secularists to claim the Bible was in error and could not be of any value. Then in the 1800’s, archaeologists uncovered the long lost civilization. 29 Proving once again that the Bible was accurate and correct.

The believer must consider the source, for if they listen to the wrong people, then they will not be given the truth and they will be following or accepting false ideas that lead them away from Christ or weaken, if not destroy their faith. Drs. Ehrman and Dever did what Peter did, when he hopped from the boat to join Jesus on the water, they took their eyes off Jesus and placed them on the troubles around them. Unlike Peter, they did not cry out to be saved and they have now been spiritually destroyed.

Being discerning is key to the believer for not all the experts will tell the truth and will manipulate evidence, findings, and facts to fit their desired purpose. The believer needs to keep their eyes on Jesus and follow what the Bible says, not follow those who are being deceived and are far from God. Being an expert does not qualify a person to over-rule the Bible nor re-write its accounts, what it means is that they have a little more knowledge than the next person but it does not imply they use that knowledge correctly.

Believers need to be wary and consider the source before deciding on whom and what they will believe. A close examination of the secular professionals’ arguments will help them see the errors, making it easier to avoid the lies and find the truth.

 

4. The Amount of Evidence

I. The Definition

Everyone hears the word ‘evidence’ or ‘physical proof’, and I like the term ‘physical evidence’ as it is more specific, yet most of the time they are not sure what that word is referring to. To begin there will be a brief description of what is included when we use the word ‘evidence’. Fist, there is the word ‘artifact’ and this is defined as-- ‘any movable object that has been used, modified, or manufactured by humans’1. These include and are not limited to: figurines,  certain pottery, tools, weapons, household goods and so on.

The second word often used is ‘potsherd’ or ‘ostraca’ and these are –a fragment of a pot2 or piece of pottery.  Usually they have writing on them:

The inscriptions are normally written in ink and short, ranging from a few words to several lines. It appears that some of them were written in times of crisis when other writing materials were unavailable.3

The third item referred to when the word evidence is used is, ‘stele’ or ‘stele’, these are defined as—an upright stone slab often inscribed or carved in relief and sometimes painted.4 These can be found in various sizes and locations. The final term that will be defined here is the word ‘texts’, which are: written sources that provide historical, geographical, religious and other clues to the ancient past5. These include manuscripts, (ms. or mss.), papyrus documents, inscriptions, and other written documentation from the past.

These items are the main source of our information concerning past civilization and languages, along with, ruined buildings, monuments and other structures like sewage systems, canals, and so on. One thing that needs to be noted, and has been stressed in another part of this paper, is that everyone has the same discoveries. There are no smoking guns out there ready to stun Christianity and prove it once and for all as untrue. What attempts to do that is the opinion of the archaeologist in his description of the find and his theory about what the artifact represents.

Unfortunately for the archaeologist, these discoveries or pieces of physical evidence rarely come with any documentation on why they were found where they were or what their intended use was.  Much is left up to the professional to ‘interpret’ what he or she has found, and most often they may not be correct, for it is purely guesswork as is the case for the myriads of figurines that have been discovered over the years.

Many archaeologists call them goddesses6 while others see them more as knick knacks or decorative items and even toys, similar to what modern women place on their shelving in their homes today.7 it is the ‘interpretation, as we shall see, that messes up the truth of the past as archaeologists and bible scholars try to put their spin on the ancient world.

Over the years fakes and forgeries have become a problem as there is an antiquities market in the Middle East, filled with peddlers waiting to sell to the unsuspecting tourist, the original mss. of the Bible, or King David’s spear and so on (these are just examples to give an idea what they try to sell). These peddlers get their product from forgers and also nomads who are digging up the dessert in hopes of raising needed cash.

The trend now has become that the professional archaeologists, at least some of them, are calling for a ban on accepting articles who use artifacts whose source is unknown or as it is normally called- unprovenanced.

A trend has developed recently in the archaeological establishment: Ignore all unprovenanced artifacts. This approach is especially popular among field archaeologists, who believe that objects without a stratified context are worthless. The Archaeological Institute of America (AIA) and the American Schools of Oriental Research (ASOR) have even banned the publication of articles and the presentation of papers about unprovenanced objects from their journals and conferences.8

Many professional archaeologists would love to have the amateur removed from the digging aspect of archaeology for they feel they are making a mess of things and the field should only be handled by their accepted brand of archaeologists and bible scholars:

As a result, however, we have seen a rise of two cultures - the scientists and the amateur enthusiasts. Lacking the proper training and credentials, the amateurs are sustained by vanity presses, television, and now the Internet.9

This thinking is basically a call to elitism in the field of archaeology and the public would only suffer as the professional would not have amateurs ‘keeping them honest’. The other problem with this thinking is that the professional are too few in number and they cannot get to all the locations that the many amateur enthusiasts or treasure hunters can. They just do not have the time, the money or the manpower to travel to and excavate the Middle East.

Unfortunately for the professional, the field of archaeology needs the amateur because it has been the amateur, not the professional who have made some of the greatest finds in archaeological history. Finds like the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Nag Hammadi library and the Tablets, all were discovered by those looking for something else and their discovery was by pure chance. The professional needs unprovenanced artifacts or they would have little to tell the world and archaeology would grind to a halt.

Other scholars reject this view, however. As Swiss Biblical scholar and religious historian Othmar Keel said in an interview with BAR, “I don’t think we can write a history of the ancient Near East without relying on unprovenanced material.”10

Thus the professional, in their attempts to control the field, are creating greater problems for themselves and for the archeological world. Their attempts to close the field will only hurt themselves and cause them to lose vital artifacts needed to help them decipher the past.

Yet this is the way things are in today’s world. Evidence is coming under greater scrutiny because of the vastly impossibility to regulate the field and solid, legitimate finds could be lost, as well as their information which may be key in unlocking a mystery or two, because of this attitude of some professionals and scholarly organizations.

If someone had a legitimate artifact in their personal collection, because it came from an unprovenanced source, suspicion would throw away all of its valuable and needed information, but then the bias of some professionals would rather have it that way for then it makes the Bible harder to prove true.

II. The Amount of a Dig Site, part 1

It may seem to the believer or unwary, that large amounts of the site being dug by the archaeologist is large and encompassing. Or that the archaeologist has pristine material to work from which all comes from an area that is well preserved. That is not so and Kenneth Kitchen, (he is not a dr. and proud of it) has documented much of the reality that is part of the archaeological field.

At periods when a town site was deserted driving wind, sand and rains would often erode away the upper levels of the abandoned houses. Thus at Ur, the town of neo-Babylonian times, was largely swept away…While 20ft. depth of human occupation had been lost from ancient Babylonian Eshnunna before it was excavated.11

But it isn’t just natural destructive forces at work, wars, invasions, earthquakes and other factors play a large part in providing the archaeologist with little to work with. There is also the size of the dig in comparison to the actual size of the town being dug.

Problems of other kinds can affect the results reached by excavators…And normally, only a minute area of an entire site can ever be dug…Thus ancient Ashdod comprises 90 acres in all but only 1 ½ acres of this surface has been excavated…At Tel el-Areini the excavated area cover barely 4% of the whole site and likewise..at Arad. Only 10% of the area of El-tel has been dug and similarly at tel-Ajjul.12

So the smallness of an area excavated, plays a large role in the amount of physical evidence the world sees and there is so much missing that it is almost impossible for the archaeologist to determine what really took place in the past.

Another factor that plays a large role in obtaining artifacts that will provide clues to how the ancients lived is the fact that important areas can be missed accidentally if the archaeologist digs in the wrong spot.13 Then there is the problem of the present archaeologist who does not dig up the site completely but leaves much buried for future generations.

…it is often wise in any case to leave good sized areas of a site intact for later generations to tackle with the hindsight of better knowledge or improved techniques.14

This, in my view, is a big mistake, not only does it keep the archaeologist from discovering vital information needed now, it allows for false theories to be produced from the lack of information. As Kenneth Kitchen puts it;

Thus, the information we obtain by excavation can often be very incomplete15

This incompleteness, again in my view, makes it virtually impossible for the archaeologist to compile a vast record of the past and say with any confidence that they know what took place when. Some things can be ascertained as to when and what but for many others that is just not so.

 

III. The Amount of Evidence Discovered, part 2

Now to the unwary it may seem like there is a large amount of physical evidence actually unearthed and on the surface that may be so:

Only a fraction of what is excavated is eventually reported and published…of the known 500,000 cuneiform texts lying in museum storage rooms, only about 10% have ever been published.16

500,000 texts, coupled with the previously reported 100,000 pieces on the IAA database, seem like a very large amount but in reality it is not. As we see in the following:

Only a fraction of what is made or what is written survives…For example the great library of antiquity located at Alexandria held almost 1,000,000 volumes…All of these works were lost when it was burned to the ground in the 7th century AD..Only a fraction of the available archaeological sites have been surveyed. In Israel and the Near East there are still thousands of unexcavated tells…Only a fraction of the surveyed sites have been excavated…Only a fraction of an excavation is actually examined.17

The piece of the pie gets smaller and smaller as more work is put into the site. What ancient sites actually exist in number is astounding but as these are surveyed, examined, excavated the number goes down incredibly and we are left with a very small amount of material we can glean from the whole piece.

For example, if we were to speak of the Exodus, we are looking at what basically resembles nomadic life, and even though there were roughly 2,000,000 people (give or take a million or two, the exact figure is not important here) traveling through the Sinai desert for 40 years, it is still virtually impossible to gather concrete physical evidence due to the nature of the lifestyle, the mitigating factors of destructive forces and the fact that nomadic life leaves virtually nothing behind in its wake for future people to find.

Of special interest to the current study is the question of whether nomads are discernable in the archaeological record. Finkelstein…argue for only negligible evidence, if any, which is true not only of the ancient desert dwellers but even of the 19th century Bedouin whose traces are difficult to identify.. But for the most part, they speak of the nomadic lifestyle as archaeologically invisible, one that doesn’t leave an archaeological footprint.18

Thus even though we have a large amount of people who possibly left some things behind as they traveled for those 40years, it would be impossible to find any trace of their wanderings let alone their existence. With all the events that took place, whether major national or city wide spectacles or simple daily life, little will remain to proclaim their existence.

IV. The Common Theme Heard

Because of this lack of physical evidence, there is a common theme that is heard throughout the archaeological world and its publications. This theme will be exampled via quotes from a variety of sources.

In other words as the official 13th century archives from the East delta centers are 100% lost, we cannot expect to find mentions in them of the Hebrews or anybody else. The only trace of raw administration found at Pi-Ramesse is a handful of wine jar dockets detailing a vintage of year 52 of Ramesse II. How much would we learn about the last congressional election in the U.S. or Parliamentary election in Great Britain from the torn labels of broken wine bottles discarded by customers from Macy’s or Harrods’s 19

That was speaking of the Israelite sojourn in Egypt and then we have John Bottero on the Akkadian language:

Of this most ancient literature written in the Akkadian language practically nothing has survived and today we can scarcely reconstruct its early manisfestation.20

William D. Whitt says that the ‘origins of the earliest writing systems known to us- in Sumer and Egypt- are obscure.’21 This is true for textiles as well as Carol Bier says, ‘but too often, because of the perishable nature of textiles, the lack of remains has obscured their importance to the economy and to society.’22

Palaces and temples are not left out of this trend for lack of information as they are not immune to time and what destructive forces or lack of preservation or inscribing can do.

Little or nothing is preserved from the earliest palaces, which were appoint of departure for many later developments but it is possible to reconstruct a hypothetical image of them23

We can see the truth in that just by looking at the lack of evidence left by David’s palace and Solomon’s temple. Even well known civilizations or cities are not immune from this reality of the past.

One great difficulty in studying Phoenician history and culture is that virtually no histories or literature of the Phoenicians and Carthaginians survive in their original form. What is known of them in written sources comes from others, chiefly their enemies.24

As are kings for many of the ancient societies:

At present, the earliest known direct evidence for a Mitanni ruler is the seal of a king, Shuttarna, son of Kirta. Impressions of his seal are found on 2 records from the second half of the 15th century BC.25

Then finally, the whole movement of a complete society is lost in obscurity:

We cannot say when the Hurrians first arrived in this area...we do not know when Hurrians migrated into the area between the Euphrates and the Mediterranean… because no Hurrian texts from before the middle of the 3rdmillenium have yet been found in northern Syria. We are largely dependent on texts of the Hittites for the reconstruction of this culture…In this ‘dark age’ for which we have no sources…26

As you can see, the trend is ‘I (or ‘we’) do not know for we do not have the physical evidence to tell us what took place, and thus when many archaeologists and bible scholars speak on Israel and its history, the story is the same.; they do not have the sources, the physical evidence to tell them what took place and when it took place. It is mostly guess work, from the fragments that have been uncovered and by sifting through the interpretations of other archaeologists, scholars and professionals who came before them.

Without the Bible, secular archaeologists are handicapping themselves and making their lives far more difficult as they try to re-invent the past according to the way they want it to be and not the way it was. It is their interpretations, their opinions and their theories which guide their conclusions, not historical fact or complete, real, hard evidence.

This means that the believer cannot take the words of professionals, their publications, or their conclusions at face value, simply because these they are the experts and know what they are talking about and because they are looking at all the evidence firsthand. The believer must be prepared to be discerning and prepared spiritually to be able to keep what they read and hear in perspective both educationally and spiritually so that they will not be led astray.

5. Interpretation

I. The Definition

It is not uncommon for people to use the phrase, ‘that is your interpretation’ meaning that what you say is your own ideas and disagree with mine. We find this in many discussions:

The fact that Babylon and Edom (Petra) were repopulated argues against your interpretation of the curse and for the repopulation of the Sodom area. There are Roman ruins at Petra the famous Edomite territory. 1

But this theme of interpretation is not limited to mere common dialogue between people, for it has found root in the field of archaeology and has opened the door for anyone, professional or amateur, to re-write Biblical history because they do not like what the Bible says.

Many critics who doubt the historicity of the Exodus share a problem: over-reliance on what archaeology can prove. Archaeology is, in fact, a limited and imperfect area of study in which the interpretation of findings, as archaeologists readily admit, is more of an art than a hard science. 2

Thus the word ‘interpretation’ is being used more of an excuse to justify creating one’s own ideas instead of humbling oneself to accept and follow the truth. Yet, what does the word ‘interpretation’ mean and how is it used? Webster’s dictionary has this to say:

1. The act of interpreting; explanation of unintelligible words in language that is intelligible. Interpretation is the design of translation.

2. The act of expounding or unfolding what is not understood or not obvious; as the interpretation of dreams and prophecy.

Look how we can, or sad or merrily,

Interpretation will misquote our looks.     Shak.

3. The sense given by an interpreter; exposition. We sometimes find various interpretations of the same passage of Scripture and other ancient writings.

4. The power of explaining. 3

 

 The 4th meaning basically joins with the first two thus it will not be addressed on its own and the third meaning will be discussed in the next section. What will be looked at in this section are the first two meanings for they are the most important ones when it comes to Biblical passages and archaeology.

 

Here we can see that the act of ‘interpreting’ means to explain to those who do not understand, whether it is another language or a dream but Webster’s definition does not go far enough for the Biblical usage and we need to turn to another source to retrieve more information:

 

1. Hermeneuo (ρμηνεύω, 2059), denotes “to explain, interpret”, and is used of explaining the meaning of words in a different language, 2. Diermeneuo (διερμηνεύω, 1329), signifies “to interpret fully, to explain.” In Luke 24:27, it is used of Christ in interpreting to the two on the way to Emmaus “in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself,” rv, “interpreted” (kjv, “expounded”);

3. Methermeneuo (μεθερμηνεύω, 3177), “to change or translate from one language to another 

 

And for the word ‘interpretation’ we have this meaning:

 

2. epilusis (πίλυσις, 1955), from epiluo, “to loose, solve, explain,” denotes “a solution, explanation,” lit., “a release” (epi, “up,” luo, “to loose”), 2 Pet. 1:20, “(of private) interpretation”; i.e., the writers of Scripture did not put their own construction upon the “God breathed” words they wroteNote: For “hard of interpretation,” Heb. 5:11, rv, see utter, 5

 

I like the KJV’s use of the word ‘expound’ because it means ‘Explained; laid open; interpreted.’6 The underlined words (underlining mine) are the key words to focus upon. As we look upon these definitions, we see that the person doing the interpreting is not advancing their own ideas, nor looking for excuses to avoid accepting the truth. We can see that those who interpret ‘lay open’ the passage or scriptures or work and explain fully what they mean.

 

They are not advancing a theory or a hypothesis or an idea that is full of conjecture but that they are fully aware of what the passage has to say and they are taking the time to clearly explain it to another person who does not know what the work means, they are confused or the words are unintelligible.

 

We can see this in two examples in scripture, first the book of Daniel:

 

In the third year of Cyrus king of Persia, a message was revealed to Daniel…The message was true, but the appointed time was long, and he understood the message and had understanding of the vision. 7

 

There is no doubt that Daniel was fully prepared to clearly ‘lay open’ or explain what the message was and he knew what the vision was about. He did not present his own private interpretation but had the correct meaning in his head and he could speak the truth that left no doubt.

 

The same applies to Joseph in Genesis:

 

Now there was a young Hebrew man with us there, a servant of the captain of the guard. And we told him and he interpreted our dreams for us; to each man he interpreted according to his dream. And it came to pass…’8

 

Thus, when one interprets, God has prepared them with the answers so that people are without confusion and doubt. They know what they are to do or what is going to happen. Plus the person is not injecting the interpretation with their own thoughts, theories or private agendas. They stick with the truth and everyone will know it is the truth:

 

And Pharaoh said to his servants, Can we find such a one as this, a man in whom is the Spirit of God? Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘Inasmuch as God has shown you all this, there is no one as discerning and wise as you.9

 

And,

 

The King answered Daniel and said ‘Truly your God is the God of gods and a revealer of secrets, since you could reveal this secret.’10

 

Interpretation is not the advancement of one’s personal views or thoughts on a past event, which we have so much of in today’s modern world. It is the ‘expounding or laying open’ what is hidden from another person so that they too can know the truth and walk in it.  Yet there is more for such is not practiced today, especially in the archaeological world. As seen by the previous quote, people use the act of interpreting for their own benefit and that creates a problem.

II. The Problem

The act of interpreting, whether it is scripture or archaeological discoveries, is that it opens the door to a very major problem. Dr. John Stott said it best when he said that ‘interpreting today is leading one to an existential belief. What one passage says to you does not say the same thing to me’11 He went to discuss how the modern usage of interpretation was in effect a form of existentialism proposed by Rudolph Bultmann:

Bultmann and his followers 're-interpreted' the Gospels as metaphor whenever in their view reason (of theologians and modern man) did not meet a comfort level with supernatural descriptions. He in effect gutted the Gospels of miracles as divine transactions, interpreting them instead as metaphor applicable to modern life.12

This is underscored by Webster’s third dictionary definition quoted earlier. In other words, this third usage of the word ‘interpretation’ is granting permission for people to place upon whatever artifact, text or scriptural passage, etc., their own ideas and theories. They do not have to stick with the truth nor do they have to be honest. Whatever feels good or is the most interesting that is the view they can hold.

What this does, then, is allow for the truth to remain hidden while those who do not believe get to fashion the past in whatever format they please. And this is what is taking place in the field of Biblical archaeology. What one scholar or archaeologist says an artifact, or other piece of physical evidence, represents or means, another can disagree and put forth their own ideas, regardless if there is enough evidence to support any of the conclusions. We do not know if that supporting evidence has also been manipulated so that they say what the archaeologist wants it to say, without a lot of research to contradict the previous findings.

Some examples:

 It seems proper to conclude by quoting the British scholar Hector Catling, one of our greatest living Cypriot archaeologists: “If anyone doubts the subjective nature of archaeological interpretation, let them give their attention to Late Bronze Age Cyprus for a while13 {bold mine}

Here we see that one scholar recognizes and admits to the fact that interpretation is dependent upon who is doing the talking and that it is not ground in truth but in a person’s subjective opinion.

It is a relatively recent idea that Biblical archaeology should be first about archaeology and only secondly about the Bible. There is a fundamental rift in the profession—between those who view Biblical archaeology as archaeology and therefore independent, and those who view Biblical archaeology as a textual-interpretation exercise and therefore derivative. This rift explains much of the professional dissension. It in effect creates two disciplines with widely divergent goals, sources and methods14

Here we see that there is dissension amongst the scholars and archaeologists and that those who are experts and who should know what the truth is, really don’t and that they fight over simple things. Because of the separation the conclusions concerning the evidence depend upon which side of the fence a scholar or archaeologist resides.  It is the same evidence yet the views held by the professional dictate what it is saying though it may not be saying what they think it is.

I have recently had occasion to re-examine the Akkadian text of Tablet XI of the Gilgamesh Epic, which has long been looked upon as the classical tablet on the Flood in ancient Assyro-Babylon and the prototype of the Flood narrative in Genesis chapters 6–9. Various reasons had prompted me to make this effort. The most immediate one was the knowledge of the wide disagreement among Assyriologists over the rendering and interpretation of numerous features in the cuneiform narrative, and I thought that a new attempt at sorting out those differences might be worthwhile.15 {bold mine}

As we can see by the bolded words, the animosity or the inability to agree affects what the evidence is saying and in reality, renders the idea of interpretation as useless, for no one may see the real message being presented by the text or artifact discovered and the truth is lost.

One school of thought (the consensus upheld by scholars) is that each word should be read separately as the name of a place:

Hbrn(sometimes spelled hbrwnin the Hebrew Bible) = Hebron, the original capital of the Israelite kingdom before David moved to Jerusalem (2 Sm 5)

Swkh(sometimes spelled skhor swkwin the Hebrew Bible) = Socoh, either the city where the Philistines camped when David killed Goliath (1 Sm 17:1), or a lesser known village southwest of Hebron (Jos 15:48)

Zyf= Zif, either the famous site where David composed Psalm 54, or a lesser known town located somewhere south (Jos 15:24)

Mmst= a city not mentioned in the Bible or any other ancient record besides these seals

A second opinion views them as the districts/regions/zones surrounding those cities even though three of them have never been positively identified.

Yet a third interpretation comes from a literal reading of the inscriptions, as so often is necessary to fully understand the Bible.16 {bold mine}

 

Sometimes a group may hold to the same interpretation but that does not mean that they will be right and the believer cannot assume that the majority rules in this case. Seeing a majority siding with one theory does not mean they have the truth either, it could mean that that is the easiest rendition to accept and have nothing to do with the truth.

We see this a lot, multiple opinions on the same subject, for as shown earlier, the subjective nature of archaeology reigns and accepted. One more example:

 

I am troubled by the ambiguity of the words “My interpretation” as they appear in the footnote. If Professor Freedman is referring to his rendering of cezerkenegdo as “a power equal to him,” then his statement is correct—there is support for such a notion among the traditional Jewish commentaries—but it should have been made the first time this phrase was used.

If, as I suspect, however, the words “My interpretation” refer to the concluding paragraph in its entirety, then I must take strong exception to this statement. No classical Jewish thinker would lend credence to the notion that God’s original creation of man was “inadequate” or that God “admitted” such an inadequacy. God does not change His mind! He doesn’t vacillate! He doesn’t create by trial and error17 {bold mine}

The opinions of the scholar are so generalized that the reader or listener cannot decipher exactly what the scholar is saying and such methods provide the scholar, or archaeologist, an escape route if future discoveries prove their quasi-opinion to be on the wrong track. The scholar can easily say, ‘well I did not mean it that way , I meant to say …’ Thus we get a wishy-washy conclusion that does not lead to the truth.

 

III. What the Bible Says

What does this all mean to the believer? First, the Bible doesn’t tell the Christian to follow science or the experts, especially if they lead people away from Jess and disagree with the Bible. Second, neither God nor Jesus told those who decide to follow them to follow interpretation.

We are not to look at the best interpretation and decide to follow that for that would be in direct contrast to what the Bible says. When God called Abraham, He did not tell Him to follow the interpretations of His directions or words, but said to follow Him to the land God would show Abraham.18

The same goes for when the people of Israel demanded a king. God did not say they rejected the interpretation of His words but Him19. The Jesus, when calling the disciples did not say, come and follow an interpretation of my words, He said, ‘Come and follow Me.’20. He then said,

 

If you love me, keep my commandments’ 21

 

He did not say, keep the interpretation of my commandments, finally, two more examples, He told us in scriptures that a). ‘Ye shall know the truth and it shall set you free; 23 and b). ‘The Spirit of truth will come and he will guide you into all truth…’24 Notice that Jesus did not say, ‘you shall know the interpretation and the interpretation will set you free’ or that ‘the spirit of interpretation will come and will lead you to interpretation.’

That is not the goal of the believer. We cannot participate in the practice of interpretation for it leads us into secular existential teachings at worst and subjectivism at best. Then we would not have a clear guide as to who is right for anyone could be right and that leads to confusion and confusion is not of God. We have no ultimate and superior guide for that has been demolished and replaced by virtually nothing for one man’s idea of the truth is as good as another man’s as there is nothing to determine who is right or who is wrong, they are both the same and success depends upon who is mightier.25

One thing that the believer needs to be aware of is the power of knowledge. If they hold themselves ignorant, do not study nor research, and then they are vulnerable to the wiles of the scholar for his knowledge, right or wrong are available to him to weave any tale he or she wants and the believer would be none the wiser.

After years in the academy, I have learned a trade secret: If you know enough about a subject, you can confuse anybody by a selective use of the facts.26

This includes believers who unwarily listen to secular scholars and archaeologists and ignore the teachings of the Bible. For it is important for the Christian to remember that the unbelieving people of the world are lacking in aid that is accessible to the believer alone:

And I will pray the Father and he will give you another Helper that He may abide in you forever-the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive because it neither sees Him nor knows Him…27 {bold mine}

The believer should not be participating in the practice of interpretation because it is not of God and it is a secular method to deceive those who are not aware of its dangerous qualities. The believer should go with the truth, relying on the guidance of the Holy Spirit to lead them there.

One illustration, in the book Lost Civilizations, there is a stunning aerial photograph of a patch of ground. In the middle of the photograph there is a square of what looks like hard packed dirt (hard to describe because of the quality of the picture) and that square is surrounded by what looks like a ditch or a moat. The inset describes this scene as “the stunning aerial view of the Tower of Babel and its surrounding area reveals the scale of the entire complex and the enormity of its architect’s vision”28

Yet there was no sign from antiquity discovered on it or nearby saying ‘this is the Tower of Babel’, for all we know, this was a palace from any time in the past, or an old fort to protect a trade route or country’s boundary. Or yet, it could have been a massive apartment building or a sports complex. We really do not know and depending upon the scholar’s beliefs or lack of them, or the archaeologist’s views it could be described as anything and we would not know the difference because we are not given any options to choose from and we have no corroborating texts or monuments, or steles, and so on providing us with the exact nature of those remains.

And without that type of information, we are vulnerable to and left with pure speculation and guess work.  What truth we can derive from those remains is fairly simple and boring: Those are the remains of some sort of structure that has survived from antiquity and we do not know what it was used for.

A far less romantic and enthralling description than simply labeling it the Tower of Babel, for the latter immediately sparks interest especially in the rich Christian who desperately wants physical evidence to prove the Bible true and who will donate money to allow the archaeologist to dig at the site for years to come. The former sparks no such interest and would probably elicit a ‘ho-hum, an old building? We have seen those before.

Yet the truth is what the believer has to side with and promote, not the fiction.  This is why believers cannot delve into interpretation, be it archaeological remains or biblical passages, for it is not producing the truth and not following the Spirit of Truth but our own wishful thinking and romantic desires.

Also, interpretation does not meet the English language nor the Greek language definitions to be one who knows what is being said and being able to expound upon the message without importing one’s own ideas to those who cannot comprehend the message in its original form. Plus being recognized that the interpretation is correct.

As was shown earlier, when one interprets, those around them do not argue and claim, ‘well that is your interpretation’, no, they know already that what was expounded was or is the truth and they need to adhere to the message or else.

6. Archeological Eras

I. Description

Of all the topics in the archaeological world, this one is probably the most confusing. Not because it is the standard for bible scholars and archaeologist of the Middle East but because there is so much variety in its use that tend to lead the un-educated archaeologically into bewilderment.  There is consensus among professionals about these periods, the names of the different eras of human history, but there is also disagreement concerning the actual time periods for the majority of them.

As the history of man comes closer towards our modern times, the observer will see much more conformity as to what years each era took place but as one looks back in time, going further away from modern living, one will notice large disparities among scholars. The table below is but an example of this disparity and does not reflect all scholars and archaeologists conclusions as to when these eras existed. All figures are BC.

ERA                         Wright  1                           E.A.E.H.L.**                           Mazar 2

Neolithic            8,000- 5,000                     8,300- 4.500                         8,500- 4,300

Chalcolithic        5,000- 3,300                     4,500- 3,100                          4,300- 3,300

EB* IA-C            3,300- 2,900                     3,150 – 2,850                         3,300- 3,050

EB II                 2,900- 2,700                     2,850- 2,650                          3,050-

EB III               2,600- 2,400                     2,650- 2,350                                     2,300

EB IIIB             2,400- 2,200                     2,350- 2,200                          2,300-

MB* I                2,100- 2,000                      2,200- 2,000                                    2,000

MB IIA              1,900- 1,750                      2,000- 1,750                         2,000- 1,800

MB IIB              1,750- 1,625                       1,750- 1,550                          1,800- 1,550

LB* I                 1,500- 1,400                       1,550- 1,400                          1,550- 1,400

LB IIA              1,400- 1,300                       1,400- 1,300                           1,400-

LB IIB              1, 300- 1,200                      1, 300- 1,200                                     1,200

IA* IA              1,200- 1,150                       1, 200- 1,150                           1,200- 1,150

IA IB                1,150- 1,000                       1,150- 1,000                            1,150- 1,000

IA IIA               900- 800                          1,000- 900                              1,000- 925

IA IIB               800- 587                            900- 800                                925-720 (586)

*Early, Middle, late & Iron Age             **Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land

 

As the reader can see there is disagreement and there are gaps. These gaps are due to the fact that some archaeologists and scholars add or subtract more sub-categories at their pleasure. What makes things much worse is that the Israeli archaeologists use their own terms for the exact same periods,

Some Israeli archaeologists tend to use terms with ethnic connotations—Canaanite period & Israeli period—instead of the terms Bronze Age and Iron Age.3

So it is no wonder non-professional or non-archaeologically educated people become confused by the terms Bronze Age, Stone Age and Iron Age. They are not used in a uniform manner and are at the whim of the scholar or archaeologist who uses them.

Then there is the problem of transitional periods. These are so-called gaps in the development of human civilization,

Another terminological problem relates to two transitional periods…These were given special names by scholars, intended to emphasize their uniqueness but the result was only chaos. 4

The more secular scholars tried or try to clear things up, the bigger mess they made. Even the definition given to this label is very ambiguous and allows for too much freedom to the archaeologist to apply the periods as they see fit and not as they should be.

Historic period- any period in the past that can be studied by using contemporary written documents. 5

Such non-specific definitions lend much to the comprehension problems many people face when studying the field of archaeology. One must not only be aware of their own categorization but of the many that are used by so many different people.

It is also an opening for archaeological games as these categories can be used to manipulate history and to argue against the biblical record.

The disagreement between Garstang and Kenyon, moderated by Wood, was one of the ceramic differences between MB III (old MB IIB) and LB I. One of the problems in that context is that there was basically no discontinuity, either culturally or ceramically, between MB III and LB I. So there was, and is, a lot of room for disagreement. It's simply not a clear and distinct cultural horizon 6

In other words, it is easy to use the archaeological periods as one wants as there are no hard and fast rules governing their use and no penalty if they are used wrongly or with ulterior motives. Archaeologists and scholars are free to use them as they wish and as reported earlier, when one has enough knowledge of a subject, they can confuse others very easily.

What has led to all this confusion comes in the next section as the history of the origin of the 3 stage age theory is explored.

II. The History of the Archaeological Eras

One may think that because archaeology is a field of science that it would use scientific means to determine the categories it uses for chronological and historical purposes. Unfortunately, that is just not so. In fact, science had very little to do with it and like most things in science and its sub-fields, these categories were determined arbitrarily and on the opinion of one person. The story goes like this:

This was the problem facing Christian Jurgensen Thomsen (1788-1865) when he was appointed curator of the Danish National Museum in Copenhagen in 1816. His array of prehistoric objects could not be placed in any sort of order based on date. He hit on an ingenious solution. He recognized that some of the museum‘s collection had come from sites where the only finds were made from stone; some came from sites where bronze was also used, while others came from sites where iron, stone and bronze were used. He suggested that those sites with only stone tools were the oldest, labeling this the Stone Age, those with bronze and stone tools belonged to a Bronze Age, while those with iron belonged to an Iron Age. In some ways, this followed the idea put forward by Hesiod. However, whereas Hesiod’s model was one of a decline from a time of perfection (the Age of Gold) to the present, sinful Age of Iron, Thomsen’s model was one of increasing technological complexity, from stone, through bronze to iron.7

This task of creating a museum display for all the material it had collected over the years was influenced by evolutionary thinking.

Although there are the hints of this idea developing in the writings of some early 19th century British antiquarians the breakthrough came in Denmark where Christian Jurgenson Thomsen, given the task of sorting out the collections of the National Museum of Denmark, developed a classification based on three successive ages, of stone, bronze and iron. He suggested that these ages, although defined by technology, represented differing stages of human development and consequently provided not just a classification but also some indication of chronology. 8 {bold mine}

It is thought that since man evolved so must have his tools but again this is very misleading as human culture or civilizations do not progress in these staged formats. There was not a period where everybody was stone aged then all of a sudden they realized they could move up to a higher level of technology and use bronze for their tools and weapons, then repeat that process for iron and so on.

All societies started and progressed differently and there is no uniform manner for human culture,

Archeologists admit, however, that all three types of tools are found together in archeological digs.9

Even today, civilizations do not progress in a uniform manner. Supposedly we are in the nuclear age yet less than 10 nations (out of the 150 or so in existence today) have nuclear weapons while many societies are still found to be living in the Stone Age.

“A MODERN relic of the Stone Age”; “The most primitive human beings so far discovered”; “The first known living ‘cavemen.’” Through such newspaper reports, worldwide attention was focused on a twenty-five-member tribe living in the dense jungle of Mindanao in the southern Philippines. Their discovery led to the forming of several expeditions composed of Filipino and American anthropologists, news correspondents, television crews of the National Geographic Society10

One can see that the inexact science of creating these ages has actually created more problems than it solved. It was the simplicity of the system that made it a success as archaeologists were then able to start dividing their finds into different parts of history, whether they were the correct part remains uncertain simply because human civilizations did not and do not make choices or act according to how modern scholars demand or think.

His ideas were an instant success. Suddenly, archaeologists across Europe had the means to place finds in a relative sequence. If they did not know how long each of their Three Ages had lasted, that was something that it might be possible to sort out later. In the meantime, it became important to work out the sequences of finds in different parts of the world. It also became possible to correlate different types of monument with finds of different dates 11

It is easy to see why it was so successful, not only did it provide a loose framework to categorize their discoveries, it allowed them the freedom to re-write history as they saw fit. Since no textual documentation accompanies these discoveries, the archaeologist is, to a certain extent, free to place them where they think they belong, guided by the merest of instructions, the names of the three ages.

This is a very common practice among secular biblical scholars and minimalists who do not believe the Bible. They do not like the Biblical chronology so they change it at well using the 3 Age System and a lot of conjecture.12

In essence then, what we have on our hands is a big monster which can be used to alter history depending on the honesty and character of the professionals involved and as they are influenced by their religious beliefs, or lack of them, or their experience, or their preference. This then leads us into a deeper discussion on the problems that come with this invention of the 3 Age system.

III. The Problems of the Archaeological Eras

As has been briefly alluded to in the earlier section, many problems arise from the invention by Christian Jurgenson Thomsen. One such problem is the very limited use of this system. Many do not realize that this system is not for world wide application. In fact, its territory is restricted to a very small portion of the world,

The three-age system has been difficult to apply fully outside Europe and the Mediterranean for which it was devised. Some societies skipped some of the stages or never developed them when their societies did not need them. Some Amazonian tribes in South America remain to date in the Neolithic for example, and while there was no Bronze Age in Sub-Saharan Africa, technological innovation there progressed from stone to iron working.13

It was only created for the societies that existed in Europe and area that comprises the field of Biblical archaeology. It does not work for any other civilization or minor society as one can see by the quote that their development progressed at a different rate and or direction. Forcing the Bible and the civilizations it mentions into a very limited structure is distorting the past and allowing for misdating to occur.

This is a very big problem for if we do not get the dates right then how will we know if the rest of the theory is correct? We don’t.  To be effective, a chronological era should be able to be applied to all civilizations and societies around the world but as noted earlier, progress with human is never uniform and it is not scientific.

A second problem that arises is that the Bible specifically mentions that metalworking began very, very early in time,

Again we only need to turn to the Bible for perspective. In Genesis 4:22, Tubalcain was "an instructor of every artificer in brass and iron." This was before the flood.14

Thus the conclusions of the archaeologist are skewed as the ignore this fact and seek to date their discoveries according to a very general and flawed system. It is flawed, for it does not take into account the continued use of stone tools in different eras or that replicas could have been made or that even children were given stone tools to use by their parents, to protect them from the sharper metal ones. The reasons for the overlap are many and this system does not address such options.

Then we have the problem where a society’s knowledge in other fields far out distance their every day tools or weapons. In other words, they may be at a Stone Age level in the weapons or tool department of life while their academic pursuits were far beyond the Iron Age level. Case in point:

Using the three-age system to measure the advancement of societies is often quite inaccurate, as some developments have appeared in different societies at vastly differing stages of their development. For example, Classic Period Maya society had mathematics and astronomy that rivaled early renaissance Europe, but were still technically a Stone Age culture. Some pre-Inca cultures had metalworking starting in 1500 BC. The Japanese had pottery as early as 10,000 BC but did not begin bronze work or rice farming until 1000 to 500 BC. 15

This disparity between fields of study is glaring and demonstrates the weakness and limitation of the three age system. It is not a tool that can be relied upon as providing correct, constructive, or accurate data. It is just not designed to do so; it was designed to solve a then present day problem faced by a museum curator and has no reflection on history or the development of human civilization.

A fourth problem is, as mentioned earlier, civilizations do not progress in a uniform manner. The do so as their people decide what they want to achieve and those decisions are influenced by the amount of raw material at their disposal

The system isn't perfect; as is quite clear by anybody who has done reading of the literature, the technological change from stone to bronze to iron doesn't coincide with social changes except in the broadest of senses16

But if the system isn’t perfect, why use it at all, especially when its use leads to faulty positioning of cultural changes and changes in technology and other cultural products? For believers, then, they need to discard the system altogether and turn to something more honest and appropriate that speaks the truth and if they cannot find such an alternative, then they must alter the existing one to better fit their needs.

This present system seems to foster anti-biblical pre-supposition and bias:

Thomsen's Three Age System was the first classification of prehistoric times. The Three Age System was soon shown to have actual chronological validity, with layers of Stone Age tools underlying those with metals. But the whole of human existence was shackled within 6,000 years of Biblical chronology. 17


The secular world has altered the three age system to accommodate their evolutionary thinking and have extended it into the past by many thousands of years, though they cannot prove the validity of those additional eras. But one thing is for certain, they do not want to be associated with the Biblical chronology or the Bible. The number 6,000 is used a lot by evangelicals and it, as you can see, has become the standard for secularists to use when referring to Biblical timelines. We cannot even be sure of the 6,000 human year time frame as dating the past is basically an impossible chore. Nothing in the past is dated according to modern calendars thus we are only guessing when we come up with the dates of past events.

Even the 3 Age system is guessing as it cannot be positively certain that the dates used to divide each category is correct, at best it is an assumption and why we have so much disagreement among scholars as to the dates of each era. In fact, without time stamped records, even dating one’s activities of the previous week is almost impossible, given the mindset of scholars and archaeologists today.

One could provide their schedule diary as proof yet it can be dismissed as written the day before, to solve a problem or as biased and not a true account of one’s past because there is no corroboration from extra-personal sources. There are many objections that can be used to dismiss a date or event by archaeologists and biblical scholars and they will apply them because the true history does not meet their ideas.

In closing this chapter, one more quote is needed to illustrate the weakness of the archaeological eras:

…One confusing disagreement in chronological terminology must be signalized. About 1950 BC a sharp cultural shift occurred in Palestine which was marked by a rapid revival of urban life after an apparent hiatus of hundreds of years…Now that the evidence for the shift has emerged, it is apparent that the classical system of names for the cultural phases no longer corresponds with historical reality…Most recent writers are agreed that the classical system is now inadequate.18

It is inadequate and it does not correspond with actual human history, it was never intended to be nor was it designed for that purpose. It is an utter failure that subjects historical facts and records to the whims of those who spend their lives professionally studying history and archaeology.

It is better described as a tool for the secularist to alter biblical chronology in hopes of finally proving, once and for all, that the Bible is inaccurate and its message can be dismissed and ignored. The 3 stage system cannot deal with the inconsistencies of human development, nor can it be applied uniformly to all ancient civilizations around the world.

It is woefully inferior and without merit, yet why is it still in use today, for the simple reason it is the only system that exists where archaeologists can classify their work and it is ‘deeply ingrained in people’s minds, including those of archaeologists.’19 The concept has found a home and it will be too difficult for anyone to change the mindset because of the vast acceptance of the system.

Believers need to be wary as the dates they are given may not be accurate and may not reflect the true historical reality.  The further back we go, the less evidence there is that has survived to inform of what has taken place and because secular scholars reject the intervention of the Flood, their dates are very much distorted and misleading.

What the believer needs to know is that God does not use exact dates, in many Biblical passages we read, the words, ‘…in the fifth year of the reign of…’20 or something similar and in the very first verse of the Bible we are not given an exact date. The verse begins, ‘In the beginning…’21, we are not privy as to when that beginning was, for the exact date is not germane to the Christian faith nor their salvation, the focus should be on God, as it should be when we study events from the past.

It does not matter to the believer exactly when something took place, i.e. the exodus; it should matter to them that they believe God and that it did take place.

7.  Dating the Evidence

I. The Different Dating Systems

Besides the 3 Ages System, and in archaeology there are actually a lot more than the 3 ages as history has continued long after 587 BC, there are numerous ways to date discovered artifacts.

When archaeologists uncover things like coins, it is easy to get an accurate date from them because of the impression on the coin, or the actual date which may be stamped onto the metal. However, dating things that are not themselves dated is a far more difficult task. There are several ways of doing this.1

There is not space to deal with them all, suffice it to say that there are many options available to the archaeologist2 and they are free to choose which one they want to use as it fits their needs. There are two that are most common, the first is radiocarbon dating or as it is commonly known as, C-14 dating.

C-14 dating is very simple as it tracks the number of carbon atoms in a deceased piece of organic material. C-14 is derived from C-12 and then once the organic material dies, it declines at a given rate.3  Using C-14 as a dating tool is problematic in several ways; first, it destroys the artifact or example it is dating. When an archaeologist uses this method, they have to make sure they are not putting a valuable discovery inside the machine for it will perish during the test.

A second problem with C-14 dating is that it is based upon assumptions and ideals.  There is no possible way for a scientist to be aware of how much C-14 was in the organic material at its death and there is no possible way for the scientist to accurately discover how much C-14 the organic material started out with or ingested over its life span.4 So to say that an item was 900 years old or even 9,000 is at best a guess or an approximation.

A third problem that arises when dealing with C-14 is there is no way to determine how much carbon the sun transmits to the earth or if the Flood altered the carbon amounts in many of the artifacts being dated.5  The next problem, which is fairly major, is the danger of contamination. Organic material absorbs contaminants, even after death,

For C14 to test accurately the artifact must have been protected from contamination. Organic matter, being porous, can easily be contaminated by organic carbon in groundwater. This increases the C12 content and interferes with the carbon ratio.6

To find a perfect and pristine sample is very difficult to do and many dates are thrown off because a sample is used that may have been contaminated, though done so unwarily. Finally, in dealing with problems related to C-14 dating is the concept of the decline rate,

For radiocarbon dating to be reliable scientists need to make a number of vital assumptions. Firstly, Dr Libby assumed that C14 decays at a constant rate. However, experimental evidence indicates that C14 decay is slowing down and that millennia ago it decayed much faster than is observed today.7

This has been my point of contention for years now. Libby’s assumption was that each half year lasted for 5,730 years (approx.) then for some inexplicable reason, it would slow down by 50%. In simpler terms:

C-14 has a half life of 5,730 years. If you begin with 100 pounds of C-14, it would take 5,730 years until there would only be 50 pounds left. It would take an additional 5,730 years for the 50 pounds to decay to only 25 pounds, and so on, halving the amount of C-14 every 5,730 years.

As it can be seen, this is not a steady decline rate but one that slows down every 5,730 years. What machinery applies this slow down is never discussed. In a search for answers, no resource talks about how this slow down works or is initiated and how it knows to do it every time at the exact same amount of passage of time is never discussed.

I put forth the theory that the half-life of C-14 can only be measured in 2 parts, providing the range of accuracy of about 11,500 years, give or take a hundred years or so. This would make more sense, given the date results that are produced by C-14 dating without the helpful, corrective calibration from Dendrochronology and other dating systems.

The accuracy or C-14 dating depends upon who you talk to as the dates range from my very low 11,000 +/- years up to 100,000+/- years. Unfortunately, no human will ever live long enough to prove Dr. Libby correct or pronounce him wrong and when they do, no one will care.

 

II Pottery

The next and most important, and most used, dating system that will be discussed is pottery. It is found in at all digs and even on the surface in abundant supply

What is it about pottery that makes it so valuable for archaeology? In the first place, pottery is the most basic and useful tool for developing the chronology of a site.9

And,

Hundreds of lamps have been unearthed and thousands of pottery fragments (“potsherds” or “sherds”) and coins were retrieved from the sifters10

Pottery is all over the place and was the ancient world’s most commonly used item. It use in dating ancient civilizations is vital and trumps radiocarbon dating, not only because it is cheap and there is so much evidence for it but because the archaeologist can see how it lies sequentially in the ground as they dig. Two men, played a role in discovering this method of dating, though the latter is given all the credit, the former played a small role as well:

But Schliemann was also learning, by trial and error, more systematic methods of excavation. He deserves credit for being one of the first archaeologists to understand the value of pottery sequencing—dating pottery sherds by comparing them sequentially to other sherds. At Troy, Schliemann also developed a form of stratigraphy, in which the various occupational layers of a site are carefully uncovered one by one (and are dated through pottery sequences).11 {underlining mine}

The second man, receives all the credit for pottery sequencing and I soften called the father of modern pottery dating,

Petrie spent the next two years performing excavations of two Nile Delta sites at Naukratis and Daphnae. Here, he uncovered pottery and was able to prove that both of these sites were former ancient Greek trading posts. From this excavation he developed a sequential dating method that would enable him to determine the chronology of any civilization by pottery fragment comparison. In the course of a brief interlude in Palestine, a six-week season of excavations at Tell el-Hesi in the spring of 1890, he introduced into Palestine the concept that a Tell is a manmade mound of successive, superimposed 'cities'. He established the dating of these 'cities' by means of their associated deeply stratified ceramic remains and of the "cross-dating" of these remains with reference to similar finds made in their Egyptian contexts. Petrie sponsored investigations that followed the stratification of a site in relation to such establishable chronologies.12

Thus we have the invention of pottery dating borne out of the astute observation of two former excavators. The value of using pottery as a dating system was enhanced when it was discovered that ‘once it was fired, it does not change nor disappear with time as do objects of metal…’13

It is, if left alone by stronger destructive forces, permanent and will lie in wait till it is unearthed by a farmer, or some other person digging in the dirt. What also makes it valuable is that ‘each society or archaeological period seemed to have its own distinct style and typical pottery. Archaeologists are able to date any level or stratum in a site by the type of pottery that appears in it.’ 14

So because of the numerous quantities and its variations, pottery has become a useful tool in dating archaeological digs and artifacts. These are dated according to the pottery that is found on site and at each level of the dig. Pottery is also a one of the best ways for an archaeologist to learn about a society. Their design, the sophistication, any writing that is placed upon a piece, the production techniques and so on:

One of the main ways an archeologist can learn about a culture is through its pottery. A pottery shard found in an archeological dig can tell the archeologist what materials were used in a given region, where the pottery clay came from, what the firing techniques were and the possible cultural purpose for a given piece.

Pottery is an advanced technology which requires a great deal of processing, experimentation and precision to create. Even using modern pot throwing techniques, molding and hand building (which are similar to their ancient counterparts), the process does not always yield a useable, workable pot. Many times in the process of firing a pot, multiple firings are required which can take days, and this does not include the added complication of glazing techniques. The sophistication needed to create a workable pot, along with the geographical resources needed for clay, has meant that in many areas pottery was not one of the early technologies developed. Many cultural areas within prehistory had knowledge of pottery, but the more sophisticated forms, such as those found within the South American tribe of the Moche, and within Jamon culture of Japan, display a great knowledge of the medium of clay, and all of its constituent components, which took many years to discover.15

As with the 3 Age system and its use of stone, bronze and iron, the pottery world is as uneven in development and use as the weapons and tools found in that system. What this tells us is that people advance or develop at different rates and there are mitigating factors involved which spur or hinder their growth as a developed civilization, though one could argue that the most sophisticated systems are those found in under-developed societies. They just do not record or do everything in a manner that pleases the western investigator.

Pottery is useful but it is not without its problems, as we shall see.

III. Problems with Pottery Dating

As has been discussed, radiocarbon dating is tenuous at best and leaves archaeologists in a bind,

The unreliability of carbon 14 date testing is a great concern to honest archaeologists. They get particularly concerned when C14 testing shows obviously inaccurate results and they are left in uncertainty about the reliability of the dates that they have previously never questioned.16

And which has left them little choice but to look to something more reliable, like pottery. But the pottery system is not immune to problems either and one has to do with the subjectivity of the chronology:

The beginning of an enduring pottery technology had to wait (if the chronologies offered by the archaeologists are valid) 17

Pottery chronologies are mainly an archaeologist construct and since we do not know when pottery was first invented18, nor have we beyond a shadow of a doubt samples with which to compare subsequent remains, it is difficult to say what style came first and if they were really as Amihai Mazar says;

The Neolithic pottery comprises mainly simple crude, handmade, vessels made on mats and fired at low temptatures.19

To be realistic, for all we know, we have stumbled upon what possibly could be a pottery school remains or the first attempts by beginners in learning how to make pottery or even test pots or vessels, to determine the right temperature and materials used, or they were just the cheapest option for non-rich villager could purchase. In other words, without knowing neither the beginning nor having any confirmed samples from the first potters, we have no way of knowing the exact nature of the vessels discovered

This description conforms in considerable detail to the bathing installations exposed in the small room containing the Lepers’ Pool. Among the unusual finds in this room were scores of complete pottery lamps, typical of the third and fourth centuries A.D. They are all very similar in style, and all lack the soot which characterizes a lamp after use. Perhaps these lamps were intended to be used in some midnight ritual by “lepers” hoping for a cure. Or maybe they were placed at the pool’s edge. The evidence is intriguing, to say the least. Certainty of interpretation will surely continue to elude us20

Those lamps could also have been put there for future sale, we just do not know and that is the way it is with pottery, unless we discover some text which describes its purpose. Another problem is the conflicting ideas among archaeologist about the ownership of pottery. They may agree that pottery has been left behind but as to the reason, they will differ:

Since ancient people often made their own pottery, when they moved from one place to another they did not bother to take it with them because it was so inexpensive.21

Verses,

Pottery is heavy and thus not very useful for people traveling in the desert22

Another issue that bears mentioning is the idea of what the ancient people did for pots and cooking ware prior to the invention, if it is as late as archaeologists claim,

Ain Ghazal was settled in about 7200 B.C., in the Neolithic period. Scholars divide this period into Pre-Pottery Neolithic (c. 9000–5500 B.C.) and Pottery Neolithic (c. 5500–4000 B.C.). Ain Ghazal flourished in the Pre-Pottery Neolithic for almost 2,000 years. By 6200 B.C. the settlement had grown to occupy nearly 40 acres, almost four times the size of contemporaneous Jericho, only 30 miles away. Indeed, Ain Ghazal was one of the largest “cities” in the Neolithic Near East23

One has to wonder what the ancients did when they wanted hot food over those 2,000 years, yet no one really addresses this issue for it goes against their accepted theories. Clearly, pottery, even though it can be permanent though under ideal circumstances, is subject to destructive forces because pottery is made of clay and even when fired it can be broken into tiny little pieces far beyond the ability of the archaeologist to analyze and date.

Did these people eat cold meat all the time with cold corn and potatoes? Not likely, for like the stone hammer, which many experts claim the ancient people used for a long time without a handle (a few swings of one would convince anyone that a handle was needed) the ancients would be tired of not having a variety at meal time and their minds would set about fixing the problem of the absence of hot meals.

In my opinion, pottery has been around for a lot longer than the archaeological experts think and as the late Dr. Mazar said, ‘the first stage of the pre-pottery Neolithic is not very well documented’24 Which translate into the fact that archaeologists have no real idea when pottery was put into use and it is safe to conclude that the ancients were a lot smarter than the modern experts grant them.

There is yet another problem with the pottery dating system and it is a common problem for all the archaeological digs throughout the world, especially in the Middle East. Looting can create gaps in the chronology making it virtually impossible to date a building, a city or a tomb.

The losses from looting are of several kinds. Many artifacts not deemed commercially valuable, such as animal bones, pollen and seed samples, and even pottery sherds, are simply thrown out or destroyed by looters. In addition, both looted sites and recovered objects become less valuable. Once the sites have been disturbed and the looted objects have been removed from their proper context, both the artifacts and the sites lose much of their capacity to contribute information about the past25

People need money, and one of the easiest sources in the Middle East for impoverished people is the numerous undiscovered ancient sites. They come in at night, dig, and when they find anything, they cart it off to sell at the antiquities markets in their respective countries and receive an income. The loss for the archaeologist is not solely monetary but measured in loss of information about that particular site and its history, which to an archaeologist is more of a travesty than the financial reward involved.

The information provided by these pottery remains, to an archaeologist is invaluable,

The finds from an archaeological excavation, apart from architectural remains, are almost exclusively pottery. Except in rare instances, this pottery is in the form of broken fragments, or sherds.

By themselves, sherds say very little about their former lives. Nevertheless, these sherds are valuable. Their shape, decoration and method of manufacture allow the archaeologist to date the pieces, and identify the historical context from which they came; sometimes even determining who made the pottery and where. In fact, the primary, means of dating in Palestine is through pottery. Thus, archaeologists spend a great deal of time and money excavating, processing, evaluating and publishing lowly potsherds26

 

And when the pottery is lost, broken or stolen, the value of the site decreases to a point of being almost worthless.

 

The believer must remember that, like the 3 Age System, all dating methods are man-made and are imperfect and should not be relied upon to provide concrete dates for the past. All dating systems are vulnerable to corruption, fallibility, errors, and miscalculations and so on. One of the most damaging negative actions that can be used, and which happens in all scientific fields, is manipulation of the facts, the evidence and of course, the dating systems.

 

Pottery is not immune to such manipulation for we do not know if a set of 10th century BC pots were original with the building it resides, or if the building was constructed after the 10th century but the people still used old pots or if the building was constructed prior to the 10th century and the pots were moved in at a much later date.

 

There are just too many options that apply to any given sight. Also, for tombs, we have no idea if the grieving loved ones placed their new pots in the tomb with their departed relative or if they decided that was a good place to dispose of their old cookery and other clay possessions. Experts assume, of course, that they would probably use their best, but if the people were economically deprived or if they were frugal, that idea would not make much sense.

 

In any case, we cannot prove the reason why, we can just see the results of their actions and only guess as to why they were found where they were. One, also, has to wonder how much the 3 Age System influences the dating of pottery. When pottery pieces are found in a known age, how much is assumed that the pottery actually came from that specific era? It is possible that the pottery came from another era via inheritance, keepsakes or gifts thus to assume the date is not always the best idea.

 

Then, for the believer, one must ask themselves, is knowing the exact date vital to my faith and salvation? All physical evidence is, for the believer, is a provision from God to shore up His follower’s faith, so that they will not weaken and be turned away from belief in Him. Knowing the exact date doesn’t necessarily accomplish that purpose, realizing that the evidence is there and that the event is true-- does.

 

Believers should not be caught up in the continuing debate of when things happened and when they existed for that is a distraction to their purpose and Christian life and can take the believer’s eyes off Jesus, causing them to stumble or fall. The believer needs to be wary and make issues of those things that are vital to their faith and Christian life.

 

8. The Problem of Education

I. The Scholar’s View

For some reason, many scholars and archaeologists have this idea that the ancient world was vastly different from the modern world.  They think that what takes place in people’s lives, goals, desires, education, did not take place in the past or was vastly restricted by the ruling powers. Their concepts of writing and education bear the influence of evolutionary thinking and feel that for some strange reason, people could not grasp the idea of writing till much, much later in their development.

Language existed long before writing, emerging probably simultaneously with sapience, abstract thought and the Genus Homo. In my opinion, the signature event that separated the emergence of palaeohumans from their anthropoid progenitors was not tool-making but a rudimentary oral communication that replaced the hoots and gestures still used by lower primates.  The transfer of more complex information, ideas and concepts from one individual to another, or to a group, was the single most advantageous evolutionary adaptation for species preservation.1

This idea is underscored by the following:

Humans had been speaking for a couple hundred thousand years before they got the inspiration or nerve to mark their ideas down for posterity.

But when a Mesopotamian people called the Sumerians finally did scratch out a few bookkeeping symbols on clay tablets 5,000 years ago, they unknowingly started a whole new era in history2

 

They also feel that communication was not done like it was today but that the ancients were sort of mentally disabled when it came to communicating with each other and had to act like monkeys or entertainers to speak their thoughts to another person.

If you have ever listened with fascination as older relatives spoke about their lives, you understand the delight people feel hearing stories about their past. Before writing was invented, people recalled the past through cave paintings, dance, ritual chant, and stories told by the light of campfires. In a number of ways—including myths, legends, fables, fairy tales, and animal stories—each generation tried to pass on its stories to the next.3

They forget or do not accept that there was no evolutionary process and that ancient man was exactly like modern man, for God did not do a processional creation nor were there two separate ones were ancient man was created one way and modern man another. What modern man desires is the same as the ancient one, for both were given the same human qualities and the same abilities thus as we look around at our fellow man today we can be assured that the desires for education, and literacy today were present in the ancient world.

In fact we know that education was vastly important in many ancient societies and it did not take hundreds of thousands of years to finally decide to write something down. One has to question why it took so long for ancient man to put their ideas on paper, or stone or whatever material they used. Surely in all those generations someone would have come up with the idea long before the credited inventors of the writing system.

We all know that the Wright Bros. were not the inventors of the idea of flying, for that idea was originated in the ancient world, long before Da Vinci drew his famous sketches of flying apparatuses. The same for writing, there were ancient societies long before Sumer thus the idea of writing and education most likely was well established long before they ‘invented’ it.

In the earliest certainly readable texts from South Iraq, the language was Sumerian. Whether or not the earliest Uruk texts (which we cannot read) also represented Sumerian, we are not sure.4

There were societies before the Sumerians and though they are credited with much, it is hard to say for certain how much they can be credited for, for they most likely inherited the ‘inventions’ from those who came before. William Dever goes a lot further and just makes a blanket generalization of the ancient world with his comment:

In the Ancient world generally, the populace was almost totally illiterate.5

Yet if this was so, why would King Hammurabi, and so many other rulers, create stele inscribed with their laws and place them around the country for all to read?  Dr. Dever does not present one iota of proof for his conclusion and he has maintained this idea, without proof, for years6 But from research, we see in the ancient records that education was highly valued, not only in Greece and Rome but also in Egypt and Mesopotamia.

The latter two were both host countries to the Israelites, both as invited guests and as slaves, and thus the idea of education being valuable would not have been lost on them. In fact we read in the book of Daniel how many in Israel were selected for special training and education, so it is safe to conclude that that the idea of educating their people remained with them, not only after their sojourn in Egypt but also Babylon. {Of course, this idea is supported by the modern pursuit of education by the Jewish people throughout the world}

What these scholars, and Dr. Dever, seem to ignore is that even the most brutal of regimes educate their children and even their people who are political prisoners and given the harshest of living conditions. The prison or labor camps of North Korea provide us with a modern day example:

The school was a square compound composed of two facing buildings joined on either side by a wall. A flower bed and lawn stretched between the buildings. The classrooms were floor heated in traditional Korean style but only when the temperature dipped below 14 degrees F… {Pages 63-72 provide a much more detailed explanation of education in these camps and compares it with how the guards’ children were treated} 7

Education was neither that rare in the ancient world nor done as the scholars think, as we shall see.

II. Education

As we have seen, modern scholars have this distorted view of ancient education and one wonders that, if these modern scholars were correct, how the ancients could achieve so much if they were so illiterate. Most of their work surpasses that of modern man and without the aid of modern technology and machinery, and to do that took education and literacy.

The ancient Babylonians took education very seriously as they were studying advanced mathematics long before the Greeks ‘discovered’ it:

Eight hundred miles east of Cairo, near the ruins of Babylon in Iraq, they have found clay tablets dating back to 2,000 BC…Surfacing into the 20th century AD the slabs teach us that 600 years after Cheops was built, three hundred years before Tuthmosis II ruled, 1700 years before Euclid introduced his ‘new’ geometry at Alexandria, Babylonian school children were learning about the hypotenuse of a right triangle.8

And

The people dwelling along the Tigris and Euphrates rivers were the most advanced mathematicians and astronomers of their day.9

To do so those takes education and a commitment to teach ones children, not just the elite but all children. But this trend was not limited to Babylonia for the Romans put a high focus on education as well, which contradicts Dr. Dever’s conclusion about the Roman world,

It has been estimated that even in the Roman period no more than 5 per cent of the population were illiterate…In Israel the figure was certainly lower10

This seems to be a an assumption that Dr. Dever cannot support for in the following, we see that the Romans took great pride in having their children educated,

By then, Greek was the international language spoken by many Roman neighbors. From the 2nd century BC a Roman was considered fully educated only if he received the same education as a native Greek in parallel with instructions in Latin.

Only the children from the wealthiest families would receive a fully bi-lingual education. A very young boy or girl from a wealthy family would spend a lot of time with a Greek servant or slave and therefore would learn Greek before Latin. This private tutoring available only to rich people gave the highest result. The child also learned to read and write, again with Greek coming before Latin.

From the 3rd century BC Greek education was available to less privileged children in public schools, where the results were not as impressive. It took several years to teach the children to read.11

The Greek world was not much different:

The boys of Sparta were obliged to leave home at the age of 7 to join sternly disciplined groups under the supervision of a hierarchy of officers. From age 7 to 18, they underwent an increasingly severe course of training…In Sparta, girls also went to school at age 6 or 7. They lived, slept and trained in their sisterhood's barracks. No one knows if their school was as cruel or as rugged as the boy’s school, but the girls were taught wrestling, gymnastics and combat skills. Some historians believe the two schools were very similar and that an attempt was made to train the girls as thoroughly as they trained the boys…Until age 6 or 7, boys were taught at home by their mother or by a male slave. Boys attended elementary school from the time they were about age 6 or 7 until they were 13 or 14…At 13 or 14, the formal education of the poorer boys probably ended and was followed by apprenticeship at a trade. The wealthier boys continued their education under the tutelage of philosopher-teachers12

Not much different from today or even the 20th century as many farm boys or poorer children had to leave school to work to help support their families. People also complain about education today and why it takes so long for students to learn.

Thus the conclusions that, based upon the very incomplete record that we have of the ancient world, the ancient people were vastly illiterate are just baseless assumptions and are moot for they are not founded upon reality and the frustrations of those who oppose such conclusions are amply illustrated by the following complaint,

No one seems to question that the Greeks and Romans were capable of inventing Euclidian geometry, steam engines… [etc.]…(though now it appears that such knowledge was inherited from Minoans, central Asians and north Africans) but mention the existence of batteries, pyramids and the smelting of aluminum in early Bronze Age Africa-or even plumbing on Thera- and suddenly it becomes necessary to invent ancient astronauts who came down from the stars and showed them how.13

For many moderns, it is an impossibility for the ancients to be so thoroughly educated and advanced yet they cannot explain the existence of such modern technology and knowledge thousands of years prior to their ‘accepted’ invention. Their view is equivalent to the idea that archaeologists, 2,000 years from now, in excavating North America and based upon their fragmentary finds, declare that hundreds of millions of Americans were illiterate because their day to day note taking did not survive and the only schools or evidence of writing was discovered in Washington D.C. Thus the future archaeologists arbitrarily decided that only the elite government officials were literate and educated.

 

III Of Writing, Libraries and Schools

It is an accepted fact by scholars that the Sumerians ‘invented’ writing and they did so through their method using cuneiform characters.

However, the greatest gift the Sumerians would give to the world would be writing, without which modern society would not be able to function, and the second greatest gift from the Sumerians, written law, would not be possible.14

However, it is not known who actually or when they did, begin to write things down,

It was at Uruk that the earliest writing was found, dated to between 3500-3,000 BC…But the matter is complicated by the presence of other signs with no obvious pictographic connection. How did signs of this type originate?...If those non-pictograph signs did develop out of pictographs, the tablets from Uruk on which they occur…must have been separated from the original invention of writing by at least a century. But why, in that case, have we no evidence for the earlier stage? 15

In other words, they do not know when writing came into existence and because it is easier, they credit the Sumerians. For the early Israelites it is often concluded that Moses and the early Israelites could not write16 Yet Moses was raised in the palace of a country that highly valued education, Egypt, thus it is safe to conclude that he was educated and that education would have included some form of writing.

He was also told by God to write things down17 and unless God moved Moses’ arms for him or performed an occultic act of automatic writing we can conclude that even God knew that Moses had the ability to write. We now have written ancient Hebrew from the 10th century BC, which helps prove that the Israelites knew how to write a lot earlier than the opponents of the Bible grant.


Prof. GershonGalil of the University of Haifa who deciphered the inscription: "It indicates that the Kingdom of Israel already existed in the 10th century BCE and that at least some of the biblical texts were written hundreds of years before the dates presented in current research."

A breakthrough in the research of the Hebrew Scriptures has shed new light on the period in which the Bible was written. Prof. GershonGalil of the Department of Biblical Studies at the University of Haifa has deciphered an inscription dating from the 10th century BCE (the period of King David's reign), and has shown that this is a Hebrew inscription. The discovery makes this the earliest known Hebrew writing. The significance of this breakthrough relates to the fact that at least some of the biblical scriptures were composed hundreds of years before the dates presented today in research and that the Kingdom of Israel already existed at that time.18

This again contradicts what Dr. Dever concludes about ancient Israeli life and education,

Think of the elegant Hebrew, the complex syntax, the sophisticated literary allusions, the subtle play on words. All of this would have been lost on at least 90% of the population of Ancient Israel…most of who were uneducated villagers and farmers19

This conclusion of Dever is a basic insult to the ancient Israeli people, for Hebrew was their native tongue and they would have been well aware of the syntax, the allusions, the play on words even if they did not go to school and be educated. They would have known their own language because they used it every day in all situations. They did not grunt to each other in their daily lives as Dr. Dever seems to claim by his ignorant conclusion, thus scriptures would not ‘be lost on 90% of the population’ and Dr. Dever ignores the fact that the Bible was written so all could grasp its message not just the elite.

In the case for libraries, they seem to have existed from very early on, as archaeologists have found many depositories and caches throughout the ancient world, though the idea that they were the domains of kings and temples20 is misleading and about the same as declaring that only the president, because of the location of the Library of Congress, had sole right to books21 and the rest of the country went without, ignoring the fact that all cities contained libraries which would probably be misidentified as temples, given the application of archaeological logic.

It is not wise to assume that the spread of knowledge via books was restricted and limited for even the most despotic of rulers would want his propaganda and brainwashing to be understood by his own people and those he conquered. Ignorance does not help a nation grow and develop,

On more than one occasion Woolley and Lawrence found whole libraries of cuneiform tablets buried near city gates. One deposit ran 3 feet deep, and at the bottom someone had conveniently left a dictionary.’22

Finally, we turn to the topic of schools and how the ancient world was taught and as seen earlier, the Roman and Greek worlds used a form of public school training to teach their youth. The Bible tells us that there is ‘nothing new under the sun’ and this would apply to the educational world as well, both modern and ancient. Parents want their children to be educated and how this was done is limited no matter what age one lives in. There are few options and some of these options are open to the poor as well as the rich.

First, it would be unfair to say that only the elite went to school or that the poor could not afford to go, public education, no matter what culture one lives in, is designed to make it affordable for all to attend regardless of wealth.

Some of the assumptions Diodrus makes are questionable. He could be understood to imply that knowledge of Egyptian writing was limited to priests but this was certainly not the case. He also speaks as though the teaching of writing was exclusively from father to son, whereas it is certain that there were schools where formal teaching took place.23

From what can be gathered, education was for all but how long one stayed in school was up to the student, the family and their situation.  It is also hard to imagine fathers coming home from a hard day of work, especially one filled with problems, then sit down for an hour or hours to teach their sons how to read and write. That is a job best left to others.

Second, it is often stated that the ancient temples were responsible for the majority of teaching in the past, yet ‘it has not been proved true, though is not an impossibility’24 and given the modern example of Roman catholic Schools and protestant church schools, we can see it taking place in the past on a limited scale like today

Parents would become dissatisfied with the quality of education in public schools or in the tutoring their children were receiving and looked for other options and temples, like their modern counter parts, could seize upon the opportunity to teach and use their own beliefs as curriculum.

Third, it is often said by archaeologists and scholars that the kings of ancient nations established and ran their own schools. But that seems to be a bit taxing when one considers the rest of their duties.

The first Mesopotamia schools of which we have positive knowledge were two established by King Shulgi at Nippur and at Ur…25

It would make more sense if it were thought that the regulations required that the King’s approval was needed before the school could officially begin operations, much like government approval is required today, and that the schools were actually established by some unheralded academic who wanted to teach children or youth.

The picture of the past is very incomplete and the modern day scholar or archaeologist takes great liberty in describing what took place, often distorting the reality to best fit their theories. The Bible tells us that man is the same and we can see that truth if we honestly look at history, yet the secularist is determined to re-write what has taken place because it does not meet their way of thinking.

Indeed, one distinguished Am. Scholar, Albrecht Goetze, made the plausible suggestion that the Sumerian term, dub.sar, literally scribe, was the equivalent of ‘Esquire’ or ‘BA’, applied to any educated man and did not necessarily imply that the person so designated actually specialized in scribal functions as a profession.26

I tend to agree with that conclusion for education was more widespread than is concluded by secular professionals and it makes much more sense.  Not everyone could be a scribe. It is highly unlikely that employment opportunities, at all times in history, were more numerous than applicants. As for the Israelites, they were under God’s commands to 1. Raise up their children; 2. Seek knowledge wisdom and understanding; thus their desire to educate their own children would be an act of obedience and one that could not be restricted by government thoroughly.

So the conclusion that the people of Israel were illiterate and unable to grasp the nature of their own language is not credible and a new picture of educating the ancients is needed.

9. Chronology

I. Copying From the Past, part 1

The dictionary tells us that chronology is: ‘ascertaining the true periods or years when past events or transactions took place; and arranging them in their proper order according to their dates.’1 and that is what we must do, ‘put things in their correct order’. Unfortunately, in the secular world the idea that the oldest discovered is the original and all other are the copies:

Archaeologists have discovered what seems to be remains of the world's earliest religious worship site in the remote Ngamiland region of Botswana. Here, our ancestors performed advanced rituals, worshiping the python some 70,000 years ago2

This idea is also supported by the evolutionary thought that permeates much of academic scholarship and archaeological work. The oldest fossil found, is the ancestor of the rest, so they say. Yet, for the believer we must not travel those paths for so much has not been uncovered and we need to be careful since putting the past into a correct chronology is not that simple.3 We have missing information, edited histories, erased events from different ancient societies.

Similarly it is important to avoid the kind of embarrassment caused in some scholarly circles by the assumption that the Egyptian historical sources were as reliable factually as they appeared to be at first sight. It is now known that the bulk of such material is propaganda rather than history, and that it was composed in order to present to future generations a ‘correct’ view of what happened…In evaluating ancient Near Eastern records that purport to be historical, the reader must also bear in mind that the facts may possibly have been modified somewhat, or even falsified, in order to accomplish some specific purpose.4

In other words, much like recent historical works, the ancient works were written not solely by honest authors and agendas, bias, and other influences played a part and the modern scholar or history buff must be discerning, for the ancient world was not following Christian ideals, thus their works were subject to the same corruptions that apply to today’s writing world.

Far too often, scholars blindly accept all ancient works as ideal, perfect views from the past and do not factor in the reality that the ancient people were as dishonest or as far-fetched as many modern authors are today, or in recent history. One can cite the book, Chariots of the Gods, as one example of this faulty work that was published and we can point to the late Ron Wyatt’s videos and claims as another prime example of how all work is not factual, nor written with the truth in mind.

As an example of this bad chronological work, we will look at two examples; the first will be the flood stories and the second will look at the life and times of Christ. It is a known fact that many people believe that the Biblical writers copied from earlier published works like the Gilgamesh Epic or the Old Babylonian version or even the Atrahasis6 but a logical look at things will tell a different story.

First, the Israelites never had the reputation of copying anyone, in spite of all the charges leveled at them by modern scholars, who claim that the Israelites first heard of the story during their Babylonian captivity.

Moreover, many scholars note that the biblical story seems to borrow directly from the flood myths of other civilizations in the ancient Near East…There are significant differences in the accounts as well. But the fact that the biblical story tracks these others so closely, says Professor Michael D. Coogan of the Harvard Semitic Museum, suggests that the Genesis flood is the clearest example of direct dependence on other ancient myths5

 Unfortunately for the modern scholars, it was the Old Babylonians who had that reputation as they freely did participate in copying older works,

The scribes of the Old Babylonian period were very zealous copyists and went to great lengths to preserve the literature that came down to them from the past, especially the archives of the Third Dynasty at Ur6

We have no such records stating that the Israelites participated in such practices. Even the Biblical authors who mention other works do not confess nor state that they copied from other sources (see the books of Kings and Chronicles). They refer to the rest of the deeds of the kings that are written in other books, but their work was not to write a complete history and such reference would be natural to provide the reader with a proper document to investigate the complete history.7

As to the charge that the Israelites copied from the Babylonians, (or first heard of the flood account), it does not hold water as no scholar who holds to this idea has ever presented any physical or empirical evidence to support their accusations and the following undermines their claims as well:

The great importance of this inscription, [Atrahasis], which was copied about the time of Abraham, from an older tablet…is that it will require that the prevailing view that the Hebrew traditions were borrowed from Babylonia.8

The discovered evidence is falling on the side that the Biblical chronology is correct and that the Hebrews did not copy from secular nations. They did not need to and there was no real purpose in doing so for once the lie was uncovered, that would be the end to any nefarious agenda that spawned such a false work.

We know that just about every nation in the modern world has a flood myth in their ancient lore and legends:

Native global flood stories are documented as history or legend in almost every region on earth. Old world missionaries reported their amazement at finding remote tribes already possessing legends with tremendous similarities to the Bible's accounts of the worldwide flood. H.S. Bellamy in Moons, Myths and Men estimates that altogether there are over 500 Flood legends worldwide. Ancient civilizations such as (China, Babylonia, Wales, Russia, India, America, Hawaii, Scandinavia, Sumatra, Peru, and Polynesia) all have their own versions of a giant flood.9

It is a common fact and what most secular scholars do not know, or will acknowledge, is why all these different people have the same event in their history. To answer this question, we need to turn to the Biblical account and show how the chronology can provide the answer to these mysteries:

So Noah went out, and his sons and his wife and his son’s wives with him…So God blessed Noah and said unto him: ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth…The sons of Japheth were Gomer, Magog, Madai, Javan, Tubal, Meschech, and Tiras…The Sons of Ham were Cush, Mizraim, Put, and Canaan…The sons of Shem were Elam, Asshur, Arphaxad, Lud, and Aram…Now the whole earth had ne language and one speech…So the Lord scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth…therefore its name is called Babel, because there the Lord confused all the languages…and scattered them abroad…10

Noah and his sons, and their wives experienced the flood, they lived for hundreds of years afterwards and it is no small leap to conclude that they told and re-told the story to their descendents.  As their descendants began to stray from God once again, it is not hard to figure that the devil worked in people’s mind and distorted the events of the flood as he led them to one false religion to another, and one false written rendition to another.

The archaeological world doesn’t deny this with proof, in fact, the evidence points to this as truth for there is no rational explanation for so many nations around the world, both modern and ancient, to have flood stories.  Secular archaeologists and biblical scholars fail to produce any historical evidence for such a multitude of similar catastrophes happening so far back in history that would compel the societies to record them for future generations.

There just is none, and we know that even recent modern floods do not get recorded into legends that are made a part of the actual history of a nation like Noah’s flood has. 

II. Copying From the Past, part 2

It has been said that the gospel writers copied from more ancient religions to create their ideal in Jesus Christ. This section will focus on only one of those religions, Zoroasterism, as there are just too many to deal with effectively here and to do so would also be redundant.  This false religion was founded by Zoroaster,

Zoroaster was a religious reformer of ancient Persia (now Iran) and the founder of the pre-Islamic religion of Zoroastrianism. Thought to have lived about 300 years before Alexander the Great, Zoroaster (Zarathustra in Greek) had a religious vision when he was about 30 years old, and for the next decade travelled throughout Persia preaching and running afoul of the established religious authorities11

It is said that he, eventually, influenced the monotheistic religions of the Middle East:

Zoroastrianism is considered an early influence on Judaism, Christianity and Islam, and one of the first monotheistic religions. It emphasizes that good and evil are separate entities at war with each other12

Yet no proof has been produced to substantiate this claim.  We do know that he actually did live in the past, though that date is unsure, as he is mentioned by at least two other historical authors,

Zoroaster is first mentioned by a Lydian historian of the 5th century B.C. Plato mentions Zoroaster in Alcibiadesin connection with Magian teachings, and Plutarch gives a summary of Zoroaster's religious doctrine and cosmology13

And by the religious writings of the cult he founded,

The main sources for the life and career of Zoroaster are the Avesta, the sacred book of the Zoroastrians, the oldest and most reliable source; later Zoroastrian literature, among which Denkart, an encyclopedic work in Middle Persian, stands out; and non-Zoroastrian works, which include Persian, Arabic, Armenian, and classical histories.14

But that is where the historical evidence ends and the unverifiable claims begin. The claims attributed to Zoaraster are as follows:

It is said by some critics that:

Zoroaster was born of a virgin and "immaculate conception by a ray of divine reason." He was baptized in a river. In his youth he astounded wise men with his wisdom. He was tempted in the wilderness by the devil. He began his ministry at age 30. Zoroaster baptized with water, fire, and "holy wind." He cast out demons and restored the sight to a blind man. He taught about heaven and hell, and revealed mysteries, including resurrection, judgment, salvation and the apocalypse. He had a sacred cup or grail. He was slain. His religion had a Eucharist. He was the "Word made flesh." Zoroaster's followers expect a "second coming" in the virgin-born Saoshyant or Savior, who is to come in 2341 CE and begin his ministry at age 30, ushering in a golden age.15

This is where the problem comes in, for the earliest copies we have of Zoroaster’s writings come from the 13th century AD, long after the gospels were written, and in fact the information that tells us about Zoroaster was written 300 years after the gospel writers had written their works.

However, almost everything we know about Zoroaster come from texts written over 300 years after Jesus walked the Earth, and the earliest existing copies of these texts are from the 13th century. 16

But this is the reality for most false religious writings who claim that the gospel writers copied from them. All their works, which refer to the main points of Jesus’ life, are dated to well after the time of Christ. 

This example also exposes a double standard in the secular worlds of archaeology and biblical scholarship, for they will readily accept these post-dated works, even though the only copies we have are written hundreds of years after the supposed author’s death. The gaps between the copies and the original works are so large that it is inconceivable that legend and exaggeration did not creep into books during the editing and copying stages.

A few examples to illustrate this point:

Manethos: Manetho, also known as Manethon of Sebennytos, was an Egyptian historian and priest from Sebennytos who lived during the Ptolematic era, circa 3rd century BC… Although no sources for the dates of his life and death remain…The earliest surviving attestation to Manethos is that of Josephus' Contra Apionem, "Against Apion." Even here, it is clear that Josephus did not have the originals…The king-list that Manethos had access to is unknown to us17

And then for other writers, we have the following,

Tacitus: the roman historian who wrote his annals of imperial Rome in about A.D. 116…His first 6 books exist today in only one mss. and it was copied about A.D. 850. Books 11-16 are in another mss. dating from the 11th century. Books 7-10 are lost

Josephus: we have 9 Greek mss. of his work The Jewish war and these copies were written in the 10th, 11th& 12th centuries. There is a Latin translation from the 4th and Russian materials from the 11th or 12th

Homer: There are fewer than 650 Greek mss of it (Illiad) today. Some are quite fragmentary. They come down to us from the 2nd& 3rd century A.D. and following when you consider that Homer composed his epic about 800 B.C….18

And,

Caesar: The Gallic Wars, composed between 58 to 50 BC, there are several extant mss, but only 9 or 10 are good, and the oldest is some 900 years later than Caesar’s day.

Livy: Of the 142 books of his Roman History (59BC –AD 17) only 35 survive; these are known to us from not more than 20 mss of any consequence, one from the 4th century.

Thucydides: His history was written about 460 to 400 BC and is known to us from 8 mss, the earliest belonging to about AD 900 with the same true for Herodotus.19

The double standard is well known in academic circles as F.F. Bruce once complained:

Yet no classical scholar would listen to an argument that the authenticity of Herodotus or Thucydides is in doubt because the earliest mss of their works which are of any use to us are over 1,300 years later than the original20

But they do so with the Bible, even though we can date a few of the Biblical books to within 8-10 years of Jesus’ resurrection and one as late as 68 years approx. (the Gospel of John written approx. AD 100), with the rest in between.21 Thus we can see that there can be no possibility for legend, exaggeration or even editing of Jesus’ life to enter in because the dates are so close to together and, as Paul mentioned, many of the eye-witnesses, both for and against Christ, were still alive.

It would be impossible for the gospel writers to copy, as charged, other false religions for their opponents would put a stop to their lies and end Christianity before it even got started. We can further illustrate the validity of the gospel writers by comparing the facts about the date of authorship of the biography of the founder of Islam, Muhammad:

The first full-length biography of the Prophet of Islam did not appear until 150 years after his death…Unfortunately, the original form of this book is lost to history. It exists only in a later revised and shortened…version by IbnHisham, who died in 834, sixty years after IbnIshaq, and in fragments quoted by other early Muslim writers…22

The same can be said for the Muslim holy book, The Koran;

While Islamic apologists generally assert with pride that the Quranic text has never been altered and there are no variants, there are some indications even in Islamic tradition that this is not the case.23

What this all means is that what is true for the Bible, its unaltered state, its original work, etc., is not achieved by those who found and write for false religions.  It can be concluded that in the past, as they saw the popularity of the Jesus’ message, that the followers of the false religions altered their texts to make it look like the gospel accounts and be more attractive to those outside of the false beliefs who were in need or searching for something special. 

The true chronology in both of these instances show that the Biblical account, in spite of the fact the physical documentation may not be as old as the alternative forms, is the original and that all else are copies, created by those who did not want to follow the truth and used by evil to lead people away from God and salvation.

A close look at the accusations against the Biblical writers will show that the charges are frivolous and would not stand up to any amount of scrutiny and that because of the gap between the secular authors’ original work and existing copies provide enough evidence to turn the charges against their supporters.

10 Alternative Texts

I. The Documentary Hypothesis

This section is being included, not so much for its archaeological impact or influence, for only 1 of the following three alternative documents being discussed here has actually been discovered archaeologically.  The other two are used by scholars to influence biblical scholarship and steer people’s attention away from the truth.

Much of the scholarship of the Hebrew Bible and especially of the Pentateuch since 1878 has been dominated by the Documentary Hypothesis1

Thus it is important to say a few words on each of the three sets or individual alternative documents that influence people’s opinions about the Bible. The first group of documents that are needed to be focused upon are the ones titled, JEPD or commonly known as the Documentary Hypothesis.

These works are considered by many scholars, mostly secular, to be the source information for Moses and other Biblical writers.  They feel that Moses and the remaining authors were too far removed from the events they describe, for the most part, and were in need of earlier source material to put in their Biblical books.

Scholars have long since known that such of these stands of the literary tradition in the Hebrew Bible, now so skillfully woven into a whole, is in turn a composite work written and edited by a group of anonymous authors.2

Unfortunately, this belief raises too many questions about the validity of these so-called contributors to the Bible. We know they were anonymous so the first question is who were they? Were they Israelites? Were they observers from other civilizations? Were they inspired of God to write these sources?  These questions need to be answered so that we can take the works from the realm of men and place it under divine authorship where they belong.

 Then we need to ask, why did they feel the need to compose a history of God’s action in this world?  Or why they focused on Israel and not some other nation? These questions would merit an answer if it wasn’t for one important fact. The documents ‘known by scholars for some time’ and held in the Documentary Hypothesis simply do not exist.

As the theory grew, however, it soon became possible to speak of the J,E,P,D,L,K, & S documents as sources from which the Pentateuch was written over a period of time. But all these ‘sources’ were purely hypothetical ones abstracted from an internal investigation of the Pentateuch. No one had ever seen a document either with these materials or labeled as any of the sources.3

K.A. Kitchen said it a lot better and was far more expansive in his rebuttal:

With the evolutionary ladder gone, what happens to the biblical literature? Where do JEPD, now belong, if the old order is now a chimera? Or, in fact, do they belong at all? They [JEPD] exist only in the minds of their modern creators…and as printed in their published studies, as theoretical works abstracted out of the standard text of the Old Testament books that we do have. This very simple fact needs to be stressed. Our resourceful Biblicists are not sitting on some secret store of papyri or parchment that contains such works. The Dead Sea Scrolls show no sign of them whatever…4

This is something that the believer needs to be well aware of and very secure in the knowledge of this fact. The Documentary Hypothesis, and its members, is purely fiction and do not pertain to anything scriptural nor are or were inspired by God. Anyone who relies on such works you can be sure to know that they are not speaking the truth and can discount, if not outright dismiss, their words and points.

It must be noted that both quotes refer to how these secular scholars arrived at their theory. It was through restricted study of the Old Testament itself and by seeing the different names of God used in different parts of the Bible, which lead them to conjure up this piece of utter fiction. We can say the words ‘utter fiction’ because the hypothesis is not based upon anything archaeologically scientific,

The first problem with the Documentary Hypothesis concerns the lack of empirical evidence. There is no biblical text discovered in any manuscript that preserves the kind of distinctions that appear in the sources proposed by this theory.5

Presenting the proper evidence is key and if the supporters of this, or any alternative theory to the Bible, cannot provide some sort of legitimate and credible evidence to support their view, then one is free to ignore what they claim for their claim is false. {this may be turned around on the believer for there are many things we cannot present physical evidence for but we have enough proof for other parts of the Bible to speak of the veracity and truthfulness of all claims made by it, whereas, the Documentary Hypothesis has no such luxury}.

Again, we must turn to Kenneth Kitchen to illustrate this point clearly:

Modern guesswork, as we all know, is often extraordinarily and breathtakingly clever and ingenious…But…it does not constitute fact, and cannot be substituted for it. I might choose to dream up a theory that the Ramesside kings of Egypt also once built pyramids in Egypt, twice as big as the Great Pyramid. But absolutely nobody is going to believe me unless I can produce some tangible, material evidence in its favor. And we require, likewise, some kind of clear, material evidence in favor for a J, E, D, or a P, or an h, from outside of the extant Hebrew Bible. The standards of proof among biblical scholars fall massively and woefully short of the high standards that professional Orientalists and archaeologists are long accustomed to and have a right to demand. Some MSS, please! 6

The supporters of this hypothesis have yet to produce one shred of extra-biblical evidence for these documents and that they were actually used as source material by the biblical authors. Their claims only come from observations from internal examinations of the Pentateuch and from a lack of comprehension of biblical truths.

There is no point in laboring the point because the truth of this theory is quite evident, it is a made up theory to demote the word of God from divine authorship to human, thus rendering its words meaningless.

Q

This document is the New Testament counterpart to the Old Testament’s so called Documentary Hypothesis.  It is far more limited though as it is not applied to 5 books or more of the New Testament but only to two, Matthew and Luke. Why just these two, we do not know and it is not really explained that well.

This theory was constructed when scholars noticed certain similarities between the three synoptic gospels.

Now it is striking that the greater part of the non-Markian material common to Matthew and Luke consists of sayings of Jesus. This has led to the conjecture of another earlier source document on which both Matthew and Luke drew for their common non-Markian material, the document usually referred to as ‘Q’ and envisaged as a collection of sayings of Jesus.7

The first problem seen here is that Matthew was an eye-witness to almost all of Jesus’ sayings and acts, thus he would not need a source document for he had firsthand knowledge of the facts and He had the help of the Holy Ghost, as all the biblical writers had, to record correctly everything that God wanted in Matthew’s book.

The second problem that is seen here is that of course there will be similar material recorded in each book. All three are talking about 1 man and his life, thus it stands to reason that there would be overlap and common material. Luke, in the first chapter of his book, even stated he researched carefully before writing thus it stands to reason that he would use some of the same material recorded in other works.

There is no need to create a ‘source’ document to explain why the Synoptic Gospels hold similar material. It should be pointed out that many histories that are written on the very same subject, e.g. World War 2, would contain similar information for there is only one way things took place and if one wants to be credible then they must include the truth regardless of the fact that others have recorded the same conversations and acts.

We could dismiss the theory on ‘Q’, like many secularists dismiss the Synoptic Gospels, for it has the same glaring error-filled similarities as the Documentary Hypothesis. First, no one has ever seen this document, and no other mss. refers to it or is labeled with its name.

The issue of whether ‘Q’ includes or presupposes the knowledge of Jesus’ death and resurrection is debated by scholars. Because of the non-existence of this document it is rather difficult to argue conclusively as to its content.8

A second problem that is similar to the JEPD idea is that it is a complete hypothesis, a theory drawn the sayings and teachings of Jesus, gleaned from the internal investigations of biblical scholars.9

And there are other similarities that, if we applied the standard the secular scholars apply to the Bible, it would not stand up to scrutiny and be exposed for the fraud that it is. Unfortunately, this does not stop scholars from trying to reconstruct this document, even though there is no external manuscript or ancient referral to this document.

The result in more recent times has been a multiplication of reconstruction of the Greek text of ‘Q’, in whole or in part. The sayings of ‘Q’ presented here in Greek and English is based on the collaboration of a team of scholars who, since 1985, have been working together as the international ‘Q’ project.10

This work brings up a couple of glaring omissions. First, where is this information being drawn from? There is no ancient ‘Q’ document in existence, either in whole or fragmentary form.  Which leads us to the second omission, how will they know they got the correct sayings in their ‘reconstruction’? They have nothing with which to compare or use to correct their work. It is all a product of their subjective opinions which have no hope in being verified.

There is one more issue that needs to be addressed which comes with this topic of the document of ‘Q’.

One might ad that the reluctance to approach scholarship on ‘Q’ seriously has much less to do with its hypothetical character than with its novel implications…The problem with ‘Q’ is not that it does not exist but that it tends to call into question some of the cherished historical conclusions of the last four or five decades of New Testament scholarship. Scholars having strong commitments to those conclusions can handily avoid defending them…by dismissing as hypothetical the document that is causing most of the trouble.11

Clearly the author of those words makes a false accusation and assumption. We do not declare it hypothetical because it is causing trouble but because the supporters of this theory cannot provide one shred of credible and legitimate evidence that it every existed (another similarity with the Documentary Hypothesis).

They are merely taking the Synoptic books and gleaning out similarities and claiming this must have come from another source, which is just not so. We also do not take ‘Q’ seriously because of the fact this reconstruction, as said earlier, is purely subjective and depends upon the opinions of men who cannot attest or find documents that attest to this ‘Q’s existence. It is merely their own opinion based upon nothing but misguided observation.

We also dismiss ‘Q’ because it does not call into question ‘some of the cherished historical conclusions’. We do so because it is a nuisance and a waste of time. None of the Biblical writers needed ‘source’ material for they had the aid of the Holy Spirit and were inspired to write the words we find in their books today.

‘Q’, like JEPD, is not real and the believer can, like JEPD, dismiss the arguments and points that appeal to it for there is nothing scriptural, spiritual, or historical about this document and is just another fictitious invention from someone’s overworked imagination and is not the product of God. Until they can produce the verifiable, legitimate and credible manuscripts or ancient referrals, then ‘Q’, like JEPD, is not viable, true or even worthy of consideration.

III. The Nag Hammadi Library

This group of codices is actually somewhat archaeological for they were discovered back in 1945 by a non-professional.

The year 1945 witnessed an amazing discovery at Nag Hammadi…In the month of December, an Arab peasant accidentally discovered 13 papyrus codices bound in leather.12

This set of codices can be identified as the Coptic Gnostic library13 but certain clarifications need to be made:

Coptic means Egyptian…and the Nag Hammadi library maybe called a Coptic library, but with qualifications. The most obvious way in which the Nag Hammadi library may be described as a Coptic library is in terms of language of the texts. In general, the texts of the Nag Hammadi library do not represent the perspective of the Coptic Orthodox Church…but all the texts in the Nag Hammadi library are written in the Coptic language.14

So that there is no confusion, this library, and all of its ‘gospels’ or other works, are purely from the Gnostic beliefs which is an ancient heresy that has never gone away. The theory is that, and this is held by many secular scholars, the reason we have the current books in the Bible is that there was a struggle for authority in the 2nd century AD and the orthodox church won out, and subsequently banned and buried these alternate works.15 The writer, Elaine Pagels, has another description for them as well

She concludes that Gnosticism remains, even today, ‘a powerful alternative to what we know as orthodox Christian tradition.’16

Gnosticism and the Nag Hammadi library are not an alternative to the Bible in any form and cannot be considered as such. There is a reason for why they remained buried for almost 2 millennia, they are not the truth and are products of later centuries than the 1st which held the life and ministry of Christ. There writings are dated to well after that time and long after all the eye-witnesses were dead.

When were the Gnostic Gospels and other extracanonical sources written? All of the Gnostic Gospels and extracanonical sources were written in the second century or later. Typical dates range from AD 140 to 160 …These writings are viewed as simply too late—written at least one hundred years after the death of Jesus, or fifty to eighty years after the New Testament Gospels were written.17

There are , of course, arguments from the supporters of these ‘gospels’ that they were written earlier but they fail to produce credible documentation to support their ideas18  One of the main reasons why, in contradiction to Ms. Pagel’s accusations, and it has to deal with the criteria that the early church placed for inclusion in the Biblical canon.

Basically the church had 3 criteria…First, the books must have apostolic authority—that is, they must have been written either by apostles themselves…or by followers of apostles…Second, there was the criterion of conformity to what was called the rule of faith. That is, was the document congruent with the basic Christian tradition that the church recognized as normative. And third, there was the criterion of whether a document had continuous acceptance and usage by the church at large.19

The Nag Hammadi library achieved no such stature and failed to meet the criteria as seen earlier by their dates of production and the following:

The evidence remains circumstantial, but archaeological and codicological work has provided tantalizing hints that may help resolve the mystery of who produced and who buried the Nag Hammadi codices…On the basis of information from the pottery remains and the Wadi Sheikh Ali and the cartonnage from the codices themselves, we may conjecture that Pachomian monks most likely compiled the Nag Hammadi codices and later buried them by the cliff.20

That and the fact that we have no idea who actually wrote each work, as it is well known that alternatives to the real scriptures were passed out containing known names of disciples and associates of Jesus in hopes of attracting the unwary to their false beliefs.

One final word on this library and its failure to be accepted by the ancient church and included in the Biblical canon. The books that were accepted were done so for the main reason, as described by the late Dr. Metzger:

You have to understand that the canon was not the result of a series of contests involving church politics…when the pronouncement was made about the canon, it merely ratified what the general sensitivity of the church had already determined…These documents didn’t derive their authority from being selected; each one was authoritative before anyone gathered them together. The early church merely listened and sensed that these were authoritative accounts.21

In other words, the books found in the Nag Hammadi library did not have any authority whatsoever and that is the reason why they were not included in the biblical canon, as well as buried for 1900 years approx. No amount of arguing can change these facts. The books contained in this library are false teachings and must be removed from the believers’ acceptance list of information. They do not shed any new light upon Jesus, His words, or His ministry.

On this last point, Brown judges that ‘we learn not a single verifiable new fact about Jesus’ ministry and only a few new sayings that might plausibly gave been his.’ Fitzmyer agrees, but in stronger terms: The Coptic texts of Nag Hammadi tell us little that is new…22

It is also noted that the whole library ‘cites most of the canonical New Testament books and borrows often from those works23, while the New Testament authors do not return the favor.

It is safe to conclude, that the alternative works discussed in this chapter do not amount to much more than false teachings meant to lead people, including believers, away from the truth found in the Bible and contain nothing of value except lessons on what to watch out for when one crosses these and similar works paths.

11 Conclusion

Archaeology is, like all sciences, a limited field, subject to the corruption that entered the world at Adam’s sin and it is vulnerable to the schemes, strategies, and influences of fallible man, who seek their own ideas not God’s.

It is also subject to the opinions of men who make this field their life’s work and who think they know more about the past than anyone else. In a way they do and in a way they don’t, for they ignore what the Bible says, ‘there is nothing new under the sun’ and continue to re-write history according to their own ideas.

As it has been shown, there is no objectivity in this field as all archaeologists and bible scholars, both professional and amateur, try to make their mark on a field that provides far too little definitive evidence for them to create that romantic past as that evidence continues to point everyone towards the biblical record and not some alternative.

I believe it was Ernest Wright who said it first, and it still holds true today, ‘there has not been one archaeological discovery that has proven the Bible false. He is right for it is not the evidence that tries to upend the biblical record but those secularists who do not believe the Bible and who use their theories, conjectures and hypothesis to say that the Bible isn’t true.

Which is why the believer has to ‘consider the source’, for if the archaeologist or the biblical scholar do not believe then one can be secure in the knowledge that they are not presenting the truth and the believer then knows what to do. Consider the evidence ignoring what latest theory is being offered and look to God in what to learn and how to place the evidence correctly, for His glory and for the truth. For the believer, there is no other way and they must be discerning, not blindly accepting when it comes to anything, let alone archaeological, being presented to them.

There will always be someone who says, ‘look at all the evidence we have’ well in reality we have thousands upon thousands of pieces of pottery but we do not have that number in texts, mss., inscriptions, monuments, or even cities, and so forth. It is a very incomplete picture and to understand it all, to put it all together we must rely on the Bible or that evidence simply just does not work.

Then there will always be those who say, ‘well, that’s your interpretation,’ and will then proceed to present their own ideas which have a minute chance it will hit upon the truth. Interpretations are like noses, everyone has one and they will not agree, usually, which means that the believer needs to discern between the truth and the error, discarding the latter and retaining the former.

People do not want to accept the biblical record, even those who claim to be Christians yet follow alternative ideas like theistic evolution or some other off-track belief, thus the believer has their work cut out for them when dealing with other people and the archaeological record. Remember if it disagrees with the Bible, it is wrong.  The Bible is never wrong no matter what some expert says, as the believer needs to realize that they do not have the keys to understanding the Biblical message or all of its passages.

The Bible makes that very clear, thus expert or not, if they are not Christian, or they believe alternatives and claim the Bible is in error, you know that they do not know what they are talking about because the Holy Spirit is not in them, leading them to the truth and greater understanding.

It is interesting to watch archaeologists argue over which era a piece of evidence or people belong in, like they are doing brain surgery, yet they are arguing over long dead people and things and basically over a span of a few short years.  Archaeological eras are not an authority, they are not written in stone, and there are, like everything else in the field of archaeology, highly prone to manipulation.  The origin of the measuring stick called eras or periods has exposed how misleading they are because it was done haphazardly, for we know that stone, bronze, iron was used throughout the world’s history at the same time.

The past was no different than the present and people developed as they chose, not in a linear line to please modern archaeologists who wanted to keep their records neat. It is this subjectivity that carries forward to dating the evidence. One of the drawbacks to archaeologists, and I am not sure if many of them realize this or not, but they are NOT experts in construction, they are not experts in religions or religious affairs, they are not experts in government and so on and their opinions, their interpretations and their conclusions reflect this fact.

In reading Israel Finkelstein, it soon became apparent that he did not have a clue as to what the word ‘renovation’ meant as he uses the work that the successors of Solomon did  to Solomon’s buildings as evidence to down date the remains and claim that Solomon did not build and was not a great king over a large empire.

It is little things like this that undermine and expose the secular archaeologists’ conclusions in dating the physical evidence they discover. They do not know all the ins and outs of the daily life that goes on today or even in the past thus their ideas are in some ways misleading because they do not have all the facts and they do not consider these little details.

This is clearly illustrated when they deal with the subject of education.  Because the archaeologist, or biblical scholar for they dig as well sometimes, does not find what he or she are looking for, they immediately dismiss the concept of schools for all people, or that the society was educated.  Too often large buildings are misidentified as temples when in reality they could be meeting houses, auditoriums, or even schools.

Identifications are often made by what is not found, but one must be too careful and not hasty as a lot of the past simply just does not survive thus to identify something because one does not find a schoolbook or a writing pad (or whatever else one is looking for) is irresponsible and unprofessional. There was an article recently that has finally gone against the accepted theory constructed to fit the large amounts of figurines discovered from ancient homes and cities.

It finally states, and it is a position I have held for some time now prior to its publication, that all those figurines were not goddesses but knick knacks, just like the ones modern women collect today. It should come as no surprise as ancient women were no different than their modern counterparts, they thought the same, had the same desires and so on, which is why I can say that the ancient world was not illiterate for the mothers would not want their children to grow up dumb and be robbed of opportunities to be a ‘success.’

Secularists in this field just do not want the ancient people to be like them, they want to be superior to those of the past and their arrogance shows in their lectures, their books and their articles. They have so little yet they speak so big.

Believers need to be wary when it comes to the discovery of texts that speak of Christ but originate from unbelievers. They are not an alternative to the Bible but a path to destruction. There is only one Bible, one path to salvation and it is not found in long lost religious writings or cults. These manuscripts are not an insight to the Bible or of the early Christian life; they do not shed light on the Bible or its truths.

What they do is tell us that the ancient world has its share of people who did not believe and who altered studied the bible much like the modern secular bible scholar of today. I am sure Philip Davies would not want to be thought of as a believer in the Old Testament as written if his study were found and it held Christian books on the bible.

We cannot lump all people into one category simply because old mss. were discovered in their possession, there were non-believers back then that studied their beliefs and may have held onto scripture to make their alternative look more attractive to a hurting world, much like the Mormons and Jehovah Witnesses do today.

Secular people would have mss. and other Christian works in their possession for they would be studying the arguments of the ancient apologist and sees where they could trip them up. Believers must keep a sharp eye out when someone starts talking about ancient ‘religious writings’ and how they may be the proto-type for the gospel writers or that they were the victim in a long power struggle fought long ago.

The believer would need to ask for evidence to back up such views and not be lulled to sleep because of the smooth tongue of the scholar who is presenting the material. They must also keep in mind that anything other than the Bible, even in ancient times, are false teachings and need to be dismissed and fought against.

Learning about the true chronology would help for it will fight off the confusion that comes when unprepared Christians are caught unawares when an unbeliever says that the Epic of Gilgamesh is an older record than the Biblical account of the flood thus the biblical account is the copy or that the law of Moses is a copy of the code of Hammurabi.

God does not copy; He institutes, and if the believer traces the chronology back to the beginning, they would see that the law code was established long before either Moses or Hammurabi were even born. It was established before Cain was punished for his crime of murder or else God could not judge him and send him away from his family.

Knowing the true chronology and couple it with the true reasons, the believer can withstand many an assault by an unbeliever who only looks at the evidence sans influence from the Bible.  They will use their standards, or the standards of the secular professional, which does not line up with the Bible and is an incomplete picture, then draw their own conclusions.

They do not care about the Biblical record, and at times they will ask for physical evidence but we will not be able to provide them with all the evidence they seek, for the Bible is a book of faith and God grants just enough evidence to support a person’s faith in it and Him but we will not receive so much evidence that that faith is destroyed.

Archaeology is a mere tool, it is not a final authority, it is not the authority, and it is a method by which we can gain more information about the Bible, the customs it describes and the words it uses.  The secular world has elevated it and the rest of the scientific fields because they reject God as the authority and need to replace the void with something else.

Why? Because secular man does not want to be a servant, they want to be the top dog and they want to write the past in their way so that they do not have to consider the future as describe by the Bible. If they change the past, they hope to change their future and avoid the condemnation that is to come and is part of their chosen lifestyles.

Unfortunately for them, the truth is the truth and it does not change because the secular archaeologist or bible scholar wants it to. They can try to change the past all they want but it does not change what really took place and it does not alter their future. God’s judgment will come regardless of what they believe or what they deny.

The believer needs to stand with the truth and use archaeology and its discoveries in the proper manner, to lead people to Christ and to find the truth so that their lives are much better. Believers do not need to fear learning, to fear gaining knowledge, or to fear intelligence for God wants us to do and have all those things so we can do what He commands and asks us to do.  Archaeology is a great tool, and it shores pones faith making them better Christians, if they use it well, intelligently and wisely.

Appendix I

The Exodus

As an example for what has been discussed I will turn to the Exodus controversy to illustrate some of the problems believers will encounter when they look at archaeology and how it applies to the Bible.

I. Arguments against the Exodus

A. Eric Cline—‘So, did the exodus even occur? My own belief is that there is no clear answer. Whatever theory we choose to adhere to will depend upon our own belief system. As an archaeologist, I again must point out that there is no archaeological evidence yet available to prove that the Exodus, as described in the Bible, took place…We do not see a single shred of evidence to date. There is nothing [available] archaeologically to attest to anything from the biblical story. No plagues, no parting of the Red Sea, no manna from heaven, no wandering for 40 years.’1

B. N.A. Silberman— ‘Israel Finkelstein of Tel Aviv University…has gone far beyond the conventional chronological limits imposed by the biblical story in crafting a new reconstruction of events. Having traced settlement patterns and ecological adaptations in the hill country of Canaan over hundreds of years, Finkelstein is convinced that the demographic revolution of the early Iron Age can no longer be seen in isolation. In fact, he believes that the phenomenon of Israelites settlement is intimately connected to developments that began a half a millennium before…According to Finkelstein; the people who would later become the Israelites were already there.2

Basically, what is being said by Dr. Cline is that we have no proof for the biblical exodus and that what one believes or doesn’t, will determine their opinion on the issue.  For Silberman, who is the professional partner of Finkelstein {which is why he defers to him}, he is saying that Israel Finkelstein believes the exodus never happened and that the origins of the Israelites is strictly Canaanite.

For the Finkelstein position, notice, as Hoffmeier complained, that he ignores his own research on nomads in the desert when it comes to the Israelites nomadic wanderings in the desert and places them in Canaan and regards them as originally Canaanite.

These are but an example of the arguments against the biblical exodus and the versions may change depending upon which secular scholars or for that matter Christian ones.

II. Rebuttals

I am going to turn to K. A. Kitchen for multiple quotes to rebut Silberman, and by extension Finkelstein, for he presents probably the best argument against his [their] theory of the Israelites and where they originated. I will address a couple points found in Dr. Cline’s position after that.

A. K.A. Kitchen—here we owe a fluently written volume on ancient Israel and archaeology to Drs. Finkelstein and Silberman. However, a careful, critical perusal of this work…reveals that we are dealing with very largely with a work of imaginative fiction, not a serious or reliable account of the subject. Messrs. F. & S. do believe in a real historical ancient Israel, particularly from circa 930 onward but only fitfully before that date…otherwise we have fiction…

The whole correlation of the archaeological record for the 11th to early 8th centuries is based upon Finkelstein’s arbitrary, idiosyncratic, and isolated attempt to lower the dates of 10th century strata by up to a century…On the patriarchal and exodus periods our two friends are utterly out of their depth, hopelessly misinformed, and totally misleading. They content themselves largely with rehashing the equally misleading 1970s work of Thompson and van Seter for the former period, and merely show 100 percent ignorance of fats for the latter…

Their treatment of the exodus is among the most factually ignorant and misleading that this writer has ever read. E. & S. clearly have no personal knowledge whatsoever of conditions in Ramesside Egypt. Their approach to chronology is totally naïve…For those of us with some firsthand knowledge of the fuller data from, and the ancient procedures in, the ancient Near East, this nonsense just will not do…F. & S. fulminate against Israelites being able to escape from Egypt, given the massive Egyptian military presence along the Mediterranean coast route to Gaza—and almost fail to remember that the Hebrews were explicitly told NOT to go that way…

What is more, from Sinai the Hebrews expected initially to be in Canaan in a year, not in forty years. They had no need to lug tons of heavy pottery around with them (just to oblige F. & S. with a few sherds!) if leatherwork or skins would do. So no sherds at Qadash-Barnea (where they did not stop for 38 years –a common misunderstanding!) means nothing…Stuck with their a priori dogma of solely indigenous Hebrews (no exodus, no entry into Canaan), F. & S. are entirely unable to account for the massive population explosion in Canaan in Iron IA…3

What Mr. Kitchen is saying then is that both Finkelstein and Silberman play fast and loose with the evidence to fit their own theories because they reject the Biblical accounts. Their theory is, like what most scholars think about the exodus, sans evidence to support it and it is made up to fit their preferences.

B. Myself—in looking at DR. Cline’s argument, several points stand out that need to be addressed and explained more clearly but only two will be examined in detail.

#1. ‘No plagues, no parting of the Red Sea, no manna from heaven, no wandering for 40 years.’

 One must ask, why should there be any evidence for all of these events, scholars dismiss or re-date what we have.  I shall take these one by one. First, his contention that there is no evidence for the plagues, I disagree for we have the Ipuwer Papyrus which is misdated by so many scholars does record similar events,

It is impossible to give a date for the composition of this document. The surviving papyrus (Papyrus Leiden 334) itself is a copy made during the New Kingdom. Ipuwer is generally supposed to have lived during the Middle Kingdom or the Second Intermediate Period, and the catastrophes he bewails to have taken place four centuries earlier during the First Intermediate Period.
    On the other hand, Miriam Lichtheim, following S. Luria, contends that

the 'Admonitions of Ipuwer' has not only no bearing whatever on the long past First Intermediate Period, it also does not derive from any other historical situation. It is the last, fullest, most exaggerated and hence least successful, composition on the theme "order versus chaos."

M. Lichtheim, Ancient Egyptian Literature, Volume I, p.150. 4

 

It is possible that we do have an eye-witness account of the plagues. Second, the argument that there is no evidence for the parting of the Red Sea, what would he like to see in the way of evidence? Moses held up his hands, the waters parted, when he stretched them out again, the returned to normal, what physical evidence could possibly remain from those simple acts? The request for evidence that the Sea parted is unrealistic especially in view of the fact that Dr. Cline rejects the Bible as a historical document.

Then, third we have his contention that the providing of manna left no trace.  Again why would there be? It was a gift from God to sustain His people and it was perishable or it could not be eaten and providing it in a non-perishable state would be cruel.  Also, why would God continue to send manna down to earth for anyone and everyone to partake even if they do not follow Him nor would give Him credit? After the wanderings there was no need to provide this food so why should it continue to be provided? It is unrealistic to hope or expect that the manna would become petrified, when it did not last till the next day, just so modern day archaeologists can be satisfied.

The fourth contention, no evidence for the 40 years of wandering by the Israelites, completely ignores the studies done by Finkelstein, and others, who concluded that nomadic life is basically archaeologically invisible. Why should there be any evidence for a group of people from 3,500 years ago, approx., when we cannot even find any for those who traveled the desert a hundred years ago or even 350 years ago?

This call for evidence for many un-provable acts demonstrates how unrealistic the critics of the Exodus really are as they would not be able to produce proof for what they ate last week or where the traveled last month if their records and other physical evidence were destroyed. All we have is their word that they had eggs and bacon or that they went to the zoo with their kids, nothing else and that, according to them, is not proof, so why should we believe anything they say because they can’t prove the un-provable? Their dismissing of the Bible simply because the physical evidence for the past is lost, destroyed or left no trace is ridiculous and makes even less sense than our rejecting their arguments based upon their failure to produce evidence for their activities from a week ago.

#2. ‘I again must point out that there is no archaeological evidence yet available to prove that the Exodus, as described in the Bible, took place’

Again, we must ask, what evidence are the looking for? Are they looking for artifacts that are comparable to the ones the Israelites produced once they got settled in the Promised Land after the conquest? If so, they would be out of luck for those artifacts were produced much, much later than the Exodus itself.

Are they looking for strictly Jewish artifacts produced by a group of people who were a separate nation than all the rest of the ancient civilizations? If so, how would we know what it was if we found it? We have no indication pre-Exodus or Pre-Sojourn of their material culture. They were a small group of people who were herdsmen not manufacturers of cultural artifacts. Even the coat of many colors would not be significant for many nations would have those.

Then we must trace their culture back to Abraham, who came from Ur of the Chaldeans, thus we need to be looking for Chaldean artifacts for the Israelites were not set apart or given a distinct identity till Sinai, and if we find Chaldean artifacts how would we know they belonged to Abraham and descendents?

Then we have the problem of the Sojourn in Egypt. We are not given any indication that the Israelites were anything but herdsmen and we do not know if pre-slavery, that they made distinctive cultural items during that time and if they did, how would recognize them? They would be identified as one form of Egyptian production because they were found in the land of Egypt.

Finally, we need to look at the Biblical description of the situation prior to and during the Exodus {there will be some overlap here for sake of coherence and continuity}:

1. Joseph sold into slavery- Gen. 37:28, 36.  This was done by his brothers to a middle man who eventually sold Joseph to the Egyptians.  No records or steles, or monuments would be erected to preserve this transaction.

2. Joseph's promotion--Gen. 41:39-40. Done as a reward and given an Egyptian name which removes the idea of a foreigner being in charge of the country. If records were kept, this would only deserve papyrus NOT a stone monument or stele as no great deed was done to achieve this award.

3. Joseph's family invited to move to Egypt--Gen. 45: 16-18. An invitation does not warrant permanent preservation for the move was done by invite not conquest. Joseph's family came voluntarily not by force thus no record would be made or if there was, it would not be done in stone.

4. Jacob's death-- Gen. 50: 2-3.  Jacob's body was prepared for burial the Egyptian way and accompanied back to Canaan by a host of Egyptians. Any remains would look Egyptian not Hebrew.

5. Joseph's death-Gen. 50:26- His body was prepared for death the Egyptian way and buried n the country.  It was moved in the Exodus and we have an idea where it is today {http://www.thebereancall.org/node/6551}

6. Slavery--Ex. 1:811.  The Hebrew people were already living in Egypt when they were made slaves, they were not captured in some great battle that would be carved into a stele or made into a monument. It was an oppression of existing inhabitants of Egypt so no slave camps would have been erected either.  No fanfare or glorifying of the pharaoh for his accomplishments would be needed as it was a decree not a capturing of slaves after a great victorious battle.

7. The Plagues-- Ex. 7:1 to 12:1.  There is an ancient record of these events but it is either dismissed or re-dated to another era. {http://www.geocities.com/regkeith/linkipuwer.htm}

8. Hebrew property- Though there is no specific scripture reference, just reading Exodus 1 to 6 one sees that the Hebrew people did not have their own manufacturing plants, their own wares or their own cultural artifacts or property.  They could not leave anything distinctly Hebrew behind in Egypt for all they owned was basically Egyptian.

9. The Start of the Exodus-- Ex. 12:33-36.  God had the Egyptian people give the Israelites gold, silver, clothing, so they did NOT take anything that was basically Hebrew with them. They carried Egyptian articles thus if anything was discarded, it would be Egyptian not Hebrew.

10. 40 yrs. of wandering-- Nbrs. 14: 32-35.  The Hebrew adults would die in the desert for their unbelief and rejection of the Promised Land.  If their skeletons could be found, we would find only Egyptian clothing and artifacts buried with them.  There would be no opportunity for the Hebrews to make their own cultural items and even if they did create their own cultural identity, how would we know? There would be nothing from pre-sojourn to compare the items with, thus all such discoveries of artifacts would be considered Egyptian or some other nation's remains. 

11. No 38 year sojourn at Qadash-Barnea (Deut. 1:2-3 & 2: 14).  The Israelites wandered for 40 years thus there would be no remains of a long term campsite(s).5

There is nothing in the Biblical record that indicates that the Hebrews had their own material culture or possessed their own artifacts that would identify them when modern day archaeologists went looking for physical evidence to prove the Biblical accounts true.

The call by the critics and opponents of the Bible for physical evidence needs to remain in the realm of reality and the correct evidence needs to be sought, not some arbitrary, imaginary demand for that which was not produced 100 or so years later. Yet as we see by the arguments against, they will not do that but search for what they think should be there, according to their beliefs or rejection of the Biblical record.

Appendix II

This section will be done a bit differently than Appendix I because the issue is different and is taken from an actual discussion which the lead archaeologist for Tell-Hamman and I were a part. It is being included here because, one, it illustrates many of the points discussed in this dissertation and two, it shows that the common believer cannot trust those who claim to be Christian as they do not follow God but science and their own ways.

The archaeologist in the discussion supports a northern location for Sodom and the other cities of the plain, I do not and neither does Dr. Bryant Wood, who wrote a very good piece entitled, The Discovery of the Sin Cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, in which he details the correct evidence to show that S. & G. were located in the south.

The format that will be followed here will be that a few select quotes from the archaeologist’s, Steven Collins, actual comments (his position has not changed over the years) followed by commentary or rebuttal from myself. If the need arises, quotes from the actual final reports will be used as well. Dr. Wood’s comments will also be used to help demonstrate how far astray ’Christians’ can go.

The main problem for this Appendix is that there is a wealth of material in Dr. Collin’s remarks to demonstrate the point of this section that it is very difficult to edit and a separate paper would be needed to address all the issues pertaining to this subject. Even Dr. Wood’s paper contains far more information than can be laced here, which shows that Dr. Collins is way off the mark and leading people down a garden path. Dr. Collin’s remarks will be noted like previous footnotes for clarity sake.

If anyone will bother to put his/her biases (biblical; anti-biblical; conservative; liberal; personal) aside, and approach the subject from a strictly empirical direction, you'll quickly see that my ideas about Tall el-Hammam being a (the) most-likely candidate for biblical Sodom are thoroughly reasonable, rational, and based entirely on logic arising from actual evidence (textual, geographical, chronological, archaeological). I have written, and continue to write, extensively on the subject.1

 

The first underlined passage shows that Dr. Collins does not want people to think when they look at ‘his’ argument. The words used are basically the same words cult leaders use to entice people to join their false religion. Of course, if we put aside all rational thought and bias aside we would see his point for that is all that is left, his point and this comment tells us that he does not like competition nor criticism of his views. He is also asking people to do what he will not as he uses his bias and non-empirical approach to re-interpret and re-translate scripture.

 

The second underlined passage is influencing the reader via the use of manipulative adjectives and it basically states that only his view is rational, reasonable, and the only one based upon logic arising from actual evidence.  He is wrong as Dr. Wood states:

 

It is clear that the cities were located in the vicinity of the Dead Sea. Since mountains come close to the shore on both the east and west, the cities must have been located either in the north or the south of the Dead Sea…The reference to ‘bitumen pits’ in Genesis 14:10, however, tips the scale in favor of the southern location.2

 

Right away, we can see that Dr. Collins is not telling the truth but trying to alter the facts by misrepresenting the issue. Even his second field report does the same thing:

 

It was also theorized coming into the excavation that Tall el-Hammam

was a reasonable candidate for biblical Sodom, based on a detailed analysis of the relevant

Biblical data regarding the date and location of the city.10 Thus far, no data from the

excavation contradicts this idea3 {bold mine}

 

The bolded words make use of the generality of the artifacts and structures found. There is nothing in those discoveries that point to tell-Hamman as being ancient Sodom. They could, and do, apply to any ancient city and occupied by any number of groups of people.

 

Relative to Sodom, for the skeptics I here offer a little set of unequivocal facts (check them out!): (1) ancient Near Eastern storytellers/writers never invent fictitious geography; (2) the primary historical text on Sodom (Genesis) identifies it as the largest city among five on the eastern Jordan Disk north of the Dead Sea during the Bronze Age; (3) Tall el-Hammam was the largest (by several orders of magnitude) of (at least) five cities on the eastern Jordan Disk north of the Dead Sea during the Bronze Age.4

There are several things to point out here and they will be addressed by his numbers. #1. What reports? Dr. Collins never lists their titles nor links so one could read for themselves. This is a deceptive and desperate maneuver whenever someone has a very weak argument, if they have one at all. It is also his own opinion not a consensus of scholars based in fact. It forgets or ignores the reality that ancient people lied and did not always tell the truth and he provides no evidence that they always told the truth or that the reports he is referring to did not lie.  Storytellers do change geographical settings to fit their stories, as he is doing to have tel-Hamman fit his theory.

 

#2. The primary historical text, the Bible, DOES NOT say Sodom was the largest of the 5 cities. This is an assumed idea to justify his misidentification of his dig site to fit his theory. So we do not know if that was true or not.

#3 doesn’t prove his case and is merely a justification to enable him to use the term Sodom in his reports. It also raises the question that if there were more than 5 cities in the general area, why weren’t they destroyed as well? Dr. Collins does not clearly answer the problems that arise with his location.

 

1. The principle (and only) primary historical text regarding the location of Sodom is Genesis, mainly 13:1-12 (with chapters 10 and 14 conforming).5

 

Here Dr. Collins is limiting the allowable text that can be discussed when talking about his theory and location. This is a major mistake because there are other pertinent references throughout the Bible that provide more information and clues concerning what took place at Sodom’s destruction and its length. Dr. Wood makes no such limitation. This restriction implies that Dr. Collins is manipulating the discussion to achieve a desired result and that is a big mistake as he is not even making the attempt to be objective and proves he is not doing what he asks others to do- put aside their bias.

 

2. Late sources such as Josephus and the Byzantine Christian pilgrim accounts are, at best, anecdotal in comparison to the biblical materials.6

 

This discounting and dismissal of those who disagree with him is hypocritical as he would use those same sources if they supported his idea without such restrictions. It also demonstrates his unwillingness to listen to contrary thinking and points of view. This is also bad as it shows that DR. Collins is not being honest in his work and thinking.

 

3. Genesis 13 and 14 are typical ANE stories set forth in a serial geographical framework (as opposed to a strictly chronological one). This geography clearly places the Cities of the Jordan Disk (kikkar hayarden) east of Bethel/Ai, north of the Dead Sea, where, in fact, a group of Bronze Age cities with commensurate dating exists.7

 

This is simply just not true. The Bible does NOT do that nor does it limit the location to the place he wants it to be. His use of the word ‘kikkar’ is designed to limit the geographical area to what he wants it to be, not what it is. It is his own translational work that imports this word into the Biblical account and God does not grant anyone the right to change the definitions of His words. It is strictly Dr. Collin’s opinion to make this change not God’s and he has no authority to do so.

 

This is a great problem in archaeology as many archaeologists and scholars learn the ancient languages then proceed on their own egos, not the leading of the Holy Spirit, to make changes in the words translated by far more qualified and Spirit-led men in biblical passages. It is not sanctioned by God and it leads to trouble as Dr. Collins, in this case, is leading people to the wrong location and saying the Bible is in error. Dr. Wood, in his article, does no such thing and defers to God and better men.

 

4. The configuration of the Dead Sea hasn't changed appreciably in the past 15,000 years (please study the geology of the area), and, since the onset of human history in the region, it never has been anything other than a very salty body of water fed by the Jordan River and local wadis (and it's really deep!). Ancient settlement patterns from the PPN through EB confirm this.8

 

Here Dr. Collins shows an evolutionary influence and makes a statement he cannot prove. This undermines any credibility he thinks he may have s he desperately tries to justify saying tel-Hamman is Sodom.

 

I must emphasize that the only geo-criteria that can legitimately enter into the discussion are those in Genesis. This is so because Genesis is the only ancient text that deals with the subject! Any sources later than the Iron Age must be considered with skepticism, and certainly should not be trusted at any point of departure from the Genesis geography. Josephus and the Byzantine pilgrims weren't always stellar biblical geographers9

 

The underlined portion shows where Dr. Collins contradicts himself with his earlier claim that the ‘ancient sources describe…’ He can’t have it both ways, either he has ancient sources or he does not and the italicized part emphasizes his refusal to accept other views that go in contrast to him. Both show an intellectual and professional dishonesty as he tries to manipulate public opinion to his side of things. Dr Wood again does the opposite and even quotes later sources, even modern ones:

 

A thick layer of debris was found in almost every area excavated (Rast 1981:41, 1987b:45) Michael Coogan, one of the excavators of Numeira, described what the archaeologists encountered…10

 

One can see that Dr. Collins is not being forthright nor considering all the facts of the issue (notice how Dr. Wood refers to actual evidence) and the following displays a very unchristian attitude-arrogance:

 

What I'm currently getting back in this exchange is part of the very reason why most scholars avoid these kinds of email interactions in public forums. I simply cannot waste my time dealing with all the nebulous cacophony of disjointed ideas and rhetoric that have absolutely no scientific value in the discussion of Sodom's location. There is nothing that you can throw at me that I have not analyzed already in detail. And please don't quote the Bible to me on the point, as I have already done an extremely detailed analysis of every word of it relevant to this discussion. You obviously have not read my papers on the subject. I suggest that you go to BiblicalResearchBulletin.com and educate yourself on what I've already said.11

 

He is not the sole authority on the topic, he is not God but this attitude permeates the archaeological field and Christians are not immune to it either. He does not know everything about Sodom simply because he was not there and he is drawing conclusions from very incomplete and minute as well as very generalized discoveries. This stand is detrimental and shows his immaturity and lack of professionalism as he insults others for disagreeing with him and presenting evidence to the contrary. He looks like he is saying it is his baby so it will go his way and that is not what archaeology is all about nor is the Bible, for the latter goes God’s ways not Dr. Collin’s.

 

If there are others out there with rational comments or questions, I welcome them. However, I simply don't have time to interact with people who refuse to educate themselves on the issue enough to enter into a meaningful discussion. Please come up to speed (read my material!), then give a cogent response.12

 

This just adds evidence to the above point and tells everyone ‘they are not educated unless you read with Dr. Collin’s work and that he has something new to say. Unfortunately, he has not unearthed one thing that proves he is correct, it is all assumption and conjecture, as the previous quote from his 2nd final report declared as does his 2009 final report:

 

—that Tall el-Hammam remains a logical candidate for biblical Sodom based on a detailed analysis of the relevant biblical and historical materials regarding the chronology and location of the city …

Extensive research, along with archaeological data from four seasons of excavation, is now leading many

Scholars to entertain or adopt this theory on its evidential merits. That the enduring and powerful

presence of Tall el-Hammam and its associated towns and villages on the eastern Jordan Disk

during the Bronze Age gave rise to the Cities of the Plain tradition reflected in the stories of

Genesis 10-19 is a reasonable theory commensurate with all of the available geographical and

archaeological data.12 {bold & italics mine}

 

You will notice that the bolded words refer to nothing specific, as do the italicized words.  In other words, Dr. Collins has nothing to support this idea that tel-Hamman is Sodom or that he is in the correct location. If he did, he would have mentioned it in his reports and to the world, such grand, definitive discoveries do not remain secret, everyone hears about it quickly. These final reports contradict his words from quote #1, where he states his opinion comes from ‘actual evidence’. It does not. Whereas, Dr. Wood cites actual evidence in his paper on the southern location:

 

The location of the EB Age sites along the eastern edge of the plain fits the Biblical description of the cities being ‘of the plain’…not ‘in’ the plain or ‘on’ the plain…there is little doubt that agriculture was an important component of the economic base of the EB cities in the region…Babe dh-Dhra had imposing fortifications…burned destruction…evidence of violent destruction…graveyard…thick layer of debris…14

 

Tel-Hamman and Dr. Collins has none of this evidence plus it is a lush desirable area now whereas the southern location remains desolate and destroyed, in keeping with all the biblical data from all the books of the Bible not just one.

 

Deut. 29:23 states:

The whole land will be a burning waste of salt and sulfur-- noting planted, noting sprouting, no vegetation growing on it.  It will be like the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, Admah, and Zeboiim, which the Lord overthrew in fierce anger15

 

This was written at the time of Moses and it indicates that the land where S & g resided was still barren and desolate. The land Dr. Collins refers to was desirable, not barren and not desolate in the time of Moses for the tribe of Reuben asked for it as their inheritance. 16 Which shows that D. Collins is wrong in his work and goes against the Biblical record to prove his theory.

 

The final point that will be addressed in this section and that completely rules out tel-Hamman as Sodom is that the area was not going to be re-populated again;

 

Jeremiah 49:18:

As s. & g. were overthrown, along with their neighboring towns, so no one will live there; no man shall dwell in it

 

In other words, Sodom, Gomorrah and area was not going to be restored, even with people. On the other hand, Dr. Collins shows in his site constant occupation with maybe a minor gap:

Although not as large as the Bronze Age occupation, the Iron Age city at Tall el-Hammam was

obviously an important crossroads center that played a considerable role in the local sociopolitical

milieu. Without a doubt, the excavation of this magnificent site will contribute a wealth

of new information for all of its represented periods. It is possible that it has direct links to Solomonic Jerusalem and the subsequent Israelite hegemony as a Transjordan district

commercial center17

This cannot be for all biblical authors refer or infer that Sodom, and area, was never re-populated nor regained its lush, watered state from its pre-destruction area. Here is a list of biblical references that show this fact:

Deut. 29:23, Jeremiah 49:18, Jeremiah 50:40, Ezekiel 16:49-53, Amos 4:11, Zeph. 2:9, Luke 10:12, 17:29, rom. 9:29, 2 Pet. 2:6, Jude 7. 18

It is clear that Dr. Collins, who claims to be a Christian, is neither in tune with God nor the Biblical record as he continues to dig at a site that has no hope of being what he declares it should be. He is taking advantage of people by misusing the word Sodom and he is misleading them due to whatever reason he may have including faulty translational work. This is evident in his contention that one part of one verse, Genesis 13:11, which states,

So Lot chose for himself the whole plain of the Jordon and set out toward the east

The choice was not limited to just the kikkar, but ALL of the Jordon plain and Dr. Collins uses the latter bolded words as indication that Lot STAYED traveling east even though the verse says he simply ‘started’ toward the east and does not indicate that he stayed in an easterly direction.

Collins said. "The Bible clearly says they were located on the eastern edge of the Jordan Disk, that well-watered circular plain of the southern Jordan Valley just north of the Dead Sea."19

 

So it is possible that lot turned south at some point and with the evidence provided by Dr. Wood and others, it seems most likely that he did. The fudging of scripture is not smart and it is not biblical but this section demonstrates how Christians detour from God’s ways in pursuit of their ideas and goals. The believer has to be discerning, even when it comes to professional Christians, and not blindly accept everything they say as gospel fact simply because a Christian says them. They will get the wrong information and be deceived and led astray if they do so.

The actual physical evidence, much not discussed or included here, points to the southern location not the northern one  as does the biblical evidence and it is wise for the believer to stick with the Bible and not be lured away from its truths, even though experts disagree with it and declare certain artifacts agree with them.

Dr. Collins, and supporters, is wrong, plain and simple and his theories need to be dismissed as easily as he dismisses other ancient writers simply because they show him to be in error or disagree with him. Dr. Wood and others present a much better example and proof for the southern location and that is the one I side with as it agrees with what we know from the Bible.

 

**For all five parts, endnotes and bibliography presented upon request.

Addressing the Issue of ‘Blind Faith’ and Other Accusations’

I am going to break from the normal routine here and address a response made to me on another website. That person’s words will be posted in small print and mine in larger next to the issue addressed.

All that being said, I would like to respond to a comment left by ________:

"Keep in mind that no matter how much physical evidence we uncover, people will always need faith. We do not rely on the evidence but 'by the words of God'."

I, obviously, have never met you and therefore, can't say what your studies are focused in.  I would like to direct you to study the Greek word for faith, ‘pistis’ / ‘pistevo’, which was used by NT writers when ‘faith’ is mentioned.  You'll find the cultural context shows it wasn't meant in the way we generally understand "faith".  Faith, these days, seems to convey belief in something despite the evidence.  Yet we see that if we study the usage of pistis / pistevo, it would convey the opposite meaning.  It's understood that their meaning of faith was placing your belief in something you were confident was true.  My point being, that NT writers understood that it wasn’t blind faith.

There are several points in this paragraph that need to be highlighted and the first is the idea of ‘translating’ the word ‘faith’ or the Greek word ‘pistis’.  People may know the ancient languages, and they may know what the meaning of certain words are BUT what they do not seem to know is that God has NOT inspired them to change the meaning or application of the words He wrote 2,000.

Not only would that be unjust, it would not be fair and God would have sinned by saying one thing then and a different thing now. The author of that response forgets that God does not change and He has promised to preserve His word thus we now that what He said 2,000 years ago, (or more), applies today.

The second point that needs to be highlighted is the idea of ‘cultural context’. Culture does NOT determine God’s word and this is so for several reasons; 1. That would make culture superior to God and His word; 2. It would cause confusion, as all societies do not have the same culture thus no one would know which ‘cultural context’ to use to discover the true meaning of God’s word.

God’s word must transcend culture or we have no ultimate guide to our lives and can live as we please because the modern western culture is not the same as the ancient Middle Eastern one. Such ideas of ‘cultural context’ simply opens the door to justify one’s disobedience to God.

It also aids in the ignoring of what Jesus said, ‘Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free’. Notice, He does not say—‘Ye shall know the culture and the culture shall set you free.;’ This is a very important distinction as also said, ‘The Holy Spirit will lead you to the truth’ (read John 16). Jesus did not say, ‘The Holy Spirit will lead you to the ‘cultural context.’ There is a big difference.

The third point that needs to be addresses is the idea found in the following words by that poster:

“It's understood that their meaning of faith was placing your belief in something you were confident was true”

One does NOT need evidence to know that something is true. Evidence will verify the truth but the truth is there no matter if the physical evidence is not. The author of that post seems to manipulate his point by ignoring or omitting the chapter on faith found at Hebrews 11, which begins: “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we DO NOT see. This is what the ancients were commended for. (11:1) And the chapter goes on describing how the ancients did NOT have evidence but believed and obeyed God anyways.

The author of that post also forgets what 1 Cor. 13:7 which states in part, ‘believes all things’. Demanding evidence from God or looking for physical evidence is not showing love towards God but says you doubt His word, in spite of his telling us that ‘He does not lie.’ Believers who love God do not need evidence, just God’s word.

Christians follow the Bible because it is true and we do not need evidence to prove to us that it is true, the Holy Spirit does that.


If we look at 1 Peter 3:15 we see where we receive the idea of apologetics.  We're instructed to "always be prepared" to give an answer for the hope that we have.  Meaning our faith is supposed to be founded upon truth, which is (in part), evidence.  In Romans 1:20, we're told men are without excuse because of the qualities of God seen throughout creation.  In Acts 26 you see Paul on trial and he presents an argument, based on facts, for His testimony.  He provides a defense for the hope that he has.

Here the author of that post goes awry as he seeks to support his weak case by talking about being prepared to answer questions why we believe God.  He seeks to justify his belief in evidence using scripture out of context and adding his own meanings to the words of God. He also distorts the meaning of evidence by stating Romans 1:20 as he forgets that the evidence that leaves man without excuse must be taken on FAITH that God left it there to be found by man. There is NO proof that God did it and Hebrews 11:3 states this fact and any evidence we present must be taken by FAITH for we were NOT present at the time the evidence was created or implemented. This idea is underscored by the many secularists who take the same evidence believers use to prove their points and apply a different meaning to those physical objects and use that thinking to ‘prove’ their ideas.

I'll submit that no matter how much evidence there is, some may not choose to place their trust in Christ.  That being said, I'm not sure I could agree that all people must come to Christ through a degree of what you consider faith to mean.  I know plenty, throughout history, that have come to Christ through an observation of the facts.  Thomas would be a prime example.  Though Christ said "Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."  I have no doubt that some people came come to Christ through faith with no evidence, plenty need to see to believe.  Thomas was given what He needed to believe and from that, I believe, we can gather that it was still an honest pursuit.  It wasn’t testing God, only needing some confirmation through evidence that Christ had really risen and in physical form.

Jesus gave the story of the rich man and Lazarus and in it, the rich man went to hell and he cried out to bring Lazarus back to life and send him to warn the rich man’s brothers. What were the words of given in response: “…But he said unto him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the prophets neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.’” (Luke 16:31)

It is not evidence that converts people, it is the Holy Spirit after bringing them to a point where they have to make a choice- either use faith and believe that the Bible and all the evidence is true or not. Evidence is not the factor in one’s conversion, God is and He said ‘The just shall walk by faith’. Notice He did not say ‘the just shall walk by the evidence.’ Yes we can find evidence and use it to bolster our faith and defeat the enemies’ arguments but  we do not need evidence, we just need the truth and the Holy Spirit provides the guidance to that.


I am a bit of a skeptic myself and tend to come to any conclusion through a look at evidence.  If God is Absolute Truth, which He is, then it's no problem to review the evidence, because it will always point to Him if it's True.  The catch is an honest pursuit of those facts.  Evidence will only show you what you allow it and can show you anything, should you twist it the right way.  I believe, in the case of Thomas, he was seeking the truth, so the truth was shown.  

If you are a skeptic then you do not believe God or His word and are like the Pharisees who demanded that Jesus prove Himself by getting off the cross.  God does not work according to the demands of humans it is the human who must adapt to God’s ways like a humble servant and God said, ‘ye are saved by grace through faith not by works lest anyone should boast…’ (Eph. 2:8-9).

Evidence does no saving.

Plenty of religions can ask you to have faith that they are correct and many people have placed their faith in them, but how many religions can say "Look to history, science, logic and evidence" for proof?  Christianity is the only religion that isn't afraid to look to those things because they all point to Christ as our Savior.  In all reality, it's one of the major differences that sets us apart from the rest of the claims to authenticity.

They do so because they copy God and hope to deceive the unwary. We believers do not say—look to science, look to history, and so on. We say look to the Bible, look to Jesus, use those fields to prove their words true BUT they are NOT the final authority and have no bearing on what is true or not.

While God has written Himself upon our hearts, He has also revealed Himself through Creation and throughout history.  I could name men like Lee Strobel or C.S. Lewis who came to Christ after investigations of evidence, but the fact remains that God reveals Himself to each one of us in a different way.  I would no more claim that coming to God purely through ‘faith’ is any less effective than coming to him through facts.  My mind works through evidence and to my joy, God had / has no problems showing me how real He is through tangible events that can be proven and that I can place my confidence in.  That is to say, I come here because of like minded individuals who enjoy the evidence and are wired to see things through investigation.  I cannot choose how God reveals Himself to me, I only feel blessed that He chose to, when it wasn’t required.

God uses many different ways to bring people to the point where they must make a decision BY FAITH to accept His Son as their Savior. This does not mean one way is better than another, it means that God knows the hearts of people and uses different ways to get through their unbelief and reveal the truth unto them. BUT that does not mean He suspends His criteria. No matter which way He uses, faith is always the key part of the equation.

The author must remember that in my comment that he responded to, I never said evidence was to be left out, I said we would not be given enough evidence to destroy faith and that is a big difference. This is an example of how people using ‘interpretation’ ignore the truth and distort what others say through assumption. Their responses address their interpretations and assumptions NOT the truth of what someone said. This is a dangerous practice and a habit that believers need to stop using. They need to rely on the Holy Spirit to get the truth and address that, not the subjective meanings they apply to someone else’s words.

The church is NOT to practice existentialism but follow the leading of the Holy Spirit to the truth then stick to the truth not their version of it.


Lastly, the “words of God” are evidence in themselves and can be discovered through investigations of events told in the Bible.  It’s somewhat contradictory to say “we don’t rely on evidence” but “on the words of God” when the words of God are the evidence.

The word of God (the Bible) must be taken by faith and the little evidence we get that verifies it only shows what we already know—it is the truth. We follow it because it is the truth regardless of what evidence we have and the author’s mis-categorizing the Bible demonstrates his need for evidence and evidence alone not faith.

He clearly distorts the meaning of evidence to fit his thinking not the truth for passages like- ‘do unto others…’ do not provide any evidence whatsoever but are merely the expression of God’s wishes and are words we cannot place any physical evidence to prove their veracity. We must simply obey by faith.


I don’t mean any offense by the above statements. I only wished to show that much of our understanding of simple words such as ‘faith’ may be different, should we place ourselves in the cultural context of 2000 years ago, look at the text in an exegetical way and understand that God usually doesn’t confine Himself through one approach.

And he would be wrong as he mixes God’s way with the ways of the secular world like so many do. We do not need anything but faith to be saved (save for God’s grace). The evidence God provides is intended to shore up that faith not replace it because God will not destroy what pleases Him—faith and the Bible is very clear about that. Open any concordance and you will see a long list of verses that talk about faith, not evidence nor using evidence.

The Bible is true no matter what the evidence says, no matter what science or archaeology state and it takes faith not evidence to believe that.

The response I addressed was written by the following person at the website of Associates for Biblical Research:

Joel Gabriele - 5/14/2010 4:25:21 PM