Monday, 4 August 2014

More Bible Blunders

Some time ago I wrote about Thomas Paine's debunking of the notion that the Pentateuch was written by Moses, as though supposedly writing about his own death and burial in a secret place wasn't enough. Thomas Paine, in The Age of Reason, written in 1794 showed that the Bible refuted that argument itself. First we are told in Genesis that:

And when Abram heard that his brother was taken captive, he armed his trained servants, born in his own house, three hundred and eighteen, and pursued them unto Dan.

Genesis 14:14

Then later on we discover that it wasn't actually called 'Dan' until much later; before then it was called 'Laish'.

And they took the things which Micah had made, and the priest which he had, and came to Laish, to a people that were at quiet and secure: and they smote them with the edge of the sword, and burnt the city with fire. And there was no deliverer, because it was far from Zidon, and they had no business with any man; and it was in the valley that lies by Bethrehob. And they built a city, and dwelled therein. And they called the name of the city Dan, after the name of Dan their father, who was born unto Israel: howbeit the name of the city was Laish at the first.

Judges 18:27-29

This would be like claiming something which talked about Istanbul was written by Homer.

Clearly, whoever wrote that particular account of Genesis was not aware of either the Book of Judges or of the history of the area about which he was writing and simply set his tale in the contemporary geography at the time he wrote it.

Now we have several other examples of these blunders in the Bible being revealed by modern archaeological techniques and excavations. These are taken from The Bible Unearthed by Israel Finkelstein, Professor of Archaeology at Tel Aviv University, Israel, and Neil Asher Silberman, contributing editor for Archaeology Magazine.

Camels

In Genesis 37:25 we are told:

And they sat down to eat bread: and they lifted up their eyes and looked, and, behold, a company of Ishmeelites came from Gilead with their camels bearing spicery and balm and myrrh, going to carry it down to Egypt.

Except that archaeology shows that camels were not used as beasts of burden in the Middle East until well after 1000 BCE.

Indeed, excavations at the site of Tell Jemmeh in the southern coastal plain of Israel — a particularly important entrepôt on the main caravan route between Arabia and the Mediterranean — revealed a dramatic increase in the number of camel bones in the seventh century. The bones were almost exclusively of mature animals, suggesting that they were from traveling beasts of burden, not from locally raised herds (among which the bones of young animals would also be found). Indeed , precisely at this time, Assyrian sources describe camels being used as pack animals in caravans. It was only then that camels became a common enough feature of the landscape to be included as an incidental detail in a literary narrative.

Finkelstein, Israel; Silberman, Neil Asher (2002-03-06).
The Bible Unearthed: Archaeology's New Vision of Ancient Israel and the Origin of Sacred Texts (Kindle Locations 658-663). Free Press. Kindle Edition.

Additionally, the trade in "spicery and balm and myrrh" from Arabia was not established until the time of the Assyrian Empire. The author of this tale simply assumed that things had always been as he knew them, with camel caravans passing through bearing goods for sale in Egypt. He knew little or nothing of the times in which he was setting his story.

Philistines

Apparently, Isaac had an encounter with Abimelech, "king of the Philistines", at the city of Gerar:

And there was a famine in the land, beside the first famine that was in the days of Abraham. And Isaac went unto Abimelech king of the Philistines unto Gerar.

Genesis 26:1

Er... except that:

The Philistines, a group of migrants from the Aegean or eastern Mediterranean, had not established their settlements along the coastal plain of Canaan until sometime after 1200 BCE. Their cities prospered in the eleventh and tenth centuries and continued to dominate the area well into the Assyrian period.

Finkelstein, Israel; Silberman, Neil Asher (2002-03-06).
The Bible Unearthed: Archaeology's New Vision of Ancient Israel and the Origin of Sacred Texts (Kindle Locations 665-667). Free Press. Kindle Edition.

Gerar

The same verse also mentions the Philistine city of Gerar.

Gerar is today identified with Tel Haror northwest of Beersheba, and excavations there have shown that in the Iron Age I — the early phase of Philistine history — it was no more than a small, quite insignificant village. But by the late eighth and seventh century BCE, it had become a strong, heavily fortified Assyrian administrative stronghold in the south, an obvious landmark.

Finkelstein, Israel; Silberman, Neil Asher (2002-03-06).
The Bible Unearthed: Archaeology's New Vision of Ancient Israel and the Origin of Sacred Texts (Kindle Locations 670-673). Free Press. Kindle Edition.

Again we see the author of these tales in Genesis was ignorant of the times in which he set his tale and simply assumed it was pretty much like the time he was writing in - almost certainly the 8th or 7th-century BCE.

So the combination of camels, Arabian goods, Philistines, and Gerar — as well as other places and nations mentioned in the patriarchal stories in Genesis — are highly significant. All the clues point to a time of composition many centuries after the time in which the Bible reports the lives of the patriarchs took place. These and other anachronisms suggest an intensive period of writing the patriarchal narratives in the eighth and seventh centuries BCE.

Finkelstein, Israel; Silberman, Neil Asher (2002-03-06).
The Bible Unearthed: Archaeology's New Vision of Ancient Israel and the Origin of Sacred Texts (Kindle Locations 679-683). Free Press. Kindle Edition.

In other words, during the 8th and 7th-centuries BCE, most likely in the southern Hebrew state of Judah or possibly in northern Hebrew state of Israel, someone made up a 'history' or at best linked together some scraps of an oral folk tradition into a narrative, and wrote it down, filling in and making up stuff where necessary to give it an added heroic grandeur and a special relationship with their tribal god. This is of course in the best traditions of upstart despots seeking to give a legitimacy to their rule and to enhance their standing amongst their neighbouring states.

Much of what is commonly taken for granted as accurate history — the stories of the patriarchs, the Exodus, the conquest of Canaan, and even the saga of the glorious united monarchy of David and Solomon — are, rather, the creative expressions of a powerful religious reform movement that flourished in the kingdom of Judah in the Late Iron Age. Although these stories may have been based on certain historical kernels, they primarily reflect the ideology and the world-view of the writers.

Finkelstein, Israel; Silberman, Neil Asher (2002-03-06).
The Bible Unearthed: Archaeology's New Vision of Ancient Israel and the Origin of Sacred Texts (Kindle Locations 467-470). Free Press. Kindle Edition.

And that just about sums it up, really. Would you believe a 'historian' who wrote about American history and had Uncle Sam and Johnny Appleseed arriving in New York in 1066 and being met by Native Americans selling rifles? Ironically, many Christians cite 'the fact that the Bible mentions real places and real events' as evidence (proof even) that the Bible is historically correct. How do they know these places existed and these events happened? The Bible says so, of course.

Unfortunately, the real-world evidence is showing that the events could not have happened as described. The same 'evidence' previously waved around as proof of authenticity, like so much else with the Bible, is proving to to be evidence of its fiction.

The entire Bible should be judged in the light of this evidence of invention, misrepresentation and manufactured history.





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2 comments :

  1. Anything from the Old Testament set earlier than around 600 BC has to be considered similar to ancient Roman or Norse mythology -- basically just myth, even if elements from real history are incorporated here and there.

    Modern archaeology is showing that the Exodus, or the empire of David and Solomon, were about as real as Valhalla.

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  2. I just love when you're debunking religious bullshit, Rosa!

    Professor Israel Finkelstein is a brave man, hated by many other, mostly Jewish, archaeologists, for example professor Yosef Garfinkel. Here's an article in which professor Philip Davies questions many of Garfinkel's statements, likening them more to opinions and wishful thinking than unambiguous and unequivocal facts: http://www.bibleinterp.com/articles/dav358019.shtml . See also: http://www.bibleinterp.com/articles/dav368018.shtml .

    The book you use as your main source and reference, Rosa, can be "seen" on Wikipeida as well: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Bible_Unearthed .Here's an intriguing quote from that Wikipedia article: Early biblical archaeology was conducted with the presumption that the Bible must be true, finds only being considered as illustrations for the biblical narrative, and interpreting evidence to fit the Bible. Some archaeologists such as Eilat Mazar continue to take this "Bible and spade" approach, or, like the journal Bible and Spade, attempt to treat archaeology as a tool for proving the Bible's accuracy, but since the 1970s most archaeologists, such as prominent Egyptologist Kenneth Kitchen, have begun instead to interpret the evidence only in the light of other archaeology, treating the Bible as an artifact to be examined, rather than as an unquestioned truth. This approach has led to results both in favor and against the historicity of the old Testament.

    Finally I'd like to recommend the following links for those of your followers, Rosa, who are interested in errors, contradictions and Inconsistencies in the Holy Scripture/Bible: http://www.badnewsaboutchristianity.com/ab0_nt.htm#errors and http://www.evilbible.com/Biblical%20Contradictions.htm . Especially the last one is full of examples of biblical contradictions, errors, and lies.

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