Archaeologists Carbon-Date Camel Bones, Discover Major Discrepancy In Bible Story, The Huffington Post, February 8, 2014. My comments are in bold.
[Above: Approximately 4000 year-old (i.e. about the time of Abraham) rock art engraving of camels in Saudia Arabia:
"Among the hundreds of thousands of camel figures carved in rocks throughout the Arabian Peninsula, the ones at Jubbah are believed to be the oldest: At approximately 4000 years old, they date back to the beginning of the Bronze Age." (Peter Harrigan & Lars Bjurström, "Art rocks in Saudi Arabia," Past Horizons: Adventures in Archaeology, November 23, 2011. My emphasis).Although the carving appears to depict hunting wild camels, rather than domesticating them, it would not be a major leap to domesticating camels. Indeed the article says:
"Professor Saad Abdul Aziz al-Rashid, Deputy Minister for Antiquities and Museums, calls it `a unique and very important find,' and points out that it can tell us much about the early domestication of animals."and
"The abundant images of camels raise the intriguing possibility that the camel was first domesticated in northern Arabia, not southern, as is usually believed."]
Researchers Lidar Sapir-Hen and Erez Ben-Yosef from Tel Aviv University have discovered what may be a discrepancy in the history laid out in the Bible. Using carbon-dating to determine the age of the oldest-known camel bones, the researchers determined that camels were first introduced to Israel around the 9th century BCE. This is fallacious. Just because the oldest camel bones that archaeologists have yet found in what today we call Israel (assuming the carbon-dating is correct) are 9th century BC, does not mean that camels were not in Israel before then. There could be camel bones before the 9th century BC in Israel that archaeologists have not yet found, or there could have been camel bones before the 9th century BC in Israel that have since been destroyed so archaeologists will never find them. Archaeology, like all historical sciences, can only work with what it finds, and it cannot legitimately pronounce as non-existent what it has not (yet) found. That is a version of the fallacy of the Argument from Ignorance: "We haven't found it, therefore it did not exist"!
The Hebrew Bible, or Old Testament refers to camels as pack animals as early as the story of Abraham. Though there is no archaeological evidence of Abraham's life, many in the religious and scientific communities, including Chabad and the Associates For Biblical Research, cite the 20th century BCE as his time of birth. Abraham was a nomad who lived in tents (Gn 13:5,12,18; 18:6), so it would not be surprising if there is no direct archaeological evidence of his life. How many other nomadic 2000BC individuals has archaeology found? Probably none. That is a limitation of archaeology, not a limitation of the Bible. If the new evidence is correct, however, this suggests discrepancies between the Bible and human history as explained by science. This is not a real discrepancy between archaeology and the Bible, just an apparent discrepancy, based on a fallacious argument from ignorance.
And indeed it is a dishonest argument because it fails to mention rock art evidence in nearby Saudi Arabia (see map below), of camels in Abraham's time (see above).
[Above: Jubbah, Saudia Arabia: indicated by the red "A": Google maps.]
The researchers scoured ancient copper production sites in the Aravah Valley, where camel bones were only present in sites active in the last third of the 10 century and the 9th century BCE. Sapir-Hen and Ben-Yosef write in their report:
"[The camel bones] demonstrate a sudden appearance of camels at the site, following a major change in the organization of production in the entire region."
This suggests that camels were introduced to the region abruptly, perhaps by Egyptians along Mediterranean trade routes. Bible-believing scholars place Abraham in the Middle Bronze Age (2000-1550 BC), e.g. Hill, A.E. & Walton, J.H., 2000, "A Survey of the Old Testament," p.149. If the king Amraphel in Gn 14:1 is Hammurabi of Babylon (c. 1728-1686 BC), then Abraham was his contemporary (Finegan, J., 1964, "Handbook of Biblical Chronology," p.193).
Also, the Bible records that Abraham spent time in Egypt and specifically mentions that he brought camels out of Egypt (Gn 12:10-13:1). The Bible also indicates that after the time of the patriarchs Abraham and Jacob, camels fell out of use by the Israelites, presumably because they were not suited to Palestine's hilly terrain, and were ceremonially unclean:
"Abraham and Jacob had camels (Gen. 12:16; 30:43), and so had later nomads in the s. of Palestine (I Sam. 27:9; II Chron. 14:15). The Ishmaelites who bought Joseph also had camels (Gen. 37:25). The camel was not, however, so much at home in Palestine, which is a hilly country, as in the Arabian and the African deserts (Ex. 9:3; Judg. 6:5; I Kings 10:2; I Chron. 5:18-21). But it is still bred abundantly on the plains of Moab and in the s. of Judea. The milk was used (cf. Gen. 32:15), but the animal was ceremonially unclean (Lev. 11:4). From its hair a coarse cloth was woven, which was sometimes made into clothing (Matt. 3:4) and used for tents. The burden was borne on the hump (Isa. 30:6). When the camel is ridden, a saddle is commonly used, and sometimes a palanquin (cf. Gen. 31:34). The Arabs commonly deck their camels' necks with ornaments (cf. Judg. 8:21, 26)." (Gehman, H.S. & Davis, J.D., 1944, "The Westminster Dictionary of the Bible," p.86).So there is no real contradiction between camels having been used in Israel in 2000-1500 BC, fell out of use, and were later reintroduced about "the last third of the 10th century BCE" (Sapir-Hen, L. & Ben-Yosef, E., "The Introduction of Domestic Camels to the Southern Levant: Evidence from the Aravah Valley," Tel Aviv, Vol. 40, 2013, pp.277–285), i.e. from ~970 BC, about the time of King David.
Dr. Robert Harris, an Associate Professor at the Jewish Theological Seminary, says this shouldn't come as a shock to the theological community. “While these findings may have been published recently, those of us on the inside have known the essential facts for a generation now," Harris conveyed to HuffPost Religion through associates at JTS. "This is just one of many anachronisms in the Bible, but these do not detract from its sanctity, because it is a spiritual source, not a historical one.” This might be the modern Jewish position but it is not a consistent Christian position. The Christian New Testament states the entire Bible, Old and New Testament, was "breathed out by God":
2Tim 3:16: "All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,"
Jesus, who was God in human flesh (Mt 1:23; Jn 1:1; 20:28; Acts 20:28; Rom 9:5; Php 2:5-6; Col 2:9; Tit 2:13; Heb 1:8; 2Pet 1:1; 1Jn 5:20), taught that the Bible was God's word and therefore "cannot be broken" and is "truth" (Jn 10:35; 17:17). He castigated the Sadducees, the Jewish theological liberals of His day, as "...wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God." (Mt 22:29; Mk 12:24). Jesus based arguments on single words in the Old Testament (Mt 22:32; Mk 12:26-27).
Biblical archaeology is understandably an imperfect science. Archaeologist William Dever explained in an interview with PBS several years ago:
"We want to make the Bible history. Many people think it has to be history or nothing. But there is no word for history in the Hebrew Bible. In other words, what did the biblical writers think they were doing? Writing objective history? No. That's a modern discipline. They were telling stories. They wanted you to know what these purported events mean." This is false. The Bible writers (especially Luke who wrote the first history of Christianity, "The Acts of the Apostles") do purport to be writing objective history, giving names and dates (e.g. Lk 1:1-5; 2:1-2). The real problem is that Naturalism, the philosophy that "nature is all there is-there is no supernatural", so dominates the academic world that group-think:
"Groupthink is a psychological phenomenon that occurs within a group of people, in which the desire for harmony or conformity in the group results in an incorrect or deviant decision-making outcome. Group members try to minimize conflict and reach a consensus decision without critical evaluation of alternative ideas or viewpoints, and by isolating themselves from outside influences." ("Groupthink," Wikipedia, 29 January 2014)prevents the Christian, Biblical position from being heard in the secular schools and universities.A prime example is the Shroud of Turin. The evidence is
[Above: The Face on the Shroud of Turin: Shroud Scope Enrie Negative Vertical.
"Were those the lips that spoke the Sermon on the Mount and the Parable of the Rich Fool?; Is this the Face that is to be my judge on the Last Day?" (Wilson, I., 1991, "Holy Faces, Secret Places: The Quest for Jesus' True Likeness," p.189).Yes it is!]
overwhelming that the Shroud is the very burial sheet of Jesus, bearing the image of his crowned with thorns, crucified, speared in the side, dead, buried and resurrected, body! But the secular world, dominated by Naturalism, rejects it out of hand.
But far from being a problem for Christianity, this is a fulfillment of it. As I pointed out in a 2008 post, "Re: Christianity has no future and is in decline," on my now inactive, CreationEvolutionDesign blog, it is a prediction of both Jesus and the Apostle Paul that before Jesus returns to terminate history (Mt 16:27; 24:30; Acts 1:11; 1Th 1:10; 4:16; 2Th 1:10; Heb 9:28; Rev 1:7), Christianity will decline in a Great Apostasy:
Mt 24:10-12: "At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold ..."So this attack on the Bible is part of that Great Apostasy, and is evidence that Jesus' Second Coming is very near! So far from being discouraged, we Bible-believing Christians should heed our Master's encouragement to:
Lk 18:8: "... However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?"
2Th 2:3: "Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day [Jesus' Second Coming] shall not come, except there come a falling away [Gk. apostasia] first ...
"Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” (Lk 21:18)!