Sunday, February 9, 2014

Off-topic: Archaeologists Carbon-Date Camel Bones, Discover Major Discrepancy In Bible Story?

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 ..."

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 ...

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:
"Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” (Lk 21:18)!

6 comments:

The Deuce said...

It's amazing the lengths that critics will go to manufacture contradictions where there are none. They'll deny anything that isn't 100% nailed down and undeniable, and often they'll still deny it even then (John's authorship of his own Gospel being an example where they deny the undeniable in the face of an insurmountable mountain of evidence against them; another being their denial that Daniel's prophecies predate the Maccabeans). So, imo, they simply have little to no credibility, and that should be kept in mind when dealing with their attempts to deconstruct things that are more ancient and harder to prove.

In this case, it makes perfect sense that Abraham and Jacob would have camels, but that camels wouldn't become common in the area until much later. In fact, it matches what the Biblical record suggests, as you pointed out. Abraham, after all, was a nomad, who came from outside Canaan (and would've traveled near the north of Saudi Arabia on his way), and who moved around quite a lot, including his trip to Egypt. It also makes sense for Jacob the runaway, who went back to Abraham's hometown before returning to Caanan, and so would've retraveled the same route twice.

Stephen E. Jones said...

The Deuce

Good to hear from you again.

>It's amazing the lengths that critics will go to manufacture contradictions where there are none.

As the Bible says, "... FOR THOSE WHO ARE PERISHING, because THEY REFUSED TO LOVE THE TRUTH AND SO BE SAVED. ... God sends them A STRONG DELUSION, SO THAT THEY MAY BELIEVE WHAT IS FALSE, in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness." (2Th 2:10-12).

>They'll deny anything that isn't 100% nailed down and undeniable, and often they'll still deny it even then

Agreed. Their (i.e. the atheist/agnostic scientists and journalists) shared Naturalistic ("nature is all there is - there is no supernatural") worldview, coupled with Groupthink:

"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. Loyalty to the group requires individuals to avoid raising controversial issues or ALTERNATIVE SOLUTIONS, and there is loss of individual creativity, uniqueness and independent thinking. The dysfunctional group dynamics of the `ingroup' produces an `illusion of invulnerability' (an INFLATED CERTAINTY that the right decision has been made). Thus the `ingroup' significantly OVERRATES THEIR OWN ABILITIES in decision-making, and significantly UNDERRATES THE ABILITIES OF THEIR OPPONENTS (the `outgroup')." ("Groupthink," Wikipedia, 29 January 2014)

leads them to overestimate the importance of their findings and underestimate the veracity of the Bible.

In science, groupthink corrupts peer-review because the peers are all in the same group. It seems to me that the majority in Biblical Archaeology these days is strongly anti-Bible and anti-Christian.

The article, 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, is either dishonest or incompetent in ignoring the rock art evidence of camels ~4000 years ago in nearby Saudia Arabia. A Google Scholar search on "Jubbah rock art camels" turned up a number of hits in archaeology journals.

[continued]

Stephen E. Jones said...

[continued]

>(John's authorship of his own Gospel being an example where they deny the undeniable in the face of an insurmountable mountain of evidence against them;

Agreed.

>another being their denial that Daniel's prophecies predate the Maccabeans). So, imo, they simply have little to no credibility, and that should be kept in mind when dealing with their attempts to deconstruct things that are more ancient and harder to prove.

Agreed. See my "Daniel's 70 `weeks': Proof that Naturalism is false and Christianity is true!". The language and other evidence is that that the Book of Daniel, including his 70 `weeks' prophecy was written by Daniel in the 6th century BC. But because that conflicts with Naturalism (which has taken over many (if not most theological seminaries), Groupthink underestimates the evidence for the Book of Daniel containing genuine predictive prophecy and overestimates the evidence for it being 2nd century BC pious fiction.

>In this case, it makes perfect sense that Abraham and Jacob would have camels, but that camels wouldn't become common in the area until much later.

If camels ever were common in settled hilly Israel. I would have thought that asses and donkeys would be the transport animal of choice for most Israelites after the patriarchal era.

>In fact, it matches what the Biblical record suggests, as you pointed out. Abraham, after all, was a nomad, who came from outside Canaan (and would've traveled near the north of Saudi Arabia on his way), and who moved around quite a lot, including his trip to Egypt. It also makes sense for Jacob the runaway, who went back to Abraham's hometown before returning to Caanan, and so would've retraveled the same route twice.

Agreed. Camels would be the transport animal of choice for long-range trade across arid stretches. E.g. Gn 37:25. "Then they [Joseph's brothers] sat down to eat. And looking up they saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead, with their camels bearing gum, balm, and myrrh, on their way to carry it down to Egypt."

Stephen E. Jones
---------------------------------
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The Deuce said...

Stephen:

Agreed. See my "Daniel's 70 `weeks': Proof that Naturalism is false and Christianity is true!". The language and other evidence is that that the Book of Daniel, including his 70 `weeks' prophecy was written by Daniel in the 6th century BC. But because that conflicts with Naturalism (which has taken over many (if not most theological seminaries), Groupthink underestimates the evidence for the Book of Daniel containing genuine predictive prophecy and overestimates the evidence for it being 2nd century BC pious fiction.

Indeed. The reason I gave Daniel in particular as an example is that I've been researching it recently, so it was fresh on my mind. Amazingly, there seems to be something nearing a consensus now that the "court tales" of Daniel 1-6 date back to the 4th century at least, simply because the linguistic and historical evidence contained within the Aramaic is so ironclad that it leaves the critics no choice (and the Hebrew 1st chapter clearly sets up the rest, eg. introducing the Hebrew temple treasures that Belshazzar later brings out for his party).

But, of course, they need something to cling to, so now they try to separate the Hebrew prophecies of 7-12 from the rest, even though 7-12 forms a unity with the rest, even though it would've been bleedingly obvious to the Jews if someone suddenly tried to attach a bunch of new "prophecies" to ancient stories they'd had for centuries (prophecies that, according to the critics, were quickly proven false within a year or two), and even though the other data basically makes it impossible for 7-12 to be Maccabbean as well.

But they simply cannot countenance those prophecies predating 167 BC, so they will push anything in defiance of the facts, no matter how ludicrous, to avoid it.

Stephen E. Jones said...

>But they simply cannot countenance those prophecies predating 167 BC, so they will push anything in defiance of the facts, no matter how ludicrous, to avoid it.

Yes, because of their prior commitment to Naturalism ("nature is all there is - there is no supernatural"). To Philosophical Naturalists (PNs) supernatural predictive prophecy is apriori impossible. Therefore they must find the best (i.e. least worst) naturalistic explanation.

So it is with the Shroud. The evidence is OVERWHELMING that the Shroud of Turin is the very burial sheet of Jesus. While it is not impossible for a Philosophical Naturalist to accept the authenticity of the Shroud (e.g. Delage, de Wesselow), so strong is the evidence of its authenticity) they will always be a tiny minority.

That the Shroud is the very burial sheet of Christ and bears His image on it, is too close to the bone for most PNs. The vast majority of PNs will continue to deny the Shroud is authentic and cling like the drowning men they are to what few straws of evidence they can find which supports their PN, e.g. the D'Arcis memo, the 1260-1390 C14 date, etc.

There is a branch of Christian PNs, or rather MNs (Methodological Naturalists), which I came across in my Creation/Evolution/Design debates. They claim to be Christians, but they argue for a type of Theistic which is indistinguishable from fully Naturalistic (i.e. Atheistic) Evolution.

Intelligent Design advocate Prof. Phillip E. Johnson coined the apt but oxymoronic term, "Theistic Naturalist" for them. Few (if any) of the TNs I encountered in Internet debates I considered were fellow Christians. Most (if not all) I assumed to be among the "many" who Jesus warned, THOUGHT they were Christians, but were not, because Jesus never knew them personally (Mt 7:21-23).

Indeed, in the ~11 years (1984-2005) I was debating C,E&D, one of the TN leaders, a science professor at a conservative Christian college, came out and announced that he was no longer a "traditional Christian" (i.e. who believed in the Virgin Birth, miracles and Resurrection of Christ). I would not be surprised if others among those TNs have since apostatized.

There is a parallel in the Shroud. There is a tiny but loud minority of those involved in the Shroud debate, who are aware of the evidence for the Shroud's authenticity, and who claim to be Christian (I do not mean those Christians who are, like I was, against the Shroud through prejudice and ignorance).

Their thinking is, like the TNs I encountered, taken captive by Naturalism (Col 2:8), without them realising it. They either reject the authenticity of the Shroud outright, or sit on the fence not committing themselves to its authenticity, while attacking those like myself for their strong and unequivocal defense of the Shroud's authenticity.

I'm OK with that. I am conscious of Jesus' support when I am attacked for defending the authenticity of His burial sheet. It's my attackers who I feel sorry for, for they will, like us all, soon stand before the One whose image is on the Shroud (Mt 16:27; 25:31-32; Ac 10:42; 2Cor 5:10; 2Tim 4:1, 1Pet 4:5). I would not like to be in their shoes!

Stephen E. Jones

Stephen E. Jones said...

PS: Apologies to those who follow my posts and comments for my several attempts to get the above comment right.

PPS: I am preparing a response to the recent flurry of news items on: "Shroud of Turin: Could Ancient Earthquake Explain Face of Jesus?"

Stephen E. Jones