The buried secrets of the foolish
by Jim Hutson
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The Bible's Buried Secrets, a 'new' documentary by William G. Dever, an American archaeologist, specializing in the history of Israel and the Near East in Biblical times, claims that the Bible is nothing more than a collaboration of mythical proportions, a story littered with historical facts embellished beyond reality. "It challenges the Bible's stories if you want to read them literally, and that will disturb many people," says Dever, "But it explains how and why these stories ever came to be told in the first place, and how and why they were written down."
Carol Meyers, a professor at Duke University who specializes in Biblical archaeology, and who contributes to the documentary, supports Dever's position "...Those [stories] were ways to communicate power, to communicate control, to communicate sovereignty. So as the Israelites are struggling with their own lives and with the sense that they have a God among other gods -- there are other gods out there, but they think their God is the best God. And one of the ways to prove that my God is better than your God is to show that my God is more powerful than your God.
"I understand that some believers won’t like what the PBS program has to say and I can even understand that they would rather not be presented with any evidence that might shake their faith." Daniel DiRito opinions in his blog, PBS, Politics, Patriotism, & The Primordial Patriarch ,", "However, I’ve always understood that true faith should be able to withstand challenge."
Such a statement is devastating in its accuracy. The True faith has withstood challenge for centuries. And only those who don't know how to articulate their faith stand shaken by such outrageous claims as those by Dever and Meyers.
The PBS special explores, through archaeological and biblical scholarship of such worthies as Dever, provocative declarations concerning the ancient Israelites’ adoption of monotheism and seeks to explain who wrote the Hebrew Bible and what influenced them. Dever and his colleagues make claims to Israelite beliefs; God had a wife, and the Bible cannot be literally read.
"I am not reading the Bible as Scripture… I am in fact not even a theist. My view all along—and especially in the recent books," Dever offers,"—is first that the biblical narratives are indeed 'stories,' often fictional and almost always propagandistic, but that here and there they contain some valid historical information."
"The Bible is essentially a religious history. Even those who wrote the Bible made it clear it was not a secular history, even though secular events are referred to." is most biblical theologians' view on the text. "It is a book about God and his relationship with man."
In the post-Reformation era, when the Bible began to be translated into several languages, erasing the illiteracy common in the Middle Ages and bringing individual ability to read and ponder the Scriptural texts, it became the one and only textbook on ancient history. It was regarded as the unerring Word of God.
The great 'sagas' of the Bible were approved as true and accurate, beyond any doubt, until the 'Enlightenment' of the 17th and 18th centuries, when human reason and scientific exploration were placed in the forefront and a frontal attack began on the Scriptural text of the Christian movement.
Professor Dever holds that the bible is a product of the Persian or even Hellenistic periods, composed at the very earliest after 500 BC, and therefore unreliable as a record of earlier periods.
It is not what is not already found in both the archaeological and historical arenas that such 'noted' personages claim are at the heart of a 'historical and scientific' reasoning behind the 'mythical fiction' of the Biblical text that frightens those who would disprove such as a reliable source of ancient histories, it is what is unknown. That uncertainty, coupled with the historically provable facts and archaeological discoveries of the last century, would cause those who seek truth to draw on startling conclusion:
We are the product of a God to whom we owe every fiber of our being, allegiance, and loyalty.
Gone are the superiority of the human species above all other things. Gone is the ability of mankind to make their own way in the universe, shaping and discarding as they march resolutely through the cosmos. Gone is the shady reasoning behind the universal question as to WHY?
Even if we isolate the attempt to show the validity and authority of the Biblical text to just the archaeological discoveries, ignoring the historical weaving of mankind throughout the text and the accuracy of the historical proofs of such items as prophecies and worldviews that were against the commonly held views of the time, we find startling logic staring us in the face.
Of some 5,000 known sites of archaeological significance in Palestine alone, only about 350 have been excavated. Furthermore, only about 2 percent of these sites have been extensively excavated. At that level of excavation, the entire Bible hold a remarkable accuracy compared to the unearthed finds.
The biblical accounts of locations, events, and other archeologically proven facts often is accurately pinpointed in the modern landscape.
Not even secular archaeology can boast such accuracy in human story of events we traditionally view as cultural history, events known through eyewitness accounts to have happened.
Whereas the scholars born of the 'Enlightenment" period doubted the existence of empires, population groups, and even the central characters portrayed in the Biblical text, the mounting evidence is forcing more and more skeptics to recant earlier positions.
Many archaeologists because of a scarcity of evidence, outside of the biblical record, even doubted the Israelites were ever captives in the land of Egypt. "Not one historical reference to the presence of the Israelites has yet been found there" (Magnus Magnusson, Archaeology of the Bible, Simon & Schuster, New York, 1977, p. 43). Thirteen years later, proof forced a recanting.
Proof such as that found at Karnak, site of the ancient Egyptian city of Thebes; depicting the pharaoh Merenptah warring with Israel, "the oldest known visual portrayal of Israelites" (Frank Yurco, "3,200-Year-Old Picture of Israelites Found in Egypt," Biblical Archaeology Review, September-October 1990, p. 22).
The "Israel Stele", discovered in 1896 by Sir Flinders Petrie, contains "the earliest known mention of Israel…" intertwines biblical and Egyptian history with boastful inscriptions of battles with Israel and other nations. It dates from 1207 B.C.
Dibon, mentioned in Numbers 33:45, has been claimed by some 'noted' experts to have nothing beyond the ninth century B.C. in the archaeological remains and thus throw into doubt the entire biblical journey of Israel's departure from Egypt. Now, in light of recent discoveries, such 'firmly committed' scholarship has been forced to reevaluate their positions, with the discovery of Ramesses II itinerary confirmed with Egyptian evidence that shows he "sacked the city in the course of a military campaign in Moab" during the time of the Exodus. (Charles R. Krahmalkov, "Exodus Itinerary Confirmed by Egyptian Evidence," Biblical Archaeology Review, September-October 1994, p. 58).
Another such impossible existence, the city of Hebron, mentioned in Joshua 10:36 as a major point in the conquest of Canaan, has been since recanted with newly discovered and documented archaeological finds. An Egyptian map lists, ordered by Ramesses II, shows a list of cities carved on a temple wall in Amon, listing Hebron as a city in the Egyptian world. (Biblical Archaeology Review, September-October 1994, p. 60).
Not only such finds support various 'non-existent' cities, but places named in the account of the Exodus are found in Egyptian records, such as the river Kishon where the Israelite army under Deborah and Barak defeated a superior force.(Judges 5:19-21).
Historically proven people, such as Ponitius Pilate, Herod the Great, Augustus, Sergius, Paullus, Gallio, Felix, Festus, and even Herod Agrippa I and II, mentioned in the biblical accounts, such as the Gospel of Luke and the book of Acts, are written to a degree that shows the accuracy and knowledge of the author that scholars once used to cast doubt upon the historicity.
"One of the most remarkable tokens of (Luke's) accuracy is his sure familiarity with the proper titles of all the notable persons who are mentioned..," F.F. Bruce shows such examples," . . . Cyprus, for example, which was an imperial province until 22 BC, became a senatorial province in that year, and was therefore governed no longer by an imperial legate but by a proconsul. And so, when Paul and Barnabas arrived in Cyprus about AD 47, it was the proconsul Sergius Paullus whom they met . . ." (F.F. Bruce, The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable?, InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, Illinois, 1973, p. 82).
The inscription on the Moabite Stone provides nonbiblical confirmation that king Mesha of the Moabites, mentioned in 2 Kings 3:4-27, as an actual historical character.
The Black Obelisk provides a record of the payment of tribute to the Assyrian king Shalmaneser III by Jehu, king of the Israelites (2 Kings 9-10; 2 Chron. 22:7-9).
The Babylonian Chronicle attests to the historicity of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, and his conquest of Jerusalem as recorded in 2 Kings 25.
Over 100 ostraca (inscribed potsherds) inscribed in paleo-Hebrew script were found in the citadel of Arad, the largest collection of inscriptions from biblical times, contain dates and several names of places in the Negev, including Be'er Sheva and the priestly families Pashur and Meremoth, both mentioned in the Bible. (Jeremiah 20:1; Ezra 8:33)
Even U.S. News has summarized exciting new archeological evidence that confirms the historicity of the Bible.
Kenneth Kitchen, University of London Egyptologist points to documents discovered in Syria that confirm the amount of money Joseph's brothers received when they sold him into slavery. The rate at the 'liberal' declaration of the time of the writing was far more and Kitchen points out that the writers would have logically used the standard of the day. This allows that the timeline written in the Bible is accurate, for the rate was much less than it was at the proported time of writing.
Archeologists have discovered the remains of a crucified man, a contemporary of Jesus, buried in a family grave, as described in the gospels, which disproves declarations of historical inaccuracy that the Romans historically didn't allow such burials. It also confirms the style of crucifixtion.
There are a number of other ancient inscriptions that have provided valuable insights into biblical history, among these the Gezar Calendar, the Samaria Ostraca, the Siloam Inscription, the Lachish Letters, and numerous Phoenician and Aramaic inscriptions, that show non-biblical proof of events and people written in the text. (Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament, ed. James B. Pritchard, 2nd ed., Princeton: Princeton University, 1955, pp. 320-24; 3rd ed., 1969, pp. 653-62.)
Time after time scholars have had to backtrack from earlier statements as additional archaeological evidence came to light. Yet, the noted scholar and expert in Israel, Dever, has committed much the same proof of unreliability of the current non-biblical bias with this latest 'series' of NOVA 'documentaries' which are nothing more than speculations of those who seek to disprove the proven.
"Archaeological silence is [a] problem." Noted skeptic Farrell Till claims. Yet, much of what Till claims shows the ability to cast doubt upon the accuracy and authority of the Biblical accounts is proven time and time again to be a failing of the human experience to expand beyond what is immediately known and reach for the unknown, to stretch beyond the 'known'.
But absence of proof is not proof of absence, only a lack of time to find such proof. Until 1993 there was no proof of the existence of King David or even of Israel as a nation prior to Solomon, and then in 1993 proof of King David's existence outside the Bible in an ancient mound called Tel Dan, where words carved into a chunk of basalt were translated as "House of David" and "King of Israel."
Even Hershel Shanks, the editor of the magazine Biblical Archaeology Review is critical of "belief in the inerrancy of the Bible."
These 'new' biblical archaeologists come to the digs with "geologists, paleobotanists, zoologists, anthropologists, soil scientists, climatologists, etc." and apparently evolutionists. (Hamid Abu Duruk, "Archaeology Thriving in Saudi Arabia," Biblical Archaeology Review, Vol. 21, No. 2, March/April 1995, p. 73.)
And together, it is less understanding what the evidence presents as rendering interpretations of what is to be told.
These interpretations, much like their counterparts in evolutionary theory, are flawed by the natural subjection of whatever presuppositions they have in regards to what is found and it is less archaeology than humanistic depiciton of man's past, present and future.
James K. Hoffmier, a professor at Wheaton College, claims that, in truth, most biblical archaeologists are enemies of the bible, "The result of their scholarly investigations has been that virtually all that the Bible has to say about the early history of Israel has been rejected . . . Gone are Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Joshua and now even David. The Egyptian sojourn and exodus stories, along with Sinai wanderings and Joshua's military entry into Canaan, have been reduced to retrojections or inventions by later Biblical writers." (James K. Hoffmier, "Of Minimalists and Maximalists," Biblical Archaeology Review, Vol. 21, No. 2, March/April 1995, p. 22.)
Abraham didn't exist, according to the new biblical archaeologists and historians, and even if he did, he didn't live in Palestine but in Arabia. But finds in the field of archaeology have Abraham's name in Babylonia as a personal name at the very period of the patriarchs of the Old Testament. This wouldn't exist if he was a fictitious character who was redacted back by the later Israelites. The field of Abram in Hebron, mentioned in the Bible, is mentioned in 918 B.C., by the Pharaoh Shishak of Egypt (possibly actually Ramases II).
The temple at Karnak has Abraham's name in the accounts of Ramases II's battles and this squarely places such a patriarch in Palestine, where the Bible places him, not Arabia as is contended by Muslims. The Beni Hasan Tomb from the Abrahamic period, depicts Asiatics coming to Egypt during a famine, corresponding with the Biblical account we often refer to as "Joseph's story".
The Smithsonian Department of Anthropology remarks, "Much of the Bible, in particular the historical books of the old testament, are as accurate historical documents as any that we have from antiquity and are in fact more accurate than many of the Egyptian, Mesopotamian, or Greek histories."
Frank E. Gaebelein, author and general editor of The Expositor's Bible Commentary, made a comment in 1979 that remains true in the 'search for archaeological proofs' in that "the attitude of suspended judgment toward Bible difficulties . . . is constantly being vindicated, as archaeology has solved one Biblical problem after another, and as painstaking re-examination of discrepancies has finally led to answers" (The Expositor's Bible Commentary, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, 1979, Vol. 1. p. 31).
Nelson Glueck, a Jewish Reformed scholar and archaeologist, has concluded, "No archaeological discovery has ever been made that contradicts or controverts historical statements in Scripture".
So what is the link between new archaeology and new hermeneutics? It exists only to promote the liberal theology, as expressed by James A. Sanders;
I think that it is time for us to stop fooling the people, making them think that there is just one Bible and that our Bible committee got closer to it than their committee did. . . . Must we continue to pretend that only our group is right denominationally and others are not right, and it is just too bad about others? . . . The Hebrew text is still in the process of standardization, but I wonder if it would not be proper for there to be an effort afoot to provide our people with the differences where they exist and let them see that there have been differences all along. I have been told by some that that would just destroy the Bible because lay folk still want to think of the Bible as somehow "inerrant." (James A. Sanders, "Understanding the Development of the Biblical Text," The Dead Sea Scrolls After Forty Years, pp. 70-71.)
Much like the evolutionary cause, this is just another attempt to reclaim man's pursuit of Godhood, by any means possible. And it can only be done if we, as a species, prove that there is no God.
The river in Egypt just isn't a river......it's a state.
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