Archive for the ‘Accuracy of the Bible’ Category
By Andrew V. Ste. Marie
Will archeologists ever learn that questioning the reliability and accuracy of the Bible is not a good idea?
Recently, a paper was published on the use of domesticated camels in two ancient copper mines in modern-day Israel and Jordan. The authors of the study came to the conclusion that camels were not used in the mines until the last third of the 10th century B.C. This was then related to the Biblical account of the Patriarchs, which portrays Abraham and Jacob making use of camels circa 2000 B.C. – much earlier. Gleefully, the press reported on the find and its supposed impact on the Bible with headlines like:
“Domesticated Camels Came to Israel in 930 B.C., Centuries Later Than Bible Says.”
“Camels Had No Business in Genesis.”
“Will Camel Discovery Break the Bible’s Back?”
“Camel Bones Suggest Error in Bible, Archaeologists Say.”
The New York Times, in reporting on the paper, said:
There are too many camels in the Bible, out of time and out of place. Camels probably had little or no role in the lives of such early Jewish patriarchs as Abraham, Jacob and Joseph, who lived in the first half of the second millennium B.C., and yet stories about them mention these domesticated pack animals more than 20 times. Genesis 24, for example, tells of Abraham’s servant going by camel on a mission to find a wife for Isaac. These anachronisms are telling evidence that the Bible was written or edited long after the events it narrates and is not always reliable as verifiable history.
Despite the excitement of the press, these claims are not new. Rather, critics of the Bible have used the domestication of camels as “proof” of the Bible’s unreliability for well over 50 years.
Are these claims accurate, or overblown? The claims fall short on several levels. First of all, the original study was about two copper mines in Israel and Jordan, not about the entire ancient near East (ANE). Therefore, even if we accepted the claim that domesticated camels were not used in the entire Israel-Jordan-southern Lebanon area until the 10th century B.C., this would not tell us anything about other areas of the ANE – such as Egypt (where Abraham is said to have gotten his camels) and Mesopotamia (where he came from) – and their possible use of domesticated camels.
Secondly, just because no evidence can be found of domesticated camels does not mean that they did not exist, or that no evidence for them will be discovered in the future. In other words, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. It is an argument from silence – a silence which may someday be broken by the discovery of solid evidence for earlier camel domestication.
Thirdly, evidence for the early domestication of camels – even before the time of Abraham – has been discovered in Egypt and Mesopotamia. This includes artistic portrayals of domesticated camels with people riding or leading them, as well as ropes made of camel hair. These artifacts are dated to the time of Abraham or before. Notably, the first mention of camels in the Bible is where the Pharaoh of Egypt gives camels to Abraham. The Bible does not portray camels as being common domesticated animals in Canaan at the time of the Patriarchs.
Fourthly, if domesticated camels were present, but rare, in Canaan earlier than the 10th century B.C., it would not be very likely that we would find physical evidence of their existence.
Fifthly, the Bible itself is an archeological artifact from the ancient world, providing textual evidence for the use of domesticated camels in the time of the Patriarchs. If any other ancient text mentioning the use of domesticated camels earlier than the 10th century B.C. were discovered, it would be taken seriously, but the Bible is not. Why? Could it have to do with the religious motivations of those who do not want to submit to the requirements of the Bible?
We can conclude that the Bible is accurate in all of its statements, including those about camels. It is those who wish to disprove it that are shown to be mistaken.
Holy Bible, Authorized Version
Lidar Sapir-Hen and Erez Ben-Yosef, “The Introduction of Domestic Camels to the Southern Levant: Evidence from the Aravah Valley,” Tel Aviv 40:277-285
Jake Hebert, “Genesis Camels: Biblical Error?,” www.icr.org/article/8008/ (Accessed March 4, 2014)
Rusty Osborne, “Camels and Consternations,” http://lawprophetsandwritings.com/2014/02/camels-and-consternations/ (Accessed March 4, 2014)
Kenneth Way, “Is the Bible Wrong about Camels in Genesis?,” http://thegoodbookblog.com/2014/feb/19/is-the-bible-wrong-about-camels-in-genesis/ (Accessed March 4, 2014)
Jan Verbruggen, “5 Things You Need to Know About Camels and Biblical Accuracy,” http://www.westernseminary.edu/transformedblog/2014/02/24/5-things-you-need-to-know-about-camels-and-biblical-accuracy/ (Accessed March 4, 2014)
Lita Cosner, “Camels and the Bible,” www.creation.com/camels (Accessed March 4, 2014)
Originally published in The Witness (March 2014).
By Andrew V. Ste. Marie
Fossil footprints and trackways are found all over the world, left by many different types of animals. They are normally found running along the surfaces of sedimentary layers, showing the locomotion of animals across the tops of soft layers of mud.
However, discovery of an unusual trackway breaks these normal rules. The trackway was discussed in the latest issue of Creation Matters, a publication of the Creation Research Society.
Near Slick Rock, Colorado, the trackway is actually three trackways – the tracks of three individual animals. The footprints are in the Middle Jurassic rocks of the Entrada Sandstone or the Junction Creek Sandstone – allegedly 120-150 million years old, by evolutionary dates. These rocks are under the Morrison Formation, a Jurassic layer famous for its allosaurs, stegosaurs, and sauropods. Joe Taylor, a creationist paleontologist who was involved in studying the trackways, described the layer they were in: “It is a whitish-gray layer seen for miles and miles under the generally red layers above, which look to be possibly 200 feet thick or more.”
What is unique about these new trackways is that the animals which made them did not walk across the geologic layers, but up them. Terry Beh, author of the article, wrote, “There are three distinct trackways of varying lengths, which ascend vertically across several bedding planes of a 15- to 20-feet-thick exposure of Junction Creek Sandstone…The left side trackway…consists of at least 10 footprints and crosses the entire face of the exposure, including four separate beds, and extends up and over the topmost, cross-bedded layer.”
What does this mean? If an animal can ascend vertically across the rock layers and leave footprints in them, that means that these layers were all soft when it walked across them. If they were all soft at the same time, that means that the rock layers had to have been laid down almost simultaneously. Joe Taylor said, “Since these layers, all six visible feet of them, had to all be wet and soft at the time the dinosaurs ran up them, it means that they cannot possibly have taken hundreds or thousands or hundreds of thousands of years to form. All of the dozens of ¼“ thick layers comprising the track ways, had to be laid down at the same time with no erosion between them. There is however, a layer at the top about 16 inches thick that is a cross-bed. But, it too was soft, as the tracks make the same impressions in it as the lower layers.”
This conclusion does not just affect our view of a few local Colorado rock outcroppings. The rock layers that these tracks were found in extend great distances; the Junction Creek Sandstone covers parts of all of the Four Corners states, with a wide distribution in western Colorado. These tracks show that the entire extent of the whole set of layers had to be soft, all at the same time. Joe Taylor said, “Given their vast extent, this requires a massive, massive deposition at one time by liquid mud.”
Thus, the evolutionary idea that these rock layers were laid down slowly over thousands or millions of years by small river floods is discredited. However, the creationist idea that the geologic rock layers containing dinosaurs and their footprints were laid down simultaneously during the Flood of Noah’s day is supported.
What type of animal made these footprints? The locals call them “cat tracks.” This would be a major challenge for the evolutionary timescale, because cats were not supposed to have evolved by the Jurassic. Unfortunately, the tracks are too eroded to discern for sure what type of animal made them. While showing the similarity in shape between the Slick Rock tracks and modern cougar prints, Terry Beh concludes that the tracks were probably made by a prosauropod or a similar type of dinosaur. Joe Taylor said, “It looks like a bipedal [two-footed] animal made the tracks. There were at least three individuals moving side by side up the soft wet sand layers.”
Once again, the discoveries of science have confirmed the Biblical account found in Genesis and have discredited atheistic “millions-of-years” speculations.
Holy Bible, Authorized Version
Terry P. Beh, “Unique Trackway in Middle Jurassic Rocks Defies Evolution,” Creation Matters 19(1) (January/February 2014)
Casey G. Dick, “New Stratigraphic Interpretations of the Jurassic ‘Junction Creek Sandstone,’ Upper Gunnison Basin, Colorado,” poster presentation
Joe Taylor, personal communication
By Andrew V. Ste. Marie
News agencies and Internet bloggers pounced on the news of a new “gospel” unveiled at a conference in Rome recently. The fragment, dubbed the “Gospel of Jesus’ Wife,” allegedly mentions Jesus as being married.
Finding spurious gospels is not new. Along with the four canonical Gospels giving accounts of Jesus’ life and ministry, pseudo-Christian groups in the first centuries of the church (most notably the Gnostics) produced their own “holy writings,” including The Gospel of Thomas, The Gospel of Philip, The Acts of Peter, etc. Of course, the books were not actually written by the people they were named for.
This new “gospel” is not a complete work at all – rather it is a tiny scrap of papyrus with eight partial lines of text on one side and a few words on the other. What is so exciting about it? Lines 3-5 read, “deny. Mary is [?not] worthy of it…Jesus said to them, ‘my wife…she will be able to be my disciple.” Several secular news agencies are taking this as “evidence” that Jesus Christ was married and hyping the fragment intensely. Although it is simply a scrap, it was given the name “The Gospel of Jesus’ Wife.”
In the midst of the excitement, it is good to keep the following points in mind:
1. There is essentially no context at all for the statement about the “wife”. We have no idea what the Jesus character in the text was saying. What if the original (complete) text said, “My wife is the church, whom I shall take to Heaven to be where I am.” It is a possibility! 2. The dating of the fragment is quite uncertain, but the scholar who announced it has tentatively dated the text (not the fragment) to the second century A.D. The fragment itself she believes to be from the fourth century. Obviously, the canonical gospels, which were written in the first century by people who knew Jesus personally or (as in the case of Mark and Luke) knew those who knew Jesus, are more reliable than this undated, unattributed scrap even from a secular viewpoint. 3. Very few scholars are willing at this point to vouch for the authenticity of the text. Many are strongly suspicious that it is a modern forgery; some are absolutely convinced that it is. Even Prof. Karen King, who unveiled the fragment, admitted to having doubts about its authenticity. Some have questioned why the scrap is a perfect rectangle. Might someone have found it as part of a larger text and cut out the small piece – perhaps because the broader context gave information about what the “wife” comment meant which made it sound less sensational? 4. Even if the scrap is genuinely ancient (mid-2nd century, as Prof. King suggested) and is suggesting that Jesus was married (in a literal sense), that does not mean that the real Jesus actually was married. It only means that one author who wrote this document may have believed that Jesus was married. (For all we know, the author may have been disputing such an idea or simply making some scribblings for his own amusement.) Prof. King wrote that the text “does not, however, provide evidence that the historical Jesus was married, given the late date of the fragment and the probable date of original composition only in the second half of the second century.”
Need this new scrap shake anyone’s faith in what the Biblical Gospels say about Jesus’ life? No. Its late date and lack of context make it essentially worthless even from a secular viewpoint in telling us anything about Jesus’ life. Those who have experienced the power of Jesus in their lives personally need not let any evidence shake them away from their own experiential knowledge of the truth of the Bible.
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek”
Holy Bible, Authorized Version
There is an enormous amount of discussion of the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife online. Here are a few main references:
1. Henry B. Smith, Jr., “Brief Reflections on the So-Called ‘Jesus Wife’ Fragment,” http://www.biblearchaeology.org/post/2012/09/24/Brief-Reflections-on-the-So-Called-Jesus-Wife-Fragment.aspx (Accessed September 27, 2012)
2. Tim Chaffey, “Was Jesus Married?,” http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/2012/09/21/feedback-was-jesus-married (Accessed September 27, 2012)
3. Karen L. King & AnneMarie Luijendijk, “ ‘Jesus said to them, “My wife…”’ A New Coptic Gospel Papyrus,” draft of paper submitted to Harvard Theological Review, http://www.hds.harvard.edu/sites/hds.harvard.edu/files/attachments/faculty-research/research-projects/the-gospel-of-jesuss-wife/29865/King_JesusSaidToThem_draft_0920.pdf
4. Lillian Kwon, “ ‘Gospel of Jesus’ Wife’ Historian Admits to Having Doubts About Authenticity,” http://www.christianpost.com/news/gospel-of-jesus-wife-historian-admits-to-having-doubts-about-authenticity-82229/ (Accessed September 27, 2012)