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  BIBLE HISTORY - Fact or Fiction

I will try and make the issues as simple as possible so we can all start the series with at least the same basic knowledge with which we can all agree. Those of you who are experts in the field of archaeology and ancient history, I hope you will bear with us whilst we get these foundations in place.

The questions which we will address in this weekly series of discussions revolve around the great, some would say, insurmountable gap between those who by faith alone believe that the Bible is the inerrant word of G-D and those that have been educated to believe that the Bible is an agglomeration of myths with no historical or archaeological basis.

As this will be essentially an archaeological discussion we will devote our time to the analysis of the Tanakh or "Old Testament" and hope to resolve many of the outstanding "problems" that the "evidence" seems to suggest.

For example in "Time" magazine's cover story dated December 18th 1995, on page 69 they pose three major questions and give their answers.

 

  1. "Was there a Moses?" and their answer " Charlton Heston notwithstanding, many scholars contend that Moses was a legendary hero created by the Hebrews to instill a feeling of national identity and solidarity. Apart from the Bible, there is no evidence that such a man ever lived."

    We will investigate that thesis and find contradictory evidence that is so striking that you will wonder how the scholars could have been so wrong. Even the name of the wet nurse of Moses will be found in the Egyptian records!!!!!

     

  2. "Did the Exodus happen?" Time's conclusion: " If they really spent 40 years wandering in the desert after fleeing Egypt, the Israelites should have left at least a few traces. But though scientists have evidence of human occupation in the Sinai dating to the Stone Age, nothing suggests that the Israelites were ever there."

    We will show that the scientists have in fact found not just traces but massive evidence that the Children of Israel were there but that even the route they took matches exactly the Biblical account. They just dated it wrongly.

     

  3. "Did Joshua Conquer the City of Jericho?" Time concluded, "The walls of this Canaanite City did come tumbling down, say most historians, but centuries before Moses' protégé could have arrived. When Israelites took over the Promised Land, the conquest was slow and mostly quite peaceful."

Well, actually, NO. In fact, every single event mentioned in the book of Joshua can be found in the archaeology of the land exactly. When the book states that a city was burned, the burnt layer is found; when destroyed by conquest, the destruction is there; when left alone, the evidence, too, is there and totally accurate.

How, then, can there be such an apparent disparity between what the "scientists" say and the account in the Tanakh? They must be pretty sure of their dating methods and their archaeological techniques to totally disregard the oldest source of written history of this part of the world. What makes them so sure that their dating methods are correct and that they can totally disregard a history which, until 200 years ago, was universally taken for granted as being totally accurate?

For the answers to that, we have to learn something about archaeological dating methods and Biblical exegesis (scholarship). This week, we will spend some time on the latter to see why archaeologists and Bible Scholars are so ready to disregard the "stories" in the Bible and accept what we will show are very dubious propositions regarding their own dating systems.

As we stated above, until about 200 years ago, it was generally accepted that the Bible, if not the word of G-D, was at least the basis for an accepted history of the near east and for many the history of the world. Two separate but linked events shattered that general understanding. The first, of course, was the publication of Charles Darwin's "The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection" and "The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex." We shall do a series on the evolution/creation debate at a later time.

This major scientific questioning of the Book of Genesis began the slow erosion of the general acceptance of the Biblical account. Although most people did not nor have not until this day read the books, the caricature of mankind being a descendant from "monkeys" became an almost archetypal reaction to the "Adam and Eve" story. So the general public really, for the first time, was given a scientific reason to doubt. In academia, however, there was an even more devastating theory proposed regarding the origin of the Bible itself. It was this theory that allowed all future archaeologists to dismiss all the accounts in the Bible which proved even slightly inconvenient and accept anything else irrespective of its merits. Non members of academia will be surprised to know that the vast majority of departments of religion and Bible Studies believe and teach that the Bible is a concoction of myths, pseudo-history put together as a political document after the exile and that believers in Universities today usually reside in the departments of advanced physics and mathematics.

What was this theory that so devastated the belief system in the academic world? Between 1780-63, an obscure German scholar, Johann Gottfried Eichhorn proposed the theory that the five books of Moses, The Torah, could not have been written by one man or G-D. His 3 volume, "Einleitung," started the academic search for how various different authors had first produced parts of the Torah, and then, how these various parts came to be redacted (a scholarly term meaning edited) after the Jewish exile in Babylon. In the next hundred years, many variations on that theme were proposed until they were finally refined by two major scholars, Karl H. Graf in 1865-6, and finally by Julius Wellhausen in 1876-77. The theory, now known as the Graf-Wellhausen Hypothesis, is the basis for how academia now accepts how the Torah came into existence.

I will quote from "The Interpreters Bible Volume 1:

"The  Hexateuch (The first six books of the Bible) is composed of four originally separate documents of which the earliest is that known as J, so called because of its use of the name Yahweh in the narratives of Genesis. The second is E, so called because of its use of Elohim prior to the specific revelation of the name Yahweh to Moses, recorded in Exodus 3:14-15. These two documents were combined, with the necessary harmonization, to form a single narrative, JE by a redactor, RJE. The third document, in point of time, is Deuteronomy D, which is identical in whole or in part with the law book found in the temple in the reign of Josiah. The combination of JE with D to form JED was effected by a redactor, RD, who in the process added a considerable amount of material to the older narratives. While his additions to the account of the patriarchal and Mosaic periods are severely limited in scope, and are for the most part of a theological character, those to the narrative of the Conquest are of such a nature as to alter radically the representations of JE. For this and other reasons, it is probable that the Deuteronomical redaction was carried out by different hands, possibly at different times. The fourth document is P, so symbolized because of the great amount of priestly legislation it contains. It is postexilic in origin, and was conflated with JED by a redactor, RP, to form JEDP. This, allowing for the insertion of some supplementary legislative material, an occasional narrative, and possibly for some minor Deuteronomic additions, was substantially the present Hexateuch."

That, in a nutshell, with some more modern variations, is how the Torah is assessed by the vast majority of Biblical scholars. Is it any wonder therefore, with so much editing going on, that archaeologists feel no need to take any story seriously from an historic point of view? If they cannot find evidence of destruction on a site at a particular time, it is very easy then to dismiss the Biblical account and accept that the archaeological dating is correct and the Bible just got it wrong.

Well, we will demonstrate it is not quite as easy as that. Firstly, we will show that the archaeological dating system is completely wrong and based on an early false premise. Secondly, we will show that with the advent of computers, the structure of the Torah seems to have a unity to it that would make it impossible for it to have been redacted. The Hebrew letters of the Torah seem to make up a string which like the number of pi cannot be altered without making it an entirely different entity. Visit us when we do the series "Codes in the Torah".

We will explore what might happen if we start with a completely different set of assumptions.

At the moment, we find that, as Time magazine stated, where there is an excavated archaeological site, the evidence tends not to support the Biblical account. We will, on occasion, start with the assumption that the Biblical story is correct and the conventional chronology is in error. What we will find is startling and exactly as stated in our original announcement. Every major historical biblical event can be quite clearly seen in the archaeology and without exception.

In order to do that, we must first look more closely at how archaeology dates its strata, and we will begin to do that next week. We hope you will join us......

Any Questions???


Addendum:

Prior to the sessions on introductory archaeology, we thought it might be interesting to attach a file which not only gives details of the conventional chronology. but a hint regarding the revised chronology (To download this Microsoft Word Document, place your mouse cursor on the underlined link and click your right mouse button, select "save link as" from the menu to copy this file to your hard-drive.).

You will see that the work is more than 10 years old and has been reviewed by many experts, none of whom have yet been able to produce a cogent argument against it.

 

*** Questions, and Answers ***

 

  1. " Why do you leave the "O" out of G-O-D? Is this political correctness or what?"

    This question, posed in many ways, was the most frequent.

    Before giving a full answer, let me give you all some background of where we are and my own personal philosophy as to the best way of presenting this material.

    As you now know, we have, in a sort of miraculous way, been inundated with requests to participate from thousands of people of various faiths and some with none. Christians, Moslems and Jews, Buddhists, Hindus and Pagans, even atheists all fascinated by this wondrous volume, The Bible. My purpose in presenting these interactive sessions is the uncompromising search for the TRUTH. I believe that no faith should ever feel threatened by such a search and if it is, it may be time to question that faith.

    Having said that, I also believe that people's sensibilities should be respected in the context of a program such as this one, provided that this does not cause the search for truth to be compromised. The spelling of the word G-o-d was one of these cases.

    There are a number of people who take Exodus 20:7, which states " Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy G-o-d in vain," to include a prohibition against any unnecessary use of G-o-d's name.

    Their interpretation involves not in any way destroying that name especially in its written form. That is the origin of the Jewish concept of "Geniza," the most famous of which is probably the Cairo Geniza -a repository of old medieval documents. Any document that contained the Tetragrammaton ( the four letter Hebrew name of G-o-d) could not be destroyed. It may be no coincidence that the only book of the Tanakh not found in the Dead Sea Scrolls was the Book of Esther, the only book that does not contain the written name of G-o-d.

    Hence there a number of Christians and Jews who prefer not to read or write the complete word G-o-d because that written word would eventually be "destroyed" in its literal sense on the web. Do I think it a big deal personally? No. Do I think it compromises the search for TRUTH to use a hyphenated form of the name? No. Should I continue to do one thing or the other for fear of offending some people? What do you think?

    My own personal feeling is the word "G-o-d" is an English translation and there should be no harm in using it.... I await comments.

     

  2. That brings me to a question which has not yet been asked but I know will be so I will address it in the same context. That is the use of BC/AD or BCE/CE for dating. That is going to offend all sorts of people so I will make a decision for everyone now based not on personal feelings but rather on scholarly considerations. The vast majority of all scholarly papers use the designation BC/AD. We will be quoting from large numbers of them frequently so it is pointless going from one system to the other and therefore we will use the BC/AD system. I hope those who are upset about that understand that no disrespect is meant and does not imply anything other than the most useful means of designating dates.

    BCE = "before the common era"
    CE = "common era"

     

  3. We have been greatly moved by the messages of support, offers of help and various contributions. We do need all the help we can get in view of the fact that we are growing by as many as 1,000 people per DAY. If everyone contributed even $1.00 per month our ability to cope with this surge would be greatly enhanced, but we know that many will leave it to others to help. We just ask you to understand our difficulties and hope you can assist us even in a very small way.

 



Bibliography
  1. The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection (ISBN: 0517123207)
  2. The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex (ISBN: 0691023697)
  3. Tanakh: The Holy Scriptures (ISBN: 0827602529)
    or (0827602642)
  4. Tanakh: A New Translation of the Holy Scriptures According to the Traditional Hebrew Text (ISBN: 0827603665)
  5. The Artscroll Tanach (ISBN: 0899060692)
  6. The Interpreter's Bible: A Commentary in Twelve Volumes by Abingdon (ISBN: 0687192080)
    Only volume 2 is available in print.
  7. The New Interpreter's Bible: General Articles & Introduction, Commentary and Reflections for Each Book of the Bible Including the Apocryphal/Deutroca (ISBN: 068727821X)
    also on CD-Rom (0687019680)
  8. Who Wrote the Bible?: Richard Elliot Friedman (ISBN: 0060630353)
    ( out of print)
  9. In the Beginning by Nathan Aviezer (ISBN: 0881253286)
    A wonderful book by a world renowned Scientist. Must reading for anyone who thinks the creation-evolution debate is over

 




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