Holding Tightly Onto A Bloody Sword
J.P. Holdingʼs Defense of the Bible
Myth of a Massive Exodus of Hebrews from Egypt and their Overnight Genocidal Conquest of a Land Flowing with Blood and Honey
by Edward T. Babinski
At “Theology Web” forums, JP Holding continues to defend ancient tales of Biblical massacres as sociologically and psychologically consistent (or at least not commonly unexpected) for their day. Perhaps he forgets that relying on such an argument only makes the Bible appear as soaked in questions of “situation ethics” as the secular philosophies he rejects. Such a “defense” of the Bible certainly reveals no innate superiority of Biblical ethics if he admits it was common for certain ancient cultures to practice genocide.
In fact, Holding shouldnʼt stop with justifying genocide as a common practice, since neither does the Bible condemn slavery, polygamy, or concubinage, nor refer to any of them as “sins.”
Speaking of the non-sin of godly genocide itʼs interesting to reflect on the case of Puritan colonists in America who arrived at the Biblical conclusion that God had led them to their new home in America which was to them, typologically speaking, a new land of Canaan, and the native Americans were like the Canaanites of old, worshippers of false gods and hence, if the natives refused to convert they were worthy of extermination. Or consider these further examples of “situation ethics” in the Bible: The same Moses who taught “Do not kill” also commanded the Israelites to “kill every [Midianite] male among the little ones.” (Num. 31:17) Even the littlest male child had to die? Hadnʼt Moses or Yahweh ever heard of adoption?
The word “Blessed/Happy” is used to describe two very different sentiments in Matthew 5:9 and Psalm 137:9, respectively: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God.” Fair enough, but what about this other use of the word, “blessed?” “Blessed will be the one who dashes your little ones against the rock.” Is enjoying revenge and listening to the craniums of babies smash on rocks anywhere near as “blessed” as promoting peace? Letʼs hope not. Not by a mile.
Other verses likewise depict both man and even Godʼs enjoyment over revenge: “The righteous will rejoice when he sees the vengeance, he will bathe his feet in the blood of the wicked” (Ps. 58:10) “The Lord will rejoice over you to destroy you” (Deut. 28:63)
Whatʼs really weird about such verses is that another verse in the same Bible tells you NOT to “rejoice” when your enemy falls in battle: “Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and let not your heart be glad when he stumbles… If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink… He who rejoices at calamity shall not go unpunished.” (Proverbs 17:5; 24:17 & 25:21—Of course the “Proverbs” in the Bible consist of collected wise sayings, many of which might not be original to Israel, since scholars agree that parallels to such wise sayings have been found in collections of wisdom from neighboring cultures in Egypt or Babylonia.)
Or consider Psalm 34:14, “Seek peace, and pursue it,” and add the pro-peace declaration at Jesusʼs birth, “Peace on earth, good will toward men!” (Luke 2:14), and also add a further peace-promoting saying of Jesus, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God” (Mat. 5:9). And then compare those pro-peace messages with two very different saying of Jesus, “Do you suppose that I came to grant peace on earth? I came not to bring peace, but a sword.” (Mat. 10:34) “Do you suppose that I [Jesus] came to grant peace on earth? I tell you, no, but rather division… I have come to cast fire on the earth and how I wish it were already kindled.” (Luke 12:49,51) Ouch! Bad hair day, Jesus?
Or consider this from Jesus, “Blessed are the merciful” (Matthew 5:7), and then read the following merciless commands of God: “Leave alive nothing that breathes… show them no mercy.” (Deut. 7:2); “The Lord hardened their hearts… that they might receive no mercy.” (Joshua 11:20); “I [the Lord] will not pity, nor spare, nor have mercy, but destroy them… A curse on him who is lax in doing the Lordʼs work! A curse on him who keeps his sword from bloodshed.” (Jer. 13:14; 48:10—NIV)
Thereʼs even this command of Jesus, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matt. 5:44) that you can compare with “Chase your enemies and they will fall before you by the sword.” (Lev. 26:7) “A curse on him who keeps his sword from bloodshed… You are My war-club… with you I shatter old man and youth… young man and virgin.” (Jeremiah 48:10; 51:20,22)
But Aside from Holdingʼs “Sociological Defense”
There is no archeological evidence that a massive army of Hebrew invaders marched from Egypt to take over Cana, exterminating Canaanite city after city. No evidence exists of a massive Hebrew Exodus followed by the violent conquest of a multitude of Canaanite cities. Even those who do not deny an Exodus took place admit that the numbers of the Hebrews who left Egypt could not possibly have been as high as those given in the Bible.
In fact today there are plenty of full-fledged professors of archeology, many of them Jewish, who agree that the Exodus story is way overblown, and that the evidence points in the direction of indigenous people in Canaan taking the place of other indigenous people in a relatively slow fashion. Native people who lived in the hills started moving to the valleys and spreading some new ideas and culture there. The process was relatively less a matter of genocidal conquests one after the other than native and natural assimilation of indigenous cultural changes. In fact the Hebrew language is not filled with Egyptian loan words at all, just as one might expect if their ancestors ALL came over from Egypt after having remained there for four and a half centuries. Instead, the Hebrew language is merely a dialect of the same root language that the Canaanites spoke, Akkadian. (The Catholic Encyclopedia understates the obvious when it admits, “Notwithstanding the long sojourn in Egypt [sic], the number of Egyptian words that have found a place in the Hebrew vocabulary is exceedingly small.”)
For Further Reading
“Archaeology and the Exodus” by Rabbi Ken Spiro
“As Rabbis Face Facts, Bible Tales Are Whilting”
See also the book, It Ainʼt Necessarily So by Matthew Sturgis which is an excellent introduction to the current state of archaeological discovery, focusing on its divergence from traditional biblical interpretation. It is actually helped in some way by being written by a journalist instead of an archaeologist, so that terms are better explained, and disputes better clarified.
It Ainʼt Necessarily So is a well crafted book which ties in with the ITV series presented by former Beirut hostage John McCarthy. The series and the book recount recent archaeological investigations in the Holy Land and try to show how much or how little the diggers find that match the heroic stories of the Old Testament. The results are not encouraging for Biblical fundamentalists as the author concludes that virtually all of the early stories of the Bible are fabrications. However, not surprisingly, the later one delves into the history of the Holy Land the more the archaeological evidence coincides with the Biblical history.
The author is a professional writer with an interest in historical subjects. He has researched the book professionally and presents the facts with admirable detachment. The problem with the book is that it feels researched by a writer rather than written by an enthusiastic expert. Despite this criticism, it provides a readable and fascinating insight into the historical background of the Bible. If there is a scepticism about the Biblical account there is also a proper scepticism about the conclusions of the rather inexact science of archaeology. As a result we are often left with tantalizing questions about Biblical times which will probably never be answered.—Dwight Longenecker
In six 30-minute programmes scheduled for transmission in autumn 2001 John McCarthy travels through the Holy Land to examine the validity or otherwise of stories from the Old Testament. Bringing in history, archaeology and new research, his intriguing journey is the subject of this thought-provoking tie-in which looks at: the truth behind Jerichoʼs ‘tumbling’ walls; the mystery of the Promised Land; who was Solomon; when did the Jews become monotheists; what was Zion; and when was the text of the Old Testament actually written? The book offers fresh, sometimes unsettling, perspectives on the Bible and its history.
The following are remarks included in the book:
‘The expected discoveries of specific biblical artefacts and buildings, were simply not made, and certainly not at the rate that had once been hoped. Discrepancies between the biblical account and the ever-increasing archaeological record became more noticeable and harder to ignore’. (p.28)
‘The later of archaeologist Kathleen Kenyonʼs dates removed the destruction of Jericho from the world of the biblical Joshua by several centuries…For Bill Denver…widely regarded as one of the leading figures in the field, Jericho still makes him shake his head…‘I always say to people - ‘if you want a miracle, hereʼs your miracle - Joshua destroyed a city that didnʼt even exist’.’
The almost total absence of direct archaeological evidence for Joshuaʼs battle is too suggestive to be passed over. And if direct evidence is lacking, so too is indirect corroboration’. (pp.46,47,52)
[Regarding the exodus] ‘after gaining control of Sinai from Egypt in the Six Day War of 1967, Israeli archaeologists could barely wait to explore the area. But despite intensive searches, no trace of the Israelitesʼ presence [to which the bible refers] has ever been found’. (p.56). ‘The absence of any clear evidence for Davidʼs city has called into question the fact of its very existence. The few scattered objects and remains dating from the tenth century which have been recovered from the site appear to suggest, at least to some, that Jerusalem at this time can only have been a minor settlement and not a royal capital’. (p.115).
‘Some scholars have focused attention on the fact that the biblical story of Solomon is entirely uncorroborated by sources outside the Bible. He is presented as a king with widespread international contacts and influence. And yet not a single mention of his name occurs in any contemporary Near Eastern text…this silence is at the very least curious.’ (p.143) ‘If the inscription from Tel Dan accurately reflects events, then the biblical record seems to be a tantalizing mixture of historical fact, confused details, and deliberate distortion’. (p.158).
In his introduction to the book It Ainʼt Necessarily So by Matthew Sturgis, the Beirut hostage John McCarthy who researched a TV series of the same name states that at around 640BC Assyrian power was waning. The new Judaen king, Josiah: saw the opportunity to restore his nationʼs fortunes and began a period of political and religious reforms. What better, or more likely a time for all the national stories to be brought together and edited into a new, rounded whole? Picking up where Hezekiah (his predecessor) had left off, Josiah banned all foreign cults and had their alters destroyed. As the temple in Jerusalem was restored, an ancient scroll, supposedly Mosesʼ book of Deuteronomy, was discovered which endorsed his reforms. So the Bible began to appear - a distillation of a whole range of folk tales, myths and oral traditions imbued with the social and theological;l beliefs of Josiah and his clique. So, defenses of the ferocious god of the OT which fundamentalist Christians feel obliged to mount are defenses of the social and theological beliefs of Josiah and his clique. No wonder they tie themselves up in knots in their ludicrous attempts to equate this god with the god of love which evolved at around the time of Christ and which his teachings crystallized.
They are trapped in the hopeless task of attempting to reconcile the irreconcilable.
So what stops them saying: OK, the god of the OT Jews was just exactly the sort of psychopathic deity you'd expect to find being worship by a backwater Bronze Age people?
I think it is because this cruel, vicious, unstable, psychopathic deity is attractive to them, and that being the case, is it surprising that they empathize with those who conducted the iniquities of the Inquisition? To defend them by asserting that we must judge them in the context of a brutal time is to miss the point: The history of Christianity is a history of manners unmodified by the teachings of Christ.
That is whatʼs so shameful.
Christians never hesitate to tell other people how they should behave, but their own behaviour down the centuries provides us with a catalogue of crimes against humanity.
“It Ainʼt Necessarily So” is not available on DVD yet, but here are in-depth summaries of each of the three episodes (I hope that “in-depth summaries” doesnʼt sound too oxymoronic).
It Ainʼt Necessarily So
Sunday January 19 2003
Part one of a 3-part series where British journalist and former Beirut hostage John McGrath looks at the controversial debates over the archaeology of the early history of Israel and Judah and its challenge to The Bible.
What did the prophet Jeremiah mean when he denounced the “Torah” - which we know as the Five Books of Moses - as “lies from the false pen of scribes”?
It was once almost universally accepted that the Old Testament was a truthful account of the past. Now the early part of the story is generally accepted as mythical - despite the best efforts of numerous television programmes to find Noahʼs Ark, Sodom and Gomorrah and the exact location of the Garden of Eden!
But it now appears that almost the whole thing may be a work of fiction. Archaeologists and biblical scholars are now asserting that the Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and their conquest of the Promised Land of Canaan simply never happened. Some even argue that the Israelites, far from being divinely -inspired radicals who replaced Canaanite idolatry with the worship of a single God, were simply a group who emerged from the Canaanites who continued the old religion until an astonishingly late date. It is being said that there is no evidence at all to show that David and Solomon rules Israel from Jerusalem - or that their great kingdom even existed! Although there clearly was a smaller kingdom of Israel at a later date, there seems to be decisive evidence that the Israelites worshipped a goddess, a consort of their main deity, right up until their destruction in 722 BC.
John McCarthy spent five years as a hostage of Islamic Jihad in Lebanon. He was given a Bible to read, and saw in the story told there the roots of the political problems that had led to his incarceration. In this startling six-part series, he returns to the Middle East to discover whether there is any truth at all in the Old Testament account of early Israel, or whether, as he puts it, “people have been at war for thousands of years because they believe a fairy-tale".
In the course of the series he visits numerous archaeological sites (and takes part in some of the excavations), meets distinguished scholars who were too frightened to publish their finds or reveal even the existence of their research, and finally reaches a conclusion as to how, when and why the Old Testament history was written.
The Walls Come Tumblinʼ Down
John McCarthy introduces himself. Having had the Bible as his reading matter while a hostage in Beirut, and seeing the connection between the story told in the Old Testament and his own predicament, he wants to discover if the history there is really true. At the British Museum he is told that there is no evidence for the ancient Israelites, so he goes to find out. Beginning at the Jordan, he goes to Jericho, where “Joshuaʼs Walls” were supposedly found by John Garstang. He is shown around by American archaeologist, Professor William G. Dever. Dever explains that subsequent excavations by Dame Kathleen Kenyon revealed that Garstang had misdated his finds. To learn how finds are dated, John visits the excavation at Tel Rahov, where Professor Amihai Mazar shows him the stratigraphic structure, and he sees how pottery is collected and examined. Back at Jericho, the current excavator, Hamden Taha, says that he can find no trace of any occupation when Joshua supposedly arrived. But the site is controlled by the Palestine National Authority, and they do not discourage pilgrim tourists by revealing that Joshua cannot have really captured Jericho.
Israeli archaeologist Schlomo Bunimovitz explains that different generations of archaeologists have had different agendas: clerics in the 1930ʼs, and ex-military Israelis in the 1950ʼs and 60ʼs, were interested in validating the Old Testament stories. Now archaeologists are producing a new story, and Professor Zeʼev Hertzog explains that it can no longer be accepted that Israelites came from Egypt and conquered Canaan. John points out that Herzog comes from Tel Aviv, a secular city, and contrasts it with the more religious city of Jerusalem. Herzog says that he is trying to empower todayʼs secular Israelis in their political battles with religious groups, but what he says is then denounced by the leader of the Secular Party (Shinui) as providing anti-zionists with ammunition. Professor Amnon Ben-Tor says that it is unfortunate but unavoidable that this kind of archaeological issue is given a political dimension. John finds that the issue is more disturbing to secular Israelis than religious ones; an Orthodox Rabbi simply asserts that the archaeologists have yet to find the proper evidence. John then visits the excavation at Hazor, where Ben-Tor demonstrates evidence of a destructive fire that appears to correspond to the Biblical description of Joshuaʼs conquest, and argues that the Bible story cannot yet be dismissed. But then Professor Israel Finkelstein points out that at the time in question Canaan was an Egyptian province, a fact of which the Biblical authors seem unaware, and takes John to a substantial Egyptian garrison site near Tel Aviv. Johnʼs conclusion is that it seems that something is clearly wrong with the Old Testament story. A conclusion which seems to be re-enforced when he says that in the next episode he will be investigating doubts that the Israelites were even monotheists.
The programme begins at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, where a near-riot is taking place as male Orthodox Jews try to prevent a group of women from holding a service. One of the women observes that if they had tried to dance and sign like Miriam, they would be in prison. John points out that it seems the Bible has been edited to change our understanding of what women were doing: although Miriam is called a Prophet, none of her prophetic statements are included.
Oddly, it seems that the commonest objects found in Israelite archaeological sites are female figurines - evidently idols. Rabbi Dr. Jonathan Magonet explains that a number of Hebrew words are translated as “God”. One such term, the word used in the first sentence of the Book of Genesis, is a plural. Professor William Dever says it is now known that the Israelites worshipped several gods including a goddess, Ashera, and Diana Edelman says that she was a widely worshipped fertility goddess. Dever tells John that when he first discovered an Israelite inscription proving that Ashera was being worshipped he was afraid to publish it, and kept it secret until others found more evidence that the God of the Israelites did have a Goddess as a consort. Visiting the excavation at Tel Rehov, John is shown an Israelite shrine which seems to be a place for worshipping three or four gods and the goddess.
On the track of more evidence of Israelite religion, John is taken by Zvi Lederman to the fortress of Arad, where a full-size Temple has been discovered - the only one ever found from the Kingdom of Judah. Although strikingly devoid of images, it appears to contain evidence of the worship of more than one deity. At the Bible Lands Museum in Jerusalem he is told that the Bibleʼs description of Solomonʼs Temple also indicates the presence of idols and “graven images”, as used by other religions in the area.
While the Bible does not conceal the idolatrous aspects of Solomonʼs Temple, it does seem to conceal the worship of the Goddess. Diana Edelmen argues that this has been done by inserting small grammatical changes - which so mystified the translators of the Authorized Version that the Goddess Ashera became a grove of trees when she was put into English. The programme then picks up John again at Arad, where he hears how the Temple there was deliberately closed down and put out of use by King Hezekiah at the end of the 8th century BC, as part of a process of centralizing all worship in Jerusalem. This policy was a response to the destruction of the northern kingdom, Israel, by the Assyrians and the total political isolation of Judah. It was accompanied by a major assault on the worship of Ashera, an assault later resumed with more vigour by King Josiah. The Bible itself documents the resistance of women to what was being done.
It Ainʼt Necessarily So
Sunday January 26 2003
Part two of a 3-part series where British journalist and former Beirut hostage John McGrath looks at the controversial debates over the archaeology of the early history of Israel and Judah and its challenge to The Bible.
Programme 2: The Promised Land
Archaeologists now say that the Israelites did not come to Canaan as slaves from Egypt. Where did they come from? In the third part of this startling series John McCarthy looks at the new evidence of Israelite settlement, and the real reason why there are said to be “no human remains”.
According to the Bible 12 cities were destroyed by Joshua, yet there is only archaeological records confirming the destruction of 1 city, Huzor. But the Egyptian records say that Pharaoh Seti destroyed the city. Although the book of Joshua describes the conquest of Canaan, another book of the Bible, the book of Judges, says something different. Joshua attacks and conquers, in Judges they are up in the hill country and canʼt get down to the planes because there are too many military obstacles in the way. Israeli Archaeologists made startling discoveries in the hill country. They evidence theyʼve found of more than 200 sites, is that the area was empty in the late Canaanite period, and it has been filled up with new sites. Movement can be traced from East to West, exactly how the Bible explains the entrance through the Jordan into the Hill country of Canaan. John is taken to the site of one excavated village, from the time of the rise of Israel, where there are the remains of a building considered a new kind of house, the design of which was unknown in the country before these settlements began. Are these the first homes of the Israelites? The other surprise is that pig bones disappear from the archaeological records at this time. At the same time in the lowlands there are a lot of pig bones. It is surprising to see echoes of a Kosher diet in these settlements, which appear when the Bible says the Israelites arrived from Egypt. But people in these settlements came not as slaves from Egypt, but had moved here from other places in Canaan.
There is a contemporary record of a military force entering Canaan from Egypt. But itʼs not a force of Israelites led by Moses and Joshua, itʼs a force of Egyptians led by Pharaoh. Egypt ruled Canaan and Merenptah crushed disobedience in Canaan around 1207BC. The only surviving picture that exists on ancient Israelites shows them being crushed beneath the hooves of Egyptians horses. So there were Israelites, but we know nothing about them. According to an Egyptian Pharaoh in about 1200BCE, there were people living in the hills called Israelites. It was the first time theyʼd been mentioned, and he said he wiped them out. Apart from what is written in the Bible, they are not mentioned again by anyone for the next 350 years.
According to archaeologists there are no human remains. Although unofficially there are many remains, but due to religious fanaticism and threats to their life, no research has been done on these remains. But tests have been done on the Arab and Jewish people of the middle east, and found that they have deep ancestral links and that their genetic affinity is very close. Palestinian Arabs see themselves as being directly descended from Biblical Canaanites. This discovery that they share a genetic heritage with modern Jews, seems to connect with the idea that Israelites and Canaanites were the same people. Some Palestinians say that that makes them the true inheritors of any Israelite claim to the land.
John visits a strange site, with a complicated structure of large un-hewn stones, with an installation full of ashes with bones. When tested all the bones belonged to Kosher animals, which were permitted for sacrifice. In the book of Joshua there is a detailed description of a great ceremony, which the site would seem to confirm. Other scholars are uncomfortable with the identification of Joshuaʼs alter. Not the site, but the story. In 620BC the King wanted to reform worship in Jerusalem, and it looks as though the book of Joshua was produced at this time. The scribes who supported the King and his reform, also said they had found a scroll of Godʼs teaching, which was evidently unknown until they produced it. According to the prophet Jeremiah they were faking history. Moses instructions to build the altar and what to do there, are in this book, which scholars donʼt think was written until 600 years after Joshuaʼs day. But does that mean it never happened?
Amnon Ben-Tor, excavating at Hazor, is convinced that the authors of the Bible used historical records. Thousands of ancient letters and financial records have been found in the near East, and some of them mention a Ruler of Hazor called JAVEEN? The name of the King of Hazor in the book of Joshua. But he cannot have been Joshuaʼs enemy, as he died 500 years earlier. There is also the story of Jerusalem becoming the capital city of David around 1000BC, but archaeologists say there is no trace of that city? Some scholars say that Solomon never existed, that Jerusalem was never the capital of David, and that there is no evidence of a united monarchy under David and Solomon as depicted in the Bible. And there is no reference to Davidʼs Jerusalem anywhere outside of the Bible. And the only reference to the Israelites known in Egypt. It is a record of how the Pharaoh Merenptah crushed all opposition in other lands, and it is generally dated around 1200BC, around the time when the Israelites should have been conquering Canaan. But in the Bible the Israelites were not destroyed by Pharaoh, but took over the land and created a great Kingdom ruled by King David of Jerusalem.
But archaeologist have yet to find positive evidence of Israelites in Jerusalem in the 10th Century, or indeed evidence of inhabitants in the City of David during this time.
But does a lack of evidence mean that they did not exist? John goes in search of Goliathʼs people. A few years after Merenptah said he had wiped out the Israelites, his successor, Ramses III, had to deal with a massive invasion of people from the sea. Among them were the Philistines. They ended up settling on the Canaanite coast. An excavation of Ashkelon shows the remains of the Philistines. According to the remains Ashkelon was a thriving city. They also show that the Philistines come out of the world of the Ancient Greeks, which makes sense of some things in the Bible which has seemed baffling. In the story of David and Goliath, David is not wearing armor or a helmet, but Goliath is. The Canaanites and the Israelites did not have helmets, but the Greeks did.
There is much evidence of the Philistine culture, along with bath tubs and cooking utensils, which contrasts with the lack of evidence of a population at Jerusalem. The more detail discovered about the Philistines, the more accurate the old testament seems about them, but the Bible describes the Philistines as always being in the region, when in fact they were new invaders. With these invasions many scholars have suggested that the Israelites were Canaanite refugees farming in the hills because of the upheaval on the coastal planes.
Was the existence of King David mythical? Many scholars thought so, but in 1993 veteran Israeli archaeologist Avraham Biran was excavating Tel-Dan, the old city of Dan in the far north of Israel. Here he found a basalt stone with an inscription referring to King David, written about 100 years after Davidʼs time. But with the lack of any other references to him, the question of what kind of King he was remained.
John McCarthy then goes in search of Solomon.
It Ainʼt Necessarily So
Sunday February 2 2003
Part three of a 3-part series where British journalist and former Beirut hostage John McGrath looks at the controverisal debates over the archaeology of the early history of Israel and Judah and its challenge to The Bible.
Programme 3: Solomon
Solomon built the Temple - but did he exist at all? In the third part of this startling series, John visits sites that were supposedly built by Solomon, but which some archaeologists say were built by quite different rulers. Perhaps the tiny community of Samaritans have a more accurate history.
After being unable to find evidence of life in the City of David during King Davidʼs reign, John McCarthy visits King Solomonʼs mines in search of signs of Solomon. Once he arrives though, he is told that they were not in fact, Solomonʼs mines. The age of King Solomon is recorded in the Bible as the one time when an Israelite King ruled the whole land and it was at peace. The mines were supposed to have given King Solomon his fabulous wealth. But there is no evidence of King Solomon in the area, instead there is evidence of Egyptian use during the 12th Century. But in fact the mines do not even appear in the Bible, they are just a 19th Century story. Jonathan Tubb of the British Museum states there is no evidence for King Solomon and his kingdom.
Magido is a city said in the Bible to have been re-built by Solomon. McCarthy visits the site, where structures excavated in the 30ʼs were identified as King Solomonʼs stables. Baruch Halpern informs John that the ruins probably werenʼt Solomonʼs, and that they probably werenʼt stables. One theory is that in fact the site produced opium, and there is evidence of the export of drugs from the area in that time. And the site is dated as 9th Century, around the time of Ahab. Then at Hazor they discover what appears to be a pipe.
According to the Bible King Solomon rebuilt three cities including Hazor and Magido. In the 1950ʼs an Israeli archaeologist found complex gate house in all three, and declared them King Solomonʼs gates. But the gates were built at the time of Ahab, later than Solomon. Archaeologists have yet to find evidence of Solomonʼs temple. Though the site does confirm some of the stories in the Bible relating to Ahab and Jezebel.
Amihai Mazar is searching a few miles from Magido at Tel-Rehov in attempt to find evidence of Israelites living in this area during the 10th Century. Mazar believes that pottery found at this site can be associated with the time of Solomon. But Mazar also believes that Solomon was not as great as the Bible painted him.
There is another theory proposed by the Samaritans, people who claim to be descended from the original inhabitants of Ahabʼs kingdom. The Samaritans believe that Jerusalem was not that important until after the time of Solomon, with this theory gaining academic support.
Until the discovery of the dead sea scrolls, the earliest version of the testament was a 1000 years old, but these are a thousand years older than that. Yet stories of Solomon and his temple are much earlier.
The Old Testament description of the ancient Israelites is quite different from the story now being revealed. John McCarthy concludes this series by investigating when and why the Old Testament was written. Was it connected with events that led to the destruction of Jerusalem?
In 722 BC the forces of Assyria moved south and simply removed Israel from the map. They made a note that they deported 27,290 inhabitants. The history of Israel was over. This also meant that for the first time in ancient near eastern history, the whole region is under one political control with a blending of peoples. But the kingdom of Judah did not submit, and Jerusalem was swelling with many refugees arriving. By the end of the 8th Century BC all the nations surrounding Judah vanished, with all their respective gods being cast down while the Assyrians imposed their own. After battles with Judah, all that remained was Jerusalem and their own god.
A bit more on the above book
Last But Not Least
Thereʼs the life and work of the Ancient Near Eastern archeologist, William G. Dever, son of a fundamentalist preacher. After starting his education at a small Christian liberal arts college in Tennessee he went to a Protestant theological seminary that exposed him to critical study of the Bible, a study that at first he resisted. In 1960 it was on to Harvard and a doctorate in Biblical theology. For thirty-five years he worked as an archaeologist, excavating in the Near East, and he is now professor of Near Eastern archaeology and anthropology at the University of Arizona. In his book, What Did the Bible Writers Know and When Did They Know It?, he writes, “While the Hebrew Bible in its present, heavily edited form cannot be taken at face value as history in the modern sense, it nevertheless contains much history.” He adds: “After a century of exhaustive investigation, all respectable archaeologists have given up hope of recovering any context that would make Abraham, Isaac, or Jacob credible ‘historical figures.’” He writes of archaeological investigations of Moses and the Exodus as having been “discarded as a fruitless pursuit.” He is not saying that the Biblical Moses was entirely mythical, though he does admit that “…the overwhelming archaeological evidence today of largely indigenous origins for early Israel leaves no room for an exodus from Egypt or a 40-year pilgrimage through the Sinai wilderness. A Moses-like figure may have existed somewhere in southern Transjordan in the mid-late13th century B.C., where many scholars think the Biblical traditions concerning the god Yahweh arose. But archaeology can do nothing to confirm such a figure as a historical personage, much less prove that he was the founder of later Israelite region.” About Leviticus and Numbers he writes that these are “clearly additions to the ‘pre-history’ by very late Priestly editorial hands, preoccupied with notions of ritual purity, themes of the ‘promised land,’ and other literary motifs that most modern readers will scarcely find edifying much less historical.” Dever writes that “the whole ‘Exodus-Conquest’ cycle of stories must now be set aside as largely mythical, but in the proper sense of the term ‘myth’: perhaps ‘historical fiction,‘ but tales told primarily to validate religious beliefs.”
Deverʼs conclusions about what archaeology tells us about the Bible are not very pleasing to fundamentalists or conservative Evangelicals, and I gather that Dever and his colleagues of high standing likewise dismiss fundamentalists and hard-core conservative Evangelicals who want to consider themselves scholars without accepting that which good scholars must do: engage in extensive critical analysis. Those testifying for Deverʼs book (on the back cover) are: Paul D. Hanson, Professor of Divinity and Old Testament at Harvard University; David Noel Freedman, Professor Emeritus of Biblical Studies at the University of Michigan; Philip M. King, Professor at Boston College and author of Jeremiah; William W. Hallo, Professor of Assyriology and Babylonian Literature at Yale University; and Bernhard W. Anderson, Professor of Old Testament, Boston University and Professor Emeritus at Princeton Theological Seminary. Like Dever, these are not a bunch of radical revisionists, but moderates in the field of Christian archeology. Deverʼs latest book is, Who Were the Early Israelites and Where Did They Come From?
Biblical interpreters like Holding will gain no encouragement after reading it, nor after reading Deverʼs latest work, Did God Have A Wife? Archaeology And Folk Religion In Ancient Israel.
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