A Conversation for David and Goliath - Archaeological Evidence

Archaeology and the Bible

Post 21

Giford

Hi RC,

OK, Intelligent Design first. I largely agree in principle with what you have said in you post - however, what you have said does not describe science, or the current state of biology. We can never totally rule out the possibility that there may be something beyond our understanding, and in this sense it is impossible for science ever to totally rule out the existence of God. However, the claim of ID theory is that science can provide evidence that God exists. I think, from your post, you would have to agree that that is not the case - saying 'we may make discoveries in the future which show evidence of intelligent design' is hardly the same thing as saying that we observe intelligent design in nature now.

And our understanding of biology, at least on the macroscopic level, is pretty comprehensive. In each case that I mentioned, there is a good evolutionary reason why each structure is as it is - human eyes are 'wired backwards', for example, because in the early stages of evolution there was no advantage to which way around they were. Human jaws are small because we evolved from creatures with a different jaw layout (specifically chimp-like apes), and so on.

So when we compare evolution and ID, we are comparing something that offers a comprehensive explanation for nearly every aspect of life as we observe it, and that can make testable predictions, with something that can only really say 'well, perhaps in future the evidence will point in a different direction'. It's no contest.



Yes, unintelligent design is oxymoronic - which is why (I contend that) it shows no design at all, merely natural selection.

One place I would disagree is when you say 'The intricacies of life-forms demand a design -- not a mere accidental adaptation to a well-ordered environment.' What makes you think this?



The origins of morality are interesting (and there's an interesting aside in your example, in that the Bible is specific that God hardened Pharaoh's heart, raising all sorts of questions about free will and morality if taken literally), but this is not something that archaeology can say much about. Unless you are claiming extra-Biblical evidence for what you say, we're just going to have to disagree on this. As you point out, there is no particular evidence that Judeo-Christian cultures are morally superior to other cultures, even when judged by Judeo-Christian moral standards.



So, back to chariot wheels in the Red Sea. Thanks for the refs, which make it easier to see what you are talking about. It looks like your Swedish expedition is looking at the same structures as Wyatt was. We might suspect that their failure to name the discoverer is because they are embarrassed to be associated with Wyatt, but that is just speculation. It seems clear that these do exist, and do seem to be wheels and axles. However, we also know that they were 'discovered' by a well-known charlatan and fraudster, and we have a specific allegation from his own son that he deliberately planted them to be found.

Against that must be weighed all the evidence that the Exodus did not take place:

a) It makes no sense in geopolitical terms. The Israelites are supposedly fleeing from Egypt to Canaan at a time when Canaan was part of Egypt.

b) The Biblical account claims that millions of people were involved in the Exodus at a time when the entire population of Egypt was only around 2 million.

c) The complete absence of any record of this in Egyptian writings.

d) The complete absence of any trace of the wanderings in the wilderness described in the Bible - remember that this would have been the largest city on Earth by quite some way, yet we have not a pot sherd or a camp-fire to show for it.

e) The comprehensive evidence that Josua's invasion did not happen.

To say nothing of f) - the inherently unlikely nature of the story, requiring several massive miracles. Extraordinary claims like this require extraordinary evidence, and yet we cannot even muster quite ordinary evidence to support this one.

Obviously, close study of one would be very helpful - carbon-dating would almost certainly resolve the issue - but sadly there doesn't seem to be much chance of that in the immediate future.

To summarise, no non-fundamentalist archaeologist takes this section of the Bible as being the literal truth or anything resembling it. A few find it a good metaphor for patterns of migration that were common for many centuries around this time, with semi-nomadic peoples moving into Egypt when times were good and leaving when times were bad - but no more than that.

Gif smiley - geek


Archaeology and the Bible

Post 22

Giford

Now for some of that evidence I promised on Israelite origins.

In the years since the end of the 1967 war, archaeologists have been able to comprehensively study the highlands of Israel for the first time. They discovered that around 1200BC, a large number of villages (around 50) appeared suddenly in this region. These are culturally similar to the large Canaanite coastal cities from this time. Given their number and small size (no more than 1 to 3 acres), the total highland population must have been around 45,000 at most.

These villages are very simple. They are not fortified, contain no public buildings and generally lack luxury goods of any kind. In fact, these villages bear a remarkable resemblance to modern nomadic camps, save that they have permanent dwellings rather than tents. Virtually all these sites are in locations that would have been ideal for goat-herding, but not much else.

Further studies have shown that these sites were repeatedly founded, abandoned and re-founded, with no signs of warfare (fortificatins, weapons, layers of ash).

The story that archaeologists have come to accept since the 1970s is therefore that semi-nomadic peoples settled down when times were good, then moved on when times were harder - exactly as they still do today. Steadily, they became more settled and evolved into the historical Hebrews.

Against this, we need to weigh the evidence for the invasion account - cities that are described as being invaded are frequently uninhabited at the time. Jericho, Gibeon and Ai are examples where we are confident we have the right sites, but they seem to have been uninhabited during the late Bronze Age. Even those cities that did exist and were destroyed at around this time - Bethel, Lachish and Hazor, for example - it seems more likely to have been due to wars with other Canaanite city-states; although temples were frequently destroyed along with everything else, there is no evidence of a sudden culture-change following, and nor are these events closely simultaneous (the collapse of Canaan took around a century).

The accepted consensus among archaeologists, therefore, is that the Biblical story of Josua's invasion bears no noticeable resemblance to the facts, and can be reliably dated to at least a few centuries after the date it purports to describe. It has taken nearly a century of study for this view to take hold (virtually all the early archaeologists in the region were looking for support for the Biblical view, and it took a long time for them to be convinced it was not there; for a long while, there was a 'peaceful replacement' theory, based largely on the name 'Apiru' appearing in Egyptian records and sounding a little like 'Hebrew').

The above relies heavily on the Finkelstein & Silberman book I referenced earlier, and which I really recommend to anyone with an interest in this.

Gif smiley - geek


Archaeology and the Bible

Post 23

royalrcrompton

The culture changes that occurred with the Israelite invasion would have been minimal. Israel's( Jacob )father, Abraham entered Canaan from his native Ur of the Chaldees by way of Padan Haran in northern Mesopotamia ( near Nineveh ) and adapted to the culture of the nomadic peoples. Most were herdmen. The sons of Jacob took Canaanite wives. Thus as they migrated westward to Egypt during time of famine, the people of Israel were not markedly different from the rest of the Canaanites ( even their worship degenerated to pagan idolatry).

After the 400 years in Egypt their population had risen to at least match that of the Egyptians. Various estimates put it about 2 to 2.5 million though that figure is not conclusive ( assessed by the number of soldiers over 20 capable of bearing arms see Numbers 2:32) and then extrapolated to include the older men plus women and children.

The fact that the villages in Canaan assessed after the Six-Day War attest to a simple, nomadic-like existence does not conflict with Israelite settlements. For they were nomads first and after having left Egypt, honed their skills at it for 40 years in the wilderness. They entered Canaan not because it was independent of Egypt -- but because God led them there. Because Egypt had suffered at the hands of God, it was certain that the subsequent Pharaohs were in no mood to chase the Israelites down again in order to receive another shellacking. But, of course, that is based on the Biblical record which may not square with the existing archaelogolical discoveries.


Archaeology and the Bible

Post 24

royalrcrompton

Hi Giford

As I stated in one of my last replies, the intelligent design of man is proved by his moral compass. The innate understanding of right and wrong demands a moral code -- and that of the designer.

If there is an accidental development of life such as is theorized in evolutionary thinking, there can be no morality at the time of the accidental appearance of life forms; and no morality can subsequently be developed unless a designer exists in total authority of that creation and subsequently chooses to introduce that moral code.

RJC


Archaeology and the Bible

Post 25

Giford

Hi RC,

So then who designed the designer's moral code? Do you not think that societies where theft and murder are considered wrong would be more likely to prosper than societies where they are not? If we all have a moral code given from a single designer, why do we disagree over what is moral?

Sorry, that one's a non-starter.

You're saying Israelite and Canaanite culture should be so similar that there is no difference in the archaeological record, despite 400 years of separation. Pottery styles change almost generation by generation in Palestianian archaeology, so your claim is unusual to say the least - yet even if it's correct we would still expect to see signs of conquest, layers of ash, etc, or at least a break in the correspondence from the Canaanite city-states to their Egyptian overlords. You claim that the Egyptians effectively ceded control of Canaan to the Israelites fearing another divine smackdown, but we know from archaeology that this did not happen - Egypt retained control over Canaan for another couple of centuries.

You don't seem to have understood my point on the population of Egypt. Egypt supported around 2 - 2.5 million people in total - including the Hebrews. I agree with your assessement of the Exodus figures, but if we take them Exodus literally, there would be no Egyptians left in Egypt! And yet there is no historical or archaeological trace of this in the Egyptian record.

On top of that, don't forget that cities like Jericho were unpopulated at the time that Josua is supposed to have been besieging them. It's not just that there is an absence of evidence for the Exodus, it's that there is clear evidence against it.

Gif smiley - geek


Archaeology and the Bible

Post 26

Giford

Hi RC,

Perhaps I could ask you a slightly different question:

If we did not have the Bible as a record of Palestinian history, what do you think we would think of Hebrew origins based on archaeology alone?

Gif smiley - geek


Archaeology and the Bible

Post 27

royalrcrompton

Hi Giford

Well, you do ask a good question.

Archaeology scientifically supports that which is extant evidence. Obviously there are unearthed " jewels " just waiting to be uncovered that might very well debunk or add confusion to the best drawn conclusions of known archaeological findings. This has happened in the past ( e.g. Garstang, with respect to Jericho ).

The fact that eastern Egypt, Palestine, and western Syria ( which the Bible historically deals with ) have collectively, millions of hectares of land, insists that every square foor of terrain be unearthed to a meaningful depth to be absolutely sure that the Bible is indeed, stating the truth or is a pack of lies. And that is never going to happen.

Without archaeology, we would be a lot worse off in our understanding of the ancients; but archaeology by itself can never be a final determinant for truth. It often presents specific evidence that can debunk or support existing theories and claims -- but it cannot by itself be the final arbiter.


RJC


Archaeology and the Bible

Post 28

royalrcrompton

Hi Giford

The designer's moral code is the relection of the designer's character. If we refer to this designer as the " Creator" or " God " we must acknowledge that the designer is pre-existent i.e. has no beginning or ending and is thus, the SOURCE.
In other words, before creation, there was only God as a spirit realm ( see John 1:1-3 ). That is why God spoke to Moses at the burning bush " Tell them that I AM sent you " signifying no past or future. That is why Jesus Christ, at the end of John 8, speaks to the religious rulers " Before Abraham was, I AM. " Similarly the risen Christ is referred to as the Alpha and Omega ( see Rev. 22 ).

All societies have at one time or another understood the morality of the conscience and in that recognition, have then constructed laws in accordance with the conscience's reproofs. At times, God has used the giving of a codified law to re-inforce the righteousness of His moral law in those regions where men's consciences have hardened and where certain societies have fallen into reprobacy. Those societies that have held to forms of lawlessness ( e.g. cannibals ) have, since the 19th century, been given the moral code through missionaries. All but the very isolated groups have agreeably reverted to these laws. They come to recognize the righteousness of those laws.


Archaeology and the Bible

Post 29

Giford

Hi RC,

So how much evidence would you require before we can come to tentative conclusions?

We have pretty comprehensive surveys of the Israeli highlands. People have gone out with ground radar and surveyed the whole country looking for settlements. It's possible that something's been missed, of course, but not a huge amount. This is how we can come up with estimates of the total population of the region. Our surveys of Egypt are nowhere near as comprehensive because they are mainly limited to the inhabited Nile valley, oases, coasts and Sinai; most of the rest of Egypt is virtually uninhabitable. But there we have had treasure-seekers searching for centuries; it's one of the most intensively explored countries in the world archaeologically speaking. I don't know what the situation with Syrian archaeology is.

And while it's true that science always accepts that all conclusions are tentative, and that new discoveries may come to light, that wouldn't change the fact that known discoveries contradict the Biblical record, would it?

The usual scientific standard is that any theory capable of making testable predictions is accepted. (Obviously those predictions should be unlikely if the theory is false and should be tested.) When it comes to Hebrew origins, the Bible fails this test.



It seems that you are saying that God has existed for all time and did not require a designer himself (or specifically that God's sense of morality has existed for all time without requiring a designer). If it is, as you say, possible for morality to exist without a designer, then you have refuted your original claim, which was that the existence of morality requires a designer. As I said, this one's a non-starter.

Fortunately, no society in the world lives by the OT laws. Sadly, none live by the NT laws either. If you're accept that the NT and OT laws are different, that would further undermine your claims that God has a constant moral nature.

Gif smiley - geek


Archaeology and the Bible

Post 30

royalrcrompton

Hi Giford

As for God having need of a designer, that would then no longer make Him God -- but a created, designed being such as the rest of us.

The premise of Deity is based upon pre-existence. The ability for man to fathom the pre-existent nature of God is more difficult than attempting to comprehend the breadth and depth of space. But if I may try to offer a reasonable explanation : God is now and was and is to be the mediun through which everything comes forth according to His will.

As a spirit ( John 4:23,24 ), God fills everything because his essential scope is omnipresence ( Psalm 139:7,8 ). Before anything that the universe contains was brought forth, God was alone ( personified in wisdom see Prov. 3:19 ; 8:12-31). Does it make sense? No, not certainly from any human perspective; not either from a scientific one; because there is no experiment that can prove or disprove the existence of God. That revelation is based on Scripture.

A man's belief in the God of the Bible is due solely to God making that individual aware of His personality ( John 6:44 ); the sense of His presence brought about by the conviction of sin and the awareness of the love that God has for sinners in seeing them redeemed through the atoning death of the Saviour, Jesus Christ. No man can persuade another to accept this explanation. One must discover it for himself -- and it is only by the grace of God that it can ever happen -- and all according to who He will shew mercy ( see Romans 9:13-23 )

As for archaeological tentative conclusions, we must indeed, regard them with respect; but with a view that they may not be the final determinants. The fact that archaeological teams keep going out to prove again what they supposedly have already proved seems to suggest that there are some uncertainties. I am not trying to be a smart aleck by insisting that we need to dig up the whole Middle East. Obviously that cannot be accomplished. But I am only trying to show that there may be contradictory evidence in areas only a few miles away from the sites that uphold these tentative conclusions.

I have very much enjoyed our discussion, Giford and have learned something from you. Much appreciated. I am now going to break off this " debate " and will allow you the final word of summarization which I believe, the author of the entry always richly deserves.

Sincerely

RJC


Archaeology and the Bible

Post 31

Giford

Thanks RC - and I take it as a high complement that you think I wrote the original Entry (I didn't - Big Al gets that honour).

'The fact that archaeological teams keep going out to prove again what they supposedly have already proved seems to suggest that there are some uncertainties.'

Contained in this sentence is the core of the scientific method. Nothing is considered 'proved' (though things may be 'disproved'). No matter how much evidence there is in support of a theory, science works by trying to disprove it. Failure to disprove is taken as evidence that the theory is correct - but no amount of evidence constitutes proof.

The theory that the Hebrews originated in Canaan from Canaanites has a lot of evidence to support it, and the evidence against it is weak. The theory that the Bible is literally true has comprehensive evidence against it, and that evidence will never disappear. Consequently, the Biblical account of the invasion of Canaan is never likely to be considered true by archaeologists.



Thanks for the quotes from the Bible, but my point is not that God must have had a creator - my point is that if God's sense of morality doesn't require a creator, then nor does ours. The only alternative is that God's sense of morality does require a creator - but then God is not God, so as you point out that cannot be true.

If you want an idea of how morality might have arisen without a designer, take a look at A509690 (an Entry I really, really wish I'd written).

Thanks for your time.

Gif smiley - geek


Archaeology and the Bible

Post 32

TRiG (Ireland) A dog, so bade in office

A remarkably civilised debate. Thank you, gentlemen. I've enjoyed observing.

I'd just like to correct an earlier slip of mine. It is sort-of true that the 300s to the 600s contain science, but the 300s are social science and the 400s are language. I know that biology is somewhere in the 500s (or is it all the 500s? I'm forgetting), but after that I can no longer rely on my memory. Have to check A147232 instead.

Pity it's going. It used to be an interesting party piece.

I think archaeology should be in the 900s. 940 is European history, I know. There was stacks of that at the school library. I think Middle-Eastern history is 930, but I could be wrong.

TRiG.smiley - winkeye


Archaeology and the Bible

Post 33

AgProv4

This is interesting. Hello, Researcher known in former times as AgProv here. it's worth saying that there IS geological (as opposed to archaeological) evidence out there for a Great Flood - only it happened in maybe 12,000 BC or earlier. Let me quantify this statement: of course it didn't smother the whole Earth. but for people living in the vicinity who survived - it must have felt like it. The event: at this point a tenuous land-bridge connected what we now know as Turkey with the land we now know as Greece across what we now call the Dardanelles. The Med on one side was larger; the Black Sea on the other was far smaller. One day this land bridge broke down and the Dardanelles Strait happened. The surplus of water on one side broke through and found its own equilibrium. The Med became a little smaller and the Black Sea grew an awful lot bigger. in fact there is arcaeological evidence - eveidence of human habitation has been identified on the bed of the Black Sea, where it has no business to be. Unless, a long time ago, the Black Sea was a lot smaller and these were human settlements on its coast.

The importance of this to the flood "myth"? Well, look at how central the Black Sea is. And look at the fact that every later human civilization in the Middle East, not just Israel, preserves the legend of a great world-destroying flood that happened in remote antiquity, usually explained by the God(s) getting almightily annoyed at the wickedness of humanity and deciding to drown the lot like rats in a barrel. Even Ancient Greece has one - two, in fact. (Deucalion and the other, whose name I forget for the moment).

Just thought I'd get that one in...


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