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How should Christians react to the "consensus of experts" that there was no Exodus or Conquest as recorded in the Old Testament?

To begin with, the "consensus of experts" is a consensus among secular scholars, not among conservative Christian and Jewish scholars. Christians should not blindly accept such anti-Bible pronouncements, but rather challenge them. This particular charge arises from poor scholarship on the part of secular scholars and an argument from silence. The claim that there was no Conquest is a result of the misinterpretation of archaeological data concerning Jericho and Ai.

Regarding Jericho, British archaeologist Kathleen Kenyon, who excavated the site in the 1950s, claimed the destruction of the city happened in 1550 BC, 150 years prior to the Conquest. In 1400 BC, the Biblical date of the Conquest, Kenyon claimed there was no occupation at Jericho. Since there was an apparent disagreement between archaeology and the Bible, scholars concluded that the account of the capture of Jericho described in Joshua 2–6 never happened. My research has shown that Kenyon was wrong in her dating and the destruction in fact occurred in ca. 1400 BC. Once the date is corrected, the archaeological data line up perfectly with the Biblical account: strongly fortified city (Josh. 2:5, 7, 15; 6:5, 20), attack occurred shortly after harvest in the spring (Josh. 2:6; 3:15; 5:10), siege was short (Josh. 6:15), city walls collapsed (Josh. 6:20), city not plundered (Josh. 6:17–18), city burned (Josh. 6:24), houses built against the north city wall not destroyed reminiscent of Rahab's house (Josh. 2:15–22; 6:17, 22–23) (see Bryant G. Wood, "Did the Israelites Conquer Jericho?" Biblical Archaeology Review 16.2 [1990]: 44–58).

Regarding Ai, through a series of blunders, scholars accepted the identification of et-Tell, ca. 10 mi. north of Jerusalem, as the site of Joshua’s Ai. At et-Tell, however, there was no occupation at the time of Joshua leading scholars to claim that the Biblical account in Joshua 7–8 is fictional. From 1995 to 2000, the Associates for Biblical Research, under my direction, excavated a small fortress at Khirbet el-Maqatir 1 km. (.62 mi.) west of et-Tell which meets all of the archaeological and geographical requirements for Ai set forth in Joshua 7-8: small fortress (Josh. 7:5; 8:29), occupied in the late 15th century BC (Biblical date of the Conquest), gate located on the north side (Josh. 8:11), smaller than Gibeon (Josh. 7:3; 10:2), destroyed by fire (Josh. 8:28); hill to the north suitable for a military command post (Josh. 8:11), shallow valley to the north in clear view (Josh. 8:11–14), an ambush site to the west (Josh. 8:9), east of Bethel (= El Bireh) (Josh. 7:2), near Beth Aven (= Beitin) (Josh. 7:2) (see preliminary reports by Bryant G. Wood in Israel Exploration Journal 50 [2000]:123–30, 249–54; 51 [2001]: 246–52).

Because scholars were led to believe that the accounts of Jericho and Ai were unhistorical, they declared that the Conquest as recorded in the book of Joshua, as well as the Wilderness Wandering and the Sojourn in Egypt, was a story made up to explain the origin of Israel and to give the nation a history. In order to explain how Israel came into being, archaeologists have replaced the Biblical account with their own myth that the Israelites did not come from outside, but were indigenous to the land of Canaan. The archaeological evidence, when properly interpreted by sound scholarship, demonstrates that the detailed information in the Old Testament concerning the Conquest is an eyewitness account of actual historical events.

The claim that there never was an Exodus from Egypt stems from the argument that Egyptian records do not speak of such an event. This is an argument from silence and is not based on reality. Surviving Egyptian records were, for the most part, propagandistic records carved in stone extolling the accomplishments of the Pharaohs. An event that demeaned Pharaoh would never be recorded. Writing was believed to be sacred, giving reality to the statements being recorded. If an event was not recorded, then it never happened. (See Gerald Wheeler, “Ancient Egypt’s Silence about the Exodus,” Andrews University Seminary Studies 40 [2002]: 257–64.)

Where would one expect to find these detailed Egyptian historical records that critics say do not record anything about the Exodus? The most likely place would be Rameses where the Israelites lived during the Sojourn (Gen. 47:11; Exod. 1:11) and where they left from (Exod. 12:37; Num. 33:3–5). Rameses has been excavated from the mid 1960s until the present by an Austrian expedition under the direction of Egyptologist Manfred Bietak. After more than 40 years of excavating, the Austrians have not found a single shred of a historical document from any time period, let alone detailed historical records from the time of the Exodus. The argument is fallacious.

Recommended Resources for Further Study

     
Bible and Spade
CD-ROM

100 Reasons to
Trust OT History

Second Great Batttle
of Jericho DVD

 

 

 

 

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6/4/2008 8:33 AM #

In the second paragraph you mention your data showed Kenyon to be wrong. I'm very new to archeology, I trust the Bible will always be true and will always be rpoven because it is. What data did Kenyon miss? Is it just a matter of interpretation i.e pluggin something in like the secularists start with the premise the bible is false so therefore they will get whatever outcome they want, like with the volutionist saying the world is billions or probably zillions of years old by now?
If so creationists have a way to show that the world is thousands of years, what can we do to show that these seculerists are wrong other than by saying they don't believe in the Bible so of course they are wrong?
PLease let me know and keep up the good work
Jason

Jason Prather - 6/4/2008 8:33:23 AM

6/5/2008 4:35 AM #

After driving the Hyksos out of Egypt and annihilating them at Sharuhen around 1550 BC, the Eyptians went on to conquer Canaan.  They retained control of Canaan, using the Canaanite elite as administrators, until 1141 BC when Rameses VI withdrew Egyptian troops from Canaan and Midian to put down a civil war at home.  In Canaan, the Canaanite peasants staged a relatively peaceful peasant revolt.  In Midian, the copper miners at Timna, fifteen miles north of the northernmost tip of the Gulf of Aqaba, tore down Hathor's temple and erected a tabernacle covered with red and yellow cloth made of flax and wool.  There they began the worship of a hitherto unknown invisible desert warrior god, Yahweh.  Yahweh-worship migrated to Canaan where it was adopted by Saul who made it the state religion around 1025 BC.  Because the Egyptians had been in control of Canaan from around 1550 BC to 1141 BC, there could have been no violent conquest of Canaan by israelites under the command of Joshua.  No conquest, no exodus.  No exodus, no captivity in Egypt.  There was a 400 year period of captivity but it was in Canaan, not Egypt.  Worth noting are the parallels between the fictional Moses and the real-life Saul.  Both are credited with having erected the first altar in Canaan for the worship of Yahweh . . .

Fred Glynn - 6/5/2008 4:35:34 AM

6/8/2008 1:01 PM #

A brief response to Mr. Glynn, posting from 6/4/08.

The comments include large, sweeping generalizations, and also employ the technique commonly called elephant hurling: "There is a debate tactic known as ‘elephant hurling.’ This occurs when the critic throws summary arguments about complex issues to give the impression of weighty evidence, but with an unstated presumption that a large complex of underlying ideas is true, and failing to consider opposing data, usually because they have uncritically accepted the arguments from their own side."

It is impossible to be exhaustive in this forum, however, a few points can be made here:
1. From Dr. Wood's article: www.biblearchaeology.org/.../...ical-Evidence.aspx

"Kenyon went on to associate the destruction of City IV with the expulsion of the Hyksos from Egypt in about 1570 B.C.E. But this analysis, too, has its problems. Kenyon argued that not only City IV at Jericho, but other destroyed Middle Bronze Age cities in Palestine had met their end at the hands of the Hyksos. And, if not the Hyksos, these cities were destroyed by the Egyptians in follow-up campaigns as they pursued the fleeing Hyksos whom they expelled from Egypt, where they once ruled. It makes little sense, however, for the Hyksos to destroy the very cities to which they were fleeing and in which they were seeking refuge. As for Egyptian punitive campaigns into Canaan, there is no textual evidence in Egyptian literary sources to indicate that the Egyptians went beyond Sharuhen in southwest Canaan in their pursuit of the Hyksos. Moreover, there is no evidence to suggest that the Egyptians ever campaigned in the southern Jordan Valley in the XVIIIth Dynasty, the period in Egyptian history following Hyksos rule. The Egyptian interest at this time was in the trade routes on the Mediterranean coast and the Kishon-Jezreel Valley and in points further north, not in the Jordan Valley. (see footnotes in this article for further support of this position).

2. The Merneptah Stela is dated to 1210 BC, and clearly refers to Israel in the bottom right corner, and can be found in the Cairo Museum. See: www.biblearchaeology.org/.../...renptah-Stela.aspx
And, from the Egyptologist Kenneth A. Kitchen, The Physical Text of Merenptah’s Victory Hymn [The “Israel Stela”], The Journal of the Society for the Study of Egyptian Antiquities 24 [1994]: 71–76.

3. The  Amarna Letters, quoting Dr. Wood: "The ‘apiru of the highlands of Canaan described in the Amarna Letters of the mid-14th century BC, conform to the biblical Israelites. The Canaanite kings remaining in the land wrote desperate messages to Pharaoh asking for help against the ‘apiru, who were “taking over” the lands of the king. Since the Israelites under Deborah and Barak were able to overthrow the largest city-state in Canaan in ca. 1230 BC and the Merenptah Stela indicates that Israel was the most powerful people group in Canaan in ca. 1210 BC, it stands to reason that the ‘apiru who were taking over the highlands in the previous century were none other than the Israelites. See: www.biblearchaeology.org/.../...nquest-Theory.aspx

4. Mr Glynn and other skeptics must deal with the actual evidence from Jericho and the Biblical account in the book of Joshua. See: http://www.biblearchaeology.org/faq.aspx#Faq4

5. The theory that Yahweh is a warrior god has no basis in historical fact. The evidence is clear that the Israelites worshiped Him long before the time of Saul, as the patriarchal narratives in Genesis must have been recorded during the late 3rd millennium BC and early 2nd, and subsequently passed down to Moses. See: "The Wealth and Power of the Biblical Patriarchs", by Steven Caesar, Bible and Spade Winter 2006: www.biblearchaeology.org/.../product.aspx?id=3

This is only a small sampling of the evidences mitigating against the views stated in Mr. Glynn's post. We encourage you to consider the evidence, and the wonderful truth that Yahweh, the I AM of Exodus 3:14, is in fact, Jesus, the I AM of John 8:58-- God made manifest in the flesh. And Savior to those who put their trust in Him. ---Henry Smith

hsmith - 6/8/2008 1:01:17 PM

6/8/2008 2:31 PM #

To help answer the question regarding the interpretation of the data by Kenyon... There are a couple of basic issues:

From Dr. Bryant Wood in his article, www.biblearchaeology.org/.../...ical-Evidence.aspx  

"In other words, Kenyon’s analysis was based on what was not found at Jericho rather than what was found. According to Kenyon, City IV must have been destroyed at the end of the Middle Bronze Age (c. 1550 B.C.E.) because no imported Cypriote ware – diagnostic for the ensuing Late Bronze I period – was found at Jericho.

Dating habitation levels at Jericho on the absence of exotic imported wares – which were found primarily in tombs in large urban centers – is methodologically unsound and, indeed, unacceptable."

And, "As I have already observed, during her lifetime, Kenyon never published a definitive study of the pottery from the last phases of City IV, before its destruction. The final excavation reports published after her death reflect Kenyon’s meticulous field work and contain a complete and detailed presentation of her excavation results. But they merely present the raw data, with no analysis or comment. To understand how Kenyon reached her conclusion, we must piece together scattered statements in various writings. When we do this, it becomes clear that Kenyon based her opinion almost exclusively on the absence of pottery imported from Cyprus and common to the Late Bronze I period (c. 1550-1400 B.C.E.)."

I hope this helps---Henry Smith

hsmith - 6/8/2008 2:31:57 PM

6/27/2008 2:35 AM #

in response to the question posed above, they should use discernment as all experts do not believe or follow God and have no reason to prove the Bible true.  nor do they follow God's instructions in how to live thus many are easily deceived into believing and promoting the wrong aspects of a biblical event.

i donot accept science, any field, for more than being a good tool we can use.  too often, as k.a.. kitchen and others have pointed out, too much information is lost, destroyed, eroded, changed, corrupted and the 'ex[erts' are trying to fill in the blanks without any hope of support

all of this needs to be taken into consideration as one listens to what 'experts' say plus we need to keep in mind that we are looking at events 1,900 to (for sake of argument) 7,000 years removed.  this is far too much space to accurately define anyone or thing.

then we must considered what God said, 'without faith you cannot please Him' we will never get enough evidence to prove an event for then it would destroy and contradict God's criteria. we will get enough to shore up and strengthen our faith but that is about it.

faith will always be part of the equation and it is the one ingredient that unbelievers toss out thus aiding in their distortment of history.

dr. david thiessen - 6/27/2008 2:35:39 AM

7/10/2008 10:37 PM #

You are quite correct that the Egyptians had political control of Canaan in 1400 BC and they maintained that control by means of suzerainty treaties with the kings of the local city states.  The reality of the situation, however, was that the Egyptians had very few troops and other personnel in Canaan.  They had several administrative centers in the lowlands, such as Gaza, Joppa, Megiddo and Beth Shan, but did not maintain a similar presence in the highlands.  It was in the highlands that the Israelites settled, in the area that is often referred to as the central hill country.  The areas that the Israelites could not conquer, listed in both Joshua and Judges 1, were the lowlands, the areas occupied by the Egyptians.

www.biblearchaeology.org/.../...-JoshuaJudges.aspx

Bryant Wood

hsmith - 7/10/2008 10:37:35 PM

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