Where are the Israelite Burials From the Wilderness Wanderings?

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Excerpt Some have raised the objection that Mount Sinai could not be in the Sinai Peninsula because millions of Israelites died during the Wilderness Wanderings and no graves of any of these Israelites have been discovered in the Sinai Peninsula from this period. Recently we received such an inquiry... Continue reading

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Some have raised the objection that Mount Sinai could not be in the Sinai Peninsula because millions of Israelites died during the Wilderness Wanderings and no graves of any of these Israelites have been discovered in the Sinai Peninsula from this period.  Recently we received such an inquiry at the Associates for Biblical Research (ABR) website by an anonymous individual identified only as “Curious.”

This individual states: “How can it be logical to say the Israelites wandered in the Sinai Peninsula for 40 years, and the older ones all died, and kept the younger ones very busy burying their older generation (all the millions of adults who came out of Egypt), and yet archaeology in that location never has found a single gravesite from the entire time of the wilderness wanderings?  I don't think the Sinai Peninsula is the right location for the 40 years of wanderings because there should be millions of graves there if that is where the Israelites wandered” (Italics by Gordon Franz).

Is this a valid objection to Mount Sinai being in the Sinai Peninsula?

First, we should start with the hermeneutical questions: Does the Bible interpret the archaeological finds?  Or, do the archaeological finds interpret the Bible?  In “Curious’” case, archaeology is used to interpret the Bible (see italics quote).  That is a very dangerous precedent to follow because archaeology is not an exact science and it is always changing with new excavations and new interpretations.  Views held by archaeologists today may be passé tomorrow due to new evidence.  So I would reject “Curious’” underlying presupposition.

I believe that the Bible is divine revelation and it should interpret the archaeological finds.  The Bible is clear, Mount Sinai is in the Sinai Peninsula, and so the Bible has to dictate how we interpret the archaeological finds (Har-el 1983; Rasmussen 1989:86-92; see also: Where is Mount Sinai? ).

Second, to say that there are no graves in the Sinai from the period of the Exodus / Wilderness Wanderings is very misleading.  One should first ask the question: In what archaeological period was the Wilderness Wanderings (Cohen 1983:16-39; for surveys of Sinai, see Meshel 2000)?  Does a preconceived idea of which archaeological period to look at happen to eliminate all your evidence?

Third, what kind of graves would Israelites have been buried in?  If the Israelites buried their dead in a simple trench burial in the ground, would they have even left a marker on top of the grave?  There would be no reason to mark the grave because they were heading to the Promised Land, the Land of Canaan, and not returning back to visit the graves of their ancestors as Bedouin in Sinai, the Negev, Jordan and Saudi Arabia do today, thus the markers on their graves so they can visit their ancestors!

Fourth, how do we know that most of the Israelites were even buried in Sinai?  The Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthian believers that: “But with most of them God was not pleased, for their bodies were scattered in the wilderness” (I Cor. 10:5 NKJV).  “Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered over the desert” (NIV).  One gets the distinct impression from this passage that most of the bodies were just left in the Wilderness, exposed to the elements … and the vultures, hyenas and jackals!  If that is the case, there will be very few graves at all, thus “no gravesites in Sinai” would be a dead objection.

Fifth, another possibility that should be pursued is the Hebrew practice of secondary burial.  In this practice, the dead would be buried in a cave for a year and then the bones would be gathered for “secondary burial.”  In the case of the First Temple period, the bones would be placed into a repository in the cave.  During the Second Temple period, the bones would be placed in an ossuary.  The phrase in the Bible that is connected with this practice is: “and he slept with his fathers,” or more literally, “he was gathered to his fathers.”

This practice began with the Patriarch Abraham when he bought a cave near Hebron and buried his wife Sarah in it (Gen. 23).  He was later interned there, as was his son Isaac and his wife Rebecca.  Jacob and one of his wives, Leah, were buried there as well (Gen. 49:28-33; 50:5, 13).  When Jacob died in Egypt, he wanted to be gathered to his fathers in the Promised Land.

Abraham, and later Jacob, bought plots of ground near Shechem and this was later used as a burial plot for others of their descendents, including Joseph (Gen. 33:19; cf. Acts 7:15-16).  Joseph clearly instructs the Children of Israel to rebury his bones in the Promised Land (Gen. 50:24-25; cf. Heb. 11:22; Ex. 13:19; Josh. 24:32).

The Bible places the burial of Rachel in the tribal territory of Benjamin (Gen. 48:7; I Sam. 10:2; cf. Jer. 31:15; Neh. 7:26).  Interestingly, in the territory of Benjamin, there are six or seven megalithic structures clustered together and preserve the Arabic name Qubur Bani Israil, translated “tombs of the sons of Israel” (Finkelstein and Magen 1993: 63*, 371-372, site 479; Hareuveni 1991: 64-71).

When the Wilderness Wandering narratives are examined, there are only three accounts of burials recorded.  The first is those who died of the plague at Kibroth Hattaavah [“the graves of craving”] after the LORD sent quail to their camp (Num. 11:31-34).  The second burial that is recorded is that of Miriam, the sister of Moses, at Kadesh Barnea (Num. 20:1).  The final burial is at the death of Aaron, the brother of Moses, on Mount Hor that is on the border with Edom (probably Mount Rimon, Har-el 1983:273-274).   Interestingly, in the account of Aaron’s death, there is no mention of his burial (Num. 20:23-29), but there is mention of him being “gathered to his fathers” (20:24, 26).  In the book of Deuteronomy, however, his burial is mentioned (10:6).

The fact that Aaron would be “gathered to his fathers” indicates secondary burial was practiced, at least with him, during the Wilderness Wanderings.  As was noted with the Patriarchs, their desire was to be buried in the Land of Israel (“Eretz Yisrael”).  It is a distinct possibility that the Israelites gathered the bones of their relatives who died in the Wilderness and carried them to the Promised Land and buried them in the Land of Israel (Gonen 1985: 53 [sidebar], 54 [map]).  If that is the case, there would be no graves of the Israelites in the Wilderness because they would be in Israel!

Finally, the tables should be turned on those who reject Mount Sinai and the Wilderness Wanderings in the Sinai Peninsula.  What is the nature of their “evidence” for graves at their theorized sites?  Again, the questions that need to be answered are these: (1) Where are these “Israelite” graves outside of the Sinai Peninsula?  (2) How does one know they are Israelites burials and not recent Bedouin burials?  (3) What archaeological period are you looking for the Wilderness Wanderings?  (4) What archaeological remains (if any) were excavated at these graves and are they from the period of the Wilderness Wanderings?  (5) Were these human remains carbon dated to determine the possible dates of the bones?  If so, are these dates consistent with the Biblical date for the Wilderness Wanderings?  (6) Were DNA tests done on the bones to determine the ethnic origin of those buried in these graves?  Were the DNA tests results compared to the local Bedouin in the area to see if it matched their DNA?

I think we should pursue other avenues of inquiries before we allow archaeology to interpret the Bible, thus abandoning the clear statements of Scripture and removing Mount Sinai from the Sinai Peninsula and placing it in Saudi Arabia or somewhere else.  Mount Sinai belongs in the Sinai Peninsula, right where the Bible places it!

Recommended Resources for Further Study

 

     
NIV Archaeological
Study Bible
Bible and Spade
CD ROM
Archaeology and
the Old Testament

 

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Bibliography

Cohen, Rudolph
1983 The Mysterious MB I People.  Does the Exodus Tradition in the Bible Preserve the Memory of Their Entry into Canaan?  Biblical Archaeology Review 9/4: 16-29.

Finkelstein, Israel; and Magen, Yitzhak, eds.
1993 Archaeological Survey of the Hill Country of Benjamin.  Jerusalem: Israel Antiquities Authority.

Gonen, Rivka
1985 Was the Site of the Jerusalem Temple Originally a Cemetery?  Biblical Archaeology Review 9/3: 44-55.

Har-el, Menashe
1983 The Sinai Journeys.  The Route of the Exodus.  San Diego, CA: Ridgefield Publishing Company.

Hareuveni, Nogah
1991 Desert and Shepherd in Our Biblical Heritage.  Trans. by Helen Frenkley.  Kiryat Ono: Neot Kedumim.

Meshel, Ze’ev
2000 Sinai.  Excavations and Studies.  Oxford: BAR International Series 876.

Rasmussen, Carl
1989 Zondervan NIV Atlas of the Bible.  Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

Comments Comment RSS

6/19/2009 5:39 PM #

I was trying to submit a big long comment just now, and my computer crashed.  Maybe it submitted, maybe not.  Well, to make a long story short, why do the 40 years of wanderings all have to be in the Sinai Peninsula?  Just having the mountain there does not mean the Israelites stuck close to it the whole time...or does the Bible say they did, and I'm just missing something?

Curious - 6/19/2009 5:39:28 PM

6/19/2009 6:25 PM #

That is a very, VERY interesting article.   Yes, you're right, we shouldn't use archaeology to interpret God's Word; that would be very foolish and heretical.  Sorry if I gave you that impression.  I didn't mean to imply that anything would ever trump the Scriptures!  I am a very literal Bible-believer, let me assure you.   And usually, the only English Bible I ever read is the KJV, so I was pretty shocked to see that the quote from the NKJV is so drastically different (I Cor 10:5)...Sorry, I don't trust the NKJV's translators;I have often noticed they deviate badly from the Textus Receptus.  But lay that aside...The possibility of the Hebrews lugging the whole lot of their parents' bones all the way to Israel for burial does not seem like too much of a stretch, no matter where they wandered--Sinai Peninsula, Saudi Arabia, or anywhere else.  I could buy that notion more than the jackal idea.  In fact, if "Qubur Bani Israil" which you mentioned turns out to be the graves of the people who died in the wilderness, based on some amazing future archaeological studies, that would be wonderful.  On the other hand, it is unlikely the Israelites would have left their parents' bodies where they knew jackals would get them; that would go against all respect for parents, and the only argument you present for that is a verse from some Bible versions I don't trust.  HOWEVER, as I said, I'll put that aside!  My MAIN point is, I just don't see why the 40 years of wanderings have to be in the same general location as Mt. Sinai itself.  Forty years is a long time, plenty of time to get a long, long way from Mt. Sinai.  I never argued that Mt. Sinai itself wasn't in the Sinai Peninsula.  You have made a reasonably good case from the Bible for that location, it seems to me.  I just don't see why the 40 years of wanderings have to be there.   Am I just missing something in the Bible which says the Israelites hung around right near Mt. Sinai most of the time?   Overall, you have got me probably more than 30% convinced, which is pretty good for such a hard-headed (yes, I admit it) character as me.  Thanks for taking me seriously...that means a lot to me.  

Curious - 6/19/2009 6:25:21 PM

6/20/2009 3:01 AM #

Dear Curious,

You are welcome!

Gordon Franz

Gordon Franz - 6/20/2009 3:01:06 AM

6/20/2009 5:05 PM #

How could Noah's 3 sons populate the world in 3 generations.Nimrod was Ham's grandson.How could there be enough people to live in all the cities Nimrod built?

Erma Losser - 6/20/2009 5:05:05 PM

6/20/2009 5:55 PM #

There were not Millions of Israelites in the exile from Egpyt . The bible says 600,000 men. That is an error. men ,women and children would be about 1.8 million people.70 people could not grow to 1.8 million people in 430 years. the word eleph in Ex. 12 :37 did not mean thousand, it meant "families or tent groups". That be 600 hundred families = about 3,600 or 4,000 people. The word "eleph" eventually came to mean "thousand".See  Strong' s Hebrew Dictionary  word number 505.

Erma Losser - 6/20/2009 5:55:56 PM

3/22/2010 4:43 PM #

Erma - some people hold that view based on Exodus. However, by the time you read the census in Numbers, that approach falls apart, as the math simply doesn't support "600 families". Moses really did mean 600,000 men.

By the way, if you do the math, you'll see that if each of the 70 men that traveled to Egypt had 10 sons each, and this pattern continued, you would have over 1,000,000 men in just a few generations. Easily do-able in 430 years.  And that doesn't include the Egyptians that joined the Jews for the Exodus. If 10 sons sounds like a lot, recall that Abraham had 8, Ishmael and Jacob both had 12, and the Bible states that the Children of Israel had so many offspring that the Egyptians were worried. In that light, 10 is not extreme at all. We don't even need to consider extremes like Josephus' statement about 33 sons for Adam.

6,000 families is hardly worthy of worry, wouldn't you say?
600,000 men, on the other hand, and you've got a small army.

Tim Foster - 3/22/2010 4:43:18 PM

4/22/2010 12:31 PM #

Apologies, Erma, but the Hebrew word Elef does mean a thousand. The reference in Judges 6 v 15 where Gideon says that he is the least of his family (Hebrew Alfi) literally means that he is the least of his company of one thousand who is united under a single leader, i.e. tribe. Reference this with Exodus 18 v 21: '... and appoint them as officials over thousands (Hebrew Alfalim, stem Elef), hundreds, fifties and tens.' Also Exodus 18 v 25: '... and made them leaders of the people, officials over thousands (Hebrew Alfalim, stem Elef), hundreds, fifties and tens.' The use of the word leader over a thousand is consistent with the interpretation of Alfi in Judges 6 v 15 as meaning a unit of one thousand united under a single leader.

Pace The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon and the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia.

Roche Myburgh - 4/22/2010 12:31:21 PM

4/22/2010 12:47 PM #

A question for the author, if he still reads the responses. How do you account for the fact that archaeology shows that none of the cities which the Israelites conquered and destroyed show any signs of having been destroyed at the time which the conquest is supposed to have taken place? If the exodus is true, as you argue, then why do the cities mentioned not show any signs of having been destroyed within the same period of time?

Also, there is no indication that the areas which the Israelites conquered showed a dramatic change in cultural practice? The cities which the Israelites conquered show clearly that there was no interruption in cultural practices, including religious worship. And why does the Bible claim that Jerusalem was conquered and also not conquered? That is not precisely exact. You recommend that readers be aware that archaeology is not an exact science, but the Bible shows no evidence of an attempt to be exact either. Why should we be suspicious of inexact archaeology, but have no qualms about accepting the inexact Bible?

And why is it that the cities which the Israelites supposedly conquered match exactly the area which king Josiah earmarked for inclusion into Judah after the fall of the northern kingdom of Israel?

Surely the fact that the conquest narrative cannot be supported through archaeology makes it a moot point to prove that the exodus really happened as both are part of the same event.

I would be interested to hear your comments and references that you can provide.

Roche Myburgh - 4/22/2010 12:47:20 PM

4/22/2010 2:28 PM #

Dear Mr. Myburgh,

Thanks for posting your comments here on the ABR website.

I must tell you that you do seem to know alot of things that simply are not true about the Conquest of Canaan. I wish you were not just parroting old-hat, sweeping generalizations still uncritically accepted by many scholars in archaeological studies.

You state: "Surely the fact that the conquest narrative cannot be supported through archaeology makes it a moot point to prove that the exodus really happened as both are part of the same event."

The history of 40 years of ABR has been spent showing why your comments are incorrect. I would point you to the section on Exodus-Conquest to the variety of materials we have produced over that time. We have corrected the scholarly blunders pertaining to Jericho and Ai, conducting our own investigation into correcting the problems with the identification of Ai at et-Tell.

I would point you these articles in particular:

www.biblearchaeology.org/.../Israels-Origins.aspx

www.biblearchaeology.org/.../...Judges-Period.aspx

www.biblearchaeology.org/.../...est-of-Canaan.aspx

www.biblearchaeology.org/.../...nquest-Theory.aspx

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

On the Scholarly Blunders Pertaining to Ai and our work to correct those errors and find the correct site:

www.biblearchaeology.org/.../...blical-Bethel.aspx

www.biblearchaeology.org/.../...l-at-El-Bireh.aspx

www.biblearchaeology.org/file.axd

www.biblearchaeology.org/.../...e-2009-Season.aspx

www.biblearchaeology.org/.../...nt-Jar-Burial.aspx

On The Errors by Kathleen Kenyon at Jericho:

www.biblearchaeology.org/.../...ical-Evidence.aspx

www.biblearchaeology.org/.../...ls-of-Jericho.aspx

www.biblearchaeology.org/.../...ng-at-Jericho.aspx

www.biblearchaeology.org/.../...ove-the-Bible.aspx

I know that this is alot of material...so it would take a considerable amount of time for you to read. However, we have done our homework and it requires this level of effort to show the errors most scholars have made pertaining to the Conquest of Canaan.

The Bible is correct in every statement that it makes, and archaeology supports that assertion. The error is not with the Bible, but with wishy washy Christian scholars and unbelieving scholars who have an axe to grind, even if they don't admit it.

I realize this requires an entire and dramatic turning from what you have been told and taught about Biblical history, but that it the nature of truth. The Bible is an unbreakable anvil, against which all falsity and philosophies of sinful man shatter. It is far wiser to submit to its truth and Gospel message, than beat on it with vanity and fruitlessness.

May you come to know its truth and its author, the Son of God, Christ Jesus.

Sincerely,

Henry B. Smith Jr.

ABR - 4/22/2010 2:28:42 PM

4/22/2010 2:32 PM #

Concerning the meaning of the Hebrew term eleph:

www.biblearchaeology.org/.../...in-the-Exodus.aspx

At the heart of the issue is the meaning of the Hebrew word eleph.  It is usually translated “thousand,” but has a complex semantic history.  The word is etymologically connected with “head of cattle,” like the letter aleph, implying that the term was originally applied to the village or population unit in a pastoral-agricultural society.  From that it came to mean the quota supplied by one village or “clan” (Hebrew Mišpasha) for the military muster (Malamat 1967: 135).  Originally the contingent was quite small, five to fourteen men in the quota lists of Numbers 1 and 26, as shown by Mendenhall (1958).  Finally the word became a technical term for a military unit of considerable size, which together with the use of the same word for the number 1,000 has tended to obscure its broader semantic range.  See also Humphreys 1998 and 2000.

Humphreys, Colin J.
1998  The Number of People in the Exodus from Egypt: Decoding the Very Large Numbers in Numbers I and XXVI.  Vetus Testamentum 48: 196–213.
2000  The Numbers in the Exodus from Egypt: A Further Appraisal. Vetus Testamentum 50: 323–28.

Mendenhall, George E.
1958 The Census Lists of Numbers 1 and 26.  Journal of Biblical Literature 77: 52–66.

ABR - 4/22/2010 2:32:10 PM

4/22/2010 6:04 PM #

Dear Mr Smith,

Thank you for your speedy reply and ample references. I will certainly work my way through it, although, I should point out that the sources I rely on for my information are, with rare exceptions, all published post 2000. I find it unlikely that the likes of Lester Grabbe, Richard Hess, Israel Finkelstein, Amihai Mazar, Richard Horsley, Paul Davies, Joseph Blenkinsopp and Karel van der Toorn, to mention a very few, will all still in the first decade of the 21st century be publishing findings which have been refuted decades earlier. From my own experience of teaching in the field, that is not how things work. However, be that as it may, I would like to raise a few questions regarding the claim that the Bible is correct in every statement that it makes.

It is a statement which, in view of the Biblical text, is clearly unsustainable. Consider Genesis 1 and Genesis 2, are you implying that both versions of creation are true, even though in Genesis 1 man and woman are created together after the animals, whereas in Genesis 2 man is created before the animals but the woman is only created at the end. These two versions cannot both be accurate as they do not correspond. That would seem to undermine the claim that every statement in the Bible is true. Also, how can we determine which version is true?

In 2 Samuel 24 v 1 it says that God became angry with Israel and he commanded David to conduct a census, the NIV Bible reads: 'Again the anger of the LORD burned against Israel, and he incited David against them, saying, "Go and take a census of Israel and Judah'. This is clearly god talking to David . However, in 1 Chronicles 21 v 1 it is the Devil who incites David to conduct the census and there is no mention of the anger of God or God talking to David about the census.  Why the different versions?

Joshua 15 v 63 states that the people of Judah could not drive the Jebusites from Jerusalem and had to share the city with them 'to this day'. However, Judges 1 v 8 says that the people of Judah conquered Jerusalem and burnt it to the ground. 13 verses later, Judges 1 v 21, it is no longer the people of Judah who fought against the Jebusites, it is now the Benjaminites, and they too couldn't drive the Jebusites out and so shared Jerusalem with them 'to this day'. So, using archaeology, was Jerusalem conquered, or not? If so, was it conquered and occupied by the people of Judah, or by the Benjaminites? And, if it was conquered, does the Bible also say that it wasn't? Why does the Bible have three different versions of this event, none of which correspond?

And lastly, which Bible is true? The canonical (Masoretic) Hebrew text has 1 Samuel 13 v 1 reading as: Saul was a year old when he began to reign, and he reigned two years over Israel.' It is not necessary to point out that that is hardly something which can be reconciled with Saul's feats on the battlefield, and it is unimaginable that a 3 year old will have the mental or physical abilities to commit suicide by falling onto his own sword. Clearly, this is a challenge for the idea that every statement in the Bible is true. Greek translations based on the earliest Hebrew texts omit this verse completely, for obvious reasons. We know therefore that the Masoretic text does not contain a later error, if that had been the case, the Greek texts would not have left the verse out, and would have had a more realistic age. The Syriac Peshitta, which is also a fairly early Hebrew text, has Saul aged 21, and leaves out the years of his reign. In the English translations, the King James version is true to the Masoretic text, whereas the Jewish Publication society, which generally follows the Masoretic text, leaves out Saul's age. The New American Standard Bible has Saul aged 30 and reigning for 42 years. Young's Literal Translation reads, somewhat laboriously, but in agreement with the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia, 'A son of a year [is] Saul in his reigning, yea, two years he hath reigned over Israel,'. So, which Bible has Saul's age wrong, and how can you demonstrate that?

All references to English Bibles used can be accessed at www.biblegateway.com, and an electronic version of the the Hebrew Westminster Leningrad Codex is also available there. It is worth noting that the Westminster Leningrad Codex reads Saul's age as one year and his reign as two years.

Again, I would be most interested in your comments about the above.

Roche Myburgh - 4/22/2010 6:04:09 PM

4/22/2010 8:02 PM #

Dear Mr. Myburgh,

Thanks for your reply. I must confess up front, by the nature of your response, I doubt that my providing answers to your objections will lead to a serious change of mind. I suspect that it will lead to more red herrings and excuses to impugn the Bible so its spiritual message can be avoided.

Very often, we find these so-called objections to be shallow, or the objector has never seriously read material by Christian scholars that show that the objections are ill-founded. Most of the time, the person is just interested in throwing out more so-called objections for the purpose of continuing to prolong a debate in which they have no true intent to have their mind changed. I suspect you fit in this category, to be frank, but I shall endeavor to at least touch on a couple items herein. Based on your reply, I can interact with my colleagues and other resources about the questions you have asked which I don't address in this post.

Your methodology of only using post-2000 references is arbitrary and biased. For example, pertaining to Ai, scholars have blindly accepted the pronouncements of the past (starting with Albright), and have not taken the time to see the probems with the research that led to their erroneous conclusions.  Therefore, no secular scholars that we know of have even taken the time to QUESTION the identification of Ai at et-Tell for the past couple of decades. Only ABR has done any serious work on the matter. You must go back quite far to reconstruct the reasons why et-Tell was identified as Ai, and ALL of this pre-dates 2000.

The same goes with Jericho. Since Kenyon's errors in the 1950's and blind acceptance by the academic community that the Bible was wrong, only Dr. Wood of ABR has taken the serious time necessary to re-examine her work and John Garstang's work from Jericho. To do this, he had to go back several decades to look at all the reports, study the pottery, read the history, etc. This was an enormous undertaking, one which few, if any, scholars have truly done with Jericho. He discovered that Kenyon was wrong in her conclusions, far a long list of detailed and logical reasons...wrong to a point of being sloppy. How can one limit oneself to only scholarship of the last 10 years and be serious about discovering the truth?

Second, the secular scholars are not neutral, no one is. The serious work we have done at ABR has shown, without question, that the scholars of the past made a series of blunders pertaining to Bethel, Beth-Aven, and Ai. They have, by and large, done NOTHING to reevaluate their assumptions on the subject. Finkelstein, for example, is not the neutral observer he always claims he is. EVERYONE is practicing philosophy in their work.  Further, listing a series of esteemed authority figures is not a scientific argument. Finkelstein's false neutrality is an attack upon the Bible, because the Bible makes philosophical claims about the nature of reality and about the history of Israel that Finkelstein blatantly denies.

This is a great article by Dr. Wood about these unscientific practices in archaeology, which include appeal to human authority, appealing to esteemed authority figures, arguments from silence, and received knowledge not personally investigated:

www.biblearchaeology.org/.../...vidence-Speak.aspx

The argument about Genesis 1 and 2 is old-hat, based in part on the erroneous and anti-supernaturally biased JEDP hypothesis. The Genesis 1 narrative is a simply, factual presentation of the works of God during the creation week. Genesis 2 focuses on particular aspects of that narrative, particularly the creation of Adam and Eve on day 6 and a focus on events leading up to the Fall.

Hebrew expert Umberto Cassuto explains that this is common in Hebrew writing of history: "first state the general proposition and then specify the particulars", and Genesis 2:4 is:

"a brief, general outline...an account of the making of one of the creatures of the material world, and the second at length and in detail, as the story of creation of the CENTRAL BEINGS of the moral world..such a repetition was consonant with the stylistic principle of presenting first a general statement and thereafter the detailed elaboration, which is commonly found not only in Biblical literature but also in the literary works of the rest of the Ancient Near East." From Adam to Noah: A Commentary on the Book of Genesis I- VI (Pt. 1) by Umberto Cassuto, pg. 20,91 (1961).

See also: http://www.tektonics.org/jedp/creationtwo.html

Pertaining to the Biblical MSS, you are conflating the Biblical doctrine of INSPIRATION with the preservation of MSS. Inspiration, strictly speaking, refers to the Holy Spirit inspiring Moses, Paul, etc. to write the original Biblical text. The subsequent copies are not inspired texts, per se. They are copies of the inspired text, and the copying of the texts was not an infallible process. There are clearly MSS that contain errors.

The answer to the Saul question lies with several things: a. a detailed analysis of all the MSS in question. b. The bearing of other Biblical data on the subject.

You are obviously correct in eliminating the MSS that report his age of 1 or 3. The scribes who recorded those ages clearly made mistakes. But it does not necessarily follow (a fallacious non-sequitur) that the ORIGINAL writer made a mistake, nor does it mean that the correct age does not appear in our current MSS. The science of Textual Criticism, and the bearing of other Biblical data on the issue at hand can help reveal which MSS faithfully represents the original. This process is done with ALL ancient writings.

The detailed study of subsequent MSS copied over many centuries is an attempt to reconstruct the original text. To the degree that MSS reflect the original text, the MSS communicate the original words given by God to the human writer. To that extent, they are the Word of God. The study of MSS shows, beyond question, that we have a very high degree of correctness in our hands today. There is no reason to doubt this. To doubt it is to doubt every single MSS of any other book from the ancient world. Have you used your own erroneous criteria to evaluate other ancient works, or only the Bible?

This is well stated in the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy:

Article X.

WE AFFIRM  that inspiration, strictly speaking, applies only to the autographic text of Scripture, which in the providence of God can be ascertained from available manuscripts with great accuracy. We further affirm that copies and translations of Scripture are the Word of God to the extent that they faithfully represent the original.

WE DENY  that any essential element of the Christian faith is affected by the absence of the autographs. We further deny that this absence renders the assertion of Biblical inerrancy invalid or irrelevant.

These two basic pamphlets provide answers to these misconceptions about the transmission of the Bible:

www.biblearchaeology.org/.../product.aspx?id=79
www.biblearchaeology.org/.../product.aspx?id=78

And this book: www.biblearchaeology.org/.../product.aspx?id=8

For the NT, i refer you to: J. Harold Greenlee, The Text of the NT: From Manuscript to Modern Edition, Hendrickson Publishers, 2008.

I leave you with this challenge... read EVERY ARTICLE IN DETAIL that I mentioned before. After doing so, articulate for yourself your own detailed reasons why our arguments and evidence are not sound. But don't just quote esteemed authority figures who, for the most part, have not done their homework on these particular subjects. "Finkelstein says so" is not an argument against our work.

I hope you will seriously consider and come to accept that the Bible is without error, and its message is absolutely trustworthy.

Sincerely,

Henry B. Smith Jr.

ABR - 4/22/2010 8:02:27 PM

4/24/2010 10:31 AM #

Mr Smith,

You have had bad experiences in the past discussing the Bible, haven't you? I'm sorry to hear that, but one can criticise the Bible without impugning it, and I seriously doubt that one can really understand it properly unless one looks at it critically. I am not sure whether you have read Professor of Philosophy Keith Ward's book, The Word of God, in which he, in the introduction, explains that one cannot seriously consider oneself equipped to interpret the Bible today if one does not take into consideration the results of critical biblical scholarship. I doubt very seriously that Ward was equating critical scholarship with impugning. I do not therefore see the basis for your suspicion other than your own preconceived notions, which I think, in both our cases, should be set aside. I too have had bad experiences with people of a religious conviction, but I am not going to colour you with the same brush for reasons which are sufficiently obvious as to preclude itself from being mentioned.

As we are discussing several different issues at the same time, I am going to post the link for the relevant article at the beginning of my post and give it a number to distinguish it from the rest. If you can refer to that number in your response, I think it will make it easier for the conversation to remain focused.

Before proceeding with my first response, I would also like to clarify one further point. Far from being arbitrary or biased, my choice to accumulate books ante dating 2000 is to draw your attention to the fact that my sources are recent publications. There is a simple truth involved in this. Recent publications are informed by prior publications, that is, they deal with previous research. In contrast to this, prior publications are not informed by recent publications, that is, they do not deal with recent discoveries. It is hardly biased and it certainly is not arbitrary. Hence, my sources may be recent, but that does not mean that I am unaware of what has been published or suggested previously. And, contrary to what you are assuming, your reponses and references have so far been of tremendous help to me. I am sure that you are aware that in scientific thinking, ideas are accepted as true if they resist falsification. I cannot very well see whether your ideas resist falsification if I do not query it. I am sure you can appreciate that. I trust that clears up the misconception. Now, back to the real issues.

Roche Myburgh - 4/24/2010 10:31:57 AM

4/24/2010 11:38 AM #

(1) http://www.tektonics.org/jedp/creationtwo.html

First of all, I would like to concede two points with regards to Genesis 1 and 2. Genesis 2 is indeed a different type of creation account from Genesis 1. And, the Hebew words used to describe plants in Genesis 1 and 2 are not the same, hence, it can be conceded on that basis that they can be taken to refer to different types of plant. However, I don't think it can be taken as conclusive proof that they are complimentary and not alternative versions or interpretations of the same event. But, be that as it may, we don't really know what the author(s) had in mind when they wrote it. The article does argue that Genesis 2 v 4-5 refers to plants of the field, and then asks 'what field?'. Indeed, what field? If, as the article suggests, it refers to plants which are of an agricultural nature, then it does beg one question. Do agricultural plants only grow when planted by humans, or can they also grow naturally in the wild without being tended by humans? It will be a somewhat laborious point to pursue in order to try and demonstrate that agricultural plants can also grow without human cultivation, which would lead us to ask whether the author intended to portray agrigultural plants as being found only in pieces of land cultivated by humans. I am assuming, that as a literalist, you will probably counter by saying that it is irrelevant whether those plants also grow in the wild, because, as is stated by the article, what is at issue is that they were created by God for agricultural purposes when the Garden of Eden was created. What is obvious is that the account of Genesis 2 is intending for us to accept that agricultural plants 'of the field' did not exist prior to the creation of man. That would, however, be a point which I cannot concede. It is dependent on accepting the creation accounts as true, and at the moment, that is not established. Using the reference to the different Hebrew words used to describe the various plant types then, in my opinion, can't be used to argue that the two accounts supplement each other, rather than that they are alternative accounts, because the different uses do not as a matter of fact establish that Genesis 2 is the result of a deliberate attempt to expand on Genesis 1.

If you can resolve the above, then, as the article suggest, the following problem can be avoided as well. Again, let me start with a concession. The use of the pluperfect instead of the simple past tense is certainly a possibility in my opinion. However, so is the use of the simple past tense. I think it can be both, not either or. However, I think that a preference for one over the other is determined more by intent than actual grammatical dictates. As it is inconsequential to me what the outcome is, I am not going to argue for one or the other. It is, in my opinion, sufficient that the pluperfect is not THE required rendition. The reference to the complicated nature of the waw consecutive is also not inaccurate, so that is not a point which I am going to contest. However, the fact that there are various usages of the waw consecutive in the Old Testament, which serves to prove that it is not solely used to indicate succession is not sufficient to demonstrate that this is in fact the case in Genesis 2.

What is of greater concern to me is the explanation for the time difference between the creation of man and woman. Given the extraordinary depths the article goes to in order to explain why the different descriptions of plants, and the different descriptions of the formation of animals and birds should be seen as complimentary to each other and not contradictory, I find the explanation for the differences in the creation of man and woman somewhat flat. It simply says, 'the last phrase of Gen. 1:27 refers to an event that takes place chronologically much later than the first phrase.' Based on what? If we take the NIV translation and divide it into three phrases marking each phrase numerically:

1. So God created (Hebrew vayivra) man in his own image,
2. in the image of God he created (Hebrew bara) him;
3. male and female he created (Hebrew bara) them.

It is not the third phrase which is chronologically later, it is both phrases 2 and 3, given that in both instances the verb is in the same tense, whereas in phrase 1 it is a different tense. Why are we given to believe that in two phrases where the verbs are in the same tense, one of those relates to the verb in the different tense in phrase 1, but not the other? Especially, in view of the fact that the hebrew word adam, can also be translated as mankind, which does not refer to man only. In fact, the Brown Driver Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon lists Genesis 1 v 26 as God referring to mankind, not man. Why then should we consider Genesis 1 v 27 (Phrase 1 above) to refer to man, and not mankind as in v 26, and so draw the conclusion that phrase 3 is chronologically later than phrase 2, despite the fact that the same verb in both phrases is in the same tense in both phrases?

I look forward to your response.

Regards,

Roche

Roche Myburgh - 4/24/2010 11:38:36 AM

4/24/2010 4:01 PM #

Dear Roche, RE: 4/24/2010 9:31 AM post

Thanks for your thoughtful reply.

You seem to be a person that can handle straight talk, which I appreciate. So, I will give you some, not with bitterness or anger, but with concern over the position you are taking with respect to the Bible.

Simply stated, you have unwittingly adopted a self-deceiving philosophy that sets yourself up as a supposed arbiter of neutrality. The supposed position of neutrality is already biased against the Bible right from the start.

I must confess you are more sophisticated skeptic than most. In fact, you are a self-deceived skeptic, convincing yourself that your supposed neutrality makes you a fair evaluator of the "facts". But, although you communicate rather well, have obviously done some good study and seem to have some good background, and are trying to show yourself to be a neutral pursuer of the facts, neutrality is not possible. In fact, the claim of neutrality is a bias that ALREADY presupposes against the Bible's status as the Word of God. Declared neutrality is a declaration AGAINST the authority of what God has spoken in His revelation. Let me explain why...

When you approach the Bible with the idea that it may or may not be correct, you already presuppose that it could be a human document written by the hands of men, and with errors. To presuppose that the Bible may not be what it claims to be it to say that HUMAN REASON is the final arbiter of truth. That human reason stand OVER AND ABOVE the Bible. That human reason is the master that stands over the words that God has declared.

This is completely antithetical to the claims the Bible makes about human reason and the authority of God. Human reason is a tool that God has given man, a reflection of His own infinite and perfect intellect. But it was never intended to be a master. Human reason is a tool, not an authority. Man is more than a reasoner. He is an image bearer, and is a spiritual being as well. He was made for God's purposes, not his own.

Second, human reason is fallen because of sin. Human reason has now become a tool that man uses to militate against God and His revelation. (Romans 1:18-32). Often, this is carried out in an unwitting fashion, such as the neutrality you are trying to operate in. When human reason claims a status above Scripture, that human reason can be the final judge as to whether the Bible is the Word of God, it already presupposes against Scripture's authority, and is, in fact, rebellion against God.

Romans 8:7 is very clear in this regard: "the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so."

And, I Corinthians 2:14: "The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God [i.e. THE BIBLE], for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned."

Third, the Bible is clear that YOU ALREADY KNOW GOD. And not just any old god, but the God of the Bible. Romans 1:18-20 states clearly: "since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20  For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.
21  For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened."

Your approach to the Bible presupposes against knowledge you already possess as an image bearer. The approach you are taking is a position of sophisticated skepticism, couched in false neutrality, and is, hence, rebellion.

Looking at the Bible "critically", as you say, is not a neutral proposition either. I do not define "critically" the same way you define it. You seem to define it as essentially a study that may or may not reveal errors and contradictions, which presupposes that it is not from God, but from men. "Critically" means accepting the underlying secular and anti-supernatural philosophy that undergirds that so-called criticism. This is to already presuppose against the Bible's authorship claims right from the start. Critical scholarship IMPUGNS right from the start.

When a Christian studies the Bible "critically", he studies it NOT to impugn, rather, to discover the riches and majesty of the divine oracles which God has graciously given to men. He studies it to be edified in his mind and his soul. He studies it to defend it against the attacks of fallible, sinful, rebellious men. He studies it because its beauty and majesty is worthy of man's attention and intellectual pursuit. He studies it as an act of worship. He studies it to be better equipped to share the message of the Gospel. He studies it because it is the very words of God Himself.

And, when the Christian runs into a supposed error, supposed contradiction or supposed problem, he faithfully studies and pursues that issue as far as he can. He works to discover if there are solutions that a fallible mind can comprehend. If able, he studies Hebrew, Greek, archaeology and the like. BUT, most importantly, when he comes to the end of his finite, fallible, sinful reason, he SUBMITS. He submits because God has spoken. And when God speaks, He is always correct. When God speaks, He speaks with infinite knowledge behind His words. He speaks correctly and with authority. The Christian attitude toward Scripture is completely at odds with yours, as stated in the WCF 1:4-5;

4. The authority of the Holy Scripture, because of which it ought to be believed and obeyed, does not depend upon the testimony of any man or church, but entirely upon God, its author (who is truth itself); therefore it is to be received, because it is the Word of God.

5. We may be moved and induced by the testimony of the church to a high and reverent esteem for the Holy Scripture. The heavenly character of its content, the efficacy of its doctrine, the majesty of its style, the agreement of all its parts, the scope of the whole (which is to give all glory to God), the full disclosure it makes of the only way of man's salvation, its many other incomparable excellencies, and its entire perfection, are arguments by which it gives abundant evidence that it is the Word of God. Nevertheless, our full persuasion and assurance of its infallible truth and divine authority is from the inward work of the Holy Spirit bearing witness by and with the Word in our hearts.

This is hardly the position you are taking. Neutral arbiters often have keen minds (a gift from God), but their reason is used as a tool for rebellion, not worship. When faced with facts that resolve the alleged difficulties, they often move onto more alleged difficulties, often ad infinitum.

Though you seem to deny it, you are already revealing a propensity toward that in examining Genesis 1-2. Our experience here at ABR is that critics rarely stop to consider the pervasive anti-God philosophy that informs their position, or the evidential arguments from archaeology that support the historical reliability of the Bible. They throw out one objection after another, and when those objections are answered, the answer is tossed behind them into an infinite abyss of unbelief, followed by more erroneous objections.

Your reference to Mr. Ward is telling. It is a sweeping philosophical statement which I do not accept. Not because so-called critical scholarship does not provide some good information at a low level (linguistics, etc.), but because critical scholarship has an underlying anti-supernatural bias, a bias that presupposes that sinful, fallen, rebellious and fallible men can stand over the Living God's Words of Truth. A bias that presupposes human authorship of the Bible, most notably the underlying philosophical assumptions of the JEDP hypothesis.

Your note in your second post that Genesis 1-2 may have authorS reveals your stripes. The Bible is clear that MOSES is the author/compiler of Genesis, whether he received it by direct revelation from God or from written documents passed down through the patriarchs. The NT testifies to this truth over 60 different times. But so called critical scholarship DENIES this. They often deny that Moses even existed. There is no neutrality here. There is complete, absolute, bias AGAINST the Christian position, particular the statements made by Jesus Himself concerning Moses.

So, while I am glad to attempt to discuss your detailed points and study of the Biblical text, I want to make it clear that we are standing on different ground. Unbeknownst to you, you have asked me to leave my ground and step into this supposed neutral territory whereby we will both together try to discover the truth of the matter. But stepping into this arena is, in essence, an acceptance of your underlying and unstated philosophical assumptions, such as the proclamations of so-called critical scholarship. I cannot join you in your pursuit, per se, because your underlying assumptions are all incorrect.

Even more fundamental is what you are taking for granted in this dialogue. The efficacy of human language, the regularity and dependability of physical laws which allow our computers, email, and internet to function, the ability to reason and argue, the assumptions that our minds can comprehend what is being written, the ability of our minds to connect with the phenomenon of the outside world, etc.

I ask you to examine those assumptions. How can physical laws even exist in a universe without God? How can you trust those laws unless they were made by a personal, infinite being, who is both transcendent and imminent, and continue to be upheld by His infinite power? How could you even trust the veracity of your own thoughts and reasoning process if this were a chance, random universe? You presuppose the existence of God in everything you do, even as you rebel against Him!

Through this dialogue, you have proven the existence of the God of the Bible. Congratulations!

Unless you are willing to tear off your mask of unbelief (which is admittedly most difficult), or, step onto, at least for the sake of argument, the foundational Biblical philosophy where we stand, we will likely go round and round in circles. The ground upon which you stand is nothing but sand. And your ability to live, breathe, and reason is only because God is making it so.

I shall endeavor to provide you with some further thoughts on the details of Genesis 1-2. Umberto Cassuto deals with the vegetation issue and chronology of Genesis 2:4-5 vs. Genesis 1 in detail in the book I referenced previously.

I hope you will seriously examine what I have said. I say it not to berate, criticize or impugn. I say it to tell you the truth, so that you may personally come to know the Living God revealed in the Bible, and the Gospel of His Son.

Blessings,

Henry

ABR - 4/24/2010 4:01:16 PM

4/24/2010 4:03 PM #

Genesis 2:5 and 3:18. "Now no thorns of the field were yet in the earth and no grain of the field had yet sprung up, for the LORD God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was no man to till the ground."  Cassuto comments: "The narrative begins with a description of the conditions existing prior to the creation of man. There was no siah of the field yet, and the 'esebh of the field had not yet sprung up...What is meant by the siah of the field and the 'esebh of the field mentioned here? Modern commentators usually consider the terms to connote the vegetable kingdom as a whole..." Cassuto goes on to explain that these terms are also both mentioned in the Fall narrative of Genesis 3:18, and do not refer to vegetation kingdom created by God on the 3rd day of creation that naturally reproduce themselves by seed alone. Rather, the 'esebh of the field refers to grain that required man to till the ground in order for it to proliferate. In other words, the 'esebh of the field required man to work the ground in order for its potential to be realized. The siah of the field refers to the thorns that arose as a result of the curse. At the earliest stage of human history, we see the potentialities found in the earth that only result when man does his God ordained work. Umberto Cassuto, A Commentary on the Book of Genesis, Part I from Adam to Noah, Translated by Israel Abrahams (Jerusalem: The Magnes Press, Hebrew University, 1961), 100-2. See also:  C.F. Keil and F. Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament: Volume I: The Pentateuch, (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2006), 48.

ABR - 4/24/2010 4:03:09 PM

4/25/2010 12:47 AM #

On issues pertaining to the harmonization of Genesis 1 and 2, exegetical issues with respect to the Hebrew text, and an in-depth discussion of the waw consecutive in Genesis 1 and 2, I would point you to the following:

Robert V. McCabe: A Critique Of The Framework Interpretation Of The Creation Account (Part 1 Of 2) Detroit Baptist Seminary: Detroit Baptist Seminary Journal Volume 10, 2006.

A Critique of the Framework Interpretation of the Creation Account (Part 2 Of 2) Detroit Baptist Seminary: Detroit Baptist Seminary Journal Volume 11, 2006.

A good bit of his work is also found in one of our online books, Coming to Grips with Genesis, Chapter 8.

www.biblearchaeology.org/.../product.aspx?id=123

This work is extensive, interacting with the Framework Hypothesis, espoused by Reform scholar Meredith Kline. However, many of the issues you raised are dealt with thoroughly in these references. McCabe does an extensive analysis of the use of the waw consecutive in the Genesis 1-2 narrative.

see also:

Genesis and Ancient Near Eastern Stories of Creation and Flood: An Introduction Part I

www.biblearchaeology.org/.../...uction-Part-I.aspx

Kikawada, I.M.
1983 The Double Creation of Mankind in Enki and Ninmah, Atrahasis I 1–351, and Genesis 1–2 . Iraq 45: 43–45.

Kikawada, I. M. and Quinn, A.
1985 Before Abraham Was : The Unity of Genesis 1–11 . Nashville: Abingdon.

Kitchen, K.A.
1966 Ancient Orient and Old Testament . Chicago: InterVarsity Press.

ABR - 4/25/2010 12:47:23 AM

4/26/2010 3:03 PM #

Dear Henry,

Your answers to Roche are consistently ad hominem.  Essentially "he doesn't get it because he doesn't ask God to explain the inconsistencies to him".

Anyway, I like your arguments, as this now explains to me why the absence of proof for the construction of Valhalla by Wotan does not mean it does not exist.

May Thor bless you.

Emile - 4/26/2010 3:03:02 PM

4/26/2010 3:09 PM #

Not to mention your futile resorts to the God of the Gaps argument ("how can physical laws exist without God?").  Those arguments have long been answered.  You accuse Roche of not tearing off the mask of disbelief, yet you do the same with concepts and laws that are you obvious if you would just overcome your cognitive dissonance.

I assume you also deny evolution, despite all the proof in favour of it.  That is why I love Mark Twain's comment about Faith, being believing that which one knows ain't true.

If only you would stop disbelieving Wotan, Thor, Erda and the other beloved gods of the Vikings, you would realise what a wonderful life one can have by believing you will dine at the table of heroes with Wotan.  Isn't that just wonderful?  

May Thor bless you.

Emile - 4/26/2010 3:09:14 PM

4/26/2010 4:56 PM #

Dear Emile,

Thanks for writing to me...

I must say I am extremely disappointed by your response. I thought I was interacting with a challenging and strong minded skeptic (now skeptics). Instead, I receive these silly comments about Thor and Valhalla, which have no connection to the argument or anything remotely dealing with real history, as the Bible does.

I shall endeavor to engage in one more brief attempt to interact with you (now) and Roche.

1. This is not a "God of the Gaps Argument". I am challenging Roche to PHILOSOPHICALLY JUSTIFY physical laws, his ability to reason, etc. without the transcendent and imminent God of the Bible. Atheistic evolution, or philosophical naturalism, CANNOT account for regularity in physical laws, human language, the connection between the mind and the outside world, morality, and thousands of other phenomenon. It is not a gaps argument, it is a transcendental Biblical/philosophical argument. Given the assumptions of macro-evolution, where the world is left to chance, random processes over time, it is impossible, on those atheistic assumptions, to defend the efficacy of the very things which we all take for granted. To believe that physical laws operate they way they do in a universe governed only by random chance is to exercise blind faith, and is philosophically indefensible.

2. I was presenting a challenge to his underlying presuppositions, which cannot stand. The point I was making was rather simple: to presuppose that human reason stands over Biblical revelation and is its final judge is to already make a an apriori determination that Biblical revelation cannot be what it purports to be. Biblical revelation purports to be the Word of God, and it proclaims that human reason is fallen, and is used by fallen men to deny the very God who made reason to begin with. To assume human reason is autonomous and operates properly is to a priori reject the Bible's claims regarding human reason before the argument even starts. Most skeptics do not realize that they are not being, and cannot be, neutral. They are biased against the Bible right from the start. The belief in their own reason as the final authority and arbiter of truth is an arbitrary act of faith that has no justification.

3. Your rather silly reference to Mark Twain's idiotic definition of faith is very disappointing. True Biblical faith is entrusting one's life in the Redeemer and Creator, Jesus Christ. It is placing trust in His redemptive work, and His written Word. It is the most rational and reasonable decision one can make. It is the complete opposite of the silly definition of faith famously stated by Mark Twain and parroted by so many skeptics who haven't the foggiest idea what it means to have Biblical Faith.

4. Regarding evolution...ah! the heart of the matter. THE BIBLE OF SKEPTICS EVERYWHERE! Another erroneous presupposition, blindly accepted by most skeptics as proven dogma. It is a FAITH POSITION. One blindly and completely accepted by skeptics without any investigation into all its problems and false PHILOSOPHICAL assumptions. Skeptics accuse Christians of blindly believing things that cannot be...it is the skeptic who practices a blind and unreasonable faith. A faith that the world made itself. A faith that the human mind is a product of the accidental collocation of molecules and atoms. A faith that morality and physical laws could arise from a random impersonal structure is to exercise the blindest faith of all!

I said I was very leary of Roche's sincerity in wanting to really pursue the truth. Not for any reason except that experience proves time and again that skeptics almost invariably study the Bible to impugn it, even if they don't acknowledge or realize that is what they are doing.

However, regarding goo-to-you evolution, I point you to the following website with the hope that your minds will be challenged to reject Atheistic, Darwininian, Naturalistic Evolutionary dogma, and hoping that my original assessment is ultimately incorrect:

http://www.trueorigin.org/

An excerpt is helpful:

"Advocates of evolutionary theory practice evolutionism when they routinely invoke (and dogmatically defend) naturalistic and humanistic philosophical presuppositions, and arbitrarily apply those presuppositions to their interpretation of the available empirical data.  This fact (which many of them zealously deny) severely erodes evolutionists’ credibility, and effectively disqualifies them from any claim to objectivity in matters concerning origins and science, though much material is published by evolutionists under the pretense that it is the product only of purely objective and unprejudiced scientific inquiry.

The contributions posted at this site give some expression to the “other side”—dispelling the two most popular myths perpetuated by most advocates of evolutionism, namely:

1.  The myth that the Neo-Darwinian macro-evolution belief system—as heavily popularized by today’s self-appointed “science experts,” the popular media, academia, and certain government agencies—finds “overwhelming” or even merely unequivocal support in the data of empirical science
2.  The myth that the alternative—biblical creation—somehow fails to find any compelling, corroborative support in the same data

The question of origins is plainly a matter of science history—not the domain of applied science.  Contrary to the unilateral denials of many evolutionists, one’s worldview does indeed play heavily on one’s interpretation of scientific data, a phenomenon that is magnified in matters concerning origins, where neither repeatability, nor observation, nor measurement—the three immutable elements of the scientific method—may be employed.  Many proponents of evolutionism nevertheless persist in claiming exclusive “scientific” status for their popularized beliefs, while heaping out-of-hand dismissal and derision upon all doubters, spurning the very advice of Darwin himself."

I am sorry that you fail to realize that your are practicing faith...BLIND, IRRATIONAL FAITH. I am presenting a challenge to the underlying presuppositions which skeptics take for granted and do not question. These presuppositions are accepted a priori. Skeptics stand on unbelieving assumptions right at the beginning of the debate, without questioning them. My intent has been to point out that you cannot stand on that ground. It collapses on its own assumptions. And, to even engage in a coherent argument, you are actually borrowing Christian principles to carry out the task of slapping God in the face. Anti-theism presupposes Christian theism!

I am not sure how long I continue this dialogue because of my varied responsibilities, but I do pray that the scales of unbelief fall from your eyes, and that you accept Christ the Savior, and repent of your egregious sin of denying the very God who formed you in your mother's womb and who gives you life and breath and every good gift...

Sincerely,

Henry

ABR - 4/26/2010 4:56:09 PM

4/26/2010 6:42 PM #

From: Vern Poythress, "Redeeming Science"

"First, as fallen and sinful human beings we are in no position to make an accurate independent judgment about the character of the Bible and its truthfulness. We are not neutral judges, but judges who will inevitably misconstrue the truth. Those who attempt an independent judgment only show their own lack of self-knowledge.

Second, we desperately need the Bible as part of the remedy for our mental and spiritual corruption. We need instruction from God, not only instruction that is pure and free of our personal and social corruption, but instruction that will serve as a means for our personal and social and political purification. The Bible has both properties: purity (Ps. 12:6; 19:8-9) and purifying power (Ps. 19:7-14; 2 Tim. 3:16-17).

For the sake of our need, we must respond to what God says in the Bible with submission. Years ago Gerhard Maier argued that a critical mentality in approaching the Bible was incompatible with the character of the Bible as revelation from God. Equally, a critical mentality is incompatible with human need. A person cannot receive the depth of purification that he needs if he retains an independent spirit, because the independence itself represents a crucial stronghold for sin.

Someone says that he wants to trust in God. But who is God? Our hearts deceive us and construct idols. How shall we know specifically what to trust, unless we have some specific words of promise, instruction, and rebuke from this God? “Trust in God” turns out to be empty unless there are specific ways in which we trust. Are those ways determined by us, independent of special revelation? Then we can make them suit the desires of our own darkened hearts. Or if the ways are determined outside of us, from specific special revelation, what is this special revelation? The Bible, you say? But then either we are accepting the Bible with trust, or we are picking and choosing among its contents, in which case it is we who are still covertly in control of every requirement that the Bible threatens to impose on us. Such control over revelation is not yet discipleship, but is still the autonomous independence that Adam fell into in his rebellion.

Some theologians defend deviant views of biblical authority with great cleverness and acuity. The cleverness may be impressive. But it gives no signs yet of having understood the problem. The problem is that we are in desperate need of guidance, guidance from God that is pure and enlightening. In the deficient views, where is there an appreciation of the noetic effects of sin? And where is there a concrete proposal as to what practical means God offers for redeeming our minds out of this mess? If I do not trust the Bible “completely,” by what standard am I to subject modern culture to criticism? Deficient views of the Bible leave me at the mercy of modern culture. The only conclusion must be that modern culture is not so idolatrous, or that idolatry is not so bad, or that we do not really need to be rescued in the mind, or that God has not seen fit to provide a remedy. One must think one knows a lot to make claims like these. And, I think, one must be credulous to believe them."

Further, Poythress' chapter, "Why Scientists Must Believe in God: Divine Attributes of Scientific Law", shows how scientists presuppose God in all they do. Pages 12-31. Seen in this online PDF.

www.frame-poythress.org/.../...Science20061017.pdf

ABR - 4/26/2010 6:42:49 PM

9/30/2010 8:37 AM #

That's why it is called "Mt. Sinai"..... because it is inside the "Sinai Peninsula"
Where do you supposed that mountain would be?

Like in the biblical Noah's Ark that landed in the mountains of Ararat, Mt. Ararat is one of the peaks in the Ararat Region.... hence the name Mt. Ararat.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mount_Ararat

So as in Mt. Sinai it is undeniably inside the Sinai Peninsula.

Ramil Balagat - 9/30/2010 8:37:38 AM

4/7/2011 1:03 AM #

So Henry, what you are telling Roche is that the Bible that we possess right now has no errors and is the authentic handed down version of God's word with his signed autograph on it and that we can only understand it if we submit to some kind of special spiritual "training". Futhermore, you are saying that once he can't understand something he needs to submit, but I find just the opposite is true that we first must submit then seek the truth, where ever it leads us. Your entire apologetic arguments to Roche are very condescending and erroneous. Why not just tell him the truth without all the attacking his motives etc when it is obvious none of us know them unless you have some special abilities which lie far beyond the pale. While I may or may not agree with you, stick to the issues at hand. It makes the reading here much more enjoyable without having to wade through the mud.

roy blizzard III - 4/7/2011 1:03:26 AM

4/7/2011 1:20 PM #

Dear Roy,

Thanks for posting your comments here on the ABR website.

I believe you have fundamentally misunderstood the points I was making to Roche.

Concerning "motives", of course I cannot profess to know his heart. However, I was not evaluating his skepticism based on some conjecture, but on his attitude towards the Bible in the actual words he wrote. He claimed that our view of inerrancy was "clearly unsustainable", referred to multiple authorship of the Pentateuch as axiomatic [i.e. JEDP is true and it was not written or compiled by Moses], clearly believes that human reason should sit in judgment over the Bible and that Genesis 1 and 2 are somehow irreconcilable.

My overarching purpose was to challenge his anti-theistic presuppositions. Most skeptics never question their bias, motives, and assumptions about the nature of reality and their own abilities. They assume human reason functions properly when it does not, for example. In that context, I also provided him with some answers that demonstrate there are solutions to the so-called problems he was raising.

I also attempted to correct his erroneous conflating of the doctrine of inspiration vs. the preservation in the MSS we currently possess. He was concluding, like many skeptics do, that Christians argue that scribal copying was infallible. Of course it wasn't. We argue that the original author infallibly and inerrantly recorded what God instructed him to write, and that through the process of evaluating the MSS we possess, we can reconstruct the original text to a very, very high degree of certainty. In fact, I referred to the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy to illustrate the point.

Concerning submission to the authority of God's Word, I was spelling out the proper attitude man ought to have towards God's written revelation. Your statement certainly does not comport with this view. To submit to the authority of God in Scripture does not include concluding that God somehow made mistakes when He moved the authors to write. If we accept the Word of God for what it actually is, then exploration of the Bible will lead to deeper understanding and solutions to apparent difficulties. Unresolved problems are just that: unresolved. If you think your study might lead you to conclude the Bible has errors, then you have not submitted to its authority in the first place.

Perhaps the apologetic arguments are strong, but they are not condescending. Skeptics who think they are wise cannot see the folly of their own reasoning, and the anti-theistic bias they operate under. In dealing with skeptics over many years, we have found that the "micro" issues such reconciling Gen 1 and 2 and the like become a perpetual tennis match. The skeptic trots out one supposed error after another and then we run around finding answers for them. Very rarely are they interested in real answers. They want to remain sitting on the throne, and so I threw down the gauntlet and made a challenge. Note how the challenge had to be answered by his wife(?), and it was an infantile answer at that. The response validated what seemed very obvious to me right from the start: I was dealing with a hard-headed skeptic who wants to keeps his untenable human autonomy and hates God.

I leave you with a quote from Cornelius Van Til that expresses my final thoughts here:

"Christians are in themselves no wiser than are other men. What they have they have by grace. They must be 'all things to all men.' But it is not kindness to tell patients that need strong medicine that nothing serious is wrong with them. Christians are bound to tell men the truth about themselves; that is the only way of bringing them to recognize the mercy, the compassion, of Christ. For if men are told the truth about themselves, and if they are warned against the false remedies that establish men in their wickedness, then, by the power of the Spirit of God, they will flee to the Christ through whom alone they must be saved."

Thanks for writing and for allowing me to further explain my position.

Sincerely,

Henry Smith

Henry Smith - 4/7/2011 1:20:11 PM

4/7/2011 10:22 PM #

Dear Henry, I fear that you are still addressing generalisations about atheists as opposed to the arguments that I presented.

Whatever your personal beliefs about the Bible may be, there are some things about it which you cannot brush away with the argument that atheists do not consider the limit of reason. In fact, it is somewhat disingenious to suggest that the acceptance of the limitations of reason should lead one to accept that certain individuals of ages gone by suffered no similar limitations when they were writing about events which they did not witness nor had any means of corroborating, and to do so on the basis purely that these same people recorded that god was guiding the events which they are describing. It seems then that to accept the limitations of reason is to exclude the possibility of those same limitations applying to the authors of the Bible. Again, purely on the basis that they said so about themselves. I am familiar with a number of nations in the Ancient Near East who have seen themselves as chosen by their gods, but can you point me to the records of any nation in which they call not themselves their god's chosen people, but instead insist that the chosen people of their god is a neighbouring nation, possibly Israel? Why is it that out of all the nations who have labled themselves the chosen ones of their god it is the Israelites whom you believe? On the basis that they have said so themselves? Are you sure that you are trusting in god and not in people? You dismiss the Documentary hypothesis to uphold the Mosaic source of the Pentateuch, yet the same Bible sees the prophet Jeremiah, a contemporary of Josiah, dismissing Josiah's claim to have found the book of the Law (Deuteronomy) as false. Jeremiah calls it the work of scribes ... you call it the work of Moses. Either the Book of Deuteronomy is not the work of Moses, or the prophet Jeremiah made an error. Either way, both cannot be true, and to hold the Bible as inerrant means that you must simultaneously believe that Moses wrote Deuteronomy and that Deuteronomy is the work of scribes as Jeremiah claims and so is not written by Moses.

The limitations of reason may be pronounced, but the limitations of unquestioning faith are absurd. The Bible contains four different definitions of who is an Israelite, they are mutually exclusive. An inerrant Bible implies that the Bible is wrong in three of those definitions,  not by the prescriptions of reason, but by the dictates of the Bible itself. Your Bible disagreeing with itself, and inerrantly so.

You are presenting a demand on those whom you disagree with while imposing no such demand on those whom you agree with, or more specifically, on those who said what you have come to believe. But as you said, reason has limits. The Bible claims that circumcision would be the sign of the covenant, an outward sign showing the difference between Israelite and non-Israelite. Yet circumcision was practiced widely by Israel's neighbours prior to Israel emerging on the scene. Given the significance of circumcision in signifying the uniqueness of Israel among the other peoples, why exactly does god choose an outward sign which makes the Israelites similar in appearance to non-Israelites? The Bible provides no explanation for this absurdity. I am sure you have one though.

I have been very patient with you, even while my brother (whom you mistakenly assumed to my wife) was not. It should have been very obvious to you that he and I were dealing with different problems pertaining to faith, he with faith in general, I with faith derived from the Bible. Where exactly did he take up the challenge on s subject where he did not engage with you? You say the apologists are not condascending. You may wish to reconsider that. Whereas I disagree with my brother's approach here, I enjoy a proper debate, you claiming in the same response that you do not know my motives while also calling me a hard headed god hater is far from proper debate, however reducing my objections to the issue of being a god hater is properly condascending. If I am a god hater then you know my motives and you should not claim that you do not. But if you truly contend that you do not know my motives, then kindly do not lable me a god hater. You are in no position to call anything infantile if you proceed to defend your faith in a similar way. I ceased my participation in this discussion because you and Emile were heading in a direction where I do not wish to follow. Even without Emile's enticement, you are still heading down that road. But fortunately for me, you apology is not condascending ...  If you wish to reduce my criticism to the issue of Genesis 1 and 2, please do so, do not however expect me to consider that an accurate representation of my position or even a proper response to my objections.

I held you in higher regard prior to your last clarification, now it seems unfortunately that you have developed a knack for peddling cheap shot falsehoods. If this is your default response to people who disagree with you then clearly I need to ask myself whether I am wasting my time trying to discuss issues with you.

Sincerely,
The hard headed god hater ... if you will.

Roche - 4/7/2011 10:22:59 PM

12/20/2012 7:40 PM #

Where are the Israelite Burials From the Wilderness Wanderings? This was the original topic so I will go back to this.

1) As to the 600,000 men and those who say that the Hebrew word translated “thousand”, could be “clans” instead, so they say it was 600 clans, troops or even households. When the King of Egypt said, “the children of Israel are more and mightier than we:” (Exodus 1:7-9) he obviously was not talking about 600 “households”. Josephus, writing in the Greek language, said it was 600,000 men and the Targums written in the Aramaic language, said there were 600,000 men.

2) “Sinai” Peninsula? The classical writers (ancient Greek and Roman writers) called the peninsula “Arabia” or "Arabia Petraea". The name “Sinai” Peninsula came from the name Mount Sinai, and historically there is no record of either the traditional Mount Sinai or the Peninsula being called Sinai before the third century after Christ. There is, however, the clear statement of Josephus, who said that the Midian nation which Moses went to was "in the country of the Troglodytes" (Antiquities II, 11, 1-2). The country of Troglodytes went all the way up to the head of the Gulf of Suez on the west side or what today would be the Eastern Desert of Egypt (Diodorus. III, 15, 38-39. Strabo. XVI, 4, 4. Pliny the Elder. Natural History VI). The apostle Paul located "mount Sinai in Arabia" (Galatians 4:25, not Saudi Arabia). The classical writers also call the Eastern Desert of Egypt "Arabia" (Herodotus Book II. Strabo Geography, Book XVII, 30) and this name can still be found on modern maps!  

3) The Monastery of St. Paul in the Eastern Desert of Egypt has an interesting tradition about the Exodus of Israel. They say that during the wanderings of Israel that Miriam, the sister of Moses, washed there in a pool of water which they call the "Pool of Miriam". Israel’s next encampment after the Graves of Lust was at Hazeroth (Numbers 33:17), where Miriam was struck with leprosy. It is of interest that this tradition from the Monastery of St. Paul (also from ancient Arab writers) makes no mention of anyone else in the camp of Israel doing this, not even Moses or Joshua or Aaron, but only Miriam, the one person who was struck with leprosy at Hazeroth (Numbers 12:15). And according to the Bible (Leviticus 14:9), she would have been required to wash both her clothes and herself (“Pool of Miriam”) before re-entering the camp.  

If this is so then we should find the graves of lust close by which was the encampment just before Hazeroth, and which was the only mass grave recorded during the 40 years of wanderings. About seven miles from the Monastery of St. Paul are 30 catacombs! How did the Israelites die at encampment of Kibroth-hattaavah “graves of lust,” and Taberah? Both times the “fire” of God burned to death (cremated) multitudes who were there (Numbers 11:1, Psalm 78:20-21). The Egyptians, Arabs and Jews did not cremate; the Romans and Greeks who at one time ruled Egypt and sometimes cremated, had no known towns within 60 miles of these catacombs. The Bedouins call this site Wadi El Khawaja, "Valley of the Foreigner".    

It was Sir Wilkinson who found these catacombs and said, “We went into those where the doors were the least obstructed by the sand or decayed rock, and found them to be catacombs; they are well cut, and vary from about eighty to twenty four feet, by five…We sought in vain for inscriptions or hieroglyphics; our curiosity was only rewarded by finding the scattered fragments of vases, bitumen, charcoal, and cloth. It is evident that the bodies were burnt, and the ashes…deposited in the vases, of which innumerable broken remains are seen in every direction; they are earthenware, mostly red, and heart-shaped…”  (Sir Wilkinson.  Royal Geographical Society, 1832, p.34).            

Greeks and Romans did not always cremate, and at no other location in the Eastern Desert have cremated remains been found, even at sites known to have been home to Greeks and Romans! The book “The Red Lands” (2008, about the Eastern Desert of Egypt) said, “Evidence from all eras of antiquity indicates that bodies were inhumed and not cremated.”, also “There would have also been practical reasons for inhuming the dead: the fuel to cremate would have been in very short supply, indeed, in this hyper-arid and relatively treeless region.” (The Red Lands. p. 198)  I received a letter (e-mail, Jan 12, 2011) from an archaeologist at the British Museum, in regards to the 30 catacombs, who said, “However, cremation in the Eastern Desert seems to be unknown to archaeologists who work in that region. At present, it seems, the site remains to be explained.”      

In Alexandria, Egypt, a catacomb was found for both Greeks and Romans, also with cremated remains. However, their ashes were placed in a different shape of vase than the ones found at this site. They were also painted and many inscribed, not only with the name of the person, but also the date he died. These things: the lack of inscriptions and the plain unpainted vases, point to a mass funeral, as the Graves of Lust witnessed. For had this burial site been used for years, then certainly these vases would have been decorated as were those found at other sites! Israel had the time to make these catacombs as they were at Kibroth-hattaavah for at least 30 days (Numbers 11:20). Normally a catacomb will have only a couple of entrances, and is lengthened as the need for more room is required. But in order to dig out a catacomb, because of the distance between the walls (about six feet), only two or three men at a time could work the front of it. If someone had the manpower and wanted to make many catacombs in a short time (as required for the "graves of lust") he could split the men up into groups, with each group digging out a different catacomb. Here we have 30 entrances for 30 short catacombs, again pointing to them all being made at the same time.  The most that the other routes could show you would be a few piles of rocks on the ground.

Thanks for letting me share!

Garry Matheny - 12/20/2012 7:40:29 PM

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