When you read archaeological material – from the original report not the mass media or a fringe website – and it claims to relate to the Bible, you have to be skeptical.
First, you have to make sure it’s not a weak analogy. It has to deal with all of the Biblical words and details, not just pick out useful parts. In the next two parts of this blog, I’ll show why it has to deal with the Biblical words in Biblical Hebrew, not in translation.
Second, you have to make sure that the writer doesn’t deny something happened just because the data don’t say it did. The dig has to be at the right place and go down to the right level, look for culturally relevant material and evaluate it accurately compared to the situations cultures normally find themselves in.
Third, you have to make sure the material evaluates the provenance reasonably. A report that doesn’t go through the provenance of a find but tries to claim that it relates to something in Bible cannot be relied on. The week this post goes up, there was a follow-on to the story about the papyrus that supposedly talked about “Jesus’ wives”. In fact, the original study did not have that phrase; it was an invention of mass media to gain attention. Second, there was absolutely no information about the provenance from archaeology; it came from the possessor and his story keeps shifting. The next thing that has to happen is a radiocarbon test, just like the one that proved the fabric of the Turin shroud was made in the 1400s CE. I’m sure the possessor of the “Jesus” papyrus doesn’t want that but if he refuses, there’s no there there. Without provenance information from archaeology, you don’t really have an archaeological “find” and you may not have an antiquity. At best, you might have a curiosity, but it could also be a forgery.
The chronology of the Torah goes something like this:
Noach’s wine grapes come from about 4000 BCE in a location later known as Urartu; we don’t know what it was called in 4000 BCE, its oldest known name is Urashtu. This is in Anatolia, where and when proto-Semitic first developed, and also near where meteoric iron was in use, and where smelted iron and carbon steel show up over the next 2000 years.
Gan Eden relates to the 3000s BCE, the Jemdet Nasr period of Mesopotamia, somewhere to the east of where the Euphrates flows now, and where it joined up with the Tigris and two minor rivers, one of which vanished from human memory and one of which is permanently dry now.
The destruction of the Cities of the Plain had to be observed by the ancestors of the Jewish people when they were near Numeira, Jordan, about 2350 BCE. This places them far from Mesopotamia prior to the time of the Sumerian Kings List, Gilgamesh, Atra-Hasis, and Enuma Elish in the written forms we know of. It coordinates with the end of Ebla, which traded with the Cities. All writing in Mesopotamia was in Sumerian or Akkadian cuneiform at this time; reading and writing cuneiform had to do with royal decrees and religious material; archives were royal property, not freely open to anybody who chose to browse in them.
The Israelites migrated to Egypt in the 1800s BCE and were familiar with the conditions there at the end of the reign of Amenemhet III, the end of the Middle Kingdom.
The Israelites left Egypt about 1630 BCE, heading southeast. The Hyksos rulers of the delta were trying to recover from the effects of the Thera explosion. Before they had completely recovered, Ahmose I attacked and took back the north. He chased the remains of the Hyksos rulers of the Delta northeast to Sharuhen. Torah has the only written record currently known, relative to the Thera explosion, except for the Tempest Papyrus from the start of Ahmose’s reign.
This leaves 400 years for the period of the Judges and the cult at Shiloh. About 1100 BCE, the Israelites established settlements throughout the Holy Land, more than 200 feet above sea level, and refused to trade pottery with the lowlands, showing that they had to be self-supporting.
They remained self-supporting, engaging in mixed agriculture, to about 900 BCE, the time of Shlomo.
The Israelites were not descended solely from the Hapiru; the two groups were not identical.
The Israelites did not copy their monotheism from Akhenaten. Even his son didn’t copy it; Tutankhamen changed back to the original Egyptian polytheism.
The Israelites did not invent the Exodus after their culture had been up and running for centuries; it was so well known that 100 years after the hilltop settlements dissolved, Amos could talk about it to the southerners and Hoshea could reference it to the northerners, without going into a song and dance about what they meant.
Cultures like the Celts and Sea Peoples began developing 300 to 400 years before they first appeared in text from another culture. It is no stretch to accept that the culture of the Israelite hilltop settlements goes back to at least 1500 BCE, but the geological evidence in Torah is that their ancestors originated nearly a millennium before that.
Those assigning a late date to every characteristic of Jewish culture, religion and law, are almost certainly wrong. I’ll give more evidence for this in the next two sections. Starting with evidence from the language itself – Biblical Hebrew.
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