Posts Tagged With: Bible

Reclaiming Science: Stop the Abuse

We often equate science with facts and laws of nature, therefore we tend to hold writings couched in scientific lingo in high regard. To a fault we have become too trusting and forget that people write or say these things and people have agendas (purposefully or not). Yes, this is going to be one of those critical thinking posts (I know, it doesn’t quite fit with the theme of the site anymore, but I still occasionally touch on these topics).

Not that the abuse of science is anything new, but it seems to me like it’s becoming more prevalent. With technology so pervasive, we think we know science and trust anything that sounds vaguely like it. That can be a mistake. Take this article on “Finding Israel’s First Camels.” Innocent sounding enough, isn’t it? But very quickly we see an agenda materialize when we read, “Their findings further emphasize the disagreements between Biblical texts and verifiable history.” So is this on an archaeological find or a theological debate?

Reading further we don’t really learn about claimed “disagreements” other than, “archaeologists have shown that camels were not domesticated in the Land of Israel until centuries after the Age of the Patriarchs (2000-1500 BCE). In addition to challenging the Bible’s historicity, this anachronism is direct proof that the text was compiled well after the events it describes.” This is quite the statement and one would expect serious proof, yet the authors of this report don’t do this. The careful reader will note that they base their claim on the assumption that they have found the oldest camel remains.

The rational reader then will ask, “How could they possibly know they have found the oldest remains?” Well, they cannot, but these finds support their particular view of the Bible, so why bother with logic? Amazingly, this article actually waves a couple of red flags on its own:

“In all the digs, they found that camel bones were unearthed almost exclusively in archaeological layers dating from the last third of the 10th century BCE or later…The few camel bones found in earlier archaeological layers probably belonged to wild camels…the origin of the domesticated camel is probably the Arabian Peninsula…In fact, Dr. Ben-Yosef and Dr. Sapir-Hen say the first domesticated camels ever to leave the Arabian Peninsula may now be buried in the Aravah Valley. [emphasis added]”

Almost? Probably? May? And so they did find “earlier” remains that are “probably” wild?

Wow. This is the “science” that leads to the proclamation that “the Bible’s historicity” is challenged?

I don’t think the Bible has much to worry about here (and others have pointed out that the researchers above have ignored other research outside of Israel). My goal here isn’t to start a fight between “believers” and “non-believers,” but to show that conclusions couched in science or coming from scientists doesn’t mean we should not test their claims. Often, as with this example, it is not that hard. Another recent example was the recent Bill Nye vs. Ken Ham spectacle, portrayed as some great intellectual moment between science and religion.

It was more between two people who promote the “science and religion” aren’t compatible myth, albeit from different ends of the spectrum. One thinks science can’t see into the past (Ham), the other thinks science too dumb to detect design (Nye). Funny, I look at the Sun and see it as it was eight minutes ago and archaeology and forensics detect design every day.

These are the best we have to debate serious issues? They are not, but serious doesn’t sell.

We should be concerned that science and theology are so easily hijacked. Those who are well-schooled in the issues often don’t want to jump into the fray, they have better things to do. We cannot, however, give up on science, critical thinking and flushing out those who abuse these things and other higher fields of learning such as theology. We’ve let the few, the entertaining, and the media take over our learning for far too long.

Pope John Paul II said it best with, “Science can purify religion from error and superstition; religion can purify science from idolatry and false absolutes.”

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Stealing Scripture?

For generations, scholars and historians agreed that the Old Testament was unique among Near East writings. Now the tendency is to claim the OT writers largely borrowed from other works and that they offered nothing new.

What changed? Well, nothing. The writings have all remained the same. The idea that much was “borrowed” is posited by some skeptics to infer “stolen.” Most readers are often disappointed that such tabloid-like claims don’t hold merit. Good for selling books, however.

In fact, it has never been a great mystery or surprise that one finds some similarities among cultures living and interacting with each other. No one has ever disputed this common sense. Many will play the “who came first” game, which is often a fallacy (i.e. just because something precedes something else doesn’t automatically mean one produced the other). After all, many could convincingly argue that Genesis is derived from sources that predate anything else by far.

So the arguments of the skeptics rest by great measure on ignoring the significant differences between the Bible and other texts. It does a great disservice to history and studies of antiquity to do so. Are all such claims driven by bias? Probably not, but when one puts one text next to another and can say with a straight face that they don’t have fundamental and critical differences, the observer must look at the motivations. To be fair, there are even some “religious” scholars who agree with their skeptical colleagues. How does one reconcile such apparently divergent views? With great difficulty and rationalization.

Scholar John N. Oswalt, in his book, The Bible Among the Myths, examines these issues at great length. He details that the Bible is radically different, in many ways, to its contemporaries. Many will dismiss or minimize the Bible because it doesn’t fit into their worldview. Regardless, it is certain that the Bible will remain an important part of the canon of ancient writings. The level of study and preservation of the text make this more true of it than of any work. These two things would be difficult to deny by anyone. However, as Oswalt argues, to simply leave it as nothing more that this, defies reason.

Categories: Ancient Documents, Bible, Books, Critical Thinking | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Easter & the Revisionists

As of late, it seems that skeptics and others with various revisionist ideas and pseudo-history, use Easter as the time to promote their views on the Bible and Jesus. The critical thinker can always spot those trying to push an agenda. When reviewing the books of these “alternative” theorists, there often seems to be a lack of scholarship as compared to their competition. Or they are very selective in their “evidence” and show little depth in research. So if you are someone who has only read the tabloid-like claims of these folks, or are worried about their ideas, here are some solid works on the New Testament and its contents:

The Case for the Real Jesus
The Many Gospels of Jesus
The Case for Christ
The Historical Jesus
The New Testament Documents: Are the Reliable?

These are the kind of books the revisionists don’t want you to read. However, anyone honest about seeking truth, owes it to themself to test everything.

Categories: Ancient Documents, Bible, Books | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

“Major” Codice Discovery

If you think nothing from antiquity is left to be found, once again archaeology has found yet another historic find. These codices date back to the dawn of Christianity and may contain some of the oldest references to Christ. Scholars are rightly being cautious. Remember the ossuary that supposedly contained Jesus’ bones? Or how the Gospel of Judas was going to rewrite Christianity? Both turned out to be over-hyped duds (pushed by skeptics). This doesn’t have the feel of another tabloid-adventure. Stay tuned for more.

Update: Now the codices are under suspicion of being some sort of fake.

Categories: Ancient Documents, Bible | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

The Battle Over David

The current issue of National Geographic features the conflict between scholars who believe they have found a lot of evidence for David and his biblical empire and those who do not. Few doubt David existed, but how accurate is the Bible? It is an instructive read seeing scholars question each other’s bias. One side claims the other looks for David in the littlest of finds (but one guy uses a “gut feeling” to dismiss a David find). The other side claims the anti-Davids are looking for an unreasonable standard of evidence as if they need fully intact palaces and cities.

Considering that few doubt David’s existence, the thinking person might ask: Why is archaeology in this region so difficult? Could it be that the area was repeatedly overrun and attacked by foreign armies? Cities built on top of cities? The article, and some of the scholars, seem to forget the history of the region they work in.

Categories: Ancient Documents, Ancient Sites, Bible | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Job’s Stars

The Book of Job is a most intriguing part of the Bible. The story of Job doesn’t fit into the sequence of Old Testament books and it seems Job is outside of the primary ancient Jewish world, perhaps not even Jewish. Difficult to date because of its lack of references to other history in the region, its date of writing could be anywhere from 700BC to 2000BC. It does seem that Job is well-traveled and educated. Job is full of references to older times and traditions or at least knowledge of them. As far back as Genesis, we see the establishment of stars for use in tracking time and the seasons. This was important in the millenia before clocks and calendars. Job mentions some of these stars in Job 38:31-32:

Canst thou bind the sweet influences of Pleiades, or loose the bands of Orion? Canst thou bring forth Mazzaroth in his season? Or canst thou guide Arcturus with his sons? (KJV)

This may not mean much at first glance, but consider the following. After Job implies God is not in control, God responds (Job 38:31-32) with a series of questions concerning the star cluster Pleiades, the constellation Orion and the star Arcturus. He asks Job if he can keep the stars of Pleiades together or break apart Orion or guide Arcturus and his sons. These questions appear to reveal the actual movements of these stellar bodies. How would the writer of Job know centuries ago that Arcturus is a runaway star traveling at immense speeds or that the stars of Orion’s famous belt are moving in such a way that someday it will no longer be a straight line or that the stars of the Pleiades cluster are moving together as one unit?

[Note: Arcturus comes from a Greek word that means “Guardian of the Bear” which is why some translations use “Bear with its cubs” (or something similar) instead of the star name. Arcturus is in the constellation Boötes (the herdsman) which is near Ursa Major and Ursa Minor (the bears/dippers).]

Blind luck? Coincidence? Lost ancient knowledge? Or something else?

Categories: Ancient Documents, Bible | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments

Isaiah and the Pyramids

Regardless of your beliefs, few would dispute that the Bible is one of the most important documents from antiquity. While the original autographs are lost, more copies of it exist than any other ancient writings. Some are also quite old. While not a history book per se, since its events are set in our past, the Bible does have many historical references. Understanding these passages may have been easy to the original audience, but not always for us. Granted, many people forget their elementary school comprehension skills and don’t consider: Who wrote this, when and where did they and to whom? The original context is necessary to understand what the authors meant then and what meaning it may hold for us, but I digress.

I recently came across Isaiah 19:19-20:

In that day shall there be an altar to the Lord in the midst of the land of Egypt, and a pillar at the border thereof… And it shall be for a sign and for a witness unto the Lord of hosts in the land of Egypt.”

Many have argued that this is a reference to the pyramids at Giza. A “pillar” at Giza (which may mean “border” or Giza being at the border or the Nile delta). But why? Why would God be involved in the building of this structure through a non-Hebrew people? Most people have dispensed with the idea that the Hebrews built the pyramids. The timeline and biblical references don’t fit. Others have created a variety of theories that interpret the pyramids and their internal and external structures as revealing biblical truths or signs of the creator. The problem is that they all seem forced and difficult to find.

Though there is that verse. Is it a prophetic verse referring to the time Jesus spent in Egypt? The Bible is silent on his time there, but this would make more sense. Or is this one of those verses with more than one meaning?

A fascinating reference. Perhaps someone will someday solve the mystery.

Categories: Ancient Documents, Bible, Mysteries | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

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