Posts Tagged With: Near East

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.”

Categories: Critical Thinking | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Gilgamesh: The Warrior King

Brian Godawa has been writing a fascinating fantasy series that takes place in the ancient Near East. It began with Noah Primeval which was rooted in the question, “What was going on in the world that was so horrible that mankind needed destroyed?” The series continued with Enoch Primordial (actually a prequel), which centered around the enigmatic Enoch. A man barely mentioned in the biblical accounts, but because he never died, and the other books attributed to him recount many a strange event, he has long been a person of high speculation.

Godawa now steps out from filling in between the lines of the biblical accounts with Gilgamesh Immortal. Taking off from events in the Noah episode, the tale of Gilgamesh provides a link to storie Godawa has next that is centered around Babel. One can’t study Near Wast cultures in a vacuum, so bringing in the most famous character from that region’s legends that isn’t chronicled in the biblical accounts was a perfect idea. Gilgamesh, a king and warrior of Mesopotamia, rules his empire with an iron fist. He has everything. Then he encounters a Wild Man that is his equal in many ways, and better in others. He begins to realize there has to be something more.

He wants immortality.

There begins his quest to conquer the weak and silent gods of old. These fallen angels had largely been destroyed and contained during the Great Flood, but he seeks out their remnant. It’s a journey full of adventure and death, while one of the most sinister of these “gods” is about to re-emerge and try to take Gilgamesh’s kingdom.

This book, along with the others, have Godawa’s trademark fast-paced storytelling. Their combination of fantasy and history is a largely original take on the people and places they are centered around. He also draws on the elusive references to Nephilim, Watchers and “sons of god” in the bible and other writings. For centuries, people have debated exactly what these beings were. Essentially Godawa is saying, “Maybe these references aren’t so mysterious. Maybe all of the ancient legends of battling gods aren’t just myth. Perhaps there are kernels of truth in them. Maybe there is a reason that the ancient cultures believed in them so much.”

It’s an intriguing premise. Perhaps it sounds irrational in our supposedly advanced world. But it’s perfectly reasonable to ask why did the ancient world pay so much credence to such things? Was it all just because of active imaginations? Or have we left behind part of our history we chose to forget?

Godawa’s series not only entertains, it asks such questions. And it gives us one possible imagining of the answers. It could have happened like this.

Categories: Bible, Books, Fiction, Legend, Prehistory, Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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

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