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A little bit of history about Easter

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Still no response? OK I guess we'll move on. The first document we will look at will be the Gospel of Thomas.

I'll let others go first if they wish, if no-one has said anything by next Monday, I'll start the ball rolling myself.

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LetÔÇÖs first look at the dating of the Gospel of Thomas, as that affects every other issue.

According to the Jesus Seminar, (and people who rely on their conclusions) the Gospel of Thomas was written in about AD 50 and was earlier than all four Gospels found in the Bible, but for this dating (among other things) they received severe criticism from scholars of all persuasions. Why is that?

When you compare Thomas with the four biblical Gospels, certain parallels appear, as well as fundamental differences, but for this post, I will concern myself with the parrallels, as those would seem to indicate who was dependant on who.

The lists below are not by any means exhaustive, but enough to show dependance imho. You can check them for yourself if you like

The following are passages only occur in MatthewÔÇÖs gospel account (technically known as ÔÇÿspecial M'), but find very close equivalents in Thomas.

Matt 6.3--GTh 62

Matt 7.6--GTh 93

Matt 10.16--GTh 39

Matt 11.30--GTh 90

Matt 13.24-30--GTh 57

This indicates the author of Thomas was very familiar with MatthewÔÇÖs oral tradition at least.

The following are passages only occur in LukeÔÇÖs gospel account (technically known as ÔÇÿspecial L'), but also find very close equivalents in Thomas.

Luke 11.27-28 + 23:29--GTh 79

Luke 12.13-14--GTh 72

Luke 17.20-21--GTh 113

This indicates the author of Thomas was similarly familiar with LukeÔÇÖs oral tradition.

Then we have parallelÔÇÖs with JohnÔÇÖs account, that donÔÇÖt appear in any other Gospel.

John 1.14--GTh 28a

John 7:34ÔÇöGTh 38b

John 8.12; 9.5--GTh 77a

John 8:51 ÔÇô GTh 1

This indicates the author of Thomas was familiar with JohnÔÇÖs account.

Then we have last-minute changes to word-order, authorÔÇÖs variant paraphrasing of what was said, which indicate access to the final written version of a gospel account

With Matthew

GTh 99 uses Matthew's wording in Matt 12.50 (instead of Mark's (Mark 3:35)or LukeÔÇÖs (Luke 8:21)) in the Triple-Tradition passage (on who are Jesus true mother and brothers)

GTh 33 uses Matthew's precise wording (Matt 10:26) of a tradition from Mark (Mark 4:22) or Q (if you believe in the existence of the theoretical ÔÇÿQÔÇÖ sayings source) (Luke 12:2-3) (on preaching from housetops)

Luke 8.17 slightly rewords Mark 4.22, and LukeÔÇÖs final form shows up in GTh 5 and 6, with the Greek parallel matching Luke's exactly.

GTh 14 influenced by Luke 10.8-9 (rather than Mark 6:10 or Matt 10:11).

GTh 16 influenced by LukeÔÇÖs version of family division (Luke 12.51-53) rather than MatthewÔÇÖs (Matt 10:34-36).

GTh 55 is much closer to LukeÔÇÖs version (Luke 14:26-27) than MatthewÔÇÖs (Matt 10:37-38), as is Gth 101a.

To quote Craig Blomberg (a biblical scholar of high renown) on the subject,

ÔÇ£Parallels emerged in Thomas to every one of the four Gospels and to every "layer" of the Gospel tradition--that is, to material common to all three Synoptic Gospels, information from "Q"..., and traditions unique to each of the four Gospels. It seems unlikely that every Gospel and every Gospel source would independently use Thomas at an early date; rather, it is far more probable that Thomas knew and relied upon the later fourfold Gospel collection.ÔÇØ

ThereÔÇÖs more that I could say, but I think thatÔÇÖs enough to prove the point, donÔÇÖt you think?


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Now, having established that Thomas was written significantly later than the biblical gospels (Most scholars (except for the extreme left-wingers in the Jesus Seminar) would give its earliest possible date as 140-180AD, for a number of reasons) and that it used the biblical gospels as sources (as well as other documents) letÔÇÖs take a look at how the author of Thomas used these sources in particular.

Typical of second-century writings and especially of Gnostic works, the author of Thomas radically rearranges sayings from his sources, grouping together things said in completely different contexts based around themes or catchwords (though there are times when the biblical order shows through. He also removes anything that would indicate the context in which they were said, or what was specifically meant, transforming clear, public and well-known statements of Jesus as recorded in the biblical gospels into vague and mysterious ÔÇÿsecretÔÇÖ sayings (as the author claims them to be in his introduction).

These ÔÇÿmore flexibleÔÇÖ sayings are often then combined with Gnostic teachings that flatly contradict what we find in the biblical gospels (pantheism, salvation through self-knowledge, the physical world being evil and the spiritual world good, women being ÔÇÿunworthy of LifeÔÇÖ) Also edited out of the biblical sources are any of the material that indicates JesusÔÇÖ or GodÔÇÖs activity in history, or JesusÔÇÖ descriptions of the way salvation works - these parts are not compatible with Gnostic theology.

So, as regards sources, the author is either

a. extremely naïve or

b. deliberately manipulative for theological reasons

to the point of almost totally losing/distorting the original meaning.

It doesnÔÇÖt really come as a surprise to me that the majority of scholars do not regard the gospel of Thomas as a useful historical source.

Again, thereÔÇÖs more I could say, but I think the point is clear enough.

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IÔÇÖm afraid I am unable to comment on JagÔÇÖs sources in France, since I donÔÇÖt have access to them or any of their supporting evidence, or any scholarly work that looks at them. I will rely on his intellectual integrity to assess for himself how well they perform on the reliability tests above. If he at some point feels confident enough to present the evidence supporting their accuracy, then he is welcome to. In the meantime I will have to leave that issue and move on to assessing the reliability of the New Testament Gospels.

Since the word ÔÇÿNazareneÔÇÖ and the historical existence/non-existence of Nazareth seems to have been presented as an important issue, we will look at that now.

First, the evidence for the existence of Nazareth as an established Jewish Community in the first Century AD

Paul Barnett, Behind the Scenes of the New Testament, IVP:1990, p.42:

"Despite the Hellenization of the general region and the probability that Greek was known to many people it seems likely that Nazareth remained a conservative Jewish village. After the Jewish war with the Romans from AD 66-70 it was necessary to re-settle Jewish priests and their families. Such groups would only settle in unmixed towns, that is towns without Gentile inhabitants. According to an inscription discovered in 1962 in Caesarea Maritima the priests of the order of Elkalir made their home in Nazareth. This, by the way, is the sole known reference to Nazareth in antiquity, apart from written Christian sources... (next paragraph) Some scholars had even believed that Nazareth was a fictitious invention of the early Christians; the inscription from Caesarea Maritima proves otherwise." (emphasis mine)

The need to resettle the priestly families was obvious- the temple in Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans in AD 70. This meant there was now very little for the priests to do (their religious duties revolved around the temple- even after retirement), and now no centralised mechanism for providing for their needs (also done through the daily operation of the temple). The highlighted text shows that

Nazareth had to have been an existing, established, purely Jewish community, since priests were ÔÇÿholyÔÇÖ that is ÔÇÿset apartÔÇÖ for God, and so forbidden from mixing with pagans.

Further, we have archaeological digs that found grave sites around the edge of Nazareth containing artefacts (vases, lamps, etc) dating from the first, third and fourth centuries. Like any good Jewish settlement, graves had to be outside the town. This enables archaeologists to determine the overall area covered by Nazareth at the time to be roughly 60 acres and the population less than 500.

So it was a very small place, of no great importance to anyone, nothing much of note happened there (hence its lack of specific mention in the Old Testament, Talmud or contemporary historianÔÇÖs publications) but among archaeologists, any serious doubt or debate about its existence in the first century petered out decades ago.

It was also a place whose inhabitants had a poor reputation, hence the reaction of Nathanael

Philip found Nathanael and told him, "We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote--Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph."

"Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?" Nathanael asked John 1:46 (NIV)

Nathanael was himself from Cana, also in Galilee, which as a region was regarded as good-for-nothing, as ÔÇ£of the GentilesÔÇØ, as a whole ÔÇÿpollutedÔÇÖ by pagan immigrants who arrived during the exile in Assyria, and despised by the purer-blooded Jews in the south of Israel (hence the reaction of the Pharisees in John 7):

They replied, "Are you from Galilee, too? Look into it, and you will find that a prophet does not come out of Galilee." John 7:52 (NIV)

So this adds strength to NathanaelÔÇÖs statement, Nazareth was regarded as worthless by those living in a region regarded as no good, it was the ÔÇÿworst of a bad lotÔÇÖ. The above quote from John 1 shows that Nazarene was very clearly understood to mean ÔÇÿof NazarethÔÇÖ in this context at least. The possible alternative meaning of Netser-ene (ÔÇ£branchÔÇØ, a play on the messianic title found in numerous places in the Old Testament) does not fit here, even less so the remote possibility of Nazirite (having taken a (temporary or permanent) vow to abstain from all products of the vine (wine, grapes), not cut your hair or touch a dead body e.g. Samson, John the Baptist).

This also explains why the word Nazarene was used by JesusÔÇÖ (and his followersÔÇÖ) Jewish opponents to refer to them in a derogatory way. ÔÇÿThe sect of the NazarenesÔÇÖ (from Acts 24) or ÔÇÿNazarenesÔÇÖ in the Jewish liturgical prayer curse that was instigated just before the end of the first century. ÔÇÿThese heretics have as their leader a Nazarene, of all people!ÔÇÖ. JesusÔÇÖ followers never referred to themselves in this way. They usually called themselves ÔÇÿthe churchÔÇÖ or sometimes ÔÇÿfollowers of the WayÔÇÖ (ÔÇÿChristianÔÇÖ was the term used by Gentiles to designate the church). The ÔÇÿsect of the NazarenesÔÇÖ was referring to the church being a sect within Judaism, not a sect within JesusÔÇÖ followers.

The earliest mention of ÔÇÿNazarenesÔÇÖ by name as a distinct group within Christianity comes in the fourth century AD, referring to a group of Jewish descent who had pretty mainstream Christian theology, but observed the laws of Moses as well (without objecting to Gentile Christians or requiring Gentiles to also follow Mosaic Law). They were not regarded as heretics by the church, except when they were confused with another Jewish group claiming to be Christian, but with very different beliefs, known as the Ebionites.

I donÔÇÖt know about you, but I fail to see anything worldview-shattering here, unless IÔÇÖm missing something big.

Again, IÔÇÖm summarising for readability. If I have been unclear or too brief somewhere, please let me know and I will try and elaborate.

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OK, thank you. We're moving the computer upstairs and rearranging lots of furniture tomorrow (and the next day knowing us - setting up an office at home) and we have a lot of translation work on at the moment, which is what has been slowing things down somewhat and will continue to do so for the next few weeks, so we'll see when I can put together my next post. (I hope sometime in the middle of next week, but I make no promises.)


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As regards the census recorded in Luke, I found an article on the subject with a quote from Chronos, Kairos, Christos: Nativity and Chronological Studies, pages 89-90:

"Historians have not been able to find any empire-wide census or registration in the years 7-5 B.C., but there is a reference to such a registration of all the Roman people not long before 5 February 2 B.C. written by Caesar Augustus himself: "While I was administering my thirteenth consulship [2 B.C.] the senate and the equestrian order and the entire Roman people gave me the title Father of my Country" (Res Gestae 35, italics added). This award was given to Augustus on 5 February 2 B.C., therefore the registration of citizen approval must have taken place in 3 B.C. Orosius, in the fifth century, also said that Roman records of his time revealed that a census was indeed held when Augustus was made "the first of men"--an apt description of his award "Father of the Country"--at a time when all the great nations gave an oath of obedience to Augustus (6:22, 7:2). Orosius dated the census to 3 B.C. And besides that, Josephus substantiates that an oath of obedience to Augustus was required in Judea not long before the death of Herod (Antiquities I7:4I-45). This agrees nicely in a chronological sense with what Luke records. But more than that, an inscription found in Paphlagonia (eastern Turkey), also dated to 3 B.C., mentions an "oath sworn by all the people in the land at the altars of Augustus in the temples of Augustus in the various districts." And dovetailing precisely with this inscription, the early (fifth century) Armenian historian, Moses of Khoren, said the census that brought Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem was conducted by Roman agents in Armenia where they set up "the image of Augustus Caesar in every temple.''. The similarity of this language is strikingly akin to the wording on the Paphlagonian inscription describing the oath taken in 3 B.C. These indications can allow us to reasonably conclude that the oath (of Josephus, the Paphlagonian inscription, and Orosius) and the census (mentioned by Luke, Orosius, and Moses of Khoren) were one and the same. All of these things happened in 3 B.C."

Now, IÔÇÖm not sure how the astronomical data fits this date (because I only have this passage, no doubt it is mentioned elsewhere in the book), but this would seem to be very strong evidence of the empire-wide census as Luke recorded it (complete with the correct dating relative to HerodÔÇÖs death from the Josephus quote.)

If the objection centres around QuiriniusÔÇÖ part in the census (since he became governor of Syria in 6 AD), LukeÔÇÖs wording in 2.2 is kinda ambiguous. The word translated as ÔÇÿgovernorÔÇÖ is a very general term, used of all manner of authoritative positions, ranging from prefects, procurators, provincial governors, general ÔÇÿrulersÔÇÖ, even to Caesar himself. This positional description would have applied to Quirinius at many points in his political career. Justin Martyr (writing in the second century, specified that he was only a procurator (Apology 1:34) Also the time structure translated ÔÇÿfirst whileÔÇÖ could also (and according to many recent scholars should rather) be translated ÔÇÿbeforeÔÇÖ, meaning that the census in Luke was the one before Quirinius was governor of Syria. IÔÇÖm not saying this is the only theory historians have or the only date suggested for LukeÔÇÖs census, but its case seems strong to me.

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The following three pieces of evidence I have from a Czech translation of an interview with John McRay, a leading archaeologist, so I apologise if my wording does not match his, or if I have made any spelling mistakes.

Another piece of evidence concerning Quirinius is the discovery of a coin inscribed with very small (micrographic) lettering. According to that coin, Quirinius was proconsul of Syria and Cilicia from 11 BC until the death of Herod the Great.

Scholars are divided as to whether this is a different Quirinius or the same one, since there was elsewhere discovered an official inscription stating that someone was in office over Syria twice (or in office twice, the second time being over Syria). This enables other dates favoured by scholars, such as 11 BC or 7-5 BC (around the due time of the regular taxation census every 14 years). None of these options would be incompatible with LukeÔÇÖs account of the census.

Also concerning the census was the objection that the roman authorities never ordered people to return to their hometown as part of the census-taking procedure.

an official government directive dated to 104 AD:

ÔÇ£Gaius Vibius Maximus, prefect of Egypt [declares]: In view of the fact that the time has come for counting the people from house to house, it is necessary to compel everyone, who for whatever reason reside outside the bounds of their province, to return to their homes, not only for carrying out the regular population census, but also that they would diligently devote themselves to cultivating their land.ÔÇØ

Another papyrus dated to 48 AD also indicates that a census applied to whole families.

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I apologise for the delay in posting, I was busy (and not too well) last week.

These dates would not be so uncertain to historians during the first few centuries AD, since the official roman records would have been available for dating the census precisely. It is only since the loss of the official roman archives due to repeated barbarian invasions that historians have to put these pieces together as they are found. Still, this is not to say that Luke is always so vague in his language or use of terminology. There are a large number of points in which many liberal scholars thought Luke was hopelessly wrong, but archaeologists later found him to be correct.

(From that same interview with John Mcray, Chapter 5 of ÔÇÿThe Case for ChristÔÇÖ by Lee Strobel, a legal journalist and an atheist while conducting this interview, but later became a Christian)

For example, in chapter 3 verse 1 when Luke wrote that Lysanius was tetrarch of Abilene, many scholars pointed to this place as a prime example that Luke didnÔÇÖt know what he was talking about, since Lysanius wasnÔÇÖt a tetrarch, but a ruler of Chaldea half a century earlier.

Then an inscription was found dating from the reign of Tiberias Casear (14-37 AD) in which Lysanius is mentioned as the tetrarch of Abilene, just like Luke recorded. There were two ruling officials named Lysanius.

Another is in Acts chapter 17 verse 6, Luke uses the greek word politarch to refer to the city authorities/officials. This word wasnt found anywhere else in Greek literature, so scholars said he must simply be wrong. Then came the discovery of an inscription on an arch that began During the time of the politarch(This old find is currently kept in the British Museum). Since then, archaeologists have found 35 inscriptions concerning the politarch, some of which were found in Thessalonica, dating from the period Luke was writing about.

Also, there is the ÔÇÿcontradictionÔÇÖ between Mark 10:46 and Luke 18:35, where in Luke Jesus is approaching Jericho and in Mark he is leaving Jericho when he meets and heals a blind man. The city of Jericho was destroyed and rebuilt many times, over time being located in 4 different places, without the older locations being completely abandoned, so Jesus could easily have been moving from the ÔÇÿold cityÔÇÖ to the ÔÇÿnew cityÔÇÖ, or the other way round, and both accounts would be correct.

One leading archaeologist investigated in detail carefully scrutinized LukeÔÇÖs references to 32 countries, 45 cities and 9 islands and didnÔÇÖt find a single mistake. If Luke was so careful and precise in his recording of all these secondary details, why should we think he was any less careful on the events that were much more important to him and his readers?

Similar accusations (of lack of knowledge of local geography) have been levelled against John, since he is ÔÇÿobviouslyÔÇÖ the weakest link, being written later than the other gospels and with the biggest difference in content from the other three. (Un)fortunately for those accusations a number of archaeological finds have confirmed details recorded in JohnÔÇÖs account. These include:

The pool at Bethsaida having five porches (John 5:2) (this was also used as an example of JohnÔÇÖs imprecision by skeptics until the pool was discovered)

The pool at Siloam (9:7)

JacobÔÇÖs well (4:12)

the probable location of the ÔÇÿStone PavementÔÇÖ or Gabbatha where Pilate sat on the judgement seat and brought Jesus out before the crowd (19:13)

While weÔÇÖre on the subject of Jesus before the crowd, this was not a prisoner exchange, it was the release of a political prisoner at a festival, where a crowd got to choose which one. While it is true that we donÔÇÖt have any record of a custom of releasing prisoners on a Palestinian holiday, we do know that political prisoners were released for various reasons (as recorded by Josephus and Livy) and that Roman officials appear to have granted mass amnesty at other regular feasts (in other regions) and to have occasionally aquitted prisoners in response to crowds. So, it is not that hard to believe the biblical account of BarrabasÔÇÖ release, especially since it is recorded in all four gospels and the book of acts as part of PeterÔÇÖs sermon in Acts 3:14. All of these sources record the trial of Jesus/release of Barabbas in an independent fashion (same basics, different details) except for Matthew and Mark, whose accounts are very similar. This makes the historical reliability of their combined witness very strong.

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Hi Ben,

I appreciate your scholarly attempt to bring light to the potential veracity of the Bible. Having recently studied Theology I must admit to have been thrown somewhat buy Jaguar's comments, though I have only recently read them, and wonder how I would have tackled his thoughts and ideas. Your attention to this topic and your persistence are laudable and I find I am learning more to add to the knowledge I have already acquired (and seemingly fogotten. ).

During my studies I wrote a number of papers defending the veracity of the Bible and in particular the authorship of the books of the New Testament. I know how much time and effort goes into reaearching and writing the type of work you are presenting here. Thankyou for your efforts, I look forward to hearing more.


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and I was beginning to think no-one was reading

I was thrown a little as well, to start with, which shook me out of my laziness and forced me to go and do some research on the particular issues raised.

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and I was beginning to think no-one was reading

I've been keeping up with this thread. I have found this whole subject and all the points made, very interesting........

Carry on!

[ 08-25-2004, 05:08 PM: Message edited by: street ]

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OK, that is a whole 'nother load of issues, which I (or someone else) will have to get round to eventually, but the discussion so far was about the New Testament, and there's still a long way to go. I apologise if this is too slow for you, but I'm only one man with limited time and resources, you know

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Another objection was that the Roman Empire under Constantine substantially changed the New Testament documents as a tool to subdue the population.

To examine this point, letÔÇÖs look at some of the existing manuscripts that have been dated significantly before the 4th Century (and Constantine)

The Beatty papyri.

The major papyri in this collection are p45, p46, p47.

* p45: 150-250ad; contains some (or all) of Mt 20, 21, 25, 26; Mr 4-9, 11-12; Lk 6-7, 9-14; Jn 10-11; Acts 4-17.

* p46: 90-175ad; contains some (or all) of Rom 5-6, 8-16; all of I & II Cor, Gal, Eph., Philp., Col, I Thess 1,2,5; all of Hebrews.

* p47: third century, contains Revelation 9:10-17.2

The Bodmer papyri

The major papyri in this collection are p66, p72, p75.

* p66: 150-200 AD, contains almost all of the Gospel of John

* p72: 200's, containing all of I & II Peter, Jude

* p75: 175-200 AD, contains most of Luke 3-18, 22-24; John 1-15.

The Text of the New Testament, Aland and Aland, Eerdmans/EJ Brill: 1989, page 85:

We cannot conclude this survey of the papyri without some further comments on the truly amazing discoveries of the past generation. The critical significance of p52, which preserves only a fragment of John 18, lies in the date of 'about 125' assigned to it by the leading papyrologists. Although 'about 125' allows for leeway of about twenty-five years on either side, the consensus has come in recent years to regard 125 as representing the later limit, so that p52 must have been copied very soon after the Gospel of John was itself written in the early 90's A.D. (with the recent discovery of p90 another second century fragment of the Gospel of John is now known). It provides a critical witness to the quality of the New Testament textual tradition, further confirming it by exhibiting a 'normal text', i.e., attesting the text of today (that of Nestle-Aland26 and GNT3). While it is true that papyri from the third century were known before the discovery of the Chester Beatty papyri, none of them was as early as p46, which contains the Pauline letters and has been dated 'about 200' (with some leeway on either side). But more significantly, all the early papyri known previously contain no more than a few verses of the New Testament text, with the exception of p15 from the third century which preserves almost a whole leaf. Now for the first time entire New Testament writings became available from the early period.

OK, so we have a lot of the New Testament contained in documents before the 4th Century. How much has been changed?

Same book, page 87:

The implications of Papyrus Bodmer XIV/XV (p75) of the gospels of Luke and John went even further. Written somewhat later (than p66), at the beginning of the third century, it comprised twenty-seven almost perfectly preserved sheets together with a part of their binding. This papyrus marked another revolution in our understanding of how the New Testament text developed: its text proved to be so close to that of Codex Vaticanus (B) that the theory of recensions, i.e., of thoroughgoing revisions of the New Testament text made in the fourth century, was no longer defensible. One of the main pillars supporting the dominant theory of New Testament textual history was now demolished.

Also we have numerous copies of early church sermons and letters containing quotations from virtually the whole of the New Testament from which we are able to reconstruct almost all the original documents, and the differences are insignificant from the versions used in modern translations.


This is not to say that nobody tried to make some alterations at a later stage, but we have at those points so many other manuscripts that those alterations can be easily spotted and rejected.

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Also, the Roman officials mentioned in the gospels were not exactly presented in the most favourable light. King Herod (appointed/approved by Rome) was depicted as a murderous and paranoid powermonger, killing anyone who might be a threat to his rule, (totally agreeing with JosephusÔÇÖ assessment of him) and Pontius Pilate as an amoral political opportunist, knowingly condemning an innocent man and releasing the most dangerous kind of political prisoner to save his own political skin, and also as an insensitive murderer (mixing the blood of some Galileans with their sacrifices (Luke 13:1)). Also the early church fathers had no qualms about recording the persecution they suffered from the Roman authorities. If they were trying to soften their stories to avoid offending the Romans, they didnÔÇÖt try very hard.

While weÔÇÖre on the subject of Pilate, letÔÇÖs look at his behaviour, as that is often used as an objection against the reliability of the gospel accounts. Surely Pilate was a hardheaded, obstinate and violent man who would never let himself be influenced by the Jewish authorities and the crowd, wouldnÔÇÖt he?

LetÔÇÖs look at some of the more colourful incidents during PilateÔÇÖs rule, which might shed some light on the matter.

First, the famous votive shields incident. Pilate puts up a series of votive shields containing roman insignia in HerodÔÇÖs Palace in Jerusalem, highly offending the Jews.

PhiloÔÇÖs record of the events that followed:

But when the Jews at large learnt of his action [putting up the shields], which was indeed already widely known, they chose as their spokesman the king's four sons, who enjoyed rank and prestige equal to that of kings, his other descendants, and their own officials, and besought Pilate to undo his innovation in the shape of the shields, and not to violate their native customs, which had hitherto been invariably preserved inviolate by kings and emperors alike. When Pilate, who was a man of inflexible, stubborn, and cruel disposition, obstinately refused, they shouted, "Do not cause a revolt! Do not cause a war! Do not break the peace! Disrespect done to our ancient laws brings no honor to the emperor. Do not make Tiberius an excuse for insulting our nation. He does not want any of our traditions done away with. If you say that he does, show us some decree or letter or something of the sort, so that we may cease troubling you and appeal to our master by means of an embassy." This last remark exasperated Pilate most of all, for he was afraid that if they really sent an embassy, they would bring accusations against the rest of his administration as well, specifying in detail his venality, his violence, his thefts, his assaults, his abusive behavior, his frequent executions of untried prisoners, and his endless savage ferocity...When the Jewish officials...realized that Pilate was regretting what he had done, although he did not wish to show it, they wrote a letter to Tiberius, pleading their cause as forcibly as they could. What words, what threats Tiberius uttered against Pilate when he read it! It would be superfluous to describe his anger, since his reaction speaks for itself. For immediately, without even waiting for the next day, he wrote to Pilate, reproaching and rebuking him a thousand times for his new-fangled audacity and telling him to remove the shields at once and have them taken from the capital..."

OK, here we have:

Pilate seriously offends the Jews

They report him to his boss (all the way to the top, two levels above him)

Despite the protection of his patron Sejanus in Rome, he is very harshly rebuked by the emperor.

Any politician with any grain of sense would have learned from this experience, but just in case this wasnÔÇÖt enough for someone as hardheaded as Pilate, it gets worse.

In AD 31 Sejanus was removed from office for conspiring against the emperor. That kind of thing is no good for your job security, or for anyone closely linked with you. That event would still be very fresh in the emperorÔÇÖs memory in AD 33, the most likely date for JesusÔÇÖ crucifixion. This would multiply TiberiasÔÇÖ readiness to believe any accusations of disloyalty (which was quite high to start with) and to punish him very harshly (ending his career and probably life as well).

So when the accusation came repeatedly ÔÇ£If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar. Anyone who claims to be a king opposes Caesar.ÔÇØ (John 19:13 (NIV)) Pilate was in trouble and knew it.

Taking these events into account, his behaviour as recorded in the Gospels seems a whole lot more believable.

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Just in case you were getting impatient, Nomad, here is a good article about the domestication of the camel during and before AbrahamÔÇÖs time (the first of the concrete objections I saw listed on the website you linked to)

In essence, we have evidence of camel domestication as far back as 2500 BC in the regions surrounding the arabian peninsular, but camel use was not at all widespread in that area until 1100 BC. Domesticated camels were a rarity, only available to the wealthiest in society, to which Abraham certainly belonged. (He was ÔÇ£very rich in livestock, silver and goldÔÇØ (Genesis 13:2) and had 318 men born into his household before having any children of his own (Genesis 14:14) (i.e. 318 male servants, plus their families)

Sorry for the shortness of the reply, but IÔÇÖm off on holiday for a week tomorrow and thought IÔÇÖd give you something to chew over before IÔÇÖm off, (and the next post on NT accuracy is taking a lot of research, not sure when thatÔÇÖll be done, especially with my new fleet commitments)


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I donÔÇÖt really have the energy to debate this topic in earnest, but I had this reply written a while ago after interest in this topic had died out (these things always take me a while at the best of times), and now the subject has been brought back up in another thread, so IÔÇÖm posting it now:

LetÔÇÖs talk a little about translation and language, since that topic has been brought up in other threads, it is an area I work in, and forms part of the answer to some of the objections listed in the link nomad gave.

There are many difficulties in translating documents, and many choices for the translator in how to deal with them. Among these include:

When dealing with poetic language, double meanings, idioms or word play, do you translate the precise meaning, or aim for similar beauty and rhythm of language or use (hopefully not too) different idioms or word play in your target language? In these situations, word-for-word translations are often completely meaningless and confusing in the target language or miss the whole point of the passage.

Which sub-culture within your target language are you aiming at? Highly educated? A local dialect? A particular community or age group?

What to do with references to cultural ideas, events and systems that have no equivalent in the locations where your target language is spoken?

What to do with ideas that are taboo in your target (sub-)culture, but not in the culture in which the original document was written?

What to do with stories or analogies that were intentionally highly provocative in the culture in which the original document was written, but are not at all in your target (sub-)culture?

What to do with very old language within the original document? Do you use similar archaic forms of your target language or use (hopefully) similar modern equivalents?

If the document is an ancient one, what to do with references to nations, political situations and systems, landmarks and settlements that no longer exist and disappeared centuries ago?

A good and scholarly translation will state their aims in translating the document and attempt to minimise such problems listed above through the use of footnotes and comments throughout the text, explaining alternate meanings, word play, cultural references and updating political and geographical references where possible. Also, extensive commentaries incorporating studies of the prevailing culture can help to shed light on otherwise confusing passages.

Languages change over time, complex grammatical structures tend to be discarded, and local ÔÇÿshortcutsÔÇÖ, cultural or historical references and words and phrases borrowed from other (neighbouring) languages acquired and built on over time. The more contact two cultures have, the more linguistic exchange there is between them, and the more similarities appear in their languages (or the weaker culture learns the language of the more powerful culture and its own language slowly falls into disuse). If two sections of the same original community are geographically separated and have little contact with each other for an extended period (a number of generations), their languages naturally diverge.

This means that a translation of a document into ÔÇÿmodernÔÇÖ English a hundred or two hundred years ago would look significantly different from the same document translated into modern English today, without any dishonesty or poor scholarship on the side of either translation team. Also translations into different European languages are also translations into those cultures, where different translation emphases were prioritised and employed, so finding different wording in German, English and French Mediaeval translations of the Bible is not necessarily suspicious.

Even if it were, modern translations of the Bible are not translations of translations of translations. They are translations of the original Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek manuscripts, and we have far more than enough copies of those manuscripts to know very precisely what the originals said, the number of copyist errors in the new testament is proportionally less than the number of printing errors in a modern newspaper, and the vast majority of those differences between the copies have absolutely zero impact on the meaning of the sentence (different word order, which in Greek makes no difference to the meaning of the sentence, and variant spellings of the Greek word for ÔÇÿlightÔÇÖ)

When youÔÇÖre writing your translation on a scroll, there are no side bars or headers or footers to put your explanatory comments in, so you put them in the text itself. While that site that nomad provided a link to is correct in saying that many of the political and geographical references were from the 5th Century BC, and were different in MosesÔÇÖ time, the ÔÇÿincorrectÔÇÖ references appear in the comments, asides, and geographical references, and many details, linguistic structures and political references in the actual narrative are supported by archaeological data and would have made no sense to readers in the 5th Century BC. The often-used phrase ÔÇÿwhich is still there to this dayÔÇÖ should be clue enough that the document that we have in the Bible is not the original that Moses wrote, but a translation/transliteration of what Moses wrote (since the Hebrew language and character set changed in the intervening period), probably by Ezra the scribe, hence the updated references from his day. It was most likely a transliteration because of the different grammatical structures and spellings found there.

This is a good article for those interested in looking at the dating of the pentateuch (the first five books of the bible) in more detail, particularly the linguistic evidence.

and this one (including multiple quotes from Finkelstein) is good for looking in detail at the archaeological evidence concerning the conquest of Palestine by Israel. I donÔÇÖt have the energy to summarize it myself (two kids under 3 and a recent plague of migraines will do that to you ), so IÔÇÖll just quote the summary given near the end:

In summary, I consider the biblical model of the Conquest/Settlement to be a better predictor of the data we find, than competing theories (especially the 'gradualist' views):

1. It explains the large and sudden population explosions in the border communities of Israel.

2. It explains the large and sudden emergence of a 'new' (but mixed) material culture in the central areas.

3. It explains how 'Israel' got such significant and sudden attention from Egypt.

4. It explains how the mixed material culture came to be.

5. It explains the uncommon aspects of the 'destruction' phenomena--specifically the anti-cultic behavior.

6. It explains how most of Transjordan was 'spared' from the disruptions/warfare that occurred in Palestine.

7. It explains the emergence of the Hebrew language as a dialect of Canaan.

8. It has tons of supporting archeaological data for the details.

9. It has adequate explanations for (and generally, contrary data against) the alleged 'contradictions' in the archix record.

10. It is the only model that actually explains the 'stubborn persistence' of the Exodus story in the history of the Jewish people.

IÔÇÖm not reliably online for the rest of the month (will be away and have some long-term visitors) so I wonÔÇÖt be able to discuss any responses to this any time soon (at least, not in any depth).

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I'm sure you would be at an advantage, as you no doubt have access to a lot more material than me, my resources are extremely limited, both financially and timewise.

I only know of Finklestein's work through citations in other articles, I am unable to go out and buy books (or order them)- the family budget is just far too tight at the moment, and will remain so in the foreseeable future.

The only impression I have of his neutrality are as a result of reading this interview with him

I'm not so sure he's neutral in his analysis, I'm sure he is an extremely gifted archaeologist, but he seems to be very dogmatic in some of his assertions, using words like "definitely didn't happen" and "no historic grounds" when presenting an argument from silence, and basing some of his arguments on small differences in dating (70 years), when archaeological evidence is very difficult to precisely date, by his own admission in his earlier work, and according to other respected scholars.

Like I said, this is only as a result of reading the interview, I may be completely wrong.

Perhaps neutral is the wrong word. No-one is truly neutral on issues like these, every scholar has their own favourite theory that they like to defend, I suppose balance is the more important virtue, being able to admit the strengths of other positions and the weaknesses of your own, and a whole lot more obtainable than neutrality

We will see how it goes in September, but I make no grand promises.

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OK, thank you to Nomad for generously sending me a copy of The Bible Unearthed to review. I've finally got through it (it took me a while), and I have managed to save up enough (and justify to my wife) to order a couple of other interesting (so I'm told) scholarly titles in this area, On the Reliability of the Old Testament by K.A. Kitchen and A Test of Time: The Bible - from Myth to History by David Rohl (published in the US as Pharaohs and Kings : A biblical Quest) (both over 600 pages long- am I insane?!!), that will be arriving at around the end of the month.

There's a lot I could say about The Bible Unearthed, and we could spend months or years discussing minor points, but I have one question:

Would there be any point?

I mean, what is the major issue for you, which arguments do you consider to be decisive and crucial to the whole equation? Believe it or not, I don't actually enjoy endlessly discussing and researching irrelevant questions. Research can be fun at times, but it is also exhausting and there are other ways I can spend my spare time.

If this subject is important to you, then tell me what the major issue(s) is/are for you and let's take it from there, but if this is just a purely intellectual exercise, then you can count me out.

Up to you.

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Since The Bible Unearthed seems to be the basis of NomadÔÇÖs opinions of biblical reliability in other threads, IÔÇÖll respond to that.

***WARNING*** this is a very long and complicated post (it took me nearly 6 months to research it all, if you want to skip parts of it, look out for the all caps text in between triple asterisks)

In The Bible Unearthed, the vast majority of the points being made are arguments from silence or built on arguments from silence (thereÔÇÖs no evidence!), which in the archaeological field makes a few (significant) assumptions:

1. The passage in question has been understood correctly in the context of the text as a whole (and the terminology used in the passage correctly understood in the context of the prevailing culture that produced it/ surrounded it) and the historically verifiable aspects accurately defined. (No straw men, please )

2. The event(s) in question actually produces types of evidence which:

a. were identifiable as coming from that particular event, and not some similar event at a similar time and place

b. were sturdy enough to survive the ravages of history in an at least partially identifiable state (surviving three thousand years is no mean feat, the older the events, the more of a difficulty this becomes)

c. were not destroyed or damaged beyond recognition or otherwise lost by subsequent wars, deliberate vandalism, accidental fires, weathering, natural disasters, looting, construction work etc.

(If similar events verified by other means have left no archaeological trace (especially if they are more recent, longer in duration or larger in scale) then it is unreasonable to demand that the events in question should have generated such material)

3. The location of the events have been accurately identified and is available for survey (there isnÔÇÖt a major modern residential area on top of it, and no political issues that complicate/prohibit access to the site)

4. The time of the events has been accurately calculated, and the correct sedimentary layers have been properly identified and surveyed.

Though in general I donÔÇÖt like the style of the author of this review, in this case I feel he has done a good job of highlighting some of the scholarly problems with The Bible Unearthed.

We have several examples of problem 1, e.g.

Contrasting the list of defeated kings in Joshua with towns showing no destruction layer in the late bronze age, when the book of Joshua itself lists some of those towns as unconquered, and the book of Judges adds other regions. The conquest itself is not described as a single lightning campaign, but as three separate campaigns with indeterminate gaps between them and actual (partial) occupation only came afterwards (four if you count the conquest of the land east of the Jordan). The battles themselves were resolved very quickly without sieges, but the overall length of the operation is not clear from the text. I could go into a lot more detail on this, but it could get boring and there are a lot more topics to cover.

Another example of problem 1 is treating the lack of Amorite invasion or large scale immigration into Palestine in the early 2nd Millenium as proof that Abraham was never in Palestine (the text itself says nothing about Abraham joining a major population movement, a straight reading of the text implies that his ÔÇÿcallÔÇÖ was unusual and applied only to him and his household, the issue of domesticated camels has already been covered in one of my earlier posts)

we also have problem 2, for example the native Scythians of the Russian steppe were nomadic dwellers in a desert environment who were well attested in the local literature but left no archaeological trace of their normal life (the Scythians did build monumental royal tombs, but no other traces of them survived, and the Israelites had no monarchy at this time). They are both more recent and more long-term than the exodus, and probably involved larger numbers. See here for more on that issue.

Problem 3 mainly affects digging at Jerusalem (but there are also other areas that have large modern residantial areas on top of them), the political and residential situation there significantly complicates archaeological excavations.

For example, this discovery last year (a more detailed article on this find by Eilat Mazar (the archaeologist in charge of the dig) can be found here) would seriously undermine FinklesteinÔÇÖs assertion that David and Solomon were merely tribal leaders and left no monuments in Jerusalem, if it were confirmed to be the remains of DavidÔÇÖs palace, and the evidence looks promising, but by no means ironclad (but thereÔÇÖs no such thing as ironclad archaeological evidence, just like thereÔÇÖs no such thing as complete scholarly agreement). If the ashlar stonework and phoenician-style capital did in fact fall from that building and the standard chronology is approximately right, then we have a building of the right size, location, style and date to be DavidÔÇÖs palace with evidence associating the building with a later royal official. What more could you want?

But Finklestein says the standard chronology is a century out (at least in Meggido), that the historical fit between Ramesses II and the Exodus is poor and Shoshenq IIÔÇÖs campaign did not have Jerusalem as itÔÇÖs main focus, unlike ShishakÔÇÖs campaign as described in the Bible (in fact the case is worse than that, Jerusalem is not even mentioned at all in Shoshenq IIÔÇÖs campaign list and only 1 of the 15 cities of Judah that Shishak is supposed to have conquered are mentioned in Shoshenq IIÔÇÖs list, though one of the lines of that list has been lost).

There is a slight problem here, since Ramesses II as the Pharaoh of the Exodus and Shoshenq II as Shishak are two of the key foundations of the conventional chronology of Egypt, and as a result, of the chronology of the whole of the Ancient Mediterranean region. There are a considerable number of scholars who disagree with FinklesteinÔÇÖs chronological revision. But what about those who do agree with FinklesteinÔÇÖs dating of the Meggido gate? Do they all agree that this proves the Bible is hopelessly inaccurate?

LetÔÇÖs assume Finklestein is right for a moment. If archaeologists could be a century out for Meggido, could this have happened elsewhere? Is this an isolated incident of problem 4 which, when properly adjusted, solves all the historical matching problems of the region, or is it a minor symptom of a much wider problem?

According to a growing number of scholars, the problem is much wider than just Meggido, or even the whole of Israel.


Look here for some articles outlining the various chronological problems that exist in the standard chronology. **WARNING**- vast amounts of reading material there, and highly technical, but interesting patterns emerge.

Basically, between 1200 and 700 BC we have massive hiccups in the archaeological records all over the Mediterranean region, in Nubia (Ethiopia), Israel, Assyria, Troy, Turkey, Greece, Cyprus, Italy and elsewhere. In all those regions during that period There are 200 to 400- year ÔÇÿdark agesÔÇÖ where there are basically no traces of inhabitation (no artefacts, pottery, monuments or major constructions that can be clearly associated with that time gap). In some locations, these dark ages begin soon after a destruction layer. The standard explanation is that the civilisations broke down, the people dispersed and various artistic skills, if not lost, were transferred to perishable materials (wood carving and textiles instead of ivory or metalwork).

At the same time, there are no signs of abandonment or destruction in the majority of the sites, there is no mention of any cultural collapse (or recovery from one) in any historianÔÇÖs records from that period. More interestingly when the ÔÇÿdark ageÔÇÖ is over the culture seems to continue just where it left off centuries earlier, with virtually exactly the same trends in craftsmanship and architecture, with many artefacts, buildings and sedimentation layers being assigned to before the dark age by one scholar and afterwards by another (differences of over 250 years or more!). In many locations, the dates assigned to the destruction layers of some major cities disagree with local traditions or literary sources by several centuries, even some layers that are assigned dates several centuries apart actually touch each other (i.e. no sedimentation occurred between them)

In addition, entire disciplines are misaligned with each other, for example scholars studying cypriot pottery are convinced that scholars who found exactly the same pottery in Palestine have dated those layers two centuries or more too early, and those scholars studying in Palestine are convinced that Those in Cyprus have got their dating wrong by over 200 years, with neither side willing to budge. Also, the origin of the Greek alphabet is a mystery, it clearly seems to have been copied from the Phoenician alphabet, but the that form of alphabet fell out of use 300 years before the Greek alphabet began (or at least our earliest copy of it). As a further example, the archaeological date for the destruction of Troy is centuries off the date assigned it by literary and local traditions.

So how can this be? How can there be so much disagreement between the different fields and the literature, each other (and themselves)?

This all indicates that there is at least one major systematic error somewhere that has gone unchecked. The source of this error becomes more apparent when we notice that the contradictions are primarily between local and imported wares, and between those dates derived from Egyptian chronology and those not.


Inconsistencies within the conventional Egyptian chronology itself - indicate the need to shorten it (the third intermediate period at least) by between 141 and 350 years. This is not done by removing pharaohs from the list but by acknowledging the evidence pointing to there being more coregencies and parallel dynasties than previously thought (there are already multiple coregencies and parallel dynasties in several places in the existing chronological scheme). This ties in very well with the observations from the various regions of the Mediterranean in which the discontinuities are mostly in the order of 200-400 years. The identity of Shishak as Shoshenq II is rejected by this author (and by other scholars).

While it is true that out of all the Shoshenqs, Shoshenq II is the only recorded as having campaigned in Palestine, the Egyptian campaign description doesnÔÇÖt match that of Shishak in the Bible very well, and Shoshenq is not the only pharaonic name that matches Shishak. Ramesses was known by the official shortened form Shesha or Shisha, and Biblical authors were very fond of plays on names, referring to people with a word similar to their names that meant something appropriate in Hebrew. Shishak means ÔÇÿone who crushes underfootÔÇÖ, very appropriate for a powerful and dominant pharaoh. Both Ramesses II and Ramesses III campaigned in Palestine, Ramesses II is lists the city of Shalem (an earlier name for Jerusalem) as one of his conquests and one of his victory carvings at Abu Simbel has has him laying seige to a city on a hill that surrenders to him. Supporters of the conventional chronology agree that Ramesses II attacked Jerusalem as part of a campaign to put down a rebellion, they just assign this to a time before this was an Israelite city.

The two most popular revised chronologies are one involving a shift of 315 or 350 years (matching Ramesses II with Shishak, the 350-year adjustment seems a more natural fit than the 315-year model), devised by David Rohl (the author of the above article) and his scholarship team, known as the ÔÇÿNew ChronologyÔÇÖ, and one involving a shift of 250 years (matching Ramesses III with Shishak) by Peter James and his team (the authors of most of the 1st group of articles), known as the ÔÇÿCenturies of DarknessÔÇÖ chronology. It is earlier and less well publicised than the ÔÇÿNew ChronologyÔÇÖ, and so less detailed information is available about it on the internet (as far as IÔÇÖve been able to find), itÔÇÖs website doesnÔÇÖt provide many details, so I will be focusing more on the New Chronology. Both of these schemes agree with FinklesteinÔÇÖs association of the Meggido ÔÇÿSolomonicÔÇÖ layers with the Omrides.


Exodus and Conquest - Myth or Reality? Can Archaeology Provide the Answer?presents some of the arguments for placing the Conquest of Palestine by the Israelites in the Middle Bronze age, rather than the Late Bronze age in the conventional scheme, which is the only one that Finklestein says in incompatible with the evidence.

The 13th Century date is purely based on the Ramesses name match with the store city the Israelites built, (other geographical names associated with Ramesses are used in much earlier stories, indicating that this name use is an update, referring to a location whose name was subsequently changed to Ramesses rather than a secure chronological reference) there are several converging chronological lines in the biblical text which point to an approximate date of 1400 BC). The author asks that the date for the final phase of the middle bronze age be lowered by at least 150 years by disassociating it with the ÔÇÿrevenge invasionÔÇÖ of the Hyksos by the Egyptians, an invasion theory which is not supported by the Egyptian records.

The match between Middle Bronze IIB/C and the Conquest narrative is very significant, the sites with destruction layers in this period closely match the sites listed as destroyed in the narrative (apart from Ai, which may not have been correctly identified, as it is a very general name meaning ÔÇÿthe ruinÔÇÖ, used of a large number of sites), the particulars of the description of Jericho are very striking:

1. It had a very large defensive structure around it topped with a large mudbrick wall that collapsed outwards, due to a seismic event (though a proportion stood standing (RahabÔÇÖs house built into the wall was spared in the narrative)),

2. This collapse filled a defensive ditch outside the wall with the debris and enabling easy access to the city (The Israelites rushed into the city after the walls fell in the narrative)

3. the city was defeated without the use of a prolonged seige at or shortly after harvest time. This is very different from Egyptian military strategy, which was to approach and lay seige to a city just before the harvest to reduce that cityÔÇÖs ability to resist a long seige and provide food for their own troops as they waited the enemy out ( In the Conquest narrative the Israelites crossed the Jordan at harvest time and conquered Jericho shortly afterwards)

4. It was burnt to the ground after being captured and was not rebuilt for a long period afterwards

5. It suffered a plague shortly before its destruction, (In the book of Joshua, a plague struck the Israelites shortly before they crossed the Jordan to Capture Jericho.)

Also, A pottery inscription form the MBIIB destruction layer at Hazor names itÔÇÖs King as Jabin, which matches the account of Joshua.

Both the New Chronology (ÔÇ£NCÔÇØ) and Centuries of Darkness Chronology (ÔÇ£CoDÔÇØ) place 1400 BC near the end of the Middle Bronze age. The author of the above article later stated his preference for the CoD chronology as an overall scheme.

Another feature of these revised Chronologies is that the Middle Bronze age sanctuary at Shiloh is no longer a pre-existing cultic site that was re-used by the Israelites, it was established by the Israelites immediately after the conquest (in the Bible to house the Ark of the Covenant)

Also the strata at Shechem then fit well with the altar built by Jacob in the 18th Century BC, the pillar set up in front of the MB fortress-temple as the covenant stone set up by Joshua, and the destruction of the temple by Abimelech in the Judges period

OK, what about David and Solomon?

The El Armana Habiru and the Israelite Monarchy (comparison of the use of the word Habiru/Apiru in the El Armana Letters and the use of the word ÔÇÿibrimÔÇÖ (Hebrew) in the book of Samuel). In later books of the bible, the word ÔÇÿHebrewÔÇÖ takes on other meanings, but in the book of Samuel, the meaning match is very close.

It gets better. The following article,

The El Armana letters and Israelite history

Shows a massive number of historical parallels between the events and political situation described in the book of Samuel and the events and political situation described in the El Armana letters (They list 27 general and specific parallels), plus the names of major figures in the Samuel narrative are either translations or shortened forms of translations of individuals mentioned in the El Armana letters. These mostly concern the activities of Saul, his battles, family situation, humble origins and resulting linguistic limitations, the precise circumstances of his death and his successors, but the Fall of Jerusalem to DavidÔÇÖs Hebrews and the fortress of Zion as his subsequent centre of operations also fit very well. The name match with David has been revised slightly since this article, it should be read Tadua and canÔÇÖt be read as Dadua, but the meaning is exactly the same- in Hurrian it means the beloved, which is what dwd (David) means in Hebrew. The strength of the matches is not through the name compatibilities (though they should be there if they are the same individuals, and teh names are very compatible), the historical parallels are where the evidence is really strong.

This fits in well with NC, IÔÇÖm not sure how it fits in with CoD, because of the limited information about it online (IÔÇÖd have to buy the book).


A summary of the ÔÇÿNew ChronologyÔÇÖ and its implications for Biblical History

We have David and Solomon at the end of the Late Bronze age instead of the Early Iron Age, where the cities of Israel show signs of great wealth (gold, jems and imported ivory, plus the remains of the house he built for PharoahÔÇÖs daughter above Jerusalem, the Millo ÔÇÿstepped stone structureÔÇÖ and the architectural and sculptural links between Israel and Phoenicia are very strong (thereÔÇÖs even an inscription closely resembling Solomon seated on his throne, with winged sphinxes as armrests on his throne (lions in the Bible).)

The revised time of the Exodus and Conquest (in both schemes) then ties in nicely with the sudden abandonment of the city of Avaris (in the same location as the later city of Pi-Ramesses) after a severe sudden disaster of some kind (mass burial pits that are usually associated with a plague (the tenth plague?), followed by reoccupation by a different type of population. The first population were Egyptianised Caananites, who introduced the long-haired sheep to the region (The proto-Israelites were shepherds) and suffered an appallingly high infant mortality rate (65% of the burials were of infants, as opposed to the expected ratio of 20%) and significantly higher adult female than male burials (the culling of Israelite infant males, perhaps?). Some of them reached a high status within Egyptian society, and they also showed signs of malnutrition, which could be the result of a famine. Most of the females from this population originated from Syria (the pre-Egyptian patriarchal males were described as travelling to Haran in Syria to find wives, whether this trend continued in Egypt is not mentioned, but thereÔÇÖs no reason to assume that it didnÔÇÖt in the narrative as it is in the Bible) This all fits in very well with the description of the Israelites in Egypt.

The new population were non-Egyptianised Caananites rebuilt the city in a completely different style, and fit the profile of the Hyksos invaders (who were the Amalekites according to Arab tradition, who the Israelites met on their way out of Egypt in the Exodus narrative). ManethoÔÇÖs description of this invasion (as quoted by Josephus) in the reign of Tutimaos (Dudimose)

ÔÇ£Tutimaos. In his reign, for what cause I know not, a blast of God smote us; and unexpectedly, from the regions of the East, invaders of obscure race marched in confidence of victory against our land. By main force they easily seized it without striking a blow; and then having overpowered the rulers of the land, they then burned our cities ruthlessly, razed to the ground the temples of the gods, and treated all the natives with a cruel hostility, massacring some and leading into slavery the wives and children of others...ÔÇØ

The ÔÇÿblast of God smote usÔÇÖ and ÔÇÿfrom the regions of the east, invaders of obscure race...ÔÇÖ are seperated with a particular Greek punctuation mark that marks them as separate events. How could ruthless and cruel oppressors gain control of the most powerful of nations without a fight? That the Egyptian economy had been destroyed by a series of disasters and itÔÇÖs military forces wiped out in a single catastrophic event?

Going further back, using astronomical retrocalculation to verify the dates of earlier Pharaohs and the chronological information given in the Septuagint (Greek translation of the Old Testament dated to the third century BC, the oldest copy of the Old Testament available to us) and in the writings of Flavius Josephus, we find a very good match for Joseph as vizier to Amenemhat III in the 12th Dynasty, under whose rule there are:

1. Records of the level of the Nile inundation that correspond to several years of high Nile floods, depositing extra silt making more land arable that growing season (the ÔÇÿyears of plentyÔÇÖ), immediately followed by extremely high floods, causing villages to be washed away and the fields to not drain away in time for planting, resulting in severe famine.

2. At the same time, the local governors stopped building elaborate tombs for themselves and authority was centralised.

3. At the same time, Amenemhat III built a massive structure at Hawara known as the ÔÇÿEgyptian labyrinthÔÇÖ, consisting of three thousand chambers (1500 above ground and 1500 below ground, arranged around twelve massive roofed courts, all inside the same wall), interconnected by a maze of passages described by Herodotus as a wonder that ÔÇÿsurpasses even the pyramidsÔÇÖ

4. At the same location under the same PharaohÔÇÖs rule (who was also co-regent with Amenemhat IV, a massive canal and mechanism was built to divert excess Nile floodwater into Lake Moeris as needed. This canalÔÇÖs name is Bahr Yuseff (Waterway of Joseph)

5. The modern name Hawara is the ÔÇÿAvaris of the southÔÇÖ, where the ÔÇÿAvaris of the NorthÔÇÖ has already been discussed above as the location where the proto-Israelites lived. The name ÔÇÿAvarisÔÇÖ means ÔÇÿHead of the DepartmentÔÇÖ or administrative centre for the region, EgyptÔÇÖs administrative structure was reorganised into three Departments at this time, Northern Waret, Southern Waret and Head of the South Waret

6. The administrative changes included the creation of a ÔÇÿDepartment of the PeopleÔÇÖs giving, and a ÔÇÿDepartment of the treasuryÔÇÖ

(In the Bible, all the people of Egypt ran out of grain and ended up selling their, livestock, land and selves into slavery to the Pharaoh because the Pharaoh was the only one who had prepared for the time of famine by collecting and storing a proportion of the harvest during the times of plenty, because he had been forewarned of the pending disaster by Joseph, who was placed in administrative control of this program.)

In the Bible, we are also told that Joseph lived among his own people from the time they arrived until his death, that he asked for his body to be taken and reburied in Palestine with his ancestors when the Israelites finally left Egypt, which was done at the Exodus.

Going back to Avaris, there is a substantial governorÔÇÖs palace in the earliest layers of the ÔÇÿproto-IsraeliteÔÇÖ settlement, and in itÔÇÖs garden is a miniature pyramid tomb incorporating an attached mortuary chapel containing the twice-life size cult statue of an Asiatic official, which had been heavily vandalised. No other individual (other than a Pharaoh), had ever been given the honour of having a giant statue of them built for their tomb. This is even more extraordinary for a foreigner, and this was the only mortuary chapel in the city). What remained of the statue enabled itÔÇÖs identification as a very high-ranking official of foreign extraction, dressed in a garment with a multi-coloured design (a coat of many colours), similar in style to those on a mural from a tomb from a generation earlier than JosephÔÇÖs calculated arrival time in Egypt, depicting the arrival of a group of Asiatics into Egypt under the leadership of Abishai (just like the Midianites described as taking Joseph into Egypt).

The revision to the chronology of Egypt received fierce criticism from those in the academic establishment, who have built their reputations on the standard chronology. Some objections are based on minor details that do not affect the overall scheme, Most, if not all of the major objections have been responded to by the authors of the revised chronologies.

here are some responses to criticisms levelled at the new chronology. Further responses can be found here,


and another here

see the Centuries of Darkness responses to critics page for their responses to criticisms of their model.

An interesting quote from their frequently asked questions section that specifically mentions Finklestein and the Bible Unearthed. By redating only one time period (exactly as the authors of CoD proposed) and leaving the rest alone (without considering the scheme as a whole), the layer(s) immediately preceeding the change is(are) massively stretched, an extra ÔÇÿdark ageÔÇÖ is created and the Bible appears to be inaccurate. If you accept the redating scheme as a whole instead of just one little piece of it in isolation, then the Bible fits the evidence very well.

Additionally, in the Acknowledgements section of A Test of Time (the book with a fuller description of the New Chronology), David Rohl mentions that he discussed his chronology and itÔÇÖs implications for Israelite Archaeology in detail with Israel Finklestein, yet Finklestein makes no mention of either the CoD or NC models, or of the possibility of placing the Exodus and Conquest in the Middle Bronze Age (which is proposed by many scholars, even those who do not accept either of the revised chronologies. In 2002, an American Egyptologist carried out a survey of other Egyptologists, asking in which period of Egyptian history, if any, would they place the Exodus. The majority responded that they would place it in the Middle Bronze Age). Perhaps because there would then be too much evidence to explain away?

The debate as to which scheme is the correct one is by no means over (no scholarly debate ever really ends), this discussion group does not just discuss RohlÔÇÖs scheme, but many other possible schemes, including the conventional chronology and minor adjustments to it (you have to join the group to read the posts and access the files, thereÔÇÖs a whole extra library of scholarly material in there, most of it goes over my head).

The question isnÔÇÖt really, ÔÇ£Is there any way of correlating some of the events in the Bible with Archaeology?ÔÇØ, itÔÇÖs more a question of which of the schemes, within which the biblical narrative fits very well as a whole, is the closest to reality?

There are many other topics that could be discussed and I havenÔÇÖt even mentioned all the points made in these articles I linked to - this is a colossal subject. Is this post enough to justify my position that the Old Testament is historically reliable, or do I have to give you the long version?

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