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Miscellaneous meanderings and philosophical ramblings. The title from a spiral notebook I used to jot down my thoughts on religion and other matters some years ago. I like to write, think and express my views on various issues. Robust discussion is welcome.

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"Lan astaslem."
I will not submit. I will not surrender.
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Sunday, October 22, 2006

The Old Testament and Archeology - Round 2

As noted in Round 1, this exchange is from July of this year. The format will now be my usual of the original commentor's points in bold, with my replies interspersed in regular font. This was the last exchange on this subject.

Nietzsche's Antichrist in bold

Me in regular font


When did I say you were a literalist?

"Seems to". Learn the subtleties of English or improve your reading comprehension before spouting and then make sure you don't reinforce my point with what you say later.

You made the claim that archaeology has strengthened the Bible, when it has done no such thing. If anything, it shakes the very pillar the Bible stands on, but since your so wise, I'll let you use Biblical exegesis to figure it out on your own.

No, even if all of what you claim is true, it only shakes a 100% literalist/extreme fundie view or ultra-maximalist position, to use a term from archeology. You may have had an excuse for assuming my position before, since I hadn't made it clear, but now your projecting onto all of Christendom that only one view regarding the Bible is possible. Obviously, I was too charitable with the saying "seems to". "Archeology has done no such thing" is a laughable exaggeration, which I'll explain later.

But on to the range of views concerning the Old Testament, within Christianity.

A consideration of the Old Testament miracles is beyond the scope of this book and would require many kinds of knowledge which I do not possess. My present view--which is tentative and liable to any amount of correction--would be that just as, on the factual side, a long preparation culminates in God's becoming incarnate as Man, so, on the documentary side, the truth first appears in mythical form and then by a long process of condensing or focusing finally becomes incarnate as History. This involves the belief that Myth in general is not merely misunderstood history ... nor diabolical illusion ... nor priestly lying ... but, at its best, a real though unfocused gleam of divine truth falling on human imagination. The Hebrews, like other people, had mythology: but as they were the chosen people so their mythology was the chosen mythology--the mythology chosen by God to be the vehicle of the earliest sacred truth, the first step in that process which ends in the New Testament where truth has become completely historical. Whether we can say with certainty where, in this process of crystallization, any particular Old Testament story falls, is another matter. I take it that the memoirs of David's court come at one end of the scale and are scarcely less historical than St. Mark or Acts; and that the Book of Jonah is at the opposite end.Miracles - C.S. Lewis

C.S. Lewis, still held the scriptures to be holy and to have the authority of God.

Did I mention that they were free of bias? Feel free to put words in my mouth. Afterall, it is easier to burn the strawman down then the brickwall, isn't it?

click for more

What you or your source did was present recent interpretations, with stated bias that appears to intentionally throw out the maxim of historical research that when an ancient source is shown to be reliable, it should be accepted as such in other matters where it has not been similarly proven to be incorrect. It wouldn't surprise me that they would use the argument from silence as well, though one would think the folly of the Hittite matter would hopefully dissuade them from repeating that. The data still shows that the Hittite discovery verified customs, legal contracts and culture as described in the Bible. They may also be the very Hittites mentioned in the Old Testament. That there is controversy on other matters is hardly without doubt. But that it's settled that the Bible is completely unreliable historically is not and even much less so that the current debates within archeology completely undermine the bible in total.

Now, if actual data clearly indicates views should change, then we must do so, but interpretations are not so persuasive simply because they're thrown out there and claimed to be settled fact and the only accepted view within archeology. However, it isn't really even that simple. What might actually be the source of contradiction is our understanding of chronology from archeology or that in scripture or even both! Interpretations of data in both sources may be incorrect and require better understanding that can come with more discoveries. The Exodus and conquest of Canaan would be matters tending to pivot on such issues.

Interesting source concerning Finkelstein. I did mention his extremism, though I admit it was ambiguous and subtle. I'll give the article a closer look another time.

Fair enough.

However, with the Thompson article. It's funny you harp on his view of Jesus being a mythical character, but don't even analyze his claims in the books I listed. What happens when we characterize your source and compare it to mine?

First off, Thompson is a professor of the Old Testament at the University of Coppenhagen since '93, where his concentration is mostly on Biblical exegesis. Earning is BA at Duquesne in '62, he studied at Oxford, Tubingen, and Temple U from '62 to '76. He earned his PhD at

Temple U. He is comprehensively published and generally well-respected in the fields of higher academia. His books are not written in mainstream fashion, and oftentimes one finds himself/herself contantly looking up the source material to get to the meat of the argument and evidence.

The reviewer, J.P. Holding, is a pseudonymn for Robert Turkel. He is the President of Tekton Apologetics Ministries. On his website, he claims to hold a Masters Degree in Library Sciences and to have been published in Journal of Creation and Christian Research Journal, both journals which have come under fire for academic credibility by higher levels of academia.

I find if funny, as does Holding and according to him, intelligent atheists, that people focus on his pseudonym as if it matters. You really think I was unaware of that before you came along? Your focus on him is rather irrelevant as I didn't make an appeal to authority. My point, which you miss, is that Thompson is trafficking in foolishness with the Jesus myth crowd. Having credentials does not make one infallible and immune to bias or poor scholarship as arguing the Jesus myth view clearly shows. That he wrote such a book would be true, if even Crusty the Clown pointed it out.

Holding has also dealt with Jesus myth twaddle in detail before and his review of the book did mention specific issues. Is your reading comprehension still a problem or were you too lazy to click on the link and read all of the review? It's rather informative that you looked up information about him, that isn't even relevant to my point, rather than study his arguments.

So who wins the battle royale? The PhD professor who has been studying this material for years, backing his assertions with credible data from independent sources, or a man who is self-proclaimed "good at looking things up"? I know which way I lean toward. Afterall, the review hardly touches on the book, and appears to be a half-assed attempt at an ad-hominem.

Funny you say this and then next say you never made a claim of authoritativeness. You might want to pay attention before you hit that submit button. Just in case you missed it in my last reply (likely), I'll repeat, Holding listed specifics in his review.

If you noticed, the words above the list were "books who touched on the issues described in the quote". I never made the claim of authoritativeness. Thanks for putting more words in my mouth.

See previous reply

I'll address the other material later, since it's bedtime.

Ah, I should address this before go...

The argument that because it was recent was not that it was 'correct', but the fact that it is recent reflects the change in opinion of archaeology and its relationship with the Biblical accounts. Again, you like to put words in people's mouths.

I didn't put words in your mouth. You might want to get over this accusatory rut you're in. You made much of this material being recent and had previously criticized the Biblical authors as having a "general lack of worldly knowledge". I think it's reasonable to take that as meaning you consider more recent information as being more valid simply because it's new, especially considering the information you presented and the manner in which you did so.

That's a bad habit and if you wish to aspire to be a good apologist and defend your faith, then I recommend you stick to what is said and not attempt to manifest that which is not present. It not only diverts the conversation away from the original topic but shows either a lack of interest on your part to address the meat and bones or simply unable to, so you skirt the main issue and concoct the 'conspiracy' and some bigger picture argument.

Sorry, I don't respond well to orders, nor do I believe I put words in your mouth, but that I drew reasonable conclusions from your comments, here and elsewhere. I also haven't said anything about conspiracy or implied it. I've said people have used poor scholarship and bias, rather than objectivity. Perhaps you should look up Freudian projection and get some help with that.

But anyways, carry is amusing everytime you do it, and it never ceases to amaze me how many times people do it on these internet boards, their blogs and mainstream apologetic writings. Fight the conspiracy and some underlying cause, but not the actual argument. Yep, great tactic...

Every time? That's rather funny as this is our only extended discussion. It's also a rather familiar ad hom and I have to wonder why your profile is private. Joking aside, I obviously did respond to the argument. I showed that your sources weren't all that great on the issue, nor were they mainstream. You also presented your sources as authoritative, while now denying you did. Even funnier, that denial was directly preceded by an appeal to authority.

But I can go even further. You list several extreme minimalists and you (or your source) imply this is the totality of accepted and authoritative archaeological opinion on the Bible. This ignores the range of views in that discipline.

William G. Dever, is certainly not an ultra-maximalist but he has no patience with extreme minimalism either.

What Did the Biblical Writers Know and When Did

They Know It?: What Archaeology Can Tell Us About the Reality of Ancient Israel

Dever (archaeology and anthropology, Univ. of Arizona, Tucson) rigorously challenges revisionists who deny any historical basis for an "ancient Israel" as portrayed in the Old Testament. This minimalist school of thought, which Dever sees as an outgrowth of various postmodern social agendas, has swelled over the past decade, and Dever here compares its pseudo "quest for the historical Israel" to similar reductionist approaches found in the search for the historical Jesus. In contrast to such revisionists, who discredit even the most reliable archaeological evidence...
Since you like crendentials Kenneth_Kitchen

Kenneth Anderson Kitchen (born 1932) is Personal and Brunner Professor Emeritus of Egyptology and Honorary Research Fellow at the School of Archaeology, Classics and Oriental Studies, University of Liverpool, England.Kitchen is one of the leading experts on Biblical History and the Egyptian Third Intermediate Period having written over 250 books and journal articles on these and other subjects since the mid-1950's. His book, The Third Intermediate Period in Egypt (1100650 BC), is universally regarded by historians as the standard and most comprehensive treatment on this era.

Perhaps you'll find his book On the Reliability of the Old Testament interesting.

This rather long review here includes:

Beginning with the recent critical assessments of biblical history from T. L. Thompson, N. P. Lemche, and the work of I. Finkelstein and N. Silberman (with a nod to W. G. Dever), Kitchen reviews and critiques their arguments. He then moves back in time to the middle of the twentieth century and examines the studies on the Genesis narratives by Thompson, J. Van Seters, and the Egyptologist D. B. Redford. After pointing out the errors of evidence in these works, he consider the collection of essays that J. H. Hayes and J. M. Miller published in 1977 and that has become the standard English text on the critical study of Israel's history over the past quarter of a century. Finally, he considers the critics of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In each case he identifies specific errors of fact, as based upon the evidence that presently exists. In addition, Kitchen provides critical reflections on the Zeitgeist of each period and the manner in which this influenced the presumptions of the age. This includes a review of deconstructionism as applied to historical studies in the present age. It would behoove the student of biblical history to examine and reflect on these pages, particularly the specific discussions of errors in the evidence itself and the manner in which critical scholars have sometimes reported it. The sort of frustration that emerges in discussing the consistent presentation of factual errors by non-specialists in a particular field (however highly respected they are) is exemplified on pp. 481-482, and is worth reading by all would-be historians of the Bible.

I think you'll recognize a few names that he takes on.

Holding has a much smaller review here that also lists several specifics regarding the skeptics. Perhaps you wont miss them this time as they're in bullet point fashion.

A decent listing of milestones and what is still controversial here

To conclude, you ignore that Biblical authority does not require an ultra maximalist or extreme fundie view. You seem to be completely unable to grasp that beyond the disagreements between extreme minimalists and ultra-maximalists and all those in between, there is still much that has been proven. It is simply not as you state, that the Bible is known to be completely unreliable. Culture, legal codes, names and places have found confirmation to various degrees and even more so for the New Testament.

roll it up


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