Sunday, 22 February 2009
In the past weeks, we have seen some archaeological finds that might confirm certain details in the OT. To be fair, we'll now look at stuff that doesn't sit comfortably with what the OT tells us. The most notable case is the problem of Israel's settlement in Canaan? Just how did they end up in Canaan after the Exodus in Egypt? Many scholars date the Exodus to around 1250 BCE, the time of Ramses II. Did Israel invade and conquer cities in Canaan as the OT reports?
The most famous city in this episode of the biblical narrative is Jericho. According to the OT, the city's walls miraculously collapsed and the Israelites made their way into the city and slaughtered everybody.
Do we get the same picture from archaeological research? John Garstang claimed to have discovered the collapsed walls of the Joshua invasion. But Kathleen Kenyon, with a more sophisticated and advanced technique of excavation, found out that Garstang had dated the collapsed to the wrong time. They were in fact from the Early Bronze Age, not from the Late Bronze Age, which is the period to which scholars date Joshua.
Kenyon found out that Jericho was destrued by fire by the end of Middle Bronze Age and remained relatively unoccupied throughout the Late Bronze Age. That means, there was no fortified city for Joshua to conqure in Jericho...
No, I'm not spreading heresies. I tood these two books off the shelves of the church's library. They say the same thing.
To make you feel better, more recently a guy named Bryant Wood argues that Garstang was correct and Kenyon wrong. Though still a decidedly minority, there's someone (a real scholar, archaeologist) who disagrees with Kenyon. His arguments are too technical for me to fully appreciate. I personally have more faith in Kenyon than in Wood, but I'll let you decide for yourself.
Similar problem with the City of Ai.
Excavations show that there are only 2 major periods of occupation. First in the Early Bronze Age, then in the Iron Age.
There's a destruction level by the end of the Early Bronze Age, and the city remained unoccupied throughout the Middle and Late Bronze Ages! Again, according to archaeologists, there's nothing for Joshua to conqure in Ai.
The site was occupied in the Iron Age, but there are no walls. Strictly speaking, it was more a village than a city.
Scholars have tried to think of a solution to these problems. May be we should move the date of the Exodus to much earlier? But if we do that, we'll move many other things in the biblical timeline and numerous other things won't fit. I think we're actually attacking the bible if we do that.
Albright suggests that the Ai story in the OT was originally a story about Bethel, which was indeed destroyed in the Late Bronze Age. But somehow, the locus of the story shifted from Bethel to Ai. Possible, but hard to prove. Besides, this is still saying that the OT is wrong. The bottom line is that there was no fortified city in Ai, but the bible says Joshua conqured a city there.
So that's what things are. I'll leave it up to you to struggle with how to coordinate this kind of information with your views of the bible. I think now is a good time to ask ourselves some questions. Why is it that we're so keen on the historicity of the OT? Why does it have to be 100% accurate? And so what if it isn't anyway? Does Christianity collapse if there's an error in the bible?
I can't answer all those questions for you, and I think it is most benefitial for you to find your own answer. But I'll tell you this: I don't think Christianity will collapse even if there's an error in the bible. In the 1600s, christians used to say that if the Earth were a sphere, if the Earth weren't flat, it'll render the bible false and injure the holy faith. But apparently christianity didn't die after people realized that the Earth is actually in a sphere shape.
When I was younger, people used to say that if the evolution theory were true, the bible and the church will be shattered to pieces. But look at the news today, just like that, the Catholic church survives this without a problem. There's no consequence even if Charles Darwin were right.
I don't know if the evolution theory were true, I'm not a scientist, but I want to say is this: even IF it were true, so what?