Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Camels Wrecking Christianity?

No, no, no! Not like that! Like this:
New research using radioactive-carbon dating techniques shows the animals weren't domesticated until hundreds of years after the events documented in the Book of Genesis. The research was published by Erez Ben-Yosef and Lidar Sapir-Hen, archaeologists from Tel Aviv University in Israel. They believe camels were not domesticated in the eastern Mediterranean until the 10th century B.C.

And yet, the hump-backed creatures are mentioned repeatedly alongside Abraham, Jacob and Isaac, indicating the Bible's writers and editors were portraying what they saw in their present as how things looked in the past, says a New York Times article by John Noble Wilford:
These anachronisms are telling evidence that the Bible was written or edited long after the events it narrates and is not always reliable as verifiable history. These camel stories "do not encapsulate memories from the second millennium," said Noam Mizrahi, an Israeli biblical scholar, "but should be viewed as back-projections from a much later period."

My title is completely hyperbolic as most of Christianity has accepted that the Bible is not, nor was it ever intended to be, an historic document. Remember the famous Harrison Ford line from the first Indiana Jones movie? "Archaeology is the search for fact ... not truth. If it's truth you're interested in, Dr. Tyree's philosophy class is right down the hall." No religious document is about fact; they are about truth. Or if they are real ambitious, Truth. Does it really matter to the broader narratives of the Old Testament whether or not Abraham rode around on a camel? Of course not. But I'm sure that in no time, a certain corner of Christianity will loudly denounce this finding with all the usual canards about radio-carbon dating and global, anti-Christian conspiracies. Queue Pat Robertson and his New World Order in 3... 2... 1...

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