How historically accurate is the Bible?

(Mervin Bitikofer) #21

…or are failing to take their bibles seriously (much less prove it), actually. If Zionists would start taking their Bibles seriously they would know that supporting “King Ahab” was not a way to bless Israel, but rather a way to let Satan have his way with Israel. God’s approach to such things was not to pander to his chosen people in everything they did, but to give them over to whatever came so that they would return to him. I pray (especially for Israel’s sake!) that Zionists in the U.S. would actually start believing their own Bibles.

(RiderOnTheClouds) #22

Still this maybe does lead me to take theories which try to reconcile the Bible with history with a pinch of salt.

(Jay Johnson) #23

Their problem is Dispensational eschatology, specifically the belief in a literal fulfillment of the OT prophecies related to Israel. I actually heard Fox News hosts and our UN ambassador Nikki Haley invoking Isaiah and Ezekiel, among others. There actually are real-world consequences for faulty theology.

(Robin) #24

I have heard that Ubaid period language change assertion before.

You do range around the early books of the OT for all this.

As for the Exodus — I listened to a few minutes of the Sparks interview and will return to it when have more time.

But really??? So much is said and un-said on many of these subjects, and it almost amounts to who or what are you going to believe?? I have read a lot of 18th and 19th and early 20th century arguments about the events of the book of Daniel ,for example. Whom are you kidding? Belshazzar? No such person!! How could lions ever be put in dens? How would they breathe in those dens?? Is it spelled Nebuchadnezzar or Nebuchadrezzar?

And then they found something with the name Belshazzar on it, and yes the ancient Babylonians and Assyrians kept lions and other animals in dens, after all…And Nebuchadnezzar did, it seems drop out of sight for a few mysterious years.

The Bible does not explain things in great depth. It just gives sketches of events and then moves on, leaving us to wonder.

Anyone who has done family history knows how hard it is to find great-great-great grandparents who only died 130 or so years ago. The first born sons of every Egyptian? from 1250 BCE or so? No surprise to me that we don’t know much about that. I do think there is record of some pharoah having lost his first born son, but then that may have happened for many reasons.

I guess my position is that the Bible has a lot in it that has turned out to be valid. The early Exodus chapters do, for example, show great familiarity with Egyptian practices, for example. The writer(s) of Exodus knew this — how??? So we shouldn’t discount the book whole cloth…


Regarding the exodus I found the book The Parting of the Sea by Barbara Sivertsen quite helpful.

(RiderOnTheClouds) #26

I agree, though given Israel’s proximity to Egypt, this can be expected. I do however believe that the Israelite’s did have some knowledge of exclusively mid-1st millenium Egyptian practises which leads me to think there may be some truth behind the story of the Exodus.

I personally lead towards Richard E Friedman’s scaled down Exodus, it is supported by good evidence (such as the earliest biblical texts not mentioning the Levites in Israel) and has been endorsed by leading academics.

(Robin) #27

Interesting, Reggie…and I did just read something by someone who argued that only the Levites were in Israel because they alone have Egyptian names in the biblical texts (or some Levites do).

I am not sure if the Egyptian naming is only Levitical, but we will leave that alone. Knowing Egyptian customs — such as people being allowed to go off and worship their god, etc — may have been something that a person with “proximity to Egypt” — but not necessarily living there — might know. But that presumes they have the Internet, an eight-lane highway, a bus route, and TV news anchors regularly broadcasting Egyptian foreign affairs to others in the region. People went “up to Egypt” in times of famine (for example) but the amount of cultural knowledge the biblical story shows — that is indicative of more than regional proximity. And, as they say, there is evidence of Semitic residents in Egypt.

I am not sure what Friedman’s scaled down Exodus is — though I may have read it and do not associate it with his name. I generally accept that it was not the Cecil B. DeMille event — “cast of millions” — that we have been led to expect. But it WAS memorable enough that a nation which essentially began in slavery was willing to hang on to the story and keep it prominent in their thoughts and traditions…

(Matthew Pevarnik) #28

I think you are highlighting the various perspectives that were mentioned above regarding a minimalist or maximalist approach to the historicity. It is clear that the minimalist approach (as in the Bible describes nothing real in regards to people, places, etc.) is no longer tenable. As in, here’s a list of 53 people confirmed by archaeology:

However, beyond such people or places simply existing, it hasn’t been a knock out endeavor in archaeology either where simply having a stone or urn dated to an era similar to the Bible as in the case of someone named David living around the time the Bible describes David does nothing to affirm the historicity of the large amount of detail the Bible goes into in describing David.

Do you think that because one or more of the writers of the Pentateuch had knowledge of some Egyptian cultural practices~ does this somehow prove a 400 year+enslavement and epic 10 plagues + 2 million people marching through a gap in a sea in a single evening on dry ground + 40 years of 2 million people wandering in the desert? My question is a bit dramatic but I think from an archaeological perspective it is more difficult to affirm the present ‘traditional’ reading.

(Robin) #29

Thanks Matthew…and yes, I subscribe to BAR and saw that article…

As for all the rest of it — I think going from “there was no one named David” to finding something that said “House of David” which means that there WAS indeed someone named David — is a significant philosophical shift. It certainly means there was a House of David as mentioned…

When it comes to the Exodus, the fact that there were Semitic people living in that area of Egypt and that the author(s) of the Exodus book or account knew customs that are otherwise pretty esoteric, that some of these Semitic people had Egyptian names and so on – and then they all somehow ended up in Canaan (the population explosion that they say cannot be explained by simple old-fashioned procreation on a local level) — these among other things speak better of the Exodus story than saying nothing occurred at all. The issue is larger than “one or more of the writers of the Pentateuch” knowing local customs. But they did know them, after all.

As for the 400 years and 2 million people — directed brilliantly by Cecil B DeMille (I am kidding!!) — there are arguments about that – and the dating to 13th century BC sounds better to me…As others have argued, having a slave background as the starting point of your national saga is a bit unconventional. How many people do genealogy on a personal level, wanting to find out something like that??? — let alone genealogy on a national level.


(Robin) #30

Some set of comments!!! I actually discussed the Moses-took-it-from-Book-of-the-Dead hypothesis with someone once. He got the idea from an author whose books have been widely panned then ignored…

(RiderOnTheClouds) #31

I did not know it was ‘panned and ignored’ (Let me guess, Acharya S?)

(RiderOnTheClouds) #32

After writing a response to Michael Sherlock on this very subject, I was wondering, is believing that Moses gave the law a necessary pillar for believers?

(Robin) #33

No, but interesting that you know another who promoted that idea. The author who was referred to me was a Cairo lawyer turned journalist — and when I ran out of ideas on how to find out more about him and his work, I had a research librarian at a local university library do more research. Her conclusions were that the author of the book was not a professional historian and his views (i.e., Moses copied 10 commandments from Book of the Dead) not accepted so take them with a grain of salt. Also consulted an Egyptologist at the Oriental Institute in Chicago as well as the head of the archaeology dept at a local private college. They also were skeptical of the alleged Book of the Dead connection. A negative reference in a footnote in one of Redmond’s books plus Redmond’s negative review of the man’s book – were my only contributions to the research.

Are you asking me also the question about the necessity of believing Moses gave the law???

(RiderOnTheClouds) #34

No, I’m not asking you in particular

(Robin) #35

Whether it is “a pillar” – necessary or otherwise — not so sure. But skepticism for the sake of skepticism is like a small child sitting at table and refusing to eat anything on their plate…peeivshness, maybe?

The writing of the “law” by a man educated in the royal schools of Egypt — not at all unlikely that he was literate enough, even after a long stint in the wilderness with the sheep. Whether or not one subscribes to the belief that Moses was given the “law” by God and not by Alfred Neuman — you either believe it or you don’t. But saying that it is attributed to him, and historically has been, is certainly reality…

Whether this is “a necessary pillar for believers” is your own decision.

(Matthew Pevarnik) #36

Sure, though it doesn’t demonstrate the historical accuracy of anything other than the fact that there was a leader named David who lived in a similar time period as descried by the Bible. Perhaps what is recorded in the Bible happened exactly as we imagine it or maybe the tells were exaggerated over the centuries. I’m not personally advocating one or the other, just pointing out the limits of what archaeological evidence can tells us or not.

Yes, but the slavery aspect didn’t begin right away. It’s a bit confusing as to the timeline as it seems to be that there was one pharaoh at the beginning of the 400 year period and then after Joseph and his generation passed away there was a new pharaoh that didn’t know them and then the Moses story begins. But the exodus story is far from embarrassing for a people group being enslaved! I’m not sure quite how you can support that argument as the entire exodus story is framed around the superiority of the Hebrew people and their deity who reveals his name as Yahweh.


To jump in, the signifance of the Tel Dan Inscription is more than simply showing a David existed. The inscription says the “House of David”, and records the royal progeny of this house. This means that David didn’t only exist, but with the title ‘House of David’ we also know he was the progenitor of a dynasty and probably a king/leader. More recent excavations have continued to support, in the way I see it, of a more and more complex and powerful Judahite kingdom in the time of David.

(Robin) #38

I like Korvexius’ response below.

As for Israel and slavery as a beginning story — just to stick with that at the moment: the earliest segments of that story really do boil down to genealogy in a sense. It was, per the account at least, just one family — most of them starving somewhere in (presumably) Canaan and having to crawl to Egypt for sustenance — as happened from time to time in early eras of the ANE. The whole complex story of them discovering that the representative of Pharoah was the brother they once wanted to kill — and thought they were rid of — is still simply another dysfunctional family with major issues. What came out of all if it centuries later — deemed “a mixed multitude” and, for all we know including people not genetically related or intending much more than getting Out of Dodge for all kinds of personal reasons — looks more like the beginning of a national sage. Nothing heroic here besides smearing the blood of lambs on doorposts and then nearly getting themselves in trouble with their God in the desert.

I agree that the Exodus should not be embarrassing —save for the fact that it showed not much that was grand about the particpants— Witness all the ups and downs and complaining (what? no leeks and onions??) and so on. For an enslaved people, they held faith in their prospects for freedom about as long as you or I would have done — not so much — and then “the food wasn’t good enough and they wanted a God they could see.”

The great part of it was that God cared about their situation and was in the midst of keeping faith with promises to them and their ancestors…in spite of their own lack of anything.

So — it is a lesson for us today. We don’t learn it well because we are just like them.

And to add to the comments of Korvexius —I think the title “House of David” should signify a larger entity (group) and certainly that there was a David at the head of it. Does not mean “cast of millions” like we today imagine. The world was less populous and cities and towns and kingdoms as well. We do ourselves no favors when we forget that or just decide that a small grouping did not constitute a kingdom.

(Matthew Pevarnik) #39

I certainly cannot contest the “house of David” inscription, or that he was some kind of king/leader. The question I’m looking at is to what extent was his influence and how powerful was this kingdom? From my understanding, it is much more limited in scope than what the Biblical account makes it out to be and tends to reflect a later Israelite dynasty than what necessarily existed in the time of David/Solomon.

(Matthew Pevarnik) #40

I’m still not on board with any kind of argument that goes like:

  • The Bible’s account is exactly as recorded because it contains less than heroic details and paints x, y or z in a bad light.

The same argument is used in apologetics for the authenticity of the gospels and I think it’s a silly argument. If you are not arguing along those lines I apologize for hinting that you are.

Sure I should clarify here. The people are portrayed often as stubborn, resistant, hard-headed people but I was referring to the supreme portrayal of two things: Yahweh over other gods and the leadership of the people (the supremacy of Moses and the later priesthood is clearly evident and such leadership is justified in the text by the portrayal of the people I think).

That’s a fair statement but do you think that the Bible doesn’t really mean over 2 million?? Regardless, the grandeur of the kingdoms in the text I think I can agree would be smaller than I also typically imagine as Israel isn’t even that big anyways even if it encompassed all the area shown in a typical map of their kingdoms: