The Choices We Make
As I get older and having spent a lifetime watching both scientific and theological debate, I have more and more become convinced that we humans do not take our positions in light of the evidence but we chose the positions we are most comfortable with. We have a choice: look for ways for the Biblical history can be true or not look for such ways, saying that it is historically and scientifically untrue but still worthy of belief. I have spent my life looking for ways to make the early history of the Bible be factually true. Most in this generation think I was stupid to do that and maybe they are right, but I don’t think so. I am reminded here that God requires belief from us and am always puzzled at the lack of faith in the words of God, where there is believed to be no history found in major passages of the first few books of the Bible. To me, we have a choice to go with the crowd of convenience–either those of a theologically liberal bent who grant little science or history to Scripture or go with the crowd of theologically conservative young-earth creationists. In my view, this is a choice, but there are other choices one can make, avoid both crowds and find a new path, but that is a lonely path and humans are social beings.
My first point in defence of this view is that the few people who deeply influence the course of their disciplines, like Einstein in physics, Wegner in geology, Darwin in Biology, do so at great risk, and generally have not agreed with the standard, widely held view of their day. Yet most people of their day, thought they were quite smart and intelligent to hold to the ‘consensus’ view of that time. Today, Vol 1 of the American Assoc. of Geologists Memoir Series is a rare treasure. Why? Because that volume roasted the ideas of continental drift by Alfred Wegner even suggesting that his mother had canine credentials. Everyone knew he was wrong. He was a weatherman for Pete’s sake and what do they know about geology? Going against the crowd is hard. Anyone who thinks they are an original thinker, but whose ideas are in line with what a large group of people think, should reconsider their self assessment.
Even in 1920, everyone seemed to know that Einstein was wrong light being quantized. Roth and Sudarshan wrote:
“Einstein himself warns, "I insist on the provisional character of this concept, which does not seem reconcilable with the experimentally verified consequences of the wave theory:’ Robert Millikan is so opposed to the idea of quanta that he spends years measuring the photoeffect only to prove Einstein right and himself wrong. In 1916, when the results are in, Millikan declares that despite the fact that Einstein’s explanation is apparently perfect, it is “so untenable that Einstein himself, I believe, no longer holds it.” Einstein has not retracted, but in 1951 writes, “All these fifty years of pondering have not brought me any closer to answering the question, What are light quanta?” Planck and others, in proposing Einstein’s membership to the Prussian branch of the Academy, give him the highest praise, concluding, "His hypothesis of light-quanta cannot really be held too much against him:’ “Tony Rothman and George Sudarshan, Doubt and Certainty, (Reading, Mass.: Perseus Books, 1998), p. 157
Here is the man, whose name was given to the constant that governs Einstein’s light quanta, indicating he thinks Einstein is in error. This is the treatment original thinkers receive. Most people chose not to take the criticism of the crowd, go along with the crowd and die nameless, not even a footnote in history. Broad is the path that leads to destruction, status quo, and eventual anonymity after a useless career of uninteresting papers. It is easy but popular to throw rocks to maintain the status quo but very difficult to build a new way of looking at the world.
Or think about Dr. Robin Warren who proved that H. Pylori caused stomach ulcers but no one would believe him for about 20 years. All those physicians rejecting his idea thought they were so smart and up to date. Sadly,Science is not all above board, honest-as-the-day-is-long people merely looking for truth. It simply isn’t. I spent a lifetime in science and saw the petty jealousy, back stabbing, stealing of data etc. I also saw the intimidation of young scientists whose bosses wouldn’t allow certain answers, who told me privately that they agreed with my map because 'They had it mapped that way originally, but were forced to change it." I had had the pleasure of NOT working for their boss.
While our standards by which we judge comfort may differ, we are still choosing our world view rather than having the data lead us to our world view. Millikan, above, CHOSE to disbelieve data that he didn’t feel comfortable with. This idea that we chose our belief system, may offend the scientific and theological sensibilities of younger people, and even some of a ripe age, so I will illustrate this with an archaeological discovery that has been quite controversial to show that this is indeed the case. But I need to get the data out there in order to discuss the issues here.
The majority of historians and archaeologists believe that the Exodus occurred during Ramses time and there is no archaeological evidence for the Biblical events at that time. They therefore conclude that the Bible story of the Exodus is false. But that is a choice to make the Scripture untrue. Other choices are possible and taken by some.
In 1986, Manfred Bietak uncovered a Palace in a place called Avaris, beneath the city of Ramses. The name Avaris may be a corruption of Ib-ri Ish , “Hebrew man”, the similarity is close given how foreign languages always change the pronounciation and/or meaning of imported words. When in China my name was Mo Duin, which meant ‘never stop’, but was still slightly recognizable as a corruption of Morton.
This palace had two rows of 12 pillars, 12 tomb structures out back, 11 of which still held bones, but the grandest tomb, was empty, lacking both gold and bones. In this grand pyramidal shaped tomb was the statue of what they called an ‘Asiatic’ man with a mushroom shaped hair-do. The earliest mention of this find, which I could discover on a Google Scholar search, is from 1991:
" The architecture of the tombs is purely Egyptian. The custom of placing pairs of donkey sacrifices in front of the entrances to all main tombs shows, however, that Asiatic burial customs were present (Stiebing 1970: 115-38; 1971: 114-16; van den Brink 1982: 74-82). In some of the tombs, four sheep or goats were deposited in addition to the two donkeys (cf. Bietak 1984b: pl. 6b; Dorner 1986- 1987: figs. 2, 3). Some distance east of the entrance of each of the main tombs in the western row was a tree, planted when the old gardens had fallen into disrepair. Each of the main tombs had a rectangular brick superstructure that looked like a platform; it probably supported a chapel. The biggest tomb between the two series of main tombs was of a different construction. It had a cupola-like vault of irregular construction that covered the nearly square chamber. The superstructure had a separate offering chamber added to the east. Fragments of a monumental limestone statue of a sitting Asiatic dignitary were found within a robbers’ tunnel sunk into the chapel. The red headdress is mushroom shaped. The face was deliberately smashed. A throwstick (…) held in the man’s right hand against his shoulder was a status symbol. Although this tomb might be attributable to the older Stratum d/2, it is very likely that the statue was a representation of one of the principal inhabitants of the palace (see below). " Egypt and Canaan during the Middle Bronze Age Author(s): Manfred Bietak Source: Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research, No. 281, Egypt and Canaan in the Bronze Age (Feb., 1991), pp. 27-72, p. 34 http://www.academia.edu/download/41037228/Bietak_Basor_281_1991_Egypt_Canaan_in_the_middle_bronze_age.pdf
What is interesting is that there is no discussion of the stripes or colors of the clothing of this ‘Asiatic’ man. The first full description of this statue was not until 2003 when Robert Schiestl published a Ph. D. dissertation on it and then republished it as an expensive book in 2006. The first detailed description I can find of this statue was published in 2006, Robert Schiestl, The Statue of an Asiatic Man from Tell El Dabca, Egypt, p. 136. He describes the clothing on this statue:
"Another feature emphasized in Egyptian depictions of Asiatic people is their colorful attire. On our statue traces of the design of the garment are best visible on the back of the right shoulder (Fig. 5): A collar is detectable, with three horizontal stripes in black, red and black, with white spaces in between. The garment’s collar is relatively wide, in order to accommodate the Egyptian [Egyptian word]-collar worn around the neck, which is visible in the front. Beneath the collar, the cloth consists of vertical red stripes (see Fig. 5). Traces of the same design can still be detected on the front upper chest, beneath the crook. It is clear that the right shoulder was covered and therefore, despite our scarce evidence, we can draw some conclusions as to how the garment looked. The whole upper body was covered, as is clear by the way the horizontal stripes of the garment fall in the back (Fig. 5). " p. 139 https://www.academia.edu/1470847/Robert_Schiestl_The_Statue_of_an_Asiatic_Man_from_Tell_el-Dabca_Egypt_in_Egypt_and_Levant_16_2006_173-185
“Larger than life size statuary of non-royal Egyptians in the Middle Kingdom is very unusual, but rare examples do exist throughout the 12th Dynasty, both from tombs and from temples. They seem to be limited, however, to families of highest ranks. In the late Middle Kingdom nonroyal statuary can become quite small in size (VANDIER 1958, 255, 271, 284), as represented by the statuette from tomb l/19-Nr. 1 of stratum d/1 (BIETAK 1991 b, Abb. 12). On the other hand, most examples of non royal larger than life statuary date to this period as well.” p. 136 https://www.academia.edu/1470847/Robert_Schiestl_The_Statue_of_an_Asiatic_Man_from_Tell_el-Dabca_Egypt_in_Egypt_and_Levant_16_2006_173-185
Once the multicolored cloak came out, then people started connecting this highly honored man with Joseph of the Bible. Then they found rings that said jqbhr, interpreted as Hebrew Jacob Bahar with the middle ‘b’ serving both words, meaning “Jacob chosen”. What is quite fascinating is that one of the Hyksos pharoahs was Yaqub-Har (see the Wiki list of Pharoah’s). Jacob was the father of Joseph. I will return to the rings later.
Rabbi Michael S. Bar-Ron lays out the case for this palace and statue in the grand tomb behind being that of Joseph of the Bible read this passage twice to get all the information down.:
"Here are key reasons why scholars such as Rohl identify the palace with the stately mansion of the historical figure behind the biblical Joseph:
“The palace’s location in Avaris, widely-accepted to be biblical Goshen.”
“The palace’s immediate predecessor being of Syrian architectural style, typical of Bronze Age dwellings in sites such as Ḥarran.”
“Its unique design with two central rows of 12 stately pillars. This is what one might expect to have graced the bastion of the 12 tribes of Israel.”
“The palace garden has a cemetery with Semitic burials. While Egyptian burials tend to be straight-bodied, buried on their backs, Semites buried their dead on their sides, in semi-fetal position. All the pottery and weapons found in the tombs are of Canaanite origin. Of all the burials, there were 12 prominent tombs; 12 main graves for men of seniority. This is precisely what one might expect to find in the central bastion of Jacob’s Israelites.”
“Among the main graves, all vaulted tombs, is a single grand pyramid tomb with the broken remains of a 3-meter-high, sitting statue of a Semitic lord in a long, rich, multi-colored coat , believed by Rohl and others to depict the famous vizier Ankhu. The Torah records that Joseph wore just such a coat, the envy of his brothers (Gen. 37,3-4).”
"In a lecture at the British Museum in July 2004, Dorothea Arnold, Chairman of the Department of Egyptian Art at and its curator emeritus, determined that this statue must have been created in the same royal workshops in Hawara where the statues of Amenemhat III were carved. Then, to further stress her statement that this colossal statue excavated by Bietak is one of the most important discoveries of the last quarter of a century in Egypt, she surprised all by proclaiming: "Some have identified this statue as Joseph, the Israelite vizier of Pharaoh in the book of Genesis."6 Considering how skeptical, understated and tight-lipped such eminent scholars tend to be, it was a weighty nod of acknowledgement that the Semitic vizier immortalized in the statue is likely to be Ankhu, the historical vizier who served under Amenemhat III, and the biblical Joseph. Partial acknowledgement was voiced to David Rohl by a co-attendee of the lecture, Professor Alan Lloyd of Swansea University, Chairman of the Academic Committee of the Egypt Exploration Society and Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London. He wouldn’t mind labeling the Asiatic official “Proto-Joseph”, but was puzzled when Rohl confronted him with the implications of the whole picture:
“Could we call the Asiatics residing in Avaris (Goshen) in the latter 12th and 13th Dynasties “Proto-Israelite”? (To this Lloyd replied"yes”.) Followed by a “Proto-Exodus”, and then a “Proto-Conquest” by a “Proto-Joshua” to describe the widespread destruction of Canaanite cities in the Middle Bronze Age?! “Why not do away with all the ‘Protos’ and simply accept that the events described in the biblical narratives were based on real history?”"
"Although Dr. Peter van der Veen (Professor of West Semitic Studies at the University of Mainz) chose not to equate Ankhu with Joseph in his own book (Volkohne Ahnen? 2013), he humbly admitted this could have been wrong, and that the picture of Ankhu’s viziership, in its many details, “fits the story of Joseph remarkably well”. "
"Ankhu is the core of the Egyptian name of Joseph recorded in the Torah, Zafenath Pa` aneaḥ (the Z is a צ -ṣadi, pronounced as a sharp S), as it would most likely have been pronounced: Zatenaf Pa- ankh , according to Dr. Kenneth Kitchen. This meant “He Who Lives”. According to Rohl, it would have meant “The One Who Lives”.9 The Torah relates that the pharaoh was awed by Jacob, Joseph’s father (Gen. 47,8). Considering how the pharaoh witnessed the dramatic reunion between the vizier and his father (who had given Joseph up for dead for so many years), it is particularly fitting that he would name his vizier, “The One Who Lives”."
"Unlike any of the other main graves, which retained their bones and buried valuables, the body in the pyramid tomb had long been removed in what seems to be an act of piety (grave robbers plunder treasure, not bones).9 This matches what is related in the Torah and Book of Joshua: per the request of Joseph, that his bones not be left behind in Egypt but be brought to the Promised Land (Gen. 50,24-25), Moses himself brought Joseph’s remains to the border of Canaan (Ex. 13,19), after which they were buried in Shechem (Joshua 4,32). " Rabbi Michael S. Bar-Ron, THE SEAL OF JOSEPH IN HIS PALACE AT TELL ED-DABA, December 29, 2017, 11 Teveth 5778 Beth Midrash Ohel, Moshe Beit Shemesh, Israel, p. 3-5
I wanted all that out so that we can start looking at choices.
Choice 1–the government of Egypt
Why did it take so long for such a spectacular discovery to be published? I married into a Lebanese family and know that there is much opposition to the existence of the State of Israel. There is in Egypt as well. Thus the slow go on this discovery was because anything that supports the Biblical story of Joseph and the Exodus automatically gives support to Israel’s claim to own the land. Politically this is untenable. Thus they hid this discovery by calling him an ‘Asiatic’ rather than what he was, ‘a Semite’, living in a town of Semitic style houses–i.e. like those of Harran at the time. One paper by John Strange, discussed Palestinian City - States, and included Avaris in the paper–when generally at that time, the term was Canaan. That term, Palestinian, is a choice.
Choice 2. Any archaeologist who proclaims that they have found Joseph’s palace might very well find it difficult or impossible to obtain the next season’s permit to excavate. Now, some will say ‘Science doesn’t work that way’, and I will reply yes it does. When I first got into geophysics I was told flat out, don’t use the words thrust fault and Gulf of Mexico in the same sentence. It would be grounds for firing. This was because everyone knew that there were no thrust faults (a compressional feature) in the extensional Gulf Basin. Eventually this was shown to be wrong by a well at the Mahogany Field in the Gulf of Mexico, when undeniable evidence of a thrust fault was shown for the first time. Now we know that compressional features do exist in the Gulf apart from Mahogany, but also in the Perdido fold belt. In physics between the 1930s and the late 1990s, if anyone suggested that Einstein’s Cosmological constant existed (a force that is opposite to gravity), they would have been dismissed as ignorant. One should listen to Lakatos in this regard:
“The story is about an imaginary case of planetary misbehaviour. A physicist of the pre-Einsteinian era takes Newton’s mechanics and his law of gravitation, (N), the accepted initial conditions, I, and calculates, with their help, the path of a newly discovered small planet, p. But the planet deviates from the calculated path. Does our Newtonian physicist consider that the deviation was forbidden by Newton’s theory and therefore that, once established, it refutes the theory N? No. He suggests that there must be a hitherto unknown planet p’ which perturbs the path of p. He calculates the mass, orbit, etc., of this hypothetical planet and then asks an experimental astronomer to test his hypothesis. The planet p’ is so small that even the biggest available telescopes cannot possibly observe it: the experimental astronomer applies for a research grant to build yet a bigger one.’ In three years’ time the new telescope is ready. Were the unknown planet p’ to be discovered, it would be hailed as a new victory of Newtonian science. But it is not. Does our scientist abandon Newton’s theory and his idea of the perturbing planet? No. He suggests that a cloud of cosmic dust hides the planet from us. He calculates the location and properties of this cloud and asks for a research grant to send up a satellite to test his calculations. Were the satellite’s instruments (possibly new ones, based on a little-tested theory) to record the existence of the conjectural cloud, the result would be hailed as an outstanding victory for Newtonian science. But the cloud is not found. Does our scientist abandon Newton’s theory, together with the idea of the perturbing planet and the idea of the cloud which hides it? No. He suggests that there is some magnetic field in that region of the universe which disturbed the instruments of the satellite. A new satellite is sent up. Were the magnetic field to be found, Newtonians would celebrate a sensational victory. But it is not. Is this regarded as a refutation of Newtonian science? No. Either yet another ingenious auxiliary hypothesis is proposed or. . . the whole story is buried in the dusty volumes of periodicals and the story never mentioned again.” Imre Lakatos, “Falsification and the Methodology of Scientific Research Programmes,” in Imre Lakatos and Alan Musgrave, Criticism and the Growth of Knowledge, ( New York: Cambridge University Press, 1970), p. 100-101
What this illustrates is the choice to adhere to a view even when it doesn’t fit the facts. This is something we all do–you, me, and everyone else. And we need to guard against it; and use it when necessary, as above. But it shouldn’t RULE us.
Choice 3. Everyone knows that the Palace at Avaris can’t be Joseph’s palace because it is too early, and for when everyone knows the Exodus occurred (a time at which they can find no evidence.) It is a choice to not attempt to alter the timeframe of the Exodus and work the problem from a different viewpoint.
Choice 4. the rings mean nothing because Jacob is a common Semitic name. Bryant G Wood writes critical of the rings:
Exhibit D: The “Yakov” (Jacob) Royal Ring. Jacobovici contends that Joseph’s royal seal was discovered at Tell el-Daba, the site of the ancient Hyksos capital Avaris. This is also the location of Rameses, the place where the Israelites settled (Gn 47:11) and where they departed from (Ex 12:37). In the 13th century BC, long after the Israelites had left, Rameses II rebuilt the city and named it after himself. It is this later, better-known, name that is used in the Bible since the earlier names of the site (there were several) went out of use. The Austrian team excavating the site found nine scarabs (beetle-shaped amulets) bearing the name of a Hyksos called Jacob-Her dating to ca. 1700 BC. Jacobovici, of course, surmises that this is Joseph’s father Jacob. He further contends that these are “seals worn by Joseph’s court officials.” If the scarabs are connected to the high official Joseph, then why is Jacob’s name on them? Jacobovici does not explain. In reality, Jacob was a common Semitic name and in this case probably belonged to a prominent Hyksos leader or businessman . In addition to the nine examples at Tell el-Daba, three Jacob-Her scarabs were found in Israel: two at Kabri, near Nahariya, and one at Shiqmona, near Haifa (Bietak 1997: 115).
Because he made his choice to view the Bible as not historical he came up with this explanation which I find very anemic. I. making a different choice that the Bible might be true, see different options unexplored by Wood. First, Jacob means ‘heel grabber’. How many parents would name their kid that were it not for a famous Jacob? Secondly, to claim that Jacob was a common name at the time of Joseph , is utterly unsupported by any data. The Hebrews and most of those living in Canaan were illiterate and thus couldn’t write down any names for archaeologists to survey and count the popularity thereof. Thus, Wood’s choice was to make up a fact to explain away the rings with Jacob’s name on them, so that he could dismiss their importance. Further, if Jacob is such a common Semitic, why do we find not a single other Old Testament person bearing that name? It seems Jacob is only common within the mind of Bryant G. Wood!
They have found:
a Semite ruler,
who lived in a Palace, with 2 rows of 12 pillars (12 pillars, 12 tombs, 12 sons of Jacob, 12 tribes),
In a Semitic part of town which name Avaris,
Avaris could easily be a corruption of the phrase ‘Hebrew man’ Ib-ri ish or Iv-ri ish.
Who wore a coat of many colors, (and I can absolutely see Joseph choosing that kind of coat for his trademark given his history and personality).
Who was given the high honor of his own small pyramid for a tomb, a very rare thing, indeed might be the only case of a foreigner buried this way. Rohl says there is nothing like this anywhere else in Egypt.
Whose tomb holds a big statue of him
Whose statue holds a ruler’s stick,
Whose back yard holds 11 other honored tombs
Whose tomb is the only tomb of the 12 lacking bones (as the Bible says, his bones were carried back to the promised land, but not the others)
With rings found saying jqb hr, holding the name of Joseph’s father and the name of a Hyksos King.
If this is Ankhu’s palace, it is quite interesting that his name means: The one who lives, compared to Joseph’s father saying ‘thou are yet alive’. Ankhu sounds like a nickname given Joseph after the Pharoah heard what Jacob had said.
[sarcastic mode]But of course, it is totally impossible that this guy is really Joseph! We certainly can’t have that! It might make people think there is some truth in Scripture[/sarcastic mode]
While I will not defend every piece of data people have claimed supports this view, it is clear to me that how we approach this discovery is a choice. Do we chose to change our views about when the Exodus occurred? or do we stay where we are where there is no evidence for one of the most important events in both Jewish and Christian history?
I suspect the answer lies in how much we believe God is capable of telling us something historically true. In my opinion, a God who can’t tell his people something historically true, or tell his people a lot of historically true things, isn’t much of a God. And a God who can’t tell true facts, isn’t to be trusted if his standard for salvation is ‘Believe me’.
Below is a reconstruction of what the statue looked like