Archaeology and the Old Testament

The vocalizations of quotidian lexemes may not be all that key to our purposes, but the consonant sequences used for names of cities, countries, and rulers definitely are. Hundreds of different vocalizations were spawned, some of which were arbitrarily localized in the Middle East due to the hypothesis that binds Biblical events to that area exclusively.

The archaeologist Millar Burroughs expresses his unswerving trust in the correctness of the Scaligerian geography, writing that "in general... archaeological work doubtlessly gives one a very strong confidence in the dependability of the Biblical indications" (quoted in [444], page 16). One of the modern archaeological authorities, the American William Albright, wrote, albeit hazily, that "one should not doubt that archaeology [in reference to the excavations in modern Palestine - A. E] confirms just how substantially historical the Old Testament tradition is" (quoted in [444], page 16; also see [1003], [1443]). However, Albright concedes that the situation with Biblical archaeology had been so chaotic in the beginning of the 1919-1949 period that the varying views on chronological issues could not have reached any sort of convergence at all, and that "under those circumstances one really could not have used the archaeological data concerning Palestine for illustrating the Old Testament" (quoted in [444], page 16).

The one-time Director of the British Museum, Sir Frederic Kenyon, categorically insists that archaeology has refuted "the destructive criticism of the second half of the XIX century". W. Keller even published a book tided, suggestively enough, And Yet the Bible is Right ([1219]), which tries to convince the reader of the veracity of the Scaligerian interpretation of Biblical data.

However, here is some information from the eminent archaeologist L. Wright, also an avid supporter of the theory that the Scaligerian localizations and datings of the Biblical events were correct:

"The overwhelming majority of findings neither prove nor disprove anything; they fill the background and provide a setting for history... Unfortunately, many of the works that can be understood by the average reader have been written with excessive zeal and desire to prove the Bible correct. The evidence is misused for making erroneous and semi-correct conclusions" (quoted in [444], page 17).

The pioneers of archaeology in Mesopotamia were C. J. Rich, A. H. Layard, and P. E. Botta in the XIX century - however, in order to get their research subsidized, they had to advertise their findings in a sensational manner, identifying their findings with Biblical towns in a rather arbitrary manner.

But the accumulation of material evidence resulted in a significant quandary. Actual facts show that none of the Old Testament books have concrete archaeological proof of their Scaligerian dating and localization. In the XX century L. Wooley, the prominent archaeologist, performed excavations of a town that he tried to identify with "the Biblical Ur." However, it turned out that "unfortunately, one cannot give satisfactory chronological datings of the episodes [concerning the Biblical Abraham - A. F. ] within the span of the second millennium of Middle Eastern history ([1484], [444], page 71).

The Scaligerian history insists that all the events concerning the Biblical patriarchs occurred precisely and exclusively on the territory of the modern Mesopotamia and Syria. Nevertheless, it is immediately acknowledged that "as to what concerns the identity of the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, one can just reiterate that the information obtained as a result of the most fruitful excavations in Syria and Mesopotamia was extremely meagre, or simply nonexistent" ([1484], [444], page 77).

One might wonder just how justifiable it is to search for traces of the Biblical patriarchs in modern Mesopotamia.

Furthermore, the Scaligerian history is of the opinion that all of the events involving the Biblical Abraham and Moses occurred on the territory of modern Egypt. It is evasively stated that:

"The historical intensity of this tradition is not confirmed archaeologically, but its historical plausibility is, together with an account of the circumstances that may have been the setting of the patriarchs' biography." ([444], page 80) We are also warned that:

"One is to be cautious when using cultural and social indications for dating purposes: since we have the principal concepts in what regards the era of the patriarchs, one needs to possess a certain flexibility in the fixation of chronology." (quoted in [444], page 82)

As we shall soon see, this flexibility may stretch as far as hundreds and even thousands of years.

W. Keller proceeds to tell us that "Egypt remains indebted to the researchers. In addition to the fact they found nothing about Joseph, neither documents nor any other traces of his time have been discovered" [1219]. Egypt remains "in debt" in what concerns Moses as well ([444], page 91). In this case one may wonder yet again about the possibility of Biblical events having taken place in a different country - not necessarily bound to the territory of modern Egypt.

The archaeologist Albright, an avid supporter of the Scaligerian interpretation of the Bible, has nevertheless got to agree with the fact that "the previous concept of the Exodus to Haran from the Chaldaean Ur found no archaeological evidence except for the actual city" (quoted in [444], page 84). Furthermore,

"It turned out that the very location of Mount Sinai is impossible. Another complication is that the Bible often states Mount Khorev to have been the place where the Revelation was given. If we are to take the Biblical description of the natural phenomena accompanying said procedure seriously, one has to presume the mountain to have been a volcano... The problem is that the mountain called Sinai nowadays had never been a volcano." ([444], page 133)

Some archaeologists place Sinai in North Arabia, claiming that it was located in Midian, near Kadesh ([444], page 133). But none of these mountains were volcanoes, either.

The Bible says that "...the Lord rained upon

Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the Lord out of heaven" (Genesis 19:24). The Scaligerian history locates this event somewhere in modern Mesopotamia. "The first thing that one could use in this respect is the assumption of a volcanic eruption. But there are no volcanoes in this area" ([444], page 86). It seems to be natural to search for these cities in an area that does have volcanoes. However, the search is still conducted in Mesopotamia at a great effort and with no results whatsoever. And finally a "solution" is reached: the southern part of the Dead Sea appears to conceal some debris resembling tree trunks under a 400 metre layer of very salty water of poor transparency ([444], page 86). This sufficed for the American archaeologist D. Finnegan, as well as W. Keller after him, to claim that "the valley of Siddim," together with the charred remains of both cities, had submerged ([444], page 86).

The Bible scholar and historian Martin Noth states explicidy that there is no reason to ascribe the destruction of the cities found by the archaeologists in Palestine, to the Israeli invasion in search of the so-called "Promised Land" ([1312]). As it was noted above, from the archaeological point of view the entire Scaligerian interpretation of the conquest of Canaan by Joshua, the son of Nun, becomes suspended in thin air ([1312], [I486]). Are we conducting our search for the Biblical Promised Land in the correct place? Could the troops of Joshua have been pre-dominandy active elsewhere?

It is further written that:

"No archaeological proofofany Biblical report of the 'Epoch of the Judges' exists to this day. All the Judges' names that are contained in the Old Testament aren't known from any other source and weren't found on any archaeological artefacts from either Palestine or any other country. This concerns the names of the first kings Saul, David, and Solomon." ([444], page 158)

The Scaligerian history convinces us that Noah's Ark had moored to Mount Ararat in the Caucasus. Werner Keller ([1219]) assures us that the Armenian village of Bayzit still holds the tradition of a shepherd who saw a large wooden vessel on the Mount. The Turkish expedition of 1833 mentions "some ship made of wood that was seen over the southern glacier." Keller proceeds to tell us that in 1892 a certain Dr. Nuri was leading an expedition in search of the sources of the Euphrates, and saw a fragment of a ship on the way back which was "filled with snow and dark red on the outside." The Russian aviator officer Roskovitsky claimed to have seen the Ark's remnants from his aeroplane during the First World War. Czar Nikolai the Second is supposed to have commanded an entire expedition there, that had not only seen, but also photographed, the remains of the Ark. The American historian and missionary Aaron Smith from Greenborough, an expert on the problem of the Great Deluge, wrote a history of Noah's Ark mentioning 80 thousand publications on the topic. Finally, a scientific expedition was arranged for. In 1951 Smith spent 12 days on top of Mount Ararat with 40 of his colleagues. They found nothing. Nevertheless, he made the following claim: "Even though we failed to find so much as a trace of Noah, my trust in the Biblical tale of the Deluge had only become firmer; we shall yet return" (quoted in [444]). In 1952 the expedition of Jean de Riquer obtained similar results. This somewhat anecdotal account here merely scratches the surface of the problem of geographical locations that is so acute for the Scaligerian chronology, as it were.

Herbert Haag in his foreword to Cyrus Gordon's Historical Foundations of the Old Testament credits the author with the following:

"His aim isn't apologetic, which makes him quite unlike other authors that drown the book market with paperbacks attempting to "prove the Bible" by jumbling together all sorts of sensationalist "proof" received from ancient Oriental sources."([444], page 18) Various museums, institutes, and universities send expeditions to the Middle East for "Biblical excavations." Great sums of money are invested in such excavations, and a great many special societies and funds have been founded with the sole purpose of conducting archaeological research in the Scaligerian "Biblical Countries." The first one of these institutions was the Research Fund of Palestine founded in 1865; currently there are about 20 similar organizations in existence ([444]). Among them are the American Institute for Oriental Studies, the Jerusalem Affiliate of the Vatican Institute of Bible Studies, and the Israeli Research Society. No other region of the planet has been studied by archaeologists with such intensity as the Scaligerian "Biblical" territories. A great variety of literature is published on this subject as well

- special magazines, monographs, atlases and albums for the popularization of Biblical archaeology.

The Biblical topic is often given priority at the expense of other archaeological issues. The prominent Soviet historian who studied antiquity, Academician V. V. Struve, has got the following to say about it:

"The excavations in Egypt and Babylonia were only of interest to the bourgeois science since they could be linked to Palestine. In order to find the funding needed for the excavations, the historians had to prove that an ancient copy of the Bible could be unearthed as a result of their research, or the sandals of Moses, mayhap, and then the monies were provided instantly." ([444], page 44)

The following example is a rather representative one. In the early XX century a tablet archive was found in the city of Umma, in Mesopotamia. But since Umma isn't mentioned in the Bible, and no enthusiastic entrepreneur could identify it with some Biblical town, the excavations in Umma were stopped, and the archives scattered without even being studied. The tablets were sold to Paris collectors for one franc per piece ([444]).

"Archaeology as well as the historical science in general can find no proof to the Biblical legend about the Egyptian slavery of the Jews" ([444], page 102). The Egyptologist Wilhelm Spielberg tells us that "what the Bible tells us about the plight of Israel in Egypt isn't any more of a historical fact than the accounts of Egyptian history related by Herodotus" (quoted in [444], page 103). V. Stade wrote that "anyway, it is clear that the research concerning the Pharaoh under whose rule Israel moved into Egypt and left it represents nothing but the juggling of names and dates void of all meaning" (quoted in [444], page 103). Let us repeat our question: could an altogether different country be described by the name of Egypt?

The Bible lists a great many geographical locations that the People of Israel visited during their 40 years of wandering after the Exodus from "Egypt." The archaeologists still fail to find these locations where the Scaligerian history places their Biblical descriptions. Wright says that "few sites on the way to Mount Sinai can be identified with any degree of certainty" (quoted in [444], page 128). V. Stade wrote that: "checking the itinerary of Israel has as much sense as, say, tracking the way of the Burgundians' return from

King Etzel as described in the Nibelungenlied" The Egyptologist W. Spielberg quotes this statement, saying that "we can still sign under every word of Stade's" and that "the depiction of events following the Exodus, the listing of the sites where stops were made, the crossing of the desert - all of this is fiction" (quoted in [444], page 132). Many sites that were considered to have been on the itinerary of the Israelis have been excavated thoroughly and intensively for a long time now. No traces have ever been found!

The Biblical account of the destruction of Jericho is well known. One of the Arabic settlements in the Middle East had been arbitrarily identified with the Biblican Jericho whose walls were destroyed by the sounds of the horn. The settlement has been subject to thorough excavations since the endeavours of Sellin, Watzinger, and Garstang in late XIX century. There were no results obtained. In 1952 an Anglo-American archaeological expedition led by Kathleen Kenyon ventured to continue Garstang's research. No justifications for identifying the excavated town with Jericho have ever been found. Wright wrote that "the information received on Jericho was called disappointing, and it is true: not only is it hard to interpret the Biblical tale of Jericho, one cannot so much as trace the outline of the tradition's history... The Jericho issue is more problematic today than ever" (quoted in [444]).

The Bible says that after Jericho the Israelis destroyed the city of Ai. The spot where this city was supposed to have been located according to the "calculations" made by the historians has also been subject to fundamental research. Yet again, the results have failed to satisfy. The German archaeologist and Bible historian Anton Jirku ([1213]) expresses his grief over the futility of the "Jericho" excavations, and proceeds to describe those of "Ai" as afflicted by "an even greater discrepancy between the report of the conquest of Ai that ensued and the results of the excavations" (quoted in [444], pages 145-151).

According to the Bible, the capital of Judaea in the reign of king Saul was the city of Gibeah. The historians have given birth to a hypothesis identifying it with the ruins excavated in the Tell el-Ful Hill six kilometres to the north of modern Jerusalem. However, it is conceded that "not a single inscription had been found in the town, and no clear evidence that the ruins belong to Saul's palace or a tower that he built" ([444], page 158). But had Saul's palace really been built there?

A conclusion: Archaeological research shows that the books of the Old Testament have no archaeological proof of their localization and dating as suggested by the Scaligerian tradition. Thus, the entire "Meso-potamian" Biblical theory becomes questionable.

9.2. Archaeology and the New Testament

The traditional localization of the events described in the New Testament isn't in any better condition. The lack of archaeological proof of the Scaligerian localization of the New Testament is explained by the fact that "Jerusalem had been destroyed in the years 66-73, and that the Jews had been forbidden... to come anywhere near the city" ([444], page 196). The Scaligerian history is of the opinion that Jerusalem can be located at the setdement that the locals call El Kuds, whose site used to be perfectiy barren before, also known as Elia Capitolina. It was after the passage of some time that "the ancient Jerusalem" was reborn here. The "historical remnants of Biblical times" shown to tourists today, such as the Wailing Wall, etc., do not hold up to even minimal scientific criticism, in full absence of historical and archaeological proof.

Fig. 1.36 shows an ancient miniature, allegedly dating to 1470, that depicts the pillaging of Jerusalem by the Syrian king Antiochus Epiphane ([1485], pages 164, 165). As we can see, the mediaeval author of the miniature didn't hesitate to represent Jerusalem as a typically mediaeval town with Gothic buildings and towers, and all the warriors wearing mediaeval plate armour.

One must emphasise that other versions exist apart from the Scaligerian. The Catholic Church, for instance, has been claiming the "very house" that Virgin Mary had lived in and where "Archangel Gabriel appeared before her" to have been located in the Italian town of Loreto since the XIII century, which means that the Catholic version transfers a part of evangelical events to Italy. The earliest document concerning the "Loreto house" is the bull issued by Pope Urban VI dated to 1387. In 1891 Pope Leo XIII issued an encyclical "in celebration of the 600 years of Loreto's Miracle." Thus, the "miracle" is dated at XIII century a.d. Historians mark that "Loreto remains a holy pilgrimage place for the Catholics to this day" ([970], p. 37).

Fig. 1.36. Ancient miniature allegedly dated 1470 from Jean de Courcy's Global Chronicle (Chronique de la Bouquechardiere). We see Jerusalem pillaged by the Syrian king Antiochus Epiphane. Jerusalem is pictured as a mediaeval Gothic town. We see an Ottoman crescent on the spire of one of the towers. Taken from [1485], ill. 200.

Fig. 1.36. Ancient miniature allegedly dated 1470 from Jean de Courcy's Global Chronicle (Chronique de la Bouquechardiere). We see Jerusalem pillaged by the Syrian king Antiochus Epiphane. Jerusalem is pictured as a mediaeval Gothic town. We see an Ottoman crescent on the spire of one of the towers. Taken from [1485], ill. 200.

A. Y. Lentzman tells us the following in re the search for St. Peter's sepulchre, for instance:

"In 1940, the excavations sanctioned by Pope Pius XII were commenced under the Vatican crypts, and their peak fell on the post-war years... In the late 1940s a solemn statement was made by the press, especially the Catholic press [since the excavations must have been expensive - A. F.], that not only the burial spot of the Apostle Peter was found, but his remains as well... An objective analysis of the results of Vatican excavations demonstrated all of these claims to have been false. Pope Pius even had to make a radio announcement on the 24 December 1950 where he had acknowledged "the impossibility of making any veracious claims about the unearthed human bones belonging to the Apostle." ([471], pages 45-49)

The location of the town of Emmanus near which Jesus is said to have appeared before his disciples after the Resurrection defies all attempts of being determined. The place of the Transfiguration of Jesus, Mount Tabor, also remains impossible to locate. Even the location of Golgotha is doubted by historians." ([444], page 201).

Seeck in his Geschichte des Untergangs der antiken Welt (History of the Ancient World's Decline, III, 1900) wrote that "we have no intention... of picturing his [Christ's - A. F.] earthly destiny... all the issues of the origins of Christianity are so complex that we are glad to have the opportunity and the right to leave them well alone" (quoted in [259], page 46). A convenient stance, and one that has got absolutely nothing to do with science.

The archaeologist Schwegler sums up in the following way: "This is where the tragedy begins for the believer whose primary need is to know the place on Earth where his Saviour had lived and suffered. But it is the location of the place of his (Christ's) death, that remains covered in impenetrable darkness, if we're to think in archaeological categories." (quoted in [444], page 202)

Apparently, there is no possibility of determining the location of the cities of Nazareth and Capernaum, as well as that of Golgotha etc., on the territory of modern Palestine. ([444], pages 204-205)

We shall quote the following noteworthy observation to sum up:

"Reading the literature related to Evangelical archaeology leaves a strange impression. Tens and hundreds of pages are devoted to the descriptions of how the excavations were organized, what the location of the site and the objects relevant to the research looked like, the historical and Biblical background for this research, etc.; and the final part, the one that is supposed to cover the result of the research, just contains a number of insubstantial and obviously embarrassed phrases about how the problem was not solved, but there's still hope, etc. It can be said categorically and with all certainty that not a single event described in the New Testament has any valid archaeological basis for it [in the Scaligerian chronology and localization - A. F.]... This is perfecdy true in what concerns the identity and the biography of Jesus Christ. There is no proof for the location of any of the places where the evangelical events are traditionally supposed to have occurred." ([444], pages 200-201)

We ask yet again: is it correct to search for the traces of the events described by the New Testament in the Middle Eastern Palestine? Could they have taken place somewhere else?

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