Archeologists’ Camel-Bones Discovery Challenges Bible’s Historicity; Christian Blogger Challenges Them Right Back February 10, 2014

Archeologists’ Camel-Bones Discovery Challenges Bible’s Historicity; Christian Blogger Challenges Them Right Back

Archeologists, long a thorn in the side of those who believe in the accuracy of the Bible, are again posing a challenge to the Scripture. This time, Dr. Erez Ben-Yosef and Dr. Lidar Sapir-Hen, of Tel Aviv University’s Department of Archaeology and Near Eastern Cultures, carbon-dated the earliest known bones of domesticated camels. Science Daily explains:

[C]amels were not domesticated in the Land of Israel until centuries after the Age of the Patriarchs (2000-1500 BCE). In addition to challenging the Bible’s historicity, this anachronism is direct proof that the text was compiled well after the events it describes.

In all the digs, [the archeologists] found that camel bones were unearthed almost exclusively in archaeological layers dating from the last third of the 10th century BCE or later — centuries after the patriarchs lived and decades after the Kingdom of David, according to the Bible.

Christian Post blogger Pastor Kyle Beshears doesn’t believe that the evidence is as conclusive as all that. He raises three objections.

[T]his research may simply suggest that domesticated camels were not in use at these sites until 900BCE.

To be fair, according to Sapir-Hen and Ben-Yosef’s paper, the study encompassed quite a bit of Israel. In fact, they were confident that it did represent a good portion of Israel’s history. However, perhaps later discoveries will show that camels were not in use in some areas while they were in others at various points in Israel’s history.

It’s a truism to point out that new evidence may lead to the reëvaluation of previous claims. I wonder at what point Beshears would be comfortable conceding that the volume of the evidence points to a solid conclusion. After all, there’s always a very good chance that new bones will be found. Until what future decade or century should scientists postpone pronouncing themselves reasonably certain?

The word for camel gamal (גָּמָל) may be a substitute for the oral tradition’s use of a load-bearing animal. Perhaps, according to oral tradition, the load-bearing animal was a donkey or mule. When it came time to consolidate and ‘canonize’ the Torah, the scribes (being people of their time) assigned the word camel to the word load-bearing animal.

Clever and true. But I’m not sure Christians do themselves a favor with such an argument. It makes people contemplate how many other passages in Judaism’s and Christianity’s holy texts are flat-out wrong due to mistranslations, and due to oral traditions that are the antiquities’ version of the telephone game.

And finally,

Could Abraham have acquired camels from Egypt and brought them to Israel without them becoming widely used until much later? … Is it possible that Abraham, during his visit to Egypt, acquired Egyptian domesticated camels? I think so, especially since Genesis 12:16 explicitly mentions Abraham’s camels while in Egypt.

Attempting to support the veracity of the Bible by referring to the Bible is not my idea of impeccable logic, Sure, it’s possible that Beshears is right. But I’m leery.

From Spinoza to Hobbes and from Darwin to Dawkins, we’ve seen that the Bible is a poor substitute for a history book.

As British designer Alec Issigonis once famously said, “A camel is a horse designed by committee.”

Much like the Holy Book, actually.

(Image via Shutterstock)

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