Bible Controversy

Many critics of the Book of Mormon claim there is no archaeological evidence.  The Bible is assumed to be completely true.  MSNBC has a link about a PBS show about archeaology of Bible that recently appeared on Nova.

William Dever, from the University of Arizona, is one of my favorite scholars.  Let me quote from the PBS Article:

The way Dever sees it, “The Bible’s Buried Secrets” plays it straight down the middle, and that may raise unsettling questions for literalists as well as those who see the Bible as a collection of fairy tales.

“The film’s going to get it from both sides,” Dever said.

The further you go back in the Bible, the harder it is to find archaeology that supports the Bible.  The show will bother many Bible Believers with assertions such as

The Land of Canaan was not taken over by conquest – rather, the Israelites actually might have been Canaanites who migrated into the highlands and created a new identity for themselves. “Joshua really didn’t fight the Battle of Jericho,” Dever said.

Other assertions will bother people who don’t believe in the Bible.  Up until recently, there hasn’t been much evidence before about 600-700 BC.  Many Bible critics claim that characters such as David, Solomon, Moses, Abraham, etc. are mythical figures.  However, 2 recent discoveries dispute this assertion.

“The Bible’s Buried Secrets” includes a segment highlighting the work of the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary’s Ron Tappy, who is part of a team studying an inscription at Israel’s Tel Zayit archaeological site. The inscription hints that a well-organized state was functioning in the 10th century B.C., with Jerusalem as its seat.

Yet another inscription at Tel Dan, from the ninth century B.C., appears to refer to the “House of David” – although that interpretation is disputed. Such evidence suggests that King David and King Solomon were historical figures who matched up with the biblical accounts.

There is an online link so you can view the show.  I believe in the Bible, as well as the Book of Mormon.  My point is this:  people who are concerned about the Book of Mormon, should look more closely at the Biblical similarities.  If one believes that Abraham and Moses were historical figures, despite the complete lack of archaeological evidence, then one should consider the historical possibility of Lehi and Nephi, despite the lack of archeaological evidence.

So, what do you make of it?

17 comments on “Bible Controversy

  1. I think the bottom line is that neither the Bible nor the Book of Mormon can ever be totally proven or disproven. That’s probably the way God intended it, for all I know, because then it’s not simply a matter of faith. I think that we should be open to new ideas, understanding that we can never know very much for sure. I’ve read all this stuff about the Book of Mormon being “proven” to be a fraud because the DNA evidence doesn’t match up. Others say that it does. To me, it doesn’t really matter because in order for either argument to be 100% conclusive, we would have to have more historical information than is now possible. On top of that, although science and DNA research have come a long way, I don’t think we’re at the point where we can claim to know everything.

    As far as archaeological evidence, I think it’s strange that people just assume that because we haven’t found it, it was never there. Even thousands of years later, they’re still unearthing new things in Egypt — a country where you’d think they would have found all there is to find by now.

    I have a Mexican uncle in Utah who does a lot of research on this stuff in regards to archeological evidence supporting the Book of Mormon and some of it is very convincing — hard to accept as mere coincidence. He knows a lot about Latin American history and archaeology and does presentations (in Spanish, since he doesn’t speak much English) and has made trips to South America for research. When he did his presentation for our family in Canada, he had just recently returned from Cuzco, Peru. I think I heard of a new Inca temple being discovered in that area in the last couple of months.

  2. Consider that the paucity of archological evidence for Biblical characters and events is due to a chronological distortion in our perception of ancient history induced by scholastic error. The scholarly practice of using Egyptian history as a chronological benchmark has distorted all of Middle Eastern historical chronology. There is considerable evidence for David and Solomon, the Exodus and Joshua. But, scholars have dated it to other epochs. Maverick archeologist David Rohl has done excellent work, reconstructing history without the Egyptian bias. What results is a stunning confirmation of the Bible. In his reconstruction, Akhenaten becomes a contemporary with Saul, the first king of Israel after the Exodus.
    You can read more about this at: http://mormonprophecy.blogspot.com/2008/08/matter-of-time.html

  3. As I have said, if we found a site somewhere in the Americas, that could incontrovertibly be identified as Zarahemla (including a safe way to alliterate the name right), that would only mean that Joseph Smith had “guessed some things right”.

    It would not prove that Jesus Christ is the son of God, who atoned for our sins, gave up his mortal life and was raised up again immortal. That proof can only be spiritual.

    Some of archaeology is interesting (and I don’t explicitly mean the Indiana Jones type), but mostly it is tedious work with little apparent glory in it.

  4. Who the heck bases their faith on archaeology?

  5. I am not convinced of the current proposed location of Nazareth, although I am fine with the locations of Bethlehem and Jerusalem. The Bible, like the Book of Mormon, is not a precise geography.

    It is too easy to let our enthusiasm for scripture spill over into pseudo-science. Thus, I have the sneaking suspicion that the modern Nazareth is a manufactured tourist trap. In any case, scripture often does not have the specificity needed to be validated by science.

    On the other hand, we must admit there are many archeological correlations in the Bible. The Book of Mormon has many internal evidences, but it is not in the same league as the Bible with respect to external evidences.

    To me, any form of scripture is a mixture of the human with the divine. Thus, I am not surprised by the archeological problems raised in both books. But, if some theologian is going to tell me that some scriptural verse is supported by archeology, then my standard response is: “Show me the data.” Not all claims have to be a matter of faith.

  6. Joseph, I’ve always been a big fan of both the History Channel and A&E. Dever appears frequently on those channels. I’m also a fan of Biblical Archeaological review.

    Your comments seem to imply that you are a little threatened by this video. I agree with Dick, “Who the heck bases their faith on archaeology?” Not me. I know others concur with this.

    As for “agenda,” I think it is quite clear that Biblical Arch Review has an agenda. Atheists who try to prove the Bible (or BoM) as false have an agenda as well. I think Dever walks the line as well as anyone, and calls a spade a spade, whether that bothers Believers or Atheists does not matter to him. I like this approach, as it seems the least biased of all approaches.

    As usual, FD pretty much states my point of view pretty well.

    Anthony, I know that Egyptologists have a notoriously tough time properly dating the Pharoahs, and generally admit as much. I note that the rabbi David Wolpe generated an outcry in Israel when he recently stated that the Exodus didn’t happen the way it says in the Bible. Now that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen, but the evidence on the Exodus is scarce, and there are over a dozen theories as to how the Exodus took place. The problem is that the evidence is lacking.

    I’ll have to check your link when I have more time. I’m not familiar with David Rohl.

    Velska, I’m not sure how to read your comment. It seems you are pretty down on BoM evidence. Are you equally down on tough to prove things like Noah’s Ark, and the Exodus?

    I agree that archaeology will never prove that Jesus is the Son of God–you’ve got an excellent point there. Yes, archaeology is probably very dull, but I love to see the fruits of others’ boring pursuits.

    S Faux, I have heard that the modern Nazareth is not the same as the ancient one. Thanks for pointing that out. I’ve also heard of another Bethlehem. Certainly there is more archaeological evidence of the Bible than the BoM. But, I think few people understand the areas where the Bible is relatively weak, and I’m just trying to point out the similarities with the BoM. Biblical archaeology has been around since about 400 AD when Constantine’s mother Helena went to Jerusalem to try to find artifacts of Christ. BoM archaeology is just an infant in comparison.

    You illustrate well that archaeological problems do not need to cause us to lose faith, though for some this is unfortunately the case.

  7. Here’s a million dollar question — If you were to die right now, would you qualify for the celestial kingdom? If you’re like most Mormons, you’re not sure. You try hard to be as good as possible, but you still don’t know if you’ve done enough. If the Book of Mormon is really scripture, this hope will always elude you. Alma 11:37 says God cannot save you in your sins. Are all of your sins forgiven? Moroni 10:32 says you must be perfected in Christ, which can only be done by denying yourself of “all ungodliness”. Have you done that? Do you repent on a regular basis? Is so, then it is clear that you sin on a regular basis, since only those who break the commandments need to repent. 1 Nephi 3:7 states that you are able to keep His commandments. In fact according to D&C 25:15, you are required to keep them continually! Since you haven’t done this so far, why assume you will in the future? Of course, we should all try to be holy; but if you think that sinning less will qualify you to live in God’s presence, you are mistaken (Gal 3:1-11). The assumption that good works are required for forgiveness only cheapens Christ’s atonement, making it nothing more than a partial payment. God chooses to justify us by faith. Jesus alone does the “perfecting” (Heb 10:14). God gives peace to those who trust in Him alone. If you don’t have this peace, it’s probably because at least a part of you trusts in yourself. Questions? Visit us at link deleted.

  8. Ty,

    While I appreciate your enthusiasm for Jesus, your post has nothing to do with the topic I posted, and is merely an attempt at self promotion, a threadjack, and is spam. It is just as offensive as viagra or gambling spam. Any future posts like this will be marked as spam and deleted. This time, I merely removed your link, instead of deleting the whole thing, but I won’t hesitate to delete any similar future posts.

    If you want to participate, please stick to the topic at hand instead of shameless self promotion.

  9. What is truth? Two categories intrigue me. The first is Romans 8:7 which says that the carnal, or natural, biological, fleshy mind is enmity against God and cannot be subject to God’s laws.

    Assuming it is true, it would have at least two results:
    1. No one can claim physical authority in God’s name, since no natural mind can be subject to God.
    2. Any attempt to do so would result in an infinite speciation of religions and concepts of God, as we have today, with over 30,000 cults, sects, and denominations within christianity alone.

    Assuming that archaeology has proven the bible correct historically, what have we proven? Even accepting the truth, we are still stuck with a gorwin number of religious ideas about God.

    The second category that intrigues me is Godel’s theorem, which says, basically, that in any consistent axiomatic formulation of number theory, there exists an infinity of undecideable propositions. Even in mathematics, within a consistent axiomatic system, there exists an infinity of undecideable propositions!

    What does this tell us about truth? Many mathematicians write that there is no rational, finite way to define truth in one package, which is precisely consistent with the conclusions of Romans 8:7, above.

    No matter how hard we try, or how formal we make the system, it will end up in an infinite splintering of religions or ideas about truth. If you think not, look at the “many worlds” theory in quantum physics.

    But, as Sherlock Holmes said, once we eliminate the impossible, what remains, however improbable, is the truth. The truth is, we cannot prove the “whole truth” in one finite, rational package of knowledge.

    That means we cannot represent God with one religion or truth with one government. It means that there is no decision procedure to get from “here” to “God”, or as Ephesians 2:8-9 says, by grace we are saved through faith, and that not of ourselves. Not of works, lest any man should boast.

    Suppose we could list all truth in one package? There would be no need for separation of church and state, since both could be combined into one unit. State and church would be the same.

    But this would create a problem created by the Church-Turing thesis, which says that the human brain is no more than a computer, since both must operate by physical laws, and we can ultimately mathematically simulate a program like the brain, which will solve any problem solved by the brain.

    So, if we are capable of packaging all truth into one unit, we can create Artificial Intelligence that would be better ‘sons of God” than we are! And if we can define the Holy Spirit, we can program sons of God with qualities of the Holy Spirit!

    Ah, but both Godel’s theorem and Romans 8:7 says we can’t, so we must arrive at a further conclusion. If there is no finite, rational way to define all truth, and if religions and government are based on our best rational, finite formal efforts at truth, then they have no real authority over us either! None of them can represent truth!

    This leaves us with one, and only one, logical conclusion: we are free. And that is precisely what Jesus said whenwarning against deception in the “end time” in Matthew 24:23:

    “Then if ANY MAN says to you, Lo, here is Christ, or there, BELIEVE IT NOT”.

    Jesus told us the truth. There is only one choice, and humans cannot provide it.

  10. Wow,

    Ralph, you’ve got my head spinning. I think I caught most of it, until the very end when you said,

    This leaves us with one, and only one, logical conclusion: we are free. And that is precisely what Jesus said whenwarning against deception in the “end time” in Matthew 24:23:

    “Then if ANY MAN says to you, Lo, here is Christ, or there, BELIEVE IT NOT”.

    I’m not sure what freedom and location of Christ have to do with each other.

    But, you made some very interesting points. Obviously it is impossible for man to completely understand God. I find archaeology interesting, though I admit it certainly has weaknesses.

  11. I have always taken the scriptures literally. I know there are hidden meanings and hidden truths. There are also plain truths we have read 1,000 times and won’t be able to see until we are allowed.
    I was thinking one day about one day we would all have to do as Jesus to be like Him. I thought well I have been tortured and beaten before. Not to death, nailed to a cross or did I bleed from every pore. But I had been beaten badly. So I asked “Lord what was it like? Show me so I can understand?”.
    We always hear Jesus Christ was beaten, nailed to the cross, pierced in the side, crucified and He died for our sins. The “for our sins” is almost always thrown in as an afterthought. He died to save us from spiritual death.
    Well as soon as I asked to understand, a curtain flashed before me. It took just a fraction of a second. In that moment it took my breath away. Spiritual death could be what we face.

    ralph haulk
    Romans 8:6-9
    6 For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.
    7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.
    8 So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.
    9 But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.

    You may think it is funny. Puffed up with pride and ignorance. You think you can twist the scriptures to your lies. If I read just this sentence I am free to sin. I am smarter than God? What about the weak in faith that you may influence, or the person that is searching for the truth? Do you tell satin “Look what I did. I bet you didn’t even think of that one.”. If you want to live in outer darkness for ever, so be it. You etter pray you don’t drag anyone with you.

  12. Ling

    (Or is it King?) I’m not quite sure who the last paragraph is addressed to, but it seems to be off topic.

    Galileo set off a firestorm when he said the sun was the center of the universe, not the earth. At the time, it was theologically threatening. Now we look back, and say, “duh, Galileo was right.” I don’t really understand why it was so threatening at the time, but for the pious, it certainly was.

    So it is with biblical archeaology. Some people may be threatened by the fact that the Exodus didn’t quite happen the way the Bible says. Martin Luther believes the Book of Esther is fiction, not fact.

    If it was shown conclusively that Noah’s flood was not earthwide, but rather a large localized flood, would this threaten your faith? It wouldn’t threaten mine. Whether it is a worldwide flood or not, does not diminish my faith in God. God told Noah to build an ark, Noah listened, and his family was saved. Is this not faith-promoting still? The details of whether it was worldwide or not do not matter. Does it matter to you?

    Let me quote William Dever for a minute.

    The fact is that archeology can never prove any of the theological suppositions of the Bible. Archeologists can often tell you what happened and when and where and how and even why. No archeologists can tell anyone what it means, and most of us don’t try.

    Q: Yet many people want to know whether the events of the Bible are real, historic events.

    Dever: We want to make the Bible history. Many people think it has to be history or nothing. But there is no word for history in the Hebrew Bible. In other words, what did the biblical writers think they were doing? Writing objective history? No. That’s a modern discipline. They were telling stories. They wanted you to know what these purported events mean.

    The Bible is didactic literature; it wants to teach, not just to describe. We try to make the Bible something it is not, and that’s doing an injustice to the biblical writers. They were good historians, and they could tell it the way it was when they wanted to, but their objective was always something far beyond that.

    The Bible was not written to prove archeaology. People who get upset when the archeaology doesn’t match the Bible are misguided. The Bible is of immense worth, regardless of whether it may or may not have told the flood story completely 100% accurately as CNN or PBS would like it to.

  13. MH it is king I just can’t type. It was in responce to 10.

  14. “Who the heck bases their faith on archaeology?”
    I don’t trust archaeology. When I was real, real young one of the tables of early humans contained a prehistoric man they found in Texas. Come to find out they didn’t find a full skeleton; not even a partial skeleton. They found a jawbone which turned out to be a jawbone of a diseased pig.
    It’s nice when archeology affirms what you know; but I wouldn’t use it to determine my address in eternity.

  15. One problem is that of genetics, which clearly disprove the book of Mormom because they show no relationship between Jews and Native Americans. Oh, and the lack of evidence for things like elephant bones or massive million-man armies.

  16. MH, I agree that biblical literalists are misguided, but this is due to mainstream thought that teaches/preaches a literal bible. The book of Esther may well be fiction, but like you say, it is not meant to be a history book but rather it is meant to be a teaching device. It doesn’t matter if a teaching device is fact or fiction as long as it teaches the correct principle. No one is taught this principle however, so people can’t be faulted for being misguided.

    KoT, Archeology can be used to ultimately prove/disprove aspects of historical events…not always, but the majority of the time. The example you give does not actually knock archeology because they ultimately got it right.

    The same question could be posed, “who the heck uses faith to determine their address in eternity?” Faith is obviously not an accurate barometer, because so many different results are determined by it, based on the same input. This is why so many people look to science for augmentation…to help confirm their faith.

  17. Bishop Rick, I have a new post planned on Biblical literalism that I think you will find interesting.

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