The Bible is the source of incredible controversy and debate. While some hold the Bible to be the literal word of God, others appreciate it as a collection of historical and religious texts. This is a sample religious studies research paper that discusses the historicity of the Bible and the extent to which Biblical tales can be believed.
How true is the Bible?
Fascination with proving the origination and soundness of the Bible is not new. The Bible Unearthed seeks to summarize contents of the Bible and sum it up as pure legend. There is reason to believe that much of the argumentation presented in the Bible Unearthed is for public consumption and thus, the saga of God is contextualized into a compartment of archaeological basis.
The Bible Unearthed, by Israel Finkelstein and Neil Asher Silberman demonstrates many unanswered questions in the Bible regarding the historical context and tries to render the Bible mere fiction by citing a series of inconsistencies. Finkelstein and Silberman paint in broad strokes the epic that the Bible is while trying to prove to the reader that the descriptions in it are tall tales.
The problems as expressed by Finkelstein and Silberman with the Bible are several. Biblical chronology suggests that Abraham and the patriarchs of the book of Genesis were active around 2000 BCE. However, archaeology and the authors’ exegenesis has depicted a different story with regard to the repetitive mentioning of camel caravans. Camels were not domesticated until must later and no earlier than 1000 BCE. Many scholars have been convinced of these narratives according to Finkelstein and Silberman.
Many of “the early biblical archaeologists had been trained as clerics and theologians,” (Finkelstein and Silberman, 2001) thus they could easily be fooled into not fact checking biblical scripture. This is the prominent theme of The Bible Unearthed, to showcase and exhibit the multifaceted problems of the Bible itself. Our thought processes as people are to accept the text as reality per Finkelstein and Silberman.
“The stories of the patriarchs are packed with camels, usually herds of camels, [yet] we know through archaeological research that camels were not beasts of burden earlier than the late second millennium” (Finkelstein and Silberman, 2001).
So how can the Bible speak on camel caravans within a certain timeframe when history does not depict such truths?
Archaelogical challenges to the Bible
To further confound the questioning of the Bible and its validity, scholars have sought to disprove archaeological challenges. The blurring of the lines of the Bible and its validity is easy to spot, note Finkelstein and Silberman with regard to the many narrative problems. All of
“the clues point to a time of composition many centuries after the time in which the Bible reports the lives of the patriarchs took place,” (Finkelstein and Silberman, 2001) proving that there are inaccuracies within the text (starting with the chapter on Genesis).
Finkelstein and Silberman also try to suggest that there is no evidence for Exodus. The Bible does not purport a specific starting date for the book of Exodus, nor does it refer to the pharaoh of the time by name. There is no realistic documentation regarding the time of Exodus, note Finkelstein and Silberman. Historical record should have some recollection of the Pharaoh of the people of Canaan, but the Bible does not proffer such record.
The question becomes did exodus happen? That happens to be the title of one of the chapters in The Bible Unearthed, and of course there is revelation after revelation that the Bible’s message “that one thing is certain. The basic situation described in the Exodus saga-the phenomenon of immigrants coming down to Egypt from Canaan and settling in the eastern border regions of the delta is abundantly verified in the archaeological finds and historical texts. Yet the date of their sojourn in Egypt does not square with biblical chronology” (Finkelstein and Silberman, 2001).
The argument here is that historical memory is diluted as far as dates and times. The authors denote that accuracy has to be the thread of the Bible and based on the fact that no date is expressed in the book of Exodus, delineations can be constructed based on what scholar argue or think. There is no reasonable explanation to connect the dots in the book of Exodus based on what is presented in versions of the book and historical documents about Egypt and the Semites. While
“we know that the solution to the problem of Exodus is not as simple as lining up dates and kings,” (Finkelstein and Silberman, 2001) it would be nice to have some proof that Exodus did indeed take place when it is examined in further detail.
Additional Reading: Read more about excavation techniques used in Egypt in the modern era.
Critical analysis of the authors – Finkelstein and Silberman
Finkelstein and Silberman do not seek to make obvious how problems can be explained by proposing dates but do offer that editing and additions of the Bible can somehow fix the issues that many have with it. The greater part of the second part of the book displays that the Bible does truthfully reflect the social situation of the time period, especially in the book of Deuteronomy.
The book itself is a history of Moses, who would have lived before 1200 BC, and it confirms the religious reforms around King Josiah but there is a lack of credibility in that it does not establish a continuous appetite for the principles by which the book stands. The book of Deuteronomy is traditionally accepted as the genuine words of Moses, thus there should be evidence somewhere about Moses, yet “archaeology has uncovered a dramatic discrepancy between the Bible and the situation with Canaan at the suggested date of the conquest” (Finkelstein and Silberman, 2001). Which leads to the question as to whether the conquest even happened?
Arguments have debated the historical structure of the book of Exodus, Deuteronomy and even Joshua.
“even before the archaeological findings called the historical basis of Joshua’s conquest of Canaan into question, German biblical scholars had been speculating about the development of Israelite literary traditions rather than battlefield strategies,” (Finkelstein and Silberman, 2001)
Meaning that some credence was given to the possibility that Joshua’s conquest was a bunch of nonsensical rubbish or rather fabricated fragments of violence and upheaval. However, there is no doubt that the Jewish people have a long history of suffering and overcoming adversity.
The ultimate message of the Bible
The impact of the book of Deuteronomy on the ultimate message of the Bible goes beyond the legal codes associated with it. Finkelstein and Silberman try to determine the relativity of it and ascertain the book was too edited and thus, the historical context of it can indeed be called into question as the identity of the destruction of Jerusalem is not necessarily believable. A
“basic picture of gradual accumulation of legends and stories – and their eventual incorporation into a single coherent saga with a definite theological outlook – was a product of that astonishingly creative period of literary production in the kingdom of Judah in the seventh century BCE,”
add Finkelstein and Silberman to further underscore the point about the murkiness of the material from Deuteronomy to 2 Kings. They purport that the book of Joshua is “a classic literary expression of the yearnings and fantasies of a people at a certain time and place” (Finkelstein and Silberman, 2001). The authors do a good job of expressing how uniquely intertwined the Bible is with description that can be believed on the surface but is eradicated when analyzed heavily.
Archaeological evidence then eviscerates the Bible and its material. Why do we believe it then or take it as fact without checking into what we are reading? Why do we take it at face value? There is reason to believe that there is some truth in it as Finkelstein and Silberman prove. The Bible
“leaves little room for doubt or ambiguity about the unique origins of the people of Israel. yet within the book of Joshua and the following book of Judges there are some serious contradictions”
of the tribal picture and thus we are given serious depth into the fallacious claims about how the land of Israel was inherited by the tribes. Archaeology provides surprising answers to the traditions and cultic events of the time and suggests that the sagas of the patriarchs were indeed legends and tossed into the Bible at later times and people have been convinced of their validity (Finkelstein and Silberman, 2001). But what if one were to not examine archaeology and trust wholeheartedly in what the Bible states?
Additional Reading: Read more about Judaism and Christianity – The relationship to war.
Factual errors in the Bible – Some evidence
Finkelstein and Silberman offer up on a silver platter several factual errors in the biblical books. We therefore believe the Bible, because we are taught or rather were taught to believe it. Scattered fragmentations of stories with certain truths are what the Bible offers, according to Finkelstein and Silberman. We do not call into question what is presented as real.
Our judgments are clouded because after all this is the word of God right. How can we question the supreme being of the universe, who reportedly created us? Finkelstein and Silberman subtly reveal their understanding of God and their outlook on religion in The Bible Unearthed. The uniqueness of their arguments are that they present facts noted in the Bible and then eviscerate them with archaeological contexts and simple questions so the reader can go and examine what is written in the books of the Bible for themselves.
Finkelstein and Silberman pull some punches in their rebuke of the Bible and its claims. Finkelstein and Silberman note that the Bible makes sense and is even plausible, yet all of the supposed activities are mere tidbits of exaggerations and myths to entrap the reader into believing this as truth. There are some problems with Finkelstein and Silberman’s The Bible Unearthed, however, with their entire glorification about the imaginations of man emanating from the good book.
They are not content with simply showcasing how mythological the Bible is, but making the claim that the Bible is the best mythological book there is. It is as if Finkelstein and Silberman are offering up justification for their evisceration of the book itself, but the question is why bother?
After spending so much time destroying what is written in the book, why try and justify why? Let the reader examine it for themselves. It can be stated that The Bible Unearthed is not for the faint at heart, meaning that it will make one examine their beliefs about God, religion and Old Testament legitimacy. One cannot come away from the book without at least wondering how much of the Bible is true and how much of the Bible is false and where the blurring of the lines started. It is important we humans check what we read, even historical texts that have become second-nature guidebooks for living.