Comments: Absence of Evidence

Sea of Reeds. The Hebrews did not cross the Red Sea. That is the myth and the mistranslation by Christians of our Bible.

Plenty of archeological evidence is being found in Israel to support Biblical stories. And there is also much evidence of Muslims suppressing proof that Jerusalem was the city of David. I would not be in the least bit surprised to find that Egyptians are doing the same.

I am not convinced by one article, and one archeologist. Would you be convinced by the same in reverse?

When did you become an atheist, Bill?

Posted by Meryl Yourish at December 11, 2007 09:34 AM

The notion that the Egyptians are suppressing or ignoring evidence did occur to me, but Hawass, by making the definitive statement he's making, is saying that not only is the Pentateuch inaccurate as far as the archaeological record is concerned, so is the Koran. Book 7, verses 100 to 157, covers some of Exodus--the confrontation with Pharaoh, the famines and plagues, the destruction of the Egyptian army in the sea while the Israelites safely cross it, and so on. Hawass' rejection of a Jewish presence in Egypt based on archaeological evidence is a rejection of the Koran as much as it is of the Bible.

I recognize that any number of Palestinian apologists argue that there is no historical connection between Jews and Israel, and obviously that's contradicted by a rich archaeological record that includes, among other things, Hebrew inscription, Hebrew coins, and so on, and a good deal of contemporaneous history, including Roman historians who had precious little sympathy for those crazy monotheists in their midst.

But your argument suggests why Biblical Archaeology as a field is inherently problematic. The persistent holding out for evidence despite overwhelming evidence of absence (see, for example, this work is not good archaeological practice, and ends by drawing serious archaeologists like Hawass into irrelevant, unproductive arguments. Should we also assume that, just because archaeological evidence entirely contradicts the Book of Mormon, that new discoveries (including horse skeletons, swords, chariots, and so on) are just around the corner that will vindicate old Joe Smith?

Posted by Bill at December 12, 2007 02:04 AM

I've got to get around to writing on this. But recent political discourse makes the subject too revolting.

Full disclosure: I'm actually a Christian, but a very heterodox one.

The Jewish literary tradition strongly suggests that there was so much irony, sarcasm, double entendre, and figurative narration, that it's actually very unclear what the biblical text meant anyway UNLESS one has some understanding of the source material, which of course is demanding an awful lot.

Bear in mind that an alternative to the Exodus story is found in the Apocryphal book of Judith, in which the Israelites came from the opposite direction--that they were Chaldeans. The Book of Judith made the Jerusalem Canon, but not the Alexandrine one (Jerusalem canon - Alexandrine canon = "Apocryphal Old Testament").

Pointing this out came as a tremendous relief for this recovering fundamentalist evangelical, because it now became clear that the REAL Christianity of the Bible was a lot closer to a profound and coherent message, than the terrifying congeries I'd grown up with. I personally hope that Christianity undergoes a reformation from the magical thinking that has plagued it at the margins for centuries.

Posted by James R MacLean at December 18, 2007 11:57 PM

Sorry, neglected to make this point: the term "atheist" is not very meaningful since so much depends on one's conception of what God means. I could be mistaken, but I believe the notion of God as omnipotent or omniscient (with those terms as mathematical absolutes) entered the Abrahamic religious traditions around 300 CE or so, largely as a result of Eirenus. Prior to that time, "God" was a concept that had gradually merged with Hellenic concepts of a complex population of different spiritual entities; a sentient being with immense powers and immense wisdom, but subject to impersonal laws (represented symbolically by such terms as "the Fates").

So when the notion of God was so reduced to something posing endless moral dilemmas, and burying the whole question of atonement (as in, "Why?"), it created this void that was only addressed by heresy and blasphemy. In that sense, "atheism" is a revival of authentic piety.

Posted by James R MacLean at December 19, 2007 12:06 AM