Editorial by Tom Harpur
He wants believers to return to Jesus
before present trends kills Chrisitanity
but I like his reiteration of Lazare's sound information that follows:
BIBLE IS NOT RELIABLE HISTORY
Most readers of the Bible, particularly fundamentalists of every faith, assume that when it describes narrative events, these can be taken as historically reliable. These people are unaware that one of the hottest religious debates ever kindled is currently raging over whether Bible "history" can be trusted at all.
The lead article in the March issue of Harper's magazine titled "False Testament," bluntly states that archaeology now refutes the Bible's claim to history. Over the past several years, dispute over biblical historicity has marked scholarly conferences and been noted by articles in the New York Times and The U.S. News and World Report, as well as a hard-hitting piece by archaeologist Ze'ev Herzog in the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz. But the Harper's exposé by journalist Daniel Lazare is the most trenchant account I've seen yet.
Citing the most recent evidence (or lack of it), Lazare pulls the foundation out from under almost every major beam in the edifice of accepted wisdom about everything from the existence of Abraham and the other patriarchs to the Exodus from Egypt, the supposed glories of King David and Solomon and even the conquest of the Promised Land.
For hundreds of millions of Jews, Christians, and Muslims, the revelations set out in Harper's come as an enormous shock. Already in the U.S. clergy report many church members have had their faith severely shaken. According to an article in the May/June issue of Biblical Archaeological Review, the ministers say their people are demanding to know why, if the Bible is wholly unreliable as history, they should believe any of it.
The old, Bible view, Lazare notes, was that the Israelites started out in the middle of the second millennium as a nomadic band originating in Mesopotamia ( Iraq) that migrated first to Palestine, and then to Egypt; that after years of enslavement they escaped into the desert under Moses, eventually crossed the Jordan and in a vicious conquest took over what today constitutes modern Israel, the occupied territories — plus, back in David's time, much more besides. Lazare states baldly that all of this is "bosh." In the last quarter century, he says, archaeologists have seen "one settled assumption over who the ancient Israelites were and where they came from proved false." Instead of a band of invaders who conquered Canaan, "the Israelites are now thought to have been an indigenous culture that developed west of the Jordan River around 1200 B.C."
The stories of Abraham, Isaac and the other patriarchs "appear to have been spliced out of various pieces of local lore." The account of David's Empire is now viewed as "an invention of Jerusalem-based priests in the 7th and 8th centuries B.C. who were keen to burnish their national history."
According to Lazare's research, while some elements may go back farther, Jewish monotheism, focused on exclusive worship of a Semitic deity called Yahweh, didn't fully "coalesce" until some time between an Assyrian conquest of the northern Jewish kingdom in 722 B.C. and the Babylonian conquest of the southern kingdom of Judah in 586 B.C. The Bible indicates a considerably earlier time. It gets worse: Abraham appears mythological — "not only is there no evidence that any such figure as Abraham ever lived but archaeologists believe there is no way such a figure could have lived given what we now know about Israelite origins."
The Exodus never occurred in the 13th century B.C. It never occurred at all! This conclusion, he says, is based upon a growing body of evidence about ancient Egyptian border defences, desert sites where fleeing Israelites allegedly camped, etc. The Old Testament description of the conquest of Canaan "turns out to be fictional as well." King David, said by the Bible to have been a mighty potentate and empire builder, "was rather a freebooter who carved out what was at most a small duchy in the southern highlands around Jerusalem and Hebron." In fact, there are some archaeologists today who maintain, based on the evidence, that he too never existed.
Fundamentalists once took delight in discovered evidence in the 1930s that the walls of Jericho had once fallen much as the Book of Joshua described. However, Lazare recalls that British archaeologist Kathleen Kenyon in more recent times has demonstrated from pottery shards in the ruins that the destruction occurred no later than 1300 B.C., almost 100 years before the conquest (if there was one) could have happened. Joshua may not have "fit the battle of Jericho" after all.
There's so much more, but be assured the article gives plenty of hard data to support its devastating attack, including evidence from a recent book, The Bible Unearthed, by Israel Finkelstein, an archaeologist at Tel Aviv University, and journalist Neil Silberman.
The Biblical Archaeological Review article, responding to Lazare's debunking tour de force, is disappointing to anyone looking for strong refutation. Indeed, I was more struck by the forced concessions to Lazare's case than by assurances about there being "another side." This debate is not going away. Stay tuned.
Note: Theologian and author Tom Harpur focuses on spiritual growth. He insists that the fundamentalists' attitude is killing Christianity. The world should be so lucky! Naomi Sherer