menu
August 17, 2021

Atheist anti-theist Jonathan M. S. Pearce is the main writer on the blog, A Tippling Philosopher. His “About” page states: “Pearce is a philosopher, author, blogger, public speaker and teacher from Hampshire in the UK. He specialises in philosophy of religion, but likes to turn his hand to science, psychology, politics and anything involved in investigating reality.”

This particular post was written by guest contributor David Austin. But since Pearce clearly endorses its contents, I’ll include it as #44 of his never-ending potshots against the Bible and Christianity. Austin’s words will be in blue.

*****

Mark 5:22-23, 35-36 (RSV) Then came one of the rulers of the synagogue, Ja’irus by name; and seeing him, he fell at his feet, [23] and besought him, saying, “My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well, and live.” . . . [35] While he was still speaking, there came from the ruler’s house some who said, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the Teacher any further?” [36] But ignoring what they said, Jesus said to the ruler of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.”

Luke 8:41-42, 49-50  And there came a man named Ja’irus, who was a ruler of the synagogue; and falling at Jesus’ feet he besought him to come to his house, [42] for he had an only daughter, about twelve years of age, and she was dying. . . . [49] While he was still speaking, a man from the ruler’s house came and said, “Your daughter is dead; do not trouble the Teacher any more.” [50] But Jesus on hearing this answered him, “Do not fear; only believe, and she shall be well.”

Matthew 9:18 While he was thus speaking to them, behold, a ruler came in and knelt before him, saying, “My daughter has just died; but come and lay your hand on her, and she will live.”

It is note-worthy, that Mark’s account says “My little daughter is dying” contrasting with Matthew’s account which says “My daughter has just died”. So which is it, was Jairus’s daughter dead or dying when Jairus first approached Jesus? You may think this is a trivial matter, but both statements cannot be correct; there is a contradiction.

This is rather simple to solve. It’s untrue that every Gospel “must” give every detail of every incident or someone’s words. According to whom? Where is this “requirement” written in stone? As in real life, people report different things; some highlight or concentrate exclusively on one element, another does differently.

This factor alone explains away perhaps 40% of all of atheists’ alleged biblical “contradictions”. I know, because I’ve dealt with scores and scores of them, myself, and this silliness and logical foolishness is a constant theme. They momentarily lose comprehension of — in their zeal to mock and deride the Bible — the fairly simple laws of logic.

The solution of the supposed conundrum is in the texts themselves. Austin cited Mark at length (including 5:35) and noted that “Luke’s account is substantially the same.” Note what occurs in the two parallel accounts of Mark and Luke:

1) Jairus approaches Jesus  and says, “My little daughter is at the point of death” (Mk 5:23); Luke (as narrator) reports that “she was dying.”

2) [Seemingly] immediately afterwards in both accounts (Mk 5:24-34; Lk 8:43-48), Jesus heals the woman who had a “hemorrhage” (Mk 5:29) or “flow of blood” (Lk 8:43).

3) Then a man from Jairus’ house comes and reports that his daughter is “dead” (Mk 5:35; Lk 8:49).

4) Thus, there is a gap between the time when Jairus’ a) knew his daughter was dying, until the time that b) reports came that she had indeed died.

Matthew, possibly — but not necessarily — using the well-known and established literary technique of compression (which I have addressed elsewhere: including reference to this incident), simply records 4b (his daughter’s death) rather than 4a (his despair in knowing his daughter was dying, and his seeking a healing from Jesus). Matthew uses about 176 words in writing about this event, whereas Mark utilizes around 481 words (2.7 times more than Matthew).

It’s not a contradiction. We know from Mark and Luke that he learned of her death while he was still pleading with Jesus to heal her. So where is the problem here? There is none, for anyone who looks fairly at the texts and employs simple common sense.

Note that Matthew also includes a section (9:20-22) on the woman with a “hemorrhage” (9:20). It’s a different chronology or order than in the other two accounts, but this is completely normal in 1st century Jewish writing, since that culture had a different conception of chronology than we do today.

See, for example, Jacques Doukhan’s book, Hebrew for Theologians: A Textbook for the Study of Biblical Hebrew in Relation to Hebrew Thinking (University Press of America, 1993). He noted that in the Hebrew mind, “the content of time prevails over chronology. Events which are distant in time can, if their content is similar, be regarded as simultaneous.” (p. 206)

Likewise, Thorleif Boman, in his book, Hebrew Thought Compared with Greek (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1960), devotes 61 pages to the topic of “Time and Space.” He explained that for the Hebrews, “time is determined by its content, and since light is authoritative and decisive, the light was called day and the darkness night even before the creation of the heavenly luminaries (Gen. 1.5).” (p. 131)

He observed also:

[W]e, too, characterize time by its content. We speak of wartime, peacetime, hard times, time of mourning, feast time, favourable time, office hours, bad year, etc. . . .

Thus, in part, the chronological times were named and characterized in accordance with their content in the Old Testament; day is the time of light and night is darkness (Gen. 1.5; Ps. 104.20). (p. 140)

Mark devotes ten verses to the same incident of the woman with a hemorrhage (5:24-34), or 3.3 times more than Matthew does, and Luke provides six verses to it (8:43-48), or twice as many as Matthew. Thus, this supports the belief that Matthew is again (?) employing compression (as he is thought by many commentators to habitually do).

All three accounts, however, have Jairus — and Jesus — being aware of his daughter’s death (Mt 9:18; Mk 5:35; Lk 8:49), before Jesus goes to heal her (Mt 9:23; Mk 5:37-38; Lk 8:50-51).

Problem entirely solved! Matthew merely didn’t mention the part where Jairus told Jesus that his daughter was dying. He gets right to the point and has him telling Jesus (after being informed by a person of his house) that she was already dead (just as Mark and Luke also report the fact of her death). Then Jesus goes (after that report) to heal her, in all three accounts.

After becoming aware of all this, only a person relentlessly, irrationally, and obstinately hostile to the Bible and/or Christianity could possibly still think a “contradiction” was present.

***

Photo credit: Jesus and Jairus’ Daughter; etching after Gabriel Cornelius von Max (1840–1915) [Look and Learn / Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY 4.0) license]

***

Summary: Jonathan MS Pearce (by endorsing a guest writer) believes that a contradiction exists in the report in three Gospels of Jesus raising Jairus’ daughter from the dead. He’s wrong, as usual.

July 19, 2021

The Broad Definition of “King” in the Ancient Near East, + Biblical Use of  “Chiefs of Edom” 

Atheist anti-theist Jonathan M. S. Pearce is the main writer on the blog, A Tippling Philosopher. His “About” page states: “Pearce is a philosopher, author, blogger, public speaker and teacher from Hampshire in the UK. He specialises in philosophy of religion, but likes to turn his hand to science, psychology, politics and anything involved in investigating reality.” His words will be in blue.

*****

I am responding to a portion of Pearce’s article, Exodus Sidebar: Replying to Armstrong about Camels (5-24-21). Pearce cites Donald B. Redford, whom he describes as an “eminent Canadian Egyptologist and archaeologist” as an ally of his relentless, irrational biblical skepticism:

The author knows of kings in Moab (Jud. 2:12-30 [typo: should be 3:12-30]; 11:25) and Ammon (Jud. 11:13, 28), although these monarchies did not take shape until well into the first millennium B.C. [Egypt, Canaan, and Israel In Ancient Times, Princeton University Press, 1992, p. 277]

Here are the supposedly anachronistic biblical passages in question:

Judges 3:12 (RSV) . . . and the LORD strengthened Eglon the king of Moab against Israel . . .

Judges 3:14 . . . Eglon the king of Moab . . . [same in 3:15, 17]

Judges 11:13 . . . the king of the Ammonites . . . [same in 11:14, 28]

Judges 11:25 . . . Balak the son of Zippor, king of Moab . . . [cf. 11:17; Num 22:4, 10]

The web page, “Ancient Moabites of Jordan” states:

Origin: The Moabites were likely pastoral nomads settling in the trans-Jordanian highlands. They may have been among the raiders referred to as Habiru in the Amarna letters. Whether they were among the nations referred to in the Ancient Egyptian language as Shutu or Shasu is a matter of some debate among scholars. The existence of Moab prior to the rise of the Israelite polity can be seen from the colossal statues erected at Luxor by Pharaoh Ramesses II [r. 1279-1213 BC]. On the base of the second statue in front of the northern pylon of Rameses’ temple [the word] Mu’ab is listed among a series of nations conquered by the pharaoh.

The time-period of Ramesses II is right before the time of the book of Judges [c. 1200- c. 1037 BC]. Thus, we have archaeological evidence of some nation called Moab or Mu-ab in existence, when the book of Judges refers to it. The Luxor statue referencing Moab was written about in Journal of Near Eastern Studies (Vol. 52, No. 4. Oct., 1993).

Precursors of forerunners of the Moabites may have been the Shasu. Wikipedia describes them:

The Shasu . . . were Semitic-speaking cattle nomads in the Southern Levant from the late Bronze Age to the Early Iron Age or the Third Intermediate Period of Egypt. They were organized in clans under a tribal chieftain, and were described as brigands active from the Jezreel Valley to Ashkelon and the Sinai. . . . [source given for this claim: Chieftains of the Highland Clans: A History of Israel in the 12th and 11th Centuries BC, Robert D. Miller II, Wipf and Stock; Reprint edition, 2012, p. 95]

The earliest known reference to the Shasu occurs in a 15th-century BCE list of peoples in the Transjordan region. The name appears in a list of Egypt’s enemies inscribed on column bases at the temple of Soleb built by Amenhotep III. Copied later in the 13th century BCE either by Seti I or by Ramesses II at Amarah-West, the list mentions six groups of Shasu: the Shasu of S’rr, the Shasu of Rbn, the Shasu of Sm’t, the Shasu of Wrbr, the Shasu of Yhw, and the Shasu of Pysps.

Two Egyptian texts, one dated to the period of Amenhotep III (14th century BCE), the other to the age of Ramesses II (13th century BCE), refer to t3 š3św yhw, i.e. “Yahu in the land of the Šosū-nomads”, in which yhw[3]/Yahu is a toponym.

Øystein Sakala LaBianca (Ph.D. Brandeis University 1987) is Professor of Anthropology in the Department of Behavioral Sciences and Associate Director of the Institute of Archaeology at Andrews University. Randall W. Younker is Professor of Archaeology and History of Antiquity at the same university. Together, they wrote the book chapter, “The Kingdoms of Ammon, Moab, and Edom: The Archaeology of Society in Late Bronze/Iron Age Transjordan (Ca. 1400-500 BCE)” which is part of the book, The Archaeology of Society in the Holy Land (edited by Thomas E. Levy, London: Leicester University Press, 1995). Here are their opinions as to possible “kings” in the 11th and 12th c. BC in Moab and Ammon (present-day Jordan):

[T]he Ammonites, Moabites and Edomites were not true nation-states, but rather, are better described as ‘tribal kingdoms’. . . .

Nelson Glueck . . . define[d] the territories of their respective kingdoms from a string of border forts which he believed had already been built to protect their boundaries by the end of the thirteenth century BCE. Glueck’s conclusions were generally accepted by the scholars of his day . . .

When the authors discuss the Edomites (from the same general region), we see that their political situation was similar to the Moabites and Edomites and that the biblical accounts accurately reflect it:

Interestingly, the greater emphasis on network generating range-tied tribalism in the environmentally more severe territory of Edom may receive support from the ‘Edomite king list’ in Gen. 36. Scholars have long noted that none of the kings in this list was the son of his predecessor, and that each king is attributed to a different city. Moreover, these kings are introduced as ‘the kings who reigned in Edom, not kings of Edom’ . . . Regardless of when one would date this text . . . , it accurately reflects the proliferation of tribes and tribal chieftains which is typical of an ecologically hazardous region such as Edom.

Here are the relevant biblical passages:

Genesis 36:15-19, 21 These are the chiefs of the sons of Esau. The sons of El’iphaz the first-born of Esau: the chiefs Teman, Omar, Zepho, Kenaz, [16] Korah, Gatam, and Am’alek; these are the chiefs of El’iphaz in the land of Edom; they are the sons of Adah. [17] These are the sons of Reu’el, Esau’s son: the chiefs Nahath, Zerah, Shammah, and Mizzah; these are the chiefs of Reu’el in the land of Edom; they are the sons of Bas’emath, Esau’s wife. [18] These are the sons of Oholiba’mah, Esau’s wife: the chiefs Je’ush, Jalam, and Korah; these are the chiefs born of Oholiba’mah the daughter of Anah, Esau’s wife. [19] These are the sons of Esau (that is, Edom), and these are their chiefs. . . . [21] Dishon, Ezer, and Dishan; these are the chiefs of the Horites, the sons of Se’ir in the land of Edom.

Genesis 36:29-31, 40, 43 These are the chiefs of the Horites: the chiefs Lotan, Shobal, Zib’eon, Anah, [30] Dishon, Ezer, and Dishan; these are the chiefs of the Horites, according to their clans in the land of Se’ir. [31] These are the kings who reigned in the land of Edom, before any king reigned over the Israelites. . . . [40] These are the names of the chiefs of Esau, . . . [43] Mag’diel, and Iram; these are the chiefs of Edom (that is, Esau, the father of Edom), according to their dwelling places in the land of their possession. [“reigned” also appears ten times in Genesis 36: obviously referring to either a chief or king: 36:31 [2]; 32-39]

Exodus 15:15 Now are the chiefs of Edom dismayed; the leaders of Moab, trembling seizes them; . . .

1 Chronicles 1:43, 51-54 These are the kings who reigned in the land of Edom before any king reigned over the Israelites: . . . [51] And Hadad died. The chiefs of Edom were: chiefs Timna, Al’iah, Jetheth, [52] Oholiba’mah, Elah, Pinon, [53] Kenaz, Teman, Mibzar, [54] Mag’di-el, and Iram; these are the chiefs of Edom.

Everything here strikingly fits what we know from archaeology. The texts refer to “chiefs” (i.e., chieftains) of tribes “in” Edom (“chiefs of El’iphaz”;  “chiefs of Reu’el”; “chiefs of the Horites”; “chiefs of Edom . . . according to their dwelling places in the land of their possession”). This fits with the understanding of Edom at this time being a collection of “tribal kingdoms.” In the two times they are referred to as “kings” (Gen 36:31; 1 Chr 1:43) the text says “kings who reigned in the land of Edom”: which is clearly synonymous in context to “chiefs” rather than a king of all of Edom. I think this gives us a clue as to the meaning of “king of Moab” and “king of the Ammonites” a little later in the book of Judges. Exodus 15:15 in an earlier period refers to “leaders of Moab” rather than kings, which is perhaps referring to chieftains also. But our authors have more to say about these matters:

Although it is true that an ancient Near Eastern ‘king’ (milk, malik, malk, sharru) could include the head of an empire, state or tribe . . . there is evidence that the individuals who appropriated the title generally laid claim to power and influence that surpassed that of mere local bedouin shiekhs or village headmen. To see more precisely what the nature of this difference in power was,  we shall take a closer look at the ninth century BCE polity of Mesha of Moab.

According to the Mesha inscription . . . Mesha identified himself as Dayboni, that is, a Dibonite. His people were called Dibonites and his place of residence was the city of Dibon . . . . However, he clearly claimed authority beyond the boundaries of his home city and people, for he was not merely the ruler of Dibon or the Dibonites; rather, he was the ‘king of Moab’. During times of external threat he could call upon ‘men from Moab’, that is, individuals from beyond his kin circle of ‘obedient’ or ‘loyal’ Dibonites. His ability to call up the ‘men from Moab’ clearly elevated him beyond the level of a local Dibonite sheikh or chief. Even Mesha’s enemies, the Israelites, who knew Mesha primarily as a ‘cattle magnate’ (noged, 2 Kgs 3:4), also recognized him as ‘king of Moab’ [“Now Mesha king of Moab was a sheep breeder . . .”: RSV]. . . . Mesha does not appear to have had jurisdiction over all land that was traditionally considered to be the land of Moab. 

We see, then (assuming the correctness of the above anthropological / archaeological analysis), that the biblical use of “king of Moab” and “king of the Ammonites” is perfectly in keeping with what we know of those places at that time. It is not a biblical anachronism.

***

Related Reading

Edomites: Archaeology Confirms the Bible (As Always) [6-10-21]

Bible & Archaeology / Bible & Science (A Collection)

***

Photo credit: Mesha Stele: stele of Mesha, king of Moab, recording his victories against the Kingdom of Israel. Basalt, ca. 800 BCE. From Dhiban, now in Jordan [Wikimedia Commons / Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported2.5 Generic2.0 Generic and 1.0 Generic license]

***

Summary: Atheist anti-theist Jonathan MS Pearce thinks that the book of Judges referring to Moabite & Ammonite kings is historical anachronism. I enlist archaeology to disprove this. 

***

Tags: alleged Bible contradictions, alleged biblical anachronisms, Ammonite kings, Ammonites, ancient Hebrews, ancient Israelites, ancient Jews, anti-theism, archaeology & the Bible, archaeology & the Old Testament, atheists & the Bible, Bible “contradictions”, Bible “difficulties”, Bible & History, biblical accuracy, biblical anachronisms, biblical archaeology, Bronze Age, Hebrews, Holy Bible, infallibility, Iron Age, Late Bronze Age, Moabite & Ammonite Kings, Moabite kings, Moabites, Old Testament & history

July 16, 2021

Atheist anti-theist Jonathan M. S. Pearce is the main writer on the blog, A Tippling Philosopher. His “About” page states: “Pearce is a philosopher, author, blogger, public speaker and teacher from Hampshire in the UK. He specialises in philosophy of religion, but likes to turn his hand to science, psychology, politics and anything involved in investigating reality.” His words will be in blue.

*****

I am responding to a portion of Pearce’s article, Exodus Sidebar: Replying to Armstrong about Camels (5-24-21). Pearce enlists Donald B. Redford, whom he describes as an “eminent Canadian Egyptologist and archaeologist” for his cause of biblical skepticism:

[A]nachronisms do indeed abound, robbing the book [Judges] of the credence one might have placed in it. Iron is common for chariots and implements (cf. Jud. 1:19; 4:3 13; cf. 1 Sam. 13:19-21), although historically it did not replace bronze until well into the monarchy. [Egypt, Canaan, and Israel In Ancient Times, Princeton University Press, 1992, p. 277]

Let’s look at those Bible passages (and another related one):

Joshua 17:16 (RSV) The tribe of Joseph said, “The hill country is not enough for us; yet all the Canaanites who dwell in the plain have chariots of iron, both those in Beth-she’an and its villages and those in the Valley of Jezreel.”

Judges 1:19 And the LORD was with Judah, and he took possession of the hill country, but he could not drive out the inhabitants of the plain, because they had chariots of iron.

Judges 4:2-3 And the LORD sold them into the hand of Jabin king of Canaan, who reigned in Hazor; the commander of his army was Sis’era, who dwelt in Haro’sheth-ha-goiim. [3] Then the people of Israel cried to the LORD for help; for he had nine hundred chariots of iron, and oppressed the people of Israel cruelly for twenty years.

Judges 4:13 Sis’era called out all his chariots, nine hundred chariots of iron, . . .

1 Samuel 13:19 . . . Now there was no smith to be found throughout all the land of Israel . . .

Redford seems to assume that “smith” in the latter passage presupposes work with iron, but historically, blacksmiths were not confined to working with iron. Wikipedia (“Blacksmith”; section, Before the Iron Age”) noted that “During the Chalcolithic era and the Bronze Age, humans in the Mideast learned how to smelt, melt, cast, rivet, and (to a limited extent) forge copper and bronze.” So it’s not a foregone conclusion that “smiths” here is referring to a blacksmith who worked with iron; and even if this was the intent, note that it said there was no such person in Israel; the Philistines dominated the trade in the area (1 Sam 13:20). In 1 Samuel, in RSV, “iron” appears only once, referring to shekels (coins): in 17:7. The Hebrew word here, charash (Strong’s word #2796) is defined by the Brown-Driver-Briggs Lexicon as “worker in metal.”

Joshua, the successor of Moses, is thought by many to have lived in the 13th century BC, and this is the time of the “conquest” of Canaan by Israel. Judges 1:1 announces his death. I gave evidences from archaeology for these events in my papers, No Evidence for Joshua’s Conquest? (5-28-21), and Joshua’s Altar on Mt. Ebal: Findings of Recent Archaeology (7-22-14). This period is right at the end of the Bronze Age and the beginning of the Iron Age (1200 BC). I shall argue that iron chariots, or at least, iron-plated chariots, were indeed historically plausible in Canaan at this time. And this is the claim: that Israel’s enemies possessed them and were, therefore, difficult to defeat in battle.

The book of Judges (whether compiled later or not) deals with the historical period from approximately 1200 BC (again, the beginning of the Iron Age) to the appearance of Saul as Israel’s first king, around 1037-1010 BC: which event is dealt with in 1 Samuel. Thus, the first thing to recognize is that we are already in the Iron Age; thus, use of iron in chariots would seem to be at least possible, though perhaps not prevalent. Remember, the skeptical claim is that iron chariots in these passages are anachronisms, that ought not be there at all. They are supposed to be historically inaccurate.

But let’s examine this question a bit more detail, shall we? Is what Judges reports so far-fetched, and some kind of myth? Wikipedia (“Blacksmith”) noted:

The Hittites of Anatolia first discovered or developed the smelting of iron ores around 1500 BC. They seem to have maintained a near monopoly on the knowledge of iron production for several hundred years, but when their empire collapsed during the Eastern Mediterranean upheavals around 1200 BC, the knowledge seems to have escaped in all directions.

The empire of the Hittites (c. 1600-c. 1180 BC), as one educational article devoted to it explained, took up roughly the eastern half of Asia Minor (present-day Turkey) and extended into the Levant, down to the city of Byblos (present-day Lebanon / ancient Phoenicia), as a map of the empire illustrates. The same article stated:

The Hittite military made successful use of chariots. Although their civilization thrived during the Bronze Age, the Hittites were the forerunners of the Iron Age and were manufacturing iron artifacts from as early as the 14th century BCE. Correspondence with rulers from other empires reveal a foreign demand for iron goods.

Wikipedia (“Canaan”) is clear that the Hittites played a key role among the Canaanites. It observes:

Canaan had significant geopolitical importance in the Late Bronze Age Amarna period (14th century BC) as the area where the spheres of interest of the Egyptian, HittiteMitanni and Assyrian Empires converged.

This article mentions the Hittites 13 times. The book of Judges mentions them twice (1:26; 3:5). Its map of ancient Canaan overlaps the map of the Hittite Empire, with three cities north of Byblos.

Nathaniel L. Erb-Satullo, an archaeologist who specializes in ancient metallurgy, wrote the article, “The Innovation and Adoption of Iron in the Ancient Near East” (Journal of Archaeological Research volume 27, pp. 557–607 [2019]). He wrote in the Abstract:

Current evidence supports an Anatolian origin for extractive iron metallurgy on a limited scale sometime in the early 2nd millennium BC. However, the first major expansion of iron, both in Anatolia and across the wider Near East, occurred in the late second and early first millennium BC.

This exactly corresponds to the Hittites being in the forefront of iron production. We know that they had chariots (very good ones), and that they were part of the Canaanites. Everything fits into the scenario that the Bible describes. There is no anachronism here!

The Biblical Archaeology Society’s Bible Review (April 1990) included a fascinating little snippet: “Did the Canaanites Really Have Iron Chariots?” It noted:

As recently as 1983, one commentator [J. F. A. Sawyer] has told us, “It is historically highly improbable… that the Canaanites were equipped with iron chariots before the end of the second millennium B.C.”

But the archaeological evidence is clearly to the contrary. The biblical text does not require us to suppose that the Canaanite chariots were wholly iron, but only that they were strengthened with it, as several commentators have realized. But as the evidence in the accompanying article [link] shows, iron was sufficiently available in the Late Bronze Age to make iron-plated chariots plausible. . . .

It is noteworthy that after the Book of Judges, the Hebrew writers never again describe chariots of “iron.” Either the metal was later a normal component of a chariot and so did not deserve mention, or “iron chariots” were in fashion only for a short period, perhaps as an experimental weapon. In any event, the evidence indicates that there is no reason to conclude that the Canaanite chariots of iron are an anachronism inserted by a later editor.

Dr. Alan Millard, Professor Emeritus of Hebrew and Ancient Semitic languages, and Honorary Senior Fellow (Ancient Near East), at the School of Archaeology, Classics and Egyptology (SACE) in the University of Liverpool, wrote a book chapter in 1992 entitled, “Back to the Iron Bed: Og’s or Procrustes’?” In it, he contends:

Chariots wholly of iron are unlikely; a form of iron plating is the commonly accepted understanding of the Hebrew words in Joshua and Judges (Josh. xvii 16,18; Judg. i 19, iv 3,13). After noting the very lightweight construction of Late Bronze Age chariots found in Egypt, Drews asserted, “iron plating would have immediately collapsed the fragile and flimsy frame” and “an ‘iron plated’ chariot is thus technological nonsense”. Moreover, “nowhere in the ancient world, at any period, are iron plated chariots attested” ([n. 2], p. 18). Initially, the impracticality of iron-plated chariots seems a major objection, but it depends upon the amounts and the application of the iron. Small-scale fittings, holding the axles or hubs, would be insufficient to give a distinctive name to the chariots, so a visible covering of some sort is best envisaged. That it was wholesale plating is not so certain, or necessary. In the Late Bronze Age bronze scales were commonly sewn on to cloth or leather garments to protect men and horses, they even covered helmets, and there are administrative ac counts of “hides for the storehouses for the coats of mail (to equip) 20 war chariots”. Although iron scale armour is not attested until much later, in neo-Assyrian times, the possibility of an experiment with iron in the 13th or 12th centuries B.C. cannot be ruled out. Whether in plates or scales, the iron would add greatly to the weight of the chariots, as Drews emphasized, yet only in proportion to the amount applied. Three or four thin plates hung over the front to protect the charioteer’s legs, which his hauberk did not cover, might have been thought worth the extra load. Once the heavier chariots were moving, they would be hard for opponents, especially foot-soldiers, to withstand. In the relatively rough and uneven terrain of much of Canaan, even in the plains where the iron chariots were stationed, the opportunity for long, fast runs would be limited, unlike Egypt and parts of Syria. Thus iron chariots become intelligible in the contexts where Joshua and Judges place them, and the threat they would pose to the Israelites is seen to be great.

Moreover, we have the evidence of chariot use by the Hittites (against the Egyptians) from the Battle of Kadesh (at a site in present-day Syria, in the Levant), from 1274 BC, or some 74 years or so before the time under consideration, referred to in the book of Judges. According to the Wikipedia article on the topic:

[It] is the earliest pitched battle in recorded history for which details of tactics and formations are known. It is believed to have been the largest chariot battle ever fought, involving between 5,000 and 6,000 chariots in total. As a result of discovery of multiple Kadesh inscriptions and the Egyptian–Hittite peace treaty, it is the best documented battle in all of ancient history.

I couldn’t find anything specifically referencing iron or iron-plated chariots in this battle, but it is a quite reasonable surmise that it was involved, seeing that the Hittites were probably the foremost practitioners of the use of iron in the world at the time.

Lord Edwin E. Hitti’s article, “Hittite Chariots” adds additional fascinating insights, as to how iron might have created a better chariot:

The Hittites were not inventors of the chariot, but did make major modifications, developed and produced chariots in huge quantities. Specifically, by creating the six-spoke wheels for the chariots to make them lighter and faster, yet still durable . . .

The Hittite chariots had a box serving as a cab, with an axle passing beneath it, which held 2 six-spoke wheels. The six-spoke wheel was an innovation developed by them. Other contemporary chariots of the Hittites had eight spoke[s], . . . The six-spoke[s] allowed the chariots to move faster because the wheels were light. Thus, with speed and light wheels, it became maneuverable.

The Egyptian chariot placed the wheels in the back of the box, and only held two men, a charioteer and a warrior. The limitation was weight; with the wheels so far back, leverage placed most of the weight on the horses, thereby slowing them down.

The Hittite chariot, in contrast, placed the wheels farther forward under the center of the box, which put the weight of the warriors over the axle and took the strain off of the horses, This allowed three men to ride, the charioteer and two warriors, which in effect doubled the number of fighting men that could be deployed with the same number of chariots.

The Hittite war chariot was made with iron hub wheels; this made their war chariot stronger, faster, and longer lasting. Also, the warriors in the chariot were armed with superior weapons. Their iron tipped arrows had much greater penetrating power that the copper and bronze arrows of the Egyptians, who were the Hittites main rivals. The war chariot was sometimes equipped with iron swords on the hubs to cut opposing infantry units [Ben Hur-style!].

Likewise, James D. Muhly, Emeritus Professor of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Pennsylvania, in his article, “How Iron Technology Changed the Ancient World and Gave the Philistines a Military Edge” (Biblical Archaeology Review, vol. 8:6, Nov/Dec 1982), states:

The actual use of iron must have been confined to fittings, such as the hubs of the chariot’s wheels, perhaps even parts of the wheel itself. (The same explanation probably applies to the iron bedstead of Og, king of Bashan, in Deuteronomy 3:11.) Such iron chariot fittings have been recovered at Taanach, but unfortunately in an uncertain archaeological context.

Thus, it looks like we have two viable theories as to the use of iron in Hittite chariots: either as plating and/or in parts of the wheels only. In both cases, the extra weight wouldn’t be so great as to be a hindrance to performance, but the iron would provide a distinct advantage. This would explain why the Israelites had trouble defeating their opponents with chariots that included iron in some capacity.

***

Related Reading

The Hittites: Atheist “DagoodS” Lies About Christian Apologists Supposedly Lying About How Biblical Critics Once Doubted Their Historical Existence [1-10-11, at Internet Archive]

Habitually “Lying” Christian Apologists?: 19th Century “Hittites Didn’t Exist” Radical Skepticism and Examination of Atheist DagoodS’ Replies and Charges [1-15-11, at Internet Archive]

Hittite Skeptics Chronicles, Part III: Specific Citations of Denial (Budge, Sumner, & Conder) and Biblical Historical Accuracy (in the Time of Elisha)  [1-19-11, at Internet Archive]

Great Hittite Wars, Part IV: Lying Christian Egyptologist M. G. Kyle?: Atheist DagoodS Disputes Sir A. E. Wallis Budge’s Reported Hittite Skepticism  [1-21-11, at Internet Archive]

“Higher” Hapless Haranguing of Hypothetical Hittites (19th C.) [7-7-20; abridgement of the four posts above]

***

Photo credit: Frank K. (8-12-08). Orthostat relief in basalt; battle chariot, Carchemish, 9th century BC; Late Hittite style with Assyrian influence. Reconstructed panel on the left, original on the right [Wikimedia Commons / Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license]

***

Summary: Critics of the Bible have attacked the mention of Canaanite iron chariots in Judges and Joshua, as alleged proof of historical inaccuracy and anachronism. I show how they are wrong.

***

Tags: alleged Bible contradictions, alleged biblical anachronisms, ancient Hebrews, ancient Israelites, ancient Jews, anti-theism, archaeology & the Bible, archaeology & the Old Testament, atheists & the Bible, Bible “contradictions”, Bible “difficulties”, Bible & History, biblical accuracy, biblical anachronisms, biblical archaelogy, Bronze Age, Canaanite iron chariots, Canaanites, Hebrews, Hittites, Holy Bible, infallibility, Iron Age, iron chariots, Judges & iron chariots, Late Bronze Age, Old Testament & history

July 5, 2021

Atheist anti-theist Jonathan M. S. Pearce is the main writer on the blog, A Tippling Philosopher. His “About” page states: “Pearce is a philosopher, author, blogger, public speaker and teacher from Hampshire in the UK. He specialises in philosophy of religion, but likes to turn his hand to science, psychology, politics and anything involved in investigating reality.” His words will be in blue.

*****

I am responding to portions of Pearce’s article, “Ruddy Flood Thing Again. And Armstrong.” (7-3-21). I recently explained the nature and widespread use of chiasmus. Readers will want to at least briefly peruse the main points of that because this paper will presuppose that knowledge (it’s new to me, too, having just discovered this aspect).

Here I will simply note the occurrence over and over of chiasmus in texts that are being blasted by Pearce’s atheist or skeptical (or — probably largely — theologically liberal) sources. He refers to The Oxford Handbook of the Pentateuch (edited by Joel S. Baden and Jeffrey Stackert); hot off the press and less than a week old as I write. I did a search via the “Look Inside” function of Amazon and discovered that there was not a single mention of chiasmus or chiastic in the entire 592-page work.

One contributor did, however, mention chiasms once on page 122, though it was confined to “poetic portions of the Pentateuch.” As I just showed in my paper published yesterday, chiasmus is massively utilized throughout the Torah, with 283 instances; 100 of these, or 35% in Genesis alone.

Pearce cites Baruch Schwartz, one of the contributors, opining — we see the lead that Pearce has been following and parroting — about repetition in Genesis and Exodus (that he assumes is the result of multiple authors):

In all these cases and innumerable others, the individual passages provide no recognition that the event itself has already transpired or that it might not be the only such event. Every such narrative, and every similarly duplicated subsection of a repetitive narrative text, presents itself as the one and only account of the event described, as does its counterpart.

Dr. Schwartz is a highly credentialed scholar, yet he doesn’t seem to be aware of chiasmus at all, which is a bit of a puzzle. Let’s analyze his comments (cited by Pearce) about some of these “repetitive” texts in Genesis and Exodus:

we read twice that Yahweh informed Noah of his decision (6:17 and 7:4); . . .

Yes, because it’s part of a chiasm. In Wenham’s construction, see D (Gen 6:17) and H (7:45), which are coupled in the
literary “pyramid” with H’ (8:12-13) and D’ (9:11-17). Gordon Wenham is quite a biblical scholar, too.

twice we learn that he conveyed his instructions to Noah (6:18–21 and 7:1–3) . . .

Yes, because it’s part of a chiasm. In Wenham’s construction, see E+F and G, which are parallel to G’ (8:15-17), F’ (9:1-4), and E’ (9:8-10).

Yahweh twice mentions that he has seen the affliction of his people and has decided to act (3:7–8 and 3:9) . . .

Yes, because it’s part of a chiasm related to Exodus 3:1 to 4:5; see B and E, which are parallel to E’ (3:16-17a) and B’ (3:18-22).

Moses twice expresses his objections to having the task imposed upon him (3:11, 13 and 4:1, 10, 13); twice Yahweh responds to his reservations (3:12, 14–15 and 4:2–9, 11–12, 14–16), and so forth.

Yes, because it’s part of the same chiasm (Exodus 3:1 to 4:5) — do we detect a pattern by now? — ; see E (3:11), H (3:13c), and A’ (4:1) with E (3:12), I + J + I’ + H’ + G’ (3:14), F’ (3:15), and A’ (4:2-4).

Pearce then cites Professor of Old Testament  Jakob Wohrle from the same volume. His citation will be fun for our present purposes, because he separates the text according to two supposed writers: “priestly” and “non-priestly.” Thus, if we show that a chiasm incorporates portions from both, then I submit that the supposition of it being composed by one writer becomes stronger.

his command to enter the ark (6:18b–21 [P]; 7:1–3 [non-P]), . . .

Schwartz mentioned the same couplet above, and I showed how it is part of a grand chiasm in Genesis, laid out by Wenham.

Even more clear is the chiastic structure of Genesis 6-9. Pearce cites Wohrle’s chapter in the 2016 book, The Formation of the Pentateuch:

Within the primeval history it is possible to reconstruct two parallel flood stories (Gen 6–9), a completely preserved Priestly version and a nearly completely preserved non-Priestly version.

Everyone’s entitled to their scholarly opinions. Wohrle thinks that the text wildly jumps back and forth between the “priestly” and “non-priestly” writers: as Pearce’s previous citation from him testifies in abundance. Those of us who are skeptical of DH think there is another, more plausible explanation for “two parallel flood stories”: a deliberate application of chiasmus by one writer, to help readers master and memorize the text (which may have also been — in terms of final formulation — oral for some time before it was written down). Thus, one can see the structure of this in Wenham’s 1978 hypothesis, and simpler versions by Anderson (also 1978) and Bullinger (1922).  There is also a chiasm based on the observations of all three of the foregoing.

The same applies in the book of Exodus for the stories of the plagues (Exod 7–12) . . .

Again, the repetition is adequately accounted for by at least six chiasms (rather than multiple authors). See how they work for the following portions of Holy Scripture

and the crossing of the sea (Exod 14).

See the three chiasms involved there:

Remarkably, in these parts of the Pentateuch even the smallest narrative details are preserved twice.

It’s not “remarkable”; it’s simply chiasmus, or one of the many other sorts of biblical repetition. As I noted last time, Bible scholar E. W. Bullinger catalogued “over 200 distinct figures [in the Bible], several of them with from 30 to 40 varieties” in his 1104-page volume, Figures of Speech Used in the Bible (London: 1898; see the online complete book link too, and the paginated Internet Archive version).

He devotes 31 wonderful pages to a slightly larger category of literary devices (in relation to chiasmus) that he calls “Correspondence” (pp. 363-393). In addition to that, he also devotes a remarkable 202 pages (pp. 171-262, 294-403) to 44 more forms of deliberate literary repetition (with massive biblical examples provided, as always). I list them, to give readers an idea of the extraordinary research involved in compiling all of this (all linked in the page numbers):

Homoeopropheron; or Alliteration: The Repetition of the same Letter or Syllable at the commencement of Successive Words (pp. 171-175)

Homoeoteleuton; or Like Endings: The Repetition of the same Letters or Syllables at the end of Successive Words (p. 176)

Homoeoptoton; or Like Inflections: The Repetition of Inflections (p. 177)

Paromoeosis; or Like-Sounding Inflections: The Repetition of Inflections similar in Sound (pp. 178-179)

Acrostichion; or Acrostic: Repetition of the same or successive Letters at the beginnings of Words or Clauses (pp. 180-188)

Epizeuxis; or Duplication: The Repetition of the Same Word in the Same Sense (pp. 189-198)

Anaphora; or Like Sentence-Beginnings: The Repetition of the same Word at the beginning of successive Sentences (pp. 199-205)

Epanalepsis; or Resumption: The Repetition of the same word after a break, or parenthesis (pp. 206-207)

Polysyndeton; or Many-Ands: The repetition of the word “and” at the beginning of successive clauses (pp. 208-237)

Paradiastole; or Neithers and Nors: The Repetition of the Disjunctives Neither and Nor, or, Either and Or (pp. 238-240)

Epistrophe; or Like Sentence-Endings: The Repetition of the same Word or Words at the end of successive Sentences (pp. 241-243)

Epiphoza; or Epistrophe in Argument: The Repetition of the same Word or Words at the end of successive Sentences: used in Argument (p. 244)

Epanadiplosis; or Encircling: The Repetition of the same Word or Words at the beginning and end of a Sentence (pp. 245-249)

Epadiplosis; or Double Encircling: Repeated Epanadiplosis (p. 250)

Anadiplosis; or Like Sentence Endings and Beginnings: The Repetition of the same Word or Words at the end of one Sentence and at the beginning of another (pp. 251-255)

Climax: or Gradation: Repeated Anadiplosis (pp. 256-259)

[omitted three short sections]

Repetitio; or Repetition: Repetition of the same Word or Words irregularly in the same Passage (pp. 263-266)

Polyptoton; or Many Inflections: The Repetition of the same Part of Speech in different Inflections (pp. 267-285)

Antanaclasis: or Word-Clashing: Repetition of the same Word in the same Sentence, with Different Meanings (pp. 286-293)

[omitted two sections]

Symploce; or Intertwining: The Repetition of different Words in successive Sentences in the same Order and the same Sense (pp. 297-298)

Epanodos; or Inversion: The Repetition of the same Words in an inverse Order (but same Sense) (pp. 299-300)

Antimetabole; or Counterchange: Epanodos, with Contrast or Opposition (pp. 301-303)

Paregmenon; or Derivation: The Repetition of Words derived from the same Root (pp. 304-306)

Paronomasia; or Rhyming-Words: The Repetition of Words similar in Sound, but not necessarily in Sense (pp. 307-320)

Parechesis; or Foreign Paronomasia: The Repetition of Words similar in Sound, but different in Language (pp. 321-323)

Synonymia; or Synonymous Words: The Repetition of Words similar in Sense, but different in Sound and Origin (pp. 324-338)

Repeated Negation; or Many Noes: The Repetition of divers Negatives (pp. 339-341)

[omitted five short sections]

Parallelism; or Parallel Lines: The Repetition of similar, synonymous, or opposite Thoughts or Words in parallel or successive Lines (pp. 349-362)

Prosapodosis; or Detailing: A Returning for Repetition and Explanation (pp. 394-396)

[omitted two sections]

Exergasia: or Working Out: A Repetition, so as to work out or illustrate what has already been said (pp. 399-400)

[omitted two sections]

So here we are with 45 forms of biblical repetition: deliberately employed as literary technique: so complex that it takes 233 pages in a book to describe them and provide many biblical examples. But Pearce thinks the “only” reasonable, plausible explanation of such repetition is multiple authors and the Documentary Hypothesis:

The Pentateuch contains some irreconcilable issues that fall into four categories: repetition (redundancy), contradictions, discontinuity, terminology and style. The basic principle is that these four issues demand an explanation. The only thing that makes sense of this is that there are multiple sources (over multiple time periods) that have been redacted to produce the finished document. (7-2-21)

Pearce continues citing Jakob Wohrle:

To give just one more example, within the story about the crossing of the sea in Exod 14, the notice that the waters of the sea came back appears twice:

Exodus 14:27 (P) [. . .] The sea returned to its bed when the morning appeared [. . .]
Exodus 14:28 (non-P) The waters of the sea returned [. . .]

Such doublets of the smallest details strongly speak against the assumption that the Priestly passages can be understood as a redactional layer. There is no plausible explanation for why a Priestly redactor should have added to the flood story a second request to enter the ark or why he should have added to the story about the crossing of the sea a second notice about the returning waters.

And this is another example of a chiasm, involving Exodus 14:21-31. Once one sees the two passages in the overall structure, it makes perfect sense, since it’s a technique used hundreds of times in the Old Testament.

Pearce likes Oxford Handbooks. He accepts their scholarship. Very well, then, The Oxford Handbook of the Writings of the Hebrew Bible (2018) mentions the concept of chiasmus 13 times, as can be found on a page for it, by searching “chias”. They appear on pages 120 [2], 129, 135 [2], 144, 291 [2], 292 [3], and 427 [2].

It’s also referenced in the Encyclopedia of Rhetoric, published by Oxford University Press in 2001, and was mentioned in A Dictionary of the Bible, published by Oxford University Press in 2009.

***

ADDENDUM:

Jonathan directed me to an author who combines a chiastic analysis with belief in the Documentary Hypothesis: “Chiastic Structuring of the Genesis Flood Story: The Art of Using Chiasm as an Effective Compositional Tool for Combining Earlier Chiastic Narratives” (Steve R. Scott, BYU Studies Quarterly — 59:2 Supplement, 2020). Agree or disagree, it is a comprehensive and fascinating analysis. This issue of the journal is devoted to chiasmus (follow the link for the journal). I’m not sure if all writers accept the Documentary Hypothesis or not.

Jonathan then wrote a long, frequently insulting reply-paper (dated 7-7-21). I have no interest in tackling it, per my explanation on his blog:

*

You say you can’t deal with my replies due to lack of energy, time, your condition, competing responsibilities. That’s fine; just ignore me. You do for the most part, anyway. Just make it total.

Instead, you write this humungous post directed towards me (with my name in the title again): far longer than my recent ones. You didn’t have to. You chose to (lousy recent health and lack of energy and all). And your choices are not my fault (if you later moan and groan about having made them).

I don’t have the patience to deal with all the misrepresentations of my own views, let alone the grandiose claims made. And so I won’t. I’m not all that interested in DH anyway.

As I have noted recently, I prefer to deal with particular concrete, more objective issues (rather than grand sweeping theories like DH). That’s why I picked up on your claim that Genesis supposedly contradicted itself as to a 150-day or 40-day Flood. It does not. But you blew that off by concentrating on Documentary Hypothesis 24-7. Earlier, I was picking away at several of your claims about Genesis, including the notorious “pitch” debates, the domestication of camels and several other items. I’m like a termite: eating away at false atheist presuppositions, until one day the whole house built upon the weak foundation falls down.

As I have made clear, the question of DH is of little interest to me (we all have various interests. Isn’t it great that we’re not all clones?), nor do I care if someone holds it or not. I wrote on this blog on 7-3-21:

Catholics are free to accept or reject DH / Mosaic authorship as they please, and at least one pope (St. John Paul II) believed in it. You seem to worship DH as the Holy Grail. To me it’s something I don’t believe in, based on what I have seen. I’m free to do so as an orthodox Catholic. There is no requirement that I must believe it. If someone else does (up to and including great heroes of mine, like Pope John Paul II) that’s fine. Live and let live. It’s a big ho hum and a yawner.

Then I wrote in an article of mine on 7-4-21:

Catholic apologist Jimmy Akin, writing about the Documentary Hypothesis (1-1-13) stated: “It is . . . possible for a Catholic to hold a number of positions, from full Mosaic authorship, to the documentary hypothesis, to intermediate positions, depending on how one sees the evidence.” . . .

Pope St. John Paul II referred to the “Yahwist” source (the “J” in “JEPD”) in 16 of his addresses or writings: 15 of these were general audiences (1979-1980), and the other usage was in his papal encyclical Evangelium Vitae (1995). He referred to “Elohist” in three general audiences (1979-1980). But Pope Benedict XVI never did so. Nor did Pope St. Paul VI, Pope St. John XXIII, Ven. Pope Pius XII, or Pope Francis. Benedict XVI was certainly as good of a Bible scholar (if not better) than John Paul II. I note also that he did refer to DH before he was pope (Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger) in his book, In the Beginning: A Catholic Understanding of the Story of Creation and the Fall: a book that I have in my library and which I have cited several times.

I’ve also reiterated that my criticisms of your errors have nothing directly to do with DH. They can exist with it or without it.

Last night, I commended you on your blog for finding an article you directed me to:

Fascinating and interesting stuff! I made a link to it at the end of my 2nd paper on the topic. This was a real find for you. :-)

You make a big deal again about how I am supposedly demanding that you immediately answer every jot and tittle of my paper, as if I am a selfish, self-centered moron and utterly indifferent to your health condition. This is, of course, untrue. I have wished you well with your health several times, including last night on your blog. I am well-acquainted with chronic health conditions. My brother Gerry died of leukemia at age 49 (when I was 39). My father died of lung cancer, and my sister (last year) of kidney failure. I have no living siblings as a result.

I have simply objected to your picking-and-choosing very carefully what you will respond to in my responses to you. I objected to you saying that you would read one paragraph of an article of mine and then simply stop.

You don’t have to read anything of mine if you think it is so worthless. Just completely ignore it. Don’t even read one paragraph. But you haven’t made that choice, as this post again proves with flying colors. That’s the disconnect. You keep becoming more personally harsh and insulting. I’m an imbecile, idiot, and ignoramus, yet you keep responding. Why? is the question . . .

I seek out the most articulate and intelligent opponents in debate that I can find, not the ones I consider fools and ignoramuses.

***

Photo credit: The Oxford Handbook of the Writings of the Hebrew Bible (edited by Donn F. Morgan, Oxford University Press, 2018) [listing page for ABE Books]

***

Summary: Atheist Jonathan MS Pearce, in his unlimited & dogmatic zeal for the Documentary Hypothesis, completely overlooks massive use of the chiastic literary genre in the book of Genesis.

July 4, 2021

Also, a Summary Statement on Catholics and the Documentary Hypothesis

Atheist anti-theist Jonathan M. S. Pearce is the main writer on the blog, A Tippling Philosopher. His “About” page states: “Pearce is a philosopher, author, blogger, public speaker and teacher from Hampshire in the UK. He specialises in philosophy of religion, but likes to turn his hand to science, psychology, politics and anything involved in investigating reality.” His words will be in blue.

*****

Jonathan Pearce, in his concerted effort to absolutely avoid engaging in any exegetical debates about Genesis with me, lest the sky fall down (see my first and second reply to him concerning the Flood, and a third related paper), has repeatedly noted that the stories about the Flood in Genesis are redundant and needlessly repetitive. This, in turn, so he assumes without adequate evidence, is an irrefutable indication of multiple authors being in play (the Documentary Hypothesis [“DH”]). My current reply is an effort to show that a biblical literary technique known as chiasmus can more plausibly explain this, without necessary and/or knee jerk recourse to DH.

First, let’s document his cocksure magisterial utterances in this regard:

For those uninitiated, the Pentateuch contains some irreconcilable issues that fall into four categories: repetition (redundancy), contradictions, discontinuity, terminology and style. There is only one coherent solution: it was compiled using multiple sources, and written at multiple times. (6-29-21)

The Pentateuch contains some irreconcilable issues that fall into four categories: repetition (redundancy), contradictions, discontinuity, terminology and style.

The basic principle is that these four issues demand an explanation.

The only thing that makes sense of this is that there are multiple sources (over multiple time periods) that have been redacted to produce the finished document. (7-2-21)

What a pointless repetition [Gen 6:19] even if it didn’t contradict. This is known as redundancy and is a major reason why the DH/SH exists. There are doublets and triplets all over the Pentateuch that have no discernible raison d’etre (and even some things four times). (7-2-21)

Look at this passage and tell me it makes sense on its own without needing a theory that proposes multiple sources woven into a single narrative: [cites Gen 7:6-13] . . .

Repetition, redundancy and contradiction.

I really wish Armstrong would read his Bible. (7-2-21)

I will also furnish you with an account of redundancies in the Torah (from Baruch J Schwartz’s chapter “The Documentary Hypothesis”, . . . (7-2-21)

[T]he Noah’s flood myth is a good example of the multiple sources of the Pentateuch evidenced by both redundancies through repetition and contradictions. (7-3-21)

Of course, the key to repetition was the word “redundancy” that he conveniently forgets. The issue with redundancy in the Torah is that the repetitions serve no purpose. That’s the point. (7-3-21)

. . . the days, the number of animals and every other instance of contradiction, repetition (redundancy), discontinuity, and stylistic and terminological divergence. (7-3-21)

There is simply no use for the repetition in the Genesis flood accounts. What is it we are so obviously going to forget about those details that we so desperately need to remember? (7-3-21)

Before we begin, let me make a comment about Catholics and the Documentary Hypothesis / Theory. Catholic apologist Jimmy Akin, writing about the Documentary Hypothesis (1-1-13) stated: “It is . . . possible for a Catholic to hold a number of positions, from full Mosaic authorship, to the documentary hypothesis, to intermediate positions, depending on how one sees the evidence.”

After yet another exercise of sheer mockery and pompous “know it all” condescension from Pearce in his combox, including his revelation that once again he read virtually none of my paper that he supposedly “responded” to, and describing my argument as “apologetic nonsense” and “disingenuous construction”, I wrote there:

Catholics are free to accept or reject DH / Mosaic authorship as they please, and at least one pope (St. John Paul II) believed in it. You seem to worship DH as the Holy Grail. To me it’s something I don’t believe in, based on what I have seen. I’m free to do so as an orthodox Catholic. There is no requirement that I must believe it. If someone else does (up to and including great heroes of mine, like Pope John Paul II) that’s fine. Live and let live. It’s a big ho hum and a yawner.

Pope St. John Paul II referred to the “Yahwist” source (the “J” in “JEPD”) in 16 of his addresses or writings: 15 of these were general audiences (1979-1980), and the other usage was in his papal encyclical Evangelium Vitae (1995). He referred to “Elohist” in three general audiences (1979-1980). But Pope Benedict XVI never did so. Nor did Pope St. Paul VI, Pope St. John XXIII, Ven. Pope Pius XII, or Pope Francis. Benedict XVI was certainly as good of a Bible scholar (if not better) than John Paul II. I note also that he did refer to DH before he was pope (Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger) in his book, In the Beginning: A Catholic Understanding of the Story of Creation and the Fall: a book that I have in my library and which I have cited several times.

But back to the immediate topic:

There can certainly be various reasons for repetition: one obvious one being its obvious utility as a teaching and memorization device (as I have already noted in this larger exchange). Another quite plausible thing is something I was excited to learn about this very day: a Hebrew literary technique called chiasmus. Jimmy Akin (in whose article I first saw it mentioned) provided a good basic summary:

The biblical authors commonly structure their material according to a literary form known as chiasmus.

This involves a sequence of elements that can be divided into two halves, with the second half being a mirror image of the first, like steps leading up one side of a pyramid and down the other.

A simple example is Jesus statement that the “first will be last, and the last first” (Matt. 19:30), which has an A-B-B’-A’ structure.

This chiasmus occurs in a single sentence, but there are much more involved ones in the Bible, ones that span large blocks of text and that serve as a major organizational principle for an entire book.

This is the case with Genesis. Much of the book is organized into large chiastic structures.

Pearce, who ludicrously fancies himself as a big expert on the Bible, never mentions “chiasmus” or “chiastic” on his blog. So he can learn something from this, too (i.e., making the huge assumption that he reads this article, and doesn’t give up in a hissy fit after the second paragraph.

Wikipedia (“Chiastic structure”) offers an excellent overview. After noting the basics of chiasmus, as Akin did, it elaborates:

Chiastic structures that involve more components are sometimes called “ring structures”, “ring compositions”, or, in cases of very ambitious chiasmus, “onion-ring compositions”. These may be regarded as chiasmus scaled up from words and clauses to larger segments of text.

These often symmetrical patterns are commonly found in ancient literature such as the epic poetry of the Iliad and the Odyssey. Classicist Bruno Gentili describes this technique as “the cyclical, circular, or ‘ring’ pattern (ring composition). Here the idea that introduced a compositional section is repeated at its conclusion, so that the whole passage is framed by material of identical content”.[1] Meanwhile, in classical prose, scholars often find chiastic narrative techniques in the Histories of Herodotus:

“Herodotus frequently uses ring composition or ‘epic regression’ as a way of supplying background information for something discussed in the narrative. First an event is mentioned briefly, then its precedents are reviewed in reverse chronological order as far back as necessary; at that point the narrative reverses itself and moves forward in chronological order until the event in the main narrative line is reached again.”[2]

The article continues:

Mnemonic device

Oral literature is especially rich in chiastic structure, possibly as an aid to memorization and oral performance. In his study of Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, Cedric Whitman, for instance, finds chiastic patterns “of the most amazing virtuosity” that simultaneously performed both aesthetic and mnemonic functions, permitting the oral poet easily to recall the basic structure of the composition during performances.[6] Steve Reece has demonstrated several ambitious ring compositions in Homer’s Odyssey and compared their aesthetic and mnemonic functions with examples of demonstrably oral Serbo-Croatian epic. [7]

Use in Hebrew Bible

In 1986, William H. Shea proposed that the Book of Daniel is composed of a double-chiasm. He argued that the chiastic structure is emphasized by the two languages that the book is written in: Aramaic and Hebrew. The first chiasm is written in Aramaic from chapters 2-7 following an ABC…CBA pattern. The second chiasm is in Hebrew from chapters 8-12, also using the ABC…CBA pattern. However, Shea represents Daniel 9:26 as “D”, a break in the center of the pattern.[8]

Gordon Wenham has analyzed the Genesis Flood narrative and believes that it is essentially an elaborate chiasm.[9] Based on the earlier study of grammatical structure by F. I. Andersen,[10] Wenham illustrated a chiastic structure as displayed in the following two tables.

Chiastic structure of the Genesis Flood Narrative
A: Noah and his sons (Gen 6:10)
B: All life on earth (6:13:a)
C: Curse on earth (6:13:b)
D: Flood announced (6:7)
E: Ark (6:14-16)
F: All living creatures (6:17–20 )
G: Food (6:21)
H: Animals in man’s hands (7:2–3)
I: Entering the Ark (7:13–16)
J: Waters increase (7:17–20)
X: God remembers Noah (8:1)
J’: Waters decrease (8:13–14)
I’: Exiting the Ark (8:15–19)
H’: Animals (9:2,3)
G’: Food (9:3,4)
F’: All living creatures (9:10a)
E’: Ark (9:10b)
D’: No flood in future (9:11)
C’: Blessing on earth (9:12–17)
B’: All life on earth (9:16)

A’: Noah and his sons (9:18,19a)

[Dave: see a much nicer, more visually appealing version of this]

Within this overall structure, there is a numerical mini-chiasm of 7s, 40s, and 150s:

Chiasm of the numbers 7, 40, and 150
α: Seven days waiting to enter Ark (7:4)
β: Second mention of seven days waiting (7:10)
γ: 40 days (7:17)
δ: 150 days (7:24)
χ: God remembers Noah (8:1)
δ’: 150 days (8:3)
γ’: 40 days (8:6)
β’: Seven days waiting for dove (8:10)

α’: Second seven days waiting for dove (8:12)

Use in New Testament

Form critic, Nils Lund, acknowledged Jewish and classical patterns of writing in the New Testament, including the use of chiastic structures throughout.[11]

The article, “Literary structure (chiasm, chiasmus) of Book of Genesis: Chiastic Structure and Concentric Structure and Parallel of each pericope” is a marvelous compendium of no less than 81 spelled-out uses of the technique in the book of Genesis alone. If it weren’t already obvious, I note that it would be extraordinary for four authors to construct such obviously deliberate literary techniques or devices, across their allegedly intertwined stories. Thus, chiasmus is a strong argument for single authorship and/or Mosaic authorship of Genesis. And there are massive examples in the other five books of the Torah as well, as I will document.

As just one example from this article, I offer the section on the covenant with Noah: which occurred right after the account of the Flood:

[8]The Covenant with Noah  (Gen 9:1-17)
A(9:1-7)
Only flesh with its lifeblood still in it you shall not eat (9:4)
(בשׂר)
B(9:8-11)
never again shall all bodily creatures be destroyed by the waters of a flood (9:11)
(המבול)
C(9:12)
A sign of the covenant
(אותהברית)
C'(9:13)
A sign of the covenant
(לאותברית)
B'(9:14-16)
the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all mortal beings (9:15)
(למבול)
A'(9:17)
This is the sign of the covenant I have established between me and all mortal creatures that are on earth (9:17)
(בשׂר)
A: Flesh. B: All creatures never be destroyed by the waters of a flood. C: A sign of the covenant.
Gen 9:1-7
A(9:1) Be fertile and multiply and fill the earth (9:1)
B(9:2) the human is in charge of beast, birds and fish (Human as the administrator of the animals)
C(9:3) Eating creatures is permitted
D(9:4) Only flesh with its lifeblood still in it you shall not eat (9:4)
C'(9:5) Shedding blood is prohibited
B'(9:6) If anyone sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed (9:6) (Human as the administrator of the human)
A'(9:7) Be fertile, then, and multiply; abound on earth and subdue it (9:7)
Gen 9:8-11
A(9:8-9) covenant with you and your descendants after you (9:9) (covenant for future)
B(9:10) Covenant with every living creature
A'(9:11) covenant with you, that never again shall all bodily creatures be destroyed by the waters of a flood; (9:11) (covenant eternal)
Gen 9:12-17
A(9:12-13) The sign of the covenant
B(9:14-15a) God will recall the covenant with all living beings
C(9:15b) the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all mortal beings (9:15)
B'(9:16) God will recall the covenant with all living beings
A'(9:17) The sign of the covenant

Biblical Chiasm Exchange: a site devoted to comprehensively listing all instances of chiasmus in the Bible, lists no less than 100 of them in Genesis, 55 in Exodus, 26 in Leviticus, 38 in Numbers, and 64 in Deuteronomy. This is 283 times in the Pentateuch. Lots of “pointless repetition” and “redundancy”: as Pearce (who is likely no longer reading this article) would put it.

The book of Psalms contains a whopping 196 instances, which is more than one per Psalm. As an elegant example from a very well-known passage of Scripture, here is the chiastic structure of Psalm 23:

A. 1 The LORD is my shepherd;
I shall not want.

B. Food and drink

He maketh me to lie down
in green pastures:
he leadeth me beside the still waters.

C. security

He restoreth my soul:
he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness
for his name’s sake.

D. 4 Yea, though I walk through the valley
of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil:

C’. security

for thou art with me; 
thy rod and thy staff
they comfort me.

B’. Food and drink

Thou preparest a table before me
in the presence of mine enemies:
thou anointest my head with oil;
my cup runneth over.

A’. 6 Surely goodness and mercy
shall follow me all the days of my life:
and will dwell in the house of the LORD
for ever.

Isaiah, my favorite Old Testament book, contains 119 chiasms in 66 chapters. Jeremiah has 87, Ezekiel, 71.

The New Testament continues the technique, with the Gospels exhibiting 101, 63, 92, and 81. For a relatively famous example, see a portion of the Sermon on the Mount: Matthew 5:22-48.

The book of Acts has 84 chiasms. Romans leads the way in the Pauline letters, with 33.

See another paper specifically about Noah’s Flood and chiasmus, and a second.

An in-depth examination of chiasmus in classical literature, noted many examples in Homer and cited another scholar who found 1257 examples in Livy and 1088 in Tacitus.

Bible scholar E. W. Bullinger catalogued “over 200 distinct figures [in the Bible], several of them with from 30 to 40 varieties.” That’s from the Introduction to his 1104-page tome, Figures of Speech Used in the Bible (London: 1898): a very useful volume in my own library. He devotes 31 wonderful pages to a slightly larger category of literary devices that he calls “Correspondence” (pp. 363-393).

***

ADDENDUM: Exchange with Pearce on His Blog

[this was his preliminary “response” to the above paper]

Jesus wept, your first paragraph.

Another item for your not-to-read list. First paragraph and out. LOL

Dude, to think I’m not engaging with you is ridiculous.

You’re right. Far from me to think you don’t engage. You do, after all (just going by your own reports) read one paragraph of each of my lengthy new articles responding to you. Credit where due. Seidensticker, Madison, and Loftus don’t read my rebuttals at all and never ever respond (and ban me from their sites as an extra bonus). At least you respond with fine comedic material and non sequiturs. You’re funny and entertaining, whereas those guys are grim as the grim reaper.

I’ve just spent 2 solid weeks researching the documentary hypothesis and writing a chapter on it for a forthcoming book. Have you actually read any source material on the documentary hypothesis? I mean, really? or have you only read conservative evangelical supposed critiques of it?

I use your method. I get through one paragraph and think to myself, “this is hogwash!” and then stop reading.

Oh, okay, so that’s how to dismiss an entire discipline of rational scholarship…

I haven’t dismissed it at all (in the sense of claiming that no orthodox Christian could possibly believe in it). To the contrary, I have noted how Pope St. John Paul II believed in it, and to some extent, also Pope Benedict XVI. I do not. I simply have no interest in it and it has no bearing whatsoever on my arguments. Can you not grasp that? Go argue with someone who actually believes in the thing!

You have dismissed something I think you barely understand.

Whatever the case, I’m not the one to wrangle with about it. It’s not my burden to defend it, anymore than it is your burden to defend the existence of God. I defend the non-contradictory nature of Sacred Scripture, which is an issue that goes far beyond DH.

As I mentioned recently, you assumed there was a contradiction in a particular passage and then went on to say that DH adequately accounts for it. I denied the presence of a contradiction in the first place. Thus, that discussion was prior to the application of DH. It was at the level of premises.

It is your burden of proof since you are asserting a single authorship of a book that is clearly not. You need to provide positive evidence of this. You have it the wrong way round.

I am not asserting that at all in these particular arguments. I’m simply defending what we have in the text, as non-contradictory, and a local Flood (and often, non-literal texts) as opposed to a universal one.

My arguments stand on their own, whether the Pentateuch was written by one person or a hundred.

I do think that my recent discovery of chiasmus is quite consistent with single authorship and makes little sense if it is four or more. But I wasn’t trying to prove that. I was showing that this remarkable technique truly is present in the text: massively in the Flood story and at least 81 times in Genesis.

You’ll likely simply ignore it. That’s your frequent “out” and technique of avoidance and evasion, as I’m discovering more and more.

Yesterday you were carping on and on about how I completely ignore the Epic of Gilgamesh Deluge story and had nothing to say about it. In fact, I was addressing it in my second paper published on the same day you were making the false claim, and had done so a few times in my writings. So you were dead wrong. And you simply ignore what I said.

Yesterday you were also waxing delusionally about how DH would shut my mouth and how I couldn’t possibly have any reply to it in any possible universe. Yet here I am today offering a fairly striking explanation (the literary technique of chiasmus) of the “redundance” that you see everywhere in Genesis. So you were dead wrong again. And you will in all likelihood ignore what I said about this, too, lest you stumble into what could be a very interesting and fascinating discussion indeed.

You have no interest in that, in the final analysis. Your goal is to make out that I am an imbecile, idiot, and ignoramus. Your increasingly shrill and boorish comments about me personally and my beliefs and research are specifically designed to give precisely that impression to your adoring, fawning audience.

***

Photo credit: bytrangle (1-19-18) [PixabayPixabay License]

***

Summary: Atheist Jonathan MS Pearce has taken to belittling Genesis as “redundant” & then using the Documentary Hypothesis as his “go-to” answer to everything. But Chiasmus better explains this.

July 2, 2021

One “eric”: a regular (and thoughtful, friendly, and articulate) commenter on atheist antitheist Jonathan Pearce’s blog, made an argument there having to do with the volume and water and other difficulties in a “universal flood” view:

I vaguely recall an old Panda’s Thumb post where someone worked out the rain density/flow necessary to cover the Earth (up a few km from sea level) in 40 days. It worked out to be stronger than a firehose over every square inch of surface. The ark wouldn’t have floated, it would’ve been destroyed – flattened by the water pressure coming down.

A very quick back-of-the-envelope calculation: Everest = 8,848m above sea level. Divide by 40 days gives a flood rise of about 2E-3 meters per second. This can be considered cubic meters though since the rain has to ‘fill up’ the space. While that doesn’t sound like much, the flow rate out of a firehose is about 3E-4 m3/s (5 gallons per minute where 1 gpm = 6E-5 m3/s). So the rain was coming down with a force of about 10x the force of a firehose. The ark would’ve been kindling. Even if it was magically structurally sound, it would’ve been pounded under the water instead of floating on top, the same way floatable things get pushed under the water at the bottom of a waterfall. (7-2-21)

Well first, I brought it up mainly because I find it amusing.

Second, I think replacing most believers’ mental images of rain falling around a boat with what it really would’ve looked like – essentially, the entire Earth sitting under Niagara falls, the water pounding anything and everything into dust – can be a useful way to bring home the sheer unfeasibility of the scenario.

Last, Mr. Armstrong seems to go to great lengths to try and figure out how various biblical events could’ve occurred within the bounds of physics (e.g. nativity star = Jupiter). So there may be some value in showing those sorts of believers that no, there is no way this story can be explained by any appeal to nature. “It only rained for 40 days, then the water took 150 days to recede” isn’t a viable solution to the DH identification of inconsistencies, because “it only rained for 40 days” is a huge problem in itself. It would’ve had to have been more like 4,000 days to get down to even the level of torrential downpour. (7-2-21)

This is delicious (and yes, highly “amusing” on this end, too!), in light of the fact that Pearce had just been lecturing me as follows:

[N]o serious Pentateuchal scholar adheres to the mosaic authorship and single-source proposal for the Pentateuch. I have listened to countless scholars attest to this. No conference, no symposium, no meeting for the Society of Biblical Literature entails any scholar advocating for mosaic authorship or a single source of the Pentateuch. It just doesn’t happen.

Yet the view of Mosaic authorship is very common. In apologetics only. There is a vast chasm that separates serious Hebrew Bible scholarship and Christian apologetics.

This is simply untrue. Many Christian scholars accept the Documentary Hypothesis, but by no means all, as I showed in my previous paper. Pearce was merely over-arguing it, as he so often does, absurdly exaggerating, in the service of condescension, and making his usual overzealous “universal negative” statements.

Right after that (after he misrepresents Christian thinking), eric comes along and strongly insinuates that all or virtually all Christian thinkers believe in a universal Flood, rather than a local one. This is the very common tendency of atheists (many of whom were themselves formerly fundamentalist Protestants) collapsing all of Christian thought into a brand that is a tiny fringe position compared to the whole.

Fundamentalists are a small portion of a sector (traditional or “conservative” Protestants) of a small minority among all Christians (Protestantism). In no sense or way does this represent all of Christian thinking. It’s (without question) intellectually dishonest to ever imply that it does. Yet this regularly occurs in anti-theist atheist polemics and rhetoric, thus opening up the way for massive and clueless bashing of straw men.

Note that eric above simply assumes that the biblical flood accounts must be interpreted as literally universal in nature (including the waters literally covering every mountain, which would include Mt. Everest: 29,032 feet elevation above sea level). He never qualifies or nuances his statement above; never notes that any Christian thinkers believe in a local flood (let alone the vast majority of them, as is the case, and as I will show). Eric takes for granted that the language of “all the high mountains under the whole heaven were covered” (Gen 7:19) was intended to be absolutely literal in the first place. If it’s not literal, then (applying that interpretation consistently) there is no necessity for the Flood waters to literally cover even Mt. Ararat.

It’s hard to say with precision, but I shall consider Mesopotamia as constituting the land area of present-day Iraq, Syria, the eastern quarter of Turkey, Armenia, Lebanon, Jordan, and Israel: basically what was also known as the “Fertile Crescent”: minus Egypt. Here are the square miles in land of all these regions:

Iraq 169,235
Syria 71,498
Turkey (one-fourth) 75,634
Armenia 11,484
Lebanon 4,036
Jordan 34,495
Israel 8,550

Total square miles = 374,932 [the square miles of Texas and Arizona combined is 375,556]

The square miles of the entirety of the earth’s surface (including oceans) add up to 197 million square miles. Dividing this figure by 374,932, we find that the surface area of the entire earth (universal Flood) is 525 times larger than the area of Mesopotamia (local Flood). So the comparison of local to universal Flood is as follows:

Flood water (of far, far less depth) in and around an area of approximately 374,932 square miles.

vs.

29,054 feet of water covering the entire earth: an area of approximately 197 million square miles (525 times larger)

It’s obviously vastly less water in any version of the local Flood scenario, which would have nothing to do with eric’s calculations of “the entire Earth sitting under Niagara falls, the water pounding anything and everything into dust” etc. A rough estimate of a local Flood in Mesopotamia covers an area 525 times smaller.

For further reading on the interpretation of a local Flood, see geologist Carol A. Hill’s article, “The Noachian Flood: Universal or Local?” (Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith, Volume 54, Number 3, September 2002). She writes:

Earth. The Hebrew for “earth” used in Gen. 6–8 (and in Gen. 2:5–6) is eretz (‘erets) or adâmâh, both of which terms literally mean “earth, ground, land, dirt, soil, or country.” In no way can “earth” be taken to mean the planet Earth, as in Noah’s time and place, people (including the Genesis writer) had no concept of Earth as a planet and thus had no word for it. Their “world” mainly (but not entirely) encompassed the land of Mesopotamia—a flat alluvial plain enclosed by the mountains and high ground of Iran, Turkey, Syria, and Saudi Arabia (Fig. 1); i.e., the lands drained by the four rivers of Eden (Gen. 2:10–14). The biblical account must be interpreted within the narrow limit of what was known about the world in that time, not what is known about the world today.

Biblical context also makes it clear that “earth” does not necessarily mean the whole Earth. For example, the face of the ground, as used in Gen. 7:23 and Gen. 8:8 in place of “earth,” does not imply the planet Earth. “Land” is a better translation than “earth” for the Hebrew eretz because it extends to the “face of the ground” we can see around us; that is, what is within our horizon. It also can refer to a specific stretch of land in a local geographic or political sense. For example, when Zech. 5:6 says “all the earth,” it is literally talking about Palestine—a tract of land or country, not the whole planet Earth. Similarly, in Mesopotamia, the concept of “the land” (kalam in Sumerian) seems to have included the entire alluvial plain. This is most likely the correct interpretation of the term “the earth,” which is used over and over again in Gen. 6-8: the entire alluvial plain of Mesopotamia was inundated with water. The clincher to the word “earth” meaning ground or land (and not the planet Earth) is Gen. 1:10: God called the dry land earth (eretz). If God defined “earth” as “dry land,” then so should we. . . .

An excellent example of how a universal “Bible-speak” is used in Genesis to describe a non-universal, regional event is Gen. 41:46:
“And the famine was over all the face of the earth.” This is the exact same language as used in Gen. 6:7, 7:3, 7:4, 8:9 and elsewhere
when describing the Genesis Flood. “All (kowl) the face of the earth” has the same meaning as the “face of the whole (also kowl)
earth.” So was Moses claiming that the whole planet Earth (North America, Australia, etc.) was experiencing famine? No, the
universality of this verse applied only to the lands of the Near East (Egypt, Palestine, Mesopotamia), and perhaps even the Mediterranean area; i.e., the whole known world at that time.

The same principle of a limited universality in Gen. 41:46 also applies to the story of the Noachian Flood. The “earth” was the land (ground) as Noah knew (tilled) it and saw it “under heaven”—that is, the land under the sky in the visible horizon, and “all flesh” were those people and animals who had died or were perishing around the ark in the land of Mesopotamia. The language used in the scriptural narrative is thus simply that which would be natural to an eyewitness (Noah). Woolley aptly described the situation this way: “It was not a universal deluge; it was a vast flood in the valley of the Tigris and Euphrates which drowned the whole of the habitable land … for the people who lived there that was all the world (italics mine).”

Regarding specifically the water covering “all the high mountains” (Gen 7:19), Hill states:

[T]he Hebrew word har for “mountain” in Gen. 7:20 . . . can also be translated as “a range of hills” or “hill country,” implying with Gen. 7:19 that it was “all the high hills” (also har) that were covered rather than high mountains.

This being the case, Genesis 7:19-20 could simply refer to “flood waters . . . fifteen cubits above the ‘hill country’ of Mesopotamia (located in the northern, Assyrian part)”. The Hebrew word har (Strong’s #2022) can indeed mean “hills” or “hill country”, as the Brown-Driver-Briggs Lexicon defines it. Specifically for Genesis 7:19-20, this lexicon classifies the word as following:

mountain, indefinite, Job 14:18 (“” צוּר); usually plural mountains, in General, or the mountains, especially in poetry & the higher style; often figurative; הָרִיםהֶהָרִים, covered by flood Genesis 7:20 compare Genesis 7:19; . . .

In the New American Standard Version, that Jonathan Pearce believes is “renowned as the most accurate” (7-2-21), har is rendered as “hill country” many times in the Hebrew Bible: Genesis 10:30; 14:10; 31:21, 23, 25; 36:8-9; Numbers 13:17, 29; 14:40, 44-45; Deuteronomy 1:7, 19-20, 24, 41, 43-44; 2:37; 3:12, 25; Joshua 2:16, 22-23; 9:1; 10:6, 40; 11:2-3, 16; 11:21; 12:8; 13:6; 14:12; 15:48; 16:1; 17:15-16, 18; 18:12; 19:50; 20:7; 21:11, 21; 24:30, 33; Judges 1:9, 19, 34; 2:9; 3:27; 4:5; 7:24; 10:1; 12:15; 17:1, 8; 18:2, 13; 19:1, 16, 18; 1 Samuel 1:1; 9:4; 13:2; 14:22; 23:14; 2 Samuel 20:21; 1 Kings 4:8; 12:25; 2 Kings 5:22; 1 Chronicles 6:67; 2 Chronicles 13:4; 15:8; 19:4.

The same version translates har as “hill” or “hills” nine times too: Deuteronomy 8:7; 11:11; Joshua 13:19; 18:13-14, 16; 1 Kings 16:24; 2 Kings 1:9; 4:27.

Even the location of the present-day Mt. Ararat as the landing place of the ark is not required in the biblical text. Hill continues:

[T]he Bible does not actually pinpoint the exact place where the ark landed, it merely alludes to a region or range of mountains where the ark came to rest: the mountains of Ararat (Gen. 8:4). Ararat is the biblical name for Urartu (Isa. 37:38) as this area was known to the ancient Assyrians. This mountainous area, geographically centered around Lake Van and between Lake Van and Lake Urmia (Fig. 1), was part of the ancient region of “Armenia” (not limited to the country of Armenia today). “Mountain” in Gen. 8:4 is plural; therefore, the Bible does not specify that the ark landed on the highest peak of the region (Mount Ararat), only that the ark landed somewhere on the mountains or highlands of Armenia (both “Ararat” and “Urartu” can be translated as “highlands”). In biblical times, “Ararat” was actually the name of a province (not a mountain), as can be seen from its usage in 2 Kings 19:37: “… some escaped into the land of Ararat” and Jer. 51:27: “… call together against her (Israel) the kingdoms of Ararat, Minni, and Askkenaz …”

She additionally noted that:

Only in the eleventh and twelfth centuries AD did the focus of investigators begin to shift toward Mount Ararat as the ark’s final resting place, and only by the end of the fourteenth century AD does it seem to have become a fairly well established tradition. Before this, both Islamic and Christian tradition held that the landing place of the ark was on Jabel Judi, a mountain located about 30 miles (48 km) northeast of the Tigris River near Cizre, Turkey (Fig. 1).

Jabel Judi is 6,854 feet in elevation. The current Mt. Ararat wasn’t even known by that name until the Middle Ages (see more on its names in Wikipedia).

Lorence G. Collins is a geologist and petrologist. His Wikipedia page observed that he is “known for his opposition to creationist geological pseudo-science.” He has 36 articles on a website Opposition to Creationism that describe various views of young-earth creationists and their scientific errors in interpretations. He wrote a fascinating article, “Yes, Noah’s flood may have happened but not over the
whole earth” (Reports of the National Center for Science Education, 2009, 29(5): 38-41. He lays out geological evidence for a local Mesopotamian Flood:

REGIONAL EVIDENCE FOR THE NOACHIAN AND SIMILAR FLOODS

Two rivers, the Euphrates and Tigris flow through Mesopotamia, which is now the country of Iraq (Figure 1).There are several layers in exposed rocks near these two rivers in southeastern Mesopotamia (Iraq) that are likely flood deposits. Most are about a foot (0.3 m) thick, but one is as much as 3 meters thick (MacDonald 1988). Flood debris from this same thick deposit along the Euphrates River near the ancient Sumerian city of Shuruppak about 200 km southeast of Baghdad has been dated by the C14 method, giving an age of 2900 BCE (Best nd). Flood deposits 2.4 meters thick are also reported by MacDonald (1988) as far northeast as the ancient Babylonian city of Kish (120 km south of Baghdad). At any rate, the many flood-deposit layers show that flooding in southeastern Mesopotamia was not unusual in ancient times.

Reference Source:

MacDonald D. 1988. The Flood: Mesopotamian archaeological evidenceCreation/Evolution 8 (2): 14–20.

The Bible habitually uses phenomenological language. Collins makes note of this with regard to the Flood:

Northeast and southwest of the nearly flat surface that contains the two rivers, the topography rises to more than 455 m [1493 feet] in Saudi Arabia and in Iran. Calculations show that elevations of 455 m high cannot be seen beyond 86 km [53 miles] away, and these places are more than 160 km [99 miles] from the Euphrates or Tigris Rivers. Therefore, none of the high country in Saudi Arabia or Iran would be visible to a tribal chief (or Noah). On that basis, the “whole world” would definitely appear to be covered with water during the Flood, and that was the “whole world” for the people in this part of southeastern Mesopotamia at that time.

Here is a good topographical map of Mesopotamia (see also a second one). One can see that there is a sort of “basin” in the alluvial floodplain in this area. An article about the region referred to:

. . . the floodplain of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, which is bordered by the Zagros Mountains to the east, the Himreen Mountains to the north, the Arabian Plateau to the west and the Persian Gulf to the south.

Now, all that remains is to show that the opinion of a local Flood is mainstream Christian thought. Its rather easy to do. First I go to the Catholic Encyclopedia (since I am a Catholic). It’s article on “Deluge” was written in 1908, so these are no recent developments in scholarly thinking.

Universality of the Deluge

The Biblical account ascribes some kind of a universality to the Flood. But it may have been geographically universal, or it may have been only anthropologically universal. In other words, the Flood may have covered the whole earth, or it may have destroyed all men, covering only a certain part of the earth. Till about the seventeenth century, it was generally believed that the Deluge had been geographically universal, and this opinion is defended even in our days by some conservative scholars (cf. Kaulen in Kirchenlexikon). But two hundred years of theological and scientific study devoted to the question have thrown so much light on it that we may now defend the following conclusions:

The geographical universality of the Deluge may be safely abandoned

Neither Sacred Scripture nor universal ecclesiastical tradition, nor again scientific considerations, render it advisable to adhere to the opinion that the Flood covered the whole surface of the earth.

(a) The words of the original text, rendered “earth” in our version, signify “land” as well as “earth”; in fact, “land” appears to have been their primary meaning, and this meaning fits in admirably with Genesis 4, 5 and 10; why not adhere to this meaning also in Genesis 6:9, or the Flood story. Why not read, the waters “filled all on the face of the land”, “all flesh was destroyed that moved in the land”, “all things wherein there is the breath of life in the land died”, “all the high mountains under the whole heaven (corresponding to the land) were covered”? The primary meaning of the inspired text urges therefore a universality of the flood covering the whole land or region in which Noah lived, but not the whole earth. . . .

(c) There are also certain scientific considerations which oppose the view that the Flood was geographically universal. Not that science opposes any difficulty insuperable to the power of God; but it draws attention to a number of most extraordinary, if not miraculous phenomena involved in the admission of a geographically universal Deluge.

  • First, no such geological traces can be found as ought to have been left by a universal Deluge; for the catastrophe connected with the beginning of the ice-age, or the geological deluge, must not be connected with the Biblical.
  • Secondly, the amount of water required by a universal Deluge, as described in the Bible, cannot be accounted for by the data furnished in the Biblical account. If the surface of the earth, in round numbers, amounts to 510,000,000 square kilometres, and if the elevation of the highest mountains reaches about 9000 metres, the water required by the Biblical Flood, if it be universal, amounts to about 4,600,000,000 cubic kilometres. Now, a forty days’ rain, ten times more copious than the most violent rainfall known to us, will raise the level of the sea only about 800 metres; since the height to be attained is about 9000 metres, there is still a gap to be filled by unknown sources amounting to a height of more than 8000 metres, in order to raise the water to the level of the greatest mountains.

For Protestant opinion, I cite the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia: a marvelous helpful work similar to the Catholic Encyclopedia. It dates from 1915. I quote from its article, “Deluge of Noah”. It was written by George Frederick Wright (a Congregationalist), about whom Wikipedia states:

. . . an American geologist and a professor at Oberlin Theological Seminary, first of New Testament language and literature (1881 – 1892), and then of “harmony of science and revelation” (until retirement in 1907). He wrote prolifically, publishing works in geology, history, and theology. Early in his career he was an outspoken defender of Darwinism, and later in life he emphasised his commitment to a form of theistic evolution.

And now from the article:

Was the Flood Universal?:

In considering the credibility of the Biblical story we encounter at the outset the question whether the narrative compels us to believe the Flood to have been universal. In answer, it is sufficient to suggest that since the purpose of the judgment was the destruction of the human race, all the universality which it is necessary to infer from the language would be only such as was sufficient to accomplish that object. If man was at that time limited to the Euphrates valley, the submergence of that area would meet all the necessary conditions. Such a limitation is more easily accepted from the fact that general phrases like “Everybody knows,” “The whole country was aroused,” are never in literature literally interpreted. When it is said (Genesis 41:54-57) that the famine was “in all lands,” and over “all the face of the earth,” and that “all countries came into Egypt …. to buy grain,” no one supposes that it is intended to imply that the irrigated plains of Babylonia, from which the patriarchs had emigrated, were suffering from drought like Palestine (For other examples of the familiar use of this hyperbole, see Deuteronomy 2:25Job 37:3Acts 2:25Romans 1:8.)

As to the extent to which the human race was spread over the earth at the time of the Flood, two suppositions are possible. First, that of Hugh Miller (Testimony of the Rocks) that, owing to the shortness of the antediluvian chronology, and the violence and moral corruption of the people, population had not spread beyond the boundary of western Asia. An insuperable objection to this theory is that the later discoveries have brought to light remains of prehistoric man from all over the northern hemisphere, showing that long before the time of the Flood he had become widely scattered.

Another theory, supported by much evidence, is that, in connection with the enormous physical changes in the earth’s surface during the closing scenes of the Glacial epoch, man had perished from off the face of the earth except in the valley of the Euphrates, and that the Noachian Deluge is the final catastrophe in that series of destructive events.

Likewise, we can cite The Christian View of Science and Scripture (1954) an immensely influential work from Baptist theologian Bernard Ramm, representing mainstream evangelical [as opposed to “fundamentalist”] Protestant, post-World War II thinking:

Although many Christians still believe in the universal flood, most of the recent conservative scholarship of the church defends a local flood. (p. 238; he cites the article directly above as “the best discussion on the flood”)

Criticisms of the universal flood interpretation

. . . (i) It cannot demonstrate that totality of language necessitates a universal flood . Fifteen minutes with a Bible concordance will reveal many instances in which universality of language is used but only a partial quantity is meant. All does not mean every last one in all of its usages. Psa. 22: 17 reads: “I may tell all my bones,” and hardly means that every single bone of the skeleton stood out prominently. John 4: 39 cannot mean that Jesus completely recited the woman’s biography. Matt. 3: 5 cannot mean that every single individual from Judea and Jordan came to John the Baptist. There are cases where all means all, and every means every, but the context tells us where this is intended. Thus, special reference may be made to Paul’s statement in Romans about the universality of sin, yet even that “all” excludes Jesus Christ.

The universality of the flood simply means the universality of the experience of the man who reported it. When God tells the Israelites He will put the fear of them upon the people under the whole heaven , it refers to all the peoples known to the Israelites (Deut. 2: 25). When Gen. 41: 57 states that all countries came to Egypt to buy grain, it can only mean all peoples known to the Egyptians. Ahab certainly did not look for Elijah in every country of the earth even though the text says he looked for Elijah so thoroughly that he skipped no nation or kingdom (I Kings 18: 10). From the vantage point of the observer of the flood all mountains were covered, and all flesh died. (pp. 240-241)

There is the problem of the amount of water required by a universal flood. All the waters of the heavens, poured all over the earth, would amount to a sheath seven inches thick. If the earth were a perfect sphere so that all the waters of the ocean covered it, the depth of the ocean would be two and one-half to three miles. To cover the highest mountains would require eight times more water than we now have. It would have involved a great creation of water to have covered the entire globe, but no such creative act is hinted at in the Scriptures. (p. 244)

Getting rid of such a vast amount of water would have been as miraculous as providing it. If the entire world were under six miles of water, there would be no place for the water to drain off. Yet the record states that the water drained off with the help of the wind (Gen. 8: i). A local flood would readily account for this, but there is no answer if the entire world were under water. (p. 245)

The flood was local to the Mesopotamian valley. The animals that came, prompted by divine instinct, were the animals of that region; they were preserved for the good of man after the flood. Man was destroyed within the boundaries of the flood; the record is mute about man in America or Africa or China. The types of vegetation destroyed quickly grew again over the wasted area, and other animals migrated back into the area, so that after a period of time the damaging effects of the flood were obliterated. . . .

We judge, then, that within Christian and supernaturalistic premises, there is nothing in the Scriptures about geological matters which should cause offence to anyone; on the contrary, we may believe the Biblical records with full assurance of being in agreement with geological science according to the principles developed in this chapter. (p. 249; all page numbers correspond to my hardcover edition, published by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company [Grand Rapids, Michigan], in 1954; my copy reprinted in 1966).

Ramm also discusses “The Babylonian Flood account” on pages 247-249. It can be read online at the link. In the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, George Frederick Wright (see the link above) also devotes significant space to it in his sections 9 and 10: for those who want to understand the true nature of the comparison of the Babylonian and biblical accounts. Here are a few striking differences, as elucidated by Wright:

The dimensions of the ark as given in Ge (6:15) are reasonable, while those of Berosus and the cuneiform tablets are unreasonable. According to Gen, the ark was 300 cubits (562 1/2 ft.) long, 50 cubits (93 2/3 ft.) wide, and 30 cubits (56 1/4 ft.) deep, which are the natural proportions for a ship of that size, being in fact very close to those of the great steamers which are now constructed to cross the Atlantic. The “Celtic” of the White Star line, built in 1901, is 700 ft. long, 75 ft. wide and 49 1/3 ft. deep. The dimensions of the “Great Eastern,” built in 1858 (692 ft. long, 83 ft. broad, and 58 ft. deep), are still closer to those of the ark. The cuneiform tablets represent the length, width and depth each as 140 cubits (262 ft.) (II. 22, 23, 38-41), the dimensions of an entirely unseaworthy structure. . . .

The accounts differ decidedly in the duration of the Flood. According to the ordinary interpretation of the Biblical account, the Deluge continued a year and 17 days; whereas, according to the cuneiform tablets, it lasted only 14 days (II. 103-7, 117-22). . . .

[T]he duration of the Deluge, according to Genesis, affords opportunity for a gradual progress of events which best accords with scientific conceptions of geological movements. If, as the most probable interpretation would imply, the water began to recede after 150 days from the beginning of the Flood and fell 15 cubits in 74 days, that would only be 3 2/3 inches per day–a rate which would be imperceptible to an ordinary observer.

Despite these massive differences, (((J_Enigma23))) on Pearce’s blog wrote:

As stated numerous times, the Biblical flood also reads very much like the Flood myth from the Epic of Gilgamesh.

Right. The Babylonian ark was 262 feet wide, deep, and long (a giant cube), whereas the biblical ark has similar proportions to actual ocean liners in our time. The biblical Flood lasted over a year, and the waters subsided over seven months’ time. But the Babylonian Flood lasted 14 days. That doesn’t sound “very much like” to me. There are several parallels that can be drawn, but having massively different boat descriptions and duration lengths are certainly essential differences.

See a summary of the major theological differences between the two stories in the article, “Down Came the Rain: Rabbi Prof. David Golinkin on Noah and Gilgamesh” (The Schechter Institutes, Inc., 1-10-19)

***

Photo credit: jeffjacobs1990 (7-20-18) [PixabayPixabay License]

***

Summary: “eric”: an atheist who frequents Jonathan Pearce’s blog, blithely assumed that mainstream Christian thinking accepts a worldwide Flood. This is false: a local Flood is the norm.

 

July 2, 2021

Atheist anti-theist Jonathan M. S. Pearce is the main writer on the blog, A Tippling Philosopher. His “About” page states: “Pearce is a philosopher, author, blogger, public speaker and teacher from Hampshire in the UK. He specialises in philosophy of religion, but likes to turn his hand to science, psychology, politics and anything involved in investigating reality.” His words will be in blue.

*****

I am replying to Pearce’s paper, Armstrong, the Genesis Flood Contradictions and Multiple Sources (7-2-21), which in turn was a response to my Pearce’s Potshots #36: Noah’s Flood: 40 or 150 Days or Neither? (7-1-21).

As is obvious from the title of my previous paper, I didn’t set out to refute or even engage the Documentary Hypothesis (DH): which (full disclosure, if it isn’t obvious) I reject. I simply provided three critical papers of mine: one being a collection of links. My point of view could be set forth without reference to whatever position one holds on the DH, because it was claimed that contradictions existed in the biblical text (i.e., however constructed or by whom) as to the length of Noah’s Flood.

A person who accepts the inspiration and infallibility of the Bible (as I do, and as the Catholic Church does) think that it doesn’t contradict whether or not some form of DH is true and an accurate understanding of the Pentateuch / Torah. Thus, all his carping on about DH is perfectly irrelevant to my argument. I specifically chose one part of his argument: the claim of contradiction. Pearce wrote in his paper that I responded to:

[I]n one part of Genesis the flood is 40 days and nights, and in another it is 150 days. These sorts of contradictions . . . [my bolding and italics]

In his present paper he refers back to this:

I posted a quick, “Look, here’s a biblical Genesis flood contradiction, and it’s one of the famous ones for illustrating the multiple source issue”. 

He assumes it is a contradiction and then proposes that multiple authorship (good ol’ DH) can explain the “contradiction.” Like the socratic that I am, I go right to the premise. I deny that the contradiction is present in the text in the first place. That’s a matter of logic and exegesis, not elaborate, wildly speculative and subjective theorizing as to authorship. Two texts can contradict whether one author wrote them or two. They can also be logically consistent whether one author wrote them or two. Therefore, the question of DH is, to repeat, a non sequitur in relation to the very particular, specific argument I was making.

But I do want to briefly address one arrogant charge and falsehood that Pearce throws out:

[N]o serious Pentateuchal scholar adheres to the mosaic authorship and single-source proposal for the Pentateuch. I have listened to countless scholars attest to this. No conference, no symposium, no meeting for the Society of Biblical Literature entails any scholar advocating for mosaic authorship or a single source of the Pentateuch. It just doesn’t happen.

Yet the view of Mosaic authorship is very common. In apologetics only. There is a vast chasm that separates serious Hebrew Bible scholarship and Christian apologetics.

One of the articles I linked to in my collection of critical articles about the DH was “The Documentary Hypothesis” (Alice C. Linsley, Just Genesis, 1-11-10). She writes:

The Documentary Hypothesis was the topic of heated discussion recently at Stand Firm. A priest made this this facile comment:

But the overwhelming consensus of modern scholars is that the Pentateuch is indeed a composite of multiple traditions, coming from a wide variety of times and places and reflecting a considerable variety of theological viewpoints and group interests.

To which a a layman, Michael A. responded:

The more I thought about this, the more irritated I became, because it is such typical liberal humbug: “This is what everyone is thinking don’t question it”. Yet it is quite untrue – *numerous* scholars reject the documentary hypothesis. I assembled a quick list, broken down into (a) liberals or other; (b) jewish (a huge field of scholars that the liberals always ignore); and (c) conservative christian:

(a) liberal or other

*Rolf Rendtdorff “problems of process of transmission in the Pentateuch”, trans English 1977

*R.N. Whybray, Introduction to the Pentateuch 1995.

*Whybray acidly comments: “There is at the present moment no consensus whatever about when, why, how, and through whom the Pentateuch reached its present form, and opinions about the dates of composition of its various parts differ by more than five hundred years.”

*Kikawada, Isaac M. and A. Quinn. Before Abraham Was: The Unity of Genesis 1-11. Nashville: Abingdon, 1985.

*Richard S. Hess, Israelite Religions, 2008 [This is a huge and detailed study on the subject]

*Literally from left field are scholars like Gmirkin in “Berossus and Genesis” 2006 who argues that the entire Pentateuch was written in the 3rd century BC! Obviously his position is radically different to mine (I believe it was written/edited by Moses, as Jesus said). Yet the end result is the same: Gmirkin rejects the documentary hypothesis.

(b) Jewish

*Umberto Cassuto completely debunked the DH. His “The Documentary Hypothesis and the Composition of the Pentateuch” is still highly recommended reading (1966 in english)

*Yehezkel Kaufmann (1950s)

*Cyrus H. Gordon (1960s)

There are plenty of recent Jewish scholars who reject the Documentary Hypothesis:

*Dr. Yohanan Aharoni

*Amos Hakham

*Rabbi Dr Joshua Berman

*Rabbi Yosef Reinman

(c) Conservative christian

*John Bimson

*Bryant Wood

*Colin Smith

*R.K. Harrison, An Introduction To The Old Testament 1970

*K.A. Kitchen, Ancient Orient And The Old Testament 1966

*Gleason Archer (d. 2004) of Fuller and Trinity.

*Walter Kaiser of Gordon-Conwell

*Ronald F. Youngblood

*James Orr, The Problems of the Old Testament

*R.W.L. Moberly, The Old Testament of the Old Testament

*J Gordon McConville

*T Desmond Alexander

*Edwin Yamauchi

*Prof. Joseph Free, Archaeology and Bible History 1969

*Prof. Randall W. Younker, 1999

*Duane A. Garrett 1991.

*Derek Kidner, Commentary on Genesis

*J Harold Greenlee

*Prof. Claude Mariottini

*Joseph Blenkinsopp 1995.

*McCarter, P. Kyle, Jr. 1988

Liberal scholars are of course unaware of any of these, in their intellectual ghetto. Go figure.

Catholic writer Mark Shea provided (in 2002: link unable to be found) a funny satire on Documentary Theory, using The Lord of the Rings:

One standard staple of biblical criticism for the past century has been the theory that the Old Testament isn’t composed of “books” that somebody “wrote” but is instead a pastische of “sources” that religio political factions “assembled”. If you find yourself thinking “Only an academic–and a German one–could suppose that the foundational literature of Western civilization could be pasted together by a committee and only an academic–and a German one–could suppose that you find out what the text really means by dissolving it in the acid bath of deconstruction to tease out the supposedly original Yahwist (J), Elohist (E), Priestly (P) and Deuteronomic (D) sources”, you’re right. The theory has run into trouble (since nobody seems to agree on which cut n paste fragments belong to which source and nobody knows why the editors who allegedly stuck all these sources together did what they did. But, as with pure naturalistic theories of evolution, your task is to shut up and bow to your superiors, not ask obvious questions.

In the spirit of redaction criticism, Bruce Baugh now offers some preliminary theories on the variation in sources used by the makers of the Two Towers. I think he’s on to something. Jackson is clearly operating from Rohanian sources for purely political reasons. Truly educated people can see these things right off the bat. It’s obvious to any thinking person that the whole “Tolkien Authorship Myth” must go. The Lord of the Rings was not “written” by a so-called “author” named “Tolkien”. Rather, it is a final redaction of sources ranging from the Red Book of Westmarch, to Elvish Chronicles, to Gondorian records, to tales of Rohirrim which were only transcribed centuries later. The various pressure groups which preserved these stories all had their own agendas. For instance, the Gondorian records clearly seek to elevate the claims of the Aragorn monarchy over the house of Denethor. So the record has been sanitized. Indeed, many scholars now believe the “Faramir being healed by Aragorn” doublet of the “Frodo being helped by Aragorn” is a sanitized version of the murder of Denethor by Aragorn through the administration of poison. “Faramir” never existed and is a corruption of “Boromir”, who died under uncertain circumstances in the wilderness. Since the scenes of Aragorn healing “Frodo” also take place in the wilderness, most scholars conclude that “Frodo” is a mythic echo of Boromir, whose quest for Power is like Aragorn’s quest for the Throne. Perhaps, Boromir was one of Aragorn’s first victims. Of course, the whole “Ring” motif appears in countless folk tales and is to be discounted altogether. The real “War of the Ring” was doubtless some small tribal dispute that was exaggerated by bardic sources, much like the Exodus or the Fall of Troy. Gandalf appears to have been some sort of shamanistic figure, introduced to the Narrative by W (the Westmarch source) out of deference to local Shire cultic practice.

Rohan seems to have been of much help to the establishment of the Aragorn monarchy and so R sources find their way into the final version of the LOTR narrative, but greatly altered so as to give Theoden a subordinate role. Meanwhile, we can only guess at the Sauron and Saruman sources, since they seem to have been destroyed by the victors and give a wholly negative view of these doubtlessly complex, warm, human and many-sided figures. Scholars now know, of course, that the identification of Sauron with “pure evil” is simply wrong. Indeed, many scholars have become quite fond of Sauron and are searching the records with a growing passion and zeal for any lore connected with the making of the One Ring. “It’s all nonsense, of course,” says Dr. Gol M. Smeagol, “There never was such a Ring. Still… I… should… very much like to have a look at it. Just for scholarly purposes of course.”

That noted, we move on.
*
I am supremely confident in what I am claiming, . . . 
*
Excellent! Then maybe he will interact point-by-point with my argument this time: a thing that he scarcely did in this paper.
*
Perhaps I am just really bad at this. I apologise to you all.
*
I appreciate it. That’s much more likely. He’s a prisoner of his own relentlessly false presuppositions.
*
Armstrong, in looking for some “win scenario” took on the simple claim of the flood lasting 40 days and nights vs 150 days and went with it, broadly writing a piece on how the rains lasted forty days but the flood took 150 days to recede, so there is no contradiction,
*
Yes I did. That was my issue. I pick out things that can be objectively discussed, as matters of logic (+ exegesis, if required) or fact. This was one such item. I have a long history of dealing with alleged biblical contradictions, as Pearce himself is, I think, well aware.
*
and isn’t Pearce rubbish…
*
Not Pearce, just many of his nonsensical and incoherent or factually dubious arguments.
*

The thing is, I have to respond because there will be lurkers here who might want to know how to respond to things like this.

How kind and considerate of him.

What he failed to quote was some in-between bits. But before we get onto that, literally look at his own quote:

Genesis 8:3-4 and the waters receded from the earth continually. At the end of a hundred and fifty days the waters had abated; [4] and in the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month, the ark came to rest upon the mountains of Ar’arat.

Genesis 8:5 And the waters continued to abate until the tenth month; in the tenth month, on the first day of the month, the tops of the mountains were seen.

This makes no sense. The waters abated at the end of 150 days. 

Yes, after 150 days they reached their highest level and started to recede. “Abate” according to Dictionary.com means “to reduce in amount, degree, intensity, etc.; lessen; diminish:” It doesn’t mean “disappear.” Likewise, the Hebrew word châsêr (“abate” in Gen 8:3; Strong’s word #2637) means, in this instance, “to fail, to be lessened”: according to Gesenius’ Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon: a standard Hebrew linguistic reference.

Various English translations of Genesis 8:3 more clearly indicate that the waters just started the process of receding after 150 days. They weren’t totally gone (hence, the passage is not saying that the entire Flood was over, with all the additional flood water on the earth’s surface totally gone):

NIV . . . At the end of the hundred and fifty days the water had gone down,

NKJV . . . At the end of the hundred and fifty days the waters decreased.

NASB . . . at the end of 150 days the water decreased.

Amplified Bible . . . At the end of a hundred and fifty days the waters had diminished.

ASV . . . after the end of a hundred and fifty days the waters decreased.

Douay-Rheims . . . and they began to be abated after a hundred and fifty days.

JPS Tanakh 1917 . . . after the end of a hundred and fifty days the waters decreased.

Knox . . . beginning to abate, now that the hundred and fifty days were over.

Moffatt . . . began to subside . . .

Armstrong has quoted himself into a corner! This is precisely what the DH/SH solve.

Also, we have a verse that he did include, but didn’t dwell on. I use, always where possible, the NASB as a Bible translation as it is renowned as the most accurate. Here is Genesis 7:17:

17 Then the flood [l]came upon the earth for forty days, and the water increased and lifted up the ark, so that it rose above the earth.

The footnote for the “flood came” is that is can be translated as “it was”. So, here we have the flood was “upon the earth for forty days”. NOT, it rained for forty days, but “it was upon the earth for forty days” and “it lifted up the ark”. The waters lifted up the ark for forty days, not the rain from above.

We know this is a differentiation from the idea of it raining for forty days because Genesis 7:12, from which 17 is an idea continuation, states:

12 The rain [i]fell upon the earth for forty days and forty nights.

Let’s put them together:

12 The rain [i]fell upon the earth for forty days and forty nights.

17 Then the flood [l]came upon the earth for forty days, and the water increased and lifted up the ark, so that it rose above the earth.

At most, at best for Dave, we have a 40-day rain and then a 40-day flood (80 days in total). 

This is just silly. Plainly, in context, this particular use of flood was synonymous with the forty days of rain. Hence, some Bible translations make this equation crystal-clear:

Knox For forty days that flood came down on the earth . . .

Moffatt For forty days and forty nights rain fell upon the earth . . .

Amplified Bible The flood [that is, the downpour of rain] was forty days . . .

Pearce tries to play with cross-referencing to force the larger text to fit into his erroneous schema, by asserting that Genesis 7:12 and 7:17 differentiate “rain” and “flood” (even though both refer to forty days). I could just as well do cross-referencing with regard to “waters” / “water.” After all, 7:17 refers to “the flood” and then appears to equate this with “the water increased” (as opposed to saying “then it subsided” or “then it dried up”). In Pearce’s ridiculous, contrived, and mythical 80-day Flood, the water would have to dry up after the second forty-day period referred to in 7:17. But it does not do so. Rather, “the water [“waters” in RSV] increased.”

In fact, “flood” and “water[s]” appear together, in a synonymous use seven times in RSV, in Genesis 6, 7, and 9 (including 7:17):

“flood of waters”: 6:17; 7:6

“waters of the flood”: 7:7, 10

“The flood . . . the waters increased”: 7:17

“waters of a flood”: 9:11

“the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh”: 9:15

If we are to consult immediate context, Genesis 7:18-20, 24 repeat four times that “the waters prevailed”: with 7:24 adding that they did so “a hundred and fifty days” (not forty or eighty!). It was after 150 days that the waters “subsided” (8:1), “receded from the earth continually” (8:3) and “abated” (8:3). They “continued to abate until the tenth month” (8:5), which was the eighth month after it started to rain (see 7:11). The waters didn’t totally dry up till “the first month, the first day of the month”: when “the waters were dried from off the earth; . . . the face of the ground was dry” (8:13). This was about ten-and-a-half months from the beginning of the torrential rains, and it was when the Flood ended, in any reasonable reading of the plain texts.

Therefore, Pearce’s “exegesis” (or I should say, eisegesis) is atrocious, as always. He sees only what he wants to see, and this is the hallmark of all skeptical, hostile, hyper-rational “can’t see the forest for the trees” eisegesis and Bible “interpretation” [choke] from those who approach the Bible like a butcher approaches a hog: big knife in hand.

Now let’s see the in-between bit he forgot to quote:

Genesis 8:6:After forty days Noah opened a window he had made in the ark and sent out a raven, and it kept flying back and forth until the water had dried up from the earth. Then he sent out a dove to see if the water had receded from the surface of the ground.

So, next, he opens the window after the fortieth day! How convenient Armstrong forgot this.

Genesis 8:6: “At the end of forty days” (RSV) is not forty days after the beginning of the Flood, but forty days after the time mentioned in the previous verse: ” in the tenth month, on the first day of the month . . .” That’s the context. Then after Noah sent the raven and the dove out, 8:13 asserts: “in the first month, the first day of the month, the waters were dried from off the earth” (the end of the Flood).

Then Pearce tries to smuggle in another alleged pseudo-“contradiction” having nothing to do with the duration of the Flood:

Let’s look at the wider context (don’t read the NIV translation as they try to bodge this in utter dishonesty):

Genesis 7:2-3:You shall take [a]with you [b]seven pairs of every clean animal, a male and his female; and two of the animals that are not clean, a male and his female; also of the birds of the sky, [c]seven pairs, male and female, to keep their [d]offspring alive on the face of all the earth.

And:

Genesis 6:19: 19 And of every living thing of all flesh, you shall bring two of every kind into the ark, to keep them alive with you; they shall be male and female.

What a pointless repetition even if it didn’t contradict.

I have dealt with this already: Seidensticker Folly #49: Noah & 2 or 7 Pairs of Animals [9-7-20] I have refuted atheist anti-theist Bob “the Bible Basher” Seidensticker now 72 times: without a single peep of a reply.

Pearce then goes into reams of more analysis of DH (which is utterly beside the point of my paper) and chastises the Bible for “Repetition, redundancy and contradiction”. To the contrary, “repetition is a great teacher.” I typed in those words for a Google search and tons of stuff came up. Pearce seems oblivious to the possibility that such repetition was a deliberate tactic of one author, rather than supposed proof of multiple authors. If he wants to see “redundancy” Genesis 7:6-13 can’t hold a candle to Psalm 136. It repeats the same phrase: “for his steadfast love endures for ever” 26 straight times, in as many verses.

The sad end result (for him) is that Pearce hasn’t refuted a single point of my paper, whereas I have now strengthened and bolstered my argument all the more, which I always do when a challenge is kept up or increased (unless, of course, it is something I have conceded; and I do gladly concede where the facts and arguments and evidence warrant it; just as I did in a major way in converting to Catholicism from evangelical Protestantism).

***

ADDENDUM: Pearce’s “Reply”

Ruddy Flood Thing Again. And Armstrong. (7-3-21)

Here, Pearce doesn’t interact with even a single one of my many exegetical arguments against his charge of contradiction as to the duration of the Flood. He simply repeats endlessly his uncritical praise of the Documentary Hypothesis. At least he was kind enough to include words of mine (seen above, near the beginning) that show how all of this is perfectly irrelevant to my own arguments, which never were about the Documentary Hypothesis in the first place (that’s his pet argument, but has nothing to do with mine):

My point of view could be set forth without reference to whatever position one holds on the DH, because it was claimed that contradictions existed in the biblical text (i.e., however constructed or by whom) as to the length of Noah’s Flood.

A person who accepts the inspiration and infallibility of the Bible (as I do, and as the Catholic Church does) think that it doesn’t contradict whether or not some form of DH is true and an accurate understanding of the Pentateuch / Torah. Thus, all his carping on about DH is perfectly irrelevant to my argument. I specifically chose one part of his argument: the claim of contradiction.

Thank you, Jonathan. If only you could figure out that this renders all of your carping on and on about DH and how supposedly not a single Bible scholar in the history of the universe (with an IQ higher than a pencil eraser) has ever denied it or has been critical of it, null and void. You’re arguing one thing; I’m arguing another. We are literally ships passing in the night.

[for more on the Documentary Hypothesis, see: Jimmy Akin, “Who Wrote the Books of Moses?”, Catholic Answers, 1-1-13]

Rather than engage my exegetical arguments, Pearce — showing remarkable (and to me, surprising) intellectual cowardice — decides to opt out with sweeping, unsubstantiated generalities:

I don’t think any of your criticisms of my points hold water. . . . 

If Armstrong seriously thinks he has answered my with his apologetic discourse here, trying to special plead his 40 vs 150 day issue is coherent, he is sadly mistaken. I really have nothing more to say since all of my original points hold. He just hasn’t touched them. 

Pearce takes another misguided blank shot:

And as for the Epic of Gilgamesh, he didn’t even mention it.

Because he definitely has nothing to say to that.

It’s true that I didn’t in this paper, because it had nothing whatsoever to do with what I was arguing: which was a logical / exegetical matter having to do with a few biblical texts in Genesis. And that was, of course, why I didn’t deal with it: not Pearce’s wishful mythology that my mouth and mind are sealed shut as to that issue, in abject fear, due to his profoundly unanswerable utterances.

In fact, I dealt with it several times in my companion-paper, also posted yesterday, along with this present one, in response to someone in his own combox (and announced in the same place): Local Flood & Atheist Ignorance of Christian Thought (7-2-21; revised a few times today on 7-3-21, as I found some more interesting and relevant material).

I dealt with it at the very end of the paper, noting that two reputable Protestant scholarly sources that I cited at length and linked to (online versions in their entirety) both addressed the issue. It was in the initial version of the paper before I added material to it and removed some, excepting the very last sentence, that I added today. All of it was written before I read Pearce’s new article today, making this criticism. Thus, his statement that I allegedly havenothing to say to that” is ridiculous (adding to a long collection of such utterances of his against me — and the Bible — and Christianity). Anyway, here is the end section of my “Local Flood” article from yesterday:

[Baptist theologian Bernard] Ramm [author of The Christian View of Science and Scripture] also discusses “The Babylonian Flood account” on pages 247-249. It can be read online at the link. In the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, George Frederick Wright (see the link above) also devotes significant space to it in his sections 9 and 10: for those who want to understand the true nature of the comparison of the Babylonian and biblical accounts. Here are a few striking differences, as elucidated by Wright:

The dimensions of the ark as given in Ge (6:15) are reasonable, while those of Berosus and the cuneiform tablets are unreasonable. According to Gen, the ark was 300 cubits (562 1/2 ft.) long, 50 cubits (93 2/3 ft.) wide, and 30 cubits (56 1/4 ft.) deep, which are the natural proportions for a ship of that size, being in fact very close to those of the great steamers which are now constructed to cross the Atlantic. The “Celtic” of the White Star line, built in 1901, is 700 ft. long, 75 ft. wide and 49 1/3 ft. deep. The dimensions of the “Great Eastern,” built in 1858 (692 ft. long, 83 ft. broad, and 58 ft. deep), are still closer to those of the ark. The cuneiform tablets represent the length, width and depth each as 140 cubits (262 ft.) (II. 22, 23, 38-41), the dimensions of an entirely unseaworthy structure. . . .

The accounts differ decidedly in the duration of the Flood. According to the ordinary interpretation of the Biblical account, the Deluge continued a year and 17 days; whereas, according to the cuneiform tablets, it lasted only 14 days (II. 103-7, 117-22). . . .

[T]he duration of the Deluge, according to Genesis, affords opportunity for a gradual progress of events which best accords with scientific conceptions of geological movements. If, as the most probable interpretation would imply, the water began to recede after 150 days from the beginning of the Flood and fell 15 cubits in 74 days, that would only be 3 2/3 inches per day–a rate which would be imperceptible to an ordinary observer.

Despite these massive differences, (((J_Enigma23))) on Pearce’s blog wrote:

As stated numerous times, the Biblical flood also reads very much like the Flood myth from the Epic of Gilgamesh.

Right. The Babylonian ark was 262 feet wide, deep, and long (a giant cube), whereas the biblical ark has similar proportions to actual ocean liners in our time. The biblical Flood lasted over a year, and the waters subsided over seven months’ time. But the Babylonian Flood lasted 14 days. That doesn’t sound “very much like” to me. There are several parallels that can be drawn, but having massively different boat descriptions and duration lengths are certainly essential differences.

I have also addressed it (albeit briefly) now and then in my 3600+ apologetics articles through the years. For example, in one of my 46 utterly unanswered refutations of atheist David Madison (dated 8-7-19), I wrote:

It’s often noted that there is a Deluge account in the Epic of Gilgamesh; therefore, this casts doubt on the story of Noah’s Flood. But why would it? Is it not more plausible to assert that if in fact (for the sake of argument) such a major Flood had occurred, that other cultures besides Hebrew culture would more likely know about it, rather than not? Say for the sake of argument that the Bible had mentioned Halley’s Comet. We now know that it passes by the earth every 76 years. No doubt many cultures have some written record of observing it. But if the Bible had happened to mention it, it would immediately be suspect because non-Hebrews also wrote about it? Clearly not. . . .

In fact, Catholic apologist G. K. Chesterton, in his masterpiece, The Everlasting Man, argued that it is precisely to be expected, and is an argument in favor of Christianity, that there are many precursors to it: especially in the paganism that flourished in the previous 500 years or so. Anglican apologist C. S. Lewis, in his book, The Abolition of Man, has a section at the end (“Illustrations of the Tao”) in which he shows (and rejoices in) many similarities of world religions.

Young Lewis (very much like myself in my teen years) was enthralled with Norse mythology and Wagner’s operas, etc., and was an atheist. He became a theist after a discussion with J. R. R. Tolkien, in which the latter noted that “Christianity was a true myth.” It had never occurred to Lewis that there could be such a thing as a myth that actually happened. I have written about supposed “pagan elements” in Catholicism: which is a charge that anti-Catholic Protestants often make. It’s fascinating to now see an atheist former Methodist minister use the same fallacious tactic:

I had also dealt with it in an analysis of a deconversion story, about four months earlier (3-28-19):

[words of an atheist, in green] One week, he began a 4 part series on the story of Noah and the flood. He came at it from a totally different perspective than I had ever heard or thought of before, and I was enthralled. On the 4th Sunday, he mentioned that there were different interpretations of the story within the church, and he brought up the fact that the flood story actually appeared in earlier writings that were not biblical at all. I was stunned. Could it be true that the bible borrowed the flood story from earlier secular writings (hint: Epic of Gilgamesh)? It was just a fable?

Huh? The reasoning here is very convoluted. How is it that simply because another culture also had a story of a massive Flood, therefore, somehow it becomes a “fable”? Isn’t it much more likely and plausible that an event of such shattering magnitude would be recorded by someone besides the Hebrews? Therefore, the mere presence of a similar story elsewhere is no disproof of the biblical account at all.

Pagan or heathen parallels or precursors do not necessarily “disprove” the biblical account. Thus, The Catholic Encyclopedia (1913) notes how such parallel stories of the Flood, confirm, rather than disconfirm, the historicity and trustworthiness of the Bible:

The historicity of the Biblical Flood account is confirmed by the tradition existing in all places and at all times as to the occurrence of a similar catastrophe. F. von Schwarz . . .  enumerates sixty-three such Flood stories which are in his opinion independent of the Biblical account. R. Andree . . .  discusses eighty-eight different Flood stories, and considers sixty-two of them as independent of the Chaldee and Hebrew tradition. Moreover, these stories extend through all the races of the earth excepting the African; these are excepted, not because it is certain that they do not possess any Flood traditions, but because their traditions have not as yet been sufficiently investigated. Lenormant pronounces the Flood story as the most universal tradition in the history of primitive man, and Franz Delitzsch was of opinion that we might as well consider the history of Alexander the Great a myth, as to call the Flood tradition a fable. It would, indeed, be a greater miracle than that of the Deluge itself, if the various and different conditions surrounding the several nations of the earth had produced among them a tradition substantially identical. Opposite causes would have produced the same effect.

I was deeply shaken to realize that the bible was not the historically accurate document I was always told and completely believed it was.

I don’t know why. It certainly wasn’t because of the above things mentioned, because that conclusion simply doesn’t follow.

That’s an awful lot from someone who (according to the inimitable and polemics-prone Jonathan Pearce) supposedly “definitely has nothing to say” about the topic, ain’t it? 

***

Photo credit: Noah: The Eve of the Deluge (1848), by John Linnell (1792-1882) [public domain / Wikimedia Commons]

***

Summary: Atheist Jonathan MS Pearce invents pseudo-“contradictions” & engages in lengthy irrelevant diversions on the Documentary Hypothesis, in analyzing the length of Noah’s Flood.

July 1, 2021

Atheist anti-theist Jonathan M. S. Pearce is the main writer on the blog, A Tippling PhilosopherHis “About” page states: “Pearce is a philosopher, author, blogger, public speaker and teacher from Hampshire in the UK. He specialises in philosophy of religion, but likes to turn his hand to science, psychology, politics and anything involved in investigating reality.” His words will be in blue.

*****

I am replying to Pearce’s paper, The Flood Myth Contradictions Explained by the Documentary Hypothesis (6-29-21).

For those uninitiated, the Pentateuch contains some irreconcilable issues that fall into four categories: repetition (redundancy), contradictions, discontinuity, terminology and style. There is only one coherent solution: it was compiled using multiple sources, and written at multiple times. Though there are several alternative theories, they all agree on this point. The Documentary Hypothesis remains the best theory for the job, and work that is constantly being carried out in academic institutions across the world further refine it.

See:

Documentary Theory of Biblical Authorship (JEPD): Dialogue [2-12-04]

Documentary Theory (Pentateuch): Critical Articles [6-21-10]

C. S. Lewis Roundly Mocked the Documentary Hypothesis [10-6-19]

Pearce cites Tim Callahan’s The Secret Origins of the Bible (pp. 65-66) in agreement:

[I]n the J narrative the flood is caused by rain alone, and it rains for 40 days and nights (Gen. 7:12, 17). The P version is far more grand and complex. . . . the flood lasts 150 days rather than 40 (Gen. 7:24).

Pearce then repeats the bogus charge in his own words:

The simple fact of the matter that in one part of Genesis the flood is 40 days and nights, and in another it is 150 days. These sorts of contradictions are ten-a-penny and are best resolved by multiple sources writing at multiple times and being woven together by redactors.

Genesis 7:4 (RSV) For in seven days I will send rain upon the earth forty days and forty nights . . .

Genesis 7:11-12, 17 In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month, on that day all the fountains of the great deep burst forth, and the windows of the heavens were opened. [12] And rain fell upon the earth forty days and forty nights. . . . [17] The flood continued forty days upon the earth; and the waters increased, and bore up the ark, and it rose high above the earth.

Genesis 7:24 And the waters prevailed upon the earth a hundred and fifty days.

Genesis 8:3-4 and the waters receded from the earth continually. At the end of a hundred and fifty days the waters had abated; [4] and in the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month, the ark came to rest upon the mountains of Ar’arat.

Genesis 8:5 And the waters continued to abate until the tenth month; in the tenth month, on the first day of the month, the tops of the mountains were seen.

Genesis 8:13-14 In the six hundred and first year, in the first month, the first day of the month, the waters were dried from off the earth; and Noah removed the covering of the ark, and looked, and behold, the face of the ground was dry[14] In the second month, on the twenty-seventh day of the month, the earth was dry.

I truly do wonder (after examining and refuting hundreds of accusations of “contradiction!”) whether Bible skeptics like Pearce even read the texts they are so quick to accuse of internal inconsistency. This is one of the more ridiculous alleged “contradictions”: but — inexplicably — it’s an old chestnut from the hoary old volumes of doctrinaire anti-theist atheism: passed down to yet another generation of gullible and irrational fools.

Pearce creates the ersatz pseudo-“contradiction” by distorting language to his own ends:in one part of Genesis the flood is 40 days and nights, and in another it is 150 days.” But of course “the flood” and “how many days” it rained are two different things. By trying to make both texts refer to “the flood” he seeks to create a contradiction:

40-day Flood vs. 150-day Flood

If indeed, that is what the texts stated, it would be a contradiction. But the texts actually state the following notions:

40 days of rain (Gen 7:4, 12, 17)

Waters of the Flood “receded” or “abated” after 150 days, which was the point of the “high water mark” or deepest water (Gen 8:3)

Noah’s Ark rested on Mt. Ararat in the fifth month after the Flood began (Gen 8:4)

Waters of the Flood “continued to abate” at the time of the eighth month after the Flood began (Gen 8:5)

The waters finally “dried” up about eleven months after the rain began (Gen 8:13)

To present it more basically and logically:

1) It rained 40 days.

2) The resultant waters reached their highest level and then started receding after 150 days.

3) The Flood waters were still receding after eight months.

4) The Flood waters finally dried up after eleven months.

None of this is “contradictory” in the least. If someone wants to say the Flood was 150 days long based on remaining waters (Gen 8:3), this isn’t true, either, because the Bible still refers to water that “continued to abate” after eight months, and the final drying after eleven months. They are all quite obviously referring to a continual process of the waters receding and drying up. It’s a matter of degree. The only “absolute” numbers in this textual sequence are 40 days of rain and eleven months’ total time before the waters of the Flood dried up.

Pearce’s claim isn’t even internally coherent. He cites Callahan, claiming that “the flood lasts . . . 40” days, based on Genesis 7:12, 17. But Genesis 7:12 never references the “flood”; only “rain.” 7:17 states “The flood continued forty days upon the earth” but this is followed by “and the waters increased . . .” Then the next verse says, “The waters prevailed and increased greatly upon the earth . . .” It’s clearly not saying that 40 days was the entire duration of the Flood.

Thus, subsequent verses refer to 150 days, five, eight, and eleven months’ time of the Flood waters still being present. Pearce thinks that Genesis 7:24 is asserting a Flood of 150 total days. But again, it is not. That was the high water mark, after which the water started receding (8:3). The only duration that makes any sense at all in the biblical texts is neither 40 days nor 150, but rather, eleven months, based on Genesis 8:13.

When floods occur, first it rains (or sometimes it could initially be from a tidal wave / tsunami). Rivers and lakes start to rise and overflow their banks; and in urban environments sewers overflow, basements flood, etc. (one of my sons just experienced this, in his basement). This leaves extra water around for various lengths of time. It takes time to dry up. Thus, the Bible simply states what is a perfectly obvious fact that we have observed many times.

So, for example, we see the headline: “Harvey floodwaters will take more than a month to recede” (Laura Italiano, New York Post, 8-30-17). After two hurricanes in Florida in 2016 and 2017, waters were still receding after 16 months: five months longer than the time Noah’s Flood took to dry up!:

Since Central Florida was visited by Hurricanes Mathew on October 6, 2016 and Irma that made landfall on September 9, 2017; the St John’s River has not returned to its normal state. [by January 2019] . . . 

As I write this today in mid-January of 2019 the water levels are still not back to normal!  Some of the land is still flooded. (“16 Months Later, Water Is Still Receding…”, Doug Little, 1-22-19)

Conclusion? No biblical contradiction is present, but plenty of self-contradictions exist in Jonathan Pearce’s and other anti-theists’ pitiful attempts to falsely accuse the Bible of contradiction, with regard to the length of Noah’s Flood.

Related Reading

Old Earth, Flood Geology, Local Flood, & Uniformitarianism (vs. Kevin Rice) [5-25-04; rev. 5-10-17]

Adam & Eve, Cain, Abel, & Noah: Historical Figures [2-20-08]

Noah’s Flood & Catholicism: Basic Facts [8-18-15]

Do Carnivores on the Ark Disprove Christianity? [9-10-15]

New Testament Evidence for Noah’s Existence [National Catholic Register, 3-11-18]

Seidensticker Folly #49: Noah & 2 or 7 Pairs of Animals [9-7-20]

***

Photo credit: The Subsiding of the Waters of the Deluge (1829), by Thomas Cole (1801-1848) [public domain / Wikimedia Commons]

***

Summary: Atheist anti-theist Jonathan Pearce seeks to assert that Scripture contradicts itself regarding the duration of Noah’s Flood. As usual, it does not do so at all, but he is self-contradictory.

June 18, 2021

Atheist anti-theist Jonathan M. S. Pearce is the main writer on the blog, A Tippling Philosopher. His “About” page states: “Pearce is a philosopher, author, blogger, public speaker and teacher from Hampshire in the UK. He specialises in philosophy of religion, but likes to turn his hand to science, psychology, politics and anything involved in investigating reality.” His words will be in blue.

*****

I have engaged in many dialogues / debates with Jonathan. In atheist vs. Christian debates there will, predictably and understandably, be lots of “heated” rhetoric and passion aroused and charges slung about of the debate opponent being a lousy thinker (in particular instances), illogical, unacquainted with the facts, etc. Sometimes it evolves into outright accusations of intellectual dishonesty and deliberate lying.

I fell into it myself (against my better judgment) and accused Jonathan of intellectual dishonesty; this was pointed out to me, and I retracted it, apologized, and changed the language. He had cited me in a paper (6-17-21):

As long as Pearce keeps lying about the Bible, I will keep exposing it. His choice. He can continue to embarrass himself and the atheist community if he likes. I don’t see what reward he gets out of that: as long as the lies continue to be exposed for what they are…. I have a big problem with intellectual dishonesty (upon correction) and intransigent refusal to retract statements that have been proven to be false.

I replied in the combox underneath it (6-17-21):

As I just stated in a comment on your blog, I will apologize and retract if you show me where I have attacked you personally. Here, I apologize for using the phrase “intellectual dishonesty.” I must have been overly frustrated. I don’t believe this about you (as you do about me, having called me “disingenuous” several times now).

So I will change that language (and thank you for highlighting it). “Lying” can have a second meaning of simply “falsehood” but probably only one person in a hundred knows that (anyone can look it up in a dictionary). That was what I intended above, but people always take it to mean “deliberate lying” and so it’s not good to use the word if the charge is simply spewing falsehood.

I changed the above paragraph to the following:

As long as Pearce keeps stating falsehoods about the Bible, I will keep exposing it. His choice. He can continue to embarrass himself and the atheist community if he likes. I don’t see what reward he gets out of that: as long as the falsehoods continue to be exposed for what they are. Or he can act in a more scholarly, objective fashion (as a self-described “philosopher” should) and retract and remove his erroneous statement. We all make mistakes. I have no problem with mistakes. But I have a big problem with refusing to be open to correction and intransigent refusal to retract statements that have been proven to be false. If you’re gonna extol the glories of science (as I do myself; I love it), than put your money where your mouth is, get consistent, and live with its results.
Do you retract the charge of “disingenuous” thrown my way?

*

This paper was originally a recounting of the times that Jonathan has accused me of being “disingenuous” or “dishonest.” I was trying to get him to acknowledge that and retract it. It looked like he wouldn’t, so I wrote my original version of this article. Then he wrote his article, “I Find It Very Difficult to Lie” (6-18-21), which explained in a heartfelt way that he never intends to lie, and is honest almost to a fault. I responded in the combox (shortened to reflect his later apology):

I agree that you are not a liar, as clarified yesterday, with apology (that you again cite above). You seem to think I am, though, . . .

If you assert that I am a dishonest person in how I argue my positions: that I don’t really believe what I am writing, am insincere, two-faced, intellectually dishonest, or whatever, that is a falsehood. I’m as committed to being truthful as you are. What you say about yourself, I would also apply to myself: “I have never been intellectually dishonest. At least, I have never intentionally and consciously been so. Where I have been, please point me out and I will explain myself.” . . . 

These kinds of things are what make for harmonious human relationships, and it would seem to me that atheists desire that — as much as possible — as much as anyone else does. (6-18-21)

I had documented eight instances of Jonathan accusing me of being disingenuous or intellectually dishonest, on his blog. I include them now in summary, in case he wants a quick and convenient reference with links, so he can modify the language, if he wishes to do so:

. . . perhaps disingenuous to present what might arguably be a huge straw man of Toohey’s Christian belief. (7-18-17)

He’s really stretching things here, and being not a little disingenuous. (7-29-17)

What he does here is a dishonest move: . . .  (3-19-21)

I struggle to sign up to the idea that you truly believe what you say. (5-23-21)

Armstrong is disingenuous, and that’s putting it mildly, in his claims about refuting me, employing cherry-picking, and even then not reading his sources correctly. (6-11-21)

This is er, what’s the phrase…oh, yes, “intellectual dishonesty”. (6-11-21)

[H]is manipulation of data and usage of sources is so often utterly dubious and disingenuous that I’ve learnt is not to take him as seriously as he would like. (6-16-21)

I am not being dishonest in any way. Can he [yours truly] say the same? (6-17-21)

 

Lo and behold, later on this very day, Jonathan wrote his blog post, “Apologies for Calling Armstrong “Disingenuous”***” (6-18-21). This was a very welcome development. He wrote:

Dave Armstrong very kindly retracted some of the rhetorical flourishes in one of his recent pieces. We are both surely victim to such, and it is something I must shy away from. . . . 

So, here it is: I apologise for calling you “disingenuous” when, on the other hand, you might have been sloppy, careless, rushed and intellectually facile in not realising you were applying sources erroneously, and/or lacking in any kind of nuance.

Whilst this may sound harsh, here’s the good news: I assume you think the same of my work and my use of sources. . . . 

Anyway, apologies if I got the “disingenuous” labelling wrong. If I did, be sure to read my past and future pieces because they may help you improve on the intellectual sloppiness.

As you can see, while he has retracted the dishonesty charge, he has to explain my arguments somehow, so he goes on at length about how “facile” and “sloppy” my reasoning is, etc. That’s fine. I got a chuckle pout of it, and as you will see, I return the “favor” in my response, which follows:

***

Hi Jonathan,

Very excellent, and I’m delighted to see this. I accept your apology. I was gonna leave your site for good, and give up on any personal interaction, but now I’ll stick around.

You are quite correct that we take a very harsh and dim view of each other’s thinking and conclusions, while at the same time it’s not necessary to reach the conclusion of “disingenuous” or “dishonest.” So yeah, as you suspected, what you think of my work I also think of yours; it is often, as you put it: “sloppy, careless, rushed and intellectually facile in not realising you were applying sources erroneously, and/or lacking in any kind of nuance . . . intellectually sloppy.”

So that’s a wash, and will likely always be present in most atheist-Christian discourse. It always comes down to premises. We just can’t comprehend how each other can actually strongly believe the premises and conclusions from them (all the way up to the obvious issue of existence or non-existence of God), and so the temptation (both sides do this all the time) is to posit dishonesty. But it need not be so at all. They can be honest differences. They may drive us nuts, frustrate us to no end, baffle, puzzle, befuddle, and astonish us, but we don’t have to go to the “d” word.

I’m glad to see you agree, because this is a huge issue in atheist-Christian discourse (on both ends): to the extent that it occurs at all. I’ve been talking about this for many years. We Christians talk about the all-too-present “angry atheist” while you guys always criticize “the hypocritical Christian, not living up to his or her own creed.”

I’m not gonna revisit all the past stuff that you allude to, save one, where I think you have rhetorically and polemically overshot the mark by quite a bit. You mention in this article my supposedly suspect and haphazard, skewed (whatever the word, short of dishonest) use of “sources” many times:

This, if I recall correctly, was about the use of sources. What gets me is you appear to have cherry-picked many of your sources without reading them in full or appreciating the finer details of what they were saying. . . .

[Y]ou are either rushing or are not very good at surveying sources, not being careful enough, and just lifting quotes that you think do the job without understanding the true context or full scope of the work. Applying sources to one area that don’t really apply because they are relevant to a different area is also something you do. . . .

I personally think your analysis of your sources has, at several points over the extent of our love affair, been sloppy and quote-miney at best . . .

Now, let me give you two examples of how I think this is a bum rap (one from this debate and one from an unrelated article of mine). You have seized upon a citation that I selected from an article that I thought supported my case (my last major one that I found regarding the “pitch in Egypt” issue). And you have taken it and run with it, making out (rather triumphantly) that this vindicates your entire point of view.

Yet you didn’t notice the high irony of that. While calling me closed-minded, hopelessly biased (the Christian apologist and all that), and one who supposedly “cherry-picks” quotes, somehow you missed the fact that I picked this one also: the very one that you think is your coup de grâce.

And I picked it when it didn’t particularly help my case. In other words, I gave it to you on a silver platter because I was fair-minded and open-minded, and doing precisely the opposite of cherry-picking. Here it is, from Egyptologist Kate Fulcher of the British Museum:

[E]vidence for bitumen use in Egypt in the New Kingdom has previously been limited to a few individual samples from objects with poor provenance . . .

I included that in my paper, which is how you likely first saw it and seized upon it and made your claims of victory in our whole crazy debate. The only problem is that you cited [or at least greatly highlighted] for your readers half of the entire quotation. The second part (immediately after the first) reads: “this study provides proof for a much more extensive use [in Egypt and the nearby occupied Nubia] than might have been suspected, with a secure archaeological context.”

You can’t have it both ways. You can’t use her as your be-all, end-all authority, but cite one half of her conclusion, because it fits well with your past argumentation, while ignoring the second half, which contradicts your claim altogether. That is quintessential cherry-picking: splitting a single multi-faceted sentence in half and choosing what you like and ignoring the other part. That’s not the scholarly attitude; it’s not how archaeology is done, and it goes against what she herself concluded. I agreed with her and showed my readers both “sides” of the issue, like she did, rather than only the one I liked.

As I have explained over and over, your original claim that started this whole debate was “pitch was not available in Egypt at the time of Moses”. I described that in additions to my second paper on the topic:

Note that you were not saying that it wasn’t used for caulking, or for reed baskets, etc. Your “argument” was much more sweeping than that (and thus much harder to prove from archaeology): it was not available, period. End of story. No subtleties, no academic / scholarly nuances, no exceptions. And this was one of the many reasons given in that article for thinking that the Exodus story was absolutely “ridiculous.”

I added, further:

[M]y task, when all was said and done, was simply to prove that pitch / bitumen was available in Egypt at the time of Moses (what it is used for is a different question, and not what I was setting out to prove at first). You have in effect admitted that several times, . . .

So does what Fulcher said contradict your initial statement, that was all I ever opposed during this whole thing? Yes, and undeniably so! Both the second half and the first half do that. In the first half she said “evidence for bitumen use in Egypt [during the time that included Moses] has previously been limited to a few individual samples.”

A few individual samples contradicts “pitch was not available” period. Three pieces of chocolate candy is a contradiction of (and vastly different than) no pieces of chocolate candy. You were defeated by your propensity to make these sorts of “universal negative” statements that are easily shot down by any evidence at all.

And so even the first part of her sentence, supports my overall case (pitch available in Egypt during Moses’ time) rather than yours. But the second half really supports what I have been saying:

this study provides proof for a much more extensive use than might have been suspected, with a secure archaeological context [my bolding]

Obviously “much more extensive use” of bitumen is a lot more than none at all, or none even being available if they wanted to use it (an even more sweeping claim). So this supports my case as well.

My second example, that I mentioned on your blog today, was from an article that will be published within a month by the National Catholic Register, where I am a weekly columnist. It was written about Joshua’s conquest. After providing five separate piece of concrete archaeological evidence, I noted:

There are, assuredly, other areas (most notably, Jericho) where the archaeological evidence is puzzling and could not be said to be a confirmation of the Bible.

So again, that ain’t cherry-picking, special pleading, or talking about only the findings that support a view of the Bible as historically accurate. It’s being honest about what is called in science “anomalies” that don’t fit one’s theories or hypotheses. I didn’t have to add that, in an article that will be read mostly by Catholics who agree with me about the Bible. It’s in there because I am honest and open-minded, for no extra charge.

I was discussing the same issue with your friend “Lex Lata” today on your blog. He wrote: “the scholarly consensus about the origins of the Hebrew people, . . . is based on comprehensive archaeological, linguistic, genetic, and other research and analysis–not just counting the hits and ignoring the misses.”

I agreed and cited the same thing from my National Catholic Register article above, showing that I don’t “ignore the misses.” I also noted how you had stated that there was “little to absolutely no evidence” of the conquest of Joshua and settlement of new Israeli residents. And I opined: “that sure sounds to me like a prime example of ‘counting the misses and utterly ignoring the hits.’ ”

C. S. Lewis observed that “it’s the rule of chess that create ‘chess problems.’ ” Likewise, it is the limitations of archaeological (and/or historic) theories that create archaeological / historical “problems” that need to be worked out. All theories have them. Christians need not be skittish about admitting the thorny problems in archaeology that don’t seem to support a “high” view of the Bible’s accuracy, because all thinking and all theories have anomalies and puzzling aspects. It comes with the territory of deep thinking and analysis. This is my view, and it ain’t “cherry picking.”

So all of this works both ways. You say I am cherry-picking? I just gave two examples where it sure looks like you are doing so (feel free to explain it as something else). But it’s not dishonest. I would call it excessive passion or bias; overzealousness for your cause. I say that we should simply admit that everyone has biases and passions, and naturally so; it’s nothing new, but it never has to necessarily add up to dishonesty.

Otherwise, any substantive (and amiable) dialogue is rendered impossible, and that is a thing that I think we both value highly and would like to see furthered and promoted, as opposed to constantly thrown “pies” from the mountainous pile of stinking cow manure that both atheists and Christians throw at each other all the time.

Someone has to take a stand and stand up and condemn that and try to do something different: to model the way these discussions should be conducted. And it will take a Christian and an atheist jointly deciding to refrain from these unhelpful, dialogue-killing charges.

Thanks again for your apology. I deeply appreciate it and you have gained a lot of respect from me for doing so. Life is not all just arguments (much as we both love that). Character and ethics are much more important.

***

Photo credit: Tumisu (5-15-19) [PixabayPixabay License]

***

Summary: Atheist blogger & author Jonathan MS Pearce has admirably agreed (with an apology) that Christians & atheists ought to stop automatically accusing each other of intellectual dishonesty.

June 12, 2021

Part II of “Pitch / Bitumen in Moses’ Egypt”

Anti-theist atheist Jonathan M. S. Pearce wrote the article, Exodus Sidebar: Refuting Armstrong’s “Refutation” on Pitch (but Oddly Not Sargon…) (6-11-21), to which I respond. He was replying to my older article, Pearce’s Potshots #29: No Pitch / Bitumen in Moses’ Egypt? (5-26-21)

His words will be in blue.

*****

Oh David, David, David.

David “I love science as much as any atheist” Armstrong

Yes I do. It’s been one of my favorite things for over fifty years, back when I was following the NASA space launches with avid interest. For many years as a kid, I thought I would grow up to be an archaeologist (so I love doing “amateur archaeology” and reporting on the scholars’ findings in defending the Bible).

You see that as a mocking opportunity. I see it as common and fertile ground for constructive discussion, with the few atheists who are willing to engage in normal discussion about the usual issues. Should I call you Jonathan “I love to encourage on my blog insults towards Christians as much as any atheist” Pearce, since that is manifestly true? But you can’t prove that I do not love science.

It’s much of what I have been writing about lately, after five straight archaeological replies to another atheist Bible skeptic named Adam Lee (and likely many more to come). I’ve rarely enjoyed myself so much in my forty years of Christian apologetics. It’s exciting to see the Bible confirmed again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again (I’ll stop for brevity’s sake) by secular archaeology.

likes to see himself as the white knight, tackling my “screeds” articles and refuting them. Except, this is rarely what actually happens. He recently claimed to have refuted me on camels but after further inspection, er, hadn’t.

Whether I refuted you many times is for readers to decide. I think it kind of / sort of suggests that I have done so several times, in light of the fact that you haven’t responded at all to probably fifteen of my critiques. It took three times mentioning this “pitch” issue (an entire paper and two mentions, after you threw out the same tired claim that I already refuted) to get you to actually grapple with a serious counter-claim. It’s progress, but there is a lot more left to go. I offered no less than six replies to claims in just one of your articles:

*
*
*
*
*
I also wrote a similar archaeology-based reply (thus far ignored) to an earlier related paper of yours about the Exodus: Pearce’s Potshots #33: No Philistines in Moses’ Time? [6-3-21]. You were notified of all of them on your blog.
*
All (save one, now) have been ignored. But now you have finally decided to tackle the pitch issue and the archaeology we can find about that. I commended you for it today in your combox, saying, “Bravo!” Now let’s see what argument you can come up with (in-between all the potshots).

 

I wrote a 2500-word piece on this that included the 250-word section at the end on whether pitch was available contemporaneously in the Nile region at the time. This was an additional nugget to my piece, but not the main thrust at all.

What I responded to with my “pitch” refutation was your article, “Debunking the Exodus II: A Ridiculous Story with Ridiculous Claims” (5-19-21). It was not devoted solely to Sargon: who was mentioned in only one section. It was a laundry list of all the supposedly “ridiculous claims” regarding the Exodus. You included 21 bullet-points. I dealt with six at length, in as many reply-papers (listed near the top). I chose to write about (as one of my six reply-topics) pitch: mentioned in your potshot about Moses’ birth, precisely because it was a concrete issue which could be objectively considered by means of archaeological analysis.

This is what you don’t understand about what I’m doing. It’s a deliberate methodological strategy, so to speak. Wrangling about subjective matters with atheists rarely accomplishes anything, though I do discuss the problem of evil (as I did again this very day) and other non-scientific topics with them occasionally, because the former is a serious objection and deserves — even demands — to be dealt with. But by and large I want to deal with specific objective matters that can be addressed by archaeology or other forms of science, by a method Christians and atheist both accept.

As I explained to someone recently: I’m not trying to prove biblical inspiration. That’s several steps down the line and a much more involved and complex argument. What I’m doing is “defeating the defeaters” offered up by atheists. If they argue that such a town wasn’t in existence when the Bible said it was, then I go to archaeology and prove that it was.

I have done this recently with regard to the Edomites in the Late Bronze Age in Jordan, whether Beersheba was a city when Abraham visited it (in this case it wasn’t, and the claim that the Bible claimed it was, is incorrect), whether Arameans derived from the Amorites, and details of the story of Joseph being sold into slavery by his brothers: all utilizing massive archaeological support. I did it with you, on this issue of pitch, the camels, and other things.

This defends the Bible’s accuracy. So I am showing that atheist arguments against biblical accuracy are almost invariably incorrect and fallacious. In other words, if an atheist says, “The Bible is inaccurate history and therefore, not inspired because of errors a, b, c, d, e, and f”, I go and show through secular archaeology that supposed errors a, b, c, d, e, and f are actually not errors and that it’s merely atheist mythology and polemics regarding the Bible. In doing so I also show how these matters can almost always be resolved in a way that is consistent with belief in biblical inspiration.

If the Bible is inspired, then it should and would be historically accurate and not self-contradictory as well. And so I deal with biblical archaeology and also (repeatedly and in-depth) alleged Bible contradictions (basically an internal textual issue). This was my overwhelming emphasis in my 72 unanswered and ignored refutations of atheist Bob Seidensticker and my 44 unanswered and ignored replies to David Madison. And I do mostly the same with you. You also saw it in my debates with one of your friends about the star of Bethlehem, which entailed all sorts of fascinating scientific elements. I had a blast doing that, and learned so much.

I described myself recently as a “termite”: eating away at all these atheist false premises, one-by-one, until one day the anti-theist atheist “house” collapses because the foundation was so weakened by the constant eating of the termite. So you and your minions can mock and ridicule my writing about pitch all you like. My rationale for it and other objective, historical issues that we can analyze through the means of scientific analysis is perfectly reasonable and logical, as explained.

You initiate your erroneous argument about pitch in Egypt with a guy who has a blog, who goes by only a nickname: about whom we can learn nothing further (by his non-existent profile). So we know nothing about his credentials, but hey: I’d bet the farm that he’s not an archaeologist. I cite actual archaeologists (!!!) when I make my argument about, well, archaeology. 

The same anonymous person thinks himself qualified to argue physics with Einstein. Very impressive. You’d read me the riot act if I tried to pull a stunt like that. The next article down delves into JFK conspiracy theories. His murderer was CIA director John McCome, dontcha know!: according to your source for pitch in ancient Egypt, “Straw Walker”. In a 2015 article he states dogmatically — massively against current cosmological consensus — that “Dark Matters [sic] does NOT exist.” In February 2014 he remarked: “The universe has existed and will exist forever” — except that the vast majority of cosmologists disagree, since they hold the Big Bang theory, which says that the universe had a finite beginning and will have an ending as well. 

Yeah, great source there, Jonathan. This is who you went to to support your view from “science.” It’s a joke, and embarrassing (especially given all your shots taken at me as if I am hostile to science). At least I cite scientists and studies from peer-reviewed journals when I am talking about a scientific issue.

Let’s remind ourselves of Moses’ supposed dates:

Generally Moses is seen as a legendary figure, whilst retaining the possibility that Moses or a Moses-like figure existed in the 13th century BCE.[11][12][13][14][15] Rabbinical Judaism calculated a lifespan of Moses corresponding to 1391–1271 BCE;[16]Jerome suggested 1592 BCE,[17]and James Ussher suggested 1571 BCE as his birth year.[18][note 2]

So somewhere between 2171-1571 BCE. (Already, Armstrong is outside of what people generally believe, but that us to be expected.)

And how is it that you arrived at this cynical conclusion? You pulled it out of a hat and then chided me for supposedly believing it. I swear I don’t know how you arrive at many of your conclusions. I made it quite clear in my reply, which cited the same information from my previous reply to you, what I thought regarding Moses’ birth and death dates:

Encyclopedia Britannica (“Moses”informs us that he “flourished 14th–13th century BCE”. . . . “the most probable date for the Exodus is about 1290 BCE.” Therefore, Moses’ birth was “probably . . . in the late 14th century BCE.” The latter is deduced from the Bible’s statement (Ex 7:7) that Moses was eighty in the year of the Exodus, which would makes his birthdate around 1370 BC, his death in 1250 BC . . . 

What part of “1370-1250 BC” is so difficult to comprehend? Is Encyclopedia Britannica “fundamentalist” too? Actual fundamentalists place Moses’ life 100-200 years before this. I reiterated again in the most recent article I wrote, posted yesterday: “I accept the life and death dates of Moses to be c. 1370-c. 1250 BC.”

You go on to make an analysis that seems to totally misunderstand what I was driving at. I see no sense in responding to it. It looks like you just rushed off this response with little thinking: just to “get Armstrong off my back.” You write:

None of this is about waterproofing. 

I didn’t say it was. I was documenting from archaeology that bitumen was used for mummification in Egypt, but only after a certain date (1250-1050 BC) which postdates Moses. Then at the end I wrote: “But of course, mummification was not the only use of pitch / bitumen in ancient Egypt. Therein lies the rub, and Pearce’s blatant error.”

The source relies a lot on radiocarbon dating and mass spectrometry – so I hope Armstrong and his supporters also defend its use in evolutionary theory, right?

Armstrong does! Because I am a theistic evolutionist, and have utilized the data of carbon dating in most if not all of my many recent articles about archaeology and the Bible. I did yesterday in my most recent article (go see!). What my “supporters” may believe on this and that is irrelevant to my own opinions.

This is a really important point: Armstrong’s case is built on science that creationists do not accept. So if you are a creationist lauding Armstrong’s case, you are being dishonest and employing double standards.

Then that’s their problem, isn’t it?: not mine. It has nothing to do with me. Most folks who follow my writing regularly are Catholics, and most Catholics are not creationists. But we all believe that God was the Creator. How He did that is a separate matter. This is just more obfuscation and silliness, to divert from the main topic at hand. But it is entertaining. I’ll give ya that.

So what of these mummies? Well, the Glasgow male mummy (MTB G44) does not fit into the timescale. . . . So Armstrong’s source actually supports my claim.

Mummies had absolutely nothing to do with my argument. That stuff was only a prelude to the data that (rather dramatically) supported pitch being in Egypt during Moses’ lifetime. 

So his claim of my “blatant error” is blatantly erroneous.

Not at all. I was referring to your error of saying that pitch wasn’t present in Egypt during Moses. The mummy stuff isn’t directly relevant to that because it was from after the time of Moses. The relevant portion came from later in the same article:

archaeological discoveries and chemical analyses have revealed molecular evidence for trade during the earlier Chalcolithic and Early Bronze Age periods (3900–2200 BC; [12]).

Or is it?

Armstrong’s second piece [3], however, is a better defence of his position, although he only quotes the abstract. I have read the piece. 

Ah; now I have found the entire article for free, too. And I’m delighted that I did, because now my case is that much stronger. You do your best to minimize the compelling evidences found in the entire research article, by means of summarizing without citing more than literally only thirteen words of it. But the evidence is too strong. I quote (all bolding mine):

This study demonstrates that detailed organic geochemical analysis permits the identification in Maadi excavations (3900-3500 BC) in Egypt of asphalt imported from the Dead Sea and enables the reconstruction of the bitumen trade routes within Canaan and to Egypt. (p. 2743)

Remember, folks, that I was responding to Jonathan’s bald statement: “pitch was not available in Egypt at the time of Moses.” Here, even the latest date is 2130 years before the approximate date of Moses’ birth. This is a pretty spectacular mistake on Jonathan’s part (not only being wrong about its presence, but wrong about up to 2130 years or more of its presence; and as we shall see soon, he resolutely refuses to retract it in the face of this hard evidence.

USES OF DEAD SEA BITUMEN IN ANTIQUITY

Natural asphalts were widely used in the ancient world. Perhaps their earliest use was in making reed baskets impermeable to liquids. (p. 2743)

Well, ain’t that somethin’?! The first use mentioned is precisely the one in question: sealing reed baskets to waterproof them. The article couldn’t be any more relevant to our inquiry than it is.

Evidence for this was found in the preceramic Neolithic excavation of Gilgal, Israel, dating back to about 9000 BC (Connan and Nissenbaum, unpubl. data), and in the Neolithic excavation of Beidha (9000-6500 BC; KIRKBRIDE, 199 1 ), north of Petra in Jordan. (p. 2743)

AND the only actual example of bitumen caulking referenced in the paper is not actually in Egypt but in Samaria, Israel, in Gilgal.

This is incorrect, as anyone can see, above. There is also evidence from “Beidha, . . . north of Petra in Jordan”: the same use as the Moses story, from 7,630-5,130 years earlier. And the most well-known ancient Gilgal was near Jericho: not in Samaria at all: which was north of Jerusalem.

This would also accord with my claim: that “Israelite” biblical authors would be using their own cultural knowledge to project onto events that happened in Egypt!

It could also be that a practice that has been verified as in Israel from 7,630 years before Moses’ birth, had become common knowledge (several thousand years of use have a tendency to do that). After all, it was Israelites in question, who resided in Egypt. They still would have had knowledge of these things. It’s not rocket science to figure out that pitch could serve as caulk on a basket, anyway. Any smart, inquisitive 4-year-old child could figure that out within an hour.

Twice more on this same page, mention is made of using pitch  “to caulk boats” and “for waterproofing vessels.” The latter is described as a “major” use. We learn that asphalt was actually available in Egypt, too (so that it wouldn’t necessarily have to come from outside trade):

[A]sphalt is found in only a few localities in Egypt (in oil springs at Jebel Zeit, termed Mons Petrolius by the Romans, or in sandstones at Helwan, south of Cairo; . . . (p. 2744)

I won’t bother to figure out exactly where Moses was born, and how close it would be to these two sources, but they may not have been all that far away. I didn’t know this before I accessed the entire article, so I thank you for your intransigence. When atheists fight against hard scientific (or internal biblical) evidence, I dig in and find more, and my case becomes all the stronger. So keep it up! This is already two major new revelations from the article (specific use of pitch for reed baskets, and native asphalt in Egypt) in the first two pages.

See further archaeological verification for Gebel El Zeit (Jebel Zeit) as a source of bitumen in Egypt: from the western shore of the Gulf of Suez. Another article from Archaeometry (12-16-02) states:

Bitumen used as a preservative in ancient Egyptian mummies was previously thought to come only from the Dead Sea in Palestine. Other, closer sources of bitumen were investigated at Abu Durba and Gebel Zeit on the shores of Egypt’s Gulf of Suez. Bitumen from these localities and from five mummies was analysed using molecular biomarkers derived from gas chromatography/mass spectrometry. It was found that four of the mummies contained Dead Sea bitumen, and the fifth and oldest (900 bc) had bitumen from Gebel Zeit, thus providing the first evidence for the use of an indigenous source of bitumen in ancient Egypt.

Moreover, your goofy “source” who has no discernible credentials as an expert on archaeology or ancient Egypt, stated (and you cited a few days ago and again in this article of yours):

Contrary to Moses [sic] account, bitumen does not exist in the Nile river or the Nile delta. In Moses [sic] haste to plagiarize Sargon’s birth account he failed to realize that the Nile and the Euphrates have a different geology. A simple mistake, but with huge ramifications.

This is untrue, also, according to the article (written by real, not pseudo-scientists), since Helwan is “part of Greater Cairo, on the bank of the Nile, opposite the ruins of Memphis.” Those pesky facts! They’ll getcha every time!

Between 3900 and 3100 BC, the raw asphalts from the floating blocks of the Dead Sea exported to Egypt were not used there for mummification purposes. Embalming with conifer resins mixed with bitumens did not appear before the Fourth Dynasty, i.e., around 2600 BC (PECK, 1980; BUCAILLE, 1987). Consequently, the most likely utilization of bitumens during the earlier epoch would be for using glue to attach flint implements in sickles, as in Arad ( NISSENBAUM et al., 1984), or as a waterproofing agent to caulk baskets, as seen in Gilgal (9000 BC, Israel) and elsewhere (Beidha, Jordan; Mehrgahr, Pakistan; Susa, Iran; Tell el Oueili, Iraq, etc.). (pp. 2757-2758)

Thus, the “most likely” use of pitch in Egypt, 1730 to 2530 years before Moses was born, was “as a waterproofing agent to caulk baskets.” That’s a good confirmation of my argument once again, wouldn’t you agree, Jonathan? I fail to see what else I could find to make my argument any stronger than it already is. The article concludes:

Unfortunately, the utilization of the raw bitumen discovered in excavations cannot be discerned; but, most likely, uses for the raw bitumen are as a glue to fix flint implements to wooden handles and as a proofing agent for caulking baskets. (p. 2758)

This is scientific rigor: the desire not to go beyond the facts. Yet they can’t help (being inquisitive) at least speculating in passing about the uses, and when they do, they come up with two things: one of which is “caulking baskets”: a use already mentioned several times in the article.

But there is further compelling archaeological evidence closer to the time of Moses. Steve Vinson’s article, “Seafaring” [see link],  in Elizabeth Frood and Willeke Wendrich (editors), UCLA Encyclopedia of EgyptologyLos Angeles, 2009, stated (my bolding):

A fascinating letter, in Akkadian, from the court of Ramses II [1303-1213 BC; r. 1279-1213, which overlaps the life of Moses] speaks of an Egyptian ship that had been sent to the Hittites, evidently for the purpose of allowing Hittite shipwrights to copy it (Fabre 2004: 96). The only constructional details we get are that the ship apparently had internal framing (ribs), and that it was caulked with pitch (Pomey 2006: 240), a practice now paralleled archaeologically by a water-proofing agent observed on some planks salvaged from New Kingdom sea-going ships found at Marsa Gawasis [see link on that] (Ward and Zazzaro fc.; cf. Vinson 1996: 200 for the practice in Greco-Roman antiquity and one occurrence in Roman Egypt). Whether this was a traditionally constructed Egyptian hull, or a new-style hull based on Eastern Mediterranean/Aegean principles, is unknown.
*
SOURCES
Fabre, David 2004 Seafaring in ancient Egypt. London: Periplus.
*
Pomey, Patrice 2006 Le rôle du dessin dans la conception des navires antiques: À propos de deux textes akkadiens. In L’Apport de l’Égypte à l’histoire des techniques: Méthodes, chronologie et comparaisons, Bibliothèque d’étude 142, ed. Bernard Mathieu, Dimitri Meeks, and Myriam Wissa, pp. 239 – 252. Cairo: Institut français d’archéologie orientale.
*
Vinson, Steve 1996 Paktou/n and Pa,ktwsij as ship-construction terminology in Herodotus, Pollux, and documentary papyri. Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik 113, pp. 197 – 204.
*
Ward, Cheryl, and Chiara Zazzaro 2007 Finds: Ship evidence. In Harbor of the pharaohs to the land of Punt: Archaeological investigations at Mersa/Wadi Gawasis, Egypt, 2001 – 2005, ed. Kathryn Bard, and Rodolfo Fattovich, pp. 135 – 153. Naples: Università degli Studi di Napoli “L’Orientale”. fc. Evidence for Pharaonic seagoing ships at Mersa/Wadi Gawasis, Egypt. International Journal of Nautical Archaeology.

The New Kingdom of Egypt is the period from 1570-1069 BC, which includes the entire lifetime of Moses.

[undaunted, Pearce was still claiming on 6-15-21: “They wouldn’t have the first clue that pitch wasn’t particularly available in Egypt, and there is no evidence it was used at all for caulking, during the supposed Moses time.”]

You conclude about me: with the utmost charity:

Wow, a lot of effort for little payoff. What have I learnt? That Armstrong is disingenuous, and that’s putting it mildly, in his claims about refuting me, employing cherry-picking, and even then not reading his sources correctly.

Let the reader decide!

Has his work made me change my mind? Broadly, no. I will concede this: there is a possibility pitch might have ended up in the Nile area in the time required and used for the purposes see out in Exodus. There is no positive evidence for this, only an inference from some raw material found once nearby, and then seemingly only as a rarity.

I have probably moved my probability analysis about 10%. So, thanks to Armstrong for making me more accurate. Was it worth it? You decide.

I have more than proven what I had to establish. Was pitch present in Egypt at the time of Moses? It was, according to archaeological research long before, by trade, and it was also available near Cairo, probably relatively close to where Moses was born.

Archaeology can’t prove absolutely everything: every minute particular. It operates in generalities. But for what it has shown us in this regard, everything fits perfectly in harmony with the biblical account of a basket of bulrushes being waterproofed by pitch and bitumen in c. 1370 BC. To put it another way, it’s very difficult for you to assert, in light of this: “pitch was not available in Egypt at the time of Moses”, and your conspiratorial, goofball “source” saying that “bitumen does not exist in the Nile river or the Nile delta” has also now been shown to be wrong.

But you won’t actually concede what is quite obvious (not to a Christian!), so you play this game of “10%” more probability, as if that proves that you are open-minded and accept scientific findings that just blew up the myth you constructed. You’re grasping at straws (no pun intended).

So, Dave – if you’re going to litter your pieces with grand (Danth’s Law-style) rhetorical flourishes, make sure your claims back them up.

Good advice; but of course it applies far more to you than to me in this instance.

***

ADDENDUM 1

Jonathan wrote in a related paper on 6-15-21:

The pitch thing is incredible in the technical sense – or more accurately “improbable”. But not in the Torah being constructed in a place that uses pitch and by a culture that uses pitch. Because it is only by doing modern archaeology that we have come to find this out. This isn’t modern palaeontologists finding a rabbit skeleton in the pre-Cambrian rock strata. This is ancient parochial people developing their own national identity, because they are in exile, and using ideas from the culture within which they are set.

My reply:

This is ingenious spinning and obfuscation, I’ll give you that. The pitch debate was as simple as can be. My two responses, with massive archaeological evidence presented, were a reply to 15 words of yours (written on 5-19-21): “pitch was not available in Egypt at the time of Moses, but was in Sumeria.”

These words were part of your effort to show that the Exodus was “ridiculous”: as were claims supporting it.

I have shown from secular archaeology (not biblical arguments) that it was available then and there. Case closed. Game, set, match. You can spin and obfuscate and say I am disingenuous and dishonest all you like, and ignore archaeological data. I definitively proved that case with as much archaeological evidence as is possible to muster.

We’re not gonna find a reed basket that says on it “this is the one that Moses floated in, in 1370 BC!” with residue of pitch. But even if we had, you’d find a way to avoid the evidence anyway.

An open-minded thinker who followed archaeological evidence, as some sort of objective criterion for determining various factual claims for antiquity, would concede the point and move on. But not you. That would mean conceding to a Christian and that can never happen. But as they say, “there’s always a first time . . .”

As I have said, whether pitch existed in Egypt in Moses’ time is not the foundation of your atheism, which can exist whether that is a fact or not. It would simply be one less argument you can use for the Exodus being so “ridiculous”: as you claim.

ADDENDUM 2

After I pointed out to him research from Vinson about boats in Egypt in Moses’ time caulked with pitch, Jonathan replied directly to it:

Even before I begin to look into this – again let me refer you to the claims of general pitch usage, and particularly in the Nile River basin. No evidence for caulking baskets (the nearest comes from Israel) or even gluing tools (again, Israel iirc); such use in Egypt, and then in our reference period and exact place, is inference only from some sparse evidence of raw pitch being found a few times about the whole nation – ie uncommonly.

Egyptian vessels generally didn’t need caulking because they were too light, or were caulked between planks with reeds. This we have a whole BUNCH of evidence for.

Now, because I am a skeptic, I check sources. Here is the quote from Ward & Zazarro (that returns no “pitch” results in the paper):

A 3–4 cm wide black coating along plank seams (T13, T14, T41) probably represents a waterproofing agent on the outer planking surface. The coating has not been analyzed chemically. No petroleum-like odour, such as bitumen might produce, was detected when a small fragment was burnt. In 2005–06, all Type 4 planks were acacia or sycomore; in 2006–07, Zazzaro and Claire Calcagno recorded a Type 4 plank of cedar, reworked from a Type 2 hullplank. Acacia and sycomore planks were less well preserved than the thicker Type 2 cedar examples. All examples excavated in 2005–06 had been recycled as ramps leading into the entrances to Cave 3 and Cave 4 (Fig. 1).

It absolutely does not support your claim in any way whatsoever. This is waterproofing with a different substance altogether. So the whole mention of New Kingdom and reference to Marsa Gawasis is irrelevant. They did not use pitch for caulking. I’m sure you went to the trouble of checking your own sources to verify this yourself, right?

Now let’s think about the boat mentioned by Pomey. This is fsr more nuanced. I will forgive you for not checking this source as it is in French. Bear in mind that he is sending a letter to the Hittites detailing what appears to be a NEW design and technology precisely because it had not been seen before (certainly by the neighbouring Hittites).

Luckily, I have a degree in French, so I’ll give the analysis tht proceeds the Akkadian letter a stab:

“…For the outside, the Pharaoh recommended using asphalt, that’s to say mineral pitch, in order to seal the hull so that the boats wouldn’t sink. [ie, this is new to them.] The interest in the last passage concerns sealing procedures highlighted by Dimitri Meeks. He notes, in effect, that the original character of the testimony appears unique for the Pharaonic era. [ie, that such suggestions are unique for this age.]”

So far, this looks pretty understandable. The Pharaoh advises the Hittites take on this new-fangled technology, not seen before, for caulking boats. This would also imply it was not being used to caulk baskets, because you can rest assured, the King’s navy would be using this tech before washerwomen or randos on the edge of the Nile who want to send their babies downstream. And it doesn’t look like it is actually widespread (or even occasionally used!) with the Egyptians since there is precisely zero evidence of it being used. From your previous source, we know that IF THEY DID caulk,. they would use alternative oils.

The next part I disagree with. I will include it (being honest with my sources), though I somewhat disagree with the analysis:

“He also deduces, rightfully, that the usage of pitch or bitumen for the sealing of seafaring ships hulls however had to be well-known to the Egyptians in order for it to be an object of recommendation by the Pharaoh.”

This should play into your hands. Except I would argue not. So Pomey agrees that this letter is asking the Hittites to copy this new tech, including pitch caulking, because it looks sensible, but Pomey then states (in reference to Meeks) that the Pharaoh must have well known about this already in order to recommend it. Well-known? Hardly, since next door have no idea about it, he is having to explain it, and there is no evidence of it being used in Egypt during this time. This looks like a pretty new tech to the Egyptians because ALL the evidence we have elsewhere is that they caulked between planks (if they did at all) with reeds and other wadding. I’m not even sure there is widespread contemporaneous use of the ribbing either, though I haven’t looked in detail. He is sharing a new thing, I would reason.

The whole point of the letter is to say “look what we’ve got- new fangled awesomeness! I recommend you copy it!” Which is the point of Pomey’s paper – about new ship design for the Egyptians.

Now, I am admittedly doing some inference myself here because we have to fill in the gaps. I definitely know this is new tech to the Hittites because that’s the whole point of the letter and why Rameses is explaining it. He literally explains what pitch does in his letter. Now, the Hittites are literally next door. Part of this letter is about, I presume, offering a fig leaf after the peace treaty they had just signed.

So I would conclude somewhat opposite to this paper, though using other inferences as well: knowing that there is no actual evidence that the Egyptians did widely use (or at all?) this technique themselves as we have no extant evidence of them doing so, though there IS evidence they waterproofed with a DIFFERENT natural oil substance. So perhaps they recognised the usefulness of pitch, but opted to use more locally available substitutes.

What have we learnt from this? Not a lot. We’re pretty much back to where we started. (6-15-21, in his combox)

I replied:

I see. So your argument runs as follows:

1. Pitch was indeed used for this Egyptian ship referenced by a Pharaoh in the general time of Moses. I don’t deny it.

2. But hey, it was a new practice at the time.

3. Because it’s new, it’s [Dave: somehow, in some alt-logic] not evidence that pitch was known and available and used in Egypt during this period.

4. Therefore, this admitted use of pitch in Egypt supports my initial claim: “pitch wasn’t particularly available in Egypt [Dave: it was, by trade and a few local spots, including in the Nile Delta], and there is no evidence it was used at all for caulking, during the supposed Moses time.”

5. And this proof of use of pitch that proves [Dave: doublethink!] there was no use of pitch for caulking at that time, certainly has no relevance to the outrageous impossibility of “washerwomen or randos on the edge of the Nile who want to send their babies downstream.”

I certainly can’t argue with that! But I can’t, of course, because it’s not logical or rational in the first place.

Let’s take a trip down memory lane, to recall how you have shifted your position on this, every time you have been proven wrong. First you wrote:

1. “pitch was not available in Egypt at the time of Moses” [what started this whole debate]

2. I showed that it was available long before Moses’ time, by trade and also in at least two spots in the country (which was expressly denied by your conspiracist kook anonymous “source”; endorsed by yourself), one right in the Nile Delta: in Helwan, which is “part of Greater Cairo, on the bank of the Nile, opposite the ruins of Memphis.”

3. Having been shown to be dead wrong, you then switched to saying it wasn’t in use at exactly the time of Moses, and not for caulking (which is a completely different claim: going from outright denial to now quibbling about times and uses of what was formerly denied altogether as being present, let alone used).

4. So I showed with the information we are now discussing that, yes, pitch was used precisely for caulking boats during the period of Moses, according to his dates that I accept from the Encyclopedia Britannica.

5. Faced with this horror of being proven wrong a second time about the same topic, you play the game of conceding the fact of the presence of pitch, but denying that it has any significance at all, because it was 1) “new”, and, anyway, 2) would never ever (in any conceivable universe) have been used to caulk / waterproof a reed basket by a woman putting her child in such a basket, in the Nile, because, well, “you can rest assured, the King’s navy would be using this tech before washerwomen or randos on the edge of the Nile who want to send their babies downstream.”

You concede that this evidence shows pitch being used for caulking boats in Moses’ Egypt, yet somehow simultaneously also assert: “there is precisely zero evidence of it being used.” This is doublethink and literally nonsense. It makes no sense because it’s viciously self-contradictory. But in your rush to defend the indefensible and defeat the “disingenuous” / “dishonest” Christian, who can never be right about anything, even this crazy irrational “thinking” will do.

It’s one of the most amazing displays of intransigence and absolute refusal to concede an error that I’ve ever seen, and I’m in a line of work where one observes such things regularly. (in his combox on 6-15-21)

Have you accepted your terrible use of sources in this discussion? (6-16-21)

ADDENDUM 3

Pearce tried to chip away at some of my sources (delving into highly technical textual disputes), in order to bolster his relentless skepticism, in a new paper. I found additional evidence (four different instances) of use of pitch in Egypt or (in the case of Nubia) an Egyptian-occupied area, during the lifetime of Moses:

“Bitumen from the Dead Sea in Early Iron Age Nubia”, Kate Fulcher, Rebecca Stacey & Neal Spencer, Scientific Reports,  5-20-20:

Abstract

Bitumen has been identified for the first time in Egyptian occupied Nubia, from within the town of Amara West, occupied from around 1300 to 1050 BC. The bitumen can be sourced to the Dead Sea using biomarkers, evidencing a trade in this material from the eastern Mediterranean to Nubia in the New Kingdom or its immediate aftermath. Two different end uses for bitumen were determined at the site. Ground bitumen was identified in several paint palettes, and in one case can be shown to have been mixed with plant gum, which indicates the use of bitumen as a ground pigment. Bitumen was also identified as a component of a friable black solid excavated from a tomb, and a black substance applied to the surface of a painted and plastered coffin fragment. Both contained plant resin, indicating that this substance was probably applied as a ritual funerary liquid, a practice identified from this time period in Egypt. The use of this ritual, at a far remove from the royal Egyptian burial sites at Thebes, indicates the importance of this ritual as a component of the funeral, and the value attributed to the material components of the black liquid.

Introduction

Black materials were excavated from different contexts in the pharaonic town of Amara West in Upper Nubia, dating from  around 1300 to 1050 BC  (19th–20th dynasties), and its cemeteries (1250–800 BC). The materials were of three types: black paints on ceramic sherds used as palettes; a black coating on a coffin plaster fragment; and a black friable material excavated from a tomb. . . .

Amara West lies between the Second and Third Nile Cataracts, in the heart of Nubia, a region that stretched from Aswan in southern Egypt southwards to the Sixth Nile Cataract (Fig. 1). This region was intermittently occupied by pharaonic Egypt in the third and second millennium BC; during the New Kingdom (c. 1548–1086 BC), pharaonic towns were founded to control and administer resource extraction. . . .

Molecular evidence for bitumen from the New Kingdom (pre-dating the Third Intermediate Period) [prior to 1070 BC] is limited to the black coating on the coffin of Henutmehyt [c. 1250 BC; the approximate death date of Moses] in the British Museum (EA48001)46 [see source], the balm of a mummified man from Thebes13, an identification of Dead Sea bitumen in a 19th Dynasty [1292-1189 BC, which overlaps the life of Moses] “mummy balm”12, and the presence of hopanes in the black coatings on an 18th Dynasty [1550-1292 BC, which overlaps the life of Moses] canopic chest and anthropoid coffin49. . . .

Conclusion

. . . Given that evidence for bitumen use in Egypt in the New Kingdom has previously been limited to a few individual samples from objects with poor provenance, this study provides proof for a much more extensive use than might have been suspected, with a secure archaeological context.

See also: “Pigments, incense, and bitumen from the New Kingdom town and cemetery on Sai Island in Nubia”, Kate Fulcher, Julia Budka, Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports, Volume 33, October 2020.

See a further listing of articles (many on related topics) by Kate Fulcher.

Pearce responded with his usual cavalier, clueless dismissal: “This is entirely consonant with what we previously discussed of raw bitumen trade, and to do with mummy embalming. You are rehashing the same old stuff. These might even be the same specimens mentioned.” (6-16-21)

My reply:

You read very poorly (especially when you are determined to disagree with what you’re reading). None of the new evidence had to do with embalming.

You wrote: “Pitch appears not to have had widespread use, including for waterproofing, at the time and place (Egypt, New Kingdom era).”

Egyptologist Kate Fulcher of the British Museum, who actually works in a field having to do with these things, wrote, on the other hand, just 13 months ago in a peer-reviewed scientific journal: “Given that evidence for bitumen use in Egypt in the New Kingdom has previously been limited to a few individual samples from objects with poor provenance, this study provides proof for a much more extensive use than might have been suspected, with a secure archaeological context.” [my bolding and italics]

You still haven’t retracted your original statement: “pitch was not available in Egypt at the time of Moses”. This is what started this entire debate. Isn’t it funny how soon we forget what we ourselves stated not long ago? Once I refuted that, you retreated (minus retraction or concession) to “pitch wasn’t particularly available in Egypt, and there is no evidence it was used at all for caulking, during the supposed Moses time.” [my bolding and italics, to show the sneaky evolution]

You dispute the caulking of boats now, with more textual arguments. That’s fine. As they say, two archaeologists have three opinions about any given thing; so they disagree with each other. What else is new?

Then you make your usual sweeping claim, which is refuted by Fulcher, who has now produced compelling molecular evidence of several previously unknown uses in an Egyptian-occupied area (Nubia), during the general time of Moses (and refers to three other instances from his time that I had not mentioned before in my presentation of evidences).

You can be sure that if it comes down to the report of an expert in the field, vs. your opinion as a non-scientist (that you have essentially forced yourself to take, because of having to shore up your several past ridiculous, unfounded, and unduly dogmatic statements), I will go with the former, because she is 1) credentialed, and 2) doesn’t have the outside agenda that you do (to disprove any remote harmony between archaeology and the Bible as regards Moses in Egypt).

Hilarious. I’ll get to the main thrust tomorrow as it is bedtime now. However, I do like the accusation that I haven’t retracted something but, hang on, I’ve changed what I had said. Exactly, I’ve changed what I’ve said. That’s the point. That is exactly what I admitted above. Well done. (6-16-21)

Yes, you tried to act as if you had never made the dumb statement of a universal negative about pitch in Egypt, so you wouldn’t be embarrassed in front of your fan club. All I had to do to refute that from the beginning of this, was show any evidence at all of pitch in Egypt during Moses (which wasn’t hard to do). Then it became more technical, with you demanding proofs of caulking, etc.

But your original point that I responded to has been decisively refuted. An open-minded thinker would have conceded or retracted and admitted that he was wrong in his initial comment (which would also entail changing several of your articles to reflect that). And you have done none of those things. Instead, you upped your rhetoric and accusations against me as “disingenuous”, anti-science, etc.

The increased insults you throw out are yet more proof of your overall shaky case.

Sorry, just to confirm that I am the one insulting you? Really? Do you want me to list all of the insulting things you have said to me across all of your pieces? (6-17-21)

Yes, really, and sure, go ahead. To my knowledge, I haven’t insulted you as “disingenuous” or “dishonest” or questioned whether you love science. I haven’t attacked you personally, as you have increasingly done to me. Now, of course, I may have slipped here and there, as we all do. If you show you where I have done so, I will apologize here (publicly), retract, and remove it. Would you do the same? Well, we’ll see. I challenge you.

Otherwise, it’s all about the strength of arguments, which is fair game.

Dude, all my articles are there for you to see. And I have not redacted any of them. You know, like you did. I stand by my original statement: pitch was an anachronism. That was the strength of my statement. We have now looked at a whole bunch of extra data you have provided and I have changed my probabilities on that by a small amount, all of which I said in my articles. I am not being dishonest in any way. Can you say the same? (6-17-21)

Yes. Dishonesty (including intellectual dishonesty) is a form of lying. That’s one of the Ten Commandments, and Jesus said that the devil is the father of lies. It’s not a trait viewed very favorably by Christians (or any other major ethical system in the history of the world).

Modifying a paper (which could be for any number of legitimate reasons) is not necessarily “dishonest.” There is a dishonest form of it, but it doesn’t follow that any change is of that nature. I openly explained why I removed the Sargon stuff.

ADDENDUM 4

Pearce put up yet another paper on the topic (dated 6-17-21), which he claimed will be the last one.

My reply:

There’s a lot I could say in response to this, but there is no reason to waste further time on this. You still completely misinterpret what I was saying about mummification, even though I explained that. But now that you have reiterated several times that you don’t even read my papers (in one case you said you stopped right in the middle, even before I presented new archaeological evidence that I had found), I can see why you repeat things that are absurd: arguments that never crossed my mind. That’s what people do when they don’t read the replies of their opponent in a debate.

You throw in my face a portion of the latest article I cited: “Given that evidence for bitumen use in Egypt in the New Kingdom has previously been limited to a few individual samples from objects with poor provenance…” You then use that to “prove” that I refuted myself.

It never occurs to you that if I were special pleading and not properly exercising a scientific attitude, that I never would have included that in my citation (which was just a small portion of the article). But because I have a scientific attitude and am honest and open about research being done, I included it. It’s her opinion. But so also is what she concluded immediately after saying this: “this study provides proof for a much more extensive use than might have been suspected, with a secure archaeological context.” This shows her own open-mindedness. She acknowledges that the evidence was rather weak overall, but that now she has produced “proof” for “much more extensive use.”

So once again, your original statement was roundly refuted, because it was more evidence for bitumen use in Egypt and areas it dominated (Nubia) during the time of Moses: precisely what I had to prove, according to my original interest in your false sweeping statement. I never set out to prove, or claim that one could find an actual reed basket covered in pitch. I was merely disproving your false sweeping statement (which if true would expressly contradict the biblical account), just as I did regarding camels and many other alleged anachronisms. What I replied to in the first place with all this “pitch” business was eleven words in one of your papers: “pitch was not available in Egypt at the time of Moses”.

Note that you were not saying that it wasn’t used for caulking, or for reed baskets, etc. Your “argument” was much more sweeping than that (and thus much harder to prove from archaeology): it was not available, period. End of story. No subtleties, no academic / scholarly nuances, no exceptions. And this was one of the many reasons given in that article for thinking that the Exodus story was absolutely “ridiculous.”

And this tidbit (like many along the same lines) you got from an archaeologist who wrote a chapter in one of John Loftus’ books. She should know way better than that, by simply surveying the literature on the topic (as I have now done). But she apparently didn’t do that (the first major counter-article I produced was written in 1992). You and I are not archaeologists, but she is, and thus has no excuse for saying such a false statement in the sweeping way that she did. I don’t say it was dishonesty, but at best it was incompetence and letting her atheist bias overcome her professional expertise.

I have since produced many instances of bitumen use in Egypt, that you yourself tacitly recognize; you simply say it’s a weak argument because isn’t about caulking / waterproofing or reed baskets, etc. But you don’t deny that there was any use or presence at all, when you get down to analyzing particulars. And (I can’t emphasize enough) that was all I set out to prove from the outset: that it did exist in Egypt during the time of Moses. That’s all! I got into more particulars as time went on because you kept demanding it, so I kept looking.

This is how you were self-contradictory all along: acting as if you had never made the statement you did. And I called you on it. I don’t say it is intellectual dishonesty, but I would speculate that it was embarrassment that you were shown to be so wrong from archaeology, and a failure to retract that.

Again (repetition is a great teacher, and you still don’t seem to grasp this), my task, when all was said and done, was simply to prove that pitch / bitumen was available in Egypt at the time of Moses (what it is used for is a different question, and not what I was setting out to prove at first). You have in effect admitted that several times, though now you want to say that you still believe it was an “anachronism.” That makes no sense, but neither does much of your reasoning in this debate, so I can’t figure out this odd Orwellian “logic” you apply, where a thing can both exist in a certain place and time and not do so.

To end on a positive note: glad to hear that you “enjoyed doing this.” So did I (notwithstanding all the frustrations), because I always enjoy a challenge and a debate. So we have that in common, if nothing else. Maybe we both like pizza and beautiful sunsets, too.

ADDENDUM 5

More evidence for bitumen use in Egypt (and for caulking reed baskets) during the time of Moses might possibly be found in the shaduf: “an early crane-like tool with a lever mechanism, used in irrigation” (Wikipedia). This very useful machine was “invented in Mesopotamia and Egypt around 2000 BC” (The Technology of Mesopotamia, by Graham Faiella, Rosen Publishing Group, 2006,  p. 27). That’s about 630 years before Moses.

The article, “Evolution of Water Lifting Devices (Pumps) over the Centuries Worldwide” by S. I Yannopoulos et al in the journal Water (9-17-15) stated that the shaduf  “appeared in Upper Egypt sometime after 2000 BC, during the 18th Dynasty (ca. 1570 BC).” That’s 200 years before the birth of Moses. And: “Danus of Alexandria in 1485 BC dug the wells of Argus on the coast of Peloponessus and installed the Egyptian chain-o-pots as pumps, in place of the ‘atmospheric’ or ‘force’ pump.” That’s about 115 years before the birth of Moses.

The Wikipedia article adds (importantly for our discussion):

The sweep is easy to construct and is highly efficient in use It consists of an upright frame on which is suspended a long pole or branch, at a distance of about one-fifth of its length from one end. At the long end of this pole hangs a bucket, skin bag, or bitumen-coated reed basket.

The sources it lists don’t appear to mention bitumen, however, or reed baskets covered with them, in Egypt during Moses’ time; so it will require more digging to verify that practice. I could find nothing, after quite a bit of searching. Many sites mention it, but they are not from scientists or professional historians, and that’s not good enough to nail down the point.

***

Photo credit: Moses with the Tablets of the Law, by Guido Reni (1575-1642) [public domain / Wikimedia Commons]

***

Summary: Atheist Jonathan M. S. Pearce insists on the non-availability of pitch (bitumen) in Moses’ Egypt. I offer massive archaeological documentation that supports the notion of wide availability.




Browse Our Archives