Oops, they did it again. (Apologies to Ms Spears). The media has once again grabbed hold of a ‘sensational’ (double entendre intended) story and run with it, only to find the truth has slipped through their fingers. This time it isn’t related to life on Mars, or the military record of a politician, but rather the assumption that carbon dating of camels from the Holy Land has disproved the Bible.
Most of the time, no one gives rat’s Gluteus Maximus about carbon dating results, but when the (hasty) conclusions suggest an error in the Bible, well, Katy bar the door. Suddenly, everyone wants to publish the big news.
I mean, how much have you read about the very interesting discoveries in Jerusalem that are demonstrating that there really was a kingdom there during the time of David and Solomon? Excuse me? You hadn’t heard that?
Ok, then, how about the digs 9 miles outside of Jerusalem that are showing strong evidence that the tiny city of Ai from the Book of Joshua really did exist right where (and when) the Bible said it did? Sorry, what’s that? You didn’t know? Of course not; archaeology is boring to the Main Street Media. People don’t want to read about rocks and pottery and old bones. Journalists certainly don’t want to write about them. They want to write about murder and mayhem and politics and snowstorms in Atlanta.
If, however, something pops up that could make the Bible look bad, it’s everywhere.
Earlier this week, following the lead of an article in National Geographic, the Press went wild, reporting that carbon dating of camel bones shows that the Bible is in error when it describes Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as using camels, because camels weren’t domesticated in Canaan until a thousand years later.
The conclusion of the article was that Genesis must have been written much later than Christians and Jews claim. Some of the ‘scholars’ quoted, condescendingly accepted that the Biblical authors did not intentionally deceive anyone. They merely assumed that the modes of transportation in their day must surely have been practiced all those centuries before. It was an honest mistake. You know, kind of like someone today writing about Charlemagne and assuming he traveled about Europe in a Volvo. Poor, dumb, misinformed, Biblical authors; we can’t blame them for being accidental idiots.
Well, let’s just hold our horses (since those DID exist in Canaan, er, I mean Palestine) for a minute. Let’s dig into this a little deeper and see what the Bible actually says on the matter. Perhaps we may find there is much ado about nothing in these stories. I realize I was educated before Common Core, so maybe I can be excused for not wanting to jump to conclusions or following the herd, and maybe you will indulge me a few moments more.
Let us grant the 10th century dates as the earliest known domesticated camels in Palestine. The key word is ‘domesticated’ and I’ll return to it later.
All that is proven is that no earlier domesticated camels have been found. It doesn’t PROVE there weren’t any. Until recently, we hadn’t found evidence of Ai, now we have. New species of animals and plants are discovered every year. Did they not exist before they were found?
Flora and fauna long thought to be extinct have reappeared. Were they extinct until they weren’t? That’s like saying you were for something before you were against it. And, who would be that silly?
I understand that logic and reason are dying art forms, but I’m determined to employ them anyway. Please humor me.
My real basis of prosecuting my case, that Journalists have once again drawn hasty, errant conclusions about the Bible, comes from the very texts they malign. I want to show you what the Bible ACTUALLY says, rather what these articles imply it says and means.
Abraham is from the city of Ur in the Eastern Mesopotamian region. Camels were domesticated there at least 500 years BEFORE Abraham’s time. Abraham, his father and brothers are wealthy nomads. Is it unreasonable that they might use and even breed camels like other wealthy nomads in their region did? I think not. It makes perfect sense.
The first mention of Abraham and camels is in Genesis 12. Abraham, at that time still called Abram, goes down to Egypt because of a famine. While there, out of fear for his own skin, he passes his wife off as his sister. Not one of his prouder moments. After God warns Pharaoh not to touch Sarah (Sarai), the Egyptian king buys off Abraham with gifts (in order to appease God), including camels. Read it for yourself.
Where does this take place again? That’s right, Egypt. Carvings and pottery have shown camels were domesticated in Egypt from at least 2500 B.C. and maybe as early as 500 years before that. They didn’t become really popular until the time of the Persians (after 535 B.C.), but they were known and in use.
So far we have a guy from a country that has camels traveling to a foreign country that has camels. Talk about a historical scandal! Poor, dumb Biblical writers; they forgot to screw up their history….again.
Fast forward to Genesis 24 where Abraham sends his servant to go to Mesopotamia to find a wife for Isaac. Abraham packs up some camels for the journey. Wow, that’s odd. Who could believe that a guy from camel country would send a few camels on a journey back to camel country?
Similarly, later in Genesis, when Jacob runs away from his brother Esau (and for good reason), he runs to his mother’s family in Mesopotamia. While there, he picks up some camels. Talk about far-fetched. Next, you’ll try and convince me that when Benjamin Franklin was in France, he dated French women. No one will ever buy that one either, sir!
When the book of Genesis ends, all of Jacob’s family has packed up and moved to Egypt. Everyone and everything is gone. That would mean their camels, too.
See where I’m going with this? Genesis describes ONE family from aplace where camels are used, settling in another camel friendly country with about 150 years in between. It doesn’t describe a thriving camel industry in Palestine, or even a little ‘Buy here, Pay here on a street corner in Shechem. Instead, it talks about camels in and from countries that were already known to use them. Then the one family the Bible describes as breeding them, all leave and take their herds with them.
Interestingly (to me), camel bones have been found that date from the time of the patriarchs, but the skeptics write them off as undomesticated; wild herds that occasionally passed through. That is entirely possible. Might it also be possible that these herds were the property of a nomadic family that also passed through the region?
During the time period of Joshua and Judges, still before the carbon dated domestic camels, the Bible mentions camels again, but each time they are the possessions of invading armies from the East (where camels are known) and not as belonging to the Israelis.
The later we go in history, the more frequently the animals are mentioned, peaking during the time of the Persian domination. This is exactly what one would expect from both the carbon dating results and what we know about the spread of camels before, during and after the Persian Empire.
Just one more thing in passing; this ‘camel bones disproving Genesis’ is a tired old shoe. I am not the first to debunk it. I bet you hadn’t heard that, either. After all, the truth doesn’t fit the narrative, and the truth would be VERY INCONVENIENT.