Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Mine has nothing to do with King Solomon

Biblical scholars and archaeologists have known for a number of years that archaeology cannot and does not confirm any ancient biblical records. Archaeology cannot "confirm" a world-wide flood, the existence of Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob or any of the colorful biblical characters.

Archaeology cannot confirm Jews in Egypt. There is absolutely no evidence of an "exodus." The evidence actually points in another direction - that the "exodus" is a folk tale based on theological needs, not historical events. The Egyptians kept detailed records and nowhere do we read of a large body of Jews in Egypt. If the biblical stories of Joseph and Moses were "historical," surely the Egyptians would have their own version. If there were a series of plagues, or a parting of the Sea of Reeds, the Egyptians would have noted both, if for no other reason than their remarkability. In fact, at the time of the Exodus, the Egyptians had police stations throughout the Sinai Peninsula all the way up to Palestine. Hundreds of thousands of Israelites wandering through the desert would have hardly escaped Egyptian notice.

More relative to our discussion is the fact that absolutely no evidence of any kind has been found to confirm that Israel was a large, powerful kingdom under one King Solomon in the 10th century BCE. Again, if anything, the evidence points to the contrary.

Nevertheless, fundamentalist Christians and others cling to their desires in hopes they are true. If the bible is the "word" of God, how could it be any different? If there is no evidence for the patriarchs or for the kingly and wise Solomon, it isn't that there is no evidence, it's that evidence has not yet been found.

That's why, when an archaeological discovery is made which has even the most tenuous connections with a biblical story, it is trumpeted in the religious and secular press as something much more than it really is.

Here's today's contribution to that lingering hope.

"Researchers led by Thomas Levy of the University of California, San Diego, and Mohammad Najjar of Jordan's Friends of Archaeology, discovered a copper-producing center in southern Jordan that dates to the 10th century B.C., the time of Solomon's reign. ... Located south of the Dead Sea, the region was known in the Old Testament as Edom."

This site has been dug for years, and 20 or 30 years ago researchers uncovered evidence that metalworking at taken place there in the 7th BCE, some 300 years after the legendary King Solomon is said to have reigned.

Now, Levy and Najjar, after further digging, have found seeds and sticks dating to the 10th century BCE.

This leads Levy to announce, "We can't believe everything ancient writings tells us. But this research represents a confluence between the archaeological and scientific data and the Bible."

Oh, if it were only so. Actually, it does nothing of the kind. His sticks and seeds provide no connection whatsoever to the fictional King Solomon, nor does it tell us anything of Israel or the Israelites in the 10th century BCE, or anything else biblical.

Mr. Levy is wrong. Archaeologists have found sticks and seeds from the 10th century BCE, and some Egyptian artifacts. That's it. To claim this confirms the existence of King Solomon, or Israel as a world powerhouse, or anything from biblical folklore is merely wishful thinking.

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