Category Archives: Other Apologetics or History

Related to broader apologetics, philosophy, or history/archeology

Evidence from Ai

My last blog post was about the long day of Joshua.  This was when the Jews began their conquest of the land of Canaan, as described in the Old Testament book of Joshua.  Recent news has brought up something related to another place conquered by the Jews after the Exodus – a little place called Ai (pronounced like the letter “i”).  I keep up some with an organization that does archeological research related to the Bible, called Associates for Biblical Research (ABR).  They have done some great research that confirms the accuracy of the Bible.  So what is Ai?  Ai was the second place conquered by the Jews in Canaan.  They first took Jericho, where the Jews marched around the city for 7 days and then the walls fell down (from an earthquake apparently).  The second place (Ai) was Northwest of Jericho and is a short distance East of Bethel.  Ai was not actually a city, but just a fortress.  In Joshua chapter 8 in the Old Testament, it describes Joshua using the topography of the area to hide an ambush force and draw the soldiers of Ai out of the fortress.  This led the men of Ai into a trap, and so Joshua was victorious.  After Ai the Israelites did the battle for Gibeon, which was when the long day happened.

Ai has been somewhat of an archeological controversy because archeologists and scholars who’ve looked for Ai have said it doesn’t exist where the Bible seems to indicate.  Scholars had been identifying Ai to be at a site called et-Tell that they know does not fit the Biblical account and so it has raised questions about the accuracy of the Bible.  Scholars have a great tendancy to underestimate the Bible on historical detail and assume that what scholars come up with today is more reliable than what the Bible has said.  But it is not a good idea to assume scholars today will give more reliable historical information than the Bible.  If it appears the historical data is in disagreement with the Bible, it generally just means we don’t have all the relevant information, or someone just hasn’t done a proper investigation of it yet.  Assuming the Bible is not historical leads scholars in the wrong direction in history and archeology, just as wrong assumptions about evolution leads scientists in biology or geology in the wrong direction.  Regarding the conquest of Canaan by the ancient Jews, either the Exodus is assumed to have never happened at all, or it is understood to be at the wrong time.  There are two views Bible scholars and historians tend to have on when the Exodus and conquest of Canaan took place.  For the beginning of the conquest of Canaan, one date is around 1200 B.C. and the other is around 1400 B.C.  The date that fits the Bible is 1406 B.C.  Sadly, this makes the old Cecil B. DeMille movie on the Ten Commandments wrong about the Pharoah of the Exodus.  DeMille’s view of the Exodus was incorrect on the date and which Pharoah it was.  But many scholars go along with the same view, which puts Rameses as the Pharoah of the Exodus and the Exodus as the later date.

But is there evidence for the earlier date of the Exodus and for the Jews conquering Canaan?  Absolutely!  I won’t go into all of it on Jericho here, but ABR has good evidence for the fall of Jericho around 1400 B.C. that beautifully fits the Biblical account.  The location of Jericho is well known and there is evidence that the walls collapsed and evidence of fire.  These and other details fit the Biblical account.  ABR has also been excavating at Ai for years at a site that is now called Khirbet el-Maqatir.  ABR has found pottery that suggests the 1400 B.C. date.  They’ve found clear evidence for the city gate of Ai from large stones that have pivot holes in them used by the city gate.  Now there is also evidence from an Egyptian scarab that further strengthens the date at around 1400 B.C.  The scarab is about 3/4 of an inch long, oval in shape.  The scarab is important because it can be dated well to be from between 1485 and 1418 B.C., according to Associates for Biblical Research.  So this provides a means of dating the evidence that is independent of pottery dates.  The ABR research on Ai fits what the Bible describes nicely and also agrees with the 1446 B.C. date of the Exodus and the 1406 B.C. date for the start of the Israelites’ conquest of Canaan.  To see a picture of the scarab and more archeological evidence in Israel, go to this page from Christianity Today, or this page from ABR.

Apologetics Good and Bad

April 2013 seems to have been a big month for Christian Apologetics in the Dallas area. On April 5-6 was a conference on the question of was there a historical Adam, organized by the International Society for Christian Apologetics. I was not familiar with this organization but the conference was great! Not that big in attendance. A significant thing about it was that the speakers were people from different backgrounds and organizations. For instance, the Institute for Creation Research was there. But so was Dr. Rana from Reasons to Believe, the ministry of Hugh Ross. Norman Geisler was also one of the speakers, as well as Walter Kaiser, well known for his expertise on the Old Testament. Then April 12-13 was the Apologia Conference, which was on the theme, “Skeptics and the Savior: Did the Word Really Become Flesh?” I attended both of these conferences. Another conference happened that I did not attend, so I won’t comment. It was at Bent Tree Bible Fellowship church I believe.

These conferences were very informative. After these conferences I ran across a website with an interesting article called “8 Reasons Jesus Definitely Existed.” This sounds good from the title but it’s misleading and incorrect in some of it’s information. The conferences also brought up some things that raise questions I feel I need to know more about. For instance, I found out from a book on inerrancy that Norman Geisler has criticized Darrel Bock on inerrancy and the date of the writing of New Testament books. I have a lot of respect for both Geisler and Bock, so I am a not sure what to make of this. But there are sometimes clearly wrong apologetic arguments. As Christians this day and age we need to be aware of various sources and learn what some of the best sources of information are on various issues.

On the first conference about a historical Adam. I think the highlights to me were Norman Geisler and Walter Kaiser. They both made strong arguments for a historical Adam. Dr. Kaiser brought up Acts 17, where Paul was speaking in Athens and said that “from one man” God made all nations of men. Kaiser pointed out this does not seem consistent with the new ideas on the evolution of man from a population of several thousand individuals. Geisler listed a long list of Biblical reasons to believe in a literal Adam. He also pointed out there was an extremely ancient seal that depicts the story of Adam and Eve from Genesis. The seal is estimated to be from 3500 B.C. That’s pretty old (the date may be a bit inflated in fact). There are also legends of first man and woman stories. Though they are different from the Genesis account of Adam and Eve, they have a number of aspects very close to it. Christianity does not hang together logically in explaining mankind’s sin problem without a literal Adam and Eve. Also, evolution can never agree with the Genesis account of Adam and Eve’s miraculous origin. I was pleasantly surprised to find that Fazale Rana, a life scientist from Reasons to Believe pointed out he believed Adam was miraculously created from dust. He gave some interesting biochemical evidence for the uniqueness of humans as separate from apes. I do not usually agree with Hugh Ross but there were some good talks by other scientists from Ross’ organization at the conference. The final talk was from Mary Jo Sharp, a woman who speaks on apologetics. I was impressed by her story and the unique approach she has. She reaches people with apologetics that include the young and women. She made some wonderful points connecting personal struggles in people’s lives to apologetics issues. Personal struggles can lead people to ask “why believe” questions. So apologetics can have a lot of personal relevance. It is not just an intellectual exercise.

The Apologia conference was more centered around the New Testament and various ideas from skeptics and scholars who raise issues about where the ideas of Jesus as Messiah came from, the alleged problem of oral transmission of the gospels, and other issues. Some have argued that the Apostles and early Christians essentially added the concepts about Jesus being a returning King in the future and his deity, that these were not actually from Jesus’ ministry. There are a number of scholars who question the gospels but accept more the New Testament writings of the Apostle Paul. But there are scrolls of Jewish commentaries from around 100 B.C. that sound just like the gospels in telling about the Messiah and Melchizedeck. They argue that Melchizedek is divine and if you put the pieces together it clearly points to Jesus. But these writings were from Qumran and scholars say the New Testament writers would not have known about them. They show that the Messianic ideas were not really unheard of and did not come about as late embellishments of the New Testament.

I want to briefly get back to the web article I found, “8 Reasons Jesus Definitely Existed.” The first screen says that Paul’s New Testament books predate the writing of the four gospels by 50 years. This is way off. Some of Paul’s books were earlier but it was only around 10 years, maybe less. The later dates are often suggested by scholars who are trying to chip away at the inerrancy of the New Testament and lead people to question the gospels especially. The second screen in the article makes a statement that the gospels “kinda don’t agree on anything.” It also challenges historical accuracy of certain things in the gospels. This is off also. There are some mysteries about differences between the gospels. However, I do not think there are real contradictions between the gospels, just differences in how they are written. Over time there’s usually more and more confirmations of Scripture from historical evidence. I wrote an article on the historicity of the New Testament CLICK TO GOTO. The 8 Reasons article is really not very clever at all, but seems to show ignorance of basics from the gospels. It confuses Bethehem and Nazareth regarding where Jesus was from. Bethehem was where Jesus was born, not the place where his family raised him. There is some information in the 8 Reasons article that is probably ok, so it is not all so bad as the above. But it goes to show Christians need to keep their brain in gear even as they learn about apologetics. Some apologetic arguments are better than others.