Navigating the “Patterns of Evidence” for the Biblical Exodus

patterns-of-evidence-the-exodus

Today in select theaters, the fascinating documentary film, Patterns of Evidence: The Exodus will be showing across the country. The film will explore the question of the historical Exodus. Is it just the stuff of myth and legend? Or, did it really happen?

The public at large has always been fascinated, even intrigued by the stories in the Bible. It’s no exaggeration to say that the Bible has had a profound effect on American politics and culture, not to mention all of Western Civilization itself!

It seems that even Hollywood has rediscovered the epic stories found in the Bible, even if they don ‘t portray them exactly as they are recorded in the biblical text. The latest installment was Daniel Arnofsky’s Noah, and Ridley Scott’s Exodus: Gods & Kings, starring Christian Bale as Moses.

This most recent film Patterns of Evidence: The Exodus, however, is unlike other movies about the Bible because it actually explores the question of whether or not the Exodus actually happened, and what archaeological and historical evidence, if any, exists for it.

Patterns of Evidence: The Exodus, follows the journey of filmmaker Tim Mahoney as a “crisis of faith” leads him to explore whether the events in the Bible (specifically the Exodus) are myth, and whether they were historical events that really happened.

Mahoney states,“I didn’t go with a preconceived conclusion, but I was willing to give the Bible the benefit of the doubt as we searched for the truth,” He said. “I went to the top people in the world and said, ‘Tell me what you know about this story and what does the archaeology tell you.’ I talked with both sides – people who can’t see any evidence for Exodus and people who see the evidence. It became a balanced approach.”[1]

So, instead of assuming the truth of the Exodus story, Mahoney traveled around the world interviewing scholars from various theological and philosophical backgrounds to compare and contrast what is said about the evidence for the Exodus, pro and con.

As can be seen from the trailer, the film explores the evidence and arguments for and against the historical Exodus, by some of the best spokesmen for each view. Unlike most documentaries, such as those the History Channel and Discovery Channel, Patterns of Evidence: The Exodus presents each view in a fair and balanced way, and allows scholars to present their case. Ultimately, it lets the viewer decide which view has the best evidence.

The list of interviewees includes archaeologist, Israel Finkelstein (Tel Aviv University) whose view of the historical Exodus is highly skeptical, based on his understanding of the archaeological record.

There are a host of other scholars and archaeologists who appear on the film besides Finkelstein, including James K. Hoffmeier (Trinity Evangelical Divinity School), Egyptologist Manfred Bietak (University of Vienna), John Bimson (Trinity College, Bristol), David Rohl (Egyptologist, Author), Kent Weeks (Egyptologist, Theban Mapping Project), Rabbi David Wolpe (Rabbi at Sinai Temple, Author), and Bryant Wood (Associates for Biblical Research), just to name a few!

How does one navigate the various views which are presented in the film? It has been said that if there are three archaeologists in a room together, there are at least five or six opinions between them!

The Bottom Line: DATING!

(Spoiler alert: I’m about to state the main point of contention in the film! In reality, it won’t spoil it for you, but hopefully help clarify the main idea better!)

First, I’d like to make a blanket statement, regardless of where one stands on the biblical Exodus:

The Exodus and Conquest stand or fall together. The two are inextricably linked. If there was an historical Exodus, then there should also be an Israelite conquest into Canaan approximately four decades after the Exodus. This is important because if either can be established on historical and archaeological grounds, then the patterns of evidence will begin to emerge for both.

In previous blogs on CrossExamined.org I have stated this in other contexts and articles, but most, if not all debates within Old Testament archaeology are over dating. Even agnostic archaeologist, Willam Dever’s book What Did the Biblical Writers Know and When Did They Know It?, attests to the importance of dating.

Where there is a biblical event in which it is difficult, if not impossible to establish a date – this is called an anachronism. The word stems from the Greek, meaning ἀνά ana, “against” and χρόνος khronos, “time” – (or a chronological inconsistency).

Many years ago, a brilliant scholar named Edwin R. Thiele wrote a truly groundbreaking book on reconciling the dates and reigns of the Hebrew kings in the Old Testament with the dates & reigns of other Ancient Near Eastern Kings, such as those of Egypt, Babylonia, and Assyria. His book was titled, The Mysterious Numbers of the Hebrew Kings (1951).

In chapter 1 Thiele correctly observed that,

Chronology is the backbone of history. Absolute chronology is the fixed central core around which the events of the nation [i.e. Israel] must be grouped before they may assume their exact positions in history and before their mutual relationships may be properly understood. Without exact chronology there can be no exact history. Until a correct chronology of a nation has been established, the events of that nation cannot be correctly integrated into the events of the neighboring states. If history is to be a true and exact science, then it is of fundamental importance to construct a sound chronological framework about which may be fitted the events of states and the international world. [2]

In this film Patterns of Evidence: The Exodus, much of the discussion surrounds chronology and dating – and in reality – it is the KEY to seeing to understanding and seeing the patterns of evidence for the Exodus.

I’ve written several articles which explore the patterns of evidence talked about in the film in much more detail. Click on the links below to learn more about where we think the best evidence lies.

I’ll be “up front” here and state, that based on historical and archaeological evidence, that I believe Dr. Bryant Wood’s view on the Exodus is most consistent with the biblical record as well as with the archaeological and historical patterns. Both Wood and John Bimson argue for a revised biblical chronology based on archaeological evidence. Others in the film, argue against chronological revisionism (James K. Hoffmeier and Israel Finkelstein), however, if the chronology is not revised, then essentially there is no evidence for the Exodus and Conquest.

Of course, you’ll need to watch the film, listen to the arguments and decide for yourself.

As an associate and archaeologist with Associates for Biblical Research, I can also state that I also have firsthand knowledge of excavating at the biblical site of Khirbet el-Maqatir in Israel, which is the site of the biblical, Canaanite city of Ai which was destroyed by Joshua (recorded in Joshua 7-8) – additional evidence for the historical reliability of the Biblical record.

The following is a list of articles that I have written in the past which dig a little deeper into these questions (complete with footnotes & sources).

Articles Which Dig Deeper into “Patterns of Evidence” for the Exodus

  1. The Challenge to the Old Testament & Responding to the Challenge 
  1. The Biblical Patriarchs: Myth or Legend?
  1. The Date of the Exodus and the Archaeological Evidence
  1. Who Was the Pharaoh of the Exodus?
  1. The Conquest of Ai

One final word about the importance and significance of the Exodus.

If we think of the New Testament and the Gospels as the top of a tree with branches and leaves and fruit, then the bottom of the tree (the Old Testament) is anchored to the ground with roots that go deep and bring the tree life-giving water. Without the roots, the leaves and the branches would have no life and no truth to them.

Jesus died on Passover for a reason. The phrase “Jesus came to set the captives free” is not just symbolism, it is grounded in a real event in history.

The Exodus is vitally important to the religion of both Jews and Christians alike. It should rightfully be defended as being grounded in truth and reality.

 

 

[1]http://www.wnd.com/2015/01/statue-of-bibles-joseph-discovered/

[2] Edwin R. Thiele, The Mysterious Numbers of the Hebrew Kings, New Revised Edition (Grand Rapid: Kregel Publications, 1983), p. 33.

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59 replies
  1. don says:

    Great input and observation, Ted. I love the balanced team of researchers. Consistent truth is necessarily linked by chronological substantiation. No pulling out events and missing the consistency of the whole. Well documented.

    Reply
  2. Louie says:

    I don’t see what all the hype is about. Didn’t Ron Wyatt do this same thing a few years back, only to be accused of making it up? Based on a small amount of reading, i think many maps in bibles are incorrect, and lead people astray. I believe the path taken would have been through the heart of the sinai peninsula, and across the gulf of aqaba, where solomon built the two pillars to commemorate the event. Right? Seems reasonable to me, with solomon being the wisest of people and all. The evidence is right there, if people would just tell and teach what we really know to be true, it would be a “no brainer” that the exodus really happened. How about leaving all the water parting and so on aside, and agreeing that it really happened as a first step to truth?

    Reply
    • Greg says:

      Great formula for discovering truth Louie. Assume that what the bible says is literal and true and reject anything that seems to contradict that premise. Brilliant. Here’s a better idea, look at all the evidence, read widely on the subject and if there seems no way around it, reject the idea that everything in the bible can be taken as accurate, historical narrative.

      Oh, and Solomon wise? How long did it take him to marry an Egyptian wife which would supposedly corrupt the Israelites and cause impurity in the messianic ancestry?

      Reply
  3. Greg says:

    Mahoney states,“I didn’t go with a preconceived conclusion, but I was willing to give the Bible the benefit of the doubt as we searched for the truth,” He said. “I went to the top people in the world and said, ‘Tell me what you know about this story and what does the archaeology tell you.”

    This is the claim Strobel made in The Case For Christ which could not have been further from the truth. I hope Mahoney is more honest and balanced than Strobel but I’m not going to hold my breath.

    And why give the bible the “benefit of the doubt”. This immediately betrays his lack of objectivity.

    And Ted, do you expect us to believe that when you approach something like establishing the chronology for the Exodus and subsequent Canaanite genocides you are not biased from the outset? You absolutely are! Any conclusion that would force you to give up a literal interpretation of the bible is to you absolutely unacceptable and has to be rejected in favor of a confirming chronology. Your not doing science. Your doing apologetics. There’s a difference.

    Reply
    • Ted Wright says:

      Giving the Bible “the benefit of the doubt” does not betray his lack of objectivity, it levels the playing field, simply because the Bible is usually dismissed as having any historical value by most scholars. Most documentaries on the Bible (on the History Channel, Discovery Channel, et. al.) are completely one-sided against the Bible. So, giving the Bible the “benefit of the doubt” is giving it equal time with more liberal & skeptical views.

      Mahoney did interview several scholars who were highly skeptical of a historical exodus (Israel Finkelstein, etc..) and allowed them to make their case, but he also gave equal air-time to scholars who do believe in the historical exodus and allowed them to make their case as well.

      I readily admit that I do believe in the historical integrity and truthfulness of the Bible, but this doesn’t mean that I can’t be objective. It’s a false-dichotomy to think that if one has preferences and principles, that one can’t be objective.

      And it simply begs the question to say that searching for and investigating historical and archaeological evidence for the Biblical Exodus is “unscientific.” I want to discover the truth about the events in the Bible and will be glad to follow the evidence wherever it leads. But evidence (whether from history or science) does not interpret itself – including evidence that you may present as arguing AGAINST the historical exodus. Everyone is doing apologetics for something (including you) and everyone has biases. The question is, which view has the best evidence?

      Sounds to me like you wouldn’t be convinced of a historical Exodus no matter what archaeological and historical evidence was presented, but hopefully, I’m wrong.

      Reply
      • Greg says:

        Can you conceive of a point in your life when you would say, “that’s it, I’m done, can’t defend the bible as literal anymore, the evidence to the contrary is too compelling”?

        Reply
      • Greg says:

        Where does the preponderance of the evidence lie Ted? It’s really in your best interest that the conquest narratives be debunked and accepted as fiction. Then all of the Arab world can stop using the “fictional” conquest as a justification for killing us back.

        Reply
        • Ted Wright says:

          From the archaeological and historical evidence that I have looked at Greg, the preponderance of it lies with a military conquest as is outlined in Joshua. And my best interest is with the truth that I don’t get to make up or invent. How other people will use or abuse the truth is another question. After the American Civil War the U.S. military went out west and killed Indians. That is a historical fact, but it doesn’t give Indians who are alive today, the right to do acts of terrorism agains the U.S. government. The truth of an event, and how people will use it or abuse it, are two different questions.

          Reply
          • Greg says:

            But Ted, is it not incumbent on us, as the benefactors of the land we gained (America) by an act of genocide, to admit such, condemn it, repent of our actions and do all we can to make amends? Or will you take the position of “Manifest Destiny” and rationalize the actions of our predecessors? If you do you are complicit in their violence. This is exactly my position on the Canaanite genocides as I think it should be the position of any honest Christian not seeking to justify violence.

            So, you’ve found the second Ai. What will you do to rehabilitate the data refuted at all the other sites in the Levant that have failed the archaeological test?

  4. Greg says:

    How convenient. If the evidence discovered at the site (et-Tell) that for decades has been accepted as Joshua’s Ai contradicts the biblical narrative you just find another site. Can you name for me, outside of the associates at ABR or other Christians or Jews trying to prove the bible, one archaeologist that would give your Khirbet el-Maqatir site any credence?

    Reply
    • Ted Wright says:

      The IAA (The Israeli Antiquities Authority) has visited our site and they are very pleased with how we’ve conducted it and agree with our assessment.

      Reply
        • Ted Wright says:

          How do you know that I am trying to be unclear here? You asked a question, I gave you an answer. The IAA believes that we have interpreted the ceramics, the architecture and the time frame as being correct. Hopefully this clarifies it. And we would love to have you come visit the site and show you around if you are in Israel this summer. It is located in the West Bank near Ramallah.

          Reply
          • Greg says:

            But if you asked them to give their opinion on whether or not Khirbet el-Maqatir is actually Joshua’s Ai would they support your conclusion, argue that et-Tell is still the most likely (yet failed) Ai candidate or would they have no opinion? Just wondering. Affirming the techniques you employed and the fact that you got the ceramics correct is a far cry from saying, “hey, looks like you guys found the real Ai. Good work. We concur!”

  5. Greg says:

    I love how evangelicals delicately season their apologetics with Dever’s name (to make points inconsequential to their argument) in hopes of giving the appearance of legitimacy. However, they never accurately depict his position. Stop dropping his name unless you are also willing to make your readers aware of the fact that his conclusions thoroughly contradict your own.

    Reply
    • Ted Wright says:

      Dropping Dever’s name was not intended to make a point inconsequential to my argument Greg. I encourage people to read Dever, but they should also read others who have different views than Dever. I think all scholarly views should be given a fair hearing – that’s being broad minded.

      Reply
  6. Greg says:

    Over in your article “Has Joshua’s Ai Been Discovered?” you state that, “In addition to the above evidence, in 2009, an infant jar burial was discovered at Khirbet el-Maqatir confirming the presence of women at the site (Joshua 8:25).

    Why is this significant? Sure the bible says that women and children were to be murdered at Ai. But this was supposedly Yahweh’s command at all the genocide sites. Does this, for you, really count as confirming evidence that Ai has been found?

    You say, “Sounds to me like you wouldn’t be convinced of a historical Exodus no matter what archaeological and historical evidence was presented, but hopefully, I’m wrong”.

    I would be convinced by the preponderance of the evidence and it’s not on your side. I know DTS grads that will admit the archaeological evidence does not support the Exodus.

    By the way, lest you think I am some rabid atheist who grew up without a father in a dis-functional home and therefore hate god, (I would label myself a hopeful, yet discouraged, universalist or agnostic) I grew up in a very loving, nurturing home, with non-divorced parents. My father was, though imperfect like all fathers, a kind and generous southern baptist minister that I admired and respected. My mother is a devote Christian who knows nothing of my de-conversion from evangelicalism. I am happily married and devoted to my wife of almost three decades, attend church, pay my tithe and doubt (for the most part) in silence. Oh, and I love and care for my children with tenderness and affection. I live in the thoroughly evangelical bible belt of America and wish Christians and other peace loving individuals no harm. I just can’t take the lying anymore. Christian doctrine is supported by obfuscation and half truth telling that is maddening.

    When Christians and Jews are willing to condemn the Canaanite genocides or admit that they are historical fiction and stop using them as a claim to the land and admit that the United Nations made a drastic mistake in 1948, they will gain moral standing to condemn ISIS, Hamas, Al Queda, The Palestinian Authority … and the like. Until then these organizations will find justification in retributive killing.

    John 4:20 And Jesus said “Our fathers worshiped in this mountain, and you people say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.” 21Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. 22“You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23“But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. 24“God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” This verse contradicts all need to possess or make claim to Haaretz. The rabbis agree.

    Another, “by the way”, my son-and-law and daughter are messianic Jews soon headed for Israel to potentially risk their lives for what I believe, sadly, to be a myth. I have no ill will for them either. I pray for their safety, cherish and would die for them. Who knows, maybe I can visit Khirbet el-Maqatir and one of your colleagues can convince me of your interpretation of the site..

    In closing:
    “I contend that, if you claim you have been called by your god to kill other humans in his name, you have heard from no god at all. Your brutal actions are proof that a loving being gave you no such command. Cannot he who supposedly spoke the universe into existence with the word of his mouth simply withdraw the breath of the godless so they fall silently to the ground? If he’s truly there, let him do his own blood shedding. Then we can all see his mighty deeds and pay him the homage he deserves. This standard must be consistently applied to those of all political and religious persuasions, ancient and modern.”

    Reply
  7. Frank Turek says:

    Hi Greg, Thanks for your honest insights here. I think people are certainly reasonable to be concerned about the conquest narratives in the Old Testament and to question the Bible because of it. It’s consistent to say that God exists but he’s not the God of the Bible. However, in my view, it’s not consistent to say no God exists and the God of the Bible is evil because without God there would be no objective standard of good, which means evil wouldn’t really exist.

    Two respected evangelical scholars have opposing views on the conquest narratives: Paul Copan and Clay Jones. Copan gives evidence they were hyperbolic and Jones says they were literal. Have you read anything from them?

    I think Copan makes some good points. But let’s suppose Jones is right, that God really prescribed that literally everyone in the wicked Canaanite culture– a culture God warned because of their increasing wickedness for over 400 years– should die, including the children. Would that be immoral of God?

    Ask yourself this: When someone dies, did God “murder” that person? I don’t think so. Causing or allowing someone to die is not murder for God because all life is His anyway. He is the creator of life, and only He can resurrect it. In fact, people never go out of existence, they just change locations. God is under no obligation to keep people alive here for eighty years. His plans for eternity are the ultimate point of this life anyway. So God is perfectly just to move you from this life to the next life at any age he chooses—two or eighty-two. And He may have some very good reasons for doing so.

    That’s what is meant by the phrase “play God.” The source of all life is justified in taking life whenever He decides. We are not. Yet Richard Dawkins recently affirmed his pro-abortion stance by declaring, “A fetus is less human than an adult pig.” That echoes the thoughts of fellow atheist Peter Singer of Princeton University who believes that parents should have the right to kill their children even after they are born! So according to the new atheists, when God plays God and kills children, He is immoral. But when atheists play God and kill children, they are exercising their moral rights. I would like atheists to justify that for me.

    At the end of the day, we have to evaluate all the evidence to discover if the God of the Bible is the true God, including what we learn from the New Testament. While I still have questions and always will, I think the evidence decidedly points in that direction. I see no evidence Allah is the true God. In fact, according to Islamic doctrine, Allah is arbitrary so he couldn’t be the immutable ground of all being anyway.

    I unpack this and much more in my new book if you’re interested. It’s called “Stealing From God: Why Atheists Need God to Make Their Case.” Thanks again.

    Reply
    • Greg says:

      First of all Frank, the arguments of the new atheists are as radical on the left as yours are on the right. In my opinion a lot of their views are poorly thought out and easy to refute.

      Pertaining to judging god:
      I think it is perfectly logical, after considering the evidence in the bible, to speculate as to whether or not we have, in its’ pages, stumbled upon the true and living god. I see no reason why it would be faulty logic to conclude that we have not discovered the true and living god and therefore choose another moral standard by which we might judge this biblical god .

      Pertaining to god’s right to take life:
      Following good, orthodox, Christian doctrine it is perfectly logical to say that, in the above scenario, abortion is the lesser evil. How is sending 100% of unborn children to heaven via abortion less moral than insisting that we allow children to be born and mature to the age of accountability so most of them can go to god’s hell for conscious, eternal torment? Trading a few moments of even indescribable fear, pain and suffering during an abortion would be preferable to an ETERNAL sentence of the same. I would choose it if given the choice. You have a real logical conundrum to deal with here Frank.

      I have not read Clay Jones but I think you have misrepresented Copan. He allegorizes very little of the genocide material and appears, to me, to accept a fairly literal interpretation of the texts. He actually, at one point or another in his book, takes just about every position available to him to defend the genocides. I have suggested on many of your blogs that your team and readers consider Thom Stark’s critical review of Moral Monster but it does not appear that anyone has taken me up on this. Stark thoroughly dismantles the majority of Copan’s arguments in his review. I find some of Copan’s apologetics repulsive: from Stark is God a Moral Compromiser?, “Copan strains to contend that slaves were not considered property. He actually tries to portray slaves as employees, asserting that the transference of slaves from one master to another is analogous to the trading of players between pro sports teams— after all, both sports stars and slaves are referred to as “acquisitions” and they can both be said to be under “ownership” (Moral Monster p.125). “To compare the institution of slavery to modern-day sports is as asinine as it is calloused. Modern-day athletes are paid exorbitant amounts of money, get to go to their own homes when they’re done playing for the day, don’t have to leave their wives and children when they’re traded (as slaves did), can’t be physically abused (as slaves could), and so on and so forth.” How can you read this kind of thing and be un-phased Frank? Or, for that matter, even champion Copan’s apologetics? If our own daughters had been sold and abused as sex slaves I think we might be less likely to make excuses for the biblical texts.

      Finally, I’m not proposing that god murdered anyone, I’m saying the ancient Israelites, according to the story, DID and tried to justify it by saying Yahweh commanded it. Consider this Frank. The god you worship supposedly spoke all matter into being with a single word. He effortlessly holds it all together. Colossians 1:17 “he is before all things and in him all things hold together”. I assume he can achieve this feat while sleeping, watching the super bowl, enjoying a glass of wine, etc. If he can do all of these things so simply I don’t see why he can’t just as easily do the opposite. Simply withdraw his breath, allow the dead Canaanites to fall peacefully to the ground and voila, the holy land is cleansed of all unrighteousness. The messianic blood line is kept pure and no Israelite soldiers have to be lost in the murder of men, women and children. Can you even see my point Frank? The whole story, despite being grossly immoral, is totally unnecessary. IF GOD IS REALLY THERE he can and should do the killing himself. Otherwise I’m tempted to say, hey, wait a minute, I’ve seen this type of propaganda before, someone perpetrates some evil act and then justifies it by claiming god told them to. So when we witness men killing and saying god said so I think we have to object. Othrwise, we can NEVER object to men doing this. If I went out today and started killing gay men how could you possibly condemn what I am doing unless you are willing to say god never commanded the genocides? You would have no moral or logical place to stand to make that argument. The fact that the ancient Israelites perpetrated it is all the more evidence that is was just another barbaric act of men seeking to acquire land. All that said, the archaeological evidence says it didn’t even happen which is just as big a problem for your doctrine of inerrancy.

      Again,
      “I contend that, if you claim you have been called by your god to kill other humans in his name, you have heard from no god at all. Your brutal actions are proof that a loving being gave you no such command. Cannot he who supposedly spoke the universe into existence with the word of his mouth simply withdraw the breath of the godless so they fall silently to the ground? If he’s truly there, let him do his own blood shedding. Then we can all see his mighty deeds and pay him the homage he deserves. This standard must be consistently applied to those of all political and religious persuasions, ancient and modern.”

      Regarding the creation in general. How do you feel about this statement?
      “He is no loving god who creates that which he does not universally redeem, to satisfy a need that he does not have”.

      Let’s make a deal, I will read “I Don’t Have Enough Faith To Be An Atheist” (I am willing to pay your fee and can have it on my Kindle in 30 seconds) if you will read Starks review of Moral Monster (won’t cost you a dime, find a Kindle version for free on the internet) and Robert Price’s “The Case Against The Case For Christ”. I’m not afraid, are you? Maybe you or one of your colleagues could critique Stark or Price and we could have a dialogue. You game?

      Reply
      • Frank Turek says:

        Greg, thanks again for your extended response. Given time constraints, it’s much more efficient for me to talk rather than type about these things. So if you’re open for a phone call, please email my colleague Gil@crossexamined.org your phone number and ask him to forward it to me. (BTW, Copan has responded to Stark here and written a new book on the topic: http://www.reclaimingthemind.org/blog/2011/06/is-god-a-moral-monster-revisited-preliminary-replies-to-thom-stark/).

        Reply
        • Greg says:

          I appreciate the offer Frank. I might take you up on it but I know you are plenty busy. At this point in my journey I think it might be a waste of your time. I would like to apologize to all of you for the tone in many of my posts. I have to remind myself that when I, in frustration, get rude with you guys I am effectively getting rude with my wife, children, mom, siblings, close friends, coworkers, etc, etc, etc because they all hold views similar to yours. And, because they are right in front of me, flesh and blood, people I love I would almost never take a similar tone with them. So, I apologize. It’s easy to be a jerk on a blog. I’ll try to back off some.

          That being said, the problems are still real. Frank, I have read Copan, Matt Flannigan and Thom Stark extensively, especially the responses at the site you referenced. I tried to engage with them there but they didn’t show much interest. Copan and Flannigan do respond to a very select and in my opinion, very inconsequential, set of Stark’s critiques. But, for the most part they choose not to engage with the most damaging of Stark’s critiques and excuse themselves from responding with the equivalent of a children’s playground chant, “We won’t play with Thommy Starky, we think he is way too snarky!” I encourage others to read them and see if you don’t agree.

          I’m anxious to read Copan’s new book and I hope Stark will have the time to review this one too. I’m honestly surprised Copan had the nerve to give it another shot after the last go around.

          Frank, am I right in assuming that you didn’t take the time to read Stark’s original review?

          Reply
          • Frank Turek says:

            Hi Greg, thanks for your gracious note. I agree with you regarding blogs and comments. We all have a tendency to amplify the heat rather than the light. That’s another reason I prefer to talk personally rather than go back and forth online. But I will say that people who are interested in these topics are never a waste of time in my opinion. At least you care about them. Too many people are apathetic.

            With regard to Stark, it’s been years since I looked at this critique, and I can’t remember if I got through the whole thing. As you know, tone can speak louder than the points, often in a negative way (to his credit, he apologized for his tone). What do you think is his strongest point? Maybe we can discuss over the phone at a mutually convenient time. If not, at least I’ll know what you think is his most powerful point.
            Blessings, Frank

        • Luke says:

          Dr. Turek,

          I’ve always been curious about this stance of yours. I know you have made the same offer to me in the past as well. I think it can be fairly said that part of your job is to “cross examine” views that critique Christianity. Here Greg asks some good questions, and I think there are questions you’ve been asked before. This is exactly the kind of “case against Christianity” that is in need of a through and strong “cross examination”, yet you seem to shy away from providing that cross examination for all to see. I mean, if you are going to take the time to compose and answer, why not post it for all to see? (If you wish to speak it, use a voice recognition program and ask a friend to correct the transcript.)

          I don’t mean this as a criticism. I just wonder if you’ve ever thought about it this way. Given the stated purpose of this website, I would expect you’d seek to answer these questions, and probably not just in a comment, but in its own blog post so that the case Greg makes is “cross examined” in front of many.

          Thanks,

          Luke

          Reply
  8. Louie says:

    Thank you, I think it is a great formula too. Its the ONLY written record we have, I assume its true until PROVEN false by real evidence. Lets look at the FACTS we have and if the facts prove the written record wrong and provide a logical alternative, then so be it. I’ll believe the word for now, but always want the truth. Again, the word tells me Solomon was the wisest man ever. It doesn’t say he was the best decision maker, doesn’t say he was without sin. One can be wise and make bad decisions, especially in matters of the flesh.

    Reply
    • Greg says:

      Louie, if fear of punishment is the only thing currently standing between you and reprobation I would argue that you are reprobate already. Why, if you discovered the bible were not true, would you no longer feel compelled to do acts of kindness? If you discovered today that god did not exist would you go murder your mother and father simply because your fear of being held accountable was gone? No you would not. This is a false assumption. One that apologists want your to hold yet false none-the-less.

      Reply
  9. Louie says:

    I’m certainly no expert on either. But the Quran speaks of Jesus and the NT & OT. They are both based on similar roots from what I can tell. If the OT is true, there is no reason to go any further than the writings of the NT, since they were written by people that walked with him. Mohammad, I don’t know who was whispering in his ear (God or Statan), and as I understand it, neither did he. And if the OT is true, and Jesus is God in flesh, and the Quran does not follow the teachings of God himself, then I see no reason to bother with it. However, if christianity claims we twarted and muslim claims were being proven true, then I would certainly start researching it more.

    Reply
  10. Louie says:

    Because as I see it, either we are here by God or by chance. If it is by chance, then it is survival of the fittest and I serve my species best by letting the weaker die out and the stronger survive. Would I murder? I would not search out the opportunity, but I would not hesitate if it directly benefited me since there are really no reprocussions anyway.

    Reply
    • Greg says:

      So the only thing holding you back from murdering your wife, kids, parents, siblings, close friends etc…if they got in the way of your success is your fear that god would punish you for it? Wow, you’re a scary dude! Please, for all of our sakes, keep believing in god.

      Louie, this is a false dichotomy that apologists have asked you to accept and sadly, you have obliged them. There are members of all faiths, cultures, creeds, agnostics, atheists, etc. that are just as moral and I dare say more moral in many cases than Christians. Christianity is not necessary for moral behavior. In my thinking the golden rule will suffice. And don’t let them fool you that this too originated with the Mosaic law.

      Reply
    • Andy (@ItsAndyRyan) says:

      “I would not hesitate [to murder] if it directly benefited me since there are really no reprocussions anyway.”

      So you don’t actually care about the suffering of others, you just want to avoid ‘reprocussions’? I agree with Greg, you sound like a very uncaring person – far less caring than most of the atheists I know.

      “I serve my species best by letting the weaker die out”

      How is this serving your species best? I serve humanity best by caring for all. The ‘weaker members’, as you so callously call them, are just as much members of the species as the ones you seem to believe are ‘stronger’ (you don’t say how you are making the evaluation of which ones are stronger – would Stephen Hawking qualify as strong or weak? Would letting him die benefit society?). I really don’t think you’ve thought this philosophy through.

      Reply
  11. Louie says:

    Greg – I apologize for leaving my comments at the end of the topic. I am clicking on “reply” below your responses, but it places my response at the end. Whatever.

    Reply
  12. Louie says:

    Greg & Andy,
    When you have no base to judge/set moral standards, then morality is just relative. It is very scary… isn’t it.

    Reply
    • Andy (@ItsAndyRyan) says:

      No, Louie – YOU are the one saying you can’t see any reason not tomurder anyone as long as you can get away with it. That is YOU, the Christian, saying that. So yes, your Christian perspective is pretty scary, and doesn’t seem a compelling alternative to Humanism, where one doesn’t do good simply because one is trying to avoid celestial punishment.

      You give no impression that you want to help others out of compassion or to prevent suffering – suffering which exists whether or not a God exists. You have clearly said you only care about that suffering if a God exists, despite the fact that the suffering is the same either way. Either you care about it or you don’t. You clearly don’t.

      Reply
  13. Beck says:

    I can completely see where louie is coming from. Its rather silly for you to immediately jump to him murdering his close family. As for myself if i were not a Christian i would see no reason for me not to steal things all the time, its like my mind unconsciously thinks of inventive ways to steal and not get caught. In the case of murder the risk as opposed to the reward isnt there so i would refrain from it on that basis, but to say that it is “wrong” to murder homeless people on the street or to kill the millions of people on social welfare that do not try to contribute to society seems very arbitrary in your worldview. It is very narrow minded of you to say that Christians as myself refrain from doing wrong things based on a fear of “celestial punishment” for me it is like listening to your parents and doing what they ask when youre in your teens and mentaly mature. You arent afraid of their punishments you do it because you love them and have a personal relationship and respect for them and there wishes. (Im on my phone so pardon spelling errors and punctuation)

    Reply
  14. Louie says:

    Andy, you can calm down, I am not looking to murder anyone. The point is that there is no standard by which your “morality” is based, it is just feelings. If feelings change from person to person then so can “morality” when it is not based on Gods truth. But look how quickly you became upset with my “feelings”. And think how awful it could get, if I was a great speaker and could sway the “feelings” of others, and get them to take hold of my own. Nazi Germany comes to mind…

    Reply
    • Andy (@ItsAndyRyan) says:

      “if I was a great speaker and could sway the “feelings” of others, and get them to take hold of my own. Nazi Germany comes to mind…”

      I agree that it’s a good job you’re not a great speaker Louie, because you obviously DO hold appalling views. You’ve said clearly that you don’t care at all about other people. It’s a bigger risk that a great speaker could lead YOU to do terrible things, and your faith is no defence against this at all. You mention Nazi Germany, an overwhelmingly Christian country. NB, I won’t get into an argument about the religious beliefs of the leader Nazis; what is undeniable is that the ‘swayed masses’ WERE Christian by a large majority.

      “And think how awful it could get”

      Erik Wielenberg has a great answer to this:
      “Some theists who accept the conclusion of the God as the source of ethics argument fail to appreciate its consequences fully. [William Lane] Craig is an example. One of his central themes is how awful it would be if God did not exist…Craig refers to the “horror of modern man” – facing life in (what “modern man” takes to be) a Godless universe. But if there can be no good or evil if God does not exist, then there can be no evil if God does not exist. So if God doesn’t exist, nothing bad can ever happen to anyone. The conclusion of the God as the source of ethics argument implies that there is nothing good about a Godless universe – but it equally implies that there is nothing bad about it either. If this argument is sound there can be nothing awful or horrible about a Godless universe. The short version of Craig’s self-contradictory message is “Without God there would be no value in the universe – and think how horrible that would be!””

      Reply
  15. Louie says:

    Andy, good grief…
    They we not Christians, as Jesus clearly did not teach what the Nazi’s practiced. That is how you know is someone is full of it, watch what they do, not so much what they say.
    As for morals, you can quote “people” all you want, but they are only just that, “people” that are finite in wisdom. It is clear that if “God”, then His rules that govern morality/good/evil apply. If “evolution”, then mans rules govern, which change from one group of people to the next.
    May God bless you & yours and your search for truth. May you ultimately find the truth and the peace that comes along with it.

    Reply
    • Andy (@ItsAndyRyan) says:

      Louie, now you’re just playing ‘No true Scotsman’ – 1930s Germany was overwhelmingly Christian. Don’t go quoting history to people if you don’t know your history. My point stands.

      If quotes from ‘people’ are simply to be dismissed (why the scare quotes – Wielenberg IS a person), then why should I listen to your arguments, given that you’re a person too? You’ve completely ignored Wielenberg’s point, which also therefore still stands.

      NB, Your reference to ‘evolution’ is a non sequitur.

      Reply
      • toby says:

        Actually you can see how a christian people could think they are over and above others in terms of worth. Look at the OT. “hey, Israelites! Go kill this people and take their virgin women! You are my chosen ones!”

        Reply
  16. Louie says:

    I’m not playing at all, just looking at actions. Is our nation overwhelmingly christian? Abortion & Divorce rates alone make me skeptical. Careful about how you label a nation as “christian” or not. Its about actions, Andy, not words, not polls, not the past.
    You should NOT listen to me!! Please go read the new testament texts for yourself. When completed, look at 1940 Germany, and see that they may have claimed to be christians, but their actions tell otherwise.

    Reply
      • Andy (@ItsAndyRyan) says:

        Then the only Christian died 2,000 years ago, and there have been no Christians since. And ‘Christians are good people’ becomes an unfalsifiable claim, as bad people are instantly branded ‘not true Christians’. It’s a shoddy argument.

        Reply
        • Luke says:

          Of course it’s a shoddy argument! Because at what point does someone get disqualified from Christianity? And what qualifies US to pick that line of demarcation? Ordering genocide isn’t cool. But what about being fearful and not actively fighting against it? That gets a little tougher. What about things more mundane than mass murder? Can a Christian ever yell at their children? Given this “you can tell x isn’t a Christian because he does bad things” I don’t see how. I mean, yelling at a child for some mundane indiscretion is such a horrible thing. What about getting angry with a co-worker? The sermon on the mount tells us this is pretty much equal to murder.

          Let me give a good real life example from yesterday. In the state of Texas in the United States, there was a Texas Muslim Capitol Day, which is an annual celebration where members of the Muslim community visit the capitol and meet lawmakers and things like that. A woman stormed the podium during a speech and grabbed the microphone and started to “proclaim the name of the Lord Jesus Christ” and insulting Islam. She was visibly angry.

          Was this woman a Christian? I’d guess Louie would say no. (But I shouldn’t guess: what say you, Louie?) How can we say know? I’m quite sure she believes right down to her core that she is. I’d even be willing to bet she’d rather die than renounce Jesus (something we are told is evidence for the resurrection itself in the case of the apostles). So how can we deny her that? Who are we to tell her she is wrong?

          This is the problem with the “this person’s behaviour clearly means they are not a Christian” while “this person’s behaviour, while bad, is still good enough to be Christian”. When we do this, we are elevating our judgement to G-d’s level! I mentioned the sermon on the mount above, in it Jesus clearly says just calling someone a fool (a pretty mundane transgression compared to many things we see everyday) is enough to deserve the fires of hell. In Matthew 25, Jesus tells us it’s not even the bad things we may do that cast us into the fire, it’s the things we fail to do — clothing our naked, visiting the convicted.

          I’d certainly say it’s quite the act of arrogance to think we can be the ones to separate the sheep from the goats.

          Thanks,

          Luke

          Reply
          • Andy (@ItsAndyRyan) says:

            What’s more, Luke, Louie above clearly says he doesn’t care about other people and would happily kill them if he didn’t think it would annoy God. Most Christians I know would say that is a deeply unChristian attitude. Does that mean Louie himself isn’t a true Christian? Sounds like the only difference between him and the Nazis is that the latter convinced themselves that God was cool with them slaughtering unbelievers – it’s not that Louie has any more compassion for his fellow man than them.

  17. Louie says:

    Andy and Luke:
    Yeah…. that is EXACTLY what Jesus says about how to be a Christian …anyway.
    Andy just can’t get over what I said a few days ago about killing. I made that statement to help him understand how dangerous it is when you have no standard of morality other than what comes from man. Apparently I did a good job, because he is still ranting about it. Rant all you want, but if their is no God, you have no authority to claim anyones standards wrong, since your standards are just yours and everyone else is allowed that same freedom!

    Reply
    • Andy (@ItsAndyRyan) says:

      Louie, all you showed me was how dangerous your own uncaring viewpoint is. YOU, the Christian, was the one saying you’d happily kill your own friends. When I point this out, politely, you call it a ‘rant’.

      Reply
  18. Luke says:

    Louie said:“Yeah…. that is EXACTLY what Jesus says about how to be a Christian …anyway.”

    You’re responding to a lot there, and I’m not really sure what you mean by the pronoun. What is “EXACTLY what Jesus says?” I know I’m not the clearest writer in the world, but you really have to be more specific if you wish to engage in productive discourse.

    Reply
    • Andy (@ItsAndyRyan) says:

      It doesn’t help that it reads like he MAY be being sarcastic, making the meaning even more opaque.

      “Andy just can’t get over what I said a few days ago about killing”
      Yeah, funny that. You say you’d have no compunction about killing your own family if you thought you could get away with it, and a few days ago people haven’t completely forgotten about it. Ironic coming from someone who brought up the Nazis. Hey Louie – that was 70 years ago and you’re still ‘ranting’ about it. Move on, man!

      Reply
  19. Louie says:

    You guys are awesome. The original conversation was about morality, and I tried to demonstrate how dangerous it is to allow men to set the moral standard. I’ve tried to steer you back to the original topic, but you cannot get over my example. You want me to move on? Done….

    Reply
    • Andy (@ItsAndyRyan) says:

      Sorry Louie, but once you tell us you’d happily kill your own family to get what you want, it’s hard to take your opinions on morality seriously. You’ve had several chances to say that you DON’T actually feel that way, and actually care for you own family, but each time you’ve neglected to do so. Instead you’ve ridiculed the idea that I should be shocked by it. Just me mentioning it is described as ‘ranting’, suggesting you still stand by your words, and in fact see nothing odd about it at all. This mentality is completely alien to me. I honestly don’t understand it at all, and it’s so divorced from the way I feel about my fellow human beings that I can’t really see how productive discussion of morality with you is possible.

      Reply
  20. Luke says:

    Louie,

    You brought up Nazi Germany earlier, let me ask you a question about that. Do you think the NAZI final solution was wrong? I’m not asking if you think G-d thinks it was wrong, or if you think that it didn’t align with G-d’s nature? I’m just asking you and you alone, do you think those things were deeply wrong?

    Thanks,

    Luke

    Reply
  21. Moral Monkey says:

    In defending this video you state:

    “if the chronology is not revised, then essentially there is no evidence for the Exodus and Conquest.”

    In other words: “If we don’t alter the chronology as laid forth in the bible, there is no evidence for the Exodus and Conquest.”

    Put another way: “The bible doesn’t comport with reality, we must change it so it does in order to continue believing what we do.”

    Do you not see the logical flaws in coming to your conclusions in this way? It’s an incredibly flawed mode of thinking. Looking for ways to make a circle fit a square in order to “support” what you believe rather than looking for answers, regardless of where the evidence leads you.

    Reply
    • Darrel says:

      Moral Monkey, if the discoveries in science weren’t revised, the whole world would believing many lies.
      Moral Monkey…“If we don’t alter the chronology as laid forth in the bible, there is no evidence for the Exodus and Conquest. Put another way: The bible doesn’t comport with reality, we must change it so it does in order to continue believing what we do.”
      There are many studies (ologies) of the Bible. There is no way to be absolutely certain that when we study any ancient piece of literature that our interpretation is correct. Sounds very similar to the ologies (sciences) of the natural world. So if science (ologies) is self correcting, so are the ologies of the Bible. Does the natural world laws change or does our understanding of them change? Same is true about the Bible. The Bible doesn’t change, only our interpretation of it changes. What is flawed is your remark. Instead of saying “the bible doesn’t comport with reality” it is our interpretation that doesn’t comport with reality so we must be willing to revisit our understanding of it. If you still think it is flawed, so are all the ologies of the real world.

      Reply
  22. Robne Palmer says:

    The Bible Narrative is factual history and yes the dating is important as the evidence shows for the time of occurance the narrative is indeed true.

    The Numbers chapter 13 mentions “The Fields of Zoan,” and this is not a reference to Tanis a city, but to a Pharaoh’s name during which time the Children of Israel where secured in the land of Goshen (The “irririgated lands” of the Pharaoh). This place was before the exodus and so it gives us a time for the period of the Sojourn in Egypt. This time is not welcomed by the Egyptologists as those like Manetho whom believ that only during a time wher foreign rulers took over Egypt would the ancestors of the Jews be able to be in a position of power in the Egyptian Government. Yet many misread Josephus where he staes that the Israelites left Egypt over 500 years before the time of the Hyksos invasions of the 2nd Millennium BCE! There is record of an event that the scholars have ignored recorded in inscriptions by bothEgypt and Moab of the same time period, where tens of thosusand of Israelites are recordedly slain in “Canaan” (in the land of the people of Israel) just after the time of Ramses II’s reign in the 13th century BCE, but scholars do not translate the full script by either Egyptian or Moabite records that talk about the great slaughter by nine nations combined. It is hidden in the Jewish scriptures as well but there for all to read. This gives us a date for the event in the 13th century BCE of the Divided Kingdom after David was dead by at least over a hundred and twenty years, as he lived in the Amarna Period of Egyptian record in the 15 and 14th centuries BCE. I love History. The Thinkingman, “Patterns of evidence” people, not so much, they like tickled ears or real factual history

    Reply

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