Archaeology shows Genesis 1-3 does not mean what you think

Does the claim ‘archaeology prove the bible true’ have merit?  Well yes and no.  Why the equivocation?  Because often those who make the claim ‘archaeology proves the bible true’ fail to distinguish between their understanding of the bible and what the bible says.  They might as well say ‘archaeology proves my understanding is true’.  Archaeology categorically undermines the creationist claims about the bible.  The writers of this blog don’t question the inspiration of the bible.  But we certainly reject the exaltation of one reading of the bible to be as certain as scripture itself.

Creationists claim to take scripture literally, at face value.  They will, quite reasonably, trumpet the advances of archaeological discovery which tie readily into the bible record (and their reading of it).  Some examples of this include:

  • The Lampstand Magazine heralding the discovery of first temple era pottery, demonstrating the long historical association of Jews with the land and the pre-exilic record.[1]
  • The archaeological conclusion of the three gates at Hazor, Megiddo and Gezer as being Solomonic per 1 Kings 9:15.
  • The unearthed detail on the Assyrian Empire which ties to much of the record in Kings[2]
  • The Moabite Stone/Mesha Stele mentioning Yahweh and the events of 2 Kings 3[3]

The value of these discoveries is immense and does help inform our understanding and expectation of the record (e.g. we have a better understanding of Rahab’s house now than when most of us did Sunday School).  Such helpful discoveries, which are used witnesses to the integrity of God’s word, rest on the science of archaeology.

The problem for the creationists who use archaeology to support their preaching efforts, is they don’t recognise that archaeology disproves their reading of Genesis 1-3.  The same techniques, the same disciplines the same wealth of evidence.

This is hardly a new problem.  The “literal in all its details” reading of Genesis 1 demanded by The Lampstand would require a global inundation and new start to all life.  Bro CC Walker noted “there does not appear to be any evidence at all that some six thousand years ago an existing cosmos was reduced to such a chaos as is described in Gen 1:2”[4]The observation was repeated by Bro LG Sargent in 1966[5].  51 years further on and the archaeologists’ shovels and mining companies’ drills have still failed to find what should be the most obvious, globally consistent piece of evidence for the creationist’s reading.  There is no universal dead zone in the layers of the earth.  The facts completely, catastrophically, contradict the creationist reading of Genesis 1.

It is not just the obvious lack of a ‘dead layer’ in the earth’s crust which contradicts the creationist’s understanding.  In Israel itself – of all places! – there are abundant sites which demonstrate the literalist reading of Genesis 2-3 is incorrect.  While not on any standard Christadelphian tours of the holy land, there is wealth of archaeological sites witnessing to an abundant population well before the circa 4,004 BC creation of Adam and Eve.

The Natufians

Israel has a wealth of Natufian sites like Mt Carmel, Jericho and through the Negev.  This is a culture which dates to 10,500 to 8,300 BC – ages confirmed by carbon dating.  Whilst this culture shows evidence of basic construction, flint based tools, leatherworking and permanent settlements, it was pre-agriculture[6].  The culture was named Wadi en-Natuf (which lies on the western edge of the Judean hills) where it was first discovered in 1928[7] (ie this has been known about for a long time!).

The map below shows the spread of Natufian sites in the region[8]

natufian sites israel

The Natufians were primarily hunter gathers but tended to form large settlements “near permanent stands of wild cereals”, which in time developed to agriculture and animal husbandry – markers of the development of the more advanced Neolithic culture[9].

Science has investigated the skeletons from Natufian sites, which has revealed detail of their lives:

they were generally healthy, with a stature of 153–160 cm (i.e., ca. 60–62.5 inches), a life expectancy of 32–35, and about 20–30 percent mortality of children 0–12 years old. Teeth attrition demonstrates (except for the Kebara sample) the eating of ground and pounded substances[10]

Interestingly the Natufians had some travel or long distant trade going on because finds in their sites include Anatolian obsidian, Egyptian shellfish and malachite beads.[11]

While interesting from a purely historical perspective, these remains point to specific conclusions around how Genesis 2-3 should be understood.  The very same science which provides support for the veracity of the bible in the Kings record also demonstrates Adam & Eve were not the sole progenitors of humanity some 6,000 years ago.

 

Jericho

Jericho is a popular site for visitors to the holy land.  The ancient tell is quite accessable and the ruins impressive.  It must be disconcerting to some at least to see the signs at the entrance, and through the ruins, pointing out the history of Jericho goes back to around 10,000 BC.  The site overview provides the information right up front – the same science covers from 8,500BC to timeframes conservative Bible scholars are more comfortable with:

Jericho tell tourism path

The finds actually go back further to Natufian culture remnants on the site.  However, the most impressive artifacts date back to the Neolithic age.  A large circular stone tower (or at least a large part of its’ base) remains today as a witness to a more complex world than the Sunday School version of Genesis 2-3.  The tower dates back to around 8,000 BC[12] and is pictured below

8,000BC Neolithic tower in Jericho

8,000 year old Jericho ruins

The ancient history of Jericho is readily accessible (Wikipedia![14]).  It clearly demonstrates the literal creationists need to rethink their reading of Genesis.

Conclusion

Archaeology provides some fantastic external evidence for the truth of the bible.  Such work is promoted by many – including creationists.  However, creationists are either cherry picking or remain ignorant of the breadth of archaeological finds in the holy land.  Archaeology has comprehensively demonstrated continuous human habitation in the area goes back to at least 10,000BC – well beyond the scope of any literal reading of Genesis 1-3.

 

[1] https://thelampstand.com.au/recent-discoveries-in-israel/

[2] https://thelampstand.com.au/assyria-and-biblical-archaeology/

[3] https://thelampstand.com.au/the-moabite-stone-an-important-nineteenth-century-discovery/

[4] Walker CC “The Word of God”  Chapter 3

[5] LG Sargent “What do we believe”, The Christadelphian Magazine Vol 103 page 459 (1966)

[6] Mazar, A. (1990). Archaeology of the land of the Bible 10,000-586 B.C.E. (p. 36). New Haven;  London: Yale University Press.

[7] Negev, A. (1990). In The Archaeological encyclopedia of the Holy Land (3rd ed.). New York: Prentice Hall Press.

[8] http://historiadecanarias-abilio99.blogspot.com.au/p/bloque-tematico-de-historia-1-eso.html

[9] Kaiser, W. C., Jr. (1998). A history of Israel: from the bronze age through the Jewish Wars (p. 35). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

[10] Bar-Yosef, O. (1992). Palestine, Archaeology of: Prehistoric Periods. In D. N. Freedman (Ed.), The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary (Vol. 5, pp. 102–103). New York: Doubleday.

[11] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Natufian_culture

[12] Kuppayil, J. (n.d.). Conquest of Jericho:  Archaeological Findings and Biblical Understanding.

[13] Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=9063164

[14] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jericho#Natufian_hunter-gatherers,_c._10,000_BC

3 thoughts on “Archaeology shows Genesis 1-3 does not mean what you think

  1. Pingback: We don’t want you to accept Evolutionary Creation | Christadelphians Origins Discussion

  2. Daniel Munyan

    Or…the archaeology could be showing us that Bishop Usher’s simple counting of biblical genealogies as Father-son was wrong. Maybe the world of Eden was in the Pleistocene – given the bible tells us there was plenty of water but no rain – and the great flood of Noah recounted everywhere was the end of the ice age 28,000 years ago. The memory of man is very short, despite what we hear about oral histories. Even our relatively recent (450 B.C.) ancestors by the golden age of Greek history (after the dark ages at the end of the bronze age) reduced their history of less than a century earlier to pure mythology, as the Babylonians and Assyrians had done to their Sumerian ancestors. Maybe Noah’s sons were just paleolithic hunter-gatherers who continued on as they were through the generations, until God saw fit to send the Younger-Dryas period that chilled the world again, killed off 3/4 of all large land animals, and pushed the families, clans, and tribes together to share less available land. That is where we see humans depending first on wild cereals for more of their diet, then later domesticating pigs, goats, and sheep to supplement their hunting, which was getting harder. Eventually psuedo-planting the wild cereals and picking out better grazing areas to revisit at harvest, then lastly settling down with the form towns, villages, and eventually cities. It was from a Sumerian turned Akkadian city – Ur, that God called Abraham and biblical history restarts.

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    1. COD Post author

      Hi Daniel. Appreciate the comment. We agree there is no ready reconciliation between archaeology and the simple reading of the record as per Ussher. Cheers

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