Monday, August 10, 2009

Video: Search for Sodom and Gomorrah

Ferrell Jenkins links to a new video on the excavations of Tall el-Hammam, believed by Steven Collins to be biblical Sodom.  The 10-minute video is well-produced and the excavator’s arguments are easy to understand.  I don’t need to make every mention of this excavation on this blog an occasion to disagree, but it is difficult to let certain statements slide by. Besides that, conservative Bible believers like myself are used to hearing critical dismissals from those who don’t trust the Bible.  But just because something is opposed by critics does not mean that it is automatically right!

The problem, I believe, is that Collins’ statement “right place, right time” dooms his identification.  Finding ancient sites that have Middle Bronze occupation and then a gap until Iron Age is not difficult.  That’s what Collins has found.  This and the others in the area are no doubt important sites, but it does not fit the biblical data about Sodom.  Collins concludes with the presentation with this statement:

Every turn of the spade at Tall el-Hammam reinforces the occupational profile predicted for Sodom from the Bible.

If this statement was negative, it would be accurate.  That is, Tall el-Hammam does not match the occupational profile for Sodom given in the Bible. 

Sodom, according to the Bible:

  • Intermediate Bronze (aka EB IV/MB I; 2300-2000 BC): occupied and destroyed
  • Middle Bronze (2000-1500 BC): not occupied
  • Late Bronze (1500-1200 BC): not occupied
  • Iron Age (1200-600 BC): not occupied

Tall el-Hammam, according to the excavations:

  • Intermediate Bronze (aka EB IV/MB I; 2300-2000 BC): occupied
  • Middle Bronze (2000-1500 BC): occupied [Sodom was not]
  • Late Bronze (1500-1200 BC): not occupied
  • Iron Age (1200-600 BC): occupied [Sodom was not]

With regard to the Middle Bronze occupation, understand this: you must revise the biblical dates in order for Collins’ identification to match the archaeology.  He lowers the date of Abraham in order to create a match with his excavation results.  The traditional biblical dating of the destruction of Sodom is approximately 2100 BC, but the Middle Bronze Age ends about 500 years later.   (The key references that establish the biblical dating are Exodus 12:40 and 1 Kings 6:1.)

With regard to the Iron Age occupation, there is not one reference in the Bible to Sodom being occupied during this time.  There are many references from the end of the Iron Age that indicate that its destruction testified to God’s judgment (Isa 1:9; 13:19-20; Jer 50:40; Amos 4:11; Zeph 2:9).  This would hardly be the case for a city that was rebuilt and thriving as Tall el-Hammam was.

Understand, I want to believe.  The data just gets in the way.

My previous posts on this site may be found here and here.  Steven Collins has written a number of articles about Tall el-Hammam which may be found in his school’s journal here.

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28 Comments:

  • Thanks for taking the time to post this article, Todd! I'm torn because I like & admire Dr. Collins & the work he & his team are doing, but I've disagreed with him on his identification of the site, & yet I've also made my own small financial contributions to the project. One thing in particular I've always been curious about is the Iron Age issue you addressed here. In all the reports I've received from Dr. Collins, the emphasis is always on the harmony between the site & the Genesis clues; I've never heard him discuss the Iron Age issue via Biblical references as you've done. I'm guessing his rebuttal would be that the site would still be a reminder of God's destruction even if it were reoccupied in the Iron, because the Bronze ruins would still be at least partially visible.

    By Blogger G.M. Grena, at Mon Aug 10, 11:36:00 PM  

  • Todd, the video is poor quality. Sound and picture stops and starts throughout, making it difficult to watch and hear. Is this just my computer or is it with the video?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at Tue Aug 11, 04:17:00 PM  

  • Anonymous - I haven't had any problems with it.

    By Blogger Todd Bolen, at Tue Aug 11, 04:37:00 PM  

  • The audio/video quality is excellent. What you've described is typical performance from an older PC. Before I upgraded this year, that used to happen on mine too.

    By Blogger G.M. Grena, at Tue Aug 11, 07:34:00 PM  

  • Right now the main problem with this excavation is that, to the best of my knowledge (and I'd be very happy to hear that I am misinformed!), NOTHING about this excavation has been published in peer-reviewed journals that deal with archaeology. I am eagerly waiting for this, not due to the yes/no Sodom issue (although I do find it hard to accept - but once again, would like to SEE publications), but since I am VERY interested in the MB of the Jordan Valley (just about to submit to press a book on this).
    If there is scientific (or even semi-popular) summaries of the excavation somewhere out there (and not the summaries that can now be found on line which are simply not sufficiently informative), I would be VERY glad to hear about this.

    Aren Maeir

    By Blogger Aren, at Mon Aug 17, 10:13:00 AM  

  • Dr. Maier, those of us who have supported the excavation have received regular updates with photos equivalent to your awesome Safi/Gath blog. Dr. Collins has recently completed an article for ADAJ (Annual of the Department of Antiquities of Jordan): "TALL AL-HAMMAM: PRELIMINARY REPORT ON FOUR SEASONS OF EXCAVATION (2006-2009)" by
    Steven Collins, Khalil Hamdan, and Gary A. Byers, with contributions by 8 other people. It's a 35-page PDF that should satisfy your interest once it's been published (later this year, he hopes). He has also reported that he's had "some very good conversations with Israel Finkelstein, Kay Prag, Anson Rainey, and Amihai Mazar." So he's not really doing his work in isolation from the archeological community. I am going to forward a link to this blog to Dr. Collins, & I'm confident he'll respond to you directly, promptly, & enthusiastically.

    By Blogger G.M. Grena, at Mon Aug 17, 08:36:00 PM  

  • MaEir
    MaEir
    MaEir
    ...

    The archeologist has a first name, it's A R E N.

    The archeologist has a second name, it's M A E I R.

    Oh I love to read his blog every day,

    And if you ask me why, I'll say,

    Cuz Aren MaEir has a way with B L O G G I N G.

    Okay, so maybe it doesn't rhyme as well as the old commercial jingle for Oscar Mayer, but I obviously need help with the spelling.

    By Blogger G.M. Grena, at Mon Aug 17, 11:58:00 PM  

  • Boy, do I hate these limited blogs! You just can’t do a detailed discussion of substance. But here goes…
    You can’t use later prophetic, poetic, non-narrative passages to reflect historical information on this issue. Such “destruction” language is used about Babylon, Jerusalem, Nineveh, etc. YHWH never said in Gen that he would “wipe out the Cities of the Plain (CK)” forever. He did destroy them. They, in fact, were never rebuilt. When the Israelites got there (Plains of Moab), nobody was home (thus the LB gap issue). Who says that later people couldn’t build towns and villages on that well-watered area. God does say often that if Jerusalem (or the Israelites) didn’t straighten up and fly right that he’d “make them a heap of salty ruins forever, like Sodom and Gomorrah.” Never in the OT does God ever say that the Kikkar would be desolate forever. In fact, it became the territory of Reuben/Gad! Taking the often hyperbolic, poetic language of the prophets and using that to make any claim about the permanency of the CK destruction is hermeneutically unwise, indeed unwarranted.
    SC

    By Blogger Dr. Steven Collins, at Tue Aug 18, 09:41:00 AM  

  • As for the chronology, Albright, Kitchen, and a host of other scholars would place Abraham much later in the MB. That's because they realized the formulaic nature of the patriarchal life-numbers, and took a late date for the Exodus. That the patriarchal life-numbers are honorific/formulaic works. A literal, arithmetic approach creates big problems. We must admit that their use of numbers is mysterious to us. All we can hope to derive from them are reasonable approximations that must ultimately be amended through historical synchronisms. The Egyptian sojourn was short (an "honorific" 215 years, not 430 years). I've dealt with this issue in detail in other places. As for the LB gap issue brought up by Aren Maeir: This is a fair observation. However, while many sites in the region don't have LB1, many have LB2. But not Hammam and its neighbors. LB is entirely missing there. Jericho even had LB2, but nothing in LB1. Deir 'Alla and Pella have both. The Bible makes it clear that when Moses and Joshua got to the eastern Kikkar (aka, Plains of Moab) during LB2 (14th century) nobody was home. Perhaps the Israelite presence there for some time gave locals the confidence to begin to migrate back into the area. In fact, the Israelites did make that their Ruben/Gad territory, and continued to occupy that land from that time forward. Here's a little conundrum: The biblical geography is quite comprehensive, especially for the major city sites. If these major cities on the eastern Jordan Kikkar weren't the sites giving rise to the CK tradition, then that would make Hammam and the others completely invisible in the biblical text. How could the Gen writer have missed a huge part of the local geography, like (probably) two significant city-states (all visible ruins in his day)! If this isn't the location of the CK, then there's a huge hole in the biblical geography that's hard to explain. By the way, there are no other Bronze Age cities on the Kikkar of the Jordan River that could qualify for the Gen CK. The area is now thoroughly explored and documented (over the past 35 years into the present). The southern location for Sodom is a waste of time because it doesn't fit the biblical geography of Gen 13 or 14. All my discussions on this issue are easy to access. The geography is solid. The cities are there during the Bronze Age. A match! Let's not get sidetracked by the bad hermeneutics of dragging into the discussion centuries-later prophetic/poetic passages that were not written whatsoever to deal either with Sodom's location or the duration of the destruction of the Kikkar after the days of Lot.
    SC

    By Blogger Dr. Steven Collins, at Tue Aug 18, 09:41:00 AM  

  • Another note on Todd's comment about the frequency of a gap after the MB. I beg to differ. This kind of gap isn't ubiquitous by any means. Just look at the surrounding area. At Hammam and Kikkar neighbors, there is no occupation from the late MB down to the very late IA1 or early IA2. But either LB1, LB2, or both is well-documented at Jericho, Jerusalem, Nebo, Hammam, Deir 'Alla, Pella, e. Umayri, Jallul, Hebron, Bethel---and I could go on and on. The fact is that there is no ubiquitious absence of LB over the southern Levant. The LB is strongly present for 360 degrees beyond a 25km radius of Tall el-Hammam. In what other area other than the eastern Jordan Disk is there a systematic occupational gap from late MB for the next six or seven centuries?...Hmmmmm? And one must ask, why would the best-watered agricultural land in the region remain uninhabited for so many centuries? There really can be no doubt that the Gen writer has, in his 13:1-12 serial geography, taken us to a place north and east of the Dead Sea where extensive ruins were readily visible. Indeed, the Bronze Age ruins are readily visible on the surface even today! By the way, there are only six geo-parameters in the biblical text regarding the location of Gath. How is Safi identified as Gath (there is no inscription!)? Perhaps those six indicators are enough. I think so! Well, there are 25 geo-indicators in Gen regarding the location of Sodom, and not a single one of them points in any direction other than the area dominated by Tall el-Hammam. Go figure!

    By Blogger Dr. Steven Collins, at Tue Aug 18, 10:22:00 AM  

  • In my last comment, I included "Hammam" in my list of LB sites. At that point, I meant to type "Amman", a noted LB site.
    SC

    By Blogger Dr. Steven Collins, at Tue Aug 18, 10:30:00 AM  

  • Todd (others, too) has used several OT prophetic "Sodom" passages in an attempt to postulate the "forever" nature of the CK (Cities of the Kikkar) destruction. In not one of them is there any reason to assume that the destruction of the Kikkar was permanent. In fact, in the case of each prophetic analogy (for Babylon and Israel) it is said that they would be "as Sodom..." But the fact is that each of those locations continued to be occupied from that day to this. So, wherein does the "forever toasted" analogy apply literally? It never does, except as it applies simply to the fact of the destruction of Sodom, Babylon, or Israel. The cities of "moment" were judged and destroyed. They were/are considered gone forever. But each location was/is re-inhabited in a major way. Now, if Todd's logic were applied to his choice for Sodom, Bab edh-Dhra, one can see that that walled city was destroyed in 2350 BCE (long before any chronology for Abraham!), plus, it was almost immediately occupied by a small un-walled village and lasted until about 2200 BCE, still too early for Abraham! So, even Bab edh-Dhra didn't stay uninhabited after its destruction (and remember, Sodom must be walled)! And the area (the plain) below that site is occupied today.
    SC

    By Blogger Dr. Steven Collins, at Tue Aug 18, 11:34:00 AM  

  • Another little point:
    The later date for Abraham is preferred by a majority of chronographers, including Finegan. The early date for Abraham can be supported ONLY by the Masoretic reading of Ex 12:40 (I've dealt with all this in gory detail at www.biblicalresearchbulletin.com). I came to this conclusion long before I ever thought about the Sodom issue. I have never "cooked" any set of data to accommodate my Sodom theory. I always go with the reasonable facts, whether biblical, geographical, or archaeological. To this point, all the factually-based data are in leaning in our direction. All the counter arguments are simply non sequiturious, like the "can't be anyone living on the Kikkar during the Iron Age" one.
    SC

    By Blogger Dr. Steven Collins, at Tue Aug 18, 11:48:00 AM  

  • Dr. Collins - I agree that blogs are not well suited to extensive interaction. Thank you for giving us more support for your positions. I'll make one brief point here, and perhaps when time permits, another point or two. For now:

    When was Sodom destroyed, according to the Bible?

    You say that the 430 years reading is supported ONLY by the Masoretic Text, but that's like saying that Jesus' resurrection is supported ONLY by the New Testament. The New Testament is pretty significant evidence. The Masoretic Text is usually, but not always, the correct text. A check of a couple dozen of the most important English translations reveal that every one follows the MT reading.

    But my real question for you is this: assuming the non-MT reading of "Egypt and Canaan" for Exodus 12:40, when was Sodom destroyed?

    As far as I know, there is no way that you can take Exodus 12:40, by itself, to support a date of the destruction of Sodom at the end of the Middle Bronze Age. The date should be closer to 1800 B.C.

    Was Tall el-Hammam destroyed c. 1800 B.C.?

    If you take 1 Kings 6:1 as non-literal, you can bring the date down further, but I didn't think you did that.

    The real irony I find in your work is that you really go after the conservatives and tell them how your work is demonstrating the historical accuracy of the Bible, and yet to get the evidence to match up, you have to dismiss numbers and passages that are not convenient to your theory. In other words, the evidence matches exactly with your selective reading of the texts.

    I would be as happy as you to see archaeological evidence for Sodom. I just find some of the evidence that you present to be uncompelling.

    Perhaps later I will address the prophecies which you consider hyperbolic and the "bad hermeneutics" that you think I am guilty of.

    For the record, Bab edh-Dhra is not "my site." I am open to the possibility, but it too must meet the historical, geographical, and archaeological criteria. You are right to note that its destruction appears to be too early for Abraham's time.

    By Blogger Todd Bolen, at Tue Aug 18, 12:38:00 PM  

  • Todd, you've made great points. I do respect your insights. You know how it goes when discussing these things so breifly! I'll try to be brief on answers to each point.

    When was Sodom destroyed? Good question. But, for a host of reasons, I don't think that the Bible is going to give us an absolute date for it. They didn't use absolute dating, and their use of numbers is not always known to us (eleph is a good example). Most late (Exodus) daters would put the careers of the patriarchs in during the latter part of the Middle Kingdom into the Hyksos period. Synchronistically, that all makes sense. But taking an earlier date for the Exodus, as I do, does cause a problem if the numbers are literal. You're certainly right about that. Here's how I get Abraham into 17th/16th century BCE: The actual date of the Exodus is between 1406 to 1386 (the date range of the death of Tuthmosis IV; also the LXX date is 1406; a whole other discussion!!!) The lives of Abraham and the other patriarchs are normal life spans plus some 40-year formulaic honorifics. Thus, they all lived life spans comparable to the pharaohs (that's on the high side). This allows the careers of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph to run their course easily during the Hyksos Period. Then, the first king of Egypt's 18th Dynasty is the anti-Hyksos/Semite Pharaoh "who knew not Joseph."
    ---continued.

    By Blogger Dr. Steven Collins, at Tue Aug 18, 05:39:00 PM  

  • Once you let go the unrealistic modern interpretation of the patriarchal life-numbers, the whole thing works. But there's another way to look at affixing a "date" to the destruction of Sodom: Remember, the text rises from the physical space-time continuum. If we follow the geography of the Gen writer to Sodom (which is terribly easy), and we find a group of cities that fit the general timeframe (Bronze Age), and there are no other candidate sites, and it's really obvious that these same cities (one in particular) dominated the Kikkar for over 1500 years before their destruction, then we can reasonably assume that those are indeed the Bronze Age Cities of the Kikkar. If that's what they are, by geography and chronological approximation, with no other viable options, then the date of their destruction will be the date of the destruction of the Cities of the Kikkar, which they are! This allows science into the picture, and lets the cities themselves help us formulate a chronology for Abraham that fits the reality of archaeology and history. This only touches the tip of the iceberg, but I think you can see the logic of this kind of aproach. Date the destruction of Hammam, and you've got the right date for the destruction of Sodom. And what might be our other candidate for Sodom if this isn't it? Of course, it must fit the clear geography of Gen 13.
    SC

    By Blogger Dr. Steven Collins, at Tue Aug 18, 05:54:00 PM  

  • Todd, you are correct about following the textual criteria. According to the definitive serial geography found in Gen 13:1-12, the Cities of the Kikkar, and Sodom, must be visible from, and east of, the area of Bethel/Ai. And the area is specified to be the Kikkar (circle; disk) of the Jordan River which, according the several OT passages, ends at "the bay of the Dead Sea, at the mouth of the Jordan, below Pisgah." Thus the CK must be north and east of the Dead Sea on the Kikkar of the Jordan. Sodom is the largest, and dominant one. Hammam fits all this, and, in fact, all 25 geo-parameters embedded in the Gen text.
    Fun stuff!
    SC

    By Blogger Dr. Steven Collins, at Tue Aug 18, 06:01:00 PM  

  • No one will ever be able to accuse Dr. Collins of shirking from a challenge! He jumps right in there with a hearty "Bring it on" attitude. I really like that!

    By Blogger G.M. Grena, at Tue Aug 18, 11:47:00 PM  

  • I appreciate George's comment.

    I also appreciate Todd's willingness to pursue the discussion. His first post states, "The problem, I believe, is that Collins’ statement “right place, right time” dooms his identification." I offer the following simple summary in rebuttal:

    RIGHT PLACE: The Cities of the Kikkar, with Sodom as the dominant city, was visible from the area of Bethel/Ai (10 miles N of Jerusalem just W of the Kikkar of the Jordan itself), from which "Lot traveled E... toward Sodom" (Gen 13:1-12). Hammam and the Kikkar sites all fit this geographical description with precision. Plus, Hammam is, by far, the dominant Bronze Age city on the Kikkar. Hammam and its associates also have a long history of occupation, over 1500 years, reflecting their existence in Gen 10 through Gen 19.

    RIGHT TIME: Generally speaking, Abraham belongs in the Middle Bronze Age, and since the biblical numbers are likely honorific and/or formulaic, the best way to fix him in time is by historical synchronisms. The destructions of the Kikkar sites (Hammam, et al) occurred toward the end of the MBA, well within the chronological ballpark. Num 21:20 (and others) states that when Moses arrived in the area in the 14th century BCE (Kikkar = Plains of Moab), the area was (still) an uninhabited wasteland. Hammam and associated Kikkar sites all have this LB gap.

    RIGHT STUFF: Sodom was fortified (Gen 19:1). Hammam was fortified. Sodom was destroyed by terrible fire after a long and prosperous existence (Gen 10-19). Hammam was destroyed by a major conflagration after dominating the region for over 1500 years. The Sodom area (eastern Kikkar) remained uninhabited at least through the time of Moses. Hammam, et al, remained uninhabited until about four centuries after Moses.

    This is only a few things. There are dozens more. What isn't to love about this identification?
    SC

    By Blogger Dr. Steven Collins, at Wed Aug 19, 12:17:00 PM  

  • Referencing the above...Geographically, it's a lock (right place). Archaeolgically, architecturally, it's a lock (right stuff). Now, I admit that, for some (fundamentalists?) who can't see their way clear to admit that the Hebrew numbers are problematic, we do run into a chronological snag. However, that's easily solved by admiting the (likely) formulaic/honorific nature of the patriarchal life-numbers. (For example, Joseph's death age is 110, the formulaic 'ideal' lifespan of a 'noble Egyptian'.) It's interesting to note that there's only one tiny instance in Gen where a grandfather interacts with his grandchildren (Jacob w/grandsons on his knees in his 'extreme old age'). If such lifespans as 175, 180, etc., were literal, then you'd suspect that there'd be plenty of multi-generational interaction going on. But there isn't. In fact, the text makes it pretty clear that a patriarch maintains that 'honorific' position until death. Thus, when Isaac and Jacob emerge as 'clan heads' in their own right, their own fathers are long gone. In other words, these men are living to average old ages typical of their cultural milieu. Perhaps most never even met their grandchildren. We must understand that the biblical patriarchs were real people who lived real lives in the real ancient Near East. That their lifespans were formulaic/honorific is as obvious as the same phenomenon we observe in the Sumerian King List, for example (which are all based on 40-year honorific computations), with any 'leftovers' being their literal regnal years.

    So, does Hammam match the chronology for Abraham? Absolutely, yes, when one treats the text with the care required to keep it within the reality of its cultural context. But if we don't do this, we lose practically every historical synchronism tying the biblical text to ANE realities. Slavish adherence to literal (usually MT) chrolologies has long kept the more conservative scholars from seeing the many 'cause-effect' relationships between the biblical and ANE histories, causing liberals to deny that such a relationship exists. Ignoring historical synchronisms is also a failure of the minimalists.
    SC

    By Blogger Dr. Steven Collins, at Wed Aug 19, 12:44:00 PM  

  • Dr. Collins, you wrote: "The lives of Abraham and the other patriarchs are normal life spans plus some 40-year formulaic honorifics."

    You mention the words "formulaic" & "honorific" over a dozen times above, so for quick reference:

    Abraham: 175
    Isaac: 180
    Jacob/Israel: 147
    Joseph: 110

    None of those numbers is evenly divisible by 40; none of them are "normal". Even if you simply subtract a magic "40" from each, you still have 135, 140, 107, 70 (none divisible by 40, & 3 of them are still absurd per evolutionists). In the context of all ages reported in Genesis, they are consistent with a decline from ~1,000 years down to ~100 years, which makes sense scientifically assuming that the curse had a progressively degrading effect on the human genome as mutations accumulated, taking a huge downward spiral after the global Flood when the environment changed drastically, particularly from the effects of the sun.

    Setting aside modern evolutionists who would LOL over the whole notion of anyone (particularly ancient people recently evolved from apelike-creatures) living over 140, why do you suppose that the writer(s) of Genesis would gradually decrease these "honorific/formulaic" ages rather than make them all equally absurd, such as 400, 200, or 800? Wouldn't the average Joe "know" that 175 is just as phony a history as 180? What purpose would it serve to make Abraham 175, but one of his sons 180?

    How does one bolster confidence in "his story" when everyone he's telling it to knows it's not true? "Son, God destroyed Sodom when I was 120 years old!" "But Dad, you're only 57 now..." "Yes son, I know, but doesn't my story sound more believable when I make my age an honorific number? Feel free to make my age any big number you want when you tell this true story to your own son about the unbelievable, miraculous thing God did to Sodom, which was the precise name of the city located precisely in the region described precisely as the Kikkar..."

    You also wrote: "If such lifespans as 175, 180, etc., were literal, then you'd suspect that there'd be plenty of multi-generational interaction going on. But there isn't."

    Here too I disagree strongly. First, there are only a few chapters on Abraham during a few brief milestones in his life; it's not a daily diary! Second, I would expect most stories would involve fathers with their sons, not fathers with their grandsons & great-grandsons. The reason being that a major feature of those stories is the transfer of birthrights from fathers to sons. Is there any ANE literature describing transfers of birthrights from fathers to grandsons even when the son is living & the father is of "normal" old age (e.g., 50-70 years)?

    By Blogger G.M. Grena, at Wed Aug 19, 11:25:00 PM  

  • I understand George's sensitivities to what I've suggested vis-a-vis biblical chronology. But again, the appeal is to a simplistic, modern arithmetic approach to the numbers. I never said that the ages were divisible by 40. The formulaic system (which, by the way, I have worked out theoretically in detail, but can't deal with it here). The declining numbres phenomenon is also a feature between pre-and post-flood kings in the SKL, similar to the one in Gen. If people insist on keeping these texts in the "realm of faith," divorced from their ANE context, then there's little hope for understanding within the realm of reality. Again, it makes perfect sense, both biblically and scientifically, to get our date for Abraham by determining the stratigraphic sequence of Sodom based on the ceramic (and other) evidence. Find Sodom, and you'll find your date for Abraham; then go with it. Since the story comes from a real-world context that is able to be analyzed scientifically, then we're using archaeology correctly in letting it assist our understanding of the biblical text. The text and the ground work very well together when a proper scientific approach is employed. The text gives us accurate geographical directions to the CK and Sodom. From there, archaeology, with its dating techniques, can help us with the chronology question. In my opinion, this allows the text to be treated authentically, not artificially. The Gen stories are true narrative representations (TNRs), which are inextricably bound together with the space-time context from which they have arisen. Thus, to ignore the power of 'the ground' to provide clarification regarding the historical context of the Gen texts is to place them on a par with the Book of Mormon. If fact, I've often called the avoidance of actual ANE context when dealing with the Bible "the Mormon hermeneutic." In other words, if the date for the destruction of Sodom, based on the science of archaeology through excavation, signals to us that a modern, base-10, arithmetic approach to the patriarchal life-numbers is obviously in error, so be it. Our goal should be to be faithful to the ancient milieu of the Bible, not to an artificial understanding of it. Faith is always best served from a bedrock of reality.

    By Blogger Dr. Steven Collins, at Thu Aug 20, 08:21:00 AM  

  • A thought: George's objection to my science-based chronological approach sounds an awful lot like "the Church's" objection to the observations of Galileo and Copernicus. I should also add that there was an obvious shift in the understanding and use of numbers between the Bronze Age and Iron Age. In the "Iron Age Scriptures" (after Judges) the numbers are obviously base-10, and similar to our modern understanding of things. In the "Bronze Age Scriptures" (Judges and before), the numbers are likely carrying formulaic (even symbolic) representations added as 'honorific attributions' or other kinds of conventions (perhaps even the writers of the Iron Age Scriptures didn't really understand them, and tendend to 'literalize' them in their own minds). The problem is that we just don't know what the Bronze Age nomadic tribes were doing in this regard, because they generally left no written records of their numbering methods and meanings. I'm giving an 18-hour, three-day lecture on all this in October at TSU in Albuquerque. I could then answer all questions in gory detail (contact Sheresa in our office for details---505-332-4253). I guarantee it will change the way you think about the Bronze Age Scriptures!!!
    SC

    By Blogger Dr. Steven Collins, at Thu Aug 20, 08:40:00 AM  

  • Along with notifications of the 2 new comments overnight by Dr. Collins, I received my daily E-mail from the History Channel:

    "On this day in 1911, a dispatcher in the New York Times office sends the first telegram around the world via commercial service. Exactly 66 years later, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) sends a different kind of message--a phonograph record containing information about Earth for extraterrestrial beings--shooting into space aboard the unmanned spacecraft Voyager II."

    Note that this date of 66 years is obviously honorific/formulaic, based on the Sumerian sexagesimal system. And don't trust any dates recorded by agencies that promote the possibility of extraterrestrial beings when there is zero scientific evidence for them.

    By Blogger G.M. Grena, at Thu Aug 20, 09:46:00 AM  

  • Mr. Grena's comment is contextually nonsensical. He obviously doesn't understand what I'm saying. We'll just have to agree to disagree, I guess! I strongly suggest that he attend my October lecture live, or sign up for the live Internet streaming.
    SC

    By Blogger Dr. Steven Collins, at Thu Aug 20, 12:48:00 PM  

  • Live Internet streaming?? Sounds great!! This is the first I've heard of this. Please provide additional info, Dr. Collins. I don't see this on TSU's Home page.

    By Blogger G.M. Grena, at Fri Aug 21, 12:13:00 AM  

  • We're testing this out now, and hope to be albe to do this successfully for many of our lectures and seminars.
    SC

    By Blogger Dr. Steven Collins, at Fri Aug 21, 08:27:00 AM  

  • Sodom and Gomorrah was already found. See here:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L7uHKn2ijKw

    By Blogger smashmouth1001, at Fri Dec 20, 08:32:00 AM  

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