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Nelson Glueck

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Preface, A Case for Accuracy in the OT

0626_bible_398wA brief word concerning Old Testament history and the various information going ‘round and ‘round establishing it as mythological legend and compilations ripped off from other cultures:

Such information is hardly new and has no more merit in my regard than it did when I compiled a detailed research paper on the matter 23 years ago.

John Zande summed up the basic challenge in a couple of well-written posts over on his blog: if Moses wasn’t the historical person described in Scripture, then Jesus wasn’t the Messianic incarnation of God, and the Bible has no credibility. So, for the Christian, a line should be drawn. The patriarchs must be historical persons who lived during the times described. The genealogies leave no question as to the intended accuracy of the claims.

The prevailing wisdom holds that those “in the know” in the fields of Biblical archaeology and textual criticism, from the leading Rabbis in Israel to all the truly credible field experts, are unanimous in their findings that all evidences contradict the entirety of the Bible. This unanimity and conclusion has remained unchanged from what I can tell for at least half a century. The Bible was pretty much tossed out by the academic world shortly after Darwin published his monkey business, so whatever “findings” to discredit the Scriptures after that were a sort of afterthought.

It makes perfect sense that mainstream archaeologists (and Israeli Rabbis) would be unanimous in their rejection of Biblical historicity. Such is the nature of paradigms. Those whose findings are acceptable, are credible; those whose findings deviate, are not. Since all credible experts support the paradigm, the paradigm is therefore proven to be correct. No one else, therefore, is to be taken seriously. So, if I wanted published and accepted by my peers and wished to make a go of it in the field, then I would reinforce the paradigm. Otherwise, my career would be relegated to the fringes.

A case for accuracy: at least 40 kings can be corroborated by archaeological finds, from ten nations (Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, etc.) whose names are mentioned not only in the Hebrew Masoretic text (the Old Testament), but are also found on monuments of their own time. Thus, we have a good bit with which to reference the Bible. We also have a basis for comparing the Bible to other literature. Of the 40 kings having an archaeological corroboration, every single name is transliterated in the Hebrew Masoretic text exactly as it appears on the archaeological artifact — syllable for syllable, consonant for consonant, every single name. Additionally, we find that the chronological order of these kings is precise. Every name in the Hebrew Masoretic text, some of which go back to the book of Genesis and before the time of Hammurabi, appears in its correct order, with the correct spelling, in the correct time, as attested by the archaeological artifacts and period literature.

To put that in perspective, the librarian of Alexandria, perhaps the greatest scholar of his era (circa 200 BC), listed the names of 38 Egyptian kings. Of these, only three or four are recognizable when compared to their respective archaeological artifacts, though none are exact. This same scholar also made a list of the kings of Assyria. In only one case does the name clearly resemble the name on the artifact, and that name is not spelled correctly. The only way most of the names can be ascertained and then matched up with an artifact is by intrinsic evidence and cross-referencing with other regional literature. And then Ptolemy, who listed 18 kings — not one is spelled correctly, and most are spelled so badly that we wouldn’t make them out at all without intrinsic evidence and cross-referencing.

We find this same pattern in every other piece of literature extant. The scribe of Assurbanipal misspelled his names. The Pseudo-Callisthenes, in their list of the companions of Alexander, whose every name is unrecognizable. Abulfeda, the author of the Arab ante-Islamic history, misspells his names. The same is true of the lists of Manetho, Herodotus, Diodorus Siculus, Africanus, Castor, and so on.

The only historical literature of antiquity that has demonstrated accuracy with regard to archaeological verification is the Hebrew Masoretic text and the Majority Greek text of the New Testament. Nelson Glueck — a preeminent archaeologist in that region — remarked: “It may be stated categorically that no archaeological discovery has ever controverted a biblical reference.” [Rivers in the Desert; History of Neteg] Philadelphia: Jewish Publications Society of America, 1969.

Before getting into the matter of the patriarchs, I thought it worth mentioning in preface. Digging into the world of the ancient Hebrews and the Old Testament text is a complicated matter, but I wanted to go ahead and put it in perspective, stating categorically that the Hebrew scribes were not flippant in what they handed down. I have no doubt they gave no less attention to what these kings said and did. That the Hebrew writers transliterated at least 40 names (that we know of) with such accuracy and conformity to philological principles is proof enough for me, at least, of their thorough scholarship and access to the original sources.

I realize this is not going to win me any credibility with my atheist friends or too many others, but it is what it is, I suppose. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe not. **shrug**

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