A college professor is hitting back at contentions that the Old Testament is inaccurate following a newly released study from archaeologists at Tel Aviv University claiming that domesticated camels didn’t arrive to the eastern Mediterranean region until the 10th century B.C.
Since the Bible references Abraham, among others, using camels hundreds of years before they were domesticated in the region, critics are wondering if the study shows that the Biblical texts are inaccurate or if the camel references were placed into the writings long after the Old Testament events unfolded.
As the debate continues, Dr. Andrew Steinmann, a professor of theology and Hebrew at Concordia University-Chicago, is addressing these very questions. In an interview with Issues, Etc., a Christian radio station, Steinmann recently made an important clarification about the study that was released by archaeologists Erez Ben-Yosef and Lidar Sapir-Hen.
The two examined camel bones that showed signs of carrying heavy loads, finding through radiocarbon dating that the bones were from the 10th century, CNN reported. But the Bible claims that Abraham was using the animals as early as 2100 B.C.
“What these archaeologists are doing … is when they read about somebody like Abraham having camels, they’re saying, ‘Aha! The Bible is saying that camels were widespread in Palestine during this period of time, and there’s no archaeological evidence for that,’” Steinmann said.
The professor isn’t arguing that there is vast evidence for the widespread use of domesticated camels in the eastern Mediterranean region; he says there isn’t. But Steinmann said that this isn’t at all what the Bible proclaims, according to The Christian Post.
“What it is showing is that somebody who originally came from Mesopotamia, like Abraham, he did have some camels,” Steinmann said, according to a transcript prepared by Stand to Reason.
The professor argued that other mentions of camels in the Old Testament were tied to people related to Abraham, but that there is no mention of Israelites owning the domesticated animal.
Steinmann rejected the idea that someone has been tampering with the Biblical text and adding camels into the mix well after Old Testament events took place. He argued, instead, that the Bible’s accounts are very accurate.
“Because they confine it to people from Mesopotamia or the Arabian Peninsula,” he said of the camel references. “If this person was going to give himself away, you would expect [to see] him depicting the Canaanites having camels, or people like that. But he doesn’t say the Canaanites or the Phoenicians are making extensive use of camels.”
He also noted that the use of camels was going on in Iran long before Abraham’s time.
“At least 1,000 years before Abraham, dromedary camels — the single hump ones — were domesticated, and Bactrian camels probably 500 years after that,” he said. “So we know people in Iran did it, and it spread into Mesopotamia. We have good evidence from Mesopotamia that there were domesticated camels then.”
Steinmann added that archaeological evidence of camels wouldn’t be widespread of only Abraham and some of his followers were using the animals. At the center of the new-found debate, he believes, is sweeping assumptions that are being made by researchers.
“He’s assuming that if camels are mentioned at all, the Bible must be wrong, rather than looking at the evidence and the distribution of where camels are mentioned, and then that reveals a lot more,” Steinmann continued.
Others have made different arguments, noting that it’s likely that the Bible’s writers added camels into the text — but that they did so due to the fact that the animals were a part of their own lives at the time. So they transposed their practices onto Abraham and others in the Old Testament.
(H/T: Christian Post)
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