What Camels Teach Us About the Necessity of Apologetics

camels-444-8 It seems that the modern media seeks to undermine the integrity of the Bible or at least create some form of controversy related to the claims of the Bible. This also goes for segments of scholarship. When it comes to biblical scholarship, there are two varieties: progressive or materialists (researchers more willing to dismiss biblical claims…primarily for political and religious reasons due to the fact that the materialist cannot accept miraculous claims), and evangelical or traditional (those seeking to find truth while willing to accept biblical claims).

 Recently, an article was posted on CNN.com and other news outlets proclaiming that recent evidence has dismissed the Bible’s claims that the patriarch’s owned herds of camels. The book of Genesis states, “And when Pharaoh’s officials saw her, they praised her to Pharaoh, and she was taken into his palace. He treated Abram well for her sake, and Abram acquired sheep and cattle, male and female donkeys, male and female servants, and camels” (Genesis 12:15-16, NIV). Note: Abram was given camels while in Egypt. Egypt was known for having camels at a very early time. Drs. Erez Ben-Yosef and Lidar Sapir-Hen of Tel Aviv University’s Department of Archaeology and Near Eastern Cultures recently claimed to have “used radiocarbon dating to pinpoint the moment when domesticated camels arrived in the southern Levant, pushing the estimate from the 12th to the 9th century BCE” (AFTAU.org). If true, this would create a problem with the biblical testimony as the text indicates that Abram owned some camels far earlier than the 9th century BC. Abraham must be dated at least in the 14th century BC (Elwell and Beitzel 1988, 450-451).

Evangelical archaeologist Ted Wright of Southern Evangelical Seminary shows that such an interpretation is not necessary. Wright states, …yes – the biblical patriarchs owned camels, but it is not as if they were camel traders or camel herders. Camels played a small part in their lives” (Wright 2014). Wright also quotes Juris Zarins in that, “From 2200-1200 B.C. rock art in Southwest Arabia and possible camel remains from Bir Risisim in the Levant suggest that camels were used for their milk and for transport(Wright 2014). The 2200-1200 BC range fits well within the time of Abraham and the patriarchs.

Other scholars are skeptical, too. Gordon Govier reports, Two recent academic papers written by evangelical scholars—Konrad Martin Heide, a lecturer at Philipps University of Marburg, Germany; and Titus Kennedy, an adjunct professor at Biola University—both refer to earlier depictions of men riding or leading camels, some that date to the early second millenium BC. Among other evidence, Kennedy notes that a camel is mentioned in a list of domesticated animals from Ugarit, dating to the Old Babylonian period (1950-1600 BC)” (Govier 2014, www.christianitytoday.com).

Quite frankly, such reports are not surprising. There is a war within biblical historical studies. Some findings, such as evidence purporting King David’s and King Solomon’s palace have been withheld due to political strains. Not too terribly long ago, Professor Yosef Garfinkel announced the discovery of objects in the ruins of Khirbet Qeiyafa that confirmed the religious practices of Israel during the reign of King David (Gedalyahu 2012, www.israelnationalnews.com). Therefore, such findings should be taken with a grain of salt. When the big picture is seen, the evidence normally authenticates the biblical record.

The camel conundrum shows the necessity of apologetics (defending the faith) in modern Christianity. As Peter instructs, “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear” (1 Peter 3:15, NKJV). It is important to be able to defend the truth of God’s word. Jesus defended the truthfulness of His ministry. The apostle Paul defended the truth of the gospel. We need to stand firm being able to defend the truth, as well. The mind must be open to the truth before the heart will respond. This is something that even camels might just appreciate.

Blessings,

Pastor Brian

 Bibliography

 Elwell, Walter A., and Barry J. Beitzel, Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988), 450–451.

Gedalyahu, Tzvi Ben. “Evidence of Canaanite Jewish rituals in reign of King David.” IsraelNationalNews.com (February 8, 2012). http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/155579#.Uv7nlPldWa8. (Accessed February 14, 2014).

Govier, Gordon. “The latest challenge to the Bible’s accuracy: Abraham’s anachronistic camels.” Christianity Today.com (February 14, 2014). http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2014/february-web-only/latest-challenge-bible-accuracy-abraham-anachronistic-camel.html?&visit_source=facebook. (Accessed February 14, 2014).

http://www.aftau.org/site/News2/2024116989?page=NewsArticle&id=19673&news_iv_ctrl=-1 (accessed, February 14, 2014).

Scripture identified as (NIV) comes from The New International Version. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011.

Scripture identified as (NKJV) comes from The New King James Version. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982.

Wright, Ted. “Getting over a hump: Does the lack of camel bones disprove the historicity of the biblical patriarchs?” CrossExamined.org. (February, 2014). http://crossexamined.org/blog/. (Accessed February 14, 2014).

Zarins, Juris. “Camel,” in David Noel Freedman, Editor, The Anchor Bible Dictionary, Volume 1, A-C (New York, London: Anchor Doubleday, 1992), 824-6. In Ted Wright. Wright, Ted. “Getting over a hump: Does the lack of camel bones disprove the historicity of the biblical patriarchs?” CrossExamined.org. (February, 2014). http://crossexamined.org/blog/. (Accessed February 14, 2014).

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8 thoughts on “What Camels Teach Us About the Necessity of Apologetics”

  1. This is archaeology, something that will be settled eventually one way or another.

    I don’t know why you concern yourself with this as your real task should be demonstrating beyond the simple boundary of faith that Yeshua really was a god and the creator of the universe, as you claim, for you have no archaeological evidence to back a single claim for his godhood and pretty much zero even for his existence as a human.

    Surely this is more important than a few camels?

    One hump or two?

    1. Camels aside, it is funny that you mention archaeology settling something and then purport that there is zero evidence concerning Jesus of Nazareth’s existence, when in fact the vast majority of New Testament scholars and archaeologists accept the historicity of Jesus of Nazareth. Incredible amounts of evidence exist to suggest that Jesus of Nazareth existed. If one denies Jesus’ existence, one may as well deny the existence of Alexander the Great, Siddhartha Gautama (the Buddha), Muhammed, and Plato. “Ah,” one might add, “but Jesus did not record his teachings.” True, but even if he did, what would stop someone from purporting that they interpolations? The Buddha did not record his teachings, but few deny their validity. Quite frankly, in ancient times, especially among Jewish rabbis, the common practice was to have one’s disciples to record the teacher’s messages. This is why I do not deny the historicity of Socrates either. In Jesus’ case, a core of his teachings can be dated to very early in Christian history.

      There is also a good amount of evidence that Jesus performed what was considered miracles. Tremendous evidence exists that suggests that Jesus rose from the dead. Nonetheless, I think you will find the majority of archaeologists and New Testament scholars at least conceding that Jesus of Nazareth was in fact a person of historical antiquity.

      But, one must admit that to claim Jesus’ divinity is a matter of faith. However, it is a reasoned faith. Reason can take a person to the gates of heaven, but only faith will allow one to enter.

      Blessings.

      1. No, there is no archaeological evidence for Jesus of Nazareth. Only hearsay.
        I have no idea what scientific journals you are reading that claim there is such evidence as you claim but I am very interested in reading whatever you claim that specifically confirms the historicity of Jesus of Nazareth.

        Lets’start there shall we before we wander down the metaphysical and supernatural path?

        You are up…as they say in showbiz… scientific evidence please

      2. “Only hearsay?” Lol. Wow, that is quite a charge when there is more evidence supporting Jesus of Nazareth than even that of Alexander the Great. There are over 6,000 early documents supporting the New Testametn text which all admit that Jesus of Nazareth is a historical person. Extra-biblical evidence including the early church fathers, some writing as early as the late first century, admit that Jesus of Nazareth is a historical person. Early Christian sites have been discovered that confirm Jesus of Nazareth…especially in the realm of ancient ossuaries. Again, Bart Ehrman, an agnostic and New Testament scholar, has admitted several times over that Jesus of Nazareth is a historical person.

        The main point is that Jesus of Nazareth is a historical person. Again, you will find no reputable scholar who will deny this fact unless he or she desires to promote a scandalous controversy not based on scholarly consensus. Even Richard Dawkins conceded that Jesus was a historical person when confronted with the evidence in a live debate with John Lennox. To deny Jesus’ historicity is irresponsible at best.

      3. Richard Carrier denies it. So does Robert Price.

        They may not be your cup of tea but they are reputable scholars and Carrier is an expert in his field.

        The 6000 documents.
        Not a single original.
        Copies and copies and copies of….wait for it… copies

        You reference Ehrman. Great. Much of what he writes/says is on the level.
        Go read what he says about this documentary ”evidence”.

        Now. I said archaeological – scientific.

        Early Christian sites have been discovered that confirm Jesus of Nazareth…especially in the realm of ancient ossuaries.

        Have you verified reference/links for me?
        And I hope this is not like that Chariots in the Red Sea business.

        You have not offered a single piece, merely trotting out the usual apologetic line. I am surprised you didn’t offer up Josephus,Tacitus Suetonius and all.

        Dawkins said.”.. “‘I take that back, Jesus existed”‘.

        There were many itinerant preachers and several with this name. See Josephus.

        Jesus of Nazareth? No, he didn’t say Jesus of Nazareth

        And if you wish to pursue an archaeological course, then let’s see your peer reviewed evidence for Nazareth.

        So far…all hearsay.
        Want to try again?

      4. I have offered you several lines of evidence. Even ultra-liberal scholars like John Dominick Crossan and Marcus Borg accept Jesus’ historicity. Carrier himself said on his blog, “though I foresee a rising challenge among qualified experts against the assumption of historicity [of Jesus]… that remains only a hypothesis that has yet to survive proper peer review.” His hypothesis has not survived proper peer review. That’s the point. The vast majority of evidence…biblical…extra-biblical…and likewise point to the historicity of Jesus of Nazareth being a real historical person. That is why the “vast majority” of New Testament and archaeological scholars accept the historical validity of Jesus of Nazereth. The only “hearsay” comes from those who deny this fact…no disrespect intended. Quite frankly, if Jesus was not so intertwined with the religion of Christianity which is loved or loathed by individuals, his historicity would never be questioned. Let me say that I think this is a poor tactic for anyone to employ. I was surprised to find that there are some who deny that Socrates was a real person and I feel there is some evidence to support that he was a real person. There is far much more evidence to support Jesus of Nazareth’s existence.

        As Carrier even admitted, the burden of proof lies with the one who seeks to deny the historicity of Jesus of Nazareth. Of individuals of antiquity, Jesus of Nazareth is a certainty.

        So I would say…try again my friend. The “hearsay” is on the side of those who purport the “Jesus myth.” If you take away Jesus’ historicity, you may as well seek to take away any person in the last 100 years. Using the tactics being used by the “Jesus mythers,” one could even deny that Abraham Lincoln existed.

        “Jesus myth” = unconvincing. “Historicity of Jesus of Nazareth” = certainty.

        (My apologies. I misundersood the previous claim of itinerant preachers. The post has been revised to fix the issue.)

      5. Manuscript evidence is archaeological evidence. Ancient New Testament documents and extra-biblical documents serve as evidence. Other finds like the ossuary of James serves as evidence as it states “James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus” serves as an additional piece of evidence. This names just a few pieces of evidence for Jesus’ historicity. Check out the works of Craig Evans and Gary Habermas for more information. See Daniel Wallace’s site http://www.csntm.org for examples of ancient New Testament documents that are available.

      6. Ok, this will be the last response on this issue as you are clearly relying on ad hominem attacks. It is clear that you have a preconceived bias against anyone who disagrees with you which will not allow intellectual discussion on these issues. If you are going to throw out any scholar that disagrees with you, you have thrown away the entire peer reviewed process.

        Quite frankly, liberal academics have had a very poor track record. Need we remind everyone that liberal scholars disregarded the Gospel of John due the the lack of evidence concerning the Pool of Bethesda. Later, the Pool of Bethesda was discovered just as the Gospel writer demonstrated it to be. Liberal academic scholars viewed the Gospel of John as being non-Jewish until the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered. The language of the Essenes “light vs. dark” matched the imagery in the Gospel.

        The difference between us is that I am willing to listen to those who differ with me. It is apparent that you are not if you disregard evangelical scholars.

        Now, back to the topic at hand. Even IF (and that is a big IF) there are interpolations in the New Testament texts, that does not take away from the core value of the texts. You are mixing issues. The issue of discussion is on the historicity of Jesus. It is disingenuous to discount ALL New Testament records because of a few “interpolations.” Within the writings of Paul, there are multiple ancient creeds, hymns, and formulations that date to the time of the earliest church. These reference Jesus of Nazareth. This is of huge historical value. At last check, the ossuary of James was considered valid. But of course if you are going to nitpick every thread of evidence by what one or two scholars claim, then you are never going to get anywhere. This is why one needs a grand body of consensus. Regardless of the ossuary, the vast majority of scholarship (and this is undeniable) values the historicity of Jesus of Nazareth as a certainty based on New Testament manuscript evidence, evidence from early church fathers, and extra-biblical documentary evidence.

        I cannot speak for Licona. But I can assure you that even though he may or may not deny certain aspects of the Gospel accounts, he most certainly accepts Jesus as a person of history.

        Because of the vast amount of manuscript evidence, scholars have claimed that the autographs of the New Testament can be known with 99% certainty. I don’t know about you, but if the doctors said that they were going to treat me with a medicine that is 99% likely to work, I would take those odds. The Old Testament can be known with 95% certainty. Averaged together, that means that the Bible can be known with 97% certainty what was in the original manuscripts (autographs).

        So sir, this will be my last response to the matter as we are spinning our wheels. I am not going to hand you the insulting comments as you have delivered. Rather, I would encourage you to examine the works of guys like Craig Evans, Craig Blomberg, and others.

        Concerning Helen, it has been confirmed that she did find the tomb of Jesus, or the general vicinity. Archaeologists have discovered the home of Simon Peter. Concerning Nazareth, both ancient bathhouses and tombs have been discovered in Nazareth challenging the notion that Nazareth was a small village. So, the weight of evidence is against you.

        Again, the historicity of Jesus of Nazareth is a proven fact. The majority of scholars (liberal and evangelical) both will admit this fact. Even Ehrman, who you quoted, has stated that the historicity of Jesus of Nazareth is a certainty. Even those who promote the “Jesus Myth” are quick to admit that scholarly consensus weighs strongly in favor that Jesus of Nazareth was a historical figure.

        The burden of proof is on those who promote the “Jesus Myth.” Beyond atheist internet circles, I doubt you would find many who would deny that fact.

        Blessings to you.

        (Note: as this conversation is not progressing…this will be the last post from either side on this issue.)

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