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.
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).