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BC Volume 1 (1995)


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BC11.HTM
Volume 1, Number 1January/February 1995

Mount Sodom Confirms Missing Millennium

One of the most interesting pieces of work I have come across recently in my research is presented in "The Holocene climatic record of the salt caves of Mount Sedom"[1], an article authored by four Israeli scientists: A. Frumkin, M. Magaritz, I. Carmi, and I. Zak. It describes work they carried out on Mount Sodom (or Sedom), a salt mountain situated on the southwestern shore of the Dead Sea.[2] The work they describe is important to Biblical chronology research at the present time because it confirms, once again, that 1,000 years are missing from traditional Biblical chronology prior to the period of the kings of Israel.

Chronological background

Several years ago I proposed that 1,000 years are missing from traditional Biblical chronology.[3] I argued that the sum total of Biblical, chronological, archaeological and historical evidence could only easily be explained by adopting the hypothesis that the "four hundred eighty" which presently appears in 1 Kings 6:1 was originally, in the autograph of 1 Kings, "one thousand four hundred eighty". I suggested that the "one thousand" part of this number had been accidentally dropped from the text very early on as a result of a simple scribal copy error.

All that I have seen in my subsequent chronological research has only served to confirm this early suggestion. The work described in the article by Frumkin et al., mentioned above, is another typical example. The present article explains how this comes about.[4]

Biblical background

It may seem unlikely that salt caves in a rock salt mountain on the shore of the Dead Sea could have anything to do with the idea that traditional Biblical chronology leaves out 1,000 years, but they do indeed, and they provide some striking evidence for the historicity (i.e., historical actuality) of Genesis in the process. Mount Sodom's salt caves get involved because of an observation Abraham's nephew Lot made, which is recorded for us in Genesis 13:10.

And Lot lifted up his eyes and saw all the valley of the Jordan, that it was well watered everywhere – this was before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah – like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt as you go to Zoar.

This Bible verse plainly states that the valley of the Jordan was everywhere well watered at the time of Abraham and Lot. This immediately catches the attention of those familiar with the valley of the Jordan in Palestine because this valley is certainly not well watered today. In fact, it is one of the most arid places on the face of the earth, especially along its southernmost extent where the Jordan River empties into the Dead Sea.

The New Encyclopaedia Britannica[5] describes its present climate thus:

The Jordan Trench is a deep rift valley that varies in width from 1.5 to 14 miles. In its northern section the bed of the drained Lake Hula (Huleh) and the sea of Galilee (Lake Tiberias) are blocked by natural dams of basalt. Descending to about 1,310 feet below sea level, the valley is exceedingly dry and overheated, and cultivation is restricted to irrigated areas or rare oases, as at Jericho or at `En Gedi by the shore of the Dead Sea.

Contrast the "exceedingly dry and overheated" of today with the "well watered everywhere ... like the garden of the Lord [i.e., Garden of Eden]" of Genesis 13:10.

Moses, the author of Genesis, seems to note this contrast in his day as well. He specifies that the valley of the Jordan was "well watered everywhere … before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah" [ed. emphasis]. Evidently, following the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, which includes the time of Moses, of course, the climate of the Jordan Valley was altered so that it became arid, as it is found to be today.

In any event, Genesis 13:10 clearly implies that the amount of precipitation received by the Jordan Valley has not always been the same as it is today. Evidently there was at least one time in the past – before the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah – when the Jordan Valley received much more rain than it does today.

A simple test

If we had some physical means of determining the relative amount of rainfall in the Jordan Valley over the past five and a half millennia, then we could use this to test when Lot's observation of a valley "well watered everywhere" might have been made. More specifically (and more quantitatively) notice that the old, traditional Biblical chronology dates Abraham and Lot to within a few hundred years of 2000 B.C. (depending upon which scholar you listen to). By way of contrast, my new Biblical chronology, with the accidentally dropped thousand years added back in, predicts this observation within about a decade of 3080 B.C. These disparate dates for the same event could be compared to a record of average annual rainfall for the third and fourth millennia B.C. to see which, if either, coincided with a time when the Jordan Valley was much wetter than it is today.

(Scientists would call this is a "doable experiment". The predicted dates from the two competing chronologies are well separated from one another. Thus, one does not require highly precise dates in this test to decide which chronology is correct. We are not trying to choose between adjoining single years (which is practically impossible at present at these early dates), or adjoining decades (also nearly impossible in most instances), or even adjoining centuries. We are only choosing between adjoining millennia. Since the real physical dating uncertainties involved in this test are typically in the range of a few decades to a few centuries in these early millennia, the test can easily and accurately be carried out.)

The difficulty, of course, is in determining the relative amount of rainfall in the Jordan Valley over the past five or six thousand years. This is where "The Holocene climatic record of the salt caves of Mount Sedom, Israel" comes in, for this is what its authors, Frumkin et al., have done.

How they did it

The Jordan River Valley is part of the catchment basin for the Dead Sea – rainfall in the valley runs off into the Dead Sea. Since the Dead Sea has no outlet, the level of the Dead Sea depends only upon the rate at which water enters it through runoff and the rate at which water leaves it through evaporation. When the climate of the catchment basin (including the Jordan Valley) is arid, less water enters the Dead Sea (because there is less rainfall) and more water leaves the Dead Sea through evaporation. Under these conditions the level of the Dead Sea falls. When the climate of the catchment basin is moist, runoff into the Dead Sea increases and evaporation decreases so the level of the Dead Sea rises. Thus, the past level of the Dead Sea can be used to gauge the relative amount of rainfall in the Dead Sea catchment basin (including the Jordan Valley) in the past.

How does one go about determining what the level of the Dead Sea was in the past? This is where Mount Sodom comes in.

Mount Sodom is located on the western shore of the southern basin of the Dead Sea. It is made of salt, with a rock cap about 130 feet thick. Because salt is soluble in rainwater, it is not surprising that the mountain is found to contain a number of caves. These salt caves, in fact, are long conduits which have transported water for millennia down through the mountain and into the Dead Sea. These are naturally formed conduits, the result of rainwater dissolving its way through the mountain.

These conduits tend to start out as vertical shafts, or sink holes, on the relatively flat top of the mountain. They then assume a nearly horizontal aspect through the mountain, discharging their water into the Dead Sea at the prevailing surface level of the Dead Sea.

The physical forces which shape the conduits are such as to keep the conduit exit at or near the surface level of the Dead Sea. When the Dead Sea level changes, the horizontal portions of the conduits are rapidly cut upward or downward into the rock salt by the runoff water, as necessary for the conduit to once again discharge its water at the surface of the Dead Sea. When this happens, the older horizontal channel of the conduit goes out of use.

The date at which a given conduit channel was last active can be determined by radiocarbon analyses of pieces of wood (e.g., twigs) washed into the conduit and left stranded in that channel when the last runoff water to use it had subsided. (If the same channel had been used again after the twig was stranded, the twig would have been flushed out by the new surge of water from above.)

By studying the geometry (including width) of these natural salt caves (conduits) through Mount Sodom, Frumkin et al. were able to deduce the Dead Sea level for more than the past 7,000 years.[6]

Results

The result of their study is shown in Figure 1. The level of the Dead Sea is plotted for the past 7,000 radiocarbon years[7] in this figure. The predicted dates of Lot's observation according to the two (old and new) Biblical chronologies are also indicated.

Figure 1: Elevation of the surface of the Dead Sea in meters below mean sea level for the past 7,000 radiocarbon years, and predicted dates of Lot's observation. (Elevation data from Frumkin et al., The Holocene, 1,3(1991)191-200).

As can be seen, the old chronology fails rather badly. It places Lot's observation of the Jordan Valley being "well watered everywhere" at a time when the region was so arid the south basin of the Dead Sea had actually completely dried up![8]

In sharp contrast, the new chronology succeeds very well. It places Lot's observation at the one time in the past 7,000 years when the Dead Sea level was highest. Notice (Figure 1) that the Dead Sea level was over 100 meters (or 330 feet) above its present-day level in 3080 B.C. This was surely a period when the Dead Sea catchment basin (including especially the Jordan Valley) received much more rainfall than it does today – at no other time in the past seven thousand years has the Jordan Valley been as "well watered everywhere" as during this relatively brief period.[9]

In this way the salt caves of Mount Sodom confirm that 1,000 years are missing from traditional Biblical chronology, and testify that the early chapters of Genesis report historical fact, not fiction, in the process. ◇

Biblical Chronology 101

[ Biblical Chronology 101 will be a regular feature of The Biblical Chronologist. It is especially designed for beginners. In this space each issue I hope to teach the precepts and principles of modern Biblical chronology. We open "class" this issue with a few introductory remarks.]

About the teacher

I am a scientist, not a theologian. I hold an earned Ph.D. in nuclear physics, with special emphasis on radioisotope dating methods such as radiocarbon. I have been involved in the study of Biblical chronology, especially as it relates to the age of the earth and the date of Old Testament events such as Noah's Flood and the Exodus, for over a decade now. From 1987 through 1994 I conducted Biblical chronology research at the Institute for Creation Research where I served as assistant professor of physics on the graduate faculty.

In this class I hope to teach you the science of Biblical chronology: what we presently know and don't know about Biblical chronology, what tools are available to tackle Biblical chronology problems today, which research strategies lead to success, why Biblical chronology is important to Christian faith and practice, the history of Biblical chronology, and much more.

I am also a conservative Christian. I assume I am addressing students who, for the most part, are also conservative Christians. Conservative Christian values will be assumed in this class.

While I am an unabashed follower of Christ, to the best of my knowledge I have no overriding theological agenda or denominational bias in this work. Furthermore, I am not out to prove that the Bible is true, or that God exists. I do mean to show clearly and overwhelmingly that those who are currently claiming that history and archaeology prove the Bible is false are wrong. I am especially concerned that Christian young people be equipped to intelligently defend their faith against such claims – claims which they are bound to face in almost any higher educational institution today. And I am anxious for pastors and Bible teachers to be equipped with reliable, up-to-date, factual information in this area; my experience has been that such information naturally strengthens faith and refutes skepticism.

But I am a scientist, not a theologian, so you will not be subjected to much preaching or exposition of Greek or Hebrew in this class. Rather, it is the gathering and evaluation of physical data from any and all sources bearing on the chronology of earth history which will be our principal occupation.

Biblical chronology and you

Biblical chronology seems to give rise to a curious "occupational disease" in some of its practitioners. (I am serious here.) Some people who study Biblical chronology seem to me to lose touch with reality. They begin to see mathematical patterns which nobody else can see in tables of numbers and date lists. They become highly attached to these patterns and use them to decide what they will believe to be true, and sometimes to predict the future. Or they may become very defensive about their own chronological views, and lose their ability to discuss Biblical chronology and related issues in a charitable or rational manner. They may regard those who don't hold to their particular chronological scheme as heretics.

All of this is far from a Christian standard of conduct, and I would not want to find that The Biblical Chronologist had contributed in any way to such behavior in its readers. Paul warns, in 1 Timothy 1:4, not "to pay attention to myths and endless genealogies, which give rise to mere speculation", and again in Titus 3:9 "but shun foolish controversies and genealogies and strife". It is certainly possible to get into "foolish controversies" and haggle over "endless genealogies" in Biblical chronology, but we are not to do so. Remember that "the Lord's bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition" (2 Timothy 2:24,25a).

The goal of true Biblical chronology research is to discover and communicate the truth about earth history – what really took place in the past and when it took place. We esteem honesty and rationality in this pursuit. We invite and encourage free and open discussion. We strive always to operate within a framework of true Christian love. ◇

Research in Progress

[ Someone I read a long time ago in the Physics library at the University of Toronto (I can no longer recall the author's name or the title of the book) compared scientific research to mining. He noted, for example, that the miner does not create the gems or ore he is after, he can only find what is already there. Similarly, the researcher does not create anything new, he simply discovers what is already there. This (forgotten) essayist went on to extend the analogy in various ways, all of which I have found to be generally valid in my own experience as a researcher; I think it is a good analogy.

There is one aspect of this analogy which I want to convey here, in this premiere installation of this regular column, in hopes of putting the contents of this column into proper perspective. This is the observation that veins of ore are naturally somewhat unpredictable. Whether a particular vein will lead to a yet richer vein, or to a dead end, cannot be judged with much confidence beforehand. You follow the vein, using all your ingenuity and previous experience to try to stick with the richest ore. But, in the final analysis, you cannot guarantee whether you will go home at the end of the day with a bag full of gems, or an empty sack.

Research is also unpredictable. Sometimes a particular avenue of investigation looks exciting, only to prove, after much work, to be a dud – a dead end. Sometimes truly exciting and valuable discoveries open up where least expected.

This column is intended to communicate up-to-date information about my personal research in Biblical chronology – the questions I am trying to answer, my most recent discoveries, and what these discoveries may mean. In this column we are on the frontier of Biblical chronology research. Here, ideas are necessarily speculative, and results are unpredictable.

Consequently, you should treat this column the way you would treat a roller-coaster. Get in and enjoy the ride. Don't get too excited about where you think it may be taking you – we'll see where we have gotten to when we finally get there.]


I was attending the International Conference on Creationism this past summer when, while studying in my room one evening, I uncovered something which I had not expected. I have thought about it a great deal since, but have had almost no time to investigate it further. I hope to have a good shot at it before the next issue of The Biblical Chronologist goes to press, however.

With the discovery of the dropped 1,000 years in 1 Kings 6:1 I feel we can successfully harmonize Biblical history with secular data from all fields back to the time of Abraham. Once one has come to accept this, the correct chronology of the historical events recorded in Genesis 1 - 11 becomes the new frontier. In particular, the date of Noah's Flood stands as the central question.

To date an event in earth history using physical chronometers, one needs to have some idea of what that event was like and what it did so he can determine what present-day remains to apply his physical dating methods to. I have previously attempted to date Noah's Flood, being fully persuaded (by The Genesis Flood[10]) that the Flood was a super-cataclysmic affair which totally destroyed everything on the earth. I was looking for, and trying to date, a globe-shattering cataclysm.

I concluded, several years ago, that the secular data provided by tree-rings, ice-cores, and radiocarbon forbade a date for such a flood any more recent than about 10,000 years ago.[11] This conclusion was very disturbing, however. Traditional Biblical chronology places the date of Noah's Flood at about 5,000 years ago, largely based upon the chronological data found in the Genesis 11 genealogy (Noah to Abraham). It is not at all obvious why there should be five to ten thousand years missing in the genealogical/chronological data of Genesis 11. Furthermore, it is not obvious where any significant gaps might exist in this data. I continued to work on these difficulties, however, convinced that there had to be some reasonable answer to them. This was my mind-set and principal occupation until that evening at the ICC.

I had decided I had a responsibility to acquaint myself with the archaeology of the Bible lands prior to the time of Abraham – not because I expected to find anything very helpful or interesting there, but simply out of academic duty – and I felt the ICC would be a good place to do so. Hence, I took The Archaeology of Ancient Israel[12] along to the conference.

According to my new Bible chronology Abraham was born ca. 3167 B.C. This corresponds roughly to the beginning of the so-called Early Bronze I period in Palestine. The period which precedes EB I in Palestine is called the Chalcolithic (pronounce the Ch as a K), as I learned from chapter 3 of the book mentioned above.

As it turns out (I was not expecting this) the Chalcolithic and its people look similar to what we might expect the pre-Flood world and its people to have looked like. Briefly: they are advanced in the arts and in metallurgy, well beyond the EB people who follow them; they do not appear to show any sign of human government; there immediately appears evidence of cruelty and violence within the human remains of this period; the entire civilization disappears suddenly and without a trace: "The impression is created of a sudden end to the period as a result of a catastrophe of some sort …" (p. 79); and those who come after them seem to start over from scratch. Finally, the termination of this culture is dated ca. 3600 B.C. which is synchronous (within dating errors) with the new Biblical date for the Flood of ca. 3520 B.C. (calculated assuming no gaps in Genesis 11 and using the Masoretic Text).

Could the Chalcolithic correspond, in fact, to the latter stages of the pre-Flood civilization in Palestine? It is immediately obvious that if it does, then the Flood was not the super-cataclysm I have been supposing it to be, because the remains of this civilization are still preserved (though relatively poorly) in Palestine in their place of origin. If it doesn't, we have surely uncovered a curious coincidence.

These ideas diverge significantly from my previously accustomed thinking and, no doubt, from many of yours. They arise from the physical data, however, not my wishes or imagination. Furthermore, they seem to offer potential solutions to some exceedingly difficult chronological problems which continue to plague the super-cataclysmic Flood paradigm despite years of intensive research.

Obviously I need to get to the bottom of this. To do so I have formulated the working hypothesis: the Chalcolithic in Palestine was catastrophically terminated by the Biblical/historical event known as Noah's Flood. It seems to me that there are two questions which need to be answered as I attempt to determine whether this hypothesis is true or not:

  1. What physical/archaeological evidence can be found bearing on the question of whether the Chalcolithic was terminated by a flood?

  2. How widespread was the cultural hiatus which is seen in Palestine at the end of the Chalcolithic?

I will be prosecuting these questions over the next several weeks and months as I am able to do so.

Have we identified remains of the pre-Flood civilization? Are we finally about to settle the date of the Flood? Stay tuned! ◇

The Biblical Chronologist is a bimonthly subscription newsletter about Biblical chronology. It is written and edited by Gerald E. Aardsma, a Ph.D. scientist (nuclear physics) with special background in radioisotopic dating methods such as radiocarbon. The Biblical Chronologist has a threefold purpose:

  1. to encourage, enrich, and strengthen the faith of conservative Christians through instruction in Biblical chronology,

  2. to foster informed, up-to-date, scholarly research in this vital field within the conservative Christian community, and

  3. to communicate current developments and discoveries in Biblical Chronology in an easily understood manner.


The Biblical Chronologist is published six times a year by Aardsma Research & Publishing, 412 N. Mulberry, Loda, IL 60948.

Editor and Writer: Gerald E. Aardsma, Ph.D.
Subscription rate: $18.00/year ($3.00/issue). Please add $1.00/year for Canadian or Mexican address. Other non-US addresses add $5.00/year. US funds only.
Back issues: $4.00/single copy; $3.00/copy for 2 to 10 copies of same issue; $2.00/copy for more than 10 copies of same issue.

Copyright © 1995 by Aardsma Research & Publishing. Photocopying or reproduction strictly prohibited without written permission from the publisher.

Footnotes

  1. ^   The Holocene, 1,3 (1991) pp. 191-200.

  2. ^  You will find it helpful to have a physical map of Palestine, showing the Jordan River and the Dead Sea, open before you as you read this article. Many Bibles contain such maps. You will notice that the Dead Sea is divided into a northern basin and a southern basin by a peninsula which enters the sea from the east. This is called the Lisan Peninsula, Lisan meaning tongue. Mount Sodom is located on the west shore of the southern basin. Mount Sodom is close to 7 miles long and about a mile across. It runs north and south, with its northern tip about 3 miles further south than the southern limit of the Lisan Peninsula.

  3. ^  See: "A New Approach to the Chronology of Biblical History from Abraham to Samuel", 2nd ed., 1995, Aardsma Research & Publishing, 412 N. Mulberry, Loda, IL 60948.

  4. ^  Confirmation of my proposal was not the intent of Frumkin et al., of course; indeed, they had conducted and published their research several years before I had even made my discovery of the missing 1,000 years public. I met Israel Carmi, the third author of this article, at the 15th International Radiocarbon Conference this past summer. I presented my discovery of the missing 1,000 years in one of the sessions at that conference, so he and several hundred other radiocarbon scientists are now aware of my claim that 1,000 years have been accidentally dropped out of traditional Biblical chronology. Even so, academia is so steeped in philosophical naturalism, I suspect it will be a considerable time before my discovery is taken seriously in the secular literature.

    The current mainstream view in academia is that the Bible contains only myth and unreliable tradition prior to the time of the kings of Israel (i.e., Genesis through Ruth). My discovery runs completely counter to this view, providing repeated demonstrations of the historicity of the Biblical text in these early books. Since the mainstream academicians already "know" that these early Biblical books are mythological or otherwise not historically reliable, they tend to treat my discovery as ridiculously, embarrassingly, impossible. It presently seems to me that this bias will only be overcome when the data heaped up against it has become so mountainous that every grade school child can immediately see what it means. Hence, I do not expect to see serious efforts to evaluate my claim in the standard secular literature for some time.

  5. ^  vol. 25, page 403, 1986.

  6. ^  The brief summary I have given here necessarily skips over many of the details of the careful study which Frumkin et al. carried out. For a fuller description, see their article, referenced in footnote 1 above.

  7. ^  Note that "radiocarbon years" provide only a rough approximation to true calendar years. It is necessary to use a calibration table to change from radiocarbon years to calendar years. (See Radiocarbon, Vol. 35, No. 1, 1993.) In The Biblical Chronologist uncalibrated radiocarbon years are designated "BP" (for "Before Physics") while "B.C." and "A.D." are used for true calendar years.

  8. ^  Frumkin et al. (p. 198) have suggested this desiccated period may correlate with Genesis 14:3: "All these came as allies to the valley of Siddim (that is, the Salt Sea)". They state: "Possibly the Vale of Siddim refers to the dry south basin of the Dead Sea which at a later time (when the book of Genesis was written) had become submerged again."

    However, this suggestion cannot be harmonized with Lot's observation that the valley of the Jordan was "well watered everywhere" at this time.

    I suggest that the clause "(that is, the Salt Sea)" should be regarded as explaining (or updating) the proper noun "Siddim", not as equating "the valley of Siddim" with "the Salt Sea". Note that only the southern basin had dried up at this time, not the whole sea (the northern basin is over 1,000 feet deeper than the southern basin), so a one to one correspondence between "the valley of Siddim" and "the Salt Sea" is impossible in any event. Furthermore, there is plenty of valley south of the Dead Sea, even with the southern basin full to 300 meters below mean sea level, for the armies of Genesis 14:3 to have met and fought in, and this valley could reasonably have borne the title "valley of Siddim" in Abraham's time. Thus, it is not at all necessary to suppose that the valley in which this battle took place was the dried up southern basin of the Dead Sea.

  9. ^  Note also in Figure 1 that according to the new chronology Lot's observation falls very close to the peak of this "well watered" period. This suggests that the level of the Dead Sea began to recede relatively soon after Lot's observation, which implies that the region began to dry out relatively soon after Lot's observation. This seems possibly significant because Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed relatively soon after Lot's observation, and Genesis 13:10 seems to mark this destruction as the turning point in the climate of the region, as we have seen above.

  10. ^  Whitcomb, J.C., and Morris, H.M., 1961, Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing, Philadelphia.

  11. ^  Aardsma, Gerald E., 1990, Radiocarbon, dendrochronology, and the date of the Flood. Proceedings of the Second International Conference on Creationism - Volume II. Creation Science Fellowship, Pittsburgh, pp. 1-10; Aardsma, Gerald E., 1991, Radiocarbon and the Genesis Flood, ICR Technical Monograph #16. Institute for Creation Research, Santee, CA; Aardsma, Gerald E., 1993, Tree-ring dating and multiple ring growth per year. Creation Research Society Quarterly. volume 29, number 4, March 1993, pp. 184-189.

  12. ^  1992, ed. Amnon Ben-Tor, (translated by R. Greenberg), The Open University of Israel.


list of BC newsletters; PDF

BC12.HTM
Volume 1, Number 2March/April 1995

The Age of the Earth Doctrine in the Early Church

How old did Christians in the early centuries A.D. believe the earth was?

I only began to deliberately research this question about a year ago.[1] A passage from the recent book The Fingerprint of God by Hugh Ross prompted me to do so. It stated:[2]

Many of the early church fathers and other biblical scholars interpreted the creation days of Genesis 1 as long periods of time. The list includes the Jewish historian Josephus (1st century); Irenaeus, bishop of Lyons, apologist, and martyr (2nd century); Origen, who rebutted heathen attacks on Christian doctrine (3rd century); Basil (4th century); Augustine (5th century); and, later, Aquinas (13th century), to name a few.

I was quite surprised by this assertion; in the course of my studies I had come across many dates for Creation which had been calculated by numerous Christian scholars of past centuries. Without exception these dates had been in terms of thousands of years only. How could early Christians have believed the days of creation were long periods of time (and, in the context of the above quote, "long periods of time" means millions of years) and still have set dates for Creation which were invariably less than ten thousand years ago? I determined to get to the bottom of the matter.

I began by investigating the five bibliographic references which Hugh Ross, the author, had given in support of his claim. It soon became obvious that these references failed to do their job – they did not support the claim that these early church fathers believed the six days of creation were long periods of time. In fact, they tended to do the opposite! Here, briefly, is what I found.

Ross' first reference was to Joseph P. Free's well-known Biblical archaeology and history textbook of a generation ago entitled Archaeology and Bible History. This appears to be the fountainhead of Ross' claim. Free writes:[3]

It is said that this view was held by Josephus, the Jewish historian of the first century A.D., by many rabbis, and by some early Christian fathers, including Irenaeus (2nd century), Origen (3rd century), and Augustine (4th century).
I will return to this list by Free shortly.

Ross augments Free's list of four names with two additional names of his own: Basil and Aquinas. These are curious additions, however, for it is absolutely the case that Basil and Aquinas held to literal twenty-four hour days. Davis Young (who, like Ross, believes in a billions-of-years history for the earth) has written, "Many of the church fathers plainly regarded the six days as ordinary days. Basil explicitly spoke of the day as a twenty-four-hour period."[4]

Ross does not give any reference to Basil, but he does reference Aquinas. Apparently Ross has completely misunderstood Aquinas, however, for the reference he gives asserts Aquinas' adherence to twenty-four hour days quite plainly.

In context, Aquinas (in Summa Theologica) is answering the question "Whether Scripture uses suitable words to express the work of the six days?". He advances the putative objection (objection 7) in reference to Genesis 1:5,

Further, first, not one, corresponds to second and third. It should therefore have been said that, The evening and the morning were the first day, rather than one day.[5]
and then answers this objection as follows in the section which Ross references:
The words one day are used when day is first established, to denote that one day is made up of twenty-four hours. Hence, by mentioning one, the measure of a natural day is fixed.[6]

In other words, Aquinas argues that Genesis 1:5 says "And there was evening and there was morning, one day" instead of "And there was evening and there was morning, a first day" as we might otherwise expect to read, specifically to inform us that these evening and morning combinations each constituted a single, normal, twenty-four hour day. Thus, Aquinas here advances the argument that the author of Genesis chose the word "one" specifically to exclude notions that the "days" of Genesis were anything but normal, literal, twenty-four hour days.

A few sentences later Aquinas gives credit to Basil for this explanation of the significance of the word "one" in Genesis 1:5. This, evidently, is where Ross got Basil's name from. Yet I do not understand how Ross came to understand this section to support the notion that Aquinas and Basil "interpreted the creation days of Genesis 1 as long periods of time." Their interpretation of Genesis 1:5 is, in fact, explicitly antithetical to that idea.

The remaining three of Ross' references (2-4) all deal exclusively with Augustine. These references entirely fail to make Ross' case, however, even for this single church father. It is true that Augustine did not hold the six days of Genesis 1 to be literal solar days, but this does not mean he supposed them to be long periods of time, by any means. Indeed, he appears to have regarded them as having no temporal duration at all! For example, from The Literal Meaning of Genesis:

But that day, which God has made, recurs in connection with his works not by a material passage of time but by spiritual knowledge, … [7] [my emphasis]
and, again, from The Confessions
They have then their succession of morning and evening, part secretly, part apparently; for they were made of nothing, by Thee, not of Thee; not of any matter not Thine, or that was before, but of matter concreated (that is, at the same time created by Thee), because, to its state without form, Thou without any interval of time didst give form. For seeing the matter of heaven and earth is one thing, and the form another, Thou madest the matter of merely nothing, but the form of the world out of the matter without form; yet both together, so that the form should follow the matter without any interval of delay.[8] [my emphasis]

In other places Augustine clearly shows he believed the earth was created only about six thousand years before his time. For example, he wrote: "reckoning by the sacred writings, we find that not 6000 years have yet passed."[9] This statement appears in chapter 10 of Augustine's The City of God, which chapter bears the heading: Of the falseness of the history which allots many thousand years to the world's past. A careful reading of this chapter reveals that Augustine is here refuting contemporary pagan notions that the world was older than the few thousand years he understood the Scriptures to allow.

Augustine further defends the youthfulness of creation in the same book, chapter 12, which bears the heading: How these persons are to be answered, who find fault with the creation of man on the score of its recent date.[10] Augustine repeatedly asserts the recent creation of man (less than six thousand years before his own time) in this chapter. Augustine clearly believed the Scriptures taught that Adam had been supernaturally created by God less than ten thousand years ago.

Augustine's view of the antiquity of creation is not prominent in his writings – this was not an issue in his day, as we have already observed. But neither is it hidden.

I suggest an accurate summary of Augustine's view of the physical history of the world would be that of an instantaneous, simultaneous, complete creation of all things by God less than six thousand years before his time. Though instantaneous, simultaneous creation of all things is not part of the usual patristic view of Genesis 1, this oddity cannot legitimately be called upon to support Ross' claim that "Many of the early church fathers and other biblical scholars interpreted the creation days of Genesis 1 as long periods of time." As with Aquinas and Basil, Augustine's view seems opposite to what Ross wishes to show.

Thus Augustine, Basil, and Aquinas do not testify in Ross' defense. What about the remaining three names in Ross' list – Josephus, Irenaeus, and Origen?

It appears that the total sum of evidence supporting Ross' claim about these remaining three is the single sentence by Free which I quoted on page 1. Notice, however, that Free makes it clear he is reciting only hearsay by his choice of words (specifically, "It is said …") and by the fact that he gives no references to support his statement.

Louis Lavallee gives us a glimpse into Origen's thinking about the age of the earth by quoting directly from his writings:

Origen (b. 185), the great theologian of the Greek churches, defended "the Mosaic account of the creation, which teaches that the world is not yet ten thousand years old, but very much under that."[11]
It is, of course, impossible for Origen to have "interpreted the creation days of Genesis 1 as long periods of time" as Ross claims, and simultaneously to have believed that "the world is not yet ten thousand years old."

It seems unnecessary to pursue the cases of Irenaeus and Josephus. Free's hearsay was clearly not from a reliable source and should simply be disregarded.

I am not aware of any evidence supporting the notion that the early church fathers claimed millions or billions of years had passed since Creation. On the contrary, as we have seen with Augustine, these early Christians were sometimes at pains to refute such notions, which appear to have been prevalent among the pagans who surrounded them. Nowhere, that I know of, do we find them encouraging such ideas.

What does this mean to Biblical chronology research today? It shows, in a clear and objective fashion, that the text of Scripture evidently does not encourage an old-earth (billions-of-years) interpretation. If it did we should find many instances of such an interpretation, with suitable accompanying chronologies, in ancient Christian writings. In fact, if such instances do occur they must be exceedingly rare, for, as I have said, I have never seen even one.

In my study of the chronological works of early Christians I have observed the following:

  1. They believed that the chronological data given in the Bible was meant to be taken literally.

  2. They used this data in a straightforward manner to compute the dates of Biblical events such as the Flood of Noah and the Creation.

  3. They used extra-Biblical data to augment Biblical chronological data as necessary and without apology.

  4. They generally disagreed about the exact dates of Biblical events (sometimes by a thousand years or more – due primarily to differences in ancient Old Testament manuscripts) but were uniform in their view that Creation had taken place less than ten thousand years ago.

It seems legitimate to conclude that the Biblical text itself must possess very little, if any, inherent tendency toward an old-earth interpretation, for most of the early church fathers were competent scholars who knew the Bible well, and were not timid about proclaiming what they felt it taught. As far as I have been able to determine, Christian orthodoxy embraces only the idea of a supernatural creation of the world less than ten thousand years ago. ◇

Biblical Chronology 101

Quiz

  1. The goal of true Biblical chronology research is:

    1. to haggle over "endless genealogies."

    2. to discover what really took place in the past and when it took place.

    3. to discover number patterns in the Bible.

    4. to predict future events.

  2. Historicity means:

    1. famous in history.

    2. tissue structure or organization.

    3. historical actuality.

    4. the writing of history.

[Correct answers can be found by scrolling to the bottom of this web page.]

The Importance of Biblical Chronology

Should Christians concern themselves with Biblical chronology? Is it important?

Yes, they should; yes, it is important. It is important because our ability to defend the truth of Christianity hinges upon it.

To see why this is so we need to take a brief look at the relationship between Biblical chronology and Christian apologetics. Since apologetics is not a household word, I have highlighted its definition in the box below.


apologetics: a branch of theology devoted to the defense of the divine origin and authority of Christianity.

(Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary)


Biblical chronology lies very near the foundation of Christian apologetics. This comes about because apologetics is built upon a foundation of Biblical historicity, and Biblical historicity is, in turn, founded upon Biblical chronology.

Observe how the following three Christian scholars, from as long ago as the last century, to as recent as the current decade, emphasize the critical dependence of apologetics on historicity.

Reverend John H. Vincent, in the introduction to the 1884 Rand, McNally Bible Atlas wrote concerning "the book" (i.e., the Bible):

In the changes which have taken place through all these centuries, it would be an easy thing, under some circumstances, for men to deny that the people of the book ever lived, that the cities of the book were ever built, that the events of the book ever transpired. And, if its historic foundation were destroyed, the superstructure of truth, the doctrinal and ethical teachings resting upon it, might in like manner be swept away.

In an important sense the foundations of this book are laid in human history and geography. However high toward the heavens it may reach in doctrine and promise, its foundations lay hold of the earth. If the children of Israel did not live in Egypt and Canaan and the far East, if the statements of their history as recorded in the book be not facts, if the story of Jesus Christ be false, – everything fails us. With the sweeping away of fact, we must also bid farewell to the words of doctrine and of promise here recorded; to the divine words of assurance which now give comfort to the penitent, hope to the despairing, strength to the feeble, and immortal life to the dying.[12]

Wheaton's Professor of Bible and Archaeology, Joseph P. Free, in the middle of this century, on the opening page of his textbook, Archaeology and Bible History, says it this way:

The Bible is a historical book, and the great truths of Christianity are founded upon the historic facts revealed therein. If the fact of the Virgin Birth, the fact of the Crucifixion, and the fact of the Resurrection be set aside, our faith is without foundation. Since the New Testament revelation stands upon the foundation of the Old Testament, the accuracy of the Old Testament is of great importance to us.[13]

Finally, in a recently released video series, theologian R. C. Sproul says:

Now just because a book claims to be the Word of God, doesn't make it the Word of God. Just because a book claims to be the unvarnished truth does not make it the unvarnished truth. Anybody can make a claim like that, and more than one book does make that claim. … We want to look beyond the simple claim, for evidences; what the scholars call the indicia. Is there any evidential basis for agreeing with the claim that Scripture makes?

Now, obviously, in this short period of time I can't give you a full-fledged apologetic for the integrity of sacred Scripture. But let me just give you a brief outline of how the church has proceeded historically to the conclusion that the Bible is not a myth, that it is not fable, that it is not legend, and that it is truth, and that it is infallible truth.

The starting point in the inquiry is this question: "Does the Bible communicate basically reliable information?" Is it a basically reliable historical document? Not, is it inspired; not, is it infallible; not, is it any of that; but just, is it a good historical source?

Now, obviously, if the answer to that question is, "No, it's not even basically reliable," there's no reason under the sun why we should spend five minutes in "recreation" attending its message.[14]

All three scholars make the same point: if the Bible can be convicted of any falsehood in regard to history, then there is no basis for the claim that Christianity is true. The defense of the truth of Christianity is entirely dependent upon the truth of Biblical history; Christian apologetics is rooted in Biblical historicity.

This explains why Biblical historicity is important. But why is Biblical chronology important?

It is evident that there is an intimate connection between history and chronology. As has often been stated: "chronology is the backbone of history." Because of this close relationship, it is, in fact, essentially impossible to defend Biblical historicity apart from a true and accurate Biblical chronology.

The past several centuries of church history seem to me to have clearly demonstrated this fact. It is surely no coincidence that the rise of theological liberalism (which is conceived in a rejection of Biblical historicity) followed on the heels of the attack on the historic Christian doctrine regarding the date of Creation. I suggest that the existence of the phenomenon of liberalism within the church is very largely a result of a failure in Biblical chronology – a failure to correlate Biblical history, including the Creation and the Flood, with extra-Biblical data in a fashion which was intellectually satisfying and, at the same time, true to both the text of Scripture and the data of science.

But we are out of space. Perhaps we will have opportunity to explore this further next issue.

The take-home lesson for today is that Biblical chronology is foundational to Christian apologetics. This means that Christians who keep themselves properly informed and current in this field will find that they are uniquely able to carry out the mandate of 1 Peter 3:15 to be "ready to make a defense to every one who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you." And, as an added bonus, they will find that their comprehension and appreciation of the Bible has grown enormously. ◇

Research in Progress

There have been several exciting developments since last issue. Recall that I had proposed:

Flood Hypothesis 1 The Chalcolithic in Palestine was catastrophically terminated by the Biblical/historical event known as Noah's Flood.

I had advanced two questions which I felt needed to be answered in attempting to evaluate whether this hypothesis was true or not:

  1. What physical/archaeological evidence can be found bearing on the question of whether the Chalcolithic was terminated by a flood?

  2. How widespread was the cultural hiatus which is seen in Palestine at the end of the Chalcolithic?

I will report on these two questions separately below. While my investigation is far from complete, what I have found, thus far, tends to confirm the hypothesis.

Was the Chalcolithic terminated by a flood?

I quickly learned that Tell Ghassul is regarded as the principal Chalcolithic site in Palestine. It is situated in the Jordan Valley about three miles northeast of the Dead Sea. It is a large site, covering roughly fifty acres. While I have not yet located comprehensive chronological data for the site, it must have been occupied over a fairly long period of time; the remains are over fifteen feet deep in places, and over one hundred successive floor levels of mud-brick houses with stone foundations have been excavated.

Does Tell Ghassul show any signs of having been flooded at the end of its history? The following observation seems significant in this regard.

Because the site is composed of a number of small hillocks, its previous excavators thought it represented a group of small, closely tied settlements. Recent work has shown that these hillocks are in fact the result of erosion and represent the remains of a single large settlement.[15]

We would expect flood waters to erode some areas and deposit sediments in others. The overall degree of erosion and deposition would depend on the intensity of the flood – the speed of the water flowing across the surface, its depth, etc. The effect of a flood at any particular site would depend on several factors as well – local topography and surface material, for example. I am not in a position to quantitatively assess any of these factors at the present time. I only note that floods normally erode at least some areas, and Tell Ghassul, the largest pre-Flood settlement in Palestine according to our hypothesis, is found to be carved up into a number of small hillocks by erosion.

The fact that this site is 295 meters (968 feet) below sea level and fairly arid today seems to add additional significance to this observation. It does not seem likely to me that this sort of erosion could result from normal processes active in the area today. The fact that the originally continuous tell has been carved into separate hillocks suggests the removal of substantial quantities of material, including sizable stones used as foundations for the houses. This seems possible only through the action of significant volumes of moving water.

However, Noah's Flood is not the only imaginable source of significant volumes of water in the area. For example, the site seems to have been much wetter when it was founded than it is today.

The available evidence indicates that Tuleilat el-Ghassul was initially settled on a sandbar surrounded by slow-moving water, perhaps in a swampy environment.[16]
Note, however, that the site existed in this initial environment without being eroded; it was eroded into separate hillocks subsequent to its use as a settlement area, not during it.

As usual, much more research is required before definitive conclusions can be reached. I simply note, at this stage, that readily available evidence from the most significant Chalcolithic site in Palestine seems sympathetic to the hypothesis under investigation.

How widespread was this event?

Did the cultural hiatus which is seen at the end of the Chalcolithic in Palestine occur in Egypt as well? I began to investigate this question while visiting the British Museum late last summer. The British Museum has a number of excellent displays tracing the history of Egypt from its earliest prehistoric beginnings through the predynastic and into the dynastic. I spent a number of hours studying these displays trying to determine if there was any apparent discontinuity in culture at any point in time. My tentative conclusion was that the only possibility was during the predynastic, between what are termed the Nagada II and Nagada III periods. ( Nagada is sometimes spelled Naqada or Naquada.) I am still of this persuasion.

To keep the discussion (and my research) focused, I advance the following new hypothesis:

Flood Hypothesis 2 The Nagada II period in Egypt was terminated by Noah's Flood.

This hypothesis faces several immediate hurdles. These do not seem insurmountable to me (else I would not advance the hypothesis) but some serious readjustment of current scholarly opinion regarding the nature and timing of the prehistory of Egypt will be required if this hypothesis is true.

The first hurdle is obvious from the terminology. We would expect the Flood to be at the end of a period (such as the Chalcolithic in Palestine), not between two phases of the same period, as in this instance: Nagada II and Nagada III. The fact that these two phases have the same period name suggests basic continuity, not the discontinuity we would expect from Noah's Flood.

Yet, so far, I have been unable to find any compelling evidence to support the notion that Nagada II and Nagada III were continuous. For example, while I am no pottery expert, the pottery of these two periods seems to show a great deal more disparity than similarity. As Figure 1 clearly shows, there is basic continuity of pottery forms from Nagada I, into Early Nagada II, and through Late Nagada II – but not into Nagada III. Most obvious is the absence of black-topped pottery in Nagada III.
Figure 1: Pottery from Nagada I, II, and III in Egypt. [From A. J. Spencer, Early Egypt: The Rise of Civilisation in the Nile Valley (London: British Museum Press, 1993), 11.]

I am currently wondering whether the notion of continuity may be coming from evolutionary theories of the origin of civilization in Egypt rather than from the material data? The evolutionary paradigm is one of gradual change and advancement toward higher levels of achievement. Those who work within its framework are inherently ill-equipped to discern or appreciate discontinuity and sudden change.

The sense I have at the present time is that the database from which the prehistory of Egypt is currently being extracted is inadequate to clearly reveal the nature of the prehistory of Egypt subsequent to Nagada II. At the current rate of archaeological research, however, I would not expect this to be the case for very long. Perhaps we will see new interpretations and new nomenclature by scholars in this field before very long.

The second hurdle is purely chronological. Biblical chronology leads to a date of ca. 3520 B.C. for Noah's Flood. The currently accepted date for the end of Nagada II is, apparently, around 3200 B.C., about 300 years later.

However, this date (3200 B.C.) is part of an overall sequence of dates leading up to the beginning of the dynastic period and the Old Kingdom in Egypt. (That is, it is in some sense tied to the Old Kingdom dates.) We now know that the presently accepted dates for the Old Kingdom are about three hundred years too young.[17] It seems likely, therefore, that the presently accepted date for the end of Nagada II is also about three hundred years too young. My preliminary investigation of radiocarbon dates from Nagada II is supportive of this possibility. Perhaps we will have room to look at this in greater detail next issue.

Summary

The relationship of the chronologies of Scripture, Palestine, and Egypt near 3500 B.C. which I am proposing by the two hypotheses advanced above is shown in Figure 2. The following four statements seem to me to accurately summarize the data we have discussed so far in relation to these hypotheses:
  1. The Chalcolithic in Palestine appears to have been abruptly terminated by a disaster of some sort.

  2. The principal Chalcolithic site in Palestine has been significantly eroded, apparently by water, subsequent to its long history as a settlement.

  3. It seems possible that a cultural hiatus may exist in Egypt between Nagada II and Nagada III.

  4. It seems possible that Nagada II terminated around 3500 B.C.

Figure 2: Proposed relationship of the chronologies of Scripture, Palestine, and Egypt near 3500 B.C.

The quest continues! ◇

The Biblical Chronologist is a bimonthly subscription newsletter about Biblical chronology. It is written and edited by Gerald E. Aardsma, a Ph.D. scientist (nuclear physics) with special background in radioisotopic dating methods such as radiocarbon. The Biblical Chronologist has a threefold purpose:

  1. to encourage, enrich, and strengthen the faith of conservative Christians through instruction in Biblical chronology,

  2. to foster informed, up-to-date, scholarly research in this vital field within the conservative Christian community, and

  3. to communicate current developments and discoveries in Biblical Chronology in an easily understood manner.


The Biblical Chronologist (ISSN 1081-762X) is published six times a year by Aardsma Research & Publishing, 412 N. Mulberry, Loda, IL 60948.

Editor and Writer: Gerald E. Aardsma, Ph.D.
Subscription rate: $18.00/year ($3.00/issue). Please add $1.00/year for Canadian or Mexican address. Other non-US addresses add $5.00/year. US funds only.
Back issues: $4.00/single copy; $3.00/copy for 2 to 10 copies of same issue; $2.00/copy for more than 10 copies of same issue.

Copyright © 1995 by Aardsma Research & Publishing. Photocopying or reproduction strictly prohibited without written permission from the publisher.

Footnotes

  1. ^   Much of the research for this article was carried out while I was on the faculty of the Institute for Creation Research Graduate School. Their support of this research is gratefully acknowledged.

  2. ^   Hugh Ross, The Fingerprint of God, 2nd ed. (Orange, California: Promise Publishing Co., 1991) 141.

  3. ^   Joseph P. Free, Archaeology and Bible History, 8th ed. (Wheaton, IL: Scripture Press Publications, Inc., 1962). Note that this quote is on page 20 of Free; Ross' reference is to page 50, but this seems certain to be a typographical error as nothing on page 50 of the several editions of Free which I have surveyed pertains to the views of the early church fathers or the days of Genesis.

  4. ^   Davis A. Young, Christianity and the Age of the Earth (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1982), 22.

  5. ^   Thomas Aquinas. "The Summa Theologica," Great Books of the Western World, vol. 19 (Chicago: Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc., 1952) 375.

  6. ^   Thomas Aquinas. "The Summa Theologica," Great Books of the Western World, vol. 19 (Chicago: Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc., 1952) 377.

  7. ^   Augustine, "The Literal Meaning of Genesis," Ancient Christian Writers: The Works of the Father's in Translation, vol. 1, no. 41 (New York: Newman Press, 1982) 134.

  8. ^   Augustine, "The Confessions," Great Books of the Western World, vol. 18, (Chicago: Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc., 1952) 124.

  9. ^   Augustine, "The City of God," Great Books of the Western World, vol. 18 (Chicago: Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc., 1952) 348.

  10. ^   Augustine, "The City of God," Great Books of the Western World, vol. 18 (Chicago: Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc., 1952) 349.

  11. ^   Louis Lavallee, "The Early Church Defended Creation Science," Impact, 160 (Institute for Creation Research, 10946 Woodside Ave. N., Santee, CA, 92071) October 1986, iii.

  12. ^   John H. Vincent, Bible Atlas, rev. ed. (Chicago: Rand, McNally & Company, 1884) iii-iv.

  13. ^   Joseph P. Free, Archaeology and Bible History, 8th ed. (Wheaton, IL: Scripture Press Publications, Inc., 1962), 1.

  14. ^  R. C. Sproul, "His Word is Truth", in the Ultimate Issues video series. Ligonier Ministries, P.O. Box 547500, Orlando, FL 32854.

  15. ^   Thomas E. Levy, "Ghassul, Tuleilat el-," The New Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land, vol. 2, ed. Ephraim Stern (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1993), 508.

  16. ^  Thomas E. Levy, "Ghassul, Tuleilat el-," The New Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land, vol. 2, ed. Ephraim Stern (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1993), 508.

  17. ^   Gerald E. Aardsma, A New Approach to the Chronology of Biblical History from Abraham to Samuel (San Diego: Institute for Creation Research, 1995), 46.


Quiz answers: 1b, 2c.

list of BC newsletters; PDF

BC13.HTM
Volume 1, Number 3May/June 1995

Chronology of the Bible:
3000 - 1000 B.C.

The following article should be regarded as a resource. It is a compilation of Biblical chronological data giving a continuous chronology for the second and third millennia B.C. It takes into consideration the most recent work in Biblical chronology, including my discovery of the missing thousand years in the present text of 1 Kings 6:1. It is the only Biblical chronology for these millennia which naturally harmonizes with a wide breadth of geophysical, archaeological and secular historical data. Older Biblical chronologies (such as are currently found in Bible encyclopedias, for example) are obsolete and seriously wrong in these two millennia. Anyone attempting to use them to harmonize Biblical and secular history will encounter endless frustration. (I speak from experience.)

A summary chart can be found at the end of the article. A copy of this chart taped to the inside cover of your Bible makes a handy study aid.


The historical narrative of the Bible which spans the second and third millennia B.C. seems to divide most naturally into two major periods, Proto-Israel and the Theocracy, with a third period, the Monarchy, beginning near the close of the second millennium.

Proto-Israel

Proto-Israel is the period of time during which the nation of Israel was in the making. It begins with the entrance of Abraham into Canaan, and ends with the birth of the nation of Israel at the time of the Exodus.

The duration of the Proto-Israel period is calculated as follows. Abraham entered Canaan at age 75 (Genesis 12:4-5). His son Isaac was born when he was 100 (Genesis 21:5). This gives the first 25 years of the Proto-Israel period. Isaac's son Jacob was born when Isaac was 60 years old (Genesis 25:26). When summed to the previous 25 years, this yields a total of 85 Proto-Israel years. Jacob and his family entered Egypt when he was 130 years old (Genesis 47:9). This gives 215 Proto-Israel years. The Exodus occurred after Israel had been in Egypt 430 years (Exodus 12:40-41). This gives a total length for the Proto-Israel period of 645 years.

This span of time should not be regarded as exact; there are a number of uncertainties. First, each of these numbers must be regarded as rounded, at least to the nearest whole number of years. This introduces a minimum of a half-year uncertainty in each. Computing the uncertainty in the sum using the square root of the sum of squares method gives approximately 1 year.[1] Thus, this consideration alone suggests we should regard the length of the Proto-Israel period to be, not exactly 645 years, but rather somewhere between 644 and 646 years.

Observe, however, that four of the five numbers (i.e., 75, 100, 60, 130, 430) which are used in this computation end in zero, and the remaining one ends in five. This suggests that these numbers may have been intended to be understood as rounded to the nearest decade or half-decade. To be on the safe side, I assume a rounding uncertainty of ±5 (i.e., plus or minus five) years on each of these numbers. This yields an uncertainty in the sum of about 11 years. The length of the Proto-Israel period must then be regarded as between 634 and 656 years.

The first four numbers comprising this sum are likely to seem incredible to some. These four numbers represent ages, and they are all unusually high by present-day norms. Abraham sets out on a new life at age 75, and fathers a son at age 100. Isaac, in turn, fathers twins at age 60, and Jacob stands before Pharaoh at age 130. But however unusual these numbers may seem, we have no objective grounds for modifying or rejecting them. There is no reason to believe the rate of human aging has always been as it is today. In fact, the cause of aging remains a complete mystery despite decades of intensive research. It is certainly theoretically possible for life spans to have been longer in the past. In the absence of contradictory evidence, the only reasonable procedure is to accept the clear witness of the text. Accordingly, I make no allowance in the estimated uncertainty of the duration of the Proto-Israel period for any supposed inflation of these numbers.

A final consideration affecting this calculation is the interpretation of the text in regard to the "430" year figure. The Masoretic Text of Exodus 12:40-41 seems clearly to imply that this 430 years was the duration of the Israelites' stay in Egypt alone. In the Septuagint, however, verse 40 reads "And the sojourning of the children of Israel, while they sojourned in the land of Egypt and the land of Chanaan, was four hundred and thirty years."[2] If one follows this reading the Proto-Israel period is shortened considerably. At the present time a number of geophysical and historical evidences (e.g., archaeological and radiocarbon synchronisms with Joseph's famine, the timing of the construction of the pyramids in Egypt, and the Genesis 13:10 synchronism discussed in a previous issue[3]) seem clearly to exclude such shortening.

The approximate absolute dates for the beginning and ending of the Proto-Israel period are obtained as follows. We begin with the accession date of Rehoboam, Solomon's son, which is given by Thiele[4] as 931/930 B.C. I assign an uncertainty of ±10 years to this starting date based upon the range of scholarly opinions I have seen regarding it. To this date we must add the length of Solomon's reign, which is given as 40 years in 1 Kings 11:42 and 2 Chronicles 9:30. We must then subtract 4 and add 1,480[5] years to take us to the date of the Exodus (1 Kings 6:1). This computes to 2447 B.C. Allowing 5 years uncertainty in the length of Solomon's reign, a 0.5 year uncertainty in the timing of the commencement of the building of the temple, and 5 years uncertainty in the 1480 year figure gives a total uncertainty in the date of the Exodus of about 12 years. Thus, I compute the date of the Exodus (and end of the Proto-Israel period) to fall somewhere between 2459 and 2435 B.C.

The date of the beginning of the Proto-Israel period is easily obtained by adding the duration of this period (645±11 years, computed above) to its ending date. This yields 3092±16 B.C.

Figure 1: Chronology of Biblical time periods and selected events in the 2nd and 3rd millennia B.C.

The Theocracy

"Theocracy" means "the rule of God." This period extends from the birth of the nation of Israel at the Exodus, through to the rejection of God as king (1 Samuel 8:7) and choice of Saul.

The span of time involved in the Theocracy period is calculated as follows. It is the time between the Exodus and Solomon's fourth year (1480±5 years) minus the time from the accession of Saul to Solomon's fourth year. This later time is computed from three Biblical numbers. The first is the length of Saul's reign. The tens digit for this number is, unfortunately, missing from all extant ancient manuscripts of 1 Samuel 13:1, so we are left with only   2 years for the length of Saul's reign. However, Acts 13:21 suggests that this number should be around 40 years. I will work with the figure of 40, and assign an uncertainty of ±10 years to cover the textual uncertainty here. The second number is the length of David's reign. It is given in 2 Samuel 5:4 as 40 years; I will use 40±5. The third number is the time from the beginning of Solomon's reign to the commencement of the building of the temple; I will use 4±0.5 as previously. The final result, when all of these numbers are properly combined is 1,396±12 years.

The absolute date for the termination of the Theocracy period is, once again, computed backwards from the accession of Rehoboam. It is [(931±10 B.C.) + (40±5 years for the reign of Solomon) + (40±5 years for the reign of David) + (40±10 years for the reign of Saul)]. This gives 1051±16 B.C.

The Monarchy

The Monarchy period extends from the beginning of the reign of Saul to the end of the reign of Zedekiah (2 Kings 25:6) in ca. 586 B.C. Since we are only interested in the second and third millennia B.C. in this study I will hold discussion of this final date.

Summary

The time chart at left summarizes the foregoing results. It shows the Biblical periods we have outlined above, together with a selection of Biblical events in the rightmost "details" column, placed at their appropriate dates. These dates are easily calculated from the Bible given the framework presented here.[6]

While the computations required to produce this chart are somewhat mundane, the result is truly extraordinary. A routine 3σ precision of ±16 years for dates in the 3000 B.C. range is outstanding and unparalleled by other historical chronologies at present. ◇

Biblical Chronology 101

Quiz

I decided to put this issue's quiz into the form of a crossword puzzle. This is an open-newsletter quiz. Almost all of the answers can be found in the first two issues of The Biblical Chronologist, number 5 being the main exception. The correct answers can be found by scrolling to the bottom of this web page – but no peeking until you are finished. Drop me a postcard and let me know how you scored. Perhaps I'll publish a class average next issue.

  1. What Lisan means.

  2. Historical actuality.

  3. What Paul told Christians not to argue over.

  4. One thing flood waters can do.

  5. Name of an archaeological period meaning "new stone age."

  6. A branch of theology devoted to the defense of the divine origin and authority of Christianity.

  7. The size of the Biblical chronology error which resulted from a tiny copy error in 1 Kings 6:1.

  8. What the region around the Dead Sea is like today.

  9. Meaning "Before Christ."

  10. Archaeological period ending around 3600 B.C. in Palestine.

  11. What this newsletter is all about.

The Importance of Biblical Chronology:
Part II

Last issue we began a discussion of the importance of Biblical chronology. I would like to finish this discussion this issue.

I stated last issue that Biblical chronology is important because our ability to defend the truth of Christianity hinges upon it. This relationship is succinctly summarized by the statement, "Biblical chronology is foundational to apologetics."

Biblical chronology is foundational to apologetics because wrong Biblical chronology yields a failed apologetic. In the current lesson I would like to show why this is the case. The argument leading to this conclusion involves three simple premises:

  1. Wrong Biblical chronology yields wrong Biblical history.

  2. Wrong Biblical history yields a loss of Biblical historicity.

  3. A loss of Biblical historicity yields a failed apologetic.

If these three premises are true, then the unavoidable conclusion is that wrong Biblical chronology yields a failed apologetic.

Last issue we looked at the last of these three premises. We saw the critical role played by the question, "Is the Bible a basically reliable historical document?" in the defense of the truth of Christianity. We saw that if this question could be answered, "No, it is not a basically reliable historical document," then the defense of the truth of Christianity would collapse. In other words, we showed that premise 3 is true – a loss of Biblical historicity yields a failed apologetic.

The second premise above is almost tautological and requires little elaboration. Recall that historicity means historical actuality – it means true history, or what really took place. Wrong history means an inaccurate account, or a misrepresentation of what really took place. Clearly, when what really took place is misrepresented, a loss of historical actuality is the result. Therefore, wrong Biblical history yields a loss of Biblical historicity.

It is only the first premise, then, which requires further discussion, and it does not require very much discussion.

The reason wrong Biblical chronology yields wrong Biblical history is because chronology is an integral part of history, and the whole cannot be right unless all of its parts are right.

Last issue I used the well-worn phrase "chronology is the backbone of history" to introduce the idea of the close relationship which exists between chronology and history. We all know what backbones do, of course. They provide the basic frame from which the rest of the organism is built. Remove the backbone, and an organism will lose its form. It will become an amorphous blob, like an amoeba or a jellyfish, with no rigid linkage between its component parts.

Chronology plays this kind of role with history. True history consists of a myriad of facts (real-life events) arranged in a completely unique order in time. To recite true history we must tell what really happened in the past. To accomplish this it is not enough to tell what events took place – we must also tell when these events took place. Without this chronological information, history loses its form and collapses into non-history.

To illustrate, consider the following scenario. Suppose we have the following three historical facts, given in correct chronological order as they occurred one evening:

  1. I ate a sandwich.

  2. I went to bed.

  3. My tent collapsed.

What happens to this snatch of history if we get its chronology wrong? Suppose we just get the order in which these events took place mixed up. What are the possible outcomes?

From elementary mathematics we know that three different things can be arranged in three factorial or six different ways. Thus, there are six possible stories which can be told with these three facts when chronological ordering constraints are removed. They are: 1. I ate a sandwich. I went to bed. My tent collapsed. 2. I ate a sandwich. My tent collapsed. I went to bed. 3. My tent collapsed. I ate a sandwich. I went to bed. 4. My tent collapsed. I went to bed. I ate a sandwich. 5. I went to bed. I ate a sandwich. My tent collapsed. 6. I went to bed. My tent collapsed. I ate a sandwich.

Each story is different. Each suggests different spatial arrangements of me, my tent and the sandwich. Each suggests different causal relationships between the three events. None of the stories is intrinsically impossible. Yet only the first corresponds to true history – the other five are all fictitious.

We see immediately that historical facts do not reveal true history in and of themselves. Indeed, historical facts can be used to tell all sorts of fictions. Historical facts tell history only when they are placed in correct temporal relationship to one another. Thus chronology is an integral part of history, and wrong chronology necessarily yields wrong history. Premise 1 – wrong Biblical chronology yields wrong Biblical history – is seen also to be true.

The logical sum of these three premises is our desired conclusion: "wrong Biblical chronology yields a failed apologetic."

I have tried to illustrate my thoughts in this regard in the sketch above. I picture Biblical Chronology as a foundation block extending from the heights of Reason toward the heights of Faith. In itself it cannot span the chasm between, but upon it is laid another foundation block called Biblical Historicity. It also is too short to span the remaining gap, but upon it a final block called Apologetics is laid. This final block is able to bridge the remaining distance, thereby linking Faith and Reason and completing the foundation of Truth. If Biblical Chronology is removed or broken, the remainder is lost into the chasm called Nihilism. ◇

Research in Progress

I continue to pursue the nature and date of Noah's Flood.

I ended last issue with a figure, reproduced below, summarizing my proposed relationship between the chronologies of Scripture, Palestine, and Egypt near 3500 B.C. For the past two months I have turned my attention to the chronology of Mesopotamia, asking the question, "Can a cultural break or any other evidence of the Flood be discerned in this region near 3500 B.C.?"

Figure 2: Proposed relationship of the chronologies of Scripture, Palestine, and Egypt near 3500 B.C.

The chronology of Mesopotamia is considered to be securely established only back to the middle of the second millennium – two thousand years short of our current interest. From the middle of the second to the middle of the third millennium three possible chronologies exist, the highest and lowest of which differ by 200 years. The chronology of the fourth millennium is even more uncertain – errors of 500 years in absolute dates for this millennium do not seem impossible to me at the present time.[7] The historic period (during which time written sources exist to aid in chronological reconstruction) only begins around 3000 B.C.; there presently appears no possibility of a historical chronology of Mesopotamia extending back into the fourth millennium.

One might hope to find definitive radiocarbon results to reduce the uncertainty in the fourth millennium chronology. Unfortunately, there appears to be few radiocarbon dates available for this area during this millennium – a reminder, once again, that we are researching at the frontier of chronology.

The present "standard chronology" (which must not to be equated with the unknown, true chronology) of Mesopotamia from 4500 to 2500 B.C. is shown in Figure 3.[8] It places the boundary between Middle and Late Gawra in the north, and Middle and Late Uruk in the south, at 3500 B.C. However, if we allow 500 years uncertainty in the dates of these boundaries, then it is possible for Noah's Flood to have taken place anywhere from the late Ubaid to mid Jamdat Nasr.

Figure 3: A modern chronology of Mesopotamia, 4500-2500 B.C. (See footnote 8 for reference.)

The late Ubaid is somewhat interesting because of Sir Leonard Woolley's discovery in the 1920's and 30's of a flood layer at Ur. It is fairly well known that Woolley identified this eleven foot layer of silt, which lay near the base of the thick archaeological strata at Ur, with "Noah's Flood." As I started this search, I came upon two of Woolley's classic books, Ur of the Chaldees and Spadework in Archaeology. Woolley reported his discovery of this layer in both of these volumes.

Apparently, many Christian's jumped at Woolley's discovery, regarding it as "proof" of Noah's Flood when it was first announced. Unfortunately, the full nature of Woolley's claims was apparently not understood by most of these Christians. From what Woolley has written it is clear that he did not believe the Biblical record of the Flood was an accurate historical account. Rather, he supposed that it reflected merely one tradition of a big flood which had happened in Mesopotamia long before the Bible had ever been written. He felt the Biblical account of Noah's Flood was essentially a myth with but a kernel of truth behind it.

Woolley did not pretend to be demonstrating Biblical historicity by his discovery; indeed, he began with the assumption of non-historicity and felt his discovery validated that assumption. Here, for example, is how Woolley summarized his discovery at Ur:

In the lowest levels of potsherds the Erech [same as Uruk above] ware was mixed with and finally replaced altogether by al 'Ubaid [same as Ubaid above] pottery, hand-made without the wheel, the product of the early and still barbarous villagers who first settled at Ur. Then we came to the flood deposit, eleven feet of clean silt, disturbed only by a few graves dug into it by the late al 'Ubaid people whose pottery we had found; silt left piled up against the mound whereon the primitive town had stood by an inundation that must have overwhelmed all the low-lying villages of the river valley and destroyed what for those people was the world. Under the eleven-foot stratum lay the ruins of the houses in which had lived the antediluvian inhabitants of the Lower Town; they had, we may suppose, taken refuge on the mound, the Inner City, and from its walls watched their homes disappear beneath the muddy waters of the flood. This was the flood, coming in the latter part of the al 'Ubaid period, which the ancient Sumerians regarded as the outstanding disaster in their country's history, and out of the historic fact grew the legend which in course of time the Hebrew people incorporated in their own sacred writings and handed on to us today, the story of Noah's Flood.[9]

One of the consequences of such an attitude toward Biblical history is that rigorous, objective investigation is lost. One cannot expect a legend to stand up to the rigors of critical historical investigation, and what constitutes the kernel of truth around which a legend is built is purely a matter of subjective opinion. Consequently, Woolley did not critically evaluate his flood evidence to see if it truly matched the Biblical narrative of Noah's Flood. It was enough for Woolley that he had found any sort of flood evidence – this was readily molded into the requisite kernel of "truth."

But let us not be side-tracked by Woolley's philosophy, theology, or methodology. We are only interested in his scientific data, which are principally these: 1. the existence of a silt layer, eleven feet thick, and 2. which was deposited at Ur in the latter part of the Ubaid period in Mesopotamia.

Eleven feet of silt is clear evidence of a flood, and such a thick layer of silt certainly suggests a big flood. Also, this layer appears to be unique. Woolley dug through quite a long period of history at Ur, at least three thousand years worth. Yet this is the only flood layer of any sort which he reported in his two books – apparently, it is the only one he found. Finally, as indicated above, the possibility that this layer may date to our expected Flood date ( ca. 3520 B.C.) cannot be ruled out.

This leads to the question, "Is it possible that Woolley's identification of this flood evidence with the Flood of Noah was, in fact, correct?"

There seem serious difficulties with such a suggestion at present, and indeed, it has generally been repudiated by liberal and conservative alike. For example, the accomplished archaeologist, G. Ernest Wright, wrote some time ago,

This archaeologist [Woolley] discovered a water-laid deposit at Ur, some 10 feet (3 meters) thick, dating from the middle [?] of the Ubaid period of the 4th millennium B.C. This, he claimed, was conclusive evidence of the Flood. Yet in only two of the five pits that Woolley dug to virgin soil did he find the "flood" layer. This evidence suggests that the flood in question did not cover the whole city; and we know that it made no break in the continuity of culture there.

Other cities in the Mesopotamian river valley, notably Kish, Fara, and Nineveh, also show flood layers, though none of them can be closely correlated in time. On the other hand, the excavators have found no such layer in Gilgamesh's own city of Erech (Warka). In other words, the Mesopotamian "flood" evidence is that of purely local inundations of the Tigris and the Euphrates.[10]

It seems that further investigation of Woolley's claim is only called for in the interest of leaving no stone unturned. What seems likely to be more profitable is time spent collecting and analyzing available radiocarbon dates from the fourth millennium B.C. in Mesopotamia to see what further constraints can be imposed on its chronology at present.

I have so far been unable to find anything like the cultural break apparent in Palestine at the close of the Chalcolithic in either the late Ubaid or Uruk periods. Whether something will come to light upon closer scrutiny remains to be seen. ◇

The Biblical Chronologist is a bimonthly subscription newsletter about Biblical chronology. It is written and edited by Gerald E. Aardsma, a Ph.D. scientist (nuclear physics) with special background in radioisotopic dating methods such as radiocarbon. The Biblical Chronologist has a threefold purpose:

  1. to encourage, enrich, and strengthen the faith of conservative Christians through instruction in Biblical chronology,

  2. to foster informed, up-to-date, scholarly research in this vital field within the conservative Christian community, and

  3. to communicate current developments and discoveries in Biblical Chronology in an easily understood manner.


The Biblical Chronologist (ISSN 1081-762X) is published six times a year by Aardsma Research & Publishing, 412 N. Mulberry, Loda, IL 60948.

Editor and Writer: Gerald E. Aardsma, Ph.D.
Subscription rate: $18.00/year ($3.00/issue). Please add $1.00/year for Canadian or Mexican address. Other non-US addresses add $5.00/year. US funds only.
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Copyright © 1995 by Aardsma Research & Publishing. Photocopying or reproduction strictly prohibited without written permission from the publisher.

Footnotes

  1. ^  One can get quite elaborate when dealing quantitatively with uncertainties in chronological computations. In the vast majority of cases, however, a precise error estimate is not needed, and a simple, uniform procedure is more desirable. I use what approximates to 3σ error bars in an effort to define a range of dates (i.e., a time-bracket) in which the true date in question can almost certainly be found. It is most convenient to round all computed dates and time spans to the nearest year only, and then display these results together with their computed 3σ uncertainty. This avoids the appearance of exaggerated precision, and retains all digits for use in subsequent computations.

  2. ^  Sir Lancelot C. L. Brenton, The Septuagint Version: Greek and English (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1970), 86. Some have marshaled Galatians 3:17 in defense of this reading as well.

  3. ^  "Mount Sodom Confirms Missing Millennium", The Biblical Chronologist, vol. 1, no. 1, (January/February 1995): 1-4.

  4. ^  Edwin R. Thiele, The Mysterious Numbers of the Hebrew Kings (Grand Rapids: Academie Books, Zondervan Publishing House, 1983), 217.

  5. ^  See Gerald E. Aardsma, A New Approach to the Chronology of Biblical History from Abraham to Samuel, 2nd ed. (412 N. Mulberry, Loda, IL: Aardsma Research & Publishing, 1995) for details of this number.

  6. ^  Most of the dates in this column can be found in Table 4.1 of my book, A New Approach to the Chronology of Biblical History from Abraham to Samuel, referenced previously.

  7. ^  This assessment is based upon a survey of the published literature; it does not include any first-hand work on my part with available radiocarbon data.

  8. ^   Edith Porada, Donald P. Hansen, and Sally Dunham, "The Chronology of Mesopotamia, ca. 7000-1600 B.C.," in Chronologies in Old World Archaeology, volume 2 (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1992), 96,98.

  9. ^  Sir Leonard Woolley, Spadework in Archaeology (New York: Philosophical Library, 1953), 105-106.

  10. ^  G. Ernest Wright, "The Flood," The Encyclopedia Americana – International Edition (Danbury, Connecticut: Grolier Incorporated, 1993), 415.


Quiz answers: 1. tongue, 2. historicity, 3. genealogies, 4. erode, 5. Neolithic, 6. apologetics, 7. large, 8. arid, 9. B.C., 10. Chalcolithic, 11. chronology.

list of BC newsletters; PDF

BC14.HTM
Volume 1, Number 4July/August 1995

The Chronology of Palestine in Relation to the Bible:
3000 - 1000 B.C.

The following article shows how I synchronize Biblical chronology with secular chronology in Palestine from 3000 to 1000 B.C. It is a technical article, designed to act as a reference item for future discussions involving any aspect of the chronology of Palestine in these two millennia. A time chart showing the relevant time periods in Palestine and my synchronization of them with Biblical chronology can be found below. You will find it helpful to refer to this chart frequently as you study the following article. Indeed, the chart is the important thing; the discussion serves only to explain it. A brief overview of the history of Palestine in relation to the Bible during the second and third millennia B.C. is woven throughout the article. When the course of history is examined with such a wide field of view the natural harmony which exists between the Biblical and secular histories is readily apparent. While the discussion is necessarily technical and dry at many points, the resulting synchronization is quite remarkable, and the final synthesis of secular and sacred histories greatly enriches comprehension of both.


Figure 1: Chronology of the historical/archaeological time periods of Palestine synchronized with the Biblical time periods and selected Biblical events in the 2nd and 3rd millennia B.C.

The historical/archaeological time periods in Palestine during the second and third millennia B.C. have been named Early Bronze Age, Middle Bronze Age, Late Bronze Age, and Iron Age.[1] These periods are generally subdivided – for example, Late Bronze I (LBI) and Late Bronze II (LBII) – and it is possible for these subdivisions to be further divided – for example, LBIIa and LBIIb.

Unfortunately, there is no single, uniform system for the application of these labels among the archaeologists and historians of Palestine. A single, characteristic time period can be labeled totally differently by different archaeologists. The most common confusion of this sort arises over the Early Bronze IV (EBIV) and Middle Bronze I (MBI) definitions. It is generally necessary to determine precisely which period of time the archaeologist is referring to from the context.

As an added inconvenience to the layperson, the absolute dates assigned to these periods also vary from author to author, even when they are using the same naming convention. This is especially true in the Early Bronze. This, of course, reflects the fact that the absolute starting and ending dates of these periods are not known precisely.[2]

It is unfortunate that a standard naming convention for the chronology of Palestine does not exist, for this means that rather than showing a single time chart correlating the chronology of the Bible with that of Palestine, we really need to display many charts, one for each naming convention used by the archaeologists. This is too big of a task for this article, however, and I have chosen to restrict to the single case of the following period names and divisions:

  1. Early Bronze: EBI, EBII, EBIII, EBIV

  2. Middle Bronze: MBI, MBII

  3. Late Bronze: LBI, LBII

  4. Iron Age: IRON I, IRON II

This convention is not far removed from the majority of those which are in use today, and it is the same as I use in my book, A New Approach to the Chronology of Biblical History from Abraham to Samuel.

Early Bronze

Early Bronze I

EBI was a period of new beginnings in Palestine following the abrupt termination of the preceding Chalcolithic period (which increasingly appears to have been caused by Noah's Flood [see this issue's "Research in Progress" column]). It is characterized archaeologically by the founding of numerous settlements, many of which persist, with varied fortunes, through the next several millennia and some even into the present time. Population densities were low, relative to later times, and "cities" were generally small settlements of a few acres only. These archaeologically revealed characteristics harmonize naturally with the history which is found in Genesis regarding the lives of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, who belong to this period.

EBI-EBII Transition

The EBI to EBII transition is generally dated by the secular chronologists around 2600 or 2700 B.C. These dates are tied, to a greater or lesser degree, to the historical chronology of the Old Kingdom of Egypt, which is 300 years too recent.[3] Thus, we expect the true date of this transition to be about 300 years older than these dates suggest. That is, from purely secular considerations, we expect it to be around 2900 or 3000 B.C.

The EBI to EBII transition appears to have been caused by Joseph's famine,[4] and I take it to be synchronous with that event. Note, however, that when I say "synchronous" I do not mean to imply that this transition took place "at a single instant in time." The famine was a protracted affair which lasted seven years (Genesis 45:6), and the transition from EBI to EBII should also be viewed as protracted and continuous, when looked at with single-year resolution, rather than sudden or at a single instant in time.

For graphical purposes, however, we prefer to have a discrete "boundary" to draw between adjacent periods. To this end it is expedient to define some datable event in history as a "boundary" marker.

It seems most natural, at the present time, to equate the final year of EBI with the final year of Joseph's famine, and the first year of EBII with the first year following the famine. That is, I define the end of Joseph's famine as the boundary marker between EBI and EBII.

The date of the end of Joseph's famine can be calculated from Biblical data as follows. Starting from the Exodus at 2447±12 B.C.,[5] add 430±0 (Exodus 12:40-41) to arrive at the date of the entrance of Jacob and his family into Egypt. This gives 2877±12 B.C. This was at the end of the second year of the famine, with five years of famine yet remaining (Genesis 45:6,11). Thus, the date of the end of the famine is 2877±12 - 5±0 = 2872±12 B.C. I assign this date to the EBI to EBII transition. It obviously agrees well with the purely secular expectations discussed above.

EBI comes to an end Biblically with the departure of Jacob and his family from Palestine. This departure must have been typical of that of many families throughout Palestine during the famine, for the archaeological data shows a significant decline in the density of urban population in Palestine at this transition.

Early Bronze II and III

EBII and EBIII mark the maturation of Canaanite civilization in Palestine.

The Israelites were in Egypt for most of the duration of these two periods. Because the Bible gives us almost no historical insight into these years – even for Egypt – it is not possible to say much about them Biblically.

Archaeologically, these periods carry on in the mode of life established in EBI. The Canaanite cities grow and become fortified, evidently amid significant internal turmoil and strife.

EBII-EBIII transition

No disruption of any sort is seen between EBII and EBIII archaeologically – these two periods appear to be continuous. There is no obvious datable event which one might choose as a marker between them. To get around this problem I arbitrarily assign the chronological mid-point between the beginning of EBII and the end of EBIII (see below) as the boundary. This definition yields a date of (2872±12 + 2407±13)/2 = 2640±9 B.C.

EBIII-EBIV transition

The EBIII to EBIV transition was caused by the Israelite Conquest of Palestine under Joshua.[6] It marks the displacement of the Canaanites from Palestine, and the establishment of the Israelites there. The urbanization which characterized Palestine in EBII and EBIII was reversed at this time.

Once again, this transition took place over an extended period of time. Furthermore, the displacement of the Canaanites took place at different times in different parts of Palestine. It is important to keep this in mind when working with the archaeological data. While it is convenient to talk of EBIII and EBIV as if they were distinct time periods, in actual fact these labels have a natural, unique significance only in the classification by type of archaeological material remains, not by date. In practice, we fully expect that typical EBIII assemblages of archaeological artifacts can be found in some parts of Palestine which will be synchronous with EBIV assemblages elsewhere in Palestine. If we are to use EBIII and EBIV as labels for time periods, then we must, once again, establish their beginning and ending dates by recourse to definition.

It seems most natural to define the EBIII-EBIV "boundary" to be at the beginning of the Conquest, with the crossing of the Jordan. This was 40 years following the Exodus (Exodus 16:35, Joshua 5:12). Thus, I compute its date to be 2447±12 - 40±5 = 2407±13 B.C.

Early Bronze IV

The Early Bronze IV period roughly corresponds to the history recorded in the Biblical books of Joshua, and (especially) Judges. It begins with the (protracted) Conquest of Palestine under Joshua and stretches through the lives of the judges of Israel recorded in the book of Judges, with the possible exception of Samson (see below).

EBIV is marked archaeologically by the destruction or abandonment of all of the urban centers in Palestine and the influx of a new, tribally organized, nomadic population who settle in Palestine at this time.[7]

Middle and Late Bronze

The Middle and Late Bronze period boundaries have fairly well established "consensus-dates" within the secular literature at present. For our time chart I have simply adopted those of the New Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land.[8] Most of these are difficult to say much about Biblically because they fall within the 800 year Biblical historical gap between the end of Samson's judgeship and the birth of Samuel.[9] However, we are able to tell something of the history of these periods from the data (including written materials) which the spade of the archaeologist has revealed.

Middle Bronze I and II

Egypt's influence is apparent in Palestine during MBI; some scholars suggest Egypt ruled Palestine at this time, others suggest commercial relations only. This period coincides, chronologically, with the waxing and waning of the powerful Twelfth Dynasty in Egypt. This dynasty brought Egypt to prominence once again following the national debacle which had resulted from the Exodus some 450 years earlier at the end of the Old Kingdom.

However, another foreign influence appears to infiltrate the land at this time. It seems to enter from the north along the coast, establish settlements which soon become fortified cities, then penetrate inland during Middle Bronze II.

It is tempting, and perhaps correct, to identify the Philistines whom Samson battles (Judges 13-16) as the first of these infiltrators. If so, then it would seem natural to define the beginning of MBI with the start of the Philistine oppression which preceded Samson's judgeship (Judges 13:1). This oppression began ca. 2017 B.C.[10] However, chronological uncertainties admit other possibilities so that we are unable to specify a Biblical boundary marker for the start of this period. Unfortunately, archaeological excavation at Gaza, the Philistine city which figures so prominently in the history of Samson, seems unable, so far, to shed any light on this matter.

What seems completely clear, however, is that the Middle and Late Bronze were periods of considerable setback for the Israelites. Aharon Kempinski, for example, writes:[11]

What then happened to the semi-nomadic Intermediate Bronze Age [our EBIV/Israelite] population? I believe that it was to some extent absorbed, particularly in the new rural population. … The rest of the population was again driven to the periphery, where it formed the nucleus of the nomadic groups of the Middle Bronze Age IIb [our MBII] and of the Late Bronze Age.

Late Bronze I and II

The character of the Late Bronze is summarized as follows by Rivka Gonen:[12]

The entire Late Bronze Age stands in the sign of Egyptian supremacy in Canaan, beginning with the renewal of Egyptian control, following the expulsion of the Hyksos dynasty and the reunification of Egypt under the Theban kings, and ending with the gradual attenuation of Egyptian rule, leading to the retreat of Egypt from the region. For four hundred-odd years, Canaan was part of the Egyptian empire and under its direct administration.

Iron I

The Biblical narrative takes up once again near the middle of the Iron I period with the birth of Samuel. The setting of the Biblical narrative at this point is significantly illuminated by what is known through extra-Biblical sources about the end of the Late Bronze Age.

At the end of the Late Bronze Age, a grave crisis overtook the political, social, and economic structure that had existed in the ancient world for hundreds of years. In the Late Bronze Age, and particularly in the thirteenth century, a balance had been achieved between the Egyptian empire and the Hittite Empire, which controlled large portions of the Near East, while the Aegean came largely under the influence of Mycenaean civilization, which maintained close contacts with the Levant. Within this balance of power, Canaanite towns managed, despite Egyptian domination, to maintain their cultural distinctiveness. This state of affairs came to an end in the late thirteenth century. Within a short time the Hittite Empire collapsed, a wave of destruction engulfed the centers of Mycenaean culture, and Egyptian power declined, putting an end to Egyptian rule in Canaan.[13]

It is in the wake of this collapse of foreign powers, then, that the struggles between the Philistines and Israelites, recorded in the books of Samuel, take place. (These Philistines are not a direct continuation of the Philistines of Samson's time, however. Rather, they appear, archaeologically and historically, to be relatively new to Palestine, having arrived in the land with other "Sea Peoples" as part of a massive migration near the beginning of the Iron I period.) These struggles culminate in the re-establishment of Israel's sovereignty in Iron II, following some nine centuries of foreign domination. ◇

Biblical Chronology 101

[ We take a break from "class" this issue to enjoy a summer recess. I'll meet you back here in the fall.]

Research in Progress

You will recall that I have been concentrating on Mesopotamia, asking the question, "Can a cultural break or any other evidence of the Flood be discerned in this region near 3500 B.C.?" The modern chronology of Mesopotamia, spanning the late Ubaid to the Early Dynastic periods, which I showed last issue is reproduced here as Figure 2. I suggested that uncertainties of up to 500 years seemed possible in this chronology during the fourth millennium B.C., the period of interest to the present investigation. This meant that the time-bracket in which the Flood might be found stretched from the late Ubaid, through the Uruk (Gawra for northern Mesopotamia) and into the middle of the Jamdat Nasr. I ended by noting that I had been unable to find anything suitable to the Flood in either the late Ubaid or Uruk periods.

Figure 2: A modern chronology of Mesopotamia, 4500-2500 B.C. (See previous issue's footnote 8 for reference.)

I have now begun reading J. N. Postgate's recent book, Early Mesopotamia.[14] One thing which emerges from this book is the fact that we have far from a complete set of archaeological and historical data to work with in Mesopotamia at the early dates of interest to our investigation. For example, in Postgate's chapter on early palaces in Mesopotamia he notes that "both the historical and the archaeological record from before the EDIII period are very scrappy,"[15] and speaking of the Uruk period he says, "With a suddenness which may be partially the consequence of the poverty of archaeological excavation, …," and again, "virtually nothing of the early Uruk period has yet been excavated in South Mesopotamia."[16] This relative lack of data is an impediment to our investigation, but not a fatal one – a Flood which would wipe out a civilization should be a difficult thing to conceal.

That the Flood is not to be found during either the late Ubaid or Uruk periods can now be concluded with considerable confidence. After noting the paucity of available data from the early Uruk, Postgate, for example, is still able to state, in reference to the Uruk period:[17]

One thing however seems clear, that there was not some sudden cataclysmic break with what had gone before. The continuity with the Ubaid culture is epitomized in the famous sequence of temples at Eridu, enlarged time and again through the centuries; the latest surviving remnants of the temple's platform are in fact from the Uruk period, although the plan of the building itself is lost. More recently excavations deep below the Anu ziggurrat at Uruk itself have shown that the Uruk period temple on its platform was also built over the site of an Ubaid period temple, giving us another clear instance of continuity of worship in one place.
Such detailed continuity is not what we would expect from the Flood.

However, this continuity does not last forever, as the following observation by Postgate indicates.[18]

At the beginning of the Early Dynastic period, when cities were perhaps re-establishing themselves after a period of abandonment, … [my emphasis]
This, of course, is the sort of discontinuity we should expect in relation to the Flood – the Flood would necessarily cause an "abandonment" of cities.

Thus, we seem to have continuity in Mesopotamia through the Ubaid and Uruk periods, and a re-establishment of cities at the beginning of the Early Dynastic. This indicates a break of some sort between the end of the Uruk and the beginning of the Early Dynastic. Let us suppose that this break was caused by the Flood and see where this leads us.

Between the Uruk and the Early Dynastic sits the several centuries of the Jamdat Nasr period. Should we regard this period as pre-Flood or post-Flood?

I answer this question as follows. The chronology of the Early Dynastic in Mesopotamia seems closely linked to the historical chronology of the Early Dynastic period in Egypt. It appears to have been linked in this way for quite some time.[19] The two are regarded as beginning essentially simultaneously.

The simultaneous inception of state-controlled societies (which the Dynastic periods represent) over a widespread geographical area is anticipated Biblically following the dispersion of mankind from Babel (which I will hereafter refer to simply as the Dispersion). Thus, we expect these Early Dynastic periods to be post-Babel.

Between the Flood and the Dispersion we are led, by the Biblical history recorded in Genesis 10 and 11, to expect a significant, city-building society to be found in South Mesopotamia, corresponding to the immediate descendants of Noah who settled in the land of Shinar (the archaeological Sumer) and ultimately began the construction of the tower of Babel. The apparent unity of mankind up to Babel, and the Dispersion of mankind from Babel, lead us to expect this post-Flood, pre-Dispersion culture to be found only in South Mesopotamia.

The Jamdat Nasr period, which immediately precedes the Early Dynastic period, and which appears, from chronological charts, to be found only in South Mesopotamia, obviously recommends itself for identification with the Biblical period from the Flood to the Dispersion. Thus, I am led to advance the following two new hypotheses:

Flood Hypothesis 3 The Uruk period in South Mesopotamia was terminated by Noah's Flood.

Flood Hypothesis 4 The Jamdat Nasr period in South Mesopotamia was terminated by the Dispersion of mankind from Babel.

Immediate support for these hypotheses can be gleaned in two ways. First, the Uruk period is apparently regarded as part of the Late Chalcolithic sequence in Mesopotamia.[20] Thus, placing the Flood at the end of the Uruk/Late Chalcolithic in Mesopotamia produces a natural correspondence with the Flood at the end of the Chalcolithic in Palestine, as we have previously proposed. (See Flood Hypothesis 1 in The Biblical Chronologist, volume 1, number 1, page 6.)

Second, these hypotheses seem to work out very well chronologically. The Uruk to Jamdat Nasr boundary is presently dated by secular scholars near 3100 B.C. (see Figure 2). This date is, no doubt, derived by adding the probable duration of the Jamdat Nasr period which is deduced archaeologically to the beginning of the Early Dynastic period. But the date of the beginning of the Early Dynastic period in Mesopotamia, we have already seen, appears to be tied to the date of the beginning of the Early Dynastic period in Egypt. And we have previously seen that the presently accepted historically derived dates for the Old Kingdom (and, hence, Early Dynastic period) in Egypt are about 300 years too recent.[21] Thus, we can immediately expect that the presently accepted date for the beginning of the Early Dynastic period in Mesopotamia is also about 300 years too recent, and, as a result, the presently accepted date for the beginning of the Jamdat Nasr period is about 300 years too recent.

Adding 300 years to the presently accepted date for the beginning of the Jamdat Nasr period of 3100 B.C. yields a date of about 3400 B.C. This is very close (for this early period) to our Biblically derived date for the Flood (and beginning of the Jamdat Nasr period according to Flood Hypothesis 3) of 3520 B.C. – certainly within secular dating uncertainties. Indeed, Postgate places the beginning of the Jamdat Nasr period at 3200 B.C., which, when corrected by 300 years, yields 3500 B.C. for the beginning of this period – indistinguishable from the Biblical date for the Flood when dating uncertainties are taken into consideration.

It would be very nice if we could precisely date the Dispersion (end of the Jamdat Nasr period according to Flood Hypothesis 4) from the Bible. We are, however, unable to do so.

In Genesis 10:25 we learn that the Dispersion happened in the days of Peleg (which name means division). From Genesis 11:10-16 we learn that Peleg was born about 100 years after the Flood, and from Genesis 11:18-19 we learn that Peleg died when he was 239 years old. Thus, the Dispersion must have occurred no sooner than about 100 years, and no later than about 340 years after the Flood. However, the phrase "for in his days the earth was divided" (Genesis 10:25) does not allow us to be any more specific than this.

While it is customary today in North America to name children only at birth, we have several good Biblical examples of the renaming of individuals back at this early time at a much later point in their lives. Specifically, Abram's name was changed to Abraham when he was ninety-nine years old (Genesis 17:1-5), and Jacob's name was changed to Israel (Genesis 32:28; 35:10) when he was approximately ninety-one years old. Thus, we cannot specify at what point in his life Peleg was so named.

Consequently, we cannot date the Dispersion precisely from Biblical chronological data. We can only specify that the total duration of time from the Flood to the Dispersion must have been strictly greater than 100 years, and strictly less than 340 years.

Nonetheless, it is the case that this Biblical expectation harmonizes readily with modern secular chronologies of South Mesopotamia which seem generally to regard the Jamdat Nasr period as having lasted about 200 years.

Summary

The relationship of the chronologies of Scripture, Palestine, Egypt, and South Mesopotamia in the mid-fourth millennium B.C. which I am proposing by the four Flood Hypotheses advanced thus far is shown in Figure 3.

Figure 3: Proposed relationship of the chronologies of Scripture, Palestine, Egypt, and South Mesopotamia near 3500 B.C.

I have placed the date of the Dispersion at 3300 B.C. on this chart and shown an uncertainty of ±120 years to cover its Biblically allowed limits. It appears that one would need to employ an extensive radiocarbon dating program for the end of the Jamdat Nasr period to refine this date further.

The chart would display greater symmetry of nomenclature if the Flood in Egypt were to have occurred after Nagada III rather than after Nagada II as shown. This would keep the Nagada period together before the Flood, and produce a one-to-one correspondence between the Early Dynastic in Egypt and Mesopotamia. However, the data I have seen so far regarding Egypt seems to forbid such a shift. It is certainly not difficult to imagine the Early Dynastic being delayed in Egypt relative to Mesopotamia as the chart currently portrays, since those who were scattered from Babel would have had to begin again from scratch, while those who remained would have been able to carry on with much less of a setback.

In any event, this overall scenario seems a reasonable platform from which to launch further inquiry. A great deal more research is necessary before the puzzle will be complete, of course, but the pieces which have already come together seem beyond what might reasonably be put down to mere chance. At the very least we must insist that the idea of the Flood having taken place in the real world, as the Bible describes, can no longer be relegated by the skeptic to the realm of the incredible.

The geographical extent of the Flood has been hotly debated for some time now. Was it global, regional, or merely local? If, as currently seems the case, we have detected the Flood archaeologically in Egypt, Palestine, and Mesopotamia – and we add to this the Biblical data (Genesis 8:4) that the ark came to rest in Ararat (i.e., in eastern Turkey) – then we are looking at an event which certainly has no right to be called "local." Whether evidence of this same event can be found in other, far-distant geographical locations, such as the Americas, remains to be seen.

Be that as it may, I am personally of the opinion that we have, indeed, found the Biblical Flood in secular history and archaeology. While the picture is still far from clear, one must take very seriously the discovery of substantial secular data in essential agreement with the Biblical record of the past when one finds such data at the Biblically specified date. This is so for the Conquest, it is so for the Exodus, and it is so for the Flood.

I can find no physical evidence to suggest the Flood should be regarded as a great earth-shattering, tectonic affair, as some have suggested, and, I humbly submit, there is no real basis from the Biblical account of the Flood (Genesis 6:9-9:17) for claiming that one should find such evidence. The word used to describe this event in Genesis 6-9 is flood – that is, water covering the ground. The Genesis account says much about the water – where it came from, how long the rain lasted, how it lifted the ark, how it continued to increase in depth, how it covered everything in sight, how long it continued to rise, how it receded, and how long it took to dry up; it says nothing about volcanoes going off, cracks opening in the earth, continents ripping apart, crust sinking into the mantle, or any other such thing.


I am very pleased to find my research routinely making archaeological connections in Genesis 10 and 11 now. Just a year ago I was questioning whether the wall which seemed to separate Genesis 11 and 12 would be penetrated in my lifetime. Most recently I have come upon a piece of information pertinent to the geographical location of the Eden of Genesis 2:8. This information seems to shed considerable light upon the meaning of Genesis 2:5-6, verses pertinent to the nature of the world immediately prior to the creation of Adam. I hope to discuss this in some future issue of The Biblical Chronologist. I bring it up now merely to note that there presently appears every probability we will soon be able to properly synchronize the chronology of the Bible with secular chronologies back into Genesis 2. The recent rate of discovery has truly been remarkable, and for this I am very thankful to the Lord. ◇

The Biblical Chronologist is a bimonthly subscription newsletter about Biblical chronology. It is written and edited by Gerald E. Aardsma, a Ph.D. scientist (nuclear physics) with special background in radioisotopic dating methods such as radiocarbon. The Biblical Chronologist has a threefold purpose:

  1. to encourage, enrich, and strengthen the faith of conservative Christians through instruction in Biblical chronology,

  2. to foster informed, up-to-date, scholarly research in this vital field within the conservative Christian community, and

  3. to communicate current developments and discoveries in Biblical Chronology in an easily understood manner.


The Biblical Chronologist (ISSN 1081-762X) is published six times a year by Aardsma Research & Publishing, 412 N. Mulberry, Loda, IL 60948.

Editor and Writer: Gerald E. Aardsma, Ph.D.
Subscription rate: $18.00/year ($3.00/issue). Please add $1.00/year for Canadian or Mexican address. Other non-US addresses add $8.00/year. US funds only.
Back issues: $4.00/single copy; $3.00/copy for 2 to 10 copies of same issue; $2.00/copy for more than 10 copies of same issue.

Copyright © 1995 by Aardsma Research & Publishing. Photocopying or reproduction strictly prohibited without written permission from the publisher.

Footnotes

  1. ^  These names can be misleading. They seem to have their origin in evolutionary notions of mankind's progress from a rude stone, bone and wood worker through the discovery and exploitation of various metals – first copper, then alloys of copper to make bronze, then iron – and on into modernity as mankind got smarter and smarter. In fact, such theoretical/ideological schemes hold up poorly when compared to factual archaeological data. Iron, for example, was known and used well before the Iron Age, and even before the Bronze Age, and bronze "was not used widely in Palestine until … about a thousand years after the beginning of the so-called Early Bronze Age." [Amnon Ben-Tor, "The Early Bronze Age," The Archaeology of Ancient Israel, ed. Amnon Ben-Tor (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1992), 81.] In no sense can it be supposed that all stone implements automatically belong to the Neolithic ("new stone age"), copper ones to the Chalcolithic ("copper-stone age"), bronze ones to the Bronze Age, or iron ones to the Iron Age. These names should be viewed by the reader simply as conventional labels for the various time periods in Palestine – they have little intrinsic significance.

  2. ^  It would be nice if scholars would make it a practice to explain how they have arrived at the set of dates they are using for their period boundaries, and how large they regard the uncertainty in those dates to be, but, in practice, they seldom do so. I have found, as a helpful rule of thumb, that one can generally assume an uncertainty in assigned secular dates of around ±50 years (3σ) at the close of the second millennium, increasing to about ±300 years at the beginning of the third millennium.

  3. ^  Gerald E. Aardsma, A New Approach to the Chronology of Biblical History from Abraham to Samuel, 2nd ed. (Loda IL: Aardsma Research and Publishing, 1993), 60.

  4. ^  Gerald E. Aardsma, A New Approach to the Chronology of Biblical History from Abraham to Samuel, 2nd ed., 68-72.

  5. ^  Gerald E. Aardsma, "Chronology of the Bible: 3000 - 1000 B.C.," The Biblical Chronologist 1.3 (May/June 1995): 2.

  6. ^  Gerald E. Aardsma, A New Approach to the Chronology of Biblical History from Abraham to Samuel, 2nd ed., 43-47;63-65;85-94.

  7. ^  This period is often described by the archaeologists as a "dark age" in Palestine. They see the destruction of the Canaanite urban society of EBIII, and its replacement by the Israelite pastoral/agricultural society of EBIV (which they fail to recognize as Israelite) as a significant regression. I suggest that the loss of urbanization should not automatically be viewed as an unfortunate regression. After all, the quality of life cannot be measured by the density of cities, the strength of their defenses, or the grandeur of their palaces. It consists in other things – personal, societal, and especially spiritual.

  8. ^   The New Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land, vol. 4, ed. Ephraim Stern (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1993), 1529.

  9. ^  Gerald E. Aardsma, A New Approach to the Chronology of Biblical History from Abraham to Samuel.

  10. ^  Gerald E. Aardsma, A New Approach to the Chronology of Biblical History from Abraham to Samuel, 2nd ed., 52.

  11. ^  Aharon Kempinski, "The Middle Bronze Age," The Archaeology of Ancient Israel, ed. Amnon Ben-Tor (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1992), 167.

  12. ^  Rivka Gonen, "The Late Bronze Age," The Archaeology of Ancient Israel, ed. Amnon Ben-Tor (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1992), 211.

  13. ^  Amihai Mazar, "The Iron Age I," The Archaeology of Ancient Israel, ed. Amnon Ben-Tor (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1992), 258-259.

  14. ^  J. N. Postgate, Early Mesopotamia: Society and Economy at the Dawn of History (New York: Routledge, 1992).

  15. ^  Postgate, 137.

  16. ^  Postgate, 24.

  17. ^  Postgate, 24.

  18. ^  Postgate, 82.

  19. ^  See, for example, Edward F. Campell, Jr., "The Chronology of Israel and the Ancient Near East; Section B., The Ancient Near East: Chronological Bibliography and Charts," The Bible and the Ancient Near East, ed. G. Ernest Wright (Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns, 1961), 214-215 and chart on page 220.

  20. ^  Guillermo Algaze, "The Uruk Expansion," Current Anthropology 30.5 (December 1989): 577.

  21. ^  Gerald E. Aardsma, A New Approach to the Chronology of Biblical History from Abraham to Samuel, 2nd ed. (Loda IL: Aardsma Research and Publishing, 1993), 60.


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Volume 1, Number 5September/October 1995

Leviah—City of Og

It has been my privilege, since discovering that traditional Biblical chronology accidentally lacks a full thousand years between the Exodus and Solomon,[1] to make many consequent "armchair" discoveries in the field of Biblical archaeology. (By armchair I mean that these discoveries have been made from the comfort of my office chair, without ever having to venture into the heat and sweat of even a single archaeological excavation.) The present article details yet another such discovery—one I made about a year and a half ago.

While I thrill each time I make one of these discoveries, it is not clear how much of this thrill can be passed on in print. Be that as it may, be aware at least that you are about to become one of the first few to share in this new discovery, and when you are done reading you will know some things which Biblical scholars and archaeologists who have labored over the data all their lives do not yet understand.


Figure 1: Location of the Golan.

The ground rises rapidly from the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee, attaining the Golan Heights plateau (Figure 1) after a final climb up a steep, meandering incline. In just 3.3 kilometers (2.0 miles) the altitude changes from 210 meters (689 feet) below sea level at the surface of the Sea of Galilee to 260 meters (853 feet) above sea level at the western end of a spur of ground which protrudes westward from the Golan (Figure 2).

Figure 2: Location of Leviah. [Map adapted from Claire Epstein, IEJ, 35 (1985): 54.]

Situated on the end of this spur are the remains of an ancient city. The site was obviously chosen for the city because of the natural protection afforded it by the surrounding slopes (Figure 3). The site is known today as Leviah.

Figure 3: North-south cross section near the western end of the Leviah spur. Vertical and horizontal scales are the same. A stick figure man is positioned on the spur near its center to indicate the approximate scale.

Leviah was discovered by Israeli archaeologists in 1968 following the annexation by Israel of the part of the Golan which it had captured in the Six–Day War of the previous year. The site was easily recognized to be of archaeological significance from the numerous Early Bronze Age pottery fragments found on the surface of the ground there, and by the presence of several massive stone walls which ran across the width of the spur (Figure 4).

Figure 4: The Leviah spur showing the location of fortification walls (heavy dark lines across the spur) and excavated areas (light dashed lines). The total area enclosed by the steep banks and outer fortification wall is approximately 22.5 acres. [Figure adapted from general plan of Leviah by Moshe Kochavi, "Leviah Enclosure," The New Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land, vol. 3, ed. Ephraim Stern (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1993), 916.]

When Leviah was first discovered, the fact that it was an ancient city was not recognized. The site was covered over by thousands of years of accumulated soil and vegetation. It looked like a large field with ancient, curiously high stone walls. The archaeologists supposed it might be just that—a walled field for keeping sheep and cattle. They called it an "enclosure" site, and speculated about the economic significance of the animals kept there relative to Early Bronze Age civilization in general. Leviah began to be called the "Leviah enclosure" within the technical archaeological literature.

The idea that Leviah had been a large animal pen persisted until 1988. In that year a trench was excavated (area B of Figure 4) within the site and, much to everyone's surprise, the remains of ancient houses were uncovered along its entire length. Clearly, Leviah had not been a walled field for shepherds to keep their flocks—it had been a fortified city. Pottery found during the excavation revealed that the site had been occupied continuously from the Early Bronze I period through Early Bronze III. And it revealed that the city had come to its final end as the result of an attack by some besieging enemy. Here is the archaeologist's description of what was found:

The abundance of whole vessels found on the floors of the houses indicates that the last settlement ended in sudden destruction. …

Excavations along the line of the outer wall (area C) [Figure 4] exposed a wide gate between towers; the bases of the latter, as much as 16 m [52 feet] thick, were preserved to a height of more than 5 m [16 feet]. … The interior of the gateway was found full of fallen bricks, charred wooden beams, and dozens of rounded pebbles, probably used as projectiles. A solid wall (3 m [10 feet] thick) was built across the width of the gate, undoubtedly an attempt by the defenders to block the entrance to the town during the last siege. Reexamination of the pile of stones that crossed the center of the site (area A) revealed that the town had another, inner wall, at least 4 m [13 feet] thick, built of carefully laid stone courses. The gate in the inner wall was also found deliberately blocked up for its entire width.[2]

Leviah was not the only site of this type, however; many other "enclosure" sites had been found in the Golan. It quickly became evident that the Leviah excavation had not just uncovered an ancient city—it had exposed a previously unsuspected civilization, resident in the Golan for a thousand years during the Early Bronze Age. Moshe Kochavi, co-director of the Land of Geshur Project of the Institute of Archaeology at Tel Aviv University, under whose auspices the Leviah excavation was carried out, summarized the results as follows:

The excavations at the Leviah Enclosure have helped to formulate a new interpretation of the Early Bronze Age in the Golan. As early as the fourth millennium, settlements sprang up at sites with good natural defenses. In the course of the Early Bronze Age, these settlements developed and became full fledged towns. Hence, the designation "enclosures" is no longer apt. The proximity of these towns (the distances between them could be traversed on foot in at most three hours), their size, massive fortifications, and long-lived existence attest to an intensive civilization that flourished in the Golan in the period in question. This urban civilization collapsed under the pressure of some besieging enemy.[3]


Who were the people who inhabited these cities for a thousand years? How were these cities related to one another—were they part of a united kingdom? If so, what was the name of their final king? And who besieged these cities and hurled the slingstones against them? What caused them to attack? What was the name of the conquering general?

Archaeology does not know the answer to these questions, and, I suspect, most archaeologists would regard it as hopeless to even attempt to formulate a response to them. But the answers are, in fact, all very obvious and very simple. They are found in the Bible.

Deuteronomy 3:1-10 records that the Israelites, while still on the east side of the Jordan River and under the leadership of Moses, captured and destroyed 60 cities from Og, king of Bashan. Leviah is one of those 60 cities.

This fact is not common knowledge today. As I stated above, I only made this discovery about a year and a half ago, and this is its first real publication. So I need to explain carefully how it is that we can be sure about this.

First, Leviah is in the right location. As we have seen, Leviah is located in the Golan. If you look at a map of Canaan at the time of the Conquest in any Bible atlas (such a map can also be found at the back of many Bibles) you will see that the Golan is part of a larger region which the Bible calls Bashan. If you then turn to the third chapter of Deuteronomy you can read all about how Moses took the entire Bashan region from Og, king of the Amorites, at the beginning of the Conquest before the Israelites crossed over the Jordan under the leadership of Joshua.

Figure 5: The chronology of Leviah relative to the chronology of Palestine and the Bible during the 2nd and 3rd millennia B.C.

Second, the timing is right. Figure 5 shows a portion of the time chart of the secular chronology of Palestine properly synchronized with the chronology of the Bible as discussed in the previous issue.[4] I have added the chronology of Leviah as revealed by modern archaeological excavation to the right side of this chart. It can be seen that "destroyed" in the fourth (Leviah) column coincides with "Conquest begins" in the second column. In other words, Leviah was destroyed at the time of the Conquest.

Third, the density of settlement is right. Deuteronomy 3 records that 60 cities were taken together with "a great many unwalled towns." This implies a high density of settlement in this limited region. In fact, in the Golan alone (not the entire Bashan), archaeological surface surveys have found that, in the Early Bronze Age II period (i.e., 200 years before the Conquest) numerous towns and cities already existed.

Evidence for the Early Bronze Age II come largely from surveys. Some twenty-seven settlement and so-called enclosure sites are spread throughout the Golan…[5]

Fourth, the description of the height of the city walls is right, and fifth, the ubiquitous presence of these walls in the Golan is right. Moses said of the 60 cities which they had taken from Og: "All these were cities fortified with high walls…"[6] The archaeologists describe Leviah and its sister-cities thus:

The "enclosure" sites are characterized by massive walls, … Some "enclosure" sites are built on an elongated promontory with a sheer descent on either side to the valleys below. These are further protected by huge fortification walls built across them … Another enclosure site erected at the extreme end of a triangular upland above the confluence of two wadis has a massive defensive wall built across it, securing it on its open, unprotected side … Other enclosures, sited in terrain that lacks naturally defensive features, are surrounded by immense walls of heaped stones …[7] [My emphasis.]

Sixth, the duration of Leviah and its associated culture in the Golan is right. We have observed above that Og was king of the Amorites. Thus, Leviah was a city of the Amorites. This makes a statement God made to Abraham in Genesis 15:16 particularly important to our identification of Leviah. After foretelling the Israelite enslavement in Egypt, and the subsequent return of the Israelites to Canaan, God explained that these things must wait because "the iniquity of the Amorite is not yet complete." Now we know from numerous Bible passages that the Amorites were in Canaan at the time of Abraham. This passage clearly implies that they would remain resident there until God's judgment was ripe—that is, until the Conquest. Thus, we expect to find the Amorite civilization in Canaan back at the time of Abraham (i.e., Early Bronze I), and we expect to find its continued existence there until the time of the Conquest. This is exactly what is found at Leviah and its associated cities (see Figure 5).

Seventh, the nature of the Early Bronze Age IV people who took over the Golan following the destruction of its Early Bronze Age III urban civilization is right. We know from the Bible that these Early Bronze Age IV people were the Israelite half-tribe of Manasseh.[8] Before the Conquest they had wandered forty years in the wilderness—they were a nomadic tribe. Like Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob before them, they lived mainly in tents and derived their livelihood from the keeping of sheep and other livestock.[9] This is precisely the kind of people the archaeologists find in the Golan during Early Bronze Age IV.

At the end of the third millennium, nomadic and seminomadic pastoral groups were to be found in the northern and central Golan; …[10]


The fit of the modern archaeological data from the Golan to the Biblical history of the Conquest of the Bashan region by the Israelites under Moses is pretty convincing, but one might still ask whether there might be some other period in the history of the Golan equally well-suited to the Biblical narrative of the Conquest of this region. Most importantly, is there anything suitable at the traditional 1410 B.C. date for the Conquest, or the more recently suggested 13th century setting?

It would certainly be a curiosity of extreme proportion were history to repeat itself in such wealth of detail, and, in fact, it doesn't—the answer in the case of either of these more conventional dates for the Conquest is an unequivocal, no. Indeed, what is found archaeologically in the Golan at these more conventional dates only reinforces that they are wrong.

Specifically, Moses stated:[11]

So the Lord our God delivered Og also, king of Bashan, with all his people into our hand, and we smote them until no survivor was left. And we captured all his cities at that time; there was not a city which we did not take from them: …
This is a record of profound discontinuity in the Bashan region. Every city was captured, and no Amorite survived. But no such discontinuity is found anywhere near the two conventional dates mentioned above.

These conventional dates are both situated in the Late Bronze Age, which follows the Middle Bronze Age and precedes the Iron Age (see Figure 5). What actually is found in the Golan is basic continuity from the Middle Bronze into the Iron Age—i.e., there is basic continuity right through these conventional dates:

Most of the sites were first settled in the Middle Bronze Age IIB and in many instances continued in use through subsequent periods. …

In the Late Bronze Age, the number of identified settlements decreased by half. The majority of them represent the uninterrupted settlement of sites first occupied in the Middle Bronze Age II that continued into the Iron Age.[12] [My emphasis.]

The conclusion is clear—these conventional dates are wrong. The archaeological data harmonizes completely with the Biblical record of the Conquest in the Golan at the close of Early Bronze Age III, and only at the close of Early Bronze Age III.


As usual, the archaeological data are brilliantly illuminated by the Bible—in this case, the simple history recorded by Moses some four and a half millennia ago—when the chronology of the Bible is properly understood. The ruins called Leviah are not just another dusty pile of heaped stones from some unknown people of antiquity. They are the remains of one of 60 Amorite cities belonging to the kingdom of Og, conquered by Moses while the Israelites were still on the east side of the Jordan River at the beginning of the Conquest. And beyond this, Leviah is the beginning of the material evidence that the Biblical record of the Conquest of Bashan is not myth or imagination as some have claimed. In the face of presently available archaeological evidence, the only genre of literature to which the Biblical record of the Conquest of Bashan can legitimately be assigned is that of simple, sober history. ◇

Biblical Chronology 101

Up to the present time I have focused our attention in this class on why Biblical chronology is important to the conservative Christian. I now want to discuss the scope of Biblical chronology briefly, and then introduce the age of the cosmos problem which stands at the beginning of that scope.

Scope

Biblical chronologists attempt to answer questions of the form: "When did the Biblical/historical event X take place?" Typical questions of this form which fall within the scope of Biblical chronology are: "When was Jesus born?", "When did Solomon begin to reign?", and "When did Noah's Flood take place?" By answering such questions Biblical chronologists seek to build an accurate chronology of Biblical history.

Questions about the date of extra-Biblical historical events—such as when Norway was first inhabited, or when the Pilgrims came to America, or when my grandfather was born—are outside the scope of Biblical chronology. Questions regarding the timing of future world events which arise from Biblical prophecy are also outside the scope of Biblical chronology—they belong to the field of Biblical eschatology. (Questions in both of these categories are frequently impacted by the results of Biblical chronology, however.)

The proper scope of Biblical chronology is thus seen to be all Biblical/historical events back to the creation of the physical universe, the event with which Genesis 1 begins.

The Age of the Cosmos

Within this scope, the question, "When did Creation take place?" looms large today because of the enormous difference which exists between the date of Creation which has traditionally been calculated by Biblical chronologists and the age of the cosmos which modern science computes. Though a large number of claims have been made to the contrary, this problem is real and it remains unsolved. When I say this problem remains unsolved, I mean that there does not seem to have been any hypothesis advanced so far which is able to integrate all of the available Biblical and scientific data bearing on this question into a single, rational whole. Indeed, the hypotheses which have been advanced as "solutions" to this problem are generally horribly lopsided, doing violence either to pertinent Biblical or scientific data.

I hope you do not find it shocking or alarming that there are things which we do not yet know in the field of Biblical chronology. Let me remind you that the cosmos in which we live is the product of an infinite Creator. We should not be surprised when, as we probe about in this cosmos, we run into puzzles for which our finite minds can find no ready solution. Let me suggest that the only truly alarming situation would be if it were otherwise.

I do not mean to imply that the age of the cosmos problem is intrinsically unanswerable, however. It is a hard problem—perhaps even a very hard problem, if we judge from the length of time it has gone unsolved—but I have no doubt that it will eventually yield to rational investigation.

In the meantime, we answer those who ask us whether this problem shows that the Biblical history of the world is false or fanciful by pointing out the Bible's "track record" in this area. We point out that for many years some supposed the Bible's chronology of the kings of Israel and Judah was hopelessly confused and self-contradictory, but this portion of Biblical history eventually (about 50 years ago) yielded to rational investigation.

At times I am asked where my chronological scheme may find its greatest strength or weakness. Let me say without hesitation that the areas of greatest strength and certainty are precisely those areas where in the past the greatest difficulties and uncertainties were found. These are in the period of the divided monarchy for which there are four separate chronological yardsticks, all seemingly at constant odds with each other and with the years of contemporary history. It was long felt that these seemingly contradictory lines of measurement must be in error—one giving the years of the kings of Judah, another the years of the rulers of Israel, a third the synchronistic years of Israel with Judah, and the fourth the synchronisms of Judah with Israel. …

When the nature of the biblical chronological yardsticks is once understood, the four instruments of measurement for the period of the divided monarchy are of the highest value in providing a sound chronology for the rulers involved. Like a jigsaw puzzle, these numbers fit together only at certain precise points and only in line with certain basic principles of chronological procedure. It was four years after I had begun a serious study of the chronological involvements of the Hebrew kings before I was able to work my way through the data for the first two or three kings of Israel and Judah. But then, having once discovered the various principles involved, in only a few weeks I made my way through to the end.[13]

We then point out that for many years some supposed the Bible's chronology and even history of the pre-monarchical period—including the Exodus and Conquest—was hopelessly in error and largely fanciful, but this portion of Biblical history also eventually (about 5 years ago) yielded to rational investigation. The problem was found to be due to a simple copy error in a single Biblical number resulting in an accidentally dropped millennium from traditional Biblical chronology. (The fact that such a simple thing could confound so many for so long surely has something to say about human finiteness, does it not?)

Finally, we point out that while no satisfactory answer has yet been found to the age of the cosmos problem, we believe that the track record of Biblical chronology in the past century is sufficiently good to warrant the conclusion that attempts to ground one's unbelief in supposed chronological/historical errors in the Bible must be regarded as highly precarious at the present time.


I will be returning to the age of the cosmos problem from time to time. I have introduced it here, under the topic of the scope of Biblical chronology, to emphasize the fact that this problem belongs to Biblical chronology. The question, "When did Creation take place?" is not a biological question—it is a Biblical chronology question. While this question is often entangled with discussions or debates about evolution and creation, this question does not belong to the field of creation/evolution—it belongs to the field of Biblical chronology. Similarly, it must be insisted that this question does not belong to theology, nor to geology, nor to Biblical hermeneutics, nor to astronomy. While each of these fields (and many others besides) may have valuable contributions to make toward the ultimate resolution of this question, the question itself lies properly only within the scope of Biblical chronology, and nowhere else.

I emphasize this because many individuals who are expert in fields other than Biblical chronology seem all too willing to pronounce their "expert" judgment or promote their "expert solution" to this problem which, they seem unaware, lies outside their field of expertise. In the process they invariably fail to give the problem the informed, intelligent treatment it deserves, and they generally succeed only in misinforming and hopelessly confusing the general public regarding it. Please be aware—the problem of the age of the cosmos belongs to Biblical chronology, and by all sound principles of the discipline of Biblical chronology it must be regarded as an unsolved problem. Indeed, it remains an area of active research.

As you enter into the study of this and other Biblical chronology questions you need to be constantly on the alert. Many would like to claim chronology questions as their property, for, as I have discussed with you previously, historical facts can be used to tell all sorts of fictions if one is allowed to tamper with their chronology. You would (I hope) view your auto mechanic's recommended procedure for curing appendicitis with considerable skepticism; treat the pronouncements about Biblical chronology matters by experts in other fields in a similar way. ◇

Research in Progress

I have little by way of new research to report this month—most of my available research time has been spent in gathering source material on several different fronts.

One of these fronts is a new item related to the Exodus. It is too early to say much about it yet other than that it looks quite exciting and well worth the expenditure of some considerable research time and effort. It is impossible to tell how quickly it will come together, of course, but I will certainly keep you informed as appropriate.

Another of these fronts is the geographical extent of the Flood. As I mentioned in the previous issue, this matter has been debated by conservative Bible scholars for a very long time. The evidence which has been brought forward in these debates has always been severely limited by the scholars' inability to give the Flood any definite setting in secular history and archaeology. The proposals of the previous several issues of this newsletter remove this limitation and open this debate to a potential influx of new archaeological and geophysical data. I am pursuing such data along several different lines. Is the debate over the geographical extent of the Flood about to be settled? Stay tuned!


Before signing off for this issue I would like to try to set the record straight on one small matter. About four months ago a subscriber sent me a newspaper clipping reporting the recent discovery of a massive Egyptian tomb "believed to have contained the remains of 50 of the sons of Ramses II."[14] This is an important find for secular historical reasons. However, it does not have the potential Biblical significance suggested by the article.

The newspaper report claimed:

Among those positively identified as having been buried in this complex was Ramses II's firstborn son, who, according to the account in the biblical book of Exodus, was felled in the last of the great plagues that struck Egypt.

Not so fast, please.


This claim would make Ramses II out to be the pharaoh of the Exodus. (The Bible does not mention the name of the pharaoh of the Exodus, of course.) Let me set aside all of the Biblical/historical problems this identification presents and deal with it only from a Biblical chronology perspective.

Ramses II reigned, according to modern Egyptian chronology, from 1279 to 1213 B.C. If Ramses II was the pharaoh of the Exodus, then the Exodus would have had to take place somewhere in that period of time. This is a serious problem because the Bible provides us with a chronology of the Exodus, and the date of the Exodus which the Biblical data yields is most certainly not in the range of 1279 to 1213 B.C.

The Biblical date is totally dependent on 1 Kings 6:1, the verse you have heard so much about from me in the past. In its present form 1 Kings 6:1 states that there were 480 years from Solomon's fourth year back to the Exodus. Solomon's fourth year is universally dated near 970 B.C. (I have gone over the basic procedure for calculating the date of the Exodus from the Bible previously[15] so am only quickly reviewing here) giving the traditional Biblical date of the Exodus of about 1450 B.C.—some 200 years earlier than Ramses II.

Now I hope you know by now that this traditional date is out by 1000 years because the present form of 1 Kings 6:1 contains a minor copy error. If you don't know this please read my book, A New Approach to the Chronology of Biblical History from Abraham to Samuel, and then follow up with the back issues of this newsletter. But my point for the moment is simply that there is no legitimate way Biblical chronology, either traditional or new, can be made to date the Exodus to the reign of Ramses II. The scholars who promote such a date for the Exodus do so either by trampling all over Biblical chronology, or simply by ignoring it. When Biblical chronology receives the care and respect it deserves one can only conclude that it most certainly was not Ramses II's son who died in the last of the great plagues of the Exodus. ◇

The Biblical Chronologist is a bimonthly subscription newsletter about Biblical chronology. It is written and edited by Gerald E. Aardsma, a Ph.D. scientist (nuclear physics) with special background in radioisotopic dating methods such as radiocarbon. The Biblical Chronologist has a threefold purpose:

  1. to encourage, enrich, and strengthen the faith of conservative Christians through instruction in Biblical chronology,

  2. to foster informed, up-to-date, scholarly research in this vital field within the conservative Christian community, and

  3. to communicate current developments and discoveries in Biblical Chronology in an easily understood manner.


The Biblical Chronologist (ISSN 1081-762X) is published six times a year by Aardsma Research & Publishing, 412 N. Mulberry, Loda, IL 60948-9651.

Editor and Writer: Gerald E. Aardsma, Ph.D.
Subscription rate: $18.00 per year (six issues) to US address; $19.00 per year to Canada or Mexico; $26.00 per year all other countries. US funds only.
Back issues: $4.00 per copy to US address; $4.17 per copy to Canada or Mexico; $5.33 per copy to all other countries. US funds only.

Copyright © 1995 by Aardsma Research & Publishing. Photocopying or reproduction strictly prohibited without written permission from the publisher.

Footnotes

  1. ^  Gerald E. Aardsma, A New Approach to the Chronology of Biblical History from Abraham to Samuel, 2nd ed. (Loda IL: Aardsma Research and Publishing, 1993).

  2. ^  Moshe Kochavi, "Leviah Enclosure," The New Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land, vol. 3, ed. Ephraim Stern (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1993), 916.

  3. ^  Moshe Kochavi, "Leviah Enclosure," The New Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land, vol. 3, ed. Ephraim Stern (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1993), 916.

  4. ^  Gerald E. Aardsma, "The Chronology of Palestine in Relation to the Bible: 3000 - 1000 B.C.," The Biblical Chronologist 1.4 (July/August 1995): 1–6.

  5. ^  Claire Epstein, "Golan: Chalcolithic Period to the Iron Age," The New Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land, vol. 2, ed. Ephraim Stern (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1993), 531.

  6. ^  Deuteronomy 3:5.

  7. ^  Claire Epstein, "Golan: Chalcolithic Period to the Iron Age," The New Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land, vol. 2, ed. Ephraim Stern (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1993), 531.

  8. ^  Deuteronomy 3:13

  9. ^  See, for example, Numbers 32.

  10. ^  Claire Epstein, "Golan: Chalcolithic Period to the Iron Age," The New Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land, vol. 2, ed. Ephraim Stern (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1993), 532.

  11. ^  Deuteronomy 3:3–4a.

  12. ^  Claire Epstein, "Golan: Chalcolithic Period to the Iron Age," The New Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land, vol. 2, ed. Ephraim Stern (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1993), 533.

  13. ^  Edwin R. Thiele, The Mysterious Numbers of the Hebrew Kings (Grand Rapids: Academie Books, Zondervan Publishing House, 1983), 20–21.

  14. ^  David L. Chandler, "Tomb unearthed may have held remains of 50 sons of Ramses II," The San Diego Union-Tribune, 16 May 1995, A-1&A-9.

  15. ^  Gerald E. Aardsma, "Chronology of the Bible: 3000 – 1000 B.C.," The Biblical Chronologist, 1.3 (May/June 1995): 2.


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Volume 1, Number 6November/December 1995

Yeroham—The True Mt. Sinai?

Well, research these past several weeks has been pretty exciting. I am reasonably confident that I have discovered, among other things: the location of the "Red Sea" crossing, where Pharaoh and his army were drowned as they pursued the fleeing Israelites at the time of the Exodus; and the true Mount Sinai, where the ten commandments were given to Israel.

I alluded to this most recent research thrust in my "Research in Progress" column last issue, and promised to keep you informed as appropriate. The new spate of discoveries which this research has resulted in is too large to condense into my "Research in Progress" column this issue, and of such importance as to demand headline coverage. Thus, I have decided to disclose these most recent findings in this lead article position.

I began to work on the problem of the route of the Exodus several months ago when I read a passing comment in the book The Archaeology of Ancient Israel[1] to the effect that mixed Egyptian and Early Bronze Age IV pottery shards had been found at a number of ancient campsites in the Sinai peninsula. I suspected immediately that these were campsites made by the Israelites as they left Egypt. (I will explain why below.) But I needed much more than just a passing comment to be able to pursue this matter—I needed original research publications. As it turned out, it was quite a process locating these in this case.

No specific references were given with the passing comment regarding these campsites in the book, and a day spent in the library checking hopeful references from the bibliography turned up nothing, as did a pretty exhaustive (and exhausting) search of available citation indexes and the like. Ultimately, I had to write to the professor who had made the comment to ask what sources he had worked from. He lives and works in Israel, so our communication took several weeks.

I didn't tell him I needed this information to find the route the Israelites had taken from Egypt to Palestine after the Exodus for fear he would think me a crackpot and not respond. This route has been the subject of much consternation and debate for decades, if not centuries. At the present time scholars are as likely as not to relegate the whole account of the Exodus to the realm of fiction. So I felt it prudent to keep my purpose to myself.

The professor kindly wrote back informing me that there was only a single paper which contained the information I sought. Unfortunately, it was written in Hebrew. As Hebrew is not one of the six languages with which I am conversant (these being English, FORTRAN, ASSEMBLER, BASIC, PASCAL, and C) I next had to find a translator.

Several weeks later I finally had an English version of the paper in my hands. A quick read through confirmed that I was on the right track—a further week and a half of intensive research and the basic routes had clarified.

As I now set about to communicate what I have found to you, my subscribers, at this earliest opportunity, I am a little daunted at the task of reducing it all to these few newsletter pages. I will obviously need to skip over many points and leave some important material out altogether in this initial communication. I trust you will make suitable allowance for this necessity as you read.


The Bible teaches us that the Israelites were enslaved in Egypt for a number of generations until God raised up Moses to set His people free. Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt subsequent to a series of devastating plagues which God sent upon that nation. The Israelites crossed the "Red Sea" and journeyed to Mount Sinai where they received the civil and religious ordinances which were to govern the new nation. After spending nearly a year at Sinai, they moved on to Kadesh-barnea. They were supposed to begin the Conquest from Kadesh-barnea, but due to fear and unbelief the people rebelled and were sentenced by God to forty years of wandering in the wilderness. However, when the terms of their sentence had been carried out, they went in and took possession of Palestine through military conquest under the leadership of Joshua.

We are provided with a fairly detailed history of these events in the five Biblical books of Exodus through Joshua. We are also provided with an extensive itinerary[2] which specifies the name of the city in Egypt from which the Exodus began and the name of the Israelites' stopping points along the way. It is, therefore, somewhat shocking to learn of the degree to which scholars are stumped at present in their efforts to map the route taken by the Israelites from Egypt to Palestine.

I have sketched, in Figure 1, a number of proposed routes which I found after a very brief perusal of readily available Bible atlases and encyclopedias. I will not discuss these proposed routes in any detail here since the points pro and con each can easily be found in the sorts of standard Bible resources just mentioned. My purpose with this sketch is merely to illustrate how uncertain scholars are at present regarding the routes of the Exodus and Wilderness Wandering.

Figure 1: Various proposed routes of the Exodus and Wilderness Wandering.

The sketch shows four separate proposed routes crossing the Sinai peninsula from Egypt to Palestine with a number of variations on their beginnings and endings. Notice that these routes are not grouped together; rather, they range over the whole length of the peninsula. Observe also that scholars are quite uncertain regarding the starting place; I have labeled the suggested starting points I came across in my quick search S1 through S5. Finally, notice that even points along the route for which substantial Biblical historical and geographical information is given are quite uncertain. I have illustrated this last point by showing ten different mountains (labeled as M1 through M10 on the sketch) which were suggested as candidates for the Biblical Mount Sinai in the same standard Bible resource books mentioned above.

Obviously, there is a great divergence of opinion about the route of the Exodus and the subsequent Wilderness Wandering among modern scholars.


In the present article I will attempt to show a portion of my recent solution to this problem. This may be thought a curious exercise for a Biblical chronologist to undertake—surely the problem of these routes is fundamentally one of Biblical geography, not chronology. Yet, surprising though it may seem, the key to the solution in this case is, in fact, correct Biblical chronology. Rather than belaboring this point by indulging in the negative exercise of showing how incorrect Biblical chronology has caused several generations of scholars to get their Biblical geography pertinent to these routes all mixed up, I will restrict my discussion to showing how the correct solution can be easily ascertained through use of available modern data interpreted within the framework of a sound Biblical chronology.

A New Approach

The Bible tells us that over 600,000 men—not counting women and children—came out of Egypt under the leadership of Moses at the time of the Exodus. There can be no mistake about this number, for it is given in Exodus 12:37; repeated in Exodus 38:26, Numbers 1:46, 2:32, 11:21, and 26:51; and broken down into its component parts by genealogical descent in Numbers chapter 2 and again in Numbers chapter 26.

Given, then, that there were 600,000 men, how many people total should we estimate took part in the Exodus?

It seems reasonable to assume that there were roughly the same number of women as there were men, and we shall probably err on the low side if we assume that there was one child for every woman. Thus, it can be estimated that there were probably in excess of one million eight hundred thousand people who participated in the Exodus! For convenience, I will round this estimate to an even two million.

Now I have a very simple, and—I think—obvious proposal to make: it is impossible for two million people to spend forty years wandering about in a desert and leave no material trace of their presence. I venture to suggest that, were a similar size multitude of families to be led on a camping expedition from Egypt to Palestine today, the trail of discarded soda cans alone would be sufficient to discern their route five thousand years hence.

I do not mean to be entirely facetious by this comparison. The Israelites did not bring along any soda cans, of course, but they would necessarily have brought along numerous pottery vessels—such as "their kneading bowls bound up in the clothes on their shoulders" (Exodus 12:34). Of the hundreds of thousands of such vessels which must have been brought along during the Exodus, a small fraction would inevitably get broken one way or the other each day. The fragments of such broken pottery—the shards—would then simply be discarded, leaving an extremely durable and distinct record of the Israelites' presence.

I say the discarded shards would leave a durable record because fired pottery shards are essentially indestructible when left to the elements. They do not rust or decay, and as they have no intrinsic economic or utilitarian value they are likely to be left indefinitely lying where they were initially discarded. I say the discarded shards would leave a distinct record because archaeology has shown unequivocally that the composition, design, and decoration of pottery vessels changes from one culture to another and from one time period to another. Pottery shards can therefore be used with a very high degree of precision to identify when and by whom the pottery vessels from which they came were originally made.

Thus, if the style of pottery used by the Israelites at the time of the Exodus were known, there is every reason to believe a trained archaeologist would quite literally be able to follow the trail of their discarded shards across the Sinai desert from encampment to encampment even today.

The Pottery of the Exodus

The difficulty, of course, is in identifying the style of pottery used by the Israelites at the time of the Exodus. This is not an intrinsic difficulty—it has become a difficulty only because such an identification depends intimately upon the absolute chronology of the Exodus, and, as you probably know by now, the chronology of the Exodus is out by a thousand years or more in the standard literature at present. Said simply, if you try to assign pottery of a style that only existed a thousand years after the Exodus to the Israelites at the time of the Exodus you won't get very far. You will not be able to follow the trail the Israelites made across the desert at the time of the Exodus if you are looking for that sort of pottery because the Israelites of the Exodus never used or had even seen that sort of pottery.

Thus, the problem of freeing the route of the Exodus from a mere literary exercise to one in which hard physical data find their legitimate role depends entirely for its solution upon sound Biblical chronology.

I have just said that identifying the style of pottery used by the Israelites at the time of the Exodus—let us call it "Exodus pottery" from now on—is not intrinsically difficult if your Biblical chronology is sound. Let me demonstrate.

To get from Egypt to Palestine on foot one has to cross the Sinai peninsula. Such a journey cannot be made in a single day. The Bible tells us that the Israelites set up temporary camps along the way. Thus, the first signature of Exodus pottery (recall: Exodus pottery means the pottery actually used by the Israelites at the time of the Exodus) is that it will be found in ancient campsites in the Sinai peninsula.

The Israelites comprised a distinct culture residing in the northeastern delta region of Egypt during their enslavement. They can be expected to have made and utilized their own distinctive pottery while in Egypt, and to have continued doing so on their way to Palestine and once they had settled there.

When they left Egypt the pottery they carried with them would be expected to be predominantly of their own manufacture, but not exclusively so. They had been living in Egypt and among the Egyptians and so there is every reason to suppose they would initially possess some fraction of Egyptian pottery as well. Thus, the second signature of Exodus pottery is that its shards should be predominantly of a characteristic Palestinian pottery style, but (at least initially) with an admixture of characteristic contemporary Egyptian pottery.

Now let us add in chronological constraints. We can use our knowledge of when the Exodus happened to specify the style of Egyptian pottery shards and the style of Palestinian pottery shards comprising Exodus pottery.

One of the immediate results of the missing millennium thesis presented in my book, A New Approach to the Chronology of Biblical History from Abraham to Samuel,[3] was the correlation of the collapse of the Old Kingdom of Egypt with the Biblical account of the Exodus. Indeed, I argued, we must regard the collapse of the Old Kingdom as being due to: the trauma experienced by the nation of Egypt in the plagues which led up to the Exodus; the loss of wealth and slave labor force which accompanied it; and the loss of the Pharaoh and his army which followed on its heels. Therefore, the third signature of Exodus pottery is that the Egyptian shards must necessarily be of a style which was in use in Egypt at the time of the Exodus, i.e., at the end of the Old Kingdom and beginning of the First Intermediate Period.

A further immediate consequence of the missing millennium thesis was the correlation of the collapse of the Early Bronze Age III urban culture in Palestine with the Conquest under Joshua. I showed that the period which followed this collapse—variously dubbed Early Bronze Age IV, Middle Bronze Age I, or Intermediate Bronze Age—must correspond to the settlement of Israel in Palestine. Thus, the fourth and final signature of Exodus pottery is that the Palestinian shards must necessarily be of an Early Bronze Age IV style.

The Pottery Data

Having specified these four signatures of Exodus pottery, it is now only necessary to inquire whether such pottery has ever been found. These signatures are sufficiently time and space specific to justify the assertion that the discovery of Exodus pottery in quantity at any site almost certainly marks that site as part of the route of the Exodus.

As it happens, one of the things which archaeologists do is to explore large areas by walking or riding across the ground, cataloging the location and type of pottery shards they find lying about on the surface. These sorts of studies are called surface surveys. They help the archaeologists to know where people were living at various periods in the past.

Significant surface surveys were conducted in the Sinai peninsula in the sixties and seventies. Fortunately—for our purpose of finding the route of the Exodus, at least—the Sinai peninsula has, since very ancient times, not been regarded as a very nice place to live, so the catalog of pottery shard finds for this region is relatively small and uncomplicated.[4]

The most important surface survey for our present discussion was conducted by Eliezer D. Oren from 1972 to 1982 on behalf of the Ben Gurion University. Oren's research resulted in the following discovery, succinctly summarized by archaeologist Ram Gophna:[5]

… Egyptian pottery has been identified among the finds of the North Sinai survey conducted by the Ben Gurion University in the seventies (led by E. D. Oren). The Egyptian shards were found together with pottery typical of the Intermediate Bronze Age [i.e., Early Bronze Age IV] in Israel at 45 campsites of the period discovered during the survey.

This quote immediately displays three of our four Exodus pottery signatures. It informs us of the discovery of:

  1. pottery from Sinai campsites,

  2. mixed Palestinian and contemporary Egyptian shards, and

  3. an Early Bronze Age IV date for the Palestinian pottery.

The remaining signature regards the time period for the Egyptian pottery. Oren and Yekutieli wrote regarding the Egyptian shards that they were "typical of Upper and Middle Egypt sites of the 4th and 6th dynasties and of the beginning of the First Intermediate Period."[6] Oren and Yekutieli went on to discuss the pottery of their campsites in the larger context of similar pottery from Egypt and Palestine and narrowed the date of the campsites they had discovered "to the beginning of the Middle Bronze I period [our Early Bronze IV], i.e., to the period of time that in Egypt coincides with the end of the sixth dynasty [i.e., end of the Old Kingdom] and the beginning of the First Intermediate Period …"[7] This fulfills the fourth signature of Exodus pottery precisely.

Exodus pottery has, therefore, been found (it was found several decades ago, in fact) and there is every reason to believe that the campsites in which it was found are campsites which were made by the Israelites at the time of the Exodus.

On to Mount Sinai

I do not have space to discuss these campsites any further here. I plan to return to them next issue. Let me just state for now that they seem to clear up the route of the Exodus completely, up to and including the location of the "Red Sea" crossing.

I want, rather, to skip ahead and propose a new location for Mount Sinai. Having found, as I believe, the pottery trail of the Exodus, it is possible to follow this trail wherever it may lead, and one of the first places it must lead soon after the Exodus, according to the Bible, is Mount Sinai.

I have shown ten mountains in Figure 1 which various scholars have proposed for the Biblical Mount Sinai. As it turns out, the Exodus pottery trail leads to a totally (to the best of my knowledge) unanticipated mountain. Today it is called Mount Yeroham. I have labeled its position with a Y in Figure 1.

I propose that Mount Yeroham is the Biblical Mount Sinai. This proposal rests on more than just the fact that the pottery which has been found there corresponds to the pottery of Oren's campsites. It is this fact in concert with the archaeology of the site which seems so completely persuasive.

To appreciate the archaeology, however, it is necessary to have a clear picture of the Israelites' stay at Sinai as recorded in the Bible. First, recall that they camped at Sinai for very close to a year.[8] Second, remember that we are talking about a very large number of people—two million or more as discussed above. Third, recall the following incident which took place while they were camped at Sinai:

Now Mount Sinai was all in smoke because the Lord descended upon it in fire; and its smoke ascended like the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain quaked violently. (Exodus 19:18; NASB)
Fourth, and finally, recall that Moses built an alter with twelve pillars there.
Then he [Moses] arose early in the morning, and built an altar at the foot of [literally, under] the mountain with twelve pillars for the twelve tribes of Israel. (Exodus 24:4; NASB)

The Archaeology at Yeroham

Of all of the sites which I have been able to identify where Exodus pottery has been found, the site of Yeroham is unique in two ways. First is its size. Thomas L. Thompson has described the site as "extremely large by Bronze Age standards."[9] In fact, it covers about 1,250 acres. Such a size is mandatory for the Israelites to have stayed there for any length of time—1,250 acres sounds like a lot, but when it is divided among two million people the result is only twenty-seven square feet per person.

Second, it is the only site of this type which has, so far, yielded more than a single occupation stratum. At Mount Yeroham alone, two separate levels of occupation were identified. I will return to this very important archaeological observation shortly.

Here is a brief overview of the site written by Moshe Kochavi, one of its earliest excavators:[10]

Ancient remains dating to the Intermediate Bronze Age (Middle Bronze Age I) [our Early Bronze Age IV] are located in the Negev desert on the northeastern spur of Mount Yeroham … The site was first discovered and described by B. Rothenberg. It extends over an area of about 5 sq km [5 square kilometers] and includes a narrow ridge of about 1 a. [1 acre] that contains a cluster of densely built structures and several tumuli [man made mounds of rocks over graves] surrounded by a stone wall. Near this main settlement, on another spur, was a bamah (high place), consisting of a rock altar surrounded by a stone wall. About eighty tumuli were observed on another spur. Other tumuli and isolated structures are dispersed throughout the site, mainly on the saddle between the bamah and the mountain ridge.

The bamah corresponds readily to the altar which Moses built. In particular, the twelve stone pillars which Moses erected appear to be evidenced still today by the sockets in which they once stood.

The bamah is merely a rock cliff, jutting out above the Yeroham Basin. At the top of the cliff is a leveled area with twelve cupmarks of various sizes.[11]

Now let us turn to the question of why there would be two occupation layers at this site alone. I suggest that Exodus 19:18, quoted above, provides the answer here; the Israelites' first settlement at Yeroham was destroyed by the earthquake which accompanied the Lord's descent upon the mountain. Recall that the text says "the whole mountain quaked violently." The obviously temporary buildings at Yeroham were generally built on bedrock of dry-laid field stones. The roofs were supported by central columns built of drum-shaped stones. An earthquake of any magnitude would quickly bring such buildings down. After the earthquake the Israelites would have had to rebuild their settlement, thus creating two occupation strata at this site.

A layer of ash, underlying walls of buildings in the upper settlement, may[12] give further testimony to this reconstruction of events. Recall that Exodus 19:18 says "Now Mount Sinai was all in smoke because the Lord descended upon it in fire; and its smoke ascended like the smoke of a furnace…" The archaeologist Rudolf Cohen, who excavated at Yeroham in 1973, reported this ash layer as follows:[13]

In the lower level, under the western room's stone floor, the bedrock was covered by a 10-cm-thick layer of ash containing shards from the Middle Bronze Age I [our Early Bronze Age IV]. The burnt layer also extends beneath this room's eastern wall. A similar burnt layer was observed in the western corner of the eastern room, extending under the wall.

The tumuli may also support this reconstruction. Moshe Kochavi reported his observations of these as follows:[14]

Two types of tumuli were found: the first is 7 to 8 m [meter] in diameter, rather low, and filled with stones; the second is only 4 to 5 m in diameter but is at least 1 m high. The tumuli erected above the ruins of level II belong exclusively of the second type, whereas the majority on the ridge belong to the first type. Tumuli of the first [low, large diameter] type have therefore been attributed to level II [the earlier level] and those of the second type [high, smaller diameter] to level I [the later level].

Kochavi provided no interpretation of these observations, but an interpretation is readily suggested by the Biblical text. There is no apparent reason why the Israelites would build their tumuli differently in the two occupation levels. Rather, I suggest, the tumuli were only built in one style: the high compact style associated with the later level. However, the tumuli of the earlier level experienced the earthquake. The strong suggestion is that it was the shaking of the mountain which flattened and spread them out.

Rephidim

One final observation pertinent to this matter of the identification of Mount Sinai seems appropriate here.

The Biblical text tells us that the Israelites camped at Rephidim immediately before coming to Sinai.[15] Since they were coming from the general direction of Egypt, we would expect Rephidim to be somewhere to the west of Sinai, and within a one day journey of it.

In fact, there is another settlement where Exodus pottery has been found which is a little less than a day's journey to the southwest of Mount Yeroham. It is known today as Be'er Resisim. The obvious phonetic similarity and other factors cause me to propose that Be'er Resisim is the Biblical Rephidim. I suggest that the combination of evidence from Resisim and Yeroham make a very strong case for their identification with Rephidim and Sinai.

A Closing Twist

A site which is strongly connected with the wilderness wandering which I have not discussed until now is Kadesh-barnea. I illustrated the uncertainty which presently surrounds the route the Israelites took when they left Egypt and journeyed to Palestine in Figure 1 by plotting a variety of suggested starting points, routes across the Sinai, and locations of Mount Sinai. In contrast to these uncertainties, scholars seem pretty confident about the location of Kadeh-barnea—there seems little divergence of opinion on this one site at least. I have labeled their choice K in Figure 1.

Unfortunately, the accepted location of Kadesh-barnea and the location I have just shown for Mount Sinai are in serious conflict. Mount Yeroham is but a day and a half from the accepted location of Kadesh-barnea, while Deuteronomy 1:2 is quite clear that "It is eleven days' journey from Horeb [i.e., Sinai] by the way of Mount Seir to Kadesh-barnea."

But that is another long story, and there is insufficient space to embark upon it here. Perhaps I will have opportunity to show you where I believe Kadesh-barnea is really located in another issue in the near future. ◇

Biblical Chronology 101

I would like to attempt to give you a brief summary of the current state of Biblical chronology, as I see it, in our class this issue. I feel that such a summary is necessary to orient you, the student, in this discipline at present, and to enable you to separate between what is known and what is not known. The recent rapid pace of progress in this discipline makes such a summary seem all the more necessary, and such an undertaking seems appropriate in this, the final class session of 1995.

State of the Subject

The present state of affairs is most easily grasped when depicted on a time chart. I have constructed Figure 2 for this purpose. Please note, before I begin to discuss the meaning of this chart, that the time scale given in the date column on the left is divided into 500 year segments, and that it extends from just before 5000 B.C. to the present.

Figure 2: The state of the field of Biblical chronology at present.

The state column shows four distinct "state of affairs" regions. I will discuss each of these under their own heading below. I have placed the boundaries between these regions at the nearest even 500 years for the sake of simplicity of presentation and ease of recall. In actual practice these boundaries are not sharp as drawn—there is in reality some degree of gradation from one region to the next.

The Biblical placement column provides a rough alignment of the Biblical historical narrative with these four regions.

Known

I have labeled the first region "KNOWN." By this label I do not mean to imply that there are no interesting chronological puzzles in this region, of course. For example, the tantalizing problem of the exact year of the birth of Christ is located here.

By the label "KNOWN" I intend to portray only the concept of basic harmony at reasonable precision between the chronology of Scripture and extra-Biblical chronologies in this time period. The hallmark of chronological puzzles in this region is the minuteness of the uncertainty involved—one is usually quibbling over plus or minus a year or two. Modern resource books such as Bible dictionaries and encyclopedias generally provide reliable chronologies and summaries of problems for this time period.

Recently Solved

I have labeled the region from 1000 B.C. to 3000 B.C. "RECENTLY SOLVED." Harmonization of Biblical and secular chronologies in this region only became possible a few years ago. This came about as the result of the realization that one thousand years had accidentally been dropped from traditional Biblical chronological reckoning just prior to 1000 B.C.[16]

Biblical chronological research has been very exciting and rewarding in this region for the past several years, with no sign of the pace of new discovery slackening at present. As a consequence of the rapid pace of progress, even modern Bible resource materials (e.g., textbooks, dictionaries, and encyclopedias) are seriously in error in much of their discussion of this and earlier time periods.

Unfortunately, the insertion of a full millennium in any established chronology is an intrinsically radical process relative to entrenched traditional views. As a result, rapid dissemination of these new discoveries in Biblical chronology has been inhibited and the vast majority of scholars remain totally uninformed regarding them to the present time.

Present Frontier

The period of time from Abraham back to Noah is the present frontier of Biblical chronology research. This period is dominated by two events Biblically: the Dispersion from Babel and Noah's Flood. Significant progress has recently been made in aligning these Biblical events with secular counterparts from archaeology.[17] The present rate of discovery suggests that this region will not remain the frontier of Biblical chronology for very long.

Accurate conceptual models of the Dispersion and the Flood are the greatest needs in this region at present, and they are thus the current targets of much research effort. Biblical exegetes have, in recent centuries, developed conceptual models of the Flood ranging from a mild local inundation to an earth-shattering tectonic upheaval. When actual field data are synchronized with the Biblical text using sound Biblical and secular chronological controls, both of these extremes appear to be eliminated at present. Only further research will reveal where, in between, the truth actually lies.

Unknown

The time period prior to about 3500 B.C. must be regarded as essentially unknown at present. By this I mean that no completely satisfactory means of harmonizing available Biblical and extra-Biblical data in this region has yet been found. However, as I mentioned last issue, there is every reason to believe a proper synthesis of the data in this region will eventually be discovered.

Having stated this, I need to emphasize that there seem to me to be two prerequisites to discovery of this long-sought proper synthesis. First is the need for a thorough familiarity with, and respect for, all of the Biblical and secular data bearing on the problem. Second is the need for an accurate picture of the history of the later periods of time—specifically the Flood and Dispersion. It seems to me to be obvious folly to suppose we shall somehow be able to successfully integrate data from the supernatural dawn of Creation before we have learned to properly handle the comparatively tame data from the Flood.

The Future

Predicting the future is a pretty precarious activity, so I will merely suggest that it should be fun to see what new discoveries 1996 will bring. ◇

Research in Progress

My main research thrust these past several months has been in relation to the route the Israelites took from Egypt to Palestine. (See the lead article this issue.) The determination of this route enables much of the historical narrative contained in the Biblical books of Exodus through Deuteronomy to be properly harmonized with a great deal of Biblical archaeology data for the first time. It also sheds new light on several long-standing Biblical geography problems. Continued work on this topic seems necessary and appropriate at present, so I expect to carry on with it for the next several months. ◇

The Biblical Chronologist is a bimonthly subscription newsletter about Biblical chronology. It is written and edited by Gerald E. Aardsma, a Ph.D. scientist (nuclear physics) with special background in radioisotopic dating methods such as radiocarbon. The Biblical Chronologist has a threefold purpose:

  1. to encourage, enrich, and strengthen the faith of conservative Christians through instruction in Biblical chronology,

  2. to foster informed, up-to-date, scholarly research in this vital field within the conservative Christian community, and

  3. to communicate current developments and discoveries in Biblical Chronology in an easily understood manner.


The Biblical Chronologist (ISSN 1081-762X) is published six times a year by Aardsma Research & Publishing, 412 N. Mulberry, Loda, IL 60948-9651.

Editor and Writer: Gerald E. Aardsma, Ph.D.
Subscription rate: $18.00 per year (six issues) to US address; $19.00 per year to Canada or Mexico; $26.00 per year to all other countries. US funds only. An introductory packet containing the first three issues of volume 1 and a subscription order form is available for $9.95 US regardless of destination address. Send check or money order and request the "Intro Pack."

Copyright © 1995 by Aardsma Research & Publishing. Photocopying or reproduction strictly prohibited without written permission from the publisher.

Footnotes

  1. ^   The Archaeology of Ancient Israel, ed. Amnon Ben-Tor (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1992).

  2. ^  See, for example, Numbers 33:1-49.

  3. ^  Gerald E. Aardsma, A New Approach to the Chronology of Biblical History from Abraham to Samuel, 2nd ed. (Loda IL: Aardsma Research and Publishing, 1993).

  4. ^  See, for example, Thomas L. Thompson, The Settlement of Sinai and the Negev in the Bronze Age (Wiesbaden: Dr. Ludwig Reichert Verlag, 1975).

  5. ^  Ram Gophna, "The Intermediate Bronze Age," The Archaeology of Ancient Israel, ed. Amnon Ben-Tor (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1992), 127.

  6. ^  E. D. Oren and Y. Yekutieli, "North Sinai During the MB I Period—Pastoral Nomadism and Sedentary Settlement," Eretz-Israel 21 (1990): 11. (English translation provided by Marganit Weinberger-Rotman.)

  7. ^  E. D. Oren and Y. Yekutieli, "North Sinai During the MB I Period—Pastoral Nomadism and Sedentary Settlement," Eretz-Israel 21 (1990): 16. (English translation provided by Marganit Weinberger-Rotman.) Oren and Yekutieli give absolute dates in the range of 2130-2250 B.C. for this period of time. These dates are based on the historical chronology of Egypt, which has now been shown to be in error by about 300 years at this early period by both radiocarbon dating and Biblical chronology. (See: Gerald E. Aardsma, A New Approach to the Chronology of Biblical History from Abraham to Samuel, 2nd ed. (Loda IL: Aardsma Research and Publishing, 1993), 60.) The correct date for the end of the Old Kingdom, and for these campsites is ca. 2450 B.C.

  8. ^  See Exodus 19:1 and Numbers 10:11-12.

  9. ^  Thomas L. Thompson, The Settlement of Sinai and the Negev in the Bronze Age (Wiesbaden: Dr. Ludwig Reichert Verlag, 1975), 21.

  10. ^  Moshe Kochavi, "Mount Yeroham," The New Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land, vol. 4, ed. Ephraim Stern (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1993), 1506.

  11. ^  Moshe Kochavi, "Mount Yeroham," The New Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land, vol. 4, ed. Ephraim Stern (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1993), 1507.

  12. ^  I say "may" because I am unable to rule out other possible explanations for this ash layer. For example, a pottery kiln was located in the settlement, and it is possible for the ash and shards to be due to it. I am unable to determine whether the kiln was located close enough to this ash layer to serve as a reasonable potential source for it from the published reports of the site available to me so far.

  13. ^  Moshe Kochavi, "Mount Yeroham," The New Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land, vol. 4, ed. Ephraim Stern (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1993), 1509.

  14. ^  Moshe Kochavi, "Mount Yeroham," The New Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land, vol. 4, ed. Ephraim Stern (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1993), 1507.

  15. ^  Exodus 19:1–2.

  16. ^  Gerald E. Aardsma, A New Approach to the Chronology of Biblical History from Abraham to Samuel, 2nd ed. (Loda IL: Aardsma Research and Publishing, 1993.)

  17. ^  Gerald E. Aardsma, "Research in Progress," The Biblical Chronologist 1.4 (July/August 1995): 6–10.

 
 
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