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Old Testament History Revised – What If the Bible is Correct About History?
This article is the first in a series of articles that present the ideas of my print-on-demand book, “The Fourth Day: Why the Bible is Historically Accurate”.
When I was college student, I was introduced to the concept of biblical inerrancy. My pastor, Al Jackson of Lakeview Baptist Church in Auburn, Alabama, drove the point home that the Word of God, the Bible, was “God-breathed”. He explained that since the Bible was “God-breathed” it was created in the same manner as Adam when God breathed life into man in the book of Genesis. The Bible was designed, just like man was at creation, when God instructed over forty authors exactly what to write. The Bible was designed in the sense that the whole book’s purpose is the revelation of the messiah of mankind, Jesus Christ. The Bible points to Christ in very direct ways by giving the specific characteristics of his human life. The prophecies of the Old Testament indicated he would be born in Bethlehem, through the line of Jesse, and by a virgin. The spiritual aspects of Christ are alluded to in the symbols of the atonement sacrifices where animals were put on an altar and then sprinkled with salt, a symbol of eternity, to represent the once-and-for-all sacrifice that the Son of God would make on a cross one day. God coordinated all this information to point to Christ, God’s plan for man’s salvation.
Since the time that my pastor explained these things to me I have taken them to heart and I have studied the Bible with the attitude that the Bible is historically correct as well as spiritually correct. Conservative Christians have adopted this philosophy in every subject covered in the Bible except for one, chronology. Chronology, the study of the historical timeline, has been a subject where it seems the Christian community has conceded defeat. For whatever reason, Christians in the modern era have sought compromise with scholars, many of whom are downright antagonistic to Christian beliefs, so that the timeline of the Bible would have the stamp of authenticity from historians.
An article in Biblical Archaelogy Review effectively demonstrates the level of Biblical antagonism that archeological community can exhibit. Consider an excerpt from the opening paragraph of an article entitled Minimalists on Parade (Biblical Archaeology Review, Jan/Feb 2005, Vol 31, No. 1, Page 16-17): “At a recent conference on reconstructing Israelite history held in Rome, the so-called Biblical minimalist position was upheld by a number of prominent scholars. This position is not monolithic, however, and different minimalist scholars stressed different arguments. Among them:
*The Bible cannot be used as a historical source. [The position that defines a Biblical minimalist.]
*Neither can archaeology, which can only tell us whether ancient Israelites ate from a bowl 20 or 30 centimeters wide. A history of Israel based on archaeology is useless.
*There was no Exodus.
*The famous Tel Dan inscription mentioning David, excavated by Israeli archaeologist Avraham Biran, is probably a forgery; and the Hebrew words in the inscription that read “House [Dynasty] of David” probably mean something else.
*David and Solomon are only symbolic characters, not real characters.
*The Biblical accounts of the United Kingdom of Judah and Israel under David and Solomon are simply later projections into a distant mythic past.
*Judah did not even become a state until about a hundred years after David-if he lived.” One scholar mentioned in this article, Giovanni Garbini of the Universita’ di Roma La Sapienza, makes a particularly provocative comment in this article: “The name Jacob “is clearly an artificial creation of post-exilic age [after the Babylonian Exile]. It was not Jacob who became Israel, but Israel who became Jacob…”. These minimalists, who appear to represent the majority of the archaeological community, don’t regard the Bible as historically accurate. Among their objections: they don’t believe that David, Solomon or Jacob existed and don’t believe the Exodus ever occurred. These positions are as idealogically opposed to the conservative Christian view of the Bible as one can image. So why should we (Christians) seek the counsel of this group in the understanding of such a precious concept as the historical timeline of the Bible? Yet this is what has happened.
Here’s another problem with relying on the scientific community to authenticate the Bible: they have “rational” blinders on. Scientists that have no faith in Christ are limited in their ability to investigate because they assume that certain phenomena are impossible even before the investigation has begun. Since they consider themselves to be “rational” scientists the assumption that an “irrational” event has occurred is implausible. The scientific method basically allows anyone to make an assumption (any assumption), conduct research of known facts or run an experiment and use the research and/or the experiment to validate the assumption. These “rational” scientists when confronted with an “irrational” assumption simply leap over the research and experimental process and declare that the assumption in invalid because they have assumed the “irrational” assumption is just not possible. So why do these “rational” scientists behave this way? Well, consider the following possibility. Let’s say that an “irrational” event is assumed and information is collected or an experiment is performed to confirm its validity. Let’s say that the irrational event has been validated. What would be the response of the “rational” scientist? More than likely, complete denial. Such an outcome would create complete chaos in his philosophy since his “rational” method of investigation, the scientific method, would have been used to prove that an “irrational” event was possible. So what is an “irrational” event? It is just another way of saying a supernatural event, one that is beyond our understanding. Can the scientific process be used to validate an “irrational” event? Jesus Christ thought so. Jesus was explaining this idea of being “born again” to a Pharisee named Nicodemus in the New Testament (John 3:8): “The wind blows where it wishes, and you here its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” Nicodemus was clearly confused by this concept of being “born again” but Jesus was saying that even if you didn’t comprehend or believe this supernatural phenomenon could occur, just like something as intangible as the wind, there would be tangible evidence of it.
Certainly not all scientists believe in this manner, but the great majority of them do. How many of these scientists will view the Bible with no preconceived notions? When these scientists read in the Bible that the Earth was created in seven days they will not consider this as true because they have been trained that the universe is billions of years old. When these scientists read that a man lived to be 969 years old in the Bible they dismiss it as myth or fairy tale because men don’t currently live to be that old. They will not consider the possibility that at one time in history men did live that long. When these men read the account of Noah and a worldwide flood they have always attributed it to “local” flooding. This may have some ring of truth to it since until that time, according to the Bible, the world was one big land mass (the world was all in one place, i.e., local). According to the Bible the continents didn’t divide until the life of Peleg, a descendant of Noah. Again, the scientists certainly are not going to agree with this theory of the land mass shift because they will insist that this geological process needed millions of years to accommodate the movement of the continental land masses. Since these archeologists disagree with Christians in so many fundamental matters described in the Bible how will we ever reach an agreement on a historical timeline?
The present chronological model of the Bible is based on a mixture of Biblical truth and theoretical historical models. I believe it is time that we consider a new approach to Biblical chronology. The model I propose is based solely on the information in the Bible. If the Bible is true then historians will confirm the result of the theologians (assuming the theologians have interpreted the Bible correctly). Why should God’s Word have to be authenticated by men? If the Bible is truly trustworthy the truth of the Bible should be laid out for men to see and respond to its truth. In 1995 David Rohl, an Egyptologist, wrote his book A Test in Time to propose a radically different theory in chronology. He proposed a timeline that was based on some Biblical evidence. In fact, Rohl’s proposed date of Solomon’s reign is consistent with the timeline developed from my literal interpretation of the Bible. What is even more amazing about David Rohl is that he is described among archaeologists as a maximalist, someone who believes the Bible is historically accurate, yet he characterizes himself as a spiritual “agnostic”. If David Rohl is a maximalist then I am a “maximum” maximalist, someone significantly to the right of David Rohl’s view since I believe that the Bible is historically accurate and indeed the very word of God as it claims to be. Therefore I believe my perspective on the chronology of the Bible is unlike anything you have ever heard before.
The purpose of my book, “The Fourth Day: Why the Bible is Historically Accurate”, was to prove a biblical concept that I believe will synchronize the events recorded in the Bible with Egyptian history, Babylonian history, Persian history and Archaeology. The recognition of this concept will allow the reader to tie together all these areas of study in one neat package so that when viewed together there is no discrepancy between the Bible and these other elements of ancient history. The recognition of this concept will also illustrate that the Bible is not only a trustworthy religious document but a trustworthy historical document because of its chronological precision. First, assume that from the beginning of creation to the end of the millennial reign of Jesus Christ is a period of 7000 years; a time period analogous to the 7 day period of creation of the world mentioned in the book of Genesis. Next, recognize that the sacrifice of the Passover lamb in the Old Testament is symbolic of the fact that Jesus Christ was crucified exactly 4000 years after the creation of the world. According to the Mosaic Law each family that observed Passover was to purchase a lamb 4 days prior to the day of Passover and that lamb was to live in that household until the late afternoon of the day when the Israelite priest had to sacrifice the lamb and it was to be accomplished by nightfall. I believe these 4 days were God’s way of illustrating that the lamb of God, Jesus Christ, would be sacrificed on a cross 4000 years after the creation of the world. Therefore, symbolically and in actuality, Jesus Christ was sacrificed on the fourth day.
When you recognize this concept to be true, several significant conclusions regarding history become evident. The Israelite Monarchies of David and Solomon occurred about 180 years later than held by historians. The period of the Persian Empire from Cyrus the Great’s announcement of the rebuilding of Jerusalem until Alexander the Great’s invasion lasted only 21 years (not the approximately 200 year period currently held by historians). Egypt did not have a king (a Pharaoh) for 300 years between the 20th and 21st dynasties. I support these conclusions using the Bible, Astronomy, Archaeology, the writings of ancient historians and the monuments of ancient kings.
If you are a Christian I think you will like this idea. Here’s why. I am a devout believer in the inerrancy of the Bible. However I have noticed that the Conventional Chronology of the Bible, the timeline model of Biblical history taught in our Christian seminaries, doesn’t match the accounts of the Bible. For instance, how can the Persian Empire last 200 years when the book of Daniel indicates there were only 4 kings of Persia? If you are a Christian which explanation would you favor, the historian’s theories or the Biblical account? I choose to believe the Bible before I believe the historians.
If you are a fan of alternate views of history I believe you will be intrigued by this idea. The works of David Rohl (Pharoahs and Kings) and Peter James (Centuries of Darkness) are classics in the discussion of historical models that vigorously challenge ancient history. While I don’t agree with them completely much of this book supports many of their speculations and explains many of their observations. You will find my model of history to be extremely unique in its approach.
If you are a historian or archaeologist I believe you will like my ideas. Obviously historians and archaeologists work hand-in-hand, the archaeologist provides the “hard” evidence that supports the historian’s theory. This book provides the model to answer the following hard questions. Why is there virtually no evidence of the Persian Empire presence in Israel during the period of the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the Temple? Why is there half as much evidence of the presence of the Babylonian Empire in Israel as expected? Why is there no archaeological evidence of the “glory” of the reign of Solomon?
In the next installment of this series of articles I will address one of the most provocative discoveries of this approach to history; the discovery that the Persian Empire described in the book of Daniel only lasted for 21 years and not the 200 years claimed by historians.
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