A visit to the Bull Site

This self-indulgent post is about how I managed to locate and visit one of the most obscure and off-the-beaten-track locations in the West Bank related to early Israelite religion. You’ve probably got better things to do with your time than read through it, but you know… /shrug.

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Israelite Origins: the Late Bronze Age collapse

At around 1200 BCE, during what is now seen as the transition from the Late Bronze Age to the Iron Age, the eastern Mediterranean world suffered mass societal collapse. In his excellent 1177 B.C. The Year Civilization Collapsed Eric Cline sums up just how serious the chaos was:

The magnitude of the catastrophe was enormous; it was a loss such as the world would not see again until the Roman Empire collapsed more than fifteen hundred years later.1

Far from being a few squabbles between some knuckle-dragging savages on the edge of some desert somewhere, the Late Bronze Age collapse resulted in the disintegration of international trade, the end of dynasties, and an entirely new world order prompted by mass migration.

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Gerasa, Gadara, Gergesa – from where did the pigs stampede?

A friend recently asked about the geographical problem of Mark 5 so I thought I’d write up some thoughts on the topic.

The narrative in question is the healing of Legion. Jesus is in Capernaum, he gets on a boat, sails across the Sea of Galilee, ends up in a storm, and calms the water. When they arrive on the shore he gets out and is met by two demoniacs/a guy called Legion. After Jesus heals him/them, the demons are sent into a herd of pigs. These demon-possessed pigs then run headlong into the lake and, presumably, drown. It’s fair to say this is one of the weirder gospel narratives.

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Does Jude quote Enoch?

A few days ago I watched a twitter conversation on the topic of whether the Epistle of Jude contains a quotation from the book of Enoch or not. This question comes up every now and again, mainly because it causes problems for those that claim the Bible was dictated word-for-word by God (“verbal plenary inspiration”), believe that it doesn’t quote extra-biblical works authoritatively, and think that the bible is self-interpreting leaving us in no need of any extra-biblical context for its proper understanding (loosely, the “perspicuity of scripture”). So, let’s get down to business: does Jude quote Enoch?

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Israelite Origins: Egyptian Domination of Canaan

“…the people who live in the land are strong, and the towns are fortified and very large; and besides, we saw the descendants of Anak there. The Amalekites live in the land of the Negeb; the Hittites, the Jebusites, and the Amorites live in the hill country; and the Canaanites live by the sea, and along the Jordan.”

Nu 13:28–29 (NRSV)

Such was the report of the 12 tribal representatives sent by Moses to spy out the promised land. Based on this passage we may imagine that Canaan was a land of strong, well defended city states.

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Israelite Origins: Working backwards

Up to now in this series we’ve been slaughtering some sacred cows: claims of biblical dates for the Exodus and subsequent conquest of Canaan, claims that the scriptural narrative of the Israelite conquest matches the archaeological record, and claims that the bible gives us a coherent narrative on where the Israelite people came from.

Scripturally speaking, we’re left with practically nothing. So, we’re going to look at the archaeological record (well, at least what scholars tell us about it) and see what we can work out from there. Continue reading

A “Land Bridge” off Nuweiba?

Explanations for the Red Sea crossing described in Exodus 14:21-29 abound, and range from the sublime to the ridiculous. In this post we’re going to look at a claim that’s at the extremely-ridiculous end of that spectrum – the popular idea that the Israelites walked over a purported “land bridge” stretching underwater from Nuweiba, a promontory on the east coast of the Sinai Peninsula, to Saudi Arabia on the other side of the Gulf of Aqaba.

The view that the Israelites crossed the Red Sea at this location has been popularised by nurse anaesthetist and discoverer of Noah’s Ark, the Tower of Babel, and the very blood of Jesus Christ; the late Ron Wyatt. So the idea is off to a strong start… Continue reading

Israelite Origins: Late Date Exodus

Just before we get into the historical background of the relevant time period for investigating Israelite origins in Canaan we have one side issue to deal with – the “Late Date” Exodus. The date of the Exodus is intimately connected to the emergence of the Israelites in Canaan when looking at the topic as a Christian because the Israelites, according to a selective and face-value reading of the narratives, arrived in Canaan forty years after they left Egypt. If that’s what happened then we’ve got our Israelite origins sorted, and we can stop this series right now. Continue reading

Israelite Origins: Biblical Counter-narratives

As we saw in the last post, the narrative found in Joshua that explains how the Israelites came to be in Canaan does not stack up with the archaeological evidence; in fact, it’s completely contradicted by it. The glorious conquest of Canaan and complete annihilation of its indigenous people described in Joshua 10-11 quite plainly did not happen – this is a bit difficult for those who work on the assumption that a plain reading of the biblical text provides reliable historical information. However, if your faith requires scripture to be “true” (read, “historically accurate”) then this discrepancy between the conquest narratives and the archaeological evidence pales into insignificance when it’s pointed out that scripture lacks internally consistency in its narratives of Israelite origins. Continue reading

Israelite Origins: putting away childish things

We concluded the previous post by stating that almost everything of the Sunday School narrative on Israelite Origins is contradicted by the archaeological evidence. In this post we’re going to see why that is, taking a look at what the relevant scholarly experts, in their own words, have to say about just how well their discoveries match the main biblical narrative. We’re going to quote mainly from Amihai Mazar’s widely-used textbook, Archaeology of the Land of the Bible 10,000-586 B.C.E.1 though we’ll also dip into other resources as we go along.

We pick up the story toward the end of the wilderness wanderings… Continue reading

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