There Is Scientific Evidence to Support Phenomena Described In the Bible If You Are Open Enough To Look at It; Original Christians Accepted some Things as Literal and Others Not
Postmodern theology is based at least in part on the premise that certain parts of the bible are scientifically impossible. The theory continues on that surely we know that so much of bible is just myths and fables. A worldwide flood as described in the bible would require more water that is possible under any circumstances. The miracles described in the story of the exodus are just too preposterous to be believable because there isn’t any evidence. Because of these “facts” the bible is highly suspect as a source for any kind of literal truth. Add in that times and cultures have changed dramatically in many ways and what you have at best is a book that has only symbolic or metaphysical meaning and at worst is a collection of myths and fables that have deluded people for way too long.
Biblical archaeology is a subfield of archaeology. And in fact, within the field there is widespread debate about even using the term “biblical archaeology”.[i] The concern of a lot of archaeologists is that since not all discoveries even in “biblical” lands relate to the Bible, it is a misnomer to label the activity biblical. And, not even all Christian and Jewish archaeologists subscribe to the historicity of the Bible. Some Jewish, Christian, as well as secular scholars believe that accounts in the Bible, for example, the patriarchs, are myths and fables. Randall Price, in his book, The Stones Cry Out, shares his surprise when one of his professors at the Hebrew Jewish university in Jerusalem stated convincingly, Abraham never existed, but his cousins did.[ii]
Nevertheless, there are proponents in archaeology that say that archaeology is a useful tool for use in corroborating Bible events, as well as increasing our understanding of the times and cultures talked about in Bible passages. Even while the text of the Bible isn’t always clarified or even ratified by archaeological sources, archaeology aids in defining words or terms in ancient languages. Often we just get pottery, buildings, and fragments of the life and times of peoples in eons ago. And while some accounts to do reinforce biblical accounts they are from the perspective of an alien culture who might not understand with or agree with the beliefs of the people of God and the Bible.[iii]
An example of this explanation is seen regarding the verses of Matthew 8:22 and Luke 9:60. “Let the dead bury their dead.” In our day and time, this may seem like harsh discipline. It appears to say that a man cannot even go to the funeral of his father. But that is not the case. Archaeologists point out that the Israelites of that time had two burials. These burials were about a year apart. The first burial was within a family cave. Then there was a period of mourning of about a year. The second burial was in a bone box, ossuary, with the remains of the other family members, of course after all the flesh had decomposed. For a man to bury the dead then meant that he would be gone for a year or more which is radically different than the few days that we take in our society. Furthermore, this Jewish practice of two burials doesn’t appear to be biblical. So in effect, Jesus was speaking out against an un-Biblical practice as much as he was setting a priority of making the advance of the kingdom of God most important.[iv]
The importance of archaeology in relation to the Bible is seen in the case of the Hittites. Centuries ago there was no historical evidence of the Hittites (Genesis 20 3:10 – 20 and 2 Samuel). There was doubt of their existence; they were simply part of “religious history” as compared to “real history.” But in 1876 British scholar A. H. Sayce discovered script carved on rocks in Turkey and Syria. Then clay tablets were found at Boghaz-Koy. A German cuneiform expert, Hugo Winckler, went and found five temples, a fortified citadel, and much more. In one room alone he found more than 10,000 tablets. This rediscovery of this ancient people in modern times serves as a caution to those who would dismiss biblical accounts as religious fables.[vi]
This article will focus on how the archaeological and other scientific evidence supports and clarifies some of the dramatic events of the Bible. We will look at how this evidence is disputed by scientists depending on where they stand in the evolution-creation debate. In our process we will look at some scientific and geologic evidence that substantiates and explains some of these events. It’s important to note that just because there is a scientific explanation that this does not negate the hand of God in causing the events to come to pass.
One of the first great events in the Bible that is often challenged is the flood. According to the book of Genesis, the sins of man had grieved God the Father to the point that he was ready to destroy all men, except for one man, Noah, and his family. So God informed Noah of what he was going to do, and advised him to build the ark, which he did. Noah then filled the ark with animals, got into it with his family, and the Lord sealed the ship as the rain started and the flood ensued. Mankind, as well as beasts everywhere, perished in the flood. The waters subsided, the ark landed, and mankind it was started off fresh in Noah and his family.
This is an incredible story. Unbelievers as well as many liberal Christians and Jews call it fable. But there is archaeological evidence of the flood, even if it is limited.
There are several Epics that have been recovered at digs that show that the flood is common to several of the earliest religions. Epics are narratives handed down in cultures that tell stories that explain beliefs and past events. The Atrahasis Epic, The Enuma Elish, and the Gilgamesh Epic all are Flood stories.
The Atrahasis Epic was found on stones in Mesopotamia. It tells the story of Atrahasis, who was given a warning to build a boat, fill it with food in animals, and save mankind. It also has a creation account.[vii]
The Enuma Elish is a Mesopotamian text with a cosmogony, an account of creation. Like Genesis, light predates the sun and stars, and a watery chaos is separated into heaven and earth. Like Genesis, the epic is mostly a battle between gods, chiefly Marduk and Tiamat, and a host of rebel gods.[viii]
The Gilgamesh Epic is a Babylonian account. Utnaphistim was ordered by the Creator God, Ea, to build a ship, fill it with animals, his family, and treasures to survive the storm which flooded the earth and killed the rest of mankind. In this account the boat came to rest on Mount Nisir in Kurdistan, rather than Mount Ararat in Turkey. Utnaphistim sent out a dove, a swallow, and a raven. The raven did not return, and that is how Utnaphistim knew the waters were receding. While it has striking parallels to the Genesis account it has a different tone and a more legendary character than that of Genesis.[ix]
Geologic Evidence of the Flood
The result of archeology only shows that there were other flood stories. Evolutionary scientists say stories are one thing but science proves there was no flood. But does it really? Or does it just argue convincingly enough to get a lot of people to reject alternatives? Many people are familiar with a lot of arguments of how the earth is billions of years old and how only evolution will satisfy these arguments. Carbon dating says that the earth is billions of years old and man is millions of years old. Ice cores prove there are millions of years of ice. All creatures share genetic materials and therefore must have been produced evolutionarily. Non religious geology scholars scoff at the idea of a flood that went over the world’s mountains. Their conclusions are that bible stories are fables.
But there are numerous scientists who find much corroboration for and no absolute arguments against a global flood. When you look at the evidence, there are compelling geologic reasons to seriously consider the Flood story:
1. Fossils of sea creatures high above sea level
2. Rapid burial of plants and animals
3. Rapidly deposited sediment layers spread across vast areas
4. Sediment transported long distances
5. Rapid or no erosion between strata
6. Many strata laid down in rapid succession[x]
Let’s look at point one. Look at this quote from the Answers in Genesis web site;
“It is beyond dispute among geologists that on every continent we find fossils of sea creatures in rock layers which today are high above sea level. For example, we find marine fossils in most of the rock layers in Grand Canyon. This includes the topmost layer in the sequence, the Kaibab Limestone exposed at the rim of the canyon, which today is approximately 7,000–8,000 feet (2,130–2,440 m) above sea level.”[xi]
Would you expect to find marine fossils 7,000 ft above sea level in an exposed layer? I know I wouldn’t. That certainly supports a case for catastrophic worldwide flooding.
Instead of an absolute truth that proves the Bible false what we find is an intense dispute among scientists. This just shows how bias exists even in trained scientists. There are many intelligent, competent, experienced scientists that do research and give sound explanations in support of biblical answers in many areas. The disputes range from the age of the earth to dating methods to whether men and dinosaurs could have co-habited the earth to the historicity of a global flood.
Here is an example of a dispute between scientists. There are numerous places on the earth where geologists have disputed over whether the formations were slowly set up over millions of years or quickly deposited in a global flood. One such place is the fabulous Grand Canyon. One of the features of the Grand Canyon is the many layers of rock that are visible. These rock layers were once sand, mud, and lime. One of these layers is called the Coconino Sandstone. This Sandstone is the thick, light-colored layer near the top of the canyon walls. Its average thickness is an estimated 315 feet, and it covers an estimated 200,000 square miles.
One of the distinct features of the Coconino Sandstone is the distinct cross layers of sand within the layer called cross beds. Evolutionary geologists have interpreted these cross beds by comparing them with the sand dunes in deserts which are dominated by quartz sand grains and have inclined internal sand beds. Therefore evolutionary geologists have concluded that the Coconino Sandstone was created over many thousands of years in a desert of moving sand dunes. They have similar, though not identical features. Notice that while they are similar they are not identical.
Another feature of the Coconino Sandstone is the large numbers of fossilized footprints in sequences called trackways. Evolutionary geologists again compared these to footprints in dry desert sand dunes. They postulate that these footprints once made were then covered up by windblown sand, and then somehow slowly cemented over eons. Thus there is a plausible explanation that fits well into the evolutionary hypothesis.
Above the Coconino Sandstone is the Toroweap formation and below it is the Hermit Formation. Geologists agree that both of these settlements were deposited by and/or in water. The dry Coconino Sandstone layer in between these other layers has caused even some Christian geologists to accept an evolutionary model. How could there be a flood with this dry level between the wet ones?
But there is other evidence, and other explanations. Dr. Leonard Brand of Loma Linda University in California has recently re-examined the footprint trackways in the Coconino Sandstone layer. He observed and measured 236 experimental trackways made by living amphibians and reptiles in experimental chambers. The tracks made were on sand below water, on moist sand at water level, and on dry sand, mostly sloping at an angle of twenty five degrees, with variations. Since wet sand tracks are uniquely different Dr. Brand was able to determine that the tracks of the Coconino Sandstone were made underwater. Further studies revealed that all but one of these track ways had been made by animals moving up cross bed slopes underwater. Additionally, and very significantly, the tracks start and stop abruptly. It appears the animals were swimming, landed, walked for a period of time, and swam away. This invalidates the hypothesis that the layer was dry when formed.
Glenn Visher, professor of geology at the University of Tulsa in Oklahoma, and not a creationist geologist, notes other factors that invalidate the hypothesis that the Coconino Sandstone was created in dry conditions over many thousands of years. Visher performed sand grain size analysis of the Coconino Sandstone and modern sand waves and found that the Coconino Sandstone doesn’t compare to dry sand dunes; he found that the angles of the slopes are in line with underwater sand formations. He also found that pitting of these sand grains is in line with underwater formation. [xi]
The result of these and other studies is that there is a considerable amount of evidence that the massive Coconino Sandstone was formed in an underwater deposit.[xii] These and other arguments are in the numerous books and articles written that show the evidence of a global flood. To ignore the work of competent scientists like Brand and Visher is poor science and just shows bias. Science has not rejected the flood story. If anything, bias within the field has motivated some evolutionary scientists to try to discredit the work of other scientists that do not hold to the same world view as them.
While some critics label the Bible as full of errors, and denied that even large figures like Abraham, Moses and David ever existed, there is an abundance of evidence that substantiates at least some of the historical facts. There is even evidence that substantiates some of the miracles in the Bible. One such example is the story of the Exodus, including the plagues, the parting of the Red Sea, and the walk in the wilderness.
In the Exodus Decoded, Simcha Jacobovici presents a lavish documentary narrated by no less than James Cameron.[xiii] In the documentary he quotes a number of university professors including Professor Philip Davies from the University of Scotland, Professor James Hoffmeier from Trinity Evangelical Divinity school, Professor Keith W Whitelam from the University of Sheffield, and Professor Donald R. Redford, an Egyptologist from Pennsylvania State University.
The narration begins with James Cameron stating the premise that while many scholars have searched fruitlessly for proof of the Exodus Simcha Jacobovici says that the archaeological evidence has always been there.
The story of the Exodus starts with the people of Jacob migrating to Egypt because of a great famine. Initially as relatives of the great Joseph they flourish. But as Joseph is forgotten the Israelites are enslaved. Moses is a descendent of the Israelites, and the story is that God talked to Moses through a burning bush, and called him to lead the Israelite people out of Egypt. Moses appeared before Pharaoh, but Pharaoh would not let the people go. Under God’s direction Moses told Pharaoh about one plague after another that would siege the land unless Pharaoh let the people go. Despite the plagues Pharaoh’s heart kept hardened until the 10th plague. At that point Pharaoh let the Israelites go, but then changed his mind and chased after them. Moses came to the Red Sea with the entire population of the Israelites, and again under gods or reckless direction, he parted the Red Sea. The Israelites passed over on dry land. Pharaoh’s men chose to follow, but the sea close back in on them and they were destroyed. Finally Moses led the people of Israel through Mount Sinai into the wilderness where eventually they entered the promised land.
The Exodus Decoded documentary presents a number of exhibits, and the first one, exhibit A, is the Ahmose stele, an artifact found in Egypt. The stele records the storm around the time of the Exodus. It also talks of the land being enveloped in darkness by a singular God. Exhibit B. is the mummy of Pharaoh Ahmose. This mummy is from the Hyksos period, 1700 to 1500 B.C. Now some scholars date the Exodus at around 1270 B.C., but others date it farther back at around 1470 B.C. to 1500 B.C. For the sake of this presentation Simcha Jacobovici postulates that these exhibits and other artifacts that we will lokk at give the date of the Exodus at about 1500 B.C. That makes the migration to Egypt about 1700 B.C. At Beni Hassan there is a wall painting that dates to about 1700 B.C. that depicts the Israeli migration. The inscription calls the people, “the Amon” which means God’s people. That is exhibit C.
Exhibit D is found at Avaris in the Nile Delta. The seal of Joseph was found. Actually nine seals were found, called the Yakov Royal Ring.
The next exhibit is found at Serabit, El Khadim. The Bible says that the Israelites did not use hieroglyphics. Rather they used alphabetic inscriptions. And they called their God El. At Serabit El Khadim there are inscriptions by slaves that say, “El, save me.” These artifacts point to 1500 B.C. as the date of the Exodus.
The eruption of the Santorini volcano on the island of Crete at the same time is part of this story. This eruption caused a huge ash cloud. The sound from this eruption circled the Earth 10 to 12 times. The force of this eruption was hundreds of times stronger than the Hiroshima atomic bomb.
Dating the eruption to 1500 B.C. is somewhat controversial as most date it earlier, some as early as the 1600’s BC. But the Exodus Decoded documentary gives evidence that the Santorini volcano eruption was at the same time as the Exodus. The point of the whole documentary is to show that there are abundant facts that will corroborate and explain the dates and the mechanisms by which both the plagues happened and the Exodus started. The events of the volcanic eruption and the Exodus are synchronous, explaining many of the elements in the Exodus story.
The Santorini eruption caused an earthquake storm. The Nile Delta is crisscrossed by fault lines. It’s in an earthquake zone. The aforementioned Ahmose stele confirmed that Egyptian gods were toppled to the ground. This indicates earthquake activity.
Now for the plagues: Plague number one was that the River Nile turned to blood. This sounds like a complete fairy tale. But there are historical records of bodies of water turning blood red along with other disastrous effects. In 1986 Lake Nyos in Cameroon turned blood red when gas released from under the lake mixed with iron in the water and cause the water to look like blood. The water in this state pollutes and kills everything but frogs, which is the second plague, the frogs jumping out of the polluted water. The lack of clean water leads to lice, flies, and bacterial epidemics on humans and animals. Plague three was lice, plague four was flies, plague five was epidemic illness.
The next plague, plague six, was boils. At the aforementioned lake at Nyos in Cameron where the gasses turned the water red, the CO2 in the water comatized a number of people producing boils all over their bodies. It is so very interesting to have not only theoretical postulations but an example of some of these phenomenon at Lake Nyos.
Plague seven was hail together with fire. Like the Nile turning red this sounds impossible. But the documentary showed an exhibit, the IPuwer (Plagues) Papyrus, which told of Egypt being struck by a strange hail, fire and ice together, This kind of hail is possible but only possible with a volcanic irruption. The Santorini eruption sent huge amounts of ash into the upper atmosphere, and when they started to cool, hailstones were formed, wrapping ice around hot ash, making a hail that was both fire and ice together.
The next plague, number eight, was locusts. Locusts fly in swarms in that area. The weather disruption of the volcano storm caused the locusts to land. That is something that does occur in nature. Plague number nine was darkness. The cloud of ash and debris from the volcano eruption was 40 km from top to bottom and 200 km across. This cloud engulfed the Nile Delta into complete darkness. As evidence the documentary showed how Santorini ash was found in the Nile Delta. Ash has a fingerprint aspect, and it is able to ascertain that small amounts of the Santorini ash are present in the area.
Plague number 10 was the death of the firstborn. Every firstborn male Egyptian died. This sounds too incredible to be explained by any natural phenomena. But it is explainable. In 1986 again at Lake Nyos in Cameron when the villagers went to sleep, a CO2 gas was disturbed in the lake, forming a fog that rolled over the land killing everyone it covered. People that slept on higher ground survived and woke up to find people and animals on the low ground dead.
So the question is how were the firstborn in Egypt alone selected as victims to that phenomena? The answer lies in Egyptian culture. Egyptian firstborn males held an elevated status in the culture. As a rule Egyptians slept on rooftops and higher locations like many other people in the Middle East. But firstborn males had the privilege of sleeping on a bed on the bottom floor. They alone would have been covered by the CO2 fog that crept out of the water that night. The sitting and eating Israelites would have been bypassed as their heads would have been higher. To substantiate this the documentary showed the location of mass graves around this time period. Many of the graves were small and shallow indicating young people and infants. Ahmose’ son’s mummy was found in the Cairo Museum. He died at about 12 years old.
The documentary strives to prove that instead of disbelieving things because there were natural phenomena involved, the point is that God uses nature at times to perform his acts.
After the death of the firstborn, Pharaoh finally let the Israelites go. But soon his heart hardened again, and he sent his soldiers after the Israelites. The next issue in the Exodus story than is what happens when Moses raises his staff and the sea parts.
There have been a lot of searches in the Red Sea looking for artifacts of the Exodus. After all, if hundreds of thousands of men and soldiers passed through the Red Sea and many soldiers and chariots were killed there, then there must be some sign somewhere. But the documentary looks for another explanation. In the biblical text the term that is translated Red Sea, “Yam Suf”, really should be translated “Reed Sea”.
Reeds grow in fresh water, not saltwater. There is an artifact at the Ismailia Regional Museum. A hieroglyphic inscription on a monument there talks of the Exodus from an Egyptian point of view. It has a symbol for a parted sea, two sets of three waves and two knives, a parted water. It mentions a location, an ancient lake, known as Lake El Balah, the lake where God devoured. It was close to the Nile Delta. The documentary postulates that the plates that had been shifting all this time shifted again this time the African plate rose about 1.5 m. This shifted the water in the lake and dry land appeared. Then, as what usually happens with that in ocean or sea earthquake, the water recedes and then it comes back as a tsunami.
The tsunami washed over the lake and the land around. Experts say the waves were half as high as the Empire State building. The lake was 12 miles inland, but according to scripture the people of Israel were on higher ground, only Pharaoh’s men would have been on the lake bed. The tsunami wave rushed over Pharaoh’s soldiers and killed them all.
The documentary shows more evidence at this point. There is evidence that some Israelites left the exiting Israelites and went to Greece. In 1972 digging under Santorini wall paintings were found depicting an exodus of this from Egypt to Greece. The paintings are a giant map. The map substantiates Avaris as the port, and shows contact between Egyptians and Minoans. Also in the Greek city of Mycenae 3500 year old tombs were found to contain Egyptian swords and gold. The images on the gravestones look like chariots chasing people running through parted water. Other images show the water overtaking the chariots. The documentary shows experts who said the scenes were of hunters or chariot races, but the documentary made its point that these images clearly looked like the scenes from of the Exodus.
The documentary goes on to explain how the pillar of fire and the cloud that the Bible says led the Israelites could have been the result of the quake as well. Oil fires are a common phenomena in the Middle East. If an oil eruption catches fire it becomes a pillar of fire. It also produces a cloud of smoke. A pillar of fire with its resulting cloud in the Sinai wilderness could have been the distant point God used to direct people packed to the promised land. The wilderness walk, using Elim, Kadesh Barnea, and other calculations in the documentary show the possible location of Mount Sinai, and the route the Exodus took to the promised land.
Finally the documentary postulates that in the artifacts found at Mycenae was a piece of work that shows a 3-D image of the altar of God with the Ark of the covenant behind. It is a fascinating display of what the Ark actually look like.
The documentary is incredible. It makes the point that the Exodus is historically true in many aspects. It dates the Exodus at about 1500 B.C. It shows artifacts that document the migration of the Israelite people into Egypt, as well as the Exodus out of Egypt. It uses knowledge about the natural phenomena regarding the Santorini eruption to give an explanation that both explains how the plagues would have happened as well as documentation that shows that at least some of them did happen. While skeptics will always be available to disbelieve, the documentary should be applauded to show that there is corroboration to explain biblical events.
The Difference between an Individual Issue and a Complete World View
In this article we have looked at the debate over the accuracy of some of the miraculous events of the Bible. In the debate between some postmodern liberals and conservative fundamentalist Christians it sometimes looks like an all or nothing proposition. Some Postmodern liberals say all the bible is a myth. Even Christ never actually lived, or if he did he never was resurrected. Adam, Abraham and Moses are fable characters that may give important life lessons, but nothing more.
On the other hand some conservative Christians are ultra literal. The seven days of creation were a total of 168 hours, no more and no less. There literally was a snake that talked in the literal garden of Eden with literal trees, one called knowledge of good and evil and another called life. The way they tell it their fruit weren’t apples, but were like apples or peaches. Some even believe the parables Jesus taught were completely factual, Lazarus as an actual man died and rests in a literal place called Abraham’s bosom, and this is an exact and factual teaching on what happens to people when they die. The wicked are in flames and can see the righteous in Abraham’s bosom, and they can converse. The 66 books in the Protestant bible are the divinely inspired Word of God, authored by God himself.
Primitive, original Christianity did not appear to take either of these positions. They did not take the week of creation to be a literal seven days, there is no evidence that they gave Word of God status to anything but the law and the prophets and even then they understood that there were allegorical parts that were not literal, but symbolic. When Christ referred to Genesis he referred to the point, not the person. He didn’t mention Adam and Eve, rather he said he said haven’t you read that in the beginning he created male and female when referring to the marital issue of divorce.
On the other hand there is every indication that original, primitive Christians believed in a literal flood and everything the bible says about the exodus, and a number of other supernatural events in the OT. Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, Solomon, Isaiah, and Daniel were actual men that did and said the things written about them in the OT.
It follows then that the scientific work done to validate the flood or some other supernatural event of the OT does not necessarily validate the whole world view of the proponent. You can believe the flood happened but creation took longer than a week.
Biblical archaeology has an important if limited function. It serves in a limited way to corroborate, illuminate and sometimes challenge our understanding of the Bible. Being poorly funded, archaeology is probably not going to make radical changes in how people believe. Nevertheless, we owe a great debt of gratitude to the many that have worked this field and given us substantiation, corroboration, and exciting insight to the biblical narrative.
More importantly, we have viable scientific support for major events in the bible like the flood and the exodus. Scientists and scholars that say the bible is completely unbelievable because it doesn’t fit with evolutionary theory or known historical facts cannot speak absolutely. There are competent, trained scientists and scholars that give scientifically based answers and corroboration to show how these events are very possible. Just because one disagrees with one or a few aspects of a literal 7 day creation view does not justify invalidating the hard work of competent scientists and scholars who happen to believe in that view and work to show scientific evidence that substantiates it and other phenomena described in the bible. And accepting a scientist’s substantiation for a world flood does not require you to accept a literal seven day creation.
Scientists give corroboration for many of the events in the bible including such incredible events as a worldwide flood and the plagues and miracles of the Exodus. Their voices should be heard by all including our children at school.
[i] The Stones Cry Out, Randall Price, Harvest House Publishers, Eugene Oregon, 1997, preface
[ii]The Stones Cry Out, p 90
[iii] The Stones Cry Out, p 44
[iv] The Stones Cry Out, p 42-43
[v] The Stones Cry Out, p 83
[vi] The Stones Cry Out, p 45-47
[vii] The Stones Cry Out, p 61
[viii] The Stones Cry Out, p 62
[ix] The Stones Cry Out, p 63
[x] Answers in Genesis website, http://www.answersingenesis.org
[xiii] The Exodus Decoded, History Channel, A Simcha Jacobovici Film, 2006
© copyright Mark W Smith 2009, All rights reserved