A look at the Difficult Texts
Author: Robin D. Fish
Note: Creation Moments exists to provide Biblically sound materials to the Church in the area of Bible and science relationships. This Bible study may be reproduced for group use.
Archeologists have excavated sites in three locations – Mari, Nuzi, and Elba – that date back to ancient times. Mari was the capital of the Amorites around 1700 B.C. When researchers unearthed it, they discovered over 25,000 clay tablets with information from the royal archives on them. In Nuzi, scientists found another 20,000 clay tablets that shed light on the legal system at the time of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The majority of the tablets from Ebla have yet to be translated, but archeologists are certain that they contain very detailed records of daily life in 2,300 B.C.
Biblical scholars have questioned the reliability of the texts of Genesis for well over a century, and they prefer to ignore discoveries such as these. Their questioning arose because Genesis presents itself as a factual history from the beginning of the world. Scholars, on the other hand, had become convinced of evolution, and had even applied evolutionistic concepts to religion itself, coming up with the “evolution of religion” idea. Genesis was too complete, too “mature” and developed theologically to fit neatly into the idea of the evolution of man religiously from animism to pantheism to polytheism and then monotheism. Something had to change, and scholars were convinced it had to be Genesis.
The scholarly conclusion, before looking at the book, was that Genesis had been written long after the time of Moses. Then the scholars opened the book and tried to find the evidence they needed. The catalog of “mistakes” in Genesis was impressive. For example, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob never really existed, they said. They were personifications of ideas, or representations for ancient ancestral tribes.
Evidence: the name Abraham was totally unknown before the time of David. Read Genesis 17:4-6. Where did Abraham get his name? Does this require that the name be popular in the culture of the day? The Mari Tablets have since revealed that the name, once thought to be too modern to be real, was known and possibly even common in the time of Abraham.
Evidence: the account of Sarai giving her slave to Abraham to bear him a son for her to be his heir. There was no account of any such custom in recorded history (this “error” was magnified when Rachel and Leah did the same for Jacob). You can read the account in Genesis 16. The discovery of the Nuzi tablets showed us that this peculiar custom did, in fact, exist once – at the time of Abraham.
Evidence: it was said to be a fictitious account where Esau sold his birthright to Jacob for a dinner of lentil soup. Birthright, the right to inherit as the firstborn, was not known to be transferable, scholars said. Read the account in Genesis 25:29-34. Is there any reason in the wording of the text to understand this as fiction? The sale of birthrights is described for us in the Nuzi tablets.
Evidence: scholars told us that the books of Moses had to be written at a time later than the time of Moses because writing was not generally known, was little developed, and only used sparingly at the time of Moses. With the discovery of the library at Ebla, which scholars believe predates even Abraham, we have discovered that writing was highly developed at an early time in history, and that the ancients kept exhaustive, written records about nearly everything.
Evidence: when Jacob left Laban, Rachel took the household gods, and Laban was – to the opinion of many scholars – unreasonably upset. But the confusion of the scholars was clarified by the discovery in the Nuzi tablets that the household gods were often the symbol of the right of inheritance.
Evidence: scholars long held that the word for God (Elohim) and the name of God (Yahweh or Jehovah) were unknown at such an early age. Yet both are used interchangeably from the very beginning of Genesis. This demonstrated the “fact” that the book was of later origin (written long after the time of Moses). The tablets discovered at Ebla have since shown us that both words were known. They also have revealed that both words were applied to the same God, and that both words were part of popular names (i.e. El as in ELiezar, and Ya as in JAcob).
The most damaging factor in Genesis, however, was the theology. Read Genesis 15:6. Where else do those words appear in Scripture? What do they teach us there? Do you suppose they mean the same thing here? The unbelieving scholars would say that this theology was too advanced for the time of Moses, wandering in the wilderness with a Nomadic, slave people. Therefore the “scholars” said that this book was written (compiled) later from various traditions, possibly about 800 B.C.
Now ask yourself, what does this short verse teach us? Is there any indication that this was the common understanding any time before the time of Christ? How is this amazing Gospel verse more likely 800 years before Christ than 1500 years before Christ?
The scholars were wrong. Christians used to answer that when more was known the Bible would be shown to be accurate. Christians were right. Biblical archaeology has shown the Bible to be remarkably accurate in ways we could never have known before these recent finds at Mari and Nuzi and Ebla.
Close the study with a short prayer asking for God to guide us in His Word into all truth, and thanking Him for so reliable a Word. Sing a favorite hymn about the Scriptures such as “How Precious Is the Book Divine.”
Copyright © 1985 Bible Science Newsletter, Pastor Robin D. Fish. Creation Moments, Inc. PO Box 839 Foley, MN 56329