A Little History



for Culturally-illiterate Science Reporters, Ancient Canaanite DNA Yields Occasion to Slap the Bible Around

I promise I’ll address the article I’ve linked to above in a moment, but first let me digress to talk about an incident from my time as an undergraduate in a sophomore history class.  The course was specifically Mediterranean history and included portions about the Israelites. During one of the lectures the professor made it a point to mention that archaeologists had uncovered artifacts that suggested the Israelites of the Northern Kingdom had referred to God as a Baal, thus suggesting they viewed Him as just another god amongst the other Canaanite gods. This then was used as a springboard to question the uniqueness of Israel’s religious history, their monotheistic heritage, and ultimately discredit the Bible as a reliable source of history and truth.

Here’s the real problem with the conclusions my sophomore peers were led to: the Bible explicitly addresses the issue already.  An incredible number of verses are devoted to speaking of how the Israelites did in fact treat God as just another god amongst many. Consider the account of Elijah and the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel. Why would Elijah have chastised the Northern Kingdom for vacillating between worship of God and Baal if they hadn’t been doing just that? Essentially what the archaeological findings showed was that the Bible was accurate in its portrayal of Iron Age Israel.

Now for this article. Much like the discovery of relics suggesting that ancient Israel once worshiped the Baals of neighboring people groups, a new finding about the genetics of Canaanites has produced a bizarre result in the media. News outlets seem to think the discovery that modern-day Lebanese people are genetically similar to Canaanites of the Bronze Age means the Bible was “wrong.” To summarize their point, they claim the Bible says God told the Israelites to wipe out the Canaanites (which He did) and the Israelites completely annihilated them (which they didn’t). The key point here is the Bible actually, literally in unambiguous terms says the Israelites didn’t successfully remove the Canaanites from the land. So there’s really a huge convergence of evidence that the Bible was being perfectly open and honest about Israel’s failures and it has material and biological proof of its veracity.

Another critical position that denigrates the Bible’s authenticity really suffers for these discoveries as well. I find the hypotheses about multiple sources for the Torah coming together during the Babylonian exile stunning to consider, because essentially it would require the Israelites to fabricate centuries of their history while also accurately reflecting the socio-cultural and political changes within a region from almost a thousand years before their time with more accuracy than many modern era archaeologists have been able to theorize. Which begs the question: Why then do we continually look on the Bible with skepticism?

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