Official Blog of the Bishop of Durham

… But Archaeology DOES Disprove ‘the Bible’

Posted by NT Wrong on May 6, 2008

“Responding to these developments, some secular scholars have claimed that archaeology actually disproves the Bible. Thankfully, it does not.”
Finders of the Lost Ark?, Gordon Govier, Christianity Today, May 2008, Vol. 52, No. 5

It is often said that archaeology does not disprove the Bible. Some go even further, and claim that archaeology can not disprove the Bible.

Both claims are false. Archaeology can and does disprove “the Bible”.

But the phrase “disproves the Bible” is a very vague description. Archaeology discusses certain propositions, some of which overlap with the Bible’s own propositions. Given that the subject matter of archaeology and the Bible overlap in many areas, archaeology can and does disprove the Bible. The Bible deals both with the ‘what’ happened in the past, as well as the ‘why’ it happened. Much of the ‘what’ happened directly contradicts archaeological evidence (e.g. the biblical account of the Exodus, the biblical account of the Conquest, the biblical account of the united monarchy). And the Bible usually presents the ‘why’ as being intimately related to the ‘what’. So the ‘why’ questions that the Bible tries to answer aren’t immune from disproof from archaeology, either (although, the grounds for disproof are indirect).

For example, archaeology proves, according to the rules of argumentation and evidence of the game of archaeology, that there were only 3 million people in Egypt in the Late Bronze Age. The Bible’s own proposition is that some 600,000 fighting men, aged 20 and upwards, migrated out of Egypt during a period which may be correlated with the Late Bronze Age. When we add women, children and elderly, 600,000 fighting men implies some 2.5 to 3 million people who migrated from Egypt in the Late Bronze Age. However, the archaeological evidence shows no such thing at all. There is no such disruption to the archaeological record. In fact, Egypt generally grew in strength throughout this period.

So, the Bible’s proposition that 600,000 fighting men migrated out of Egypt in the Exodus is proved false by archaeology. The idea that God has called a certain people to him is also affected by this evidence. Without an Exodus, there’s no theological establishment of Israel. And the only biblical account of the Exodus is disproved. So, archaeology disproves this part of the Bible.


10 Responses to “… But Archaeology DOES Disprove ‘the Bible’”

  1. Rex D Boykin said

    Before I waste any time discussing this, exactly what are your credentials?

  2. ntwrong said

    I really don’t want to waste my time answering that question.

  3. What do you think about the Hyksos and their possible relation to the Exodus story? There are records of the Hyksos fleeing Egypt and it might as well be that they fled to Palestine, with Israelite hitchhikers following them.

  4. Colin Okuoma said

    This article fails to consider the distortions inherent in recording history. I thank archaeology for the discovery of the many manuscripts (Christian, historian, Roman, and Jewish writings) which provide evidence about the Bible’s major claims, and are helpful in illustrating beliefs and customs in the Gospel period. The discovery of the Codex Sinaiticus (a Greek manuscript containing the whole of the New Testament and some of the Old Testament) and the Codex Vaticanus (a Greek manuscript of the whole Bible) is a reminder of an important stage in the history of the church. These two manuscripts are complimentary to the believers who went through severe trials and persecution in order for these very important manuscripts to be persevered for believers today. Archaeology can compliment ones faith, but when faced with archaeology against the Biblical account, I have more faith in the Biblical account which is more reliable than archaelogical evidence which may be distorted.

  5. mike said

    “according to the rules of argumentation and evidence of the game of archaeology”

    hmmm…made by who? don’t we all have pressupositions that affect what rules we play by and how we interpret evidence? So who is to say who’s rules and interpretaions are “correct”. At best you can only give your school of thought’s answer, nothing is proven.

  6. ntwrong said

    Mike and Colin – you’re talking bullshit nonsense. It’s a very popular form of bullshit nonsense, but bullshit nonsense all the same.

    The “presuppositions” or “rules of the game” might lead us to factually incorrect conclusions from case to case, but in the long term they only continue to be held because they work. That is, the rules of archaeology continue to provide information about the real world, despite the disinformation that any discipline also throws up. Unless you really support absolute relativism between the game of archaeology and the game of biblical literalism — which I greatly doubt — you might have to open your eyes and see that archaeology has indeed proved facts, just as any discipline proves facts: to some level of probability under the current available knowledge. Some of these things, such as the population of Egypt being around 3 million will be proved with confidence. So it is not sufficient to point out the banal and obvious point that our human knowledge is always limited — and our proofs are always to a certain level of probability. Unless you really are an epistemological relativist, you also need to accept that archaeology proves certain things as facts.

  7. mike said

    “to some level of probability under the current available knowledge. ”
    I think it is important to point this fact out, to acknowledge that we do all, live by at least some amount of faith. Would you agree with that, that we do all live by at least some amount of faith, because as you said, there is only a level of probablility?

  8. ntwrong said

    Everything we know about reality is known with less than full certainty. That is a banal fact. But some people like to use this fact as a basis for saying either that everything is just as plausible as anything else (relativism) or that their own position is just as plausible as anything else (special pleading). The tactic is refuted here. Rather, the question must be — which explanation provides the better explanation of the facts? This is not just a question of presuppositions, but of realism and correspondence with truth.

  9. Steve said

    If the Bible makes that claim of millions, the Bible is false. If it does not, then perhaps it is not.

    Humphries 2000 suggested that for the Exodus there were 598 small units (’EL) of 9 men (about 9 men in each unit), or about 5,500 men: this is similar to numbering in the Amarna Letters. Add in about 1,000 Levites, and his total was of about 20,000-22,000 Israelites (cf. K A Kitchen’s Reliability of the OT, 2003:264f.). Canaan had about 50,000 people, and around this time evidence shows a marked increase of about 20,000 inhabitants! This increase could have been Israel moving into the highlands of Canaan along with their livestock taken from Egypt & along the way (Ex.10:26; Nb.20:19), later extending west to less pastoral parts of Canaan. The highland zone with its “rash of small, new Iron 1 settlements (plus such as Shiloh and Mount Ebal)”, shows that unlike in Canaan in general, pigs were not eaten by this population of about 20,000 around the time of Joshua (Kitchen 2003:230): this fits with Israel’s taboo on pig meat.

    Let’s be careful to work out just what the Bible does say, before jumping the gun.

  10. NT Wrong said

    Steve – the ‘small unit’ interpretation of Hebrew ‘eleph is contrary to the context, so is not the meaning of the word in the Exodus. The 600,000 men are individually counted in Numbers, a few months later.

    While I agree with you that it is essential to be careful to work out just what the Bible does say before jumping to conclusions, you are not going to find careful scholarship in Kitchen, but blinkered and one-eyed apologetics. Kitchen leaps after the most improbable explanations, rather than seeking the better explanations, for the sole reason that he is tendentiously attempting to defend the Bible as historic. In other words, his method is ass-about-face. Instead of examining the facts in order to proceed to the conclusions, he consistently begins with his conclusions and then attempts to find reasons to support it.

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