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Eilat Mazar Uses Fundamentalist Christian Cult to Link Archaeological Finds to ‘King David’

Posted by NT Wrong on January 2, 2009

herbert_w_mazarI noticed this disturbing archaeological News on Otagosh, the biblioblog of Gavin Rumney, a one-man encyclopedia of all things to do with Herbert W. Armstrong and the Worldwide Church of God.

As a bit of background: Biblical Archaeologist Eilat Mazar announced in October 2008 that the excavation of a tunnel she is supervising in Jerusalem is the tsinnor in the story of King David’s conquest of Jerusalem (2 Samuel 5.6-8; 1 Chronicles 11.4-6). Earlier apologists had identified the tsinnor with a shaft near the Gihon Spring, in the attempt to make simplistic correlations between the Bible and archaeology. But when recent excavations showed that the Gihon Spring site wasn’t used in the tenth century BC (when David is alleged to have lived), the Biblical Archaeologists switched to Mazar’s tunnel, in a further desperate attempt to ‘prove’ the truth of the Bible. After all, Biblical Archaeologists such as Eilat Mazar actually boast that their ‘method’ comprises having a spade in one hand and a Bible in the other. Archaeology then becomes a childish game of joining the dots between the two, rather than a professional attempt to assess the context of the archaeological sites in their own right. No doubt, when problems arise with the correlation between this tunnel and the Bible, Mazar will pick up the Bible again (with her right hand) and use her left hand to dig for some new tunnel.

What Gavin Rumney draws attention to is that Mazar has handed over most of the archaeological dig to uber-fundamentalist Christians from the Church of God cult! That’s like handing over an archaeological dig for the original golden Book of Mormon to the Latter Day Saints, and then announcing that Joseph Smith was telling the truth!!

“A few days after the tunnel entrance was discovered, Mazar set out to excavate the tunnel, assigning Armstrong College students to the task. AC junior John Rambo, 22, from Oklahoma, and graduate Victor Vejil, 24, from Texas, spent nearly two months inside the tunnel, digging using small tools [a Bible?] under artificial light…”
– The Philadelphia Church of God, ‘AC students dig up 10th century B.C. tunnel in Israel’, December 15, 2008

Note: ‘Armstrong College’ is an unaccredited college. Well, it’s more of a fundie training-camp than a ‘college’.

“The tunnel was lost from world view after the Babylonians laid siege to the city in 585 B.C., until AC students stumbled upon it. While describing the student’s contribution, Mazar called the excavation an almost entirely “Armstrong College enterprise.” All the positions related to the tunnel were filled by the student volunteers, except for that of the artist who was responsible for mapping out the tunnel.”
– The Philadelphia Church of God, ‘AC students dig up 10th century B.C. tunnel in Israel’, December 15, 2008

Let’s see… the archaeology is being undertaken by Zionist extremists, the City of David Foundation and Christian Zionist students at an unaccredited college of the Church of God, under the leadership of Eilat Mazar, who holds a Bible in one hand while she digs with the other.

Is it any wonder that the excavation comes up with the oddball proclamations they do, when they involve such one-eyed zealots? Unfortunately, their utterly unfounded proclamations are then uncritically accepted by an ignorant and profit-driven mainstream media, a gullible Christian public, and an equally gullible and also nationalistic Israeli public.

Given such a widespread dissemination of misinformation, it is well worth pointing out the highly suspect groups behind the dig, the routine failure to apply accepted archaeological method, and the completely fanciful and wishful nature of their identifications of archaeological sites with biblical stories.

15 Responses to “Eilat Mazar Uses Fundamentalist Christian Cult to Link Archaeological Finds to ‘King David’”

  1. steph said

    You’re right – no spades, just Bibles. Not the sharpest of tools but Constantine used one to create an empire. Archaeology is a bit like Biblical Studies – they’re both embarrassing.

  2. Danny said

    At least Hershel Shanks’ magazine will have more “bible-confirming” stories to print for the next few years.

  3. paulf said

    I agree with your basic point, and you might be right in your chacterization of the people involved, but it would be more effective to tell us why they are wrong rather than just call them nuts. They may be, but as someone who doesn’t know anything about this, I’d like to know more facts.

    I’m also puzzled by your characterization of a “christian” church of god “cult.” The church as a strange history, including the fact that Armstrong one day disavowed his unorthodox and (many would say) unchristian belief system. But what makes the church a cult? And if it is, how can it be “christian” by any normal use of the word?

  4. AHA! My hunch that BAR-types are among the more ardent supporters of British Israelism is corroborated at long last!

  5. AggieAtheist said

    I think the Armstrongist sect in question is Philadelphia CoG, not Worldwide CoG (which has put lipstick on the pig — literally — and embraced fundamentalist evangelical beliefs).

    I concur with paulf’s assessment, as one who was born and raised in “the church”: I definitely do not believe that we were Christians. I remember always feeling distinctly uncomfortable when I was asked whether or not I was one. “Christian” churches, after all, were “the harlot daughters of the great whore of babylon” (RCC), and none of us wanted to be identified with that.

  6. steph said

    This cult is a sect devoted to the idea of proving the Bible true by pretending to do archaeology in a childlike way. a sect devoted to the beliefs of a cult. They identify themselves as Christians, therefore they are a Christian cult. Other Christians may not consider them Christians but they do. I thought it fairly obvious, from events described in the post, why they are nuts.

    (That ‘lipstick on a pig’ has surely worn rather thin these days. Gosh it was even in the blog post linked to in this post. As for ‘literally’, American abuse of this word renders it redundant. One can no longer use it correctly and be taken seriously 🙂 )

  7. AggieAtheist said

    No, they literally did exonerate the poor old pig — Worldwide used to hold to an extremely cherry-picked version of the Judaic dietary laws (if I don’t miss my guess PCoG still does), but around the time of the changes (1994), the dietary requirements for membership in the church were dropped.

    So pigs were OK as food sources. Thus my remark.

  8. AggieAtheist said

    Also don’t forget, they hold fast to a “bible jigsaw” approach, i.e., the canonical Christian texts are the inspired and divine inerrant “word of god”, but the pieces have been mixed up like a jigsaw puzzle.

    Coveniently, only “god’s apostle” (was Armstrong back in the day, now it’s Gerald Flurry for PCoG, and any number of apostles and witnesses over the 600+ splinter groups extant today) knows how to put the puzzle back together “properly”.

    Cognitive dissonance — to infinity! And beyond!!

  9. Geoff Hudson said

    “Eilat Mazar Uses Fundamentalist Christian Cult to Link Archaeological Finds to ‘King David’” Wow!

    Why the hang-up with fundamentalists Jeffrey? But isn’t that what your blog is really about – bashing the likes of N T Wr…. the good bishop. Now anyone might think you had a monopoly of the truth. Since when did you go on an archaeological dig? You are so wrapped up in your textual literalism, that archaeology can have little influence. Why not whack the Catholics as well?

  10. steph said

    No clever atheist, your remark was they put lipstick on the pig – literally. They didn’t – not literally.

  11. AggieAtheist said

    Hmmm. Did I forget to mention the prohibition on makeup that was repealed as well?

  12. Jwilson said

    I agree with Paulf. When I hear ad hominem attacks without any factual argumentation, I tend to believe the accused.

  13. NT Wrong said

    Paulf, Jwilson – I have (biblically) provided both a reasoned response and a refusal to engage in argument in this post.

    The second paragraph of this post outlines the factual argument why Mazar’s archaeological method is flawed, i.e., that her method is to correlate Bible and archaeological site before investigating the archaeological site in its own right (Prov 26.5).

    The news about her employment of an extremist Christian cult (CoG) does not require engagement, because they are clearly well outside the realm of reasonableness, and to discuss their blinkered and nutty mindset would involve being dragged down into their realm of banal absurdities (Prov 26.4).

  14. NT Wrong said

    Steph, you are literally correct.

  15. Libro 66 said

    As a (hopefully) recovering Armstrongist, I have to disagree with your Mormon analogy. Finding David’s invasion shaft would not be akin to finding Joe Smith’s golden plates. Finding David’s invasion shaft would be more like finding the magic compass that led Nephi and family across the wilderness. 🙂

    Also, you shouldn’t believe Philadelphia CoG when it quotes Mazar. Herbert Armstrong used to volunteer students for archaeological digs too, back when he was alive — and provided the same sort of glowing descriptions of their effectiveness. The truth, upon closer inspection, was not as impressive. You may find that Mazar’s actual opinion of Armstrong College students may not be as high as PCG’s PR machine implies.


    (Now, if PCG’s spades were to run across a completely intact copy of the Pentateuch that dated all the way back to the days of David, and if it was word-for-word the same as the Masoretic text (or at least reasonably close to the Septuagint) — now THAT would be comparable to finding the golden plates…)

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