Friday, January 30, 2015

The Truth about Biblical Facts

Ruins of 'Peter's" House
Facts are such an interesting thing.  Take for example, the discovery of an old house in Capernaum, Israel in 1968.  One scholar insisted it’s the house that the Apostle Peter lived in because there’s are crosses and the names of Jesus and Peter inscribed on the wall.  Others said, no, it’s just an old house.

Who’s right?  Both could be. 

It could have been Peter’s house.  Based on material and design, it dates from the first century to the 4th century C.E.  Peter must have lived in that range.  He supposedly from Capernaum; the locale is mentioned in all the Gospels. Also, a church was later built on the site, which would imply some connection to a sacred individual.

As a result, there are plenty of websites proclaiming the site as Peter’s home.

Inscribed crosses
However, there are more arguments against than for.  First, there’s no factual evidence that Peter existed. He only appears in the New Testament, books written long after Peter, Jesus and most everyone else had died.  Scholars have long since dispelled the myth of Gospel accuracy.

Second, visitors added the names and crosses.  Despite claims, historians cannot read the words left on the wall.  The religious are sure they say Peter and Jesus; no one else accepts that.

Third, this was a first century home, but what part of the century?  Peter had to have died by the time a horrific Jewish revolt against the Romans ended in 73.  No early Church father is heard of again after that terrible war.  In Christian mythology, Peter died in Rome around 64 C.E. If the house was built later that that, Peter could not have lived there.

Fourth, the cross did not become a symbol of Christianity until later.  Initially, the Jewish Zealots used it as their symbol.  That implies the house was built toward the end of the century when Judaism and Christianity permanently divided.

Fifth, while Christians did build a church there, they did so long after Peter could have lived there.  Many sites in and around Israeli cities have Christian connotations are described as religiously significant, but all were so designated as long as 300 years after Jesus must have lived.  Virtually all to date have been shown to be mistaken, but promoters come down on the side of profit from tourists than accuracy.

The house reflects a vast difference between historians and the general public.  Historians insist that decisions be made on facts.  Unfortunately, hard evidence is difficult with events that occurred thousands of years ago.

As a result, history is not an exact science.
Biblical Exodus

Take the Exodus from Egypt, which is such a prominent part of Jewish history and teachings.  The Bible contains a book largely devoted to Moses, the leader of the exodus of Jewish slaves, as well as tales of plagues and other incredible events associated with this miraculous occurrence.

Historians have little to go on.  The events are not dated or recorded anywhere else.  The name of the pharaoh is not given in the text.   Moreover, there’s no evidence in the Sinai of anyone living there.  There are no graves of people who died on the trek, no discarded bits of clothing, no hint of tents being set up and campfires during the cold desert nights.  In Israel, there’s evidence of cities destroyed, but none match up with the Exodus account.  Also, there’s no evidence of a new culture superseding the existing one which must have happened when the Jews under Joshua supposedly invaded what was then known as Canaan.

Extensive archaeology have found no evidence of an Exodus
There’s no mountain that matches the description as the place where Moses was given the law by God.  In addition, unlike every other people on Earth, Jews never went on a pilgrimage to the locale where such an epiphany took place.

Also, analysis of the biblical account show that Moses was a later addition to the story.  Historical research into other writings has found that the Exodus had little place in Jewish practices until centuries after it must have taken place.

Finally, an Egyptian historian named Manetho writing about 2,300 years ago detailed the dynasties of the pharaohs and included no evidence supporting the biblical account.  For example, no pharaoh drowned, despite the biblical claim.  Manetho’s research so far has held up despite careful comparisons with known records.

In essence, all the evidence is against an Exodus taking place.  That doesn’t mean there can’t be evidence of an Exodus, only that it hasn’t been found.  However, if any evidence is found, it will have to somehow counter the reality that Canaan was not invaded by a foreign culture, although the Bible details the arrival of the former slaves and the destruction they wrought.

As a result, no unbiased historian accepts the historical reality of the Exodus.  It simply could not have happened as described. 

That’s true for Sodom and Gomorrah, two cities described in the Bible as having been destroyed.  Archaeology has uncovered limited evidence of human habitation near the Dead Sea, supposed site of the two cities.  Sadly, the cities don’t have markers giving their names.  As a result, multiple sites have been proposed as home of the two doomed cities.  The name “Sodom” has been found in an ancient carving, but proof of  its existence doesn’t prove it was destroyed as described or was destroyed at all.

As Israel Finkelstein, professor of archaeology at Tel Aviv University and co-author of the best-selling The Bible Unearthed, noted, “We are probably dealing here with an etiological story, that is, a legend that developed in order to explain a landmark. In other words, people who lived in the later phase of the Iron Age, the later days of the kingdom of Judah, were familiar with the huge ruins of the Early Bronze cities and told a story of how such important places could be destroyed.”

That did not stop true-believers from claiming that Sodom and Gomorrah have been found.  Maybe they have.  Right now, all that’s been found are a few ruined buildings.  They could be anything.  Still, gullible folks immediately proclaimed that the Bible is true.  No, it’s not.  This story may be, but these few ruins aren’t proof of anything except human habitation at some time thousands of years ago.

Doctored photo to create Noah's Ark
That’s true with claims of Noah’s Ark, too.  It hasn’t been found, despite claims to the contrary.  There’s a cottage industry devoted to creating website with such claims.  The only wood ever found on Mt. Ararat, supposed site of the Ark’s landing, turned out to date from modern times.

Nevertheless, the internet is stuffed with such claims about all facts of the Bible.   It’s really sad, too, that some people need invented “facts” to support their beliefs.  Beliefs don’t need a single fact; that’s why they are called beliefs.

Historians, on the other hand, do.

Long-time religious historian Bill Lazarus regularly writes about religion and religious history.  He also speaks at various religious organizations throughout Florida.  You can reach him at  He is the author of the famed Unauthorized Biography of Nostradamus; The Last Testament of Simon Peter; The Gospel Truth: Where Did the Gospel Writers Get Their Information; Noel: The Lore and Tradition of Christmas Carols; and Dummies Guide to Comparative Religion.  His books are available on, Kindle, bookstores and via various publishers.  He can also be followed on Twitter.

You can enroll in his on-line class, Comparative Religion for Dummies, at

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