The fine line between history and belief isn’t much of a barrier to believers. For them, any claim is justified whether the facts match or not.
Take for example claims made in a recent email I received from one of the students attending my ongoing history seminars. It purports to show that the U.S. is in Iraq for religious reasons. The unknown author came up with 20 reasons, citing both the Bible and the Islamic religious text, the Koran.
Let’s take each reason in turn.
1. The Garden of Eden was in Iraq .
Actually, no one knows where the Garden of Eden was. The Bible reports that the famous garden was “east of Eden,” using the city as a landmark. Eden is a Sumerian word meaning “fertile plain,” and is not a reference to a community anyway. The site could have been anywhere from modern Saudi Arabia through to Iran.
2. Mesopotamia, which is now Iraq, was the cradle of civilization.
Wrong again. Mesopotamia means the land between two rivers. It could today refer to parts of Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Syria and Turkey.
3. Noah built the ark in Iraq.
Maybe. The Bible doesn’t say where Noah was living. Pick a country, any country.
|Tower of Babel today.
4. The Tower of Babel was in Iraq.
No, the tower of Babel was, not surprisingly, in Babylon. Today, ancient Babylon is located inside the Iraqi border, about 50 miles from Baghdad.
5. Abraham was from Ur, which is in Southern Iraq.
No, Ur was then in Sumeria. The Bible says the area was part of Chaldea, but Ur didn’t get settled by the Chaldeans until about 900 B.C.E., more than 1000 years after Abraham had to have been there. Today, the ruins of Ur, called Tall al Muqayyar, are in Iraq.
6. Isaac's wife Rebekah is from Nahor, which is in Iraq.
Nahor is actually a person’s name in the Bible. As a city, it was in southern Turkey.
7. Jacob met Rachel in Iraq.
No, he would have met her in what is now southern Turkey.
8. Jonah preached in Nineveh - which is in Iraq.
|Ruins of Nineveh
The prophet was sent to the capital of Assyria, which included some of modern Iraq. The ruins of Nineveh, the capital, are in Iraq.
9. Assyria, which is in Iraq, conquered the ten tribes of Israel. At the height of its power, Assyria stretched from Egypt back to Iran and included what is now Syria, Jordan, Israel, Lebanon and southern Turkey.
10. Amos cried out in Iraq.
The little-known prophet of the 8th century BCE must have had a loud voice. He lived and preached in ancient Israel, what is now basically the northern half of modern Israel.
|What's left of Babylon
11 Babylon, which is in Iraq , destroyed Jerusalem.
That’s true in a sense: Babylon included what is now Iraq. Babylon conquered Judah in 597 BCE and returned about a decade later to put down a revolt and take the residents away.
12. Daniel was in the lion's den in Iraq.
He supposedly was flung in the den at the behest of Nebuchadnezzar, who would have lived in Babylon. However, his country was not Iraq, but, like Assyria, covered most of the Middle East.
|Four in a furnace
13. The three Hebrew children were in the fire in Iraq (Jesus had been in Iraq also as the fourth person in the Fiery Furnace!).
Really? Jesus was in Iraq. How did the Gospel authors miss that salient point? The trio tossed into the fiery furnace are described as men. They are then joined by one who the Bible says the king thought looked like a “son of gods.”
14. Belshazzar, the King of Babylon, saw the "writing on the wall" in Iraq.
Belshazzar is a real person, but never king. Although the Bible says he was the son of Nebuchadnezzar, his father was actually Nabonidus, who ruled a few years after Nebuchadnezzar died. Belshazzar occasionally ran the government while his father was away, but disappears in extant documents a decade before Babylon was conquered by the Persians. He may have been in Babylon when the writing appeared, but the only reference to the event is in the Bible, which doesn’t pinpoint a location. The actual words are Aramaic, a common language then.
15. Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, carried the Jews captive into Iraq.
As noted earlier, Nebuchadnezzar did conquer Judea and exiled the Jews back to his homeland.
16. Ezekiel preached in Iraq.
Based on the biblical account, this is true. He preached in Babylon, speaking to the exiled Jews in what is now Iraq.
17. The wise men were from Iraq.
The wise men – the Bible does not count them – came from Persia. Iraq did not exist then. Persia, too, was tiny then, having been already swallowed up by the Greeks. Today, it’s called Iran.
|Tradition gave us three wise men
18. Peter preached in Iraq
There’s nothing in the Bible to indicate that Peter preached anywhere, much less in a country that didn’t exist then.
19. The name Iraq means “country with deep roots.”
No, it doesn’t. It has no meaning, but appears to be a corruption for a name given to an area of Sumeria.
20. This is from the Koran and is significant because the U.S. is symbolized by the eagle: (9:11 ) “For it is written that a son of Arabia would awaken a fearsome Eagle.”
Actually, the verse reads: "But if they repent and keep up prayer and pay the poor-rate, they are your brethren in faith; and we make the communications clear for a people who know." No eagle, no connection to the West.
Making things up is the sincere believers' stock in trade. However, there’s no justification for twisting the truth to mislead people.
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 www.williamplazarus.net. 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 Amazon.com, 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 http://www.udemy.com/comparative-religion-for-dummies/?promote=1