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Searching for the tombs of Noah’s family by Dr. William Shea

In the summer of 2003 I participated in a series of Bible conferences for Adventist ministers in Armenia, Georgia, and Southern Russia. While driving north from Yerevan, Armenia’s capital, to Tiblisi, the capital of Georgia, we stopped along the highway to take photographs of Mount Aragatz, the highest mountain in Armenia at 13,419 feet (4.400 meters). This mountain rises about 30 miles (48 km.) north of the traditional location of Mount Ararat, located on the other side of the border with Turkey (see Figure 1, with map of the region).

Bible readers, of course, are acquainted with Mount Ararat in connection with Noah and the Flood, for it was “on the mountains of Ararat” that the ark came to rest as the waters receded (Genesis 8:4, NIV). A few days after the ark rested, “Noah came out [of the ark], together with his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives,” offered a sacrifice of gratitude to God, and settled in the region (vs.18 and ff.). “The sons of Noah who came out of the ark were Shem, Ham and Japheth; and from them came the people who were scattered over the earth” (Genesis 9:18, 19).

After I returned home, I checked on the internet for many close-up views of various locations on Mount Aragatz.1 From a study of these photographs, I was convinced that there were some rock-cut carvings on the southern slope of this mountain just above Lake Qare (about 9,000 ft., 2.700 m.). I wanted to examine these carvings, so I went back to Armenia in June of 2004, accompanied by a professional photographer friend.2

Findings at Lake Qare

On June 28, we set out for Lake Qare on Mount Aragatz, accompanied by a guide and our host, the president of the Adventist Mission in Armenia. A decent road runs up to that lake, as the Armenian Institute of Physics studying cosmic rays is located there. After a series of delays, we arrived at Lake Qare and discovered that there was much more snow, ice, and mud than I had anticipated (Figure 2).

Upon arriving at the parking lot at one end of the lake, our guide asked me where I wanted to go. I pointed to the slope of the mountain nearest the parking lot, where I felt we might find some carvings. Instead of following a trail that appeared to be the most direct route to that slope, our companions suggested that we take the other way around the lake. As we reached the far point, I saw a large rock, about 4 x 6 feet (1.2 x 1.8 m.) in size. Approaching it, I noticed the figure of a large snake cut into its upper edge. From this I knew we had made a find, because in the earliest alphabet the snake stands for the letter N (from Semitic nahash = snake). This is also the first letter in the name of the biblical Noah. The rest of the relief and carved inscription can be deciphered as “the dove took wing from the ark here.”

Identification of this first carved stone led to a search for others in the same area. A total of seven carved stones were found within an area of about 25 feet (8 m.) from the first stone. Four of these depict outlines of the heads of various members of Noah’s family—Shem, Ham, Japheth. The men are named in the inscriptions (which must be read right to left) but the women are simply labeled as “wife (ashat) of….”

One of these carved stones is important for determining the nature of the large mound on the other side of the lake. This stone was scored horizontally about two-thirds of the way up, to demarcate the peak. The figure of a man is shown on the right side of this peak. There is a two-word inscription written beside this figure: Noach = Noah and qeber = tomb, grave.

Reading the inscriptions

I first noted the script used here on the other side of the border while visiting the Durupinar formation near Dougbayazit, Turkey, in the summer of 1998. It came as a complete surprise to find a couple of brief alphabetic inscriptions there, since I had previously assumed that any writing found in this area near the landing of Noah’s Ark would be cuneiform. But here it was in an alphabetic script related to Proto-Sinaitic, the earliest written alphabet of mankind, known originally from turquoise mines in Sinai from the mid-second millennium B.C. and more recently from the early second millennium B.C. found in Egypt. Here was an earlier form of that Semitic alphabet found first in Eastern Turkey and now in Armenia.

This stone, with the two-word inscription (Noach qeber = Noah’s tomb), seems to be a model or a marker of the burial mound of Noah that is found across the lake, in plain view of the carved stone. Unfortunately, this interpretation did not occur to me until a couple of months after I returned home.

A larger carved stone located nearest to the edge of the lake shows a more extensive scene that can be deciphered (Figure 3). In the right lower corner is Noah with his hand lifted up as he is shown releasing one of his birds. The dove (yonah) shown above him on the right, while the raven (oreb) is shown in the other upper corner. In the left lower corner opposite Noah, the ark is shown sitting on Ararat. There are faint inscriptions for each one of these features. This scene implies that the mountain upon which the ark landed was this one and not the other one 30 miles to the south

The tomb of Shem

Much to my dismay, we were not able to get back up Mount Aragatz for further explorations. However, another horizon of research opened up for us. After a couple of days of sightseeing in the Yerevan area, we left for the town of Sisian, a three-hour drive south of Yerevan. On a Friday morning we drove just 3 kilometers south of Sisian to Zorats Qarer, which is a large field of megaliths that some call the Armenian Stonehenge. While the standing stones at Zorats Qarer are not as tall as those in Stonehenge in England, there are many more of them and they are spread out over a much larger area (Figure 4). Some Armenian anthropologist or archaeologist has numbered most of them with white paint. The highest number that I saw was 180 and there may well be more than that. They are spread out close to over a quarter of a mile, in distinctive rows (Figure 5).

We spent more than two hours photographing about 60 of these standing stones. Many of them have short inscriptional labels or reliefs, in varying degrees of illegibility because of weathering and overgrowth of lichens. The inscriptions, when legible, utilized the same early alphabet that we had seen on Mount Aragatz

For lack of any better explanation, the common Armenian interpretation of this field is that it may represent ancient astronomical markers, similar to Stonehenge. But Zorats Qarer is quite different from Stonehenge—especially in that at its center there is a tomb. The important question then is, who is buried in the tomb? The weathered inscriptions provide the answer to this question. A number of them refer to the tomb of Shem and his wife. One of the clearer inscriptions can be read on one of the markers (Figure 6). The word qeber is written down the left side of the stela. Then the name of Shem with its three short and simple letters is written down the right side of the stela and again, in smaller letters, down the lower part of the center. Other names of the men in Noah’s family are found here too, but none of them have the word for “grave” associated with them. Thus the important grave at the center of this complex should be that of Shem and his wife. (Or his wife may be buried in the secondary tomb just to the south of the central grave.) This site is located approximately four hours south of, I believe, what is the burial mound of Noah and his wife on Mount Aragatz.

The tomb of Japheth

With our spirits buoyed considerably by the discoveries at Zorats Qarer, we took another excursion to a large valley three hours’ drive south of Sisian. The valley was deep, and a switchback road wound down to the bottom where we took a pleasant swim in a geothermal spring. Then we followed the winding road up the other side of the valley to the Tatev Monastery.

I was surprised to find more Noachic type of inscriptions on three very large blocks of stone in the courtyard of the monastery. The monks who built the monastery about A.D. 1000 were careful to preserve the back sides of these three stones when they carved their own inscriptions on their front sides. On the back sides of those three stones the name of Shem can be read in the middle stone, Ham is found on the right, and Japheth on the left. Where the monks obtained these old blocks of stone is unknown to us, but it presaged of an even more important discovery as we retraced our route back down into the valley and up on the other side

As we came up out of the valley on its north side, our host and driver said, “Oh, I forgot to take you to this observation point.” As we walked out onto the observation point on a promontory (Figure 7), I noticed two strata of rocks, the modern rocks on the top to provide the viewpoint and the older rocks underneath. These older rocks were carved with badly weathered inscriptions and reliefs similar to those we had seen on Mount Aragatz and in the field of megaliths at Zorats Qarer. This time the carvings revealed a connection between the word for “grave, tomb” (qeber) and the name of Japheth, another one of the sons of Noah.

This collection of inscriptions indicates that this promontory was not paved just for the use of modern tourists, but in ancient times it served as the site of the burial of Japheth and his wife. To emphasize the connections of this site with the family of Noah, there are carvings of his three sons on top of the columnar rocks just across the road from this lookout. In that location, Shem and his wife were carved on the right, Ham and his wife in the middle, and Japheth and his wife on the left.


To summarize the results of our explorations in Armenia, it can be said that very good candidates for the locations of the burials of three men (plus their wives) have been identified in Armenia: (1) Noah and his wife in the burial mound on the inside of Lake Qare at the 9,000-foot level of Mount Aragatz, one hour’s drive north of Yerevan; (2) Shem and his wife in the grave at the center of the megalithic field of Zorats Qarer, three hour’s drive south of Yerevan; and (3) Japheth and his wife on the promontory overlooking the valley where the Tatev Monastery is located, six hours drive south of Yerevan.

Other visits to the area are expected to expand and refine the results of this research.

William H. Shea (MD, Loma Linda University; Ph.D., University of Michigan) served as medical missionary, seminary professor, and associate director of the Biblical Research Institute of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. Although retired, he continues to lecture, travel, and write as a specialist in ancient languages. His email address: Shea56080@aol.com.

{To view the pictures you can go to this link:  http://dialogue.adventist.org/articles/17_3_shea_e.htm }

 Biblical Illiteracy by Henry B. Smith Jr

“My people are destroyed from lack of knowledge” (Hosea 4:6).

One of the most serious problems facing the Church in the 21st century is the problem of Biblical illiteracy. Simply put, most professing Christians do not possess a sound and coherent understanding of the Bible, beginning with sound doctrine and general Biblical history. Evidence for this sad reality is quite overwhelming. And there are several salient reasons for this dangerous trend.

The Church Has Been “Dumbed Down” by the Culture

The public education system has churned out millions upon millions of young people, while holding to relatively low standards of achievement. We live in a society today where challenging children and teenagers with high standards is considered harmful to their “self-esteem.” Bad grades written in red ink are considered a cause for counseling. Instead of pushing children to excel, standards of academic achievement are lowered. Failure and difficulty, properly controlled by loving parents, should be used to motivate and develop character. Christian children are not immune to these lowered standards. Children in the Church are not properly challenged to learn fundamental doctrine and matters of Biblical history. They are also not properly taught to pursue personal holiness. Instead, Sunday school is designed to keep children entertained. Like most of our society, many Christian parents seem more concerned with appeasing children and entertaining them as opposed to disciplining and educating them. This culture of entertainment creates short attention spans and an aversion to learning.

Regarding the educational and intellectual state of the Church, Daniel Wallace succinctly says:

Those in ministry must close the gap between the church and the academy. We have to educate believers. Instead of trying to isolate laypeople from critical scholarship, we need to insulate them. They need to be ready for the barrage, because it is coming. The intentional dumbing down of the church for the sake of filling more pews will ultimately lead to defection from Christ (2006: 337).

The Church Has Adopted the Cultural Mandate to “Feel Good”

Experience rules supreme in today’s culture. “If it feels good, do it,” and forget the consequences! This mindset is at its worst in the entertainment world, particularly with reality television. One of my favorite pastimes is watching NFL football. I marvel at the athletic ability of the players, the required mental toughness and the nature of the sport. However, these days I have to tolerate players dancing around like they just won the championship after making routine plays that require no such celebration. This chest-pounding, self-aggrandizing behavior is all about doing what “feels good.”

This type of “feel good” approach to life has also infected the Church on a massive scale. Sunday sermons are no longer designed to give praise to a just and holy God and call sinners to repentance, but to make Christians “feel good” about themselves. “God wants us to be happy,” we are told. Experience matters most. This teaching is totally antithetical to what the Bible teaches about man and his relation to God. Randall Price has said it well: “[T]he church remains in a crisis with an experientially oriented evangelicalism” (2007: 26).

Personal experience is important for the individual Christian, but should not hold a place of primacy in the life of the believer. “Christian faith is not being built on the firm foundation of hardwon thoughts, ideas, history, or theology. Spirituality is being built on private emotional attachments,” writes Gary Burge. “In short, the spiritual life has become less a matter of learning than it is a matter of experiencing” (1999).

The mandates for Christian thinking and holy living are found within the pages of Scripture. Therefore, believers must have a fundamental grasp of Biblical teaching as they walk through the process of sanctification, which means they must study it to understand its meaning! And leaders in the Church must teach it to them so they can properly understand it! “Experiencing God” and having good feelings can be dangerously misleading due to the influence of the sin nature and evil forces in the spiritual realm. Gary Johnson explains the pervasive problem in overemphasizing experience and essentially promoting ant intellectualism in the modern American church:

The idea that faith must be accommodated to culture has undermined the teaching of the church’s faith. Popular evangelical faith has developed a bias against theology (not to mention the intellect) and has elevated the bias to the level of a virtue…This is reflected more and more in the pulpits of professing evangelical churches. Doctrine…is purposely avoided (2005: 1).

They focus on practical matters, such as family concerns and personal growth, not doctrine, sometimes mixing psychotherapeutic concepts with biblical teaching. They often emphasize religious experience. They seek to feel God’s love, not understand church theology, a theme that plays well with the decreasing importance of denominational doctrine among baby boomers (Cimino 1998: 2).

I recently received Donald G. Barnhouse’s Romans commentary for Christmas from my wife. It was published in the early 1950s. The preface provides an explanation and background for the writing of the series, which is opposite to the culture of the church today:

When I first became pastor…I began my ministry by preaching on the epistle to the Romans. My first Sunday in that pulpit found me giving an exposition of the first verse of the epistle. The second Sunday I started with the second verse; for three and one half years I never took a text outside of the epistle to the Romans. I saw the church transformed; the audience filled the pews and then the galleries; and the work went on with great blessing” (1952: i; emphasis added).

The modern evangelical Church often claims that this type of teaching is not needed to draw people into the Church. In fact, as stated by Gary Johnson above, this type of teaching is avoided by the Church, for fear of empty pews. The fact of the matter is, that is the exact type of teaching needed to bring about real transformation in people’s lives. The Word of God has divine and mysterious power that radically transforms people. Entertainment programs, comfy couches, soft lighting and candles do not change lives. This is a shallow and unchallenging Christianity that ultimately discourages churchgoers and leaves them unchanged. As a result, churchgoers are not equipped to defend the faith, live holy lives, and profess the good news of the Gospel to a lost world.

The Church Has Allowed Elements of Unbiblical Worldviews to Infect Its Teaching

Most Christians integrate unbiblical worldviews into their thinking without even realizing it. “Christians today have accepted and combined so many ideas from other worldviews and religions that they have created their own faith system” (Vlatch). What’s worse is that church leaders do the same thing, unwittingly leading people to believe things about themselves, the world, and the nature of truth that are contradictory to what the Bible actually teaches. Theistic evolution, long-age reinterpretations of the first chapter of Genesis, “local flood” nonsense, the sundering of much of the Old Testament from its historical connections, postmodernism, relativism, New Age beliefs, and a multitude of other unbiblical ideas have been unwittingly propagated in the Church for decades.

Contentious social and political issues are avoided, although they are explicitly addressed in Scripture or deduced from Biblical teaching, such as just war theory, abortion, homosexuality, the definition of marriage, the nature of man, the problem of evil, the proper role of government, capital punishment, property rights, corporal punishment and the raising of children, etc. Scripture touches upon all areas of life and reality, and is absolutely authoritative in its assertions. Christians must learn to reject views that are antithetical to Scripture, but they must be taught to do so by Church leadership. Instead of inculcating these unbiblical worldviews into individual minds and creating confusion, the Church should be challenging its members to reject anti-Biblical views and allow the truths of Scripture to renew their minds.
The Walls of Jericho by Dr. Bryant Wood

When one hears the name “Jericho” one naturally thinks of Israelites marching, trumpets sounding and walls falling. It is a wonderful story of faith and victory that we enjoy reading and telling in Sunday school class, but did it really happen? The skeptic would say no, it is merely a folk tale to explain the ruins at Jericho. The reason for this negative outlook is the excavation carried out at the site in the 1950s under the direction of British archaeologist Kathleen Kenyon. She concluded,

It is a sad fact that of the town walls of the Late Bronze Age, within which period the attack by the Israelites must fall by any dating, not a trace remains.…The excavation of Jericho, therefore, has thrown no light on the walls of Jericho of which the destruction is so vividly described in the Book of Joshua (Kenyon 1957: 261–62).

Thomas A. Holland, who was editor and co-author of Kenyon’s excavation reports, summarized the apparent results as follows:

Kenyon concluded, with reference to the military conquest theory and the L[ate] B[ronze Age] walls, that there was no archaeological data to support the thesis that the town had been surrounded by a wall at the end of LB I (ca. 1400 BCE...) (Holland 1997: 223).

H.J. Franken, a member of the Jericho excavation staff, stated,

Miss Kenyon’s work has presented scholars with the hard fact that if Joshua was active with the incoming Israelites either c. 1400 or c. 1200 B.C. he would not have been able to capture a great walled city of Jericho, because there was no city of Jericho in these periods…the huge ruins of the Hyksos city gave rise to the folktale attached to the hero Joshua (1965: 190, 200).

According to Kenyon’s dating, there was no city for the Israelites to conquer at the end of the 15th century BC, the Biblical date for the event. The Jericho of Joshua’s time could not be found-it was lost! Through our research, however, we have found the lost city of Jericho, the Jericho attacked by the Israelites.

Fortifications of Jericho

Before the Israelites entered the promised land Moses told them, “You are now about to cross the Jordan to go in and dispossess nations greater and stronger than you, with large cities that have walls up to the sky” (Dt 9:1). The meticulous work of Kenyon showed that Jericho was indeed heavily fortified and that it had been burned by fire. Unfortunately, she misdated her finds, resulting in what seemed to be a discrepancy between the discoveries of archaeology and the Bible. She concluded that the Bronze Age city of Jericho was destroyed about 1550 BC by the Egyptians. An in-depth analysis of the evidence, however, reveals that the destruction took place at the end of the 15th century BC (end of the Late Bronze I period), exactly when the Bible says the Conquest occurred (Wood 1990).

The mound, or “tell,” of Jericho was surrounded by a great earthen rampart, or embankment, with a stone retaining wall at its base. The retaining wall was some 12–15 ft high. On top of that was a mud brick wall 6 ft thick and about 20–26 ft high (Sellin and Watzinger 1973: 58). At the crest of the embankment was a similar mud brick wall whose base was roughly 46 ft above the ground level outside the retaining wall. This is what loomed high above the Israelites as they marched around the city each day for seven days. Humanly speaking, it was impossible for the Israelites to penetrate the impregnable bastion of Jericho

The account of the spies going to Jericho in Joshua 2 mentions a city gate (vv. 5, 7). Starting in 1997, renewed excavations have been undertaken at Jericho by the University of Rome and the Palestinian Department of Antiquities. In 1998 they reported finding a gateway (Agence France-Presse 1998). We will have to wait for the official publication of this find, however, to know if it relates to the city attacked by the Israelites or not.

Within the upper wall was an area of approximately 6 acres, while the total area of the upper city and fortification system together was half again as large, or about 9 acres. Based on the archaeologist’s rule of thumb of 100 persons per acre, the population of the upper city would have been about 600. From excavations carried out by a German team in the first decade of this century, we know that people were also living on the embankment between the upper and lower city walls. In addition, those Canaanites living in surrounding villages would have fled to Jericho for safety. Thus, we can assume that there were several thousand people inside the walls when the Israelites came against the city.

The Fallen Walls

The citizens of Jericho were well prepared for a siege. A copious spring which provided water for ancient, as well as modern, Jericho lay inside the city walls. At the time of the attack, the harvest had just been taken in (Jos 3:15), so the citizens had an abundant supply of food. This has been borne out by many large jars full of grain found in the Canaanite homes by John Garstang in his excavation in the 1930s and also by Kenyon. With a plentiful food supply and ample water, the inhabitants of Jericho could have held out for several years.

After the seventh trip around the city on the seventh day, Scripture tells us that the wall “fell flat” (Jos 6:20). A more accurate rendering of the Hebrew word here would be “fell beneath itself.” Is there evidence for such an event at Jericho? It turns out that there is ample evidence that the mud brick city wall collapsed and was deposited at the base of the stone retaining wall at the time the city met its end.

Section drawing of Kenyon’s west trench, showing the fallen mud bricks from the collapsed city wall (shaded area to the left of retaining wall KD).

Kenyon’s work was the most detailed. On the west side of the tell, at the base of the retaining, or revetment, wall, she found,

fallen red bricks piling nearly to the top of the revetment. These probably came from the wall on the summit of the bank [and/or]…the brickwork above the revetment (Kenyon 1981: 110).

In other words, she found a heap of bricks from the fallen city walls! The renewed Italian-Palestinian excavations found exactly the same thing at the southern end of the mound in 1997.

According to the Bible, Rahab’s house was incorporated into the fortification system (Jos 2:15). If the walls fell, how was her house spared? As you recall, the spies had instructed Rahab to bring her family into her house and they would be rescued. When the Israelites stormed the city, Rahab and her family were saved as promised (Jos 6:17, 22–23). At the north end of the tell of Jericho, archaeologists made some astounding discoveries that seem to relate to Rahab.

The German excavation of 1907-1909 found that on the north a short stretch of the lower city wall did not fall as everywhere else. A portion of that mud brick wall was still standing to a height of 8 ft (Sellin and Watzinger 1973: 58). What is more, there were houses built against the wall! It is quite possible that this is where Rahab’s house was located. Since the city wall formed the back wall of the houses, the spies could have readily escaped. From this location on the north side of the city, it was only a short distance to the hills of the Judean wilderness where the spies hid for three days (Jos 2:16, 22). Real estate values must have been low here, since the houses were positioned on the embankment between the upper and lower city walls. Not the best place to live in time of war! This area was no doubt the overflow from the upper city and the poor part of town, perhaps even a slum district.

After the city walls fell, how could the Israelites surmount the 12–15 foot high retaining wall at the base of the tell? Excavations have shown that the bricks from the collapsed walls fell in such a way as to form a ramp against the retaining wall. The Israelites could merely climb up over the pile of rubble, up the embankment, and enter the city. The Bible is very precise in its description of how the Israelites entered the city: “The people went up into the city, every man straight before him” (Jos 6:20, KJV). The Israelites had to go up, and that is what archaeology has revealed. They had to go from ground level at the base of the tell to the top of the rampart in order to enter the city.

Destruction by Fire

The Israelites “burned the whole city and everything in it” (Jos 6: 24). Once again, the discoveries of archaeology have verified the truth of this record. A portion of the city destroyed by the Israelites was excavated on the east side of the tell. Wherever the archaeologists reached this level they found a layer of burned ash and debris about 3 ft thick. Kenyon described the massive devastation:

The destruction was complete. Walls and floors were blackened or reddened by fire, and every room was filled with fallen bricks, timbers, and household utensils; in most rooms the fallen debris was heavily burnt, but the collapse of the walls of the eastern rooms seems to have taken place before they were affected by the fire (Kenyon 1981: 370).

Both Garstang and Kenyon found many storage jars full of grain that had been caught in the fiery destruction. This is a unique find in the annals of archaeology. Grain was valuable, not only as a source of food, but also as a commodity which could be bartered. Under normal circumstances, valuables such as grain would have been plundered by the conquerors. Why was the grain left to be burned at Jericho? The Bible provides the answer. Joshua commanded the Israelites:

The city and all that is in it are to be devoted to the Lord. Only Rahab the prostitute and all who are with her in her house shall be spared, because she hid the spies we sent. But keep away from the devoted things, so that you will not bring about your own destruction by taking any of them. Otherwise you will make the camp of Israel liable to destruction and bring trouble on it. All the silver and gold and the articles of bronze and iron are sacred to the Lord and must go into His treasury (Jos 6:17–19).

The grain left at Jericho and found by archaeologists in modern times gives graphic testimony to the obedience of the Israelites nearly three and a half millennia ago. Only Achan disobeyed, leading to the debacle at Ai described in Joshua 7.

Such a large quantity of grain left untouched gives silent testimony to the truth of yet another aspect of the Biblical account. A heavily fortified city with an abundant supply of food and water would normally take many months, even years, to subdue. The Bible says that Jericho fell after only seven days. The jars found in the ruins of Jericho were full, showing that the siege was short since the people inside the walls consumed very little of the grain.

Lessons of Jericho

Jericho was once thought to be a “Bible problem” because of the seeming disagreement between archaeology and the Bible. When the archaeology is correctly interpreted, however, the opposite is the case. The archaeological evidence supports the historical accuracy of the Biblical account in every detail. Every aspect of the story that could possibly be verified by the findings of archaeology is, in fact, verified.

There are a number of theories as to how the walls of Jericho came down. Both Garstang and Kenyon found evidence of earthquake activity at the time the city met its end. If God did use an earthquake to accomplish His purposes that day, it was still a miracle since it happened at precisely the right moment, and was manifested in such a way as to protect Rahab’s house. No matter what agency God used, it was ultimately the faith of the Israelites that brought the walls down: “By faith the walls of Jericho fell, after the people had marched around them for seven days” (Heb 11:30).

The example of Jericho is a wonderful spiritual lesson for God’s people yet today. There are times when we find ourselves facing enormous “walls” that are impossible to break down by human strength. If we put our faith in God and follow His commandments, even when they seem foolish to us, He will perform “great and awesome deeds” (Dt 4:34) and give us the victory.

For drawings and pictures please go to the following site:http://www.biblearchaeology.org/post/2008/06/The-Walls-of-Jericho.aspx

 Extra-Biblical Evidence for the Conquest by Dr. Bryant Wood

One of the challenges facing those who hold to a historical Conquest as presented in the book of Joshua is that there is alleged to be no other documentation for this event outside the Bible. Critics are quick to point out that the Bible is a religious book, so the Conquest account could have been exaggerated, or even fabricated, to support the author’s religious message. To counter this, one can appeal to the archaeological evidence for destructions at Jericho, Kh. el-Maqatir (identified as Ai by this author) and Hazor as supportive of a Conquest around 1400 BC, the approximate date of the event according to Biblical chronology (Wood 1993: 262-69). But archaeological evidence is subject to interpretation, so those who disagree with the Biblical model readily can find reasons to dismiss this evidence as being irrelevant to the arrival of Israel in Canaan.

Secular scholars are generally of the opinion that any aspect of the early history of Israel prior to the kingdom period cannot be taken at face value unless the veracity of the events described can be validated by means of independent witnesses. This approach is strongly biased and nonscientific. Other ancient documents are assumed to be accurate unless there is credible evidence to suggest otherwise. These documents are just as religious as the Bible, as the writers of ancient texts regularly mention their pagan gods and what the gods did on their behalf.

Where do skeptics expect the required extra-Biblical documentation to come from? British scholar Kenneth Kitchen has pointed out the general dearth of historical texts from Canaan prior to the kingdom period (1998: 55-56). Apart from a few limited references to campaigns in Canaan in Egyptian records, the only historical texts we have are the Amarna Letters from a period of 20 or so years in the mid-14th century BC (Moran 1992). According to Biblical chronology, this would be the early Judges period, after the Conquest had already taken place. From the Conquest period itself, ca. 1406-1400 BC, we have no written records whatsoever that could provide an independent witness to events occurring in Canaan.

In spite of this negative appraisal, we do have several documents that provide indirect evidence as to the factuality of the Conquest. The Merenptah Stela has been known for over 100 years. One innocuous, but highly significant, section of the stela records a campaign into Canaan by Merenptah in about 1210 BC. One of the results of the campaign, according to the stela, was that, “Israel is laid waste, having no seed. Khurru has become widowed, because of Nile-land” (Kitchen 2003: 15). As was so often the case in ancient records, the author was less than truthful in extolling Merenptah’s accomplishments. Merenptah definitely did not annihilate Israel as the stela implies. On the other hand, the mention of Israel in the list of city-states and nations supposedly defeated by the Pharaoh attests that Israel was an important entity in Merenptah’s day.

The king of the greatest nation on earth certainly would not have boasted of defeating an unknown or unimportant people. Since Israel is the only people group from central Canaan mentioned in the text, it suggests Israel was the most powerful populace in central Canaan at that time. In addition, Merenptah boasted that all of Khurru, a general term for Syria-Canaan, became a widow because of the alleged eradication of Israel. This indicates that Israel’s loss would have been devastating to the entire region, again attesting to Israel’s importance. In order to achieve this status, Israel must have been in Canaan for a significant length of time prior to 1210 BC. Thus, the Merenptah Stela provides indirect evidence that Israel came into the land ca. 1400 BC as the Bible indicates.

Two recent articles provide additional support for the Biblical model for Israel’s entry into Canaan. The first deals with another apparent reference to Israel in an Egyptian text (Görg 2001). A column base fragment, now in the Egyptian Museum in Berlin, is inscribed with a portion of a name list. The surviving names are Ashkelon, Canaan and a third name that is only partially preserved. Görg interprets the third name as Israel. He dates the inscription to the reign of Ramesses II, earlier than the Merenptah Stela.

Even more important is the fact that Görg maintains, based on the spellings, that the names were copied from an even earlier name list from around the time of Amenhotep II, who ruled ca. 1453-1419 or 1427-1401 BC, depending upon which Egyptian chronology one uses. This is earth-shattering with regard to the date and nature of the Israelite entry into Canaan! If Görg is right, it would place Israel in Canaan at about the time of the Biblical date for the Conquest. But, like nearly all important archaeological discoveries, there is an element of uncertainty about Görg’s conclusions. Since the name of Israel is only partially preserved, and the spelling is slightly different than on the Merenptah Stela, there is room for doubt. To date, however, no one has challenged Görg’s interpretations.

The second article has to do with a strong tradition that the Phoenicians who settled in North Africa were driven out of Canaan by Joshua (Frendo 2002). A Greek historian named Procopius of Caesarea wrote in the sixth century AD,

They [the Canaanites] also built a fortress in Numidia, where now is the city called Tigisis [probably in Algeria]. In that place are two columns made of white stone near by the great spring, having Phoenician letters cut in them which say in the Phoenician tongue:“We are they who fled from before the face of Joshua, the robber, the son of Nun” (Frendo 2002: 37).

Moses of Khoren, an earlier Armenian historian (AD 370-86), also referred to the two inscribed Phoenician columns (Frendo 2002: 38). Later Greek historians referred to this tradition. For example, it is stated in the Chronicon Paschale, an anonymous work from about AD 630,

The inhabitants of these [islands, i.e., the Balearic Islands north of Algeria and east of Spain] were Canaanites fleeing from the face of Joshua the son of Nun (Frendo 2002: 40).

The original Greek text of this quotation is much earlier, going back to 234 BC (Frendo 2002: 40). It is highly unlikely that the Phoenicians of North Africa would have invented such a demeaning tradition to explain how they came to be in North Africa.

Although one can explain away individual portions of the evidence for a Conquest, the cumulative total of the Biblical, archaeological and extra-Biblical evidence presents a strong case for the historicity of the Biblical account of the Conquest of Canaan as recorded in the book of Joshua and alluded to elsewhere throughout the Old Testament.

To view the lone photo go to: http://www.biblearchaeology.org/post/2007/05/Extra-Biblical-Evidence-for-the-Conquest.aspx

 Revising Radiocarbon Dating by Stephen Caesar

Radiocarbon dating methods are frequently used in determining the ages of ancient artifacts and fossils. These methods invariably give a great age for the ancient item in question. Radiocarbon dating is based on the fact that carbon-14 (an isotope of the extremely common element carbon) decays into another carbon isotope, carbon-12, at an exact rate. By measuring the ratio of carbon-14 to carbon-12, experts can determine the age of something that dates from ancient times.

However, according to the journal Science News, “The older an artifact is, the less certain scientists can be about its age” (Barry 2007: 344). Chris Turney of the University of Exeter in England similarly noted: “With radiocarbon, it’s not possible to obtain absolute dates—there’s always a bit of an unknown” (Ibid).

One of the biggest factors in throwing off carbon dates is the fact that nuclear testing, which began around 1950, “blasted out radiation [into the atmosphere] that scientists see clearly as a spike in the radiocarbon record” (Ibid.). Most problematic in absorbing this spike in radiation has been charcoal, which scientists use frequently in their dating of ancient finds. To rectify this, Michael Bird of the University of St. Andrews in Scotland created ABOX, a specialized cleaning protocol that rids archaeological samples of nearly all modern nuclear contamination.

According to Richard Gillespie of the Australian National University (the institution at which Prof. Bird first created his technique), “ABOX showed some dates are seriously wrong” (Ibid.). Referring to the fact that many Australian fossils were re-dated under the ABOX technique, Gillespie commented, “Something like a hundred dates were wrong and we ended up chucking them all out. Some of the dates were 10,000 years out” (Ibid.).

Jeff Pigati of the U.S. Geological Survey has improved on the ABOX method. His system is, in his own words, “especially important for very old samples. Even very small amounts of modern contamination can be fatal for old samples” (Ibid. 345).

There is another problem with carbon dating, one that goes beyond adjusting for the increased presence of radiation post-1950. This fact was suspected by no less than Willard Libby, the Nobel Prize-winning inventor of carbon dating, as Science News reported:

Even in the early days, Libby suspected that the carbon-12 to carbon-14 ratio had not remained constant through time. Work on solar cycles and the Earth’s magnetic field proved him right. Both phenomena are known to influence radiocarbon amounts by altering the level of cosmic radiation entering the atmosphere (Ibid.).

The uncertainties surrounding science’s most popular dating method underscores how cautious scientists must be before setting in stone any date for an artifact or fossil. In the words of Prof. Gillespie, “Although 26,000 [years ago, according to modern dating assumptions] is pretty well nailed down now, there’s a sort of best guess for what comes after that” (Ibid.). Until an infallible dating method is discovered, the dates of ancient discoveries will remain dubitable and controversial.

Barry, C.  2007. “Rolling Back the Years.” Science News 172, no. 22.

Reprinted from: http://www.biblearchaeology.org/category/Investigating-Origins.aspx

The United Monarchy under David and Solomon by Gary Byers

During the past half century, many in the academic world have come to discount the historical basis for most of the Bible's early characters. The Creation story with Adam and Eve was just a myth. There was no worldwide Flood, Noah or an Ark. The patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were not historical figures. Neither Joseph nor the Israelites sojourned in Egypt. There was no Moses or Exodus from Egypt. The Israelites did not wander in the wilderness, and Joshua did not lead a conquest of Canaan. You could pretty much throw away the first six books of your Bible and not really miss a thing!

But it was generally accepted that by the first millennium BC, beginning with the kingdom of David, you were on solid historical footing. Yet, in the mid-1990's, a significant academic debate developed over the historical accuracy of the Bible’s description of the United Monarchy under David and Solomon. Covering most of the tenth century BC (roughly from 1000 to 925 BC; known to archaeologists as Iron Age IIA), the topic was frequently discussed in scholarly journals and the popular press. This challenge to the historicity of the United Monarchy culminated in the 2000 publication of The Bible Unearthed: Archaeology's New Vision of Ancient Israel and the Origin of Its Sacred Texts by Israel Finkelstein and Neil Silberman (New York: Free Press). The book's message was widely acclaimed as archaeology's admission to the world that there really was no archaeological evidence to support the Bible story.

Some readers might be surprised to know just how antagonistic to the Bible some scholars are today. One group of historians known as "Biblical Minimalists" (also called the "European School," the "Copenhagen School" or even "Deconstructionists") hold that the Old Testament was written during the Persian period (fourth century BC) or even the Hellenistic period (third and second centuries BC). These scholars include Niels Peter Lemche, Thomas Thompson, John Van Seters and Philip R. Davies. Their views are extreme and even difficult to know how to address. For example, Lemche challenged the authenticity of both the Tel Dan ("House of David") and the Ekron ("Padi king of Ekron") inscriptions, insinuating that they might have been faked by the excavators (see Shanks 1997: 36-38).

Israeli archaeologist Israel Finkelstein, head of the Institute of Archaeology at Tel Aviv University and co-director of the ongoing excavation at Megiddo, does not consider himself a "Minimalist." He believes the core historical books of the Old Testament were written in the late seventh century BC (the days of King Josiah) as political propaganda to support his reforms (see Shanks 2002). Thus for Finkelstein, a Biblical writer was not actually describing the period about which he was writing, instead he was inventing history about that period (Shanks 2002: 43). With these views, Finkelstein sees himself as being in the middle – between the Biblical Minimalists and Biblical Maximalists (who support the basic history of the Old Testament).

But that isn't all. Finkelstein also developed a new chronology for archaeological data that suggests there is no archaeological evidence for the United Monarchy under David and Solomon. He calls his revision the "low chronology," in opposition to the traditional or "high chronology." With Finkelstein's "low chronology," the poor material culture of the eleventh century BC (the period of the Judges) lowers and becomes the period of David and Solomon. The better architecture, ceramics and other artifacts of the tenth century BC (the period of David and Solomon) Finkelstein lowers to the ninth century BC (the days of Omri, Ahab and Jehu).

The good news is that Finkelstein has publicly declared that he does not deny the existence of either David or Solomon (Shanks 2002: 45). The bad news is that he does not believe they were who the Bible described them to be. As an archaeologist, Finkelstein sees no evidence for David's capital in Jerusalem and no evidence for his kingdom anywhere else in the region. Neither is there a capital city or temple in Jerusalem during Solomon's time, nor is there archaeological evidence of Solomon's reign elsewhere – especially at Megiddo, Hazor and Gezer (I Kgs 9:15).

You probably know that there is no "smoking gun" evidence for David, Solomon or their kingdoms as described in the Bible. Such direct evidence might include architectural evidence of Solomon's Temple, royal inscriptions from either king, or contemporary references to either from anywhere in the Levant, Egypt or Mesopotamia. Yet the archaeological data and historical material is so strong and compelling that I hesitate to classify it as simply indirect evidence.

To keep the discussion on an appropriate course, as an archaeologist dealing with archaeological material, the issue is not whether David or Solomon are associated with the archaeological evidence. At issue is whether there is evidence of an Israelite kingdom and important city at Jerusalem in the tenth century BC. If archaeology demonstrates evidence of centralization and authority in the region at that time, then it is reasonable to accept it might be evidence of the United Monarchy of David and Solomon.

Just for the record, the existence of David as a person, king and head of a dynasty was mentioned in an inscription from Tel Dan (Shanks 1994), written about 100 years after his death. King David was probably mentioned again in the Mesha Stela (the Moabite Stone; Lemaire 1994) and possibly in Shishak’s relief at Karnak (Shanks 1999).

According to the excavators of Hazor (Amnon Ben-Tor 1999) and Gezer (William Dever; Shanks 1997), there is solid evidence from the days of Solomon's kingdom. And most archaeologists still believe there is evidence from the same period at Megiddo, in spite of what Megiddo excavator Finkelstein believes (Harrison 2003; Mazar 2003). According to Jane Cahill (2004), the archaeologist finishing the 1980's City of David dig report, tenth century Jerusalem was fortified, served by two complex water-supply systems and was populated by a socially stratified society that constructed at least two new residential quarters – one inside and one outside the city walls.

Was there an important city at Jerusalem in the tenth century BC and was there evidence of an Israelite kingdom in the region at that time? Archaeology says "yes"! Was there a David who led a kingdom and founded a dynasty? Again archaeology says "yes"! Evidence will continue to pour in from new excavations and scholars will continue to debate the subject. And the historical reliability of the Biblical account will continue to stand up to any and all new facts.

Reprinted from: http://www.biblearchaeology.org/category/Judges-United-Monarchy.aspx

 Israel in Egypt by Gary Byers

The main route between Canaan and Egypt was along the northern coast of Sinai. A number of Biblical figures no doubt traveled this road. Known to the Egyptians as “the Way of Horus,” and in the Bible as “the road through the Philistine country” (Ex 13:17), it ended in the eastern delta in the Goshen region. This is the part of Egypt where most Biblical characters lived and Biblical events took place.

Abraham came to Egypt during the 21st century BC, at the end of the First Intermediate Period (Gn 12:10; 13:1). The 11th Dynasty based in Thebes was just gaining power in the south and would ultimately control all of Egypt. So the Pharaoh that Abraham met (Gn 12:15–20) may have been a northern leader who took the title, or an early king from the Theban dynasty. Presumably, their encounter took place in the delta area.

While in this region, Abraham probably saw the Giza pyramids on the Nile’s west bank. Giza is the northern-most and most famous of the Old Kingdom royal cemeteries in the delta region, including Meidum, Dahshur, Saqqara and Abusir. They were located near Memphis, the national capital at that time. While the most famous and largest pyramids are at Giza (Fourth Dynasty; 27th-26th century BC), the first was a four-sided stepped stone construction built by Pharaoh Djoser (Third Dynasty; 27th century BC) at Saqqara. Pharaoh Sneferu (Fourth Dynasty; 25th century BC) constructed the earliest smooth-sided pyramid in the form we know today at Dahshur.

Pyramid development. They started from a flattop rectangular mud-brick tomb, called a mastaba (Arabic for “bench”). The first pyramid (left) was a series of six increasingly smaller mastabas, one on top of the other. The famous builder Imhotep constructed the four-sided stone structure for Pharaoh Djoser (Third Dynasty; 27th century BC) at Saqqara. This stepped pyramid is the oldest freestanding stone structure in the world. From Djoser’s stepped pyramid came the first real pyramid with four smoothed flat sides, constructed by Pharaoh Sneferu (Fourth Dynasty; 27th century BC) at Dahshur (center). Unfortunately, his builders were forced to correct the slope half way up, and it is known today as the Bent Pyramid. A later Sneferu pyramid at Dahshur, known today as the Red Pyramid because of the reddish color of the local limestone that was used in its construction, was perfectly constructed and is generally recognized as the first true pyramid (right). Contrary to popular opinion, none of Egypt’s royal pyramids were constructed by Israelite slaves. Instead, known archaeological evidence suggests they were constructed by professional builders who lived in nearby villages and spent their lives working on the project.


The Midianites would have brought Joseph to Egypt by way of the Horus Road (Gn 37:28; 39:1). Once in Egypt, he was sold to Potiphar, a high Egyptian official, and apparently worked as a slave on Potiphar’s estate in the delta (Gn 39:1, 2). Interestingly, Egyptian history indicates that slavery first appeared at this very time period (Aling 2002: 35–37).

Egypt’s 12th Dynasty (ca. 1991–1786 BC) built a new capital city in Upper Egypt’s northern extremity, close to the delta. From here they could more effectively administrate and access their eastern frontier (Leprohon 1992: 345–46). Called itj-tawy, it was probably located near the capital’s royal necropolis at el-Lahun, at the entrance to the Faiyum, a large fertile area west of the Nile. The actual site is unknown today (Ray 2004: 40). Here was constructed the pyramid of 12th Dynasty Pharaoh Sesostris II (ca. 1897–1877 BC). Biblical dating suggests this was the Pharaoh under whom Joseph rose to the position of vizier in Egypt (Gn 45:8). As the most powerful man in the kingdom, Joseph would have visited and even had authority over construction of this pyramid. In fact, Joseph may have supervised Pharaoh’s burial here.

Joseph most likely served under Sesostris II’s son, Sesostris III (ca.1878–1843 BC), during the years of famine. Sesostris III’s own pyramid tomb at Dahshur (northern Upper Egypt) also would have been a major responsibility for Joseph. Since documents mention later viziers during Sesostris III’s reign, Joseph probably went into honorable retirement in the delta’s Goshen region shortly after the years of famine.

Recent excavations in the eastern Nile delta may have actually identified the location of Joseph’s residence in retirement, and even his tomb. At a site known as Tell el-Daba today, the Rameses of the Old Testament, extensive excavations have been carried out under the direction of Manfred Bietak of the Austrian Archaeological Institute, Cairo, since 1966. This site was strategically located at the eastern starting point to the Horus Road to Canaan and along the Nile’s easternmost branch, the Pelusiac. That may explain its name, Rowaty (“the door of the two roads”) in the days of Joseph and Jacob. The site has evidence for Asiatics as early as the mid-12th Dynasty (mid-19th century BC), the general period when Jacob entered Egypt. It was an unfortified rural settlement, although numerous enclosure walls probably kept animals. Living quarters consisted of rectangular huts built of sand bricks (Wood 1997: 55).

Not all residents of Tell el-Daba’s first Asiatic settlement lived in huts. One, evidently an important official, lived in a small villa. While the Bible tells us that Joseph was given the title “Ruler of all Egypt” (Hebrew) or vizier, it does not mention where he lived while serving in the Egyptian bureaucracy. It seems logical that after he discharged his duties associated with the famine, he would have moved to Rowaty to be near his father and brothers. It is possible the villa in Rowaty and the surrounding semi-circle of poorer two-room houses are the homes of Joseph and his brothers (Wood 1997: 56).

A cemetery with artifacts that connected it to the houses was also excavated in the open space to the southwest. One of the tombs was monumental in construction and totally unique in finds. Inside were found stone fragments of a colossal statue of a man who was clearly Asiatic, based on the yellow painted skin, the red-painted mushroom-shaped hairstyle and a throw stick on his right shoulder (the hieroglyph for foreigner). The statue had been intentionally broken in antiquity.

While the other tombs nearby had intact skeletons, the only finds in the monumental tomb were fragments of an inscribed limestone sarcophagus and a few bone fragments. The body was gone! While it was common to plunder tombs in ancient Egypt, the bodies were usually not taken. Could this be the tomb of Joseph, from which he commanded his bones to be carried back to Canaan (Gn 50:25; Ex 13:19)? Without an inscription, it cannot be proven; but this site suggests the first material evidence of Israelites in Egypt. It is the right culture in the right place at the right time (see Wood 1997: 56-58).


The town known as Rowaty, where Joseph and his family probably lived, had its name changed to Avaris toward the end of the 18th century BC. This was during Egypt’s 14th Dynasty and the new name meant “the (royal) foundation of the district.” Same site, different era, different name—Avaris would continue to be the site’s name even through the period of the Hyksos (Wood 2004: 45).

The Hyksos, whose hieroglyphic name meant “foreign rulers,” came into the Nile delta from southern Canaan and established a center of power at Avaris. Their leaders took the title of Pharaoh and ruled northern Egypt for 108 years (ca.1664–1555 BC). They have come to be known as Egypt’s 15th Dynasty. Avaris was their capital and it became an important commercial center. The “Pharaoh that knew not Joseph” (Gn 1:8) was probably the first Hyksos Pharaoh, and it was probably Hyksos Pharaohs who forced the Israelites to build the store cities of Pithom and Rameses (Ex 1:8–12).

When the Egyptians, under the leadership of the 18th Dynasty’s founder Amosis, drove out the Hyksos in the mid-16th century BC, they most likely changed the name of the city of Avaris. The new name was probably Peru-nefer, which meant “happy journey” (Wood 2004: 45). That would have been the name of the city during Moses’ time.


The Bible records the events of Moses’ birth in Exodus 2, with the Israelites apparently still living in the delta’s Goshen area. When Pharaoh’s daughter went down to the Nile to bathe, she found baby Moses (Ex 2:5). This daughter of Pharaoh may well have been Hatshepsut, who later became a Pharaoh herself (Hansen 2003). So, the Bible suggests that the royal family had a residence in Goshen where the Israelites lived (Ex 2:2–10). While the national capital for the 18th Dynasty Pharaohs was in Memphis 13 mi south of Cairo, after the Hyksos experience a royal presence would always have been seen as necessary for national security in the Nile’s eastern delta.

Bietak’s excavation at Tell el-Daba uncovered a ten-acre royal citadel from the time of Moses at the village of Ezbet Helmi, just a few hundred yards west of the earlier Asiatic settlement. It was part of a new royal center established at the former Hyksos capital of Avaris. Located just south of where the Pelusiac branch of the Nile once flowed (the courses of the Nile branches, and the delta itself, have changed dramatically over the millennia), Bietak found two palaces that were in use during the time of Moses (early 18th Dynasty).

The palace closest to the river (Palace F) was the smaller and probably doubled as a watchtower of the river and citadel. Just 100 ft (30m) from the river, it was constructed on a platform with a ramp leading to the entrance. Nearby were a middle class settlement, workshops, storage rooms and possibly a ritual complex (Wood 2004: 47).

The main palace (Palace G), occupying over 3 acres, also had a ramp to the entrance, a bathing room at the entrance, a large open courtyard, a reception hall and private apartments for the royal family.

The site is in the right area and at the right time to be the royal palace where Moses was raised (Ex 2:10; Acts 7:20–21) and where he confronted Pharaoh 11 times during the time of the Ten Plagues (Ex 4–12). If this is correct, then the site of Jacob’s sojourn in Egypt (modern Tell el-Daba), the home and tomb of Joseph (modern Tell el-Daba) and the palace where Moses was raised and confronted Pharaoh before the Exodus (modern Ezbet Helmi) have all been excavated and are located within the same ancient complex.


The Bible mentions that Jacob and his family settled in “the land of Rameses” where they became property owners (Gn 47:11, 27). The Bible also mentions that the Israelites were used as slave labor to build the city of Rameses (Ex 1:11) and when they left Egypt after 430 years (Ex 12:40) they departed from Rameses (Ex 12:37). Apparently, most of the Israelites spent the years of the Egyptian Sojourn in and around Rameses.

While the location of ancient Rameses had been in dispute for years, excavations at Tell el-Daba and surrounding villages in the Nile’s eastern delta have demonstrated that the ancient city was located here. It sat on the Pelusiac branch of the Nile, giving access to the Mediterranean, and was the starting point of the Horus Road to the east. While its name changed throughout the centuries, the location along the Pelusiac and the Horus Road kept it a strategic site on Egypt’s eastern border.

The name Ramesses actually comes from a later period than the Israelite Sojourn. It was the name given by 19th Dynasty Pharaoh Rameses II (Rameses the Great, ca 1279–1212 BC) to the city he built a short distance northeast of ancient Rowaty/Avaris/Peru-nefer in the eastern Nile delta. Known as Pi-Rameses (“city of Rameses”) to the Egyptians, it is located at the modern village of Qantir. Much of the ancient capital has been located by means of a magnetometer survey. The 13th century BC city covered more than 4 square mi (10 square km). Excavations have uncovered a palace-like structure with pillared halls and associated stables from the time of Ramesses II. Not excavated yet, but identified on the magnetometer survey, are an additional palace area, significant public buildings, and a vast residential quarter with avenues, channels, streets, villas, courtyards and gardens (Pusch 2001).

Thus, the city called Rameses was not built until after the Exodus. But it was built at the same site where Jacob, Joseph and Moses lived. While the Bible calls it Rameses when Jacob moved there (Gn 47:11) and when the Israelites built a new city at the site (Ex 1:11) under the “Pharaoh that knew not Joseph” (Ex 1:8), that name did not actually apply to the site until the 13th century BC. Later scribes updated the Biblical text with the name Rameses when the earlier names of the site went out of use.

Egypt during the Period of the Kingdom of Judah

During the period of the Babylonian empire, there are frequent mentions of Lower Egyptian sites by the prophets Jeremiah and Ezekiel. Numerous Jews fled to Egypt when Israel and Judah were invaded, first by the Assyrians and later by the Babylonians, and these two prophets addressed them and their cities of refuge. While Memphis was most famous as one of early Egypt’s first national capitals from the 3rd millennium BC, it was only mentioned in the Bible late. Called Noph (Jer 44:1) and Moph (Hebrew; Hos 9:6), both shortened forms of Memphis (hieroglyphic mn-nfr), it was mentioned for judgment by the prophets.


Another important Old Kingdom city was Heliopolis (Greek for “sun city”). Called On (Hebrew from the hieroglyphic Iwnw “pillar town;” Gn 41:45, 50; 46:20), it was the home of Potiphera the priest and father of Asenath, Joseph’s wife. The city of Aven (Ez 30:17), a slightly different spelling of the same name, is also said to be under God’s judgment. Jeremiah’s reference to Beth Shemesh (Hebrew “city of the sun;” Jer 43:13) also refers to On as being under judgment. The ancient city is identified with modern Tell Hisn, north of Cairo. Mentioned as early as the Old Kingdom period, it was prominent during Egypt’s Saite period (664–525 BC), the days of Jeremiah and Ezekiel (Redford 1992a: 122–23).


Bubastis (Hebrew Pibeseth, Ez 30:17; from the hieroglyphic name meaning “house of Bastet”—the cat goddess) was also located in the delta and was mentioned under God’s judgment. The ancient city is identified with modern Tell Basta in Zagazig, with remains dating as far back as the Old Kingdom. Bubastis became politically important as a capital city during the 22nd and 23rd Dynasties (10th-9th centuries BC).


Zoan was the Hebrew name for a site better known to us as Tanis (Greek). Called San el Hagar today, it was first mentioned during the reign of Rameses XI (20th Dynasty; 12th century BC). Zoan became the official residence of the 21st Dynasty (ca. 1081–931 BC), replacing Rameses (Peru-nefer/Avaris/Rowaty). This was possibly due to the shifting of the Pelusiac branch of the Nile and loss of Rameses’ harbor. Interestingly, structures, statues and stele from Rameses were shipped down the Nile to Zoan. The residence of Shishak I (ca. 931–910 BC; 1 Kgs 14:25), Zoan was the site of the lost ark in Indiana Jones’ Raiders of the Lost Ark. Zoan was Egypt’s capital during part of the Judean monarchy (Is 19:11, 13: 30:4: Ez 30:14; see Redford 1992b: 1106).


Tahpanhes (Hebrew; Jer 2:16; 43:7–9; 44:1; 46:14; Ez 30:18) comes from the Egyptian name meaning “Fortress of Penhase.” Penhase (like Hebrew Phinehas) means “Nubian” and was the name of a powerful 11th century BC Theban general who suppressed a rebellion in the delta. This site, identified today with Tell ed-Defenna in the eastern delta, was probably settled during the time of the Judean Monarchy and became important into the Persian period. Tahpanhes became a safe haven for Jews, including Jeremiah, fleeing the Babylonian invasion of Judah. Here the prophet pronounced judgment on Egypt and Jews taking refuge from Nebuchadnezzar. Jeremiah’s prophesy included mention of Pharaoh Hophra being handed over “to his enemies who seek his life” (43:7–44:30).


Sin (Hebrew, from the hieroglyphic sin “mud;” Ez 30:15–16) was an important fortress on Egypt’s extreme northeastern border. Also called Pelusium (Greek) in antiquity, it is known as Tell el Farama today.


Migdol (Hebrew meaning “tower” and a loan word into Egyptian, suggesting a northern location) was mentioned in the Exodus (Ex 14:2), and as a place where Jews resided in Egypt during the Babylonian period (Jer 44:1; 46:14) and a site of God’s judgment on Egypt (“tower” in Ez 29:10; 30:6). While a popular place name throughout the ancient near east, presumably all references relate to the same site in Egypt’s eastern delta. This city is identified with the modern Hebua I fortress, probably the famous Tjaru, a fortress on Egypt’s eastern border.


The key to understanding the history of Egypt, especially the delta region, is the Hyksos invasion from southern Canaan. Known in Egyptian history as the Second Intermediate Period, it led to permanent changes in Egyptian political thinking. From that period on, the delta was especially protected from the east. From the delta regular military campaigns were waged into Canaan. A Pharaonic presence in the eastern delta became a constant.

The Hyksos invasion of Egypt was also a seminal event in the history of Israel in Egypt. Arriving en masse with Jacob, most Israelites lived in the delta region. Under Joseph they lived reasonably well (Ex 1:7), but with the coming of the Hyksos and a new Pharaoh “who did not know about Joseph” (Ex 1:8) the fortunes of Israel changed. It was evidently the first Hyksos Pharaoh who began oppressing the Israelites and it was under the Hyksos that the Israelites built the store cities of Pithom and Rameses (Ex 1:11). After the Theban 18th Dynasty expelled the Hyksos and established Egypt’s New Kingdom, they too made the Israelites serve with hard labor. It was during this period that Moses was born and grew up in the royal house in the delta. From this very location, 80 years later, the Exodus would begin.

Late in the Old Testament story, Jeremiah and Ezekiel again mention numerous Egyptian sites, both north and south. It becomes clear from their message to their fellow countrymen living in Egypt that you can run, but you cannot hide from God. He knew where they were and He would bring judgment on them and their Egyptian hideouts.

The story of Israel in Egypt is bound up in the Egyptian history of the Nile delta.

For pictures and additional information see: http://www.biblearchaeology.org/post/2008/09/Israel-in-Egypt.aspx

 Who was Nimrod

By Dr. David Livingston

“Cush was the father of Nimrod, who grew to be a mighty warrior on the earth. He was a might hunter before the LORD; that is why it is said, “Like Nimrod, a mighty hunter before the LORD.” The centers of his kingdom were Babylon. Erech, Akkad and Calneh in Shinar. (Gn 10:8-10)

Many consider this to be a positive, complimentary testimony about Nimrod. It is just the opposite! First, a little background study is necessary.

Cultural Connections in the Ancient Near East
Besides the stories of the Creation and Flood in the Bible there ought to be similar stories on clay tablets found in the cultures near and around the true believers. These tablets may have a reaction, or twisted version, in their accounts of the Creation and Flood. In the post-Flood genealogical records of Genesis 10 we note that the sons of Ham were: Cush, Mizraim. Put and Canaan. Mizraim became the Egyptians. No one is sure where Put went to live. And it is obvious who the Canaanites were. Cush lived in the “land of Shinar” which most scholars consider to be Sumer. There developed the first civilization after the Flood. The sons of Shem, ­the Semites­, were also mixed, to some extent, with the Sumerians.

We suggest that Sumerian Kish, the first city established in Mesopotamia after the Flood, took its name from the man known in the Bible as Cush. The first kingdom established after the Flood was Kish, and the name “Kish” appears often on clay tablets. The early post-Flood Sumerian king lists (not found in the Bible) say that ‘‘kingship descended from heaven to Kish” after the Flood. (The Hebrew name “Cush,” much later, was moved to present-day Ethiopia as migrations look place from Mesopotamia to other places.)

The Sumerians, very early, developed a religio-politico state which was extremely binding on all who lived in it (except for the rulers, who were a law unto themselves). This system was to influence the Ancient Near East for over 3000 years. Other cultures which followed the Sumerian system were Accad, Babylon, Assyria, and Persia, which became the basis of Greece and Rome’s system of rule. Founded by Cush, the Sumerians were very important historically and Biblically.

Was “Nimrod” Godly or Evil?
First, what does the name Nimrod mean? It comes from the Hebrew verb marad, meaning “rebel.” Adding an “n” before the “m” it becomes an infinitive construct, “Nimrod.” (See Kautzsch 1910: 137 2b, also BDB 1962: 597). The meaning then is “The Rebel.” Thus “Nimrod” may not be the character’s name at all. It is more likely a derisive term of a type, a representative, of a system that is epitomized in rebellion against the Creator, the one true God. Rebellion began soon after the Flood as civilizations were restored. At that time this person became very prominent.

In Genesis 10:8-11 we learn that “Nimrod” established a kingdom. Therefore, one would expect to find also, in the literature of the ancient Near East, a person who was a type, or example, for other people to follow. And there was. It is a well-known tale, common in Sumerian literature, of a man who fits the description. In addition to the Sumerians, the Babylonians wrote about this person; the Assyrians likewise; and the Hittites. Even in Palestine, tablets have been found with this man’s name on them. He was obviously the most popular hero in the Ancient Near East.

The Gilgamesh Epic
The person we are referring to found in extra-Biblical literature was Gilgamesh. The first clay tablets naming him were found among the ruins of the temple library of the god Nabu (Biblical Nebo) and the palace library of Ashurbanipal in Nineveh. Many others have been found since in a number of excavations. The author of the best treatise on the Gilgamesh Epic says:

The date of the composition of the Gilgamesh Epic can therefore be fixed at about 2000 BC. But the material contained on these tablets is undoubtedly much older, as we can infer from the mere fact that the epic consists of numerous originally independent episodes, which, of course, did not spring into existence at the time of the composition of our poem but must have been current long before they were compiled and woven together to form our epic (Heidel 1963: 15).

Yet his arrogance, ruthlessness and depravity were a subject of grave concern for the citizens of Uruk (his kingdom). They complained to the great god Anu and Ann instructed the goddess Aruru to create another wild ox, a double of Gilgamesh, who would challenge him and distract his mind from the warrior’s daughter and the noblemen’s spouse, whom it appears he would not leave in peace (Roux 1966: 114).

The Epic of Gilgamesh has some very indecent sections. Alexander Heidel, first translator of the epic, had the decency to translate the vilest parts into Latin. Spieser, however, gave it to us “straight” (Pritchard 1955: 72). With this kind of literature in the palace, who needs pornography? Gilgamesh was a vile, filthy, man. Yet the myth says of him that he was “2/3 god and 1/3 man.”

The Babylonian Flood Story is told on the 11th tablet of the Gilgamesh Epic, almost 200 lines of poetry on 12 clay tablets inscribed in cuneiform script. A number of different versions of the Gilgamesh Epic have been found around the ancient Near East, most dating to the seventh century BC. The most complete version came from the library of Ashurbanipal at Nineveh. Commentators agree that the story comes from a much earlier period, not too long after the Flood as described in the story.

Gilgamesh is Nimrod
How does Gilgamesh compare with “Nimrod?” Josephus says of Nimrod:

Now it was Nimrod who excited them to such an affront and contempt of God. He was the grandson of Ham, the son of Noah­a bold man, and of great strength of hand. He persuaded them not to ascribe it to God, as if it were through his means they were happy, but to believe that it was their own courage which procured that happiness. He also gradually changed the government into tyranny seeing no other way of turning men from the fear of God, but to bring them into a constant dependence upon his own power. He also said he would be revenged on God, if he should have a mind to drown the world again; for that he would build a tower too high for the waters to be able to reach! And that he would avenge himself on God for destroying their forefathers! (Ant. I: iv: 2)

What Josephus says here is precisely what is found in the Gilgamesh epics. Gilgamesh set up tyranny, he opposed YHWH and did his utmost to get people to forsake Him.

Two of the premier commentators on the Bible in Hebrew has this to say about Genesis 10:9:

Nimrod was mighty in hunting, and that in opposition to YHWH; not ‘before YHWH’ in the sense of according to the will and purpose of YHWH, still less,...in a simply superlative sense...The name itself, ‘Nimrod’ from marad, ‘We will revolt,’ points to some violent resistance to God...Nimrod as a mighty hunter founded a powerful kingdom; and the founding of this kingdom is shown by the verb with consecutive to have been the consequence or result of his strength in hunting, so that hunting was intimately connected with the establishing of the kingdom. Hence, if the expression ‘a mighty hunter’ relates primarily to hunting in the literal sense, we must add to the literal meaning the figurative signification of a ‘hunter of men’ (a trapper of men by stratagem and force); Nimrod the hunter became a tyrant, a powerful hunter of men (Keil and Delitzsch 1975: 165).

“In the face of YHWH” can only mean ‘in defiance of YHWH’ as Josephus and the Targums understand it (op. cit.: 166).

And the proverb must have arisen when other daring and rebellious men followed in Nimrod’s footsteps and must have originated with those who saw in such conduct an act of rebellion against the God of salvation, in other words, with the possessors of the divine promise of grace (loc. cit.).

After the Flood there was, at some point, a break-away from YHWH. Only eight people descended from the Ark. Those people worshipped YHWH. But at some point an influential person became opposed to YHWH and gathered others to his side. I suggest that Nimrod is the one who did it. Cain had done similarly before the Flood, founding a new city and religious system.

Our English translation of the Hebrew of Genesis 10:8-10 is weak. The author of this passage of Scripture will not call Gilgamesh by his name and honor him, but is going to call him by a derisive name, what he really is a rebel. Therefore we should translate Genesis 10:8-10 to read:

Cush begat Nimrod; he began to be a tyrant in the earth. He was a tyrannical hunter in opposition to the Lord. Thus it is said. ‘Nimrod the tyrannical opponent of YHWH.

Likewise, Gilgamesh was a man who took control by his own strength. In Genesis 10 Nimrod is presented as a type of him. Nimrod’s descendents were the ones who began building the tower in Babel where the tongues were changed. Gilgamesh is a type of early city founders. (Page numbers are from Heidel 1963)

He is a “shepherd” .............. page 18
From Uruk ............................. page 17 (Kramer 1959: 31 calls Uruk Erech.)
A giant .................................... page 17 (11 cubits)
Builds cities .......................... page 17
Vile man “takes women” .... page 18
Mighty hunter ......................... page 18

Nimrod started his kingdom at Babylon (Gn 10:10). Babylon later reached its zenith under Nebuchadnezzar (sixth century BC). Pictured are mud brick ruins of Nebuchadnezzar’s city along with ancient wall lines and canals.

Gilgamesh Confronts YHWH
The name of YHWH rarely appears in extra-Biblical literature in the Ancient Near East. Therefore we would not expect to find it in the Gilgamesh epic. But why should the God of the Jews rarely be mentioned? The Hebrew Bible is replete with the names of other gods.

On the other hand, the nations surely knew of Him even though they had no respect for Him. If so, how might His Name appear in their literature, if at all? The name of YHWH, in a culture which is in rebellion against His rule, would most likely be in a derisive form, not in its true form. Likewise, the writers of Scripture would deride the rebels.

Originally established by Nimrod (Gn 10:11), and today known as Nimrud, Calah became an important city in Iraq. This is an artist’s reconstruction of the interior of Tiglath-pileser III’s palace (late seventh century BC).

Putting the Bible and the Gilgamesh Epic Together
The Gilgamesh Epic describes the first “God is dead” movement. In the Epic, the hero is a vile, filthy, perverted person, yet he is presented as the greatest, strongest, hero that ever lived (Heidel 1963: 18). So that the one who sent the Flood wilt not trouble them anymore, Gilgamesh sets out to kill the perpetrator. He takes with him a friend who is a monstrous half-man, half-animal­Enkidu. Together they go on a long journey to the Cedar Mountain to find and destroy the monster who sent the Flood. Gilgamesh finds him and finally succeeds in cutting off the head of this creature whose name is “Huwawa” (“Humbaba” in the Assyrian version; see Heidel 1963: 34ff).

Is there a connection with the Gilgamesh epic and Genesis 10? Note what Gilgamesh says to Enkidu the half man, half beast, who accompanied him on his journey, found in Tablet III, lines 147-150.

“If I fall,” Gilgamesh says, “I will establish a name for myself. Gilgamesh is fallen, they will say, in combat with terrible Huwawa.”

But the next five lines are missing from all tablets found so far! Can we speculate on what they say? Let’s try...We suggest that those five lines include:

“But if I win,...they will say, Gilgamesh, the mighty vanquisher of Huwawa!”

Why do we say that? Because Genesis 10:9 gives us the portion missing from the Gilgamesh tablets. Those lines include... “it is said, Nimrod (or Gilgamesh) the mighty vanquisher of YHWH” This has to be what is missing from all the clay tablets of the Gilgamesh story. The Gilgamesh Epic calls him Huwawa; the Bible calls Him YHWH.

Part of Nimrod’s kingdom (Gn 10:11), Nineveh along the Tigris River continued to be a major city in ancient Assyria. Today adjacent to modern Mosul, the ruins of ancient Nineveh are centered on two mounds, the acropolis at Kuyunjik and Nebi Yunis (Arabic “Prophet Jonah”). Pictured is Sennacherib’s “palace without rival” on Kuyunjik, constructed at the end of the seventh century BC and excavated by Henry Layard in the early 20th century.

Heidel, speaking of the incident as it is found on Tablet V says:

All we can conclude from them [the lost lines] is that Gilgamesh and Enkidu cut off the head of Humbaba (or Huwawa) and that the expedition had a successful issue [ending] (1963: 47).

The missing lines from the Epic are right there in the Bible!

Because of the parallels between Gilgamesh and Nimrod, many scholars agree that Gilgamesh is Nimrod. Continuing with Gilgamesh’s fable, he did win, he did vanquish Huwawa and took his head. Therefore he could come back to Uruk and other cities and tell the people not to worry about YHWH anymore, he is dead. ‘“I killed him over in the Lebanon mountains. So just live however you like, I will be your king and take care of you.”

There are still other parallels between the Bible and the Gilgamesh epic: “YaHWeH” has a somewhat similar sound to “Huwawa.” Gilgamesh did just as the “sons of god” in Genesis 6 did. The “sons of god” forcibly took men’s wives. The Epic says that is precisely what Gilgamesh did. The Bible calls Nimrod a tyrant, and Gilgamesh was a tyrant. There was a flood in the Bible, there is a flood in the Epic. Cush is mentioned in the Bible, Kish in the Epic. Erech is mentioned in Scripture, Uruk was Gilgamesh’s city. Gilgamesh made a trip to see the survivor of the Flood. This was more likely Ham than Noah, since “Nimrod” was Ham’s grandson! Historically. Gilgamesh was of the first dynasty of Uruk. As Jacobsen points out (1939: 157), kings before Gilgamesh may be fictional, but not likely. The fact that the Gilgamesh epic also contains the Deluge story would indicate a close link with events immediately following the Flood, S.N. Kramer says:

A few years ago one would have strongly doubted his (historical) existence...we now have the certitude that the time of Gilgamesh corresponds to the earliest period of Mesopotamian history. (Kramer 1959: 117)

What a contrast Psalm 2 is compared with the Gilgamesh Epic!

Why do the nations conspire and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the LORD and against his Anointed One. “Let us bread their chains.” they say, “and throw off their fetters.” The One enthroned in heaven laughs, the Lord scoffs at them. Then he rebukes them in his anger and terrifies them in his wrath, saying, “I have installed my King on Zion, my holy hill.” I will proclaim the decree of the LORD: He said to me, “you are my Son, today I have become your Father, Ask of me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession. You will rule them with an iron scepter; you will dash them to pieces like pottery.” Therefore, you kings, be wise; he warned, you rulers of the earth. Serve the LORD with fear and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry and you be destroyed in your way, for his wrath can flare up in a moment. Blessed are all who take refuge in him

{Reprinted with permission from ABR. To see the pictures and more information on this topic click the following link:  http://www.biblearchaeology.org/post/2006/10/30/Who-Was-Nimrod.aspx}

From What Did Moses Compose Genesis

By Dr. David Livingston

Evangelicals agree that Moses wrote Genesis and that the first five Bible books are "The Books of Moses." But, where did Moses get the information for Genesis? He wasn't present for any of the events mentioned in it.

We should notice first that neither Jesus nor the apostles, when quoting from Genesis, mention Moses' name in connection with it. However, they do call the first five books "Moses' Law." So, we may conclude that they believed it composed by Moses, but, perhaps, he used material written by others or received it some other way.

Evangelical Theory

Many evangelicals, believing in the inerrancy of Scripture, solve the problem by assuming that Moses received the entire book by direct revelation. Perhaps while on Mt. Sinai, along with the law, Moses received it by something like dictation. Or, while spending 40 years in Midian, God may have had it revealed to him over some period of time.

Another Theory

Other scholars try to solve the problem a more difficult way. Difficult, because there is no evidence for it. They say Moses did not write Genesis, or even any of the Pentateuch, for that matter. It was put together by "pious" men during the time of Israel's kingdom and as late as the post-exile (post-Babylonian captivity). In order to gain credence, Moses' name was attached to it. Materials came from Babylonian and Canaanite myth legends and from Israel's own "legends" and "oral tradition." From this viewpoint, little of it had been previously written as holy scripture, perhaps none. Thus, they would say it was a "pious fraud" used by the ruling body in Israel as a sort of religious "opiate “to pull the people together in the name of Moses. This theory is commonly known as the "JEDP Theory." Many sharp minds both in Europe and the U.S. have devoted their lives developing the system and have written whole libraries of books based on speculation about it.

We consider this solution to the problem as unacceptable and would not even mention it except that community colleges, colleges, universities and even many seminaries now teach it as if it had some basis in fact, which it does not. (It is a situation parallel to evolutionary theory which is believed by "every capable scholar" but cannot be proven with scientific evidence.)

In contrast to the above, Meredith Kline ably says:

If Moses, in composing Genesis, was not dependent on Near Eastern literature that exhibits parallels to Genesis, neither did he ignore it. But it would seem that, where he deliberately develops the biblical account of an event so as to mirror features of the pagan version, it turns out to be for the polemical purpose of exposing and correcting the world's vain wisdom by the light of revealed theology. The elaboration of this is not possible here, but an illustrative case would be the treatment of the Babylonian epic account of creation, known (from its opening words) as Enuma Elish. Acquaintance with it is evidenced in the Genesis accounts of creation and of Babel-building, but in both passages the epic's world-view is repudiated, even ridiculed, and most effectively so at the points of obvious formal correspondence. (Kline 1970: 80).

New True Theory

There is a third way Moses may have received the material for Genesis. It might have come from Abraham, Jacob, Noah, and even Adam, as well as other men of God writing under the Spirit's inspiration. In other words, those who experienced the events wrote as eyewitnesses. How could the world receive more reliable documents, especially when II Peter 1:21 is taken into account? This could explain why Jesus and the apostles considered Genesis part of "Moses' Law." He compiled the writings of other men of God, but was not the original author.

Examining this third way in more detail, Meredith Kline says:

Beyond the prologue (1:1-2:3) Genesis is divided into ten sections, each introduced by a superscription embodying the formula 'elleh toledot,'  'these are the generations of...' The placing of the entire Genesis narrative in this genealogical framework is a clear sign that the author intended the account to be understood throughout as a real life history of individual men, begotten and begetting. This genealogical line is resumed in subsequent biblical historiography, the Genesis lists being recapitulated and carried forward until the lineage of Adam has been traced to Jesus, the second Adam. (See Luke 3:23-38 and Kline, ibid.).

Genesis Originally on Clay Tablets?

Harrison states the case:

In order to understand the significance of the Hebrew term 'toledot,' it will be necessary to examine the nature and format of cuneiform communications in the ancient world. Clay was the preferred material upon which the wedge-shaped symbols were impressed... The general style of a tablet furnished some indication as to its contents... and the material usually consisted of letters, contracts, invoices, business correspondence, genealogical tables, etc. It was normal practice... for single communications of this kind to commence with some sort of title, followed by the body of the text, and then a colophon, which would sometimes contain, among other things, a hint as to the identity of the scribe, or owner of the tablet and the date when the tablet was written... The title was normally taken from the opening words of the tablet... This practice... also occurs in the Hebrew Bible.... (p. 543-4.)


  • Tablet 1: Genesis 1:1 - 2:4. The origins of the cosmos
  • Tablet 2: Genesis 2:5 - 5:2. The origins of mankind
  • Tablet 3: Genesis 5:3 - 6:9a. The histories of Noah
  • Tablet 4: Genesis 6:9b - 10:1. The histories of the sons of Noah
  • Tablet 5: Genesis 10:2 - 11:10a. The histories of Shem
  • Tablet 6: Genesis 11:10b - 11:27a. The histories of Terah
  • Tablet 7: Genesis 11:27b - 25:12. The histories of Ishmael
  • Tablet 8: Genesis 25:13 - 25:19a. The histories of Isaac
  • Tablet 9: Genesis 25:19b - 36:1. The histories of Esau
  • Tablet 10: Genesis 36:2 - 36:9. The histories of Esau
  • Tablet 11: Genesis 36:10 - 37:2. The histories of Jacob

(Harrison 1969: 548. — Probably the best explanation of this theory.)

"Colophon" = "Toledot":  Key to Source Documents

Probably the principle use of the "colophon" was in filing the document. When libraries of tablets are found, there are usually hundreds or thousands of them. And it is clear they were stored on shelves. Problem: How do you find the tablet you want? Answer: just treat them like we do books today. On the spine at the edge, or end, there was a summary of the tablet's contents-- a "colophon" ("finishing line").

Now, if the ten or eleven sections of Genesis were originally separate documents, each would have had a
"colophon" at the end describing at least the owner and contents of the document. These "colophons" in our Hebrew Bibles today would then consist of the phrase which speaks of the "toledots".

Thus, in connection with the Genesis "
toledot," Harrison writes:

... the principal facts concerning the individual involved have been recorded before the incidence of the phrase in question, and that they are not recorded after its occurrence . . . This peculiarity has been a source of perplexity and embarrassment to the vast majority of Bible critics who assume it introduces new material -- and thus does not make sense....(Harrison 1969: 545.)

Abraham Had Written Scripture

Abraham had written laws of Jehovah which he kept: Genesis 26:5 says he kept, among other things, Jehovah's statutes ("chuqqim") and laws ("torah"). A "chuqqim" is a written commandment, usually inscribed in stone (BDB, 1962: 350:d). The word "chuqqim" comes from a root meaning to engrave, and hence denotes permanent and prescribed rules of conduct . . . (NBC 1930: 201.). These are not some other country's laws and statutes; they are Jehovah's own, and thus, we maintain, would be separate documents, themselves the Word of God. Raven says:

Abraham came from a country where the knowledge of writing and reading was common and from an important city mentioned in the code of Hammurabi . . . In that country traditions of the creation and the flood were preserved, which have much in common with those in Genesis. That is the very country also in which Genesis places the site of the Garden of Eden and where the confusion of tongues is said to have occurred. There, if anywhere, the remains of an original revelation concerning creation and an accurate story of the flood would be handed down. What could be more natural than that Abraham carried such records and genealogies with him from the banks of the Euphrates to the land of Canaan? 'Abraham gave all that he had unto Isaac' (Genesis 25:5). Perhaps those priceless records were among his possessions. If so, they went down with Jacob into Egypt and formed the basis of Genesis 1-11 as written by Moses. (Raven 1910: 131-2.)

The main point Raven makes is that the Genesis sources were written down. The revelation of God was not committed to slipshod oral transmission for hundreds of years. The evidence that these were written documents is that whatever period or place they speak of fits into the culture and language of that place and time.

Or, another possibility is that the manuscripts were kept by the Kenites. When Moses was with the nomad-priest, Jethro, who loved Jehovah and served Him (Exodus 18:9-11), he may have received the records from which to compose Genesis. Jethro is called a "priest" (Exodus 2:15, 3:1). He could be none other than a nomad-priest of Jehovah, even as Melchizedek apparently was also a priest of Jehovah (although not a nomad). (The Kenites lived in the Negev, see: Judges 1:16.) That the Bible authors used other sources, not depending entirely on direct revelations from God, is clear from the list below:

Some Other Old Testament Sources After Moses


  • Joshua 8:9. Described land "in a book"
  • II Samuel 1-18. "Book of Jasher" (also mentioned in Joshua 10:13)
  • I Kings 11:41. "Book of the Acts of Solomon"
  • I Kings 14:19. "Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel"
  • I Kings 14:29. "Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah"
  • I Chronicles 27:74. "Chronicles of King David"
  • II Chronicles 12-15. "Book of Shemaiah the prophet, and of Iddo the Seer Concerning Genealogies"
  • II Chronicles 20:34. "Book of Jehu, the son of Hanani - mentioned in the Book of the Kings of Israel"

{Reprinted with permission from ABR and for more information click this link:  http://www.biblearchaeology.org/post/2005/12/26/From-What-Did-Moses-Compose-Genesis.aspx}

  The following is posted at http://www.mdivs.edu/insights.html and Dr. Frey asked that I give generic credit to his institution, Masters International School of Divinity and not him. What is written here is probably the best article on accreditation there is. It is honest, informative and does not sugar coat the issue plus it is a must read for all those who seek higher education.

Exactly What Is Accreditation and How is it Different from Certification? by Dr. Dennis Frey

Accreditation is essentially a statement of approval.  In the United States, if it is to be meaningful, it must come from an independent association having attained its own approval from the United States Department of Education (USDE).  In the U.S., the government (USDE) does not accredit schools.  However, the USDE is in the business of approving the associations which do accredit schools (for the purpose of serving as gate keepers for Title IV Funding).  You must understand this if you are to properly understand accreditation. Title IV Funding is the nearly 60 billion dollar congressionally approved annual money stream that flows from taxpayers to educational institutions that are accredited by an agency approved by USDE.  The reason that USDE approves accrediting agencies is to assure quality control over the flow of Title IV Funds.  The greater part of accreditation requirements is geared toward satisfying the USDE mandated standards that are specifically designed to safeguard the huge taxpayer investment in higher education.

Accrediting associations in the U.S. are not required to seek USDE recognition, but without it, the value of such accreditation may be questionable, and schools they accredit are not eligible to receive Title IV Funds.  That is why schools promoting accreditation from sources not approved by the USDE are considered "unaccredited."  BEWARE: There are dozens of so-called accrediting agencies (some with very official sounding names), that are nothing more than a fraud designed to deceive.

EXCEPTION: Accrediting agencies (just like schools), must first operate according to accepted practices and attract a sufficient number of clients before they can petition the USDE for possible acceptance.  Unrecognized agencies that are in a petitioning status with USDE, and are operating openly within the general parameters set forth by USDE (though still not considered recognized), ought to be considered valid, but their members’ schools are still not qualified for Title IV Funds.

The following quote is taken from the web site of the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA).  "There are accrediting organizations that may not be recognized but are not accreditation mills. For example, the accreditor may be seeking recognition, but the process is not complete. Or the accreditor does not meet the requirements of CHEA or USDE for reasons that do not relate to quality."

Certification is also essentially a statement of approval, but significantly different from accreditation in several important ways.  Most importantly, certification is not tied to Title IV Funding.  Only USDE recognized accreditation qualifies institutions to receive such funding.  Certification is not generally recognized as being equivalent to accreditation since certification criteria is not geared toward satisfying the requirements for Title IV Funding.  Therefore, certifying agencies are not as well known, and their value not as readily appreciated. 

Legitimate certification is similar to legitimate accreditation in that it also involves voluntary peer review through private agencies accountable to their constituents and the public at large, but not to the federal government since Title IV Funding is not involved.  Much of the misunderstanding that arises between the two is due to the lack of consumer awareness, and the generally held belief that accreditation is the only standard for academic legitimacy.  This is one reason why accreditation mills thrive while certification mills generally are not popular targets for scam artists.

Furthermore, certification is a term more often associated with professions, products, and processes.  For example, there are "Certified Financial Planners", "USDA Certified Agricultural Products", and "Procedures Certified" by certain medical associations.  Of course, the term "accredited" is also used in many of these situations.  This is because the two terms often serve as synonyms.  However, when it comes to higher education, accreditation is tied to Title IV Funding and certification is not.  Schools may be accredited but not certified, certified and not accredited or both or neither.  The important thing is that the school not misrepresent itself.

Exactly What is an Accredited Degree?
This may come as a shock, but in point-of-fact, there is no such thing as an accredited degree.  Only schools or programs within schools are accredited.  Period!  Look carefully at any degree earned from an accredited school, and you will not find one word that even suggests that it is an "accredited" degree.  If it does, you may be certain that the degree is bogus.  That's because degrees are not accredited.  You can earn a degree from an accredited school or program within a school, but you cannot earn an accredited degree from that same school.  It may seem like only a matter of semantics, but it much more.  You can earn a degree from either an accredited or unaccredited school, but the degree you earn is neither accredited nor unaccredited.  Here is an example (admittedly extreme, but it makes the point):  Sam Smith graduated from MYU before it was accredited.  His degree is from an unaccredited school.  Sam's son (Sam Jr.) graduated from MYU after it received accreditation.  Sam Jr. earned a degree from an accredited school.  Sam's grandson graduated from MYU during the time that it lost its accreditation.  Sam III earned a degree from an unaccredited school.  Sam's great grandson earned his degree from MYU after it regained its accreditation.  Sam IV earned a degree from an accredited school.  Now let's look back, the fact that MYU was accredited when Sam Jr. attended, was of no consequence to Sam.  His degree was still earned at an unaccredited school.  Why?  Because there is no such thing as "grandfathering" when it comes to accreditation.  The same is true for Sam Jr. at the time MYU lost its accreditation.  Sam Jr. still earned a degree from an accredited school.  Why?  Because even though a school may lose its accreditation (it happens), there is no reverse of grandfathering.  The school will always be considered accredited at the time that it held accreditation, and unaccredited at the time it did not hold accreditation.  The bottom line, there is no such thing as an accredited degree.  One either earns a degree from an accredited or unaccredited school.  All accredited schools in the U.S. were at one time, unaccredited, and all accredited schools are subject to the loss of accreditation (it does happen).

Are Schools Required to Obtain Recognized Accreditation?
No.  For the most part, accreditation in the U.S. is strictly voluntary.  Many states require, or provide for, a kind of "state approval."  However, this is not the same as accreditation.  There are many schools in the U.S. that operate as top-quality institutions with high academic standards and yet have elected to not seek accreditation.

The following quote is taken from the web site of the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA).  There are institutions that may not be accredited but are not degree mills. For example, the institution may be seeking accreditation, but the process is not complete. Or a legitimate institution may choose not to be accredited for reasons that do not relate to quality.

The following quote from the United States Department of Education makes the point. "It should be noted that some institutions have chosen not to participate in the federal student aid program and therefore do not have to be approved by an accrediting agency recognized by the Department. While these institutions do not appear on the Department's list, they may be legitimate schools. Stroup encouraged consumers and employers to use the list as an initial source of information and to investigate further whenever an institution does not appear on the list."  (February 1, 2005)

The former executive director of the Association for Biblical Higher Education (an accrediting agency recognized by the United States Department of Education), as quoted in that agency's September 2005 quarterly publication stated that "There are hundreds of Bible Colleges and Seminaries in the United States and Canada that are offering good solid theological training, yet they are not accredited.  This would be the case with our Affiliate institutions that take advantage of the programs and services that we offer."

Of course, all schools in the U.S. attempting to seek recognized accreditation must first operate as an unaccredited school and provide sufficient proof of institutional credibility prior to applying.  All accredited schools in the U.S. were, at one time, unaccredited.  In fact, the common qualifying procedure for schools seeking recognized accreditation is the development of a "Self Study" through which the institution demonstrates, to the satisfaction of the accrediting agency, that it is operating in a manner sufficiently consistent with the criteria required for accreditation. On a practical level, this demonstrates that it is possible for an unaccredited school to operate at a level generally equivalent to that of an accredited school.  The very same logic can be applied to certification as well.

What Are Some Advantages of Recognized Accreditation?

·         Access to government sponsored or approved student loans and grants (Title IV Funds).

·         Easier recognition for transfer of its credits to other accredited schools.

·         Easier recognition of its degrees by other schools and organizations.

·         Greater likelihood of acceptance of its students by other schools for further study.

·         Greater probability of the recognition of its educational programs meeting the qualifications for some goals, requirements, and licenses.

What Are Some Disadvantages of Recognized Accreditation?

·         More difficult entrance requirements into its programs of study.

·         Program requirements which may limit certain individuals or prevent them from being accepted into its programs.

·         Significantly higher tuition and related costs for all programs of study.

·         Less accommodating schedules and course offerings.

·         Fewer options for the older or nontraditional student.

What Are Some Advantages of Not Having Recognized Accreditation?

·         Less difficult entrance requirements for desirable programs of study.

·         Lower tuition and related costs making it possible to graduate without debt.

·         More accommodating program schedules and course offerings making it possible for busy adults to study anywhere anytime.

·         Unaccredited schools are likely to be more innovative and liberal in the development of specialized courses, unique study concepts, the use of emerging technology, and the design of nontraditional certificate and degree programs.  In this regard they are often pioneers and early adopters.

·         Providing the school is properly dedicated to its mission, the student will have an opportunity to gain an education comparable to that offered at accredited schools for similar courses and programs, but at a fraction of the total cost.

What Are Some Disadvantages of Not Having Recognized Accreditation?

·         No access to government sponsored or approved student loans and grants (Title IV Funds).

·         Transfer of credits earned may be more difficult.

·         Acceptance of graduates by accredited schools for further study more difficult.

·         The recognition of educational qualifications earned for meeting some goals may be problematic.

·         Certain licenses and professional requirements may not permit the acceptance of degrees earned from unaccredited schools.

Does Recognized Accreditation Assure A Quality Education?
No.  Even though recognized accreditation is a very good indicator that a program meets acceptable standards, the quality of an education is still largely dependent upon the value of the course content, the background and competency of the instructor, and the willingness of the student to get the most out of the course.  It is quite possible to attend even a top-rated accredited school and obtain an inferior education.  No level of accreditation can force a professor to do her or his best, and no professor, however gifted and dedicated, can force a student to learn.  It's always possible for a less than sincere person to beat the system.

Can A Program Without Recognized Accreditation Provide A Quality Education?
Yes!  Again, since the quality of an education is largely dependent upon the value of the course content, the background and competency of the instructor, and the willingness of the student to get the most out of the course, it is quite possible to attend a well organized unaccredited school and receive a first-class education.  In fact, there is no reason why the level of learning between an accredited and unaccredited program offering similar courses and programs should not be comparable.  The honest student truly seeking to learn, will quickly discover whether the program is meeting the need.  If the course of study is meeting the need, and the student is doing her or his best, whether the school is accredited or not may be immaterial.  Beware of those who suggest that there is "no reason to attend an unaccredited school."  Such logic suggests that there is no need for new schools, or for the older and established schools to become accredited.  How so?  In order to become an accredited school, an unaccredited school must first demonstrate through a pattern of evidence [to the satisfaction of the accrediting agency], that it is operating in a manner sufficiently consistent with the criteria required for accreditation.  In other words, in order for any school to become accredited, there must be a sufficient period of time during which the school is unaccredited but operating as if it were accredited, before it can be accredited.  This cannot be done unless the school is enrolling and graduating students!  Furthermore, without the pressure from innovative and immerging institutions, competition would be stifled, resulting in fewer choices and even higher tuition.

Will a Degree Earned Through an Unaccredited School be Accepted and Considered Legitimate?
This depends upon what is meant by accepted and legitimate.  Here is the blunt truth.  There is a difference between a legitimate degree and a degree earned legitimately!  Depending on the law of any given state or country, even a cheap degree may be legally legitimate.  But was it legitimately earned?  A degree is legitimately earned providing the entrance requirements, course work, and completion requirements are appropriate for the degree awarded (whether it is earned through an accredited or unaccredited institution).

Will a Degree from an Unaccredited School be Accepted by My Church or Place of Employment?
While there certainly are some situations when only a degree from an accredited school can qualify one for certain positions and privileges, for the most part, you are judged and accepted on you, not the school from which you graduated.  Example: Are you already in ministry?  If so, when was the last time a member of your church asked you if you had a degree at all, much less if it was earned at an accredited college or seminary?

CAUTION!  Do not fall victim to the myth that earning a degree from an accredited school is a ticket to ministry success.  It is not.  Ministry is one of those places where what you do with what you know trumps everything else.  In fact, for those already serving in ministry, a degree from a highly credible though unaccredited school may be the most logical choice.  We ought never to forget that especially in the Christian tradition, academic freedom is considered a cornerstone of religious liberty.  Of course, so is academic responsibility!  Therefore, any program of study leading to a theological degree ought to be both Biblically sound, and academically honest.

However, if you are concerned whether your church or place of employment will accept you with a degree earned through a credible though unaccredited school, you are strongly urged to ask!  Even in the case of degrees earned from accredited schools, there may be restrictions on what kind of degree is recognized, and what kinds of schools are considered acceptable.  For example, in some cases, denominations and ministries may not accept degrees from secular schools, or schools not affiliated with the group.

Will a Degree or Credits Earned Through an Unaccredited School be Accepted  by Other Schools?
First of all, it should be understood that no school is required to accept credits ore degrees from another school (accredited or unaccredited).  However, generally speaking, degrees earned through unaccredited schools will often be recognized by other unaccredited schools providing the school meets the standards of the receiving school, and the learning discipline is relevant.  On the other hand, most accredited schools will accept only a very limited number of students from unaccredited schools.  Such acceptance, when granted, is usually based on degree or credit relevancy, the coursework and degree requirements, and the background and ability of the person applying.  The bottom line...an accredited school may accept credits and degrees from an unaccredited school, but don't count on it!  If this is a real issue for you, ask first!

However, in the case of Master's, because of our commitment to educational excellence, credits and degrees earned a MISD have been accepted at many regularly accredited institutions.  In addition, MISD has formal agreements with several faith-based institutions of higher learning regarding the acceptance of credits and degrees, and friendly relations with more than ninety others.  Names of these institutions are available upon request.

Why is Master's Certified, but not Accredited?
Master's is a relatively young institution (founded March 30, 1999), and is not financially endowed as in the case of institutions associated with denominations .  The process of seeking and obtaining legitimate accreditation is one that requires considerable institutional resources, and a sufficient number of years of successful operation in order to be adequately prepared.   Since our founding in 1999, we have pursued a policy of developing a Divinity School that operates in a manner consistent with Biblical guidelines, and have promoted and maintained appropriate academic and business standards.  Consequently, we have received a remarkable level of credibility among our ministry peers.  This affirmation of institutional integrity has attracted thousands of students from around the world.  Our alumni serve in practically every ministry calling within the denominational and independent structures of the church-at-large.  A careful examination of our Endorsements and Cooperatives bears witness to this fact.  Our goal is to remain faithful to our mission and purpose, to continue to promote appropriate academic standards, and to be vigilant in our pursuit of institutional development.

Nevertheless, we do recognize and honor the value of legitimate academic and institutional peer review.  For this reason, Master's has achieved certification with the Council of Private Colleges of America. The mission of the CPCA is to serve private faith based educational institutions through quality standards and practices.  The purpose of the CPCA is to promote quality faith based education, and provide support services for faith based educational institutions to accomplish their individual purpose and mission.  The CPCA represents member faith based educational institutions before government or other educational agencies, and provides certification to member faith based educational institutions through quality peer review and onsite certification visits verifying CPCA standards.

In addition, understanding the value of USDE recognized accrediting agencies, Master's has achieved affiliated status with the Association for Biblical Higher Education (a USDE recognized agency).   As such, we participates in and contribute to collegial and professional development activities of the Association.  Our affiliate status does not, however, constitute, imply or presume ABHE accredited status at present or in the future.

Does Master's Have A Plan to Seek Recognized Accreditation?
First, let's make something quite clear...one of the "tricks" of unscrupulous schools is to falsely hold out the promise of accreditation sometime in the near future.  No unaccredited school can promise students that it is going to be accredited (and no accredited school can promise that it will always remain accredited).  Even though Master's is currently engaged in the process of  preparing for recognized accreditation, if we are successful, that will have no bearing on degrees earned prior to accreditation (
see above).  Furthermore, the process by which recognized accreditation is achieved can take years.  If you are seriously considering Master's, and do not need to earn a degree from an already accredited institution, then your decision should be based upon our currently achieved level of credibility.

OK, but How Can I be Sure That Master’s International School of Divinity is Really Valid and of High Quality?
Check us out for yourself. DO NOT rely on published guide books, Internet message boards, blogs or chat rooms for accurate information (this holds true for any other school you may be considering). Such places as message boards and blogs are often populated by one or more “self-proclaimed experts” whom only rarely possess any actual first-hand knowledge about the schools they suppose themselves to be competent to rate (or rant against).  These individuals seem to crave whatever attention they may get from their pontifications.

In addition, the few books and online guides that profess to give “expert” guidance, are too often out-of-date or just plain wrong, simply because it is physically impossible for these individuals to actually visit the schools they profess to know about.  Consequently, information is notoriously inaccurate, out-of-date and suffers from the fact the few if any of the schools rated have received an actual on-site visit or even been afforded the benefit of submitting a formal validation document.  Information is usually gleaned from the internet, school catalogs as well as second and third-hand sources.  One serious indication of poor research is the use of unprofessional language and the strongly worded personal opinions of the author or compiler.  While such sources may provide some useful information, caution should be exercised when accepting information as accurate.

Furthermore, be aware that some unscrupulous admissions recruiters often profess to have "inside knowledge" in order to berate competing schools as a way of convincing you to enroll at the school they represent.  The only sure way is to check it out for yourself.  In the case of Master's, read everything on our web site, call and speak with anyone or any organization named on the web site that is of interest to you. Request an academic evaluation for yourself, and ask every question that you think is important.  Don’t settle for anything less than a satisfactory answer. After that, you will be able to make an informed decision.

IMPORTANT:  Please visit us in person if that is possible.  These days, legitimate schools are trying very hard to present themselves as best they can by having a first-rate web site (such as Master's is trying to do).  However, easy degree mills and outright degree mills are also doing so.  That's why a visit can be worth a thousand pictures!  Of course, you may not be able to visit, but perhaps you have a friend or a colleague from your church or business contacts who may be able to come on your behalf, if so, we would be pleased to meet with them in your place.  If none of these options are practical, you may wish to contact the Council of Private Colleges of America.  The on-site team that recommended our five-year certification will be able to answer any questions concerning the quality of Master's.

Ten Commandments
 for  Degree Mills

1.  Thou shalt seduce them with ridiculously low tuition.
2.  Thou shalt boast of being accredited by a worthless agency.
3.  Thou shalt offer as many different degree titles as possible.
4.  Thou shalt give life-experience credit for everything.
5.  Thou shalt not require too much work for anything.
6.  Thou shalt not refuse anyone entrance into any program.
7.  Impress them with your "accredited" faculty, they won't know that there is no such thing.
8.  Always appeal to their vanity by offering them what they "deserve."
9.  Provide high quality printed degrees and transcripts to deflect questions about the  low quality of the program.
10. Encourage skeptics to visit your web site, discourage them from visiting your office.

The Genesis Flood:

An Interpretative Key to the Past by Henry B. Smith Jr.

In the 600th year of Noah’s life, on the 17th day of the second month—on that day all the springs of the great deep burst forth, and the floodgates of the heavens were opened (Gn 7:11).

For centuries, the Biblical Flood described in chapters 6–8 in the book of Genesis was considered global, cataclysmic and historical. Since the late 18th century, however, the historicity of the Flood has come under constant attack, and is now rejected as a fable by most people in Western societies. Even some in the Church have rationalized the so-called “evidences” against the Flood, trying to reinterpret it as local event. This has been most unfortunate, because Noah’s Flood is one of the most significant events in the history of the world, impacting interpretations in the physical sciences, history, archaeology and Biblical studies. My purpose here is to briefly review the implications on some of these fields of study.

1) Geology.1 Clearly, if the Flood of Noah’s day was a recent and worldwide event, it would have drastically affected the topography and geology of the entire planet. Major geological structures and topography are much better explained by recent catastrophism, not slow processes over eons of time. Mountain formation, ocean floor topography, plate tectonics, river valleys, volcanism, canyon formation, the formation of coal deposits, lakes and a plethora of other geologic features are dramatically impacted by the reality of a recent, cataclysmic Flood. The formation of these and many other structures will be misunderstood if not interpreted via a young earth/Flood model, a framework that the Bible plainly presents in its teaching. The dogma of uniformitarianism dominates all current paradigms, so the Flood is rejected out of hand. Additionally, the Flood is a very plausible triggering mechanism for the Ice Age, which required a set of unique and simultaneous circumstances unexplainable by uniformitarian principles.2

2) Biology. The Bible tells us that God sent two of each kind of land animal to the Ark so that they would be preserved during the Flood (Gn 6:19–20). When the Flood ended, the animals dispersed from “the mountains of Ararat” (Gn 8:4) and began to repopulate the planet. The history of animal habitat and genetic distribution across the planet must be understood in the context of the Flood and its immediate aftermath, or erroneous conclusions will result. The Flood or its subsequent affects serve to explain animal extinctions on a massive scale.3 This includes dinosaurs, which have been hijacked by the evolutionary establishment as a propaganda tool against the Scriptures. Most of the dinosaurs were simply unable to survive the adverse environmental conditions that existed after they left the Ark. The Flood would also have drastically impacted the entirety of the plant kingdom, which most likely survived via floating mats of vegetation and other mechanisms. Since the Flood lasted for a period of 371 days, the carbon cycle of the entire earth was completely disrupted in a relatively short period of time. This state of affairs would drastically affect the results of C-14 dating methods as one moves back in history closer to the Flood. Rejecting the historicity of the Flood leads to erroneous assumptions built into the C-14/C-12 ratios4 needed to calculate dates. Again, ignoring the historicity of the Flood and its consequent effects on the entire planet leads to flawed conclusions.

3) Anthropology and Archaeology.5 Almost all current scientific paradigms assert that man evolved from primitive life forms into humans at some point in the distant past. This dogma is so deeply entrenched in the mind of the scientific community that no other paradigm will even be considered. Therefore, when “primitive” remains of ancient human societies are discovered, it is automatically assumed they are from an earlier time when man was less evolved. The Bible, however, plainly teaches that man was created fully formed and with a sophisticated intellect right at the beginning of creation (Mk 10:6, Gn 1:27). When God decided to judge the world because of its great wickedness (Gn 6:7, 2 Pt 2:4–5), Noah and seven others from his family were spared in the Ark. All human beings alive today are descendants of Noah’s family. If this fact of history is rejected, once again false conclusions will be drawn. Noah and his immediate descendants entered a brand new world, a world that had lost most of its technical knowledge and civilization. Although Noah and his sons were certainly quite intelligent, they did not carry the full knowledge of all human society wiped out in the Flood. In a real sense, they were starting over (much like a modern man being stranded on a deserted island, isolated from civilization, yet not a primitive brute), so the technologies and level of civilization of humanity were no doubt more “primitive” in the immediate post-Flood world. Living in caves and using more “primitive” tools to survive would have been perfectly logical for humans living in a new and barren world. Neolithic and other ancient remains predating the explosion of civilization in the third millennium BC therefore need to be reinterpreted in a post-Flood context. The errors of evolutionary interpretations are further compounded by a rejection of the Tower of Babel incident (Gn 11), which fractured the human community and sent various people groups all across the globe. Genetic distribution in human culture was vastly affected by this event. People groups were separated because they could not communicate with one another and therefore the human gene pool was split apart. Cultural identity began with similarity of language and expanded to include physical features such as skin color and various other physical, yet superficial, differences. Modern anthropology and archaeology are entrenched in a paradigm antithetical to the Biblical young earth/Flood/Babel paradigm and therefore have continuously drawn incorrect conclusions from the data in their respective fields.6

4) Biblical Studies—The Plain Meaning of the Text. One interesting aspect of the Genesis Flood is the unique use of language7 in Scripture when referring to the Flood. In the Old Testament, the authors utilize a unique Hebrew word, mabbûl, when referring to the Flood. This word is used mainly in the Flood narrative, Genesis 6:17; 7:6–7, 10, 17; 9:11, 15. Genesis9:28; 10:1, 32 and 11:10 utilize mabbûl when referring to the Flood as a past event. Psalm 29:10 is the only other passage in the Old Testament where mabbûl is found. This psalm of David describes the “voice of the LORD,” referring to His authority and power. In this context, David speaks of the LORD’s power over the mighty waters and the cedars of Lebanon. He continues in verse 10, “The LORD sits enthroned over the flood [mabbûl]; the LORD is enthroned as king forever.” The context asserts the great power and majesty of God, which is required to be in control of a cataclysm like Noah’s Flood.8 In the New Testament, we find several references to the Noachian Deluge. The unique Greek word used in these passages of Scripture is kataklusmŏs and its derivatives. Strong’s Concordance defines this word as meaning “to dash, wash down, to deluge, surge of the sea, inundation, fl ood.”9 From this we derive the modern English word “cataclysm.” Jesus describes the time of His return as analogous to that of the Flood in Matthew 24:38–39: For in the days before the flood [kataklusmŏs], people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood [kataklusmŏu] came and took them all away.10 The immediate context indicates there will be universal and worldwide ignorance about the time of Jesus’ return, just as there was a universal and worldwide ignorance regarding the coming inundation in Noah’s day. A local flood was not in Jesus’ view. The Apostle Peter certainly recognized the universal and cataclysmic nature of the Flood when he wrote: For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, putting them into gloomy dungeons to be held for judgment; if he did not spare the ancient world when he brought the flood [kataklusmŏn] on its ungodly people, but protected Noah, a preacher of righteousness, and seven others...11 Of further interest are references to the Flood in the Septuagint, the third century BC Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament. In every instance where mabbûl appears in the Hebrew text, the Septuagint translators used kataklusmŏs as the Greek translation. Genesis 7:6, 17; 9:11 are translated as kataklusmŏs. Genesis 6:17; 9:15, 28; 10:1, 32; 11:10 and Psalm 29:1012 are translated as kataklusmŏn. Genesis 7:7, 10 and 9:11 are translated as kataklusmŏu. In each instance, the Septuagint translators recognized the unique nature of Noah’s Flood and used derivatives of this specific Greek word to communicate that fact. It appears that the New Testament authors picked up on this usage, and under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit continued using it when they authored the New Testament in the first century AD. Jesus Himself verified this usage when speaking of His return in Matthew 24 and Luke 17. For the Christian, there should be no doubt that Jesus verified this usage and its clear meaning (universal and cataclysmic, not local) by virtue of His absolute authority.13 This is just a small sampling of the impact of the Flood on Biblical studies and the historical realm of the physical sciences. In this issue of Bible and Spade, you will read research regarding the landing place of Noah’s Ark. It is ABR’s position that the Flood in Genesis 6–8 was a recent, global, cataclysmic event and there is no hermeneutical, exegetical or Biblical justification for reinterpreting it as some localized event in Mesopotamia.14 To do so is to contort the Biblical text in a way that cannot be justified. We must remain true to the plain meaning of Scripture. If we cannot fully understand how a universal, cataclysmic Flood occurred, we must still submit ourselves to the authority of Scripture and adopt the attitude of Martin Luther: “if you cannot understand how this was done...then grant the Holy Spirit the honor of being more learned than you are.”15 Noah’s Flood must be given its proper place in the history of the world and in Biblical history. Ignoring or dismissing its historicity impugns what God has plainly said, a serious sin indeed. The spiritual lessons are obvious as well. God is gracious and merciful, but takes sin very, very seriously. Let us give the Flood its proper place in our Biblical studies and as an important factor in developing a Biblical worldview.

Reprinted with Permission from Bible and Spade Fall 2006 found at this website http://www.biblearchaeology.org/ and Associates for Biblical Research


Mount Cudi—True Mountain of Noah’s Ark by B. Crouse & G. Franz

For its historical claims the first eleven chapters of Genesis are possibly the most attacked section of the entire Bible, and the story deemed most implausible, without a doubt, is the story of Noah’s Ark. That there could be such a great flood, a ship of 450-500 feet in length containing pairs of every air-breathing animal in the land, and only eight survivors, is usually treated by most critics as the equivalent of a nursery tale for children. Hence, it’s no secret that theological liberals view the Biblical story of Noah’s Ark as “the impossible voyage,”1 and we suspect, for many evangelicals, the search for Noah’s Ark constitutes “the impossible quest.”2 Though evangelicals fully believe that the Flood was a historical event, the attempt to discover the Ark’s remains stretches credulity. The whole issue of the search for Noah’s Ark is not helped by the fact that its “discovery” is frequently announced by a press that is not only gullible, but also enables the spread of sensational stories by indulging those looking for a moment of publicity. All would agree that the discovery of the Ark’s remains would be a find unprecedented in the history of archaeology. Finding an artifact from antediluvian times would be second to none, with the potential to alter the currents of thinking in several disciplines. Nevertheless we do make such a claim, as we believe the German geologist, Dr. Friedrich Bender, discovered remains of Noah’s Ark of the Biblical Flood story in 1953. His scientific test results, coupled with other historical studies presented here, give credence to the idea that the final berth of Noah’s ship has, in fact, been located. (See the Bender article later in this issue.) The modern search for Noah’s Ark began in 1948 when an alleged eyewitness claimed he stumbled onto the Ark high on the snowcap of Mt. Ararat (Smith 1950: 10). Since then others have made similar claims. Based on these alleged eyewitness accounts, many expeditions have been launched, innumerable hours have been spent in research, and large sums have been spent trying to

For the most part, the search has been confined to the massive 16,945 ft (5165 m) Mt. Ararat in northeastern Turkey. Despite Herculean efforts and countless heroic attempts, no Ark remains have ever been properly verified at this location. We believe there are a number of reasons why these efforts failed. First, there is the mistaken belief by many that the Bible designates Mt. Ararat as the landing place.4 Contrary to this belief, the author of Genesis does not designate a specific mountain. As most of our readers are already aware, the 8:4 passage refers only to a mountainous region, i.e., the mountains of Ararat, trra rh.5 No exact peak is referred to. The earliest reference to this region outside of the Bible is Assyrian in origin, and it referred to the mountainous territory directly north of the Assyrian kingdom.6 It is the consensus among scholars that the Urartian state at the time Genesis was written (assuming the authorship of Genesis ca. 13th to 15th centuries) did not extend as far north as the present- day Mt. Ararat.7 W.F. Albright, known as the dean of Biblical archaeologists, wrote: There is no basis either in biblical geography or in later tradition for the claim that Mount Ararat (the mountain bearing this name in modern times) is the location of the settling of the ark. (Genesis 8:4 says the Ark “rested...upon the mountains of Ararat.”) (1969: 48). Secondly, the searchers proclaim the sheer number of sightings that have been on Mt. Ararat, particularly during WW II. They argue, “Where there is smoke, there must be fire.”

However, these numerous eyewitness accounts have not been helpful in locating the lost artifact. The accounts are often contradictory, and under close scrutiny, most are suspect. There exists an incredible amount of lost documents, lost photos, and lost witnesses. Accompanying the missing evidence and contradictory testimony are many implausible ad hoc arguments. A few of the sightings have been made by pilots who appear to be of reputable character. However, these sightings, in our opinion, are explainable by the fact that the mountain has an abundance of large blocks of volcanically produced basalt, and when seen under the right conditions, they can easily resemble a huge barge. Photographs of some of these formations are enough to take your breath away!8 Third, the mountain is a volcano with no alluvial evidence. While there is sedimentation on the mountain, it is from volcanic action and not from flooding. This is a very stubborn fact that cannot readily be explained, had a great flood once inundated the mountain. Fourthly, Mt. Ararat has been thoroughly searched over the last 50 years. Neither fixed-winged aircraft, helicopters, nor satellite imagery have turned up any undeniable evidence.9 In this article we would like to propose another site located in the Cudi Mountains in southeast Turkey, just east-northeast of the Turkish city of Cizre.10 This site is not only well attested by ancient tradition and an abundance of literature, but by some well known authorities in archaeology. We will go so far as to say that the location of the Ark’s ruins was well known in this region up until about the end of the first millennium AD. Ancient chroniclers recount that it was a site for pilgrims and rites of veneration and worship (Ritter 1844: 154). Consequently, over the millennia, pilgrims carried off pieces of the Ark for relics and talismans as would be expected, and by the seventh century AD, according to one account, its final remaining beams were carried off for the construction of a mosque (Komroff, ed. 1989: 284).

After this, its secret seems to be remembered only by the local villagers as the scene shifts to Agri Dagh, or Mt. Ararat as it was later to become known. Hence, from about the 13th century, that majestic, 16,945 ft (5165 m), snow-capped mountain, which many of the ancients said could not be climbed, became the focus of the Noah’s Ark traditions. To the Armenians, present-day Ararat was always called Massis. 11 From antiquity to the present, the Turks have called it Agri Dagh. We must, however, note that there is at least one clear exception. The fifth century historian, Philostorgius (c. 368–c. 439), makes the following geographical observation: The Euphrates, however, to all appearance, takes its rise among the Armenians; in this region stands the Mount of Ararat, so called even to the present day by the Armenians, —the same mount on which the Holy Scripture says that the ark rested. Many fragments of the wood and nails of which the ark was composed are said to be still preserved in those localities. This is the place where the Euphrates takes its rise (Book III, Chapter 8). If the Armenians called it “Ararat” at this early date, we have no other evidence for it. We believe there is reason to doubt the accuracy of Philostorgius at this point. While he is certainly correct here in his description of the source of the Euphrates being near Mt. Ararat, he is notorious for his inaccurate geography in the corpus of his works (Cross 1974: 1086). It seems rather strange that he would be in disagreement with many others of the same time period. After him we find no other clear references till the middle of the 13th century. When Marco Polo traveled past Ararat in the 13th century on his way east, he was told by the locals that the mountain sheltered the Ark of Noah (Polo 1968: 34). This suggests that the tradition arose some time prior to Polo’s trip, and by the end of the 14th century it seems to have become fairly well established.12 Prior to this time, the ancients argued that the remains of the Ark of Noah could be found on another mountain currently known as Cudi Dagh. Let us now look at the evidence from what we believe are those compelling ancient sources. Cudi Dagh is located approximately 202 mi (325 km) south of Mt. Ararat in southern Turkey and within 9.3 mi (15 km) east-northeast of Cizre, and within sight of the Syrian and Iraqi borders. The Tigris River flows at its base. The coordinates are 37 degrees, 23 minutes N, and 42 degrees, 26 minutes E. In the literature there are many variant spellings, but all are cognates. Over the centuries it has been called Mt. Judi, Mt. Cardu, Mt. Quardu, Mt. Kardu, the Gordyene mountains, the Gordian mountains, the Karduchian mountains, the mountains of the Kurds, and to the Assyrians, Mt. Nipur.13

It is also important to note that at times this mountain has even been called Mt. Ararat.14 At about 6853 ft (2089 m) it is not a terribly high mountain, though it is often snow-capped most of the year. Cudi Dagh overlooks the all-important Mesopotamian plain and is notable for its many archaeological ruins in and around the mountain. There are also many references to it in ancient history. Sennacherib (late seventh century BC), the powerful Assyrian king, carved rock reliefs of his victories in battle in the vicinity (King 1913).15 The Nestorians, a sect of Christianity, built several monasteries around the mountain, including one on the summit called the Cloister of the Ark; it was destroyed by lightning in AD 766.16 The Muslims later built a mosque on the site. In 1910, Gertrude Bell explored the area and found a stone structure still at the summit in the shape of a ship, called by the locals Sefinet Nebi Nuh, the Ship of Noah. Bell also reported that annually on September 14, Christians, Jews, Muslims, Sabians and Yezidis gathered on the mountain to commemorate Noah’s sacrifice (Bell 2002: 289–294). The evidence for this site as the landing place of Noah’s Ark, coupled with the findings of Bender, is compelling. If all we had to go by were the ancient references, the evidence for this site easily outweighs the evidence in the literature for Mt. Ararat. Some of the more important ancient witnesses to this alternate location are the following.

Jewish Literature

The Samaritan Pentateuch

This manuscript contains the first five books of the Old Testament and puts the landing place of Noah’s Ark in the Kurdishmountains north of Assyria. The Samaritan Pentateuch was the Bible used by the Samaritans, a Jewish sect which separated from the Jews about the fifth century BC. Ancestry- wise they were of mixed blood, dating back to the time the Assyrians deported many from the Northern Kingdom. The Assyrians then colonized the area with citizens from that country. The Samaritans were the result of the intermarriage between the Jews who were not deported and these new Assyrian colonists. Their version of the Pentateuch shows a definite propensity to update geographical places and harmonize difficult passages.17 There is much evidence that the Samaritan Pentateuch was formulated during the fifth century BC, though the earliest manuscript extant today dates to about the 10th century AD. Even though this reference does not mention a specific mountain, it does narrow it down considerably to a mountain range north of Assyria. There is some evidence that these Hebrew tribesmen from the northern kingdom populated the area in and around Cudi Dagh.18

The Targums

The targums are paraphrases in Aramaic that were made for the Jews after they returned from the captivity in Babylon (see Neh 8:8). After their long captivity many of the Jews forgot their native tongue (Hebrew), only understanding the Aramaic language of their former captors. These paraphrases were originally oral. They were rather loose paraphrases, and in some instances were like running commentaries. The targums later attained a fixed form and were written down and preserved. They give Bible scholars a valuable tool for textual criticism and interpretation. Three of these targums at the Gn 8:4 reference (Onkelos, Neofiti, and pseudo-Jonathan) put the landing place of the Ark in the Qardu (wdrq, i.e., Kurdish) mountains.19 It is possible they did not know of the kingdom of Urartu (Ararat) by this time, since it had ceased to exist around the seventh century BC (Lang 1980: 13).

The Book of Jubilees

This book belongs to a group of writings known as the Pseudepigrapha. Scholars date it about the middle of the second century BC (Charlesworth 1985: vol. II, 44). It has been called the “Little Genesis” and is known for its extensive geographical details. Scholars believe it was originally composed in Hebrew, but only fragments of the Hebrew text remain. The English translations were made from a combination of Ethiopic, Syriac (eastern Aramaic), and Latin texts. The author of Jubilees mentions the landing place of the Ark on several occasions as being on “the top of Lubar (rbwl))one of the mountains of Ararat” (5:28). In 7:1 he says, “Noah planted a vine on the mountain on which the ark rested, whose name is Lubar, (one) of the mountains of Ararat.”20 Later the author writes that Noah’s three sons built three cities “near Mt. Lubar” (7:17). Finally, the author tells us that when Noah died, he was “buried on Mt. Lubar in the land of Ararat” (10:15). This designation for the landing-place of the Ark is a mystery, and it seems to have originated with the Book of Jubilees. If it could be known, the Genesis Apocryphon, which is missing the text at Gn. 8:4, might also give Lubar as the site of the Ark’s landing since it names it as the place where Noah planted the vine. Other literature, papyri 4QpsDn and 6Q8, and the Midrashic Book of Noah, likewise, give this name. Later, Epiphanius (fourth century) and Syncellus (ninth century) assign this name to the mountain of the Ark. Sayce suggests that the lu may come from another ancient name of the Urartian region, which when combined with baris yields lubar (Sayce 1882: 389). Steiner believes that since some of the documents noted above were in Aramaic, the etymology of the word should be sought there. He notes that there is an Elephantine document of the fifth century BC where the word lubar is descriptive of a piece of wood used to repair a boat. He also notes the relationship of lubar to labiru in Akkadian, probably a cognate word used to describe wood. While there is some uncertainty, lubar seems more likely to point to the southern region than to Mt. Ararat (Steiner 1991: 248). Cassuto is also of the opinion that Mount Lubar is possibly identical to the Baris of Nicholas (Cassuto, 1965, 105).


His writings date from the late first century AD. Josephus was a man of Jewish birth, but was loyal to the Roman Empire. He was a man of great intellect and a contemporary of the Apostle Paul. As an official historian of the Jews for the Roman Empire, he had access to all the archives and libraries of the day. He mentions the remains of Noah’s Ark, and where it landed, on several occasions. Then the ark settled on a mountain-top in Armenia...Noah, thus learning that the earth was delivered from the flood, waited yet seven days, and then let the animals out of the ark, went forth himself with his family, sacrificed to God and feasted with his household. The Armenians call that spot the Landing-place, for it was there that the ark came safe to land, and they show the relics of it to this day (Antiquities I: 90–92: LCL 4: 43, 45). It is interesting that Josephus says the remains of the Ark existed in his day, though he himself was not an eyewitness of them. Also, his mention of an unknown Armenian source is intriguing, even the fact that he calls them Armenians. They were first called Armenians by the Greek historian Hecataeus (from Miletus), who wrote of the Armenoi in the sixth century BC.21 Josephus, who also undoubtedly used the Septuagint (the Greek version of the OT, translated about 200 BC), knew that it substituted “Armenia” for “Ararat” where it occurs in the Hebrew original in Is 37:38. At the time Josephus wrote, near the end of the first century AD, the Armenians were officially still a pagan nation. However, there is a tradition that some Armenians had been converted by this time through the missionary efforts of the apostles Bartholomew and Thaddeus (Lynch 1990: 276–77). The big question is, was Josephus quoting Christian Armenians at this early date, or were these pagan Armenians of which he spoke? The answer could be significant if the Armenians had this tradition before they officially converted to Christianity as a nation in 301. Concerning the Armenian name for the landing place, William Whiston, in his translation of Josephus, has the following footnote:

This Apobaterion, or Place of Descent, is the proper rendering of the Armenian name of this very city. It is called in Ptolemy Naxuana, and by Moses Chorenensis, the Armenian historian, Idsheuan; but at the place itself Nachidsheuan, which signifies The first place of descent, and is a lasting monument of the preservation of Noah in the ark, upon the top of that mountain, at whose foot it was built, as the first city or town after the flood. See Antiq. B. XX. Ch. 2. sect. 3; and Moses Chorenensis, who also says elsewhere, that another town was related by tradition to have been called Seron, or, The Place of Dispersion, on account of the dispersion of Xisuthrus’s or Noah’s sons, from thence first made. Whether any remains of this ark be still preserved, as the people of the country suppose, I cannot certainly tell. Mons. Tournefort had, not very long since, a mind to see the place himself, but met with too great dangers and difficulties to venture through them (Whiston trans. 1998 reprint: 38). Whiston wants to identify the apobaterion, “the place of descent,” with the modern city of Nakhichevan situated about 65 mi (105 km) southeast of Ararat in Azerbaijan. Ark researchers in the past have used this footnote as a seemingly early (100 AD) evidence for Mt. Ararat being the site for the Ark’s landing place.

However, we must ask if this is the intent of Josephus, or actually the 19th century (1867) interpretation of Whiston? There seems to be linguistic and other evidence that the latter is the case. First of all, to identify the current Mt. Ararat as the landing place of the Ark, as per the footnote of Whiston, is contrary to Josephus clearly identifying it elsewhere as a mountain in Gordyene. Second, the early Armenian historians identifi ed the Gordyene (Gortuk) mountains as the landing place of Noah’s Ark at least up to the 10th century. Thirdly, according to the Armenian language scholar Heinrich Hübschmann, the city of Nakhichavan, which does mean “Place of First Descent” in Armenian, was not known by that name in antiquity. Rather, he says the present-day name evolved to “Nakhichavan” from “Naxcavan.” The prefi xNaxc was a name, and avan is Armenian for “town.” It was not known as Nakhichavan until the 10th century (Hübschmann 1901: V: 73).22 The second quote follows right after the fi rst, and is perhaps the most important reference, and is largely from the above-mentioned Chaldean priest, Berossus. We quote here the entire paragraph: This flood and the ark are mentioned by all who have written histories of the barbarians. Among these is Berossus the Chaldean, who in his description of the events of the fl ood writes somewhere as follows: ‘It is said, moreover, that a portion of the vessel still survives in Armenia on the mountain of the Cordyaeans, and that persons carry off pieces of the bitumen, which they use as talismans.’ These matters are mentioned by Hieronymus the Egyptian, author of the ancient history of Phoenicia, by Mnaseas and by many others. Nicolas of Damascus in his ninety-sixth book relates the story as follows: ‘There is above Minyas in Armenia a great mountain called Baris, where, as the story goes, many refugees found safety at the time of the flood, and one man transported upon an ark, grounded upon the summit; and relics of the timber were for long preserved; this might well be the same man of whom Moses the Jewish legislator, wrote’ (Antiquities I: 93–95; LCL 4: 45, 47).

Again, note that Josephus is not an eyewitness, rather he is quoting all the ancient authorities he had access to, most of which are no longer extant, and indeed are known only from his quotations of them.23 It is impressive to us that Josephus seems to indicate there is a consensus among the historians of his day, not only about the remains of the Ark still existing, but also concerning the location. Josephus, in order to more specifi cally locate the Ark’s remains, quotes the work of Nicholas of Damascus, friend and biographer of Herod the Great and the Roman Emperor Augustus. Nicholas claimed that he put great labor into his historical studies and apparently had access to many resources. It is possible he was one of Josephus’ main sources. His story of the Flood, however, does deviate from the Biblical account in that he has some surviving the Flood outside the Ark. His location for the fi nal resting place of the Ark seems to be in harmony with the Gordyene, i.e., the Cudi site. He claims the Ark landed above Minyas on a great mountain in Armenia. According to ancient geographers, Minyas (same as Mannea, or Minni) was a country slightly below and to the east of Armenia, below present day Lake Urmia. Louis Levine says the land of Mannea…extended from Parsua in the south to Urartu in the north, and that it bordered Zamua and Assyria in the west. The eastern extent of the Mannea is indeterminable. In terms of the modern map, Mannea extended from the shores of Lake Urmia in the north to the Lake Zeribar region in the south, and the chaine magistrale of the Zagros probably acted as its western frontier (Levine 1973: 116). The name Nicholas gives this mountain, Baris, however, is a mystery. According to Lloyd Bailey, the Greek word baris means “height” or “tower,” and even “boat” (Bailey 1989: 216)! Others identify Baris with Lubar, as mentioned earlier.

The third reference to the remains of the Ark is found in Antiquities 20: 24, 25: Monobazus, being now old and seeing that he had not long to live, desired to lay eyes on his son before he died. He therefore sent for him, gave him the warmest of welcomes and presented him with a district called Carron. The land there has excellent soil for the production of amomum in the greatest of abundance; It also possesses the remains of the ark in which report has it that Noah was saved from the fl ood—remains which to this day are shown to those who are curious to see them (LCL 10: 15). The context of this incidental citation of the Ark’s remains has to do with a certain royal family in the Kingdom of Adiabene, of which the King and Queen were converts to Judaism. The capital of this kingdom was at Arbela (modern-day Erbil in Iraq). In the immediate context of the above citation, Monobazus, the man who converted, gives his son Izates the land of Carron. The clues given as to the location of the Ark’s remains in this passage are not unequivocal. The remains are said to be somewhere in a country called Carron, which must be found in the greater country of Adiabene. Why? Because the king could not have given what was not his, Carron must be found within the kingdom of Adiabene. It is fairly certain that Adiabene is bounded by the Tigris on the west and the Upper (north) and Lower (south) Zab Rivers. Today this would be largely northeastern Iraq but would include the Cudi Mountain range. The land of Carron presents some diffi culties. It is mentioned only by Josephus. There does seem to be some doubt about the text here since the Loeb edition emends the text to read “Gordyene.” Note how easy it would have been for someone reading a hand-written Hebrew text (assuming he was) to make a mistake: wdrq = kardou. Here is what the Greek word karrwn (Carron) would look like in Hebrew: wrrq.

Notice the subtle difference of the daleth and the resh. If Josephus did misread these two similar letters in the Hebrew alphabet, then he is not giving us a second location for the remains of Noah’s Ark. He may have associated Adiabene with Gordyene since they were next to each other. Bailey believes there is precedent for this (Bailey 1989: 66). Pliny, the Elder, a Roman author and contemporary of Josephus, places the city of Nisibis in Adiabene when it is actually located to the west of Gordyene (Pliny 6.16). It is interesting to note also that Hippolytus (second century AD) agrees. He says, “The relics of the Ark are...shown to this day in the mountains called Ararat, which are situated in the direction of the country of Adiabene.” This would be correct since he wrote from Rome (Hippolytus, second-third century: 149). A fourth reference in Josephus is found in Against Apion (1.20:130), where he reiterates his earlier reference to Berossus. He notes that This author, following the most ancient records, has, like Moses, described the fl ood and the destruction of mankind thereby, and told of the ark in which Noah, the founder of our race, was saved when it landed on the heights of the mountains of Armenia (LCL 1: 215). We find it interesting that in this passage Josephus believes he was quoting from “some ancient records,” and, that he corrects Berossus by changing the name of the hero from Xisuthrus to Noah. From the above references, there seem to be grounds for arguing that Josephus pinpoints the Gordyene site (Cudi Dagh) as the landing place of Noah’s Ark. While we cannot say this with absolute certainty, we feel we can conclude that nowhere does Josephus say anything defi nitive that might lead us to assume that present-day Mt. Ararat is in view. We also disagree with Bailey, who believes that Josephus gives three different locations for the Ark’s fi nal resting place (Bailey 1989: 66).

Benjamin of Tudela

Writing in the 12th century, he says he traveled two days to Jezireh Ben Omar, an island in the Tigris on the foot of Mt. Ararat...on which the ark of Noah rested. Omar Ben al-Khatab removed the Ark from the summit of the two mountains and made a mosque of it (Komroff ed. 1989: 284). The ruins of this city, Jezireh Ben Omar, are located at the foot of Cudi Dagh, now the modern Turkish city of Cizre. Here also is evidence that this mountain was also called Mt. Ararat. What he could mean by the “two mountains” is somewhat problematic. The Cudi Mountain range does have two higher peaks that are of similar altitude, though the reference still is uncertain.



A Chaldean priest of Bel and historian writing in the third century BC, Berossus shows the infl uence of a Hellenistic Mesopotamia. His major work, Babyloniaca,24 was published about 275–280 BC, but only survived insofar as it was quoted (mostly third-hand) by others—by Alexander Polyhistor, a fi rst century BC Greek historian and native of Miletus, and by Josephus at the end of the fi rst century AD, as already noted. He is also quoted by a few others as late as the ninth century AD (Syncellus). He wrote in Greek, but according to Komoroczy, he knew Akkadian. If he was priest of the Esagila, he also had to know some Sumerian. And in the Marduk temple of Babylon he could also study the texts in cuneiform writing (Komoroczy 1973: 127–128). Berossus’ account borrows heavily from the Babylonian version of the Flood account as one would expect. He notes that a portion of the ship which came to rest in Armenia still remains in the mountains of the Korduaians of Armenia, and some of the people, scraping off pieces of bitumen from the ship, bring them back and use them as talismans (Burstein 1978: 21). Some believe that Berossus was acquainted with both the Hebrew version, which puts the Ark in Armenia (Urartu), and a Babylonian text that puts the Ark in the Gordyaean Mountains. They conclude the reason he mentions both territories is that he is trying to reconcile the two accounts (Parrot 1953: 61). This may be true, but it is an argument from silence. The fact is, this location, Cudi Dagh, is both in the Gordyaean Mountains and within the borders of ancient Armenia (Urartu).25 It may be that Berossus is just trying to be precise! The very fact that he narrows the location to Armenia, in light of the Babylonian Flood story that locates the landing place on Mt. Nisir, is an intriguing thing to consider. To clarify the point, Berossus, who had the Babylonian account in front of him, knows that his Babylonian text says “on the mountain of Nisir the boat held fast” (Gilgamesh 1972: 111), but does not in his own account write that the Ark’s landing was on Nisir!26

Christian Sources

Theophilus of Antioch of Syria

He was the Bishop at Antioch, a city not too far removed from the Cudi site. He does not mention it by name, but notes that “the remains are to this day to be seen in the Arabian mountains” (ad Autolycum, lib. iii, c. 91). It is not likely that the great Bishop is referring to the mountains of Saudi Arabia. The Greek word arabia, in the strict sense of the term, means “desert” or “wilderness,” and during the early second century it often referred to the desert areas east of Syria (Arndt and Gingrich 1957: 103). Cudi Dagh is not directly east of Syria, but if you go east from the northernmost tip of Syria you would be right at Cudi Dagh. It is not a positive directive, but most certainly does not refer to Saudi Arabia or Mt. Ararat.

Julius Africanus

He lived in the fi rst half of the third century. He may have been born in Jerusalem. His major work was a history of the world in fi ve volumes, some of which survived in the writings of Eusebius, and later in Syncellus. In the section describing the deluge in the extant writings of Julius, he states: And Noe was 600 years old when the fl ood came on. And when the water abated, the ark settled on the mountains of Ararat, which we know [emphasis ours] to be in Parthia; but some say that they are at Celanenae of Phrygia, and I have seen both places (1994:6:131). Some are quick to say Africanus was mistaken, but in fact, the Parthian Empire lasted into the fi rst part of the third century and did extend eastward into the area of Cudi Dagh.


Bishop of Caesarea in the third century AD, he was the fi rst great historian of the church, and in his two-volume work Chronicle, he notes that a small part of the Ark still remains in the Gordian Mountains (Eusebius 1818 : 1: 36–37). This seems to be a clear reference to this southern mountain range.

The Peshitta

The Peshitta is a version of the entire Bible made for the Syrian Christians. Scholars are not sure exactly when it was translated, but it shows up for the fi rst time around the beginning of the fi fth century AD; however, Syriac versions of the Pentateuch may have been circulating as early as the middle of the fi rst century (Harrison 241: 1969). In Genesis 8:4 it reads “mountains of Quardu” for the resting place of Noah’s Ark. This version also shows a defi nite infl uence by the targums mentioned above.

Faustus of Byzantium

Faustus was a historian of the fourth century AD. Very little is known about him except that he was one of the early historians of Armenia, though he was of Greek origin. His original work is lost but has survived through translations. It is from Faustus that we fi rst hear the story of St. Jacob (Hagop) of Nisibis, the godly monk who asks God to see the Ark (Garsoian, Book III, Chap .XIV, 87: 1989). After repeatedly failing to climb the mountain, an angel rewards him with a piece of wood from the Ark. It is this story that is oft-quoted in succeeding centuries, and the location given for the event in these later sources is the Mt. Ararat of the north. However, please note, Faustus, the one who presumably originated the story, puts this event not on Mt. Ararat of the north, but in the canton of Gordukh in southern Armenia. The St. Jacob of the story was the Bishop of Nisibis (modern Nusaybin), a city which is only about 75 mi (120 km) from Cudi Dagh.27 Mt. Ararat, to the bishop, was a mountain far to the north. If Faustus had meant this mountain, he undoubtedly would have called it by its Armenian name of Massis, as he does elsewhere in his work (Garsoian, Book III, Chap. XX, 96: 1989). As noted earlier, Armenian historians are in agreement that the early Armenian traditions indicated the southern location as the landing place of the Ark (Thompson 1985: 81). From the 13th century, however, all Armenian sources support the northern location as the landing place of the Ark. Wouldn’t it be strange for the Syrian bishop to ignore what his own Syrian Bible told him was the landing place of Noah’s Ark? Also, St. Jacob’s own student, St. Ephraem, refers to the site of the landing as “the mountains of Qardu.” It is hard to believe that one of his intimates could be that confused! The natives of the area, even as late as the beginning of the 20th century, tell the story of St. Jacob the Bishop and similar traditions associated with Mt. Ararat, i.e. the city built by Noah and his grave, etc. (Bell 2002: 293).


The Bishop of Salamis, Epiphanius was born in Palestine and was a fierce opponent of heresy in the fourth century AD. On two occasions he mentions that the Ark landed “in the mountains of Ararat in the midst of Armenia and Gordyene on a mountain called Lubar” (Panarion I.i.4). In fact, he says the remains are still shown, and that if one looks diligently he can still fi nd the altar of Noah. He seems to be acquainted with the Jewish writings, notably the tradition of Jubilees (noted earlier), in that he puts the Ark specifi cally on a mountain called Lubar. What he adds here is a slight measure of exactness when he comments that it is in the “midst,” “middle,” or “between” Armenia and Gordyene.


He was known for his oratory and was the patriarch of Constantinople in the fourth century. While he does not get very specific, it is notable that he says you can still go there and view the remains. He writes in one of his sermons: Let us therefore ask them (the unbelieving): Have you heard of the Flood—of that universal destruction? That was not a threat, was it? Did it not really come to pass—was not this mighty work carried out? Do not the mountains of Armenia testify to it, where the Ark rested? And are not the remains of the Ark preserved there to this very day for our admonition? (Sermon, “On Perfect Charity, ” trans. John W. Montgomery, The Quest For Noahs Ark, p. 73.) Chrysostom seems to be saying, “If you don’t believe God will judge again, you can still go and see the evidence for his judgment in the past.”

Isidore of Seville

He was the Archbishop of Seville, Spain. He wrote in the sixth and seventh centuries, and was known as a very careful scholar of the Middle Ages. In his compilation of all knowledge (summa) he writes: “Ararat is a mountain in Armenia, where historians testify that the Ark came to rest after the Flood. So even to this day wood remains of it are to be seen there” (Lindsey 1911: 14, 8, 5).


Patriarch of Alexandria in the ninth and 10th centuries and of Arabic origin, he had a background in medicine before he became a leader in the church. His most important work is Nazm al-Gewahir (Chaplet of Pearls), a history of the world from Adam to 938. He says, “The Ark rested on the mountains of Ararat, that is Jabal Judi near Mosul” (Eutychius, 41). Mosul is a city near ancient Ninevah about 81 mi (130 km) south of Cudi Dagh. This is a very precise geographical reference. He may have been infl uenced by the Quran, but he specifi cally adds the referent “Mosul.” As noted earlier, sometime around the 10th and 13th centuries, Christian sources begin to point more specifi cally to Mt. Ararat of the north as the landing place.

Muslim Sources

The Quran

The Quran, dating from the seventh century, says: “The Ark came to rest upon Jebel al Judi...” (Houd 11:44). The modern Muslim Encyclopedia is familiar with the early traditions that the Ark came to rest on Cudi Dagh. However, the writer of the article under Jebel Judi believes Mohammed was referring to the Judi Mountains in Saudi Arabia. This is not certain. Mohammed was very familiar with Christian and Jewish traditions, not to mention the fact that he may well have traveled to this area during his days as a merchant. In the English translation of the Quran made by George Sale in 1734, a footnote concerning the landing place of the Ark states that the Quran is following an ancient tradition (Sale 1734: 195, 496; Weil 1846: 54). At least the following Muslim sources seem to agree.


A 10th century Muslim scholar and native of Baghdad, he was known for his travels. “...[T]he ark stood on the mount el-Judi. El-Judi is a mountain in the country Masur, and extends to Jezirah Ibn ‘Omar which belongs to the territory of el-Mausil. The mountain is eight farasangs [about 30 mi (48 km) - ed.]28 from the Tigris. The place where the ship stopped, which is on the top of this mountain, is still seen” (Young 32). This puts one right on Cudi Dagh! Remains were still seen in the 10th century, and notice his precision about the location.

Ibn Haukal

He was also a 10th century native of Baghdad, and an early Muslim geographer. He places Cudi near the town of Nesbin (modern Nusaybin) and mentions that Noah built a village at the foot of the mountain. As earlier noted, Nusaybin is about 75 mi (120 km) west of the site.

Ibn al-Amid or al-Macin

In his 13th century history of the Saracens, he informs us that the Byzantine emperor, Heraclius, climbed Mount Judi to see the site in the seventh century after he conquered the Persians. He does not mention whether or not he was giving an eyewitness account (Erpenius 1625).

Zakariya ibn Muhammad al Qazvini

He was a Muslim geographer of the 13th century from modern Qazvin, Iran. He was not a traveler, but compiled his two major works from the writings of others. He reports that wood from the Ark was still seen on Cudi Dagh as late as the Abbasid period (eighth and ninth centuries AD) (Hamd-Allah Mustawfi , 1340, trans. by G. Le Strange, 1919, 184). He reports that wood was removed and used to construct a monastery (others say a “mosque”). The ancient references cited above—pagan, Jewish, Christian and Islamic—seem to clearly point to a long and old tradition that the Ark of Noah landed in a mountain range north of Assyria, a site that was both within the ancient region and kingdom of Urartu, as noted in Gn 8:4, and within the land of Armenia and Kurdistan. While it may not be conclusive in itself, it certainly is more compelling than the rather late and questionable evidence in support of present-day Mt. Ararat. Along with these ancient voices are numerous historians and archaeologists who achieved some authority for the quality of their work. As an example, Claudius James Rich, a scholar and traveler who visited the area early in the 19th century, wrote in a footnote: The Mahometans universally maintain that it was on Mount Judi the ark fi rst rested, and that it is Ararat, and not the mountain to which that name is given in Armenia. Don Calmet, Storia del Nuovo Testamento, p. 275, says, “Monobazes, King of Adiabene, gave his younger son Izates the government of Keron or Kairoun, a country where they showed the remains of the ark.” Calmet supposes from this that the country must have been near Mount Ararat in Armenia: —he is not aware of this tradition, which places the ark on Mount Judi, or Cardoo, which is evidently the Keron here mentioned. Hussein Aga maintained to me that he has with his own eyes seen the remains of Noah’s Ark. He went to a Christian village, whence he ascended by a steep road of an hour to the summit, on which he saw the remains of a very large vessel of wood almost entirely rotted, with nails of a foot long still remaining. In the third volume of Assemanni, p. 214, occurs the following expression: “There is a monastery on the summit of Mount Cardu, or Ararat. St. Epiphanius attests that, in his time, remains of the ark still existed, and speaks of relics of Noah’s Ark being found in ‘Cardiaerum Regiones’” (Rich 1836: 2: 123–124 footnote). Please note that Rich cites an eyewitness who saw remains as late as the 19th century. Israel Joseph Benjamin was a Jewish scholar and traveler who adopted the name “Benjamin the Second” after the famous Jewish traveler, Benjamin of Tudela, who lived in the 12th century AD. He traveled throughout the Ottoman Empire looking for Jewish communities.

 While visiting Kurdistan in the 19th century, he wrote: Six hours’ journey from the town rises the summit of a great mountain, which joins the chain of mountains of Kurdistan. The Jews believe that this is Ararat, and that here the Ark of Noah rested after the Deluge. If this really be true the place is very remarkable for its ancient associations. We find in the Bible the word Ararat, which the Targum Onkelos translates by Touri Kardu (mountain of Kurdistan); from which the country received its name. The mountain is very steep, almost perpendicular, and it takes six hours to reach the summit from the bottom. Wonderful things are here related of the Deluge. One of the Kurdish tribes annually towards the end of June, ascends the mountain, and spends there the whole day in devotional exercises, they use on the occasion large lighted torches. They believe themselves descended from the royal house of Sennacherib; and retain the tradition that King Sennacherib himself had divine service performed in memory of the Ark. On descending the mountain they bring with them some remains of the Ark, which according to their assertion, is still deeply buried in the earth. The little pieces received are in the form of planks; some whitish grey; some black and pierced with holes. It is not possible for me to give a more accurate account of this Kurdish ceremony; for it did not take place during my stay; and I can only repeat what I heard in answer to my questions. At the base of the mountain stand four stone pillars, which, according to the people residing here, formerly belonged to an ancient altar. This altar is believed to be that which Noah built on coming out of the Ark. They likewise assert that his remains are buried in this vicinity; they do not however specify the exact spot. I myself obtained several fragments of the Ark which appeared to be covered with a kind of substance resembling tar; but of these, as well as of many other things, I was robbed between Bagdad and Constantinople...(Benjamin 1863: 93–94). Benjamin himself was given a piece of the ruins from the site, which he said had the appearance of tar on it. W.A. Wigram, author of numerous histories of the area around Cudi Dagh and the Assyrian Church, wrote in 1914: Still, of all survivals from early ages in this land, whether monumental, superstitious, or religious, none is more remarkable than the “Sacrifi ce of Noah.” It must be understood that no people here, save the Armenians, look on the great cone which we call Ararat, but which is locally known as Aghri Dagh, as the spot where the ark rested. The biblical term is “the mountains of Ararat” or Urartu, and the term includes the whole of the Hakkiari range. A relatively insignifi cant ridge, known as Judi Dagh, is regarded as the authentic spot by all the folk in this land; and it must be owned that the identification has something to say for itself. It is one of the first ranges that rise over the level of the great plain; and if all Mesopotamia (which to its inhabitants was the world) were submerged by some great cataclysm, it is just the spot where a drifting vessel might strand. Whatever the facts, the tradition goes back to the year AD 300 at least. That date is, of course, a thing of yester day in this country; but the tale was of unknown antiquity then, and is firmly rooted in the social consciousness now. In consequence, Noah’s sacrifi ce is still commemorated year by year on the place where tradition says the ark rested—a ziaret which is not the actual summit of the mountain but a spot on its ridge. On that day (which, strange to say, is the fi rst day of Ilul, or September 14 of our calendar, and not May 27 mentioned in the account in Genesis) all faiths and all nations come together, letting all feuds sleep on that occasion, to commemorate an event which is older than any of their divisions. Christians of all nations and confessions, Mussulmans of both Shiah and Sunni type, Sabaeans, Jews, and even the furtive timid Yezidis are there, each group bringing a sheep or kid for sacrifi ce; and for one day there is a “truce of God” even in turbulent Kurdistan, and the smoke of a hundred offerings goes up once more on the ancient altar. Lower down on the hillside, and hard by the Nestorian village of Hasana, men still point out Noah’s tomb and Noah’s vineyard, though this last, strange to say, produces no wine now. The grapes from it are used exclusively for nipukhta or grape treacle, possibly in memory of the disaster that once befell the Patriarch (Wigram 1914: 335–36). And fi nally, Sir Henry Rawlinson asserts his opinion after a lecture given by James Bryce to the Royal

Geographical Society of London. It was at this lecture that Bryce relates the story of his ascent to the summit of Mt. Ararat in 1876, and his subsequent discovery of a piece of wood. In this lecture, Bryce had made the case that Mt. Ararat was the Biblical Ararat and the landing place of Noah’s Ark. Rawlinson, great scholar that he was, disagrees. Whoever kept the minutes of the meeting summarized his remarks: The mountain in question [Agri Dagh], however, had nothing whatever to do with biblical Ararat. No one who had really gone into the question could doubt that the popular notion was a fallacy. The mountain had never been called Ararat in the country from the remotest times to the present day. The name Aghri- Dagh, and Ararat did not apply to that part of Armenia at all. The history of those countries from the earliest antiquity, was now, owing to the decipherment of the cuneiform inscriptions, almost as well known as that of Greece or Rome. There were contemporary annals of Assyria, dating two thousand years before Christ, in all of which Ararat was as often spoken of and marked geographically as was Ninevah or Babylon. It was the name of a province which might be called Southern Armenia. It never extended further north than Lake Van, but included what was now called Persian Kurdistan, being the country east of Ninevah, and between the valley of the Tigris and the Persian plateau. In the Chaldean legend of the Flood, made known by the late Mr. George Smith, the Ark was made to rest upon Mount Nizer, which was explained to be another name for the range of Judi. It was immediately east of the basin of the Tigris, in the very centre of the province called Ararat—so called, it must be observed, not in one or two solitary instances, but throughout Assyrian history; the name, moreover, having been taken up by the Greeks, and passed on the Armenians. Even in the geography of Moses of Chorene, the province of Ararat had nothing to do with the Northern Armenia. The mountain north-east of Mosul, which, at the present day, concentrated in itself all the biblical traditions referring to Ararat, was still called Jebel Judi, and was visited by thousands of pilgrims annually in search of relics of the Ark, who bore away with them amulets made of small portions of wood which they found at the top of the mountain, no doubt supplied periodically by the priests. The practice had been going on for centuries, and was mentioned over and over again in history. He had himself seen troops of pilgrims going to the mountain of Judi from all parts of the East (Bryce 1877–1878: 184–85). That Rawlinson knew his geography and his Assyrian history is well attested. While he himself had never seen the ruins, he was certainly acquainted with the tradition.


We are well aware of the fact that most religious relics should be viewed with a great deal of skepticism. However, with regard to possible remains of the Ark of Noah, we would like to postulate that remains of the Ark would be a different kind of relic. Consider hypothetically: if such an Ark vessel once really existed, with the Scriptural dimensions of nearly 500 feet in length and being built of a durable wood and coated with a preservative such as tar, wouldn’t it make sense that it would have taken centuries, even millennia, to decay, and that everyone in the general vicinity would know where such a hulk would lie? We are not talking about a small relic that cannot be readily seen by the general populace. Over the centuries, indeed millennia, people would know about it; it would be a topic of conversation and people would want to see it. In other words, in the case of the Ark of Noah, it is easy to imagine that a piece of wood from the Ark would be highly venerated and a prized possession, resulting in its being gradually dismantled by the faithful. At some time during the fi rst millennium it seems the final large pieces of the Ark disappeared. As we noted earlier, one writer claimed that as Islam moved into the area, beams were removed to put into a mosque. Currently it is our assumption, as Bender discovered, that the only remains to be found would require some excavation. We believe the traditions regarding Cudi Dagh are reliable. Bender’s tests proved the remains are ancient, and to confi rm the thesis that they are remains of the Ark of the Biblical Flood, we believe core holes should be drilled, and with positive results, then latitudinal and longitudinal trenches should be dug using proper archaeological protocol. Hopefully, at some point, the Turkish government will grant the permits for such a project.

Reprinted from Bible and Spade, Fall 2006, with permission from ABR. Pictures and notes can be found at this website: http://www.biblearchaeology.org/

 The Case for Ararat by Richard Lanser

The accompanying article by Crouse and Franz is a fascinating compilation of historical data regarding proposed locations for Noah’s Ark. Taken together, those records present a reasonable case for giving credence to the Mt. Cudi site near Cizre, Turkey. However, not all agree it is a “compelling” one. In the interest of completeness, it is appropriate to mention some of the difficulties with the Mt. Cudi idea that do not appear to have yet been resolved, and which point to a continuing need to consider that the remains of the Ark are on Mt. Ararat in Turkey.

The Eyewitnesses

All agree that the most obvious point in favor of Mt. Ararat is the eyewitness testimonies. In contrast, the historical material we have from antiquity supporting the Mt. Cudi site is, at best, secondhand, and should not be given the same weight as the firsthand testimonies we have regarding Mt. Ararat. While admitting the force of the argument that many of the alleged Ararat eyewitness stories are open to serious doubt—whether due to the questionable reliability of the witnesses, their stories being plagued, as Crouse and Franz put it, by “lost documents, lost photos, and lost witnesses,” or the possibility they saw “phantom arks” from aircraft which were nothing but rock formations—it must be pointed out that, according to Scripture, it only takes two or three trustworthy witnesses to make a case (Dt 17:6, Dt 19:15, Mt 18:16, 2 Cor 13:1). In the testimonies of Armenian George Hagopian (c. 1904–1906) and American Sergeant Ed Davis (1943) this requirement is met.1 They did not know each other and were widely separated by time and cultural background, so the amazing similarities between their stories buttress their credibility. In rejecting many alleged eyewitnesses for various reasons, we must not be guilty of “throwing out the baby with the bathwater” by lumping the more solid stories with the dubious. These men made their sightings on the ground, hence are not open to the charge of merely seeing rocks from the air and misinterpreting them. Hagopian not only claimed to have seen the Ark twice in the early 1900s, but to even have climbed onto it! Davis likewise claimed to have been in such close proximity to the Ark that it is not plausible to say he only saw a huge rock structure.

There is no middle ground that allows anyone to claim these men simply made a mistake. We have only two options: either they saw the Ark, or they were lying. The problem with the latter option is that their reputations were checked out by Ark researchers concerned with the possibility of fraud, and they were found to be sober, apparently honest men who were not “out to make a buck.” In the case of Davis, he passed a lie detector test that closely scrutinized the details of his Ark sighting (Corbin 1999: 108–110). Notwithstanding this, some suppose that a few seeming inconsistencies that came out during multiple retellings of his story point to its fundamental unreliability. I disagree. With the passage of time or under stress, people remember or forget various minor details or emphasize them differently, without thereby changing their fundamental story. I believe this is the case with Ed Davis. Though we can nitpick at some of the details, his central story, which allowed him to pass the lie detector test, remained the rock-solid core that we cannot ignore. It is worth reviewing the Davis lie detector test in some detail. The following is a quote regarding the polygraph test administered to Ed Davis (Corbin 1999: 109): Subject was asked to recall in detail what his recollection of the incident was. His answer was as follows: While this subject was in the U.S. Army and assigned to engineering duties between Iran, Turkey and USSR he met a male later identified as Abas-Abas. Subject stated that Abas’ son was working for the government at the time of this meeting. As the subject related the story, Mr. Davis did a great favor for Abas and his tribe. As a result of this favor Abas was asked by Davis to tell him (Davis) about the Ark or structure that was located somewhere around Mt. Ararat. Davis was told that if the weather was right he (Abas) would take him to see this structure. Some time later Abas and seven (7) of his sons escorted Davis to the site of the structure. In trying to solicit the information from Mr. Davis the following questions were asked:

1. Are you lying when you state that you were taken to Mt. Ararat by Abas and his seven sons? 2. Are you lying when you state that you climbed Mt. Ararat on horseback and on foot? 3. Are you lying when you state that the object you saw was broken in half? 4. Are you lying when you state that the structure was exposed between 100 and 200 feet? 5. Are you lying when you state that you saw a large wooden structure high on Mount Ararat? 6. Are you lying when you state that no one ever told you about the Ark other than Abas and the Bible? Mr. Davis answered all of the above questions with NO. After careful analysis of all this subject’s Polygrams it is the opinion of the examiner that he answered without showing any stress to questions 1-5. Regarding question 6, the subject did show stress and answered that he has talked to a number of people about the Ark. He also stated that not one of the people that he has spoken to have ever seen or known the exact location of where the Ark is. My point in quoting the above passage is to make clear that there were six distinct questions asked during the polygraph, and fully half of them specifi cally mentioned Mt. Ararat. The only question Davis displayed any tension in answering was the last one. This is a patently insufficient reason for disregarding the entire testimony. Davis knew where he went and what he had seen and experienced, regardless of any apparent ambiguity that may have arisen as he retold his story at different times. George Hagopian likewise was found to be a reliable witness. Elfred Lee, a researcher who later also interviewed Davis and marveled at the many points of contact between the two accounts, personally checked out Hagopian’s story and found that obscure details about his childhood around Lake Van in Armenia held up, greatly enhancing the credibility of his admittedly incredible Ark tale (Corbin 1999: 69, 72). Lee also affi rmed that Hagopian, like Davis, took and passed a lie detector test (Corbin 1999:79). These two testimonies, at the very least, cannot be lumped with the less well-attested ones and rejected out of hand. They are important parts of the overall picture of the search for the Ark, and can be neither ignored nor easily explained away.

Hidden from the Air

If we do have some reliable eyewitnesses, then how do we deal with the valid observation of Crouse and Franz, “no ‘undeniable evidence’ for the Ark on Ararat has been turned up over the past 50 years of air searches?” Based on geographic clues in their testimonies, it appears that if the Ark is on Mt. Ararat, it is in a high, inaccessible location on the north side above the Ahora Gorge, most likely nestled in a small valley within the “saddle” between the two peaks of Greater Ararat and generally blanketed in snow and ice.2 Hagopian’s first sighting came after four years of drought conditions in the Ararat region (Corbin 1999: 67, 79), a fact attested to by climate records (Corbin 1999: 372; Shockey 1986: 33–34). Moreover, Hagopian indicated it was only exposed every 20 years or so (Corbin 1999: 75, 370). Further, even granting adequate melt back, the Ark’s visibility from the air is dependent on such conditions as the angle of the sun and cloud cover; a little shadow or cloudiness goes a long way toward obscuring things when air searches are attempted. All of these are reasonable explanations for the lack of success in spotting the Ark on Ararat from the air during the past 50 years.

The Big Switch

The principle reason historians tend to reject Mt. Ararat as the Mountain of the Ark lies in the silence of the early historical records. As Crouse and Franz have abundantly documented, in contrast to the early records apparently supporting Mt. Cudi as the Ark site, there appear to be no extant writings prior to Philostorgius (fi fth century AD) clearly tying Mt. Ararat to the Ark. Unambiguous references to Ararat remain hard to come by until about the 13th century, when Mt. Cudi appears to basically have been supplanted by Mt. Ararat in the tradition. The big question to ask is, why did this transfer take place at all? If the Ark was ever on Mt. Cudi, what prompted the switch to Ararat? In the absence of more complete ancient records there are no easy answers, but certain facts can be adduced to explain such a change. The fi rst is that Mt. Ararat is a volcanic peak. Satellite photos show the magma fl ows that form its base very clearly, and blocks of volcanic basalt are all over its slopes. Armenian scholar Robert Bedrosian (1993) notes that during the third through fi rst millennia BC, Mt. Ararat was “among the more prominent volcanoes spewing molten lava and rocks into the night sky.” This means it is likely in the extreme that had the Ark landed there, it would rather quickly have been covered in volcanic ash. If we make the entirely reasonable assumption that Noah and his family would not long have stayed in the vicinity of an active volcano but would have moved off to friendlier environs, we are looking, at a very early point in human history, at the Ark being both entirely hidden from sight by snow and ice and/or volcanic ash, and in an area away from where people would want to live. The story of the Ark and its location would logically have quickly entered the realm of legend, because none would have been able to simply climb the peak and check it out. The power of the legend, however, would have sufficed to ensure its survival, with the story being passed down from one generation to another while the location eventually morphed in the retelling to another site. This observation also accounts for the phenomenon of multiple Mt. Cudis (Geissler n.d.)—the one near Cizre that Dr. Bender investigated, another near Sanli Urfa, yet a third in Arabia, one of the peaks of Ararat itself (Cummings 1973: 167–79), and even the Durupinar site popularized by RonWyatt.

An additional factor to consider is the post-Flood climate. Meteorologist Michael Oard constructed an eminently logical case for the Ice Age being tied to warmer oceans after the Flood, resulting in copious snowfalls in the more northern and southern latitudes, with associated rapid formation of glaciers and deep icepacks in the mountains (Oard 1990). Ararat today has a permanent snowline beginning at about 14,000 ft, and it makes sense that during the Ice Age the snowline would have been much lower. The Ark would thus have been hidden under deep snowdrifts as well as ash. It is therefore not surprising that there are no surviving writings from hoary antiquity tying the Ark to Mt. Ararat; by the time people developed the degree of civilization required to write lasting records about it, it was deeply buried, out of sight and out of mind. These two considerations allow us to make a reasonable conjecture as to how the Ark landing tradition became attached to Mt. Cudi. With the establishment of civilization in Shinar— the same civilization, we note, that gave us the Gilgamesh Epic, a corrupted version of the Flood story—it is no real stretch to say that just as Gilgamesh replaced Noah in the Sumerian version, so Mt. Cudi replaced the inaccessible Mt. Ararat as the site of the Ark. Mt. Cudi is, after all, directly north of the plain of Shinar, and would have provided a convenient nearby locale to connect with the tradition. The flip side of the above scenario is that it can also explain why Mt. Ararat had the power to supplant the Mt. Cudi tradition around the 13th century, after the former had already had hundreds of years to take root: it was based on demonstrable fact, not mere tradition. Facts trump “just-so” stories anytime! Just a few visits to the Real Thing, confirmed by others who could check it out for themselves, would quickly have solidified the claims of the relative “newcomer” to being the genuine location.

Geological Considerations

One point Crouse and Franz make in rejecting Mt. Ararat as the location of the Ark is the alleged lack of water-borne sedimentary rock, indicating a post-Flood origin of the volcano. If Ararat did not exist during the Flood, it follows that it could not have provided an anchorage for the Ark. However, the old saw, “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence,” needs to be considered here. If Ararat existed before the Flood, it must be recognized that its steep-sloped form, subjected to erosion by rainstorms and melting snow over the centuries, cannot be expected to have retained sedimentary deposits on its slopes to the same degree as less inclined areas. (Think of the catastrophic mudslides in Honduras and Nicaragua due to Hurricane Mitch in 1998.) Unconsolidated sediments would be expected to wash off the slopes in heavy rains; mudslides would have taken place. The immediate area around Mt. Ararat is not a friendly one for the development of deep-rooted grasses, brush and protective trees that would aid in retaining soil. And if one further considers that there were magma flows at various times—particularly evident when one looks at satellite pictures of Mt. Ararat—there is also the distinct possibility that sedimentary rock layers could have been buried under volcanic material. Another option is that Mt. Ararat initially arose during the Flood itself, and did not exist during the antediluvian age. In a letter published in TJ, Max Hunter pointed out that If Mount Ararat was erected as a submarine stratovolcano then it would be highly unlikely that conditions on the sloping sides of the active volcano would be conducive to the preservation of ‘diluvium’ (‘coarse superficial accumulations...glacial and fluvio-glacial deposits of the Ice Age’) or fossils (Hunter 2003: 62).  Hunter further noted that “basaltic lavas, the most common lithology in the Ararat area, commonly occur in sub-aqueous environments...” and went on to list several specific rock types that demonstrate why the geology around Mount Ararat fits well with a submarine origin of the volcano. Although it is clear that further research needs to be done, at least one credentialed geologist, Dr. Clifford Burdick, concluded that there were sufficient indications to conclude that Ararat had been under water at some point in its history (Burdick 1967).3

He made observations as a consulting geologist on exploratory expeditions to Mount Ararat in 1966 and 1969, and reported that every sample of volcanic rock he examined on the mountain evidenced high glass content, indicating that Mt. Ararat was submerged in water at least up to the 14,000-foot level. He also claimed to have found deposits of sedimentary rocks at 13,500 ft, and evidence of water-formed “pillow lava” at around 14,000 ft. The last observation is somewhat controversial because magma released under ice and snow will have the same characteristics as that extruded underwater, so this should not be given undue weight. However, Burdick also found cube-shaped salt clusters “as large as grapefruit” near 7,000 ft, which he attributed to “dense, lingering ocean waters,” as well as what are called “conglomerate cones” near 13,000 ft, formed under pressure and a greater than normal degree of water agitation. The waters must also have remained for a long enough time for these structures to cool and fuse, consistent with the mountain having been submerged for a significant amount of time. For the above reasons we cannot quickly dismiss Mt. Ararat on the basis that it lacks evidence of sedimentary rocks. Whilen  acknowledging the need for further fieldwork, there appear to be a sufficient variety of clues to say with reasonable confidence that Mt. Ararat could indeed have been submerged during the time of the Flood

Nearby Place Names and Traditions

A further reason for considering Mt. Ararat as the true Ark landing site is the meanings attached to place names in the immediate vicinity. For example, the city of Nakhichevan lies just a short distance away in the foothills of Ararat as one follows the Araxes River eastward. There are varying interpretations of what the name means. Some say it means, in the Armenian language, “the place of fi rst descent,” and connects to Noah as the place where he fi rst went after descending from the Ark on Ararat’s slopes (Kojian 2006); I personally fi nd this interpretation makes the most sense. Others say the name comes from Nukkhtchikhan, meaning “colony of Noah,” and a third opinion is that it refers to the Ark itself “descending” in the water and glancing off the sub merged summit of Nakhichevan’s Ilan-dag (“Snake Mountain”) prior to fi nally coming to rest atop Turkey’s Mt. Ararat (Azerbaijan24.com, n.d.). Regardless of the precise meaning, this city has a clear and ancient tradition connecting it to Noah, and when one considers that a reputed Tomb of Noah existed there as recently as the 19th century, it presents a tantalizing hint about which direction Noah may have taken after leaving the Ark. Other signifi cant locations include the original village of Arghuri (Ahora) at the foot of Ararat, the name of which means “where Noah planted the grapevine” (cf. Gn 9:20).4 Near Nakhichevan in neighboring Iran is Marand—the Marunda of Ptolemy (in Armenian = “the mother is there”)—where tradition has it that Noah’s wife died and her bones were buried under a mosque. Granted that similar sites are said to exist near Mt. Cudi, it would be very troublesome to consider Mt. Ararat as a candidate if they did not exist nearby. That they do gives reason to continue to seriously consider the Ararat option.

Dealing with “From the East”

Genesis 11:2 can be interpreted in multiple ways. In the KJV it reads, And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech. And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar; and they dwelt there. This seems to be the most straightforward translation, rendering the Hebrew word miqqedem as a combination of the Hebrew preposition min, “out of, away from,” with qedem, “front, east.” The ancient Greek Septuagint and Latin Vulgate translations opt for the “from the east” translation as well, increasing its credibility. Robert Cornuke adopts this translation likewise—but in his case, it seems to be an attempt to justify searching for the Ark on an Iranian mountain (Lanser 2006). Some would go so far as to say this verse indicates the Ark landed east of Shinar, but this is reading too much into the passage. It does not say that Noah and his family disembarked there and stayed put for a few hundred years. All we can safely draw from it is that the descendents of Noah, at some point in time, from wherever they may have gone in their journeying earlier, at length moved from the east, from what today is Iran, into Mesopotamia. There are other ways of translating miqqedem. The NIV chooses to render it as “eastward,” making the migration into Shinar from the west. The NEB chooses an indefi nite yet still grammatically possible alternative, “in the east,” painting a picture of people moving to and fro, with no defi nite direction, prior to entering Shinar (although how such directionless movement can be said to be “journeying” anywhere—to take a journey seems to demand a destination—is unclear). Given that Mt. Cudi is directly north of the Mesopotamian plain and presents a location incompatible with either a westward or eastward migration, those holding to Mt. Cudi as the Mountain of the Ark appear to be forced to adopt the NEB’s indefi nite directional translation of miqqedem, leaving them with little flexibility to accept the longstanding Septuagint, Vulgate and KJV translation, “from the east.”

The Bender Discovery

It remains to consider what to make of the discovery by Dr. Friedrich Bender of decayed wood and bitumen on Mt. Cudi. (See his article in this issue). Despite the erroneous dating assumption expressed in Bender’s article, this is a very significant find if it holds up and carries with it the potential to discredit Mt. Ararat as the real Ark site, despite all that has been said above. However, we must remember that Bender’s research was very limited, and further work such as core drilling must be done to bolster the case enough to overcome all of the factors that still favor Mt. Ararat. It is also not wise to place too much stock in the alleged 6500-year radiocarbon age of the wood remains found by Bender. The method was invented by Willard Libby in 1947, only a short time before Bender put the technology to use, and its limitations were not yet fully appreciated. For some of the limits of radiocarbon as a dating method, the reader is referred to Brown 2006.

There are two alternative explanations I see to account for Bender’s findings apart from supposing it to be evidence of the Ark’s landing place. One is that since Mt. Cudi, at around 7000 ft in elevation, is not a very high mountain, there could have been ordinary structures built upon it in the past. Moreover, Bender’s wood remains were found only 750 m (2460 ft) above the rubble terraces of the plain, making it diffi cult to reconcile this location with Gn 8:4–5, that it took three full month after the Ark rested before “the top of the mountain became visible” (NASB). The wood remains may thus not indicate the former presence of the Ark, but rather a shrine— with its proximity to the Mesopotamian plain, Mt. Cudi could have been a “high place” of Nimrod/Semiramis cult worship—or some other structure, such as a defensive outpost. Since bitumen is common around Mesopotamia, its presence does not require us to imagine that it was necessarily derived from the Ark; it could have been used simply to waterproof walls or a roof. All things considered, we do not yet know enough to evaluate the signifi cance of the Bender find.

In conclusion, while acknowledging the strength for the historical case in favor of Mt. Cudi, we must also admit that there are many observations that it does not satisfactorily explain, and which are more easily reconciled with Mt. Ararat in Turkey being the Mountain of the Ark.

Reprinted from Bible and Spade with permission from ABR. To see the notes and pictures go to this website: http://www.biblearchaeology.org/

Examining Tell el-Hamman as Sodom by Dr. David Tee

I. Introduction

Much has been written on Sodom and Gomorrah over the years and there still, in spite of thorough investigations by Dr. Wood and others, seems to be some controversy over the location of the cities of the plain.  This controversy is fueled by the claim by Dr. S. Collins that he has found Sodom north-east of the Dead Sea. 

By the way, I got a chance to present my case ‘live and on site’ to quite a few visiting archaeological dignitaries during the season. In those instances, Tall el-Hamman, itself did most of the talking, almost defying anyone to deny her pre-eminence as the dominant bronze Age city in the region (as Sodom was the dominant Bronze Age city on the eastern Jordan disk in Genesis). After an on-site tour of Tall el-Hamman with Genesis 13: 1-12 firmly in mind, the general response…was always something like, ’Well it makes perfect sense, doesn’t it? To which I usually respond, ‘Welcome to Sodom’.1

There are a couple problems with the statements made in that quote but they will be addressed at a later time, what is important to note is that Dr. Collins has basically thrown any objectivity aside and has approached his dig with a bias that influences everything he does.  This is underscored by the 4 reports he has posted on the official website for the excavation of Tell el-Hamman and over at his University’s website.2

There is nothing mentioned in those reports that would indicate any real archaeological objectivity is in play as the focus is clearly on supporting the contentions made by Dr. Collins as he has stated he has purposefully sought out remains of cities that would meet his idea of what and where Sodom should be.3 When people do that, we know that they always find what they are looking for, whether it is actually there or not.

The purpose of this paper is to examine the claim made by Dr. Collins and his supporters that the northern location for Sodom is actually Tell el-Hamman.  This will be accomplished by first looking at the evidence he provides and applying some of his own criteria to his own work.  These criteria are as follows:

1. If anyone will bother to put his/her biases (biblical; anti-biblical; conservative; liberal; personal) aside, and approach the subject from a strictly empirical direction, you'll quickly see that my ideas about Tall el-Hamman being a (the) most-likely candidate for biblical Sodom are thoroughly reasonable,

2. based entirely on logic arising from actual evidence (textual, geographical, chronological, archaeological).

3. The principle (and only) primary historical text regarding the location of Sodom is Genesis, mainly 13:1-12 (with chapters 10 and 14 conforming).4

This paper will also look at the many problems that come with this claim and his criteria, as what is already obvious is that Dr. Collins is placing restrictions upon the location that should not be there. He does not own the city nor the biblical narrative thus this imposing of his own criteria is presumptuous at best.

What this paper will not do is become embroiled in the discussion concerning the time restraints placed upon historical sites via the Age system so readily used by archaeologists to help support their theories. The Age system is a fallible, corrupt human construct and it is unwise to place the infallible word of God under its rule.

Since God did not use the 3 Age System, or its extensions, it is highly arrogant to say that events of the past fit one era and not another, solely based upon the subjective boundaries of the system employed. It is well known that different archaeologists use different dates to define the different ages and that not all archaeologists use the same categories to divide the historical events in question.

All dating systems are fallible and are more prone to error because the modern archaeologist is looking back over 4,000 years of history made vulnerable to the many different destructive forces that left their stamp on the area.  Thus to rest one’s argument upon such a corrupt system is not smart, though references to these periods will be used, they are not germane to the article as they are just too easily manipulated to fit the theory.

Basically what will be used are Dr. Collins’ own words and the words of his supporters, brought to us via articles and discussions as they are the most revealing of his position:

Collins believes that the extensive and well fortified Middle Bronze Age city (c.2000-1550 B.C.) represents the Sodom known to Abraham and Lot…5


Of course, for quite awhile now I have put forth the idea that Tall el-Hamman is likely the site of biblical Sodom. That it is in the right place, according to Biblical geography, is impossible to question on the basis of even a cursory textual analysis of Gen. 13:1-12 but what about the factors of ‘right time’ and ‘right stuff’ necessary to reasonably nail down such an identification? Well, after TeHEP Season One about a year ago, we stated that the archaeology of the site was leaning quite suggestively in the direction of a pretty straight-forward biblical chronology for Sodom.6

We shall see if Dr. Collins’ use of the buzz words were correct and that the evidence holds up to his claim.  Or if all he has said is pure bias talking because it is using more wishful thinking and not archaeological analysis that motivates his work.  The third movie in the Indian Jones series stated that ‘archaeology is about fact not truth’7 but if we do not have the truth then we do not have anything and everyone has wasted all their time.

This paper is about truth for that is what Jesus said we are to know and that the Holy Spirit will guide us to thus ‘fact’ needs to line up with ‘truth’ or it is of no value. We shall see if the claims and ‘evidence’ for Tell el-Hamman are fact or truth.




II. Their Evidence

In his 2008 report posted at both the official website for the Tell el-Hamman project and His University’s Dr. Collins had this to say:

As is now widely known, it was also realized coming into the excavation that Tall el-Hamman was a reasonable candidate for Biblical Sodom based on a detailed analysis of the relevant biblical materials regarding the chronology and location of the city. Extensive research along with data from three seasons of excavation is now leading many scholars to seriously consider this theory on its evidential merits.8

One must ask (and it has been asked often in many discussions with Dr. Collins and his supporters) what evidence? Discovering this evidence for the justification of Tell el-Hamman for being the Biblical Sodom has been a task worthy of some of the greatest private detectives in history. Dr. Collins and his troupe are not forthcoming very freely when approached to disclose what they have discovered at this site that supports their claim that this tell is actually Sodom.

What follows is a brief look at what evidence for the claim that can be gleaned from the many different sources in public publication. These pieces of evidence are in no particular order and will be offset by a comparison to the southern location’s evidence to keep perspective on the issue at hand.

1. Non-occupation: at Tell el-Hamman Dr. Collins says that the ‘evidence suggests that it was not occupied for over five centuries following its destruction.’9 Which means that Tell el-Hamman was re-populated at a later date. Whereas the southern location was permanently abandoned after a brief settlement after the destruction10

2. Fortification: Dr. Collins reports that Tel el-Hamman was a heavily fortified city11 but so was Bab edh-dhra12

3. Evidence of burning: In one article the author states almost in passing, that there ‘was some evidence of severe burning’.13 Yet not only was evidence for burning found for Bab edh-Drha but it was found to have burned from ‘the outside in.’14 (a side note, Dr. graves reports in one article that ‘..At Numeira (possible Gomorrah) a pit was dug which cut through a seven foot thick layer of dark ash and at Feifa, much the same evidence of destruction by fire could be found)

4. Mud brick structures: one huge mud brick structure has been found at Tell el-Hamman15 while many for Babe dh-Dhra were discovered.16

5. Pottery: Has been found at Tel el-Haman17 and at babe dh-Drha18.

So far no physical evidence has been found at Tell el-Hamman that sets it apart from the southern location candidate and nothing has been found to definitively state that Tell el-Hamman is Sodom. In checking the official website for the excavation project under the button titled ‘discoveries’ all the reader is treated to is the announcement, ‘coming soon’.19 This is it, after four years, now five, of hard work.  All Dr. Collins and company can produce are two words which are meant to induce hope that something has been discovered, but if one reads all the reports, as I have, this coming soon sign is false hope.

The architecture described by Dr. Collins in his article, The Architecture of Sodom, does not present anything that would place Tell el-Hamman as the leading candidate as all that is described is normal components for any city of Abraham’s time20

This sparse production of physical evidence is enough to doubt the claim made by Dr. Collins and his supporters as it seems like they are acting in desperation not from the ‘actual evidence’ Dr. Collins made as a criteria to challenge his claim. This lack leads us into the next section and the problems that come with the claim made.

III. The Problems with the Claim

In researching this paper many inconsistencies arose that have set the northern location theory under a cloud of suspicion and to prove this true we will follow Dr. Collins’ criteria of restricting the argument to the passages found in Genesis and a few found in other books.

1. Separation: Dr. Collins has stated Genesis 13 places the separation of the two men at Bethel and Ai, an area supposedly with a commanding view over the northern Jordan plain and so on.21 Yet the text does not say that, it says that he pitched his tent between Bethel and Ai but it does not specify the exact location where the two men stood when they made their decision and parted company.

It is clear that Dr. Collins knows little about ranching as one does not put his herds in the same spot nor do they place them in front of the house, especially if there is no pasture land available. Cattle and sheep require good grass to feed upon and good water to drink and before they ruin an area they have to be moved to new land. This is a continuous process so Abraham and Lot could be anywhere at this time when they decide to separate. The passage does not give a specific location for them.

2. Observation: Dr. Collins argues that the passage claims Lot saw only the northern ‘disk’ area north of the Dead Sea,22 yet again that is not so. The passage clearly states he saw all of the land not just a portion of it. It is interesting to note that Dr. Collins can, without being present, determine what they saw or declare the size of the land that was viewed.

The word ‘all’ means ‘all’ not a portion of it and this phrase is repeated in Chapter 19:28 which states: ‘Then he looked toward Sodom and Gomorrah, and toward all the land of the plain.’ Keil & Delitzsch in their commentary support this as they say ‘the entire plain was judged’’23

3. Status: Dr. Collins then comments that Sodom was ‘the only major B.A. urban center mentioned in the Bible located on the eastern Jordan disk and that Tall el-Hamman is the only major B.A. urban center on the eastern Jordan disk.’24

The problem for Dr. Collins and friends is that the Bible does not put Sodom on the eastern Jordan disk, in fact none of the passages cited by Dr. Collins and supporters do so. This location is assumed because of the generality of the text and because Dr. Collins desperately wants to have his theory proven true.

Another blow to this idea is that the Bible never states that Sodom was a major urban center. We do not know how large it was or how much of a role it played, except for its sin, in local and national affairs. To say it was the ‘dominate urban center’ would take a lot more physical evidence than has been unearthed and clear textual support from ancient documents  but to suggest that the ‘mere size of the tall’ is an indication of dominance25 is vastly misleading as Tell el-Hamman houses many cities not just one and they all contribute to the size.

This is a clear reading into the text what is not there as is the following:

The primary indicator here is the fact that Sodom was a fortified city. Not only did it have a city wall and gate, but it was also sizable enough to warrant a city administration replete with a system of judges. And it was cosmopolitan enough to allow a nomadic habiru herder/caravaner like Lot to integrate into its society and become a judge or city official.26

All of that is completely assumed as there is no textual or physical evidence to suggest such things were reality.

4. Destruction: Gary Byers writes in his article, Tell el-Hamman: A personal perspective that:

Either way, archaeological evidence does indicate at least two destructions of this city during the Iron Age- either by earthquake or enemy.27

This creates a very large problem for the northern location as though there were two destructions at Sodom; they took place in the time of Abraham and were 20 years apart approx.27, not 200 or more, approx... Every passage of scripture throughout the Bible referring to Sodom and Gomorrah only refer to the major destruction, save for Genesis 14 which records the first one. There is no more reference to destruction happening to Sodom after Abraham’s time. How could there be, it was utterly destroyed.

5. Historical Names:  Returning to Gary Byers article, he mentions that ancient Biblical names ‘can be seen reflected in the modern Arabic names, and since both were Biblical sites, both would be appropriate for the pilgrim’s map.’28. But why is he using two names that have nothing to do with Sodom and Gomorrah? If Tell el-Hamman were Sodom or even Gomorrah one would think that the modern Arabic names for the area would reflect the Biblical sites as stated by Gary Byers.

Yet there are modern Arabic names in use for ancient Sodom but unfortunately for Mr. Byers and Dr. Collins, they are in use at the south end of the Dead Sea:

The site of the present Dead Sea Works, a large operation for the extraction of Dead Sea minerals, is called "Sdom" (סדום) according to its traditional Arab name, Khirbet as-sudūm (see above Historicity). Nearby is unique Mount Sodom (הר סדום), in Arabic, consisting mainly of salt. In the Plain of Sdom (מישור סדום) to the south there are a few springs and two small agricultural villages.29

One would have to ask why the modern names are in use so far away from the actual Sodom, if that city was located in the northern end of the Dead Sea. It makes much more sense to use them where Sodom actually was, in the south.

6. Chronology: In one article, Dr. Collins attempts to deal with the problem of chronology and argues that Dr. Wood ‘assumes a long sojourn in Egypt because he needs to push the date of Abraham’s entrance into Canaan as far back as possible to preserve some hope of identifying Babe dh-Dhra and Numeria as Sodom and Gomorrah.’31

Unfortunately for Dr. Collins, his argument can be turned around and made against him. He needs a short sojourn to preserve Tell el-Hamman as Sodom. He states that Paul basically agrees with him:

Even the apostle Paul in Galatians 3:17 supports a short Egyptian sojourn by affirming that

from “the promises....spoken to Abraham” to the giving of the Mosaic Law, the total elapsed

time was 430 years—again, 215 years in Canaan (Abraham to Jacob) and 215 years in Egypt

(Jacob to Moses).32


Yet the passage in question suggests no such thing as it reads:


‘ What I mean is this: The law, introduced 430 years later, does not set aside the covenant previously established by God and thus do away with his promise.’ (Gal. 3:17).


There is no allusion to a short sojourn nor that the time frame refers to 215 of those years was spent in Canaan prior to Jacob’s movement south.


In fact, we read in Exodus 12: 40-1 that the 430 years refer to the exact amount of time the Israelites spent in the land of Egypt. The passage reads:


‘Now the length of time the Israelite people lived in Egypt was 430 years. At the end of the 430 ears to the very day, all the Lord’s divisions left Egypt.

That leaves no doubt that the sojourn was long and Dr. Wood is correct and not making a desperate attempt to preserve the identification of Babe dh-Dhra as Sodom. Dr. Collins also forgets or ignores that Exodus 19:1ff provides us with the exact time the law was given to the Israelites, it reads:

In the third month after the Israelites left Egypt- on the very day- they came to the desert of Sinai. After they set out from Rephidim, they entered the Desert of Sinai and Israel camped there in the desert in front of the mountain.

The law was given 3 months after the Israelites left Egypt and we know it was given at Sinai, long before they Israelites wandered in the desert for 40 years. Chronology does not support Dr. Collins’ theory and he resorts to rewriting scripture, as evidenced by his adding in words to the Genesis references to the ‘plain’ and other places which allows him to say that Tell el-Hamman fits the Biblical description. It is clear that Dr. Collins manipulates much to show biblical support for his theory when it has none.

7. Arguing from Silence: In one of his papers, Dr. Collins resorts to arguing from silence to build his case. I quote in part:

The Bible does not say Sodom and Gomorrah were located anywhere near the southern end of the Dead Sea... The biblical record does not say all evidence of their existence was wiped from the face of the earth so that the same locale would never be inhabited again…Third, the biblical text does say the pervasive fire was so comprehensive over the target area

that no human beings in the region could have survived the blast. The Bible does not say the fire was so hot that it entirely consumed bodies, buildings, and personal belongings…Fourth, the Bible does say the new growth (such as sprouts, shoots, and buds) of the vegetation in the region was burned. The biblical account does not say the entire floral assemblage of the area was obliterated so that it could not at least recover somewhat through the course of time… Fifth, the biblical story does say that all the inhabitants of the Cities of the Plain were killed…The Bible does not say the area became permanently uninhabitable33


Yet the Biblical passage does say all of that as it reads:


Then the Lord rained brimstone and fire on Sodom and Gomorrah from the Lord out of the heavens. So he overthrew those cities, all the plain, all the inhabitants of the cities and what grew upon the ground. Gen. 19:24, 25)


What is clear is Dr. Collins has a problem with the word ‘all’ and wants to find some excuse to justify his locating Sodom in the far north when nothing supports that idea. To carry on with his logic, the Bible does not say that Sodom was located in the northern/eastern ‘kikkar’ either, which means to say Sodom fits the Biblical record is misleading and using silence to locate a lost city.


8. Ancient Textual Record: He also rejects many ancient writings and in a discussion at the BAS forum he made the following statement:


I must emphasize that the only geo-criteria that can legitimately enter into the discussion are those in Genesis. This is so because Genesis is the only ancient text that deals with the subject! Any sources later than the Iron Age must be considered with skepticism, and certainly should not be trusted at any point of departure from the Genesis geography. Josephus and the Byzantine pilgrims weren't always stellar biblical geographers34


And this sentiment is further supported by one of his more vocal supporters, Dr. Graves, who in the same discussion but 3 pages later had this to say:


You make my point exactly.  Why can we rely on these early writers as though infallible, Josephus is no more reliable at times than these early pilgrims? He is 2000-1600 BC years removed from the actual historical events of Sodom's destruction. 35


Yet those ancient writers had access to far more ancient texts than either Drs. Collins or Graves, had a better knowledge of the events described as well as the geography and other details and had a better knowledge of the application of the surrounding languages of the time.  It is quite ridiculous to state that the ancient writers need to be dismissed because they are approx. 2,000 years later than the events they describe, especially when the charge comes from those who are over 4,000 years removed, have access to fewer documents, and analyze evidence that has had a further 2,000 years of destructive forces thrust upon them.


Such dismissal only provides evidence that Dr. Collins and his supporters will not consider any written material that disagrees with them, (this is more evident in a point coming up), and whose bias influences their judgment. They have never considered Tell –el-Hamman as anything other than Sodom and this is one of their major un-doings as it displays a refusal to be objective, at least attempt to be objective, and very closed-minded.


9. Restoration: If the previous eight points were not enough to call into question the identification of Tell el-Hamman as Sodom, then this point, and the following one, are the ones that expose the faulty identification and manipulation of the texts to fit the theory and avoid the truth.


In most of the resources written by Dr. Collins and his supporters, it is clearly mentioned that the site was re-occupied approx. 500 years after the destruction.36 But we will quote from Gary Byers again;


Tall el-Hamman is rich with remains from almost every period…After destruction of the M.B.A. city; the whole site appears to have no city wall or permanent occupation for 500-700 years. During this same period, all of the cities on the eastern Jordan plain appear to have the same hiatus in settlement. That was also the time when the Israelites passed through this area…Yet occupation at Tall el-Hamman continued after the Iron age. 37


The problem is that this short ‘hiatus’ does not fit the Biblical timeline as all the scriptures from Deuteronomy on up to The Book of Revelation, including the words of Jesus himself, indicate that Sodom and Gomorrah were never inhabited again.38 This is a span of approx. 2,000 years and sinks the site of Tell –el Hamman completely. There was no re-population of the destroyed land.


To say otherwise would devalue God’s judgment and say that what he destroys permanently is not destroyed permanently and we should have the garden of Eden visible to us today. To diminish God’s judgment is not smart and a very dangerous thing to do as Zephaniah is quite clear that the destruction was not temporary:


Therefore, as surely as I live, declares the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, surely Moab will become like Sodom, the Ammonites like Gomorrah- a place of weeds and salt pits, a wasteland forever. (2:9)


This fits with what the Bible tells us of the area of Sodom in Moses’ time:


It describes the place as a wasteland…39


Yet a wasteland is not desirable nor is it good for livestock and also in the time of Moses we find this request made by the Reubenites and the Gadites in Numbers 32:1ff


The Reubenites and the Gadites, who had very large herds and flocks, saw that the land of Jazar and Gilead were suitable for livestock...came to Moses…and said… If we have found favor in your eyes, they said, let this land be given to your servants as our possession. Do not make us cross the Jordan.’


In the time of Moses how can the same land be a wasteland and suitable for livestock at the same time? It can’t and the area asked for by the tribes of Reuben and Gad is the same land where we find Tell el-Hamman. The dictionary has this to say about land that is waste:


2. Desolate; uncultivated; a waste country; a waste howling wilderness. Deut. 32.

3. Destitute; stripped; lands laid waste.

4. Superfluous; lost for want of occupiers.

—And strangled with her waste fertility.     Milton.

5. Worthless; that which is rejected, or used only for mean purposes; waste wood.

6. That of which no account is taken, or of which no value is found; 40


Clearly such land is not desirable nor would be asked for to maintain herds. This description disqualifies Tell el-Hamman from being a candidate for Sodom but if this isn’t enough there is the next point which sinks the northern location completely.


10. Academic/Intellectual/Spiritual Dishonesty: With all of these problems concerning the northern location theory one still has to ask why.  Why did Dr. Collins limit the geographical description to the first 12 verses of Genesis 13?

1. The principle (and only) primary historical text regarding the location of Sodom is Genesis, mainly 13:1-12 (with chapters 10 and 14 conforming).

It is well known that Dr. Collins dismisses anything and anyone who disagrees with him but no one would have thought he would dismiss God as well when He decided to be contrary to Dr. Collins’ theory.  Not only is it intellectual and academic dishonesty but it is also spiritual dishonesty as well.

It is very clear that Dr. Collins is manipulating the text to fit his agenda as Genesis 13: 1-12 do not give the location of Sodom nor is it the primary or only historical text that refers to that city’s location.

He completely ignores and omits the very verse which gives the actual geographical marker to locate Sodom and the other cities. It is a verse not mentioned in any of his writings or conversations that I have been privy and it is found in verse 18 of chapter 13 and it reads:

Then Abram moved his tent and went and dwelt by the terebinth trees of Mamre, which are in Hebron ad built an alter there to the Lord.

There is not a map which locates Hebron or Mamre in the north in full view of Tell el-Hamman. They two cities are always located in the southern part of Israel, across the southern part of the Dead Sea from the southern location of Sodom.  Abram had a great view of the destruction and could see all of the plain (19:28). 

There is no hermeneutical, translational game that can be played with the passage. It is quite clear and exposes all of the arguments of Dr. Collins and his supporters as frivolous and wrong. What is worse is that according to Dr. Collins, he has read everything on the topic:

There is nothing that you can throw at me that I have not analyzed already in detail. And please don't quote the Bible to me on the point, as I have already done an extremely detailed analysis of every word of it relevant to this discussion. You obviously have not read my papers on the subject.41

I have read almost all of his papers and his reports, yet he does not mention Genesis 13:18 anywhere. Nor does he refer to Fausset’s Bible dictionary, the section titled Sodom, which discusses this move further south by Abraham or the book ‘East of Jordan’ by Burton Macdonald, published in 2000 which also discusses the move south by Abraham.** Why is that?  Clearly his theory is ruined by that one passage of scripture so why does he hide the fact and restrict all location discussion to the first 12 verses whereby upon discovery his reputation and all his work is placed under a cloud of suspicion, no longer trustworthy or academic?

Even if he discovers something biblical at Tell el-Hamman, it is suspect and cannot be accepted for the character of the archaeologist has been sullied and it dirties everything that he has done, is doing and will do. He has falsified his research by the sin of omission and it is with a heavy heart one has to reveal this fact. His boasting is his downfall as he said the following words early in a discussion over at the B.A.S. forum:

One must also understand that all attempts to locate Sodom beyond the clear (primary) geography of Genesis 13:1-12 are doomed to failure.42

Yet it is not doomed to failure because the precise geographical marker for Sodom is found in verse 18. What does the man have to gain in order to omit something as vital as this? We may never know but it is an error that is too huge to ignore. The problems that come with the northern location theory are insurmountable and solution relies upon manipulation of ancient texts, physical evidence and sadly, the Biblical passages.

IV. Conclusion

As has been shown, there is nothing to support the Northern Location theory yet Dr. Collins still holds to the idea and won’t let go as the following demonstrates:

A note on the criteria for Sodom: Tall el-Hamman is, far and away, the only fit out there. It’s in the right place, in the right time frame, and has all the right stuff. It fits all the individual OT geographical criteria for Sodom…If T. Hamman isn’t Sodom, then one could question the veracity of the texts pointing to its location.43

No we would not question the ‘veracity of the texts’ but the person doing the interpreting of them. But Dr. Collins dies by his words as Tell el-Hamman is not in the right place, fits very few OT geographical criteria and possibly is in the right time frame.  On clear examination of the texts available, everything points to the southern location at Babe dh-Dhra not Tell el-Hamman and it is only the manipulation of the texts that allows for the consideration of the northern location.

Dr. Collins ignores everything that disagrees with him including scripture and far better scholars because they do not tell him what he wants to hear. He also ignores Burton MacDonald who says:

On the basis of this text [13:18], Sodom and Gomorrah and all the land of the plain appear to be located around the southern segment of the Dead Sea.44

And when, after going through the ancient texts, he says;

For example, when the Israelites encamped in the plains of Moab…that is, in the area across from Jericho northeast of the Dead Sea, there is no mention of Sodom, Gomorrah or any other cities of the Plain. Thus they would seem to be located elsewhere…Clearly, extra-biblical texts are almost unanimous in placing Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, Zeboiim and Bela (Zoar) south or south-east of the Dead Sea.45

But this is a common theme with Dr. Collins as he is blinded by his obsession with creating a new Sodom out of nothing. In the B.A.S. discussions he constantly dismisses people, usually without good reason or actual proof and when called upon to present something substantial, he remains mute and often absent from the forum.

If Tell el-Hamman were Sodom, he would have ample physical evidence to provide and we would all hear about it quite quickly but we all know that the real evidence is at Bab edh-Dhra and Numeira and it has been well documented by Dr. Wood and others before him. (see Dr. Wood’s paper, The discovery of the Sin Cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, for more details.)

The main problem is that people turn to the art of ‘interpretation’ to make their points and this is clearly seen by the Northern location supporters and Dr. Collins.  Interpretation is subjective and leads one to existentialism where it allows a person to reject any contrary point for little or no reason at all. ‘Interpretation’ is not a scriptural tool or command; it is not of God as it leads to confusion and away from the truth and God is truth and not the author of confusion.

Too often people think they are in charge of what God has written in His word and that they get to determine what it says and when. They are not, God is and it is His Holy Spirit, not men like Dr. Collins or secular experts, who lead humble people to the truth. Interpretation allows people to pick and choose what they want to accept or reject and that is not of God either.

There is nothing that justifies the continual identification of Tell el-Hamman as Sodom, and the problems outlined above, that come with his work, prove that he is not listening to anyone but himself and he has no intention of listening to anyone who disagrees with him. We have seen where he will commit academic, translational and intellectual dishonesty to pursue his agenda though the cost to do so is far greater than the gain.

He cannot overcome that sin of omission, nor can Tell el-Hamman, and it is just final evidence for how far off track Dr. Collins and supporters have gone in their quest to re-write the Bible and Biblical history. The passage Gen. 13:18 was mentioned to Dr. Collins and his supporters in the discussion over at B.A.S. and it is no surprise to find that He, and they, all ignored it and went right on touting that the geographical marker is found in the first 12 verses of chapter 13.46

Everything that Dr. Collins and his northern location supporters do is based upon desperation and they charge others with the crimes they commit in order to make their theory work. They need to use subjectivity or else they cannot convince others of their claim simply because there is no real evidence to support it and they cannot produce one shred of ‘actual evidence’, promised years ago by Dr. Collins, that demonstrates that they are correct.

He and his supporters stoop to every imaginable trick to garner support from unwary and unconvinced people and it shows in their translational, historical, archaeological and evidential dishonesty The northern location theory is wrong as it builds its argument upon the sand not the rock .

**(Not just him but also his supporters do the exact same thing—avoid mentioning Abraham’s move south prior to the destruction)

***endnotes presented upon request

A Response to Dr. Collins’ 40 Salient Points by Dr. David Tee


This paper is going to focus on Dr. Collins’ argument that Tell el-Hamman meets 40 requirements needed to be identified as Sodom.  These ‘salient’ points are found in his 2007 article, Forty Salient Points on the Geography of the cities of the Kikkar, and unless otherwise footnoted, all quotes will be from that article.

To begin, one must first look at the attitude behind his writings and we find that attitude right in the first page of his article and will be exampled by three quotes.

1. At this juncture, I have been studying the subject of Sodom’s location for nearly 7 years…I have analyzed the definitive text on Sodom’s location (Gen.13: 1-12 {see my other article Tee:2010 for a response to this}) in extreme detail. I have investigated the chronological issues with rigor, I believe, second to none. I have read virtually every piece of literature from every period available on the subject. I have discussed/argued every conceivable point in the discussion with many of the world’s leading scholars…who are capable of interacting meaningfully on the issues involved.

It continues and each sentence is started with the word ‘I’ and so in his mind this discussion is all about him, not Sodom, God or the truth. It is about what he thinks and he alone, according to him, gets to decide what is meaningful, what is definitive and so on.  Unfortunately for Dr. Collins, such study and interaction does not mean he is correct, has not been deceived, or led astray or that he has not made a mistake or mistakes somewhere along the line during his course of study and discussion.

He also forgets that the Bible tells us that a ‘persons own testimony is not true’ ( )

2. By this point in the process, it is safe to say that I have heard every conceivable argument for every Sodom candidate and have dealt squarely and scientifically with every question and objection raised with regard to the identification of Tall el-Hamman as biblical Sodom. While I am always open to further discussion, I think it is fair to suggest, to the objective observer, that the weight of the evidence in favor of Tall el-Hamman being Sodom s overwhelms every idea to the contrary that the issue should be laid finally to rest.

Having been a participant in discussions with Dr. Collins and having read a few of his other ones, it is safe to say he does not deal ‘squarely and scientifically with every question and objection.’ In fact, he rarely uses any scientific argument or evidence to support his points and basically bullies and dismisses anyone who dares disagree with him.{see the forums at Bib-arch.com).

In fact, though he promised in one discussion to present ‘actual evidence’ to support his claim, he never did and in reading his reports on his excavation at Tell el-Hamman, there is none to present. He hides in subjectivity to make his case. (Tee: 2010).

He also ignores the fact that Dr. Wood, and others, have documented compelling actual evidence for the Bab edh-Dhra area in his article on the discovery of the sin cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. (Wood: 1999). In my own research, all real evidence points to the southern-eastern location not Tell el-Hamman. (Tee: 2010)

3. The ‘southern Sodom view’ has had its day, but that day is drawing to a close, whether its advocates want to admit to it or not…I do appreciate the scholarship regarding the subject of Sodom’s location provided by the many scholars who have dealt with issue. They did the best they could with the evidence available to them. Based on that paucity of evidence, they had no choice but t bend and stretch the Sodom story beyond its contextual limits in order to accommodate sites like Bab edh-Dhra and Numeria

Having read some of those reports, and in doing my own research, one can only conclude that Dr. Collins is actually describing his own work here and not the scholarship of those who hold to the ‘southern’ location view. (See Tee: 2010 for a more detailed examination on this point)

The southern view is not dead and as said earlier, all actual evidence points to Bab edh-Dhra as Sodom or Gomorrah not Tell el-Hamman. What we shall see here is the scholastic and academic dishonesty of Dr. Collins, as he tries to shout down his opponents in hopes of convincing people because he is making the most noise.

There is no evidence to support Tell el-Hamman as Sodom and any claim is actually based upon eisogetic infusion of reasons and not based upon actual fact. The major downfall of Dr. Collins and his claim is his arrogance, which is highly visible in those quotes and throughout all of his papers. He thinks because he has done the leg work, that he is 100% correct and everyone should disregard their own reasoning and listen to him.

It just doesn’t work that way and we shall see through an annotated analysis of his 40 points why he is wrong and that he is completely biased and dishonest in his work. Maybe it is his jealousy of more accepted scholars or that he is obsessed with Tell el-Hamman being Sodom that he takes this attitude, one does not know but it is wrong and exposes the fraudulent work of Dr. Collins . We see evidence of this fraudulent work in the following statement made by Dr. Collins:

One final detail that you should consider as you move through this list: Not a single ‘southern Sodom advocate’ has ever produced a detailed analysis of Genesis 13:1-12 in support of that position. Never. The reason? It is simple: Genesis 13:1-12 is the plague that drains the life from the southern view. It always has been. It always will.

We do not need to produce a ‘detailed analysis’ of Gen. 13: 1-12 because we know it does not provide the definitive clues to Sodom’s location. To claim such, one has to read into the passage a lot of information that is not there plus we accept verse 18 as part of the description of the location for Sodom whereas Dr. Collins does not (Tee: 2010). Genesis 13: 1-12 is not ‘the plague which drains the life ‘ out of the southern view simply because it contains no geographical marker for the location of Sodom.

To say otherwise, like Dr. Collins does, is to again read into the passage clues that simply do not exist. It is academically and scholastically irresponsible and dishonest on the part of Dr. Collins to make such a claim in the quote provided. It shows his obsession with his theory and Tell el-Hamman and removes any claim of objectivity or scientific work.

I say annotated because it is impossible to deal individually with each point and most of his ’40 salient points’ are redundant and can be grouped together for easier discussion and they will be grouped together to avoid the same redundancy presented by Dr. Collins.

The methodology used to distinguish the separate issues will be as follows: I will sub headline with the word ‘Points’ followed by the number of points addressed in that section, then provide a quote  in smaller font from Dr. Collins’ paper, then follow it up with a rebuttal in larger font.


Points 1 &2:  “Story tellers and writers in the ancient Near East did not invent fictitious geographies but used what was known from personal experience…Whether or not ancient stories…are factual or fictitious, they were layered over real world geography and topography…”

If this over-generalization is so, and it is safe to say that Dr. Collins has not read all the myths, stories and legends that were produced for over 4,000 years prior to the time of Christ, then we can expect to find a buried island in the Atlantic with the remains of the city of Atlantis. Plato being an ancient writer obviously had to use ‘real world geography and topography’ to write his story, according to Dr. Collins’ logic.

Even if true, there is nothing in the Biblical passages that places Sodom in a specific location and one needs to remind Dr. Collins that the ‘real world geography and topography’ supports the southern eastern location because the ancient names for Sodom and Gomorrah and their Arabic derivatives are in the Bab edh-Dhra area and not Tell el-Hamman’s.

In any case, this is not evidence for the location of Sodom nor is it an important point for it is too generic to be of any use for locating the city. It is far too subjective as well and could support any location in the Near East.

Points 3-5: “The writer of the Sodom tales…likely had personal knowledge of the geography he utilized…Genesis 13:1-12 is the only narrative passage among the Sodom tales marking out the location of the Cities of the Plain by employing geographical data points and directions…The Genesis passage in question contains both specific and approximate geographical quantities.”

The Biblical writer did not need to have personal knowledge of the location of Sodom for he was guided by the Holy Spirit not his own understanding thus it is not a requirement that he know of the location of the destroyed cities. Plus such knowledge does not prove that he wrote the exact locations in the passages pertaining to Sodom and Gomorrah.

The passage Dr. Collins uses as the definitive work for Sodom’s location does not locate Sodom at all. In fact it does not state where Sodom is in any verse, it is pure reading into the passage to say that Sodom is located near bethel or across the Jordan River. No such geographical points or directions have been given and it is a misreading of the passage to say otherwise.

Of course, in point #5 Dr. Collins has to go outside of his ‘definitive’ passage to find other general geographical points to help his cause because the passage he has picked to anchor his argument upon just does not do what he wants: provide a specific location for Sodom. There is absolutely none given and eisogesis is not truth nor fact let alone scientific.

Points 6-8: “Outside of the O.T. among the Semitic cognates and Egyptian , kikkar/kikkar/kakkaru/kerker is never used as a geographical referent…kikkar in OT Hebrew likewise refers to a talent of metal or circular loaf of bread…The thirteen geographical uses of kikkar, found exclusively in the OT,  ten of which are in the Sodom tales, denote the disk shaped southern Jordan Valley north of the Dead Sea.”

He is not building a strong case for his argument here as he demonstrates that the use of the Hebrew word is more towards money and bread than a geographical spot and it would be a waste of time here to discuss the application of the word ‘kikkar’ to only a portion of the Jordan valley when the passage states that ‘all of the plain was viewed’ (13: 9 & 10). That discussion can be saved for other scholastic works. Suffice it to say it is a subjective application.

We disagree with Dr. Collins use of the words ‘north of the Dead Sea’ because the passage in question does not limit the area viewed to that specific geographical restriction. In fact, verse 9 of chapter 13 uses the word ‘whole’ and verse 10 says ‘all’ thus to include the words ‘north of the Dead Sea’ is fudging the details and being highly dishonest.

We were not privy to that viewing thus we cannot say, and Dr. Collins certainly cannot say, that the view was limited to the Tell el-Hamman region. That is a biased and unscientific conclusion that cannot be supported by the facts or the evidence. Especially when in verse 18 of chapter 13 tells us that Abraham moved to the Hebron/Mamre area and that when he viewed the land after the destruction, the words ‘toward all the land of the plain…’ (Gen. 19:28) are used. Thus if Abraham could see all of the plain including the Tell el-Hamman region from Hebron/Mamre, then he and Lot could see all of the plain, including the Bab edh-Dhra area from Bethel/Ai.

He cannot have it both ways. Given the fact that Tell el-Hamman is located 8 kms. north of the Dead Sea and 12 kms. East of the Jordan River.1 That is extraordinary eye-sight on the part of Abraham if Tell el-Hamman and surrounding area was the portion of the plain in question. It is more likely that Abraham viewed the region surrounding and including Bab edh-Dhra.

Points 9 & 10: “The kikkar of the Jordan is confined to the area north of the Dead Sea because (a) hayarden never refers to anything other than the fresh water system of the Jordan River proper and the valley through which it flows and (b) hayarden is never extended to include any part of the Valley of Siddim…Thus the kikkar of the Jordan can only refer to the disk-shaped alluvial plain north of the Dead Sea…”

There are many problems with this idea. First, one needs to wonder what Dr. Collins’ definition of ‘proper’ and ‘valley’ when he uses it with the Jordan River. It is a well known fact that lakes are included in a river valley thus the Dead Sea would be considered part of the Jordan River valley, all of it. (The Okanagan River Valley is evidence of this). Is Dr. Collins hedging and restricting the dimensions because the real one does not fit his theory and he needs to find more subjective evidence to support his claim? Hard to tell.

Second, in doing some light research, the word ‘hayerden’’s use is not restricted to the land between the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea. In fact it extends north of the Sea of Galilee  and originates in the Hula Basin2, so to accept Dr. Collins’ manipulative conclusion would be wrong and further research is needed on what the word ‘hayerden’ really applies to in that country.

By Dr. Collins’ logic, we must then include the Sea of Galilee and the Hula basin as part of the ‘kikkar’ of the Jordan, extending further the surmised location of Sodom in the northern location theory and the eye-sight of both Abraham and Lot.

Upon further research, the word ‘hayarden’ is associated with the different names of the Jordan Rift and not attributed to fresh water supplies:

The Jordan Rift, a local geographical term, is part of the Syrian-African Rift Valley and was referred to by several names in the Bible: the Jordan Wilderness (˒Arebat Hayarden), the Jordan Plain (Kikkar Hayarden), the Jordan Districts (Gelilot Hayarden), and the Pride of the Jordan (Ge˒on Hayarden). It appears that each of these names referred to a different specific geographical location and to different economic and settlement functions. (Har El: 1978:41:2)


One can one surmise how Dr. Collins made the connection to the fresh water system of the Jordan River from geographical locations. This in and of itself is not evidence for the location of Sodom nor the restriction of that city to the northern region and much more study is needed here to see what has been done by Dr. Collins for him to make the his claim quoted above.


Point 11: “The western Jordan Disk, the location of Jericho and little else, has reasonable perennial water resources plus the Jordan River…”

This is an argument from modern geography not ancient and is very misleading. One cannot take modern geography, ignore the destruction by God, and say that Bab edh-Dhra is disqualified because it is not a well watered plain today. That is again manipulating the evidence to fit one’s theory. One has to take into account the ancient geography and then factor in the results of the destruction before drawing any conclusions.

A researcher cannot just haphazardly say the land was restored because there is no Biblical evidence to support such a conclusion. In fact the Bible states that the Sodom area remained a waste land forever (Zeph. 2:9). Thus to say that the modern area is well watered so it must be the area for Sodom is just wrong and not honestly using all the facts.

Points 12-16: The text suggests that Lot viewed with his ‘unaided’ physical eyes the entire Jordan Disk from the area east of Bethel /Ai…Lot traveled eastward from Bethel/Ai, pitching his tent toward Sodom, one of the cities of the Eastern Jordan Disk…Sodom was one of the cities of the Plain. No city south of the mouth of hayarden would have been considered as belonging to the Jordan Disk…As the Yahwist mentally works his way through the geography of the passage, the Cities of the Kikkar are perceived to have existed on the eastern Jordan Disk, north of the Dead Sea…The story teller calculated or assumed that Sodom was the largest urban center on the eastern Jordan Disk.”

The text suggests no such thing and Dr. Collins uses a very restricted and literal interpretation of the words ‘and Lot lifted up his eyes and saw all the plain of Jordan, that it was well watered…’ The word ‘all’ does not indicate a portion nor does it indicate only the Jordan disk, it indicates all of the valley. Dr. Collins’ restriction is un-provable as no specifics are given for the dimensions of the viewing, save for the word ‘all’. It is irresponsible to and un-academic to claim one knows what was viewed when one was not present at the time.

Then to say that Tell el-Hamman is Sodom or a candidate for Sodom based upon the few words ‘Lot journeyed, started out, headed east’ is leading people astray from the facts. We do not know the exact route taken by Lot, for all we know he had to start east then take another road south towards Sodom. The passage does not say that Lot remained in an easterly direction nor went due east.

Also, the passage, picked by Dr. Collins as the definitive geographical description for the location of Sodom, does not say that Lot crossed the Jordan River. Remember, he was an owner of livestock and if Dr. Collins had any knowledge of herding livestock he would realize that the current of the Jordan river is too swift for animal crossings. (New World Encyclopedia. See also Byers:2007). Ranchers pick slow, safe areas of a river to use to move their livestock across because loss of an animal or animals means a loss of revenue and Lot must have been a shrewd rancher for he, like Abraham, accrued a large herd and he would not want to lose any animals in a crossing through a swift current. He would choose another way to go.

The passage does not indicate that Lot went to the Tell el-Hamman region, in fact it is pure reading into the passage to say that he did. As for Dr. Collins’ contention that ‘no city south of the mouth of  the ‘hayerden’ would be considered part of the Jordan Disk, he forgets that traditionally, ‘the circle of the Jordan was at the south end of the Dead Sea and this idea was universally maintained’. (ISBE).

To suddenly change the location of the Jordan disk without actual evidence is wrong, dishonest and unscholarly. We know that the southern identification for the Jordan Disk is more credible because, once again, the ancient names or Arabic derivatives are in use in the southern Dead Sea region and not in the northern area. There is no point in using the ancient names in the south if Sodom was actually located in the north, it makes no sense and shows that Dr. Collins will dismiss all reasonable evidence simply because it disagrees with him.

As for the Yahwist ‘perceiving the cities of the plain are on the northern Jordan Disk’ that is just not supported by the facts or any biblical passage. The doublets do not place the cities in the north but a north-south direction which means they could be located at Bab edh-Dhra and Numeria as well as at Tell el-Hamman, except that no other city at Tell el-Hamman has been identified as Gomorrah or any other city of the plain thus to say otherwise is stretching the evidence to fit one’s theory.

The idea that the biblical writer ‘assumed that Sodom was the largest urban center of the plain’ is just ridiculous because sole mentioning of a city does not indicate size but that the account is focusing on events happening at that city. There is no reason to mention Gomorrah or any other city for Lot was living within Sodom’s boundaries and that is where the encounter with the angels took place. (Genesis 19)

Then to use things reasons like it is listed first or that its king was the spokesman for all the others is again ignoring the fact that certain names going first are more natural even if they are smaller than other cities used in the list and we do not know if the King of Sodom was the spokesman for all the rest of the kings, we are just privy to one conversation and the passage doesn’t say that he spoke on behalf of all the other kings. It simply records that he spoke of his own desires, so Dr. Collins is really stretching the textual accounts to make his theory work.

Points 17-20, 24- 31,33: “The story of Abram and Lot, minimally, has its roots in the Bronze Age…Biblical dating places Abram, Lot and the Sodom tales squarely in the Middle Bronze Age…Given a Middle Bronze Age date for Abram, archaeologically and geographically speaking, the largest fortified bronze Age urban center on the eastern Jordan Disk would be a ‘most likely’ candidate for biblical Sodom…An occupational hiatus of several centuries after a fiery MBA destruction would make that identification irresistible…Given a MBA date for Abram, Tall el-Hamman satisfies every Sodom criterion embedded in Genesis 13: 1- 12…”

Not all of the points are represented by the above quotes simply because of space demands and that they are really not salient points and not worth discussing. The problem we have here that scholars and archaeologists are applying a once modern (19th century) fallible human construct to the infallible word of God and making claims that the Bible does not make and saying things the Bible does not say.

The Bible does not place Abram, Lot and Sodom in the Bronze Age, especially the MBA period, that is complete fabrication. Biblical dating does not place Abram and company in the MBA period. Such is done by human opinion, which is not supported by any Biblical data or passage, and it is a matter for the category of subjectivism. Simply because we have no artifacts from that time period that we can say relate to Abraham and Sodom and because the Bible does not name the Pharaoh Abram encountered.

God does not use a modern dating system for his placing of ancient events in human history and to do so would be careless and misleading. The modern system was designed out of random grouping of artifacts that were not dated properly and by a man who had no idea exactly where those artifacts used placed on a chronological timeline. (Bibarch:2009)

To say that the destruction of Sodom took place in the Middle Bronze Age and not the Early Bronze period is taking advantage of a system full of corruption and ambiguities, then to stake one’s argument upon such a grey, fallible area is not being honest but manipulating the current systems to ensure one’s theory has support. (See Tee:2009 for more discussion on this issue).

Then how can Dr. Collins claim that the ‘largest fortified urban center…’ be a candidate for Sodom when the biblical text does not say that it was the largest, or that it was on the eastern Jordan Disk? In a close examination of the passage he chose as the definitive geographical location marker, no such description is given to Sodom. All it says about the city is that ‘Lot pitched his tents even as far as Sodom’ (v. 12). There is no more description of the city, its size, fortifications, etc., other than Lot was found in the gate and he took the men to his house. (19:1, 3). We do not know anything more about the city than that

Now we come to the famous ‘hiatus’ that Dr. Collins and his supporters love to talk about. He claims that there was a period of about 500 years where the land was unoccupied (Collins:2007-10) but the Bible, as mentioned earlier, states that the destroyed area was never restored. This alone sinks Tell el-Hamman as being a candidate for biblical Sodom and no further discussion is needed on this point. (See Tee:2010 for a fuller discussion of this issue).

Tell el-Hamman does not satisfy all of the supposed criterion for being biblical Sodom, in spite of what Dr. Collins claims simply because the so-called evidence and salient points do not provide any concrete or actual evidence to support the claim. All that is used to substantiate the identification is subjective areas of the archaeological field and a misuse of scripture.

Points 21 & 22: In Genesis 10, the mention of actual, known cities…strongly suggests that Sodom…, in the same context , were also real cities…Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, and Zeboiim were known by the writer of Genesis 10 to mark the eastern extent of the Canaanite clans…

The first part of that quote doesn’t mean anything. If they were mentioned in the Bible and included in the subsequent narratives then Sodom, et al, would be real cities. Such a point does not provide any proof that those 5 cities were in the northern region of the Dead Sea.

The second part of that quote shows how desperate Dr. Collins is as though those cities marked the eastern border, the Biblical text does not put them on the Jordan Disk at the northern end of the Dead Sea. They could be, and were, placed on the southern eastern border. Genesis 10 does not indicate nor state that those cities were north and it is highly un-academic to claim it does. Given that the southern eastern region still contain the ancient names and Arabic derivatives for those cities, it is more credible to suggest that they were originally located in the Bab edh-Dhra area than at Tell el-Hamman.

It takes a big stretch of the evidence to place them in the northern region of the Dead Sea. 

Points 34-40: The Yahwist penned his stories about the cities of the Jordan kikkar while ruins, more ancient still, dotted the eastern Jordan disk, readily visible and well known to anyone living in or near that region…Had the author of Genesis 13: 1- 12 thought that the southern Dead Sea sites like Bab edh-Dhra and Numeria were Sodom and Gomorrah, his clearly written geography would have been constructed to incorporate the specificity of that location.; it does not, by any stretch of the imagination…For sake of argument, one is forced to admit that a face-value reading of the biblical text places the patriarchal period in the Middle Bronze Age…

Again, only a minute number of points are represented here because they are not salient or germane points to discuss and just rehash what has already been said by Dr. Collins. Simply put, it is academically dishonest to restrict the definitive geographical marker to the first 12 verses of Genesis 13 and then attack the Bab edh-Dhra location because v. 18 adds more information for the geographical location for Sodom. Abram moved to the Hebron area which is far closer to Bab edh-Dhra than Tell el-Hamman. (See Tee:2010 for a fuller discussion of this issue)

Thus, the writer did add more’ specificity’ to Sodom’s location; he placed it in the southern region, where the ancient names still support his passage. As for the ancient ruins and how well they are known, it is good to know that Dr. Collins can read long dead minds and know exactly what people knew or didn’t know. Such are not germane to the issue of the geographical location of Sodom and have no bearing upon the passage or its writing.

No one is ‘forced to admit’ anything. A face-value reading does not place the patriarchal period in the Middle Bronze Age, it places it no where except in the time of Abram and Lot, whenever that was. God is not specific to the exact time nor should we be and it is dangerous to have the Bible say anything it does not.

In his 40th point Dr. Collins draws this conclusion:

Given the fact that the Yahwist’s geography unequivocally places the Cities of the Kikkar north of the Dead Sea and east of the Jordan River, one must conclude …they are layered over the physical geography of the eastern Jordan Disc where multiple bronze Age ruins provided his readers with eloquent physical testimony of the destruction of a bygone civilization.

To come to that conclusion Dr. Collins then commits the very crimes he accuses the southern location supporters of committing. There is no actual evidence to support the northern location theory, it is all manipulation of grey area textual work and of the scripture passages that refer to Sodom itself.

Dr. Collins presents no actual evidence to support his claim, and ignores the fact that Tell el-Hamman is not even close to the area that uses the ancient names for Sodom and their Arabic derivatives. It is clear that Dr. Collins cares little for facts and only wants to see his theory be accepted by his peers but unfortunately for him, we see his errors and his academic dishonesty in handling the ancient texts and evidence.

Tell el-Hamman died as a candidate for Sodom the moment Dr. Collins and company said the site was restored. Why? Because that claim disagrees with God’s word and last I looked Dr. Collins was not infallible nor does he trump God. The only way for Tel El-Hamman to be identified as Sodom is through manipulation, eisogesis and confusion, all such methods are not of God as is his arrogant attitude plus his dismissal of all ancient and modern writers who disagree with him shows he is not looking for the truth or achieving something for the glory of God but seeking his own desires without God’s help

Dr. Collins may have studied this issue for 10 years and may have read nearly all of the articles written on the topic but that does not make him right or the last word on the location of Sodom. It just means he is biased, not objective and not honest in his handling of the information he studied. His 40 points do not even begin to support his claim but expose the great lengths he will go to support his theory and those lengths are not honorable nor scholarly.

All the actual evidence supports Bab edh-Dhra and region. The condition of the land around those ruins support the Biblical record and identification for that being the place of the destruction of the sin cities. One cannot look at the Biblical passage and selectively see ‘well watered’ then look at the modern landscape and say- ‘that is where Sodom is because it is well watered’. One has to look at what God said and see that the northern Jordan disk does not qualify as Sodom for it is not a ‘wasteland forever’ as God said in Zeph.

God has the final word on the matter not Dr. Collins, and Dr. Collins work, writing and excavating, is a prime example of someone who is not listening to God and leading people away from the truth under the guise of being a Christian. Sadly, he is leading many away from the truth and God and that is wrong and destroys his claims and reputation.



1. Season Activity Report 2005-6

2. Answers.com

3. International Standard Bible Encyclopedia

4. Biblical Archaeologist, Volume 41, Issue 2

5. Bibarch.com-3 Age System

6. Tee, Dr. David,  Examining Tel el-Hamman as Sodom

7.  Byers, Dr. Gary, The Jordan River Valley, The Jordan River, And the Jungle of the Jordan

 Noah’s Ark Discovered Again?


Bill Crouse and Gordon Franz


The discovery of Noah’s Ark was announced last Sunday (4/24/10) by a Chinese organization from Hong Kong (Noah’s Ark Ministries, International).  The problem with this is that it seems like the “discovery” of Noah’s Ark is getting to be almost an annual event.  What in the world is going on?  We think it’s a question that is easy to analyze.  Genesis 1-11 is the most attacked portion of Scripture for its historicity.  Finding an antediluvian artifact like Noah’s Ark could be the greatest archaeological discovery ever.  It evokes many wannabe Indiana Joneses to search for Noah’s Ark.  We see no problem with this quest, and would welcome such a discovery.  The problem is not in the finding of the Ark; but in its substantiation.  Amateur archaeologists can and do find things that turn out to be fantastic discoveries.  Witness the treasure hunter, Terry Herbert, in Staffordshire, England who recently found a huge cache of Saxon gold artifacts that was reported in National Geographic.  However, to properly document a discovery, the proper scientific protocol must be followed.  Scientists are trained to gather and analyze evidence.  They then publish their research so that other scientists can test their results. These “Indiana Joneses” invariably do not do this.  They put the cart before the horse by holding a spectacular press conference declaring what they discovered rather than publishing their results in a scientific journal.  The news media, on the other hand, is all too eager to comply for what gets good ratings, and at the same time it usually puts evangelical Christians in a bad light.


This Hong Kong group claims they are 99.9 % sure that the wood they found belongs to the Ark of Noah.  Since we have spent a few thousand hours digging into the subject of the Noah’s Flood and the Ark, we have the following questions about the alleged discovery:


1.    When archaeologists make a discovery they must be able to prove exactly where they took their specimen out of the ground.  How do we know this video showing the rooms was filmed where they said it was?


2.     It is claimed that this discovery was found in an ice and rock cave on Agri Dagh, also known as Mt. Ararat.  It is a known fact among geologists that nearly all of the icecap on this mountain consists of moving ice, that is, glacier.  A glacier is a river of ice which flows down the mountain.  Any wooden structure inside this ice would be ground to bits from the glacial action.  In their news releases they have reported this site to be at 13,000 feet and in another report at around 14,000.  With these altitudes it would have to be on the ice cap or at the very edge.

         3.     Most geologists believe this mountain was formed in relatively recent times, i.e., after the Flood.  It is a complex volcano      with no clearly discernible layers of sedimentation that would have been laid down by flood waters.


         4.  The group claims they have had the wood carbon dated by a lab in Iran with

         the results being almost 5000 years old (with the Flood occurring about

        3000 B.C.).  Why did they have the wood tested in Iran, we ask?   Will other

        scientists have access to the lab results?  Are there any good labs in Iran

        that can do this kind of testing?  Or, was the wood tested in Iran because

        the lab results might be harder to trace by other scientists?  Why wasn’t a

        lab in the United States or the United Kingdom used?  Just asking!


5.  Is this wood coated with pitch (bitumen)?  The Bible says God instructed Noah to treat the wood with pitch, either asphalt or pine pitch (Gen. 6:14).  At least some of this wood should test positive for this coating.  Also, has a botanist examined the wood to determine what kind of wood it is?


6.  What about motives?  Only God knows their true motives, but it sure makes one nervous when these groups looking for the Ark are planning a documentary video so early in the project before any truth claims are established.  One of the members of this Chinese group just happens to be a filmmaker.  Most readers interested in this subject probably notice about once a year a new docudrama about Noah’s Ark appears on one of the cable channels.  They would not keep doing this if they didn’t make money.  Hopefully, this group’s motives are other than financial.


7.  What are the plans to publish this material in scientific peer-reviewed archaeological and geological publication?  We would have hoped that this would have been primary to a news conference and videos.  True archaeology is not forwarded by this sequence, but we certainly understand their excitement and the desire to be the first to report such a discovery.


In addition to the above questions, we have some reasons to question the integrity of this discovery for the following reasons:

1.  This group had a local guide who is a known for his deceit and fraud. It is this guide who initially informed the Chinese group that he knew the location of the Ark in 2008.  However, since then he has led them to more than one location.  The first location was a cave at a low altitude, a small cave with a tree growing in front!  Apparently the current cave is at the 13,000 or 14,000 foot level on the icecap.

2.  The specimens taken from this first cave (at the lower altitude) were claimed to be petrified wood from the Ark. In actuality, they were nothing but volcanic tuff.


3.   In one of the photos of the rooms straw is seen on the floor and even a spider web in one of the corners.  Really!  Do spiders live at 13,000 or 14,000 feet?  Can they survive the freezing temperatures?


4.  There is a real problem with evangelists (which is what they claim to be) who use this kind of discovery to prove the Bible, and hence convince non-believers of its authority, when in fact the truthfulness of the discovery had not been established.  I [Bill Crouse] know firsthand of one “Indiana Jones” who spoke eloquently and emotionally about his adventures, and when he gave an invitation at the end of his presentation, many in the audience stood up to commit their lives to Christ.  When the speaker was confronted about the truthfulness of some of the stories he told that night, he replied:  “But look how many stood up to receive Christ.”  This becomes very problematic when at some point the convert learns the real truth.  They often become very embittered about all things Christian, and understandably so.


5.  There seems to be more than the usual gullibility here in that the Hong Kong group was warned about this local guide who has led others astray.  We say usual gullibility, because it seems to be a characteristic of other ark-hunters as well, in that they tend to believe all the local lore.  While many ark-hunters mean well, it seems that they want to believe every report seemingly at all costs; putting everything through a rational grid often is avoided as being too skeptical.


At this point we are skeptical of these new claims but would rejoice in the end if they proved to be true.  If this someday is the case we will be the first to apologize for our doubts. We would strongly urge the Hong Kong group to follow proper scholarly procedures and publish this material in scientific, peer-reviewed archaeological and geological publications so that the scholarly community can examine the material first hand and critique it in order to offer helpful, and constructive, criticism.  For the person in the pew, we caution you to not get too excited about something that is at best, unsubstantiated; and at worst, a fraud perpetrated by an enterprising local guide!


(The authors are both members of the Near East Archaeological Society and the Evangelical Theological Society.  We both believe that Noah was a real historical person and that the Flood was a literal event in space-time history.  In our own research we came to a different conclusion about the landing place of the Ark.  Nothing we have seen so far causes us to doubt of change our position.  If you care to read of our research in can be found here: www.rapidresponsereport.com )


**we were sent a paper with a different alignment thus the format here is an attempt to fix it.

You Cannot Date Backwards by Dr. David Tee


For over a generation now, the secular world has claimed to be able to date backwards. They feel that with their special tools, they can measure the age of anything starting from the present and little data to work with and go back in time to the origin of the item they want to place an age.

These items range from organic material to rocks to the universe itself and the secularist has constructed many different types of dating mechanisms to achieve their goal and reach their objective to prove their alternative theories correct over the Bible.

They have, in their minds, successfully reached their goal but that is a matter of opinion. This paper is not about debunking their dating systems. That has been done far better in other people’s paper’s and articles throughout the years and rehashing the same material will not accomplish anything constructive.

The objective of this paper is to address some data that has not been touched upon, at least in the books and papers the author has read over the years, and is vital in bringing the dating issue to a conclusion. It will outline briefly how the different objects are dated, and how the dating method is applied; then it will point out the problems with those dating methods, and only a couple will be examined here before addressing the Christian response to the dating issue.

This work is merely the starting point in hopes that believers will turn away from the falsehoods proposed by the secular world and grasp the truth of the Bible regardless of what ‘experts’ say.


I. Dating the Universe


It all started, according to the secularist, from a small cube or box or whatever. All that we see in the universe today, the myriad of stars, planets, meteors, asteroids, etc. were all compressed into this tiny spot somewhere. We really can’t call it the universe for it too was supposed to have come out of this minute enclosure.

Then one day it simply exploded. Where the chemicals came from to initiate this reaction is still very debatable because the secularist doesn’t know. This idea has become known as the Big Bang theory and is a very weak attempt to explain how the universe and solar systems originated.

Over the years and throughout history man has gazed up into the heavens and tried to figure out different mysteries they claim come with the existence of the universe and all that occupies its space. Many attempts to explain these observations often end up with weird reasoning with the ‘evidence’ not really supporting the hypothesis of the observer, thus the quest continues to this day.

Now, early in the 20th century two men, Edwin Hubble and Milton Humason, spent years observing the different galaxies and their supposed movements. The result of their work produced what is called Hubble’s law and which is accepted today as the measuring device, not only of the supposed expansion of the universe but also the age of it. This law is explained as follows:

In 1929, Edwin Hubble announced that almost all galaxies appeared to be moving away from us. This phenomenon was observed as a redshift of a galaxy's spectrum. This redshift appeared to have a larger displacement for faint, presumably further, galaxies. Hence, the farther a galaxy, the faster it is receding from Earth. The Hubble constant is given by

H = v/d

Where v is the galaxy's radial outward velocity, d is the galaxy's distance from earth, and H is the current value of the Hubble constant (http://csep10.phys.utk.edu/astr162/lect/cosmology/hubble_constant.html)

This law is widely accepted and used throughout the cosmology field of study, the only debatable point is the value of the Hubble constant (Ibid). The idea to use this law to determine the age of the universe comes from the thought that since some galaxies are twice as far from our own they must have taken twice as long to arrive at that point and you know how it goes from there. (http://encyclopedia2.thefreedictionary.com/Hubble+age)

In a nutshell this is how the thinking goes and subsequent experiments employing Hubble’s law have sought to confirm this way of thought. (Ibid) Astronomers are busy measuring galaxies and their movements and have spent years after Hubble trying to confirm this idea and provide ‘evidence’ for their alternative theories to the Biblical account of origins. Yet like any human system of dating, the mechanism is flush with flaws that cause one to doubt its accuracy or reliability and we will get to that later.

Right now suffice it to say that when humans construct or attempt to construct a measuring rod, it will be a product resembling its maker, very fallible and subject to various differing opinions by other ’experts’, who all have spent years observing the same bodies in the universe and have reached their own conclusions. Some are similar and some are not to Hubble’s and Humanson’s.


II. Radioactive Dating (C-14)


This dating system, or systems actually as there are more than one that deal with isotopes, focuses on carbon molecules and their decay into different isotopes.  C-14 decays into nitrogen and it is felt that this decay is quite measurable. The mechanism to gauge this decay was invented by Willard Libby (http://www.ndt-ed.org/EducationResources/CommunityCollege/Radiography/Physics/carbondating.htm) and it has become widely accepted in many fields of research and used to date organic discoveries made by archaeologists and other professionals.

The theory behind C-14 dating is simple:

After the organism dies, carbon-14 continues to decay without being replaced. To measure the amount of radiocarbon left in an artifact, scientists burn a small piece to convert it into carbon dioxide gas. Radiation counters are used to detect the electrons given off by decaying C-14 as it turns into nitrogen. The amount of C-14 is compared to the amount of C-12, the stable form of carbon, to determine how much radiocarbon has decayed, thereby dating the artifact.

Exponential Decay Formula: A = A0* 2^(-t/k) (Ibid)

That in a nutshell is how C-14 dating takes place and there is no real theory behind the invention of this dating mechanism like there is Hubble’s law and relies more on physics than theory, though that too is debatable. 

Those who reject the Biblical account of origins, rely heavily upon this dating method as it seems to tell them what they want to hear: that the earth is very old.  Christians reject it for the many problems that come from a fallible dating mechanism created by imperfect humans. This issue is heavily written about and the reader can find both pro and con arguments in books, magazine articles and on the internet. Both sides have written extensively about the topic highlighting their preferred position.

Again, such issues are not the topic of this article as they will end up confusing many readers not familiar with the debate over the age of organic material remains. Such debate is highly subjective and depends upon which figures and samples one wants to use to make their argument sound reasonable.


III. You Can’t Date Backwards


The problems with the secular dating systems are huge and takes a lot of suspension of reason, logic, and rational thought to accept the points raised by their adherents. They are based upon too many unprovable assumptions which lack the evidence they need to be viable.

Let’s first take a look at the application of Hubble’s law for expansion of the universe. It is applied to moving galaxies only and measured from another separate moving galaxy, well a planet within another galaxy. There is missing data that is vital to conclude that the universe is expanding and one missing piece is the actual speed of the Milky Way in which the measurements are taken. We do not know what the speed of our own galaxy is making it impossible to judge the speed of those galaxies supposedly moving away.

Knowing the speed of the Milky Way is important for one needs to remove that value from the equation in order to come to the proper result in their calculations of other galaxies speed. With NO fixed point in outer space with which to gauge the actual speed of the Milky Way or any galaxy it is futile to think that one can estimate the speed and determine if there is actual expansion of the universe.

The second problem is there is no record of measurement for the original boundaries of the universe and no measurement of the current boundaries either. Hubble’s law is only applied to galaxies and measuring them and their speed does NOT mean nor equate to measuring the actual boundaries of the universe.

There is no possible way to determine that the universe is expanding. Measuring galaxies is not measuring the universe and the calculations do not transfer from one to the other. That is like measuring the expanse of a country by the speed of the vehicles traveling its roads. It just doesn’t work

Now to the use of this law to determine the age of the universe and the thinking goes that galaxies further out in space took longer to get there thus the universe must be old. The problem with this is that NO ONE knows where the original point of the universe or big bang box was located.

No one even knows where the center of the universe is thus they really cannot measure the distance traveled nor the time it took to travel that distance. The missing data undermines and ruins their calculations and conclusions. Plus there is one very important piece of information missing from secular equations.

Throughout the ages, when they felt it was important, governments had hospitals or mid-wives, etc., keep records of when a child was born making it possible to calculate the age of the person throughout his or her lifetime. That starting reference point is missing not only from dating the age of the universe but also the C-14 dating system.

Without it, it is impossible to date backwards for there is no knowledge of when the object actually originated. This is why it has been difficult to date the age of many humans, even as late as the 19th century for there were no birth certificates, no medical records stating the actual date of the person’s birth.

No historical start date—no age. It is that simple and this applies to all of secular science’s supposed dating systems. Just like dating the age of the universe, C-14 dating depends upon assumptions because the important data is missing. Such data is, but not limited to: 1. Total number of isotopes the organic material started with when it died; 2. Total number of isotopes received and expounded throughout its life and so on.

Now point #2 has many variables because the subject’s diet is unknown, its illnesses are unknown which would affect its intake of carbon isotopes and so on.  Without an actual real and valid number there is no possible way for the C-14 mechanism to date anything regardless of the calibrations employed to iron out the data.

The fixed or stationary original starting point is a must if one wants to date anything. Any attempt to estimate or declare an age for anything in this world including the universe, is misleading, wrong and a waste of time. 

Astronomers cannot say that the universe is 14,000,000,0000 years old for there is no evidence to support that claim and no way to verify it. What they use to make their determinations are objects unrelated to their subject and then claim they have it right and that secular science is a valid field of research. They don’t and it isn’t for secular science is a field of research, designed and dedicated to looking in the wrong direction, in the wrong places for the wrong answers.

Just like anthropologists cannot say that a life originated 4,000,000,000 years ago for the same reasons. They cannot verify one thing they claim and their dating systems are too vulnerable to manipulation and contamination to be accurate or reliable. Plus they are missing the vital starting reference point that would provide them with an accurate measurement and age.

The secularist feels that they can assume from the materials they have in the present any age they want even though they do not have accurate data to even make their calculations and they think that they are intelligent enough to fill in the blanks even though they have no clue of what transpired in the universe or organic sample over their lifetime up to the present.

They are not using logic, rational thinking nor even reason to make their arguments and expect the people of the world to blindly accept their conclusions without real evidence or measurements.


IV. The Christian Response


Arguments over the age of the Earth have sometimes been divisive for people who regard the Bible as God's word. Even though the Earth's age is never mentioned in the Bible, it is an issue because those who take a strictly literal view of the early chapters of Genesis can calculate an approximate date for the creation by adding up the life-spans of the people mentioned in the genealogies. Assuming a strictly literal interpretation of the week of creation, even if some of the generations were left out of the genealogies, the Earth would be less than ten thousand years old. Radiometric dating techniques indicate that the Earth is thousands of times older than that--approximately four and a half billion years old. Many Christians accept this and interpret the Genesis account in less scientifically literal ways. However, some Christians suggest that the geologic dating techniques are unreliable, that they are wrongly interpreted, or that they are confusing at best. Unfortunately, much of the literature available to Christians has been either inaccurate or difficult to understand, so that confusion over dating techniques continues (http://asa3.org/ASA/resources/Wiens.html)

This is an interesting quote and examples why there are so many problems in the Christian church. Too many people listen to the secular world and accept their false ideas. There are several points in that quote that need to be addressed as they are important to the Christian life. I will not address them in the order they appear in the quote but will start with the words in italics.

The literature available for Christians can be inaccurate but that depends upon whose viewpoint one applies to the material. If they are theistic evolutionists or progressive creationists then any literature supporting a young earth would fall into that category and vice versa. What the believer has to do here is look to the Holy Spirit to guide them to the truth and the truth is not information or systems that contradict the Bible.

The bolded words highlight a growing problem in the Christian church today as too many people claim to be Christ-like and followers of God yet reject God’s word and accept secular theories and thinking. One cannot claim to be a Christian when they disagree with Christ, call God a liar and say that God’s word is NOT true {unless they are new believers trying to rid themselves of the false ideas in their lives}.

A believer has to be careful here as the ramifications of claiming belief while holding to lies are immense and sends a terrible message to the unbeliever.  Then the underlined words lead us into the Christians’ response to the secular agenda of attempting to date that which God has not dated.

To be a true believer in the Bible, the Christian cannot place a date upon creation or the start of life simply because God did not do so. The knowledge of when God created is not important or germane to salvation or the Christian life. It is a distraction from the lessons that need to be learned from the passages of scripture that talk about God’s creative act.

These lessons range from setting an example of how to live (work 6 days and rest the 7th), God has power enough to defeat evil, God did not use any process, just His words,. Basically the believer needs to remember that God DID do it in spite of the efforts of the adherents to secular science to claim some alternative.

How does this apply to the above sections describing secular efforts to date the universe, etc.? Well, believers do not need to waste time, money and resources chasing after something that cannot be known. We have more important things to do like look after God’s creation properly.

How does the believer respond to the information described in the discussion of the secular methods/ first, we consider the source. If the information is coming from an unbeliever then we know it is going to contain error. The New Testament tells us that the unbeliever is not headed for the truth for they do not have the Holy Spirit guiding them to it.

Second, the secular scientist is not out to prove the Bible true. They are looking for secular scientific answers not those which require faith. Secular science is a field of study that is walking down the wrong path, looking in the wrong areas for the wrong answers. As you may have noted, key data is missing from their calculations making it impossible for them to discover the correct answer.

Third, we reject their findings based upon the fact that they cloak their work under the guise of ‘doing science’ when in fact they are not. The secular scientist relies upon assumption, conjecture, attributing, inference, theory BUT nothing that includes verifiable fact. What they claim is verifiable merely falls into the categories mentioned in the last sentence.

In fact, even evolutionary scientists are not doing evolutionary science for not one of their experiments are actually true evolutionary nor follows the claims of the theory itself. They all use an outside intelligent being, manipulation, controlled environment and so on. They even fail at the time frame that needs to be used to be truly evolutionary.

Fifth, ask the Holy Spirit for help in analyzing their work. As we can see by the Hubble law section, there is nothing upon which to build their claims for either the expanding universe theory or the age of the universe decree. It is impossible to date backwards without the starting reference point to provide a stationary marker to measure from.

If a person claims in 2011 that they were born in 1950 but could not produce any records to prove that birth date, it is impossible to verify their claim and prove their age. Even if they recited information about the Kennedy assassination, the Viet Nam war and so on it wouldn’t be proof of age but it would be evidenced that they studied history.

Believers do not look to the secular world for their information, we have the Bible to tell us what took place at the origin of everything and we have the right answers. We do not need to question it for it is the truth and the truth does not change.

Unlike the evolutionary theory, which changes from year to year, the truth repels change or it cannot be the truth and no one would have confidence in the change for it may be replaced by the ‘new truth’ later on. Changing of the truth is NOT just is not fair and shows cruelty for one group of people may actually get the truth while the rest suffer because they were given lies.

The truth does not change which is why we stick to the Bible and reject the secular scientists, the evolutionists, and so on conclusions and ideas. Christians would have nothing to offer the unbelieving world if the truth changed. There would be no hope, no salvation, nothing thus we must be careful when reading or listening to the ‘experts’ and we need to check to see if they are bringing a different gospel than the one Jesus and the apostles brought.

If they are, then they need to be removed from the church, and not allowed to spread their false teachings to vulnerable believers or spread seeds of doubt in the church itself. Just because the ‘experts’ claim they have science behind them doesn’t mean that the Christian discards the Bible and follow after that which is wrong.

Christians are called to follow God and Jesus NOT science. Science, especially the secular version, is far too limited to be trusted to come up with the right answers and the truth. Origins is outside the scope of secular science for the latter is designed to look for NATURAL answers not the truth and the truth is creation was a onetime, supernatural act that will NOT be repeated nor can it be replicated.

Secular science is looking to place a round peg in a square hole and it just won’t work for God did not use secular scientific methods or ideas to do His creating. He used His divine ways and that is far above the scope and limitations of secular science to comprehend, let alone measure.

The believer does not waste their time chasing after rainbows but does this mean that they do not become educated in science or archaeology or other fields of research? Of course not. Other believers need to learn the truth so they can grow strong in Christ and their faith.

The believer needs to learn discernment and see what is correct and what is wrong and delete the wrong with the aid of the Holy Spirit. Christians need to have wisdom and understanding added to their knowledge so that they can refute the lies of the unbeliever. We do not stick our heads into the sand, but learn how to dismantle their arguments with the proper counterpoints.

We are not to be uneducated buffoons but wise men and women who are grounded in the Bible so they will be able to withstand what evil throws their way. Hubble and his assistant were wrong. Libby was wrong and so are all those who reject the Bible and its accounts because they do not believe God and omit data vital to their work.

Believers do not walk by evidence, we walk by faith and that is a criteria of God and the only criteria we follow is from Him NOT the secular world. We will only get enough evidence to support and shore up our faith, for the Bible says faith pleases God. We will not get so much evidence that that faith, that pleases God, will be destroyed.

Faith is what we use, coupled with some evidence and we learn the spiritual lessons which help us avoid the lies, the misapplication of ‘laws’, the distortions and manipulations from the unbelieving world, all of which are meant to trap the believer and get them to lose their faith in God.

The universe is not expanding, God made it so big that the galaxies, etc., had room to roam without causing catastrophes. The age of the universe is not important and a waste of time for it and the earth were created before human time was thus no dating system will get it correct. Age cannot be determined by measuring isotopes for there is no way to verify the amount of isotopes the sample started with or had decayed over the millennium.

Human systems are fallible and subject to error and cannot be counted upon to be accurate or applied correctly thus we do not worry about dating the un-datable but focus on what really counts—standing with God and promoting His truth.