RELIGION

Archaeologists Carbon-Date Camel Bones, Discover Major Discrepancy In Bible Story

02/06/2014 03:05 pm ET | Updated Feb 06, 2014
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Researchers Lidar Sapir-Hen and Erez Ben-Yosef from Tel Aviv University have discovered what may be a discrepancy in the history laid out in the Bible.

Using carbon-dating to determine the age of the oldest-known camel bones, the researchers determined that camels were first introduced to Israel around the 9th century BCE.

The Hebrew Bible, or Old Testament refers to camels as pack animals as early as the story of Abraham. Though there is no archaeological evidence of Abraham's life, many in the religious and scientific communities, including Chabad and the Associates For Biblical Research, cite the 20th century BCE as his time of birth. If the new evidence is correct, however, this suggests discrepancies between the Bible and human history as explained by science.

The researchers scoured ancient copper production sites in the Aravah Valley, where camel bones were only present in sites active in the last third of the 10 century and the 9th century BCE. Sapir-Hen and Ben-Yosef write in their report:

"[The camel bones] demonstrate a sudden appearance of camels at the site, following a major change in the organization of production in the entire region."

This suggests that camels were introduced to the region abruptly, perhaps by Egyptians along Mediterranean trade routes.

Dr. Robert Harris, an Associate Professor at the Jewish Theological Seminary, says this shouldn't come as a shock to the theological community.

“While these findings may have been published recently, those of us on the inside have known the essential facts for a generation now," Harris conveyed to HuffPost Religion through associates at JTS. "This is just one of many anachronisms in the Bible, but these do not detract from its sanctity, because it is a spiritual source, not a historical one.”

Biblical archaeology is understandably an imperfect science. Archaeologist William Dever explained in an interview with PBS several years ago:

"We want to make the Bible history. Many people think it has to be history or nothing. But there is no word for history in the Hebrew Bible. In other words, what did the biblical writers think they were doing? Writing objective history? No. That's a modern discipline. They were telling stories. They wanted you to know what these purported events mean."

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