The above link goes to an article in the Orlando Sentinel, my former home-town newspaper. This shows one reason why I never cared much for the newspaper many central Floridians call the “Slantinel.” It was too conservative when I was a kid, too liberal after I grew up, and anti-Christian all the time. I didn’t even want to use it for the birdcage!
Last Monday they posted an article on an upcoming episode of the PBS show “Nova,” which asserts that the first books of the Old Testament weren’t put together in their present-day form until the Babylonian Captivity, the stories in the Bible didn’t happen, that people like Abraham, Sarah and Moses probably never existed, that the Israelites began as just another Canaanite tribe, and that monotheism developed gradually over hundreds of years, instead of appearing suddenly at Mt. Sinai.
Now will somebody tell me what’s new about this? Theories like these were being tossed about when I went to school (my Egyptology professor certainly didn’t believe the Biblical account of the Exodus), and I gather they’ve been popular longer than I’ve been alive. At least since the time of Voltaire and Rousseau, I’ll venture. This is what I would classify as a “dog bites man” story; sure, some people will be offended by the program, but more will not even notice because it has happened many times before. It would be more unusual for PBS to broadcast a show that asserts the Bible may be right. Indeed, books and TV specials like that from David Rohl are what attracted my attention to him in the first place.
Another archaeological hero of mine is Sir William Ramsay. This scholar lived in the late nineteenth century, and he started out as an atheist. When he went to Turkey, he thought he could prove the Bible false once and for all, by digging in the places where Paul went on his missionary journeys, and finding evidence that the most detailed book of the New Testament, the Book of Acts, had errors concerning dates, places, and the names of important people. But after thirty years of digging, he came to the opposite conclusion; not only did everything he find agree with what Luke wrote, but by the time he returned to England he had become a defender of the Scriptures’ accuracy!
On a distantly related note, late last night I was doing a bit of research, for a minor rewrite of one of my history papers (Chapter 5 of the European series). I was looking for the last time the famous Oracle of Delphi made a prediction. Well, I found it. Appropriately, it happened in 362 A.D., when Julian the Apostate, the last pagan Roman emperor, came by to restore the temple. The Oracle told him: “Go tell the King, the well-wrought hall has fallen in the dust; Phoebus Apollo no longer has a home or laurel, or a murmuring spring. Even the talkative spring has dried up and is no more.” In other words, don’t bother, because Apollo isn’t coming back.
I can believe that story, because Julian ruled twenty-five years after the death of Constantine, and by then paganism was definitely on the way out. However, I found another one that is even more amazing. This one concerns the first emperor, Caesar Augustus. Augustus had a problem finding an heir, never a good thing if you’re trying to start a dynasty. He had no sons of his own, and he killed the only son of Julius Caesar when he became emperor. His daughter married twice, but both husbands and their sons died young. Consequently Augustus ended up adopting Tiberius and proclaiming him his heir, and you probably know how that turned out!
Anyway, as the story goes, Augustus went to Delphi and asked the Oracle who his heir should be. But this time the normally talkative priestess, the Pythia, said nothing at all. Augustus waited for a minute, grew nervous, trembled, and begged to know why the priestess would not speak. Finally the priestess said, “A Hebrew boy bids me leave this house and go to the underworld.”
This sounds to me like Augustus just received a prophecy about the coming of Jesus and Christianity! Does anyone reading this know the original source of the story? The oldest reference to it I have found so far comes from several authors who lived around 1600, like Sir Philip Sidney and Philippe du Plessis-Mornay. It sounds like a medieval tall tale to me, so I need to know if the original author was a Christian apologist, or a pagan biographer like Tacitus. Without that bit of info, I don’t dare post the Augustus story in one of my history papers!