Full Text for Exodus- Volume 8 - How good is our knowledge of the history of the ancient world? (Video)

ROUGHLY EDITED COPY CONCORDIA UNIVERSITY EDUCATION NETWORK EXODUS DR. DAVID ADAMS #8 Captioning Provided By: Caption First, Inc. 10 E. 22nd Street Suite 304 Lombard, IL 60148 800-825-5234 *** This text is being provided in a rough draft format. Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART) is provided in order to facilitate communication accessibility and may not be a totally verbatim record of the proceedings. *** >> Like my colleagues here, I've been enjoying this introduction to the geography of the lands depicted in exodus. But the tenor of our questions and your answers leads me to wonder: How good is our knowledge of the history of the ancient world? >> This takes us from the discussion of geography to the discussion of history, Nick. And that's good. Because we need to spend a few minutes getting a general orientation to the history before we jump into the book of Exodus in particular. In brief the answer to your question is, generally speaking, our knowledge of the history of the ancient world is much better today than it was a century ago. This is -- this last century has been a tremendous time of progress and growth in our understanding of the ancient world. Partially because of discoveries from archeology over the course of the last century. Partially because of our ability to understand the languages in which documents were written. And partially because of advances in technology, as well. Interestingly, for most of the history of the church, people didn't care very much about history per se. The reason is they tended to interpret the Bible allegorically. They were looking for sort of vague spiritual truths in the text. And as a result, the history of the text wasn't all that important to them. So with the coming of the Reformation and an emphasis placed on the historical and grammatical interpretation of the text rather than on allegorical interpretation of the text, one of the side effects of the Reformation was an increased interest in history, particularly the history of the Bible. And as a result, they tie that to things happening in the Renaissance where there was a renewed interest in language and history and the arts of the ancient world in general with the later colonial expansion of European powers that brought nations like Germany and France and England into contact with Egypt and Mesopotamia. And as a result of that, the scholars from Germany and France and England began to develop what we know today as archeology as they investigated those sites. All of this started to come together toward the end of the 19th century. So that the end of the 19th century and throughout the 20th century we've just had an explosion of knowledge. And we know so much more today about the history of the ancient world than they knew 150 years ago. That almost you can discount anything that was said, you know, 150 years ago about the ancient world. They basically simply didn't know what they were talking about, because they didn't have any sources really other than the Bible. And much of the way they understood the Bible was guesswork since they were operating in a vacuum without any understanding of what was actually happening in the history outside the Bible. Well, your question was: How good is our knowledge? And the answer is that our knowledge varies a lot depending upon which country you're talking about and which period in time you're talking about. So I think what I would like to do first is to maybe take us on a fairly quick overview of what we know and how we know it when it comes to the ancient world. Well, first, what do we know? We have basically two kinds of data about the ancient world when it comes to establishing chronology and history. We have what we call relative dates and what we call absolute dates. Now, relative dates are dates in a sequence. So that if I said to you, "I went to the store the day before yesterday," I've given you a relative date. That would be two days before today. I haven't told you what date that is. I haven't said it was March 17th or August the 1st or whichever day it was. But I've given you a relative date, a place in a sequence. An absolute date is a date that you can assign, if you will, a numerical label to. So 2005 is a -- an absolute date. Whereas, you know, three years ago is a relative date. Now, the relative dates and absolute dates at some point have to come together for us to build a chronology. But most of the information we have from the ancient world falls into the category of relative dates. We are able to pin together sequences of events. And once we're able to establish an absolute date for one of those events and then we know Event X happened two years before Event Y, well, if we know -- if we're able to determine an absolute date for Event Y, then we can deduce an absolute date for Event X, as well. So in this way the chronology of the ancient world has been pieced together bit by bit by combining information that gives us relative dates or sequential dates with dates -- with the ability to identify just a few absolute dates in the ancient world. And that way we've built up a pretty good picture. Certainly if you go back to about 2000 BC, we're pretty good in chronology to about 2000 BC. And when I say "pretty good," I mean, you know, in some cases within 100 years and in some cases within a single year. Once you get farther back than 2000 BC, then our knowledge gets vaguer and vaguer and we have to talk with margins of error of 10 to 100, in some cases to 1,000, years. The further back you go, the bigger the margin of error gets until, frankly, once you get past about 7- or 8000 BC, it's pretty much guesswork after that. But -- so we have two types of data: Relative data and absolute data. Now, where does this data come from? First we have what we would call internal data. That is -- now we're talking about from the perspective of the Bible. Internal data are dates that come to us from the Bible itself. Some of them are genealogies, for example. We know that so-and-so lived a few -- X number of years and then had a son at that point and then lived another set of years. So you can turn to Genesis Chapter 5 or Genesis Chapter 10 or many of the smaller genealogies in the book of Kings or Chronicles and find this kind of information. Also we have date references in the biblical material itself. For example, here is a very important one from I Kings Chapter 6 Verse 1. There we read "It came to pass in the 480th year after the children of Israel had come out of the land of Egypt in the fourth year of Solomon's reign over Israel in the month of Ziv, which is the second month of the year, that he began to build the temple." So here in I Kings 6:1, we're given a fairly specific date down to the month where the construction of the temple began. Now, we're told that this 480 years from the exodus was the fourth year of Solomon's reign. So this is all relative dating information. If we can identify what year Solomon began to reign, then we can add four years to that and subtract 480 and get the day of the exodus. So that's how we put chronologies together. We get a combination of dates from the Bible like this. And actually all of the data that we get from the Bible is relative data. We get into absolute dates from the Bible itself. You know, nowhere in the Bible does it say this happened in X AD. And the reason for that -- or X BC. And the reason for that, of course, is that our scheme of dating didn't come about until, you know, five centuries after Christ when the monk Dionysius Exiguus was asked to figure out what year Christ was born in. And he tried to figure out the chronology working backwards connecting it to the dating system that was used at the time, which was dating based on how many years it had been since the founding of Rome and ultimately came up with Year 1 being the year in which Jesus was born. Most people think he came close but missed it by four to eight years. Jesus was actually born, you know, in 4 or 8 BC, not in the year that we call Year 1. There is, of course, no Year 0, which is why the -- you know, 2000 was not the beginning of the -- January 1st, 2000 was not the beginning of the new millennium. January 1st, 2001 was the beginning of the new millennium. But that's irrelevant for our concerns. In addition to internal data from within the Bible, we also have external data from outside the Bible. And this falls into several different types. First we have literary information. From Egypt, for example, we have a very important list of kings by a priest called Manetho done in the third century BC, 300 years -- 200 years before Christ. And in this list Manetho gives a list of all the pharaohs of Egypt from the first pharaoh down to his time in 31 dynasties. And Manetho actually was pretty good. His list is still used by scholars today. We know there are a few people that get left out and there are a couple of places where maybe the order is a little confused. But basically Manetho's list of pharaohs done, you know, between 300 and 200 BC is still very important for us in dating Egypt today. For Mesopotamia we have similar kinds of lists of kings that help us know at least in a relative sequence when -- who followed who in terms of ruling. We have royal annals that give us dating information, as well. And we also have a tremendous number of economic texts that tell us that certain things happen. There were certain floods that happened. And many of these economic texts mention not only the dates of kings but occasionally will mention something like this was the year of the great comet which connects us to another kind of data which is technological or astronomical. And we'll come back to that kind of data in a minute. But all of this literary information from the ancient world comes to us largely by way of archeology. So archaeological information is the second major category or type of data we have from the ancient world. Now, we've already mentioned text that archeology produces. But archeology has also produced another thing that's been very important in helping us to date the ancient world. And that is pottery. Now, you may ask, you know, how in the world does pottery help us date things in the ancient world? And actually pottery is one of the most important things that we use to date the ancient world today. And here is the reason why: It's so ubiquitous. It's everywhere. Everybody made pottery. But they didn't all make it the same way. You know, some people used different types of clay. They made their pots in different shapes. They baked them or finished them in a certain way. They decorated them with different kinds of paints and they used different kinds of patterns. And so over the -- because there's so much pottery, it's spread out over such a large area. But it's all different. We have been able to build up over the years of study a fairly comprehensive picture of how pottery developed in the different cultures in the ancient world. So today if we find a pot somewhere in a -- say we're digging up a city and we don't find any texts but we find pottery. Well, we can compare this pottery to pots that we already have. And we can say, "Oh, this kind of pottery was made in a certain place at a certain time, within, you know, a few years." And therefore, we know that this site must have dated to a place, you know, in relation to that kind of pottery. This site couldn't be later than that. You know -- I'm sorry; couldn't be earlier than that. It may be later. But it couldn't be earlier. So it helps us to establish a date even though there's no date stamped on the pot. This is called pottery typology. You know, organizing pottery into types. And it's one of the most important ways we date things in the ancient world. And again, we're able to do it because we can compare the materials used. We can compare the technique used in manufacturing it. We can compare the shapes. And Greeks made pots that were different shapes than the Phoenicians. And they decorated them in a different way than the Canaanites did. The Israelites barely decorated their pots at all. It's very easy to tell an Israelite pot and a Canaanite pot from each other, even though they lived within ten miles of each other. They made their pottery very different. Particularly as pottery was used as containers for trade. Olive oil and wine were put in pots and carried from place to place. And because of that, pottery can be used to date things in places other than where it was created, as well. Well, pottery typology is very, very important to us today. We've also -- we also have other technologically oriented ways of dating. I've already mentioned astronomy. Some texts tell us of astronomical events that happened in a certain year. One of the most important of these is a cycle known as the Sothic Cycle in Egypt. S o t h i c. Now, the Sothic Cycle is important because Egypt had two different calendars. It had basically a civil calendar and a religious calendar. And one was based on the solar year and the other was based on the lunar year. And as a result, New Year's Day fell out of sequence in these two calendars. And because -- here I'm simplifying a bit. Because we can tell what day New Year's Day fell on, we can tell how far out of sequence the two calendars were. And therefore -- and because we know when the calendars were back in sequence again, you know, as the solar and lunar years sort of come back together in a cycle, we're able then to determine within a couple of years when events happened in Egypt. So the so-called Sothic Cycle is very important for dating events in Egypt. But we also have references to comets things like Halley's Comet and other comets that occur in predictable patterns that we can identify. And we also have rather notoriously things like Carbon 14 dating which helps us to identify the dates of some kinds of material. And I say relatively notoriously because there's a great debate about the validity of Carbon 14 dating and other types of dating like this. Basically Carbon 14 dating is very good going back to about 5,000 years from the present. So about 2500 BC -- carbon dating is pretty good to 2500 to 3000 years BC. After that, it's -- the margin of error starts to increase. And also Carbon 14 dating works on the assumption that carbon has been deposited in living material at the same rate over the whole history of mankind. Now, today scientists know that that's not true. We know that even within the era of history, you know, that -- in the Ice Age and so forth and in the little Ice Age in the Middle Ages that the amount of carbon that was deposited in materials fluctuated by little bits over time. But we don't know how it may have fluctuated in the ancient world and how events like the flood may have affected it. So Carbon 14 dating is very controversial once you get past 3000 BC. And you know, the closer you get from 3000 BC to the present, the more reliable it is. It really needs to be combined with other kinds of data to be effective. One thing that we have to remember about all of this kind of data is that all data requires interpretation. You know, being moderns, we have a tendency to think that scientific data doesn't require interpretation. That somehow it's more objective. But the truth is that scientific data just like literary data and archaeological data all require interpretation. None of it really gives us an absolute date by itself. Science and technology give us data. We have to turn that data into dates based on our understanding of how the data fits into a broader framework of understanding history. And this is true of biblical data, as well. For example, I mentioned I Kings 6:1 earlier. We heard there that they began building a temple 480 years after the exodus. So that seems fairly straightforward. And it may be. But some people have suggested that 480 years shouldn't be taken as a literal date because they thought of 40 years as the equivalent of a generation. And so some have suggested that 480 years equals not 480 literal years but a certain number of generations then. And that a real generation is more like 25 years. So the 480 years may be sort of a round number summary rather than exact number of real years. Now, biblical scholars debate these issues all the time. And this is -- this has led to really two different dating schemes for biblical periods, especially involving the exodus. What we tend to call the Early Scheme and the Late Scheme. And we'll talk more about those when we talk about dating the exodus per se. But these two schemes come from the fact that both biblical data and extra biblical data both have to be interpreted and put into a framework. So how does all of this data get put together then? Well, the earliest efforts just were based on biblical data alone. The most famous of these was begun by a Cambridge University scholar. I mention that since I graduated from Cambridge. You always have to get a plug-in for your alma mater. A very famous scholar named John Lightfoot who lived from 1602 to 1675. Lightfoot went through the Old Testament and tried to work backwards from the birth of Christ looking at all of the dates in the Old Testament to date everything in the Old Testament. And his scheme was taken up by a bishop in Ireland, Bishop Ussher. And it was popularized by Bishop Ussher. So even though Lightfoot created it, Bishop Ussher usually gets credit for it. And according to the Lightfoot-Ussher chronology, creation took place on Sunday the 23rd of October 4004 BC. Lightfoot believed that it happened at 9 a.m. Greenwich Mean Time. Bishop Ussher believed that it took place at sunset Greenwich Mean Time. I have no idea how they determined the time of day. Presumably based -- I guess Ussher was working on the assumption that in the ancient world, the day started at sunset. And so that's why he picked sunset. But they were very specific. For example, they dated the expulsion from the Garden of Eden to the 10th of November 4004 BC. Now, I read all through the book of Genesis. There's no dating information that tells us how long Adam and Eve were in the garden. So I have no idea how they came up with November 10th, 4004 BC as the date to the fall into sin and the expulsion from Eden. According to this chronology, again, Noah, for example, lands on Mount Ararat after the flood on May the 5th, 2491 BC, which was a Wednesday. So you can put these kind of chronological schemes together based on just the information in the Old Testament. How do we evaluate this effort? Well, it's good with regard to biblical faithfulness obviously because it's all the data they use comes directly from the Bible. So it ties the dates together fairly well. It assumes, however, that the purpose of the dates given in the Bible is to give us an exact chronology. So it always assumes that there are no round numbers. You know, that 40 years is always exactly 40 years and not a generation or something like that. When it says something happened in 100 years, they don't mean 101 or about 100 but exactly 100. So they make certain presuppositions about how they use the biblical chronology. They also have to gloss over some problems in internal consistency. Sometimes biblical dates themselves are a little vague. And some of them in some cases seem to contradict one another. This may be because within the Bible itself they use different calendars in different periods. We know during the exile that they used the calendar that was used in Babylon and Assyria as opposed to the calendar that was used in Canaan. Because we can see those dates being out of sequence later in the Bible. But we don't know, for example, if they used the same kind of calendar all the way through the history of the Bible. And the Ussher-Lightfoot chronology assumes that. Also there are, frankly, some gaps in the biblical dates. And they make some assumptions about how to fill those gaps, as well. So the traditional chronology of the Old Testament based on the Lightfoot-Ussher chronology, again, it's really pretty good going back to about 2000 BC until you get back to about the time of Abraham. The farther you get beyond Abraham, sort of more question marks there are after that. But that's not the only effort to date things in the Old Testament. Some people have not used just data from within the Bible but have also used data from outside the Bible. In fact, most dating schemes that you see today in modern works really use a combination of internal and external data and try to reconcile them. Sometimes they emphasize archaeological data. Sometimes they emphasize astronomical data. And they come up with different dates. Most of these dates are really fairly close again until about 2000 BC. And it's before 2000 BC that the dates begin to diverge somewhat. Now, partially that's because we have fewer written records before 2000 BC to depend upon. We have more gaps in our own knowledge. Well, archeologists have put together kind of a broad scheme to date things going back, you know, to the earliest periods. And so it would probably be good for us to at least be generally familiar with that scheme. So I would like to spend just a minute sort of summarizing the traditional archaeological scheme before we stop here. And this is based on what are called -- what we usually call ages. We describe these in terms of what age they are. The earliest is the Paleolithic age, the Old Stone Age. Usually this is dated to 10,000 BC or greater. This is described as a time in which people were hunter-gatherers. That is to say there were no permanent settlements of any kind that can be dated back before 10,000 BC. The tools that were used were primitive stone tools. There was no writing. And the technology of the tools was very, very primitive. The next period was -- is usually called the Mesolithic or the Middle Stone Age. This runs from about 10,000 BC to about 6500 BC or something like that. It was in this period that in the ancient near east they began agriculture and animal husbandry. They began to domesticate animals and to engage in agriculture. So it's in this period we get the earliest settlements. Little farming communities. Very small. Some of them we know well. Jericho from the Bible was clearly one of the oldest of these farming communities and others from the ancient world. We don't know exactly when they were formed because, again, we don't have any literary material, any documents, to help us. But we know that they are quite old and fall somewhere into this Mesolithic Age. The next period we usually call the Neolithic or New Stone Age. And this runs from roughly 6500 BC down to about 4000 BC. This age is important because during this age, pottery was invented. And so we can -- using pottery typology, we can go back to before the time of writing. And it was at this time that the settlements that were originally just very small agricultural communities began to develop into what we might think of today as cities, more permanent somewhat larger things. Although, still very small by modern standards. These did not have walls at this period. But they were permanent settlements. And they were now settlements that began to trade and were not just agricultural settlements. So we get the beginning of trade and commerce in this period, as well. The next period called the Chalcolithic or the Copper Stone Age from roughly 4000 BC to roughly 3000 BC. This period is important because during this period, people began to make tools out of things other than stone. Particularly copper, hence the name. Copper smelter, the smelting of copper, and the working of metal. Metalworking begins in this period. Also in this period we get walled cities beginning to develop. As cities begin to grow, they also accumulate wealth. And once they start to accumulate wealth, they become targets for robbers. And so they begin to build walls during this period. This implies some centralized authority with enough economic streak that people can either be paid to build walls or that you can pay an army and, therefore, force people to build walls. So the growth of cities carries with it a certain economic development, as well. And all of this was happening between 4,000 and 3000 BC. We move then to what we call the Early Bronze Age. And the dates for the Early Bronze Age are kind of in flux. It's gradually being moved back. The traditional date was between roughly 3000 BC down to about 2200 BC. But today you sometimes see 3500 BC given as a date. The Early Bronze Age is marked by the beginning of writing. You know, writing begins during this time. And so with the Early Bronze Age we begin to move into what we can think of as documentable history at this point. Although, still very primitive. It's called the Bronze Age because we begin to move from making things out of copper to making them out of bronze. And bronze is an alloy that requires more than one metal to be mixed together. So an increase in technology and in technological sophistication goes along with it. It's important, of course, because if you have a copper sword and I have a bronze sword and we get in a fight, I win and you lose because my sword can break your sword. And so with the emergence of bronze tools, armies become bigger and more powerful. And therefore, political structures begin to grow. So we begin to move beyond the individual walled city to develop something like we think of today as nations, collections of cities together under a common ruler. So we get kings emerging for the first time. From the Middle Bronze -- from the Early Bronze Age we move to the Middle Bronze Age. The dates here are usually around 2200 BC down to about 1500 BC. The Middle Bronze Age is important to us because it was during the Middle Bronze Age that the alphabet was invented. So alphabetic scripts began to be used. The technology for making tools gets better. But they are still making bronze tools. We also get the growth of what we might call multi-national empires. Now, as the economy grows and trade continues, we get nations now joining together into multiple nation organizations or empires. And so we get the Babylonian empire -- the early Babylonian empires or the Egyptian empire coming into being during this period. The Middle Bronze Age is also important because it's in this period that Abraham comes to Canaan, that Jacob and the descendents of the Israelites go down to Egypt and that the Hebrews are in Egypt. The Middle Bronze Age is the period of the Hebrews in Egypt. This takes us to the Late Bronze Age, roughly 1550 BC down to about 1200 BC. We're getting smaller in periods of time, as well. This period is usually marked off by an event in Egyptian history that we'll talk about when we talk about Egyptian history. That is the expulsion of a group known as the Hyksos. The Hyksos were a group of foreign rulers. They were closely related to the Hebrews who took over the Delta area of Egypt, you know, and ruled that northern Delta area for several hundred years. They were expelled by the Egyptians. And that expulsion of the Hyksos usually marks the Late Bronze Age for us. The end of the Late Bronze Age, about 1200 BC, is also marked by a political event. Namely, the arrival of the Philistines in the land of Canaan. This is the period of the exodus and the period of the book of Judges. So the period that we're going to be studying in our class, the book of Exodus, falls within what archeologists call the Late Bronze Age. Finally, we come to the Iron Age. And the reason that the Philistines were the demarkation point between the Late Bronze Age and the Iron Age is that the Philistines knew how to work in iron and no one else did in the ancient world. They -- the Philistines probably come from the area of the Balkans, you know, north of Greece or the islands of the eastern -- northeastern Mediterranean where ironworking technology was developed earlier. And so when the Philistines moved south and settled in what's today Gaza Strip, the land of the Philistines, that coastal plain region we were talking about earlier, they brought with them the ability to work in iron, which is why they were such a dominant political power. Again, you had copper weapons or bronze weapons. I have iron weapons. I win. You know, their military technology was just superior. And so they established themselves. They were able to force the Canaanite residents of the coastal plain out and get rid of them. They were able to hold onto that land and keep the Israelites from conquering it for a long time because they just had better military technology. They had working -- they had the ability to work in iron. So with the arrival of the Philistines we enter the Iron Age. The ability to work in iron gradually moved out from the Philistines to Egypt. And of course, the Hebrews, Israelites, learned it. And other places learned it later, as well. The Iron Age is usually described as ending with the conquest of Alexander the Great in 333 BC. At that point we enter the Hellenistic Period, the Roman Period and so forth down to the modern day. So we stop talking about archaeological ages with the end of the Iron Age. And we usually mark that with the conquest of Alexander the Great, which kind of brings to an end the history of the ancient world in biblical terms. So that's our overview of how things developed. Within that, of course, Mesopotamia has its own history. Egypt has its own history. And the history of Israel is tied up with both the history of Egypt and the history of Mesopotamia. So we need to spend just a little bit of time talking about each of those before we get to the book of Exodus proper. *** This text is being provided in a rough draft format. Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART) is provided in order to facilitate communication accessibility and may not be a totally verbatim record of the proceedings. ***