Opinion dating the patriarchs mistake
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If the patriarchs are taken to be historical figures, during which archaeological period can their lives and journeys most aptly be placed? Until recently, scholars assuming the basic historicity of the patriarchal narratives have favoured either Middle Bronze I[ 1 ] or Middle Bronze II as the most likely background for the movements of Abraham. A later date, in the Late Bronze Age, has also been defended, but has never had the same support. More recently, a much earlier date, in the Early Bronze Age, has been suggested. These problems arise from the apparent non-occupation of sites which feature in the patriarchal narratives. In , Albright was able to write that only 'a few diehards among older scholars' had not accepted the essential historicity of the patriarchal traditions in the light of archaeological data, and that it was no longer fashionable to view those traditions as artificial creations by the scribes of the monarchic period.
But there are also resemblances with the literature of Qumran. For over a century it has been a matter of discussion among scholars whether the Testaments is basically a Jewish work with Christian interpolations or a Christian composition which uses Jewish sources.
The debate has become more acute after the evidence from Qumran has been brought to bear on the problem. Opinion is still divided on the origins of the present Testaments. Some believe that the work was composed by a Jew or Jewish Christian in the first or second century A. Others maintain that they are of pre-Christian or Jewish, possibly Essene origin. The original language of the present work, whether Aramaic or Greek, is also debated. There is nothing here that can be said to indicate a 'Jewish-Christian' standpoint.
Again it is impossible to reconcile with the Christian passages in question that series of utterances characterized above which can only have emanated from a Jewish author. How can it ever be supposed that a Christian, ay, or even a Jewish-Christian, author should think of characterizing the tirbes of Levi and Judah as those to whom God had committed the guidance of Israel.
Then what could we conceive such an author to mean by exhorting the rest of the tribes to join themselves to their authority? Why, it was precisely the tribes of Levi and Judah, i. We can hardly imagine therefore that even a Jewish-Christian author would be likely to represent them as occupying the leading position above referred to. Nor does he so represent them as one who is merely taking a theoretical survey of history, and as though he meant to censure the defection from the tribes of Levi and Judah merely as a thing of the past.
But he also urges a loyal adherence to these tribes as a present duty. Nor can we here suppose that Levi is intended to represent the Christian clergy. For what in that case would Judah be supposed to represent?
Then there is the further circumstance, that many of the Christian passages obviously disturb the connection and thus proclaim themselves to be interpolations at the very outset.
What is more, the much canvassed passage regarding Paul in the Testament of Benjamin xi. From all this it may be regarded as tolerably certain, that all the Christian passages are to be ascribed to some interpolator who, with a Jewish original before him, introduced modifications here and there to adapt it to the purposes and needs of the Christian Church.
This assumption will also enable us to explain how it comes to be stated in our Testaments that Christ was a descendant of the tribes of Levi and Judah alike.
How it would ever occur to a Christian author himself to emphasize this point so much, even supposing Mary to have belonged to the tribe of Levi, it is difficult to see, for in the primitive Christian tradition it was only upon the descent from Judah that stress was laid. But the matter becomes perfectly intelligible when we assume that the author had a text before him in which Levi and Judah were held up as the chosen and model tribes.
For finding this in his text he proceeds to justify it from his Christian standpoint by representing Christ as descended from the tribe of Levi in His capacity as priest, and from that of Judah in His capacity as king, it being left an open question whether he assumes the Levitical descent of Mary or has in view only some spiritual connection on the part of Christ with both those tribes in virtue of His twofold office of priest and king.
It is further worthy of note that, deviating from his Jewish original, the Christian interpolator as a rule puts the tribe of Judah first. Traces of scanty or short-lived occupation may have been removed in subsequent periods, either by erosion or by building activities; or they may simply have been missed by the excavators, since only a small proportion of any site can be explored in detail.
While it would be less reasonable to appeal to this possibility in the case of the complete lack of MB II finds throughout the Negeb, it should always be borne in mind in cases of individual sites. Secondly, the chronological distinction made between MB I and MB II styles of pottery should not be taken to mean that the two archaeological ages never overlapped.
Finally, there is the possibility that the time covered by the patriarchal narratives actually spanned the transition between MB I and MB II. It is this third possibility which offers the most satisfactory solution to the difficulties noted above.
It may be significant that in Table I Ai, Kadesh, the Negeb and north Transjordian sites occur only in the first half of the list, corresponding to the lifetime of Abraham. The evidence discovered by Albright and Glueck for MB I occupation in north Transjordan may justly be noted in connection with. Genesis 14, without reviving Glueck's claim that the eastern kings 'gutted every city and village In short, it seems that the sites and areas mentioned only in the Abraham narratives or Abraham-Isaac narratives in the case of the Negeb were exclusively MB I sites, though Ai cannot be included with certainty.
The only references to Succoth and Dothan occur in narratives concerning Jacob; similarly, those references to Shechem which clearly speak of a city belong in the Jacob narratives, the reference in Genesis being open to another interpretation. A site which does not lend itself to this scheme is Hebron, a walled town in Abraham's time, but not attested archaeologically as such until MB II.
With the exception of this one site, the above suggestion harmonizes the biblical and archaeological evidence more satisfactorily than does a purely MB I or MB II setting for the patriarchal period. Generally speaking, a shift is certainly observable in the focus of patriarchal movements; in the Abraham and Isaac narratives, the Negeb as far south as the region between Kadesh and Shur is included in the patriarchs' wanderings, whereas the family of Jacob, after their return from Paddan-Aram, do not frequent this area at all, but instead are found in central Palestine, often in the vicinity of Shechem.
Several scholars prefer a date nearer to than to BC. This is an earlier dating than is currently popular, but it does have the support of the chronological framework of the Old Testament. Linking the patriarchal age with later history are two periods whose lengths are given in summary.
Dating the patriarchs
The period spent in Egypt is given as years in Exodus years in Gn. Both these periods of time have been shortened by critical treatments, the sojourn in Egypt to as little as years,[ ] the period between the Exodus and Solomon to about years or less, placing the Exodus in the thirteenth century BC.
However, other biblical material does not allow these periods to be shortened so drastically. If both periods are taken at face value, and if the patriarchal period itself is allowed the time required by the biblical chronology, Abraham's life does indeed fall almost entirely before BC.
Online Text for Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs
The figure of years found in Exodus has been adequately defended by K. Kitchen and T. The LXX reduces the sojourn from years by inserting the phrase 'and in the land of Canaan' in Exodus Thus it reads: 'And the sojourning of the children of Israel, which they sojourned in the land of Egypt and in the land of Canaan, was four hundred and thirty years. This understanding leaves only years for the sojourn, a figure which a number of scholars have adopted.
Abraham, Isaac and Jacob would hardly be described as 'children of Israel', as this view assumes they are. Before the birth of Jacob's sons, there were no 'children of Israel' to dwell in Canaan. It is worth noting that the biblical material makes Joseph thirty-nine years old when Jacob and his other sons entered Egypt Gn.
The biblical chronology therefore allows approximately thirty years between the arrival of Jacob and his sons in Canaan and their descent into Egypt. If the sojourn in Egypt is taken as years, as in Genesisthe sojourn of 'the children of Israel' in both Egypt and Canaan would be about years in all.
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It seems far more likely that this is the meaning of the LXX reading than that Abraham and Isaac are supposed to be involved. This argument is not intended to suggest that the LXX is original and correct; the additional phrase may have been inserted by the LXX translators in order to remove the year difference between Exodus and the years of Genesis The difference is not in fact problematical; as Kitchen has noted, the years of Gn. In short, neither the LXX nor other biblical material relating to the time of the sojourn contradicts the figure of years found in Exodus I have discussed elsewhere the extra-biblical evidence on which a thirteenth-century date for the Exodus has been based, suggesting that it does not support that date so strongly as has been commonly supposed, and proposing instead a date in the fifteenth century BC.
Kitchen states that because the Old Testament is ancient near-eastern literature, 'Ancient Oriental principles must be applied' in understanding the figure of years. The Turin Canon places some kings in this period; their reigns total 'at least years', but the astronomically fixed dates for the XIIth and XVIIIth Dynasties allow them 'a maximum period of only years at most'.
The problem has been resolved by the conclusion that the dynasties involved were all partly contemporary. But one may question whether this really illustrates the situation behind the years of 1 Kings The Turin Canon does not provide an overall total for the reigns which it lists, while 1 Kings gives no hint whatever of being an aggregate of several lesser figures. The parallel is therefore somewhat artificial. Secondly, Kitchen's own defence of the years of Exodus shows that he does not consider the application of ancient near eastern principles to be truly obligatory; they are applied in the case of 1 Kings simply in order to reconcile the figure of years with a thirteenth-century date for the Exodus arrived at on other grounds - the same grounds which I have elsewhere shown to be questionable.
Other writers have argued for a reduction of the years on the assumption that the figure is a round number representing twelve generations. Against a reduction of the years we may note that Judges gives the time between the Israelite occupation of Transjordan and the days of Jephthah as years.
To argue that this figure too results from the totalling of concurrent periods is surely a case of special pleading. Also, a period in the order of years between the Exodus and the time of Solomon is indicated by one of the genealogies for this period 1 Ch. The years of 1 Kings has its lower end fixed at the fourth year of the reign of Solomon, for which a date of BC seems probable.
This date should not be considered exact, since some small leeway must be allowed for the dating of Solomon's reign, and the figures of and may themselves be round estimates.
However, adopting the date of BC as an approximate baseline. It is tempting to speculate that the famine which drove Isaac from the southern Negeb to Gerar was part of the change in conditions which led to the depopulation of the Negeb as a whole at the end of MB I.
This scheme of dating relies on the ages attributed to the individual patriarchs by Genesis, and many scholars would reject this information as unreliable and the ages as impossible.
Thompson remarks: 'That Abraham lived years has to be taken seriously, but it is nonsense from an historical critical perspective. They were not constructed from the point of view of the historical critical method, and it is methodologically unsound to treat them as if they were. But the above survey of the chronological. Discussions of the dating of the patriarchal age in relation to archaeological periods have tended to disregard the length of the patriarchal age itself.
The Biblical Exodus... Fairytale or Historical Fact? (by David Rohl)
This is particularly true of Dever's treatment,[ ] which, by stressing that neither period is an appropriate background to the patriarchal age as a whole, reinforces the negative conclusions of Thompson and Van Seters concerning the historicity of the patriarchal narratives.
This paper has tried to contribute to the debate by emphasizing the length of the patriarchal age as envisaged in Genesis, thus showing that it was quite long enough to span the major changes in patterns of settlement which occurred during the transition from MB I to MB II.
Such a setting is in accord with the biblical dating of the patriarchs. Without pretending that this removes every trace of disharmony between the patriarchal narratives and archaeological evidence, it can be said that it offers by far the most complete solution to the problems raised in this area by recent scholarship. Remaining traces of disharmony, e. Such problems should certainly not be treated as proof of the unhistorical nature of the narratives, in view of the limitations of archaeological evidence and the uncertainties surrounding its interpretation.
From the point of view of the Palestinian archaeological evidence, there is certainly no reason to reject an early setting for the events of the patriarchal narratives, and ideally those events should be placed within the twenty-first to nineteenth centuries BC. An essentially negative assessment of archaeological evidence is also found in J. Hayes and J. Maxwell Miller eds. See also J. Campbell and J. Maxwell Miller, 'W.
Dever in Hayes and Miller, pp. Albright, The Archaeology of Palestine and the Biblep. Albright, The Archaeology of Palestine and the Bible, p. Sanders ed. Wright Doubleday, NY,pp. See also Dever in Cross, Magnalia Deipp. I, pp. Cathcart, CBQ 37,p.
Wright, Biblical Archaeology revised edn. Speiser, Genesis Doubleday, NY,pp. Yeivin in B.
The Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs
Mazar ed. Bright, A History of Israel revised edn. SCM, London,pp.
Altmann Cambridge, Mass. See also G. Avi-Yonah and E. Stern, OUP, London,pp. Dever as ns. The reply by A.
See also my comments on Rainey's reply, J. Callaway, Enc. Kenyon, Digging up Jerusalem Benn, London,p. Amiran, IEJ 10,p. Kenyon, Digging up Jerusalempp. Barrois, lDB4, p. Melchizedek, a king allied to him Hammond, RB 73,pp.
For the ancient sources which identify Ramat el-Khalil as the site of Mamre, end a report of the excavations, see A. Mader, Mambre2 vols. Freiburg in Breisgau, ; for a brief summary, see conveniently S.
Applebaum, Enc. Negev ed. Dothan, lEJ 15,p. Cross and G.
Wright, JBL 75,p. Aharoni in D. Winton Thomas ed. Aharoni, lEJ 6, pp. The Na al Gerar forms the northern arm of the Wadi Gaza. Gophna, Enc. Dever's remark HTR 64,p. On the basis of Carbon-l4 dates, J. Mellaart has recently proposed a high chronology for Egypt before the second Intermediate Period, and for parallel eras of Mesopotamian history, requiring mid-3rd millennium dates for MB I MeIlaart, 'Egyptian and Near Eastern Chronology, a dilemma? Several lines of data argue against Mellaart's chronology; for example, only seven generations separate the Hittite king Suppiluliumas I, who reigned in the fourteenth century, from Mursilis I, making it unlikely that the latter should be placed in the eighteenth century; Mellaart's twentieth-century date for Shamshi Adad I of Assyria requires a gap of years in the Assyrian king list, for which there is no evidence.
Mitchell in NB p. Burney, Israel's Settlement in Canaan, pp. Anstey, The Chronology of the Old Testamentrepr. Bimson, Redating the Exodus and Conquest see n. Curtis and A. Coggins, Chronicles C. Hayes and Miller, pp. It would be guile wrong to insist that the ages reached by Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are intrinsically impossible; see A. The article actually mentions one alleged year-old!
It is not impossible that environmental conditions in the third to early second millennium BC were such as to allow great ages to be reached frequently in the ancient near east. For a recent ingenious attempt to provide a scientific framework for biblical longevity and its abatement, see D. Scholars have a variety of theories on the dating of Abraham from a date in the latter half of the 15 th century to the 23 rd century.
Fortunately for us we have the Bible to guide our interpretation of the evidence. The Bible is the infallible Word of God and has always been, and always will be, supported by the evidence. This puts the Exodus at BC. This is supported by Exodus EX Now the time that the sons of Israel lived in Egypt was four hundred and thirty years. Exodus NASB. Starting with BC, the date when Solomon began to build the temple, add the following three periods of time:.
The word Aram Naharaim is also used to describe this area and is used in Genesis He set out for Aram Naharaim and made his way to the town of Nahor. Genesis NIV. The upper region is called Akkad and the lower region is called Sumer. The region is up to miles wide at some points and narrows as the two rivers merge for the last 75 miles towards the Persian Gulf.
The Euphrates River is on the west and the Tigris River is on the east. The source of these two rivers is in the present day Armenian mountains the ancient kingdom of Urartuwhich are referred to in the Bible as Ararat Genesis Ararat is a variation of Urartu.
The Tigris River is about 1, miles long and has a fairly straight course. In the upper reaches of the Tigris River you have the great cities of Nineveh and Assur.
The Euphrates is about 1, miles in length. Mari is located far up the Euphrates. The area only receives on average 6 inches, or less, of rain in the lower area with a bit more in the upper area.
Since there is very little rock, the buildings are built from clay bricks. Because it is a very fertile place different groups would invade in an attempt to take over.
The archaeological evidence of the area shows constant change. There were the Babylonians in the very early days, the Assyrians, the Chaldeans, the Persians, and then the Greeks. One group was always supplanting the other. The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran. From there, after his father died, God had him move to this country in which you are now living. Acts NASB. Ur of the Chaldees was always famous because of the Bible, but no one knew where it was until it was discovered around From an inscription a date of BC could be determined.
It took tremendous artisanship and it tells us that in the city of Ur was quite accomplished. The city of Nippur was also discovered about miles south of Baghdad between and It was not explored again until through when over 40, stone tablets were found. It was a complete map, which showed where the temple of Enlil, one of their chief gods, was.
Tablets were found written in an Akkadian language and a few were found written in an even earlier Sumerian language. This is very similar to the biblical account of the long life spans of the antediluvian fathers. Another city called Uruk, Erech in the Bible, was discovered in Additional excavations did not take place again until throughthen again in throughand then again in through Erech is mentioned in Genesis A ziggurat was found there as well.
Information on Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs Raymond F. Surburg writes: "In each of the testaments to the 12 patriarchs three distinct elements can be noticed. First the patriarch gives the history of his own life, telling of the sins he has committed and . Both biblical and extra-biblical materials provide evidence in the dating of Abraham. Scholars have a variety of theories on the dating of Abraham from a date in the latter half of the 15 th century to the 23 rd century. Fortunately for us we have the Bible to . because it is out of line with the biblical chronology. The patriarchs must be placed somewhere between 2 - 1 BC if the chronologies are to be regarded as anything other than artificial, which seems unlikely.(30) Much evidence has been put forward for a dating of 1 - 1 The alliances between.
What evidence do we find at Ur during the 22 nd century when Abraham would have been growing to adulthood? This dynasty lasted about years and was the capital of lower Mesopotamia. This was the period of time the Sumerian culture reached its highest development. The laws dealt with land, orphans, widows and fair measurement of weights. This indicates that Abraham lived in a society controlled by an established legal system.
They detail prices and general business practices. Tablets have been found that show reading lessons of hymns, and others with multiplication and division tables. Gilgamesh Epic : Inthe archaeologist Austen Henry Layard and his team were excavating the palace library of the ancient Assyrian capital Nineveh.
Among their finds were a series of 12 tablets of a great epic. The tablets dated from about BC, but the poem was much older.
The hero, Gilgamesh, according to the Sumerian King List, was a king of the first dynasty of Uruk who reigned for years. The 11 th tablet tells of a great flood. The council of the gods decided to flood the whole earth to destroy mankind.
But Ea, the god who made man, warned Utnapishtim, from Shuruppak, a city on the banks of the Euphrates, and told him to build an enormous boat:. Abraham himself is thought to have passed through Mari on his way from Ur to Harran. Mari was discovered in on the eastern flank of Syria, near the Iraqi border.
A Bedouin tribe was digging through a mound for a gravestone that would be used for a recently deceased tribesman, when they came across a headless statue.
After the news reached the French authorities currently in control of Syria, the report was investigated and digging on the site was started on December 14, by archaelogists from the Louvre in Paris. Discoveries came quickly, with the temple of Ishtar being discovered in the next month. Mari has been excavated every year since except for the period Less than half of the by meter area of Mari has been uncovered as of The northern portion of this fertile plateau was the original home of the ancestors of the Hebrews Gen.
From this region Isaac obtained his wife Rebecca Gen. The petty, independent tribes of this region, each under its own prince, were warlike, and used chariots in battle.
They maintained their independence till after the time of David, when they fell under the dominion of Assyria, and were absorbed into the empire 2 Kings It was the seat of the important cult of the god Enlil, or Bel.
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