Generous camels

A couple of days ago I read a post on kottke.org a site I regularly read, about how there’s new evidence that camels in the bible are anachronistic.

Immediately I thought of a reasons why this interpretation was flawed:

  1. Absence of evidence isn’t evidence of absence - especially in a study like archaeology where evidence is scarce at best.
  2. Language changes over time. Just look at how our understanding of what a computer is, or a train has transformed. Many words originally describe their intent, and that intent is passed on as the name of the new technology - in this case (possibly) domesticated camels.
  3. Seriously? Camels?

There was no generosity of interpretation here, they (at least in the New York Times article) were looking for holes rather than looking for explanations, possible interpretations of how camels made it to Israel.

As soon as I thought this I realised I had no generosity toward the article as I read it. I wasn’t looking for ways they might be right, I was looking for ways they might be wrong - just as these authors were doing for the Bible. Should I be being more generous in my interpretation. Should I assume that they’ve thought of these explanations? That their conclusion of “I didn’t find camel bones” is “the bible is all wrong” is something I should think about?

Who am I kidding. Just read this list of headlines.

  • Study finds camels don’t belong in the book of Genesis
  • Archaeology Find: Camels In ‘Bible’ Are Literary Anachronisms
  • There Were No Camels During Time of Biblical Patriarchs, Study finds

The glee with which various media jumped at the chance to say “nyea nyea bible wrong ‘cos camels” is kind of disheartening, but not surprising. Especially when you put Bible in scare quotes.

I don’t care about the camels. They don’t interact with my theology the tiniest bit. The fact that I without any information at all, could come up with 2 reasonable explanations for the supposed anachronism leaves me with no reason to think the historical reliability is suspect, and just for you I followed it up with the tiniest modicum of research (the ever-un-persuasive google search): creation.com, studylight.org, blogs.cnn.com, christianitytoday.com, christianthinktank.com, endthelie.comNote: I don’t know anything about the various organisations presenting answers here, or whether they have any more or less validity than the archeologists who are the source of all of this.