This past week I attended the 69th annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society in Providence, Rhode Island. This is the major academic conference which brings together evangelical scholars from a cross-section of disciplines relating to biblical studies, theology (systematic, biblical, & practical), church history, and philosophy. Recordings of all the sessions are available from Wordmp3, and the plenary lectures will be published in JETS. What follows is a summary of highlights from the sessions I attended.
David Rohl was a special invited guest of ETS, and he presented two lectures on Egyptian history and the Bible. Although Rohl is not a Christian, he has a high view of the historical reliability of the Bible. Rohl has shown that the picture of consecutive Egyptian dynasties that is often presented is much too oversimplified. Dynasties often overlapped; at times Egypt was divided in multiple parts, with four or even up to twelve kings reigning at the same time. The result is a far shorter Egyptian chronology—one which comports with the biblical timescale. Further, since Greek, Cypriot, and Hittite dates are dependent on Egyptian chronology, a compression of the conventional Egyptian chronology also results in a downward revision of the other chronologies. Reactions to Rohl’s chronological proposals usually include the adverb “strongly.” I strongly support Rohl’s adjustments to the conventional chronology as correct in view of the biblical chronology, although I do not necessarily agree with every particular in his scheme.
For those who accept the validity of the biblical chronology (cf. Judg 11:26; 1 Kgs 6:1), the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt is calculated as having occurred in 1446 or 1445 BC. According to the conventional chronology of ancient Egypt, this was during the reign of Thutmose III. However, the reigns of Thutmose III and his son Amenhotep II marked the pinnacle of Egyptian power and grandeur. There was no economic or political collapse in Egypt, as the Bible indicates was triggered by the ten plagues and the destruction of the Egyptian army (cf. Deut 11:4). Thus, it seems that the conventional chronology of Egypt does not line up with biblical history. Rohl identifies the Pharaoh of the exodus with Dudimose, who reigned near the end of the 13th dynasty. In support of this, Rohl cites Manetho (quoted by Josephus), who calls the Pharaoh of the exodus “Tutimaeus” (= Dudimose). The 13th dynasty ended with the invasion of the Hyksos, whom Rohl identifies with the biblical Amalekites (cf. Num 24:20). Rohl identifies the pre-Hyksos Asiatics who lived at Avaris as the Israelites. Rohl’s theory has much to commend itself, although he advocates the “short” Egyptian sojourn (215 years), in apparent contradiction of Exodus 12:40-41.
Rohl also presented considerable, and convincing, evidence against the traditional identification of Shoshenk I with the biblical “Shishak” who was king of Egypt near the end of Solomon’s reign (1 Kgs 11:40), and who successfully invaded Judah in the fifth year of Rehoboam (1 Kgs 14:25; 2 Chr 12:2-9). While Shoshenk I does record an invasion of the area around Judah, Aijalon is the only Judean city in his lengthy list of toponyms on the Bubastite Portal. His campaign annals indicate that he did not invade Judah, but rather campaigned heavily in the Jezreel Valley and in other areas around the borders of Samaria. Rohl identifies Shoshenk I as the unnamed “deliverer” of 2 Kings 13:5 who saved Israel from the Aramean oppression around 805 BC and allowed them to reoccupy sites which had been colonized by the Arameans. Rohl interprets Shoshenk I’s campaign as a campaign against the Arameans on behalf of Israel. Rohl identifies the biblical Shishak with the great Egyptian Pharaoh Ramesses II. According to Rohl’s chronology, the reign of Ramesses II began around 979 BC, late in the period of David’s reign. Based on a Hittite cuneiform tablet which records a treaty made with Ramesses II, Rohl suggests that Ramesses II was known as “Shysha” in the ancient Near East, which becomes “Shishak” in the Bible. According to Rohl, a relief at Karnak temple depicts a battle which Ramesses II fought with Israelites/Judeans, in which the Israelites are depicted in chariots. Since the Israelites did not acquire chariots until the reign of David or Solomon, Rohl argues that this battle cannot predate the united monarchy period.
Also on the subject of archaeology, Randall Price presented a paper on his excavation of a new cave near the site of Qumran, in the general area where many of the caves with Dead Sea Scrolls were found. This cave is called Cave 53, but maybe will be called Cave 12 (12Q or Q12) as a result of discoveries made during its excavation. The entrances to this cave and parts of the interior of the cave were blocked by fallen stones prior to excavation. Many jars were found of the type used to store scrolls in the other caves, with linen to wrap scrolls and a string to tie around the scrolls. Most of the artifacts found were dated to the Second Temple period, including a couple of bronze tools used for cutting niches into the cave walls. A jar in the lower cave contained a leather scroll fragment—but unfortunately no writing is visible on the scroll, though it still needs to be analyzed using the most advanced techniques. Price’s excavations have convinced the Israel Antiquities Authority to excavate systematically all known caves and thoroughly re-excavate ones that have already been excavated in order to look for new scrolls. They are so convinced there are still new scrolls to be found that the Shrine of the Book museum in Israel is planning to build a new wing with the intention of housing new discoveries.
Stephen Meyer of the Discovery Institute and well-known philosopher J. P. Moreland presented on objections to theistic evolution. These scholars are part of the Intelligent Design (ID) movement. ID has been criticized by both secular evolutionists and biblical creationists for being an incomplete theory, as it simply asserts that life was designed without explaining who designed life, or when and how the universe came into existence. Many ID proponents are opposed to evolutionary biology but still accept the view of evolutionary geology and cosmology that the earth is billions of years old. While many in the ID movement are Christians, some are not. Nevertheless, ID proponents have advanced many arguments that are helpful to biblical creationists. The ID scholars who presented at ETS were contributors to the book Theistic Evolution: A Scientific, Philosophical, and Theological Critique.
Stephen Meyer (author of Darwin’s Doubt) presented on scientific problems with biological evolution. The goal of his talk was to proclaim a liberation to theology and Bible professors, informing them that it is not necessary to accept evolution as a framework for understanding Scripture. Meyer said that there is no scientific consensus today on how evolutionary mechanisms work; evolution is a theory in crisis because it has “no theory of the generative,” according to evolutionary biologists themselves. Yet at the same time as evolutionary biologists (e.g., the Altenberg 16) are acknowledging serious problems with evolution, many theologians are pushing the church to accept theistic evolution as dogma. They are supported by highly public figures such as Richard Dawkins and science columnists and commentators in the media who strongly assert the validity of evolution for anti-Christian theological reasons; however, these television personalities and journalists present a very one-sided picture of the issue which does not acknowledge the issues being raised in current peer-reviewed scientific literature. Evolutionary biologists are increasingly recognizing problems with the explanatory power of natural selection and random mutations. Here are some of the dilemmas Meyer noted:
- If you want to build a new form of life, you need to have new code in DNA, which functions in a very similar manner to computer code. The problem is that if you start with a highly specific code, then randomly change the 0’s and 1’s, you will degrade the code and end up with a program that doesn’t work, rather than having a functional outcome. Since natural selection can only select what random mutations generate, if it is mathematically impossible for random mutations to produce the functional code in DNA even over a timescale of billions of years, then life lacks a mechanism to evolve.
- It is not just DNA that codes for the specific proteins needed for an organism to function. Recent discoveries have revealed that genes interact with each other in integrated circuits to produce proteins. If this “developmental gene regulatory network” is perturbed, it stops producing necessary proteins and the organism dies. Thus, evolutionary biologists are on the horns of a dilemma: a new developmental gene regulatory network is needed in order to produce new forms of life, but the network cannot be disturbed without the organism dying.
- In order for an organism with a new body plan to be produced, mutations must occur very early in the development of an organism, almost at conception (so that all the organism’s cells have the same genetic code). But new research by geneticists has found that mutations which occur early in the development of an organism are always deleterious, and cause the organism to die.
- Evolutionary biologists have traditionally focused on genetic mutations as the source of evolutionary change. But we now know that the development of some structures in the body are not controlled by DNA; scientists do not know at present what controls their development. Thus, DNA only provides the lowest-level assembly instructions; organisms have both genetic and epigenetic information which would both need to be reprogrammed for a new form of life to be generated.
J. P. Moreland argued that many of the questions addressed by evolution are primarily philosophical or theological questions, not scientific ones. Evolutionary science assumes a philosophical basis, which is often obviously faulty when analyzed from a philosophical point of view. One example is Stephen Hawking’s assertion that the universe could have originated from “nothing.” From a philosophical viewpoint, “nothing” means a total privation, whereas Stephen Hawking’s “nothing” included a “quantum vacuum.” Naturally, Hawking did not explain how the quantum vacuum came to exist. One of the things which biological evolution seeks to describe is the origin of information. Yet when biologists are asked to describe what information is, they describe it as a non-physical entity—something which can exist in many different places at the same time. Thus, evolution attempts to explain the origin of a non-physical entity through a physical process, which is impossible. Some other philosophical questions which science cannot properly address include the origin of consciousness, free will, intrinsic value, and moral values.
Moreland noted that in spite of the fact that many theologians push the adoption of theistic evolution as a way to make Christianity acceptable, in fact studies have noted that theistic evolution has a negative effect on the Christian church and on people who are considering Christianity. People know in their gut that theistic evolution is a revisionist reading of the early chapters of Genesis, and this results in revisionist readings of other parts of Scripture, until the whole of biblical faith is undermined. The church needs to provide real answers to scientific questions; George Barna’s research showed that 1 in 6 people are leaving the church because it does not.
Moreland also addressed the question of whether it is rational to reject the theory of evolution when ninety-nine percent of biologists hold that it is true. He argued that (1) If you can show that the homogeneity of the majority is due to non-rational (sociological) factors, then their agreement does not lend intellectual support to their theory. In the case of evolution, there are institutional punishments for those who break with the standard scientific theory—it is a sociologically forced homogeneity. Also, Darwin was able to get God and theology out of science, which means that many scientists have strong religious motivations for supporting evolution. (2) If there is a minority of highly intellectually trained, well-credentialed “rebels” who do not accept the standard paradigm, then it is rational to deny the standard view—there is a rational alternative. This is also the case with regard to evolution, as there are many highly credentialed scientists in both the intelligent design and biblical creationist movements. Biblical creationists would add a third point: (3) If the belief of the majority is not based on the Bible, and is clearly in contradiction of the Bible, then it ought to be rejected.
Francis Gumerlock gave an interesting presentation on the development of the pretribulational rapture in medieval Christianity. I have heard the assertion many times by anti-dispensationalists that John Nelson Darby invented the idea of a pretribulational rapture in the nineteenth century, and that no one else in all of church history before him ever held to such an idea. Recent research by Gumerlock and others has challenged this historical reconstruction. Gumerlock published an article in 2002 in which he described a reference to the rapture in a fourteenth century sectarian text, The History of Brother Dolcino. In his presentation at ETS this year, Gumerlock showed how the description of believers being transferred to Paradise to be protected from the antichrist in Brother Dolcino appears to be a natural development of medieval thought. A common theme in medieval texts, based on biblical references, is that believers will flee to caves, deserts, and mountains to be protected from the antichrist. One text, the 14th century Apocalypse of Pseudo-Shenoute, describes the caves and deserts becoming an Edenic garden after believers flee there for protection from the antichrist. Another text, a 12th century Sermon on Antichrist, describes believers fleeing to the caves of a large river which flowed out of Paradise. Finally, various medieval versions of the Voyage of Saint Brendan describe how God will reveal the location of Paradise to His people when the antichrist comes, and how God will somehow bring His people to this Paradise. Thus, there is a progression from believers fleeing to a place which becomes Paradise, to believers fleeing to a place very close to Paradise, to believers fleeing (or being translated) to Paradise itself. For further reading on references to the rapture and to pretribulationalism or dispensationalism before the nineteenth century, see Gumerlock’s 2013 article and William Watson’s book Dispensationalism before Darby.
Besides attending sessions, I met a lot of friends, both new and old. The Exhibit Hall is always a highlight, with opportunities to buy both hard copy and electronic resources at deep discounts, to interact with top representatives from publishing houses, and to peruse the latest releases. I escaped from the conference a couple of times and went sightseeing. Providence has some nice attractions near the convention center, including the Rhode Island State House, the Old State House, the Roger Williams National Memorial, and the First Baptist Church in America. A short drive away are Battleship Cove and the Victorian mansions of Newport. The featured image at the top of this post shows a motto on the exterior of the Rhode Island State House, which comes from the colony’s Royal Charter of 1663. Hope to see everyone at next year’s ETS meeting in Denver!
 Because nothing comes from nothing, yet things do exist, it is obvious that something has always existed. It is further obvious that (1) Whatever has always existed must have the power to self-exist and self-sustain. (2) Whatever has always existed is non-physical, since everything that is physical exists in time, and everything which exists in time must have a beginning point. (3) The non-physical (spiritual) entity which has always existed has the power to create the physical world. (4) The Creator of the physical world also created the nonmaterial properties associated with it, such as information, design, moral values, and consciousness. (5) Only an omniscient being could have created the incredible complexity of the physical universe and biological life, with the whole system working properly. (6) Only an omnipotent being could have brought the universe and life into existence. (7) The things we observe in the physical world and especially in human history point specifically to the triune God who is revealed in the Bible as the eternal, all-knowing, all-powerful, yet personal and loving, Creator.
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Wayne McCleese said:
Consider a different deliverer of Israel in the time of Jehoahaz, if we use the Biblical timeline.
Shalmaneser III – Unnamed Deliverer of Samaria (Israel)
In 853 BC Shalmaneser III king of Assyria battled the forces of Aram and others at Qarqar. See my article on the Battle of Qarqar: http://www.historyfiles.co.uk/FeaturesMiddEast/CanaanIsraelites_Qarqar01.htm in History Files.
In about 841 BC Shalmaneser III again battled Aram (Syria) and forced king Hazael to take refuge in the walls of Damascus according to the Black Obelisk now in the British Museum. Some say it also depicts Jehu king of Samaria bringing tribute to Shalmaneser III, but there is no scriptural account of conflict between Samaria and Assyria in the days of Jehu nor his descendants. In fact, there is no scriptural account of conflict between Samaria and Assyria until Menahem is king of Samaria (770-759 BC). The conflicts in the scripture before Menahem are between Samaria and Aram (Syria) or Samaria and Judah. I think if the Black Obelisk depicts any king of Samaria at all (and it probably does not), it is Jehoahaz (855-841 BC) son of Jehu or Jehoash (841-823 BC) son of Jehoahaz and it would depict gifts to Shalmaneser III for battling Hazael king of Aram, the enemy of Samaria at that time.
Another problem is that the accepted translation “Jehu of the House of Omri” is that Jehu was not of the House of Omri. Ahab’s son Joram was the last king of the House of Omri in Samaria. Jehu was responsible for the destruction of the House of Omri and then Jehu became king over Israel (Samaria).
2 Kings 10:11 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
11 So Jehu [a]killed all who remained of the house of Ahab in Jezreel, and all his great men and his acquaintances and his priests, until he left him without a survivor.
It does not prove anything but consider that during the reign of the same Assyrian king (Shalmaneser III): supposedly Jehu is described as “of the House of Omri” and he was not, while Ahab is not described as “of the House of Omri” and he was “of the House of Omri”.
Contrary to most modern scholars I believe that Jehoahaz ruled Israel (Samaria) about 855-841 BC (reigns explained in my Battle of Qarqar article referenced above).
2 Kings 13:3 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
3 So the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, and He gave them continually into the hand of Hazael king of Aram, and into the hand of Ben-hadad the son of Hazael.
Note, it is not “king” Ben-Hadad currently, but Ben-Hadad is probably in command of some of the troops. Later when Ben-Haddad is king, Israel regains some of their territory (2 Kings 13:24-25). But in the days of king Hazael, all of Israel’s defenses were on the verge of complete destruction.
2 Kings 13:7 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
7 For he left to Jehoahaz of the [a]army not more than fifty horsemen and ten chariots and 10,000 footmen, for the king of Aram had destroyed them and made them like the dust at threshing.
God was angry with Israel and was continually giving them into the hand of Hazael king of Aram (Syria). Then Jehoahaz entreated the favor of the LORD and the LORD listened to him and sent a deliverer. I believe that deliverer was sent during the reign of Jehoahaz else it would be too late, and Israel would be completely overrun.
Some people think the deliverer was Jehoash king of Israel (841-823 BC) the son of Jehoahaz or Jeroboam II king of Israel (823-771 BC) son of Jehoash, both of which had success in battles against Aram (2 Kings Chapters 13 & 14). However, I believe Israel needed immediate help and the phrase “the LORD gave Israel a deliverer” indicates that God acted outside the normal order of events, not within the normal succession of kings.
In the Bible, God sometimes uses foreign armies for His purposes. I believe He used the Assyrian army of Shalmaneser III (859-824 BC) to weaken and distract king Hazael (I date Hazael’s reign 887-840 BC) and his army and I believe Shalmaneser III is the unnamed deliverer of II Kings 13:5. Without this deliverer to weaken Aram, it is difficult to see how Israel could have begun a comeback and have victories over Aram.
2 Kings 13:5 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
5 The LORD gave Israel a [a]deliverer, so that they [b]escaped from under the hand of the Arameans; and the sons of Israel lived in their tents as formerly.
Beginning of Conflict Between Assyria and Samaria
Although many believe that king Ahab of Israel (Samaria) participated in the Battle of Qarqar in about 853 BC, I believe he was already dead by that date. Also, why would he fight on the side of Aram (against whom he fought three battles, dying from a wound in the last battle) against Assyria when there is no Biblical record of previous conflicts between Samaria and Assyria. Also, after the second battle with Aram and Ahab released the king of Aram, Ahab was told by a profit that his life would be a replacement for the Ben-Hadad’s life, that God had delivered into his hand (1 Kings 20:42-43).
The Kurkh Monolith of Assyrian king Shalmaneser III contains a description of the Battle of Qarqar and contains the name “A-ha-ab-bu Sir-ila-a-a” which is generally accepted to be a reference to Ahab king of Israel. I feel this translation is in error because of the unlikely alliance between Aram (Syria) and Samaria against Assyria.
Aram and Samaria were enemies from the days of Baasha king of Samaria (953-930 BC), 1 Kings Chapter 15, until Pekah king of Samaria (757-731 BC) and Rezin king of Aram made an alliance against Jotham king of Judah (758-742 BC) and continuing into the reign of Ahaz king of Judah (742-728 BC), 2 Kings 15:37, 2 Kings Ch. 16, Isaiah Ch. 7 & 8 and 9:11.
Also, I believe that Ahab reigned 918-899 BC and as stated before was already dead by 853 BC. See my article http://www.historyfiles.co.uk/FeaturesMiddEast/CanaanIsraelites_Qarqar01.htm
Method for Dating Kings of Israel and Judah
By adding the length of reigns of the Judah kings in I & II Kings, I get 393.5 years. That is very close to the 390 years of “iniquity of the house of Israel” in Ezekiel 4:4-6. I Therefore, I believe the reigns of the kings of Judah listed in I & II Kings are accurate with 390 years being a little more accurate than the summing of the reigns. By counting back from 586 BC when many scholars write that the Jerusalem Temple was destroyed by the Babylonians, I get the beginning of the reigns of the kings of Judah, then from those reigns I get the reigns of the kings of Israel by the year their reign started in a Judah king’s reign in I & II Kings.
There is no mention of conflict between Samaria and Assyria in the Bible until Menahem is king of Samaria (770-759 BC).
2 Kings 15:19 New International Version (NIV)
19 Then Pul[a] king of Assyria invaded the land, and Menahem gave him a thousand talents[b] of silver to gain his support and strengthen his own hold on the kingdom.
It is generally believed that Pulu, Pul in scripture, is Tiglath-Pileser III king of Assyria (744-727 BC). Although Tiglath-Pileser III was a very powerful king, seems most historians believe he was a usurper and it is believed he may have claimed some accomplishments of previous kings by destroying their records and rewriting history. But perhaps he was not a usurper after all. The Assyrian Kings List places him in line after his father:
 Adad-nirari [III], son of Šamši-Adad, ruled for 28 years (810-783).
 Šalmaneser [IV], son of Adad-nirari, ruled for 10 years (782-773).
 Aššur-dan [III], son of Šalmaneser, ruled for 18 years (772-755).
 Aššur-nirari [V], son of Adad-nirari, ruled for 10 years (754-745).
 Tiglath-pileser [III], son of Aššur-nirari, ruled for 18 years (744-727).
1 Chronicles 5:26 seems to indicate that Pul and Tiglath-Pileser were two separate kings (at least in some translations).
1 Chronicles 5:26 King James Version (KJV)
26 And the God of Israel stirred up the spirit of Pul king of Assyria, and the spirit of Tilgathpilneser king of Assyria, and he carried them away, even the Reubenites, and the Gadites, and the half tribe of Manasseh, and brought them unto Halah, and Habor, and Hara, and to the river Gozan, unto this day.
1 Chronicles 5:26 Young’s Literal Translation (YLT)
26 and stir up doth the God of Israel the spirit of Pul king of Asshur, and the spirit of Tilgath-Pilneser king of Asshur, and he removeth them — even the Reubenite, and the Gadite, and the half of the tribe of Manasseh — and bringeth them in to Halah, and Habor, and Hara, and the river of Gozan unto this day.
I feel that Pul was Assur-dan III king of Assyria 772-755 BC, not only because he fits the Biblical Timeline (Menahem king of Samaria 770-759 BC) but also why would the scripture switch from calling the same Assyrian king Pul to calling him Tilgathpilneser?
Another indication of the timing.
In the Biblical book of the profit Amos, the beginning of the book is about God punishing various kingdoms for various reasons but from Chapter 3 and on it is all about Samaria (Israel) and the coming judgement and punishment of Samaria which will end with a complete end of the nation and many people, but not of all the people.
Amos 1:1 New International Version (NIV)
1 The words of Amos, one of the shepherds of Tekoa—the vision he saw concerning Israel two years before the earthquake, when Uzziah was king of Judah and Jeroboam son of Jehoash[a] was king of Israel.
I have Uzziah king of Judah from 809 to 758 BC and Jeroboam king of Samaria 823 to 771 BC. The date of the earthquake is unknown, possibly around 770 BC. The earthquake was apparently one to remember as it is also mentioned in the Book of Zechariah:
Zechariah 14:5 King James Version (KJV)
5 And ye shall flee to the valley of the mountains; for the valley of the mountains shall reach unto Azal: yea, ye shall flee, like as ye fled from before the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah: and the LORD my God shall come, and all the saints with thee.
Chapter 8 of Amos discusses the coming destruction of Samarian and in verse 9 of the chapter it speaks of an apparent eclipse.
Amos 8:9 New International Version (NIV)
9 “In that day,” declares the Sovereign LORD,
“I will make the sun go down at noon
and darken the earth in broad daylight.
I believe this corresponds to the solar eclipse called Bur-Sagale in 763 BC which also probably corresponds to the time of 2 Kings 15:19 when Pul invaded Samaria and Menahem paid him a tribute of a thousand talents of silver that Menahem exacted from men of wealth in Samaria. This invasion began the conflict between Assyria and Samaria which would continue about 40 years and culminate with the complete destruction of the nation of Samaria by the Assyrians in about 722 BC.
Shea, William H – A Note on the Dating of the Battle of Qarqar, Andrews University, 1977
Na’aman, Nadav – Two Notes on the Monolith Inscription of Shalmaneser III from Kurkh, Tel Aviv 3, pp 89-106, 1976