on the misuse of archaeology for evangelistic purposes

i have written an article at bible and interpretation entitled “on the misuse of archeology for evangelistic purposes.” the article provides an update on the ridiculous claims earlier this year from a hong kong group called noah’s ark ministries international (nami) claiming they had found noah’s ark. in the article, i demonstrate how their intentionally misleading claims were designed purely to attract people to jesus. the article is essentially a sandwich of introducing the problem of pseudoscience and recommendations for proper ‘biblical’ archaeology, with some debunking of the noah’s ark folks in between.

i conclude the article with a list of more appropriate tips for doing archaeology in areas mentioned in the bible.

please check it out and feel free to leave comments there or here.

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9 Responses

  1. [...] a comment » Dr Robert Cargill writes on the misuse of archaeology for evangelistic purposes: The persistent use of archaeology [...]

  2. I read your article & agree with your overall points, but I’m hoping you can clarify this one:

    “…it does not necessarily follow that the ancient Israelites did not march behind a gold-covered, wooden box … the Ark of the Covenant is most likely historical precisely because it would have been highly problematic for a people who were supposedly forbidden from making idols to revere such a prominent, handcrafted cultic object.”

    If it were problematic, why would it be historical? Did you mean to say it’s not historical?

  3. no, that’s what i meant. judaism is (and early israelite religion is depicted as) a religion where idols are completely prohibited. and yet, we have a stories in the bible of israelites marching around after a gold-covered wooden box. the ark is, for all intents and purposes, an idol. of course, it’s is explained differently, but i’m sure the philistines would have said the same thing about statues of dagon (the object is not the god, but only a representation of his presence).

    i argue that it is for this reason that the ark is never mentioned after it was placed in the temple: it was embarrassing and problematic for a people who prohibit idols.
    i’ve argued that the ark was likely destroyed during the iconoclast reforms of hezekiah and josiah ( i.e., 2 kings 18:4 – removed the high places, broke down the pillars, and cut down the sacred pole, broke in pieces the bronze serpent that moses had made (the nehushtan), etc). but the destruction of the ark created a different problem b/c now a king is destroying an object that god is said to have commanded built. so, i argue, they simply erased the ark from the list. but, it is for this reason that we never hear of the ark again after it is placed in the temple (except in songs, poems, etc.)

    it’s historical precisely because it’s problematic for a faith that prohibits icons. had the faith been made up in or after the exile, they would not have created an idol for the israelites to march around after an venerate. but they did march around after the ark, and that was a problem later, so they made it disappear – both physically and from the literature.

    more here: http://www.youtube.com/user/israelxkv8r#p/u/21/r6MRUdZHG6s

  4. Thank you for explaining this interesting perspective, which I had not considered previously. I watched your video too, & though the audio was a bit rough, I heard you say towards the beginning, referring to the ark, “they worshiped it”; towards the end, where you discuss the temple, you referred to it as the “place where God is worshiped”.

    Though not the subject of your article, I’d like to understand your position on this better.

    It seems somewhat arbitrary to, on the one hand, posit that they worshiped the ark, rather than God as a focal point wherever the ark was placed; then on the other hand, suggest they worshiped at the temple, rather than the temple itself as an idol.

    Also, I’m not sure why they would invent a story about God giving a commandment against making an idol, yet commanding an ark to be built as a meeting place of worship (in the wilderness tabernacle, with the ark containing that written commandment). My own understanding is that the commandment is against making idols/other gods to worship, rather than not making things of gold, even images of things/creatures, per God. Even the temple’s design was full of these images.

  5. re: ‘they worshiped it’ – i believe i corrected myself on that one in the video. they reveredit more appropriate. but, if they revered and did not worship an object, why can’t the same distinction be made for other peoples? the bible is pretty clear any graven image is bad (unless, of course, god commanded it for his own temple ;-)

    re: ‘place where god is worshiped’ vs. ‘place where god’s name is worshiped’ – this is simple name theology. i explain it here.

    re: commanding an ark to be built – again, that’s the issue: the ark would be a scandal to a people who forbid graven images. the religion forbade images, but they already had the tradition of the ark. it was a problem. as was the worship of multiple gods early in israel’s history (hence kuntillet ‘ajrud and the prophetic warnings against idolatry and worship of other gods).

  6. “…they already had the tradition of the ark.”

    You’re suggesting they had an empty ark first, then added the commandments later? If not empty, what do you believe the ark contained during this earlier tradition (if not a commandment to not make any idols/images to worship)? Unless I’m misunderstanding you, you seem to be saying the “people forbid graven images” instead of receiving (or believing they received) the command from God, which the ark was built to house.

    Seems like a chicken/egg problem; commandment first or ark? Or are you saying they had the commandment first, but because it was stored in the ark (where they couldn’t read it), the tradition degenerated, & they came to worship the ark itself over time (till one of the royal reformations)?

  7. [...] news of this supposed ark find first broke, Bob Cargill wrote an excellent piece on the misuse of archaeology for evangelistic purposes. Even Price and [...]

  8. “The Sheep Is Break Down – Noah’s Ark in an Ice Cave: Fact or Fiction?” look for it under youtube channel “TravelBeam”. Noah’s Ark fraud by Parasut and the Chinese NAMI team. Fraud is a felony.

  9. [...] Dr. Cargill has written a piece for Bible and Interpretation, [...]

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