Will camel discovery break the Bible's back?
Camels, shown here in the Liwa desert outside Abu Dhabi, are the subject of a surprising new discovery.
February 11th, 2014
01:56 PM ET

Will camel discovery break the Bible's back?

Opinion by Joel Baden, special to CNN

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(CNN) - It’s been a rough 2014 for the book of Genesis.

First a Noah’s Ark discovery raised a flood of questions, then there was the much-hyped debate over life’s origins between Bill Nye the Science Guy and creationist Ken Ham.

And now this: a scientific report establishing that camels, the basic mode of transportation for the biblical patriarchs, weren’t domesticated in Israel until hundreds of years after Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are said to have wandered the earth.

Using radiocarbon dating of camel bones that showed signs of having carried heavy loads, Israeli archaeologists have dated the earliest domesticated camels to the end of the 10th century BCE.

But according to the traditional biblical chronology, the patriarchs were schlepping around Canaan on camels over a millennium earlier, all the way back in 2100 BCE

Taken on its own, this may seem a rather minor problem.

After all, this is Genesis, in which some people live to be 900 years old (hello, Methuselah), all of humanity emerges from Babylon, and the Dead Sea is created from the backward glance of Lot’s wife. (Not to mention the six-day creation story and the stuffing of all land animals on a single boat.)

How important could camels really be?

For those who believe the Bible to be fundamentally true, this is hardly going to change any minds. For those who believe it to be entirely false, this is surely not the most damning piece of evidence.

What the camels in Genesis reveal, in fact, has nothing to do with the “truth” of the biblical story at all.

Instead, the presence of these camels in the story highlights, in a very clear way, the essential humanity of the biblical writers: like the best authors, they simply wrote about what they knew.

The patriarchs are depicted as nomadic, never settling for long in one place, but moving constantly from location to location throughout Israel (and beyond).

An ancient Israelite, wanting to tell the story of the wandering of his ethnic and national ancestors, would have naturally looked to the nomadic peoples around him as models. And indeed, throughout the Bible camels are commonly associated with those tribes who lived in the desert: Midianites, Ishmaelites, Amalekites, Kedemites.

The biblical authors simply transplanted the nomadic standards of their time into the distant past.

There is nothing deceptive about this. They weren’t trying to trick anyone. They imagined, quite reasonably, that the past was, fundamentally, like their present.

They had no real alternative. In ancient Israel, in the period when the Bible was written (which ranges, conservatively, from the 10th to the third century BCE), no one had any way of knowing that camels had not always been domesticated pack animals. After all, we didn’t know that for sure until this past week.

Without any evidence to the contrary, it is perfectly natural to assume that things have always been the way that they are now. Today we have more information about the past than any other moment in history. In ancient Israel, they had virtually none.

And yet we still fall victim to this basic, very human, historical fallacy.

It has been suggested that this anachronism in the biblical text is akin to importing semitrailers into the medieval period. But this is a level of ridiculousness too far.

I would suggest that it is more similar to describing a medieval Italian as enjoying pasta with tomato sauce. How many people, even today, know that tomatoes only came to Italy from South America in the 16th century?

The camels in Genesis may be “wrong,” but they are not a “mistake.” We all imagine the past to the best of our knowledge, the biblical authors included.

The lasting lesson of the camel controversy, such as it is, is a simple one: no writing, not even the Bible, is timeless or without context. Views of the past are contingent on both what we know and how we know it.

The Bible is a historical record, but it tells us just as much, if not more, about the people who wrote it as it does about the people they wrote about.

Since the stories of the Bible remain so central to who we are as a culture, even today (and even for those who dismiss it), it seems entirely fitting that we should be equally interested in the ancient people who composed them.

Despite their lack of historical knowledge — and, equally, because of it — they, more than the characters in the Bible, are our true cultural ancestors.

Joel S. Baden is the author of "The Historical David: The Real Life of an Invented Hero" and an associate professor of Old Testament at Yale Divinity School. The views expressed in this column belong to Baden.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Bible • Creationism • Evolution • Judaism • Middle East • Opinion

soundoff (3,276 Responses)
  1. ilse899lilithfair

    For myself, the accuracy of anything written in the bible is as accurate as 12 six year olds playing telephone. Useless to glean any reality from this particular book. The points are moot.

    March 7, 2014 at 4:32 pm |
    • mcfx

      Shows your ignorance. Scholars have long used the Bible as a historical accounting of ancient Israel and Judah. You may disagree with the moral examination but even archeological discoveries in the 18th and 19th century have validated many of the Bibles contents.

      March 7, 2014 at 5:50 pm |
      • In Santa We Trust

        Very few actually and none of the important stuff.

        March 7, 2014 at 5:59 pm |
        • ilse899lilithfair

          Of course few have, it's not easy proving something that is an illusion of faith. Faith itself is not based on fact....faith is based on wishful thinking.

          March 7, 2014 at 6:12 pm |
      • ilse899lilithfair

        Considering the many translations of the book in question- from one language to another to another to another... well, anyone who trusts the accuracy is foolish; common folk like you or so called "scholars"...anything to get you through the night, right? People need to believe in gods and deities, I get that. For myself, not so much. I try to live in reality. Best to you and Bless your god loving heart and the 6k year old Earth too.

        March 7, 2014 at 6:07 pm |
      • alwaysamuzed

        Of course your so-called "scholars" have long used the bible to prop up their pre-conceived notions, but scientists, on the other hand, do not!
        There have been a few small archeological finds that seem to verify some of the mundane descriptions in the bible, but there have been FAR, FAR more discoveries that clearly disprove major presumptions from the bible!
        Since the bible is nothing more than a collection of legends and stories written by different people in different times, there are far more self-conflicting details than any entirely common agreements throughout the various books of the bible!

        March 11, 2014 at 3:15 pm |
  2. dashiellx

    Reblogged this on William Dashiell Hammett and commented:
    Excellent article

    March 1, 2014 at 8:39 am |
  3. wsolice

    So elements of a bronze age mythology are incompatible with modern scientific research. Who da' thunk it?

    February 28, 2014 at 8:04 am |
  4. pourmonamijc

    It cab break the back of the Sola Scriptura heresy and the fundamentalist interpretation that stems from it. Yes, that would be a good thing. Intelligence and faith could meet more often.

    February 25, 2014 at 8:28 pm |
  5. hatrhurter

    "There is nothing deceptive about this. They weren’t trying to trick anyone. They imagined, quite reasonably, that the past was, fundamentally, like their present."

    actually, deception is the exact word for it as they were MAKING THINGS UP to get you to believe in the bible and their religion.

    February 25, 2014 at 2:14 pm |
  6. 1aguner0

    "They imagined, quite reasonably, that the past was, fundamentally, like their present."
    "And yet we still fall victim to this basic, very human, historical fallacy."

    The author proves this by falling victim himself. The science on which this "discovery" is based–truly, the science on which all of evolutionary theory is based–has this very flaw. It imagines that the past was fundamentally like the present. All dating by radio carbon or strata analysis, all extrapolation of micro-evolution to macro-evolution, depends on this assumption. A "reasonable" assumption, I suppose, if no other information (such as the Bible record) were considered. However, if the past was radically different than the present or if there were outside forces at work, then evolution's explanation falls apart.

    Basically the author says that the Bible writers made a good guess based on their limited experience but that now that more information is available they have been proved wrong. So I would ask: Is it possible that scientists today, who are making guesses based on limited information, might actually be wrong in final analysis? It would be arrogant not to admit the possibility.

    I believe that the Bible is true precisely because it is not man's word based on limited information and assumptions but rather the word of the all-knowing God. I believe that the day will come when all will have to acknowledge this fact and I pray that many will do so before it is too late.

    However, I also realize that I cannot persuade anyone to believe that; that's God's job. I would only ask that the same standards of criticism by which the Bible is being measured be applied to science as we know it now. If you wish to make the Bible's writers guilty of a historical fallacy, please admit that today's scientists may be guilty of the same. And please reconsider placing all your trust in the latest "truth" "discovered" by fallible humans.

    February 25, 2014 at 2:02 pm |
    • matthewmonroe

      What you're saying is that GOD plays games with men? Giving men false clues and misdirection? Unless you believe that GOD didn't give men intelligence?

      February 27, 2014 at 2:39 am |
    • smurfstick

      I've always been curious...
      Genesis 8:21 states: "The LORD smelled the soothing aroma; and the LORD said to Himself, "I will never again curse the ground on account of man, for the intent of man's heart is evil from his youth; and I will never again destroy every living thing, as I have done."

      How again is God going to destroy our world without himself being a complete and total liar....

      March 3, 2014 at 5:01 pm |
    • alwaysamuzed

      Believers continue to twist reality into unrecognizable knots, in efforts to convince themselves that the entire bible and all of its wierd and self-conflicting "interpretations" are completely true!
      If god wrote all of the words in the bible, then WHY is there such a HUGE difference in the writing styles and details between the many disagreeing books? Why did Emperor Constantine's Council of Nicaea discard and destroy more books of the bible than they ultimately kept? Was god lying in all of those OTHER books???
      Your presumption that god himself wrote each and every word in the bible is quite impossible and utterly laughable!

      March 11, 2014 at 3:50 pm |
  7. timber72

    By the way....God loves science. After all, He created it.

    February 23, 2014 at 2:30 am |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      Did god create logic and morality too?

      February 23, 2014 at 2:46 am |
      • timber72

        Of course He did.

        February 23, 2014 at 3:00 am |
        • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

          That would mean at some point your god was illogical and amoral....

          February 23, 2014 at 3:45 am |
    • TruthPrevails1

      Oh my another who failed Reality in the 21st Century 101. So many gods to choose from and you pick the most immoral one available.

      February 23, 2014 at 5:18 am |
  8. timber72

    This entire article is premised on a fallacy: that it has been proven beyond any doubt that camels were not domesticated more than 10 centuries before Christ. The sentence should read thusly: "Israeli archaeologists have dated the earliest domesticated camels FOUND SO FAR to the end of the 10th century BCE." The absence of proof is not proof, which is foundational to real science. How can the absence of proof "break the bible's back"? Ah, but of course, we couldn't make with the clever wordplay otherwise, could we Mr. Baden?

    February 23, 2014 at 2:30 am |
    • alwaysamuzed

      When you consider that VERY LITTLE of the bible has ANY scientific support whatsoever, I really don't see what you are so worried about! The bible has NEVER been scientifically sound, so why worry about it now?...

      March 11, 2014 at 4:09 pm |
  9. MidwestKen

    @wolfbitn, (reposted from pg 14 at the time)
    “Not at all... taking it for it's classical meaning without changing a thing allows for this gap. Not my fault if you want to force us to use something other than the classical meaning”

    (sigh) I’m not forcing you to do anything I’m just reading what nearly every translation states. You seem to be the one trying to force everyone else into your preferred translation. Whether it be the primary or the “classical” meaning, if it’s not used that way in the text why try to force it?
    That being said, I don’t really care whether there is a billion plus year gap between one sentence and the next, there are many issues with Genesis that don’t agree with the evidence, some of which I already mentioned.

    “I also provided the key words to use to pull up a few of my articles, but if you cant google key words youll likely not appreciate the articles.”

    I’m sorry, but you’re just being an ass… if you can’t post a frggin link you shouldn’t be on the internet.
    (p.s. I’m just matching tone.)

    http://www.rense.com/general20/unholy.htm (see it’s easy)

    (Un)Holy crap! you’re a full-on conspiracy theorist. No wonder you twist and dance so well.
    Good luck with that….

    (psst I’m reporting you to the Bilderberg’s, fair warning)

    February 21, 2014 at 7:48 pm |
  10. webyourstuff

    As a person who has the gift of past life memory, I can attest I traveled in a camel train across the Sinai about 3000 bc.
    My memories trump scientific conjecture anyday, at least in my world.

    February 21, 2014 at 2:35 pm |
    • hotairace

      As I say to my believer friends, enjoy your delusions and take your meds.

      February 21, 2014 at 2:38 pm |
      • Austin

        if they arent delusions than who are you insulting?

        If a believer has something from God through the Holy Spirit, you are insulting God and insulting the truth.

        you are bearing false witness. Can make a point without making a proclamation that breaks a commandment. That would require honesty. You would have to admit that you do not know, instead of making a false accusation, or insulting.

        February 21, 2014 at 2:49 pm |
        • hotairace

          I am fully prepared to be wrong. I will listen to any rationale story supported by actual evidence. You know, the kind that will stand up under the scientific method or rules of evidence, more than just anecdotes and hearsay or unsupported supernatural crap in a book written thousands of years ago by goat herders.

          Are you open to being wrong?

          February 22, 2014 at 9:45 am |
      • masseytom

        Paul was real. Peter was real. Jesus is real. The science of today disproves the science of yesterday. The science of tomorrow will disprove the science of today. If all you have is science, you have only questions and no answers. Christ conquered Rome and has overcome the world. Deny all you want. Christ lives, and you condemn yourself to nothingness. Even if Christ did not live, your end would still be nothingness. We live in a created world. The Big Bang did not create your computer by chance. Every Big Bang molecule could only go in one direction, and have one outcome. This is that outcome, and, like dominoes aligned, there could only be one result. Like a master pool shark, one touch of creation determined that Space Shuttles would exist and meteors would strike billions of years later, at the exact moment they have been timed to strike. The only thing left is for me to choose the Creator or laughably deny the Creator, refusing His power. I see the truth, and by His mercy and generosity I accept the gift!

        February 23, 2014 at 1:14 am |
        • tallulah131

          Yes, masseytom. Science looks for real, honest answers, not convenient made up ones.

          February 23, 2014 at 2:11 am |
    • otoh2

      Oh good, then you can take archeologists to the correct area, since up to now there is no verified evidence that such a huge number of people lived in and traversed that area for 40 years.

      February 21, 2014 at 2:42 pm |
    • evanowen250

      How can we know anything for sure? Do we all need education? Do we need a Bible? Think abot it!

      February 22, 2014 at 8:44 am |
      • hotairace

        is this guy talking about wolfie?

        February 22, 2014 at 9:56 am |
    • tallulah131

      It's amazing how anonymous posters on the internet actually believe that rational people will take their grandiose claims seriously.

      February 23, 2014 at 2:14 am |
  11. Kat Burns Griggs

    Genuinely, folks, at the end of the day, this is going to have to be a determination made by the leading religious scholars in Judaism since the Old Testament found in the Christian Bibles (plural because there two of them) was "borrowed" from the Tanakh, or for those of you who have never bothered to really learn about the significance of it, the Jewish Bible.
    At the end of the day, though, this is not a "deal breaker"; it was an error based not on a lie but rather on an assumption.

    February 21, 2014 at 1:29 pm |
  12. Dyslexic doG

    Last century, L Ron Hubbard wrote a book, as foolish as it is, making all sorts of outrageous and outlandish claims, backed up by zero evidence, and he has millions of followers.

    200 years ago, Joseph Smith wrote a book, as foolish as it is, making all sorts of outrageous and outlandish claims, backed up by zero evidence, and he has tens of millions of followers.

    A few thousand years ago, unnamed desert dwelling goat herders wrote a book, making all sorts of outrageous and outlandish claims, backed up by zero evidence, and they have hundreds of millions of followers.

    Do you see that the only thing that makes your christian religion more popular than any other of these obvious scams is the amount of time it has had for your deluded cult members to breed and indoctrinate their children.

    So have a good think about how preposterous scientology and mormonism sound to you, and know that christianity is just the same thing with a bigger head start.

    February 21, 2014 at 11:11 am |
  13. bostontola

    This camel story is the media making a mountain out of a scientific mole hill.

    While the fundamentalist Christian community tries to make a mole hill out of the scientific mountain of evolution.

    February 20, 2014 at 11:25 am |
    • timber72

      While the "fundamentalist christian community" gets the big things wrong, the "scientific mountain that is evolution" is really just a pile of ash. Evolution is not, and it cannot be, based on simple scientific observation. The fact is, "evolution" is just as much of a cult as any of the other religious beliefs that exist. The archeologic record should be littered with transitionals, and it's simply not. Nothing will change that.

      February 23, 2014 at 2:25 am |
  14. Reality

    Camels , wild or domesticated? So what, as it has little bearing on the nitty-gritty of religion.

    Again for the new members:

    Putting the kibosh on all religion in less than ten seconds: Priceless !!!

    • As far as one knows or can tell, there was no Abraham i.e. the foundations of Judaism, Christianity and Islam are non-existent.

    • As far as one knows or can tell, there was no Moses i.e. the pillars of Judaism, Christianity and Islam have no strength of purpose.

    • There was no Gabriel i.e. Islam fails as a religion. Christianity partially fails.

    • There was no Easter i.e. Christianity completely fails as a religion.

    • There was no Moroni i.e. Mormonism is nothing more than a business cult.

    • Sacred/revered cows, monkey gods, castes, reincarnations and therefore Hinduism fails as a religion.

    • Fat Buddhas here, skinny Buddhas there, reincarnated/reborn Buddhas everywhere makes for a no on Buddhism.

    February 19, 2014 at 10:08 pm |
    • jimmo42

      Since you are making the positive assertion about the non-existence of something, the onus is on you to prove your claims. How about it?

      February 20, 2014 at 9:11 am |
      • igaftr

        He did not make a positive assertion about a negative. He said as far as anyone knows or can tell.

        Also your twist on logic is invalid, since you are still asking him to prove a negative.

        To this point, no one has ever shown any evidence for any of the thousands of gods men have worshipped. There is a great deal of evidence ( including the thousands of gods) that men created all of them.

        February 20, 2014 at 9:28 am |
        • jimmo42

          • There was no Gabriel i.e. Islam fails as a religion. Christianity partially fails.
          • There was no Easter i.e. Christianity completely fails as a religion.
          • There was no Moroni i.e. Mormonism is nothing more than a business cult.

          Nothing in there about "as far as anyone knows or can tell", now is there Leroy?

          Since he is making the positive claim that e.g. "There was no Easter" rather than "As far as anyone can tell there was no Easter", or "There is insufficient evidence to support a claim that there was an Easter", the onus is still on him to support that claim.

          "To this point, no one has ever shown any evidence for any of the thousands of gods men have worshipped. "
          Irrelevant. Absence of proof is not proof of absense. (talk about a "twist on logic")

          What is your evidence that men "created" Taoism? Shinto? Druidism? Or are you simply basing your claim on your own personal belief that all religions were "created" by men? Perhaps simply an extrapolation that because their is evidence for e.g. Christianity being (at least partially) created by me, all of the others must be as well? You made the claim, now back it up! Or is backing up claims with evidence only required for religious people?

          February 20, 2014 at 9:45 am |
        • igaftr

          Who is Leroy?

          February 20, 2014 at 10:02 am |
        • igaftr

          As far as being created by men, are you attempting to suggest that every one of the thousands of gods men have worshipped are real?

          If that is not true, and there is no indication that there are any actual gods, as safe conclusion is that at least most of them are NOT real, such as the WWii jeep that was accidentally dropped on a south sea island, that the natives then worshipped as god since no man could make such a thing.

          If most of them are made up by men, it is not a large logical leap to believe that ALL gods have been in fact created in man's imaginations in answer to his own ignorance. No evidence of any actual gods, plus the propencity for men to create and worship gods, is a stron indication that all gods were created by men...including the 347 gods I just created in my mind.

          February 20, 2014 at 10:10 am |
        • Doc Vestibule

          Certainly there was an Easter.
          The celebration significantly pre-dates Christianity.
          The very word "Easter" comes from the Saxon goddess Eastre and the Teutonic dawn goddess of fertility, Eastra.
          Cybele, the Phrygian fertility goddess, had a consort, Attis, who was believed to have been born via a virgin birth. Attis was believed to have died and been resurrected each year during a three day period at the end of March.
          For three days during the vernal equinox, Attis' disciples celebrated the "Festival of Joy". The resurrection was hailed as a promise that they too would issue triumphant from the corruption of the grave.

          The born of a virgin, martyred, resurrected god is a mythological archetype neither unique to, nor originating from Christianity.

          February 20, 2014 at 10:15 am |
        • jimmo42

          "As far as being created by men, are you attempting to suggest that every one of the thousands of gods men have worshipped are real?"
          No. I am attempting to hold atheists to the same level of evidence they expect from religious people. In fact, I actually hold atheists to a *higher* level.

          "If that is not true, and there is no indication that there are any actual gods, as safe conclusion is that at least most of them are NOT real,"
          Calling it a "safe conclusion" is vastly different than making the positive statement about their non-existence.

          "If most of them are made up by men, it is not a large logical leap to believe that ALL gods have been in fact created..."
          Valid point. Here too, "strong indication" is vastly different than making the positive statement about their non-existence. Can you point me to any scientific study where a claim is made that something does NOT exist simply based on lack of evidence?

          February 20, 2014 at 10:20 am |
        • joey3467

          In that case you might as well believe in Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster, since we can't prove that they don't exist. In my opinion god is equal to bigfoot, and I won't believe in either until someone proves beyond any shadow of a doubt that they exist.

          February 20, 2014 at 12:02 pm |
      • Doc Vestibule

        While t is not completely impossible to prove a negative – it is prohibitively, vastly, incredibly difficult. If you say "there is no life anywhere but Earth", you'd have to have surveyed every single planet in the entire Universe to provide proof of your statement's accuracy.
        When it comes to the existence of non-existence of gods, one is well served employing Occam's razor.
        There have been innumerable gods throughout history.
        Not a single one of them has left tangible, unambiguous evidence of their existence.
        The overwhelming majority of phenomena previously ascribed to supernatural enti/ties have proven to have naturalistic explanations.
        Gods are extraordinarily unlike to exist, and even if they do, they have no tangible effect on the natural world in which we live.

        February 20, 2014 at 9:31 am |
        • jimmo42

          "While t is not completely impossible to prove a negative – it is prohibitively, vastly, incredibly difficult."
          That is a incorrect assumption, as it depends on the context. I can say "human life cannot exist on the surface of Mercury" and prove it by showing why. In no way is that "prohibitively, vastly, incredibly difficult."

          In the case of "There was no Easter", (assmuning "Easter" means the ressurection as that is what is being celebrated) one could disprove it by demonstrating what happens to human bodies after they die. However, if your worldview permits miracles, that might not be sufficient evidence to disprove the resurrection.

          "There have been innumerable gods throughout history."
          Irrelevant. There is no reason to assume that any characteristic of one god applies to others. Even if you could *prove* that all but one of the deities did not exist, it would say nothing about the existence of that one.

          "Not a single one of them has left tangible, unambiguous evidence of their existence."
          That statement does not provide any evidence of their non-existence, right? Right! Try again. Absense of evidence is only evidence of absense when you expect evidence. Therefore, in order for your argument to be valid you *must* demonstrate why it is *expected* that a deity leave evidence.

          "The overwhelming majority of phenomena previously ascribed to supernatural enti/ties have proven to have naturalistic explanations."
          That statement does not provide any evidence of their non-existence, right? Right! One line of religious-philosophical thought is that (a) god created the universe with specific laws, which is what we see as "naturalistic explanations." Thus the fact that the "overwhelming majority of phenomena previously ascribed to supernatural enti/ties have proven to have naturalistic explanations" does NOT saying anything about the existence of (a) god. Right?

          "Gods are extraordinarily unlike to exist,"
          What are you basing that claim on? Bayesian probability? I would like to see your calculations. Richard Swinburne and Stephen Unwin both have Bayesian calculations that put the existence of god at >70%. (I think Swinburne is even > 90%)

          "and even if they do, they have no tangible effect on the natural world in which we live."
          What are you basing that claim on? Simply because YOU have never see it?

          "When it comes to the existence of non-existence of gods, one is well served employing Occam's razor."
          Seems like you miss the point of "Occam's razor." The issue here is mere existence and not attributing an explanation to (a) god. Thus, lex parsimoniae does not apply.

          February 20, 2014 at 10:13 am |
        • Doc Vestibule

          "Incorrect as it depends on context".
          In the context of the existence of gods, it is prohibitively, vastly, incredibly difficult.

          "If you worldview permits miracles"
          In the scientific process, "supernatural" is a null word.

          The overwhelming number of gods worshipped throughout history adds to the near impossibility of proving the negative. Refer to the first point I made.

          Why is it expected that a deity leave evidence?
          Because the followers of gods generally assert that said deities have demands, usually of obedience and flattery, and that the gods become petulant should they not be appeased. Natural disasters have classicly been ascribed to divine vengeance. Note the Iranian Imam who blamed immodestly dressed women for incurring the wrath of Allah as manifested in the Haitian earthquake.
          If the shapers of The Universe wish for their desires to be transmitted and adhered to, one would expect a bit less ambiguity. Expecting people to select The Truth out of limitless possibilities on faith alone seems a sloppy way to run things.

          The blind watchmaker God who compiles the Universe's program and leaves it to run may as well be ignored. Such a deistic ideology effectively eliminates the importance of such an enti/ty on our day to day lives, however.

          "Simply because YOU have never see it?"
          If there were demonstrable, tangible, testable divine interventions, this wouldn't be a topic of debate, would it?

          As for Bayesian probabilities, that all depends on your starting suppositions.
          Unwin's "calculations" fail for the same reason that Pascal's Wager fails – he automatically dismisses the possibility of any god other than the Judeo-Christian one.
          You can come up with anything depending upon where you start. But if you don't start from reality, you'll never get the right answer.

          Acceptance of supernatural propositions relies on faith – the willing suspension of critical thinking in order to accept as fact that which lacks evidence.

          The world doesn't work how we want it to work. The world is. We can only describe it, and chronicle its workings. God is an explanation for the reason behind the Universe's existence, something which is unknowable and has no relation to what happens in the Universe.

          February 20, 2014 at 10:51 am |
      • Reality

        Saving Christians from the Resurrection Con Game:

        From that famous passage: In 1 Corinthians 15 St. Paul reasoned, "If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith."

        Even now Catholic/Christian professors of theology are questioning the bodily resurrection of the simple, preacher man aka Jesus.

        To wit;

        From a major Catholic university's theology professor’s grad school white-board notes:

        "Heaven is a Spirit state or spiritual reality of union with God in love, without earthly – earth bound distractions.
        Jesus and Mary's bodies are therefore not in Heaven.

        Most believe that it to mean that the personal spiritual self that survives death is in continuity with the self we were while living on earth as an embodied person.

        Again, the physical Resurrection (meaning a resuscitated corpse returning to life), Ascension (of Jesus' crucified corpse), and Assumption (Mary's corpse) into heaven did not take place.

        The Ascension symbolizes the end of Jesus' earthly ministry and the beginning of the Church.

        Only Luke's Gospel records it. The Assumption ties Jesus' mission to Pentecost and missionary activity of Jesus' followers The Assumption has multiple layers of symbolism, some are related to Mary's special role as "Christ bearer" (theotokos). It does not seem fitting that Mary, the body of Jesus' Virgin-Mother (another biblically based symbol found in Luke 1) would be derived by worms upon her death. Mary's assumption also shows God's positive regard, not only for Christ's male body, but also for female bodies." "

        "In three controversial Wednesday Audiences, Pope John Paul II pointed out that the essential characteristic of heaven, hell or purgatory is that they are states of being of a spirit (angel/demon) or human soul, rather than places, as commonly perceived and represented in human language. This language of place is, according to the Pope, inadequate to describe the realities involved, since it is tied to the temporal order in which this world and we exist. In this he is applying the philosophical categories used by the Church in her theology and saying what St. Thomas Aquinas said long before him."

        With respect to rising from the dead, we also have this account:

        o An added note: As per R.B. Stewart in his introduction to the recent book, The Resurrection of Jesus, Crossan and Wright in Dialogue,
        o "Reimarus (1774-1778) posits that Jesus became sidetracked by embracing a political position, sought to force God's hand and that he died alone deserted by his disciples. What began as a call for repentance ended up as a misguided attempt to usher in the earthly political kingdom of God. After Jesus' failure and death, his disciples stole his body and declared his resurrection in order to maintain their financial security and ensure themselves some standing."

        o p.168. by Ted Peters:
        Even so, asking historical questions is our responsibility. Did Jesus really rise from the tomb? Is it necessary to have been raised from the tomb and to appear to his disciples in order to explain the rise of early church and the transcription of the bible? Crossan answers no, Wright answers, yes. "

        o So where are the bones"? As per Professor Crossan's analyses in his many books, the body of Jesus would have ended up in the mass graves of the crucified, eaten by wild dogs, covered with lime in a shallow grave, or under a pile of stones.

        February 21, 2014 at 7:13 am |
        • Reality


          "The origins of Taoism are unclear. Traditionally, Lao-tzu who lived in the sixth century is regarded as its founder. Its early philosophic foundations and its later beliefs and rituals are two completely different ways of life. Today (1982) Taoism claims 31,286,000 followers.

          Legend says that Lao-tzu was immaculately conceived by a shooting star; carried in his mother's womb for eighty-two years; and born a full grown wise old man. " – Sound familiar?

          February 21, 2014 at 7:20 am |
    • kudlak

      You make a lot of absolute declarations that cannot be proven. Remember that these are supernatural beings that supposedly not only have the power to fool humanity, but also the inclination to remain hidden. We really have no way of determining whether angels or gods are any less real than elves, unicorns, leprechauns or any other being that is said to be able to remain hidden like them. 🙂

      February 20, 2014 at 10:24 am |
      • Reality


        Joe Smith had his Moroni. (As does M. Romney)

        "Latter-day Saints like M. Romney also believe that Michael the Archangel was Adam (the first man) when he was mortal, and Gabriel lived on the earth as Noah."

        Jehovah Witnesses have their Jesus /Michael the archangel, the first angelic being created by God;

        Mohammed had his Gabriel (this "tin-kerbell" got around).

        Jesus and his family had/has Michael, Gabriel, and Satan, the latter being a modern day demon of the demented. (As do BO and his family)(As do Biden and Ryan)

        The Abraham-Moses myths had their Angel of Death and other "no-namers" to do their dirty work or other assorted duties.

        Contemporary biblical and religious scholars have relegated these "pretty wingie/horn-blowing thingies" to the myth pile. We should do the same to include deleting all references to them in our religious operating manuals. Doing this will eliminate the prophet/profit/prophecy status of these founders and put them where they belong as simple humans just like the rest of us.

        February 21, 2014 at 7:17 am |
        • kudlak

          I wonder if the root for angel wasn't the ancient Jinn of the desert?

          February 21, 2014 at 8:08 am |
        • Reality

          Some added references to "tinkerbells".


          "The belief in guardian angels can be traced throughout all antiquity; pagans, like Menander and Plutarch (cf. Euseb., "Praep. Evang.", xii), and Neo-Platonists, like Plotinus, held it. It was also the belief of the Babylonians and As-syrians, as their monuments testify, for a figure of a guardian angel now in the British Museum once decorated an As-syrian palace, and might well serve for a modern representation; while Nabopolassar, father of Nebuchadnezzar the Great, says: "He (Marduk) sent a tutelary deity (cherub) of grace to go at my side; in everything that I did, he made my work to succeed."
          Catholic monks and Dark Age theologians also did their share of hallu-cinating:

          "TUBUAS-A member of the group of angels who were removed from the ranks of officially recognized celestial hierarchy in 745 by a council in Rome under Pope Zachary. He was joined by Uriel, Adimus, Sabaoth, Simiel, and Raguel."

          And tin-ker- bells go way, way back:

          "In Zoroastrianism there are different angel like creatures. For example each person has a guardian angel called Fravashi. They patronize human being and other creatures and also manifest god’s energy. Also, the Amesha Spentas have often been regarded as angels, but they don't convey messages, but are rather emanations of Ahura Mazda ("Wise Lord", God); they appear in an abstract fashion in the religious thought of Zarathustra and then later (during the Achaemenid period of Zoroastrianism) became personalized, associated with an aspect of the divine creation (fire, plants, water...)."

          "The beginnings of the biblical belief in angels must be sought in very early folklore. The gods of the Hitti-tes and Canaanites had their supernatural messengers, and parallels to the Old Testament stories of angels are found in Near Eastern literature. "

          "The 'Magic Papyri' contain many spells to secure just such help and protection of angels. From magic traditions arose the concept of the guardian angel. "

          For added information see the review at:

          "The prophet Ezekiel described an incredible vision of cherubim angels in Ezekiel chapter 10 of the Torah and the Bible, mentioning that the angels’ wings were “completely full of eyes” (verse 12) and “under their wings was what looked like human hands” (verse 21). The angels each used their wings and something “like a wheel intersecting a wheel” (verse 10) that “sparkled like topaz” (verse 9) to move around."

          For a rather extensive review of angel wings, see http://angels.about.com/od/AngelBasics/a/Angels-Wings-And-Things.htm

          February 22, 2014 at 8:03 am |
    • timber72

      There no Easter...? Easter has been around for thousands of years. It is an ancient Babylonian mystery religion. Have you never heard of Astarte/Ishtar? "Easter." As for the resurrection...well, there were multiple eye witnesses to it, who gave their eye witness accounts...and then promptly gave their lives for it. If it wasn't true, why would so many people willingly hand over their lives? Now, before you give me this "they were deluded/drugged" or whatever, realize that these deaths occurred over decades, were always peaceful, and were always because of the ruling authorities (mostly Rome) imposing the death sentence upon them.

      Unlike, say, Joseph Smith, who died in a hail of gunfire fighting WITH the authorities. Or the Jim Jones crowd, the vast majority of whom realized they were being murdered by their cult leader. Or David Koresh who, again, died fighting with the authorities. The believers who witnessed the resurrection quietly, calmly, and gently went to whatever deaths were in store for them, because that's what God required of them...and that's how He, Himself, went to His death.

      Any "religious leader" who goes out in a hail of gunfire, or by any other action in violent opposition to the authorities, you can be guaranteed is false.

      February 23, 2014 at 2:48 am |
      • timber72

        That should say "did not realize" about Jim Jones. My mistake.

        February 23, 2014 at 2:50 am |
      • dandintac


        You provide examples for us of people who were quite willing to die for their beliefs. If someone goes "quietly"–how does this make their beliefs any more special? Throughout history, people have gone quietly to their deaths for their beliefs. I'm sure other religions could give you their examples too. I think the Jim Jones crowd went quietly to their deaths. They had to walk up and drink the Kool-Aid.

        Furthermore–what makes you think all these witnesses actually existed? Just because the Bible says so? Or more likely, the Bible says that other people said so? What makes you so sure any of this happened at all?

        February 23, 2014 at 5:45 pm |
      • rushbycraig

        Your assertions are factually wrong, and either ignorant or willfully dishonest.

        You stated "Unlike, say, Joseph Smith, who died in a hail of gunfire fighting WITH the authorities."

        To set the record straight...

        Joseph Smith was murdered by a mob while being held prisoner in a jail in Carthage Illinois. He surrendered himself to the authorities after receiving Governor Ford's promise of protection from the state. This was during a time of tremendous persecution for Latter-Day Saints–when homes were being burned, Mormons were being killed, and mobs were traversing the area threatening the lives of any who would stand up against them.

        He did try to defend himself from the mob, but to say that he was "fighting with the authorities" shows your incredible lack of knowledge about a subject that you try seem to be trying to write about with some self-presumption of great insight. I guess that if resisting "authorities" (although the evidence was that the murderers were townspeople with inside help from the jailers) who are trying to murder you shows some moral failing, then that doesn't say much about your judgement on other things.

        March 4, 2014 at 12:26 am |
  15. joeyy1


    February 19, 2014 at 9:58 pm |
    • Doris

      Please run, don't walk, to K-Mart and buy a few extra chords.

      February 19, 2014 at 10:20 pm |
  16. MidwestKen

    @wolfbitn, (repost from earlier thread)
    Thanks for the reference (Super-Earth Alien Planet May Have 'Plasma' Water Atmosphere).

    Unfortunately there are problems with what that suggests, a few of the major problems being:
    1) Even the Yucatan meteor impact wouldn't have put enough water into the atmosphere to flood the entire world.
    2) Even if it were enough water, that much water vapor would basically cook the planet between the pressure, temperature, and greenhouse effect (water vapor is much worse than CO2).
    3) Your exoplanet example demonstrates these very issues, i.e. it is a super-earth with much higher gravity and therefore pressure and being plasma denotes high temperature almost by definition.

    Unless you can cite serious research on how this might even be possible that much water seems extremely unlikely on the face of it.

    February 19, 2014 at 7:45 pm |
  17. joeyy1


    February 19, 2014 at 1:03 pm |
    • igaftr

      Ladies and gentlemen, the world's most boring song

      February 19, 2014 at 1:07 pm |
    • Lucifer's Evil Twin

      Posting it repeatedly on every topic... isn't going to make it any less stupid and boring

      February 19, 2014 at 1:11 pm |
  18. Alias

    One more thing – Here is a docmented sourse that says your translation has been tried before, and it is wrong.
    Have a nice day trolling!

    February 19, 2014 at 12:33 pm |
  19. Alias

    Tohuw is used 20 times in the bible. Only in 2 places is it translated as Formleeness, and neither of those are in Genesis. The other meaning are : chaos 1, confusion 1, desolation 1, emptiness 1, empty space 1, futile 2, futile things 1, meaningless 2, meaningless arguments 1, nothing 2, waste 3, waste place 2
    You better get busy and let someone know they have that word wrong 18 times!
    It is hard for me to believe that it has been wrong for 5,500 years, but a pompous, self educated world traveling winner of multiple debates finally got it right.

    February 19, 2014 at 12:26 pm |
    • otoh2

      wolfbitn = Walter Mitty

      He's a legend in his own mind.

      February 19, 2014 at 2:14 pm |
    • wolfbitn

      You just made my point... the earth BECAME all of this after it's creation... OR do you want to show even MORE stupidity and declare this world never saw an extinction event? ...please do lol

      February 19, 2014 at 2:45 pm |
      • Alias

        Of course it saw an extinction event.
        It was not created as described in Genesis no matter how you translate it.

        February 19, 2014 at 3:40 pm |
        • wolfbitn

          you still have no idea of what Iv shown here or even what I have shared...

          Ok lets do this... YOU TELL ME in a nutshell my "theory" on Genesis 1... lets see who paid attention.

          This is going to be good lmao

          February 19, 2014 at 3:46 pm |
        • Alias

          You are aware of a mass extinction.
          You apparently know enough science that you cannot deny it.
          Now you are desperately trying to reconcile this with the creation myth in your bible.
          Your translation is wrong. Genesis is a myth. You have failed.

          Did I leave out anything important?

          February 19, 2014 at 4:21 pm |
    • Doris

      " the earth BECAME all of this after it's creation... "

      so there were two creators? which one has more power?

      February 19, 2014 at 2:50 pm |
      • Alias

        The one that is not in the bible.

        February 19, 2014 at 3:38 pm |
      • alonsoquixote

        Some early Christian sects believed that Yahweh, the Old Testament creator god, was not the ultimate god, but was, instead a lesser, evil deity, a demiurge. Both Gnostics and Marcionites held that view. The Marcionists believed Jesus was sent by the ultimate god, but rejected the wrathful god of the Old Testament as a separate and lower deity than the New Testament god.

        Early on in Christianity's history those groups were not just small insignificant sects.At one time, Marcionism threatened to eclipse the version of Christianity that ultimately prevailed to become the orthodox view. Joan O'Grady wrote in "Early Christian Heresies":


        The Marcionites, unlike the Gnostics, formed a Church. This they claimed to be universal, based on the authentic insti tution of Christ. Marcionite numbers grew rapidly, until in some regions, it seemed that they would outnumber the Great Church. Irenaeus wrote against what appeared to him to be as great a danger to the unity of Christianity as was the teaching of the Valentinian Gnostics. The Marcionites are often depicted as a Gnostic sect, but, though many of their tenets were the same, the kernel of their belief was totally different. The aim of Gnosticicism was to teach those, who could be taught, the true knowledge that would restore them to their origin. Christianity was one of the ways to do this. The Marcionites considered themselves to be the only true Christians, and their aim was to teach pure Christianity, which alone could bring salvation. They aimed at a simple ascetic form of Christianity – a reaction against the speculative and 'mystical' ideas that seemed to them to be spreading everywhere.

        Marcion lived between c. 130 and 180 AD. The system he taught incorporated some of the Gnostic doctrines which he had studied. He accepted the Gnostic principle of Dualism: Matter was hostile to the Good. This meant that the Creator-God, the 'Demiurge', was limited and evil; and his material creation was therefore evil.

        According to Marcion's system, man was the creation of this stern and wrathful God, who gave him a Law which was impossible to keep, so that he lay under a curse. The Higher God of Goodness – the First Principle – took pity on man and sent his Son to rescue him. This manifestation of the Supreme God was clothed in the phantom body of a man of thirty-three years of age, whom the 'Demiurge' caused to be crucified...


        There were many distinct Christian groups during Christianity's early history with quite divergent views. E.g., the Judaizers believed that converts to the new religion still must uphold the Mosaic Law. Their view didn't prevail though, and Pauline Christianity is the version embraced by most Christians today. Bart D. Ehrman, an American New Testament scholar, currently the James A. Gray Distinguished Professor of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. wrote in "Lost Christianities: The Battles for Scripture and the Faiths We Never Knew":


        I can point out that if some other form of Christianity had won the early struggles for dominance, the familiar doctrines of Christianity might never have become the "standard" belief of millions of people, including the belief that there is only one God, that he is the creator, that Christ his son is both human and divine. The doctrine of the Trinity might never have developed. The creeds still spoken in churches today might never have been devised. The New Testament as a collection of sacred books might never have come into being. Or it might have come into being with an entirely different set of books, including, for example, the Gospel of Thomas instead of the Gospel of Matthew, or the Epi stle of Barnabas instead of the Epi stle of James, or the Apocalypse of Peter insted of the Apocalypse of John. If some other group had won these struggles, Christians might never have had an Old Testament; if yet a different group had won, Christians might have had only the Old Testament (which would not have been called the "Old" Testament, since there would have been no "New" Testament).

        February 19, 2014 at 10:53 pm |
  20. Zander

    "Will camel discovery break the Bible's back?"

    The following assumption must hold true for the above statement

    That every single camel on planet earth is domesticated,
    All camel bones have been tested positively to determine domestication,
    Age of the camel can be accurately determined by the methods and means applied without question.
    On a simple analysis of the above assumptions, we can be certain that not all camels are domesticated–that would be like claiming there are no wild dogs/cats as all dogs/cats are domesticated.

    Therefore, this argument at best is specious.

    February 19, 2014 at 8:32 am |
    • Dr. Mike

      "Will camel discovery break the Bible's back?"

      That statement is "hot air"

      February 19, 2014 at 8:41 am |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.