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. pourmonamijc

    Seriously? There are still people out there in 2014 that thinks that Genesis is to be taken literally? This is 2014, and, by now, it should be obvious that Sola Scriptura just doesn't work. I'll give you a hint, 40 000+ protestant denominations all claiming to have the right interpretation.

    February 12, 2014 at 7:19 am |
    • ugetthefacts

      religion is about discriminating, my religion is better than yours. You might think that religious people have a mental block to logic and reasoning, that would be an unfair statement or rather a cruel one. Understand that everyone does not come from the same genes, there are varying differences as proven by science. It's merely evolution and that will take a bit longer for some..

      February 12, 2014 at 7:28 am |
  2. ugetthefacts

    I prefer to stick with the basics,, This article changes nothing since most data points to a god that does not exist. Still waiting for proof that a god does exist.

    I mean, so far we have a god who had to rest on the 7th day yet forgot to clean up afterwards. All those asteroids and such. A god who created a big sun and a small sun, the moon that is. After all, the bible writers didn't understand the universe. Oops, why didn't god tell them about it?

    Anyways, still waiting for proof a god exists.

    February 12, 2014 at 6:42 am |
    • gmscan

      Proof of God? No problem. I assume you have accepted the Big Bang theory of creation - that the entire universe came into being in one instant. God is what made that happen. Interesting that Genesis got this right thousands of years before science did.

      February 12, 2014 at 7:49 am |
      • ugetthefacts

        I accept the big bang theory as a possibility, as most do. After all, science can prove it's likely. However I don't go around claiming it's absolute fact, that would be the same as lying. And there is no scientist who will tell you it is absolute fact. Why do the religious lie? Claiming their god as fact.

        Again, my point is -> Still waiting for someone to offer proof a god exists.

        So far, nothing.

        February 12, 2014 at 8:15 am |
  3. chasnrainbowz

    CAMELS were among the domestic animals that Abraham received from Pharaoh, says the Bible. (Gen 12:16) When Abraham’s servant went on a long journey to Mesopotamia, he “took ten camels from the camels of his master.” So the Bible clearly states that Abraham owned camels about the beginning of the second millennium B.C.E. (Gen 24:10)

    Some do not accept this. The New International Version Archaeological Study Bible reports: “Scholars have debated the historicity of these references to camels because most believe that these animals were not widely domesticated until approximately 1200 B.C., long after the time of Abraham.” Any earlier Biblical reference to camels would therefore be considered an anachronism, or a chronological misplacing.

    Other scholars, however, argue that although the domestication of camels became a factor of importance about the end of the second millennium, this does not mean that camels were not used earlier. The book Civilizations of the Ancient Near East states: “Recent research has suggested that the domestication of the camel took place in southeastern Arabia some time in the third millennium [B.C.E.]. Originally, it was probably bred for its milk, hair, leather, and meat, but it cannot have been long before its usefulness as a beast of burden became apparent.” This dating to before Abraham’s time seems to be supported by bone fragments and other archaeological remains.

    Written evidence also exists. The same reference work says: “In Mesopotamia, cuneiform lists mention the creature [the camel] and several seals depict it, indicating that the animal may have reached Mesopotamia by the beginning of the second millennium,” that is, by Abraham’s time.

    Some scholars believe that South Arabian merchants involved in the incense trade used camels to transport their goods northward through the desert, heading to such areas as Egypt and Syria and thereby introducing camels to these areas. This trade was probably common as early as 2000 B.C.E. Interestingly, Gen. 37:25-28 mentions Ishmaelite merchants who used camels to transport incense to Egypt about a hundred years after the time of Abraham.

    Perhaps camels were not widely used in the ancient Near East at the beginning of the second millennium B.C.E., but evidence seems to confirm that they were not completely unknown. The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia therefore concludes: “It is no longer necessary to regard the mention of camels in the patriarchal narratives as anachronisms, since there is ample archeological evidence for the domestication of the camel before the time of the patriarchs.”

    February 12, 2014 at 6:20 am |
    • realityyyyyyy

      Camels or no camels, there were no patriarchs to ride them. See p. 1 for added details.

      February 12, 2014 at 8:04 am |
  4. saggyroy

    Nothing will "break the bible's back". As a book of "facts", It will die a slow death, and you will then find it in the "Mythology" stacks instead of under "Religion".

    February 12, 2014 at 5:49 am |
    • ohcaptainmycaptain

      I don't think so. You can't replace peoples emotional attachment to faith and religion, with scientific facts. The reality is that people are drawn to religion because it attempts to answer the most important questions in their lives. It answers the "why" questions. This is an area that science has little to no say in. Therefore, religions and the "Bible" will continue to be significant.

      February 12, 2014 at 6:51 am |
  5. ohcaptainmycaptain

    This is the dumbest thing I've ever read. I understand the urge to refute the Bible, but this discovery says nothing other than the fact that we haven't found bones older than the 10th century B.C. Does that mean there are none? Just because we can't find bones 4000+ years old in the middle of the desert, does that mean they never existed? The logic here is absurd. The news here should be that we managed to find some bones at all!

    February 12, 2014 at 5:14 am |
    • gmscan

      Exactly right. This illustrates the hubris of science more than anything about the Bible - "we haven't found any earlier bones so therefore they don't exist."

      February 12, 2014 at 6:16 am |
  6. discordiandave

    There is more room in science for the possibility of a creator in science than there is room in religion for the absence of a creator. I do find it really interesting that from the view point of some religious followers even a single point they can pick as inconsistent with their stories invalidates the entire scientific method. So why is it that when research that contradicts a single point of what is written in an ancient and venerated book of disparate stories not be entirely invalidated by the inconsistency? Can you support your position without having to resort to using the terms "faith" or "I believe", because I can.

    February 12, 2014 at 4:25 am |
  7. jwag777

    All this proves is that the oldest camel bones FOUND were dated In the 10th century BC. Whose to say there aren't older bones that haven't been discovered yet? Believing or not believing in God and the Bible is everyone's individual choice. But what drives people like Joel Baden to dedicate part of their life and go out of their way to try and disprove them is beyond me. All I can say Mr. Baden is that you'd better be right. Because if you're not, the consequences won't be pleasant. I pray that you change your thinking before that time comes.

    February 12, 2014 at 2:25 am |
    • Voices in the Rain

      Never fails. The article stated that older bones of camels before the tenth century did not show signs that they were used for load baring. It was not that they did not find older bones. It was that older bones were not found to indicate those camels had been used for transportation. Why don't you open your mind and stop assaulting people in the name of Christianity...or if you prefer just claim all Scientists are Atheists trying to fool Christians with Carbon Dating. Either way, I am a Christian and I think you have to fear more than this author.

      February 12, 2014 at 2:54 am |
    • dolphster

      "wrote about what they knew...????", ummm...remembering the domestication of camels as a "new" mode of transportation had to have been a major milestone in those peoples' lives.

      Not just something that one doesn't widely recognize as a historical achievement in itself.

      February 12, 2014 at 2:57 am |
    • mbona

      It's pointless to argue about religion. The truth is that we live in a country founded for religious tolerance. Christians think they are always the ones under attack. Yet, it's been my experience that it's always a Reverend Moon [Christian] (Vegas), Jehovoah's Witness (Vegas), Mormon (Vegas, LA, Phoenix), Christian (Vegas, DC, LA), Hare Krisna (Georgetown), or Falun Gong (D.C.) follower who bounds up to me (yes, just my experience and not trying to project that they do this to everyone) trying to get me more interested in their religion. Every time I go to Washington DC to visit the sites, I am accosted by one religious person of some denomination. Once I nicely told this Christian man that I didn't care when he yelled at me that Jesus loves me as I walked by minding my own business. This guy ran around me and basically harassed me for 15 minutes repeating over and over again how much Jesus loves me. I have not been accosted by an atheist, agnostic, or Pan worshiper yet though and none of the others were this extreme. The closest was a Jehovah's Witness lady who tried to reach through my screen door when I tried to close my door and told her I wasn't interested in her speech. If America is founded to guarantee religious freedom by the first Europeans who arrived and later by the Founding Fathers, then why do politicians continuously use it in debates, primaries, and speeches to encroach individual freedoms with their religious beliefs? Would they be angry if the world was turned 180 degrees if some crazy Warlock party emerged as one of the major parties and did the same? What if some kooky group became the majority in Congress and passed a law called Defense of Bestiality Act? I would be offended and I am sure many others would be too. Let people believe what they want to believe in this country and stop ramming their religious beliefs and practices on others. Yes, maybe the Biblical authors lied about camels. What do we care? If you don't believe in the Bible anyway, then what's the big deal that there were no camels in that time period?

      February 12, 2014 at 3:42 am |
      • Dalahäst

        I'm not sure it is fair to say the authors lied about the camels. If they were writing down a story that had been passed down orally for many generations there may be some misunderstandings.

        And this theory has not been proven as a fact. Archaeology is not an exact science. But these findings do raise interesting questions.

        February 12, 2014 at 3:48 am |
      • derado8

        I had a couple of creationist friends who thought I was ridiculing their faith when I pointed out simply that perhaps as it was not accurate that it might be best not to take it literally. I didn't point this out in the spirit of ridicule or to hurt them. I understand their fight against it was not against me, they were fighting for the ability to not be afraid of dying.

        February 12, 2014 at 5:23 am |
    • larper2

      Lets say there were no domesticated camels in Israel. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were not in Israel at the time. Moses wrote the first five books of the bible from the inspiration of God. There were pack animals and Moses put down camels.

      February 12, 2014 at 4:38 am |
    • litllebit

      so where did the camels come from? did they form from the one cell thing theory? then magically appeared? or what animal did it used to be? a cross between ????

      February 12, 2014 at 5:54 am |
      • TruthPrevails1

        Silly child, using the phrase one cell thingy just shows how little you comprehend about evolution or what a theory is in the scientific sense. Before making yourself look like a fool, look up the scientific method and maybe take a basic course in evolution.

        February 12, 2014 at 6:54 am |
        • litllebit

          I am a silly child asking for you to explain it to me. you cant so I must assume you too are nothing but a siily child with a hint of bulling

          February 12, 2014 at 1:25 pm |
  8. Salero21

    So... really! That the arbitrary carbon dating test, purportedly used to estimate the age of some camels bones, can also tell these "scientists" if the camels were or not "domesticated". Really, can anyone still not understand why atheism is Total stupidity. 😉

    February 12, 2014 at 2:19 am |
    • Voices in the Rain

      Why do you limp Scientists as Atheists in your comments. The article did not say that carbon dating also was used to identify wether the bones of the camels were used for transportation. It specifically said that other tests were run which examined the wear and stress on the bones to see if the camels routinely carried more weight than their won. You people turn others off from Christianity in your knee jerk condemnation of anything you do understand.

      February 12, 2014 at 2:58 am |
      • Voices in the Rain

        please forgive my typos. I specifically meant to say that you are short sighted and closed minded and turn people off when they see how you misrepresent things you do not understand.

        February 12, 2014 at 3:00 am |
    • TruthPrevails1

      Again with the pure hatred for Atheists. Why would anyone wish to join or stay within your group when people like you do this? You're not harming us, merely helping to bury the christian belief system.

      February 12, 2014 at 4:14 am |
  9. somethingstellar

    Although I always appreciate a new discovery, we all know Christians will just continue to do what they do best and stretch themselves as far as they can to make their beliefs make sense. Even if one were to literally stumble upon tangible, testable proof they'd still ignore it and decry it a test from Satan.

    February 12, 2014 at 2:02 am |
    • saggyroy

      I think it was best demonstrated when Ken Ham was asked what what convince you of evolution and he said "nothing". Nye said "evidence".

      February 12, 2014 at 5:42 am |
  10. wsmith1213

    common sense tells you that once man figured out how to domesticate one animal for work it couldn't have taken much longer for us to start trying to domesticate everything that could accomplish work and tasks.

    February 12, 2014 at 1:39 am |
  11. jjmcdade

    Wow. That’s amazing. They dug up all the camel bones in Israel. There will never be another discovery that could contradict this. Sort of like the Higgs boson (a.k.a. God Particle), which provided evidence that the Large Hadron Collider was there at the beginning of time and not god. Duh.

    February 12, 2014 at 1:37 am |
    • Voices in the Rain

      Higgs Boson is a particle which gives gravity its characteristics. It is referred to as the God Particle because it may have elements which would reveal the moments immediately prior to the Big Bang. You know the world is an amazing creation of God if you don't spend your time trying to demand that God exists today as he did to a civilization 2000 years ago. Grow up and understand. It is very simply. Galileo disproved Centuries of Church mandated charts and trajectories of the Heavenly Bodies. He did it simply by recognizing that the Sun rather than the Earth was the Center of our galaxy. And he and his followers were condemned to Hell by the Church. At what point will you realize just the simple mistake of Jericho disproves your attempts to relegate History to the Bible. It was not intended for that. Read it with the awareness of the History around it and recognize it is a Spiritual Tool. It is not wrong. It is merely incorrect. When you stop trying to demand that it makes sense of your world. It does not. The world was not created in seven days. Evolution by a Benevolent God makes sense. He created the Science the world works on. It is not a conspiracy by Scientist. Science is nothing more than a History of observable verifiable facts in an organized system that explains what God created and he created it in Scientific steps. Stop turning people away from God cause you cannot understand the fundamentals of what they are saying.

      February 12, 2014 at 3:15 am |
      • Dalahäst

        Galileo and his followers were not condemned to Hell by the Church.


        February 12, 2014 at 3:40 am |
        • Voices in the Rain

          Galileo and Caprinicus were condemned by the Catholic Church. Galileo was excommunicated and refused burial on Church grounds.

          February 12, 2014 at 4:16 am |
  12. kevinite

    So, the author here is making an assumption that the biblical writers were making an assumption just like it is an actual assumption that there were no domesticated camels prior to the first millennium B.C. in the first place. Nothing screams facts like making assumption after assumption after assumption.

    February 12, 2014 at 1:35 am |
  13. ses1968

    Why didn't the fact that the copper mines they were excavating that were dated to the time of Solomon (who used copper for the temple) get any kind of media play? That would kind of validate that part of the Bible.

    They seemed to have left out some data:

    1) A 3.5 ft cord of camel hair from Egypt, dated around 2500 BC. Buillet believes it is "from the land of Punt, perhaps the possession of a slave or captive, and from a domestic camel"

    2) The bronze figurine from the temple of Byblos in Lebanon. It is in a foundation with strong Egyptian flavoring, and is dated before the sixth Egyptian dynasty (before 2182 BC). Although the figure could be seen as a sheep, the fact that it has what appears to be a camel saddle and camel muzzle strongly suggest it to be a camel

    3) Two pots of Egyptian provenance were found in Greece and Crete, both dating 1800-1400 BC, but both in area so far removed from the range of the camel as to suggest its presence in the intermediate areas (e.g., Syria or Egypt) during an earlier time. Both have camels represented, and one literally has humans riding on a camel back.

    4) A final piece of strong evidence is textual from Alalakh in Syria, as opposed to archaeological: a textual ration-list. There is a entry for 'camel fodder' written in Old Babylonian. "Not only does this attest the existence of camels in norther Syria at this time, but the animal involved is clearly domestic." See The Camel and the Wheel, Richard W. Bulliet pp 60-64 for the first 4 quotes.

    5) Abraham did not want his son to marry a Canaanite, so he sent his servant to Paddan Aram (as the Haran region of north Mesopotamia is called) to secure a bride for Isaac. With ten camels and adequate personnel, the servant heads the caravan towards his master's Aramean kinsmen. The mention of camels here and elsewhere in the patriarchal narratives often is considered anachronistic. However, the correctness of the Bible is supported by the representation of camel riding on seal cylinders of precisely this period from northern Mesopotamia" See The Bible and the Ancient Near East Gordon/Rendsburg pp 120-122

    6) "It is often asserted that the mention of camels and of their use is an anachronism in Genesis. This charge is simply not true, as there is both philological and archaeological evidence for knowledge and use of this animal in the early second millennium BC and even earlier. While a possible reference to camels in a fodder-list from Alalakh (c. eighteenth century BC) has been disputed, the great Mesopotamian lexical lists that originated in the Old Babylonian period show a knowledge of the camel c. 2000/1700 BC, including its domestication. Furthermore, a Sumerian text from Nippur from the same early period gives clear evidence of domestication of the camel by then, by its allusions to camel's milk...For the early and middle second millennium BC, only limited use is presupposed by either the biblical or external evidence until the twelfth century BC. "Ancient Orient and Old Testament. Kitchen, K.A pp 79-80

    7) "The period is marked by technological advances in pottery production, including the introduction and dominant utilization of the fast wheel and the appearance of efficient, tow-tiered pottery kilns; metallurgy with deliberate alloying and evidence for local production in the form of copper smelting furnaces on the outskirts of Khapuz-depe; stone working; and a development of wheeled vehicles drawn by Bactrian camels and possible bulls as indicated by terra-cotta models." Chronologies in Old World Archaeology Vol 1 , p186, Robert W. Ehrich

    8) "This conclusion serves to corroborate the inference made by Soviet archaeologists from their discovery of camel-headed wagons that as early as the first half of the third millennium B.C. two-humped camels were used in Turkmenistan for drawing wagons..." The Camel and the Wheel, Richard W. Bulliet p155

    9) "As has already been mentioned, this type of utilization [camels pulling wagons] goes back to the earliest known period of two-humped camel domestication in the third millennium B.C." See The Camel and the Wheel, Richard W. Bulliet p 177

    10) "A bronze figurine of a man on a crouching camel, found at Nineveh, in Mesopotamia. Camels had been domesticated by the middle of the second millennium BC, and it is likely that they expanded the possibility of long-distance trade across the dry regions that border Mesopotamia. Old World Civilizations–the Rise of Cities and States, Goran Burenhult p28

    11) "Both the dromedary (the one-humped camel of Arabia) and the Bactrian camel (the two-humped camel of Central Asia) had been domesticated since before 2000 BC." See Smithsonian Timelines of the Ancient World, Chris Scarre, Dorling Kindersley p176

    12) "Just as today the Hadhrami Arab is naturally inclined toward the sea and tribal groups show no reluctance to pack themselves into dhows and ride before the northeast monsoon, so 4,000 years ago some camel herding group must have decided to migrate to a better land that they had heard about from the dhow masters..." The Camel and the Wheel, Richard W. Bulliet p50

    13) "As far as hard dates go, the 2500-1500 B.C. suggested earlier for the introduction of the camel into Somalia is the best that can be done from available data. Given the stage domestication had reached by the time the camels and their owners crossed the sea, some additional time must be allowed for earlier stages. Taking this into consideration, it is easily conceivable that the domestication process first got underway between 3000 and 2500 B.C." The Camel and the Wheel, Richard W. Bulliet p 56

    14) "The practice of using domestic two-humped camels spread in all directions from its original homeland...to the west there is an abundance of evidence starting with the second millennium B.C. Mesopotamian cylinder seal mentioned in chapter three. The Akkadian word "udru" is first used in the reign of the Assyrian king Assurbelkala (1074-1057 B.C.) who bought some two-humped camels from merchants with dealings in the east. "The Camel and the Wheel, Richard W. Bulliet p 156

    So it seems very safe to say that the passages in Genesis are NOT anachronistic or contradictory, but reflect well the milieu of the period, and are supported by archaeological and textual data. The evidence for the early domestication of the camel is strong and that domestication definitely was early. Though the archaeological data does seem to indicate no widespread or common use of camels during this period. They seemed to have been used by the elite; the wealthy and powerful.

    February 12, 2014 at 1:20 am |
    • Billy

      Nicely put.


      February 12, 2014 at 1:23 am |
  14. mre21

    So we found old camels, but not old enough camels. How does this prove or disprove anything again?

    February 12, 2014 at 1:16 am |
  15. colorserenity

    I wonder what the real story is. I am not ready to take this at face value. If you read the original story this article is based on it says, "The archaeologists, Erez Ben-Yosef and Lidar Sapir-Hen, used radiocarbon dating to pinpoint the earliest known domesticated camels in Israel to the last third of the 10th century B.C. — centuries after the patriarchs lived and decades after the kingdom of David, according to the Bible. Some bones in deeper sediments, they said, probably belonged to wild camels that people hunted for their meat. Dr. Sapir-Hen could identify a domesticated animal by signs in leg bones that it had carried heavy loads."

    Decades after King David? I'm not ready to dismiss based on decades. I'm also not ready to dismiss based on probability either. Why? Because this is not the only place in the world that has ancient camel bones. How do they know there aren't earlier bones laying somewhere else in the holy lands? Why would it be impossible for people in the times of Abraham to domesticate camels? Their carbon dating is pinpointing on one dig. If twenty independent digs by different scholars with no toes to each other an no common religious beliefs confirm the same data I would wonder. But not this.

    February 12, 2014 at 12:54 am |
  16. Jubei

    So fossils found and carbon dated are fakes?

    February 12, 2014 at 12:53 am |
  17. Billy

    OK – so this report, if true, poses a real problem to a person who believes in the truth of the bible in every part it covers. I happen to be one of these people. I'm familiar with many attempts to debunk the bible based on new findings or opinions. I'm also familiar with many findings (some are somewhat obscure) that support the biblical narrative.

    At this point I think it's fair to let the people who research these things, look into the evidence and be allowed the time and space to respond.

    I found this article on the topic, written a couple of years ago:

    It seems that this isn't a new camel theory, but has been described before. I think if there's new evidence, it should be examined properly. But then, I think the people supporting this theory, need to consider and address the information presented in the link that I've posted. It's all referenced well, showing it's sources..

    I like this article – because it makes me dig a little deeper..

    (To those who reply to me, respectfully, I'm not interested in a debate on the existence of God.. evolution, other bible problems, or anything unrelated. I don't believe this is the forum for that..)

    February 12, 2014 at 12:44 am |
    • kcdalahast

      Yea, there is a lot of evidence in support of the camel being domesticated and in use during that time.

      February 12, 2014 at 12:58 am |
    • evolveddna

      Billy.. No one is out to debunk the bible..it has no facts to debunk. Discoveries are made and some of these contradict what the bible has claimed as "truth". This camel discovery could well be found to be inaccurate, those involved in the scientific endeavors will question and test this hypothesis until it is proven or discarded.

      February 12, 2014 at 1:57 am |
      • Billy

        I make the statement that people are out to debunk the bible because I frequently see articles which clearly set out to attack what people believe, or what is written in the bible. There are people that believe what the bible says, I am one of them. Around Christmas time, you have Time, Newsweek, CNN, etc all raising their doubts about Jesus being born.. And around Easter time we have articles raising more questions again. The frequency of these seems to me that people are out to disprove the biblical narrative.

        I agree with your last statement – in time all these hypotheses will be test and validated or discredited. Thanks for your feedback..

        February 12, 2014 at 8:24 am |
        • TruthPrevails1

          "Around Christmas time, you have Time, Newsweek, CNN, etc all raising their doubts about Jesus being born.."

          There is a reason for this. There is zero evidence to support that jesus (if he existed at all) was born at that time of year. There is however plenty of reason to say that the date was chosen a a means of converting pagans to christianity...the date falls in line with Winter Solstice. Christmas tree's are not christian and in fact the bible speaks against decorating.

          February 12, 2014 at 8:41 am |
        • Billy

          I agree that he wasn't born that time of year. The bible doesn't attribute that time of year to his birth anyhow.
          I guess my point is that the bible narrative is brought under scrutiny (not the time of year) every time there is a Christian holiday. This is not so (or not done to the same degree) with any other religion or non-religion. There is an anti-Christian mood in the media these days. You see it in movies, series, newspapers, magazines, etc.
          My comments about this come from a previous reply which said there was no one trying to debunk the bible. This may well be true, but from where I'm standing, it seems anything goes.. if it's against a Christian belief.

          On a side note, I'm more interested in following Jesus, reading the bible and praying, than I am in traditions with trees, bunnies and eggs. Thanks for your reply.. your points are valid and on the mark..

          February 12, 2014 at 9:43 am |
  18. janesauric

    Are we talking about camels in the original, Dead Sea Scrolls text, or the translations done if the 16th century? And wasn't the King James version merely a translation from Latin which had earlier been translated from Greek, Hebrew or Aramaic? Might not the translators have used the word camel because they didn't understand the original word?

    February 12, 2014 at 12:20 am |
  19. peacelovr

    Why does an atheist or non-Christian care if another person has faith?

    I am thankful for my faith – which has given me a full, joyful, peaceful life – even through times of toil, stirife and trouble. I am not perfect – but the gift of God's son Jesus and the forgiveness God extends to me through him allows me to live life more fully.

    I may not be able to understand how someone can NOT have faith in God, but that doesn't mean I would belittle him.

    Even if there were no God (not something I believe) – the life of faith I live and the comfort and hope I have make this current life so much more worth the living. And when I die I plan to be greeted by God, the Father and His Son Jesus. Something I truly believe. If a person doesn't believe that – it is their right – but I much prefer to live with that hope in my heart.

    As far as magic – I think many things we experience today would have been considered magic by those of the past – flying through the air in an airplane, transplanting organs from dying patients to living ones, sending pictures through the air, even just being able to capture and use electircity, etc., etc. Yes- science has given us much I believe in science and I believe God is proud to watch the progress man has made using the nature and means He has given them to create and do the almost unthinkable. I also think he works personally in individual's lives. And I believe He loves each one of us and and wants us to recognize Him and live for him and be the best person we can be!

    Faith takes nothing away – but gives enrichment. I thank God that he has given me a heritage of faith.

    February 12, 2014 at 12:14 am |
    • doobzz

      "Why does an atheist or non-Christian care if another person has faith?"

      Because Christians keep trying to encode there beliefs into civil law, push their creationism crap into public school science curricula, they have their deity unconstitutionally engraved onto our currency, stuff like that.

      If you kept it in your homes and churches, no one would care.

      February 12, 2014 at 12:32 am |
    • evolveddna

      peacelovr.."faith takes nothing away"..ask gay folks about that perhaps?/

      February 12, 2014 at 12:39 am |
      • peacelovr

        Many gay folks – have faith in God.

        February 12, 2014 at 12:46 am |
        • evolveddna

          peacelovr...the question is... do you "allow" them the same human dignities you ascribe to the members of your own group? I would say you call them "flawed" in some way. You believe I would suggest based on your religious views that they should not be married ..? or raise children?

          February 12, 2014 at 12:51 am |
        • kcdalahast

          I know a lot of gay Christians. Some that even lead congregations. Do you think they are "flawed" because they are religious?

          February 12, 2014 at 1:03 am |
        • peacelovr

          evolveddna – yes I extend human dignity to all – and don't feel any human being is less precious than any other in the sight of God

          February 12, 2014 at 1:03 am |
    • evolveddna

      Peacelovr.. " in the sight of god " Allah appears to have different view according to the taliban, an what about those African Christian churches offering an enriching experience to the gay folks out there? But what about your sight? how do your fellow faithful feel about an alternative idea of love? The gay folks have been and continue to be ostracized at almost every turn, and its those of religious persuasion that are the most vocal. i am afraid that faith empowers division.

      February 12, 2014 at 1:38 am |
    • dandintac

      You ask: "Why does an atheist or non-Christian care if another person has faith?"

      I'll tell you why I do. At one time I thought "faith" and religion to be benign, maybe even a net positive, although I considered myself agnostic by that time. That bubble was popped on September 11, 2001. Over the ensuing years, I saw faith marching us to war, with George W Bush, a president who claimed to get his marching orders from God, and the subsequent disastrous invasion of Iraq. All of this opened my eyes and I started looking harder at "faith".

      Over the past dozen years or so, I've watched as faith has grown more brash in it's certainty, and less tolerant of dissent, and more determined than ever to force it's doctrines and dogmas on to the rest of us. I see stem-cell research, potentially the most promising area of medical advancement ever, stunted and inhibited by religion. I see religious pharmacists demanding to be exempt from having to do their job if their religion has quibbles about it. I see religion driving it's political tools in congress and the states to control women's reproduction more than any time since the 1970s, even trying to turn the clock back and put the kybosh on BIRTH CONTROL. Come on! It's the 21st century and now we're arguing over birth control again!!!! I see the Catholic church discouraging condom use in AIDs-ridden Africa. I read of witches being burned or stoned in Africa as well–driven by religion. I hear congressmen in the halls of power claim they know there is no global warming, because God promised he wouldn't destroy the earth again, or some such folderol. I see religion trying to push its way back into the public schools, and teach our children Creationism, and deny science, or seek to change science to make it subordinate to religion (after which it would no longer be science).

      I also hear of religious people seeking to discriminate against others that don't share their religion, primarily atheists, and often Muslims too. Some Christians actively seek ways to get atheist tenants evicted. Christian bosses will sometimes fire atheists if they can get away with it. Christian coaches will kick atheist students off the basketball team. In several states you cannot be an atheist and hold elected office, and in one state, Arkansas, an atheist's testimony is invalid in court. It is widely believed that it is impossible for any candidate for president to get elected if they are openly atheist. One US president, George HW Bush, allegedly said that atheists should not be considered patriots or citizens. Several Muslim countries have the death sentence for Muslims who leave the faith and become atheist. There are Christians in the US who think heresy and blasphemy should carry the death penalty, because it says so in the Bible.

      Religions, at least the western monotheistic religions, are engines of intolerance. Intolerance against atheists. Intolerance against gays. Intolerance against women who want to control their reproduction and not be subordinate to men. Intolerance against people who disagree with their idea of se-xual morality. Intolerance of "the other." All too often, the demand that this intolerance be codified into laws that we all have to live by. Many of the religious would like nothing better than to control what we read or listen to–or at least censor it.

      Religion is often carried as a banner and justification for the worst atrocities imaginable. It directly inspires acts of terror and violence. "A good person will do good things, a bad person will do bad things, but for a good person to do bad things–that takes religion."

      Religion also leads to the intellectual torpidity and social retardation of whole societies. Ignorance, fear, shame and guilt are the cornerstones of religion. Christianity in particular, seeks vulnerable people, beats them down like a brutal abusive spouse, by telling them they are evil and sinful, and cannot be strong and good by themselves, and then gives them a prosthetic of religion to prop them up again–the very weapon used to beat them with to begin with. Religion tears apart families and whole nations. Religion indoctrinates and often brainwashes children. Check out Jesus Camp on You Tube. Look at Madrassas in the Middle East.

      Finally, the extraordinary claims made by religion are at best, unsupported, and at worst, demonstrably false–although for too long, it has been a taboo to point this out.

      Given all this that I have listed above, which must necessarily be rather summary, religion brazenly stands up and demands RESPECT, and calls criticism not just blasphemy and heresy, but "hate speech" and demands protection from such criticism.

      This is good enough for starters, for why I criticize religion, and why I care about the subject.

      February 12, 2014 at 1:58 am |
      • ddeevviinn


        I want to take off the deb ate gloves for a minute.

        In reading through your post I couldn't help but feel a certain degree of sa dness. Not sa dness in the sense of me feeling sorry for you in light of what you wrote, but sa dness in the sense that there is more than a thread of truth weaved throughout your post. While I do think some of the actions you listed by christians are overstated, nevertheless, elements of truth are present.

        I am by nature a very skep tical, if not cyn ical individual. I have gone through all the philosophical gymnastics in my mind and could probably double or triple your list of grie vances. I think what makes the difference for me is that I don't view all these grieva nces as verification or nullification of my faith. I am not a big fan of human nature, whether it be that of atheists, Hin dus Agn ostics or Christians. Though it is an over used line, I fully agree with GK Chesterton when in response to someone asking him " What is wrong with the world" he stated " I am what;s wrong with the world."

        All I'm trying to say here is that when I'm told to love God with my whole heart, soul and mind, and to love my neighbor as myself, and to forgive others unconditionally, and to love my wife unconditionally, and to be kind and compassionate to others and to love my en emies and to take care of orphans and to feed the hungry and not to li e or to e nvy or be boastful or arro gant or hypoc ritical or a gossip or proud, and when I'm told that God demonstrated his love for us in that while we were still in s in, Christ di ed for us, I realize that these things have no relevance to the grie vances I find in " religion." Every human being I have ever known, myself included, has disappointed me on some level. If my faith were contingent upon the actions of others, especially fellow christians, I would be right there with you.

        My apologies for the world's longest run on sentence.

        February 12, 2014 at 2:58 am |
        • dandintac


          Thank you for your basic human compassion and decency. I really do appreciate your kind thoughts.

          I want to clarify a few things though, which I feel are seeping into your view of me. First of all, I am not a sad person–at least no more sad than the next guy. The long list of "grievances" (I guess that's a fair enough word) against religion should not lead you to believe that I am "mad at God" or any of the other common stereotypes people hold of nonbelievers. I actually think I have had a good life, and at the age of 50, there's little of it I would want to do over. I think my life has been far better than the majority of the planet, although like everyone, there are things that make me sad or angry. So please don't assume the stereotype that I'm sort of broken person because I don't believe.

          My list above was a specific response to a question–"why do you care if another person has faith?"–and I felt it a good place to articulate why I thought faith was a bad thing. And although I believe it is a net bad, I would never claim that there is nothing good about it whatsoever. I would never try to crush my mother's faith. She's had one heart attack already, and dearly misses my father and thinks she will see him again in Heaven. It's a beautiful myth, but I personally don't believe it's true. Yet I wouldn't go around to nursing homes in an effort to crush the faith that dying old people cling to as the last thing they have.

          But in an open forum like this, with vigorous discussion, people willing listen or at least argue, and possibly people who are on a journey to or from faith, I think it's an appropriate discussion to have–although it sometimes gets a bit heated.

          My deconversion was a long process, and it had almost nothing to do with what I now believe to be the evil of religion–it was about what I thought to be true, and what there seemed to be evidence for. I stopped believing in any sort of god long before I thought that religion was a bad thing (except that its claims were likely false). But over the past several years, I have learned more and more, and recognize more and more that is bad with religion.

          Please remember that most atheists, although we often get intensely frustrated at literalism, and the conversation can get heated on both sides, try to remember that most everyone on this blog would probably get along great if we were all at a group bar or picnic together, talking about something else. People are always far more civil face-to-face.

          Thanks again, and I look forward to more discussions.

          February 12, 2014 at 9:51 pm |
        • ddeevviinn


          Don't want to belabor the point, but thought I should clarify your "clarification". I think you may have misunderstood my intent with the use of the word "sadness." It was not directed at you or with the implication that you are "sad" or "broken". I was only stating my own personal emotion towards some of the unfortunate realities created by religion that you listed, that's all.

          " it was about what I thought to be true" While we obviously are world's apart on our perception of truth, I respect the idea that truth is your standard. We have a saying in our household that we commonly recite to each other and it applies equally to myself, my wife and our children, and it's this : "Truth at all cost". And by this we mean, truth no matter what it reveals about ourselves, how difficult it is to apply or where it takes us philosophically/theologically. I think this is what causes me uneasiness with those who attribute belief in God to the fear of divine retri bution, brainwashing, indoctrination at an early age or any other contrived reason. There are many of us who simply, after consideration of ALL available information, conclude that we believe what we believe because it is truth. Nothing more, nothing less.

          Well, I see at least we have found one common denominator between the two of us: we are both 50 years old. For the life of me, I still don't know how got to this age so quickly

          Enough of all this cordiality, I'm now putting my debate gloves back on. Until next time.

          February 13, 2014 at 3:48 pm |
  20. ardvrk

    "biblical writers: like the best authors, they simply wrote about what they knew"

    Which was jack shi-–t.

    February 12, 2014 at 12:13 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.