Wednesday, February 10, 2016

The Absence Of Evidence (2)

From *The Skeptical Review*, March/April 2002:

By Farrell Till 
A favorite saying of apologists who have no evidence to support their positions is that the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. In other words, they mean that just because they cannot find evidence that a biblical event happened or a biblical character or place existed is not evidence that what the Bible says did not happen or did not exist. We saw Everette Hatcher pursuing this line of reasoning when he was unable to cite extrabiblical evidence to corroborate the claim in Daniel that "Darius the Mede" was an actual historical character. In defense of the absence of any extrabiblical references to "Darius the Mede," Hatcher took a familiar track and argued that because such references to Darius the Mede had not yet been found did not mean that they would never be found. He quoted a comment that Dr. Wayne Bindle, a professor at Jerry Falwell's Liberty University, had made to him in a personal e-mail. It seems that professor Bindle thinks that I haven't learned very much from the archaeological discoveries in the past 200 years of biblical names that had previously been unknown in extrabiblical records (TSR, March/April 2001, p. 3). The professor didn't cite any examples, so I have no way of knowing what specific names he was talking about. His argument, however, was obvious: the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. In this case, Bindle was carrying the argument a step further and suggesting that although no such records of Darius the Mede have yet been found, they will very likely be discovered someday.

Hatcher has joined the Errancy internet list to continue our debate on the authorship and inerrancy of the book of Daniel, and he continues to rely on the absence-of-evidence argument as a catch-all explanation to any lack of real evidence to support his claims. On January 1, 2002, he said the following in defense of his position that "Darius the Mede" was an actual historical person.
Archaeology is silent on the point of who Darius the Mede was, and if Till wants to base his argument on this kind of silent evidence he needs to remember how fast theories against the Bible like this have disappeared in the past when the spade of the archaeologist has turned up new information about ancient civilizations. The Hittites are just one example from the last century.
This is actually an argument that assumes biblical inerrancy, because the person who so reasons is really saying that if evidence to corroborate biblical claims hasn't yet been discovered, it probably will be found someday, since everything the Bible says is true. I'm sure that Hatcher or any other biblical inerrantist wouldn't be at all impressed if a Mormon used the same argument in support of archaeological silence about pre-Columbian civilizations mentioned in the book of Mormon, because he would recognize that it is probable that archaeology is silent about claims in the book of Mormon for the simple reason that the places, people, and events in those claims were not real.

Hatcher made it sound as if the "spade of the archaeologist" turns up information almost daily that corroborates something in the Bible that had once been questioned by skeptics, but the truth is that such discoveries are rather infrequent, so they actually have only a few examples to wag out when asked to explain why secular history is silent in matters like the existence of Darius the Mede. The Hittite kingdom is probably their favorite one. They love to cite archaeological discoveries that proved the existence of a Hittite empire, which some early scholars had assumed was mythical, since no extrabiblical references to the Hittites were known at the time. Ever since the late 19th-century discovery of Egyptian and Assyrian references to the Hittites, biblical maximists (those who want to read as much as possible into biblical archaeological discoveries) have used this as the cornerstone of their apologetic claim that the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. A few discoveries like this have emboldened them to declare that if archaeological or extrabiblical evidence doesn't exist now to confirm people, places, and events mentioned in the Bible, it probably will someday as archaeologists continue to make discoveries.

What biblicists like Bindle and Hatcher don't seem to realize is that the absence of evidence to confirm commonplace, ordinary biblical claims is rather insignificant compared to the absence of evidence to confirm the many claims in the Bible so extraordinary that, if they had really happened, extrabiblical records of the time would surely have mentioned them. That extrabiblical references to the Hittite empire were unknown for so long, especially in a time when biblical archaeology was really in its infancy, is not at all surprising, because empires have come and gone down through the centuries, and no doubt many of them existed that still are unknown to us. Such historical silence as this is understandable, but it isn't at all easy to understand why extrabiblical records would have been silent about all of the extraordinary claims in the Bible. I have used the word all here to emphasize the extent of the problem that confronts maximists like Bindle and Hatcher, who seem to think that time is on their side in the matter of historical silence. Although extrabiblical records have confirmed some ordinary, commonplace biblical claims, I know of no extrabiblical corroboration of any extraordinary biblical claims like the parting of the Red Sea or the miraculous collapse of the walls of Jericho. This silence of history is indeed significant, because some of these claims were such that, had they really happened, they would surely have been noticed and recorded in at least some of the many cultures of the time that kept records. The silence of extrabiblical history in these matters simply cannot be explained by flippantly chanting that the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

The long day of Joshua: One such event was claimed in Joshua 10:12-14, where Yahweh allegedly lengthened the day to give the Israelites time to defeat the Amorites.
On the day when Yahweh gave the Amorites over to the Israelites, Joshua spoke to Yahweh and he said in the sight of Israel, "Sun, stand still at Gibeon, and Moon, in the valley of Aijalon." And the sun stood still, and the moon stopped, until the nation took vengeance on their enemies. Is this not written in the Book of Jashar? The sun stopped in midheaven, and did not hurry to set for about a whole day. There has been no day like it before or since, when Yahweh heeded a human voice for Yahweh fought for Israel.
Any grade-school science student knows that the sun illuminates our planet a hemisphere at a time, so if an event like this had really happened, which had kept the sun from setting "for about a whole day," it would have been noticed in countries far removed from Canaan, where this battle was allegedly fought, and would surely have been mentioned in the records of these societies. The writer asked, "Is this not written in the Book of Jashar?" Well, of course, it would have been written in the Book of Jashar, because a sensational event like this could hardly have gone unmentioned. The Book of Jashar, however, was one of those lost sources that Old Testament writers often referred to, so it was undoubtedly an Israelite work. One could understand how a legend like this could find its way into an Israelite book, which probably drew materials from some of the same oral traditions and other national legends used by the author of Joshua, but it is hard to understand why such a phenomenal day as this one would not have also been written in the books and records left by the Egyptians, Mesopotamians, Mycenaeans, Hittites, and other contemporary cultures, which surely would have noticed a day almost twice as long as usual.

A popular urban legend that has been making the rounds since the late 19th century claims that astronomers have found evidence in the positions of the planets that the long day of Joshua actually happened. More responsible inerrantist journals like Reason & Revelation have warned their readers not to use this as an apologetic argument, because it has no basis in fact, but the legend still circulates, especially on the internet. Instead of propagating false apologetic claims like this, what biblicists need to do is dig faster in other parts of the world to find extrabiblical records of a phenomenal day 3,400 years ago that was almost twice as long as normal. Until such corroborative records are found, I suppose they will continue to chime that the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, even though this event would have been so remarkable that other cultures would surely have noticed it. The silence of those records in a matter like this would be somewhat as if newspapers in the United States published after September 11, 2001, had failed to mention the attack on the World Trade Center.

The darkness at midday: When Jesus was crucified, the sun allegedly failed to give its light from the sixth hour till the ninth hour (Luke 23:44 Matt. 27:45 Mark 15:33). The problem for biblicists in this matter is similar to the difficulty presented to them by the long day of Joshua. The sun illuminates the earth a hemisphere at a time, so if the sun had failed to give its light at midday for the space of three hours, this would hardly have gone unnoticed in other record-keeping societies, but no contemporary records in other cultures mentioned any such event as this. There were secular writers living at the time that this event allegedly happened, but none of them mentioned it. Both Seneca the Younger and Pliny the Elder discussed natural disasters like earthquakes, volcanoes, floods, eclipses, and comets in their books, but neither one of them mentioned a three-hour period of darkness at midday. They referred to events far less phenomenal but didn't mention three hours of darkness at midday. Again, this would be somewhat like newspapers in the United States failing to mention the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center.

Biblical inerrantists have resorted to two primary explanations for the failure of contemporary records to report this phenomenal event claimed in the synoptic gospels of the New Testament. First, they have argued that this was just a regional darkness, which would have been unobservable in Egypt, Greece, Rome, and other parts of the hemisphere. They argue that the Greek word gen [earth] could have had the meaning of "land," and so there was darkness only in the land that was in that part of the earth. The word ay was admittedly used in the New Testament to denote a "land"or region, but when so used the context almost always included some kind of contrasting or qualifying term that made the sense of land clear. It was, for example, used to denote land in contrast to the sea.
Mark 4:1 Again he [Jesus] began to teach beside the sea. Such a very large crowd gathered around him that he got into a boat on the sea and sat there, while the whole crowd was beside the sea on the land [ges].
Luke 8:26 Then they arrived at the country of the Gerasenes [traveling by ship], which is opposite Galilee. As he [Jesus] stepped out on land [gen], a man of the city who had demons met him. For a long time he had worn no clothes, and he did not live in a house but in the tombs.
John 21:8 But the other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land [ges], only about a hundred yards off.
Acts 27:39-44 In the morning they did not recognize the land [gen], but they noticed a bay with a beach, on which they planned to run the ship ashore, if they could. So they cast off the anchors and left them in the sea. At the same time they loosened the ropes that tied the steering-oars then hoisting the foresail to the wind, they made for the beach. But striking a reef, they ran the ship aground the bow stuck and remained immovable, but the stern was being broken up by the force of the waves. The soldiers' plan was to kill the prisoners, so that none might swim away and escape but the centurion, wishing to save Paul, kept them from carrying out their plan. He ordered those who could swim to jump overboard first and make for the land [gen], and the rest to follow, some on planks and others on pieces of the ship. And so it was that all were brought safely to land [gen].
Many other examples could be quoted, but these are sufficient to show that when ay was used in the sense of land near a sea, the context made the meaning clear.

As for the inerrantist claim that gen in the synoptic accounts of the midday darkness could have meant only that the sun failed to give its light in the region of Jerusalem or Judea, the proponents of this quibble conveniently fail to mention that when ay was used in the sense of the land within a region, the context also made that clear with some kind of qualifier such as "the land of Israel" or "the land of Egypt."
Matthew 2:20 "Get up, take the child and his mother, and go to the land [gen] of Israel, for those who were seeking the child's life are dead."Matthew 10:15 "Truly I tell you, it will be more tolerable for the land [gen] of Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town."
Acts 7:3-5 To this he [Stephen] replied: "Brothers and fathers, listen to me! The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham while he was still in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran, and said to him, ‘Leave your country [ges] and your people,'’God said, ‘and go to the land [ges] I will show you.'’ "So he left the land [ges] of the Chaldeans and settled in Haran. After the death of his father, God sent him to this land [gen] where you are now living. He gave him no inheritance here, not even a foot of ground. But God promised him that he and his descendants after him would possess the land, even though at that time Abraham had no child."
Jude 5 Now I desire to remind you, though you are fully informed, that the Lord, who once for all saved a people out of the land [ges] of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe.
These are only a few of the many New Testament examples that show how the Greek word ge was used when it meant only a region rather than the whole earth, so if the synoptic writers had meant that darkness fell at midday only on a region, they would surely have written that there was darkness in the land [gen] of Judea or Jerusalem. Instead, they said that there was darkness over "all the gen" or "the whole gen."

A look at how ay was used in the New Testament to denote the entire earth will support the view that the synoptic writers meant that darkness covered the whole earth.
Matthew 5:18 "For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth [ay] pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. "
Matthew 10:34 "Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth [gen] I have not come to bring peace, but a sword."
Luke 21:25-35 "There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth [ges] distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud' with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near."
Then he told them a parable: "Look at the fig tree and all the trees as soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near.Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place. Heaven and earth [ay] will pass away, but my words will not pass away. Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day catch you unexpectedly, like a trap. For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth [ges]."
There are also many other examples of this usage of ge that I could quote, but these are sufficient to show that the inerrantist attempt to make the darkness over "all the earth" only a regional event doesn't have any real substance.

A second inerrantist "solution" to the silence of contemporary records in this matter is to claim that secular records of the darkness were made but just didn't survive. In support of this claim, they cite surviving fragments of the writings of Julius Africanus, a 3rd-century AD Christian writer, who allegedly quoted first century writers who witnessed such an event and wrote about it. The alleged reference to the darkness at midday is in fragment 18 of Africanus's History.
As to his works severally, and his cures effected upon body and soul, and the mysteries of his doctrine, and the resurrection from the dead, these have been most authoritatively set forth by his disciples and apostles before us. On the whole world there pressed a most fearful darkness and the rocks were rent by an earthquake, and many places in Judea and other districts were thrown down. This darkness Thallus, in the third book of his History, calls, as appears to me without reason, an eclipse of the sun. For the Hebrews celebrate the passover on the 14th day according to the moon, and the passion of our Saviour falls on the day before the passover but an eclipse of the sun takes place only when the moon comes under the sun. And it cannot happen at any other time but in the interval between the first day of the new moon and the last of the old, that is, at their junction: how then should an eclipse be supposed to happen when the moon is almost diametrically opposite the sun? Let that opinion pass however let it carry the majority with it and let this portent of the world be deemed an eclipse of the sun, like others a portent only to the eye. Phlegon records that, in the time of Tiberius Caesar, at full moon, there was a full eclipse of the sun from the sixth hour to the ninth-manifestly that one of which we speak. But what has an eclipse in common with an earthquake, the rending rocks, and the resurrection of the dead, and so great a perturbation throughout the universe? Surely no such event as this is recorded for a long period. But it was a darkness induced by God, because the Lord happened then to suffer.
We see in this quotation an example of how inerrantists will play both sides of the street. On the one hand, they will try to explain this problem by claiming that the darkness was only regional and therefore unobservable in other parts of the hemisphere, but then they will quote Africanus as proof that the darkness had been noticed by some contemporaries. Africanus, however, said that this was a "most fearful darkness" that "pressed on the whole world," and that obviously is not the description of just a regional darkness. Inerrantists can't have it both ways. They can't argue that this was only a regional darkness and then cross to the other side of the street and try to prove the historicity of this event by quoting a writer who thought it was a universal darkness.

The major weakness in this attempt to find contemporary confirmation of the midday darkness, however, is that Africanus did not actually quote his sources. He simply said that Thallus and Phlegon said thus and so. Look carefully at what Africanus said in reference to the "testimony" of Thallus: "This darkness Thallus, in the third book of his History, calls, as appears to me without reason, an eclipse of the sun." Africanus had just claimed that there had been a "most fearful darkness" that had covered the whole world then immediately, without quoting what Thallus had actually said, Africanus claimed that Thallus had referred to "this darkness" in his third book and called it "an eclipse of the sun," but without the actual words of Thallus to evaluate, we cannot know if he had recorded that a period of darkness, which he had called an "eclipse," had occurred during a crucifixion or if he had simply stated that there had been an eclipse at a time that an early Christian apologist could conveniently construe to be a reference to the same period of darkness mentioned in the synoptic gospels. In the source that Africanus referred to, did Thallus mention Jesus or a crucifixion? We don't know, because Africanus did not quote what Thallus said. Did Thallus say that this "eclipse" had lasted for three hours? We don't know, because Africanus did not quote what Thallus said. In other words, we know what Africanus said that Thallus said, but we don't know if Thallus actually said what Africanus said that he said. This much ballyhooed testimony of Thallus, then, is nothing more than hearsay evidence that has been filtered through an early Christian apologist, who almost two centuries after the time of Thallus was desperately looking for contemporary testimony to the three hours of midday darkness alleged in the synoptic gospels.

The same problem is in the reference that Africanus made to Phlegon, who was not even a contemporary of the event in question. Inerrantists tout Phlegon as a "first- century historian," but he was born in the latter half of the first century, and the work referred to by Africanus was written about AD 140. That was more than a century after the alleged darkness had occurred, so Phlegon cannot be considered a contemporary witness to it. Africanus claimed that Phlegon said that "in the time of Tiberius Caesar, at full moon, there was a full eclipse of the sun from the sixth hour to the ninth" and went on to say that this eclipse was "manifestly that one of which we speak," but was it really the same darkness that Africanus was writing about? He didn't quote what Phlegon had written. He merely said that Phlegon had said that there was an eclipse from the sixth hour to the ninth in the time of Tiberius Caesar, but we don't have the actual text from Phlegon's history to confirm that he had said that there was an "eclipse" of three hour's duration. That Phlegon probably did not say that the darkness from the eclipse had lasted three hours is evident from other attempts by early Christian writers to make Phlegon's reference to an eclipse in the time of Tiberius Caesar into historical proof that a three-hour darkness had fallen over the world during the crucifixion. Philopon, a 6th-century historian, also referred to Phlegon's alleged description of an eclipse at the time of the crucifixion, but what Philopon did not say that Phlegon said is sufficient to cast suspicion on the accuracy of Africanus's account of what Phlegon had allegedly written.
Phlegon mentioned the eclipse which took place during the crucifixion of the Lord Christ Jesus Christ and no other [eclipse] it is clear that he did not know from his sources about any eclipse in previous times (De opif. mund. II 21).
Notice that Philopon did not say, as Africanus did, that Phlegon had said that the eclipse had lasted from the sixth hour until the ninth hour. Philopon simply said that Phlegon had "mentioned the eclipse," but as crucial as the length of the eclipse would have been to corroborating the gospel accounts of the darkness, how likely is it that Philopon would have omitted this bit of information if Phlegon had actually included it in his account?

What is more likely is that Phlegon mentioned an eclipse in the time of Tiberius Caesar without specifying its duration and then early Christian apologists later tried to distort this into a reference to the darkness that the synoptic gospels claimed happened at the time of the crucifixion. That an eclipse happened on November 24, AD 29, which would have been during the reign of Tiberius Caesar, is known, but we do not have any records that indicate this was an eclipse of such phenomenal duration as three hours. Since the length of eclipses is measured in minutes rather than hours, if a prolonged darkness of three hours at midday had happened, then Phlegon would surely have mentioned its abnormal duration, and if Phlegon had specified that the "eclipse" had lasted three hours, then any apologist later citing him as a source of evidence would just as surely have quoted the exact language where Phlegon had said the darkness lasted three hours. That Philopon didn't mention this in citing Phlegon strongly indicates that Phlegon said nothing about a three-hour duration of darkness.

Eusebius, a 4th-century church historian, also cited Phlegon as a witness to this alleged darkness.
Jesus Christ underwent his passion in the 18th year of Tiberius [32 AD]. Also at that time in another Greek compendium we find an event recorded in these words: "The sun was eclipsed, Bithynia was struck by an earthquake, and in the city of Nicaea many buildings fell." All these things happened to occur during the Lord's passion. In fact, Phlegon, too, a distinguished reckoner of Olympiads, wrote more on these events in his 13th book, saying this: "Now, in the fourth year of the 202nd Olympiad [AD 32], a great eclipse of the sun occurred at the sixth hour [noon] that excelled every other before it, turning the day into such darkness of night that the stars could be seen in heaven, and the earth moved in Bithynia, toppling many buildings in the city of Nicaea" (Chronicle, vol II).
As in the case of Philopon's reference to Phlegon, Eusebius did not say that Phlegon claimed that the "eclipse" lasted three hours. He said only that it had "occurred at the sixth hour." Furthermore, what Eusebius quoted from Phlegon located the "eclipse" and earthquake in Bithynia, which was on the southern shore of the Black Sea about 600 miles northwest of Jerusalem, so the earthquake that Phlegon referred to would not have been the same earthquake that Matthew claimed struck Jerusalem at the time of the crucifixion with such intensity that the tombs of dead "saints" were shaken open (27:52).

There are two reasons why we can conclude this: (1) An earthquake of that intensity over such a wide geographical area would surely have received more attention in the records of the time than the scent references that Africanus, Philopon, and Eusebius had to dig to find. (2) As Eusebius quoted Phlegon, the earthquake struck Bithynia at the "sixth hour" during an eclipse, but according to Matthew, the midday darkness ended at the ninth hour, after which time the earthquake struck (27:45-46, 51).

Eclipses and earthquakes are not uncommon events, so we would expect to find references to them in ancient secular records. If, however, an earthquake and midday darkness as spectacular as those claimed by Matthew in his account of the crucifixion had actually happened, we would expect early apologists like Africanus and Origen to have had access to various secular sources that contained exact details to confirm what Matthew had claimed. Furthermore, we would expect that the early church would have spared no effort to make sure those secular records survived to provide unbiased corroboration of the extraordinary events that the synoptic writers reported in their accounts of the crucifixion. Instead, we find that early apologists had to strain to find brief secular references to eclipses and earthquakes that they could claim were the same extraordinary events that the gospel writers mentioned.

The problem that contemporary silence in the matter of this midday darkness presents to biblical apologists was effectively stated by Edward Gibbon at the end of the 15th chapter of his famous history The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.
Under the reign of Tiberius, the whole earth, or at least a celebrated province of the Roman Empire, was involved in a preternatural darkness of three hours. Even this miraculous event, which ought to have excited the wonder, the curiosity, and the devotion of mankind, passed without notice in an age of science and history. It happened during the lifetime of Seneca and the elder Pliny, who must have experienced the immediate effects, or received the earliest intelligence, of the prodigy. Each of these philosophers, in a laborious work, has recorded all the great phenomena of Nature, earthquakes, meteors, comets, and eclipses, which his indefatigable curiosity could collect. Both the one and the other have omitted to mention the greatest phenomenon to which the mortal eye has been witness since the creation of the globe. A distinct chapter of Pliny is designed for eclipses of an extraordinary nature and unusual duration but he contents himself with describing the singular defect of light which followed the murder of Caesar....
In other words, this notable historian was stating the obvious: a phenomenon like the midday darkness alleged in the synoptic gospels would not have passed unnoticed in the secular records of that time. Furthermore, Gibbon stated in a footnote that the attempts by early Christian apologists to cite Phlegon as proof of the prolonged darkness at the time of the crucifixion had been by his time "wisely abandoned." Unfortunately, modern apologists desperate to defend biblical inerrancy have reverted to those discredited sources.

That biblical apologists have to scratch to find even unlikely references to this darkness in questionable sources like Thallus and Phlegon only underscores the probability that no such event ever happened. To examine in detail the reasons why the apologetic references to Thallus and Phlegon should be considered only late attempts to manufacture contemporary testimony to the midday darkness alleged in the synoptic gospels would take more space than would be available in an entire issue of TSR, but those who are interested in reading an analysis of this problem from a historiographic point of view should access Richard Carrier's articles here. Be sure to click onto Jacoby to read what the German scholars Jacoby and Müller wrote about the questionable testimony of Thallus.

Resurrection of the saints: As noted above in the quotations from Africanus and Eusebius, early church apologists tried to find in the now extinct writings of Thallus and Phlegon references to Matthew's earthquake, which allegedly shook open the tombs of many "saints," who came forth after the resurrection of Jesus, went into the city of Jerusalem, and "appeared to many" (27:51-52). If such an event had actually happened, it would not have been observable by people in other countries, as the midday darkness would have, but we would still expect some mention of it to have been left in the records of that particular region. After all if many resurrected saints had appeared to many in the city, that would hardly have been an event that no one but Matthew would have mentioned. A couple of apocryphal references to this resurrection of "many saints" were made, but no reliable, unbiased, disinterested contemporary sources ever referred to it. The Jewish historian Josephus was born in AD 37, shortly after this alleged event, but he didn't mention it even though he had grown up in circumstances that should have made him aware of it if it had indeed happened. In his Life of Flavius Josephus, he claimed to be the son of a Jerusalem priest "of great reputation" named Matthias (2:7). If this is true, then the father of Josephus would have been a witness to all of these phenomenal events, i. e., the midday darkness, the earthquake, and the resurrection of the many saints, so we could hardly imagine that a witness to such remarkable occurrences would not have talked about them in his family circle as Josephus was growing up. Why then would these family conversations not have left an impression on Josephus strong enough that he would have mentioned them?

Biblical inerrantists can chant all they wish that the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, but some events claimed in the Bible would have been so remarkable and far-reaching in their scope that no reasonable person could explain the failure of extrabiblical records to mention them by just saying that the absence of such confirmation is not evidence that they didn't happen. Contemporary silence about the alleged healing of the blind and lame during the personal ministry of Jesus could be explained as events that were witnessed by only a few and therefore not reported because those who kept records were unaware of them, but a day almost twice as long as normal, a three-hour darkness at midday, a resurrection of many saints who appeared to many people in a major city of the time-the silence of contemporary records in matters like these just can't be explained away by saying that the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

The silence of John: The apostle John was allegedly the author of the fourth gospel. If he was, then he would have been a witness to the crucifixion and the events that accompanied it, because John 19:26-27 claims that while Jesus was on the cross, he entrusted the care of his mother to "the disciple standing by whom he [Jesus] loved." Later on, the gospel of John claims that it was written by the disciple whom Jesus loved (21:20-24). If all this information is true, then the writer of the gospel of John was present at the crucifixion to witness everything that happened there, yet "John"said nothing at all about three hours of darkness at midday or a resurrection of "many saints" who went into Jerusalem and "appeared to many." Who can believe that a person who had seen such remarkable events as these would have written an account of that day without mentioning them?

The absence of evidence is not evidence of absence? When secular history is silent about ordinary, commonplace people and events mentioned in the Bible, this axiom is true, but the silence of secular history in extraordinary matters like those examined above is reasonable evidence that they didn't happen. Archaeology has indeed discovered extrabiblical records that confirm the historicity of people, places, and events recorded in the Bible. The Black Obelisk of Nimrud, for example, depicted king Jehu of Israel bowing to Shalmanesser III of Assyria, so this is reasonable confirmation that both of these characters, who were mentioned in the Bible, were actual historical persons. Various extrabiblical records from Egypt, Babylon, Persia, Assyria, etc. mention characters like Nebuchadnezzar, Cyrus, Sargon, and others too numberous to list, as well as events recorded in the Bible, so Everette Hatcher is right about "the spade of the archaeologist" having made discoveries that confirm some information in the Bible. Inerrantists who toot this horn, however, never seem to mention that these discoveries have corroborated only ordinary or unmiraculous information recorded in the Bible. There have been no archaeological discoveries of extrabiblical records that corroborated any of the many references to miracles in the Bible. Have archaeological discoveries found corroborative records of the parting of the Red Sea or the "translation" of Elijah in a fiery chariot or the resurrection of the Shunammite woman's son or the ordeal of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the fiery furnance or any of the almost endless list of other miracles claimed in the Bible? The answer is no. Archaeological discoveries that tend to corroborate biblical information invariably concerns only that which was unspectacular. That is a bit strange in view of all the miracles recorded in the Bible. One would think that somewhere some archaeologist would have discovered by now some secular record that would have confirmed at least some of these miracles. Biblical maximists, of course, think that they have found such records, but to get the confirmation they want, they have had to lean over backwards as Africanus and Eusebius did to find secular confirmation of the midday darkness claimed in the synoptic gospels.

Sometimes the silence of secular history screams, but biblicists just can't seem to hear it.

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