From the headlines accompanying archeological findings out of Lebanon you’d think that science had finally proved the Bible was nothing more than 4,000 years of fake news.
“DNA disproves claim that the Canaanites were wiped out,” trumpeted the Daily Mail, throwing the weight of the tabloid press against the Old Testament’s venerable scribes. (For readers not as engaged by news from the Bronze Age the Mail’s online edition did offer shots of Rihanna’s “bejeweled bikini” if you scrolled below the fold.)
The would-be expose was not limited to the sensationalist media. The New York Times reported that “a genetic analysis” shows the ancient population of the Levant survived the “divine call for their extinction,” as if somehow they had caught Moses—the man who took dictation from the Lord in the fire and smoke atop Mount Sinai—in a baldface lie.
The truth is the media should be doing a collective face-palm. They didn’t just botch the story, they got it completely backwards.
Yes, DNA extracted from 3,500-year-old human remains found near the city of Sidon did match the genetic sequence of modern-day Lebanese. Which simply confirms the Bible.
Judges Chapter 1 specifically mentions Sidon in a list of places where the Israelites failed in their mandate to drive out the Canaanites.
And though it’s aggravating that so many journalists also failed to actually read the Good Book before broadsiding it, it’s not surprising.
Over the years I’ve noticed that a great deal of criticism aimed at the Bible is driven by ignorance.
Here are a few examples from personal experience.
- An atheist agitator told a crowd that Cain’s lament about being the object of mass retribution made no sense, because in killing his brother Abel he reduced Earth’s population to a grand total of three.
- At a high-profile debate, a young woman tried to pillory a creationist’s literal view of the Bible by asking him why he didn’t advocate stoning people who ate pork.
- In a local newspaper article about an artisan crafting a model of Noah’s ark, the reporter stated that the original vessel (with a volume of about 1.5 million cubic feet) supposedly was built in seven days.
To be fair, it is a lot to ask that the average person be intimately familiar with Bible arcana. And I don’t mean to turn any particular reference into a shibboleth.
It’s an open question as well as to what degree a critic should know the material he wishes to harpoon before launching the rhetorical weapon. I’ve lambasted Marxism without having waded through Das Kapital. And I’ve taken issue with Islam without having read the Koran.
But I tried at least to master the essence of Marx’s disdain for capitalism or certain jihadists’ justification for violence before announcing my belief that both are dangerously wrong.
Many critics of the Bible, on the other hand, don’t seem to display a similar sense of fairness.
Like the journalists who gleefully repeated the original mis-statement about the failed annihilation of the Canaanites, these self-appointed experts seem all too eager to skewer some minor fact while missing the Bible’s overall story.
Take the Canaanites.
Yes, God told the Israelites to wipe them out and occupy their land. This command was issued in part as retribution for some deep evil (including infant sacrifice and sexual deviance). The Israelites were also supposed to establish a holy realm fit for God to occupy.
However, as modern science has now confirmed, they blew it.
This failure in no way derailed God’s plan, though, as the rest of the story clearly reveals.
The unfaithfulness of the Israelites simply illustrated that even under the best of circumstances human beings are incapable of keeping God’s laws. We’re all rebels who deserve God’s wrath.
But God crafted a way to satisfy both his demand for justice and his supreme mercy. He sent his son to become incarnate and die as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.
So this, then, is Bible’s over-arching narrative. Through the redemption of Christ, we can have our crimes forgiven and out souls reconciled to God.
Sound too good to be true?
Then remember this: The Bible was right about Canaanites in Sidon. It could very well be right about the rest of the story, too.