Class Warfare Blog

December 22, 2013

NatGeo Faith-a-thon

The National Geographic Channel played quite a number of biblical archeology-themed shows last night. I tuned into a couple to see how they were doing. Too many of these “entertainments” seem to be designed along the lines of the “Ancient Aliens” shows where some archeological findings are proffered and then the question is asked “Couldn’t it have been Ancient Aliens who built this?” There really is no question, the question is the answer, by implication. Of course it could have been aliens, but it also could have been fairies, or demons, or pixies, too. The question is what are the probabilities that it were that.

The show I watched was “The Lost Kings of the Bible” which was focused upon the question whether Kings David and Solomon were real. Among their “evidence” was that archeologists were in agreement that if the two had lived it would have been in the 10th century BCE (but little else). This seems to be a strange statement because the texts claiming these two were real is the only text that could place them in time, basically they were saying that if one fact was real, the other also had to be, too, which is rather strange.

They were moving along pretty well, not making any outlandish claims, just asking the questions: “Could this be evidence of King David’s/Solomon’s actual existence?” before cutting to a commercial. But then they blithely dropped the bomb! They casually mention that the Jewish Bible was written in the 7th century BCE . . . based upon “memories.” This has been known for quite a while but kept from many Christians in this country, that the Bible was written based on “memories” from the past, oh, 1500 years or so. Their data storage must have been better than ours as we are rapidly losing the capacity to view movies from early in the last century and read computer records from just a few decades ago.

In any case they followed with the story of David and Goliath, with the usual attempts to prove either was an actual historical character. The mentioned that the armor of Goliath was described in the Bible in great detail, but unfortunately the armor described is that of a 7th to 5th century BCE Greek Hoplite, not a 10th century BCE Philistine! Apparently the Bible’s writers “memories” didn’t extend back to the tenth century, a least regarding the armor in one of the most famous battles of that millennium. And, they clearly felt that it was acceptable to make up such descriptions when the “memories” didn’t supply them. In other words, elements of fiction writing are clearly on display.

They didn’t mention these latter conclusions.

Basically, if they admit the writers of the OT got such things wrong, then they would have to open the topic of what else did they get wrong?

In the end, they came to no conclusion other than there is very, very little data showing these two kings were real people. The show was better than their ordinary drivel, couched so that believers and non-believers can point to their shows and say, “see, I am right” but not yet focused on getting to the truth of such matters.


  1. Well, it’s a start. We can be happy about that.


    Comment by john zande — December 22, 2013 @ 1:35 pm | Reply

  2. Could David and Goliath be Ancient Aliens??? that would explain how Goliath had the armor from 3 centuries from the future!


    Comment by List of X — December 23, 2013 @ 12:19 am | Reply

    • I think you figured it out! The Intelligent Designers were Aliens!


      Comment by stephenpruis — December 23, 2013 @ 7:25 am | Reply

  3. Curious to know how many letters the NG channel got from irate fundamentalists bitching about any assertion that David and Solomon were figments of 7th century Jewish minds.


    Comment by lbwoodgate — December 23, 2013 @ 9:51 am | Reply

  4. I see no reason to doubt that kings named David and Solomon existed, but that doesn’t mean they haven’t been mythologized and aggrandized beyond what they actually were–very minor rulers in a larger Canaanite cultural context. The Tel Dan Stele (see the article on Wikipedia) suggests that a royal house named for David existed in the ninth century. A good comparison, and close in time, is Homer’s Iliad–mostly mythological, but with some kernels of historical truth.


    Comment by linnetmoss — December 23, 2013 @ 12:13 pm | Reply

    • With the minor caveat that the phrase “the House of … ” wasn’t used until much.much later.

      So, two major kings and one minor reference in the surrounding kingdoms. Pretty weak evidence.


      Comment by stephenpruis — December 23, 2013 @ 12:22 pm | Reply

      • I would not completely discount the historical value of Chronicles, Kings, etc. I’ve never understood why biblical minimalists assume that they equal zero evidence. They are documents like any others from the period, to be assessed using the same methods. Historical chronicles from the Assyrians and Babylonians, for example, are not approached with such overwhelming skepticism (i.e., they are fictional until proven otherwise). To me this indicates a bias. I am an atheist but also a historian, and I don’t like to throw away evidence, in whatever form it comes. I guess the real question is, “evidence for what?” That biblical kings existed is not a big deal one way or another. The problem comes when people mistakenly assume that the objective existence of a Solomon or David gives credence to other truth claims in the bible.


        Comment by linnetmoss — December 23, 2013 @ 1:00 pm | Reply

        • I do not discount any historical evidence but the Bible is not an historical document. It was written for political and theological reasons and historical events stirred in to provide a backdrop. It is others who insist that these biblical stories are “true” and “history.” The discussion is whether archeologists can come up with any evidence to support such claims. Also, the documents we have are not primary and not even secondary documents in most cases, so their historicity is very hard to affirm.


          Comment by stephenpruis — December 23, 2013 @ 1:25 pm | Reply

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