Accuracy: Abraham’s Anachronistic Camels?

“Despite the latest study of bones, evidence indicates the iconic desert animals do belong in Genesis.”

by Gordon Govierpics

“Like the nose of a camel under the tent, archaeological research has raised new questions about the Bible’s version of ancient history.

Two researchers at Tel Aviv University (TAU) studied the bones of camels found in an area of ancient copper mines in the Aravah Valley, south of the Dead Sea. Using radiocarbon dating and other techniques, they determined that camels were first used in the mining operations near the end of the 10th century BC.

They state that this is the first evidence of domesticated camels in ancient Israel.

This would be almost 1,000 years later than the time of the patriarchs, when camels first appear in the Bible. The most memorable account is the story of Abraham’s servant, Eliezer, in Genesis 24, who is sent by Abraham to find a wife for his son Isaac. He finds Rebecca, who not only draws water from a well to quench Eliezer’s thirst, but also waters his 10 camels.

Their study was quickly used to claim that the Bible was written or edited long after the events it describes. Headlines included:

The Mystery of the Bible’s Phantom Camels
Camels Had No Business in Genesis
Will camel discovery break the Bible’s back?
Study of camel bones suggests Bible may be wrong
Camel archaeology contradicts the Bible

But evangelical scholars say the claims are overblown.

The use of camels for copper mining is an important discovery. “But to extrapolate from that and say they never had domesticated camels anywhere else in Israel in the 1,000 years before that is an overreach,” said Todd Bolen, professor of Biblical Studies at The Master’s College in Santa Clarita, California. “The conclusions are overstated.”

While it has been difficult for archaeologists and historians to pin down the exact time and location when camels were domesticated, there is evidence to suggest that the Genesis accounts are not a biblical anachronism.

Two recent academic papers written by evangelical scholars—Konrad Martin Heide, a lecturer at Philipps University of Marburg, Germany; and Titus Kennedy, an adjunct professor at Biola University—both refer to earlier depictions of men riding or leading camels, some that date to the early second millenium BC.

Among other evidence, Kennedy notes that a camel is mentioned in a list of domesticated animals from Ugarit, dating to the Old Babylonian period (1950-1600 BC).

He concludes, “For those who adhere to a 12th century BC or later theory of domestic camel use in the ancient Near East, a great deal of archaeological and textual evidence must be either ignored or explained away.”

In an interview with Christianity Today, Kennedy said that he noticed archaeologists who work in Israel and Jordan seem to date camel domestication later than those who work in Egypt and Mesopotamia.

“[Israel] doesn’t have much writing from before the Iron Age, 1000 BC,” he said. “So there aren’t as many sources to look at. Whereas in Egypt, you have writing all the way back to 3000 BC and in Mesopotamia the same thing.” Based on Egyptian and Mesopotamian accounts, Kennedy believes domestication probably occurred as early as the third millennium BC.

He also believes the TAU researchers not only ignored evidence from outside Israel, they also assumed too much about their own research. “All they really tell us is that at that particular place where they were working they found some camel bones that they interpreted as in a domesticated context between the ninth and 11th centuries BC,” Kennedy said. “It doesn’t tell us that camels couldn’t have been used in other nearby areas earlier than that.”

Archaeologists usually remember that “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.” The absence of evidence for Hittites once fueled some 19th-century debates over the Bible—until the vast Hittite empire was discovered in Anatolia. Questions about the Book of Daniel once focused on the absence of the prominently featured Belshazzar from Babylonian king lists—until it was discovered that Belshazzar was actually the son of Nabonidus, and co-regent.

The many media reports which unquestionably accepted the TAU findings is also testimony to the fact that mainstream archaeologists and Bible scholars believe the Bible was written or assembled in the first millennium BC. They are highly skeptical of any historical information that predates that period.

Bolen also observed that archaeologists at TAU support a low chronology for the United Monarchy of Israel, which minimizes the importance of David and Solomon, and typically weights archaeological evidence more strongly than the biblical account.

“They’re thinking of this in terms of strengthening their position on the low chronology,” he said.

Ironically, one of the most-recent critiques of the low chronology came from another archaeologist working in the same Aravah copper mine area. He determined that the bulk of the industrial-scale mining probably occurred during the 10th century BC, the time of David and Solomon, and not later, as had been thought.”

-Gordon Govier,

In the Very Beginning

As Christians our guide for life, what we must believe and how we ought to live, is the Bible. If we follow Jesus we must embrace all that God reveals to us in His Word. Therefore we must believe the truth that God is the Creator.

Why can’t we just ignore what the Bible says about creation?

1. First God says He is the creator and we dare not reject what He affirms.

2. Secondly, if God is not the creator than He has lied to us and is untrustworthy.

3. Thirdly, if God is not the creator, We owe Him nothing and can disregard Him.

4. Finally, if God is not the creator, than Jesus’s sacrifice is not necessary, it did not pay for sin and it is irrational.

The rest of the Bible, it’s teaching and message, are rooted in the following truths about the creation of the universe.

God the Father created everything (1 Corinthians 8:6). God made everything through Jesus (1 Corinthians 8:6; John 1:3; Colossians 1:16). The Holy Spirit was active in creation (Job 26:13; Genesis 1:1-2). God created by His breath, through speech. He breathed out creation (Psalm 33:6, 9; Psalm 148:5 Hebrews 11:3).

God predates creation, He existed before matter was created (Psalm 90:2); He had been king from before time began (Psalm 93:2). God created all matter. He made the universe (Genesis 1:1). The sun, moon and stars are his creation (Genesis 1:14-16; Genesis 8:3). God made the earth (Genesis 1:1). God created in six days and then rested (Genesis 1:1-32; 2:1-3; Exodus 31:17).

God intelligently created everything (Jeremiah 51:15; Psalm 104:24). Everything God created was perfect (Genesis 1:31). God did not create sin, sin entered the world from man (Romans 5:12; Genesis 3:6). God did not create death, death entered the world because of man’s sin (Romans 5:15-19; 1 Corinthians 5:21)

Everything was created for God (Colossians 1:16) and to bring Him glory, yet God also created the earth for man’s habitation, man’s use, and filled it with animals for his food (Isaiah 45:18; Genesis 1:28; Genesis 9:1-3)

God created man in His image (Genesis 1:27). We are made like God; who we are reflects (in a lesser way) who He is. God created all men from one race and all are equal before Him (Acts 17:26). God created man male and female (Genesis 1:27, Genesis 5:2, Mark 10:6) thus our genders and gender roles come from Him.

Everything exists today because God continues to uphold it all (Colossians 1:17). God controls all the forces of nature (Psalm 147:18; Job 36:32; 37:15; Mark 4:35-41). God controls both good and bad (Isaiah 45:7); He governs all. Creation testifies of God’s eternal power, divine nature, wisdom and glory (Romans 1:20: Psalm 19:1).

We must accept God as Creator by faith (Hebrews 11:3). God should be praised because He is the creator (Revelation 4:11). God will create a new heavens and a new earth (Isaiah 65:17) which will be free of the curse that now afflicts this world (Revelation 22:3).

No Golden Age in Church History

By Marc Cortez

“I often ask my students to give me a quick summary of church history. It’s a good way to see what they know, and, more importantly, what they think they know. The results are fascinating. Beyond the unsurprising fact that most know very little about the story of God’s people between the end of the New Testament and the day before yesterday, the stories usually have at least one thing in common: a Golden Age.


Here’s how the story goes.

At some point in history, the church got things right. This could be the early church, the Reformation, the Puritans, or some other group. But, whoever it was, they nailed it. They weren’t perfect, of course. But they got as close as we’re likely to get this side of heaven.

And the reason this generation really stands out is because the other generations got things so badly wrong. These are the Not-Golden Ages. During these periods, you still have the faithful minority, the Christians who reflect the values of the Golden Age and somehow manage to eke out a faithful existence among the depraved majority. But, for the most part, these periods were mostly flawed examples of what happens when the Church goes astray.

At this point in the story, every student agrees on one thing: we are not in a Golden Age now. That fascinates me. Since I hear about the Golden Age from almost every student, you’d think that sooner or later I’d run into someone who would identify this age as the golden one. But that’s never happened. Every student agrees that we’re in a Not-Golden Age. And, to be honest, whenever I hear that many people agreeing on something, I get a little suspicious.


So that’s the story. And it’s one that I hear from almost all of my students. But there are at least five problems with that way of telling the story.

1. The Golden Ages weren’t very golden.

Every cherished Golden Age had its share of problems. For the early church, just read both of Paul’s letters to the Corinthians, with their divisiveness, immorality, and arrogance. Or his letter to the Galatians and their problems with legalism. Or try the seven letters in Revelation. Even Peter, rock of the church that he was, exhibited his share of brokenness. If this is the Golden Age ofChristianity, we’re setting the bar kind of low.

And the same could be said for every Golden Age. Even the great Reformers of the 16th century struggled with infighting, jealousy, arrogance, and even outright persecution and violence. That doesn’t mean these generations can’t inspire us with their examples of Christian faithfulness in a broken world. But none of them got it “right,” whatever that even means.

If you doubt, just read the books and letters written during each “Golden Age.” None of those people thought they were living during some great era of the Church. Instead, they all wrote about the great challenges and terrible failures of the day.

And part of the problem with the Golden Age mentality is that it blinds us to the weaknesses of these great generations. You don’t learn from someone by ignoring their brokenness. Indeed, I think you learn far more when you truly understand their failures as well as their victories.

2. The Not-Golden Ages weren’t that bad.

The flip side is that the other generations are never as bad as the Golden Age mentality makes them out to be. The great example here is the so-called “Middle” Ages. Even the name suggests that nothing good really happened during this time. This is just the part of the story you have to endure if you want to get from the high-water marks of the early church and the Reformation. The dreaded “middle” part of the trilogy.

But none of the Not-Golden Ages deserves that reputation. Each had more than its share of faithful ministers, brilliant theologians, and dedicated missionaries. And in each, the gospel was proclaimed. Not perfectly, of course. But we all struggle with that.

The way we usually tell the story comes with two dangers. First, it’s almost impossible to emphasize how terrible a generation was and seek to learn from it at the same time. The one blinds us to the possibility of the other. But each generation has its own voice, and we silence those voices to our own detriment.

Second, if these Not-Golden ages were really that bad, if the gospel was almost entirely lost and the Church virtually ceased to function as the people of God, what does that tell us about God’s faithfulness and the work of the Spirit over time? Even at its lowest, the Church is still the Church. Bruised, battered, and broken, but still God’s people.

3. The Golden Age Mentality is Pessimistic

I’m going to let you in on a little secret. Our Age isn’t as bad as we think it is. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying this generation is perfect, or even great. It’s not hard to look around and see all the problems and challenges we face. But, as we’ve seen, that’s been true of every generation.

Yes, we should be aware of our failings. But the Golden Age mentality tends to get stuck in that mode, blinded to the amazing things that God is doing in this age. In the last fifty years, we’ve seen unprecedented growth in our ability to reach new people groups with the gospel. Churches in South America, Africa, and Asia have exploded with new conversions, spreading their influence in ways no one would have thought possible even a single generation earlier. Even North American and Europe have seen God working in incredible ways.

But the Golden Age mentality struggles to see any of the good in this age. It’s almost as though they’ve placed a shining halo on top of their chosen age. The brilliant light from the halo blinds them to the flaws and foibles of that age. But, at the same time, the shadow it casts shrouds every other age in darkness.

4. The Golden Age mentality is geocentric.

As I said earlier, I find it fascinating that no one ever lists our own age as one of the Golden Ages of the church. If you even suggest that it might be, people will either stare at you blankly, laugh at you openly, or offer you a nice soft place to sit while they try to find you some professional help.

But why not? As I’ve just said, we’ve seen God move in some amazing ways in the last fifty years. If you didn’t live in North America or Europe, you might well be open to seeing this as one of the Church’s great Golden Ages. (I’m not saying that we should, of course, just that it wouldn’t be an unreasonable claim.)

And this highlights one of the problems of the Golden Age mentality: it tends to focus on one, narrow part of the Church. Even if the Reformation was a Golden Age for the church in Western Europe, what about the rest of the world? How was it for them? Do we even know? And the same could be said of every other high/low point in our story.


Have there been periods in church history filled with amazing men and women accomplishing great things for the Kingdom of God? Absolutely. And we should celebrate those people and the times in which they lived. But we can do this without closing our eyes to their blights and blemishes.

Does the church have amazing men and women accomplishing great things for the Kingdom of God today? Absolutely. We should celebrate them as well. Our age isn’t perfect, but that shouldn’t blind us to all that God is doing and will continue to do.

There was no “Golden Age.” Or maybe we’d be better off saying that every age is a Golden Age; that is, a time when God is still faithfully working through his people to spread his gospel and display his glory throughout this broken and fallen world.”

-Marc Cortez,

Notes on National Israel’s Future from Church History

by Nathan Busenitz

Romans 11:26 promises that all Israel will be saved. Dispensationalists understand this verse to refer to a national salvation of ethnic Israel after the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.

Non-premillennialists sometimes imply that such an interpretation is a dispensationalist invention, because it means that God still has a future plan for national Israel.

But did you know that many throughout church history, including many in the Reformed tradition have shared that same interpretation?

None other than John Calvin, in his commentary on Romans 11:25-26, noted that “when the Gentiles shall come in, the Jews also shall return from their defection to the obedience of faith.”  Other Reformers, such as Martin BucerPeter Martyr, and Theodore Bezasimilarly concluded that there would be a future calling and conversion of the Jewish people.

A belief in the future salvation of national Israel was especially strong among the Dutch Reformed and the English Puritans of the seventeenth century. Regarding the Dutch Calvinists of that time period, J. Van Den Berg explains that for “virtually all Dutch theologians of the seventeenth century, ‘the whole of Israel’ indicated the fullness of the people of Israel ‘according to the flesh’: in other words, the fullness of the Jewish people. This meant that there was a basis for an expectation of a future conversion of the Jews—an expectation which was shared by a large majority of Dutch theologians” (Puritan Eschatology, 140).

Commenting on the English Puritans, Iain Murray similarly notes: “This same belief concerning the future of the Jews is to be found very widely in seventeenth-century Puritan literature. It appears in the works of such well-known Puritans as John Owen, Thomas Manton and John Flavel. … It is also handled in a rich array of commentaries, both folios and quartos – David Dickson on the Psalms, George Hutcheson on the Minor Prophets, Jeremiah Burroughs on Hosea, William Greenhill on Ezekiel, Elnathan Parr on Romans and James Durham on Revelation: a list which could be greatly extended.” (The Puritan Hope, 43).

But a belief in national Israel’s future salvation actually goes all the way back to the early church. What follows, then, is a brief sampling of theologians throughout church history who have affirmed that future reality. Others could be added, but these should suffice to make the point:

1. Justin Martyr (c. 100–165) held that the tribes of Israel would be gathered and restored in accord with what the prophet Zechariah predicted: And what the people of the Jews shall say and do, when they see Him coming in glory, has been thus predicted by Zechariah the prophet: “I will command the four winds to gather the scattered children; I will command the north wind to bring them, and the south wind, that it keep not back. And then in Jerusalem there shall be great lamentation, not the lamentation of mouths or of lips, but the lamentation of the heart; and they shall rend not their garments, but their hearts. Tribe by tribe they shall mourn, and then they shall look on Him whom they have pierced; and they shall say, Why, O Lord, hast Thou made us to err from Thy way? The glory which our fathers blessed, has for us been turned into shame.”

2. Tertullian (c. 155–230) urged Christians to eagerly anticipate and rejoice over the coming restoration of Israel: “It will be fitting for the Christian to rejoice, and not to grieve, at the restoration of Israel, if it be true, (as it is), that the whole of our hope is intimately united with the remaining expectation of Israel.”

3. Origen (185–254) believed in “two callings of Israel.” The first calling of Israel refers to Israel’s calling before Christ that eventually led to their stumbling and falling. The second calling of Israel, however, is future and will take place after the period of the fullness of the Gentiles. In Origen’s words: “But when the fullness of the Gentiles has come in, then will all Israel, having been called again, be saved.”

4. John Chrysostom (349–407) said this in regards to Romans 11:26:

[Regarding the fact] that they [the Jews] shall believe and be saved, he [Paul] brings Isaiah to witness, who cries aloud and says, There shall come out of Zion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob.” (Isaiah 59:20.) … If then this has been promised, but has never yet happened in their case, nor have they ever enjoyed the remission of sins by baptism, certainly it will come to pass.

In his homilies on Matthew, Chrysostom also noted:

To show therefore that [Elijah] the Tishbite comes before that other [second] advent … He said this.  … And what is this reason? That when He is come, He may persuade the Jews to believe in Christ, and that they may not all utterly perish at His coming. Wherefore He too, guiding them on to that remembrance, saith, “And he shall restore all things;” that is, shall correct the unbelief of the Jews that are then in being.

5. Augustine (354–430) concurred: It is a familiar theme in the conversation and heart of the faithful, that in the last days before the judgment the Jews shall believe in the true Christ, that is, our Christ, by means of this great and admirable prophet Elias who shall expound the law to them. . . . When, therefore, he is come, he shall give a spiritual explanation of the law which the Jews at present understand carnally, and shall thus “turn the heart of the father to the son,” that is, the heart of the fathers to the children.

6. Cyril of Alexandria (378–444): Although it was rejected, Israel will also be saved eventually, a hope which Paul confirms.  … For indeed, Israel will be saved in its own time and will be called at the end, after the calling of the Gentiles.”

7. Theodoret of Cyrus (393–457): And he [Paul] urges them not to despair of the salvation of the other Jews; for when the Gentiles have received the message, even they, the Jews, will believe, when the excellent Elijah comes, bringing to them the doctrine of faith. For even the Lord said this in the sacred gospels: ‘Elijah is coming, and he will restore all things.’

8. Cassiodorus (c. 485–585) [commenting on Psalm 103:9]: This verse can be applied also to the Jewish people, who we know are to be converted at the world’s end. On this Paul says: Blindness in part has happened in Israel, that the fullness of the Gentiles should come in, and so all Israel should be saved.

9. Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274): It is possible to designate a terminus, because it seems that the blindness of the Jews will endure until all the pagans chosen for salvation have accepted the faith. And this is in accord with what Paul says below about the salvation of the Jews, namely, that after the conversion of the pagans, all Israel will be saved.

Note: Other early theologians who believed in a future salvation of Israel include Prosper of Aquitaine (390–455), Gregory (540–604), Isidore (560–636), Bede (d. 735), Peter Damian (1007–1072), Anselm (1033–1109), and Bernard (1090–1153).

10. The Geneva Study Bible (16th century): He [Paul] speaks of the whole nation, not of any one part.  … The blindness of the Jews is neither so universal that the Lord has no elect in that nation, neither will it be continual: for there will be a time in which they also (as the prophets have foretold) will effectually embrace that which they now so stubbornly for the most part reject and refuse.

11. William Perkins (1558–1602): The Lord says, All the nations shall be blessed in Abraham: Hence I gather that the nation of the Jews shall be called, and converted to the participation of this blessing: when, and how, God knows: but that it shall be done before the end of the world we know.

12. Elnathan Parr (d. 1630) [on Romans 11:26]: That all the elect shall be saved? Who ever doubted that? But of the calling of the Jews there is doubt. He calls their salvation a secret or mystery but there is nothing mysterious about all the elect being saved. He shows that there is an unbroken reference to Israel/Jacob, that is, ethnic Israel. [From verses 25-28 Parr concludes,] Before the end of the world the Jews in regard to their multitude will be called.

13. Matthew Poole (1624–1679): [On Romans 11:26] By Israel here (as in the precedent verse) you must understand, the nation and people of the Jews. And by all Israel is not meant every individual Israelite, but many, or (it may be) the greatest part of them.  … These prophecies and promises [from Isaiah 27:959:20 and Jer. 31:33], though they were in part fulfilled when Christ came in the flesh, (see Acts 3:26,) yet there will be a more full and complete accomplishment thereof upon the Jewish nation and people towards the end of the world.

14. Increase Mather (1639–1723): That there shall be a general conversion of the tribes of Israel, is a truth which in some measure hath been known and believed in all ages of the church of God, since the Apostles’ days.

15. Matthew Henry (1662–1714): Another thing that qualifies this doctrine of the Jews rejection is that though for the present they are cast off, yet the rejection is NOT final; but, when the fullness of time is come, they will be taken in again. They are not cast off for ever, but mercy is remembered in the midst of wrath.  … The Jews shall continue in blindness, till God hath performed his whole work among the Gentiles, and then their turn will come next to be remembered. This was the purpose and ordination of God, for wise and holy ends; things should not be ripe for the Jews’ conversion till the church was replenished with the Gentiles, that it might appear that God’s taking them again was not because he had need of them, but of his own free grace.

16. Cotton Mather (1663–1728): This day, from the Dust, where I lay prostrate before the Lord, I lifted up my Cries … for the conversion of the Jewish nation, and for my own having the Happiness, at some time or other, to Baptize a Jew that should by my ministry be brought home unto the Lord.

17. Thomas Boston (1676–1732): There is a day coming when there shall be a national conversion of the Jews or Israelites. The now blinded and rejected Jews shall at length be converted into the faith of Christ.

18. James Robe (1688–1753): Me thinks I hear the nation of the Jews (for such is the cry of their case) crying aloud to you from their dispersion, … we have now been rejected of God for more than sixteen hundred years, because of our unbelief, and for this long, very long while, wrath to the uttermost hath been lying upon us! There are many promises and predictions that we shall be grafted in again.  … Pray therefore, and wrestle with God, that he may, according to his promise, pour forth upon the Spirit of grace and supplication, that we may look upon him whom we have pierced, and mourn.

19. John Gill (1697–1771): And so all Israel shall be saved.  … Meaning not the mystical spiritual Israel of God, consisting both of Jews and Gentiles, who shall appear to be saved in the Lord with an everlasting salvation, when all God’s elect among the latter are gathered in, which is the sense many give into; but the people of the Jews, the generality of them, the body of that nation, called “the fullness” of them, Romans 11:12, and relates to the latter day, when a nation of them shall be born again at once; … when they as a body, even the far greater part of them that shall be in being, shall return and seek the Lord their God, and David their King; shall acknowledge Jesus to be the true Messiah, and shall look to him, believe on him, and be saved by him from wrath to come.

20. Jonathan Edwards (1703–1758): The Jews in all their dispersions shall cast away their old infidelity, and shall have their hearts wonderfully changed, and abhor themselves for their past unbelief and obstinacy. They shall flow together to the blessed Jesus, penitently, humbly, and joyfully owning him as their glorious King and only Savior, and shall with all their hearts, as one heart and voice, declare his praises unto other nations.  … Nothing is more certainly foretold than this national conversion of the Jews in Romans 11.

21. Charles Hodge (1797–1878): The second great event, which, according to the common faith of the Church, is to precede the second advent of Christ, is the national conversion of the Jews.  … The restoration of the Jews to the privileges of God’s people is included in the ancient predictions and promises made respecting them. . . . The future restoration of the Jews is, in itself, a more probable event than the introduction of the Gentiles into the church of God.

22. Robert Murray M‘Cheynne (1813–1843): Converted Israel … will give life to the dead world.  … just as we have found, among the parched hills of Judah, that the evening dew, coming silently down, gave life to every plant, making the grass to spring and the flowers to put forth their sweetest fragrance, so shall converted Israel be when they come as dew upon a dead, dry world. The remnant of Jacob shall be in the midst of many people as a dew from the Lord, as the showers upon the grass, that tarrieth not for man, nor waiteth for the sons of men.

23. J. C. Ryle (1816–1900): It always seemed to me that as we take literally the texts foretelling that the walls of Babylon shall be cast down, so we ought to take literally the texts foretelling that the walls of Zion shall be built up—that as according to prophecy the Jews were literally scattered, so according to prophecy the Jews will be literally gathered—and that as the least and minutest predictions were made good on the subject of our Lord’s coming to suffer, so the minutest predictions shall be made good which describe our Lord’s coming to reign. And I have long felt it is one of the greatest shortcomings of the Church of Christ that we ministers do not preach enough about this advent of Christ, and that private believers do not think enough about it.

24. Charles Spurgeon (1834–1892): I think we do not attach sufficient importance to the restoration of the Jews. We do not think enough of it. But certainly, if there is anything promised in the Bible it is this.

(Spurgeon again): The day shall yet come when the Jews, who were the first Apostles to the Gentiles, the first missionaries to us, who were far off, shall be gathered in again. Until that shall be, the fullness of the Churches’ glory can never come. Matchless benefits to the world are bound up with the restoration of Israel; their gathering in shall be as life from the dead.”

-Nathan Busenitz,