CHRISTIAN APOLOGETICS: Did Those Places Really Exist?

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APOSTOLIC FATHERS Lightfoot
E. Ray Clendenen Ph.D. 1989, University of Texas at Arlington in Humanities, concentration in Linguistics (secondary area, Ancient Greek history and culture). Doctoral study in Old Testament, 1983-84, Dallas Theological Seminary. M.A. in Biblical Studies, 1982, Dropsie College of Hebrew and Cognate Learning. Th.M. in Semitics and Old Testament, 1975, Dallas Theological Seminary. B.A. in Anthropology, 1971, Rice University.

The ancient Egyptian equivalent of a “voodoo doll” was to write one’s enemy’s name on a clay statue or pottery vessel and then smash the pot while pronouncing a curse. Archaeologists have uncovered hundreds of such pottery pieces, called “execration texts.” Dating about the time of Joseph (nineteenth–eighteenth century B.C., Egyptian twelfth dynasty), they contain the names of many towns in Palestine and their rulers considered at the time to be enemies of the Egyptian state. Many of these are towns mentioned in the Bible, which underlines the authenticity of the biblical account. They also verify that cities were ruled at the time by “kings.” Some of the towns identified are Acco (Jdg 1:31), Aphek (Jos 12:18), Achshaph (Jos 11:1), Ashkelon (Jos 13:3), Beth-shean (Jos 17:11, 16), Beth-shemesh (Jos 15:10), Bozrah (Gn 36:33), Damascus (Gn 14:15; 15:2), Ekron (Jos 13:3), Laish (Jdg 18:29), Midian (Ex 2:15–16), Migdol (Ex 14:2; Nm 33:7), Rehob (Nm 13:21; Jos 19:28, 30), Shechem (Gn 12:6; 33:18; 37:12–14), Byblos, and Jerusalem (Jos 10:1).

Although not referring to the patriarch of Israel, the name Aburahana as an Egyptian transcription of a Semitic name is also found in these texts (m and n often interchange in such transcriptions).

The Hebrew word chanikim, rendered “trained,” found in the Bible only in Genesis 14:14, is also found in the execration texts, supporting the credibility of the Genesis 14 account.

14:14–16, 24 Many have scoffed at the assertion that Abram and the 318 male servants and slaves of his household and his allies (v. 24) could have routed the sizeable armies of these four kings (v. 9). However, the power of the Lord has overcome much greater military odds (cp. 2 Kg 19:35–36), including a similar victory at night by Gideon and his purposely pared-down force of 300 (Jdg 7:9–22).

APOSTOLIC FATHERS Lightfoot APOSTOLIC FATHERS

15:2–3 Extrabiblical texts from the ancient Near East (e.g., discoveries at Nuzi and Larsa) confirm the practice of servants becoming heirs in some cases.

15:4–6 The Lord expected Abram to believe the extraordinary assertion that, even at his advanced age, he would have his own physical child and that his descendants would be as numerous as the stars in the sky. Abram believed what the Lord told him, becoming the great model of justifying faith.

15:7 This verse does not necessarily conflict with the apparent sense of Terah rather than Abram leading his family from Ur to Haran, as suggested by 11:31. In a patriarchal culture, Abram was part of the extended household of his father.

The Reading Culture of Early Christianity From Spoken Words to Sacred Texts 400,000 Textual Variants 02

15:8–9 Although the wording of verse 8 could be taken to reflect unbelief on Abram’s part (cp. Ex 7:17; Nm 16:28; Lk 1:18), verse 6 clarifies that is not the sense intended. The Lord’s response, in which He sets up a ceremony to reaffirm the covenant He is granting (Gn 15:9–10, 17–18), shows that Abram was simply seeking a sign of the divine promise upon which to hang his continued confidence (cp. Is 7:10–14). Abram’s complaint shows he takes God seriously.

15:13–14 Some scholars hold that Moses, or a later editor of Genesis, is here simply projecting a knowledge of later history into the narrative in the guise of advance prophecy. The logic is that it could not possibly have been known in Abram’s time (2000 B.C.) that Israel would be in Egypt for “400 years” and that they would be “enslaved and oppressed” for most of that period. Such a perspective, however, is rooted in an anti-supernatural bias and flies in the face of the bulk of predictive biblical prophecy that has been fulfilled in amazing detail.

The P52 PROJECT THE NEW TESTAMENT DOCUMENTS 4th ed. MISREPRESENTING JESUS

15:13, 16 Verse 13 predicts the length of Israel’s Egyptian captivity as “400 years.” Verse 16 says it will end in “the fourth generation.” That would make the average life span of a generation 100 years, which seems far-fetched by the standards of almost all of recorded history. However, since Jacob lived to be 147 years old, part of it in Egypt (47:28); Joseph lived to be 110, most of it in Egypt (50:22, 26); and Moses lived to be 120, the first 40 of which were in Egypt (Dt 34:7), the idea of a hundred-year generation is plausible. In addition, the recorded life spans before the flood were much longer. It may well be that, for various reasons, human life spans were decreasing over time, just as they have gradually increased in modern times due to improvements in medicine, diet, and sanitation.

9781949586121 BIBLE DIFFICULTIES THE NEW TESTAMENT DOCUMENTS

15:18 The boundaries of the promised land in the Abrahamic covenant in verse 18 can be misunderstood. It is highly unlikely that the “brook of Egypt” is the Nile River. Rather, it is almost surely the Wadi el’Arish, a riverbed that is dry much of the year (except the rainy season), located midway between southwestern Israel and the Nile. The reference to the “Euphrates River” is not to the entire length of that great river, just its northwestern arm in Syria where it is closest to Israel. Whether or not Israel has ever controlled the full extent of these boundaries is a matter of debate.

Mosaic Authorship HOW RELIABLE ARE THE GOSPELS

15:19–21 Over a century ago there was no historical or archaeological evidence for the existence of several of the peoples listed among these 10 nations (“Kenites … Jebusites”). As a result, certain scholars doubted the veracity of this verse. A century ago, however, important archaeological findings have greatly strengthened the likelihood that all 10 did, in fact, exist when Abram and Moses lived.

16:1–4 Hagar’s conceiving a child by Abram seems like adultery or polygamy to modern readers, and does not reflect a later Christian standard. But it would have been common in that culture for a female servant to become a secondary wife for the purpose of bearing children (e.g., Rachel’s and Leah’s servants, Bilhah and Zilpah, who bore four of Jacob’s sons who became heads of four of the 12 tribes of Israel). This custom was noted in the Code of Hammurabi and the Nuzi tablets.

DEFENDING OLD TESTAMENT AUTHORSHIP Agabus Cover BIBLICAL CRITICISM

16:6–9 This narrative may appear to sanction slavery and to devalue the human life of Hagar and her unborn son. However, the actions played out here are a reflection of the culture and Sarai’s selfish jealous rage against her servant girl.

16:6–14 The trusting obedience of Hagar to the words of the Angel of the Lord strongly implies that she shared the faith of Abram (15:6). Hagar is the “mother” of the Arab peoples.

16:7, 9–11, 13 The angel of the Lord may have been an angel sent as a spokesman for the Lord (Hb malʾach means “messenger”). However, verse 13 suggests that Hagar understood she was speaking directly to the Lord. Thus, in the history of interpretation, many have understood the Angel of the Lord to be a Christophany (i.e., a pre-incarnate appearance of the Second Person of the Trinity, later born as Jesus Christ).

16:11 Although not referring to the same people, biblical names beginning with i/j [Hb y] are extremely common in archaeological texts from the ancient Near East of the early second millennium B.C., the time of the patriarchs. They diminish in frequency sharply after that time. Such names include Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph. According to W. C. Kaiser, Jr., “If the stories had been invented in much later times, such as those of the Babylonian Exile, the use of such names would have been most unlikely since they had little or no currency in that era.”

16:12 The prophecy regarding Ishmael and his descendants may seem harsh and stereotypical. However, the description of a mobile warlike people has been true to the history of many of Ishmael’s descendants among the Arab peoples. It is also striking that, while none of the 10 nations listed in 15:19–21 has survived to the present day, the Arab peoples are now among the largest ethnic groups in the world.

17:1, 18 It had been 13 years since Ishmael was born and, apparently, there had been no further revelation from the Lord during that period. That would mean Abram and Sarai were under the impression that Sarai’s scheme to have a child that was legally hers through her servant, Hagar, had God’s blessing. Verse 18 indicates that Abram viewed Ishmael as his blood heir and was emotionally attached to him as his son and the means through which God’s promise would be fulfilled.

17:1–2 The Abrahamic covenant is in the form of an unconditional contract with Abram and his divinely chosen descendant; ultimately it is guaranteed by the faithfulness of God alone (v. 2). Nevertheless it has a secondary conditional aspect. To enjoy the benefits of this covenant, Abram must still obey God’s commands. This requirement is seen here in the words: “Live in My presence and be devout” (v. 1).

The Apologetics Study Bible: Real Questions, Straight Answers, Stronger Faith, ed. Ted Cabal et al. (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2007).

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