Hector Avalos’s False Presumption (and other miscellaneous criticisms of a talk of his):

How does Hector Avalos get from “The Bible is completely irrelevant to the modern world” (true) to “therefore, biblical studies should end” (false)? He assumes that no one would study irrelevancies. This is, of course, a blatant falsehood. If his assumption is true, why not end all study of history and literature (actually, this is a good idea; it would save quite a bit of government money). He points out that Palestiniology began with the explicit purpose of identifying Biblical place-names, but of course, since the Bible was the only source on pre-exilic Palestine, and the primary source on post-exilic Palestine for those palestiniologists, they can easily be excused for not what we would today call “exercising sufficient historical caution”. Palestiniology was not primarily a result of Judeo-Christian apologetics at first (just read Edward Robinson’s book) until the late 19th-early 20th century, largely because the Tubingen/Wellehausen schools only originated after the great explorations of the Eastern Mediterranean. Before these explorations, there was simply no need for Christian apologetics, since everyone of any public importance in the West was Christian or had no basis on which to criticize the claims of the Old Testament after Genesis 11. There was only need to describe and further explain the geography of the Bible to the uneducated scholarly and popular public.

Some of Avalos’s other errors in this talk:

Avalos totally misrepresents (or lies about) the archaeology of Jerusalem during the 10th century. The statement there are “no proven remains from the 10th century in Jerusalem” is true, but only if he leaves the word “proven” in there. One can conceive a thriving City of David which was somehow was abandoned at the end of the 11th century and immediately restarted during the early 9th, yet, no scholar has ever proposed such an absurd scenario, since both Late Iron I and Iron IIa pottery is well represented in the City of David and there is not the least bit of evidence for abandonment during the 10th century. His statements about Solomon’s Temple are so utterly asinine that I could not possibly believe how Hector Avalos ever got a PhD in Biblical Studies. Simply put, no excavations have ever been done on the Square Temple Mount, there is excellent reason, both Biblical and archaeological, that a fort and temple existed there between the 10th and 6th centuries, and explorations around the Mount have revealed evidence that an 8th century fortified compound did exist there. No serious scholar supports Temple Denial, a product of nothing but pure anti-Judaic sentiment.

His statement we have no evidence for David and Solomon from their lifetimes is true, but irrelevant, since both probably had small kingdoms, and there is not the least bit of evidence for Omri and Ahab or Jehu from within their own kingdoms. His not mentioning the Tel Dan stele is simply inexcusable, just like not mentioning the Mesha Stele would for Omri and Ahab.

He overstates the case for the Low Chronology during his time, the only legitimate piece of evidence he tells us about is the Sharon/Boareatto report, which only came out in 2007.

He gets it totally wrong on Jesus, what “new evidence” is Avalos expecting here? Many 1st-century religious revolutionaries are only written about in Josephus and no other source. Christianity is lucky to have originated in a time of good textual preservation and be a popular religion-otherwise, Josephus would be the only source for Jesus’s existence (I find Neil Godfrey’s argument against Origen’s reliability unpersuasive)! Avalos’s blathering about late manuscripts makes it certain to my mind that Avalos is an idiot-what other kind of person could complain about having textual fragments from the NT before Christianity became a state religion? Our good friend Josephus for example, our best authority on the siege of Jerusalem, while quoted by several authors from the 2nd century onwards (and even then, in late manuscripts), is first known completely from manuscripts dating over 300 years after Josephus’s death! And this is for a relatively famous author on Palestine and the Jews! If we only count manuscripts dating to the authors’ lifetimes as legitimate, one might as well completely discard almost all Greek literature (Homer, Herodotus, Thucydides, Strabo, ect.)! This very statement of Avalos discredits almost everything he ever said relating to history before at least 2008 as legitimate information. In the reality, however, over half of textual interpolations are easy to spot, and a little under half of the rest are insignificant.

Author: pithom

An atheist with an interest in the history of the ancient Near East. Author of the Against Jebel al-Lawz Wordpress blog.

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