Review of:

The Genesis Conflict:   Putting the Pieces Together

By Walter J. Veith
2002, Amazing Discoveries, Delta, B.C.
ISBN 0-9682363-5-9

Reviewed by Richard Packham

          A good friend and neighbor of mine, a life-long Seventh-Day Adventist who is concerned about my being an atheist, lent me his copy of this book, probably with the intent that by reading it I would be convinced that my secular, non-biblical views about the age of the earth and the origins of life were mistaken.   I must disappoint his hopes -- this book is not convincing, but is rather full of errors from beginning to end in logic, history, and science.

          These are notes I made in checking out some of the facts on which Veith bases his arguments.   Every assertion I checked turned out to be incorrect or misleading.   These notes could have been a dozen times as long, but I saw no reason to think that further checking would change my impression.

          Dr. Veith says that he is a former "evolutionist," having been trained in zoology at leading South African universities and having also taught in that field at the university level.   But later in life he began to doubt what he had been taught about the evolution of life on earth, and turned instead to the biblical account, which, he found, actually had the support of many scientists as being a scientifically accurate and literal account of life's origins.   Veith is now a "young-earth" creationist and biblical inerrantist.

          His fundamental problem with the evolutionist view of life's beginning - and with scientific explanations in general about the way the universe (even before life) came to be - is that such views conflict with Scripture.   (p 15) Thus Veith sees his task in this book as showing how science and history (properly understood) not only conform to the the Bible, but actually support the biblical accounts - he is "putting the pieces together."

          Veith actually proceeds in this book in a backward way.   He discusses the science first, and then, in the last part of the book, attempts to show that the Bible is "the most trustworthy book" he has ever read (p 46).   But although I am not a professionally trained scientist, I don't think it takes a scientist to find flaws even in Veith's scientific statements.

          To some extent Veith does indeed respect the opinions of other scientists, since he cites (p 10) the publication of the 1999 book in which fifty holders of scientific Ph. D. degrees affirmed their belief in a literal interpretation of the Genesis creation account.   (In Six Days : Why Fifty Scientists Choose to Believe in Creation, John F. Ashton, ed).   To create that book, many Christian scientists (of various disciplines) from around the world were asked "Why do you believe in a literal six-day biblical creation as the origin of life on earth?" The fifty best responses ultimately were included.

          One reviewer commented on that book:

Sadly, this format makes "In Six Days" less than useful - on any level.   The answers provided resemble testimonies rather than useful scientific analyses.   Respondents tended to repeat each other, answer too generally, or (conversely) too technically on a single point.   Further compounding the problems of the book, the great majority of the scientists refer to points outside their own discipline.   If I were looking for serious answers to important questions about a six-day creation, would I want to read a mechanical engineer's musings on organic chemistry?   Probably not.
          Veith should perhaps rethink his admiration of the fifty "Six Days" scientists, in light of the fact that in 2003 (admittedly, after Veith's book was in print) over two hundred scientists signed a statement endorsing evolution.   The signatures were collected within a single month.   And every single one of the scientists is named "Steve" (or Stephen, Stefan, Stephanie, etc.).   The number of "Steve" signatories had grown to 688 by December 2005.   Almost all are Ph. D.s, several are Nobel Prize holders.   Since only about one percent of all scientists are named "Steve," they represent an impressive voice on behalf of the scientific strength of evolution.   (The name "Steve" was chosen in honor of the late Stephen Jay Gould, a prominent evolutionist.)

          Inevitably some scientists can be found to support any hypothesis.   I am sure that if one were to ask the science faculty at Brigham Young University (many of whom have doctoral degrees) whether there was scientific evidence for the scientific claims of Mormonism, you would have no trouble in finding almost unanimous willingness on their part to sign a statement supporting that view.   Would you be impressed by that?

          Of course science does not work by voting, and just as fifty scientists can be mistaken, so can six hundred.   The crucial issue is the facts and the arguments which they present.   And there is where Veith fails to make his case.

          I am not a scientist, but I am educated sufficiently and trained in evaluating arguments to judge the validity of Veith's evidence when compared with conflicting evidence.   I have checked in the scientific literature available on the Internet and in my own reference works many of Veith's claims about the scientific evidence.   I have not taken the time to check them all, but every single one I have been able to check has turned out to be demonstrably wrong.   Some of his arguments are illogical.   Some of his facts are wrong.   And he fails to deal with many facts that demonstrate how he is wrong.

          I agree wholeheartedly with ONE of Veith's claims.   He says that the first chapter of Genesis clearly says that the "days" of the Creation were intended to mean literal days of 24 hours, not (as many Christian apologists try to assert in attempting to reconcile Genesis with science) "periods" or "eons."   Veith, in my opinion, is completely correct there.   The author of Genesis (whoever it was) meant literally what he wrote.   It was not allegorical or figurative or metaphorical.   Where Veith and I differ is in how to deal with that literal meaning.   Veith believes it is God's own statement of fact.   I consider it to be an ancient myth, absolutely no different from the creation myths of dozens or hundreds of other primitive societies.   None of them (including Genesis) are of any scientific value in increasing our knowledge of the origin of the earth or of the universe.   (I notice that creationists such as Veith do not take the Hebrew word for "day" literally when interpreting God's warning to Adam (Gen 2:17) that "in the day that thou eatest thereof" he would die; Adam lived to be 930 (Gen 5:5).)

UNIFORMITARIANISM

          Fundamental to Veith's attack on generally accepted scientific conclusions is his rejection of "uniformitarianism" - the assumption that what we can observe happening in nature now can give us an accurate picture of what happened under similar conditions in the past.   He contrasts this with the principle of "catastrophism" - that extreme changes occur suddenly.   Since the Creation story in Genesis is, by this definition, "catastrophic", Veith favors catastrophism.   He gives a few examples of acknowledged catstrophic events (the formation of Columbia Dry River Falls).   Veith ignores the obvious fact that a few catastrophic events cannot prove that all developments are catastrophic.   He gives an example (pp 72-73) of how one cannot assume that the rates of sedimentation can be assumed constant, if a catastrophic flood suddenly filled a lake with sediment.   He seems to be unaware that geologists are quite able to distinguish such sedimentation from layers laid down over thousands upon thousands of years.

From http://talkorigins.org/indexcc/CD/CD200.html:

"Modern uniformitarianism (actualism) differs from nineteenth century Lyell uniformitarianism. ....

" Actualism ... states that the geologic record is the product of both slow, gradual processes (such as glacial erosion) and natural catastrophes (such as volcanic eruptions and landslides).   However, natural catastrophes are not consistent with creationist catastrophism, such as "Flood geology." First, they are much smaller than the world-shaping events proposed as part of the creationists' catastrophism.   More to the point, they still represent processes observed in the present.   Meteorites, glacial melting, and flash floods still occur regularly, and we can (and do, as in the examples above) extrapolate from the observed occurrences to larger events of the same sort.   The scale of events may change, but the physical laws operating today are key to the past."

          Veith makes the assertion (p 74) that "the more data is accumulated, the more the various age assumptions come into conflict."   He cites no evidence for this assertion, and geologists seem to be unaware of this supposed fact, since most geologists seem to be under the impression that the more data is accumulated, the more evidence seems to confirm the reliability of their basic assumptions and conclusions

RADIOMETRIC DATING

          Veith's discussion of radiometric dating (pp 74-81) attacks its validity because of three assumptions which he considers false:
1) that the rate of radioactive decay has remained constant;
2) that the "clock was set to zero" when the material formed;
3) that the sample is a "closed system" (no prior or later elements have been lost).
          Veith's first objection is purest speculation.   He presents no scientific evidence to indicate that decay rates have changed, nor can he suggest any scientific reason why they might have changed.   The decay rate of any given radioactive substance is a function of its atomic composition and thus of the fundamental properties of the atomic particles.   He even admits that a creationist cannot prove the assumptions wrong, but he suggests how they might be wrong.   But the suggestions are based entirely on the (unproven) effects of a world-wide flood.   And even having brought in such a flood, he offers no scientific suggestion of how such a flood could alter radioactive decay rates.

          Veith's suggestion that cosmic rays might have altered decay rates lacks any scientific evidence.   From http://talkorigins.org/indexcc/CD/CD004.html:

There is not the slightest bit of evidence that cosmic rays or neutrinos affect decay rates.   The following show the contrary:

  • Inside standard nuclear fission power generators, neutrino radiation is intense, but the uranium that is not fissioned decays at the usual rate.
  • Some spacecraft are powered by nuclear decays.   Some of them fly in very intense cosmic ray fields (like near Jupiter).   If cosmic rays affected decay rates, the power generated would be different from expectations.
  • To get unweathered rocks, rocks for radiometric dating are usually taken from some depth into an outcrop, where cosmic rays have insignificant effect.  
  • Radiation high enough to affect nuclear decay rates by several orders of magnitude (a change great enough to allow young-earth timescales) would sterilize the planet.
  • Reversals of the earth's magnetic field do not produce cosmic rays or neutrinos.   They may allow more cosmic rays to reach the earth's surface, but not much beyond that, and most rocks used for dating have been buried for most of their history.
          Veith's second objection indicates that he does not understand how radiometric dating works, since the methods do indeed deal with the problem he suggests.   From http://talkorigins.org/indexcc/CD/CD004.html:
1. Isochron methods do not assume that the initial parent or daughter concentrations are known.   In basic radiometric dating, a parent isotope (call it P) decays to a daughter isotope (D) at a predictable rate.   The age can be calculated from the ratio [of] daughter isotope to parent isotope in a sample.   However, this assumes that we know how much of the daughter isotope was in the sample initially.   (It also assumes that neither isotope entered or left the sample.)

With isochron dating, we also measure a different isotope of the same element as the daughter (call it D2), and we take measurements of several different minerals that formed at the same time from the same pool of materials.   Instead of assuming a known amount of daughter isotope, we only assume that D/D2 is initially the same in all of the samples.   Plotting P/D2 on the x axis and D/D2 on the y axis for several different samples gives a line that is initially horizontal.   Over time, as P decays to D, the line remains straight, but its slope increases.   The age of the sample can be calculated from the slope, and the initial concentration of the daughter element D is given by where the line meets the y axis.   If D/D2 is not initially the same in all samples, the data points tend to scatter on the isochron diagram, rather than falling on a straight line.

2. For some radiometric dating techniques, the assumed initial conditions are reasonable.   For example:

  • K-Ar (potassium-argon) dating assumes that minerals form with no argon in them.   Since argon is an inert gas, it will usually be excluded from forming crystals.   This assumption can be tested by looking for argon in low-potassium minerals (such as quartz), which would not contain substantial argon daughter products.   40Ar/39Ar dating and K-Ar isochron dating can also identify the presence of initial excess argon.
  • The concordia method is used on minerals, mostly zircon, that reject lead as they crystalize.
  • Radiocarbon dating is based on the relative abundance of carbon-14 in the atmosphere when a plant or animal lived.   This varies somewhat, but calibration with other techniques (such as dendrochronology) allows the variations to be corrected.
  • Fission-track dating assumes that newly solidified minerals will not have fission tracks in them.
          Veith's third objection is incorrect, since scientists are well aware of the problem of contamination (because the sample is not a "closed system").   From http://talkorigins.org/indexcc/CD/CD001.html:
  • Absolutely closed systems do not exist even under ideal laboratory conditions.   Nevertheless, many rocks approximate closed systems so closely that multiple radiometric dating methods produce consistent results, within 1 percent of each other.
  • Some rocks may be open to outside contamination, but not all of them are.   Most ages are determined from multiple mineral and rock samples, which give a consistent date within 1 and 3 percent.   It is extremely unlikely that contamination would affect all samples by the same amount.
  • Isochron methods can detect contamination and, to some extent, correct for it.   Isochrons are determined from multiple samples, and contamination would have to affect all of the samples the same way in order to create an isochron that appeared okay but was wrong.
          The following is by Chris Stassen, from his article "Responses to Young Earth Arguments" (downloaded in 1997 from http://ftp.ics.uci.edu/pub/origins/old-earth.txt [no longer available], footnote references omitted here):
When several independent measures agree on the same age, there is little room to question their reliability.   A creationist is reduced to arguing that it is merely a coincidence that all of the clocks agree.   I don't buy it.

For example, isochron methods are the most reliable radiometric dating methods.   This is because they have a built-in indication that lets you know when the dating assumptions have been violated, which would make the date meaningless.   The following methods were applied to a single sample of the Greenland Amsitoq Gneiss:

Billions of years
AgeMargin
of error
Rb-Sr isochron 3.70 +/- 0.14
Pb-Pb isochron 3.80 +/- 0.12
U-Pb discordia 3.65 +/- 0.05
Th-Pb discordia3.65 +/- 0.08
Lu-Hf isochron 3.55 +/- 0.22

Just a coincidence?   I think not.

Further, look at the agreement between the ages of the oldest meteorites, by several different methods:
TypeNumber
Dated
MethodAge
(billions of years)
Condrites13Sm-Nd4.21 +/- 0.76
Carbonaceous chondrites4 Rb-Sr 4.37 +/- 0.34
Chondrites (undist. H) 38 Rb-Sr 4.50 +/- 0.02
Chondrites (all) 50 Rb-Sr 4.43 +/- 0.04
H Chondrites (undist.) 17 Rb-Sr 4.52 +/- 0.04
H Chondrites 15 Rb-Sr 4.59 +/- 0.06
L Chondrites (rel. und.) 6 Rb-Sr 4.44 +/- 0.12
L Chondrites 5 Rb-Sr 4.38 +/- 0.12
LL Chondrites (undist.) 13 Rb-Sr4.49 +/- 0.02
LL Chondrites 10 Rb-Sr4.46 +/- 0.06
E Chondrites (undist.) 8 Rb-Sr 4.51 +/- 0.04
E Chondrites 8 Rb-Sr 4.44 +/- 0.13
Eucrites (polymict) 23 Rb-Sr 4.53 +/- 0.19
Eucrites 11 Rb-Sr 4.44 +/- 0.30
Eucrites 13 Lu-Hf 4.57 +/- 0.19
Diogenites 5 Rb-Sr 4.45 +/- 0.18
Iron (+ St. Severin) 8 Re-Os4.57 +/- 0.21

As shown in the table, there is excellent agreement on about 4.5 billion years, between hundreds of different meteorites and by several different dating methods.

--------------[End of quotation from Stassen]---------------------

          Veith suggests that the entire nature of the universe must have changed when Adam fell (p 251).   He presents no scientific evidence to suggest how or why such a drastic and fundamental change occurred, other than his theological belief.   But he cannot even present biblical evidence for that assertion.   The Genesis account gives as the result of Adam's sin only that Adam would die.   He was punished by being cast out of the Garden and required to till the soil, and Eve was cursed with the pains of childbearing.   That is all!   (Well, apparently the serpent lost his legs and his voice, also, as did all his relatives - even though they had done nothing wrong.)   Paul, several millennia later, taught that Adam's Fall brought sin and evil into the world, but that was the first biblical reference after Genesis 3 to any result of Adam's sin, which is not referred to a single time later in the Old Testament.   But even that change, according to Paul, was moral, not physical.   So there is no evidence in this "most reliable book" that God changed the entire physical universe, as Veith supposes.   He is simply making it up out of thin air.

THE ORIGIN OF THE UNIVERSE

          In his section "The Origin of the Universe" (pp 62-64) Veith cites with approval the First and Second Laws of Thermodynamics.   His discussion, however, shows that he really does not believe the First (although he relies on it) and that he really does not understand the Second.

          He says that the First Law of Thermodynamics "tells us that matter cannot be created or destroyed.   Since the world is here, this leaves us with two choices, either somebody made it, or it made itself."   Veith seems to be unaware that he is here committing the fallacy of the "false dilemma" (offering only two possible explanations for a fact).   Quite clearly, since matter cannot be created or destroyed, and it did not make itself, it must have always existed.   No "creator" is at all necessary under the First Law.

          Veith cites the Second Law as saying that "order will tend to decrease rather than increase."   He therefore concludes that because natural theories of the development of life on earth rely on the growing complexity of life from relatively simple forms, those theories (evolution) are a violation of the Second Law.   This is an argument presented frequently by creationists, and it is based on a misstatement of the Second Law, which specifically applies to a "closed system."   The earth - where life is indeed growing more complex - is by no means a "closed system," since it is constantly receiving energy from outside itself, principally from the sun.

          On page 98, Veith says that canyons in modern times have formed rapidly, thus the Grand Canyon could also have been formed rapidly.   That comment ignores the fact that it is not the formation of the Grand Canyon that shows the age of the earth, but rather the many layers of sedimentation visible on the canyon's walls, which cannot possibly have been laid down within a year.   This is just one of many examples of Veith's circular reasoning, which he says he condemns when he thinks he sees it in evolution (p 81).   He immediately commits the error (circular reasoning) himself, saying that if we reinterpret the data by assuming a catastrophic flood, then the Flood story could be "seriously considered."

THE FLOOD

          Veith, like most creationists and inerrantists, present many examples of flooding all over the world.   They interpret all ancient flooding as being evidence of the one great biblical flood which floated the ark and destroyed all life except those creatures aboard the Ark.   This is by no means convincing, since no one claims that in the long history of the earth there have not been many floods, some of them catastrophic and even of wide extent.   Thus we should expect evidence in many places of ancient floods.   But Veith does not present any scientific evidence that a single flood, within the space of less than a year, covered the entire earth.  

SCIENCE VS THE BIBLE

          Fundamental to Veith's approach is the approach that the Bible "trumps" science.   If scientific evidence shows the Bible to be in error, then it must be science that is wrong.   This is classic "circular reasoning," of which Veith is quick to accuse scientists whose evidence does not support his views (as on p 81).   On at least one issue, the only objection Veith offers to counter unpleasant scientific evidence is that it is contrary to scripture.

          One must wonder whether Veith's view of the superiority of the Bible as a science text goes so far as to lead him to believe that cattle viewing striped poles will have striped calves (Genesis 30: 27-43), or that leprosy can be cured by following the instructions in Lev 13, 14; or that earthquakes are caused by God's anger (Job 9:5, Ps 18:7, 77:18, 97:4, Isa 2:19, 24:20, 29:6, Jer 10:10, Ezek 38:20, Nah 1:5); that the sky is solid, a "firmament" (Gen 1:6, Job 22:14, Isa 40:22) and has windows through which the rain falls (Gen 7:11) and is flat ( Ps 93:1, Jer 10:13, Dan 4:10-11, Zech 9:10, Matt 4:8, Rev 1:7 - these verses were used for centuries by the church to prove that the earth is flat).

          Veith also has the entire history of science testifying against his position.   In the long history of the development of human knowledge about our world and universe, the Bible and its self-appointed interpreters have been consistently a major stumbling-block to the advancement of knowledge.   If they had had their way, we would probably still be learning in school that the earth is flat, that the earth is the center of the universe, around which the sun revolves, that heaven is a solid dome, with windows which open to allow the waters to rain upon us, and so on.   Not a single advancement in human knowledge of the universe can be attributed to the Bible.   See the classic study by Andrew Dickson White, A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom, 2 volumes, New York 1897 (one volume abridgment by Bruce Mazlish, New York 1965).

          A response to each of Veith's further objections to the scientific explanations for the age of the earth would end up making this review as long as Veith's book.   For the open-minded reader, I suggest visiting the website "An Index To Creationist Claims", compiled by Mark Isaak.   Or the books by Mark Young (ed), Why Intelligent Design Fails, or Ian Plimer, Telling Lies for God.

THE BIBLE AS EVIDENCE

          I will turn therefore to the last part of Veith's book, in which he attempts to buttress the Bible as a reliable source of truth - historical, prophetic and scientific.   He bases his case for the truth of the Bible on two assertions:   1) its historical accuracy has been proven, especially by archaeology; and 2) its prophecies have been fulfilled, showing that it is divinely inspired.

          Veith remarks (p 314-315) that we should be impressed by the fact that the Bible has had tremendous influence and that many have suffered death rather than deny their faith in it.   Why should that impress us, since the same can be said of the Koran and many other writings held sacred by many different civilizations?

          Veith comments (p 315) that the Bible "has stood the test of time."   On page 6 Veith says "there is a growing trend toward a literal acceptance of the Biblical accounts..."   Those statements are hardly consistent with the historical fact that among the so-called "Christian" countries of the western world, the last three centuries have seen a change among educated classes from an almost complete acceptance of the Bible as unquestionably literal and reliable history to a position today where the great majority of Bible scholars admit that although it contains some historically accurate material, it is largely legend and myth, and its value is in its metaphorical or moral message.   As a literal record, in other words, the Bible is losing ground.   And most countries of western Europe, whose cultural life only two or three centuries ago was dominated by literal belief in the Bible, are now predominantly secular, and only small minorities are literal Bible- believers.  

HISTORY AND ARCHAEOLOGY

          On page 317 Veith quotes Christian apologist Nelson Glueck (no source cited) as saying that "not one" archaeological or historical discovery has controverted a biblical statement.   That statement is patently false, as I will show.   One must wonder whether it is ignorance or dishonesty, and whether by Glueck or by Veith - or both, by both.

          The Bible is valued by believers because it supposedly contains God's messages to mankind, given by prophets and other inspired writers so that we will get true religion.   What purpose can archaeology serve in supporting that purpose?   None at all.   Archaeology is generally incapable of proving the divinity of any ancient document, or, for that matter, of any document.   No one - even the most ardent Bible critic - asserts that there is no accurate history at all in the Bible, so the confirmation of any particular historical item in the Bible proves only that that particular item is correct, and nothing more.   There may have been disputes among scholars over the location or identity of some site mentioned in the Bible, and some of those disputes have indeed been settled in favor of the biblical account.   Other such disputes have shown the biblical account to be wrong.

          The use of secular history or archaeology to support the divine message of the Bible is based on an invalid use of logic:   if some of what the Bible says is confirmed by archaeology or secular history (the location of Ur, the existence of Sodom, the manner of death of King Josiah) then the implication is that we can assume that all of what the Bible says is also correct (Jesus ascended to heaven, the first man lived about 6000 years ago, Moses saw a burning bush from which God's voice emerged, etc.).   Would the Bible believer apply the same logic to the History of the [Mormon] Church, or to a historical novel such as Gone With The Wind (both of which contain a great deal of correct history)?   Of course not.   The Bible is no different.

          But what does it prove, if, say, scholars at one time doubted the actual existence of Ur or Sodom, but subsequent archaeological finds show that they did, indeed, exist?   Does it prove that Abraham existed, or Lot?   Do those discoveries confirm the Bible's claim that God led Abraham out of Ur, or that God destroyed Sodom?   Not at all.   Remember that scholars also believed at one time that the Trojan War was only a fictitious legend.   But then Heinrich Schliemann, by following Homer's narrative carefully, was able to find Troy and excavate it.   Would the Greeks be justified on that basis in claiming that the Iliad is "true," and that therefore the accounts in Homer of the acts of the Olympian gods and goddesses are also "true" and that they therefore really exist?   Hardly.   The fact that the actual place has been found where later generations placed the interventions of their gods does not validate any divine claim.   Hindus can show you the very town where their god Krishna lived, the place on the river where he bathed, just as recounted in their scriptures.   Should we accept that as proof of Krishna's divinity?   Mormons can show you the very grove of trees in Palmyra, New York, where their founder Joseph Smith claimed to have seen God the Father and God the Son.   One Mormon told me that I was foolish to doubt that claim, because he knew it was true.   How did he know?   Because he had actually been to Palmyra and seen the grove himself!   (Just as Veith has actually seen Petra...)

          Thus, even though archaeology and history cannot contribute to belief in the divinity of the Bible, it can easily be used as a test of the Bible as the "word of God," as implied by Glueck's statement above, since any gross inaccuracies will show that the Bible is not even accurate history.   In other words, by asserting that the Bible can be proven to be the word of God if it is 100% historically accurate, we must assume that anything less than 100% accuracy - the existence of clear errors or inaccuracies - will also show that it is NOT the Word of God.  

          Are there any such errors or inaccuracies?   Yes.   Hundreds.   Even some of those Biblical events which were formerly taken as generally correct historically, even by the severest critics of the Bible, are now being challenged by the hard evidence of archaeology.   Even the work of William F. Albright (cited also by Veith on page 317), who claimed in 1958 that "the narratives of the patriarchs, of Moses and the Exodus, the conquest of Canaan... have all been confirmed..." has crumbled under the extensive archaeological researches in the Near East in the last 45 years.   For a summary of this devastating research see the book The Bible Unearthed: Archaeology's New Vision of Ancient Israel and the Origin of Its Sacred Texts, by two eminent Israeli archaeologists, Israel Finkelstein and Neil Asher Silberman, (Simon & Schuster, New York, 2002).   They show that extensive archaeological searching shows no evidence for the biblical account of the forty-year sojourn of two million Israelites (or any large number) in the Sinai.   Nor is there evidence of the Conquest, but rather the archaeological evidence shows that the "Israelites" were merely peaceful infiltrators who had pretty much lived in Canaan the whole time, not in Egypt.   There is not even archaeological confirmation of the existence of the united kingdom under Saul, David and Solomon.

          Edwin M. Yamauchi, a noted Christian apologist and archaeologist says much the same thing about the value of archaeology for "proving" the Bible:

The value of archaeology in "proving" the Bible has some times been overpressed by popularizers, and on the other hand been denied by critics. A survey of recent developments demonstrates that in some cases archaeology does confirm biblical passages which were questioned, but that in other cases it presents problems which are not easily resolved at present.   In any case, the main contribution of archaeology consists in providing us with the data to reconstruct the setting of the events in biblical history.   [From:   "The Proofs, Problems, and Promises of Biblical Archaeology," JASA 36 (September 1984): 129-138.   Edwin M. Yamauchi is Professor of History at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.   Cited from: http://www.asa3.org/ASA/PSCF/1984/JASA9-84Yamauchi.html]
          William G. Dever, a professor of Near Eastern archaeology and anthropology at the University of Arizona, believes that much of the Bible is historical.   Nevertheless, he notes:
The "archaeological revolution" in biblical studies confidently predicted by [George E.] Wright and his teacher, the legendary William Foxwell Albright, had come about by the 1980s, but not entirely in the positive way that they had expected.   Many of the "central events" as narrated in the Hebrew Bible turn out not to be historically verifiable (i.e., not "true") at all.   [William G. Dever, What Did the Biblical Writers Know, and When Did They Know It? What Archaeology Can Tell Us about the Reality of Ancient Israel (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 2001), 21.]
          Veith even acknowledges that Egyptian historical accounts make no mention of the Exodus or the plagues preceding it.   But he explains this (p 368) as "selective reporting."   This is the same excuse that Christian apologists use to explain the lack of extra-biblical historical confirmation of the opening of the graves at Christ's resurrection, or the Slaughter of the Innocents by Herod, or the rending of the Temple veil at the Crucifixion.   And it is the same excuse that Mormons use to explain why there is no contemporary confirmation of Joseph Smith's claims of persecution because of his alleged 1820 vision of God.

THE DATE OF THE EXODUS

          Contrary to most Bible scholars who have tried to date the Exodus, identifying the "Pharaoh" of the Bible with Rameses II, (1304 - 1237 BC), Veith purports to identify that Pharaoh with Tutmoses III (also anglicized as Thutmose), who ruled from 1504 to 1450 BC, two centuries earlier.   He claims to see similarities between Tutmose's life and the description of events involving the Pharaoh at the time of Moses.   But his primary basis for his claim is the calculation of the date of the Exodus based on the statement in 1 Kings 6:1, that Solomon began to build his temple in the fourth year of his reign, which was the 480th year after the Exodus, and Veith thus assumes that Solomon began to reign in 974 BC.   This is a remarkable basis for such an exact date for the Exodus as Veith proposes (March 14, 1450 BC), for several reasons:

  • Bible scholars generally recognize that Old Testament chronology is quite unreliable and self-contradictory until extra-biblical historical records become available, which is not until the late 8th century BC (see the article "Old Testament Chronology" in Funk and Wagnall's New Standard Bible Dictionary);
  • The dates of Solomon's reign cannot be established with any certainty, even from the Bible; All dates given by scholars are labeled as approximate:   sample dates in reference works I consulted:   "c. 961" (Harper's Bible Dictionary); "about 971" (Funk and Wagnall's New Standard Bible Dictionary); The New Smith's Bible Dictionary refuses even to speculate; "about 971" (Illustrated Davis Dictionary of the Bible); "about 960 BCE [as start of the temple, thus about 964 for the beginning of his reign]" (Encyclopedia Britannica, 15th ed, article "Moses"); "the dates of his reign are not known with certainty" (ibid., article "Solomon").
    An aside:   Veith does not tolerate such variations in dating when it comes to the scientific determination of dates by non-creationist scientists - he takes it as evidence that those scientists don't know what they are doing and their conclusions are therefore faulty.
  • Most Bible scholars suspect that the figure of 480 years is an artificial figure based on the special numbers 12 (the number of tribes, the months of the year, the number of generations between significant events in Jewish history) and 40 (the traditional length of a "generation"), and that it is therefore not reliable.
  • The Book of Kings was probably not written until the reign of Josiah of Judah (7th century BC), many centuries after the Exodus;
  • Tutmose III was one of the most powerful kings of Egypt, who ruled not only over Egypt proper, but subdued Palestine and Syria and extended his rule as far as the Euphrates River, and maintained it until his death.   His successor, Amenhotep II, maintained and expanded the Egyptian hegemony established by his predecessor.   It is highly unlikely that a rebellious slave tribe, unarmed, of the size reported in the Bible, would have been able to remain at large in Egyptian territory for forty years (supposedly 1450 - 1410 BC) and conquer Palestine, which was under firm Egyptian control and ruled by Egyptian governors at least through the reign of Amenhotep III, which ended in 1379 BC.
  • The Bible account refers to the ruler of Egypt as "Pharaoh," as though it were a proper name, not a title.   The word "pharaoh" originally meant "great house."   It did not become a title for the king until the beginning of the New Kingdom (18th Dynasty), which began about 1567 B.C.   That usage is unknown in Palestine until after 1000 B.C. According to Funk & Wagnall's New Standard Bible Dictionary, article "Pharaoh":   "At no time in Egypt was the word used as the actual name of any king."
  • Veith admits that Egyptian records of the period do not mention anything about any uprising and escape by Hebrews.   He assumes that Tutmose died in the Red Sea with his entire army, and that such a death would not be admitted officially.   There is another possible (and more likely) explanation:   it was not recorded because it never occurred.

AKHENATON'S HYMN

          Veith suggests that Akhenaton, the pharaoh (reigned 1379 - 1362 BC) who temporarily established sun-worhip in Egypt and banned the worship of all other gods, was influenced by the monotheism of the Israelites.   As evidence Veith refers to a hymn written by the pharaoh, which has long been recognized as having similarities to Psalm 104, which Veith attributes to Moses (p 336).   This is extremely improbable, for several reasons.
  • There is no evidence of any cultural or religious influence from the Israelites in Egypt in the 14 th century;

  • No biblical scholar believes that Moses authored Psalm 104;

  • The dating and authorship of Akhenaton's hymn are quite certain, but although Psalm 104 cannot be dated with certainty, scholars generally date none of the Psalms as earlier than the time of King David (around 1000 BC), which is more than three hundred years after Akhenaton;

  • Contrary to Veith's assertion that Akhenaton's hymn is in praise of "the one creator God" and that the sun was not worshipped, but was only a symbol (p 335, implying that his monotheism was similar to worship of YHWH), the wording of the hymn differs from the Psalm precisely in that it is addressed directly to the sun, not as a symbol, but as the one true god:
    "O living Aton, Beginning of life,
    When thou risest in the eastern horizon,
    Thou fillest every land with thy beauty...
    When thou settest in the western horizon of the sky, ..."

    (cited from Will Durant, The Story of Civilization: [Vol 1]:
    Our Oriental Heritage
    , pp 206-209)

    The entire hymn addresses Aten as the sun, which is the one god, whereas the Psalm clearly separates the sun from the god to whom it is addressed (v 19, 22).

  • Most scholars view Akhenaten's hymn rather as the source for some of the imagery in Psalm 104.   David G. Barker wrote in "The Waters of the Earth: An Exegetical Study of Psalm 104" (Grace Theological Journal 7.1 [1986] 60-61, cited from www.grace.edu/grace/seminary/documents/GTJ/documents/Barker-Ps104-GTJ.pdf, footnote numbers omitted):
    Some have tried to prove a direct relationship between Akhenaton's hymn and the psalm.   Breasted states, "The hymn of Ikhnaton thus reveals to us the source of the Hebrew Psalmist's recognition of the gracious goodness of God in the maintenance of his creatures, even the most insignificant."

    While most commentators stress some kind of relationship, caution is usually expressed.   Dahood and others posit a Canaanite mediation of the hymn.   It is postulated that the Phoenicians, because of their close commercial and cultural contact with Egypt, brought the hymn into their own literary history, and that the Hebrews obtained it from the Phoenicians.   Bernhardt argues, on the basis of both theological and cosmological differences, that the relationship is quite general.   He maintains that there was a similar literary Gattung in ancient Egypt and that it is not necessary to suggest that the psalmist had a specific knowledge of the Egyptian hymn.   Craigie argues from a similar angle, maintaining that common motifs, subject matter, and intent will naturally result in similar hymns.   As noted previously, he finds parallels in other Egyptian sun hymns, a Mesopotamian hymn to Shamash, and in particular, the Ugaritic Baal myth.   However, he maintains that this may well indicate an association of ideas rather than a literary relationship.   Craigie's thesis, particularly concerning the Ugaritic Baal myth, is built heavily upon the reconstruction of the 1 Kgs 8:12-13 text, and upon the fact that Phoenician craftsmen were used in the construction of the temple.   This latter fact causes Craigie to see the psalm as a polemic against the theology of Baal.   This may well be so, but it does not prove the literary dependence he seeks to demonstrate.

    Kidner is aware of the various similarities between Ahkenaton's hymn and the psalm, but also aptly notes the wide divergences between the two, both in content and theology.   He states, "Theologically, it displays the incalculable difference between worshipping the sun and worshipping its Maker; indeed the psalm's apparent allusions to this famous hymn seem designed to call attention to this very point."   Hence, there is no reason to suggest literary dependence upon these pagan hymns or borrowing of theological concepts and ideas.   A description by the psalmist of the natural world inevitably leads to ideas and imagery common to religious expression but which also can be used as an apology for the true God and a polemic against false gods.

PROPHECY

          Veith claims that the accuracy of the Bible is confirmed not only by archaeology, but also by its prophecies concerning the ancient kingdoms and cities.   He says (p 340) that they "have been shown to be absolutely accurate"; they have "been fulfilled to the letter."   As examples he discusses the prophecies concerning Babylon, Tyre and Petra.   He could hardly have chosen worse examples, if he wishes to show their fulfillment "to the letter."

          First some general observations.   Any ancient prophecy that some ancient city would be destroyed is likely to be fulfilled merely in the ordinary course of history, given the perpetual state of war that has characterized human history.   Veith actually admits that the destruction of cities in ancient times was very common (p 346).   The ruins of ancient cities are found on practically every continent where civilization has existed.   Therefore, if there is a prophecy in the Bible that some city will be destroyed, the eventual destruction of that city does not prove that the prophecy could only have been made with divine inspiration.   It is no more convincing than a prophecy that Southern California will suffer great damage from brushfires, or that tornados will ravage Kansas.   As I shall point out, although it may appear at first glance that some Bible prophecies were fulfilled - even if by chance - there are also a great many such prophecies that utterly failed, and that cannot ever be fulfilled.

          In dealing with prophecies which obviously have not been fulfilled, many believers fall back on the excuse that even though it has not been fulfilled in a couple of thousand years, it still will be fulfilled sometime in the future.   This excuse is specifically condemned by Ezekiel, who says:   "...the word that I speak...shall be no more prolonged:   for in your days... will I say the word, and will perform it...   There shall none of my words be prolonged any more..." (Ezek 12:21-28).

          Veith also claims that Isaiah 41:21-23 proves that only God can prophesy (pp 313-314).   If that is what Isaiah meant, then he was obviously wrong, since human beings have been successfully foretelling the future throughout history, and without the help of Isaiah's God, but using their own resources or relying on some different God.   And their degree of success has been no worse nor better than the prophets of the Bible.

          Veith also makes the surprising assertion (p 316) that "More than 50% of the Bible is in the form of prophecy..."   I find it astonishing that anyone could say that, unless they have defined "prophecy" so broadly that anything can be seen as prophecy.

BABYLON

          Veith cites the prophecies about Babylon's destruction (pp 340-348) from Jeremiah and Isaiah.   He also summarizes the early history of Babylon, according to the biblical account, as founded by Nimrod.   As archaeological evidence of the authenticity of the account, he refers to the fact that the name of Nimrod is found in many inscriptions, and a "massive stone head of Nimrod" has been found.   However, the existence of statues or inscriptions of legendary figures is not proof of the accuracy of the legends nor of the actual existence of the person portrayed.   Switzerland is full of statues of Wilhelm Tell, and yet he is purely legendary.   Bremen has a statue of the four "Bremen Town Musicians" (the donkey, the dog, the cat and the rooster), yet no one claims that as evidence that their story is historical.   Greece is full of statues of the Greek gods, but does that prove they really existed?

          Veith also asserts (p 342) that "Two hundred years ago, scholars doubted whether Babylon ever existed, and the only record was to be found in the Bible."   That statement shows a great ignorance of history and the non-biblical historians.   Ancient Babylon was known and described by many ancient historians, such as Herodotus, Ctesias, Xenophon and Strabo.   Alexander the Great is known to have died there, as recorded in the many ancient biographies of him.

          One gets a very different picture about whether the biblical prophecies about Babylon were all "fulfilled to the letter" if one reads all of them, and not just those which Veith claims were fulfilled:

The prophecies:
  • Babylon will be destroyed by the Medes in a time "near to come" and it shall never again be inhabited, and the Arab will not pitch his tent there (Isa 13, 8th century BC).
  • The stars, sun and moon will not give light (13:10) and the "earth shall remove out of her place" (13:13).
  • Jeremiah again (Jer 25:12-13, 50:9-40, 51:26-43) prophesied its total destruction and lack of habitation (v 13).
What really happened:
  • Sennacherib, an Assyrian, destroyed it in 689 BC, but Esarhaddon rebuilt it.
  • It was conquered by the Persians Cyrus and Xerxes, and again by Alexander the Macedonian in 323, who died there.
  • It was inhabited up to 275 BC, when its inhabitants moved to a new village nearby.   Its temples were still in use a century later.
  • It is now an archeological site, attracting tourists, i.e., there are people there.
  • There is no record that the heavenly bodies stopped giving light, or that the earth was moved "out of her place."
          Veith quotes extensively for events in Babylon during the Captivity from the Book of Daniel.   He cites it as though it is accurate and reliable history.   He hints that it is so reliable that Bible-scoffers have tried to disparage it.   He does not deal with the tremendous amount of historical, linguistic and anachronistic evidence, now accepted even by very devout Christian scholars, that demonstrates that the Book of Daniel is not historically accurate, that it makes gross errors in its purported historical references, that the overwhelming evidence indicates that it was not written until about 165 BC during the reign of Antiochus IV.   It is one of the most precisely datable books in the Bible, with its prophecies of times up to that date clearly "fulfilled" (because they had already happened) and the prophecies after that date clearly failing (because the author was really not a prophet and could not predict the future).   See Brodrick D. Shepherd, Beasts, Horns and the Antichrist, Cliffside, West Jefferson NC, 1998, also available on the Internet at http://www.danielprophecy.com/.

          In the New Testament, especially in the Revelation of John, the name Babylon is generally understood as a code word for Rome.   (Rev 14:8, 18:2-24) Its destruction is also prophesied there, specifically as something that "must shortly come to pass" (1:1), whose "time is at hand" (1:3).   The Revelation is generally considered to have been written in the first century AD.   Rome ("Babylon") - although it has suffered sackings and other damage through its long history - still exists two thousand years later and is one of the largest and most prominent cities in Europe.

TYRE

          Veith cites as evidence of the Bible's amazingly accurate prophecies the prophecy by Ezekiel that Tyre will be destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar and never be rebuilt (Ezek 26:3-14,21, 27:36, 28:19).   However, Isaiah 23 says Tyre will be rebuilt after 70 years.   One of these prophecies must be false.

          What really happened: Tyre was besieged but not destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar (Ezek 29:18).   He destroyed the "daughter" city on the mainland, but not the main city on the island.   Alexander the Great destroyed it three centuries later, but it was immediately rebuilt, was prominent in Jesus' time (Matt 15:21, Acts 21:3, and other passages), and still exists today .   (Population in the 1970s:   about 15,000).   See the Encyclopedia Britannica, 15th ed, article "Tyre."

          In fact, Ezekiel even admits that his prediction of Tyre's destruction by Nebuchadnezzar is false, since later he predicts that Nebuchadnezzar will NOT be able to conquer Tyre, and so God will allow him to conquer Egypt instead (Ezek 29:18-20, 30:4-19).   But Nebuchadnezzar never conquered Egypt, either.

          Thus, Tyre represents several failed prophecies from the Bible.

PETRA

          Veith cites the prophecy of Obadiah (also Joel and Ezekiel 35) predicting the destruction of Edom.   These passages are dated as about the 6th century B.C.   Veith takes literally the existence of Edomite kings at the time of the Exodus, as mentioned in Numbers 20:14ff and Judges 11:17.   Modern archaeology, however, shows that there were no such kings or kingdoms in Edom at that time, but that the area was completely unsettled and unpopulated.

          Veith also places great value apparently on legends about Petra, claiming that both Miriam and Aaron are buried there (pp 383, 385, 387).   Those may be pious legends, but they are only legends.   The photograph of "Miriam's tomb" is a building hewn out of rock in Roman architecture, and was built a thousand years after Miriam could have been there.

PROPHECIES NOT MENTIONED BY VEITH

          Rather than the Bible being such a reliable collection of fulfilled prophecies, it contains so many unfulfilled prophecies that one must wonder.   But, like the followers of all prophets of all religions, the believers ignore the misses, and only count the "hits" (or what they claim to be hits, whether justifiable or not, as Veith does).   See my extensive listing of failed Bible prophecies here.   See also Tim Callahan, Bible Prophecy: Failure or Fulfillment?, Millennium Press, Altadena, 1997, ISBN 0-9655047-0-0.

SUMMARY

          This book was written for those Christians who already believe in the inerrancy of the Bible and the "Young Earth" version of creationism.   It allows those readers to feel comfortable in their beliefs, without having to plow through all the science, confident that Dr. Veith, an "internationally renowned" scientist, has already checked it out for them.   It will convince no one else.

          The many color photographs of ancient antiquities are the best part of the book, so long as one does not accept Veith's interpretation of them.

          A major problem in using this book is the lack of an index.


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©  2006 Richard Packham    Permission granted to reproduce for non-commercial purposes, provided text is not changed and this copyright notice is included

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