Hector Avalos: How Archaeology Killed Biblical History genre: Hip-Gnosis

I have a suspicion that the culture wars are merely the means religious leaders use to distract the faithful from the slow but steady onslaught of science in undermining the historical basis of the Bible. You see, if science continues to progress, the practice of taking scripture literally will no longer be sustainable...which would allow the faithful to break the bonds of religious dogma and diminish the power it imparts to religious institutions and their leaders.

In the following videos, Hector Avalos, a former child evangelist and Biblical scholar from Iowa State University, offers a detailed presentation on some of the research that has been unearthed to undermine the assumption that the Bible is a valid and verifiable historical document. As a Biblical minimalist, Avalos and his associates have spent their careers attempting to substantiate or refute the history contained in the Bible...and they've been quite successful.

It is that success that serves as a threat to those who promote the Bible as the irrefutable word of God and the inviolable template for the mores and values of society. Avalos points out that the notion of a text serving as the ultimate authority for our behaviors is a relatively new construct in human behavior and a testament to the success of those who have sought to promote and preserve the power it provides.

The beauty of listening to a man like Avalos is found in his willingness to adhere to facts rather than engage in the hyperbole of histrionics that so often accompanies the Biblical pronouncements made from the pulpit. In other words, Avalos isn't an ideologue intent upon making the facts fit his preferred beliefs. Conversely, many people espouse their faith as fact and challenge science to disprove it. Truth be told, science is succeeding in doing just that, which is why it is viewed as such a threat by those who prefer that we view the world through a theological template.

One particular observation caught my attention and made me think of the criticism that has been leveled at the Da Vinci Code by the religious establishment. Avalos is asked about the evidence for Nazareth and he quickly acknowledges its existence. However, he proceeds to point to the accounts of King Arthur as evidence for the prevalent intermingling of fact and fiction. In other words, while King Arthur archaeology contains accounts of many things that existed at the time, that evidence does nothing to substantiate King Arthur.

Returning to the uproar against The Da Vinci Code, one can argue that those religious leaders who criticized Dan Brown's self-admitted intermingling of fact and fiction in the book are guilty of supporting a book that does the very same thing. In other words, as to historical accuracy, The DaVinci Code may be no more inaccurate than the Bible...with the primary difference being that Dan Brown admits that he has melded verifiable history with story telling, while religious ideologues refuse to acknowledge that the Bible is also filled with stories that lack the necessary verifications.

There is little reason to believe that religious institutions will voluntarily acquiesce to science. In fact, I suspect that the closer science comes to disproving the fundamental foundations of faith, the louder the protestations will become. There is a growing body of evidence that religious leaders believe their best defense against the advances of science is to characterize themselves and their followers as victims of intolerance and state sponsored discrimination.

While having faith is an acceptable endeavor that should never be prohibited, at some point we're going to be forced to confront the fact that it is no more scientific than a belief is astrology. I contend the resistance to that moment has more to do with an affinity for worldly riches than the promise of an eternal existence.

Hector Avalos - Part One

Hector Avalos - Part Two

Tagged as: Archaeology, Bible, Biblical History, Christianity, Eternity, Faith, Heaven, Hector Avalos, History, Ideology, Religion

Daniel DiRito | July 25, 2008 | 12:05 PM
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Comments

1 On July 27, 2008 at 11:08 AM, MarkC wrote —

Dr. Avalos makes a number of good points -- as an atheist I also like his willingness to take controversial positions in a field where such positions are too often taken as a sign of "disrespect" to others.

Two points I didn't agree with as much had to do with the question of the worth of studying the Bible in the present day. While the social context of the creation of the text was different from today, I don't think that is a sufficient argument for its irrelevance. I say that as someone who thinks much of Shakespeare is very relevant to my own life. Second, the gap between the putative life of Jesus and the first extant historical record is not a great argument against the use of that record. Imagine that in the distant future, no records of Queen Victoria's life existed prior to a 2008 Wikipedia entry. While one would have to take that entry with a grain of salt, one shouldn't take it as evidence that she didn't exist or that the entry's contents are false. Of course, the first century had no Wikipedia!

2 On July 27, 2008 at 2:39 PM, Rick wrote —

1. I agree with MarkC on the Jesus "gap" (absence of evidence is not evidence of absence). But the same goes for these biblical scholars who try to use this "evidence" to conclusively prove Jesus's existence.

2. Personally (if I'm willing to leave out all the hate towards homosexuality, all the degradation of females, killing of youths and children, the support of slavery, etc. etc.), then perhaps I could view the Bible as "relevant" literature (EX: Genesis is definitely an interesting read). But on second thought, the rest seems insignificant imo.

3 On August 2, 2008 at 7:32 PM, daniel wrote —

Mark,

Thanks for sharing your thoughtful observations.

I agree that Avalos may be overemphasizing the irrelevance of the Bible but I suspect he states as much in the context of his opposition to literalism.

As to Jesus, again I suspect Avalos is primarily addressing those who insist that the Bible is an accurate account of his actions. At the same time, fabrication would have been much at the point in time at which the Bible was compiled.

Rick,

Thanks for your insightful comment.

I'm afraid I can't get past the selective interpretations that takes place on a regular basis in order to find the life-altering relevance of the Bible.

That's not to say that it isn't a significant document...but I don't think it deserves more attention than any other piece of literature.

At the same time, it's social and political impact may well be unmatched. Whether that is a good thing is certainly open to debate.

Regards,

Daniel

4 On May 21, 2009 at 4:50 AM, Dalton K. wrote —

We know the fact that archeology is a branch of Science. Science has a different belief from the religious one. Bart Ehrman has been getting a lot of flak. He is the author of the book, "Jesus Interrupted," which is about Biblical inaccuracy, and gives a critical look at the core of Christianity through logical research of history, and more importantly, the historiography (the study of the writing of history and how it was compiled) of the Bible. A lot of people would give unsecured loans to quiet him. The upcoming release of Angels and Demons, sequel to the DaVinci Code, has brought up a lot of debate over the accuracy of the Bible and the development of the Christian faith. Controversy, even if it's backed by accurate research brings sales, which means Bart Ehrman might never need payday loans again.

5 On January 8, 2010 at 10:17 PM, Seo article writing wrote —

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