Fake Dead Sea Scroll Fragments

Fake Dead Sea Scroll Fragments at the Museum of the Bible
Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C.

One of the more trusted sources of science and history is the National Geographic Society. Their popular magazine, books, and TV programs have been used to promote particular viewpoints, and sometimes they have been deceived. Many of our older readers will remember a cover story in the magazine about a Chinese fossil that the magazine ran as proof of a particular evolutionary theory. It later turned out to have been constructed by local people as a means of selling claimed fossils. Now there is an issue with fake Dead Sea Scroll fragments.

The Museum of the Bible collection of Dead Sea Scroll fragments, which the National Geographic has used extensively, are fakes. They consist of 16 fragments claimed to be from authentic Dead Sea Scrolls. The forgers used old pieces of leather, and after writing on them, they treated the documents, so they looked ancient. The museum released a report by Colette Loll on March 13, 2020, explaining that microscopic analysis of the fragments showed cracks in the leather filled with pools of the ink. That means the leather had cracked after a long period of time, and the ink ran into the cracks in modern times. Other evidence also showed that these were fake Dead Sea Scroll fragments.

The message for all of us is to realize that any scientific claim based on historical objects needs careful study. Claims of antiquity should be read with a skeptical eye to the evidence. There is a lot of money involved in ancient artifacts, documents, and writings. Since National Geographic has such acceptance and worldwide circulation, they are particularly vulnerable to forgery attempts.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Source: Biblical Archeology Society 3/16/20.

God’s Image in Human Creativity and Spirituality

God’s Image in Human Creativity and Spirituality

Many people misunderstand what it means to be created in the image of God. If you think that God is an “old man in the sky,” then you probably believe that God looks like you. I have a whole shelf of children’s books that portray God as a caucasian, male, old white-bearded man in the sky. I have a few that show God as a man of color. I have one that shows Him as an oriental. All of these are dead wrong and can lead a child to misunderstand an essential concept that we are created in the spiritual image of God. God is not any racial, ethnic, sexual, or aged physical being (John 4:24). We know this is true because we see God’s image in human creativity and spirituality.

The March 2020 issue of Scientific American (page 70-73) carried an interesting article by Kateb Wong titled “The First Story.” She begins a report on new archeological discoveries by saying, “Homo sapiens is the only species known to make figurative art, engage in spiritual thinking, and convey fictional tales through imagery.” We suggest that this is true because humans are the only life-form created in the image of God. We see God’s image in human creativity and spirituality. We don’t see this ability developing gradually over a long period of evolutionary change. The article reports on cave paintings discovered by archaeologists on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi.

What the paintings describe is a hunt. Six hunters using ropes or spears confront a large buffalo. Nearby more hunters are attacking other buffalos and pigs. One of the hunters is a therianthrope, meaning a spiritual leader and similar to the minotaur of Greek mythology. The researchers suggest that the scene shows a communal hunting strategy or game drive in which prey are flushed from cover and driven toward other hunters. These paintings are high up in hard to reach caves, and they appear to be made for cultural and symbolic use.

These are the oldest artworks anthropologists have ever found that depict a story. They show the uniqueness of humans from their earliest days on Earth. When God excluded humans from the “Garden,” they left with no experience, tools, or data. They had to start at the very beginning of the learning curve, but their desire for self-expression artistically and spiritually was in full operation. These ancient drawings display God’s image in human creativity and spirituality.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Pyramids and Bricks in Egypt

Pyramids and Bricks in Egypt

The “Does God Exist?” ministry is concerned about education. We try to draw on factual evidence and the best scholarship available to inform people who are willing to learn, but we do not claim to know all the answers. Much of the disagreement between atheists and believers is rooted in misunderstandings by both. One misconception involves pyramids and bricks.

We recently heard an atheist rant about the fact that there is no evidence that the Israelites built the pyramids. He claimed that proved the Bible stories about Joseph, Moses, and the exodus were all just silly myths. There are several mistakes in that statement. First of all, it is true that the Israelites did not build the pyramids. The pyramids were built hundreds of years before the time of Abraham. They were made of native stone and were built by native Egyptians who specialized in stone construction. There are even inscriptions on some of the pyramid stones identifying the primary engineer of the structure. Stone was used because it was permanent and not affected by weather or environmental change.

The other building material used in Egypt was mudbricks made from Nile alluvium which contained clay and sand. The amount of clay determined the properties of the bricks. If the amount of clay was low, the bricks tended to fall apart. By adding straw, the clay content could be low, and the bricks would not fall apart as they dried. Making bricks was a job done by slaves. Slaves were not allowed on the pyramids because of the significance of the structure, but they made bricks for use in building storage depots and other logistical structures.

Exodus 1:11 tells us that the Israelites built “storage cities” for the Pharaoh. In Exodus 5:7-13, we read of the Israelites being told that straw for the bricks would not be made available to them. There are reliefs found in many places in Egypt that show slaves gathering straw, making bricks, and building temples and houses with them. The evidence indicates what the Bible says about brick-making is correct. We should not confuse stone pyramids and bricks.

Biblical Archaeology Review has published several articles on brick construction and Israelite slavery. See “With and Without Straw: How Israelite Slaves Made Bricks” in March/April 2014. Also, “Brick by Brick” in the Spring issue 2020 pages 54-57.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Philistine People and DNA

Philistine People and DNA
Ashkelon Archaeology Site

One of the main groups described in the Old Testament is the Philistine people. Genesis 10:14 tells us that the Philistines came from Casluhim, the son of Mizraim, the son of Ham. Abraham and Isaac had dealings with the Philistine king Abimelech and his general Phichol.

The Bible goes on to tell us that when the Israelites left Egypt, the Philistines had settled along the coast between Egypt and Gaza (Exodus 13:17-18). There they prevented the Israelites from moving through the area. There were many Philistine encounters after Israel had moved into the Promised Land. We are all familiar with the story of Samson and the Philistine temptress Delilah. David and the Philistine Goliath is also a familiar story. Skeptics throughout the years have tried to suggest that these are all myths and that such characters and peoples never existed.

Scientists recently found the remains of ten individuals buried at the ancient Philistine city of Ashkelon. Archaeogeneticists used the DNA to compile genetic evidence that supports the biblical account. Michal Feldman of the Max Planck Institute says that the genetic evidence indicates a seafaring population from southern Europe settled along the eastern Mediterranean coast and inhabited Ashkelon between 3400 and 3150 years ago.

The Philistine people certainly existed, and as scientists gather more evidence, their interactions with ancient Israel seem to be without question. Science continues to confirm the Bible in many ways.

Reference: Science News, August 3, 2019, page 16.

Nazca Lines and Birds

Nazca Lines and BirdsOne of the enduring UFO claims has been the massive drawings on Peru’s Nazca desert plateau. As far back as Eric Von Daniken’s book Chariots of the Gods in 1968, there have been those who claim that people on the Earth could not have made the drawings. They claim that the lines marked out landing strips for alien space crafts. It has been proven that people CAN, in fact, make huge drawings visible from space. However, there have not been good explanations as to what the Nazca drawings represent. Masaki Eda, a zooarchaeologist from Hokkaido University in Japan, seems to have found some clues in his recent study of the Nazca Lines and birds.

The large hummingbird drawing, which has been popularized, is an excellent portrayal of a bird known as the long-tailed hermit. Two other drawings that Eda has identified are a pelican and a guano bird. This doesn’t answer all of the mysteries of the Nazca lines, however, because those birds are rainforest or coastal birds, and the Nazca plateau is a desert. Social anthropologists studying the religions and myths of the people of the area may tell us more. There is still much to be learned about the Nazca lines and birds.

As we have emphasized before, the question of life in space is not a biblical issue and has no bearing on the scientific evidence for the existence of God. It is essential to realize that we live in a world that is as God describes it in the Bible, and He has given us the responsibility to care for it. Aliens are not our creators. The evidence does not support substituting UFOs or alien abduction theories for honoring God and living the life Christ calls us to live.
— John N. Clayton ©

Location of Noah’s Ark

Location of Noahs ArkAs we read the Genesis account of the flood, we find that most of the claims of religious fundamentalists about Noah, the ark, and the flood are derived from denominational traditions, and not from the Bible. That doesn’t necessarily mean that all of their beliefs about Genesis 6-9 are wrong. However, when people present traditions instead of Bible facts, errors are possible. One issue where people are often wrong is the location of Noah’s ark.

The Ark Encounter attraction in Kentucky is a major promoter of many of the traditions about the flood. While it gets a lot of press and a great deal of money, it also provides atheists and skeptics with ammunition to attack the faith of believers. The recent case where the Ark Encounter managers sued their insurance company for rain damage is a classic example.

Over the years, we have published numerous articles about attempts to establish the location of Noah’s ark. You can find them with the search engine on doesgodexist.org. One of the points that we have made repeatedly is that the Bible does not say that the ark came to rest on Mount Ararat. Modern-day Ararat in Armenia is almost certainly not what was called Ararat in Noah’s day.

Genesis 8:4 tells us the ark came to rest in “the mountains of Ararat.” People who know the topography of that area tell us that a continuous belt of peaks called the Kagizman Ridge is known as “the mountains of Ararat.” That ridge is located west of the present Mount Ararat in the country of Turkey. Those who have climbed Ararat and brought back what they claim are pieces of the ark, have credibility problems. They not only have the problem of how wood could survive all that time and the effects of glaciers, but they are almost certainly on the wrong mountain.

The July 2019 issue of Acts and Facts, published by the Institute for Creation Research (ICR), carried an interesting article about the ark. It admitted that the ark did not come to rest on present-day Mount Ararat and it discussed the geology of the area. It concluded that saying the ark came to rest on “the mountains of Ararat” was the most accurate way to describe its landing spot.

The ICR is a promoter of the young earth denominationalism that is so popular today, and with which we disagree. But they are endeavoring to be accurate and factual in what they are saying concerning the location of Noah’s ark, and we applaud them for that.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

For more on Noah and the flood, see these previous posts:
Did Noah’s Flood Really Happen?
When Did Noah’s Flood Happen?
How Could All Those Animals Fit in Noah’s Ark?
Where Did the Water Go After Noah’s Flood?
How Extensive Was the Flood of Noah?
Modern Misconceptions About the Flood

What Happened to the Teays River?

What Happened to the Teays River?Yesterday, we talked about the Teays River and how, like other rivers, it brought water into dry areas. (To read yesterday’s post, click HERE.) The map above shows the approximate path of the river and its tributaries. But we didn’t tell you what happened to the Teays River.

As glaciers came southward across North America, they buried the river and its tributaries with massive amounts of sand and gravel. In the process, the river’s flooding and flowing impounded massive quantities of water. The Teays still exists today in water stored underground. I can drill a well 12 feet (3.7 m) in my back yard and hit potable water. The agricultural blessing of the Teays has made the Ohio River Valley fertile and has allowed cities to exist in areas that are not blessed with great surface water. What happened to the Teays River is still affecting our lives today.

In addition to the benefits we mentioned yesterday, the flooding of rivers also spreads diverse plants and the wildlife that feeds on them. The biggest watermelon I have ever eaten I found on an island on the White River near Spencer, Indiana. A friend of mine who enjoyed it with me recognized the species of melon, and we eventually found the patch that it came from some 75 miles upstream. In our trips through the Grand Canyon, we have frequently found plant life not native to Colorado thriving on sand bars in the canyon. When our river here in Michigan flooded in February of 2018, a layer of black soil was laid down in my yard and the woods on the edge of my property. Now there are dozens of plants growing in that soil which are not native to Michigan. Animal life of all kinds eat many of those plants.

Rivers are the cleaners of both the land and the water. One interesting part of living on a river is watching what floats by – a log, a tree, human junk, and all kinds of minerals. When the river dumps its load in a delta or an alluvial fan, the minerals become available for human use. In the Colorado Plateau, an ancient river carried and deposited logs containing uranium. The water moved those logs and impregnated them with uraninite, a mineral used to obtain precious uranium for nuclear materials. In my college studies in geology and mineralogy, we learned how to “read” a river and use that information to locate critical materials for technology.

It is essential that we take care of our rivers. We need to understand rivers and recognize God’s design in creating a planet molded and shaped by flowing water. What happened to the Teays River was caused by ancient glaciers that carved the land and created the Great Lakes. What happens to our rivers today depends on us and our stewardship of what God has given us.

From Genesis to Revelation, we see rivers as critical elements in the story of human existence now and in the future. The most important river of all is described in Revelation 22:1-2: “And He showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the middle of the street of the City and on each side of the river was a Tree of Life bearing 12 crops of fruit and the leaves of the tree served as medicine for the healing of the nations. And there shall be no more curse: but God’s throne and the Lamb shall be in it.”
— John N. Clayton © 2019

God’s Toilet Rules

God's Toilet RulesThere are many commandments and teachings of God that people have only come to understand in modern times. Among those are God’s toilet rules for disposal of waste.

In the Roman world, residents used chamber pots. When the pot was full, they emptied it in the streets and alleys. In Pompeii, the sidewalks were raised with high curbs along the streets so that pedestrians could cross on stepping stones and avoid having to walk in human excrement.

Even in America the disposal of waste was an issue. An epidemic of yellow fever in Philadelphia, which was the nation’s capital at the time, was related to cesspits which eventually contaminated the aquifers that supplied drinking water.

Among the laws of hygiene for ancient Israel were rules for disposal of excrement. In Deuteronomy 23:12-13 we read “Designate a place outside the camp where you can go to relieve yourself. As part of your equipment have something to dig with, and when you relieve yourself, dig a hole and cover your excrement.”

We tend to romanticize what life was like in early times without thinking about how complicated it was to take care of waste. The smells in Pompeii and other ancient cities must have been pretty revolting. However, the bigger problem was disease spawned by using the simplest method of getting rid of waste by throwing it out the window. Following God’s toilet rules may have taken time and energy, but it was essential for the health and well being of ancient Israel.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Data from Archaeology Magazine, May/June 2019.

Nebraska Passport 2019 App Lists Clayton Museum

Nebraska Passport 2019 App

The Nebraska Passport 2019 App has added the Clayton Museum to the list of interesting places to visit in Nebraska.

A few years ago a historical artifacts collector by the name of Foster Stanback made arrangements to build a museum at York College in York, Nebraska. The purpose was so that the general public could enjoy seeing the items in the Stanback collection. John Clayton and Foster Stanback have a long history together, and to honor that relationship Foster named it the Clayton Museum of Ancient History.

The museum is not only informative and educational, but the design of the museum and the quality of the exhibits is exceptional. The museum is devoted to the history of the ancient middle east and the Roman Empire. Since the museum opened, it has added a children’s interactive section. Young people and adults from all over come to the museum to learn and to be strengthened in their faith and knowledge of Old and New Testament history.

More than 10,000 people have visited the museum. The number of visitors will increase in 2019 because the Nebraska State Tourism Commission has selected the Clayton Museum of Ancient History as a Nebraska Passport Site for the Nebraska Passport 2019 app.

You can read more about this state program at NebraskaPassport.com. You can visit the Clayton Museum website HERE.

On your app store for iPhone or Android search for Nebraska Passport 2019 app. (Minimum requirement Android 6 or iOS 10.)

— John N. Clayton © 2019

Pontius Pilate’s Ring

 Pontius Pilate's Ring found at Herodium

Archaeological discoveries are becoming public at an astonishing rate. Some of those finds have been around for a long time, but only recently has new technology shown us what they are. An example is Pontius Pilate’s ring.

In 1969 Professor Gideon Foerster found the ring in the Judean Desert fortress known as Herodium (pictured). Now, fifty years later the ring was cleaned and examined by new tools of photographic technology. The scientists discovered that it bore a Greek inscription with the name of Pilate. Skeptics have maintained that the spelling of the Greek text suggests that it was not Pontius Pilate’s ring. Instead, it was the ring of a regional administrator who was collecting taxes for the Romans and wore the ring to stamp items for Pilate.

Historians and archaeologists will debate the actual owner and user of the ring for a long time without coming to a consensus. From an apologetic standpoint, the significance of the ring is huge no matter who wore it. Skeptics claim that the Bible is historically inaccurate. They suggest that the claims about the trial and crucifixion of Jesus are folklore and the product of a vivid imagination. The archaeological discovery of the James burial box a few years ago was wrongly interpreted because of the heavy influence of skeptical bias.

Every time a part of the biblical account is verified by an archaeological find, the skeptics’ arguments are weakened. Doubts about the existence, power, and influence of the man who condemned Jesus to death can be laid to rest with the finding of Pontius Pilate’s ring. That is true whether he wore the ring or if someone who served him wore it.

We know that Herodium was built by Herod the Great and had fallen into disrepair. Pilate restored it to serve as a Roman administrative center. Finding Pilate’s ring there, only confirms the reach of his influence and power.

–John N. Clayton © 2019

Reference: Biblical Archaeological Review, March/April 2019, page 6.