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Science magazine attacks the Bible

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Published: 7 December 2017 (GMT+10)
science-magazine

Under the guise of criticizing the new Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C., Science magazine published many spurious attacks on the Bible and Christianity.1 This shows that their agenda is not clearheaded, unbiased thinking, but atheistic propaganda.

The less-than-scholarly concern is evident early on in the piece. They review the evangelical beliefs of the Green family, the founders of the Hobby Lobby chain of arts-and-crafts stores, and their successful Supreme Court case. This challenged the health care law’s requirement that the health insurance they provide to employees provide ‘contraceptive’ options that violated their beliefs because they were really abortifacients—a victory for freedoms of religion and conscience.

They then criticize the museum, concerned that “the museum will use artifacts to further an evangelical view of the Bible as historically accurate and immutable” (p. 295). They then find a liberal scholar to cite such a goal as “extremely problematic” (p. 295). This despite the fact that most science museums are cathedrals to evolution, so you’d be hard-pressed to find a museum that doesn’t promote a narrative. Why shouldn’t there be a museum presenting the evidence for the Bible’s historical accuracy, when even many secularists concede that the Bible is a remarkably accurate ancient historical document?

They then report on some problems the Greens have had regarding their artifact purchases. Issues of provenance are important. Apparently the Greens have learned their lesson and have hired experienced experts to help authenticate their artifacts, but this doesn’t stop Science from casting a shadow over the whole museum. They also highlight that their claimed Dead Sea Scrolls fragments might be forgeries, which of course doesn’t invalidate the evidence for the Bible from the undisputed Scrolls. Of course, evolutionists have had their own problems with forgeries like Archaeoraptor and others, but that doesn’t invalidate evolution itself in their eyes.

While the tone of the piece is critical overall, a few quoted scholars defend the Museum of the Bible. Archaeologist Robert Cargill is quoted as saying, “When you critique someone and they listen to that critique and make changes for the good, you should applaud that. We call that peer review” (pp.295–296). They also note that the museum is working with other respected scholars.

However, Barry Wood of the University of Houston does not believe that the article was critical enough of the Museum of the Bible. In a letter to the editor,2 he says that the author of the article “stops short of recognizing that the museum’s premise—that the Bible can be supported by scientific evidence—is an extended tiptoeing exercise.”

He makes the sweeping statement “There is no evidence for major Biblical events”. His first example is that there is no evidence for the sojourn of Israel in Egypt and the Exodus. He fails to note what physical and documentary evidence one might expect. Scholars are divided on the issue, at the very least. The documentary Patterns of Evidence contains an interpretation of the evidence that supports the Bible’s historical record, and we have published an article explaining the issues surrounding Egyptian chronology and the Bible.

He then cites that there is no evidence that the first Temple or Solomon’s palace were anywhere near as big as they were described. He fails to recognize that very little of Jerusalem has actually been excavated, because it is currently inhabited and the place that would be excavated is considered holy by both Jews and Muslims.

He then claims that evidence of worship of Baal and Asherah in Israel invalidates claims of Old Testament monotheism. However anyone who has actually read the Old Testament history of Israel knows the Bible itself records worship of the false gods throughout their history until the Exile, which seems to have finally taught the Jews their lesson. It is reminiscent of a claim earlier this year that the Bible was falsified because DNA evidence shows that the Canaanites were not wiped out. But that’s exactly what the Bible says.

He then questions whether the Church of the Nativity actually stands on the place where Christ was really born, which is really neither here nor there as far as the Bible’s reliability goes. But he uses this as an excuse to claim that Matthew and Luke were written “at least eight decades after the birth,” a questionable claim to say the least. Similarly, the reliability of the Bible hardly stands or falls on centuries-later claims about the “true cross” or the location of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

Where does Barry Wood get the expertise to criticize the Bible? Is he perhaps a Ph.D. scientist? What about an archaeology degree or text criticism? How about a related area of ancient history? His University of Houston page3 states that he has a Ph.D. in—wait for it—English and Humanities, with a minor in Religious Studies. Even better, it is a ‘self-designed interdisciplinary doctorate’. There is no language requirement—in fact, Stanford’s page on the Religious Studies minor4 states that only one related language may be counted toward the minor. And one may glean from Wood’s faculty page that his work was concentrated in Eastern religions, not Christianity. But of course, when it comes to criticizing the Bible, an associate professor of courses such as “Native American Literature” and “History of Drama” is good enough.

I haven’t been able to visit the Museum of the Bible. I’m not convinced that there aren’t problems with the provenance of some of the remaining artifacts—and if there are, that should be straightened out. But I’m willing to give the ‘benefit of the doubt’ to them as they’ve shown that they are committed to scholarship, going as far as hiring people who are by no means evangelical fundamentalists.

The history of the Bible is fascinating, and the Museum of the Bible invites people to learn more. That is a good thing, and as Christians we can celebrate that this is being discussed. Unfortunately, Science magazine seems to oppose anything outside the narrow range of evolutionary orthodoxy.

Related Articles

Further Reading

References and notes

  1. Wade, L., Original Sin, Science 358:6361:295–297, 20 October 2017. Return to text.
  2. Wood, B., Museum of the Bible: Questionable Science, Science 358:6367:1142, 1 December 2017. Return to text.
  3. Barry Albert Wood, University of Houston Department of English; uh.edu/class/english/people/faculty/wood, accessed 4 December 2017. Return to text.
  4. Minor in Religious Studies, Stanford University Religious Studies; religiousstudies.stanford.edu/academics/undergraduate-program/minor Return to text.

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Readers’ comments
Tommy S., United States, 8 December 2017

First of all, great article. But I must point something out very important.

The article states "Where does Barry Wood get the expertise to criticize the Bible? Is he perhaps a Ph.D. scientist?" and then goes on to conclude "But of course, when it comes to criticizing the Bible, an associate professor of courses such as “Native American Literature” and “History of Drama” is good enough." after makign it clear he has no educational requirements for criticizing the Bible.

However, I must point out that CMI itself is the first to point out that a person cannot be dismissed on the basis of his education or background. Rather, the person's arguments themselves must be refuted. So, I think it was hypocritical to dismiss him on the basis of his education instead of simply refuting his claims outright.

Lita Cosner responds

Respectfully, there is a difference. Dr. Wood is using his academic credentials to seem like an authority, so it is worth pointing out that his academic credentials mean nothing in this particular context. But thanks for the opportunity to point out why it was relevant in this case and perhaps not in others.

Anthony A., United States, 7 December 2017

Great response. It's amazing how all logic goes out the door when confronted with the historicity of the Bible. Patterns of Evidence was a great documentary also, really opened my eyes to how flawed the Egyptian timeline is and how much is literally made up to make the assumptions work.

A question about the response though: Couldn't attacking the credentials of a critic of the Bible really go both ways? What if an apologist who has no formal scholarly training presents evidence to the Bible's accuracy and historicity, but then gets slammed because they aren't themselves a scholar? I guess I'm just wondering if that's the best method for defending the Bible, and if it's acceptable, how do you defend questions of your own credentials when explaining how the Bible is historically accurate. I'm really asking for myself here when I engage others, not specifically directed at anyone.

Thanks!

Lita Cosner responds

Anthony, in this case Dr. Wood was using his credentials to seem like an authority in this area, so it is fair game to point out that his credentials are meaningless for this particular debate. If this were not the case, of course we would stick with just refuting the bad arguments.

Dan M., United States, 7 December 2017

Of course they invalidate the museum and the bible. They are God haters! You naturally don’t validate what you don’t want to be true, (no room for free thinking here)!

Two points I’d like to make are.

1. In the movie Patterns of Evidence, a picture of Egyptian historical revisionism is painted quite plainly and we see the same thing happening in our country today so we can relate. So I ask you, how can archaeological scholars trust any Egyptian historical records that they say don’t support the Exodus? On the other hand, the Old Testament has been proven invaluable to mid-eastern archeologists because of its accuracy and a revised look at Egyptian history validates the exodus but atheists are biased and won’t even consider it.

2. What makes the Hebrew bible so believable is its critical view of its own authors. The bible pulls no punches when it comes to critiquing its own people in that it paints them in a very non-positive way in many cases, (idolatry of all sorts). On the other hand, Egyptian pharaohs brag about their accomplishments in stone and there are many versions of their history. Not to mention the literally chiseling away of certain historical pharaohs.

I find the Holy Bible to be very reliable but that’s because I’m not hostile towards God. He is my father, my judge, my king, my friend and my savior and I love him. Luk 10:27

Pratha S., United States, 7 December 2017

No surprise here -- a secular magazine will give you a secular worldview.It's the same with a magazine that's Biblically based -- you get a Biblical worldview.Two different worldviews.What we have to do is decide which one we'll go with.The Bible makes it clear -- we'll either go with God and the things of God or we'll go against those things.So -- choose WISELY!

Gian Carlo B., Puerto Rico, 7 December 2017

“Where does Barry Wood get the expertise to criticize the Bible? Is he perhaps a Ph.D. scientist? What about an archaeology degree or text criticism? How about a related area of ancient history? His University of Houston page states that he has a Ph.D. in—wait for it—English and Humanities, with a minor in Religious Studies. Even better, it is a ‘self-designed interdisciplinary doctorate’. There is no language requirement—in fact, Stanford’s page on the Religious Studies minor states that only one related language may be counted toward the minor. And one may glean from Wood’s faculty page that his work was concentrated in Eastern religions, not Christianity. But of course, when it comes to criticizing the Bible, an associate professor of courses such as “Native American Literature” and “History of Drama” is good enough.”

Lol, this was gold! People like Barry Wood is why apologists like James Patrick Holding have no problem showing intellectual disdain towards them. That is, they shouldn’t even be taken seriously. It’s like these days the LEAST one needs to be a legitimate Bible critic is have a bachellor’s degree on comparative literature. Forget about that hard work of hermeneutics, New/Old Testament studies, social background studies of the ANE world; screw that! All I need is four college years of English cpurses and I can declare the Bible ludicrous. This is why I refuse to intellectually engage with critics who are not even properly qualified in the field or at least provide the sources to offer a legitimate criticism. All it takes is to be a 21st Century snowflake to cry foul on things like the Levitical laws. People like Barry Wood should be seen as no different than Bill Maher: An entertainment clown.

Guy W., United Kingdom, 7 December 2017

Brilliant article and answer Lita!

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