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Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary, Memphis, TN 38104


Peaking towards the end of the last century, the so-called higher

criticism of the OT claimed "assured results" because it was allegedly

based on a scientific-critical analysis of the literature. Although modi-

fied much through subsequent years, many assumptions of modern

OT critics are based on the conclusions reached during the classical

period (the 19th century).

          Despite disclaimers to the contrary, the founders of this approach

to the OT were reflecting a mindset of the age more than operating

on some new "scientific" basis. Their research was done essentially in

an archaeological vacuum; new information from exploration and

excavation was not part of the background of their study.

          When J. G. Eichhorn in 1780 and W. M. L. De Wette in 1806

(when he was 25 years old) wrote the first critical "Introductions" to

the OT, the possibilities of archaeological research were unknown. At

the end of the 18th century not a single script or language of the

pre-Christian orient had been deciphered, and not a single scientific

excavation had been undertaken.

          Even later, after new insights were becoming available on the

geography, history, language, and culture of the OT, such information

was largely ignored. The outstanding example of this is J. Wellhausen' s

Prolegomena to the History of Ancient Israel, which appeared in

1878. By that date several excavations had been started and several

ancient languages had been deciphered (Egyptian, Akkadian, Phoe-

nician, and Old South Arabic), but Wellhausen's reconstruction of

Israel's history is virtually devoid of any reference to such extra-

biblical resources.




The primary influence on the formulators of higher criticism

and its bearing on the origin and development of the religion of

Israel was the philosophy of the age, which was dominated by

evolutionary thought--unilinear progress from the simple to the

complex. Such evolutionary thinking was applied by C. Darwin to

biology and by K. Marx to economics. Wellhausen, following the

approach of J. K. W. Vatke,l applied this scheme to Israel and ended

up with three basic periods of history of development: pre-prophetic--

prophetic--ethical-monotheism. The end result of this was that we

have in the Bible not God's thoughts about man but man's thoughts

about God, not a revealed religion but an invented religion. K. Cauthen

stated that situation precisely:


The Bible came to be thought of as a record of the progressive discovery

of God in human experience, not as a static body of theological dogmas

all equally inspired and all of equal religious value. This application of

evolutionary ideas to the study of the Hebrew religion by the Wellhausen

school of thought came to dominate Biblical studies in the latter part of

the nineteenth century.2


I. Results


This new approach was adopted by many professors who then

were either removed from their teaching positions or forced to resign,

for example, in Europe, W. Robertson Smith from Aberdeen (1881)

and Wellhausen from Greifswald (1882). "The first to suffer for the


1 J. K. W. Vatke studied under H. F. W. Gesenius at Halle and H. Ewald at

Gottingen, before moving to Berlin, where he was exposed to A. Neander, F. Schleier-

macher, and G. Hegel. From 1828 on, he became increasingly interested in Hegel's

philosophy, and in his Biblical Theology (Die biblische Theologie wissenschaftlich

dargestellt. I. Die Religion des Alten Testaments, Berlin, 1835 [there was no volume 2]),

he made no secret of his own Hegelian position. The aim of this book was to secure for

Vatke a full professorship, but a year before the book's appearing, Schleiermacher

died, heralding the beginning of the dominant influence of the conservative E. W.

Hengstenberg in the Berlin faculty. Hengstenberg was able to see to it that Vatke was

never offered a full professorship, and van Altenstein, Minister of State for Universities,

saw to it that Vatke's Biblical Theology was never completed.

The influence of Vatke on Wellhausen has been much discussed (cf. J. Rogerson,

Old Testament Criticism in the Nineteenth Century [Fortress, 1985] 69-78) and usually

recognized, although R. Clements attempts, without success, to play down this influence

(One Hundred Years of Old Testament Interpretation [Westminster, 1976] 3). I believe

Wellhausen was greatly influenced by Vatke's reconstruction of Israel's origins.

2 K. Cauthen, The Impact of American Religious Liberalism (2nd ed.; New York:

University Press of America [1962] 1983) 23.

Walker: RESULTS AND REVERSALS                     283


Higher Criticism in the United States" (as C. A. Briggs described

him)3 was C. H. Toy, Professor of Old Testament Interpretation at

the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.

He had studied in Berlin4 and came to accept critical theories about

the origin of Scripture, theories which were in contradiction to the

claims of Scripture itself. Of course this involved the denial of iner-

rancy, so Toy resigned and moved in 1880 to a post at Harvard;

eventually he aligned himself with the Unitarians.5 Later, C. A. Briggs,

Professor of Hebrew and Cognate Languages at Union Theological

Seminary in New York, was convicted (1893) of denying the validity

of Scripture as set forth in the Westminster Confession. His conviction

led to his suspension as a minister and to the final breach between

Union Seminary and the Presbyterian Church. Briggs remained at

Union as an Episcopalian (he was received into the priesthood in

1899) until his death in 1913.6 Such conflicts were not limited to

Baptists and Presbyterians; they continued throughout various denomi-

national schools.

However, a few scholars came to recognize the philosophical

nature of some critical theories inimical to the Christian faith and

reliability of Scripture and changed their views. This was especially

true of those who had pursued studies in biblical archaeology.

A. H. Sayce, well-known British Orientalist, was a personal friend

of Gladstone, Prime Minister of England. When E. B. Pusey, Professor

of Hebrew at Oxford, died (1882), Sayce anticipated the vacant chair

would be his; however, at that time Sayce was regarded as one of the

leaders of German critical theology, so Gladstone refused to appoint

him.7 Sayce's interest in the Near East and archaeology8 later turned

him toward conservative views.


3 R. A. Riesen, Criticism and Faith in Late Victorian Scotland (New York:

University Press of America, 1985) xvi. This study has a very thorough discussion of the

theological controversy involving A. B. Davidson, W. R. Smith, and G. A. Smith.

4 An excellent survey of the influence of German scholarship on American students

abroad may be found in C. Diehl's Americans and German Scholarship 1770-1870

(New Haven: Yale University, 1978). Especially note the chapter "Innocents Abroad:

American Students in German Universities, 1815-1870," 49-69.

5 Riesen, Criticism and Faith, xvi.

6 Ibid., xvii.

7 A note of irony here: Gladstone appointed S. R. Driver, who later standardized

(1891) the whole critical school for the English world. (Sayce later became a leader of

the orthodox party in England.)

8 Sayce spent the winters of 1879-1908 on his houseboat on the Nile. He became

the first Professor of Assyriology in England (Oxford, 1891-1919) and a sagacious

opponent of rampant higher criticism. He rightly compared Wellhausen's treatment of

the Pentateuch with F. A. Wolff's treatment of Homer.



Other professors who became conservative because of the influ-

ence of archaeology on their thinking were F. Hommel (Munich) and

J. Halevy (Paris).9 Of course the parade example of how the facts of

archaeology steer away from the theories of higher criticism is that of

W. F. Albright. Prior to 1919 he held generally to the critical school of

thought, a view which was at odds with fellow archaeologist M. G.

Kyle. Then, beginning in 1921, during his archaeological work in

Palestine, his view converged more and more with Kyle, who had

remained staunchly conservative.10  Although Albright never openly

aligned himself much theologically, it is very clear that the facts from

archaeology continually steered him towards an ever-increasing

respect for the accuracy of Scripture.

One professor who switched views, not just because of archae-

ology but because he saw the mindset involved in higher criticism,

was J. J. Reeve of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.11 In a

word of personal testimony,12 he described first his experience at "one

of the great universities" where he was overwhelmed with the scholar-

ship of the critical approach and accepted it. He wrote, "This world-

view is wonderfully fascinating and almost compelling.'" But he went

on to describe two reasons for his rejection of the system: 1) the

methods, and 2) the spirit of the movement. Some of his statements

are worth noting verbatim:


It became more and more obvious to me that the movement was entirely

intellectual, an attempt in reality to intellectualise all religious phenomena.

I saw also that it was a partial and one-sided intellectualism with a strong

bias against the fundamental tenets of Biblical Christianity. Such a

movement is responsible for a vast amount of intellectual pride, an

aristocracy of intellect with all the snobbery which usually accompanies

that term.13


9 J. Orr, The Problem of the Old Testament (New York: Charles Scribner's, 1911)

397, n. 1.

10 More detailed notes on Albright's personal testimony of change can be found in

BASOR 51 (1935) 5-6 and The American Scholar 7 (1938) 170. Kyle taught at Xenia

Theological Seminary and wrote in defense of Scripture. His The Deciding Voice of

the Monuments in Biblical Criticism was published in 1912 at Oberlin by the Bibliotheca

Sacra Company. (Bibliotheca Sacra, a conservative journal, was first published at

Andover, then later at Oberlin, and eventually at Dallas. Such is the spread of liberalism

within theological institutions.)

11 Reeve was part of the founding faculty of the Seminary; in fact, he spoke at the

formal opening of the Seminary, October 1, 1908, and delivered "a captivating address"

(R. Baker, Tell the Generations Following [Broadman, 1983] 142).

12 J. J. Reeve, "My Personal Experience with the Higher Criticism," Back to the

Bible (ed.. A. C. Dixon, W. H. Griffith Thomas; and James Orr; London: S. W. Patridge, I

n.d.) 216-39.

13 Ibid., 231.

Walker: RESULTS AND REVERSALS                     285


Although such reasoning may not sound very academic, Reeve

seems to have sensed an element missed by many other scholars. He


I have seen the Unitarian, the Jew, the free-thinker and the Christian

who has imbibed critical views, in thorough agreement on the Old

Testament and its teaching. They can readily hobnob together, for the

religious element becomes a lost quantity; the Bible itself becomes a

plaything for the intellect, a merry-go-round for the mind partially

intoxicated with its theory.14


But the change of world view of other professors was not only for

such reasons as Reeve addressed, but from the ever-increasing flow of

newly discovered factual data from the world of the Bible. Modern

critics find it difficult to subscribe to the reconstruction of Israel's

history proposed by Wellhausen, although they tenaciously cling

to many points in his systems--especially the documentary hypo-

thesis. Meanwhile, much irresponsible harm was done by the Graf-

Wellhausen scheme of the evolution of Israel's religious institutions.

T. Paine and R. Ingersoll, clearly identified popular American

infidels and skeptics, set forth exactly the same views of Scripture and

Israel's origins as that held by the sophisticated German professors.

Paine stated bluntly:

Moses is not the author of the books ascribed to him.15


All the contradictions in time, place, and circumstances that abound in

the books ascribed to Moses prove to a demonstration that those books

could not be written by Moses, nor in the time of Moses.16

The Book of Genesis, though it is placed first in the Bible and ascribed to

Moses, has been manufactured by some unknown person, after the Book

of Chronicles was written which was not until at least eight hundred and

sixty years after the time of Moses.17


Not only Paine, but also Ingersoll stated exactly the same con-

clusions reached by the critics.


Many centuries after Moses, the leader, was dead--many centuries after

all his followers had passed away--the Pentateuch was written, the work


14 Ibid., 235. The OT Department of Southwestern continued for many years to

oppose higher criticism as the writings of faculty members B. A. Compass (1918-1942)

and E. Leslie Carlson (1921-1964) reflect. Cf. e.g., Carlson's Confirming the Scriptures

(Ft. Worth: Seminary Hill Bookstore, 1941).

15 T. Paine, The Theological Words of Thomas Paine (Boston: J. P. Mendum,

1854) 89.

16 Ibid., 87.

17 Ibid., 99.



of many writers, and to give it force and authority it was claimed that

Moses was the author. We now know that the Pentateuch was not

written by Moses.18


Such conclusions, stated plainly in layman's language, merely reflect

the ideas of the professors of higher criticism.

Original literary and academic questions about the language and

nomenclature of the writings attributed to Moses eventually evolved

into isolation of various documents which were assigned to anonymous

authors spanning centuries of time. This in turn led to a new and very

different understanding of Israel's origins and religion. This writing of

Israel's history included, in many cases, accepting a naturalistic, uni-

linear evolutionary development of Israel's religious institutions. All

this took place essentially in an archaeological but certainly not a

philosophical vacuum. The weltanschauung ("world view") of that

century was one that confused progressive revelation with evolution

of religion. Presuppositions more than facts affected the conclusions

drawn by OT critics.


II. Reversals


The results of higher criticism were far more extensive and

damaging than the few mentioned above would imply. Fortunately,

reversals of many points held by critics have been required by new

discoveries. New light on the history, geography, language, and cus-

toms of the OT support, not negate, the factual content of Scripture.19

Armchair speculation of higher criticism has been repeatedly over-

turned by continuing discoveries from the lands of the Bible.20 (Of

course the critics have been reluctant to admit the reversals caused by

these discoveries.)

Our first example of a reversal of viewpoint concerns the subject

of writing, although space does not permit a detailed discussion of

this primary topic. Skepticism about writing during the time of Moses

was voiced by a number of early critics. As late as 1892, H. Schultz

wrote, "The time, of which the pre-Mosaic narrative treats, is a

sufficient proof of their legendary character. It was a time prior to all


18 R. Ingersoll, About the Holy Bible (New York: C. P. Farrell, 1894) 8, quoted in

L. W. Munhall, The Highest Critics vs. the Higher Critics (3rd ed.; New York: Hunt

and Eaton, 1896) 180.

19 An excellent summary is found in an early article by W. F. Albright, "Archae-

ology Confronts Biblical Criticism," American Scholar 7 (1938) 176-88.

20 One useful archaeological commentary on the Bible with this type of presen-

tation is Joseph P. Free's Archaeology and Bible History (5th ed.; Wheaton, Ill.:

Scripture Press, 1956).

Walker: RESULTS AND REVERSALS                     287


knowledge of writing.21  P. Von Bohlen scoffed at the idea of the

"undisciplined horde" of Israel being literate.22 A. Dillman, E. Reuss,

and others entertained various degrees of skepticism about the idea of

literacy at the time of Moses.23 Wellhausen and some early critics

grudgingly admitted the possibility of early writing.

Such a low view of early Israel--and other ancient societies--has

proven completely unwarranted. We are now aware of at least five

different scripts used during the Mosaic, patriarchal, and earlier

periods: Egyptian hieroglyphic, Akkadian cuneiform, the cuneiform

alphabet of Ugarit, and linear alphabet of Sinai, the hieroglyphic

syllabary of Byblos, and the Sumerian pictographic writing.

The earliest critics were informed, to various degrees, on Hebrew,

Aramaic/Syriac, and Arabic. Some, like A. Dillman, also knew Ethi-

opic. But the founders of higher criticism were totally ignorant of

such important ancient cognate languages as Ugaritic and Akkadian-

not to mention such non-Semitic languages as Egyptian, Hittite,

Hurrian, Sumerian, and other less significant languages. Biblical

Hebrew itself was known primarily via the tradition of the Jewish

scholars; German Hebraists had just begun detailed systematic analysis

of biblical Hebrew.24  Our present knowledge of the Hebrew language

and its background now enables us to answer many of the critics'

charges. Words once claimed to be "late" (and therefore betraying a

"late" document) are now attested in the early Canaanite source

materials from Ugarit; syntactical features of Hebrew poetry once

labeled incorrect are now attested in the poetry of Ugaritic.25


21 H. Schultz, Old Testament Theology (2 vols.; tr. 4th ed. J. A. Paterson;

Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1892) 1.25.

22 P. Von Bohlen, Introduction to the Book of Genesis (2 vols.; London: 1855)

1.29-41. (This was a translation and selection from Die Genesis historisch-kritisch

erlautert [Konigsburg, 1835]). Von Bohlen studied in Halle under Gesenius and in

Bonn under Freytag, world-renowned Arabic scholar; he taught at Konigsburg from


23 A. Dillman (1823-94) was famous for his studies in Ethiopic; he had studied

under Ewald, as had also such notable scholars as Wellhausen, T. K. Cheyne,

T. Noldeke, and B. Duhm. He taught at Kiel (1860-64), Giessen (1864-69), and

Berlin (1869-94).

Reuss (1904-91) had studied under Eichhorn (Gottingen) and Gesenius (Halle). He

taught H. K. Graf (Strasbourg). As early as 1834, he advocated the view that the law

was later than the prophets but did not publish his views because of the outcry against

Vatke's Biblical Theology.

24 For a survey of Hebrew lexical studies, see C. Marlowe, The Development of

Hebrew Lexicography (unpublished Th.D. dissertation; Mid-America Baptist Theo-

logical Seminary, 1985).

25 For a detailed discussion of this point, see the author's article, "Notes on Higher

Criticism and the Dating of Biblical Hebrew," A Tribute to Gleason Archer (ed. Walter

C. Kaiser, Jr. and Ronald F. Youngblood; Chicago: Moody, 1986).



History is another area where reversals of critical theories have

been required. The unbridled skepticism of early Bible history must

be discontinued in the light of continuing illumination from archae-

ology. The patriarchal era was viewed by Wellhausen, H. Gunkel, and

O. Eissfeldt as a retrojection by anonymous authors of a later date.

For Gunkel, the stories of the patriarchs were sagas, or legends, in

contrast to history proper; the patriarchal figures were considered

only something like personified tribes. Despite the flood of evidence

to the contrary, even later writers like Eissfeldt have insisted that the



have thus become representative of the post-Mosaic people Israel pro-

jected back into the pre-Mosaic age; what they do and endure. . . reveals

indirectly the circumstances on an Israel settled in Canaan.26


However, the wealth of background historical data for the patriarchal

period has easily confirmed its general historical setting. Skepticism

about the facticity of the patriarchal narratives became less and less

realistic with the new light on early Bible history. Archaeological

research in the lands of the Bible has exposed more and more back-

ground information which reveals the realistic setting of the patriarchs.

An example of a specific part of history questioned by critics was

the matter of the Hittites. Some questioned the historicity of such a

people, although they are mentioned about forty times in Scripture. As

late as 1904, a "foremost archaeologist of Europe" said, "I do not

believe there ever were such people as Hittites. . . ."27 Two years

earlier, E. A. Budge, of the British Museum, had expressed doubt

about any confirmation of their existence.28 But by 1906, H. Winkler

of Berlin had found their ancient capital (Hattusas) at Boghaz-koy,

in central Turkey; since then many tablets written in the Hittite lan-

guage have been found, published, and studied. G. F. Wright, of

Oberlin College, referred to a prominent English biblical critic

who had declared that "an alliance between Egypt and the Hittites

was as improbable as would be one at the present time between

England and the Choctaws."29 Wright continued, "It was pure ignor-

ance, not superior knowledge, which led so many to discredit these



26 O. Eissfeldt, The Old Testament: An Introduction (tr. P. R. Ackroyd; New

York: Harper and Row, 1965) 42.

27 The unnamed archaeologist is mentioned by M. G. Kyle, Back to the Bible 172.

28 E. A. Budge, Egypt and Her Asiatic Empire (New York: n.p., 1902) 136.

29 G. F. Wright, Back to the Bible, 133.

30 Ibid., 135. Our present knowledge of Hittites is vast. We are able now to

identify at least four distinct ethnic groups in antiquity to whom the name "Hittite" has

Walker: RESULTS AND REVERSALS                     289


Not only is the fact of Hittite existence thoroughly established;

we now have a large corpus of Hittite texts, written in several dialects

and scripts, representing virtually every genre of literature. In fact

some scholars are Hittite specialists and have devoted their life to the

study of this language and literature.

It seems absolutely incredible that a national culture whose very

existence was once held in doubt by serious critics should now be the

source of so much information on the background of the OT. A

primary source of information on covenant-treaty forms is the Hittite

body of literature. This in itself has bearing on the dating of the book

of Deuteronomy and the attitude of higher criticism toward Deuter-

onomy as the book of the law emanating from the time of Josiah.

Another specific example of a historical fact once doubted con-

cerns the Assyrian king Sargon, who is mentioned only in Isa 20:1.

Since he is mentioned only once in Scripture and for a time remained

unknown from extra-biblical sources, his very existence was open to

doubt by some critics.31 But in 1843, at Khorsabad, near the site of

ancient Nineveh, his great palace was found. No scholar can question

the historicity of Sargon any longer.

Geography is another area where the former skepticism of critics

has been reversed. Many small cities mentioned in the pages of

Scripture but not mentioned elsewhere were lost for centuries. Until

the spade of modern archaeology unearthed them and ancient docu-

ments identified them, skepticism about their existence was unanswer-

able. However, the continuing excavation of sites mentioned in the

Bible has so consistently revealed geographical accuracy that no

thought is given to it unless we stop to recall the distance in time the

author may have been from the events described. For example, many

of the towns mentioned in connection with Abraham have been

excavated and identified and revealed to have been in existence at his

time. Some alleged late writer of 800 B.C. or later would hardly have

been in a position to know accurately the geographical details of a

millennium earlier. This would be like a writer of 1986 A.D. describing

with geographical precision the setting for a story of 986 A.D., or

earlier, without the help of archaeology.

Geography is a science; it is of value in the study of the accuracy

of the OT records. One early (1912) biblical archaeologist wrote:


at some time been applied. For a thorough discussion of this, see H. A. Hoffner's "The

Hittites and Hurrians" Peoples of Old Testament Times (ed. D. J. Wiseman; Oxford:

Clarendon, 1973) 197-221.

31 Cf. G. L. Robinson, The Bearing of Archaeology on the Old Testament (New

York: American Tract Society, 1941) 96.



The place, the most important mark of trustworthy testimony, is being

established for the whole Bible story. . . . In this fact we have a sub-

foundation for the confirmation of Scripture. . . . It is the identifications

which differentiate history from myth, geography from 'the land of

nowhere,' the record of events from tales of 'never was,' Scripture from

folklore and the gospel of the Savior of the world from the delusions of



However, some critics reject this line of reasoning. G. A. Smith



Many legends are wonderful photographs of scenery. And, therefore, let

us once admit that while we may have other reasons for the truth of the

patriarchal narrative, we cannot prove this on the ground that their

itineraries and place names are correct.33


But the accurate geographical details of Scripture appear natural

in their contexts and do not reflect the imagination of a late scribe

writing long after the era described.

A similar detail of natural accuracy shows up in the personal

names of Scripture, which have been greatly illuminated and demon-

strated by archaeological discoveries, to be in harmony with their

cultural milieu. As in our modern era, certain kinds of personal names

were in vogue in certain periods and areas. Because of the excavation,

discovery, and publication of ancient texts, we now possess thousands

of personal names in many different languages from the world of the

OT. It would have been very easy for a late writer to be in error

concerning names which were in vogue in a certain earlier period.

However, personal names found in the archives of Mari and Ebla

match up nicely with the personal names found in the patriarchal


Skepticism had been raised about the Egyptian names mentioned

in connection with Joseph. M. Burrows wrote (1941), "As a matter of

fact, the Egyptian names given in the Joseph story do not appear in

Egypt before the time of the Hebrew monarchy."35 T. Eric Peet,

Professor of Egyptology at the University of Liverpool, wrote (1924),


32 Cf. Kyle, Deciding Voice of Monuments 51.

33 G. A. Smith, The Historical Geography of the Holy Land (London: Hodder and

Stoughton, 1894) 108.

34 Ebla and Mari have provided tablets from slightly before and during the first

part of the 2nd millennium B.C. Cf. K. A. Kitchen, The Bible and Its World (Exeter:

Paternoster, 1977) 52-53, 68; also see the same author's Ancient Orient and Old

Testament (Chicago: InterVarsity, 1966) 48-49.

35 M. Burrows, What Mean These Stones? (New Haven: American Schools of

Oriental Research, 1941) 53.

Walker: RESULTS AND REVERSALS                     291


"Names of this type [Asenath] are not absolutely wanting in the

earlier periods, but they are extremely rare. . . ."36 This somewhat

grudging admission was stated in a more positive way later (1937) by

C. A. Barton, "The name of Joseph's wife, Asenath, occurs from the

eighteenth dynasty onward [1600 B.C.] and after."37 It would be most

surprising for the alleged late scribe, writing centuries after the setting

of his narrative, to come up with personal names that at first appeared--

according to some meager information outside the Bible--to be out

of harmony with the period setting but later proved exactly appro-

priate. Hommel, Professor of Semitic Languages at the University of

Munich, was aware of this significance when he wrote:


One of the main objects, therefore, which I have kept before me in

writing this present book, has been to show that even from the time of

Abraham onwards personal names of the characteristic Mosaic type

were in actual use among a section of the Semites of Western Asia, and

that it is useless to talk any longer of later post-exilic invention.38


Hommel optimistically envisioned a coming time when


. . . men will be able to brush aside the cobweb themes of the so-called

"higher critics" of the Pentateuch, and, leaving such old-fashioned errors

behind them, attain to a clear perception of the real facts.39


Several reversals concerning alleged anachronisms have been neces-

sary due to new information. One classic example concerns Abraham's

camels. Gen 12:46 mentions that, along with other animals, Abraham

took camels with him into Egypt. For a time, archaeological monu-

ments revealed the presence of sheep, oxen, and donkeys in Egypt,

but not the camel; therefore, the critics had usually set this aside as an

anachronistic reference. Now, archaeological evidence indicates an

early presence of the camel in ancient Egypt; this evidence includes

statuettes and figurines of camels, plaques bearing representations of

camels, rock carvings and drawings, camel bones, a camel skull,

and camel-hair rope. These items range from the 7th century B.C.


36 T. Eric Peet, Egypt and the Old Testament (Liverpool: University of Liverpool,

1924) 101.

37 G. A. Barton, Archaeology and the Bible (7th ed.; Philadelphia: American

Sunday School Union, 1937) 24.

38 F. Hommel, The Ancient Hebrew Traditions as Illustrated by the Monuments:

A Protest Against the Modern School of Old Testament Criticism (tr. Edward McClure

and Leonard Crosslbe; London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1897),

quoted from J. W. McGarney's Biblical Criticism (Nashville: Gospel Advocate, 1956)


39 Ibid., 214.



to 3000 B.C.40 The early use of the camel had been doubted by Peet41

and R. H. Pfeiffer.42 Even Albright was reluctant to concede this

biblical fact; he did acknowledge that "partial sporadic domestication

may go back" several centuries before 1000 B.C.43 Skepticism has

continued on this issue44 despite continuing evidence to the contrary.45

Other alleged anachronisms raised by early critics--and still con-

tinued by some--include Philistines and Hittites in the patriarchal

period. The reference to Abraham's contact with Philistines (Gen

21:32, 34) was considered an anachronistic error because Philistines

apparently did not appear in Canaan until long after the patriarchal

period. M. Burrows wrote:


We have seen that the Philistines came into Palestine at the beginning of

the Early Iron Age, not far from 1200 B.C. it is quite impossible to date

Abraham and Isaac as late as this, yet the book of Genesis represents

both as having dealings with the Philistines and their king, Abimelek

(Gen. 21:22-32; 26:1-33).46


Burrows, who was a professor at Yale, went on to explain this as

"a convenient and harmless anachronism" and concluded "at any rate,

however, the mistake may have come about, it is undoubtedly a

mistake."47 J. Bright48 and G. E. Wright49 also questioned these refer-

ences to Philistines as early as the patriarchal period. But as K. Kitchen

so properly pointed out, this is an argument from silence; we know

little about the Aegean peoples as compared to those of the rest of the

ancient Near East during the 2nd millennium.50  Kitchen, and others,

have suggested the term "Philistine" may have also been used of


40 For a summary of the evidence, cf. J. P. Free, "Abraham's Camels," JNES

(1944) 144-93.

41 Peet, Egypt and the Old Testament, 60.

42 R. H. Pfeiffer, Introduction to the Old Testament (rev. ed.; New York: Harper

and Row, 1948) 154.

43 W. F. Albright, From the Stone Age to Christianity (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins,

1940) 120. He continued to hold a skeptical view in later years. Cf. JBL 64 (1945)

287 -88; The Archaeology of Palestine (4th ed.,; Baltimore: Johns Hopkins, 1900) 206-7.

44 J. Bright, A History of Israel (London: S. C. M., 1960) 72-73.

45 Old Babylonian and Sumerian texts now support early use of the camel. Camel

bones have been found in house ruins at Mari and in various Palestinian sites from 2000

B.C. to 1200 B.C. For documentation, cf. Kitchen, Ancient Orient and Old Testament,

79-80. For the most recent discussion of the camel in the Bible, see J. J. Davis, "The

Camel in Biblical Narratives," Tribute to Archer, 141-49.

46 Burrows, These Stones, 277.

47 Ibid.

48 Bright, History of Israel, 73.

49 G. E. Wright, Biblical Archaeology (n.p.: Gerald Duckworth, 1957) 40.

50 Kitchen, Ancient Orient and the Old Testament, 80.

Walker: RESULTS AND REVERSALS                     293


earlier Aegean immigrants into Palestine. Amos 9:7 and Jer 47:4 state

that the Philistines came from Caphtor (Crete); if these are the same

people as the Caphtorim mentioned in Deut 2:33, the alleged anachro-

nism is removed.51

We conclude our survey of reversals of higher criticism with

some observations on Genesis 14, a difficult passage which has received

scorn and ridicule from unbelieving critics.

G. A. Barton believed the chapter to have been


composed by a late midrashic writer who had, it is true, access to some

Babylonian data, partly late and partly early, but did not know how to

use them. He lived so far from the times that he had lost in part the

correct historical perspective. Archaeology thus confirms the critical

results reached by Kuenen, Wellhausen, Cornill Budde. . . . 52


T. Noldeke suggested in 1869 that this chapter was a "fantastic

grouping together of names, which either belonged to some remote

period or were expressly invented for the occasion."53


Again, Noldeke was very skeptical of this chapter when he wrote:

. . . the alliterative pairing also of the names speaks more for their

fictitious than for their historical origin. . . this whole expedition is histor-

ically improbable to the same extent that it is adapted to the production

of a striking effect; the usual sign that it is fictitious. . . . 54


Wellhausen wrote in 1889 that "all these incidents [Gen. 14] are

sheer impossibilities which gain nothing in credibility from the fact

that they are placed in a world which had passed away."55

Admittedly, Genesis 14 is an unusual chapter as it sits in this place

in the story of Abraham. At one time the events narrated in this

passage would indeed have seemed unnatural and unrealistic, but not

so now. Reversals of attitude are again required of the critics who

once heaped scorn upon this unusual chapter. Skepticism of the histor-

ical and geographical background of Genesis 14 is unwarranted and only

reflects ignorance on the part of the one making it. It seems we need

to be constantly reminded of the danger of the argument from silence,


51 For more detailed discussion on this point, see Kitchen, Ancient Orient, 80-81.

See also his discussion of "patriarchal Philistines" in "The Philistines," Peoples of Old

Testament Times (ed. D. J. Wiseman; Oxford: Clarendon, 1973) 56-57.

52 G. A. Barton, "Abraham and Archaeology," JBL 28 (1909) 159-00.

53 Quoted by McGarvey, Biblical Criticism, 216.

54 T. Noldeke, Untersuchungen zur kritik des Alten Testaments (Kiel: Schwers,

1869), quoted by Kyle, Deciding Voice of the Monuments, 129.

55 Quoted by Hommel, The Ancient Hebrew Tradition as Illustrated by the

Monuments, 159. This same quote from Wellhausen is also found in Wright, "The

Testimony of the Monuments," Back to the Bible, 146.



especially in view of our still very uneven and incomplete knowledge

of the total history of the Ancient Near East.

Until 1975, Ebla was nothing more than a shadowy name, along

with many other place names from that part of the world. Suddenly,

we learn from archaeology that Ebla had been the center of a vast

economic empire under a dynasty of six kings. The names of the

four Eastern kings of Genesis 14 fit the period 2000-1700 B.C. Arioch

can be compared to Arriyuk or Arriwuk found in the Mari tablets or

perhaps Ariukki of the Nuzi onomasticon. Tid'al has been compared

to Tudkhalia, a Hittite name used by several kings. Chedorlaomer is

probably Elamite.56 Although we cannot yet identify these specific

kings, the names fit what we know of name patterns for that general

time and area. Some late, unknown, uninformed writer could easily

have slipped in his story-telling; he could have used wrong name

types or missed on some other point of background. But the more we

learn of the background of this strange, often-criticized chapter, the

more it all fits together. We now are aware that between 2000 and

1750 B.C., coalitions of kings, like those described in our chapter, were

an outstanding feature of the politics of the day. One famous Mari

letter mentions alliances of ten, fifteen, and even twenty kings, and

western expeditions by eastern kings are known from at least Sargon

of Akkad onwards.57 This highly unusual chapter even caused Albright

to be overly-cautious in his assessment of it, but the setting is coming

more into focus with continuing new light from ancient Near Eastern

studies. Again, reversals of former critical attitudes are required;

earlier skepticism of the chapter is fading in the light of new data.

Although the examples of reversals used in this article are from

the Pentateuch, the remainder of the OT would yield many more

examples. Daniel, for example, is another cause where former criticism

has had to yield to new light on Belshazzar, Nabonidus, and


Unfortunately, the results of higher criticism still linger on in

many ways. Although continually discredited by the results of

archaeological studies, the general attitude of skepticism toward

Scripture remains unyielding. Although admission of certain points of

error is to be found among the critics, the general acceptance of

higher criticism is still found also. Newer forms of literary analysis too

often assume certain "assured results" from the classical era of higher



56 For bibliography on discussions about these names, cf. Kitchen, Ancient Orient

and Old Testament, 43-44.

57 For documentation, cf. Kitchen, The Bible in Its World, 73.


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