Anne Habermehl discusses Bryant Wood’s piece, "Digging Past the Doubts"

(Wood’s article was originally published Oct 1, 2015 in the Answers Magazine, and was
published again Dec. 31, 2017 on the Answers in Genesis web site at

Written January 2018

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I cannot disagree with Wood’s basic thesis that supposed contradictions in the Bible claimed by secular archaeologists are a major problem in biblical apologetics. It is extremely important that we Bible believers have answers. But those answers need to be good answers that hold up under scrutiny.

Wood offers five examples of what he considers to be the most common examples of archaeological matters that require answers. I will take them in turn.

1. Tower of Babel

Wood correctly notes that the Tower cannot have been built at ancient Babylon, today’s Al Hillah, in southern Iraq. His reason? Babylon is not old enough; it was founded after the dispersion from Babel.

But then he goes into various reasons why he believes that the Tower was most likely built at ancient Eridu in South Mesopotamia (south Iraq). It is too bad that he does not understand that this is also an impossible site. Eridu was under water at the time that they were building the Tower in North Mesopotamia (all of South Mesopotamia was under water then). For an in-depth paper on why geology shows this, and the reasons why the Tower had to have been built in North Mesopotamia, see my peer-reviewed paper published by Answers in Genesis here:

Secular historians tell us that Eridu was founded ca 5400 BC on virgin sand, meaning that there are no earlier archaeological remains below this level. Note that this date is on their secular timeline, not on our biblical timeline. This is well after the end of the Ice Age ( that ended ca 10,000 BC secular timeline); we know from the Neanderthals (who lived 40,000+ years ago on the secular timeline) that mankind had spread over a great deal of the earth by then. There were people in North America long before Eridu existed (about 15,000 secular years ago). The beginning of Egypt’s Predynastic period coincides with the founding of Eridu. This all means that Eridu is relatively young on the secular timescale and so is its unfinished ziggurat. These are solid facts, and it is unbelievable that anyone who believes in the story of the Tower of Babel as a literally true narrative would actually believe that the Tower could have been at Eridu.

Wood tells us that his information on Eridu is from Douglas Petrovich, who is going to put out a book on why the Tower of Babel is at Eridu. Petrovich is going to have to ignore geology, geography, human history, and archaeology in order to "prove" his thesis on Eridu.

2. Sodom and Gomorrah

Wood throws his lot in with those who place these cities along the eastern shore of the Dead Sea. Their reason for choosing these cities is that they believe that Zoora/es-Safi at the SE end of the Dead Sea is Zoar of the land of Sodom; therefore other ancient sites in the vicinity must be the other four cities.

My comments are based on a paper that I published on the location of Sodom, "Sodom – Part I" in the Journal of Creation Vol. 31(2) 2017, pp. 53—60. I have shown in this paper why these cities cannot be where Wood places them.

• They are not lying in Lot’s visibility window because they are much too far south (see footnote).
• They are not situated along the Jordan river, and therefore are not in the plains of the Jordan.
• They are not north of the Dead Sea.
• They are not in Canaan (i.e., they are not on the west side of the Jordan River).
• They are not in the right order from south to north.
• Feifa ("Admah") and Khanazir ("Zeboiim") are not in Ephraim’s allotment.
• Safi/Zoora (Zoar), Bab Edh-Dhra ("Sodom") and Numeira ("Gomorrah") are not in Benjamin’s allotment.
• Safi/Zoora (Zoar) is about 28 km from Bab Edh-Dhra, too far from Sodom. It is most unlikely that Lot and his family would have rushed the 28 km from Bab Edh-Dhra/ "Sodom" past Numeira/ "Gomorrah" to get to Safi/Zoar, while the angels waited impatiently to start the destruction. Lot had told the angels that "this city is near to flee unto" (Genesis 19:20), and it does not strike me that 28 km is "near".

One other problem with Wood's location of Sodom is that the rain of sulphur fire from heaven would have had to be split into two separate segments, because Zoar/Zoora, which did not get destroyed, is geographically situated in the middle of the line of five cities. This split would have additional implications if the destruction was the result of an earthquake or other natural disaster, as some claim, rather than being a purely supernatural event.

As I show in my paper, the Land of Sodom had to have been a narrow north-south strip of land along the west side of the Jordan River, starting just north of the Dead Sea and stretching northwards.

Footnote: Wood justifies the Bab Edh-Dhra southern location for Sodom by claiming that Lot and Abraham most likely were not at Bethel/Ai when Lot made his choice, but that Abraham and Lot wandered around before their separation. Also, he says that Sodom was not along the Jordan River, but reinterprets what "the plain of Jordan" means. This constitutes bending what scripture clearly says to fit a chosen location, as there is no indication in scripture of any of this. See Wood, B.G., Locating Sodom: A Critique of the Northern Proposal, Bible and Spade, 20(3)78─84, 2007.

3. Slavery in Egypt

Woods’ discussion on this subject hinges entirely on his belief that the Egyptian and biblical timelines are the same in the second millennium BC. This means that if the Exodus took place in 1446 BC on the biblical timeline, he believes that this was also 1446 BC on the Egyptian timeline. His interpretation of all archaeological finds is based on this.

I have been doing a lot of work showing that these two timelines diverge considerably during the second millennium BC. At the 2013 ICC I presented a paper showing that there is a difference of about 350 years at the time of the Exodus (see ). This means that on the Egyptian timeline (also called the secular or standard timeline), the Exodus took place at about 1800 BC, at the end of the 12th Dynasty under Amenemhat IV.

There were other Asiatic people in Egypt besides the Children of Israel, and a lot of them remained in Egypt (or migrated to Egypt) after the Exodus. When we take timeline divergence into account, the evidences that Wood claims point to the Exodus are actually from centuries after the Exodus took place, and do not represent the Children of Israel at all.

4. Conquest of Jericho

Wood is correct that mainline archaeologists claim that there was no city of Jericho there at the time that the Bible says Joshua conquered it, and that therefore the Bible is wrong (these people are so predictable!). He has therefore marshaled his arguments to show that the fallen walls and level of fiery destruction date to about 1400 BC, since the conquest was 40 years after the Exodus. This has done nothing to tamp down the secular dissention, however.

A lot of material has been published on the dating of these ruined walls, but none of it has seemed to fit together. If the Exodus dated to 1800 BC on the secular timeline, then the conquest should date somewhere around 1750 BC on that same timeline. All the secular dates were too young (Kenyon dated the Jericho walls to about 1550 BC, for instance). So what was going on?

One day I realized that everyone has been dating the wrong walls of Jericho. They are dating the later set of walls built by Hiel in the time of Ahab when he defied Joshua’s curse and rebuilt Jericho (I Kings 16:34). Joshua’s wall (it is singular in the Bible) had to have been an earlier one. This will be the subject of a future paper.

5. Conquest of Ai

The location of Joshua’s Ai has been a matter of contention, with most scholars today claiming that et-Tell is Ai of the conquest (Joshua 7─8). However, Wood prefers to locate Ai at nearby Khirbet el-Maqatir, sited near the West Bank city of Ramallah. He is convinced that this ruin fills the scriptural requirements of Ai in every way.

However, I have doubts about Khirbet el-Maqatir, mainly because of its dating. The earliest main occupation of this site is listed as 1500 BC (secular timeline). When timeline divergence is included in the picture, this site’s date moves forward nearly to the time of Solomon (I am currently writing a paper on this). Khirbet el-Maqatir would therefore be much younger than Joshua’s Ai. On the basis of chronology, I would need to see a destruction level of Khirbet el-Maqatir that dates to around 1750 BC on the secular timeline (this would be 1400 on the biblical timeline), with occupation earlier.

I do not see et-Tell as a viable candidate for Ai, either. Its destruction is dated to 2400 BC (secular), which is too early. It was then rebuilt in 1200 BC (secular), which is centuries after Solomon on the biblical timeline. This means that it was not occupied at the time of Joshua’s conquest of Ai.

I suggest that Ai is yet to be found.

One other thing: Wood says that Abraham’s Ai (Genesis 13:3) and Joshua’s Ai are not the same place (not everyone agrees with this). But both are said to be near Bethel – perhaps they are the same? Why would they not be?