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I read an article on the Apologetics Press that included statements that I found to be untenable. I had a problem, so I fired off an email to my amazing friend and indelible detective, SureFoot Helms. What follows starts off as being very serious ... but ends up being hilarious. Yes .. I suppose ... sometimes the funniest thing is reality itself! I hope you enjoy reading "From the Serious to the Hilarious!"

Ken Photo

Sherlock Holmes

Lock & Key

Grave Stones


Pontius Pilate & Jesus

Thinker Statue

Emotional Faces

Angry Faces

Ghost Photo

Moses & Ten Commandments

Juliius Wellhousen

He was the crowning & chief theorist in developing the "Documentary Hypothesis." He showed the Books of Moses were made up from different source documents.

Hezekiah & when the sun went backwards
The picture depicts the prophet Isaiah pointing to the sun-dial, predicting its shadow would go back 10 degrees. It was to be a sign to the ailing King Hezekiah, insuring he'd recover and live an additional 15 years and be protected from the King of Assyria (II Kings 20: 1 - 11).

Archeologist finds bone for dog

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"From the Serious to the Hilarious"
Copyright 2011 Jarmo Koskinen

On the morning of March 22, 2011, I perused my email Inbox and found another one from Apologetics Press (AP), a conservative Christian organization. They are biblical literalists in the fullest sense. I totally disagree with them but occasionally read some of their articles to keep abreast with what groups of their kind are saying. An article stood out entitled: "An Interview with Israel Finkelstein." It references Hershel Shanks' interview of the archaeologist Israel Finkelstein published in May/June 2010 issue of "Biblical Archaeology Review." The AP article was written by Dewayne Bryant, M.A. It contains preciously little about the actual details of the interview but includes several paragraphs about Finkelstein and minimalism. The topic is best understood based on the Minimalist vs. Maximalist debate which isn’t specifically mentioned in the article. The minimalists are scholars who minimize the historicity of biblical stories, citing other factors. The maximalists are scholars who AP writers and other fundamentalists generally approve more of, as they tend to take biblical stories at face value. They largely conclude the accounts are accurate history. Bryant portrays Finkelstein as a borderline minimalist but Finkelstein prefers to view himself as being in the center. In the article, he is the target of Bryant’s criticism. (To read the article click on "Web Source" below)

Web Source

   When at the web source, click on the "An Interview with Israel Finkelstein" article from the list.

I know where AP writers are coming from but Bryant suggested that few scholars in other fields of ancient history would read their ancient texts with the same skepticism as Finkelstein and other minimalists do the Bible. This caused me to pause and so I sent an email to SureFoot Helms, the indelible detective. Surely he would know or find out. I outlined the topic, included the URL and simply asked him: Is there really that degree of gullibility amongst scholars working in Mesopotamian & ancient Egyptian studies? Aren’t there any scholars, who are the equivalent of biblical minimalists, working in these fields? The title of my email was “M&M’s But Not the Kind you Eat!” I was surprised at how quickly his reply landed in my Inbox.

Inbox: Ken Koskinen
Sent: Tue, March 22, 2011 11:19:01 AM
Subject: Re: M&M's But Not the Kind you Eat!

Hi Ken
It is an interesting question!

Firstly Finkelstein is primarily an archaeologist but he can read ancient Hebrew. In my studied opinion, his archaeological interpretations are actually quite pleasantly provocative in that some do not overly rely on Biblical texts. As a result he does reach some different conclusions and suggests connections others do not see. He also has a refreshing tendency to lower some of the dates of strata especially in the Late Bronze Age and Early Iron Age. As such he is amongst those who have stirred up the pot of archaeological dating as these issues continue to be challenged and hopefully refined.

Scholars have certainly increased their understanding of slanted messages and clear propaganda within some Ancient Near Eastern (ANE) texts. This is strongly seen in the Italian school spearheaded by Mario Liverani and others. Other scholars stress the "limits of credulity" and we detectives would add "incredulity" in these kinds of evaluations. While these days there are certainly a great deal more textual critical awareness in other ANE studies,  it has not yet reached the degree of Old Testament (OT) minimalist criticism. I think it is partly because there are more specific and extensive OT accounts of the supernatural, miraculous events; such as: Noah’s worldwide flood, the amazing events leading up to and during the Exodus, and the account of Moses speaking to God on Mount Sinai, the account of the Sun and Moon standing still in Joshua 10, the amazing strength and feats of Samson, the account of King Hezekiah when the shadow of the sun-dial went backwards, the miracles of Elijah and Elisha etc.

Of course the gods are cited in inscriptions in other ANE fields such as in different creation and flood stories. In the historic texts in Assyria, for example, the gods play a role in military campaigns and their aftermath. Most modern fundamentalists do not have any problem calling some of those accounts “myths,” but accept similar ones in the OT as “history.” The OT miracle stories, as we read them today, are generally more detailed compared to what is left of those in other fields. The OT tales are also central in our literary culture but are still very difficult for many rational, science respecting scholars & detectives to accept as historical events.

Another factor is in these other ANE fields we are often dealing with textual sources that were written closer in time to the depicted events. The writings usually appear from years to some number of decades after the events; such as is the case in the Assyrian Royal inscriptions. Some other texts such as the Old Babylonian stories of the former hero kings, Sargon and Naram Sin of Akkad could have been written hundreds of years after their time. However, there is a thread of earlier traditions that link back to these rulers but exaggerations, distortions and propaganda over time made their way into the stories we read. The OT accounts were created after a longer time lag, which implies much more time for corruption, additions, deletions, inventions etc. The connections between the so-called original events and the accounts we read in the OT are even less certain.

I also question the viewpoint that all biblical authors had the same literal interpretation in mind that today's fundamentalists & some maximalistic scholars accept. This is far from certain. Many of the writers/editors could have deliberately slanted and/or blended stories while inventing details for various reasons. These are the kinds of things, detectives think of when viewing evidence. We look for false trails, fabrications and misdirection. The interpretation of any evidence, but especially that contained in ancient texts written in old, defunct languages isn’t a simple matter.

In conclusion, I say that today, a strictly & only a take-it-at-face value or maximal-like approach is NOT the only one used by scholars working in ANE studies. If Dewayne Bryant really believes what he wrote, I'd ask him which of the other ANE accounts of the creation and the flood does he accept on par with those in Genesis? He's a biblical fundamentalist and I have to conclude he'd side with those in the Bible, although there isn't a good reason for doing so. Also in discounting the other stories he'd be expressing his skepticism towards those accounts. That goes against the grain of his argument! He shouldn't apply more skepticism while arguing for less in ANE studies. 

I hope this helps.
SureFoot Helms

I was surprised by the depth of SureFoot’s response. This guy is dangerous and much more than a detective. He obviously has been moon-lighting as a student of Ancient Near Eastern studies. So I quickly fired off another email to him.

Inbox: SureFoot Helms
Sent: On Tue, Mar 22, 2011 12:58:11 PM
Subject: Re: M&M's But Not the Kind you Eat!

 SureFoot thanks for your lines!

Yes ... this is good stuff! The literature of such past peoples indeed has had numerous influences which the literalists or maximalists often avoid or discount. I particularly like your political influences reminder, the time lag point and your very good question: whether the authors even held anything like the ideas of modern fundamentalists?  Old stories and mythical histories are embellished and/or corrupted by oral transmission, over time. Groups or tribes sometimes split and/or were conquered by other peoples and the remnants were taken away as slaves. Even after they arrived in strange new lands, they initially retained their cultural roots. After being subjected to new languages, customs and other local influences; over time it impacted their cultural memories. In subsequent generations, people would no longer be telling the original stories but altered ones with significant changes. The case can be make that at least two differing stories were later put together. There is the curious inclusion of at least two different versions (or a second retell) of the creation in the OT book of Genesis (see Gen. 1 & compare it to Gen. 2). There are also two mixed or interblended accounts of the flood woven into a disjointed story that tells and retells the same themes but with different details (Gen. 6 & 7). (You can freely download my essay "Rainbows & Other Catastrophes." It's a critique of Noah's supposed worldwide flood. Click on any Downloads button).

Some texts were exaggerated, as you showed, due to the ego of a victorious king about some of his battles; others were stamped out or watered down by a new or later king and his administration. Some of the more religious writings have also been preserved and used primarily by rulers for unifying purposes, with little concern to their historical truth or general veracity. The later inclusion of Christianity by the Roman emperors speaks to such a usage. No wonder, with all these games, there are some Finkelstein-types in archaeology and OT textual criticism and other ANE fields.

The OT maximalists also serve themselves & gain the praises of the fundamentalists who use some of their statements to generally affirm there is a consistent voice of one god in our sometimes far-from-friendly-world. To the people in this audience all of the OT is historically correct, including the creation stories, accounts of the worldwide flood, all of the miracles, prophecies etc.

This M & M stuff is far more complicated than I originally thought. I like the M&M's in the little bag, much better. You get to eat them.

 Ken ... it's in the bag!

Inbox: Ken Koskinen
Sent: Tue, March 22, 2011 1:43:35 PM
Re: M&M's But Not the Kind you Eat!

Yes Ken, it’s all in the bag.

You certainly got a lot out of my modest comments. Fortunately it all seems appropriate. I add; these warring M & M perspectives are each a form of truth from different perspectives. What I mean is, the perception of truth is relative. Truth to some people is always absolute but to a detective it begins as relative, until we prove otherwise! This is to say we hear a lot of different stories about what happened. So, there are different possible interpretations, sometimes being influenced by what people want us to believe. So we have to dig (like archaeologists) & weed things out. In this way, we eliminate some of the "distortions." With further research, clear facts often emerge from the physical evidence and other data sources which become telling. Gradually, we get to what happened, or at least to what most probably did. I assert this also has to be the case in studies of ancient history along with its left over artifacts!

This example from the clergy’s use of the Bible should help to clarify what I mean. We all know the Bible, as indeed all of history, has been and is used selectively to make a case of some sort. The clergy’s common use of the Bible amounts to there being many different “Bibles” within the Bible. This just means they take various scriptures and string them together but in different ways. Detectives also make trial perspectives or runs on the evidence, but it is always in context to the entire crime scene. A clergy person might present their string as the final word but of course someone else has a differing one on the same subject. Some groups like the Seventh Day Adventists argue the Bible claims Christians should keep the seventh day or Sabbath holy. Other groups run other links that show it isn't so. They prefer to observe Sunday, the first day of the week, as a special time. Both of the contradictory constructions can’t be true; but there you have it. Both stories are getting air time as they are being played to separate audiences. Laypersons in both groups sincerely think they are obeying the dictates of the Bible. 

 Few of us today would buy into the “kill all the Canaanites mantra” that resounded sometimes among Bible believers during the long European conquest of the New World. On these occasions they isolated biblical stories about the Canaanite conquest to justify their actions. Sadly some tribes of indigenous peoples were wiped out. Thankfully such over-amped usages of biblical stories are no longer politically correct. Minimalists in OT studies point out the archaeological evidence shows the Israelites didn’t even have to invade and conquer the so called Promised Land. Much of the land wasn’t even inhabited and was theirs for the settling. Also cities like Jericho were not destroyed in that time frame, but about a century later. Some of the biblical stories are clearly cultural fictions, masquerading as history. (To read more details, click on "Web Source" below.)

 Web Source

Here’s another example, as I am having some fun. Critical researchers assert that Paul (aka Saul) was a misogynist; a clear product of the Judaeo-Roman world where the status of women was one of a lower social rank. Paul wrote about how women should remain silent in churches (I Cor. 14: 34 – 35) and how they should wear something on their heads when praying to signify their submissive status (I Cor. 11: 2 – 16). His lines include the claim that God ordained the leadership of man over woman; in fact it follows a strict hierarchy that stems from God at the top, to Christ, to man and lastly woman (I Cor. 11:3). You can clearly see that if one bucks this rigid order it would amount to a divine tragedy. Today, using such passages as a moral or socially correct compass would just get us lost - I mean like really, really lost. Modern western women would find it offensive and object, even demonstrate against it like they did to win the right to vote. Ah, progress!

However Paul in I Corinthians 13 wrote that love is to be preferred above even prophecy and knowledge. Well, shiver me timbers and crystal balls we are dealing with a quantum leap of perception! Thus a flawed human had at least one great insight. Most people would be lucky to have even one such intuition over the course of their lives! Well, we detectives have to have several on every case or we’d be out of work; but that’s another story.

In any case detectives could never solve a case if all we did was to take every statement at face value. Neither can archaeologists and scholars solve problems in ANE studies and/or any historical area/period if that’s all they do. It’s far more complex than that.

That’s all the time I have right now, someone else wants the soap box. My dog Digger is getting a little hungry. I can tell by how he looks & drools at me; it's like I’m a big juicy bone with lots of marrow and fat ... you see how much detectives can see! It’s all around us. I use Digger as my snoop dog on my cases … so I’ve got to feed him. He always snoops better on a full belly!

SureFoot Helms

I quickly responded since I knew once SureFoot was in the field … it was time to reap the hay while the sun still shines.

Inbox: SureFoot Helms
Sent: Tue, March 22, 2011 2:57:28 PM
Re: M&M's But Not the Kind you Eat!

Yes ... I like your good examples of bad things related to biblical literalism. Today's world is different. We commonly find print on paper, cardboard, plastic, metal etc. in garbage bags, cans & bins but no one thinks such finds are the word of god or some highly prized archaeological thing. The stuff just isn't old, rare and mysterious enough; at least not yet. Further, we basically know how the stuff got there & that's bad for its historical value. However, when one finds a parchment, scroll or inscribed slab of stone in the desert; things are different. Initially (and in some cases on-going) we don't know how it got there. Is the stuff forged? Can it be dated? What does it mean? Is it merely historical or the word of god? Was it embellished and if so, who was playing who? Maybe it's partly truth and partly fiction? Was it left there by an angel or by UFO gals/guys? Or is it just yesteryears' ... garbage? We look to the scholars, historians, archaeologists and yes ... even to physicists e.g. carbon 14 dating etc. for the answers.

A further problem (as we both know) is the spectacles worn by researchers also influence "the findings." It can put a slant on any interpretation or create the smoke & mirrors of denial. However this old stuff is really interesting since it still messes with modern minds in one way or another. It even requires the psychoanalysis of the researchers of the long gone past's leftovers. All of it makes for point and counter-point interviews, scholarly papers and popular articles. Now that's amazing garbage! This stuff is not only found in and around middle eastern deserts, but caves, under rocks & soil uncovered in digs of old ruins but also in the back rooms of dealers of antiquities. Some of the later are fraudulent but every now & again some old garbage is found to be telling of something that was once part of a larger reality, or thought to have been so! These pieces are prized and worth some shekels. Some shekels are themselves old & rare and worth more than their face value. Even today, much of our garbage in major cities is being recycled and has some cash value. But I guess all garbage wasn't made equal. Heck ... I'm starting to like garbage, even though some ancient garbage is being portrayed as "divinely inspired." In the end garbage is still garbage ... I guess! Whoa, I think I might need some psychoanalysis ... but wait! That stuff is also garbage!

 Ken, the Garbage Picker.

 SureFoot like always; had to get the final word. Only in this sense, he is predictable. Sure enough, confirmation came quickly. There was as message from him in my Inbox.

Inbox: Ken Koskinen
Sent: Tue, March 22, 2011 3:12:17 PM
Re: M&M's But Not the Kind you Eat!

I agree, it’s funny how ancient garbage messes with modern minds in different ways! I really like your garbage but Digger loves it even more! Bye-the-way you can hire him to snoop through it. For him, it would be a labor of love! Well, that leaves my bill. It’s in the mail!”

SureFoot Helms

Ken Pic

 After I read that, my heart sank. I think I'd just goofed!

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