Bad apologetics and the search for Noah’s Ark

Christianity Today has a brief article on amateur archeologists who mount expeditions searching for Noah’s Ark: Finders of the Lost Ark?

A number of explorers have laid claim to discovering Noah’s Ark, usually on or near Mount Ararat in Turkey. But each always finds something different. Obviously, logic dictates that they can’t all be right—and most must be wrong. Churches and Christian conferences have hosted speakers who tell fantastic tales—in fact, too fantastic. Time after time we have realized that their discoveries have as much historical value as The Da Vinci Code. As much as we would like to believe them, their claims remain speculative and unproven.

The article contrasts the sensational claims of amateurs such as Ron Wyatt and Robert Cornuke, who have both claimed to find the real Noah’s Ark, with the rather tedious work of professional archeologists, who put together the stories of civilizations one pottery piece at a time. Wild speculation will always find an audience, but will fade quickly with time. Like the rest of life, most work of Biblical archeology is done one little bit at a time.

Grace and Peace

Even the skeptics are skeptical

I posted last week about the Discovery Channel “documentary” “The Lost Tomb of Jesus”. My one word summary was, “absurd.” Don’t lose sleep over this one; even the folks at Scientific American magazine (who are normally not very friendly to Christianity) are ripping this one apart.

Says Scholar Whose Work Was Used in the Upcoming Jesus Tomb Documentary: “I think it’s completely mishandled. I am angry.” — From Scientific American’s blog SciAm Observations.

Don’t let your faith be troubled by this one.

Absurd

Absurd.

That is how I summarize my thoughts about the upcoming Discovery Channel “documentary” “The Lost Tomb of Jesus”. If you’ve missed all the hoopla over this, here’s the story in brief:

  • Archeologists discover a tomb near Jerusalem.
  • People who are buried there have names such as Yeshua (Jesus), Maria, and Joseph.
  • Movie producer James Cameron produces a documentary saying this is the Jesus and his family.

Some reasons why this is absurd:

  • These were all common names in 1st century Jewish names.
  • Jesus and his family lived in Galilee, not Jerusalem.
  • Jesus and his family were poor, and would not have been able to afford a fancy tomb. His followers were poor as well.
  • This tomb has been known since 1980, and the archeologists who worked on the site came up with no ridiculous story about this being Jesus and his family.
  • None of Jesus’ enemies at the time could produce a body. It wasn’t in any tomb.
  • And finally, Jesus rose from the dead and ascended into heaven. His body isn’t in a tomb.

Gene Edward Veith says:

Not that I accept the ludicrous claims of the documentary to have any scholarly merit. As someone said, it’s like finding a gravestone of two people named John and Paul and thinking to have discovered the Beatles.

There are probably a thousand sites out there that have something to say about this. Here are a few good ones:

A few of my observations:

  • It is not just Christians who are calling this a bunch of baloney. Secular scholars are highly critical of the documentary as well.
  • This underlines the need for clear thinking in Christian circles. The arguments of Cameron in his documentary will be easy to counter by those who have a basic foundation in the Bible and history.
  • Most who see this, just as most who read or saw The Davinci Code will have no idea that the arguments are absurd.
  • We should expect that the world will attack the center and foundation of our faith: the person and work of Jesus Christ. We should not lose heart even if the attacks become relentless.
  • I wonder if “The Lost Tomb of Jesus” will be shown between Discovery Channel programs about parapsychology and alien abductions. The Discovery Channel is often more concerned about making a buck than about presenting good science.

Don’t let your faith be weakened.

Grace and Peace

Update 3 March 2007:

This whole “Tomb of Jesus” argument is easy to pick apart, and many are doing so. Still, many in the world will buy into it. Why? Because we often analyze information like this not based on the soundness of logical arguments, but by how the information is presented, who presents it, and how it fits our preconceived notions.

Here are a couple more good analyses of “The Lost Tomb of Jesus” :

Tales from the crypt, by Kerby Anderson, Probe Ministries

Archeological Identity Theft, by Chris Rosebrough, Extreme Theology

Noah’s Ark Found… Again?

I noticed posts on several Christian sites today regarding a group that claims they have discovered Noah’s Ark in Iran. For example, World Magazine Blog had a post that said:

A group of Christian archaeologists have discovered what they believe could be the remains of Noah’s Ark. Climbing 13,000 feet up a mountain in Iran’s Elburz range, a team from the Bible Archaeology Search and Exploration Institute came across something that appeared to be made of wood and of a similar size and scale to what is described in the Bible. “We got up to this object, nestled in the side of a hill,” said Robert Cornuke of the BASE Institute. “We found something that has my heart skipping a beat.”

Here are my initial thoughts on this:

First, something positive. If it still exists, Noah’s Ark could be anywhere in the Mountains of Ararata large region that includes parts of Turkey, Armenia, Iran, and Iraq. Most of the searches for Noah’s Ark have focused on Mount Ararat itself.

Overall, however, I’m extremely skeptical of this claim.

First, look at the make up of the “research” team:

“Led by explorer, adventurer, and featured Worldview Weekend speaker Dr. Bob Cornuke, a fourteen man crew returned this week from Iran bearing stunning evidence that theirs is the long-anticipated even coveted discovery of the remains of Noah’s Ark. Bob’s team consisted of a Who’s Who of business, law, and ministry leaders including Barry Rand (former CEO of Avis), the author and Christian apologist Josh McDowell, Frank Turek (co-author with Norm Geisler of I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist), Boone Powell (former CEO of Baylor Medical Systems), and Arch Bonnema (president of Joshua Financial).” (Quote from www.arkfever.com)

The research team (a “Who’s who of business, law, and ministry leaders”) included:

  • A former police officer (“Dr.” Bob Cornuke. According to Wikipedia, “He apparently has no formal training in archaeology or any accredited higher education degrees.”
  • The former CEO of Avis
  • The former CEO of Baylor Medical Systems
  • The president of Joshua Financial
  • Josh McDowell (whom I respect, but I don’t think he’s qualified)

Where is the geologist? Where is the archeologist? Where is a scientist of any kind? Do any of the team members have the slightest idea what they are doing? Are they qualified to make the field observations regarding the rocks they claim are the remains of the Ark, or the relationship of these rocks to the surrounding rocks? Can these guys tell the difference between a natural formation and a man-made artifact? I doubt it.

They said “it looks like petrified wood.” Well, was it petrified wood, or wasn’t it? A geologist or archeologist would have been able to tell on the spot. They did bring some samples back with them, and a geologist commented that “the object appears to be a basalt dike” (Basalt is an igneous rock; one formed by the cooling of molten material). I strongly suspect that this is all it is.

The article at www.arkfever.com has some very unconvincing photographs.

The Bible is the Word of God. We don’t need this kind of pseudo-apologetics to support it. Unfortunately, many Christians have already looked at this report as evidence for the truthfulness of Scriptures. One risk of this, as I have said before, is that we set up our children and others in our churches for a fall when we provide them with this sort of “apologetics.” If they finally see that this “research” is faulty, they could throw out their faith in Christ as well.

Grace and Peace