William Dever– The Exodus & the Bible

03 Feb

The quotes used here come from the lecture of the same name and can be found at the following link:

Dr. Dever presents his views on the Bible and the Exodus in a 30 minute lecture  at the UCSD Exodus Conference May 31- June 1, 2013.

We will be addressing his comments but keep in mind that despite repeated attempts to replay certain comments some words were still lost thus the quotes may not be entirely accurate. The missing words did not change the point being made. We try to keep the context of each quote but again it is impossible to always do that when dealing with a long lecture. We did not record the actual time when these quotes were said, we were too busy trying to record an accurate rendition of his words.

We will just address selected quotes because they present ideas that are generally held by more than Dr. Dever.

Biblical authors were into transmitting theological issues not reality.

This thought immediately raises the question ‘if they were transmitting theological issues, why did they not use actual reality to make their point?’ Surely the biblical authors would know that if they made up events, their theological issues would be seen as moot because they are not based in reality. There is no explanation by Dr. Dever for this as he just says it and leaves the explanation for others to deal with. In fact, there is no explanation for his point because it just doesn’t make sense.

If one is writing an actual history of one’s nation nothing is served or gained by including fake stories. If one is making a theological point then when discovered to be based upon false stories then those theological points are dismissed as false, so there is no explanation for Dr. Dever’s sweeping generalization and ambiguous classification.

Archaeologists deal with reality frozen in time which has no subsequent memory to compromise it because it is in animate.

The real problem with this statement is that it bears an unrealistic view of the capabilities and abilities of archaeology. it is impossible for archaeology to deal with reality frozen in time for all archaeologists find are remains sans any ancient contemporary manuscript explaining the purpose of the artifact and why it was left in the position that it was. Archaeologists are left with the option of guesswork and speculation not reality frozen in time.

Theology is historicised myth

This comment demonstrates Dr. Dever’s inability to understand how God and Christianity actually works. His removal of God shows that he thinks that the Bible is purely a human work but as usual, he presents no real evidence to support his conclusion. This is a standing theme with Dr. Dever who comes across as wanting people to accept his words blindly simply because he is Dr. Dever, a man who was an archaeologist, not because he has real evidence to support his contention.

This is his opinion not actual fact especially for God, the Bible and Christianity.

Archaeologists are not much concerned with cultural memory

Then what are they concerned with if not how the ancients actually thought about their artifacts, their beliefs and way of life. Artifacts represent ancient culture and if archaeologists are not interested in that then how can they accurately describe how the ancient lived or what they believed? or how can they reconstruct the past? The past then becomes what the archaeologist wants it to be and not what it really was. This means that archaeology as described by Dr. Dever, is not dealing with reality frozen in time but pure speculation based upon very modern subjective opinion.

Everything a historian does is governed by the question What really happened/

Historians cannot really answer that question if they are importing their own ideas into the remains they study?

Archaeology being recognized as a primary source

This is part of the unrealistic picture of archaeology Dr. Dever paints. Archaeology is far too limited and far to vulnerable to subjective opinion to actually be a primary source about our history, let alone Israel’s history and biblical events. It just doesn’t have access to the complete evidence it needs to be considered a primary source.

Memories do not necessarily correspond  to reality. They are constructed out of some genuine recollection but are also embellished by later details  as well as enhanced by later life experiences.. These become larger than life stories still true but only metaphorically. Biblical memories are like that…

Evidence please that the biblical authors only wrote embellished memories and not the truth. Yes some people embellish their life’s stories but Dr. Dever’s comment is an insult as he says everyone does it and that is far from the truth. Not everyone embellishes or adds details to their life’s stories and recall exactly what took place and when.

Then to place God in the same category as those who embellish is an insult to God.

What about the facts/ As biblicists or historians we must deal with the facts we have not more speculation; that is the stuff of philosophy and theology

Yet as we saw earlier, archaeologists use speculation far more than theologians do and as he commented later in his lecture, “I must resort to speculation…” these words are just not true. Theologians deal with all the facts, the historian deals only with those facts that fit their ideology and tend to exclude biblical passages because of their failure to believe God.

Then historians and archaeologists only have access to limited facts and must reconstruct historical events using the speculation he says is foreign to archaeologists and historians. if archaeologists and historians had access to all the facts then it would be a different story but the point quoted above is refuted because those groups of professionals ignore the one person who has all the facts–God.

Dr. Dever elevates archaeology, historians and other professionals to a position greater than God even though they all are vastly inferior to him and lack access to all of history.

Sinai coul dnot have supported such a large group o fpeople

If Dr. Dever was interested in the truth he would realize that God supported the Israelites not the Sinai desert. One needs to get the facts right before they can condemn what was written in the Bible.

Israel sojourned at Kadesh-barnea for 38 years

Dr. Dever has been saying this for years now and why he has not corrected this erroneous statement or has not been corrected is a mystery to all of us. The Bible does not state that the Israeli people remained at one location for their wanderings but actually wandered for 40 years throughout the desert

Now the time that it took for us to come from Kadeshbarnea until we crossed over the brook Zered was thirty-eight years, until all the generation of the men of war perished from within the camp, as the Lord had sworn to them.(Deut. 2:14 NASB)

This passage does not even come close to stating that the Israelites were stationary throughout their 40 year ban from the promised land.

Today not a single mainstream biblical scholar or archaeologist any longer upholds biblical archaeology’s conquest model…not one.

The key word here is ‘mainstream’ and that word doe snot include all archaeologists or scholars. There are still some who hold to the biblical account as true. The mainstream professionals do not constitute the whole population of professionals in archaeology, biblical studies or historical pursuits. Nor does that word indicate that they have the truth, they don’t but that has never stopped them from pontificating on biblical issues they do not believe took place or understand.

The biblical conquest is about genocide

This is placing a human motivation or purpose on a non-human, divine and holy God and states that God is only interested in satisfying his blood lust not true justice or bringing punishment to those who refused to repent of their sins. This insults God and his just actions not bring the truth to the people saying that he is no better than the dictators who called his people to wipe out tribes or ethnic groups they do not like. In genocide, there is no punishment for unrepentant sin. it is just killing for the sake of killing, done out of hatred for a people different from themselves. God’s actions were done out of justice and holiness no sin was involved.

Says the Pentateuch was reduced to writing in the 7th or 8th centuries BC and even then however the Biblical narrative would have been constituted cultural meaning only for the handful elites who wrote the texts. Most ordinary people in ancient Israel would have had little recourse to this literary tradition & could not have read it if they had.

Again we ask for evidence this is so? Such dismissal of the biblical authors and their work does not explain why so many rabbis and other Jewish leaders read the OT in their synagogues throughout history nor why the OT is accepted by so many millions of people around the world. The quoted statement is just a fanciful way of dodging the truth of the Bible and ignoring its teaching.

no military conquest of Canaan…Archaeology and extra-biblical texts show that the biblical texts cannot be read literally. They are foundation myths

Who are archaeology and extra-biblical texts to say what is true or false in another nation’s history? Dr. Dever elevates those outside sources to gospel status and determines that they and not God’s people are telling the truth. He forgets that many of those extra-biblical texts are written by Israel’s enemies not their friends thus those accounts will not be an accurate portrayal of what happened in Israel’s history.

Also, just because neighboring nations may have used fiction in their historical writings, it does not mean that Israel or the biblical writers followed suit. The quoted statement does not explain the popularity and acceptance of the OT record, not only by almost every Jewish person but by millions of people from all different cultures throughout the ages.

Those words are merely a weak attempt to undermine the confidence in God and the biblical record by one who rejected the faith decades before. (read Scholars on Record by Hershal Shanks BAS)

Exodus was stuff of legend

All this demonstrates is the level of Dr. Dever’s unbelief in the bible and the lack of understanding of who God is and how inspiration works.

The real task of scholars is to explain how these myths developed in the first place

No, the real task of scholars is to repent of their sins, accept Jesus as their Savior and follow the Holy Spirit to the truth.


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Posted by on February 3, 2016 in academics, archaeology, Bible, church, faith, history, leadership, science, theology


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