It’s clear to reasonable people that the Bible is not meant to be taken literally as any kind of history. It is a collection of stories, full of contradictions and things that don’t match with real world findings. There are many researchers working hard to find real world correlation with the Biblical accounts but this new finding shows that might be a misguided method.
New carbon dating that determined the age of the oldest known camel bones has challenged Biblical accuracy.
Camels are described in the Old Testament stories of Abraham, Joseph and Jacob as pack animals. The latest findings, published in the journal Tel Aviv, reveal that camels were most likely domesticated around 900 BC – centuries after the biblical stories are believed to have taken place.
Researchers Erez Ben-Yosef and Lidar Sapir-Hen of Tel-Aviv University used radiocarbon dating on camel bones unearthed in multiple excavations from the Aravah Valley, which runs along the Israeli-Jordanian border from the Dead Sea to the Red Sea and was an ancient center of copper production. The results dated the bones to the last third of the 10th century BC or later – hundreds of years after the Hebrew patriarchs lived. The bones most likely belonged to wild camels which may have lived during the Neolithic period (about 9500 BC) or even earlier.
The Old Testament stories of Jacob, Joseph and Abraham mention camels. Scholars generally date those stories to between 1500 and 2000 BCE. There has been other research that puts the introduction of domestic camel at 1200 BC. This new result pushes that even further forward and centuries away from the Bible stories, to a gap of up to 1100 years.
The findings suggest that camels were brought in to the southern Levant (area of ancient and modern-day Israel) perhaps by Egyptian traders. As the paper notes, this introduction of the dromedary camel (Camelus dromedarius), was critical to faciliatating trade in the region.
Prehistoric camels were native to North America 40-50 million years ago before they died out in that area. By 3 million years ago, population of Camelini had migrated over the Bearing land bridge to Asia. Dromedaries appear to have first been domesticated in Somalia and southern Arabia about 4,000-5,000 years ago (3000 BCE). [Source]
The radiocarbon dating indicates that domesticated camels appeared “not earlier than the last third of the 10th century BCE and most probably during this time” coincident with the rise of copper smelting in the region. You can read the paper here [PDF], it’s interesting, but it DOES NOT mention the Bible connection. That was made independently using this reference.
Dr. Robert Harris, an Associate Professor at the Jewish Theological Seminary, says this shouldn’t come as a shock to the theological community.
“While these findings may have been published recently, those of us on the inside have known the essential facts for a generation now,” Harris conveyed to HuffPost Religion through associates at JTS. “This is just one of many anachronisms in the Bible, but these do not detract from its sanctity, because it is a spiritual source, not a historical one.”
Tip: Christopher Howard