The Dan Barker / Thomas Ross Debate Arguments Examined and Analyzed

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The Dan Barker / Thomas Ross Debate Arguments Examined and Analyzed

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A Video Review and Analysis of the Dan Barker-Thomas Ross debates

A Transcript of Barker-Ross Debate #1, “The Old Testament is Mainly Fiction, Not Fact.”

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Comments and a Review of the

Dan Barker-Thomas Ross Debate[1]

by Thomas Ross

Note: This is a work that is in progress and is not yet complete.


Comments on the Introductory Material (c. 00:00-08:00)[2]


First, the author of this analysis would like to thank God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit for making the debate possible. He would also like to thank those involved in sponsoring the event at the University of Wisconsin at Whitewater campus, namely, Set Free (the Christian group run by our church, Mukwonago Baptist Church), the campus Philosophy Club, and the Secular Student Alliance. Those who recorded, edited, and created a transcription of the debate put many hours of work into it, for which he is grateful. The person who made the slides used in the debate did a tremendous job. Many people put many hours into making the debate a success.

In relation to the introduction of both Dan Barker and Thomas Ross, the material was an accurate statement overall. It would only be appropriate to add that in Mr. Ross’s home there was opposition to Biblical Christianity, although unbiblical “Christianity” might have been more acceptable. Also, while Mr. Ross taught for several years at the Baptist College of Ministry and Theological Seminary, he is now teaching at the Mukwonago Baptist Bible Institute.

Dan Barker has done a triple-digit number of debates[3] with Christians to advance the cause of atheism. He and his wife (the current one—he obtained a divorce from his Christian wife after becoming an atheist) are co-presidents of the largest organization of atheists in the United States[4]—the very famous (or infamous) Freedom From Religion Foundation. He travels around the country doing what his published books describe as being an evangelist for atheism. Other famous militant atheists highly commend and work with him. For example, Richard Dawkins, author of The God Delusion[5] and other books of atheist evangelism, wrote the forward to more than one of Barker’s books;[6] Daniel Dennett, author of Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon[7] and other works promoting atheism, wrote the forward to another one of Mr. Barker’s books.[8] Richard Dawkins calls Mr. Barker “one of American secularism’s most talented and effective spokespeople . . . he has the verbal skills and the intelligence and the sensitivity to tell us the whole story . . . [his book Godless] is destined to become a classic of its kind.”[9] Daniel Dennett writes: “Barker is so good at [proclaiming atheism] because he is intelligent and honest and has had lots of practice . . . he has an intimate knowledge . . . of the Bible[.]”[10] Christopher Hitchens, author of God is not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything[11] and other works of atheist evangelism, says concerning Dan Barker’s book Godless: “[T]he reflections of intelligent and ethical people who listen to the voice of reason and who allow it to vanquish bigotry and superstition . . . [t]his book is a classic example.”[12] Hector Avalos, atheist author of The Bad Jesus,[13] states concerning one of Mr. Barker’s books: “Dan Barker . . . knows the Bible far better than most Christians [and] has produced an excellent handbook.”[14] Michael Shermer, publisher of Skeptic magazine, commends Mr. Barker’s “unrelenting deconstruction of the Bible, a book he knows far better than the Four Horsemen [Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, and Daniel Dennett] combined.”[15] John W. Loftus, author of Why I Became an Atheist[16] and other similar works, writes: “Dan says he’s certainly not pretending to be a Deacon of Atheism or Bishop of Freethought, but he is. . . . Deacon Dan uses good scholarship . . . [m]ay [his work] produce a revival . . . of reason, logic, and science.”[17]

Furthermore, as his introduction stated, Mr. Barker is part of a society for those with an IQ in the top 99.997%. His first book attempting to debunk Christianity was published in 1992, Losing Faith in Faith: From Preacher to Atheist. A second volume on this topic, Godless: How an Evangelical Preacher Became One of America’s Leading Atheists, was published in 2008. As of 2016, eight books of his promoting atheism have been published. He repeatedly mentioned in the two Barker-Ross debates that his latest book, God: The Most Unpleasant Character in All Fiction,[18] deals with the Old Testament. Thus, if anyone is able to make a compelling case that atheism is true and the Bible is fiction, it should be Dan Barker.

Mr. Ross, on the other hand, had never done a public debate with an atheist before his interactions with Mr. Barker (although he had spoken one-on-one to very many of them). He had only done one public debate prior to this one, with a minister of the Campbellite or Church of Christ cult on the topic of whether baptism is essential for salvation (the Bible says no—see Heaven Only for the Baptized? The Gospel of Christ vs. Baptismal Regeneration, by Thomas Ross[19]—and Campbellism says “yes.”). Thus, unless the facts are on Mr. Ross’s side, one would expect this debate with Mr. Barker to be a blowout for him—Dan Barker should have been able to chew up and spit out his opponent with all the evidence he has for his position and the many arguments for atheism in the eight books he has written over a period of decades. Whether or not this was the case will be determined through a review the debate.

Comments on Dan Barker’s Arguments

(c. 08:00-28:00; 48:00-58:00; 1:23:00-1:35:00; 1:52:00-1:57:00)


Dan Barker introduced his opening speech by mentioning that he was in the affirmative in this debate, while he normally is in the negative. He was in the affirmative because the debate coordinator for his side, the president of the Secular Student Alliance, told Mr. Ross that Mr. Barker wanted to be in the affirmative instead of the negative. That was fine with Mr. Ross, who was willing to argue either side. For clarity, the information below records what the debate terms were. The part relevant for the topic is reproduced below; the rest of the terms related to the times of the speeches, the role of the moderator, the video being recorded, and other technical details of that kind. These terms were signed by the presidents of the Secular Student Alliance, the Philosophy Club, Set Free (the Christian group), Mr. Barker, and Mr. Ross, before the debate started. The complete and unabridged terms that related to the topic of the debate were as follows:

Debate topic: “The Old Testament is mainly fiction, not fact.” . . . The debate is one over the fictional or factual character of the vast general body of the Old Testament. That is, it is a debate over history/prophecy/archaeology, not over creation/evolution and Genesis 1-11, prehistory, geology, or biology. Those would be worthwhile debates but they are for another time.

Dan Barker never defined the terms he was supposed to be arguing for in his opening statement, perhaps because the terms of the debate were not something that he took especially seriously,[20] and, when Mr. Ross did so in his negative, Barker never challenged the definition provided; thus, Mr. Ross’s definition should be assumed to be acceptable to his atheist opponent. Mr. Barker thus assumed the burden of proving that “the majority—at least 51%—of the Old Testament is fiction . . . not that there is a scribal error in a particular Hebrew manuscript, not that a particular sentence or two is hard for us to understand, but that a majority of the Old Testament is fictional . . . beyond a reasonable doubt.”[21] The view that such a high percentage of the Bible is fiction is widespread among modern atheists. For example, Richard Dawkins wrote: “Dan Brown’s novel The Da Vinci Code . . . is indeed fabricated from start to finish: invented, made-up fiction. In that respect, it is exactly like the gospels. The only difference between The Da Vinci Code and the gospels is that the gospels are ancient fiction while The Da Vinci Code is modern fiction.”[22] Mr. Barker assumed the burden of defending the widespread atheist view that the majority of the Bible is fiction, comparable to The Da Vinci Code or (to employ Mr. Barker’s analogy) West Side Story.

When Dan Barker began his opening statement, he did so with something that did not concern the topic of the debate. In a previous debate Mr. Barker’s debate opponent pointed out: “[Y]ou are . . . in opposition to the rules we discussed before the debate. . . . [Y]ou are breaking the rules right and left.” In response, Mr. Barker said: “I’m glad to break this rule. Sue me.”[23] Sadly, in the same manner in both the Barker-Ross debates Mr. Barker grossly and repeatedly violated the debate rules that he had signed to uphold and practice, an action that is apparently consistent with his atheistic ethical system. Thus, in the initial Barker-Ross debate, Mr. Barker began his presentation with an off-topic and grossly inaccurate expression of his hatred of and rebellion against God borrowed from Richard Dawkins[24]—an outrageous, blasphemous, and grossly false affirmation that was a moral attack on the God of the Bible. He said that even if God did exist, he, Mr. Barker, and all other people would have a supposed “moral obligation” to “denounce” Him. Regrettably, throughout the debate, Barker spent much of his time blaspheming God and claiming He is immoral rather than (in accordance with what he had agreed to have as the debate topic) attempting to prove the Bible was not historical. His attacks on God, and claims that He is immoral, were inconsistent and unjustifiable on Mr. Barker’s own presuppositions, since Barker, an advocate of situation ethics, thinks that there is no objective standard of good or evil and everything is merely situational. Thus, Dan Barker has regularly taught that “there is no universal ought”[25] and that “there are no actions in and of themselves that are always absolutely right or wrong . . . I can’t think of an exception in any case.”[26] Indeed, “moral values are not real,”[27] for “there are no objective moral values in the universe.”[28] How, then, can he assail God for allegedly being immoral?

It is noteworthy that Mr. Barker’s atheistic ethics not only allow him to knowingly and brazenly violate debate rules that he has promised to uphold—to advance the alleged greater good of promoting atheism—but, according to Dan Barker’s situational ethics, even raping large numbers of women can be a moral obligation in certain circumstances. In his debate with Kyle Butt, Mr. Barker affirmed that he would have a moral obligation in certain circumstances to commit rape and joked about raping two million girls.[29] Mr. Barker’s interaction with Kyle Butt was as follows:

Mr. Butt: “When would rape be acceptable?” . . . [In your debate with Peter Payne, Mr. Barker, you said] [“]Yes, it would be morally acceptable to rape that girl [for a greater good] . . . Do you still believe that?

Mr. Barker: It would be horrible. It would be regrettable. I would hate myself. . . . But I would have the courage, if that was the only option—if that were the only option, then I would go through with it. I would pity that woman. I would pity myself. But morality would require me to take th[at] course of action[.] . . .

Mr. Butt: Now, let me ask you this next question. Could you rape two girls [for a particular greater good]?

Mr. Barker: Well, we’re getting into computational.

Mr.Butt: Sure.

Mr.Barker: Yeah.

Mr. Butt: Two thousand?

Mr. Barker: I don’t know if I’m up to it. I don’t know if you are?

Mr. Butt: I am certainly not. And, if you did notice, that is pretty appalling to make a joke about something that is the most brutal crime that humanity can think of. So continue. Two million? . . .Would it be permissible to rape two million girls?

Mr. Barker: [For a greater good?] Yes. Yes, it would be. . . You can’t get through life without some harm.[30]

Mr. Barker has also affirmed this alleged moral imperative to rape, that “raping women . . . would be the moral choice,” in other public debates.[31] Recognizing, however, that the readers of his books would not be likely to know this fact but would assume that he believed that rape was actually an objective and universal evil, Barker and his fellow atheist Dawkins can claim (absolutely falsely) that the Bible justifies rape and then ask: “Really? Under what possible context is . . . rape justifiable?”[32] Barker’s book must phrase the sentence as a question, asking: “In what circumstances is rape justifiable?” rather than a statement: “In no circumstances is rape justifiable,” because the atheist’s situational ethics require him to affirm that the latter statement is false—the Christian ethic affirms rape is always unjustifable, while Barker’s atheistical ethics do not. Based on the question in Barker’s book, the reader is supposed to think: “Rape is always wrong; the Biblical God states that rape is justifiable; therefore, the Biblical God is wrong.” However, Barker’s real argument is as follows: “Rape is indeed justifiable, indeed, it is a moral good in the right set of circumstances because all ethics are situational. However, the [actually absolutely nonexistent] circumstances where the Bible [according to Mr. Barker] justifies rape are just not the right circumstances, so the God of the Bible allows rape for the wrong reasons.” A moral argument against God based on Barker’s situational ethics is grossly inconsistent. Nor is Barker alone in his atheistic justification of rape—Richard Dawkins, who wrote the preface to Barker’s attack on God as (allegedly) immoral, has agreed with the statement “that rape is wrong is as arbitrary as the fact that we’ve evolved five fingers rather than six.”[33] Certainly the Bible, as an accurate record of human’s fallen nature and sinful actions, records rapes, murders, thefts, and other evils, but it does so in a way that condemns them as awful sins in its text; declaring that these actions took place obviously does not mean that the Bible commends them. The Bible condemns evil and immoral actions such as rape, while atheists like Dan Barker and Richard Dawkins cannot, and do not, consistently do so.

Not only do the situational ethics of Dan Barker give him no ground for attacking the Bible or its Divine Author, but Mr. Barker constantly distorts and twists Scripture in order to make the holy and righteous God appear immoral. For example, in his opening statement in the first Barker-Ross debate, Mr. Barker proclaimed his “one hundred percent” agreement with Richard Dawkins’s outrageously false claim that the God of the Bible is “filicidal,”[34] an accusation he expands upon in his book God: The Most Unpleasant Character in All Fiction.[35] He claims that God in the Bible has at times “demand[ed] a child as a sacrifice”[36] and “overtly condones child sacrifice.”[37] What about the texts that explicitly and repeatedly affirm that God detests human sacrifice and that require capital punishment for someone who commits such an abominable crime (Leviticus 20:1-5; 18:21; 1 Kings 11:7; 2 Kings 23:10; Jeremiah 7:31-32; 19:5-6, 11; 32:35; Ezekiel 16:20–21; 20:25–26, 30–31; 23:36–39, etc.)? The Bible states: “Thou shalt not do so unto the LORD thy God: for every abomination to the LORD, which he hateth, have they done unto their gods; for even their sons and their daughters they have burnt in the fire to their gods.” (Deuteronomy 12:31). Does Mr. Barker demonstrate that the many passages condemning child sacrifice and commanding Israel to reject the heathen practice do not really mean what they say? No, he ignores all such passages. What kind of proof does he offer for his oft-repeated assertion? He claims that Exodus 22:29-30 teaches that “sons . . . are offered to God just like the animals,”[38] because “[i]t couldn’t simply be devotion to the priesthood, since that function was covered by the Levites.”[39] Of course, Mr. Barker is either ignorant of or ignores the obvious fact that Exodus 13:13; 34:20; Numbers 18:15, etc. affirm exactly the opposite of his atheistic attack—sons are not offered as sacrifices like animals. Furthermore, the Levites were not priests. Shocking ignorance or willful blindness (or both) are involved in Mr. Barker’s allegation.   Neither the Hebrew Old Testament, the Greek New Testament, the King James Version, or any literal translation of the Bible supports Mr. Barker’s wild and grossly inaccurate assertions. Perhaps he would do well to create his own Bible where he can take out the many verses that contract his allegations and torture other texts into supporting his thesis. He could call it the Freedom From Religion Foundation Atheist Revised Outrageous Version (or FAROUT for short) and make money selling his FAROUT “Bible” to other atheists who are more concerned to hear what they want to hear than about whether what they want to believe is the truth.

Mr. Barker also alleges that the narrative of Jepthah’s daughter in Judges 11 narrates “the godly sacrifice of a child . . . to everyone’s satisfaction. . . . ‘Oh boy,’ God must have thought, ‘this is one deal I can’t pass up.’ . . . God must have been happy with Jephthah’s offer[.]”[40] The Bible also (according to Mr. Barker) claims that “She [the daughter] was the [sic] blame” for becoming a human sacrifice, and Jephthah knew that he would either be sacrificing “his wife or his daughter.”[41] Thus, Judges 11 teaches—at least in the FAROUT version—that God is very happy with human sacrifice—it is allegedly a deal that He cannot pass up—while women who get offered up are at fault and deserve it. Of course, the real Bible is rather different. Mr. Barker never deals with the argument from the text of Judges 11 and many commentators from the time of at least R. David Kimchi (c. A. D. 1200) onward[42] that Jephthath did not actually offer his daughter as a human sacrifice at all, but that she was dedicated to Jehovah’s service as a perpetual virgin, explaining the emphasis upon her virginity in the text of Judges (11:37-40)—instead, Mr. Barker misquotes Judges 11:37-39 by leaving out the actual end of the sentence that contains the actual conclusion of the passage: “and she knew no man.” He changes the Biblical text and adds in a period at the end of his partial reproduction of the sentence in Judges 11:39, concealing the fact that the actual end of the sentence emphasizes Jephthah’s daughter’s virginity, not her death by human sacrifice. Mr. Barker likewise never deals with the fact that the “whatsoever cometh forth” in Jephthah’s vow contains masculine forms in Hebrew[43] when he makes his allegation that Jephthah knew “only his wife or his daughter”[44] could be what he would sacrifice rather than an animal. Nor does he deal with the fact that the lexical form for the Hebrew word translated “cometh forth” in his vow is employed earlier in Judges for the offering of an animal in sacrifice (Judges 6:18-19). Nor does he deal with the fact that the book of Judges projects an intense spiritual decline within Israel, with Jephthah’s actions near the culminating point of that decline, so that even if Jephthah had killed his daughter (although such is not stated) strong negativity characterizes the Jephthah narrative when considered in its context:

From start to finish the authorial purpose . . . [in] Judges . . . is to describe a nation in a state of serious and progressive recidivism. The author declares his literary agenda in a host of ways, beginning with the prologue (1:1–2:5), which portrays a nation fracturing politically and disintegrating spiritually. The survey of tribal conquests begins with Judah, which is successful, but the tone of the reports becomes ever more discouraging, ending with Dan, which fails completely in their response to the divine mandate to seize the land apportioned to them.

The introduction to the “Book of Deliverers” (2:6–3:6), which functions as a thesis statement for the bulk of the book (3:7–16:31), emphasizes not only how quickly after the death of Joshua the spiritual rot set in, but also the progressive intensification of Israel’s apostasy with each succeeding narrative cycle that follows. The causes cited for this recidivism are intermarriage with the Canaanites (3:6) and the failure to retain a fresh and vital memory of [Jehovah’s] saving acts (3:7). The introductions to each of the deliverer cycles summarizes the narrator’s underlying analysis: the descendants of Israel “did evil in the sight of [Jehovah].”

The narrative cycles are deliberately arranged and shaped to highlight the intensification of Israel’s spiritual problem during the days of the Judges. The cycles begin with Othniel, who is presented in positive and paradigmatic form, and end with Samson, who embodies all that is wrong in Israel. Between these borders the characters of the Judges (Ehud, Barak, Gideon, and Jephthah) decline precipitously. . . . [C]hapters 17–18 and 19–21 actually bring the development of the author’s thesis to its intended climax and conclusion. Whereas the preceding deliverer cycles had demonstrated that the judges themselves were increasingly a part of Israel’s problem, chapters 17–19 describe how the Canaanization of Israelite society has infected the Levites and the religious institutions of the land. The author brings his treatment of the subject of Israel’s Canaanization to a climax in chapters 19–21. The account of the rape of the concubine by the Benjamites of Gibeah deliberately echoes Genesis 19 where the depravity of Sodom is so graphically portrayed. In the mind of the author the nation of Israel has taken on the character of Sodom. It is no wonder that God is silent in the final chapters of the book. The nation has been given up to suffer the consequences of its own folly and spiritual infidelity. Jewish tradition is correct in interpreting this as a prophetic book, the author calls upon the people of his day and all subsequent generations to recognize the degeneration, to think about it, to consider it, and to speak against it![45]

Nor does Mr. Barker deal with the fact that the abuse of women—in many ways culminating in the Jephthah narrative—is actually a theme in Judges that the author of the book employs to demonstrate Israel’s apostasy from God and adoption of pagan values.[46] Nor does Mr. Barker deal with the fact that the text of Judges demonstrates that Jephthah’s vow was viewed negatively and was the end point of a culimination of decline:

Jephthah’s vow is without parallel in the book or the Bible and is unique within the Jephthah narrative itself. Verse 30 records the first and only time in which the man speaks directly to God himself. Having successfully negotiated favorable terms for his leadership over Gilead, but having unsuccessfully avoided confrontation with the Ammonites through negotiation, he sought to secure victory from God with words. But he was still negotiating—manipulating God and seeking to wrest concessions and favors from him like he had from the Gileadites and Ammonites. But in this three-linked chain of haggling one may recognize an obvious and intentional decline in his effectiveness. With the Gileadites he achieved all that he wanted (vv. 4–11); with the Ammonites he received a verbal if negative response (vv. 12–28); with Yahweh there would be only silence. Not only does the narrator fail to cite an answer, but he does not even note that God disregarded Jephthah’s vow. . . . This contrasts not only with the description of the Ammonite response in v. 28, but also with Num 21:1–3, which contains the closest grammatical and syntactical parallel to Jephthah’s vow. . . . [T]he vow . . . is . . . another demonstration of his shrewd and calculating nature, another attempt to manipulate circumstances to his own advantage. In this instance Jephthah was neither rash nor pious (in the orthodox [Jehovistic] sense)—he was outrightly pagan. Rather than a sign of spiritual immaturity and folly, like Gideon’s ephod, his vow arose from a syncretistic religious environment. In 10:10 the narrator testifies to the fact that at this time the Israelites worshiped Milkom, the Ammonite god, and Chemosh, the god of the Moabites, whose leaders are known to have sacrificed children (2 Kgs 3:27). One should not expect too much from this man, who made a name for himself as a who made a name for himself as a brigand in the hills of Gilead.[47]

Of course, Barker’s wild claim that Judges 11 teaches that Jephthah’s daughter was to blame and deserved getting killed is likewise pure fantasy, as are his other ridiculous statements like an alleged Biblical command, “Eat your own children,”[48] his changing of a lament about the horror and wicked sin of what took place when starving Israelites were besieged by Babylonian armies into an alleged commendation of “children boiled,”[49] his utter misunderstanding of the narrative concerning Abraham and Isaac in Genesis 22,[50] and other ways in which he massacres the meaning of the Biblical text in order to support his atheistic blasphemies. One is not surprised to find that the incredibly thin bibliography includes not a single commentary on any Biblical book at all, nor a single article from a scholarly theological journal, nor a single of the many scholarly rebuttals to the sorts of allegations against the Bible that he makes. Nor is one surprised that neither the Old Testament in Hebrew nor the New Testament in Greek even made it into the list of books he consulted.[51] Mr. Barker’s denunciations might fit the god he has imagined in the pages of his unscholarly FAROUT “Bible,” but they constitute fantastic distortions of the God described in the real Bible.

Dan Barker’s countless distortions, misquotations, and ideologically-driven misinterpretations of the Biblical text do not deserve to be taken seriously. The brief analysis above concerning a tiny number of his painful distortions of Scripture in the service of his anti-God agenda has only been undertaken because Mr. Barker kept returning to blaspheming God’s holy character throughout the debate rather than dealing with the actual topic, historicity. His misrepresentation of and attacks upon Biblical morality will not be refuted further in this analysis; for reasonable responses to the types of arguments Mr. Barker made in the debate, and to situational ethics of the sort Mr. Barker advocates in general, one can read books such as Dr. Paul Copan’s Is God a Moral Monster?: Making Sense of the Old Testament God;[52] Did God Really Command Genocide? Coming to Terms with the Justice of God;[53] and True for You, but Not for Me: Overcoming Objections to the Christian Faith.[54] Valuable general works such as Dr. John Frame’s A History of Western Philosophy and Theology[55] also provide valuable material on Biblical ethics and their superiority to non-Christian ethical systems. Mr. Barker’s totally off-topic slanders against the morality of the Bible,[56] along with his off-topic attacks upon the historicity of Genesis 1-11,[57] will not be examined further in this analysis.

Why did Mr. Barker attempt to prejudice the minds of those watching the debate against God by his scurrilous attacks on His holy character instead of beginning his presentation with an examination of the historical question that was the actual topic of the debate? He was well aware that he had committed to debate “the fictional or factual character of the vast general body of the Old Testament . . . over history/prophecy/archaeology, not over creation/evolution and Genesis 1-11, prehistory, geology, or biology. Those would be worthwhile debates but they are for another time.” The FFRF president was perfectly aware that he was off-topic when he went off into blasphemous attacks on the Holy One’s character, for he specifically acknowledged nine minutes into the debate that these affirmations were not what the debate was supposed to be about. Why then did he begin his presentation with an attack on God’s character and keep attacking His holiness throughout the debate, rather than sticking to the topic? Near the end of the debate, Thomas Ross reproduced a telling statement Dan Barker had made in one of his previous debates:

Even if Jesus . . . rose from the dead [and] there’s a God [and] I don’t deny any of that . . . does NOT mean that he is my Lord. . . . I will go happily to hell. It would be worse of a hell for me to bow down before a Lord . . . regardless of the . . . historicity issue. . . . Even if I agreed 100%, I would still reject that Being as a Lord of my life . . . to live and enjoy . . .life unshakled from the demands . . . [of a] Lord. . . . I cannot accept Jesus as Lord. . . . To me, I think that’s more important than all this historicity stuff, [in] which . . . I might be wrong. . . . [When asked,] “What I’ve heard from you is even if He rose from the dead, you still would not accept him as Lord.” [Barker replied,] I’m proud of that.[58]

When Mr. Ross pointed out this affirmation during the debate, Mr. Barker unabashedly reaffirmed these statements.[59] Thus, regrettably, it was more important in Dan Barker’s mind to reject Jesus Christ as Lord than it was to be correct on the subject of whether the Bible is true or historically accurate. For Mr. Barker, being his own lord and running his own life was more important than whether or not his case was true.

Indeed, as was apparent by the end of the debate from Mr. Barker’s own words and arguments, Scripture’s description of why people become atheists like Mr. Barker fit perfectly—Dan Barker’s fundamental reason for denying the existence of God was a hatred of Him and rebellion against Him, not honest intellectual doubts about His existence.

What does the Bible say about atheists? Psalm 14 teaches:

1 The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good. 2 The LORD looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God. 3 They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one. 4 Have all the workers of iniquity no knowledge? who eat up my people as they eat bread, and call not upon the LORD. (Psalm 14:1-4)

That is, God states that an atheist is a “fool” who is “corrupt,” “filthy,” a “worke[r] of in iniquity,” and with “no knowledge.” Similarly, Romans 1 teaches:

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; 19 Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. 20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: 21 Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22 Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, 23 And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things. 24 Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: 25 Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen. 26 For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: 27 And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet. 28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; 29 Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, 30 Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, 31 Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: 32 Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them. (Romans 1:18-32)

That is, atheists, and other unregenerate and unconverted people, hold down or suppress truth that they know in unrighteousness (v. 18). In a fundamental way, they know God exists but reject that knowledge (v. 19), and so are without excuse for their rebellion (v. 20). Despite knowing God, they are not willing to glorify Him or be thankful. Rather, they have darkened hearts and minds (v. 21), so that, claiming to be wise, they are really fools (v. 22), and seek to re-shape God into someone like themselves (v. 23), changing the truth of God into a lie (v. 25). As a result, God gives them up to their own sin and darkness, blinding their minds and hearts, their ungodly thoughts and actions coalescing (v. 24ff.). Because they do not want to “retain God in their knowledge,” “God [gives] them over to a reprobate mind” (v. 28), including being “without understanding” (v. 31). As the analysis of the debate below progresses, it will become obvious that 2 Corinthians 4:3-4 is true of Dan Barker: “If our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: in whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.” Mr. Barker possesses a blinded and darkened mind, both a result of and a cause for his ever-deeper rebellion against God.

Finally, at minute ten in the first debate, Mr. Barker began to address the topic. He asserted that the Old Testament was “mainly” fiction, with only “a little bit” of history in it. He never laid out how one determines if a document is historically accurate or not, but simply asserted that the Old Testament is in the genre of “historical fiction.” Of course, writers of historical fiction are intending to write, well, fiction. Barker never, neither in his introduction nor at any other time during the debate, even attempted to show that the human writers of the Old Testament were intending to write fiction, or even that the modern genre of historical fiction existed at that time—probably because it would be impossible to do these things, since the genre of historical fiction came into existence around A. D. 1800[60] and the genre of novella developed only a handful of centuries earlier.[61] Nor did Mr. Barker ever deal with the facts validating why leading archaeologists and historians recognize the historical accuracy of Scripture (as Mr. Ross mentioned in his opening presentation).

Eleven minutes into the debate, Dan Barker claimed that he “can also read the New Testament in the Greek,” making a comparison to what was affirmed when Mr. Ross was introduced. Mr. Ross can sight-read most of the New Testament, an ability graciously given him by God through much diligent effort, through teaching undergraduate, seminary, and post-graduate Greek, and through reading the Greek New Testament cover to cover regularly. Dan Barker’s statement would leave the audience with the impression that he can “also read the New Testament in Greek” in a similar fashion. Indeed, in his debates he likes to claim extensive knowledge of Greek. For example, Mr. Barker stated in a previous public discussion with a professing Christian that he “translated much of the New Testament from the Greek.”[62] However, in other settings Mr. Barker has admitted that his charismatic education—he attended Azusa Pacific University and dropped out without graduating in 1972[63]—was mostly “simply glorified Sunday School classes”[64] and that his knowledge of Greek consists in being able to pronounce the letters and “barely translate . . . using a lexicon”![65] That is, Mr. Barker really means, “I can pronounce the letters and I sort of know how to use the dictionary” when he says he “can also read the New Testament in Greek”—but that was far, far from the impression the audience would have received from his affirmations.

Eleven to twelve minutes into his opening statement, Dan Barker then gave his “testimony” concerning his status as a former preacher. However, even before Barker adopted the atheist faith, his “conversion” and alleged new birth would appear very wobbly to someone who holds a clear view of the Biblical gospel. In his book Godless he repeatedly talks about asking Jesus into his heart and saying the “sinner’s prayer” in order to be saved.[66] He performed this man-made, non-Biblical religious tradition himself and led many others to do so, as well. However, the Bible never says that people are saved by praying the “sinner’s prayer,” asking Jesus into their hearts, or anything of the kind. On the other hand, Mr. Barker never connects repentance with saving faith in his books, but Christ did say “except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3); He Lord never said, “If you ask Me into your heart you will be saved” or anything remotely similar to such a statement. Indeed, repeating the “sinner’s prayer” or asking Christ into one’s heart in order to be saved are extremely dangerous “evangelistic” methods, absent from the overwhelming majority of church history and never employed by Christ or the Apostles.[67] In fact, these man-made methods have deluded and damned millions.[68] (See Will I Be Saved If I Ask Jesus to Come into my Heart or Repeat the Sinner’s Prayer?[69] and An Exegesis of Romans 10:9-14 . . . in Relation to the Question of the Sinner’s Prayer[70] for more on this topic.)

Furthermore, Barker was a charismatic, but the charismatic movement is a dangerous and unscriptural movement[71] filled with people who have confused having an emotional experience with supernatural regeneration wrought by the Holy Spirit in conjunction with wholehearted repentance from sin and trust in Jesus Christ.[72] In addition to being a minister at two charismatic religious organizations, Barker was on staff at a “Friends” or Quaker religious organization, despite the fact that Quakerism has always been very confused on the gospel.[73] He was also a minister at a Campbellite “church” that taught baptism for salvation.[74] Barker also worked with the charismatic charlatan and fraudulent “healing evangelist” Kathryn Kuhlman,[75] who claimed to perform all kinds of miracles but could never heal herself of heart disease or provide even a single proven example of a healing of an organic disease.[76] There is every reason to believe that Barker never was truly born again but was always part of a corrupt system of pseudo-Christianity. Indeed, in a way he may be less harmful to the truth and the kingdom of God by being an open atheist than being a fake Christian.

Twelve minutes into his opening presentation, Barker provided five arguments that he said would prove that “the Old Testament is fictional”:

The first one is that there is NO [emphasis by Barker] archaeological evidence for any of the stories that we find in the Old Testament.

Two: There is no literary evidence for any of the stories that we find in the Old Testament.

Three: The literary evidence itself shows parallels with ancient mythology. The stories that we find in the Old Testament are cut from the same fabric as other ancient mythologies.

Four: There are many historical anachronisms in the Old Testament, things which simply cannot be true. They are mistakes which the authors made. And,

Five: (This is the weakest argument, but I put it in anyway, because it is more philosophical than anything); the stories are really outrageous. Outrageous claims require outrageous proof. We don’t have outrageous proof for these claims. There were many religious folktales and myths in the first and second millennium B. C. E. The Greeks, the Babylonians, the Persians, the Indians, the Egyptians, the Assyrians; there were Ugaritic myths, there were Sicilian, Mesopotamian, Sumer— . . . many, many of these myths and foundational stories with all sorts of clearly mythical and magical events in them, none of which we take seriously on historical grounds.

Before further examining his argument, one should note that Mr. Barker may have confused Sicily with Sumeria in his argument #5 (although it is certainly possible that he corrected himself on this, as the partially-pronounced word after Mesopotamian in the debate shows). The Sumerians were a very ancient Mesopotamian civilization referenced in the Bible (e. g., Genesis 10:10),[77] while Sicily is an island near Italy with no significance for Old Testament history that was first colonized by the Greeks in the 700s B. C.[78] Any standard dictionary of encyclopedia of the Old Testament (e. g., the Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary;[79] the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia;[80] the Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible;[81] the Tyndale Bible Dictionary;[82] the Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary[83]) will have an extensive entry on Sumer, while none includes an article on Sicily. If Mr. Barker did not make a slip with his tongue but actually confused the important Sumerian civilization with the inconsequential island of Sicily, it would be an indication of extremely sloppy historiography on his part.

Mr. Barker made a number of arguments based upon his presupposition, as an atheist, that miracles are impossible. He listed a number of Biblical miracles, and concluded that the Bible is mythical because it contains miracles. For example, in relation to the account in Numbers 22 where the false prophet Balaam receives a rebuke from his own donkey, Barker argued: “Animals don’t talk. They don’t have vocal cords. That’s one of the way we know this is a mythical story.”[84] While donkeys actually do have vocal cords,[85] as do quite a number of other animals, the main point is that Barker’s argument assumes the impossibility of miracles. If there is no God who intervenes in history, then the Bible could not record the miraculous intervention of God within history. Since there is an all-powerful God who personally loves His people and cares deeply for His creation, it is reasonable to receive as true His record of His intervention within history, including by way of the miraculous, in the Bible. There is no rational reason why an all-powerful and caring Creator would not intervene within history in ways that are different from the normal order of events or natural laws that He put in place. Scoffing at the miracles recorded in the Bible may sound good to those who are already atheists with a worldview that requires absolute naturalism, but there is nothing irrational or unreasonable in receiving as true the Biblical record of miracles, and simply recounting that miracles took place in the Bible, but miracles do not happen, is not a valid criticism.[86]

Barker proceeded to allege that the Old Testament was borrowed from paganism. Thus, he argued, “to a large degree the Israelites were copying and mimicking stories.”[87] The alleged borrowing and copying of fictional pagan stories is, Dan Barker argued, his “good naturalistic explanation” for the Old Testament and for the Exodus and Mosaic narratives in particular.[88]

These allegations of Mr. Barker that the Old Testament narrative in Exodus is borrowed from pagan sources is utterly indefensible, as will be demonstrated below. Indeed, one might say that his affirmations are on the lunatic fringe of Old Testament scholarship, but the fact is that they are not even on the fringe—they are several feet away from the fringe. Modern scholarly works on the Old Testament do not even present ideas like Mr. Barker’s because nobody serious, whether or not he believes in the inerrancy of Scripture or in Jehovah, is making the case that Biblical narrative after narrative was copied from pagan sources. During the debate, Mr. Ross had no idea from where Mr. Barker was getting these loony arguments. Happily, he was able to find out afterwards. A University of Whitewater student who was present at the debate asked Mr. Barker by e-mail afterwards what his sources were for the argument that the Old Testament was borrowed from paganism. The student forwarded Mr. Barker’s reply to Mr. Ross, and the e-mail is reproduced below:

An excellent source for this is D. M. Murdock’s book, Did Moses Exist? [sic] . . . Regarding Israeli scholars, you could try Israel Finkelstein, especially the book he co-wrote with Neil Asher Silberman, The Bible Unearthed [sic]. But Murdock covers all of this, so you might be better off starting with her work, and going from there.

Upon further questioning, the student received no further sources for Barker’s pagan dependence argument than Ms. Dorothy Milne Murdock’s self-published book Did Moses Exist? The Myth of the Israelite Lawgiver (Seattle, WA: Stellar House Publishing, 2014). According to Mr. Barker, Ms. Murdock is a better source than Israel Finkelstein, a genuine archaeologist and scholar (albeit a very skeptical one whose views, and Mr. Barker’s affirmations concerning them, will be evaluated below). Ms. Murdock, Barker affirms, is the best place to start in evaluating the evidence concerning the Old Testament, so much so that she is essentially all that he has to make his case for the origin of the Old Testament on pagan myths. Indeed, militant atheists such as Mr. Barker and Ms. Murdock believe that “Did Moses Exist . . . is revered as the most comprehensive study to date on the subject of Moses.”[89]

Before examining Dorothy Murdock’s book and Dan Barker’s arguments from it, Mr. Barker’s appeal to (and misuse of) Israel Finkelstein should be noted. Mr. Barker stated: “The Israelis over in Israel . . . the archaeologists are throwing up their hands saying, ‘No, there’s nothing. None of these stories has any archaeological evidence at all.’”[90] Supposedly there are great “number[s] of Israeli archeologists and historians who are convinced that the archeological record does not support any of the stories of the Old Testament.”[91] The only example Mr. Barker gave of this alleged consensus of archaeologists that “none of the stories” in the Old Testament “has any archeological evidence at all” is “Israel Finkenstein [sic] . . . who teaches there, in Israel.”[92] Later in the debate, Thomas Ross mentioned Dr. Nelson Glueck,[93] whose testimony contradicts such affirmations of Mr. Barker. Dr. Glueck is the former president of the Hebrew Union College who conducted pioneering work in Biblical archaeology that contributed to the discovery of 1,500 ancient sites. This leading scholar wrote:

It may be stated categorically that no archaeological discovery has ever controverted a Biblical reference. Scores of archaeological findings have been made which confirm in clear outline or exact detail historical statements in the Bible. And, by the same token, proper evaluation of Biblical descriptions has often led to amazing discoveries. They form tesserae [tiles] in the vast mosaic of the Bible’s incredibly correct historical memory.[94]

Mr. Barker later changed his contention from being one of an alleged consensus of “Israeli archaeologists” that nothing in the Old Testament is historical to an alleged situation where some archaeologists affirm there is no evidence at all, like Mr. Barker does, while others recognize that there is a great deal of evidence and nothing contradicting the Bible. Out of this alleged consensus, backpedalled upon later in the debate to be an alleged battle between two conflicting views among scholars, only one name was mentioned by Mr. Barker in support of his position—Israel Finkelstein (who Mr. Barker erroneously called “Israel Finkenstein.”) Does Dr. Finkelstein’s research prove that the Bible is mainly fiction, and that “nothing” in the Bible “has any archaeological evidence at all”?[95]

First, one should note that Finkelstein is extremely skeptical—a skepticism unwarranted by the evidence—in regard to Biblical history. His skepticism is by no means the consensus view of Israeli archaeologists, since leading “Israeli archaeologists, such as Amnon Ben-Tor, Amihai Mazar, Shlomo Buimovitz, and others have pointed out” that there is no positive evidence for Finkelstein’s allegations—only “silence.”[96] In fact, “Shlomo Bunimovitz and Zvi Lederman [—] Finkelstein’s own colleague at Tel Aviv—have published a devastating critique of his simplistic . . . assumptions”[97] and these Jewish scholars “refute Finkelstei[n].”[98] The Journal of the Institute of Archaeology of Tel Aviv University has printed a searing critique of Finkelstein:

Finkelstein has gotten almost all of his “facts” wrong. . . . Finkelstein is clever at the cost of candor. . . . [he] does not even mention . . . pioneering article[s] . . . simply ignores . . . extensive discussions . . . never even alludes to the evidence . . . dismisses . . . detailed documentation . . . never discusses . . . or mentions the specific . . . evidence . . .[s]uch selective citation and distortion of the published evidence is not objective scholarship[.] . . . Finkelstein has misled readers . . . mislead the public[.] . . . [For example, in] Unearthing the Bible: Archaeology’s New Vision of Ancient Israel and the Origin of Its Sacred Scriptures . . . [he evidences that] he has no formal training in biblical studies . . . Mazar and Ben-Tor [professors at Tel Aviv University], among others, have suggested . . . [he is an] amateur . . . archaeologist[.] . . . Unearthing the Bible . . . [is] almost without reference to the contemporary [situation] in biblical studies . . . with little or no theological sensitivity, and with no specific documentation. . . . Surely, he is required to confront at least some of the published evidence, rather than simply dismiss it . . . entirely on speculation . . . [while] obviously deliberately misquoting[.] . . . [H]is idiosyncratic lowering of dates . . . [is] now refuted by his own Tel Aviv colleague Bunimovitz . . . [y]et . . . Finkelstein refus[es] to correct himself . . . against all the evidence, and despite being corrected . . . [and] confronted face-to-face. . . . [T]here is no empirical evidence whatsoever for Finkelstein’s chronology[.] . . . Instead of addressing [the] published data, Finkelstein . . . simply ignores the . . . evidence . . . [utilizes] ad hominem remarks . . . [an] ideological agenda . . . [and] gross caricature. . . . Finkelstein is curiously unaware of the recent past in archaeology. . . . he has never addressed any of the burning issues of today [in archaeology] . . . has never written a seminal article on a single one of these . . . and seems oblivious to most of them. . . . [I]ngenuity and imagination [do not] take precedence over the excavators’ own publication and interpretation of the original data. . . . [N]ot one of Finkelstein’s adversarial reconstructions stands up to close scrutiny. . . . This is simply unconscionable.[99]

Thus, not only in Israel but in the entire scholarly world, “Israel Finkelstein [is] the only significant archaeological ‘revisionist’ thus far.”[100] Since “there is not a shred of empirical . . . stratigraphic . . . evidence to support [his] chronology” and “Finkelstein’s arguments [are] never actually documented [but] are without any foundation,” it is unsurprising that “not a single other ranking Syro-Palestinian archaeologist in the world has come out in print in support of Finkelstein’s” views;[101] they are “only one man’s view, even more idiosyncratic than it was when . . . first [published], and still undocumented.”[102] Opposition among archaeologists derives from the simple fact that they are impossible. For example, his idea that the Israelites were “resedentarized nomads” arising from the native Canaanite population (in contrast to a people delivered from Egyptian bondage, for example) is impossible because the “ten-fold growth in population” supported by the archaeological evidence cannot be accounted for by a natural population growth among the Canaanite inhabitants—“not even if every family produced 50 surviving children! There must have been a very sizable population increment from somewhere else[.] . . . Indeed, every other archaeologist thinks so; no one follows Finkelstein’s . . . theory.”[103]

Finkelstein’s skepticism isolates him from the mainstream of scholarship, since the “‘revisionist’ argument represents . . . skepticism elevated to the level of method, indeed one so absurd that mainstream biblical scholars seem inclined to view ‘revisionism’ as a passing fad.”[104] For example, Dr. Aaron Burke (Professor of the archaeology of the Levant and ancient Israel at the University of California, Los Angeles, and co-director of the Jaffa Cultural Heritage Project, which coordinates the research and preservation of the archaeological site of Jaffa) notes, concerning Finkelstein’s skeptical dating schemes, the “absence of evidence for [them]. . . . Since Finkelstein is unable to demonstrate an unequivocal basis for [them] . . . his central argument fails.”[105] Other non-conservative scholars recognize that “Finkelstein’s idiosyncratic . . . chronology is entirely without supporting evidence.”[106] For Finkelstein, “there is an obvious ideological factor . . . the bias is transparent[.] . . . facts no longer matter, especially the crucial archaeological data . . . facts [are] . . . ignore[d] or distort[ed] in virtually everything [he] write[s].”[107] Finkelstein’s The Bible Unearthed, commended by Dan Barker as the second best source after Dorothy M. Murdock, is a work of “ideology,” not evidence, that “offer[s] no documentation for [its] sweeping claims”[108] but only unsubstantiated allegations.

Similarly, consider the testimony of Dr. William Dever. Dr. Dever is professor emeritus of Near Eastern Archaeology and Anthropology at the University of Arizona. Prior to that he served for four years as director of the American School of Oriental Research in Jerusalem (now the Albright Institute of Archaeological Research). A world-renowned archaeologist, Professor Dever has dug at numerous sites in Jordan and Israel. He served as director of the major excavations at Gezer from 1966 to 1971. Furthermore, Dr. Dever is a non-Christian scholar “who has often described himself as agnostic at best.”[109] He is a “secular humanis[t] . . . who denies biblical inerrancy . . . and supernaturalism.”[110] Thus, he certainly has no bias in favor of the Bible as an inerrant revelation from God. Indeed, Dever freely confesses that he is so hostile to Biblical inerrancy and the employment of archaeology as a means to validate the Bible that he has been on a “well-known campaign against this kind of archaeology for more than thirty years.”[111] What does this agnostic and rabidly anti-inerrancy scholar think about Israel Finkelstein’s work? Reviewing Finkelstein’s book The Forgotten Kingdom: The Archaeology and History of Northern Israel,[112] Dever wrote:

It is impossible to summarize Israel Finkelstein’s latest book, The Forgotten Kingdom, in a brief review because its numerous errors, misrepresentations, over-simplifications and contradictions make it too unwieldy. Specialists will know these flaws, since all of Finkelstein’s pivotal views have been published elsewhere. Here I can only alert unwary BAR [Biblical Archaeology Review—a composition that, it is worth noting, does not take a stand for Biblical inerrancy] readers that this book is not really about sound historical scholarship: it is all about theater. Finkelstein is a magician, conjuring a “lost kingdom” by sleight-of-hand, intending to convince readers that the illusion is real and expecting that they will go away marveling at how clever the magician is. Finkelstein was once an innovative scholar, pioneering new methods; now he has become a showman. A tragic waste of talent, energy and charm—and a detriment to our discipline. . . . [A] pillar on which Finkelstein’s [theory] rests is his vaunted “low chronology,” in which he down-dates the previously accepted dates for the origins of Israel by as much as a hundred years. Yet this, too, is regarded by most mainstream archaeologists as without substantial foundations. First suggested some 20 years ago, Finkelstein has tirelessly championed his “low chronology” ever since. Here [in his book] he presents it without so much as a single reference to its numerous critiques, some of them devastating (as Kletter 2004; Ben Tor and Ben Ami 1998; Dever 1997; Mazar 2007; Stager 2003; and others).[113] In numerous publications over 20 years, Finkelstein has relentlessly reworked the stratigraphy and chronology of site after site, not only in Israel and the West Bank, but even in Jordan, in order to defend his “low chronology.”

In fact, there has never been any unequivocal empirical evidence in support of the “low chronology.” Only some carbon-14 dates offer any evidence at all, and many other dates support the conventional chronology (as at Tel Rehov, which Finkelstein never cites here). At best, the low chronology is a possibility for a 40-year, not a 100-year, adjustment. Even this is not probable, and it is certainly not proven.

Yet on this flimsy foundation Finkelstein rests his entire elaborate reconstruction, with far-reaching implications for southern Levantine and Israelite history. Set that scheme aside, and Finkelstein’s claim . . . disappears in smoke—a book without any rationale.

What’s going on here? . . . What Finkelstein is doing is gradually distancing himself from the extremes of his low chronology—without ever admitting he is doing so—and counting on the likelihood that readers will not check his “facts.” Even he now realizes that a Judahite state did exist in the tenth century B.C.E. and that it could have extended its rule to the north. . . .

Ever since the discoveries at Khirbet Qeiyafa a decade ago, where Judahite state-formation is clear by the early tenth century[114] (and Finkelstein accepts this early date), his “low chronology” has been progressively undermined. It should be abandoned. . . . Among the book’s many other distortions, I can list here only a few: (1) Finkelstein claims carbon-14 dates have corrected the dates of Ramses III (p. 24). Actually they are exactly the same. (2) Finkelstein claims Shechem was destroyed at the end of the Late Bronze Age (p. 22). The excavators have emphasized that it was not. (3) Finkelstein claims that Tell Keisan, Tel Kinrot, Tel Reḥov, Yokneam and Dor were all “Canaanite city-states” (p. 30). But “city-state” is never defined, and at least two that are so claimed are Phoenician, one is probably Aramaic, and none would actually qualify as a city-state. (4) Finkelstein claims that there are dozens, even hundreds, of carbon-14 dates supporting the “low chronology” (p. 33); in the latest Megiddo report (Megiddo IV), there are three published for the pivotal Stratum VA/IVB, and if anything they support the conventional chronology. (5) Finkelstein claims that Jerusalem in the tenth century B.C.E. was a poor village with no monumental architecture (p. 43). Even Finkelstein’s colleague Nadav Na’aman disagrees with him, as nearly all archaeologists do. (6) Finkelstein radically challenges conventional dates by putting the Iron I/IIA transition in the second half of the tenth century B.C.E. (p. 64). That’s scarcely later than most, and even earlier than Amihai Mazar’s “modified” conventional chronology. Finkelstein claims that Hazor X was destroyed in the late ninth century (840–800 B.C.E.), as confirmed by carbon-14 dates (pp. 75, 122). But no evidence is cited for this, and excavator Amnon Ben-Tor disagrees. (8) Finkelstein claims that those scholars who see Jerusalem as an early state capital are “desperate,” Bible-based people (p. 80). That tells us who is really desperate. (9) For the view that the Field III city gate at Gezer dates to the ninth century B.C.E., Finkelstein cites me (William G. Dever et al., “Further Excavations at Gezer, 1967–1971,” Biblical Archaeologist 34 [1971], p. 103). I never said anything of the sort—quite the opposite. (10) Finkelstein says that Megiddo in the ninth century B.C.E. was “set aside for breeding and training horses” for chariotry (pp. 113; 133–135). Some of his own staff members (and others) dispute the famous “stables” in Megiddo IV. (11) Finkelstein claims that Tel Masos near Beersheba was the center of a far-flung “desert polity” in the tenth century B.C.E. (p. 126). But the relevant Stratum II follows a massive destruction of the walled town, and the scant remains consist of only a few tattered houses. There hardly seems any point in continuing. Finkelstein simply does not care much about facts, as many have long since concluded. . . . In this book Finkelstein has not “discovered a lost kingdom [in his book The Forgotten Kingdom as he claimed to do]”; he has invented it. The careful reader will nevertheless gain some insights into Israel—Israel Finkelstein, that is.[115]

Similarly, reviewing Finkelstein’s The Bible Unearthed: Archaeology’s New Vision of Ancient Israel and the Origin of Its Sacred Texts. (New York: The Free Press, 2001), Dr. Richard Hess[116] notes:

This book[’s] . . . stated purpose is to present how the new discoveries of the discipline of archaeology have overturned long held assumptions about the essential reliability of the Old Testament as a historical record. . . . For each chapter, the authors present a summary of the biblical account and then discuss the ways in which archaeology has [allegedly] controverted this traditional understanding. The authors always present their interpretation of the archaeological data but do not mention or interact with contemporary alternative approaches. Thus the book is ideologically driven and controlled. . . . The absence of any attempt to identify and address contrary evidence is a symptom problematic to the type of scholarship that pervades this book. . . . The chapter on Joshua and the issues surrounding the conquest of Canaan continues a one-sided presentation of the evidence in which the authors attempt to pit the archaeological evidence against the biblical account. . . .This book must be used with caution because it pretends to describe what we now really know about archaeology and how it contradicts various biblical claims; however, it does so in a biased and non-objective manner. Contrary opinions in interpreting the new evidence are not discussed, much less given a fair hearing. The book is ideologically driven and should be treated that way by any one who reads it.[117]


Finkelstein . . . possesses a level of skepticism that finds no place among mainstream scholarship. Experts usually approach the ancient evidence with a degree of confidence, assuming that the literary and material evidence are generally trustworthy unless there is reason for suspicion. Minimalists approach the biblical evidence with an extreme degree of skepticism that they often do not employ elsewhere. They hold the biblical text to an extreme double standard, and disregard the Bible unless incontrovertible extrabiblical evidence is found that corroborates the text. If the same method were applied to reading the daily paper, minimalists would never get past the first paragraph of the lead article.

The minimalists’ approach, which Finkelstein’s resembles closely, is decried by many scholars, both theistic and atheistic. . . . [N]ot only does Finkelstein have a reputation for criticizing other archaeologists’ conclusions without examining their evidence, but other Israeli archaeologists have been critical and almost dismissive of him and his methods. . . . Both believers and nonbelievers view Finkelstein’s approach as unwarranted. His point of view has won very few converts in archaeological circles. His skepticism borders on extremism not only because of the way he approaches the biblical text, but also because of the way he treats other scholars who disagree with him. In the end, Finkelstein . . . is spectacularly incorrect in his conclusions about the historical accuracy of the Bible.[118]

Finally, consider the review of Finkelstein’s The Bible Unearthed by Dr. Kenneth A. Kitchen, Personal and Brunner Professor Emeritus of Egyptology and Honorary Research Fellow at the School of Archaeology, Classics, and Oriental Studies, University of Liverpool, England. The author of over 250 books and journal articles, he is one of the leading Egyptologists of modern times. Kitchen wrote:

[A] careful critical perusal of this work—which certainly has much to say about both archaeology and the biblical writings—reveals that we are dealing very largely with a work of imaginative fiction, not a serious or reliable account of the subject. Messrs. F. & S. [Finkelstein and Silberman, the coauthors of The Bible Unearthed] [write largely] . . . fiction, under four heads.

(i) The whole correlation of the archaeological record for the eleventh to early eighth centuries is based upon Finkelstein’s arbitrary, idiosyncratic, and isolated attempt to lower the dates of tenth-century strata by up to a century if need be to rid himself of the united monarchy as a major phenomenon. His reevaluation of the realm of Omri and Ahab is . . . wildly exaggerated, especially in archaeological terms. As others have shown amply, the redating will not work[.] . . .

(ii) F. & S. have gone mad on “Deuteronomism.” The origin of the book of Deuteronomy itself cannot be dated to the seventh century. Its format is wholly that of the fourteenth/thirteenth century, on the clear evidence of almost forty comparable documents, in phase V of a two-thousand-year history embracing over ninety documents in a six-phased, closely dated sequence. F. & S. know absolutely nothing about this determinative evidence; . . . and their adduction of the thoroughly misleading comparisons of Deuteronomy’s curses with first-millennium Assyrian series . . . is in error[.] . . . The supposed unitary Deuteronomistic History is a modern hoax. What we actually have is a set of wholly separate compositions (Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings) that present a traditional, orthodox viewpoint stemming from the beliefs expressed both in Exodus-Leviticus and Deuteronomy, and not solely the latter. As shown above, the individual prophets (long before Josiah) did not start something new; they called the people back to the old, basic covenant. F. & S. have vastly exaggerated the role of Josiah and his reign.

(iii) The idea that YHWH-alone monotheism began only in the seventh (or even eighth) century is a grotesque nonstarter. An absolute monotheism was clearly established by Akhenaten of Egypt in the fourteenth century (not the seventh!), drawing on older roots, and the impact of his ideas (even after his fall) echoed into the thirteenth century before being absorbed into the reassertion of the preeminence of Amun. In this climate, a Moses would have had no conceptual difficulty in proclaiming YHWH as sole deity . . . and enforcing that status by declaring YHWH as the group’s sole suzerain via a covenant in royal treaty format of precisely that period[.] . . . As Dever rightly remarked, the F. & S. theory is flat, with no perspective or time depth. Frankly, it is merely an illusion, and born of De Wette’s old speculation of 1805 in the prescientific era, as consecrated by Wellhausen and others in the 1870s. This is not new, white-hot “revolution”; it is merely old hat, a dish of stale cabbage reheated and rehashed.

(iv) On the patriarchal and exodus periods our two friends are utterly out of their depth, hopelessly misinformed, and totally misleading. They content themselves largely with rehashing the equally misleading 1970s work of Thompson and van Seters for the former period, and merely show 100 percent ignorance of facts on the latter. . . . They suppress the fact that Gerar (if at Tel Haror) was a major metropolis (of over forty acres!) in the early second millennium (Middle Bronze Age). The Philistines of Gerar (not those of the Pentapolis!) are a very different lot from the Iron Age group of that name. . . . Archaeologically, Aegean goods (and thus people) did feature in Middle Bronze Canaan[.] There is a large and growing amount of evidence that would set the patriarchs as real people in the first half of the second millennium—and it is not dependent on the ill-documented views of thirty or forty years ago[.]

Their treatment of the exodus is among the most factually ignorant and misleading that this writer has ever read. F. & S. clearly have no personal knowledge whatsoever of conditions in Ramesside (or any other) Egypt. Their approach to chronology (for both patriarchs and exodus) is totally naïve[.] . . . For those of us with some firsthand knowledge of the fuller data from, and the ancient procedures in, the ancient Near East, this nonsense just will not do. . . .

We are told that “The border between Canaan and Egypt was thus closely controlled. If a great mass of fleeing Israelites had passed through the border fortifications of the pharaonic regime, a record should exist.”18 And no doubt it did. But our pair are clueless here. We know from such stone inscriptions as the successful lawsuit of the treasury-scribe Mose (or Mes) from his tomb chapel in the dry sands of Saqqara that there were voluminous papyrus archives both at Heliopolis (of the vizier) and at Pi-Ramesse itself (treasury and granary files) in the East Delta.19 Of which no minutest scrap now survives. In the sopping wet mud of the Delta, no papyrus ever survives (whether it mentions fleeing Hebrews or not)—unless (as at Late Period Tanis) it had first been burnt and fully carbonized, and thus rendered virtually unreadable, except (sometimes) by very special modern techniques.20 In other words, as the official thirteenth-century archives from the East Delta centers are 100 percent lost, we cannot expect to find mentions in them of the Hebrews or anybody else. The only trace of raw administration found at Pi-Ramesse (so far) is a handful of wine-jar dockets detailing a vintage of Year 52 of Ramesses II (1228).21 How much would we learn (e.g.) about the last congressional election in the USA or parliamentary election in Great Britain from the torn labels of broken wine bottles discarded by customers from Macy’s or Harrod’s? Not a lot! And exactly the same is true at Pi-Ramesse. Wine jars do not an exodus record!

The reference to Edomites that F. & S. cite we possess solely because a Delta report had been sent on to Memphis, filed there, then used for training purposes for a budding pupil scribe (Inena)—and then discarded into the dry sands of Saqqara. Otherwise we would not even have this item. On page 60, our pair complain, no Israelites are mentioned in Egypt (their italics) on tomb or temple walls or papyri.22 Of course not! Levantines in Egypt were universally described simply as “Asiatics,” not by specific affiliations. Such people had no place in temple scenes, unless being conquered outside of Egypt. Towns and communities in their own land (e.g., Canaan) were a different matter. Such people had no place in tomb scenes either, unless they belonged to the personal household of the tomb owner—and then simply as “Asiatic.” The same applies to such papyri as we have. Only when an individual case is being dealt with is any other detail given; e.g., a Syrian (Khurri) man Naqadi from Ar(v)ad in Papyrus Bologna 1086.23 F. & S. fulminate against Israelites being able to escape from Egypt, given the massive Egyptian military presence along the Mediterranean coast route to Gaza—and almost fail to remember that the Hebrews were explicitly told not to go that way (in Exod. 13:17, to which they, finally, grudgingly allude, but omit to cite)!24

As for no clues in Sinai, it is silly to expect to find traces of everybody who ever passed through the various routes in that peninsula. The state of preservation of remains is very uneven. For the Late Bronze Age, F. & S. have overlooked the Egyptian mining site at Serabit el-Khadim. The seasonal miners must have had interim stopping places between Serabit and Egypt, if they traveled overland back to the East Delta (on a reverse route to the Hebrews in Exod. 16–19), or at port sites like Markha if they sailed back to Egypt. Why, then, have we no record of these? This absence does not disprove the Egyptian regular visitations into Sinai, given their solid monumental presence—therefore, the absence of possible Hebrew campsites is likewise meaningless. What is more, from Sinai the Hebrews expected initially to be in Canaan in a year, not in forty years. They had no need to lug tons of heavy pottery around with them (just to oblige F. & S. with a few sherds!) if leatherwork or skins would do. So, no sherds . . . means nothing. And Ezion-Geber is not at Eilat or Tel el-Kheleifeh either.25

Then, in Transjordan, we are treated to the usual sociological poppycock about Edom being unable to be a kingdom until the seventh century.26 Edom did exist, as a pastoral, tented kingdom, just like its Middle Bronze precursor Kushu, attested in the Execration Texts, and was not a deserted land either then or in the thirteenth century, as the Edomites entering Egypt prove clearly. It was so much a land with active people that both Ramesses II and Ramesses III chose to attack it militarily. So Edom was no ghost in Moses’ time. Tented kingdoms may be unknown to dumb-cluck socio-anthropologists, but they are solidly attested in the Near East from of old, as the case of the dynasty of Manana demonstrates.27 The lack of naming the pharaoh of the exodus is specifically a feature of the Ramesside period, in scores of ostraca, papyri, and inscriptions—but not from the eleventh century onward when the king’s name is either given (like Shishak) or added to the title (like Pharaoh Necho/Hophra). The views uncritically taken over from Redford are partisan and refuted elsewhere. There is nothing seventh century about the exodus or its setting.28 The mishmash on Joshua and Judges is an idle repetition of all the usual nineteenth-century shibboleths[.] . . . Stuck with their a priori dogma of solely indigenous Hebrews (no exodus, no “entry” into Canaan), F. & S. are entirely unable to account for the massive population explosion in Canaan in Iron IA. . . Solomon’s realm was not just based on “tiny Judah” but on all of Israel and Judah (1 Kings 4!), plus vassal tribute and trade receipts; a sound base![119]

Thus, many resources refute Finkelstein’s extreme skepticism. There are good reasons why “[t]he overwhelming consensus is, now more than ever, against Finkelstein’s . . . chronology . . . and . . . his ‘new vision’ of ancient Israel.”[120] Intellectual honesty does not by any means one must adopt Finkelstein’s radical conclusions—on the contrary, they require that his views be rejected.

However, it is necessary to mention that not even an extremist such as Dr. Finkelstein actually takes Dan Barker’s beyond-the-lunatic-fringe position that “nothing . . . has any archaeological evidence at all.” Subsequent to the Barker-Ross debate, Thomas Ross contacted Dr. Finkelstein and asked the professor if Mr. Barker had correctly represented his position. The interaction, in its key parts, was as follows:

Thomas Ross: Dear Dr. Finkelstein,

Shalom! I am writing to you because of what was stated at a recent debate that took place at a University in the United States.  The topic was “The Old Testament is mainly fiction, not fact,” Dan Barker, president of the largest atheist organization in the United States, was in the affirmative, and a Christian professor who believes in inerrancy was in the negative.  In Mr. Barker’s opening statement, he affirmed (in part):

If anyone should care are about these foundational myths . . . [t]he Jews themselves [should, but]  . . . almost all Rabbis will tell you the stories of the Old Testament are . . . not historical. . . . The Jews themselves treat these stories as legends, as myths . . .The Israelites, over in Israel . . . the Israeli scholars themselves . . . the archaeologists over there are putting up their hands saying, “Folks, there’s nothing. None of these stories have any archaeological evidence at all.” Israel Finkelstein,[121] for example, who teaches there in Israel . . . [t]he Israeli archaeologists and historians themselves agree that the story is mythological. It did not happen.

While I believe (please correct me if I am wrong) that you are closer in your view of the archaeological evidence to the minimalist camp than the maximalist camp, I would like to know if the statement above accurately represents your position, or if Mr. Barker distorted what you believe. . . .

Israel Finkelstein: I do not hold sweeping views regarding these issues. Biblical materials preserve important information about the past – actual events or the world of the authors. . . . Each issue must be carefully checked according to text exegesis, the archaeological evidence, and what we know from the ancient Near East. . . .

Thomas Ross: . . . Thank you so much for your reply. Am I correct, then, in concluding that Mr. Barker misrepresented your position, whether intentionally or unintentionally? . . .


Israel Finkelstein: Indeed.

Thomas Ross: . . . Thank you for taking the time to answer my question before. . . . In the debate above, where you were the only archaeologist Mr. Barker mentioned by name, he said that he referred to “Israeli archaeologists and historians who are convinced that the archaeological record does not support any of the stories of the Old Testament.”  Please let me know if this is a radical misstatement of your position. . . . [Does the] “not . . . any . . . of the stories[”] is supported by archaeology . . . [position of Mr. Barker] exist in serious scholarship[?] . . . The question is:

1.) Is this statement an accurate representation of your view, so that you would be one of these Israeli archaeologists who take the position stated in this quote:

“Israeli archaeologists and historians . . . are convinced that the archaeological record does not support any of the stories of the Old Testament” . . .

Israel Finkelstein: . . . No . . .

Thomas Ross: If you are able, I would also like to ask one more question:

2.) Are there any serious archaeologists or scholars who take the position that “the archaeological record does not support any of the stories of the Old Testament” . . .

Israel Finkelstein: . . . No . . .

Thomas Ross: . . . Thank you very much—I appreciate it.

Thus, Dr. Israel Finkelstein—despite his very strong skeptical bent, that places him very, very far away from scholars who believe in inerrancy—does not even come close to taking the position of Dan Barker on the Old Testament. Indeed, Dr. Finkelstein recognizes that Mr. Barker’s position does not exist among serious archaeologists or scholars. In another part of Mr. Ross’s interaction with Dr. Finkelstein, Ross even compared Mr. Barker’s position to “the radical historical revisionism involved in, say, Holocaust denial or conspiracy theories about people never landing on the moon” without being contradicted by Dr. Finkelstein. One who reads Dr. Finkelstein’s works will discover not just arguments for his very theologically skeptical positions but also a recognition of archaeological evidence for Biblical records such as the kingdom of David and evidence for Israelite settlements in Canaan in the 13th century B. C.,[122] facts that even an extremely skeptical scholar such as Dr. Finkelstein cannot deny.

For that matter, it was not even necessary for Dan Barker to contact Dr. Finkelstein personally in order to find out that he did not by any means take the position that Mr. Barker ascribed to him—all Barker needed to do was read Finkelstein’s The Bible Unearthed for himself instead of just claiming that the book supports his case. Despite the (as noted above) radical and unjustified skepticism advocated by Finkelstein in this work, had Mr. Barker read even the introduction to this book he would have noticed statements such as the following:

Dozens of cities and towns mentioned in the Bible have been identified and uncovered. . . . [I]nscriptions and signet seals have been discovered that can be directly connected with individuals mentioned in the biblical text. . . . [A]rchaeology . . . [f]rom the end of the nineteenth century . . . [has made] a series of spectacular discoveries[,] and decades of steady archaeology excavation and interpretation suggested to many that the Bible’s accounts were basically trustworthy . . . based on a substantial body of accurately preserved memories. . . . [For example,] . . . the historical value of Egyptian remains for dating and possibly verifying historical events in the Bible [is clear from] . . . direct connections [such as a] victory stele erected by Pharaoh Mernephtah in 1207 BCE [that] mentioned . . . a people named Israel. . . . [Furthermore,] references to a number of important biblical kings were identified in Mesopotamian cuneiform archives—the Israelite kings Omri, Ahab, and Jehu and the Judahite kings Hezekiah and Manasseh, among others. . . . The . . . inscription . . . at the site of Tel Dan . . . provides an extrabiblical anchor for the history of ancient Israel . . . [by] recording the victory of the Aramean king Hazael over the king of Israel and the king of the “house of David[.]” . . . [B]iblical archaeology has been able to identify a long sequence of readily datable architectural styles, pottery forms, and other artifacts that enable scholars to date buried city levels and tombs with a fair degree of accuracy. . . . By the end of the twentieth century, archaeology had shown that there were simply too many material correspondences between the finds in Israel and in the entire Near East and the world to suggest that the Bible was late and fanciful priestly literature, written with no historical basis at all.[123]

Clearly, Mr. Barker’s treatment of Dr. Finkelstein is as sloppy as his treatment of many other facts relevant to the Old Testament. Barker appears to have found just about as skeptical a scholar as one with little knowledge of Old Testament scholarship could locate with ease, then driven that scholar’s already fringe and radical position off the skeptical cliff and misrepresented it, in order to defend his intelliectually bankrupt but beloved and blind-faith-based conclusion that the Bible is “fiction” with “none of [its] stories hav[ing] any archaeological evidence at all.” Blinded by his atheism, Barker professes to see none of the overwhelming evidence for the historicity of the Old Testament, and he will ignore or distort whatever he needs to in order to arrive at the conclusion he wants to arrive at: the Bible is false, atheism is true, and he does not need to submit to Jesus Christ as Lord.

However, while Dan Barker dropped the name of “Finkenstein [sic],” he did not really make his case from Finkelstein’s work—after all, Barker’s belief about the Old Testament is radically different from what even the radical Finkelstein maintains in the introduction to The Bible Unearthed. Instead of Finkelstein, Dan Barker really employed the arguments of Dorothy Murdock’s Did Moses Exist?, a book one can see in Mr. Barker’s hand during the debate.[124] Thus, Dr. Finkelstein’s case will not be examined further in this analysis of the Barker-Ross debate of 2015. Passing on, then, from the world of serious and academic Old Testament scholarship—of which Dan Barker knows very little and cares to know just as little—one arrives at the essentially sole support of Mr. Barker’s entire case—Dorothy Murdock’s book Did Moses Exist?

Before examining Murdock’s work and the arguments Dan Barker borrowed from her, a minor source Barker made use of deserves mention: Timothy Freke and Peter Gandy’s The Jesus Mysteries: Was the “Original Jesus” a Pagan God?[125] Freke makes the same sort of arguments that Dorothy Murdock employs, and Mr. Barker borrowed his analogy that the relationship of the Old Testament to pagan myths is like the relationship of West Side Story to Romeo and Juliet from Freke and Gandy’s book. Freke and Gandy had written:

[W]ith these different myths it is possible to see both their uniqueness and fundametnal sameeness. A helpful comparison may be the relationship between Shakesepare’s Romeo and Juliet and Bernstein’s West Side Story. Oe is a sixteenth-century English tragedy about wealthy Italian families, while the other is a twentieth-century American musical about street gangs . . . yet they are essentially the same story. Similary, the tales told about the godmen of the Pagan Mysteries are essentially the same . . . it [is] obvious that the story of Jesus had all the characteristics of this perennial tale . . . construct[ed] from mythical motifs.[126]

Consequently, Mr. Barker argued:

There were all these myths and stuff happening before they came along, and it’s very clear that they swapped, they borrowed, they interpolated, they rewrote things—just like—it’s just like the Broadway musical West Side Story. Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim admit that Westside Story was based on Romeo and Juliet. It’s the same story but they modernized it. They brought it up into the future, so if you think about it, instead of the Jets and the Sharks and the Capulets and the Montigues, you can see that they were re-writing an older template. The Israelites did the same thing. There’s hardly anything in their stories that did not exist in mythical stories before that time.[127]

Barker has commended Freke and Gandy for years; his book Godless commends them as “mythicis[t] . . . scholars,”[128] a term he also applies to them in sundry writings of his in which he borrows their arguments.[129] Indeed, Mr. Barker writes: “Timothy Freke and Peter Gandy . . . explain how the myth and legend of Jesus could easily have arisen without a historical founder. The Jesus story was pressed from the same template as other mythical savior-gods who were killed and resurrected, such as Osiris, Dionysus, Mithra, and Attis.”[130]

Do Freke and Gandy prove the thesis that Biblical narratives, and the New Testament records about the Lord Jesus in particular, are based on pagan sources and the Bible is myth, not fact? The anti-inerrancy, anti-Christian agnostic scholar with atheist leanings, Bart Ehrman, provides the answer:

[Mythicists] Timothy Freke and Peter Gandy [in] The Jesus Mysteries: Was the “Original Jesus” a Pagan God? . . . [argue that] Jesus was a creation based on the widespread mythologies of dying and rising gods known throughout the pagan world. . . .

Real historians of antiquity are scandalized by such assertions—or they would be if they bothered to read Freke and Gandy’s book. The authors provide no evidence for their claims concerning the standard mythology of the godmen. They cite no sources from the ancient world that can be checked. It is not that they have provided an alternative interpretation of the available evidence. They have not even cited the available evidence. And for good reason. No such evidence [for pagan godmen] exists.

What, for example, is the proof that Osiris was born on December 25 before three shepherds? Or that he was crucified? And that his death brought atonement for sin? Or that he returned to life on earth by being raised from the dead? In fact, no ancient source says any such thing about Osiris (or about the other gods). . . . Freke and Gandy . . . “prove” it by quoting other writers from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries who said so. But these writers too do not cite any historical evidence. This is all based on assertion, believed by Freke and Gandy simply because they read it somewhere. This is not serious historical scholarship. It is sensationalist writing driven by a desire to sell books. . . . [W]hat we know about Jesus—the historical Jesus—does not come from Egypt toward the end of the first century, in circles heavily influenced by pagan mystery religions, but from Palestine, among Jews committed to their decidedly antipagan Jewish religion, from the 30s. . . . [Their] book [is] . . . filled with patently false information and inconsistencies. . . . The views they assert . . . no scholars hold to them today.[131]

Freke and Gandy historically outrageous work is devoid of any citations at all of actual ancient primary evidence, but is filled with tremendous numbers of gross factual errors.[132] Their book does nothing to undermine the case for the Bible—but regularly citing and referring to it as if it were a strong and scholarly work says a great deal about the weakness of the atheist mythicism of Dan Barker and his Freedom From Religion Foundation.

Passing on from Freke and Gandy, one notes that an examination of Murdock’s Did Moses Exist? reveals that it was either essentially or entirely the exclusive source for the large majority of Mr. Barker’s arguments against the historicity of the Old Testament. Consider the following table, containing only representative parallels (many more could have been provided):[133]

Dan Barker Dorothy Murdock, Did Moses Exist?
Moses . . . [used] magical rods.[134] Moses . . . perform[ed] various miracles with his magical rod, in order to defeat the Egyptian pharaoh[.][135]
[In] pagan exoduses . . . they got their laws from the top of a mountain . . . a mountaintop myth of going up to get the law from their god.[136] The stone tablets of law supposedly given to Moses were copied from the Canaanite god Baal-Berith [Jdg 8:33], “God of the Covenant.” . . . [T]he Canaanite Ten Commandments were similar to the commandments of the Buddhist Decalogue, and . . . in the ancient world, laws generally came from a deity on a mountaintop[,] such as in the story of the Persian god Ahura Mazda giving the tables of the law to the prophet Zoroaster[.][137]
Clothing that did not wear out for forty years. . . . Forty years it took them to go 130 miles. . . . [T]hey can’t go 130 miles in forty years? You and I could walk it in about a day and a half.   It’d be like walking over to the Minnesota border [from a part of Wisconsin]. If you walked non-stop pretty quick, you could do that. It took them forty years[?][138] Moses is credited with bringing the Hebrew slaves out of Egypt . . . after supposedly taking 40 years to cross the Sinai Peninsula, a stretch of desert 130 miles or so wide . . . In the Bible story of the Exodus, we are asked to believe that . . . fleeing people requiring four decades to make this relatively short journey of 130 miles or so[.]. . . [They] required 40 years to cross . . . through the desert from Egypt to Israel. . . . [Likewise,] Deuteronomy 29:5 asserts that the clothing the Hebrews fled with miraculously . . . continue[d] to fit the children as they grew up during this time . . . the Israelites had supernatural clothes and shoes that never wore out and that grew with the children born during the four decades . . . [while] the garments of those who died . . . magically shrank to fit the younger generation.[139]
[T]rillions of quail coming up out of the ocean to feed these people . . . 30 trillion stacked up . . . in a stack . . . [is] a mythical story.[140] While the Israelites were starving . . . [i]n one initial act of relief from the starvation, at Exodus 16:13 [God] brings a huge amount of quails from the sea to feed his chosen. First of all, during that time were there even quails at the sea [sic] at all, much less millions of them? Secondly, we read at Number [sic] 11:31 that these quail were “stacked up on the face of the earth” to a height of two cubits, equivalent to about 44 inches high, in a row the length of “a day’s journey round the camp.” . . . such a mass of quail would be equivalent to almost 29 trillion birds . . . providing dozens or hundreds of quails per person. Where did they get all the wood to cook with, and what did they do with the birds’ remains?[141]
Where is the evidence for that supposed exodus? . . . [T]he story is mythical. . . . You will find some places that actually do exist. But that doesn’t mean that the story itself is actually a true, historical story . . . there is no archeological evidence[.][142] [T]he biblical Exodus story . . . ha[s] no external corroboration, such as artifacts or literary accounts. . . . [a]lthough historical and geographical features may have been woven into the biblical tale to anchor it[.] . . . [T]here exists no credible . . . evidence . . .[of] the Exodus[.][143]
Something important [instead of the Bible containing predictive prophecy, including prophecy about Jesus Christ, would have been if it had said] . . .wash your hands . . . that would be a useful thing.[144] Indeed, what does the God of the cosmos convey to this chosen people [Israel]? The cure for disease? . . . [No, but] a tedious set of detailed ordinances[.]”[145]
A one day exit of two or three million people from Egypt . . . they had one day to put together . . . all their tents . . . [this is] a mythical story.[146] It is extremely unlikely that such an event [as] . . . organizing all these people and animals, for their departure from Egypt, required only one day . . . [n]ot even with our modern technology could such a “flash mob” be put together in that time.”[147]
Was there a group of two or three million people wandering in that peninsula for 40 years with all their cattle and all their tents . . . three million slaves escaping . . . [a] one-day exit of two or three million people from Egypt into the Exodus[?] . . . No, there was not.[148] [M]arching single file, about 2,000 people will fit comfortably into a mile[.] . . . If three million people—not just the 600,000 men mentioned in the Bible but also women [and] children . . . were lined up single file, the route would require an estimated 1,500 miles. . . . three millions of people with their flocks and herds . . . [involves] ludicrous inaccuracies.[149]
So who was the pharaoh in the Exodus story? . . . [T]he Israelite stories mention . . . [other] kings by name. . . . For historical reasons, why didn’t the writer of the Pentateuch mention the name of the pharaoh of Egypt? . . . [Why a] nameless Pharaoh?[150] [T]he Bible writers are very vague and do not present discernible historical details, such as dates or pharaohs’ names. . . . The pharaoh is never named, in dozens of pages of text, despite the fact that Egyptian kings were well known and inscribed their names all over monuments. . . . The lack of specifying the pharaoh . . . in the biblical tale is therefore inexplicable.”[151]
[T]he fact [is] that there was no Hebrew language in 1446 B.C. . . . the Hebrew language does not originate until the tenth century[.] There was no Hebrew alphabet until about the tenth century[.] Are you aware of that historical, archaeological fact? . . . Do you have any evidence that the Hebrew language was being written and spoken before the tenth century, B.C.? . . . [E]verything I read says it was not.   The Hebrew language was not a Semitic dialect until the 10th century B. C.[152] Moreover, since the Hebrew alphabet developed only after the “Phoenician” alphabet was created around 1050 BCE, Moses could not have written the Pentateuch in it some 200 or more years earlier. . . . [T]he Hebrew alphabet . . . develop[ed] . . . from the Phoenecian[.] . . . In addition, Hebrew as a spoken language was confined largely to the period between the 10th and seventh centuries, long after Moses’ time. . . . Hebrew . . . does not emerge in the extant archaeological record until the eighth century. . . . In the end, there exists no credible, scientic [sic] evidence for the biblical story of Moses. . . . [T]he Pentateuch was constructed during the third century BCE . . . including much new material to glue it together[.] . . . The date of Deborah’s song . . . 900 BCE [or a bit earlier] predat[es] the Hebrew script . . . [and dates] before the emergence of Hebrew[.] . . . the Hebrew language was not distinct and had no alphabet at this time[.]. . . Another redactor/editor . . . reworked the [Pentateuchal] texts during the second century BCE [Wikipedia cited as evidence].[153]
These stories that were floating around . . . pagan exoduses . . . had mythical giants in their stories, just like the Israelites had these mythical giants in their story. . . . And they got their laws from the top of a mountain . . . Egyptian pygmies had a mountaintop myth of going up to get the law from their God. . . . [T]he Israelite stories were cut from the same fabric of all these ancient pagan myths of the time[.][154] [T]he Exodus “giants” or nephilim tale represents not “history” but an astral or astrotheological motif. . . . [T]he myth of a battle with giants is found . . . [among the] Pygmies/Ituri/Efé [who] have a story of the triumph of their first man, Efé, over “giant monsters of heaven.”[155] . . . Moses . . . [was like the] Pygmy lawgiver of the Congo . . . The idea of a divine lawgiver dates back . . . to . . . the Pygmies of Central and South Africa, whose legends were recorded in modern times by Belgian anthropologist Dr. Jean-Pierre Hallet (1927-2004). . . . [“The] Pygmy stories of the ancestral lawgiver . . . [and] Efé legends tell of how this civilizing hero ascended to heaven and assumed his role as the patron saint or angel of the moon[.] . . . [A] lunar angel . . . is usually represented . . . as the intermediary who transmits the deity’s laws to the primordial Pygmy nation[.”] . . . [T]he first man is the lunar angel who receives the law and commandments from God. . . . [T]he Pygmies claimed that “in ancient times their lawgiving father-god-king reigned near Ruwenzori, the Mountains of the Moon.” . . . [T]he Bible seems to confirm that the commandments were handed down from the Mountain of the Moon. . . . Hence, we have a lawgiver associated with mountains. Indeed, the mountain of the moon would be called “Sin” in Semitic, the name of the moon god, said to be related to the Sinai of biblical myth. . . . [T]he volcanic scenes in the biblical tale are . . . likely [not from] . . . the region of the Levant and Arabia . . . [but] from elsewhere, therefore, possibly the still-active Virunga volcanoes . . . located within easy reach of the Pygmy-populated forest near the Mountains of the Moon.[156]
The literary evidence itself shows parallels with ancient mythology. The stories we find in the Old Testament are cut from the same fabric of other ancient mythologies. . . . There were many religious folktales and myths in the first and second millennium B. C. E. The Greeks, the Babylonians, the Persians, the Indians, the Egyptians, the Assyrians; there were Ugaritic myths, there were Sicilian, Mesopotamian; many, many of these myths and foundational stories with all sorts of clearly mythical and magical events in them, none of which we take seriously on historical grounds.[157] Thus, rather than serving as an “historical event,” the Moses tale apparently represents . . . the ancient motif of the sun and storm god battling the sea and/or controlling the waters, as found in Sumero-Babylonian, Egyptian, Greek, Phoenician and Ugaritic/Canaanite myths of the eastern Mediterranean . . . such as:

  • Apollo and Python
  • Baal and Yamm
  • Bel and Thamti
  • Beowulf and Grendel
  • Byelobog and Chernobog
  • Daniel and the Dragon
  • Dionysius and Pentheus
  • Enki and the Dragon of Kur
  • Indra and Vritra
  • Kronos and Ophion
  • Marduk and Tiamat
  • Mithra and Ahriman
  • Mordecai and Haman
  • Moses and Pharaoh
  • Osiris/Horus and Seth
  • Perseus and Gorgon
  • St. George and the Dragon
  • St. Patrick and the snakes
  • Yahweh and Leviathan
  • Zeus and Typhon[158]
[T]here are many literary parallels and precursors to the Israelite stories in many other mythologies of the time. It looks like the Israelites to a large degree were copying and mimicking stories like, for example, there were at least fifty, maybe sixty other lawgivers and reformers of the time. And isn’t it interesting that a whole bunch of them were two-syllable names starting with the letter “M.” Not just Moses, but there were also Manes, there was Manis in Phrygia. There was Mannus in the Germany area. There was Manu in India. There was Minos in Crete, there was Menes in Egypt. There was another Monius in Egypt. Then in Greece, there was a Musaeus, like Moses. And there were a bunch more of them.[159] The identification of Moses with other lawgivers . . . Mercurius, Minos . . . Musaeus . . . was recognized in antiquity[.] [a]s John Hopkins professor Don Cameron Allen says[.] . . . The common divine lawgiver myth [was] . . . another ubiquitous tradition . . . Minos . . . Musaeus . . . the Magi . . . Menes/Manes . .   Manis and Mannus . . . Menu/Manu[.] . . . The following list includes lawgivers around the Mediterranean, Africa, Europe and Asia[.] . . . The list is not exhaustive, as there are many more . . . including . . . in the Americas.

1.) Achaicarus/Ahiquar/Ahika of Assyria

2.) Adar/Ninib of Nippur

3.) Amasis of Egypt

4.) Amphiaraus of Argos

5.) Apollo of Greece

6.) Baal Berith of Canaan

7.) Boccharis/ Bocchoris / Bakenranef of Egypt

8.) Buddha of India / Asia

9.) Charondas of Sicily

10.) Decaeneus of the Byrebistas

11.) Demeter and Kore of Greece

12.) Dionysus of Greece

13.) El/Ilu of Canaan / Ugarit

14.) Enki / Enlil of Mesopotamia

15.) Gilgamesh of Mesopotamia

16.) Hammurabi of Babylon

17.) Hermes of Egypt / Greece

18.) Inana / Inanna of Sumer

19.) Isis of Egypt

20.) Lawspeaker of Scandinavia

21.) Lycurgus of Sparta

22.) Manes of Maeonia / Lydia

23.) Manis of Phrygia

24.) Mannus of Germany

25.) Manu of India

26.) Mercury of Rome

27.) Minos of Crete

28.) Mneves / Menes / Menas of Egypt

29.) Monius of Egypt

30.) Moses of Israel

31.) Moso of Israel

32.) Musaeus of Greece

33.) Neba or Nebo of Babylon, Borsippa, and Sumeria

34.) Nimrod of Babylon

35.) Orpheus of Greece

36.) Plato of Greece

37.) Pygmy lawgiver of the Congo

39.) Romulus of Rome

40.) Sasychis of Egypt

41.) Sesoösis of Egypt

42.) Shamash of Babylon

43.) Shapash of Ugarit

44.) Shu of Egypt

45.) Solon of Greece

46.) Thoth of Egypt

47.) Trophonius of Boetia

48.) Ur-Nammu of Sumeria

49.) Porgnyr of Iceland

50.) Zalmoxis of the Getae

51.) Zarathustra / Zoroaster of Persia

52.) Zeus of Greece . . .

In his quest, Menes led his army across the frontier and won great glory. . . . [T]here is also Manes . . . Manis . . . Mannus[.] . . . The original Moses has been traced also to Menu or Manu . . . the Cretan king Minos, a title said to derive from Menes[.] . . . The lawgiver archetype usually includes a law code or codes, comprising commandments of one sort or another. . . . Moses was also known as Misen, Mises and Moso . . . Jewish supernatural stories were unoriginal and had borrowed from the pagan myths[.] . . . Moses is Adonis . . . [and is] in the pantheons of Persia, China, Japan, Mexico, and the primitive religions of the Germans, French and English. . . . Moses also ranks as a solar hero or sun god, said to be Masu, Mashu, Mash or Shamash. . . . The “biblical” counterpart is therefore archetypical and mythical, not reflective of “history.” . . . [T]he Bible is not the literal “Word of God” . . . [but an] old tome of fabulous fairytales[.][160]

There was water that came from a rock that had been struck [in the Exodus narrative]. By the way, the Persian god Mithra shot an arrow into a rock and water came out of it, too. . . very similar parallel stories were going on back then.[161] [T]he sacred act of miraculously producing water is common and not unique to Jewish myth. . . . One of the more famous examples of miraculous water-production occurs with the Perso-Roman god Mithra “shooting at the rock,” from which flowered water, a scene similar to “Moses smiting the rock” (Num 20:11) in Christian iconography. . . . [A picture is then produced of] Mithra shooting an arrow into a rock to produce water, c. 2nd cent. AD/CE. . . . Noting the connection between the Mithraic water-producing motive and not only the Moses but also the Jesus myth, mythicist Ken Humphreys comments: We have evidence that Mithras performed at least one miracle: the god released life-giving water from a rock by firing an arrow. Regurgitated in the story of Jesus, the god of the Christians claimed himself to offer, or even be, “living water.”[162]
There are anachronisms [in the Bible from] a different time. . . . But probably the most damning is camels. The patriarchal stories mentioned camels. Camel caravans and herds of camels. Did you know that there were no domesticated camels during the time of the patriarchs? Yet the stories about Joseph and Abraham talked about these camels carrying the goods because the later writers didn’t know that the camels weren’t that old. . . . [T]he introduction of domestic camels [took place] . . . around year 930 B.C. when camels basically were domesticated. Way too late for them to appear in the Old Testament stories. That’s a mistake. That’s an anachronism. The Old Testament writers goofed.[163] The mention of the dromedary in Exodus 9:3 also suggests a later date of composition, as domesticated camels had not been introduced [Wikipedia cited as source] . . . the mention of camels in the Bible represents an anachronism, because remains of domesticated camels do not appear in the archaeological record until centuries after their purported use by the patriarch Abraham . . . the Bible could not have been written until the beginning of the first millennium at the earliest, when the first signs of camel domestication emerge in Israel, long after Abraham’s purported era (c. 2000 BCE).[164]

It is noteworthy that Murdock references Israel Finkelstein on pages 38, 65 90, 118, 120, 121, and 123 of her book—very possibly Barker got at least a substantial portion of his statements about Finkelstein by reading Murdock’s quotes (which, unfortunately but not surprisingly, themselves misrepresent the books mentioned).[165] Finally, note that even the way Mr. Barker stated the topic of the debate comes from Dorothy Murdock. She wrote: “The biblical story thus ranks as historicized fiction[.] . . . historical fiction,”[166] and so Dan Barker argued: “The Old Testament itself is mainly fictional. . . . It is what you would call historical fiction. The Old Testament is historical fiction. . . . The Old Testament is fictional.”[167] As noted above, Mr. Barker made no attempt in the debate (nor did Ms. Murdock in her book) to show that the genre of historical fiction existed in the appropriate ancient era and part of the world for the Old Testament to be in that genre—this fact is not surprising, since the genre of historical fiction came into existence around A. D. 1800.[168] Mr. Barker’s repeated references to the 20th century A. D. fiction writer Steven King[169] was as close as he got, which was not especially close.

Dorothy Milne Murdock’s Did Moses Exist? is recognized as “fantastic” by “everyone” in the atheist mythicist “movement,”[170] within which she is a “celebrity.”[171] Her fellow mythicists believe her writings are tremendous work constituting the highest sort of scholarship, for she is one of the “great minds of our time.”[172] “Dan Barker . . . couldn’t stop saying great things about”[173] Did Moses Exist?. Thus, it is clear why Mr. Barker relied so heavily upon her work in his case against the Old Testament. Mr. Barker has also recommended her other works for years. For example, in a Freedom From Religion Foundation publication commending an lawsuit that would have made the claim “Jesus did indeed exist” illegal, Mr. Barker’s “Debunking the Historical Jesus: What the Bible-Belt Media Didn’t Tell You About [sic] Italian Lawsuit,”[174] Mr. Barker commends Murdock’s The Christ Conspiracy: the Greatest Story Every Sold for research “relating to the historical Jesus,” along with other comparable works such as Freke and Gandy’s The Jesus Mysteries, evaluated above.[175] Consequently, according to Dan Barker and the Freedom From Religion Foundation, the work of scholars such as Dorothy Murdock prove that lawsuits making it illegal to claim that Jesus existed should succeed.

Other leading atheist mythicists like Robert Price, author of The Case Against the Case for Christ[176] and many other books of atheist mythicism, has “defended her work ever since” he interacted with Ms. Murdock after her publication of her initial tome, The Christ Conspiracy,[177] and has “never had any problem recommending highly all of her other books” after her first one; indeed, even that first one he is himself editing for a second edition.[178] Her books have “profoundly affected people,”[179] and she is the initial force behind one of the leading mythicist organizations in the United States.[180] She has been recognized as “the first mythicist”[181] and the “matriarch of mythicism . . . the queen mythologist of the world.”[182] Atheist mythicists testify: “More than anybody, she was the great mythologist or mythology scholar of our era,” for she is “one of the most refined scholars of comparative religion.”[183] Indeed, many atheist mythicists consider her the “best in her field of study.”[184] She “injected mythicism into the mainstream of the world”[185] and was affirmed to be “a brilliant scholar, linguist, and polyglot,”[186] using her acclaimed linguistic finesse to investigate countless sources not available in English[187] and bringing their scholarly weight to fellow mythicists with less scholarly ability. Why does academia write off her work? Certainly not, according to her mythicist defenders, because she has her facts utterly in error—she has the “right information.”[188] On the contrary—she was “scorned because . . . she was a woman.”[189] From the praise and promotion lavished on her writings by other leading atheist mythicists like Dan Barker, one could genuinely conclude that the case for mythicism (both for the Old and New Testaments) rises or falls with the writings of Dorothy M. Murdock.

In any case, unlike Dr. Finkelstein, Dorothy Murdock does indeed argue that the Old Testament is copied from pagan myths—Dan Barker correctly follows her in making this argument. Ms. Murdock wrote:

[T]he Pentateuch represent[s] not “history” but mythology found in . . . previous cultures. . . . [A]rchaeology and other disciplines . . . the hallowed halls of academia . . . have demonstrated that the biblical renditions are continuities and adaptations of . . . earlier tales and myths. . . . The Exodus myth was created as . . . propaganda . . . [from] ancient myths[.] . . . Jewish supernatural stories were unoriginal and had borrowed from the pagan myths . . . largely revolving around the deities of the Phoenicians, Canaanites and Ugaritians . . . Sumero-Babylonians, Akkadians, Assyrians, Egyptians, Greeks, Persians, Indians, and so on. . . . [P]arts of the Moses myth were based directly on the ancient and well-developed Greek myth . . . [with] direct borrowing in parts of the Pentateuch from well-known Dionysian mythology. . . . [T]he parallel[s] [are] clear enough that . . . there [is] . . . copying from pagan myth to the Bible[.] . . . [Various] passage[s] . . . [are] straight out of [pagan] myth/literature. . . . Biblical figures are copies of ancient myths .

. . The myths . . . have been copied and reproduced . . . Moses’s account is mythical, copied from paganism to Judaism . . . The supernatural and miraculous biblical tales are no more “historical” than the predecessor myths upon which they evidently are founded. . . . As a history book . . . its value is minimal[.][190]

Following Ms. Murdock, Dan Barker argued:

The literary evidence itself shows parallels with ancient mythology. The stories that we find in the Old Testament are cut from the same fabric as other ancient mythologies. . . . There were many religious folktales and myths in the first and second millennium B. C. E. The Greeks, the Babylonians, the Persians, the Indians, the Egyptians, the Assyrians; there were Ugaritic myths, there were Sicilian, Mesopotamian; many, many of these myths and foundational stories with all sorts of clearly mythical and magical events in them, none of which we take seriously on historical grounds. . . . [I]t’s very clear that they swapped, they borrowed, they interpolated, they rewrote things . . . There’s hardly anything in their stories that did not exist in mythical stories before that time. . . . The writers of the Old Testament . . . had these untrue stories that were based on previous mythologies[.] . . .That means the Old Testament is fictional.[191]

Dan Barker and the Freedom From Religion Foundation have been making the argument that the Bible is copied from pagan myths for many years. For example, the Freedom From Religion “nontract,” which Mr. Barker’s organization has been selling since at least 1993 and promoting for wide distribution as an instrument to convert those in Christendom to atheism, begins its presentation with the sentence: “The story of Jesus was copied from earlier mythologies,”[192] such as stories about the Mexican god Quetzalcoatl that somehow managed to cross the Atlantic Ocean to influence the writers of the Bible.[193] Mr. Barker’s book Losing Faith in Faith demonstrates that he has been claiming since at least 1992 that “the Jesus story is simply a fanciful patchwork of pieces borrowed from other religions. Pagan mythical parallels can be found for almost every item in the New Testament,”[194] proven (allegedly) by a quotation from Barbara Walker, an author of books about tarot cards and knitting. Mr. Barker has reproduced this argument in his 1996, 1998, 2000, 2003 and 2006 editions of his book, as well as his 2008 book Godless, and continues to promote it to the present time. Indeed, the allegations that the Bible is copied from pagan myths are, Mr. Barker affirms, “the arguments that made me an atheist.”[195] Other leading atheists agree with Mr. Barker’s and Ms. Murdock’s mythicist claims; for example, Richard Dawkins, possibly the world’s leading modern atheist, wrote:

[A]ll the essential features of the Jesus legend, including the star in the east, the virgin birth, the veneration of the baby by kings, the miracles, the execution, the resurrection and the ascension are borrowed—every last one of them—from other religions already in existence in the Mediterranean and Near East region. . . . It is even possible to mount a serious . . . historical case that Jesus never lived at all.[196]

Clearly, the idea that the Bible is copied from pagan myths is widespread and widely propagated among leading atheists.

While both Ms. Murdock and Mr. Barker have regularly and repeatedly taught for decades that the Bible was copied from pagan myths and claimed direct dependence of Biblical narratives upon paganism, both authors also at times soften the alleged dependence to something less direct. While Murdock repeatedly affirms direct dependence from the Bible on various pagan myths, she also affirms for certain myths that there was no “need to rely on the texts directly” because they were “well known enough.”[197] She regularly affirms direct dependence on pagan myths, that is, copying from written pagan records, at times, but she also wishes to retain deniability if her allegations prove untenable, so affirmations of unwritten and oral dependence are also convenient. Mr. Barker likewise shifts back and forth in his affirmations concerning pagan dependence; at one point “The writers of the Old Testament . . . had these untrue stories” before them which they “borrowed . . . interpolated . . . [and] rewrote,”[198] while at other times—especially when the extreme problems with the pagan myth argument is being pointed out by a Christian debate opponent—the alleged dependence becomes something more vague and nebulous. When, in the second Barker-Ross debate, the utter irrationality of the affirmation that the Bible was copied from pagan myths was demonstrated, Dan Barker fell back on the astonishing claim that neither he, nor any other atheist of his persuasion, has ever claimed that the Bible or Biblical figures was copied from pagan myths, despite what he had himself publicly taught and affirmed for many years, and despite what he had on his Freedom From Religion Foundation website on the very day of the second debate and what was on Mr. Barker’s book table the day of the debate! The following table illustrates the profound incoherence in Mr. Barker’s affirmations:

Dan Barker (1st Barker-Ross debate): My third point is that there are many literary parallels and precursors to the Israelite stories in many other mythologies of the time. It looks like the Israelites, to a large degree, were copying and mimicking stories . . . the Israelite stories were cut from the same fabric of all these ancient pagan myths of the time.[199]

Dan Barker (“nontract” for sale on the booktable during the 2nd Barker-Ross debate, written by Dan Barker, in print since 1993 and on the Internet): [T]he Jesus story . . . [c]onsisting mostly of material borrowed from pagan religions . . . appears to be cut from the same fabric as all other myths and fables.[200]

Dan Barker’s Freedom From Religion Foundation (“Nontract” in print and on the Freedom From Religion Foundation website since 1993, the first sentence): “The story of Jesus was copied from earlier mythologies[.]”[201]

When Mr. Barker had to beat a devastating retreat on his claim that the Bible was copied from pagan myths, he nevertheless was unwilling to admit that myths found in Iceland in the 10th century A. D. and in remote African rainforests very far away from Israel and recorded in the 20th century A. D. were totally unrelated to the Biblical narratives about Moses—they were still, he claimed, connected in some way, so that they could still serve as proof that the Biblical writers were, to use his own words, “copying and mimicking” dependent in some indirect way upon ideas that did not exist until many centuries after the Bible was written. How could the Bible be dependent upon myths recorded many centuries or even several millenia after the Bible was composed in lands far, far away from the Near East? Mr. Barker’s very weak argument that the word for “mother” is common to many languages with a “Ma’ sound is also one he has reproduced in his books for decades, copied from the knitting and tarot-card lady Barbara Walker.[202]

Both Mr. Barker and Ms. Murdock are highly capable of making contradictory and nonsensical statements—for example, in her book arguing that Moses is a myth Murdock can at the same time state that “Moses may be viewed as a monolatrist or henotheist, rather than a monotheist”[203]—so he apparently both exists and does not exist. Similarly, Murdock can argue vehemently that Jesus was a myth, not a historical character, but she can also inform her readers that “Jesus and Paul were Masons,”[204] so Jesus of Nazareth both exists (as a Mason!) and does not exist for Murdock. As long as the Bible and its God is rejected, it does not appear especially important to Murdock—or to Barker—that the arguments offered are coherent, logical, or historically reasonable.   In any case, the analysis below will clearly answer the question of whether pagan myths in any shape, way, or form were the source of the Biblical narratives, and whether (on that account) the Bible must be viewed as fiction, not fact.

Before dealing with the specific objections made by Dan Barker, following Dorothy Murdock, the question arises: who is this “matriarch of mythicism,” Dorothy Murdock, and how credible are her writings? Her website affirms that her writings contain “the highest standards of scholarship”[205] and put her qualifications in the best possible light. What, then, are those qualifications? A doctorate in a relevant field? Not exactly. At least a master’s degree? No—she just has an undergraduate degree. She also attended, for one year, the American School of Classical Studies, an organization that requires no scholarly expertise to join—only a bachelor’s degree and some money. Furthermore, she advertises that she was a teacher’s assistant for a while.[206] Among other qualifications, she claims to be able to read a variety of languages, including Greek[207]—although she does not even claim to have read the New Testament in Greek. She does not specifically assert that she knows Hebrew, although she implies a knowledge of the Jewish tongue and many other languages—a claim which will be evaluated below. She does not even claim to have majored—or even taken a single course or a single college credit in her life—in either Old or New Testament studies. She does say, however, that she has read Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales in Middle English.[208] This author found that alleged qualification rather humorous, because when he taught high school English literature he had his juniors and seniors in high school reading Chaucer’s Middle English without much difficulty in only a short period of time.

What does Ms. Murdock do—what does she consider “the highest standards of scholarship”? She conducts random searches at—including of books that Google only allows to be displayed in limited or snippet view—and then inserts into her writings content that she thinks supports her desired conclusion.[209] Indeed, at least at times, she does not even bother looking through the free online snippet view of books she cites, but simply quotes what says about a book.[210] She also regularly cites Wikipedia to make her case.[211] Indeed, Wikipedia is by far the most cited resource in the bibliography of Did Moses Exist?—it appears more than eighty times, far more than all other web resources combined![212] Multiple paragraphs covering very sizable direct quotations from Wikipedia pepper her book.[213] After all, in her view, “articles on Wiki” constitute valuable “modern research.”[214] Of course, Wikipedia can be edited by anybody and is not at all a scholarly source. This writer has on occasion edited Wikipedia articles and has often been frustrated in his attempts to make the website more scholarly. He put in some edits on an article in an area of expertise—the field of his doctoral dissertation. However, these edits were eliminated again and again by a homeless person who had no knowledge whatever of the subject. Nevertheless, this homeless person’s Wikipedia user page recognizes him as “a Master Editor” who is “entitled to display [a] Platinum Editor Star.” Such is Wikipedia—and such is Ms. Murdock’s “highest standards of scholarship”—at least when she is not citing the online Wikipedia competitor known as the New World Encyclopedia, a creation of the cult of Sun Young Moon.[215]

Ms. Dorothy M. Murdock, who also goes under the penname “Acharya S.,” is the author, not only of Did Moses Exist?, but also of several other loony and tabloid-style books such as Christ in Egypt: The Horus-Jesus Connection; Suns of God: Krishna, Buddha, and Christ Unveiled, and The Christ Conspiracy, a book which argues that the Lord Jesus Christ did not exist but was “many characters rolled into one” as a “personificatio[n] of the ubiquitous solar myth . . . as reflected in the stories of such popular deities as Mithra, Hercules, Dionysus, and many others throughout the Roman Empire and beyond.”[216] The thesis of this latter book is that pagans and Jews who were Masons got together and invented the account of Jesus and His disciples in order to create what should be a one-world religion in the ancient Roman Empire. As part of her argument that the Lord Jesus Christ did not exist in her tabloid-book The Christ Conspiracy, she argues that the book of Job “is a complete description of the Masonic ceremonies or Egyptian Masonry, or the trial of the dead by Osiris.”[217] Indeed, “Jesus and Paul were Masons,”[218] an interesting affirmation in a book dedicated to the thesis that Jesus did not exist. However, Freemasonry came into existence only a few centuries ago—the first Masonic lodge known to the world was founded in England in 1717.[219] An organization that came into existence in the 18th century A. D. cannot be the source of Christianity, nor of the book of Job, which antedates Christianity by many centuries more. Her book arguing that the Lord Jesus never existed aptly has the word Conspiracy in its name—the sort of atrocious historical errors characteristic of conspiracy-mongering fills her book.

The famous liberal and anti-inerrancy scholar Bart Ehrman certainly has no bias to advance Biblical Christianity. He states: “I am not a Christian, and I have no interest in promoting a Christian cause or a Christian agenda. I am an agnostic with atheist leanings[.]”[220] Nevertheless, because he is a genuine scholar, he comments as follows on Murdock’s The Christ Conspiracy:

Acharya S[.] [or] D. M. Murdock published the breathless conspirator’s dream: The Christ Conspiracy: The Greatest Story Every Sold. . . . This book [argues] . . . that Christianity is rooted in a myth about the sun-god Jesus, who was [allegedly] invented by a group of Jews in the second century CE.

Mythicists of this ilk should not be surprised that their views are not taken seriously by real scholars, that their books are not reviewed in scholarly journals, mentioned by experts in the field, or even read by tehm. The book is filled with so many factual errors and outlandish assertions that it is hard to believe that the author is serious. If she is serious, it is hard to believe that she has ever encountered anything resembling historical scholarship. Her “research” appears to have involved reading a number of nonscholarly books that say the same thing she is about to say and then quoting them. One looks in vain for the citation of a primary ancient source, and quotations from real experts (Elaine Pagels, chiefly) are ripped from their context and misconstrued. . . . One cannot help wondering if this is all a spoof[.] . . . [A]ll of Acharya’s major points are in fact wrong. Jesus was not invented [as she claims] in Alexandria, Egypt, in the middle of the second Christian century. He was known already in the 30s of the first centiry, in Jewish circles in Palestine. He was not originally a sun-god (as if that equals Son-God!) . . . [but] a Jewish prophet and messiah. There are no astrological phenomena associated with Jesus in any of our earliest traditions. These traditions are attested in multiple sources that origininated at least a century before Acharya’s alleged astrological creation at the hands of people who lived in a different part of the world from the historical Jesus[.] . . . In short, if there is any conspiracy here, it is not on the part of the ancient Christians who [allegedly] made up Jesus but on the part of modern authors who make up stories about the ancient Christians and what they believed about Jesus.[221]

Even atheists who have some real knowledge of the subject recognize the utterly unscholarly worthlessness of Dorothy Murdock’s writings.

Furthermore, while the back cover of Did Moses Exist? declares that “Murdock works in many languages, drawing on numerous ancient primary sources . . . hundreds of citations from primary sources in multiple languages [are employed],” it is painfully obvious to anyone who knows the Biblical languages that Dorothy Murdock does not know Hebrew. (Dan Barker similarly makes vague claims about Hebrew—a language which would obviously be helpful for him to appear to know since he has written a great deal attacking the Old Testament—yet he has never taken a single class in Hebrew in his life and cannot even recognize the Hebrew alphabet.)[222] Claims are made that Murdock speaks fifteen languages,[223] but a little skeptical inquiry demonstrates that she does not even know what Hebrew letters look like or how to pronounce them. While she attempts to hide this fact by only reproducing Hebrew consonants in her book, it nevertheless remains distressingly obvious to even an elementary student of the Jewish tongue. For example,[224] she does not know that the long Hebrew vowel cholem-waw exists, and thus mistransliterates h∂rwø;t (to®raœh) as towrah,[225] NwYøyVlRo ({elyo®n) as elyown,[226] MDlwøo ({o®laœm) as ‘owlam,[227] bDkwø;k (ko®k≈aœb≈) as kowkab,[228] NwøvVmIv (sûimsûo®n) as Shimshown,[229] NwøpDx (sΩaœp≈o®n) as tsaphown,[230] NwøyVlRo ({elyo®n) as elyown,[231] lEawøy (yo®}eœl) as Yow’el,[232] and rwøv (sûo®r) as showr.[233] She does not know that chireq-yod exists, and thus mistransliterates yÅnyIs (sˆînay) as Ciynay,[234] tyîrV;b NwørSa (}∞ro®n b§rˆît◊) as ‘arown beriyth,[235] MyîqÎnSo ({∞naœqˆîm) as ‘Anaqiym,[236] MyIhølTa (}§loœhˆîm) as ‘elohiym (127),[237] and so on. Nor does she know that tsere-yod exists—for instance, she mistransliterates yˆnyéq (qe®nˆî) as Qeyniy.[238] She cannot identify the consonant waw or the vowel sureq, and so mistransliterates P…ws (su®p≈) as cuwph,[239] hDo…wv◊y (y§sûu®{aœh) as yeshuw’ah,[240] MwøhV;t (t§ho®m) as tehowm,[241] and Aj…wr (ru®ahΩ) as ruwach.[242] She does not know that the consonant mem is written M, not m, at the end of a word, among other errors, in her claiming that the Hebrew word Myîd…wh◊y (y§hu®d≈ˆîm) is really the radically different mdwwhy (yhwwdm)—those latter very incorrect Hebrew characters being mistransliterated as Yehudim because she knew what the word was supposed to sound like but had no clue what the Hebrew letters actually signified.[243] Likewise, she claims that the Hebrew MRh´ywøg (g≈o®ye®hem) is transliterated as goyim, because she cannot read the letters she is cutting and pasting into her book, and she mistranslates this elementary first-year Hebrew word as “the nations” rather than as “their nations,” because she does not know the Hebrew for their and for the.[244] Nor does she know the Hebrew word your—she claims that the word ND;mAj (hΩammaœn) in the plural is MRky´nD;mAj (hΩammaœne®k≈em), for she does not know that your is contained in the Hebrew characters she ignorantly copies—while she also mistransliterates these Hebrew characters as chammanim.[245] She claims that “the word for ‘chariots’ at Exodus 15:4 is hbkrm merkabah, in the singular,”[246] but the word tñObV;k√rAm (mark§b≈oœt◊) in the verse is plural—she cannot tell the utterly rudimentary difference between singular and plural words in Hebrew. Furthermore, not only does she not know that the Hebrew tsere yod exists, and thus mistransliterates y¶EhølTa (}§loœhe®) as elohey, but she does not know that what any student of Hebrew would learn about in only a few days after starting to learn the language, namely, what a construct form is.[247]

Ms. Murdock creates letters that are not there and utterly misreads ones that are, so that she mistransliterates hRvOm (moœsûeh, or, simply representing the consonants, msûh) as mshh,[248] twø…xAm (masΩsΩo®t◊) as matstsah,[249] tO;kUs (sukkoœt◊) as cukkah,[250] rOrDm (maœroœr) as meror,[251] hDbE…xAm (masΩsΩeœb≈aœh) as matstsebah,[252] täüdEoDh NõOrSa (}∞roœn haœ{eœd≈ut◊) as ‘arown ‘eduwth (where, of course, in addition to her other errors, she neglects to place the Hebrew article before haœ{eœd≈ut◊ in her transliteration because she is not looking at the Hebrew text but at some kind of computer program from which she is copying and pasting),[253] twødyIj (hΩˆîd≈o®t◊) as chiydah,[254] ;hÎy (yaœh) as yahh,[255] sEn (neœs) as “nec or nissi,”[256] twø;kU;sAh gAj (hΩag≈ hassukko®t◊) as chag cukkah.[257] She claims that 1 Chronicles 2:53 contains a word myorvm (msûr{ym) (showing, again, she does not know the difference between m and M) when the text actually has y¡Io∂rVvI;m (misûraœ{ˆî).[258] She claims the Hebrew la Nyvmv is “transliterated as . . . Shamshiel . . . Samsapeel, Shamshel, Shamsiel or Shashiel”[259]—quite a variety for a single set of characters—and the more so because every single one of them is plainly wrong: not a single one of her five proposed mistransliterations represents the nun (n) of Nyvmv in any way. She does not know what the Hebrew letter waw looks like, mistransliterating N´gDm…w (u®maœg≈eœn) as magen because she does not know that the word “and” is present.[260] That Ms. Murdock has absolutely no idea how to even identify Hebrew letters is evident from her mistransliteration of what she claims is the Hebrew word twbkr (r§k§b≈o®t◊) as merkabah[261]—although the verse she refers to actually contains twøbV;k√rAm, not twøbV;k√r.[262] She claims that the verb …wdVbDo ({aœb≈§d≈u®), “they served,” is the noun “Hebrews” (MyîrVbIo, {ib≈rˆîm) in 1 Samuel 4:9, and mistransliterates …wdVbDo ({aœb≈§d≈u®) as ‘Ibriy. It is plain that she is simply guessing at Hebrew words with some computer program and that she cannot even recognize the Hebrew alphabet. (She also makes up a definition for her imaginary ‘Ibriy and cites Strong’s Concordance for it, although her definition is not in Strong’s).[263] The errors listed above are just scratching the surface of the evidence for her total lack of knowledge of even the rudiments of the Hebrew language. Dorothy Murdock would fail a pop quiz from the first week of the first semester of an introductory Hebrew class. She knows about as much Hebrew as a Hebrew national hot dog. That Dan Barker would lean upon her as the sole authority for the large majority of his debate arguments against the Old Testament illuminates either his utter carelessness or his utter ignorance of the Hebrew Bible he writes books attacking (or both). Likewise, Mr. Barker either does not know enough Hebrew to read the alphabet or (the less likely possibility) he does know but does not care.

Indeed, Murdock’s ability to transliterate Greek correctly is also questionable. She mistransliterates Mwu¨shvß (Moœuseœs) as Moyses,[264] e˙kklhsi÷a (ekkleœsia) as ecclesia,[265] and makes numbers of other mistransliterations.[266] She never even once cites the standard Greek-English Lexicon by Liddell and Scott[267] in her entire book, despite making many claims about Greek.[268]   While her errors in Greek are not as consistently and utterly egregious as her errors in Hebrew, the fact that she cannot even consistently transliterate Greek characters leaves one recognizing that in the topic of her book she b lot more off than she n much about.

While Ms. Murdock is very robust in her ability to cut-and-paste from Wikipedia, she shows no awareness of even the elementary tools for study of Biblical Hebrew. Her book never cites standard Hebrew lexica. This is as reasonable as writing a book dealing heavily with the history and elements of the English language without citing the dictionary. In over 550 pages, Murdock never even once cites such fundamental resources as the Hebrew Lexicon of Brown-Driver-Briggs[269] or the Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament of Koehler and Baumgartner.[270] Her book betrays not the slightest awareness of The Dictionary of Classical Hebrew,[271] the Dictionary of Epigraphic Hebrew,[272] the Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament,[273] the Theological Lexicon of the Old Testament,[274] the New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology and Exegesis,[275] the Theological Workbook of the Old Testament,[276] or other similar works. None of these books are referenced in her composition nor appear in her bibliography. Furthermore, just as the standard classical Greek lexicon by Liddell and Scott[277] is never cited by Murdock, nor does it appear in her bibliography, likewise other standard and necessary works on the Greek language that are relevent to the Bible never appear.[278] The same ignorance and utter absence of basic and necessary sources appears concerning Aramaic, Egyptian, Ugaritic, Akkadian, and the other languages about which she confidently makes linguistic and etymological assertions. (Indeed, her bibliography evidences a radical lack of understanding of the basics of scholarship in general, rather than solely linguistic ignorance.)[279] Instead of citing standard Hebrew (or Greek, Aramaic, etc.) lexica, Dorothy Murdock cites profusely from Strong’s Concordance,[280] a work which is not a Hebrew or Greek dictionary at all, but a concordance that has at the back small and very basic definitions for Greek and Hebrew words that do not rise far beyond the level of a gloss. Scholarly Old Testament studies would never dream of citing Strong’s Concordance instead of Hebrew lexica, but because Ms. Murdock is so far from being a scholar that she does not appear to have ever taken a single college level class in Old Testament studies, she appears to be blissfully unaware of that fact.[281]

While Ms. Murdock is unaware of what the standard Hebrew and Greek lexica are, she does not even appear able to site Strong’s Concordance accurately (that is, its very small Hebrew and Greek dictionaries—whether she ever actually did a word search with the concordance proper is dubious). Indeed, she seems quite willing to make up whatever she wishes and claim that it appears in Strong’s Concordance. For instance, she writes: “Strong’s (H5015) defines wbn Nebow [sic] as a ‘prophet’ as well as ‘a Babylonian deity who presided over learning and letters; corresponds to Greek Hermes, Latin Mercury and Egyptian Thoth.’”[282] However, Strong’s H5015 defines wøb◊n (n§b≈o®) as: “probably of foreign derivation; Nebo, the name of a Babylonian deity, also of a mountain in Moab, and of a place in Palestine—Nebo.”[283] There is nothing like what Murdock claims was written by Augustus Strong anywhere in his Concordance or its associated Hebrew and Greek dictionary glosses, including in his definition of the actual Hebrew word for prophet, which is not wøb◊n (n§b≈o®), a mountain in Moab, but ayIbÎn (naœb≈ˆî}). She claims that Strong’s Concordance defines MRh´ywøg (g≈o®ye®hem, meaning “their peoples”)—which she mistransliterates and mistranslates as “the nations”—as “swarms of locusts or other animals,” putting these words in parentheses as a direct quotation from Strong’s, which, however, does not contain these exact words,[284] and concluding that the use of this word for “the nations” indicates “xenophobic supremacism” that is “obviously noticeable and greatly offensive.” Since she did not apparently ever look at the texts containing the Hebrew word she mistransliterates, she does not appear to be aware that it is employed, not only of non-Jewish peoples, but for Israel herself in texts such as: “And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation [ywøg, g≈o®y]. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel” (Exodus 19:6). She gives many, many definitions that are allegedly from Strong’s, in quotation marks indicating direct quotations, that are simply not present in the book.[285] One is more likely to get a “definition” not present in Strong’s when Murdock cites the concordance than one is to have an accurate quotation. She writes: “The Hebrew of Psalm 78:12 for ‘Tanis’ is Nox Tso’an, which Strong’s H6814 defines as ‘place of departure’ and ‘an ancient city of lower Egypt called Tanis by the Greeks.”[286] The complete definition in Strong’s H6814 is: “NAoOx Tso{an, tso´-an; of Egyptian derivation; Tsoan, a place in Egypt:—Zoan.”[287] Nothing even close to Murdock’s statements is found in Strong’s book. Concerning Genesis 41:45’s ~Aj´nVoAÚp t∞AnVp`Dx (sΩaœp≈§nat◊ pa{neœahΩ)—which she mistransliterates as Tsaphnath phanehh—Murdock writes: “Strong’s Concordance (H6847) defines this term as ‘treasury of the glorious rest,’”[288] but nothing even close to these words is found in Strong’s.[289] Murdock contains an indented section of several lines, her block quote preceded by the words: “The biblical word rendered mannah is Nm man, which Strong’s (H4478) defines as:”[290] but her “which Strong’s (H4478) defines as:” does not correlate with how Strong’s H4478 defines the word.[291] It is not clear why Ms. Murdock claims on many occasions in her book that Strong’s Concordance says something that it does not. What is clear is that such utter sloppiness and misrepresentation of the concordance that she substitutes for the real Hebrew lexica absent from her diatribe is inexcusable. Did Dan Barker realize what his primary source was doing—did he not know, or did he not care? In either case, why did he just write a book about the Old Testament (and promote it in the Barker-Ross debates) as if he knew something about the first half of the Bible?

Not only is Ms. Murdock destitute of knowledge of the Biblical languages, but she also has an extremely rudimentary knowledge of fundamental facts about the Bible. She does not know that part of Daniel was written in Aramaic, instead commenting that “Aramaic terms” appear in a section of the book that she thinks was written in Hebrew, but which in truth contains Aramaic terms—and nothing but Aramaic terms—because it is written in Aramaic.[292] She makes the astonishing statement that the Hebrew word “God” MyIhølTa (}§loœhˆîm)—which she mistransliterates as ‘elohiym—is actually Ugaritic.[293] A simple glance at a standard lexicon would show that what she needs in Ugaritic is ilhm,[294] but standard lexica do not make their presence known in her book, as they appear to have had no presence in Ms. Murdock’s mind. However, even without knowing how to look up a word in a Hebrew dictionary, she should have known that Hebrew and Ugaritic were two different languages. Ms. Murdock thinks that references in older books to “Chaldean” refer to “Akkadian,”[295] when in actuality it was “the Aramaic language of the Bible [that] was sometimes called ‘Chaldee,’ as was the Syriac dialect.”[296] Thus, Murdock does not know the difference between Aramaic and Akkadian. Indeed, on multiple occasions she even refers to the Old Testament as if it were written in Greek. For example, she says that a Greek term is found in Isaiah 9:6 and states that “the Greek makes it clear that this verse is a past tense,”[297] so that it allegedly cannot be a “messianic prophecy,”[298] ignoring the category of the prophetic perfect[299]—which is discussed in the standard grammars that are too frequently not even extant in her bibliography—and the numerous instances in Isaiah of the exact tense employed in the text in Hebrew (and in the Greek LXX, for that matter) for future predictions. Indeed, Murdock employs an impossibly late date for the Pentateuch and floats the fantasy that the Pentateuch was originally written in Greek and then translated into Hebrew—it is possible that she actually believes the absurd fantasy that the entire Old Testament was originally written in Greek! She cites someone whom she (incorrectly) claims affirmed that “the earliest account of the Exodus is the Greek translation of the Pentateuch (c. 270 BCE), which is not a rendering from an older Hebrew text.”[300] Then again, Murdock can also float the idea that “Homer may have been an Egyptian and not a Greek,”[301] so it seems she has no problem turning Akkadian into Aramaic, the Hebrew Bible into Greek, and Homer into an Egyptian.

Ms. Murdock likewise betrays a great ignorance of ancient Near Eastern literature. For example, she argues that “the Pentateuch was not written by a historical Moses . . . [because] the text itself speaks of the lawgiver in the third person. . . . The fact that the author of the Pentateuch speaks in the third person is important to note[.] . . . If Moses wrote this text, it is inexplicable why he would refer to himself in the third person[.]”[302] She believes the use of the third person is “inexplicable” because she does not know that “[t]hird-person description of one’s actions, thoughts, and words, is, of course, widely attested in all sorts of ANE [Ancient Near Eastern] literature.”[303] Taylor notes:

Moses is spoken of in the third person . . . [b]ut that no more shows Moses not to have been the author than a similar use of their own names by Caesar in his Commentaries and Xenophon in his Anabasis and Memorabilia belies their notorious authorship of these works. That, too, was the usage in the prophetic books of the Old Testament, i.e. Isaiah (7:3) and Jeremiah (36:4); the opposite, as in Ezra and Nehemiah, was the exception. To call such a diction artificial, and demand proof that it is as old as Moses, is a mere rhetorical phrase. It ignores Moses’ special motive, too, in that he has to write of the earlier bearers of the covenant, as well as of himself, and consistency impels him to the uniform employment of the same person in speaking of Abraham and Jacob and himself.[304]

Ms. Murdock does not deal with the fact that “study of comparative literature of the ancient world shows that using the third person in narratives was . . . [an] established convention. Historical records of Egypt’s kings, the Greek historian Xenophon, and even Julius Caesar, use similar literary devices.”[305] She does not deal with this fact, but employs an argument demonstrating her igorance of it, because she is very far from well-versed in ancient Near Eastern literature.[306]

Ms. Murdock’s astonishingly bad use of sources can be illustrated by her abuse of the book Mysteriously Meant by Don Cameron Allen,[307] an English professor’s work about allegorical interpretation of classical pagan writings during the Renaissance. On pages 317-318 she quotes pages 65-69 of Allen’s book to argue that Moses is a myth created from Dionysius. (Dan Barker also argues that Biblical accounts are copied from Dionysius.)[308] Is Allen’s book a historical treatise with copious references to ancient literature and an analysis of Hebrew history in the times of Moses? No, not at all. (Indeed, such serious historical or scholarly works are almost entirely absent from her bibliography, and the paltry few that are included appear to have made no impact upon her book and probably were not read at all.) It is a book about how people living in the Renaissance allegorized pagan myths and drew parallels to them that, on the very pages Murdock quotes, Allen calls “philological manipulations . . . speculations . . . hallucination.”[309] Allen’s book is a historical work about entirely false Renaissance-era speculations and hallucinations that drew parallels where none existed, based on the extremely limited historical resources available at the time. She quotes absurd speculations—speculations explicitly called hallucination—by Allen, as if they were truth, bypassing those that did not fit her thesis and those whose simple statement evidences their foolishness. Thus, Murdock stops her indented block-quote from Allen on page 317 the sentence before the affirmation that Renaissance men “converted . . . Joshua into Hercules, and the Giants into the Canaanites,”[310] for she does not want to prove that the Canaanites never existed, that the land of Canaan was never inhabited, and that the Canaanites were cut whole-sale from pagan mythology. No, she will quote Allen discussing a Renaissance individual who “identif[ied] Moses with Bacchus,”[311] but skip the part about the same individual identifying the Canaanites with pagan Giants—here the allegorical interpretation of the Renaissance does not fit her predetermined thesis, so it is passed over in silence. Of course, allegorical speculations about Moses or the Canaanites by men living in Europe thousands of years after the Biblical events took place, men who had extremely limited historical data at hand, have no force whatsoever in proving that Moses was copied from pagan myths. Ironically, Murdock’s thesis was not even what these Renaissance men were arguing—they all believed that Moses was a historical figure and that the pagans had adulterated facts concerning him in their later myths. In further irony, neither of the quotes Murdock cites actually mention Dionysius—the renaissance men Allen is discussing were engaging in other fantastic hallucinations and allegorizations and making different parallels.

On page 244 of her book, Murdock claims to quote from Don Allen on page 238 of his work, using the quote as proof that mythology about Dionysus was a source of the Pentateuch. An examination of Allen’s book indicates that she is not quoting him but referencing a page where Allen quotes an earlier author, Pomey, whose book Pantheum mythicum was published in 1730. Ironically, the name “Dionysius” does not even appear on the page of Allen where the professor quotes Pomey—the page refers to a different god, Liber, who cannot simply be assumed to be identical with Dionysius. For example, in the extensive article on Dionysius in the Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology ed. William Smith,[312] Dionysius is never associated with Liber. What is even more significant, Allen—as his book is about allegorical readings of pagan myths—explains that Pomey was “intoxicated by the doctrines of nonliteral reading . . . confused methods,” and mentions critics of allegorizing pagan myths who called such ideas “allegorical vice.”[313] It is obvious to any reader of Allen’s book that he provides not a scintilla of evidence for the books of Moses being copied from myths about Dionysius—a topic that was not even close to the topic of the English professor’s book.

On page 17, Murdock cites pg. 107 of Don Allen’s work, where a quote about Strabo and Diodorus Siculus appears. Of course, both Strabo and Diodorus Siculus affirm that Moses was a historical figure who did such things as leading a large group of people out of Egypt into Judea and teaching these people the rejection of all images in the worship of the one God,[314] but Murdock does not mention this fact (if she is even aware of it). Nor does she quote Strabo or Diodorus Siculus directly, or even provide a citation to either of them. Instead, to prove her hypothesis that Moses is mythical, she will reject the views of the historians to whom she refers (but does not cite), and instead will insert a misapplied quote from an English professor’s book on Renaissance allegory. Such misuse of sources befits a tabloid but not a serious work of history.

On page 322 of her work, Ms. Murdock again inserts an extensive block-quote from Don Allen’s book[315] in order to establish her thesis that Moses was a mythical figure copied from pagan myths. She quotes the speculations of a Renaissance writer who believed in a historical Moses and is trying to prove something very different (although also false) from what Murdock wishes the reader to conclude. She quotes the speculations of this Renaissance writer but ignores Allen’s affirmation that a defense of such speculative theories was “attempting to galvanize a corpse,” and a practice of one who was “blinded,” as even by 1700 it was apparent that parallels between Moses and various pagan myths were spurious.[316] Nevertheless, while Murdock leaves out some of the egregiously fantastic affirmations of the Renaissance writer she is relying upon as an authority (third hand, through Allen), she does not quite manage to rid even her carefully constructed quote from Allen from evident total nonsense; in fact, she retains in her quotation the idea that Moses appears in the pantheons of Japan and Mexico.[317] It would appear to be at least as great a miracle as the parting of the Red Sea for Jews in the Middle East to create a mythical Moses-figure from Mexican myths. How did Middle Eastern Jews know to employ Mexican myths to create Moses when the New World would not be discovered for over 1,500 years after even Murdock’s ultra-late dating of the Pentateuch? Yet, over and over again, Murdock’s skepticism comes to an abrupt end whenever she can create something through which she can attack the Bible. Then her skepticism changes to the most astonishing credulity, and crazy speculations of no historical significance whatsoever made by Renaissance writers who themselves believed in a historical Moses become evidence against Moses’ existence, despite the asseverations of the very secondary source Murdock is quoting to the contrary.

Of course, it is possible or even highly probable that Murdock is blissfully unaware of the contents of what is on the very pages she quotes from in Don Allen’s book, as her quotes throughout her tome often come from searching Google books for phrases that she hopes will turn up something that sounds like her case. Don Allen’s book is only available in snippet view on Google, so Ms. Murdock probably had no idea what Allen thought about the absurd speculations she cites—indeed, she very possibly had no idea what his book was about at all.

Genesis 41:45a states: “And Pharaoh called Joseph’s name Zaphnathpaaneah.”[318] Arguing against the view that this Hebrew word indicates an early origin of the Joseph story in the Pentateuch, and on a page where she demonstrates that she cannot even correctly transliterate the Hebrew of Joseph’s Egyptian name,[319] Murdock quotes a Catholic priest from the 1600s named Kircher second-hand through Don Allen’s work on renaissance allegory to argue that the Hebrew “Tsaphnath phanehh [sic] or Zaphnathpaanehah [sic] (Gen 41:45), [sic] is essentially the same as the Coptic: Psontom phanech.”[320] She then argues that this Coptic phrase is used at a late period, and, therefore, the Hebrew word cannot be an early form proving an early date for Genesis. Of course, that a Coptic phrase is (allegedly) in continued use no more proves that a Hebrew phrase is in continued use than the fact that an English translation of the Greek New Testament is in common use proves that Koiné Greek is a living language. What is more, Murdock does not cite a Coptic dictionary[321] for her affirmations about Coptic words. Indeed, no such work even appears in her bibliography. Nor does she cite a Hebrew lexicon that provides the Egyptian background to the Hebrew phrase—for, after all, she is not even aware of what the standard Hebrew lexica are, as they are absent from her bibliography. Had she known the names of such lexica (as even a first year Hebrew student would), and taken the time to look at them, she would have found that her affirmation about Coptic has nothing to do with reality. The standard lexica affirm that Joseph’s name in Genesis 41:45 actually comes from the Egyptian *d≈d-p}-nt◊r-}iw.f-{nhÓ[322] or D˛(d)-pnt(r)-e∑f-{nh˙;[323] not a little different from Murdock’s fictional derivation. From where, then, does she derive her utterly incorrect derivation? Her basis for affirming that Joseph’s Hebrew name is the same as a Coptic phrase is a second-hand reference in Don Allen’s Mysteriously Meant to a Catholic named Kirchner who Allen states employed “farfetched theories . . . twisting of evidence . . . uncritical use of the interpreter’s bare imagination.”[324] Kirchner’s Coptic grammar was “sometimes incorrect,” and Kirchner himself admitted that “he is not yet perfect in the old language of Egypt.”[325] Others complained that Kirchner’s allegorizations and poor “translations of hieroglyphic documents . . . have succeed only in delaying their decipherment.”[326] An objective evaluation of his work reveals that “his findings are profoundly wrong and foolish,”[327] and by the 1800s he was definitively proven wrong.[328] Nevertheless, this is what Murdock cites to justify her argument about Coptic. Such is Murdock’s scholarship and use of sources—she passes by lexica, commentaries, journals, and all other scholarly sources to create arguments based upon a painfully severe abuse of irrelevant books that she comes across by doing random searches of Google books.

Not only does Dorothy Murdock appear incapable of accurately employing sources, but she also regularly and grossly misinterprets the Biblical text itself in order to advance her Old Testament mythicist agenda.[329] One does not need to take the time to look up her obscure sources in order to discover her inability to do scholarly work or even, apparently, carefully read—these facts are evident from her abuse of the Biblical text itself. Murdock claims that Moses uses a “magical rod in order to defeat the Egyptian pharaoh,”[330] an idea found in her head, and repeated by Dan Barker’s referencing “magical rods”[331] in the Barker-Ross debate, but not found in the Bible. She states that in the tenth plague “the firstborn of all people and animals throughout Egypt are slaughtered,”[332] but all the households with the blood of the Passover lambs applied to their doorposts, whether Jewish or Egyptian, were spared. She states that “the Mosaic law . . . require[s] the death penalty for . . . theft,”[333] when it actually requires restitution and never specifies death for theft (Exodus 22). She believes the Bible is contradictory because “one is left wondering . . . what was happening in the rest of the cosmos while the God of the universe was occupied by chit-chatting with Moses,”[334] manifesting either a real or feigned ignorance of the Bible’s presentation of God as omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent. She claims that “Bible writers pretended that Moses’s [sic] ‘Book of the Law’ had been ‘lost,’ to be found 600 years later (622 BCE) by Hilkiah, a ‘son of Zadok’ or proto-Sadducee, one of the two main sects of Jewish priests on later times.”[335] She then makes a wearisome argument against Scripture based upon this alleged 600-year gap.[336] Of course, the Bible never says the Torah had been lost for 600 years—the text merely indicates that for a short period king Josiah did not have access to a copy and then a very ancient copy, very possibly the original, was rediscovered in the temple where it had probably been hidden only a few years earlier during the reign of the immediately previous ungodly king (2 Chronicles 34). How Hilkiah becomes a proto-Sadducee because he has an ancestor named Zadok is anyone’s guess, and the Sadducees were not a division of the Jewish priesthood. However, since Murdock thinks that “Moses” was a “founde[r] of [a] priestly lineag[e]”[337] as well, perhaps she can claim whoever she wants was a priest. Perhaps she is really a priest mentioned in the Bible, too. She claims that after the Books of Moses were mythically rediscovered by Josiah “at 2 Kings 23 we read that the Torah was lost once more, to be reproduced reputedly from memory around 425 BCE by Ezra.”[338] 2 Kings 23 is about Josiah and has absolutely nothing to do with Ezra, Ezra’s memory, or an alleged second disappearance of the Law after Josiah’s death but before Ezra’s time. She then states: “After Ezra, once more these books disappear, supposedly destroyed by Greco-Syrian king Antiochus IV Ephiphanes in 180 BCE, to reappear yet again. With all this destruction, it would be difficult to believe that we possess the true words of Moses from over a thousand years earlier[.]”[339] Murdock does not know that Antiochus IV Ephiphanes was not a king in 180 B. C.[340] Nor is she aware that manuscripts of the Pentateuch that are far older than 180 B. C. have been discovered; this ignorance explains why she can cite Wikipedia and argue that a “redactor/editor . . . reworked the [Pentateuchal] texts during the second century BCE,”[341] as well as claiming that “[T]he ‘Jews’ mdwwhy [sic—she writes yehwwdm as the word for “Jews,” when the Hebrew word is Myîd…wh◊y, y§hu®d≈ˆîm] . . . monotheistic Judaism . . . was not created until the Selucid period . . . [and] the Jews were not monotheistic until the time of the Maccabees (2nd cent. BCE),” again citing Wikipedia.[342] She does not discuss the evidence for third or fourth century B. C. Hebrew Biblical manuscripts at Qumran,[343]—ancient copies of the Hebrew Bible that are just as monotheistic as later ones, and just about identical to the later ones—nor does she evidence any awareness of the Ketef Hinnom silver scrolls with their 7th century B. C. verses from the Pentateuch.[344] Murdock also claims that in the Biblical myth the Israelites leaving Egypt took “images of deities with Egyptian names”[345]—apparently the passionately monotheistic and iconoclastic Moses was fine with this—but in any case the Pentateuch certainly never says that it happened. She claims that the God of Israel was a “tribal war and volcano god,”[346] although the “Sinai Peninsula has had no active volcanoes in historical memory.”[347] Murdock transforms the Israelites’ asking for some items from their neighbors before leaving Egypt (Exodus 12:25) into the claim that “the Israelites were supernaturally rewarded all of Egypt’s wealth.”[348] This supposedly happened during the reign of “Ramesses II (c. 1303-1213 BCE),”[349] although Ramesses II did not reign for that period of time, and she places Ramesses II on the throne of Egypt even before Ramesses I began to rule.[350] She thinks that the sacrificial offerings in the Old Testament were not directed towards Jehovah, but were made to people—they were “constant offerings to the Jewish priesthood.”[351] Murdock claims the Israelites were “traumatized and tortured in the desert for four decades . . . terrorized and abused” by God as a “cult leader” who is “completely sinister.”[352] She shows no evidence of being aware of Biblical texts that compare Israel’s time in the wilderness to the joy of a newly married couple (Jeremiah 2:2), but she does manage on the same page where she claims Israel was abused and terrorized to also claim that the Bible is false because Israel could not have taken away all the “enormous wealth” they acquired from the Egyptians along with a “huge mass of livestock.”[353] One does not usually think people are traumatized and abused when they are as fabulously wealthy as Murdock makes Israel out to be. She writes: “[I]t is claimed in Exodus 3:6 that all the Egyptian cattle had died already[.]”[354] Exodus 3:6 reads: “Moreover he said, I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. And Moses hid his face; for he was afraid to look upon God.” Nothing about cattle here. She says that Israel was captive in Egypt “for six hundred years,”[355] a figure that is not even close to the total time Israel was in Egypt, during only a part of which were they enslaved (Exodus 12:40). She claims that in the wilderness “Moses . . . executed ‘brilliant’ military tactics with a mass of untrained fighters . . . [who had an] enormous amount [sic] of weapons.”[356] The reader of the Pentateuch has no idea what she is talking about. She says that Israel had no “natural source . . . [of] water . . . for . . . 38 years,”[357] an affirmation entirely absent from Scripture. She claims that “the Israelites were starving . . . warriors . . . [were] watching their wives and children go hungry, while thousands of food animals . . . [and] thousands and thousands of birds per day”[358] were being offered in sacrifice (and, apparently, discarded, even though in the Pentateuch many of the sacrifices were eaten by people after being offered to God). Her wilderness starvation allegation and thousands and thousands of sacrifices per day are pure imagination. She manufactures another contradiction from this first one, however, by claiming that these “mass sacrifices of animals” could not have been done by “the elderly Aaron and his two sons, before the latter were struck down for looking into the ark, thus leaving only Aaron.”[359] Aaron had four sons (Numbers 3:2), not two, and not one of the four either looked into the ark or was killed for so doing. She claims that the Pentateuch is contradictory, for in one place it claims the Israelites dwelt in tents; in another, Leviticus 23:40-43, that they dwelt in booths made of various trees that did not exist in the Sinai wilderness.[360] She does not appear to have noticed that the booths pertain to a festival that Israel was supposed to celebrate only after the nation settled in Canaan (Leviticus 23:10) and that even in the land of Canaan they dwelt in the booths for only one week every year. She claims that the “Ark of the Covenant . . . [was] designed to carry around godly energy,”[361] whatever that is supposed to be—the Bible certainly never speaks of it. However, since she can discuss “many . . . who see in the ark a type of short-wave radio, possibly from extraterrestrials . . . contain[ing] some type of weapon of mass destruction,”[362] she does not appear to be limited to things the Bible states in order to create alleged contradictions within the Bible. She states that “Manasseh’s pagan idols drove away the ark[.] . . . It is hard to fathom how the powerful ark could be driven off by these false pagan deities.”[363] Perhaps she is referring to a never-publicized sequel to Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark, since nothing like her affirmation is contained in the Old Testament. Murdock claims that “At Gilgal, Joshua magically acquires bronze weapons . . . made with tin, a metal rare in the Middle East. One wonders, of course, where all that tin could have come from at that time, making the story highly implausible.”[364] Since the word tin does not appear anywhere in the book of Joshua, it is unclear why she made up this particular alleged contradiction. She is likewise unaware that “most tools and weapons were made throughout the ancient Near East . . . [with] a copper-tin alloy.”[365] Murdock fills page after wearisome page with such gross distortions of the Bible—the examples above are only selected instances from the first 120 pages of her utterly tiresome 564-page tirade. She might refute a “Bible” that has never existed outside of her own mind, but her baseless allegations have no relationship to the real-world document she is attempting to tear down. Murdock concludes: “[T]here exists no credible, scientic [sic] evidence for the biblical story of Moses writing the Pentateuch or receiving the law from the Most High God.”[366] As demonstrated by her countless imaginary misstatements and tortured distortions of the Biblical text, it is not God’s Book, but Dorothy Murdock’s book that is neither credible nor “scientic.”[367]

Dan Barker is also happy to grossly distort the text of Scripture in order to make its text appear foolish to the Biblically-illiterate. For example, both in his books and repeatedly and regularly in his public debates, Mr. Barker has argued: “[T]he biblical God is weaker than chariots of iron, according to Judges 1:19.”[368] Not only in his 1992 book, but still in 2008 Mr. Barker thought that his Judges 1:19 case was a great argument, repeating his earlier affirmation verbatim in his book Godless.[369] This same argument appears today (in 2017) in the Freedom From Religion’s “nontract” entitled “Bible Contradictions.”[370] However, the text of Judges 1:18-19 reads: “Also Judah took Gaza with the coast thereof, and Askelon with the coast thereof, and Ekron with the coast thereof. And the LORD was with Judah; and he drave out the inhabitants of the mountain; but could not drive out the inhabitants of the valley, because they had chariots of iron.” It is perfectly obvious (in English, as in Hebrew) that the subject of the verb in “could not drive out” is the nearest antecedent, “Judah,” not “the LORD,”—something also confirmed by simply reading Judges 1:18—but this embarrassingly awful “contradiction” has been employed by Dan Barker over and over again over a period of decades and reproduced as part of an allegedly strong case against the Bible in the many copies of his books.

In the Dan Barker-Thomas Ross debates, Mr. Barker also managed to make a goodly number of statements about events allegedly in the Bible that are not there. For example, within the space of two minutes in the first debate Mr. Barker claimed that the Bible spoke of “food falling from the sky,”[371] although the Bible never says that the manna fell out of the sky. Dan Barker claimed in that same short time frame that the Bible speaks of “trillions of quail that were blown up out of the ocean to feed these people,”[372] when the Bible neither speaks of trillions of quail nor of the quail coming out of the waters of an ocean, sea, or any other body of water. Once again, he claimed that Israel conducted a “massive military conquest of Canaan, for which there is no historical evidence,”[373] but the book of Joshua only records the defeat of a handful of cities and of a northern and southern confederacy of kings.[374] The text specifically indicates that Joshua did not destroy the vast majority of the cities Israel fought against (Joshua 11:13)—would one usually destroy the place where one wished to live? Also, the book of Judges demonstrates that Israel actually largely failed to conquer the complete land of Canaan even after several centuries—so the Bible never speaks of a “massive military conquest of Canaan” under Joshua, nor would a historically accurate narrative in Joshua and Judges require that archaeology record a vast number of cities destroyed. Still in the same segment of time, Mr. Barker wanted to know “where are all the chariots”[375] that Israel possessed during their alleged “massive military conquest,” but the Bible never states that Israel had any chariots at all during this time period. Yet further within the same two minutes, Mr. Barker claimed that the Bible recorded that the “captive slaves suddenly became these fierce warring soldiers and went in and did all this killing.”[376] However, the Old Testament indicates that Israel was in the Sinai peninsula for forty years and that only two of the people alive in the generation that experienced the Exodus entered Canaan (Numbers 13-14)—nothing happened “suddenly” and less than 0.01% of the people who left Egypt entered Canaan, so captive slaves morphing overnight into mighty warriors is an image in Mr. Barker’s imagination, not in the Bible. Once again within the same two minutes, Mr. Barker claimed that the Bible spoke of “human skeletons, that are dead, com[ing] back to life and walk[ing] around,”[377] but Scripture never says anything about skeletons walking around and it is difficult to even be certain what Biblical narrative Mr. Barker is distorting. Other examples of Mr. Barker’s distortions of the Biblical text—for, regretably, he did not confine his distortions to at least seven in two minutes—are discussed elsewhere in this analysis. Many of his other distortions, from claiming that God rewarded Jephthah for killing his daughter, to claiming that Moses died in the book of Genesis,[378] to claiming that Isaiah 7:14 is a false prophecy because the Messiah’s name was Jesus not Emmanuel,[379] to claiming that Exodus asserts that the plagues killed all the Egyptians,[380] and so on, may be convincing to Biblically illiterate atheists but constitute an astonishing and tortured misreading of the Biblical text. It appears that Dan Barker’s hatred for the Divine Author of the Bible is such that he regularly distorts the Biblical text to make it look ridiculous and erroneous, for he passionately wishes it were so. Despite countless misrepresentations and distortions of the Bible in his speeches and writings that manifest painful ignorance and unscholarly sloppiness to anyone who actually knows the Bible, other leading atheists like Richard Dawkins think and publicly state that “Dan knows his bible inside out.”[381] Other leading atheists exalt Dan Barker’s horrible misrepresentations of the Bible because they share Mr. Barker’s hatred of Scripture’s Divine Author, and their hatred results in a comparable blindness to his embarrassing twisting of the Biblical text. Truly, Mr. Barker’s and Ms. Murdock’s distortions of the Biblical text, and the high praise they receive as (alleged) Biblical experts by other leading atheists, illustrate well the truth of 1 Corinthians 2:14: “But the natural man [unsaved person] receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”

While Ms. Murdock’s Did Moses Exist? is filled with blatant misrepresentations of Scripture and with citations from unscholarly and unreliable sources like Wikipedia, and while she attempts to make references in irrelevant books on things like allegory in the Renaissance seem relevant, very serious omissions convey a great deal by their absence. Not only does Ms. Murdock never cite a single Hebrew lexicon, but also her book never cites a modern archaeologist who agrees with her affirmation that the Old Testament is copied from pagan myths. Why this absence? No such archaeologists exist for Murdock to cite. No Christian scholars and archaeologists, nor Jewish scholars and archaeologists, nor secular scholars and archaeologists agree with her thesis. Furthermore, her book never quotes an ancient historian or other ancient historical source that affirms as true her thesis that the Biblical narratives are myths copied from paganism. The best she can do is to distort sources such as a book by an English professor about people in the seventeenth century A. D. and abuse such works to advance her case. Again, why the absence of statements from actual ancient historians who agree with her? No such historians exist. Neither Dorothy Murdock in her books, nor Dan Barker in his books and public debates, can cite any ancient historian or modern archaeologist that agrees with their thesis that the Old Testament is copied from pagan myths, because such an idea is too far-fetched for even the most skeptical archaeologist within the realm of real academic scholarship. Nevertheless, Ms. Murdock claims: “[My] analysis linking [this and that to prove her mythicist notions] is not farfetched.”[382] “The Lady doth protest too much methinks.”[383]

Despite her inability to read Hebrew characters, her ignorance of even the names of standard Hebrew lexica, her imaginary “quotations” from Strong’s Concordance, and the utter abuse she makes of her other sources, Ms. Murdock will regularly make what she believes are authoritative pronouncements on complex etymological questions, all—in Murdock’s fantasy world—pointing toward the alleged pagan origin of the Bible. For example, in order to prove that Abraham (despite his alleged nonexistence) is pictured in the Bible as worshipping a sun god,[384] she references Genesis 14:19: “And he blessed him, and said, Blessed be Abram of the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth.” She then, in a sentence with a mistransliteration of a different word, argues:

Here we discover . . . this figure of . . . Mymv shamayim, rendered “heaven.” Shamayim or smym is a Ugaritic/Canaanite name . . . related to the West Semitic god of the heavens, transliterated Smm. In these words shamayim and smm, we may also see inferences of the Semitic term, a vowel-less word frequently transliterated as shemesh or shamash, “sun.”[385]

Of course, the word Hebrew word MˆyAmDv (sûaœmayim), “heavens,” has absolutely nothing to do with any alleged sun god or worship of a sun god by Abraham. The word appears 421 times in the Old Testament,[386] and it simply means “heavens” in Genesis 14:19, just like “earth” in that verse refers to the ground, not to some pagan deity. Nothing in any of the 421 references to the word “heavens” in the Old Testament is some kind of secret allusion to a sun god. If the Hebrew word for “heavens” must not be used, as an alleged relic of paganism, what Hebrew word was the author of Genesis supposed to use to designate the heavens? Of course, in Murdock’s allegations about Ugaritic and Canaanite, she cites no standard lexica, since she does not know what they are. One also wonders how this alleged “vowel-less word” was used in speech by anyone ever in history. How did these ancient peoples pronounce this word without employing vowels? She then leaps from the word for “heavens” to the root of the word “sun” because they share some consonants, ignoring the fact that no standard lexicon posits that the two Hebrew words have the same root and that the word heavens is recognized commonly as being derived from hmv (sûmh),[387] not from “vmv” as she claims. Furthermore, even if the word heavens and sun shared a common root—which they do not—it would still not logically follow that in Genesis 14:19 the word heavens contains a secret reference to a West Semitic sun god worshipped by Abraham. Murdock, through ignorance, factual errors, and etymological fantasy has changed Genesis 14:19 from a statement about Abraham’s receiving blessing from the Most High God, the Creator of heaven and earth, into a text proving that Abraham worshipped a sun that was part of the heaven as a god.

Ms. Murdock also argues as follows: “The term la el/al is said to derive from the root lya ‘ayil, meaning ‘ram.’[388] . . . The Hebraized El was identified as or with the Ram, appropriate for a cult created or promulgated widely during the precessional age of Aires (c. 2300—c. 150 BCE).”[389] The fact that one word for God in the Hebrew Old Testament is lEa (}eœl) by no means proves that the Hebrews worshipped a Ram-god, that the God of the Bible evolved from a Ram deity, that Israel thought of its God as a ram, or anything whatsoever of the kind. (Nor, of course, are the Hebrew words El, “God,” and al, “no,” at all the same, any more than the English words “fool” and “foal” are the same—one can as easily speak of “el/al” as a single Hebrew “term” as one can speak of a single English “term” “fool/foal.”) Even if the words God and ram were derived from the same root, it would by no means prove that Israel worshipped a ram god, any more than if multiple English words were derived from a common Germanic root there would necessarily be a secret allusion to the other word—or even the worship of a deity associated with a particular Germanic word—whenever an English speaker uses a different one. However, the Hebrew for God and ram do not even share the same root. Murdock’s only source for this claim is Strong’s Concordance H352, which does not draw the conclusion that she argues for. The word ram (lˆyAa, }ayil) is actually derived from the root lwa (}wl), meaning “be in front of, precede, lead,”[390] while God is from a completely different root.[391] When Murdock then starts talking about “the precessional age of Aires”—referencing an astrological system that was not in use during the relevant centuries in Canaan—she has as much validity as astrology has ability to predict the future. No ancient Semitic person or persons said something like the following: “I’ll go get my horoscope—ah, yes! We are in the age of Aires. Let’s make up a word for ‘God’ based on that fact. No, instead, let’s take the word for ‘Ram’—after all, we worship a Ram-god (oh, wait, we can’t call the Ram-god a god yet, because we don’t have a word for that—oops!) Anyway, let’s make ‘el the word for God—it’s kinda sorta maybe like the word for ram—and it matches my horoscope, so it’s a good one!”

In order to allege that Jehovah is copied from pagan Greek myths, Dorothy Murdock cites a play written by Aristophanes[392] where worshippers cry eu¡ion, eu¡ion, eujoi√ (euion, euion, euoi). Murdock does not reproduce the Greek from the playwright in her book, mistransliterates these Greek words as Euios, Euios, Euoi, and then claims that these “shouts are comparable to the divine tetragrammaton hwhy . . . which can be transliterated in Greek as ieue ieue.”[393] Of course, none of the consonants—not even one—of the divine Name Jehovah (hODwh◊y) are present in ieue; nor are the vowels the same; nor is ieue present in the text from Aristophanes, but a quite different word. Not once is ieue even found anywhere in Liddell-Scott’s Greek Lexicon, nor is it possible that a late Greek playwright can have originated the name Jehovah, since Biblical texts that contain Jehovah pre-date Aristophanes by centuries, and documentary evidence such as the Ketef Hinnom silver scrolls far earlier than Aristophanes contain the name Jehovah. As usual, Murdock writes total nonsense.

Murdock confuses the Hebrew word for “sun” is vRmRv (sûemesû) with the pagan god Shamash, does not know how to write the letter mem and so repeatedly writes vMv instead of vmv, claims that Psalm 84:11 reads “Shamash Yahweh” in Hebrew in the phrase “For the LORD God is a sun and shield,” when the Hebrew actually reads My¶IhQølTa hºDOwh◊y N´gDm…w —vRm°Rv y§I;k (kˆî sûemesû u®maœg≈eœn y§hoœwaœh }§loœhˆîm), so no pagan god Shamash is mentioned, and the Hebrew word for “sun” is not even next to the word “Jehovah,” but is separated by “and shield” in the Hebrew text.[394] (Perhaps Murdock should have invented a pagan god called “shield” instead of confusing the plain Hebrew word “sun” with the god Shamash—ah yes, she does this also, although she thinks that the word “shield” actually means “star”[395]!) She then proceeds to make the following astonishing affirmations:

1.) The ordinary Hebrew word for “name” (MEv, sûeœm) is related to the word “sun” (vRmRv, sûemesû). (No lexicon affirms or even suggests such a connection as a possibility—but, then again, Murdock never even cites lexica such as Brown-Driver-Briggs or Koehler-Baumgartner-Richardson anywhere in her book.)

2.) The word “sun” is derived from the pagan god Shamash. (Although, of course, it is not; and Murdock cannot even write the consonants of the Hebrew word “sun” correctly.)

3.) The Old Testament speaks of the “name” of God in various places. (As, of course, it does, as it likewise mentions the “name” of many humans, rivers, cities, and so on.)

4.) Because the word “name” is employed in conjunction with the Hebrew God, He is a myth derived from the pagan god Shamash. (One wonders if the use of the word “name” in conjunction with rivers like the Euphrates, or cities like Babylon, means that they also never existed but were myths copied from the god Shamash.)

Murdock’s very fertile if very unscholarly imagination can certainly derive many reasons not to believe the Bible from the simple words for “sun,” “name,” and “shield” (which allegedly means “star,” not “shield.”) Indeed, the way she argues she could prove every word in the Hebrew Bible was derived from the name of a pagan god, and even every word in an English dictionary. Indeed, if for Murdock God does not create a universe ex nihilo, certainly she can create arguments against Him ex nihilo—she does not require even the slightest factual evidence to create massive and painful nonsense.

Ms. Murdock argues that the appearance of Melchizedek, the king of Jerusalem or Salem, in Genesis 14:18 is proof of Biblical dependence upon paganism:

At Genesis 14:18 appears the story of Melchizedek, biblical king of Salem and high priest of El Elohim known for his communion of bread and wine. It is after the order of Melchizedek that Jesus is made to be a high priest forever repeatedly in the epistle to the Hebrews. Like his disciple Christ at the Last Supper, Melchizedek brings out bread and wine, this time in order to bless Abram / Abraham (Genesis 14:19). Here it should be recalled that “Abram” appears to be an anthropomorphization of the Indian god Brahm or Brahma, thus subordinated under Melchizedek and El Elohim.

“Melchizedek” often is rendered “my king is Sedek,” but it could also be translated “Righteous Molech,” a remnant, perhaps, of Israelite adherence to the Ammonite god Molech. In this instance, the “ruler” of Salem would be Molech, now dominated by El Elohim. This suggestion that the theonym “Molech” as [sic] intended in various verses, rather than the noun “king,” is validated by Acts 7:43, which renders the “king” at Amos 5:25-27 as the god’s name Moloc Moloch, instead of the noun connoting a monarch.[396]

Murdock does not give the slightest evidence that there was a pagan god in the Ancient Near East called El Elohim upon whom Genesis could depend—she simply assumes the existence of such a god. Providing such evidence would doubtless be difficult, since “[u]nlike the term ’el, ’elohim is not found in other Semitic languages.”[397] A god called El Elohim goes unmentioned in the very liberal Dictionary of Demons and Deities in the Bible[398] and in every other scholarly resource. Furthermore, El Elohim is not found in Genesis 14:18—the Hebrew for “most High God” is NwáøyVlRo lEa (}eœl {elyo®n)—and the Hebrew word MyIhølTa (}§loœhˆîm) does not even appear between Genesis 9:27 and 17:3; thus, of necessity, the combination }eœl }§loœhˆîm is not present. Furthermore, while words related to }eœl did exist in cognate languages to Hebrew and were in use among pagans, the fact of a related Hebrew word by no means proves that when the Hebrews thought of “God,” their idea was the same as that of pagan nations, anymore than the use of the word “God” conveys an identical concept to a Hindu, a Mormon, a Deist, an orthodox Christian, an animist, a Muslim, or a radical feminist theologian worshipping a Divine Mother. In fact:

The attempt of evolutionary philosophers to derive Hebrew religion from religion in general is challenged by the fact that in their biblical character Elohim, Eloah, and El uniformly indict the pagan divinities. In biblical religion El (Elohim) not only holds distinctive associations (as does every particular use of El), but as a proper name it designates not one special divinity in a polytheistic milieu, but rather the one living God who precludes polytheism.[399]

Not only did Ms. Murdock not carefully at Genesis 14:18, but also she does not seem to have taken the time to pay much attention to the Biblical book of Hebrews, which denies that Christ was made a high priest “repeatedly.” Her assertion that Christ was a “disciple” of Melchizedek is likewise purely imaginary with nothing at all to support or imply it in Scripture. Any connection between Abraham and Brahma or Brahmanism is likewise total fiction—a huge distance separates Canaan and India, and the earliest mention of Brahma in the earliest Hindu or Vedic records, the Upanishads, is over a thousand years later than the time when Abraham lived. What is more likely: that, as archaeological records attest, “Abram” was a good Semitic name during the time in which the patriarch lived,[400] or that somehow the man was made up from a god as far away as India, concerning whom we have no written records until a thousand or more years later?

Furthermore, the name Melchizedek (q®dRx_yI;kVlAm, malkˆî-sΩed≈eq) means “my king is just,” as the comparable name Adonizedek (q®dRx_yˆníOdSa, }∞d≈oœnˆî-sΩed≈eq, Joshua 10:1-3) means “my master is just.” One can also compare Jozadak (q∂dDxwáøy, yo®sΩaœd≈aœq, Ezra 3:2), “Jehovah [Jo] is just,” and Josedech (q∂dDxwøh◊y, y§ho®sΩaœd≈aœq, Haggai 1:1), “Jehovah [Jeho] is just.” Other Biblical names with malkˆî uniformly signify “my king,” e. g., Malchiel (l`EayI;kVlAm, malkˆî}eœl, Genesis 46:17), “my king is God,” and Malchiah (…wh∞D¥yI;kVlAm, malkˆîaœhu®, Jeremiah 38:6), “Jehovah is just.”[401] Murdock’s claim that Melchizedek means “righteous Molech” is utter nonsense—the Hebrew word “Molech” (JKRlO;m, moœlek≈) has numerous and clear differences with yI;kVlAm, malkˆî, “my king,” and no text in the Bible with either word gives a scintilla of evidence that the one secretly stands for the other, nor does “Molech” ever have the first person suffix “my” attached to it,[402] nor is any false god called “king” in the Bible, nor does any false god whatever have the suffix “my” attached to its name. Nor does Murdock’s reference to Amos 5:25-27 or Acts 7:43 provide her the slightest evidence. Acts 7:43 is not an exact quotation from Amos 5:25-27—Stephen’s statement that the Jews would be carried away “beyond Babylon” is an expansion upon the reference in Amos to Israel being carried “beyond Damascus.” Furthermore, the Authorized Version is correct in translating “Molech” in Amos 5:26, in accordance with the Hebrew text, the LXX, Aquila, Symmachus, Theodotian, the Latin Vulgate, the Peshitta, and other evidence.[403] Murdock’s affirmation that Melchizedek means “righteous Molech” is simply utter nonsense, the same sort of fantasy as her creation of an imaginary god named El Elohim.

Ms. Murdock’s writings are a painful example of the kind of terrible historiography required to argue that the Bible is copied from pagan mythology. For example, she creates a connection between an alleged “craftsman god” from “Ebla, Syria, dating to around 2250 BCE” and “the gospel Jesus when he is said to be a ‘carpenter.’”[404] Leaving aside the accuracy of her quotation and the fact that not all craftsmen are carpenters, what is more likely—that the husband of Jesus Christ’s mother Mary worked as a carpenter and taught Mary’s firstborn son that trade, or that somehow first century Jews travelled to Ebla in Syria, dug up records from over two thousand years earlier, came across a craftsman god, and then concluded they ought to create a fake “Jesus” that was a carpenter? That people in Ebla allegedly worshipped a “craftsman god” is as good a proof that that the carpenter that built Murdock’s house is a myth as it is that the New Testament narrative about Joseph’s trade is mythical.

While Ms. Murdock does not take the time to engage with genuine scholarship in her book, she finds time to cite fellow non-scholarly crazies that support her mythicist fantasies. For instance, Murdock regularly references fantastic nonsense by Barbara G. Walker,[405] who Murdock styles “an independent scholar of mythology.”[406] However, Ms. Walker is a woman who has no scholarly expertise whatever and has was written various books on knitting and on tarot cards.[407] Dan Barker’s books also contain extensive citations from Barbara Walker.[408] In the first Barker-Ross debate, Dan Barker follows Murdock’s argument from Barbara Walker:

Walker relates that the “stone tablets of law supposedly given to Moses were copied from the Canaanite god Baal-Berith [Jdg 8:33], ‘God of the Covenant.” She then adds that the Canaanite Ten Commandments were “similar to the Buddhist Decalogue,” and that, in the ancient world, “laws generally came from a deity on a mountaintop,” such as in the story of the Persian god Ahura Mazda giving the tables of the law to the prophet Zoroaster[.][409]

Similarly, Dan Barker argued: “[In] pagan exoduses . . . they got their laws from the top of a mountain . . . a mountaintop myth of going up to get the law from their god.”[410] Barbara Walker’s source for the astonishing historical fantasy that Moses’s tablets of stone are copied from a Canaanite god Baal-Berith is page 134 of Austine L. Waddell, Tibetan Buddhism (New York: Dover, 1972), which states absolutely nothing about Canaanite religion.[411] Of course, Walker’s allegation that the Ten Commandments were copied from this Canaanite god is pure fantasy.[412] Indeed, while pagan gods were called upon as witnesses to covenants or agreements between humans, scholars recognize that Jehovah God of Israel’s entering into a covenant with His people is actually a feature that sets Biblical religion apart from paganism:

The idea of a covenant between a deity and a people is unknown to us from other religions and cultures. . . . [T]he covenantal idea was a special feature of the religion of Israel, the only one to demand exclusive loyalty and to preclude the possibility of dual or multiple loyalties such as were permitted in other religions, where the believer was bound in diverse relationships to many gods.[413]

Thus, Barbara Walker makes up fantastic nonsense, Dorothy Murdock copies it, and then Dan Barker employs both raving mythicists to argue against the Bible. Murdock continues to demonstrate how she shares the historiographical finesse of Walker when she quotes the expert in knitting to prove that the death of the Hebrew children in Exodus 1:22 is mythological because, “As Walker states, ‘Innocents were slaughtered in the myths of . . . Mordred.’”[414] It is not clear how the books of Moses could be dependent upon a mythical Mordred who first appears c. A. D. 900, or if the fact that innocent people die in tales of King Arthur and Mordred means that whenever history books record the deaths of innocent people they are copying from mythology. Furthermore, Murdock is happy to cite Walker as drawing a connection between the “Holy Grail” as a “cup made supernatural by [the] use . . . of . . . Jesus,”[415] apparently thinking that such an item exists in the Bible, and then attempting to refute the Bible by arguing that the Holy Grail is really a “sacred chalice theme . . . revolving around . . . menstrual blood, with the cup symbolizing the womb.”[416] The argument of Murdock, following Walker, is crazy enough to almost confirm the opinion of one who incorrectly thinks the Bible refers to a Holy Grail.

Although Dorothy Murdock does nothing at all to refute the arguments for the historicity of Scripture and of Moses in particular—and, indeed, her book shows no evidence that she is even aware of these arguments—nevertheless, in her mind, it is clear that Moses and the Bible as a whole is mythical. It is, she supposes, a compilation of absurd and inaccurate stories that should not be considered true by any rational person. What, then, does Ms. Murdock believe is accurate—what is true history? What should rational people (like her) believe? Why, they should believe in aliens and UFOs. In her article on the subject,[417] she begins with a quote from Our Ancestors Came From Outer Space by Maurice Chatelain,[418] a book with the following thesis:

[E]xtraterrestrial voyagers . . . created modern man by insemination and mutation . . . once upon a time, about 65,000 years ago, extraordinary visitors came from another civilization in space . . . and decided to establish a colony here. . . . [T]hese visitors decided to create a hybrid race, so that by crossbreeeding with humans after a few generations, that new race would be perfectly adapted to life on earth and would carry on at least part of the intelligence and technical know-how of its ancestors from space. To achieve this, the most attractive and the most intelligent young females were inseminated, and this procedure continued with their daughters and granddaughters until . . . the new race could start. . . . [T]hey mated with Neanderthal women, thus producing Cro-Magnon people . . . and taught them very advanced knowledge.[419]

Does Murdock begin with a quotation from Chatelain in order to repudiate such unbelievable nonsense? By no means. On the contrary, Murdock discusses and generally argues in favor of equally out-in-space nonsense about aliens:

[After] climate change and mass extinction . . . more advanced humanoids descended from spacecraft and reestablished civilization. . . . Belgi[an] UFO[s] . . . [were] witnessed . . . [in] Mexico City . . . a UFO was witnessed and filmed by hundreds of people . . . [in] Phoenix . . . alien spacecraft . . . [were] witnessed[.] . . . [A]lien abductions . . . [and] UFOs are real, extraterrestrials are here and abductions are occurring, among other “alien” behavior . . . [according to] excellent researchers[.] . . . [In] Roswell, New Mexico . . . there was a UFO crash. There was an alien spacecraft . . . the government is hiding these facts. . . . There have been over 3,500 documented citings[.] . . . [A]lien craft are repeatedly penetrating our airspace . . . UFOs and aliens are real and come from other worlds[,] . . . [but] intimidation is still rampant and people are afraid to come forward with evidence that the phenomenon is genuine. . . . [T]he Clinton administration had many briefings on the subject[.] . . . [H]undreds . . . [of government engineers] have worked on the back-engineering of alien ship parts from [a UFO that] crash[ed] . . . this work led to the development of high tech creations of the past 50 years . . . in secret defense and scientific agencies. . . . [T]he government is engaged with aliens . . . there is an “interstellar war” going on, and . . . this is all being covered up[.] . . . [H]oaxers who . . . debunk UFO citings are actually being paid off by [a] covert organization[.] . . . [A]liens are making themselves more known to try to wake up the populace because [w]e’re polluting ourselves to death. . . . [T]he U. S. government, using “Star Wars” and, presumably, other methods, has been able to shoot down UFOs. . . . [B]y the government keeping this information secret, humanity is prevented from using alien technology that is free and clean, such that the environment is also suffering from this cover-up. . . . [V]arious national governments are covering up the UFO/alien phenomenon[.] . . . [T]he Vatican has been quite aware of “alien” presences for centuries . . . [but] until human beings reject their . . . myopic religions, they will not be viewed as “intelligent life” by . . . extraterrestrials. . . . The facts are that UFOs . . . do exist[.] . . . the “aliens” always claim to be trying to help but never do much of anything. Any “aliens” who may be lurking about on this planet must also be questioned . . . [and] should not be easily let off the hook . . . we . . . have suffered . . . on this planet, with little if any of their assistance . . . [y]et, if it were true that they have been engaged in stellar wars to keep this or any other planet safe from the bad guys, then we would certainly hail them as heroes . . . and incorporate them into our lives as guests and members of the cosmic family. . . . A . . . UFO group . . . is called the Order of Melchizedek . . . [with] fron[t] [groups such as] the Charismatic Christian, the Christian Socialist Party . . . and the Jew and Arab movements. . . . The Order of Melchizedek, in fact, is named in the Bible as the highest priesthood, of which Abraham and Jesus are made priests under Melchizedek . . . the highest figure in the universe under God[.] . . . However, Melchizedek or “Righteous Molech” is demonstrably . . . the Molech . . . of the Old Testament, the god to whom children were sacrificed . . . remade into the “high priest.” . . . What does it all mean? . . . [T]he many thousands of reports every year indicate that . . . UFOs are “real” . . . [and have] most definitely been seized upon by . . . the government . . . to manipulate . . . the masses.[420]

Thus, for Ms. Murdock, space aliens hiding among mankind, abducting people and sending them back; the government shooting down alien spacecraft and deriving advanced technology from UFOs that crashed; a vast conspiracy through which various governments hide the truth about aliens while they interact with them; an interstellar war between good aliens trying to protect us from bad aliens; the Vatican knowing about aliens for centuries and keeping this knowledge hidden; and so on, are all credible and believable ideas. What is more, the aliens are making contact with us to try to teach us to not pollute the environment, but the government is hiding the clean and free energy sources that the aliens are using. However, the aliens will not reveal themselves to us more clearly because we are not intelligent—if we were, we would reject Christianity and all other religions. Once mankind rejects the Bible (perhaps through the power of such works as Murdock writes), turns en masse to atheism, and receives alien conspiracy theories as true, the aliens will clearly reveal themselves. Finally, the secret Order of Melchizedek is behind the Charismatic Christian movement, Zionism, Arab anti-Zionism, socialism, and many other things, as the government pays off people who expose aliens as hoaxes while using alien reports to manipulate the masses. Naturally, the Vatican is in on the conspiracy as well. As in Did Moses Exist?, in her article on UFOs, Ms. Murdock supports her conclusions with copious citations of Wikipedia and sundry other highly dubious sources. As in her book, she also demonstrates that she has no understanding of the Bible, which never even comes close to stating that Abraham was a priest after the order of Melchizedek or stating that Melchizedek is superior to Jesus Christ as the highest authority in the universe under God. As in Did Moses Exist? Murdock makes fantastically invalid etymological assertions and draws fantastically bad conclusions from them, so in her article on UFOs she states the falsehood that “Melchizedek” means “righteous Molech” and that Melchizedek is a myth created from Molech worship. Truly, the evidence is in, based on the highest levels of Murdockian scholarship: highflying alien conspiracy theories are rational and ought to be believed, but belief in God and the Bible should be rejected—that is, unless Ms. Murdock is astonishingly credulous, except when she comes to evidence for the truth of Scripture—then, and, it seems, practically only then, an unshakeable skepticism sets in.

In keeping with her acceptance of crazy alien conspiracy theories, Murdock’s Did Moses Exist? is filled with bizarre affirmations befitting a person crazed, high, or perhaps confusing a different planet on which her space aliens live with Earth. She claims that “the pharaoh Amenhotep IV/Akhenaten (13th cent.) is believed widely to have been the ‘historical Moses.”[421] Moses is widely believed to be an Egyptian Pharaoh? What? Furthermore:

Deborah, along with her seven princes and companions, [represents] the ‘goddess Seven’ of Egypt. . . . Her name also identifies Deborah with the north, or hinder part. . . . Deborah was the first, the Primordial Word . . . [her] seven companions . . . the Elohim of Genesis . . . the time when mankind were of one tongue, the golden age associated with the name of Sut or Saturn. . . . [T]he Jewish Queen Deborah, priestess of Ashera, bearing the same name as the Goddess incarnate in early Mycenaen and Anatolian rulers . . . [is] identified with the maternal Tree of Life, like Xikum, the Tree of Ishtar . . . the same one patriarchal Persians called “Jahi the Whore.”[422]

Weird, weird, weird.

[T]he name of the island forming the first link in Rama/Adam’s Bridge from the Indian mainland to Sri Lanka is “Rameswaram,” which resembles Ramses or Ramesses . . . Judeo-Christian tradition posits that the god-king Ramesses attempted to pass through the Red Sea by virtue of “Moses’s bridge,” so to speak. The Egyptian name Ramesses . . . is not much different from the monkier denoting “the god Rama.” . . . [T]here are several reasons to aver that the “Abrahamites” represent a tribe of Semitic Brahma followers who migrated to what became Israel, via Ur, possibly from India. Not the least of these reasons is the comparison between Abraham and the god Brahma . . . a tribe of . . . “Abrahamites” . . . acquire[d] attributes of other deities and ha[d] their tribal god Brahma demoted to a patriarch.[423]

Brahma . . . Abraham . . . Sri Lanka . . . Rameswaram.

Since Bacchus is Apollo, he would possess the same solar attribute as dispensing with the dragon of the waters (Pentheus), as Moses also was said to have done in defeating pharaoh. The myth of Horus spearing the serpent or crocodile (Seth), as at Edfu, provides an Egyptian example of this archetypal solar myth. In addition to serving as a solar, dragon-cloud slaying ray, the spear is a symbol of the smith cult, popular at Edfu, possibly explaining the weapon’s inclusion in the gospel story as well. . . . Like other “Christian” characters . . . St. George vanquishing the Dragon was originally just the sun breaking through the obstructing clouds . . . [like] Horus spearing the infernal serpent . . . this solar monster-spearing myth can be found also in the Americas, for example in the story of Michabo, the god of light who pierces with his dart the prince of serpents who lives in a lake and floods the earth with its waters. The story of Moses escaping into the waters . . . is . . . reminiscent of the archetypal hero tale exemplified in the myths of the sun gods or solar heros[.][424]

Yes, myths in the Americas about solar monster-spearing myths explain how the Jews invented Moses. Maybe extraterrestrials brought the American Indians over to the Middle East in spaceships to influence the Jews, too—otherwise it is not very clear how these American Indians could get to the right part of the world to influence the Jews. Also, the fact that a spear is mentioned in the gospels must be because of solar, dragon-cloud slaying solar rays and the smith cult at Edfu. A spear could not possibly be mentioned in the gospel accounts because Roman soldiers actually carried, well, spears. No—that is unreasonable.

The time of the dog star leads to the harvest of the grapes and the vintage, a fact that appears to be the symbolism behind the biblical spies story [sic] leading to the promised land to find an enormous bunch of grapes. Joshua’s appearance in the Caleb story may signify that the Israelite savior represents the summer sun, while Moses is the winter sun of the wilderness. . . . both Moses and Joshua are depicted as arresting the course of the sun, the same theme evidently found in the Dionysian myth as well as in Hindu, Buddhist, Chinese and Mexican myths, to name a few . . . the archetypal story expressed in the Moses myth clearly has its origins in polytheistic culture.[425]

Clearly, it is unreasonable to think that Israeli spies entered the land and obtained an actual cluster of grapes from Canaan, a place where there are lots of grape vines. No. Instead, the Jews got myths from as far away as China and Mexico and named one of the spies from the Dog Star. Columbus crossing the Pacific Ocean to America was no big deal—the Aztecs in Mexico had gone the other way so that they could give copies of their myths to certain Jews. These Jews then learned the Aztec language (as they already had Chinese, various dialects from the Indian subcontinent, and so on) and added the Aztec myths to the Hindu, Buddhist, and Chinese books of mythology they were sitting in front of and copying from a little here and a little there in order to create the Bible. While taking breaks, they looked up at the sky and saw the shape of a dog, and then saw the sun in the winter and in the summer, and, lo, Moses, Joshua, and Caleb were created.

The ass-and-foal motif may represent also the progression towards the fall ripening and harvest of the grapes, portended by the prominence in the constellation of Cancer of the two “autumnal stars” called by the Romans the Aselli or “little Asses.” These Little Asses were said to feed at the manger of two other stars of the Crab constellation called the “Crib” or “Manger.” The sun in Cancer at the summer solstice, therefore, could be said to “ride in triumph into the city of peace on an ass and her foal.” The time of the year is the season when the grapes are ripening on the vine, approaching the triumphal harvest and vintage in the fall.[426]

All this because the Bible records that some people rode on donkeys! One wonders what the poor people needed to ride upon instead in order to keep themselves from being myths. Perhaps they would have been real if they had travelled on foot. If they had done this, however, they had better not have used walking sticks, for (Murdock informs us) Moses’s staff (Exodus 4:2) is actually derived from I Ching sticks employed in modern China for divination.[427]

Dorothy Murdock argues that Exodus 34:29 refers to Moses’s face shining, because the word “shine” supposedly really means “to display or grow horns, to be horned,” this definition allegedly coming from Strong’s Concordance,[428] although the concordance does not contain the words within Murdock’s quote marks. She then reproduces a picture of Moses drawn by Michelangelo in A. D. 1513-1515 with horns on his head, and concludes that Moses is a “‘son of the cow,’ part of the ‘bull’ tradition associated with various gods and other figures antiquity [sic] that includes the Golden Calf.”[429] “As did the Hebrew lawgiver, Dionysus had two horns or rays on his head, associated with the bull.”[430] Furthermore, these “two pointed mountains” of the “horns in the Moses . . . myt[h]” are a theme found “in the Americas,” one comparable to “Horus of the Two Horizons . . . [and] also . . . the ‘two breasts’ of Mother Earth.”[431] Murdock likes this bizarre idea of Moses growing horns so much—an idea neither affirmed nor implied in Exodus 34:29 or any other verse of the Bible—that she puts two versions of it on the cover of her book. Arguing Moses is copied from pagan myths based on a painting by Michelangelo in the 16th century A. D. and tales in the Americas, mixed with the two breasts of Mother Earth, is utterly absurd enough, but she then proceeds to argue that Moses’s “horns . . . represen[t] . . . the psychedelic or entheogenic ergot fungus on rye, said to resemble ‘spurs.’”[432] She appears to be entirely serious about this argument: “Certainly this symbolism would be appropriate[.]”[433] It is unclear if Murdock was runder the influence of LSD or other psychedelic mushrooms herself when she wrote these words.

Ms. Murdock regularly claims that the Bible is dependent upon places fantastically far away from Canaan or the Near East. Biblical narratives are somehow related to “the mysterious and secluded region of the Basques.”[434] The Biblical narrative concerning the “Tree of Life . . . can be found . . . in the Americas.”[435] Pagan mythology from “the primitive religions of the Germans, French, and English . . . China, Japan, [and] Mexico” are sources for “Moses.”[436] Murdock denies the miraculous events of the Bible, but without a series of stupendous miracles it would be impossible for Jews in the early centuries B. C. to interact with pagans from the regions of Germany, England, Japan, the Basque region, Mexico, other parts of the Americas, and so on, learn all their languages, and then have these astonishing Jewish linguists combine little bits of Mexican, Japanese, Basque, English, and other impossibly distant mythologies into the Pentateuch. Nevertheless, even here Dan Barker’s Freedom From Religion Foundation will agree with Murdock and maintain in print for decades[437] that “[t]he story of Jesus was copied from earlier mythologies,”[438] such as stories about the Mexican god “Quexalcote”[439] or Quetzalcoatl that somehow managed to cross the Atlantic Ocean to influence the writers of the Bible. Based on the widely-distributed FFRF “nontract” arguing for New Testament dependence on Quetzalcoatl, Mr. Ross intended to ask Mr. Barker the following questions about the alleged pagan dependence of the Bible upon Quetzalcoatl in their second debate:

You, Mr. Barker, have been promoting in print for several decades that myths about Quetzalcoatl, the “Mexican god,” have “many striking counterparts to the story of Jesus” in his “sacred biography.” This Mexican god is proof that the “story of Jesus was copied from earlier mythologies. It is cut from the same fabric as many other ancient superstitions” (the words you used in our last debate to describe your position). The Encyclopedia Brittanica states that the first evidence for the worship of this deity is “3rd to 8th century CE.”[440]

Please explain the following five things briefly in a sentence each:

A.) How myths about a deity worshipped in Mexico can possibly have reached first century Palestine to influence the New Testament narratives about Jesus Christ;

B.) How the myths of Quetzalcoatl in Mexico managed to influence the New Testament when the very earliest evidence for them is hundreds of years after the New Testament;

C.) What Jews in 1st century Palestine knew the ancient Mexican languages so that they could find out about Quetzalcoatl;

D.) The name of even one scholar in the entire world who teaches New Testament or ancient Near Eastern Studies at an accredited university who agrees with your argument that the New Testament is dependent upon Quetzalcoatl;

E.) If you think that Columbus did not discover America, but the Apostles got there c. 1,500 years earlier so that they could take back the story of Quetzalcoatl and hide it in the New Testament.

Unfortunately, Mr. Ross ran out of time in the cross-examination before being able to ask Mr. Barker these questions.

Dorothy M. Murdock’s Did Moses Exist? is filled with page after wearisome page of absurdities, egregious historical errors, and blatant ignorance of fundamental issues relating to the Biblical world such as those documented above. Discussing any more of them would be a waste of time—indeed, reading her book is a tremendous waste of time. The only reason this writer did so is that Murdock’s work constituted almost the sole foundation for Dan Barker’s entire argument against Old Testament historicity, and Dan Barker is the president of the largest organization of atheists in the United States, the most practiced debater of the modern new atheism, and very possibly the most widely received atheist evangelist in the world. For these reasons—not for their quality or because they constitute a scholarly or intellectually weighty argument against the Old Testament—the specific arguments Dan Barker borrowed from Dorothy Murdock will be examined below.

Dorothy Murdock wrote:

Moses is credited with bringing the Hebrew slaves out of Egypt . . . after supposedly taking 40 years to cross the Sinai Peninsula, a stretch of desert 130 miles or so wide . . . In the Bible story of the Exodus, we are asked to believe that . . . fleeing people requiring four decades to make this relatively short journey of 130 miles or so[.]. . . [They] required 40 years to cross . . . through the desert from Egypt to Israel. . . . [Likewise,] Deuteronomy 29:5 asserts that the clothing the Hebrews fled with miraculously . . . continue[d] to fit the children as they grew up during this time . . . the Israelites had supernatural clothes and shoes that never wore out and that grew with the children born during the four decades . . . [while] the garments of those who died . . . magically shrank to fit the younger generation.”[441]

Following Ms. Murdock, Dan Barker argued:

Clothing that did not wear out for forty years. . . . Forty years it took them to go 130 miles. . . . [T]hey can’t go 130 miles in forty years? You and I could walk it in about a day and a half. It’d be like walking over to the Minnesota border [from a part of Wisconsin]. If you walked non-stop pretty quick, you could do that. It took them forty years because they were scared of the giants?[442]

Dan Barker thought that his argument here was very strong, referring to it during the first debate in his opening statement, in the cross-examination, and in his post-cross examination speech. But what are the facts? First, the Bible never asks anyone to believe that the Israelites were continually fleeing from Egypt for forty years, running away as fast as they could, but only travelling 130 miles in that entire period.  On the contrary, the Bible states that the journey from Egypt to the border of Canaan was one of only a number of “days” (cf. Deuteronomy 1:2), not of forty years of continual travel. After Israel manifested ungodliness and unbelief and refused to enter the land when God told the nation to enter, God chastised them by requiring the Hebrews to dwell in the wilderness for forty years after the nation had made the journey in a matter of days, not years (Deuteronomy 1; Numbers 13). Furthermore, Dan Barker’s idea that clothing that can last for forty years is necessarily mythical is refuted by some of the contents in a closet of one of this writer’s family members, even apart from the consideration that a miracle-working God can keep clothing from wearing out. Ms. Murdock’s allegation that the Jews had magical shoes and clothes that expanded as infants grew to adults and then shrunk to the appropriate size when people died is purely a fantasy created in her mythicist head—neither Deuteronomy 29:5 nor any other text of Scripture teaches such a thing. Furthermore, no text of Scripture states—only Mr. Barker’s imagination—that “It took [Israel] forty years because they were scared of the giants.” History validates that Egyptian garrisons were blocking the shortest route from Egypt to Canaan (cf. Exodus 13:17) but Scripture never states or implies that the Egyptians in the garrisons “giants.” The argument of Barker and Murdock is based upon a culpably sloppy misreading of the Biblical text, a sort of sloppiness that permeates both of their writings.

Dorothy Murdock wrote:

While the Israelites were starving . . . [i]n one initial act of relief from the starvation, at Exodus 16:13 [God] brings a huge amount of quails from the sea to feed his chosen. First of all, during that time were there even quails at the sea at all, much less millions of them? Secondly, we read at Number [sic] 11:31 that these quail were “stacked up on the face of the earth” to a height of two cubits, equivalent to about 44 inches high, in a row the length of “a day’s journey round the camp.” [Assuming an unjustifiably large size for Israel’s encampment,] . . . such a mass of quail would be equivalent to almost 29 trillion birds . . . providing dozens or hundreds of quails per person. Where did they get all the wood to cook with, and what did they do with the birds’ remains?[443]

Following Ms. Murdock, Dan Barker argued: “[T]rillions of quail coming up out of the ocean to feed these people . . . 30 trillion stacked up . . . in a stack . . . [is] a mythical story.”[444] First, nothing in the text states that there were “trillions” of quail. However, large numbers of quail have crossed that region for millennia—even in the twentieth century history records Egyptians harvesting quail by the multi-million[445] during the birds’ migrations[446] and even exporting the birds by the multi-million.[447] Nor does “Number [sic] 11:31,” or any other text of the Bible, state that they were “stacked up on the face of the earth.” On the contrary, God providentially caused a massive quail migration to cross the Israelites’ path, and some of the quail fell to the ground while others flew at a low height by the Israelite encampment. The quail being blown by the wind from the sea, the existence of quail migrations in the area, the Israelite response of spreading them out (Numbers 11:32), and the sickness and death that resulted, all are absolutely historically reasonable:

[Numbers 11 records] an enormous flight of quail [that] were blown into the encampment at a height of two cubits (about three feet) above the surface of the ground (v. 31). (The preposition ‘al before “the surface of the ground” [could] be rendered “above”[)] . . . Flying at that low level, forced down by the strong wind, it was easy for the Israelites to bat them down with sticks and catch as many quail as they wanted—even to the amount of ten homers (about sixty bushels). But, of course, such a huge number of dead birds would speedily begin to rot in that hot desert, despite the people’s best efforts to convert them into dried meat that could be preserved indefinitely by parching them under the sun (v. 32). There is little wonder that they began to suffer from food poisoning and disease as soon as they began chewing this unaccustomed food. In the end a great many of them died of plague and had to be buried right there in the desolate wilderness, at Qibrot Hattavah, “The Graves of Greed.”[448]

An eyewitness to such quail migrations in the region notes:

[O]bservation of the habits of the quail shows the accuracy of the account[.] . . . The time of the first miraculous supply of quails, and probably of the second also, was in the month of April, the exact season when the quail performs its migration in vast flocks. We are told that “at even the quails came up and covered the camp,” and it is well known that the quail, like most other birds of passage, performs its migrations only at night. Again, we are told that “there went forth a wind from the Lord, and brought quails from the sea.” From their weak power of flight, the quails instinctively select the shortest sea passage, and avail themselves of any island as a resting-place. Thus the Mediterranean islands, as Malta, Capri, and others, have frequently been known to be covered with these birds for several days together at the time of the spring migrations, when the wind was adverse. They spend the winter in Central Africa; and in returning to Syria, skirt the western side of the Red Sea, crossing its narrowest part. They always fly with the wind, and wait till it is favourable before they commence to cross. After their passage, they are so utterly exhausted that, as is sometimes the case with woodcocks in England, they may be captured in any number by the hand. Their flight is always very low, which is doubtless what is meant by their being “as it were two cubits high upon the face of the earth;” and finally we are told that the people spread them all abroad for themselves round about the camp—i.e. dried them for food in the sun, as they had learned to do in Egypt, where Herodotus tells us the Egyptians cooked the quail after this simple fashion (ii. 77). I have myself been fortunate enough to be a witness of this quail migration both in African and Asiatic deserts. I have seen them in the morning covering many acres, where not one had been on the evening before. The wind on one occasion was ahead; and though hundreds were slaughtered, they did not leave for two days, when the wind veered in their favour, and they as suddenly disappeared, leaving scarce a straggler behind.[449]

Thus, the account of the quail migration is entirely reasonable. Ms. Murdock’s and Mr. Barker’s objection to the account is entirely without merit. On the contrary, the Biblical narrative concerning the quail fits excellently into the historical setting in which it appears in the Old Testament.

Dorothy Murdock wrote:

[T]he biblical Exodus story . . . ha[s] no external corroboration, such as artifacts or literary accounts. . . . [a]lthough historical and geographical features may have been woven into the biblical tale to anchor it[.] . . . [T]here exists no credible . . . evidence . . .[of] the Exodus[.][450]

Following Ms. Murdock, Dan Barker argued:

Where is the evidence for that supposed exodus? . . . [T]he story is mythical. . . . You will find some places that actually do exist. But that doesn’t mean that the story itself is actually a true, historical story . . . there is no archeological evidence[.][451]

Contrary to Ms. Murdock and Mr. Barker, it is simply entirely false true that the Exodus must not have taken place because of an alleged complete lack of archaeological evidence.[452] The Old Testament, the Pentateuch, and the specific book of Exodus have extensive archaeological confirmation. To discuss this evidence in a sufficient manner, however, is the subject of considerably more then one paragraph. The interested reader is referred to Archaeology’s Confirmation of the Bible, by Thomas Ross,[453] available in a free e-format at, for an overview of the evidence. The works in the bibliography and notes in that book (and the bibliography to this work) also reference many valuable scholarly resources for the interested reader. For the purposes of this paragraph, it is sufficient to note two points. First, “[m]ore than 25,000 finds have confirmed the picture of the ancient world given in the Bible.”[454] Second, in relation specifically to Israel’s exodus, the words of the acclaimed Egyptologist Kenneth Kitchen should be carefully considered:

[T]he human and other phenomena at the exodus show clearly Egyptian traits (not Palestinian, not Neo-Babylonian . . . of the thirteenth century . . . AND NOT LATER. . . . Tabernacle-type worship structures are known in the Semitic world (Mari, Ugarit, Timna) specifically for the nineteenth to twelfth centuries; the Sinai tabernacle is based directly on Egyptian technology of the thirtieth to thirteenth centuries (with the concept extending into the eleventh). The Sinai/plains of Moab covenant (much of Exodus-Leviticus, Deuteronomy, Josh. 24) is squarely tied in format and content exclusively to the massively documented format of the fourteenth–thirteenth centuries . . . after which the formats were wholly different; we have over ninety original exemplars that settle the matter decisively[.] . . .

In short, to explain what exists in our Hebrew documents we need a Hebrew leader who had had experience of life at the Egyptian court, mainly in the East Delta . . . including knowledge of treaty-type documents and their format, as well as of traditional Semitic legal/social usage more familiar to his own folk. In other words, somebody distressingly like that old “hero” of biblical tradition, Moses, is badly needed at this point, to make any sense of the situation as we have it. Or somebody in his position of the same or another name. On the basis of the series of features in Exodus to Deuteronomy that belong to the late second millennium and not later, there is, again, no other viable option. . . .

[In summary,] (1) Exoduses happened in the second millennium, and the Israelite one is echoed all over the Hebrew Bible’s writings as a key event. (2) Israel (as a people group) and neighbors Edom and Moab are mentioned in firsthand Egyptian sources shortly before 1200; they were for real then. (3) The Ramesside Nineteenth Dynasty was a particularly cosmopolitan epoch in Egyptian history and culture; Semites and others abounded in Egyptian society at all levels, from Pharaoh’s court down to slaves. (4) The Hebrew narratives in Exodus to Deuteronomy directly reflect earthy reality, not burgeoning fantasy. Salt-tolerant reeds, water from rock, habits of quails, kewirs, etc. reflect real local conditions, requiring local knowledge (not book learning in Babylon or Jerusalem). These narratives are thus in total contrast to such texts as the “King of Battle” tale of Sargon of Akkad, with mountains bounded with gold and boulders of lapis lazuli gemstone, and trees with thorns sixty cubits (100 feet) long! (5) The ban on going by a north route to Canaan is a direct response to Egyptian military presence there in precisely the thirteenth century. (6) The tabernacle is an ancient Semitic concept, here with Egyptian technology involved, all from pre-1000, even centuries earlier. (7) The form and content of the Sinai covenant fit only the late second millennium, on the evidence of ample firsthand sources. (8) Brick-slaves were not diplomats; the format of covenant demands a leader from court circles at that time who did learn of such things there. We would be obliged to invent a Moses if one were not already available. . . . [T]he exodus and Sinai events . . . the tabernacle and covenant, etc., . . . [possess a] correspondence not just with attested realities . . . but with known usage of the late second millennium B. C. and earlier [which] favor[s] acceptance of their having had a definite historical basis.[455]

Ms. Murdock’s and Mr. Barker’s claim that archaeology proves a mythological origin for the Exodus narrative is simply false.

Dorothy Murdock wrote: “Indeed, what does the God of the cosmos convey to this chosen people [Israel]? The cure for disease? . . . [No, but] a tedious set of detailed ordinances[.]”[456] Following Ms. Murdock, Dan Barker argued: “Something important [instead of the Bible containing predictive prophecy, including prophecy about Jesus Christ, would have been if it had said] . . .wash your hands . . . that would be a useful thing.”[457] Apparently, for Mr. Barker, the God of the universe revealing to mankind the way of eternal salvation from an eternal judgment and enabling His creatures to come into intimate, personal union with Himself—the greatest of all goods—is not important. It is nowhere in the league of a command to wash one’s hands. While washing one’s hands is not as important as knowing God, the Bible actually does command people to wash—for example, one who touches a dead body was to wash his clothes and bathe himself in water before he could be clean. Until that time the person who had contact with the dead was to be separated from the rest of the people (Numbers 19:19). Similarly, if a dead animal falls into a vessel, that vessel becomes unclean, and it must be washed before it can be clean (Leviticus 11:32). There are many such laws in the Bible, and they were one of the ways that God’s promise that obedient Israel would not suffer many of the diseases of the heathen (Exodus 15:26; Deuteronomy 7:15) would be fulfilled:

Many of the purity laws—found already in the Pentateuch and systemized in various Second Temple texts and in later, rabbinic literature—may be seen as an effort to cope with the polluted environment in which people lived. Decrees to separate people with skin diseases (e.g., Leviticus 13–14), to wash hands before meals (Mark 7:1–4; Luke 11:37–38; b. Šabbat 14b) and after bowel movements (m. Yoma 3:2; Josephus, J. W. 2.149), or to withdraw from animal corpses (Lev. 5:2), although presented in religious terminology, also aimed to promote personal and communal hygiene as well as sanitation.[458]

Following the Old Testament laws concerning washing and quarantining of the unclean would actually result in a tremendous decline in infectious disease:

[I]n 1845, a young doctor in Vienna named Dr. Ignaz Semmelweis was horrified at the terrible death rate of women who gave birth in hospitals. As many as 30 percent died after childbirth. Semmelweis noted that doctors would examine the bodies of patients who died, then, without washing their hands, go straight to the next ward and examine expectant mothers. This was their normal practice, because the presence of microscopic diseases was unknown. Semmelweis insisted that doctors wash their hands before each examination, and the death rate immediately dropped to two percent. . . . Look at the specific instructions God gave thousands of years ago to His people for when they encountered disease: “And when he that hath an issue is cleansed of his issue; then he shall number to himself seven days for his cleansing, and wash his clothes, and bathe his flesh in running water, and shall be clean.” (Leviticus 15:13). Until recent years, doctors washed their hands in a bowl of water, leaving invisible germs on their hands. However, the Bible says specifically to wash under “running water.” . . . “And . . . neither shall ye eat any flesh that is torn of beasts in the field; ye shall cast it to the dogs” (Exodus 22:31). Thousands of years before modern science identified bacteria, God made provision for Israel by banning the eating of meat that may be spoiled by bacteria. . . . Long before medical science discovered the importance of quarantine of persons with infectious diseases, the Bible instigated them. . . . [T]he Scriptures tell the children of Israel what to do if a man has leprosy: “All the days wherein the plague shall be in him he shall be defiled; he is unclean: he shall dwell alone; without the camp shall his habitation be.” (Leviticus 13:46). Laws of quarantine were not instigated by modern man until the seventeenth century. . . . During the devastating Black Death of the fourteenth century, patients who were sick or dead were kept in the same rooms as the rest of the family. People often wondered why the disease was affecting so many people at one time. They attributed these epidemics to “bad air” or “evil spirits.” However, careful attention to the medical commands of God as revealed in Leviticus would have saved untold millions of lives. Arturo Castiglione wrote about the overwhelming importance of this biblical medical law: “The laws against leprosy in Leviticus 13 may be regarded as the first model of sanitary legislation” (A History of Medicine).[459]

Thus, Dorothy Murdock and Dan Barker are not only wrong that God’s revelation of the way to know Him and receive salvation is unimportant—they are wrong in arguing that the Bible does not contain commands such as “wash your hands.”

Dorothy Murdock wrote: It is extremely unlikely that such an event [as] . . . organizing all these people and animals, for their departure from Egypt, required only one day . . . [n]ot even with our modern technology could such a ‘flash mob’ be put together in that time.”[460] Following Ms. Murdock, Dan Barker argued: “A one day exit of two or three million people from Egypt . . . they had one day to put together . . . all their tents . . . [this is] a mythical story.”[461] Contrary to Ms. Murdock and Mr. Barker, nothing at all in the Bible states or implies that the Israelites only got ready in one day. Over the course of the plagues, which very likely were spread out over a period of months, they knew that God was going to deliver them and they could prepare for their departure. Furthermore, even entirely unprepared Israelites getting ready to leave Egypt for freedom in one day is no more unreasonable than modern Americans getting ready to go on a business trip or a leisure voyage in one day. There is no substance at all to Murdock’s and Barker’s objection.

Similarly, Dorothy Murdock also argued that the numbers of Israelites leaving Egypt was too large to be accurate:

[M]arching single file, about 2,000 people will fit comfortably into a mile[.] . . . If three million people—not just the 600,000 men mentioned in the Bible but also women [and] children . . . were lined up single file, the route would require an estimated 1,500 miles. . . . three millions of people with their flocks and herds . . . [involves] ludicrous inaccuracies.[462]

Following Ms. Murdock, Dan Barker argued: “Was there a group of two or three million people wandering in that peninsula for 40 years with all their cattle and all their tents . . . three million slaves escaping . . . [a] one day exit of two or three million people from Egypt into the Exodus[?] . . . No, there was not.”[463] Of course, nothing in the Bible states or implies that the Israelites left single-file; Ms. Murdock could as well prove the impossibility of rush hour in New York City by discussing how long the (much larger) line of New Yorkers on busses, in subways, and so on would be if they all gathered single-file.[464] But what about the main objection—were there simply too many Israelites for the Exodus to be historically accurate? First, one notes that the Hebrew word PRlRa (}elep≈) translated “thousand” in texts such as Exodus 12:37 in relation to the number of Israelites leaving Egypt can signify “clan”[465] of “family”[466] rather than a group of exactly one thousand individuals. In various texts in the Bible the Hebrew word clearly refers to a “tribal unit smaller than fRbEv tribe, sometimes loosely equivalent to hDjDÚpVvIm family.”[467] That is, “PRlRa often refers to a thousand, understood either as a precise or round number. But it can also describe a social grouping that is smaller than the tribe but larger than the “father’s house” (bDa tyE;b) . . . broadly equivalent to the extended family (hDjDÚpVvIm).”[468] For example, Judges 6:15 reads: “And he said unto him, Oh my Lord, wherewith shall I save Israel? behold, my family [PRlRa, }elep] is poor in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.” Even in various Biblical texts where the word is translated “thousand,” the idea of “clan” or “family” is evident (e. g., 1 Samuel 10:19-21). Recognizing this fact, some scholars propose that a text such as Numbers 1:33 should not be viewed as a reference to forty “thousand” and five hundred men, but to “forty units (MyIpDlSa) [that is] five hundred men.”[469] The }elep could refer to a “hDjDÚpVvIm [family] in arms . . . [e]arly on the units would have contained only a handful of men.”[470] For example, Kenneth Kitchen argues:

In the biblical texts, the actual words for “ten(s)” and “hundred(s)” are not ambiguous, and present no problem on that score[.] . . . With ʾeleph, “thousand,” the matter is very different, as is universally accepted. In Hebrew, as in English (and elsewhere), words that look alike can be confused when found without a clear context. On its own, “bark” in English can mean the skin of a tree, the sound of a dog, and an early ship or an ancient ceremonial boat. Only the context tells us which meaning is intended. The same applies to the word(s) ʾlp in Hebrew. (1) We have ʾeleph, “thousand,” which has clear contexts like Gen. 20:16 (price) or Num. 3:50 (amount). But (2) there is ʾeleph for a group—be it a clan/family, a (military) squad, a rota of Levites or priests, etc. For groups in the Hebrew text, compare (e.g.) Josh. 22:14 end, Judg. 6:15, 1 Sam. 10:19, Mic. 5:2, etc. . . . So the question has been asked by many: Are not the “six hundred three thousand five hundred fifty people” in such passages as Num. 2:32 actually 603 families/squads/clans, or leaders with 550 members or squads commanded? Or some such analogous interpretation of the text? . . . [T]he 598 + 5 ʾeleph gave the [alleged] 603,550 men of Num. 1–2, and the 596 + 5 ʾeleph gave the [alleged] 601,730 men of Num. 26[,] . . . [but a more accurate estimate would be] 598 troops (squads) consisting of 5,500 men (averaging about 9 men each, comparable with what is found in, e.g., the Amarna letters) at the first census (Num. 1–2) and 596 squads numbering 5,730 men later (Num. 26). . . . The Levites came out at about 1,000 men in twenty-one rotas of about 50. The emigrants from Egypt to Canaan would then total about 20,000 to 22,000[.] So, in Iron IA Canaan, [the] population . . . might have included 20,000 early Israelites.[471]

Thus, the historical reliability of the Exodus account can be maintained even if one were to concede that hundreds of thousands of Israelites constitute too large a number to be tenable.

However, other scholars argue that, while the word }elep can indeed refer to an extended family or a clan, the word specifies actual “thousands” of Israelites in the Exodus narrative, and an actual Exodus of hundreds of thousands to a few million people from Egypt is indeed historically defensible. Gleason Archer notes:

Some . . . have questioned the credibility of the numbers recorded in the two censuses of Numbers (chaps. 1–4 and 26). The arid conditions of the Sinai desert would hardly permit the survival of such a large host as 600,000 adult males, plus their wives and children, for a period of forty years. . . . The objection that the natural resources of the Sinai desert could never have supported two million people or more for a period of forty years’ wandering . . . completely overlooks what the Pentateuch makes abundantly clear: Israel did not receive its food and drink from the ordinary natural resources of the Sinai terrain. This multitude was said to have been supplied in a miraculous way with manna from the sky and water from the cloven rock, all during the journey through the wilderness. The God who led the Israelites in the pillar of cloud was the one who supplied them with their nourishment by way of a supernatural intervention on their behalf. . . . What we are dealing with here is the possibility of miracle. . . . No valid objection can be raised, therefore, on the ground that a biblical episode is miraculous in nature; and any line of argument or reinterpretation that presupposes the impossibility of miracle is a mere exercise in futility. . . .

Another difficulty that has been proposed against the credibility of a congregation of over two million is derived from the amount of time necessary for so large a multitude to progress from point to point in their journey as they are said to have done according to the Pentateuchal narrative. How, for example, could such a large horde of people get across the Red Sea . . . so quickly as Exodus 14:21–24 seems to suggest? The parching east wind partially dried up the sea bed (after the waters had been miraculously removed to some distance above and below their point of crossing) for an entire night (v. 21); and only after that, it would seem, did the Israelites make their way across.

It may have been by the fourth watch (i.e., 3:00 to 6:00 A.M.) of the following day that the Egyptian chariots began their crossing in pursuit of them. This means that the Hebrew host had barely twenty-four hours to make the passage. This would seem to be quite impossible if they had to keep to a paved highway of any sort as they made their advance. But in this situation there could have been no roads or highways at all (for what point would there be for a street leading into the waters of a sea?); and they had to proceed across directly over unpaved terrain from wherever they happened to be located in their overnight camp. Their maneuver would be just like that of any army advancing to do battle with an enemy host: their front line may have stretched out for two or three miles as they moved together simultaneously, livestock included. Hence there would have been very little time lost through waiting in line. The whole multitude simply moved ahead like one enormous army advancing against an enemy battle line. If this was the way it was done, then there is no time problem to deal with.

The same observation applies to the day-by-day journeys of the Israelites during the forty years’ wandering. If they had been packed up close together in one long column when they camped down for the night, then it would have taken several hours for their rearmost detachments to get moving after the journey had began for the vanguard. But we know from Numbers 2:3–31 that they camped down in the formation of a square, with three tribes to the east of the tabernacle, three to the south, three to the west, and three to the north. Thus they were distributed like a huge expeditionary force, with center, two wings, a vanguard, and a rearguard. When armies engaged each other in battle, they did not require much time before they engaged their front lines in hand-to-hand combat. They did not look around for paved roads but simply proceeded across the broken, rough terrain (if they had to) with their ranks carefully preserved in line. There were virtually no paved highways to be found in the Sinai (apart from the King’s Highway, perhaps), and such as there were would only be used for wheeled vehicles—of which the Israelites had very few indeed. If, then, they began to move simultaneously after the signal trumpet was blown at the start of the day’s march, they could very easily cover ten miles or more without overdriving the young of the livestock. They had no need to wait in line for their turn to move. . . .

In answer to . . . charges of statistical unreliability, we make the following observations.

  1. The ancient author . . . writing as a contemporary—is far more likely to be in secure possession of the facts than a modern skeptic who is separated from the event by three thousand years or more.
  1. Modern criteria of likelihood or unlikelihood, if founded on the assumption that the unusual never happens, are virtually useless. If history teaches us anything, it teaches us that most of the major events of the past took place because the unlikely and unusual actually occurred.
  1. Deductions based on recent observation and experience may lead to completely false results. It is unwarranted to assume from the climatic conditions that have prevailed in the Holy Land since A.D. 500 that the land was never more fertile nor could not have supported a large population in earlier times. The archaeological and geological evidence seems to indicate that the precipitation rates have fluctuated quite markedly since the third millennium B.C. The weather diary kept by Claudius Ptolemaeus in Alexandria, Egypt, during the first century A.D. shows that in his time the summer drought was shorter than at present, with much greater thunderstorm activity and more of the north wind prevalent during the winter than at present[.] . . . The indications are that dry, hot conditions prevailed from 4500 to 3500 B.C.; cooler, damper weather prevailed from 3500 to 2300; followed by 300 years of drought (as witness Abraham’s sojourn in Egypt). A better rainfall ensued from 2000 onward, though increased human activity has obscured the evidence for the real extent of the fluctuation from one century to another (ibid., p. 68). But such variables as these make it quite likely that the frequent description of fifteenth century Canaan as a “land flowing with milk and honey” points to an appreciably higher precipitation level in Moses’ time than was true back Abraham’s time. The more fertile and productive the arable land became, the larger a population it could sustain.
  1. Other ancient sources attest to the use of very large armies when military projects of special magnitude were under way. The Egyptian records are of little help in this connection, for apart from the Sixth-Dynasty inscription of Uni . . . which states that King Pepi I sent into Asia an expeditionary force consisting of “many ten-thousand,” the Pharaohs contended themselves with lists of prisoners taken from the enemy. . . . As for the Assyrian records, the Assyrian kings never seem to refer to the size of their own armed forces but pretty largely confine themselves to the number of enemy slain or prisoners taken. . . . Sennacherib in his 701 campaign against Hezekiah and his Philistine allies claims to have deported 200,150 prisoners taken from forty-six walled cities of Judah and taken them off as prisoners to Assyria. . . . As for the Greek historians, Herodotus (Historia 7) states that when Xerxes, king of Persia, reviewed his troops for the invasion of Greece, “the whole land army together was found to amount to 1,700,000 men.” This total was arrived at by marshaling 10,000 soldiers at a time, until all the men had been counted. The naval forces included 1,207 triremes, with specified contingents from Egypt, Cyprus, Phoenicia, and many other maritime areas. As for the battle contingents involved in the campaigns of Alexander the Great, the largest conflict in which he was engaged was probably the Battle of Gaugamela in 331 B.C. Arrian estimated the infantry of Darius III at about 1,000,000, plus 40,000 calvary. Alexander defeated him with only 40,000 infantry and 7,000 cavaliers[.] . . . From these records we learn that even the army of Zerah the Ethiopian was by no means incredible in size for a major invasion force (cf. 2 Chron. 14:9). From the number of prisoners deported by the Assyrians, we gather that there was a rather high population level maintained in Palestine during the eighth and seventh centuries B.C. It is therefore a mistake to draw inferences . . . [to conclude that there was] a comparatively sparse population for the Near East during this period. One very interesting discovery from the recent excavations at Ebla includes a set of cuneiform tablets . . . one of which lists the superintendents and prefects of the four major divisions of the capital city itself back in 2400 B.C. From these data the estimated population of Ebla was about 260,000[.] . . . This renders quite credible the implied population of Nineveh in Jonah’s day: “120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left” (Jonah 4:11)—i.e., infants and toddlers. This would indicate a total of nearly 1,000,000 inhabitants in Greater Nineveh alone.

All these ancient references to high population seem to remove any firm base for the skepticism of modern critics who question the accuracy of the figures given in the Old Testament.[472]

This writer believes that scholars like Archer are correct in their defense of the historical accuracy of the numbers commonly considered to be involved in the Exodus. However, even if one were to (unnecessarily) concede that these numbers are too large, the Hebrew word }elep can refer to family or clan units much smaller than exactly one-thousand persons. Clearly, no justifiable objection to the historicity of the Exodus narrative arises on account of the numbers of people referred to in the text.

Dorothy Murdock wrote: “[T]he Bible writers are very vague and do not present discernible historical details, such as dates or pharaohs’ names. . . . The pharaoh is never named, in dozens of pages of text, despite the fact that Egyptian kings were well known and inscribed their names all over monuments. . . . The lack of specifying the pharaoh . . . in the biblical tale is therefore inexplicable.”[473] Following Ms. Murdock, Dan Barker asked: “So who was the pharaoh in the Exodus story? . . . [T]he Israelite stories mention . . . [other] kings by name. . . . For historical reasons, why didn’t the writer of the Pentateuch mention the name of the pharaoh of Egypt? . . . [Why a] nameless Pharaoh?”[474] It is, of course, true that the Bible does not mention the name of the Pharaoh of the Exodus. Indeed, whenever the word Pharaoh appears in Genesis, Exodus, or other parts of the Pentateuch, the individual is unnamed.[475] In contrast, in later books of the Bible, the name of a Pharaoh is mentioned.[476] Does this fact constitute evidence that later writers were making up the earlier portions of the Old Testament, and they were so ignorant that they did not even know what name to assign to their fictional Pharaoh? Is it “inexplicable,” as Ms. Murdock argues, and such a strong argument that Dan Barker thought it should be pressed in the cross-examination of the Barker-Ross debate? On the contrary—the absence of a name for the Pharaoh in earlier Biblical books, but the presence of a name in the later ones, is a strong argument for the Old Testament’s accuracy.[477] “The lack of naming the pharaoh of the exodus is specifically a feature of the Ramesside period, in scores of ostraca, papyri, and inscriptions—but not from the eleventh century onward when the king’s name is either given (like Shishak) or added to the title (like Pharaoh Necho/Hophra).”[478] That is, during the time of the Exodus the king of Egypt was addressed as “Pharaoh” without his name being attached, but in later centuries—during the time when skeptics claim the Pentateuch was forged and falsely ascribed to Moses—the practice was to attach the name of the Pharaoh to his title. Mr. Barker and Ms. Murdock thought that the absence of a name for Pharaoh was an argument against the historical accuracy of the Old Testament out of ignorance of both Biblical scholarship and Egyptology. Thus:

It appears from the preceding that Biblical writers use this word with historical accuracy for the various periods to which it refers, not only for the time of Necoh and Hophra, but for the time of Rameses II[.] . . . It is strongly urged that writers of the 7th or 5th century BC would not have been able to make such historical use of this name, while, to a writer at the time of the exodus, it would have been perfectly natural to use Pharaoh for the king without any further name; and historical writers in the time of the prophets in Palestine would likewise have used Pharaoh-Necoh and Pharaoh Hophra. This evidence is not absolutely conclusive for an early authorship of the Pentateuch and historical books, but is very difficult to set aside for a late authorship.[479]

Hoffmeier explains:

Throughout Genesis and Exodus, the well-known title “Pharaoh” . . . is used. . . . From its inception until the tenth century, the term “Pharaoh” stood alone, without a juxtaposed personal name. In subsequent periods, the name of the monarch was generally added on. This precise practice is found in the Old Testament; in the period covered from Genesis and Exodus to Solomon and Rehoboam, the term “pharaoh” occurs alone, while after Shishak (ca. 925 B. C.), the title and name appear together (e. g., Pharaoh Necho, Pharaoh Hophra). . . . Thus, the usage of “pharaoh” in Genesis and Exodus does accord well with the Egyptian practice from the fifteenth through the tenth centuries.[480]

In conclusion, so far is the absence of a name attached to “Pharaoh” from being evidence of historical vagueness or inaccuracy in the Pentateuch that it constitutes a strong argument in favor of its historicity.

Dorothy Murdock wrote:

Moreover, since the Hebrew alphabet developed only after the “Phoenician” alphabet was created around 1050 BCE, Moses could not have written the Pentateuch in it some 200 or more years earlier. . . . [T]he Hebrew alphabet . . . develop[ed] . . . from the Phoenecian[.] . . . In addition, Hebrew as a spoken language was confined largely to the period between the 10th and seventh centuries, long after Moses’ time. . . . Furthermore, according to scholarly consensus [no source provided] . . . the written language used in the Old Testament . . . Classical Hebrew . . . flourished mainly during the sixth century. . . . Hence, it is not possible that centuries earlier Moses wrote in Classical Hebrew when recording the Pentateuch. . . . Hebrew . . . does not emerge in the extant archaeological record until the eighth century. . . . In the end, there exists no credible, scientic [sic] evidence for the biblical story of Moses . . . the Pentateuch . . . comprises compositions possibly from the tenth century BCE to the third . . . [with] a possible later redaction during the third century as well. . . . [T]he Pentateuch was constructed during the third century BCE, using older texts and including much new material to glue it together[.] . . . The date of Deborah’s song . . . 900 BCE [or a bit earlier] predat[es] the Hebrew script . . . [and dates] before the emergence of Hebrew[.] . . . the Hebrew language was not distinct and had no alphabet at this time[.]. . . Another redactor/editor . . . reworked the [Pentateuchal] texts during the second century BCE [Wikipedia cited as evidence].[481]

Following Ms. Murdock, Dan Barker argued:

[T]he fact [is] that there was no Hebrew language in 1446 B.C. . . . the Hebrew language does not originate until the tenth century[.] There was no Hebrew alphabet until about the tenth century[.] Are you aware of that historical, archaeological fact? . . . Do you have any evidence that the Hebrew language was being written and spoken before the tenth century, B.C.? . . . [E]verything I read says it was not. The Hebrew language was not a Semitic dialect until the 10th century B. C.[482]

The argument of Ms. Murdock and Dan Barker is a revised version of the older skeptical argument that writing did not exist in the days of Moses, so he could not have written the Pentateuch. This latter skeptical argument has been so badly refuted that Ms. Murdock and Mr. Barker had to adopt a revised form of it instead of its classical formulation:

[T]he discovery of over sixteen thousand clay tablets from the ancient library of Ebla in northern Syria delivered a crushing blow to the documentary supposition that Moses could not have written the Pentateuch because writing was nonexistent in his day. The proponents of the documentary hypothesis [the dominant skeptical view of the Pentateuch] have claimed that the period described in the Mosaic narrative (1400 B. C., a thousand years after the Ebla kingdom) was prior to all knowledge of writing. But the findings from Ebla demonstrate that a thousand years before Moses, laws, customs, and events were recorded in writing in the same area of the world in which Moses and the patriarchs lived.

The higher critics have taught not only that this was a time prior to writing but also that the priestly code and legislation recorded in the Pentateuch were too far developed to have been written by Moses. They alleged that the Israelites were too primitive at that time to have written them and that it wasn’t until about the first half of the Persian period (538–331 B. C.) that such detailed legislation was recorded.

However, the tablets containing the law codes of Ebla have demonstrated elaborate judicial proceedings and case law. Many are very similar to the Deuteronomic law code (example: Deuteronomy 22:22–30), to which critics attribute a late date. . . . The British Assyriologist A. H. Sayce evaluates this theory of a late date of writing. He claims that

this supposed late use of writing for literary purposes was merely an assumption, with nothing more solid to rest upon than the critic’s own theories and presuppositions. And as soon as it could be tested by solid fact it crumbled into dust. First Egyptology, then Assyriology, showed that the art of writing in the ancient East, so far from being of modern growth, was of vast antiquity, and that the two great powers which divided the civilized world between them were each emphatically a nation of scribes and readers. Centuries before Abraham was born, Egypt and Babylonia were alike full of schools and libraries, of teachers and pupils, of poets and prose-writers, and of the literary works which they had composed.[483] . . .

  1. J. Evans found evidence of pre-Mosaic writing on Crete. Not only were Egypt and Babylon writing in hieroglyphic and cuneiform, respectively, but Crete had three, perhaps four systems, i.e. pictographs, linear symbols, and so forth . . . Albright, speaking of the various writing systems that existed in the ancient Orient even during pre-Mosaic patriarchal times, says:

In this connection it may be said that writing was well known in Palestine and Syria throughout the Patriarchal Age (Middle Bronze, 2100–1500 B. C.). No fewer than five scripts are known to have been in use: Egyptian hieroglyphs, used for personal and place names by the Canaanites; Accadian cuneiform; the hieroglyphiform syllabary of Phoenicia, used from the 23rd century or earlier (as known since 1935); the linear alphabet of Sinai, three inscriptions in which are now known from Palestine (this script seems to be the direct progenitor of our own); the cuneiform alphabet of Ugarit (used also a little later in Palestine), which was discovered in 1929. This means that Hebrew historical traditions need not have been handed down through oral transmission alone. (Albright, ACBC, 186)

Cyrus Gordon, former professor of Near Eastern studies and chairman of the department of Mediterranean studies at Brandeis University, and an authority on the tablets discovered at Ugarit, concludes similarly:

The excavations at Ugarit have revealed a high material and literary culture in Canaan prior to the emergence of the Hebrews. Prose and poetry were already fully developed. The educational system was so advanced that dictionaries in four languages were compiled for the use of scribes, and the individual words were listed in their Ugaritic, Babylonian, Sumerian, and Hurrian equivalents. The beginnings of Israel are rooted in a highly cultural Canaan where the contributions of several talented peoples (including the Mesopotamians, Egyptians, and branches of the Indo-Europeans) had converged and blended. The notion that early Israelite religion and society were primitive is completely false. Canaan in the days of the Patriarchs was the hub of a great international culture. The Bible, hailing from such a time and place, cannot be devoid of sources. But let us study them by taking the Bible on its own terms and against its own authentic background. (Gordon, HCFF, 133–34)

The archaeological evidence serves not only to refute the older critics’ antiquated theory but also serves as positive evidence to support the probability that Moses kept written records.

Sayce makes a fascinating conclusion: “The Babylonia of the age of Abraham was a more highly educated country than the England of George III.”[484] . . . This issue constitutes a major upset for skeptics of Bible history . . . James Orr, in The Problem of the Old Testament, explains the transformation of modern thought in the following manner:

Formerly Israel was looked upon as a people belonging to the dim dawn of history at a period when, except in Egypt, civilization had hardly begun. It was possible then to argue that the art of writing did not exist among the Hebrews, and that they had not the capacity for the exalted religious ideas which the narratives of their early history implies. Moses could not have given the laws, nor David have written the psalms, which the history ascribes to them. This contention is now rendered impossible by the discovery of the extraordinary light of civilization which shone in the Tigro-Euphrates valley, and in the valley of the Nile, millenniums before Abraham left Ur of the Chaldees, or Moses led his people out of Egypt. The transformation of opinion is revolutionary.[485][486]

Since the argument that writing did not exist in Moses’ day has been so overwhelmingly refuted that even the most extreme skeptics no longer employ it, Ms. Murdock and Mr. Barker instead needed to argue that Hebrew in particular did not exist, although other forms of written language itself had existed for many centuries before the days of Moses. Hebrew allegedly did not exist until, Mr. Barker and Ms. Murdock affirmed, “the tenth century B. C.”[487]

Just like the older skeptical argument against the existence of any kind of written language in Moses’ day, the current skeptical argument of Barker and Murdock against the existence of the Hebrew language is invalid. First of all, the Hebrew Pentateuch itself, in light of the many positive evidences that it is a historically accurate document written by Moses,[488] evidences that Hebrew existed at the time of its composition. It is unreasonable to set aside a lengthy document, one that gives every indication that it is authentic, and that claims to be written in Hebrew in the 15th century, and make the claim that Hebrew did not exist at that time because other documents (allegedly) do not exist in that language from that date. This kind of argument would make it impossible for any writing to be the first extant witness to the existence of a language—if one, say, discovered a very ancient document in Latin, older than whatever else in Latin had been unearthed, by this sort of argument one could allege that this ancient Latin could not really be ancient Latin, because nothing else of equal age had as of yet been discovered in that language.

Second, even unbelieving modern scholarship recognizes that writing existed in the ancient Near East from at least c. 3,200 B. C.,[489] and writing in Egypt (where Moses was raised in Pharaoh’s court) likewise dates into the fourth millennium B. C.[490] Indeed, the ancient Greek and Arabic scripts were derived from the written language of Canaan.[491] Second, unbelieving modern scholars, such as those employed in creating Cambridge University Press’s A History of the Hebrew Language,[492] recognize that “the Semitic alphabets” existed in the “eighteenth to seventeenth centuries BCE,” far before the time of Moses.[493] Non-evangelical scholars such as Dr. William Moran of Harvard University discuss the “Hebrew of the Patriarchal Age”[494] and “the history of the Hebrew verb earlier than the Amarna period”[495] centuries before the time of Moses. Furthermore, written texts have been found in Canaan at cities such as Shechem, Gezer, and Lachich from the seventeenth and sixteenth centuries B. C., and inscriptions in the Sinai area itself from Serabit el-Khadem date to c. 1500 B. C.[496] These sixteenth-century inscriptions in the Sinai area contain the alphabet ’, b, g, d, h, w, z . . . t (aleph, bet . . . taw) of the Hebrew of the Bible.[497] Furthermore, as apparently the writing of Semitic slaves of Egyptians, they provide evidence of literacy among even the lowest classes of Semitic society.[498] Furthermore, “there is a clear continuity between Hebrew as it is historically attested and the language of the El-Amarna letters, which date from before the settlement of the Israelites in Canaan.”[499] Thus, scholars recognize that “[t]he Israelit[e] tribes that settled in Canaan from the fourteenth . . . centur[y] BCE . . . used Hebrew as a spoken and literary language until the fall of Jerusalem in 587 BCE.”[500] They note that features of the Hebrew language such as “matres lectionis appea[r] in Aramaic and Hebrew as early as the thirteenth century B.C.”[501] Objections of skeptical extremists that “there is no evidence . . . of Hebrew writing” in this “early” period are “disingenuous . . . we now have archaeologically attested evidence of widespread literacy in early Israel . . . in the ‘Izbet Sartah abecedary of the twelfth century BCE, corroborating the long-known tenth-century ‘Gezer calendar,’ also a schoolboy’s exercise . . . inscriptions . . . [that] are decisive.”[502] The Izbet Sartah ostracon, discovered in 1976, and which paleography dates to c. 1200 B. C., demonstrates “the existence of a written tradition and original Hebrew alphabetic order already at the beginning of the 12th century.”[503]

The Izbet Sartah ostracon: Hebrew c. 1200 B. C.

Furthermore, it is evident that this ostracon is hardly the first thing ever written in Hebrew. On the contrary, for it to find its way into a humble house in Izbet Sartah indicates a widespread use of both spoken and written Hebrew by 1200 B. C. Clearly, the language must have existed for a significant period of time and been in common use for it to find its way onto an obscure bit of pottery in a typical Israelite’s house. It is noteworthy that skeptics of the early existence of “Biblical Hebrew . . . are notoriously inept as Hebraists or epigraphers” who must “conveniently ignore . . . fact[s].”[504] Thus, Unger writes:

The question as to whether or not Moses could have had access to an alphabetic script and therefore could have written the Pentateuch in its present form appears now to be answered with a resounding affirmative. In earlier times the invention of an alphabet was attributed to the Phoenicians who flourished at 1200–1000 BC or so, some centuries later than the traditional date of Moses. In the 1930s, a graffiti Semitic alphabet was discovered at Serabit el-Khadem in the Sinai desert, dated by Albright to the 16th century, thus roughly contemporary to Moses. Even more recently a similar alphabet was found carved on the face of a cliff at Wadi el-Hol in deep South Egypt. This one, from ca. 1900 BC, antedates Moses by 450 years. The conclusion is that Moses as a Semite not only had no need to write the Pentateuch in some cumbersome script such as hieroglyphics or cuneiform but also had at hand a Semitic alphabet already long in use before his time.[505]

Clearly, there is every reason to believe that Moses could have written the Bible in Hebrew. Indeed, external evidence concerning the use of the Hebrew language is indubitably consistent with the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch, a fact also supported by the numerous internal evidences, archaeological support, and comparative literary support for the fact that the books of Moses are second-millennium B. C. documents. Just as clearly, neither Dan Barker nor Dorothy Murdock know what they are talking about when they argue that Moses could not have written the Pentateuch because Hebrew (and, for the argument to be valid, even any archaic form of Hebrew, paleo-Hebrew, etc. must be non-extant) did not exist before the 10th century B. C.

Dorothy Murdock wrote:

[T]he Exodus “giants” or nephilim tale represents not “history” but an astral or astrotheological motif. In Aramaic, the word nephila refers to the constellation of Orion, the giant hunter in the sky who plays an important role in Egyptian religion, among many others. Gesenius cites the “Chaldean” (Akkadian) of this term as alpn nephla, meaning “the giant in the sky, i. e. the constellation Orion, plur. the greater constellations.” The plural term nephilim, therefore, represents constellations or stars[.] . . . [T]he myth of a battle with giants is found in a number of cultures globally. . . . [T]he Pygmies/Ituri/Efé have a story of the triumph of their first man, Efé, over “giant monsters of heaven.”[506] . . . Moses . . . [was like the] Pygmy lawgiver of the Congo . . . The idea of a divine lawgiver dates back . . . to . . . the Pygmies of Central and South Africa, whose legends were recorded in modern times by Belgian anthropologist Dr. Jean-Pierre Hallet (1927-2004). For decades, Hallet lived on and off among the peaceful Pygmy people of the Congo named Efé, recording their traditions as pristinely as possible[.] . . . Hallet’s . . . book Pygmy Kitabu . . . remark[s]: [“The] Pygmy stories of the ancestral lawgiver . . . [and] Efé legends tell of how this civilizing hero ascended to heaven and assumed his role as the patron saint or angel of the moon[.] . . . [A] lunar angel . . . is usually represented . . . as the intermediary who transmits the deity’s laws to the primordial Pygmy nation[.”] . . . As noted, Philo wrote about Moses’s ascension . . . the divine legislator appears to be . . . reflective of archaic lunar mythology[.] . . . Hallet . . . explain[s] that the first man is the lunar angel who receives the law and commandments from God. . . . [T]he ancestral Efé lawgiver is represented as the inventor of all the arts and sciences . . . passed along from remote ages and carried with migrations out of Africa. . . . [T]he Pygmies claimed that “in ancient times their lawgiving father-god-king reigned near Ruwenzori, the Mountains of the Moon.” . . . [T]he Bible seems to confirm that the commandments were handed down from the Mountain of the Moon. . . . Hence, we have a lawgiver associated with mountains. Indeed, the mountain of the moon would be called “Sin” in Semitic, the name of the moon god, said to be related to the Sinai of biblical myth. . . . [T]he volcanic scenes in the biblical tale are . . . likely [not from] . . . the region of the Levant and Arabia . . . [but] from elsewhere, therefore, possibly the still-active Virunga volcanoes . . . located within easy reach of the Pygmy-populated forest near the Mountains of the Moon.[507]

Following Ms. Murdock, Dan Barker argued:

These stories that were floating around . . . pagan exoduses . . . had mythical giants in their stories, just like the Israelites had these mythical giants in their story. . . . And they got their laws from the top of a mountain . . . Egyptian pygmies had a mountaintop myth of going up to get the law from their God. . . . [T]he Israelite stories were cut from the same fabric of all these ancient pagan myths of the time[.][508]

Indeed, the pygmies are of central importance: “In reality, the Pygmies provide a key piece of the puzzle.”[509] The pygmies are Murdock’s final and crowning proof of pagan dependence in the books of Moses, appearing at the conclusion and climax of her chapter “The Lawgiver Archetype.”[510]

In order to prove that the Biblical accounts are dependent upon a given pagan myth, one must, at the minimum, prove the following:

1.) The pagan myth predates the Biblical account.

2.) The adherents of the myth had either direct contact with or reasonable plain means of propagating their ideas to the writers of the Bible.

3.) The pagan myth contains real and significant parallels to the Biblical account, parallels that require the oral or literary dependence of the latter upon the former.

4.) There are no better candidates for the origin of the Biblical account than the pagan myth.

One can illustrate what militant atheist mythicists must prove to establish their case that the Bible copied from pagan myths by examining legitimate examples of literary dependence. For example, one can properly prove that the New Testament book of Hebrews is dependent upon the Old Testament book of Genesis. Genesis predates the composition of Hebrews by c. 1,500 years. Jews, Gentile proselytes to Judaism, and early Christians, including the early Christian author of Hebrews, had ready access to the book of Genesis. Hebrews 11:1-11 contains many plain references to events recorded in Genesis and even to the very words of that book. Other portions of Hebrews manifest a clear dependence upon Genesis (e. g., Hebrews 2:16; 7:1ff.; 12:16-17). Moses, the author of Genesis, is referred to in Hebrews (Hebrews 3:2, alluding to Numbers 12:7). Specific texts from Genesis are quoted in Hebrews (Hebrews 4:4; Genesis 2:2). Evidence for literary dependence is clear. Furthermore, there are no better candidates than Genesis for these affirmations in Hebrews. Clearly, there is sufficient evidence for one to conclude that the book of Hebrews is dependent upon the book of Genesis. The same sort of convincing argument could be made for many other instances of dependence, such as, for instance, Paradise Lost by Milton’s dependence upon Homer’s Iliad.

By contrast, all attempts to claim that the Bible is copied from pagan myths fail miserably, since these attempts are entirely contrary to fact. Dorothy Murdock’s claim about Biblical dependence upon African pygmy legends—in which Dan Barker followed her—well illustrates the failure of mythicist claims to establish Biblical dependence upon paganism by its especially shocking anti-historicity. First, consider: Does the pagan myth predate the Biblical account? Murdock bases her claim solely upon the work Pygmy Kitabu, written by Jean-Pierre Hallet and Alex Pelle in 1973.[511] Murdock states that “the Pygmies of Central and South Africa [had] their legends . . . recorded in modern times by Belgian anthropologist Dr. Jean-Pierre Hallet (1927-2004).”[512] This sentence has many factual errors—Hallet earned neither a doctorate nor even a master’s degree, never had a job as an anthropologist, and the distance between the rainforest in the Congo where the Efé pygmies live and, say, Cape Town in South Africa is greater than the distance from San Francisco, California to New York, New York, so there is no single tribe of “Pygmies of Central and South Africa.” Even apart from this, the astonishingly great temporal problem remains. How can Hallet—or Murdock or Barker—possibly know that myths the pygmies claimed as their own in the second half of the twentieth century are the same as the myths that they propounded three thousand years earlier? Is the thinking person seriously to believe that what Hallet “recorded in modern times”—that is, none of these pygmy myths were even written down before the 20th century A. D.—can in the least be a reliable guide to anything such pygmy tribes believed millennia earlier?

Passing on in shock from the astonishing time problem in Murdock and Barker’s argument, one comes to the question: Did the adherents of the pagan myth have either direct contact or reasonable plain means of propagating their myths to the writers of the Bible? To ask the question is to answer it. The distance from the Virunga forest mentioned by Murdock[513] to Jerusalem in Israel is substantially greater than the distance across the United States of America. Did the Jews walk, or drive some chariots, or ride some donkeys, to the heart of Africa, enter a rainforest, learn the unwritten language of the pygmies, decide they had really interesting myths, decide that the myths were so interesting that they needed to make up similar ones of their own, and then travel back to Israel in order to make up the Old Testament? Alternatively, perhaps the space aliens Murdock believes abduct people kidnapped the Jews, plopped them down in the rain forest, and then beamed them back up and flew them to Israel once they had learned the pygmy language and decided to put pygmy myths into the Bible. No—those ideas are too implausible. Murdock’s faith is that of Pygmy Kitabu, and thus is something far more rational. What Murdock really believes—indeed, what she says we have “long had proof”[514] about—is that the pygmies that now live in the Congo rainforest had a worldwide civilization in days of yore, stretching from Tibet to South America to Norway![515] (The pygmies did this despite into the 20th century A. D. lacking a written language—they ran the entire world without knowing how to write things down—and, of course, despite an utter lack of historical, genetic, or any other kind of real evidence for an ancient World Pygmy Empire.) Of course, then, the pygmies could also have reached Israel, as they went much further than that. They reached Germany, Wales, and Bohemia.[516] Even though the pygmies “do not even build rafts of the most elementary variety,”[517] in the past they did things like take boats to the Philippines[518] and Polynesia,[519] impacting not only Biblical narratives but also stories told in modern Japan.[520] Indeed, the pygmies ruled the world back in the good old days when they were not black but white people,[521] when there was an “Old White Africa,” a “pre-Negro Africa” inhabited by “Norse fire-giants,” “the Great White Father . . . the White Pygmy,” and other Caucasians![522] Why did these little people change color? Note that the pygmies could change their skin color between the ancient times and the 20th century, but the content of their myths remained entirely stable, or so Ms. Murdock and Mr. Barker would have us believe. Furthermore, how did the pygmies get to all those places—how did they traverse the Pacific and Atlantic? The lost island continent of Atlantis helped, if Charles Berlitz, the Atlantis apologist Murdock follows in connection with her pygmy thesis, is correct.[523] After all, Pygmy Kitabu affirms, the pygmies colonized Atlantis,[524] living there “at the foot of the lunar island-mountain in the center” of the country.[525] The “clairvoyant and telepathic powers of a superhuman order” that Hallet affirms the pygmies still possess[526] perhaps helped them also—maybe they could beam themselves up out of the African rainforest to Atlantis, and then beam themselves down in Mexico. The pygmies not only colonized fictitious continents, though—they also lived during ancient times in real places like Guiana, Peru, Guatemala, Venezuela, and Chile, building complex structures and cities in these places[527] (although now they do not know engineering-level mathematics, but most of them can only count to ten).[528] Even Stonehenge is a testimony to the pygmies.[529] They discovered America far before Columbus.[530] While in modern times they complain of chilly nights in their forest on the equator,[531] nevertheless in days of yore they explored Siberia and Alaska[532] and sired the race of the Eskimos.[533] The pygmies even lived in the “Hades kingdom,” a real, physical place where they were “uniquely qualified to survive the downstairs environment.”[534] So, then, did the adherents of the pagan myth have either direct contact or reasonable plain means of propagating their myths to the writers of the Bible? Yes—if one thinks with Ms. Murdock that pygmies living in the Congo rainforest once ruled the entire Old and New World back when they were white, traversing back and forth across the lost continent of Atlantis or on little ships (or, perhaps, on the UFOs discussed in Pygmy Kitabu)[535] while taking excursions down to the kingdom of Hades and coming back. If, on the other hand, one thinks that such ideas are so fantastic that it is hard to believe that even Ms. Murdock argues for them, the answer is no.

The next question one must ask is: Does the pagan myth contain real and significant parallels to the Biblical account, parallels that require the oral or literary dependence of the latter upon the former? Here again, as with many of the other alleged pagan parallels affirmed by Murdock and Barker,[536] the answer is a clear “no.” Murdock, following Hallet, states that the pygmies believed that “the first man is the lunar angel who receives the law and commandments from God.” Furthermore, this pygmy lawgiver is “associated with mountains,” allegedly like the “volcanic scenes in the biblical tale” (by which she means Exodus, which never mentions a volcano).[537] A mention of mountains (or of people walking to the tops of mountains) is radically insufficient evidence to prove Biblical dependence upon pygmy legends—after all, Murdock can make just about every other feature in the Bible proof of paganism—from trees, to bodies of water, to countless other things. Furthermore, it is obvious that worldwide there are many stories which mention mountains, and people climbing mountains, not because there is dependence one upon the other, but because there are mountains littered over the face of the earth and people frequently do things on them. What about the first man being a lunar angel? That is supposed to be the same as the Bible? The Biblical God is an immaterial Spirit. The head pygmy god is a man—their deity is “wholly anthropomorphic.”[538] The Biblical God is all-powerful, everywhere-present, and uncreated. The pygmy god was born of a mother named Matu who froze to death after a man stole her fire while she was sleeping next to it. Their god could not catch up to the man to get the fire back. The god stopped chasing the man after getting exhausted and running out of breath.[539] The Bible is intensely monotheistic, but the pygmies have ancestors that assume the role of gods over things in space; one, for instance, became “the god . . . of the moon.”[540] The Biblical God is not an animal, but there is a “Pygmy divinity [called] Bes . . . the wise cat head,”[541] and a chameleon man-god.[542] To counter such—and many more—extreme dissimilarities, what sort of similarities does Pygmy Kitabu point out? Arguments such as: “[T]he angelic Pygmy smith . . . ascended to the moon. After his life on earth, Jacob [the son of Isaac and grandson of Abraham] went to live in the moon.”[543] Jacob went to live in the moon? Where is that in the Bible? “At Sinai, the lawgiving author Moses spoke with the angelic dragon-fighter Michael. They are both forms of Efé [an important pygmy symbolized by a leopard][544]. . . . At Sinai, the Mountain of the Moon . . . Ruwenzori . . . Moses apparently chatted with the Pygmy angel of the moon.”[545] Moses spoke with the archangel Michael? The angel is a “dragon-fighter” and is a pygmy? Mount Sinai is in the middle of Africa at Ruwenzori? “Efé may be identified with the subject of a Vatican portrait (c. 1550 A.D. [sic]) that bears the title Adam.”[546] A picture in the Vatican in A. D. 1550 somehow connects the Biblical account of Adam with a pygmy? With this kind of astonishing misrepresentation of the Bible, one wonders how distorted the accounts of the pygmy legends are—perhaps the pygmies would find Pygmy Kitabu’s version of what they believe about as close as the Bible is to stating that Jacob went to live on the moon. One could go on and on—the dissimilarities are endless, and “similarities” are distorted and farcical. This pygmy religion is like the Bible—so similar that the one must be dependent upon the other?

Even if there were real and significant parallels between pygmy ideas and the Bible, it is insanity to think that ideas the pygmies affirmed in the second half of the twentieth century A. D. actually were the source of both Judaism and Christianity rather than being influenced by these religions that are attested millennia earlier. Murdock and the authors of Pygmy Kitabu vehemently deny that their pygmies could have had their late 20th century A. D. oral traditions influenced by Christianity—no, their oral stories must represent unchanged records that predate the Bible by millennia and formed the basis for Scripture. This is despite the admitted fact that “the Pygmy legends have no standard or authorized versions”[547] at all. Indeed, “every Pygmy elder” tells “differently . . . every Pygmy legend.”[548] Furthermore, Pygmy Kitabu states that the pygmies can know up to five languages,[549] with which they interact with their African neighbors, who live in a country that professes to be c. 80% Christian. Members of the pygmy community are themselves professing Christians,[550] pygmies know missionaries and their stories,[551] and Westerners have visited their rainforest since at least 1871[552]—yet, somehow, Christianity did not influence tales they told Mr. Hallet in the latter portion of the twentieth century in any way. Some pygmies, despite their alleged absolute ignorance of Western Christianity, wear Western clothing.[553] Their millennia-old, fossilized and unchanged myths, uninfluenced by Christianity because of their isolation, nevertheless refer to animals that “roa[r] like an automobile,”[554] as many automobiles pass through their forest on highways built by Belgium,[555] and to birds that are like “airplanes.”[556] Presumably, these must be ancient airplanes and automobiles, perhaps the ones that the pygmies used to travel the world; their untouched prehistoric legends could not refer to the modern ones that travel through and over their forest, for their legends are millennia-old, unchanged and uninfluenced by modern cars and planes. Do myths of the pygmies contain real and significant parallels to Scripture that require oral or literary dependence of the latter upon the former? Clearly, the answer is “no.” Pygmy legends are clearly influenced by Christianity—indeed, by modern Christians that do things like drive automobiles and fly in planes—rather than being the source of the Judaism from which Christianity sprung.

One must then ask the question: Are there better candidates for the origin of the Biblical accounts than the myths of Congo’s pygmies? Of course, just about anything is a better explanation for the origin of the narratives in the Bible than that they were copied from stories told by pygmies in a Congo rainforest. That the narratives record actual events is certainly a much better explanation. Consider Murdock and Barker’s argument about “giants”: the pygmies have myths about fighting giants, and the Bible has narratives about fighting giants—therefore, the Bible is copied from the stories of the pygmies. (Somehow Murdock affirms that the Biblical stories about the giants are also derived from the fact that there is a constellation in the sky called Orion; the Jews looked in the sky, saw the constellation, and decided to make up stories about giants—perhaps while they were in the Congo learning the pygmy language?) Are either of these two (contradictory) ideas about the origin of the Biblical narratives about giants more plausible than that the Israelites had to fight some tribes of people that were tall? Would the Biblical accounts only be accurate if all the people in Canaan had been short? Are all races of people that are tall mythical? If the Bible had recorded the height of some people in the NBA or in the Guinness Book of World Records would those people have become mythical? Is it implausible that a group of newly rescued slaves with no military experience would be afraid of engaging in hand-to-hand combat with people who were bigger than they were (Numbers 13:33)? (For that matter, is it surprising that pygmies have stories about fighting people that were taller than they? What is the likelihood that they only got into actual historical battles with people that were equally short?) It is entirely reasonable to conclude that the Bible speaks of giants that the Israelites were afraid of because there were actual groups of tall people in Canaan. On the other hand, it is ludicrous to think that the Bible speaks of giants because the Jews wanted to emulate myths recorded in the late 20th century A. D. thousands of miles away in a remote rainforest, or that the Biblical record is the slightest degree connected to the fact that a constellation called “Orion” is in the sky. Transforming Biblical references to people of large stature into a secret connection to constellations or to myths of Congo pygmies—pygmies that used to be white people and who had a worldwide civilization in the Old and New World, but later turned black and retreated to the Congo rainforest—is a real tall tale.

Naturally, Ms. Murdock’s argument about paganism from the use of the word “giant” in the Hebrew Bible is also full of factual errors and misinformation. For example, she claims that the “Semitic term . . . rwbg, gibbowr, means ‘strong man’[557] or ‘giant’[558] and was ‘taken from ancient Near Eastern mythology.’”[559] [560] The Hebrew word in question is rwø;bˆg (g≈ibbo®r), not gibbowr. The phrase “strong man” is not contained in the definition of g≈ibbo®r in Gesenius’s Hebrew Lexicon,[561] and no other work by Gesenius is cited in Murdock’s bibliography. While the words “taken from ancient Near Eastern mythology” do appear in the book Murdock cites, they are not stating that the term g≈ibbo®r is copied from ancient Near Eastern mythology, but are making an interpretive point (a questionable one itself) about a particular verse in the book of Psalms, rather than making an etymological assertion.[562] Actual standard Hebrew lexica—which Murdock does not know exist—never make the point that the Hebrew word g≈ibbo®r is derived from or somehow proof of some kind of pagan mythology being borrowed by the Old Testament.[563] Regrettably, three errors a sentence is frequently on the low end for Murdock’s book.

Colin M. Turnbull reviewed Hallet and Pelle’s Pygmy Kitabu,[564] Murdock’s sole source for hers and Dan Barker’s pygmy argument, in the periodical American Anthropologist. Turnbull noted:

Mr. Hallet’s theme is simple enough: the original Superman was a pygmy, and all that is good in mankind, indeed mankind itself, derives from a pygmean ancestry. . . . [His] extreme and unsupported . . . claims . . . in no way can . . . be used as a springboard for serious further research for [they] leav[e] far too much unsaid, including much that Hallet knows perfectly well but chooses to omit. . . . Hallet’s obvious ignorance of what anthropology is all about because he is, after all, a layman . . . is a pity, and the publishers do not help by writing a jacket blurb that lends an air of pseudo-academic authenticity to the book that is belied by the contents and by Hallet’s obvious scorn for the academic world[.] . . . [He lacks] academic training . . . [writes] untutored commentary . . . [and possesses a] mind uncluttered by formal academic concerns[.] . . . His experience has been almost exclusively with the Efe in the southeastern corner of the Ituri, Schebesta’s[565] old stamping ground. This is the area most densely peppered with administrative and army posts, mines, missions, schools, and hospitals, yet Hallet claims that “his” pygmies are the purest, closest to the original, and claims they cannot have been subject to outside influences. Consequently he is able to see very obvious similarities between certain “pygmy” legends and biblical accounts as “proof” of the anteriority of the pygmy version. Thus even Christianity is made to derive from the pygmies. Much as I love the pygmies myself, this is too much. . . . Hallet claims to have discovered the original pygmy language, but the evidence he offers is so fragmentary as to be ludicrous. . . . I wished there had been more description, more legends (quoted in the original with detailed translation) since these are his prime source of inspiration, and more awareness of the work of others in this field, such as Joset. As it is Hallet really adds nothing new but some pretty wild ideas. . . . [H]e seems totally ignorant of the possibilities of structural analysis. So also at least a reference to the years of painstaking work by Cavalli-Sforza in the field of genetics, concentrating almost exclusively on the African pygmy populations, would have helped counter that sinking feeling that one is listening to a glorified one-man-band. Writers like Hallet, popular and unacademic . . . [contain a] recognition of anthropology [that] is so scant, and so frequently offensive, that [Hallet] has only himself to blame if the academic world ignores his work.[566]

Of course, Murdock is very unlikely to have read Turnbull’s review, or the works of any other critic of the fantasies about pygmies she derived from Hallet. No such works are found in her bibliography.

Even without reading a single scholar’s view on the fantasies in Pygmy Kitabu, however, it is obvious to thinking readers that the book is nonsense and rubbish. Why would Murdock treasure the book and call it “one of the most fascinating books I’ve ever read”[567] instead of recognizing its lunacy? Reading Pygmy Kitabu leaves one wondering if the Hallet was himself mentally stable—and toward the end of the book one discovers why. Hallet describes the smoking of “hemp,” which is “stronger than marijuana,” by the pygmies, giving them “no ill effects whatsoever” but “increas[ing] their vital force,” and how they would share their drugs “with their American guests.” He asserts that “cannabis plants have no harmful or addicting effects.”[568] Hallet likewise claims that “Samuel Taylor Coleridge . . . [wrote] a poem [that] describes the Pygmies’ kingdom of the dead . . . while he was under the influence of opium.”[569] Pygmy Kitabu, in numerous parts, likewise reads like something written by a man high on drugs. Murdock also references drugs in her Did Moses Exist?[570]—perhaps their influence helped her to value highly Hallet’s book. There is no evidence that Dan Barker was high on drugs when he made his argument against the Bible from the pygmies, however—in his case, it was simply hatred for God leading to striking intellectual blindness. That Ms. Murdock, and Dan Barker following her, would manufacture a connection between the fact that the Bible records Israel’s fear of “giant” people in Canaan and myths recorded in the 20th century A. D. about pygmies in a Congo rainforest demonstrates nothing about the unreliability of the Bible, but a great deal about the unreliability of Dorothy Murdock and Dan Barker. Truly, it is the “fool” that “hath said in his heart, There is no God” (Psalm 14:1).

Following Ms. Murdock, the centerpiece of Dan Barker’s argument against the Old Testament in the first Barker-Ross debate was the alleged Biblical dependence upon pagan sources. Dorothy Murdock wrote:

Thus, rather than serving as an “historical event,” the Moses tale apparently represents . . . the ancient motif of the sun and storm god battling the sea and/or controlling the waters, as found in Sumero-Babylonian, Egyptian, Greek, Phoenician and Ugaritic/ Canaanite myths of the eastern Mediterranean . . . such as:

  • Apollo and Python
  • Baal and Yamm
  • Bel and Thamti
  • Beowulf and Grendel
  • Byelobog and Chernobog
  • Daniel and the Dragon
  • Dionysius and Pentheus
  • Enki and the Dragon of Kur
  • Indra and Vritra
  • Kronos and Ophion
  • Marduk and Tiamat
  • Mithra and Ahriman
  • Mordecai and Haman
  • Moses and Pharaoh
  • Osiris/Horus and Seth
  • Perseus and Gorgon
  • George and the Dragon
  • Patrick and the snakes
  • Yahweh and Leviathan
  • Zeus and Typhon[571]

Adopting Ms. Murdock’s argument, Dan Barker stated:

The literary evidence itself shows parallels with ancient mythology. The stories we find in the Old Testament are cut from the same fabric of other ancient mythologies. . . . There were many religious folktales and myths in the first and second millennium B. C. E. The Greeks, the Babylonians, the Persians, the Indians, the Egyptians, the Assyrians; there were Ugaritic myths, there were Sicilian, Mesopotamian; many, many of these myths and foundational stories with all sorts of clearly mythical and magical events in them, none of which we take seriously on historical grounds.[572]

Considering this argument of Mr. Barker and Ms. Murdock, one must, again, ask:

1.) Does the pagan myth predate the Biblical account?

2.) Did the adherents of the myth have either direct contact with or reasonable plain means of propagating their ideas to the writers of the Bible?

3.) Does the pagan myth contain real and significant parallels to the Biblical account, parallels that require the oral or literary dependence of the latter upon the former?

4.) Are there are no better candidates for the origin of the Biblical account than the pagan myth?

The utter failure of the Barker/Murdock case is painfully obvious upon even a cursory examination of these alleged sources of the person of and books of Moses.[573] First of all, it is not at all apparent what in the books of Moses is supposed to represent “the ancient motif of the sun and storm god battling the sea and/or controlling the waters.” One has to read Murdock to find out that this is allegedly contained in the record of Moses leading the Israelites through the Red Sea; nobody would ever draw this conclusion simply from reading the Pentateuch. Moses is supposed to be a sun and storm god, and Pharaoh is supposed to be an embodiment of the sea and the waters; and based upon this absurd assertion, the account of the Red Sea crossing is allegedly derived from pagan myths about sun and storm gods controlling water. So—what sorts of “pagan parallels” does Murdock bring forth to prove her case? Picking some of the “parallels” that are the most easily accessible to the general reader, she cites “Beowulf and Grendel.” Beowulf was written in the 7th century A. D. or later, in Old English, and claims to be recounting events in northern Europe.[574] Nor is the story about a storm and sun god battling waters, but about a warrior killing a monster. How could the Pentateuch possibly have copied from a work composed in Old English, in the 7th century A. D.? And why bother copying from it, since it was not even about a storm and sun god battling waters anyway? Her next “parallel,” “Daniel and the Dragon” in the Apocrypha, is likewise far too late to be the origin of Moses.[575] Furthermore, it is utterly impossible to make Daniel into a sun and storm god or the snake creature in the story into some kind of personified water. What about “Mordecai and Haman” as recorded in the book of Esther? One would have to be high on the psychedelic mushrooms Murdock speaks of in her book[576] before one could conclude that Moredecai could be a sun and storm god and Haman could be personified waters; and, again, Esther is necessarily and clearly later than the books of Moses. The tale of “St. George and the Dragon” likewise developed in the Middle Ages in medieval Europe, and claiming that it has the same story as Moses crossing the Red Sea is pure fantasy.[577] What about “St. Patrick and the snakes”? The historical missionary to Ireland, Patrick, only performed his mission in the 5th century A. D., and the legend about him driving out snakes dates to hundreds of years later.[578] Just as the easily accessible “parallels” Murdock imagines are entirely fictitious, so the alleged parallels to more obscure or difficult-to-recover legends are entirely imaginary. For instance, Moses leading Israel across the Red Sea in Exodus while Pharaoh’s soldiers drown is allegedly paralleled by “Byelobog and Chernobog.” However, the name “Byelobog” does not occur in any extant ancient or even medieval text that exists in the entire world, so it would be difficult for the account of Moses to have been copied from such a character, and its nonexistence explains its obscurity. What about Dionysius—surely Moses could be derived from myths about this god?[579] Murdock, arguing for a Dionysian origin for Moses, draws parallels to myths from places like Mexico,[580] sundry things dating to the third or the fifth century A. D.,[581] and not a single source anywhere that predates the traditional time of the Exodus. She also employs arguments such as the following to maker her case: “As did the Hebrew lawgiver, Dionysus had two horns or rays on his head, associated with the bull.”[582] As usual, such screeds only appear to have merit to someone high on the hallucinogenic drugs Murdock claims are also the source of the horns she imagines that Moses possessed.[583]

A person who wastes his time investigating Murdock’s argument will find that the alleged pagan parallel usually to always does not clearly predate the Biblical narrative, or the adherents of the myth did not have a way of influencing the human authors of the Bible, or the alleged pagan parallels are absurd and fanciful, and far more reasonable explanations for the Biblical accounts than copying from paganism exist. It is far more rational to conclude that the Bible narrates events about Moses and the Exodus because those events actually happened than to conclude that Moses represents a solar and storm god—although such a bizarre idea is beyond impossible in the actual Pentateuchal text—that Pharaoh represents some kind of personified waters—although such a bizarre idea is equally impossible—and that the record in Exodus is copied from an alleged pagan myth such as Mordecai being exalted in the Persian government while Haman loses power, which is itself not an actual narrative of events in Persia, but another allegory about storm and sun gods that somehow became first Esther and then the Exodus narrative in the Pentateuch.

The argument of Dorothy Murdock and Dan Barker that the Old Testament is copied from pagan myths is actually an especially egregious example of “parallelomania.”[584] Ms. Murdock, and Mr. Barker following her, adduces so many alleged parallels that, even if their understanding of history were not tenuous as the evidence for Atlantis and alien abductions, their argument would nevertheless be self-refuting. Moses, Murdock claims, is not only based on Apollo, Baal, Bel, Beowulf, Daniel, Dionysius, Enki, Indra, Kronos, Marduk, Mithra, Mordecai, Osiris, Horus, Perseus, St. George, St. Patrick, Zeus, and more,[585] but also Sargon of Akkad, Ra-Horakhti, Horus, Apollo, Shamash, Adonis, Tyro’s twins from Posidon, Ur-Nammu, a Semitic sun goddess, Shapash, Saturn, a ram, El, Attar, Enil, Adad, Baal-Zephon, Tarhunta, Bacchus, and page after wearisome page of others, including even Siegfried of Germany, a character in a 20th century A. D. work of fiction.[586] Dorothy Murdock is able to do random Google searches to help her find the parallels she desires to invent; the ancient Israelites did not have this luxury. Could they really have had volumes and volumes of literature from all parts of the world in front of them as they decided to allegedly invent Moses? Did they say, “Yes, let’s copy a little from the myth of Poseidon here; now let’s go to Shamash; that’s enough of that myth, now let’s go to Tarhunta, now Bacchus, now Beowulf”? Unless one wishes to make such an absurd claim, the speculations Murdock creates for all these alleged pagan dependencies are actually self-refuting. If the author of the Pentateuch copied Moses from a tale about Siegfried of Germany, then the Mosaic account is not dependent upon Bacchus. If Moses is copied from Bacchus, then he is not copied from Sargon. If the story of Moses going up to a mountain comes from pygmies in the Congo, then it does not come from a different myth where someone climbs a mountain in India or from a myth about someone climbing up to see the gods on Mount Olympus. The better the “evidence” Murdock provides for one of these dependencies, the less likely the alternative and incompatible dependency becomes. If Murdock can spin such vast numbers of alleged parallels from just about every corpus of literature ever written in every country and every period of time, then there cannot be anything to her parallels, because the Jews who allegedly forged the Pentateuch could not have had all the literature of the world in front of them. Each new alleged parallel, as far as it establishes itself, makes all the previous parallels that allegedly prove some other dependency less likely. A hypothesis that the Mosaic narrative is copied from one of two contradictory pagan myths allows, at a maximum, a 50% probability for myth #1 and myth #2, setting aside all other options (such as a historically accurate account not borrowed from any pagan myth). If Murdock mentions ten myths, then the probability for each option can be at best 10%, if she supplies equally good (or equally bad) “evidence” for each myth being the source of Moses. When Murdock brings up twenty myths, there is at a maximum only a 5% chance that a particular myth is the source of the Moses narrative, and, at a minimum, a 95% chance that it is not. The sheer volume of her parallelomania is not a cumulative case, but a conflicting and contradictory one, for Moses could not have been copied from some generic idea called “paganism.” Specific narratives, if borrowed from some other source, must actually have come from that specific source, and if so, that narrative did not come from ten, twenty, or several hundred other alleged parallel sources.

If parallelomania, whereby Moses is copied from Adad, Apollo, Attar, Baal, Bacchus, Bel, Beowulf, Daniel, Dionysius, Enki, Horus, Indra, Kronos, Marduk, Mithra, Mordecai, Osiris, Perseus, Ra-Horakhti, Sargon, Shamash, Siegfried of Germany, St. George, St. Patrick, and many, many, more, were not enough, Murdock and Barker argue that Moses is derived from pagan mythology because of a large number of characters whose names begin with the letter “M.” That is, Dorothy Murdock wrote:

The identification of Moses with other lawgivers . . . Mercurius, Minos . . . Musaeus . . . was recognized in antiquity[.] [a]s John Hopkins professor Don Cameron Allen says[.] . . . The common divine lawgiver myth [was] . . . another ubiquitous tradition . . . Minos . . . Musaeus . . . the Magi . . . Menes/Manes . . Manis and Mannus . . . Menu/Manu[.] . . . The following list includes lawgivers around the Mediterranean, Africa, Europe and Asia[.] . . . The list is not exhaustive, as there are many more . . . including . . . in the Americas.

1.) Achaicarus/Ahiquar/Ahika of Assyria

2.) Adar/Ninib of Nippur

3.) Amasis of Egypt

4.) Amphiaraus of Argos

5.) Apollo of Greece

6.) Baal Berith of Canaan

7.) Boccharis/ Bocchoris / Bakenranef of Egypt

8.) Buddha of India / Asia

9.) Charondas of Sicily

10.) Decaeneus of the Byrebistas

11.) Demeter and Kore of Greece

12.) Dionysus of Greece

13.) El/Ilu of Canaan / Ugarit

14.) Enki / Enlil of Mesopotamia

15.) Gilgamesh of Mesopotamia

16.) Hammurabi of Babylon

17.) Hermes of Egypt / Greece

18.) Inana / Inanna of Sumer

19.) Isis of Egypt

20.) Lawspeaker of Scandinavia

21.) Lycurgus of Sparta

22.) Manes of Maeonia / Lydia

23.) Manis of Phrygia

24.) Mannus of Germany

25.) Manu of India

26.) Mercury of Rome

27.) Minos of Crete

28.) Mneves / Menes / Menas of Egypt

29.) Monius of Egypt

30.) Moses of Israel

31.) Moso of Israel

32.) Musaeus of Greece

33.) Neba or Nebo of Babylon, Borsippa, and Sumeria

34.) Nimrod of Babylon

35.) Orpheus of Greece

36.) Plato of Greece

37.) Pygmy lawgiver of the Congo

39.) Romulus of Rome

40.) Sasychis of Egypt

41.) Sesoösis of Egypt

42.) Shamash of Babylon

43.) Shapash of Ugarit

44.) Shu of Egypt

45.) Solon of Greece

46.) Thoth of Egypt

47.) Trophonius of Boetia

48.) Ur-Nammu of Sumeria

49.) Porgnyr of Iceland

50.) Zalmoxis of the Getae

51.) Zarathustra / Zoroaster of Persia

52.) Zeus of Greece . . .

In his quest, Menes led his army across the frontier and won great glory. . . . [T]here is also Manes . . . Manis . . . Mannus[.] . . . The original Moses has been traced also to Menu or Manu . . . the Cretan king Minos, a title said to derive from Menes[.] . . . The lawgiver archetype usually includes a law code or codes, comprising commandments of one sort or another. . . . Moses was also known as Misen, Mises and Moso . . . Jewish supernatural stories were unoriginal and had borrowed from the pagan myths[.] . . . Moses is Adonis . . . [and is] in the pantheons of Persia, China, Japan, Mexico, and the primitive religions of the Germans, French and English. . . . Moses also ranks as a solar hero or sun god, said to be Masu, Mashu, Mash or Shamash. . . . The “biblical” counterpart is therefore archetypical and mythical, not reflective of “history.” . . . [T]he Bible is not the literal “Word of God” . . . [but an] old tome of fabulous fairytales[.][587]

Following Ms. Murdock, Dan Barker argued:

[T]here are many literary parallels and precursors to the Israelite stories in many other mythologies of the time. It looks like the Israelites to a large degree were copying and mimicking stories like, for example, there were at least fifty, maybe sixty other lawgivers and reformers of the time. And isn’t it interesting that a whole bunch of them were two-syllable names starting with the letter “M.” Not just Moses, but there were also Manes, there was Manis in Phrygia. There was Mannus in the Germany area. There was Manu in India. There was Minos in Crete, there was Menes in Egypt. There was another Monius in Egypt. Then in Greece, there was a Musaeus, like Moses. And there were a bunch more of them.[588]

One could write an entire book dealing with the nonsense in this one argument, but composing such a work would be a waste of time (just as reading Murdock’s book at all is a waste of time). One notes, first of all, Murdock’s appeal to Don Cameron Allen to make her case—her gross abuse of Allen’s book on Renaissance allegory was examined above. Touching on a number of the many absurdities of her argument, one wonders, first of all, if all lawgivers are myths, or if there were actual people who gave actual laws in real history—indeed, if every nation actually has laws, and thus of necessity has had lawgivers, and if this would explain the “ubiquitous tradition” of nations having laws and lawgivers. The United States currently has 435 lawgivers in the House of Representatives and 100 lawgivers in the Senate. Perhaps they are also the sources for Moses. Secondly, one notes again the parallelomania of Murdock and Barker’s argument. The more than fifty “lawgivers” are not at all clones of one another; if the Jews copied the Pentateuch from, say, the Pygmy lawgiver of the Congo (alleged source #37), then the Jewish law is copied from pygmy laws, which are different than, say, the laws from alleged source #20, Lawspeaker of Scandinavia (unless, of course, some very cold pygmies left their rainforest at the Equator and travelled to Scandinavia, learned a language such as old Norse or early Swedish, and gave the people in Scandinavia their pygmy laws). If there were a “mere” fifty different options for pagan copying of the Moses narrative, each possibility for dependence could have, at most, a 2% chance of being correct—yet Murdock provides hundreds of different, contradictory, and unrelated alleged pagan sources from which the Old Testament was derived in the course of her wearisome (and wacky) tirade. The Jews who allegedly forged the Pentateuch from all of these sources must have had quite a library—dividing the Pentateuch into alleged J, E, D, and P sources is nothing in comparison to this. Furthermore, such a multiplication of “parallels” clearly illuminates that the “parallels” mean nothing—if the Pentateuch is parallel to such impossibly large numbers of alleged sources, than just about any book ever written is parallel to them as well. One could as easily argue that the U. S. Constitution, the Communist Manifesto, or Dan Barker’s book on situational ethics Maybe Right, Maybe Wrong was copied from pagan documents from Congo pygmies, Scandinavians, Assyrians, Babylonians, and so on—from each work one could fabricate just about as many “parallels” as one could for the Pentateuch.

Third, fatal flaws in all of the alleged sources obliterate a claim that the narrative of Moses is somehow copied from tales about these fifty-two lawgivers for Moses. For example, the first alleged source is “Achaicarus/Ahiqar/Ahika of Assyria.” Who is this person (or persons)? Murdock’s only statement about him is: “Strabo (Geo. 16.39) mentions Achaicarus, whose story is found also in an Aramaic papyrus from around 500 B. C.”[589] Strabo states: “Among the Bosporani, there was Achaicarus,” in the context of people who consulted oracles.[590] Nothing else whatsoever about this person is mentioned by Strabo. If someone named Achaicarus consulted oracles and did what they told him to do, this—somehow—must be the origin of the narrative about Moses? Interestingly, Strabo, not far above his very laconic affirmation about Achaicarus, declared:

Moses, who possessed a portion of the country called the Lower [Egypt] . . . being dissatisfied with the established institutions there, left it and came to Judæa with a large body of people who worshipped the Divinity. He declared and taught that the Egyptians and Africans entertained erroneous sentiments, in representing the Divinity under the likeness of wild beasts and cattle of the field; that the Greeks also were in error in making images of their gods after the human form. For God [said he] may be this one thing which encompasses us all, land and sea, which we call heaven, or the universe, or the nature of things. Who then of any understanding would venture to form an image of this Deity, resembling anything with which we are conversant? On the contrary, we ought not to carve any images, but to set apart some sacred ground and a shrine worthy of the Deity, and to worship Him without any similitude. . . . By such doctrine Moses persuaded a large body of right-minded persons to accompany him to the place where Jerusalem now stands. . . . [H]e taught that their defense was in their sacred things and the Divinity, for whom he was desirous of finding a settled place, promising to the people to deliver such a kind of worship and religion as should not burthen those who adopted it with great expense, nor molest them with [so-called] divine possessions, nor other absurd practices. Moses thus obtained their good opinion, and established no ordinary kind of government. His successors continued for some time to observe the same conduct, doing justly, and worshipping God with sincerity.[591]

One wonders why Murdock will credit as historically accurate half of a sentence about a person “[a]mong the Bosporani [named] Achaicarus,” and even invent the idea that this Achaicarus was the source of the Pentateuchal account of Moses, but will discard Strabo’s own words about Moses as a historical figure who left a position of authority in Egypt and then led Israel out of that land into Canaan.

Murdock provides no footnote, source, or any other resource whatever for her affirmation about Ahikar—such a person is not mentioned by Strabo. However, there is a “didactic folktale” about a person called Ahikar that runs as follows:

At the core of the book is the narrative of Ahikar, a sage of high rank in the Assyrian court who adopts as heir his nephew Nadan. . . . The unappreciative youth falsely accuses his benefactor of treason, whereupon Ahikar escapes death only through the intervention of an executioner whom he himself had once spared. When the Egyptian pharaoh confronts Sennacherib with a conundrum bearing political consequences, the king laments the alleged demise of Ahikar, who is then brought forth from hiding. The sage masters the Egyptian demands, for which he is restored to favor, while the villainous nephew is punished.[592]

It is far from certain that the Ahikar of this folktale, a story comparable to “Aesop . . . and the Arabian Nights,”[593] is the same person as the one mentioned in Strabo under a different spelling. Whether it is or not, however, it is certain is that there is not the slightest shadow of a reason to think that a person in a folktale that records totally different events than what took place in the account of Moses’ life is somehow the source of the Mosaic narrative.[594]

The following alleged sources for Moses are equally problematic. Murdock’s second alleged source is “Adar/Ninib of Nippur.” Ninib was a vegetation and water god symbolized as a wild bull and as a double-headed raven.[595] Murdock supplies no explanation for why or how this god could be the source for the Mosaic narrative. Alleged source number three is “Amasis of Egypt.” Amasis was an Egyptian Pharaoh who reigned c. 569 – 526 B. C.[596] It is not clear why Murdock surmises he is a source for Moses, since his life is not more parallel to the Mosaic narrative than is the life of George Washington. Perhaps she thought “Amasis” sounded like “Moses,” and that was good enough for her. Nor does she explain why the Ketef Hinnom silver scrolls, dating to the seventh century B. C., contain parts of the Pentateuch if the Pentateuch were copied from the life of Pharaoh Amasis sometime in the 500s B. C. Alleged source number four is “Amphiaraus of Argos.” Amphiaraus was a figure in Greek mythology who participated in a battle against Thebes and whom Zeus made into a god.[597] His life story has no substantive parallels to that of Moses at all, no more than “Apollo of Greece,” alleged source number five for Moses. The myth of Apollo is about as much a source for the Mosaic narrative as is the myth of Santa Claus. Alleged source number six is “Baal Berith of Canaan,” with Murdock citing Barbara Walker, the author of books on knitting and tarot cards discussed above, to declare fantastic anti-historical nonsense—she cannot cite primary sources for her argument, for there are none. Number seven is “Boccharis / Bocchoris / Bakenranef of Egypt,” with “Diodorus 1.94” cited as her source.[598] This paragraph of Diodorus Siculus Library of History says nothing that would require a connection between Bocchoris and Moses, and when Diodorus recounts a few laws enacted by Bocchoris, they are not the same as the laws of Moses.[599] Furthermore, as noted below, Diodorus not only never claims Moses was borrowed from a pagan source but actually refers to Moses as a historical person and recounts a great number of things that he did which are also recorded in the Bible.

The rest of the fifty-plus alleged sources for Moses are equally utterly lacking in substance. Murdock’s willingness to engage in the most ridiculous parallelomania is apparent from her citing of “Porgnyr of Iceland” and “Lawspeaker of Scandinavia.” Iceland was only settled in 9th century A. D.,[600] and it is a bit of a distance and a cold swim from Israel. Porgnyr is an only possibly historical personage who lived c. A. D. 1000 and whose story bears no resemblance to the account of Moses. “Lawspeaker” is not even a person, but is an office in the high court of Iceland—one that developed in the Middle Ages sometime after c. A. D. 1000 in a few other Scandinavian countries.[601] Murdock could as well say that Moses was copied from “Municipal Court Judge of North Dakota.” Her list of alleged sources for Moses is utter nonsense.

The examples Dan Barker specifically cites from Murdock’s “fifty, maybe sixty other lawgivers and reformers” on pages 260-261 of Did Moses Exist? must now come into consideration. (Unlike with the fantasies of the Old Testament being dependent upon various pagan myths, Barker’s real and actual dependence on Murdock is clear.) Barker said “maybe sixty” when Murdock’s list contains fifty-two names because she had stated right before she wrote her list that “the list is not exhaustive, as there are many more . . . including, for example, in the Americas,”[602] and Mr. Barker is willing for Moses to somehow have sources in the New World. Mr. Barker specifically mentioned #22, Ms. Murdock’s “Manes of Maeonia/Lydia,” #23, Ms. Murdock’s “Manus of Phrygia,” #24, Ms. Murdock’s “Mannus of Germany,” #25, Ms. Murdock’s “Manu of India,” #27, Ms. Murdock’s “Minos of Crete,” #28, Ms. Murdock’s “Mneves/Menes/Menas of Egypt,” #29, Ms. Murdock’s “Monius of Egypt,” and then #32, Ms. Murdock’s “Musaeus of Greece.” (Mr. Barker also mentioned Ms. Murdock’s #38, “Pygmy lawgiver of the Congo,” which is discussed elsewhere in this analysis.) According to Mr. Barker, these people were “precursors” of Moses as “lawgivers and reformers of the time.” Dan Barker probably skipped Ms. Murdock’s #26, “Mercury of Rome,” because Mr. Barker did not want to have to defend the fact that a well-known Roman god, whose history obviously had absolutely nothing to do with Moses or the Exodus, was part of his fifty or sixty parallels to Moses; Barker would sound more convincing in the debate if he mentioned obscure figures that nobody in the audience would ever have heard of. Mr. Barker probably skipped Ms. Murdock’s #31, “Moso of Israel,” for the same sort of reason—if he were challenged about who “Moso of Israel” was, he would have no way to defend the existence of this imaginary figure and he would look very foolish.[603] Finally, he had to skip #30 because Ms. Murdock made that figure “Moses,” the actual person being attacked by the pair of atheist mythicists.

Is there, then, any substance to the allegation that Moses was borrowed (somehow) from all of the figures referenced by Murdock and Barker, or at least from one of them? Who is “Manes of Maeonia/Lydia”? Murdock references “Plutarch, Iside 24; cf. Herodotus, 1.94; 4.45” for her allegation of dependence. Her “Plutarch Iside 24” is a reference to section 24 of Plutarch’s Moralia, where nothing at all is said that indicates that Plutarch or anyone else before Murdock and Barker came along thought that Moses was copied from this Phrygian ruler; in fact, this “Manes” is only mentioned in one sentence, and that sentence does not indicate that he even did things comparable to the Moses of the Old Testament.[604] The references in Herodotus[605] do not even mention a single act of Manes in his lifetime, much less contain a narrative of his life that contains clear, unambiguous, and repeated parallels to Moses.

What about “Manis of Phrygia”? Murdock cites “Upton, 16” for him, that is, The Japetic Philosophy: and Physioglyphics; or Natural Philolongy, by William Upton.[606] Mr. Upton’s book is very odd and filled with fantastic notions and strange fantasies.[607] Nevertheless, he does not claim, as Murdock does, that “Manis of Phrygia” was the source of the narrative about Moses—rather, he claims that “Manis . . . [is] the principle of terrestrial gravitation,” just as “Perseus is the personification of electricity” the “myths of Athene . . . she[w] . . . how light . . . act[s] on the ether, so as to secure for the earth a free passage through it,” and the Greek myth about the “Cyclops . . . [teaches that] planetary bodies, or at least their nuclei, were advanced into the orbit from the sidereal universe.”[608] Murdock’s argument—which is neither advanced, implied, or discussed in any way by even such a strange person as Upton—is as rational as it is to believe that Perseus really was electricity personified or the Cyclops teaches something about nuclei on Saturn or Neptune.

Can “Mannus of Germany,” then, be the source of the narrative about Moses? This “Mannus” is referred to in two sentences in Tacitus,[609] and in no other extant ancient historical source whatsoever, as the son of “Tuisco” and the father of three sons from whom the Germans descended. Contrary to her regular astonishing ignorance, Murdock even appears to be aware of this Mannus’s absence from all of history other than these two sentences; she quotes three sentences from Tacitus in her book, including the two with his name, and then admits that Mannus “seems to drop out of sight.”[610] Tacitus does not say a single thing about Mannus other than that he was the son of Tuisco and the father of three sons. (Since he had three sons, Murdock draws a link to Noah, as well[611]—one wonders how many sons Noah was allowed to have in order to not be mythical, and how one pagan myth could be the source of both the narratives of Moses and Noah, since the records of their lives are so different.) Tacitus draws no connection between Mannus and Moses, nor does Tacitus relate that Mannus did things that wre similar to the life of Moses. The late first century A. D. Roman historian does not even state that Mannus gave anyone any laws. No connection whatever exists.

What about “Manu of India”? An Indian legend records:

Manu saves a fish that rapidly grows big. He tries to accommodate it in succeedingly larger containers but finally he has to release it in the ocean. Some time later, the fish reappears to Manu, instructing him to tie a boat onto the horn growing on its head so that Manu can be towed to the highest mountain to save himself from the impending Flood.[612]

This account shows some similarities to the narrative of the great Flood in Genesis—an event recounted by peoples from Mexico to Greenland to Babylon to China to Hawaii,[613] and best explained because the Flood was a historical fact, that is, “many accounts of an early tragedy of such magnitude would be preserved by peoples who lived in Mesopotamia or who had migrated from there.”[614] However, it shows practically no similarities to events in Moses’ life, dates to centuries after the traditional date for Moses, [615] and originated in a part of the world very distant from Israel. The narrative of Moses cannot be copied from this legend. Another work, The Laws of Manu, is also extant in India. This work, which some scholars date to the fourth century A. D. and which cannot be many centuries older than this,[616] does not recount events comparable to the life of Moses and contains laws befitting Hinduism but not the Pentateuch. These records in India are too late, too dissimilar, and too distant for Moses to have been borrowed from them.

Murdock then mentions “Minos of Crete.” Could the Mosaic narrative have been copied from him?

In Greek mythology, Minos was a king of Crete and the son of Zeus and Europa. Minos married Pasiphaë, the daughter of Helios, the sun god. They had several children, including Ariadne and Phaedra (who later married Theseus).

All went well until the god Poseidon sent a bull to Crete to be sacrificed. Minos instead kept the animal alive. As punishment, Poseidon caused Pasiphaë to have an unnatural love for the bull. The offspring of this love was the Minotaur, a monster with the body of a man and the head of a bull. Minos had the Minotaur shut up in a labyrinth built by the inventor Daedalus. Minos then decreed that seven boys and seven girls from Athens would periodically be sacrificed to the Minotaur, who ate only human flesh. (The Athenians had killed a son of Minos’, and this was his revenge.) With the help of Ariadne, Theseus found the Minotaur and slew him, thereby freeing Athens from this onerous tribute.

Daedalus had helped Ariadne concerning the labyrinth, so Minos imprisoned him and his son Icarus in a tower. When they escaped using wings fashioned from wax and feathers, Minos pursued them. Icarus drowned, but Daedalus reached Sicily, where he was befriended by Cocalus, a local king. This friendship led the king (or his daughters) to kill Minos in his bath soon after his arrival in Sicily. Minos was then made a judge in Hades, the underworld.[617]

If the record of Moses and the Exodus is copied from this tale about Minos, then anything and everything could also be copied from Minos. A biography of Napoleon has more similarities to the Pentateuch than does the tale of Minos.[618]

Dorothy Murdock, and Dan Barker following her, next alleges that “Mneves/Menes/Menas of Egypt” constitutes the source for the narrative of Moses. Murdock cites “Diodorus 1.94; Diodorus/Murphy, 119.”[619] Diodorus 1:94[620] states that there was an Egyptian king named “Mneves, a man not only great of soul but also in his life the must public-spirited of all lawgivers,” who “claimed that Hermes had given laws to him.” Murdock also states that “Menes led his army ‘across the frontier and won great glory,’”[621] quoting part of a sentence from Manetho about Menes while leaving out the next sentence, “He was killed by a hippopotamus,” as that one does not sound much like Moses.[622] Murdock leaves unsaid that Manetho makes absolutely no connection between his Egyptian king Menes and Moses, and also leaves out that Manetho actually refers to Israel’s entry into Egypt and the nation’s Exodus as historical facts.[623] In any case, Ms. Murdock does not seem to be able to pinpoint Menes’ life especially well, as she says he is “thought to have lived at some point between 5867 and 3000 BCE.”[624] What is 2,867 years here or there, after all? She cannot pinpoint his life to within a time span far longer than that which separates today, after A. D. 2000, from times B. C.—but she knows enough, it seems, to establish that the Pentateuch was borrowed from him. The affirmation by the first century B. C. historian Diodorus Siculus that a nice guy who worshipped Hermes gave some laws is an utterly insufficient foundation upon which to build a case that Moses was a fictional character copied from such a person. (It hardly needs to be pointed out that there is about a 50% chance that when a king leads his army across the frontier, he will get great glory—the other 50% chance is that he will lose the battle; furthermore, the fact that a king—indeed, millions of kings—have led armies across the border of their countries is a rather slim source for Moses, who was not a king, leading Hebrew slaves, who were not an army, across a border into a wilderness, where they did not get great glory.) Had Diodorus said something like the following, one could understand why Murdock might cite him: “There was a king named Mneves who ruled over Egypt. This king allowed an army of escaped ‘Apiru slaves into Canaan and led them to settle there. They foraged in the Sinai Peninsula for several decades before entering the land they said God had promised them. The Jewish Scriptures distorted the account of king Mneves to invent a fictional character, changing Mneves’ worship of Hermes into the worship of Jehovah, and changing Mneves into Moses, from whom the Jews then claimed to have derived their laws.” While such a statement by Diodorus would have been worthy of investigation, it would not prove that he was correct. He might have had incorrect information or might have been deliberately slandering the Jews. Had Diodorus made such an affirmation, it would need to be backed up by various historical facts, would need to fit the internal and external evidence of the Pentateuch, of Israel’s history, and so on, before it would be historiographically probable. However, Diodorus did not make any such assertion, nor did he tie the king Mneves he speaks of to Moses in any way.

Murdock’s problem, though, goes far further than this. Rather than drawing conclusions from Diodorus that the historian does not make based on an Egyptian king, Dorothy Murdock and Dan Barker should have considered that Diodorus considered Moses to be the historical figure who led Israel out of Egypt:

[W]e consider it appropriate . . . in the first place to relate the origin of this nation . . . the Jews . . . and their customs. In ancient times a great plague occurred in Egypt, and many ascribed the cause of it to the gods, who were offended with them. For since the multitudes of strangers of different nationalities, who lived there, made use of their foreign rites in religious ceremonies and sacrifices, the ancient manner of worshipping the gods, practiced by the ancestors of the Egyptians, had been quite lost and forgotten. Therefore the native inhabitants concluded that, unless all the foreigners were driven out, they would never be free from their miseries. All the foreigners were forthwith expelled . . . the majority of the people descended into a country not far from Egypt, which is now called Judaea[.] . . . The leader of this colony was one Moses, a very wise and valiant man, who, after he had possessed himself of the country, amongst other cities, built that now most famous city, Jerusalem, and the temple there, which is so greatly revered among them. He instituted the holy rites and ceremonies with which they worship God; and made laws for the methodical government of the state. He also divided the people into twelve tribes, which he regarded as the most perfect number; because it corresponds to the twelve months within a whole year. He made no representation or image of gods, because he considered that nothing of a human shape was applicable to God; but that heaven, which surrounds the earth, was the only God, and that all things were in its power. But he so arranged the rites and ceremonies of the sacrifices, and the manner and nature of their customs, as that they should be wholly different from all other nations; for, as a result of the expulsion of his people, he introduced a most inhuman and unsociable manner of life. He also picked out the most accomplished men, who were best fitted to rule and govern the whole nation, and he appointed them to be priests, whose duty was continually to attend in the temple, and employ themselves in the public worship and service of God. He also made them judges, for the decision of the most serious cases, and committed to their care the preservation of their laws and customs. . . . This lawgiver also laid down many excellent rules and instructions for military affairs, in which he trained the youth to be brave and steadfast, and to endure all miseries and hardships. Moreover, he undertook many wars against the neighboring nations, and gained much territory by force of arms, which he gave as allotments to his countrymen, in such a way as that everyone shared alike, except the priests, who had a larger portion than the rest; so that, because they had a larger income, they might continually attend upon the public worship of God without interruption. Neither was it lawful for any man to sell his allotment, lest, by the greed of those that bought the allotments, the others might be made poor and oppressed, and so the nation might suffer a shortage of manpower. He also ordered the inhabitants to be careful in rearing their children, who are brought up with very little expense; and by that means the Jewish nation has always been very populous. As to their marriages and funerals, he instituted customs far different from all other people. . . . This is what Hecataeus of Abdera has related about the Jews.[625]

Diodorus records many of the fundamental facts of Israel’s history in this passage. He declares that the Jews were not native Egyptians, but foreigners who had come to stay in the land. They became a distinct nation after an exodus associated with plagues on Egypt from God or the gods. The Hebrew religious rites were far different from those of the Egyptians and all other nations, for the Jews worshipped only one God and did so without any images or representations of the Deity. Moses led the twelve Jewish tribes from Egypt into Judaea, gave the nation its laws, priesthood, judges, and regulations for battle. The Jews took land by war and conquered a great deal of territory. When they divided the land, they were not allowed to violate the divisions given to the twelve tribes, but the priests had a separate arrangement. Furthermore, in Judaea the Jews built up Jerusalem and the Jewish Temple. Finally, Diodorus affirms he received this information from Hecataeus of Abdera—a fourth-century B. C. writer[626] who lived before Ms. Murdock claims the Pentateuch was forged. Neither Dan Barker nor Dorothy Murdock believe that Israel did any of the things Diodorus mentions—indeed, they believe the Pentateuchal records of these events did not even exist in the time when, somehow, Hecataeus of Abdera learned about them. What is more, when Dan Barker claimed: “There is no literary evidence for any of the stories that are in the Old Testament. No mention of them in any culture,”[627] he evidently had never taken the time to look at the writings of the very sources his argument about pagan dependence was based upon. Murdock and Barker will cite a sentence or two of Diodorus about an Egyptian king unaffiliated with Moses in order to advance their thesis, while ignoring—very possibly from inexcusable ignorance—the devastating blow the historian makes to their thesis in his words about Moses himself.

Ms. Murdock and Mr. Barker next allege that “Monius of Egypt” is the source of the narrative in the Pentateuch. Murdock writes: “This figure, Monius, was equated with Moses by the Jewish rabbi Aben Ezra or Abraham ibn Izra [sic], with both names said to derive from Mw◊ Mo, meaning ‘water.’ (Veil, 161).”[628] Thus, according to Murdock and Barker, a pagan person named Monius was allegedly equated by the famous Jewish scholar Abraham ibn Ezra with Moses, establishing that Moses was copied from paganism. It is impossible to determine what “Veil, 161” refers to, since no book authored by anyone named “Veil” is found in Ms. Murdock’s bibliography. In any case, ibn Ezra simply affirmed that in Exodus 2:10 Pharaoh’s daughter spoke the word “Monius” when she named the baby Moses, because the medieval Jewish scholar believed that word was the Egyptian one for being drawn out of the water, and the Pentateuch records her speech with the Hebrew equivalent “Moseh” (hRvOm, moœsûeh) or “Moses,” since that means “drawn out” in Hebrew (…wh`ItyIvVm, m§sûˆît◊ihu®, “I drew him out”).[629] The Jewish scholar no more refers to a second person named “Monius” than someone in Mexico who says Jesús refers to a different person than a Canadian who says Jesus. Besides, ibn Ezra was a medieval Jew who flourished in the 12th century A. D.[630] He was not reading ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs to discover an alleged pagan person called Monius from whom the Bible could borrow, but was speculating upon Exodus 2:10 during the Middle Ages. Murdock and Barker illegitimately take a medieval speculation about the Egyptian equivalent to the Hebrew for “drawn out” to create a new person and then claim that Moses is borrowed from this new person.

Concluding the list of alleged pagan persons which Dan Barker, following Dorothy Murdock, imagines Moses was copied from is “Musaeus of Greece.” Allegedly a lawgiver from Greece named Musaeus was in the mind of the nefarious forgers of the Pentateuch when they invented the character of Moses, and they copied this Greek person’s life to make up the narrative in the Biblical books of Moses. Ms. Murdock cites “Eusebius, Prep. Evang. 9.27” as her source for this alleged Greek source for Moses. What does the historian Eusebius write in this passage of his Preparation of the Gospel?

And Artapanus says, in his book Concerning the Jews,[631] that after the death of . . . the king of Egypt, his son Palmanothes succeeded to the sovereignty. This king behaved badly to the Jews[.] . . . He begat a daughter Merris, whom he betrothed to a certain Chenephres, king of the regions above Memphis (for there were at that time many kings in Egypt); and she being barren took a supposititious child from one of the Jews, and called him Moüsos (Moses): but by the Greeks he was called, when grown to manhood, Musaeus.[632]

Following this statement, Eusebius continues to describe the history of Moses in Egypt and the Exodus from Egypt, agreeing with the account recorded in the Bible and recognizing Moses and the Biblical record as history that took place in real space and time. His statement that the Greeks called Moses Moüsos does not specify a reference to some new person, but is simply a minor and slightly different way to pronounce the same name, comparable to an Englishman and a Spaniard calling the same person Thomas or Tomás. Murdock and Barker manage to twist a slightly different pronunciation of the name Moses into a person unknown to history, “Musaeus of Greece,” and make this imaginary person the archetype from which the Biblical Moses was derived—all based upon a quote from an ancient historian who was discussing and affirming in great detail the historicity of the Biblical Moses.

            Since history records the names of vast numbers of people, it is probabilistically certain that some of them will have two-syllable names that begin with an “m” sound. While she has totally failed to prove the ahistoricity of the Pentateuch, Ms. Murdock has indeed proven that she can find names that start with “M” through her random searches of Google Books. Mr. Barker has similarly proven that he can parrot Ms. Murdock. Neither Murdock nor Barker has provided a scintilla of evidence that Moses or the Pentateuch was copied from pagan myths. A search in the online white pages for Milwaukee, Wisconsin for people with “Mos-” in their name finds 1,793 possible matches,[633] and it is probable that hundreds of them have life stories that contain closer “parallels” to Moses than the individuals Murdock and Barker adduce. Are these people all pagan myths, or are they real? Were there any real people among the countless millions who lived in all of ancient history that had names of two syllables that began with an “M” sound, or must all such people be mythical? Furthermore, while Barker can claim that the sources Murdock mentions are all “lawgivers of the time,” many of them cannot by any stretch of the imagination be viewed as contemporaneous with the composition of the Pentateuch. Their stories are all utterly contradictory; thus, any alleged evidence for the one being the source of the Pentateuch is cancelled out by the others. Rather than the vast number of names compiled by Murdock and repeated by Barker constituting a cumulative case for pagan dependence in the narratives of Moses, they constitute contradictory, self-refuting nonsense and parallelomania. Furthermore, while the pair of Old Testament mythicists will even cite non-persons such as an office that developed in medieval Iceland as sources for Moses, they cannot cite any ancient historian who agrees with their thesis that Moses was derived from pagan myths—for no extant ancient historian ever makes such an affirmation. When, on occasion, Murdock and Barker manage to find someone with an “M-” name in an ancient historical source, frequently the ancient author actually supports the historicity of the Pentateuch and Murdock and Barker must ignore (or be ignorant of) the actual affirmations of their historical sources about Moses in order to make an imaginary connection to some other person whose name starts with an “M.” Not a single ancient writer cited anywhere in Murdock’s 560-page tirade claimed that Moses was a fiction copied from a pagan myth or a group of pagan myths. This argument of Murdock and Barker reveals a lot about them, and about the intellectual darkness of their militant atheism, but it reveals absolutely nothing about the origin of the books of Moses.

If Dan Barker’s and Dorothy Murdock’s mythicist parallelomania does not constitute any evidence at all in favor of their hypothesis, but rather constitutes self-refuting nonsense, could, perhaps, some particular myth provide the evidence the atheists so passionately wish existed? Could Mithraism establish the atheist hypothesis of mythicism? Is the Old Testament copied from Mithraism? Dorothy Murdock argued:

[T]he sacred act of miraculously producing water is common and not unique to Jewish myth. . . . One of the more famous examples of miraculous water-production occurs with the Perso-Roman god Mithra “shooting at the rock,” from which flowered water, a scene similar to “Moses smiting the rock” (Num 20:11) in Christian iconography. . . . [A picture is then produced of] Mithra shooting an arrow into a rock to produce water, c. 2nd cent. AD/CE. . . . Noting the connection between the Mithraic water-producing motive and not only the Moses but also the Jesus myth, mythicist Ken Humphreys comments: We have evidence that Mithras performed at least one miracle: the god released life-giving water from a rock by firing an arrow. Regurgitated in the story of Jesus, the god of the Christians claimed himself to offer, or even be, “living water.”[634]

Following Ms. Murdock, Dan Barker argued: “There was water that came from a rock that had been struck [in the Exodus narrative]. By the way, the Persian god Mithra shot an arrow into a rock and water came out of it, too. . . very similar parallel stories were going on back then.”[635] Barker likewise extensively argues for the alleged dependence of Christianity on Mithraism in his books Losing Faith in Faith and Godless.[636] Considering this alleged dependence of the narrative of Moses on Mithraism, one must again ask:

1.) Does the pagan myth predate the Biblical account?

2.) Did the adherents of the myth have either direct contact with or reasonable plain means of propagating their ideas to the writers of the Bible?

3.) Does the pagan myth contain real and significant parallels to the Biblical account, parallels that require the oral or literary dependence of the latter upon the former?

4.) Are there no better candidates for the origin of the Biblical account than the pagan myth?

Does the pagan myth predate the Biblical account? Murdock produces no evidence of it. She cites a picture found in Germany, very far away from Palestine, that she herself dates (without any way to verify that the date is not even later, or even any way to verify that the picture is one of Mithra)[637] to after—not before, but after—not only the composition of the Old Testament but also the New Testament.[638] Murdock also reproduces a large quote discussing a picture on a wall in a mithraeum found, not in Palestine or anywhere close to it, but in Rome—a mithraeum built in A. D. times after the completion of both the Old and New Testaments.[639] The worship of Mithras took place in this building between c. A. D. 195 and c. A. D. 400.[640] The building itself was someone’s home before that time; the building was originally built no earlier than A. D. 95;[641] various parties resided in it as a private residence, and then the worship of Mithras began in a portion of the facility c. A. D. 195. A picture in a mithraeum that dates no earlier than A. D. 195 in the city of Rome cannot possibly be the source of anything in the New Testament, much less the source of the foundational figure of the ancient Israel of the Old Testament, Moses. (One is not surprised to find that the book Murdock cites never suggests, implies, or indicates that the authors are even aware that anyone believed that the narrative about Moses in the Hebrew Bible was copied from Mithraism; much less did the authors of the work Murdock quotes from believe in or state that such a fantasy was true.) Why does Ms. Murdock cite such impossibly late and incredibly distant “evidence” for Old Testament dependence upon Mithraism—why does she not discuss centers of Mithraic worship in Palestine that date, say, to the 20th century B. C. or at least the 15th century B. C.? She cannot do this—and neither can anyone else who believes in her mythicist position—because no such evidence exists.

Murdock’s sources for the claim that Mithra shot an arrow at a rock, from which flowed water[642] (which allegedly is why the Pentateuch records the account of Moses striking a rock with his staff in Exodus 17; Numbers 20), likewise refer to events that postdate both the Old and New Testaments and discuss matters as far away as Gaul in France, rather than in Palestine. Her final source—and the real basis for her entire case—is a website by a fellow mythicist crazy named Kenneth Humphreys, who himself provides no evidence.[643] Interestingly, even Mr. Humphreys says nothing at all about Moses being copied from Mithraism (just as no scholarly work makes such a claim, and none of Murdock’s sources in her section on Mithra draw such a connection). Furthermore, there is no evidence of a Mithraic mystery religion in the Palestine even as late as the times of Christ even in the first century A. D. much less in the times of Moses:

Due to the central importance of the mithraic cave in cultic gathering and the complete absence of mithraea throughout the empire prior to A.D. 140–150, some scholars argue that a developed form of Roman Mithraism did not exist until this time.

Though mithraea have been found in every area of the Roman Empire, very few have been discovered in the regions nearest Persia, such as Mesopotamia, Palestine, and Asia Minor. Mithraea in North Africa, Spain, Gaul, and Britain far outnumber those in the east. But the greatest concentration can be found in Italy, Germany, and the Balkans. No Mithraic monuments at all have been found in Iran.

When it comes to dating the cult in Asia Minor, early scholars acknowledged a lack of archaeological evidence in Anatolia. Yet, hope that subsequent excavation would vindicate an early date has proved premature. There are only four confirmed Mithraic monuments from Asia Minor, and the earliest dates to around A.D. 150. . . . The earliest mithraic inscription that has been found dates to the early second century, and was inscribed on a statue of Alcimus, a servant of Livianus the prefect of Trajan (98–117). Taking into consideration all mithraic remains throughout the entire territory of the Roman Empire and beyond, scholars fail to identify any material dating prior to the end of the first century A.D.

The most troubling obstacle for those who hold to a view that early Christianity borrowed heavily from Mithraism is the issue of chronology. Mithraism has eluded detection in the very era in which it must have existed in order to have such an influence. . . . [T]here is no evidence for the Mithraic mysteries prior to A.D. 100. . . .

Not only does evidence of the cult not show up until the late first century, but when it does, it is almost entirely absent from the region that gave birth to Christianity, the near east. In trying to establish Mithraic influence on developing Christianity, the evidence from western Roman territory is of little use. Christianity’s core doctrines and key texts were formulated primarily in Judea. Since evidence of Mithraism is lacking throughout most of the eastern provinces, such as Anatolia, Greece, and Egypt, close examination must be made of the scarce remains found in Syria and Palestine. There are only six known Mithraic sites in these areas. The earliest proposed dates for these remains all fall within the second century A.D. Additionally, all the evidence unearthed in Syria shows signs of Roman iconography and lends credence to theories of a Roman, rather than an eastern origin for the cult. The only mithraeum discovered in Palestine dates to the fourth century.[644]

With the earliest mithraeum in Palestine dating to A. D. 361-363,[645] it is utterly unreasonable to claim that Christianity was copied from the Mithraic mysteries. If the Mithraic mysteries postdate the New Testament, how much less reasonable is it to claim that the foundational books of the Old Testament and Moses were copied from them? Dorothy Murdock’s and Dan Barker’s claim that Moses was copied from Mithraism is a failure because the mysteries of Mithra postdate the Old Testament by many centuries, and when the religion with its rites appears, it is not in the right part of the world to influence Judaism or even seminal Christianity.

Furthermore, just as the dating and the region for the alleged Mithraic parallel to Moses is not very good, so the actual Mithraic legend is not very similar. Moses did not shoot an arrow into a rock, and the various details in Exodus 17 and Numbers 20 are not contained in the Mithraic legend. There is nothing at all in Exodus 17 or Numbers 20 that requires oral or literary dependence upon a story about Mithra. Finally, there is a much better explanation for the record in the Pentateuch than copying from Mithraism—namely, that the events recorded actually happened. Moses’ striking the rock, and water gushing out, fits the topography of the Sinai peninsula:

In [Exodus 17], a marvel is described that has its basis in a natural phenomenon[.] . . . Several commentators have already mentioned a similar occurrence in our own time, namely, that on the mountain called by the Arabs Jebel Musa (‘the Mountain of Moses’), which is identified in their tradition with Mount Sinai, there was suddenly opened up a stream of running well water through the breaking of a thin layer of rock. Not long ago, too, an English officer saw with his own eyes, in a wady in the southern part of the Sinai Peninsula, a company of the Sudanese camel corps digging in the gravel heaped up by the side of a cliff in order to discover the source of the water that was dripping between the pebbles, when suddenly, after a hard knock with an axe that broke the outer face of the cliff, numerous cavities were revealed in the stone, from which an abundance of water began to gush[.][646]


Water . . . was noted . . . under the sands of the west and east Sinai coastal strips[.] . . . Moses striking the rocks to produce water in the Horeb and Qadesh-Barnea regions (Exod. 17:1–7; Num. 20:2–13) also reflects local geological reality. One may cite an amusing incident from back in the 1920s, when an army NCO likewise produced a good flow of water when he accidentally hit a rock face with a spade, to be teased with his companions’ cry, “What-ho the prophet Moses!”[647]

That is, this region contains “sedimentary rock . . . known to feature pockets where water can collect just below the surface . . . by breaking through the surface [one] can release the collected water.”[648] Rather than being copied from Mithraic mystery rites that did not even exist at the time, the Pentateuchal records fit the historical and topographical facts:

The Hebrew narratives in Exodus to Deuteronomy directly reflect earthy reality, not burgeoning fantasy. Salt-tolerant reeds, water from rock, habits of quails, kewirs . . . mudflats . . . that could only have been known to someone who knew the local conditions in parts of the Arabah . . . etc. reflect real local conditions, requiring local knowledge (not book learning in Babylon or Jerusalem).[649]

Regrettably, as usual, neither Dan Barker nor Dorothy Murdock evidence the slightest awareness of these facts; much less do they deal with and refute such historical confirmations of the Exodus narrative.

The allegations of Dorothy Murdock and Dan Barker about Moses and the Exodus being copied from Mithraism are an utter failure. The Mithraic mysteries do not predate the Exodus narrative, but are many centuries later. When Mithraic mysteries appear, they are in regions that are too far away to influence Judaism or the foundation of Christianity—there is no evidence of Mithraism in Palestine until the late 4th century A. D. The alleged pagan parallels are not of the substantial kind that would require the oral or literary dependence of the Old Testament upon Mithraism. Finally, there is a much better explanation for the origin of the narrative of Moses and the Exodus than dependence upon pagan myths—namely, that the events actually happened. Just as the parallelomania of Murdock and Barker, their alleging Biblical dependence upon vast numbers of different and contradictory myths—was a failure, so their assertions about Biblical dependence upon given specific myths such as Mithraism are absolute failures. Sound historiography and rational inquiry requires the rejection of the mythicist hypothesis of Murdock and Barker.

Dorothy Murdock wrote:

The mention of the dromedary in Exodus 9:3 also suggests a later date of composition, as domesticated camels had not been introduced [Wikipedia cited as source] . . . [T]he mention of camels in the Bible represents an anachronism, because remains of domesticated camels do not appear in the archaeological record until centuries after their purported use by the patriarch Abraham . . . the Bible could not have been written until the beginning of the first millennium at the earliest, when the first signs of camel domestication emerge in Israel, long after Abraham’s purported era (c. 2000 BCE).[650]

Following Ms. Murdock, Dan Barker argued:

There are anachronisms [in the Bible from] a different time. . . . But probably the most damning is camels. The patriarchal stories mentioned camels. Camel caravans and herds of camels. Did you know that there were no domesticated camels during the time of the patriarchs? Yet the stories about Joseph and Abraham talked about these camels carrying the goods because the later writers didn’t know that the camels weren’t that old. In fact, there have been studies in Tel Aviv magazine. They show the introduction of domestic camels—not just wild camels, but domestic camels used as in herds and in caravans. They pinpoint it to around year 930 B.C. when camels basically were domesticated. Way too late for them to appear in the Old Testament stories. That’s a mistake. That’s an anachronism. The Old Testament writers goofed.[651]

This argument about domesticated camels—what Mr. Barker affirmed was “the most damning” anachronism in the Old Testament—constituted his crowning alleged error in the Hebrew Bible. It is also an argument Mr. Barker has used to allegedly refute Christianity in other public venues.[652]

Before examining Mr. Barker’s argument against the Bible from camels, the allegedly “most damning . . . anachronis[m]” in the Bible, one briefly notes that he claimed as other anachronisms[653] that that the city of Ai[654] was not present at the time mentioned in the Bible; Philistines are mentioned too early; the “Arameans . . . were not actually there,” and the word Goshen “was a later phrase that they did not use back in the time that Moses lived.”[655] Contrary to Mr. Barker’s affirmation, however, the city anti-inspiration skeptics claim is Ai is not the Biblical city of Ai mentioned in the Bible.[656] Furthermore, early Biblical references to the Philistines (Genesis 21:32) refer to historically accurate and verifiable earlier groups of sea-peoples, rather than constituting bungling anachronisms moving later groups of Philistines into earlier centuries. The New International Dictionary of Biblical Archaeology notes:

Fourteenth-century B. C. Ugaritic sources referred to Ashkelon and Ashdod as trading centers, while the Amarna letters mention Gath, Gaza, Joppa, and Ashkelon, as well as noting the incidence of raids by the piratical Lukku (Lycians). Fourteenth-century B. C. pottery from Aegean sources has also been found at Ashkelon, Gaza, and Tell Jemmeh. The foregoing evidence suggests that it is a mistake to regard the mention of the Philistines in the patriarchal narratives as an anachronism. Instead, it seems highly probable that the Philistines of the Middle Bronze Age had definite Aegean origins and were in fact early representatives of the same maritime group which subsequently gave the land of Palestine its familiar name. Late-Helladic IIIB (thirteenth-century B. C.) material has been excavated at Ashkelon, Tell el-Hesy and Tell Jemmeh, while a number of Cretan seals discovered near Gaza have been taken as indicating the existence of an indigenous industry in Philistia.[657]

Objects of Aegean or Philistine origin dating c. 1900-1700 B. C. have been found at Ras Shamra in Syria, Hazor and other locations in Palestine, and numbers of cities in Egypt. One of the Mari tablets also evidences 18th century B. C. contact between Palestine and the Aegean peoples.[658] Indeed, in the third millenium B. C., evidence for such contact with the ancient Near East exists.[659] Thus, in the period of “patriarchal . . . Palestine . . . Aegean interactions with Canaan and the Levant . . . are, of course, well attested.”[660] Furthermore, the Bibical text is so far from anachronistically and ignorantly moving into earlier history allegedly solely later Philistines that it not only mentions the early groups of the Sea Peoples but evidences awareness of the later major migration of Philistines into Canaan c. 1200 B. C.[661] Contrary to Mr. Barker, “in light of recent discoveries . . . there really were . . . settlements of Philistines in the land in patriarchal times.”[662]

Mr. Barker’s affirmation that “Arameans . . . were not actually there” is similarly utterly unjustifiable:

[The] Arameans . . . [were a] group of tribes spread over a wide area at the end of the 2nd millennium and in the first half of the 1st millennium B. C., from the Persian Gulf and Elam in the south and east and the Amanus mountains in the north to southern Syria and northern Transjordan in the west. . . . A city named Aram in the region of the upper Tigris (Hiddekel) is mentioned around 2000 bc.[663]

Finally, an argument from silence about Egyptian use of the word Goshen is weak evidence of anachronism, and, in any case, the word may be Semitic rather than Egyptian.[664] Thus, Mr. Barker’s other alleged Biblical anachronisms do nothing to advance his thesis that the Bible is historically inaccurate. Turning from them, then, to his alleged “most damning anachronism,” the question arises of whether this assertion of Biblical error does indeed have substance.

Unlike practically every other allegation he made in the debate, for his camel-argument Mr. Barker provided a source for his affirmation—albeit a very vague and hard-to-trace one, “Tel Aviv magazine.” It is noteworthy that while Barker got essentially everything he argued from Dorothy Murdock, he never mentioned her name in the debate. As will be demonstrated below, it is highly likely that Dan Barker knows that what Murdock alleges is not defensible, just as he knows that much of what he has been promoting for decades is indefensible, yet he wishes to employ her arguments without being able to have their invalidity traced and refuted. In any case, it appears doubtful that Mr. Barker even read the article to which he referred in the debate,[665] and the article neither refuted evidence such as what is discussed below nor claimed to be a comprehensive study[666] of the issue. Mr. Barker also appears to be unaware of even simple, popular-level and easily accessible material dealing with his argument from camels and even the specific article that he cited.[667]

Furthermore, Mr. Barker’s argument amounts to: “Archaeologists have not, to date, discovered sufficient evidence of domesticated camels in the times of Abraham or the Exodus: Therefore, there were no domesticated camels.” That is, his case is an argument from silence. However, such an argument from silence constitutes highly dubious historiography. An archaeologist of centuries in the future, digging in the modern United States, would be very unlikely to find domesticated elephant bones or evidence that people in the United States ever rode elephants—yet a very high percentage of American children have gone to a circus, and many have ridden on an elephant while there or at the zoo. Scholars have pointed out that “in the archives of Barcelona there is no trace of the triumphant entrance received by Columbus there. In Marco Polo there is no mention of the Chinese Wall. And in the archives of Portugal there is nothing about the voyages of Amerigo Vespucci in the service of that crown.”[668] No descriptions have been preserved in ancient Egypt about how the pyramids were built (or any other structures in the country, for that matter), nor any records of how mummification was performed.[669] Does this fact prove that that there were no pyramids, or any other structures at all, in ancient Egypt, nor any mummies? An argument from silence in these and many like cases would disprove far too much. Edwin Yamauchi explains that arguments from current archaeological silence could “prove” that such commonalities as apples, clay tablets, and scribes never existed:

As I have pointed out elsewhere, the ancient historian has at his disposal three major bodies of evidence: (1) the traditions (e. g., the Old Testament, Homer, Herodotus); (2) the epigraphic evidence (inscriptions, letters, etc.); and (3) archaeological evidence (buildings, pottery). If one should plot these sources as three overlapping circles, one discovers that there are seven possible combinations. That these seven possibilities are actually found, e. g., in Aegean archaeology, may be illustrated from a chart of the evidence for plants and animals prepared by Emily Vermeule. In the following list tradition [is] Homer and the epigraphic evidence [is] Linear B.

  1. Tradition alone: apple
  2. Epigrapic evidence alone: mint
  3. Archaeological evidence alone: almond
  4. Both tradition and archeological evidence: pear
  5. Both tradition and archaeological evidence: cypress
  6. Both epigraphic and archaeological evidence: coriander
  7. All three sources: linen

The implication of this random distribution is that just as an object may be attested alone by excavations or alone by inscriptions, it may very often stand alone in the traditions without any necessary reflection upon its authenticity. This is particularly true in view of the relatively fragmentary nature of our excavations and the small extent of the publication of epigraphic and material remains which have been excavated. It is therefore quite unrealistic to demand external corroboration from either epigraphic or archaeological evidence before accepting elements in the traditions which are otherwise credible. . . . [M]any of the elements in the traditions have received their first external confirmation only in the discoveries of the last two decades. . . . [For] example . . . [t]hough the Mesopotamians used millions of clay tablets for writing, no representation of a clay tablet has been found on their reliefs. . . . As yet no word “scribe” has been uncovered in the Linear B texts, although scribes did indeed write the tablets. . . . Archaeological evidence of Hannibal’s devastating sojourn of over a decade in Italy, as described by Polybius and Livy, is quite exiguous [very small.] . . . If it were not for two archaeological finds, there would be no evidence that Hannibal had ever existed at all except for the texts of the classical authors[.] . . . It has often been assumed in Old Testament studies that the historicity of a person in the Scriptures [or a creature, such as a domesticated camel] is suspect unless corroborated by inscriptional evidence[,] . . . [b]ut attempts to identify a person in the traditions with someone in the inscriptions may founder simply on the lack of overlapping evidence. Before cuneiform documents were discovered that identified Belshazzar as the son of Nabonidus, some declared his name a pure invention[.] . . . The same principle would hold true of New Testament studies. If we had to depend upon inscriptional evidence to prove the historicity of Pontius Pilate [Matthew 27:2], we would have had to wait until 1961, when the first epigraphical documentation concerning him was discovered at Caesarea. The first epigraphical attestation of Herod the Great [Matthew 2:1] was discovered in the 1963-65 expedition at Masada. The first inscriptional reference to Felix the procurator [Acts 23:24] was found 10 miles north of Caesarea in 1966.

We may thus conclude that external confirmation of the tradition is desirable, but cannot be held to be necessary. Those who have operated on the principle that external corroboration of the tradition is necessary, have made their cases upon the basis of a precarious argumentum ex silentio. . . . It is . . . very dangerous to draw dogmatic conclusions from existing material or to argue ex silentio. . . . [T]he witness which archaeology and the texts afford is and always will remain incomplete. The earth’s crust has preserved only a small portion of the monuments and objects of antiquity, and archaeology has recovered only a small proportion of these[.] . . . Thus archaeology can mitigate the silence of ancient texts to a certain degree, but one must also admit that lack of archeological evidence would not be sufficient in itself to cast doubt on the affirmations of the written witnesses. . . . [I]n those areas where the traditions still lack archaeological corroboration one can take them at face value or reject them. The negative course was adopted by a great many of the critics of the 19th and early 20th century. . . . [But a] striking change in attitude toward the traditions has [been] brought about . . . [by] archaeology. . . . It is indeed true that archaeology has revolutionized our attitude toward biblical historical traditions. A previous generation of scholars was inclined to make skepticism . . . an almost primary ingredient in the conclusions drawn from use of the . . . historical method[.] . . . Today most of us take a far more positive line . . . to give a tradition the benefit of the doubt . . . this is a basic and all-important scholarly shift in viewpoint, and archaeology is its cause. . . . [I]t would seem that the future of the study of the ancient traditions and archaeology lies with the optimists [about Biblical historicity] and not with the pessimists.[670]

If Dan Barker’s best argument against the historicity of the Old Testament is an argument from silence, then the Bible should stand up quite well.

However, Mr. Barker’s argument about allegedly anachronistic camels is not just an argument from silence—it is an argument against clear and sufficient extant evidence. In the debate cross-examination, Mr. Ross was able to show Mr. Barker the following pictures of domesticated camels[671] from far earlier than the period of “the first millennium at the earliest” that he alleged for camel domestication, following Ms. Murdock:

  1. Ur, 19th/18 centuries BC



  1. Byblos, early 2nd millennium


  1. From Syrian cyl.-seal, Walters Art Gallery, early 2nd millennium
  2. Rifeh (Egypt), loaded camel-figure, 13th century BC


  1. Pi-Ramesse (Egypt), on pot, 13th century BC



  1. On sherd, Qurraya, NW Arabia, 13th/early 12th centuries BC

Further pictures (ones Mr. Ross did not show to Mr. Barker during the debate) include the following:[672]

  1. Third millennium BC Egyptian petroglyph of a man leading a dromedary.
  2. Proto-Sinaitic petroglyph of a man leading a dromedary camel, found at Wadi Nasib.

It is perfectly obvious from these pictures that Barker’s objection that no camels were domesticated is exploded.[673] Barker tried to claim that camels existed, but that none of them were ever domesticated. However, it is very clear that these camels are not just roaming wild but have humans on their backs (# 2), are carrying burdens (# 3), and so on. Dr. Kitchen explains:

A common claim is that mentions of camels are anachronistic before circa 1100. What are the facts? In biblical terms, between roughly 2000 and 1200, their role is minimal. Camels were last and least of Abraham’s possessions (Gen. 12:16), and in his time were used solely for the long-distance, desert-edge trip to Harran and back by his servant to obtain Isaac’s bride (24:10–64 passim). They were among the last named in Jacob’s wealth (30:43; 32:7, 15), and again were used solely for the long trip from Harran back to Canaan (31:17, 34). The desert-traveling Midianites used them (37:25). This is remarkably little. Then, at the time of the exodus and after (thirteenth century at the latest), they occur once among Pharaoh’s transport animals (Exod. 9:3) and twice in lists of creatures not to be eaten (Lev. 11:4; Deut. 14:7). Not much of a presence at all!

What about external sources between circa 2000 and 1200? We first consider the early second millennium (vaguely patriarchal), for which we have the following: from Egypt, a camel skull from the Fayum, “Pottery A” stage of occupation, within circa 2000–1400;85 from Byblos, a figurine of a kneeling camel, hump and load now missing (originally fixed by a tenon), about nineteenth/eighteenth century;86 from Canaan, a camel jaw from a Middle Bronze tomb at Tell el-Farʾah North, circa 1900/1550;87 from north Syria, a cylinder seal of the eighteenth century (of deities on a camel), in the Walters Art Gallery;88 and from mentions of the camel in the Sumerian lexical work HAR.ra-hubullu, going back in origin to the early second millennium.89

For the late second millennium we have the following: from Egypt, south of Memphis, the figure of a kneeling camel loaded with two jars (hence, domesticated) from a tomb of the later thirteenth century;90 from northwest Arabia, on painted pottery from Qurraya (so-called Midianite ware), the broken figure of a camel, of thirteenth/early twelfth century;91 and a camel on an early-thirteenth-century sherd from Pi-Ramesse.92 There are other traces of camels much earlier, e.g., in Egypt and Arabia in the third millennium, and also in our overall period.93 But the examples just given should suffice to indicate the true situation: the camel was for long a marginal beast in most of the historic ancient Near East (including Egypt), but it was not wholly unknown or anachronistic before or during 2000–1100. And there the matter should, on the tangible evidence, rest.[674]

Similarly, Titus Kennedy notes:

[In] Egypt, ancient petroglyphs representing domesticated camels have been discovered next to Proto-Sinaitic inscriptions on a rock face in the Wadi Nasib.[675] To the right of the aforementioned inscriptions, are two “distinctive animal petroglyphs—camels—that were represented as walking caravan style across the rock to the right (easterly direction).”[676] Although the first camel has been partially defaced, the trailing camel is distinct and easily identifiable as a dromedary. Randall Younker . . . observ[es] that “The lead camel appears to be followed by a walking man. A second walking man is clearly leading the trailing camel.”[677] Next to these inscriptions is an Egyptian hieroglyphic inscription translated as “Year 20 under the majesty of the king of Upper and Lower Egypt Nema’re’, son of Re’ Ammenemes, living like Re’ eternally.”[678] . . . With boundaries of Ammenemes III, a 12th dynasty ruler in the 19th century BC, and the Proto-Sinaitic inscriptions in the 15th century BC, with no current evidence for activity in the area much later than ca.1500 BC, the camel petroglyphs could be dated to sometime in between[.][679]

Three texts dating to approximately the same period attest to domesticated camel use. A Sumerian text found at Nippur from the Old Babylonian period, ca. 1950–1530 BC, “gives clear evidence of the domestication of the camel by that time, for it alludes to camel’s milk.”[680] Another text mentions “a Camel in a list of domesticated animals during the Old Babylonian period (1950–1600 BC) in a Sumerian Lexical Text from Ugarit.”[681] The third text comes from a cuneiform ration list found at Alalakh in the Level VII Middle Bronze Age city. This particular Alalakh tablet (269:59) reads “1 SA.GAL ANSE.GAM.MAL, ‘one (measure of) fodder— camel.’”[682] Here we have a text stating that camels in the city were given food rations, an action which would only be done for a domesticated animal. As one can see, there is ample evidence from the second millennium BC in multiple areas of the ancient Near East.

However, evidence for camel domestication goes back even into the third millennium BC. The second set of camel petroglyphs in Egypt come from a rock carving near Aswan and Gezireh in Upper Egypt. This carving depicts a man leading a dromedary camel with a rope, along with seven hieratic characters to the left of the man.

The entire carving was dated to the 6th dynasty of Egypt, ca. 2345–2181 BC, based on the inscription, the style, and the patina.[683] This places the use of domesticated camels in Egypt at least as early as ca. 2200 BC.

Other objects from Egypt include a limestone container, missing the lid, in the shape of a lying dromedary carrying a burden from a 1st dynasty tomb at Abusir el-Meleq, and a terra-cotta tablet with a depiction of men riding and leading camels, dated to the pre-dynastic period.[684]

In Turkmenia, Altyn-depe, excavations revealed models of carts with camels yoked to them, in contrast to horses or cattle in other areas. The artifacts representing this utilization are “terracotta models of wheeled carts drawn by Bactrian camels.”[685] “This type of utilization goes back to the earliest known period of two-humped camel domestication in the third millennium BC.”[686] This is important not merely because it demonstrates the use of domesticated camels, but the date of the stratigraphic context in which it was found is quite astonishing—3000 to 2600 BC.[687] This discovery is reminiscent of the camel figurines with saddles found in a second millennium BC context in Yemen, both of which show very early use of camels as pack animals and mounts.[688]

Finally, bioartifacts of camel bones, dung, and woven camel hair dated to 2700–2500 BC have been discovered at Shahr-i Sokhta in Iran, preserved in jars.[689] This “reinforces the suppositions that these are domestic stock and that the Bactrian was domesticated slightly earlier at the border of Turkmenistan and Iran.”[690] In addition to the findings in Iran and Turkmenia, discoveries of camel bones in a third millennium context have been discovered at the Levantine sites of Arad and Jericho.[691] At the sites of Umm an-Nar and Ras Ghanada in Abu Dhabi, fauna from a late third millennium context included a large collection of camel remains, along with limited remains of domestic cattle, sheep, and goats.[692] Woven camel-hair rope dated to the 3rd or early 4th dynasty was also found in Egypt at Umm es-Sawan.[693] At the very least this suggests that the camel was used at these sites as a food source, but likely in some domesticated sense, since camels usually would have been kept outside of settlements and lived and died primarily in the steppe areas.[694] Thus, finding camel bones or other biological artifacts in a settlement excavation is highly unlikely, and it follows that scribes, based in urban settlements, would not often mention the camel. This is a plausible rationale for the limited amounts of excavated camel remains and texts mentioning camels in any capacity.

As a result of the aforementioned data, many archaeologists now believe the domestication of the camel occurred sometime in the third millennium BC. Scarre states an early domestication date for both species of camel, writing that “both the dromedary (the one-humped camel of Arabia) and the Bactrian camel (the two-humped camel of Central Asia) had been domesticated since before 2000 BC.”[695] Other scholars, such as Saggs, also agree with an early camel domestication date by “proto-Arabs” of the arid regions of the Arabian Peninsula.[696] MacDonald’s research in southeast Arabia has apparently revealed more evidence. According to him, camels were probably first domesticated for milk, hair, leather and meat, and subsequently for travel across previously impassible regions in Arabia as early as the third millennium BC.[697] Lining up with the archaeological evidence, usage of camels for travel and milking is attested in the patriarchal narratives. . . .

Bones, hairs, wall paintings, models, inscriptions, seals, documents, statues, and stele from numerous archaeological sites all suggest the camel was in use as a domestic animal during the third millennium BC in the ancient Near East. The wide geographical and chronological distribution of findings related to camel domestication further strengthen the argument that the camel was domesticated far before the 12th century BC as Genesis, Exodus, Judges and Job indicate, and with each new discovery the evidence will likely reinforce this theory.[698]

Clearly, what Mr. Barker thought was the “most damning . . . anachronism[m]” in the Bible was very far from what he claimed. When he was challenged on his affirmation during the cross-examination, he appeared quite unprepared and unable to respond. If the alleged non-existence of domesticated camels constitutes the best case leading atheists have against the historicity of the Old Testament, one may rightfully conclude that the case for the historical accuracy of the Hebrew Scriptures is very strong.

Dan Barker’s case against the Old Testament is astonishingly weak. Are horribly inaccurate and invalid parallelomania, arguments based upon a sloppy misunderstanding of the Biblical text, and arguments from ignorance and assumption the best that one can do who is the president of the largest atheist organization in the United States, a president who has done vast numbers of public debates with Christians, and who is commended very highly by his fellow leading atheists? If Mr. Barker is indeed “one of American secularism’s most talented and effective spokespeople,”[699] one who is the “Deacon of Atheism of Bishop of Freethought,” using what his fellow atheists consider “good scholarship,”[700] then the case against the Old Testament, and in favor of atheism, is grim indeed.

As mentioned above, Dan Barker openly confesses that rebellion against Jesus Christ, refusal to have Him as Lord, and running his own life is more important to him than whether or not his atheistic case is true:

Even if Jesus . . . rose from the dead [and] there’s a God [and] I don’t deny any of that . . . does NOT mean that he is my Lord. . . . I will go happily to hell. It would be worse of a hell for me to bow down before a Lord . . . regardless of the . . . historicity issue. . . . Even if I agreed 100%, I would still reject that Being as a Lord of my life . . . to live and enjoy . . .life unshakled from the demands . . . [of a] Lord. . . . I cannot accept Jesus as Lord. . . . To me, I think that’s more important than all this historicity stuff, [in] which . . . I might be wrong. . . . [When asked,] “What I’ve heard from you is even if He rose from the dead, you still would not accept him as Lord.” [Barker replied,] I’m proud of that.[701]

Regrettably, Mr. Barker’s rebellion against God and stubborn pride result in him continuing to reproduce arguments that he knows perfectly well are invalid. In 2009, Dan Barker debated the evangelical Reformed Baptist James White on the topic “Was Jesus a Myth?,”[702] expanded as: “The story of Jesus is cut from the same story as other ancient mythologies.”[703] When Dr. White began, in his opening statement, to address the arguments Mr. Barker had been making for many years in his books in favor of the idea that Jesus Christ was a myth—including the arguments that Mr. Barker made in his work Godless, which was for sale in the debate room that night—Mr. Barker objected. Barker repeatedly said “I may have changed my mind” and attempted to have the moderator make the extraordinary move of preventing Dr. White from referencing Mr. Barker’s own works on the topic of the debate which were on sale in the back of the room where the debate was taking place.[704] Commenting on their interaction, James White wrote:

Dan Barker’s 1992 publication, Losing Faith in Faith: From Preacher to Atheist . . . is the immediate predecessor of Godless which came out, not two years ago as Dan recalled in the debate, but in 2008. . . . [T]here may be some minor editing of th[e] chapter [in the earlier book] as it appears in Godless (pp. 251ff), but the sub-headings are the same, as are the citations.
Consider for a moment what this means. Dan Barker has been promoting the Barbara Walker “Mithraism parallels” foolishness, in print, for seventeen years. Seventeen years! Same argument—even to having eight self-contradictory “natural explanations”—over the course of two books. . . . Losing Faith in Faith: From Preacher to Atheist [and] . . . Godless. . . . And I replied to that argument. What else would you expect me to do? Dan Barker has been promoting the same material for nearly twenty years. Should I ignore the consistent argumentation, documented for nearly seventeen years, in print in books Dan Barker has been distributing through the Freedom From Religion Foundation and at all his speaking events, let alone on the very day of the debate, in the foyer of the church? If you have been presenting the same arguments for that long, and have never given the slightest indication (until your opening statement anyway!) of having changed your views, upon what possible grounds should I have concluded that I should ignore his own published arguments and respond to . . . something else?

Let’s be honest here. If Dan Barker had a meaningful ethical foundation upon which to stand (his open, smiling, knowing violation of the rules of debate which we had discussed immediately before the debate during cross-examination gives you a good example of atheistic ethics) he would have had to act in the following fashion: first, he would have allowed me to make my opening statement without interruption. Then he would have gotten up and said, “James is right. For seventeen years I have promoted horrifically unscholarly arguments in my published books. And I am going to ask folks out in the foyer to take my books off the table and sell no more of them. I am going to take my book out of print and re-do the entire section on the historicity of Jesus.” Of course, that would lead most folks to ask themselves a very logical question: “If he could promote such shallow and easily refuted material for nearly two decades, what does that say about the argumentation in the rest of his book?” Evidently, it is that very problem that kept Mr. Barker from owning up to his own failures. Instead, he tried as best he could to avoid taking responsibility for his own published arguments. He refused to repudiate Barbara Walker’s material, instead saying he would have to “lower” his view of her “scholarship.” What? Why not just admit her arguments are bogus? Because that would reflect on the vast majority of what Dan Barker has promoted as “serious” and meaningful scholarship all along. And that just isn’t a possibility when you are Dan Barker. No, try to put it off on the Christian. Say he’s trying to make this a debate about your book rather than the topic. Hope no one realizes that your book contains an entire chapter on the very topic of the debate and that you are obviously incapable of defending your published statements and arguments. At the same time, hope no one thinks enough about this to realize that you well knew White was going to torpedo your materials. You knew White would do his homework and Richard Carrier told you your published arguments are susceptible to powerful refutation. So whatever you do, don’t man-up to your own works. Instead, throw up a smokescreen that surely won’t save you in the eyes of Christians, who will all see that you are just ducking your scholarly responsibilities, but may keep your adoring followers happily chanting “Flying Spaghetti Monster.”

Imagine for a moment that I agreed to debate one of the leading advocates of [a position with which I disagree and have written a book on the topic]. My book on that topic has been out for fourteen years now. And let’s say that in my opening statement I did not use a single one of the arguments I used in my book. You might find that odd. But then, as soon as my opponent began to respond to the claims I’ve made on this topic for a decade and a half I interrupt and say, “Wait, this debate isn’t about my book! Stick to the subject!” What would my action tell you? It would tell you that I am unwilling to stand behind my own claims, wouldn’t it? Wouldn’t that be an open confession that I have abandoned my original position and arguments, and therefore, repudiate them? Most assuredly. And that is exactly what Dan Barker did Saturday morning.

Let me provide a personal word here to Mr. Barker: Dan, when someone has published a book wherein he addresses in the public venue the topic of a debate, it is not only fair, proper, and simply necessary, to draw from those published sources in a scholarly, meaningful debate, it is the only way to do meaningful debate and the only way to show respect for one’s opponent. It would have been disrespectful to ignore the fact that for seventeen years you had been distributing two books with the same arguments in them on the topic of this debate. It would be disrespectful to you, and even more so, disrespectful to the entire audience, to pass-by the primary source of your opponent’s position, that being his own words! It seems to me, Dan, that you well knew (evidently, not by listening to serious, sober historical scholarship, but by your asking Richard Carrier) that your arguments on the topic of our debate in your published books are without merit and easily refuted. Instead of doing what you should have done, you attempted to cover over this fact. I find this behavior, coupled with your willing violation of the cross-examination rules (you recall you said you were “proud” to violate our pre-debate rules discussion, which gives us a real insight into the reality of your atheistic ethical system), truly reprehensible. Thankfully, these did not detract from the clarity of the debate and the facts presented therein, and I do hope you will promote the debate widely to your followers and supporters.[705] . . .

Your response to the events in Newberg strike me as tremendously non-reflective. You do not seem willing, or capable, of giving serious consideration to your own positions, and your own actions. You do not seem to see the obvious, and evidently, this is due to what might be called the apostasy syndrome. It came out when you made a passing comment to me in Illinois: when I noted to you that I had rehearsed your arguments to a campus group earlier that day, you replied that this made no difference, since they are “good arguments.” Then you made the telling comment. Why are they good arguments? “They are the arguments that made me an atheist.”

It seems that due to the fact that you have invested your entire life, your entire personhood, to your apostasy and your new religion (and surely you must realize it functions that way for you: you speak of doing atheistic “outreach,” you have “tracts” promoting atheism, even your outrageous behavior in the debate, praying for the microphone, etc., all speak of the fact that you have simply changed religions[)] . . . that you cannot even begin to reflect upon those arguments that are your primary bulwark against the inherent reality of God’s existence. If you were to seriously examine your arguments for coherence and consistency, you seem to know the result would be disastrous for your position. And so on the one hand you speak of rationality and care in thought, while on the other you engage in the most egregious violations thereof[.]

I will take a few moments here to address, one last time, your allegations.

1) In making my opening presentation I made the egregious mistake of accurately representing the arguments of my opponent, arguments he had been making, in published works, and in public presentations across the United States (and possibly beyond: I have not invested the time in checking your past travel schedules!). I followed the rules of debate that do not require the second person to engage in mind-reading. You have been arguing that my opening statement should be limited to the arguments you presented in your opening, arguments other than those you were still promoting in your book, for sale in the foyer of the church where the debate was taking place. How I could possibly know what arguments you were going to present outside of taking the time to purchase, read, and study your own books, I cannot begin to figure out. But, the very idea that my opening is limited to rebuttal is without merit. You have produced nothing but your own predilections as a basis for this assertion. You have cited nothing from published works on debate that would indicate that a person’s opening statement should not be focused upon his opponents published and established position on the very issue of the debate! And no matter how much dust is thrown in the air here, Mr. Barker, all reasonable, rational people can see that not only did I accurately represent your work, but I did, in fact, focus upon the issue of the debate itself.

2) I believe you are embarrassed by the exposure of the level of argumentation you have been presenting for seventeen years in your published works. There is good reason for this. Your arguments were shallow and showed no familiarity at all with published refutations of them. In other words, they demonstrated tremendous bias on your part, and this goes to your credibility as a writer, thinker, and lecturer. Unlike your raising issues about my own educational background (which includes teaching in these areas since 1991), I have consistently let the facts illustrate the problems with your argumentation. The one time I mentioned your undergraduate work, I did so by quoting … you! So the issue here seems to be that you were well aware of the problems in your argumentation and use of sources, but, you refused to raise these issues prior to the debate, choosing instead to raise this smokescreen of a controversy to allow you to save face as well as continue to sell your books without appropriate emendation and admission of fundamental error.

3) You likewise seem to think that I am somehow attacking you, personally, as an individual. I do not believe this vitally important issue is about individuals. Who I am, or who you are, is irrelevant. . . . So, Mr. Barker, this isn’t a personal matter on my side.

However, as anyone who has taken the time to listen carefully to your story knows (and that is one of the issues here: I took that time, I listened to your story, multiple times, to your university lectures, to your debates, before we first debated: you were not even sure who I was in Illinois, and had not, it seemed, even taken the time to google my name, which put you at a self-imposed disadvantage from the start), you, sir, are the one who has made Dan Barker an issue. You market yourself as a former preacher. You speak of your knowledge of the Bible. I can provide many, many examples of this, of course. Just listen to yourself in your debate recently with Kyle But[t]. You claimed a high level of literacy of the Bible, and even of Greek, in that debate. So when anyone refutes your arguments, since you have made your own apostasy from Christianity the main selling point you are promoting, they cannot help but cast doubt upon your claims. It is impossible to do otherwise. So when you then complain that you are being “attacked,” I suggest, sir, that you have made it impossible to completely separate the issues from the man. But that is a self-inflicted wound, Mr. Barker.

4) You object to my saying you abandoned the argumentation in your book. It is self-evident that you did. In fact, in just this point we see how truly irrational your stance in this matter has become. Anyone can listen to your initial objection. It was not rational. You said that you had not come to debate your book, as if my citation of your book changed the topic of the debate from your allegation that Jesus is a myth to your book. Your book contains an entire chapter on the topic of the debate. As I pointed out, you did not pursue the main line of argumentation in your book. You had eight possible naturalistic explanations for the “Jesus myth” in your book. How many of them did you present and defend in the debate, Mr. Barker? If you did not present them, how can any rational person object to the statement that you abandoned the arguments in your book, unless, of course, you wish to ignore the context of that statement (the context being the debate itself, and the specific arguments on Jesus as a myth contained in a specific chapter), and I fear you might well do that, in light of the fact that you continue to defend your [invalid arguments]. . . .

I note as well that you have come up with a truly ingenious way of getting around the fact that you did not use the argumentation in your book in the debate: that you found “exciting and fresh” material to use instead. This ignores a major problem of fact and logic: you admitted in the debate that Richard Carrier warned you about the Walker material. Was it “exciting and fresh” news when Carrier informed you that the longest section of citation in your book on this topic was filled with holes, Mr. Barker? You admitted in the debate that during your preparation you had encountered this information. Is this not a clear admission that the reason you made the presentation you did was because you do not feel the material in Godless is actually defensible? And may I again point out what all of this means? You have now added a whole string of new (and, I would say, no more meaningful) “naturalistic explanations” to your presentation. That means you now present at least a dozen, probably more, possibilities all of which contradict the others! You have dropped the probability of any one of them being correct down to less than 10%, and yet do not even blink to promote more than one as being “compelling”! You may not see how this reveals an incredibly cavalier attitude toward history, but I truly believe the objective reviewer does.

5) I believe you are playing fast and loose with language in accusing me of putting words in your mouth. You refused to defend Walker’s outrageous material, reproduced by you for seventeen years in print. Yet, if I call that “jettisoning” her arguments, you say I am putting words in your mouth. I will allow any rational person to examine the video and see for themselves what you did. Saying you are going to put her scholarship on a “lower level” is a nice, meaningless phrase. Either what she said is ridiculously anachronistic and false, or it isn’t. Which is it, Mr. Barker? And just how clear and compelling was your comment, offered more than once, “Well, I might have changed my mind!” Classic avoidance answer. . . . You seem to want to be able to avoid defending your own use of her material while at the same time accusing me of putting words in your mouth. It is the classic cake/no cake situation again.

6) You likewise keep saying I have been wrong in saying you did not want me to quote you in the debate. Again, the video recording is unambiguous. As soon as I began quoting you, you objected! You did not want me quoting Godless on the very topic of the debate, all based upon your insistence that I only get to rebut, not make a presentation based upon my opponent’s published works. You did not want me quoting Godless and you made that very plain. I leave it to any honest person to watch the debate and decide for themselves. . . . Do you not see how your position destroys any meaningful debate over any important issue? . . .

For those who are not interested in clear, consistent thought, nothing I have to say is going to change their minds. But I truly believe, Mr. Barker, that you have no basis for objection whatsoever to anything I said in the debate, or anything I have posted since then. . . . It has always been my contention, Mr. Barker, that atheists are creatures denying their Creator. This involves a fundamental twisting of reality, and the more you attempt to re-make very recent, video-recorded history, the more you are demonstrating the correctness of my observation. . . .

I accurately represented the published arguments of my opponent in my opening statement. These are arguments you made in a public setting. And I continue to assert that anyone who would make an opening statement on a topic of debate while ignoring their opponent’s published positions is engaging in simple disrespect. . . . And you say I have done something unscrupulous? I leave it to the unbiased reviewer to decide.[706]

Thus, Mr. Barker, in 2009, was unwilling to repudiate invalid arguments that had been promoting, and profiting from through his book sales, for seventeen years. This stubborn refusal continued even after these arguments were exposed as invalid in public debate.

Unfortunately, Dan Barker still, in 2016, continued to promote the same invalid arguments that Dr. White refuted in 2009 and that Barker admitted had problems in the Barker-White debate under discussion. Prior to the second Barker-Ross debate, Thomas Ross wrote to the Freedom From Religion Foundation, asking if Mr. Mr. Barker had removed the invalid arguments from his books, as he admitted in the debate—in 2009—that he needed to do. In 2009 Dan Barker was forced to admit the following in his debate with James White:

Dan Barker: I will agree with you [Dr. James White,] that since my recent studying in this, my amateur studying in the field, that I am now going to take Barbara Walker to a lower level of confidence than I used to before. I agree with that. . . . We’ve interviewed her on our national radio show[.] . . . [but now] I am questioning the breath of her scholarship . . . [although] I don’t want to belittle her, because I know she is working with her own sources. . . . [B]efore today’s debate, I was careful to check with people like Richard Carrier, about some of these sources, and Richard Carrier cautioned me, “Don’t use that source . . . Barbara Walker” . . .

Dr. James White: So you didn’t talk to him [when you wrote Godless less than two years ago]? . . . [Y]our longest discussion of this [question of whether Jesus Christ was a non-extant figure patterned from pagan mythology] in this section . . . is the citation from Barbara Walker. . . .

Dan Barker: Since that time I have lowered my confidence . . . in Barbara Walker’s primary scholarship.

Dr. James White: Are you going to redo this section?

Dan Barker: I probably will, yeah. . . . There are corrections that have to be made.[707]

Based on such concessions, Dr. White stated: “I’m very appreciate of the fact that Dan says, ‘[Y]ou know what, maybe that long quotation from Barbara Walker, [I] need to move that down or something.’ . . . I would hope that the next edition . . . [of] Godless [does so.]”[708] Has Dan Barker withdrawn this core section of his book Godless, something he has been promoting since 1992, at least by 2016? Thomas Ross wanted to find out, so before his second debate with Mr. Barker, he contacted the Freedom From Religion Foundation in 2016:

Good day! I have listened to the Barker-White debate on Christ mythicism, and also read the article here:

Dan Barker: Yes, I’ve Made the Same Argument for Seventeen Years. So What?

I am wondering if Mr. Barker has ever updated/removed the sections in Losing Faith in Faith and Godless where, in the debate in 2009, he admitted that his arguments were not good.

Thank you.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation and Mr. Barker never replied to Mr. Ross’s query.

After the second Barker-Ross debate, Mr. Barker wrote to the student groups that had sponsored the debate and to Mr. Ross. His argument was similar to what he had declared in 2009 in his debate with Dr. White. Mr. Barker wrote:

I . . . have a complaint about . . . Thomas[’s] . . . approach[.] . . . Some of Thomas’s time was spent not on the topic, but on attacking me. While I tried to stay focused on the issues at hand, Thomas seemed intent on getting the audience to question my person, my motives, and especially my morality. I have never claimed to know Hebrew, but Thomas pulled that stunt with the Hebrew alphabet, for what purpose? It was clearly aimed at making me look stupid, and even look like a liar in front of the audience. That was unfair, and below the belt. I have only claimed a minimal familiarity with a few Hebrew words, but not to be able to read Hebrew. . . .

His email to Finkelstein (deliberately or innocently) quoted me out of context — while I was saying there is no confirmation for the STORY, he made it look like I was saying there is no archaeological confirmation AT ALL. . . . [I]n any event, it was unfair to communicate with Finkelstein without letting me in the loop . . . and even MORE below the belt to spring it on that audience . . . knowing there is no way I would remember exactly what words were spoken in a debate many months ago.

I confess I got a bit worked up near the end, when I asked Thomas to quote any philosopher who agrees with his definition of “free will.” It shouldn’t matter that he couldn’t pull a name out of his hat while thinking on his feet. And it shouldn’t matter what scholars agree or disagree with him, or with me—he should defend his own usage. I don’t doubt that he could have come up with some names given enough time. But truth is not determined by vote. I apologize for that, but I was kinda “fighting fire with fire” at that point.

This has happened to me before, with certain ultra-conservative apologists and debaters, such as James White (who was the worst). They think they can score points by smearing the opponent. That is mean-spirited and outside the scope of honest dialogue.

I was prepared to chalk that up to inexperience as a debater, not to malicious motives, until the end of the debate where he started preaching and threatening eternal torture if I don’t change my mind and adopt his theology. I’m used to those sermons, because I used to preach them myself, but it was completely outside the scope of the debate topic. I am in favor of free speech, of course, and Thomas can say anything he likes, but that final evangelical “Turn or burn” outburst made me much less charitable about his motives. . . . In the future, we might ask the moderator to caution the participants against personal attacks.

In response to this communication, Mr. Ross replied:

Thank you for coming to the debate this week. . . . Thank you also for your signing my copies of your books. . . .

In relation to the topic, am thankful that, unlike in our first debate, you did not violate the debate rules in our second debate as many times as you did in the first.  I am thankful that the outrageous, blasphemous, off-topic affirmations about God’s alleged immorality based on distortions of Scripture that were not at all the debate topic decreased in number in our second debate.  I appreciate that—I really do.  While there were numbers of times that you kept talking when your time was up, this was not as bad as the horrible slanders and distortions of Scriptural morality in our first debate.  Thank you. I mean it.  I couldn’t stand hearing those things, knowing how false they were, and many in the audience thought the same thing.

I am sorry that you felt that you had to remember the exact words you said in the debate many months ago, when you could simply have watched the last debate on Youtube or at before this second one.  I am sorry that (if I read your comment here correctly) you did not even take the time to do that before this debate.  I know that I would have viewed such a failure as disrespecting the audience and disrespecting my debate opponent by not taking the time to prepare, so it is not something I would have done.  I highly suspect that, even though you had a year to read it and it was highly relevant to this debate proposition, you did not even take the time to read my work on Daniel before the debate.  Your arguments in the debate showed precious little awareness of what I wrote in that book.  Am I correct in thinking that you did not read it?

I must disagree with the affirmation that it was unfair for me to contact Dr. Finkelstein.  There is nothing unfair at all with my contacting any scholar to ask him about his position, and I do not need to let you know who or when I contact any scholar, or anyone else for that matter, by email. I rather think it would have been a good idea for you to contact him before you brought him up and claimed that he supported a position that neither he, nor any teaching scholar supports, namely, the proposition that you sought to defend, that the Old Testament is 51% or more fiction.  Even such an extremely skeptical scholar as Dr. Finkelstein would have found your pagan mythology arguments and much of the rest of what you said fantastic nonsense. . . .

I would . . . be happy for you to . . . find a single scholar who teaches NT, OT, Near Eastern Studies, etc. at an accredited university anywhere in the USA or Europe who agrees with your pagan myth argument.  By all means, please look everywhere and let me know if you find one.  I am willing to change 100% disagreement to 99.9999% disagreement with your position among people who know what they are talking about if I need to.  At this point I don’t think you can do it, though, so I’m sticking with 100%.

I actually could think immediately of a number of significant writers who agree with me on free will, but I thought it was appropriate to point out that you don’t believe in free will itself.  In any case, I thank you for the apology, but there was nothing for you to apologize for in asking that question.  I actually find it rather shocking that you would need to ask me to supply some names, since the position I am advocating is one of the major views of free will in the Christian tradition and one that has been held by many major philosophers throughout history. A decent Philosophy 101 class that takes up the subject of free will should engage with my position.   I don’t mind at all that it was clear in the debate that you would ask me for names that take my view as if it was a strange, unusual, far-out position.  It is especially unfortunate, however, that you are not aware of this position (it appears) when more than one of the people you have debated in the past have taken exactly this position on free will,[709] and this exact position on free will has actually been pointed out in a previous debate that you have done.  In any case, it was a perfectly legitimate question—nothing to apologize for—just as my question to you to name even one professor in any accredited educational institution in America or Europe who agrees with your pagan myth argument was totally legitimate.

I am glad that you claim that you want “honest dialogue.”  That is great.  If I remember correctly, the question before I asked you if you knew the Hebrew alphabet was a question about Hebrew words (bethulah/almah), and you had made a major point in your argument even before that point in our debate that there is an (alleged) false prophecy in Isaiah 7:14 based on these Hebrew terms.  Perhaps you do not think it matters if someone knows Hebrew before he makes arguments about Hebrew, but I think a person ought to know Hebrew before making arguments about Hebrew.  If I had made technical arguments about Akkadian words in order to attempt to refute my debate opponent’s position, it would be absolutely relevant if I could not even read the Akkadian alphabet.  In any case, supposedly my purpose was simply to make a personal attack on you by asking if you could read the Hebrew alphabet, as, I suppose, I was supposed to know ahead of time that you could not.  In light of this, could you please provide me a single instance in any of your written works or in any of your publicly available debates where you have said something like: “I don’t know Hebrew at all. I can’t even read the Hebrew alphabet when it is in front of me, in order.”  Please do not supply me something vague on this. I just want one clear, unambiguous statement like “I can’t even read the Hebrew alphabet” in any of your many books, so that it is clear that everyone should have known this ahead of time.

If you do not do this, Mr. Barker, I will be forced to assume that it is because you have never made such an affirmation, but that your various statements about various kinds of knowledge of Hebrew were deliberately vague in order to cover up the fact you do not even know your A-B-C’s in Hebrew.  If you have never, ever admitted this fact publicly, then perhaps people who listen to you and are influenced by your arguments on Hebrew words to reject truth (such as the proposition I was defending in our last debate) really ought to be aware of the fact that you can’t even read the alphabet.

I suspected that you could not read the alphabet when you said Murdock knew Hebrew, as it is obvious by the absolutely atrocious and inaccurate “transliterations,” absurd etymologies, and tabloid-quality arguments based on Hebrew in her book Did Moses Exist? that she knew as much Hebrew as a Hebrew national hot dog.  I thought that if you even knew the Hebrew alphabet, you would have recognized this fact.  However, I did not know for sure that you did not know it as—and I will stand corrected here if you give me proof—you have never publicly stated this fact.

By the way, when you said that nobody argues that Biblical narratives were copied from pagan myths, I quoted the work on the Freedom From Religion Foundation website, “Cookie Cutter Christs,” (, which begins with the sentence:  “The story of Jesus was copied from earlier mythologies.”  You claimed that you do not actually believe this in our debate.  However, the organization of which you are president has been promoting the absurd nonsense in this “nontract” since 1993.  Have you ever, in any of your books or public debates, admitted that you disagree with it before, or have you been content to mislead people?  Now that you have admitted it, are you going to stop making money off the sale of the fantastic misinformation in this “nontract,” and remove this “nontract” from your website, admitting the FFRF has been wrong since 1993?

In terms of integrity, you claim that James White was really bad.  What did Dr. White do?  He asked you to defend arguments you have made, in print, in your books, since 1992, borrowed from Barbara Walker, a woman who has written books on knitting and tarot cards, who is your main source for your (incredibly unscholarly) argument that Jesus did not exist in your books Losing Faith in Faith and Godless.  In your debate with Dr. White, you admitted in public that you needed to “lower” your view of her (alleged) “scholarship,” and you were unwilling to defend even a single one of the arguments for Jesus-mythicism in your published books that you borrowed from her.  Instead of defending in open debate what you had been promoting and making money off of since 1992, you wanted the moderator to shut down Dr. White for preparing to deal with the arguments on the topic of the debate found in the books you had on sale in the back of the room that very night, because you were not willing to defend them.  Furthermore, you debated Dr. White in 2009, but looking at your book table the day of our debate in 2016, you still—at the close of 2016—are making money in your books from the same invalid arguments you were unwilling to defend in 2009.  Why haven’t you withdrawn those books from circulation or at the very least taken out the arguments borrowed from a tarot card reader and knitter who has no scholarly expertise whatsoever in ancient Near Eastern studies?  Why are you still—in 2016—24 years after you first made them—still making money off b