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Sodom, the infamous Old Testament city destroyed in a hail of fire and brimstone, has been found.

At least, that's what archaeologist Steven Collins believes about Tall el-Hammam, a site he has been excavating in Jordan for eight years. His ...

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Steven Collins

March 13, 2014  5:13pm

Comment to all: Biblical chronology, especially that of the Torah, is a difficult issue, to be sure. Most evangelical scholars (archaeologists among them) hold to a 13th century BCE date fort the Exodus. Relatively few hold to an early (15th century) date. Some, like me, hold to a 14th century date. But I do so not on the basis of absolute dating schemes configured from patriarchal numbers, but on the basis of historical synchronisms between streams of ANE and biblical histories compared and contrasted. For example, there is simply no relationship between the world of Nahor, Terah, and Abraham through Joseph and any time before ca. 1900 BCE. I agree with K.A. Kitchen in this regard, and with several more lines of evidence than even he presents. Has anyone bothered to observe that Jerusalem was unoccupied between 2600 and 1800 BCE (as were most of the cities/towns mentioned in the Abraham narratives)? Profound, if Melchizedek’s ‘Salem’ is actually Jerusalem. I recommend some deep research on the subject for all. Of necessity, this must include spending significant time in the Land of the Kikkar and walking on the ash of Hammam’s destruction, whilst observing the verities of the local geography.

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Steven Collins

March 13, 2014  5:12pm

Comment to Pilgrim Progress: There’s more to the biblical stories than you’ve considered! Of course, if one thinks that Bible stories are religious pap, then one can remain comfortable in the thought that they hold no applicable insights or ‘mirrors’ for human life. Aaaah, the bliss of minimalism!

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Steven Collins

March 13, 2014  5:12pm

Comment to P. Williams: A voice of reason! Across the Internet I’ve been called everything from a liberal to a heretic to a Bible-thumping fundamentalist as a result of my research and resultant conclusions about Sodom and the patriarchal narratives. For me, the Bible doesn’t need propping up by theological terms like ‘inspiration’ and ‘inerrancy’. As an empirical factualist, I find the biblical narratives well-at-home in their ANE context, demonstrably reliable historically, and, OK, inductively inerrant! Personally, I relish the authentic ANE Bible and dislike the modern, Western caricatures of it propagated by both liberals and conservatives. The real world of biblical texts is investigable. It’s in that world that the stories live and breathe. Text and ground are seamlessly woven together in the fabric of reality, and are separated to the impoverishment of each.

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Steven Collins

March 13, 2014  5:11pm

Comment to JP: Referring to Tall el-Hammam as “an obscure tell” is tantamount to calling New York City an average American town. For most of the Bronze Age, Tall el-Hammam (Sodom!) was the largest, wealthiest, and most powerful city in the southern Levant. It ruled supreme in the Land of the Kikkar (the S Jordan Valley) nonstop for more 2,000 years. While sites like Jerusalem, Jericho, Hazor, Ashkelon, Hebron and Shechem had centuries-long gaps in occupation, Tall el-Hammam had none, not until after its destruction toward the end of MB2 (ca. 1700 BCE). And yes, the cultural picture emerging from Tall el-Hammam and surrounding sites (all destroyed at the same time!) is remarkable. But one cannot ignore the historical geography of the Kikkar of the Jordan as detailed in Gen 10, 13, and 14. Everyone can read-up on the subject at the ‘Related Publications’ section of the TeHEP website at digsodom.com.

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Steven Collins

March 13, 2014  5:10pm

Comment to Nathan Cheng: Your observations on the issue of the patriarchal chronology are pertinent. The subject of Pentateuchal lifespan numbers, in order to remain in the realm of ANE (Bonze Age) reality, must be rescued from modern, absolute, base-10, arithmetic reasoning, and allowed to live in their original context where number-formulas held symbolic and honorific values, and were never intended to be interpreted by our notions of mathematical precision. Prof, K.A. Kitchen is instructive on this point. See his On the Reliability of the OT (Eerdmans 2004). When it comes to ancient texts, authenticism is infinitely preferable to ‘literalism’. Similarly, the use of historical synchronisms is superior to ‘date-fixing’ in discovering cause-effect relationships between the ANE and biblical histories.

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Steven Collins

March 13, 2014  5:09pm

Comment to the author, Mr. Grovier: To state regarding Tall el-Hammam’s identification as Sodom that “So far, no compelling evidence has been revealed” is a far cry from the facts. While I appreciate the mention of our work at Tall el-Hammam, I am a bit mystified that over a decade of comprehensive research, exploration, and excavation in the S Jordan Valley, and supporting documentation (everything from professional society papers, journal and magazine articles, and several books) can be so easily dismissed as merely an alternative theory on the subject. We have just finished Season Nine at Hammam. The evidence of its preeminence as the core urban center of the region’s premier city-state during the age of the biblical patriarchs continues to be unchallengeable. Indeed, it was the anchor-city of the Land of the Kikkar for 2,000 years until it, and the entire area, was destroyed in a violent, fiery catastrophe of truly biblical proportions. It exceeds every possible criterion for biblical Sodom. The geographical argument is a lock. The archaeological evidence is a lock. I agree with my co-author of Discovering the City of Sodom (Howard Books/Simon & Schuster 2013), Dr. Scott: people need to read the book! Unfortunately, just about everything on the Internet is a kilometer wide and a millimeter deep. Sadly, I find little depth of research or thinking in the attending comments. But thanks to Mr. Grovier for bringing up the subject again!

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Tim Watts

March 08, 2014  7:09am

@ John Allman: The dating of sites by pottery is a common practice because it is a bit like the use of bottles today. Relatively cheap to the end user and a disposable commodity. When people left a settlement, they were too heavy to take with them so they would be left behind, and if one broke it wasn't worth fixing. It could be discarded with other rubbish and another made. So, basically, there is lots of it. The other feature of pottery is that fashions changed. While short round styles were favored at one time, tall skinny designs might be the rage in a later century. Also the decorations or inscriptions could change, and the style of handles and so on. If you were to dig up a cola bottle in your yard, you would have a reasonable idea of the age because of the style or materiel.(E.g. Embossed glass vs molded plastic) If we can date a site (e.g. by an inscription) we can date it's pottery. So if another site has the same style, voila! That site can be dated to a similar period too.

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Glenn Shrom

March 01, 2014  10:09pm

I wonder if this dating difference connects in any way with the dating difference of the exodus proposed in the History Channel film Exodus Decoded. It would be great if the two dovetail into a good reason for changing our traditional dates, in a way that both make sense with secular science and secular history.

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Latayne C. Scott

February 25, 2014  9:09pm

Interesting comments. I wonder if if any of the persons commenting have read the book Discovering the City of Sodom (Howard, 2013), which explains in detail Dr. Collins's reasoning for his chronology, as well as the discoveries from several excavating seasons? (Disclaimer: I was co-author of this book).

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Jason Taylor

February 23, 2014  6:42am

John Allman - Thermoluminescence testing can tell how much time has passed since the pottery was last fired. I don't know if any environmental factors can impact the results like with radiometric dating techniques.

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John Allman

February 23, 2014  3:34am

"The pottery in that destruction layer dates to 1650-1600 B.C." How does one "date" pottery?

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Jason Taylor

February 22, 2014  1:49pm

Pilgrim Progress - an interesting choice of name for someone who wholly denies the veracity of Scripture. Much of the Bible was written as history and it is filled with claims to present the very word of God. Either the Bible is both historically accurate and true, or it is neither. It's entire message is based in it's recording of actual events. If the historical claims are invented or plagiarized then it's spiritual and moral teachings are lies. To say that the teachings of Jesus "are not even dependent on where, when or even if he lived, died or ascended" is absurd. Jesus repeatedly claimed to be God. If He wasn't then he was either a liar or a madman, certainly not a good moral teacher. He showed that He held a literal view of Scripture and taught the necessity of repentance and salvation from sin. The Bible has the support of history and archaeology, you have the support of 'scholars' who presuppose it's untruthfulness.

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Bill Payne

February 22, 2014  7:13am

This article does not present any real controversy. If archaeologists have found a large, burned city that could fit the description of Sodom, I rejoice. I am so thankful for the work of those who dig their way through the biblelands looking for clues so that we can better understand the meaning of the bible texts. Since I am not a minimalist, I do expect them to find a real Sodom.

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Charles Riley

February 21, 2014  8:52pm

Time with hard honesty work will tell what has been found. Any discoveries that will shine more light on history and culture helping us understand God's involvement and purpose for us is a blessing. No one should be afraid of open discussion or debate. We don't have to agree with each other but we should be able to talk to each other. If these discoveries help us to know God more deeply then praise God. Corky

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Pilgrim Progress

February 21, 2014  6:54pm

Don't bash "Liberal Theologians." They are the Scholars who don't swallow, on first run, what others are pushing as "Fact." Remember, first and foremost, that these are highly edited, plagiarized, Cultural Myths. Like Cinderella, The Three Bears, and Paul Bunyan, these are Morality Plays. Don't look for "facts" where there are only Traditions. If your Faith requires Absolutes, you are lost in the Polemics and Politics of Religion. Hermeneutics? Whose? Baptist? Calvinist, or the Mother of all Final Answers; Catholicism. Is your Jesus in the rubble and arguments over insignificant, contentious competition between Literalists, or in your daily life? Are we to walk on by the starving, bleeding homeless Castaways on the side of the road, because we are on our way to Church?

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Craig Hutton

February 21, 2014  6:48pm

Wow...you are inadvertently taking your dull rusty axe to the Word of God (I'd expect this from Huff Post but not here..but I'm new here). You are doing what many young pastors are doing these days also...they will exeget a passage when teaching a group by positing several observations of pure error and allow them to stand along side a correct understanding of the passage without a whisper of teaching as to why these others opinions are not Biblical...the enemy knows we retain less than 10% of all we hear so he is assured with this practice that some poison will remain in our minds long after the "teaching"...you have accomplished the same here...Also, if this man is having to dig beneath the remains of other cities that were built on top of his smoking gun, he needs to go and borrow someones Bible and see that God said Sodom would never be rebuilt...correct? or is my memory from Sunday school getting confused with another city?

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THOMAS F HARKINS JR

February 21, 2014  6:44pm

There have been and will be numerous times when "scholars" in any field of study suggest they have found something which refutes something in scripture. However, just as frequently some other scholar refutes the earlier scholar not too long afterwards. What we find is, "Let God be true, and every man a liar." Also, with respect to "dating techniques," those very frequently also are not only not conclusive, but contradict other such techniques in their "findings." As Christians, we must not accept the "contradictions of science, FALSELY so called." As someone else said, just wait awhile and ultimately true science will come around to the scriptural account (assuming, of course, that we are interpreting the scriptural accounts correctly--we can sometimes err that way as well). Holding to scripture is done because God cannot be in error--scientists can be, and often are.

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Pilgrim Progress

February 21, 2014  6:30pm

Our Faith, even our Christian Tradition, is NOT dependent, indeed not even related to, what may or may not be true, accurate or "Historical Fact" in Bible Stories. The value of, and the belief and practice of Christ's Teachings are not even dependent on where, when or even if he lived, died or ascended. Christianity, fortunately, has survived the vile and abusive practices that Christians have inflicted on Humanity. One need not fall into the Polemics of "Inerrant Literal, Scripture." Christ's teachings were for Man, in this world. His emphasis was on helping, serving, sharing and loving, above all prior commandments. It is sad that Biblical Literalists are among the worst offenders of the Christian Message. Christ was not a Soldier, Politician, and certainly not a Tea Party Member. Those are Pharisees.

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Pilgrim Progress

February 21, 2014  6:19pm

Every time an archeologist digs up a broken pot or finds a crumbled foundation, Presto, we have a "Biblical Discovery." Nonsense. There is nothing about this particular site that has any significance. Cities crumble and fall. Earthquakes, erosion, war, famine happens to everything and everyone. This particular area of the earth has been engaged in vile, violent religious wars for Millenia. Archeologists are Poor, Dependent, Servants of some University or Foundation, eager to make headlines, under extreme political and religious pressure to "prove" the Bible. That's why we have enough "biblical ruins of cities" to rebuild Rome, Kiev and Santa Barbara. Remember, please, that the Sodom Story, like the Noah's Ark Story, is a ancient, plagiarized, purloined, Cultural Myth from dozens of prior cultures and religious traditions. There are NO original scenarios, doctrines or story lines in our Bible. None. All are simply Morality Plays, passed down from religion to religion.

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Jason Taylor

February 21, 2014  5:03pm

Nathan, your reckoning of time seems to be a bit flawed. Since Exodus 12:40 speaks of the "sojourning of the children of Israel," the 430 years could not have begun until Genesis 35 at the earliest because that was when Jacob's last son was born. Moreover, since the verse speaks of "the children of Israel, who dwelt in Egypt," it is reasonable to begin counting from Genesis 46 because that is when Jacob's family actually moved to Egypt. In Galatians 3 Paul is not necessarily referring to the giving of the promise in Genesis 12. Though that is when God first gave the promise to Abraham, God repeated the promise to Isaac and again to Jacob. Therefore, it is also reasonable to begin counting the 430 years from Genesis 28 when God repeated the promise to Jacob. In light of these details, conventional biblical chronology is not, in fact, off by a couple hundred years.

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