When Science Casts Doubt on Religious Details

Dear Readers, this post is a long one, I know. But it starts a conversation I hope you’ll follow through my blog: What happens when religious beliefs or texts collide with the real world? What does it mean to be authentic? And how can we get beyond the dichotomy of true-or-false to see what lies at the heart of our beliefs? –BWL

At the beginning of February, some archaeologists from Tel Aviv University made the shocking discovery that, contrary to their inclusion in the bible, there couldn’t have been any camels used as pack animals in Israel during the time of Abraham since they weren’t introduced into the Levant from Egypt until much, much later (in time though, the Times assures us, to be historically appropriate by the time of the Three Wise Men).

Wait, you say, who’s still shocked by anachronisms in the Bible?

In perhaps more surprising science-disproves-scripture news, on February 4th, an official Mormon church statement dismissed the fact that DNA tests do not endorse The Book of Mormon’s tradition that Native Americans descended from a Middle Eastern tribe called the Lamanites. In doing so, they noted that “the primary purpose of the Book of Mormon is more spiritual than historical,” which is almost identical to an Israeli scholar’s response to the camel study: “[The Bible] is a spiritual source, not a historical one.”

My first response to these stories was:

Brook Wilensky-Lanford is the author of Paradise Lust: Searching for the Garden of Eden (Grove Press, 2011) and the editor-in-chief of online literary magazine Killing the Buddha.

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