A CNN website article asked, “Do camel bones discredit the Bible?” The Daily Mail in England wondered, “Do camels prove that the Bible is inaccurate?” The New York Times asserted, “Camels had no business in Genesis“. Fox News said, “Camel bones suggest error in the Bible, archaeologists say”. CNN’s religion blog famously asked, “Will camel discovery break the Bible’s back?” These were all headlines in February 2014. Perhaps you remember seeing a story like this?
Stories regarding the Bible often generate hyperbolic headlines and especially is this the case when the Bible critic crowd gets ahold of something they think discredits the Bible’s accuracy. That was certainly the case with the camel story. So what was the big deal?
Two archaeologists from the University of Tel Aviv excavated an ancient copper smelting camp in the Aravah valley, in the far south of Israel. They used radiocarbon dating on camel bones discovered in the Aravah to try to determine when camels were first domesticated to human use in Canaan/Israel. Their conclusion was that domesticated camels were not introduced to Israel before 940 B.C.E. The problem they state is that this date is about 500 years later than the Bible places camels in Canaan. For example, in Genesis chapter 24 Abraham’s servant takes 10 of Abraham’s camels and travels to the land of their relatives in search of an appropriate bride for Isaac (Rebekah).
According to the two researchers, this would have been impossible because camels were not domesticated in Israel at that time and would not be for hundreds of years, so the Biblical reference to camels is an anachronism. And thus, the Bible is disproved!
But really though? Is that it? This probably already seems to you like a pretty weak argument against the Bible, and it is. It is a classic example of overstating ones case, or of making sweeping generalizations based on limited data. Back in 2014, I researched the great camel controversy and found that it was pretty easily dealt with. I tried my hand at making a mini-documentary and I posted it on Youtube. It never exactly “went viral”. But I am happy with how it turned out. Please give it a watch and let me know what you think. It’s called, “Will Camel Discovery Break The Bible’s Back?”