Biblical Artistic License? Israeli Researchers Dispute Biblical Accounts Featuring Domesticated Camels In The Old Testament

220px-EylcamelFirst there was Bill Nye the Science Guy. Then those pesky fossilized apes. Now we have the faithless, blaspheming camels. Archaeologists from Tel Aviv University have used radiocarbon dating to conclude that the Bible’s description of conditions in 2000 to 1500 BC could not possibly be true — at least when it comes to the genus Camelus. Scientists say that the only problem with descriptions of camels in the Old Testament is that they could not possibly have been present as domesticated animals — something that did not occur until 900 BC.

Professors Erez Ben-Yosef and Lidar Sapir-Hen of Tel Aviv University’s Department of Archaeology and Near Eastern Cultures believe that they have found the first camel or at least the oldest known camel bones in the Arabian Peninsula at the site of a former copper smelting camp in the Aravah Valley. The site is on the border with Jordan from the Dead Sea to the Red Sea. The bones date back to the last third of the 10th century BC or later — decades after the Kingdom of David — and show wild not domesticated camels. None of the sites before the 9th century show camel bones.

Professors Erez Ben-Yosef and Lidar Sapir-Hen of Tel Aviv University’s Department of Archaeology and Near Eastern Cultures conclude that the camel research shows that the Bible is not only inaccurate in its historical account but the testing is “direct proof that the text was compiled well after the events it describes.”

That latter conclusion is not going to sit well with those who view the Bible as a literal and true account of creation and its aftermath. It would suggest that accounts were written much later with some artistic license.

This is not the first assault on the Biblical account by those pesky professors at Tel Aviv University. Previously they found the oldest intact human skull outside of Africa — a skull found in the Republic of Georgia that is 1.8 million years old. That is a tad over the 6000 years established by the Bible, according to creationists.

And now the camels. There is no word on the dancing camel in the Little Drummer Boy but presumably the camels were domesticated and dancing by that point.

22 thoughts on “Biblical Artistic License? Israeli Researchers Dispute Biblical Accounts Featuring Domesticated Camels In The Old Testament

  1. My bible dictionary suggests that these early references to camels may have been wrong. Donkeys would have been a more appropriate reference to transportation means. Just maybe our biblical scholars got the translating wrong. Most of this was handed down by work of mouth anyway! So what’s the big deal?

  2. Nit picking & not convincing. There’s plenty of rubbish in the Bible; why pick such a flimsy issue? It would not surprise me if the Indians rode camels in 7000 BC.

  3. Is Carbon Dating Reliable?

    by Helen Fryman

    Question: What about radiocarbon dating? Is it accurate?

    Response: I asked several people who know about this field. Their responses are numbered below.

    (1.) C14 dating is very accurate for wood used up to about 4,000 years ago. This is only because it is well calibrated with objects of known age. Example: wood found in a grave of known age by historically reliable documents is the standard for that time for the C14 content. This standard content of C14 can then be used for wood not associated with a historically documented date. Dates up to this point in history are well documented for C14 calibration.

    For object over 4,000 years old the method becomes very unreliable for the following reason: Objects older then 4,000 years run into a problem in that there are few if any known artifacts to be used as the standard. Libby, the discoverer of the C14 dating method, was very disappointed with this problem. He understood that archaeological artifacts were readily available. After all, this what the archeologist guessed in their published books.

    Some believe trees are known to be as old as 9,000 years. They use tree rings as the calibration standard. A lot of people doubt this claim for various good reasons I wont go into here. We believe all the dates over 5,000 years are really compressible into the next 2,000 years back to creation. So when you hear of a date of 30,000 years for a carbon date we believe it to be early after creation and only about 7,000 years old. If something carbon dates at 7,000 years we believe 5,000 is probably closer to reality (just before the flood).

    Robert Whitelaw has done a very good job illustrating this theory using about 30,000 dates published in Radio Carbon over the last 40 years. One of the impressive points Whitewall makes is the conspicuous absence of dates between 4,500 and 5,000 years ago illustrating a great catastrophe killing off plant and animal life world wide (the flood of Noah)!

    I hope this helps your understanding of carbon dating. If you have any more questions about it don’t hesitate to write.

    (2.) I just listened to a series of lectures on archaeology put out by John Hopkins Univ. The lecturer talked at length about how inaccurate C14 Dating is (as ‘corrected’ by dendrochronology). The methodology is quite accurate, but dendrochronology supposedly shows that the C14 dates go off because of changes in the equilibrium over time, and that the older the dates the larger the error.

    Despite this she continually uses the c14 dates to create ‘absolute’ chronologies. She says this is ok so long as you take into account the correction factors from dendrochronology. (They conveniently forget to mention that the tree ring chronology was arranged by C14 dating. The scientists who were trying to build the chronology found the tree rings so ambiguous that they could not decide which rings matched which (using the bristlecone pine). So they tested some of the ring sequences by C14 to put the sequences in the ‘right’ order. Once they did that they developed the overall sequence. And this big sequence is then used to ‘correct’ C14 dates. Talk of circular reasoning!!!!

    (3.) Even if the rate of decay is constant, without a knowledge of the exact ratio of C12 to C14 in the initial sample, the dating technique is still subject to question.

    (4.) Traditional 14C testing assumes equilibrium in the rate of formation and the rate of decay. In fact, 14C is forming FASTER than the observed decay rate. This skews the ‘real’ answer to a much younger age.

    You can find some further good information here: — read the full page if you get the chance.

  4. They were “special: camels that only the faithful could ride. Why not? Balaam had a talking donkey. Jonah spent three days inside a great fish. The dead being resurrected was almost common. A virgin gives birth. And believers love each other. What’s another miracle among friends?

  5. I was always intrigued by the 6000 year-old Earth dogma of the religionists. Literally read, the Christian Bible puts the Earth at that age if you go through some machinations with the generations of the people depicted . If that is true, somebody should tell the Sumarians who had invented glue about 1000 years before.

  6. Oops…
    I’ve always enjoyed Albert Einstein’s thoughts on the Bible. I’ll have to paraphrase as I don’t have a ready reference for the exact quote:~ “The Old Testament is a collection of myths and the central theme of the New Testament never happened.” A concept that corresponds exactly with my views.

  7. First of all the Bible doesn’t say the earth was created 6,000 years ago. That is misinformation by a very small number of people with little Biblical scholarship. For those of you that think this is what Biblica Scholarship teaches you are very misinformed. Second of all regarding the camel. One cannot make an assumption about the use of camels throughout the Middle East based upon discoveries in one location. After all the Middle East is a big place. There are other archeological diggings that show pictures of the use of camels and camel carts that date back to 2000 BC. Again one must be careful to make conclusions that are hard and fast based upon a small sample size. Also it could be that camels were not widely used until 900 BC in Israel. But that doesn’t say anything about Egypt or Babylon. Think about it. How long do you think it took before horses were used and domesticated on a wide basis. It may well have taken quite some time in certain locations. For example horses were used quite early in the Middle East, but if you were to try and find the earliest use of horses by Indians in North America it would be quite late. Again, one cannot make statements of use on a broad scope by a small sample size. And remember one arecheological find is often over turned by another. Much of what goes into making conclusions is often the result of presuppoistions made by the people making the conclusions.

    As to the age of the earth let me simply say the Bible doesn’t say. I could go into a long explanation, but no space here. I suggest reading some Biblical scholarship outside the Young Earth Creationists such as John Salhammer’s book GENEIS UNBOUND.

  8. When we, as lawyers, stand before juries and as we listen to the opposition’s “experts” we do so with the greatest skepticism accepting almost nothing at face and desiring to know and test the basis for every claim – cross-examination, the “greatest engine for the discovery of truth ever invented.” But when two “experts” who none of us know attack the bible we accept what they say without even a wimper. I wonder why?

  9. I am not one to put religious teachings above scientific facts but I would as Doug mentions be concerned the sampling size might be small.

  10. ” So what’s the big deal?”

    I think the big deal is that some social controversies seem to flow from the belief that the bible is literally true. It is not.

    That would seem to undermine the view that the bible leads us to positions which must not be compromised.

    I have no complaint with those who use the bible to guide their life.

    I do have a very serious complaint with those who believe their view of the bible leads to rules which should be enforced on the rest of us.

  11. In an archaeological dig at “the Pentagon,” an inscription was found that has been translated into the American English dialect as “there are known knowns, known unknowns, unknown unknowns,” and … well you get the drift.

    Meanwhile, in another search for the past they ran into the future:

    Archaeologists know little about what Babylon itself looked like during Hammurabi’s reign. “The remains of Hammurabi’s own city at Babylon are, unfortunately, almost inaccessible as the water table has risen too high to allow them to be explored,” writes researcher Harriet Crawford in a paper published in the book “The Babylonian World” (Routledge, 2007).

    (Ancient Babylon). Things change.

    Including language (The Unknown Language, Book Review) .. but be that as it may, the root word structures for “camel” run back into time into the notion of “lift” and “carry.”

    Think about how much our more modern English (Angles / Saxons) is based on an unreadable (now) “English” that our ancestors spoke and less often wrote during A.D. … much less B.C.

    Just sayin’ …

  12. Whom ever wrote the bible took great artistic license…. In almost every aspect…… But did they have camels that were domesticated…. I surly think so…. Just a hunch…..not for certain…

  13. Back when I was a human in a prior life my father was a non believer in the Bible stuff and took up following the lead of Archie Bunker. He did not have a dog and hence no guidance on earth sent down by God. I was a human in a prior life and spent time at the Giza Pyramids where there is a business there whereby the tourists ride camels out to the pyramids and the camels learn about the riders. Me, I rode a Missouri mule. They got the mules back in WWII from the U.S. military and hung on to them. You can find them in Nepal as well. Nothing like a Missouri mule. Stay off the camels.

  14. There are wishful thinkers on both sides of biblical archaeology. Supernatural and anti-supernatural predilections abound. Some do it to prove, some to debunk. No single discovery does either. The science itself (if it be proper to call it such) is barely 150 years old. We could learn from these camels, I think. They don’t get in a great hurry about much. They don’t seem predisposed to jump to rash conclusions (or even jump at all, with those god-awful humps!!). Just a nice, steady pace. Very wise, indeed.

  15. Camels, schmamels, the Brits found 800,000 year old human footprints and I’m wondering if there were any dinosaur prints next to them?

  16. Camels did exist in the Old Testament!!! DESPITE THE ASSERTIONS IN YOUR ARTICLE evidence continues to amass that camel domestication was widely known earlier. Randall Younker adds Late Bronze Age I petroglyphs (Greek = rock/carving) depicting domesticated camels from the Sinai to that evidence. What about the dating of the bones used by Dr.Lidar Sapir-Hen and Dr. Erez Ben-Yosef of Tel Aviv University in this case on the camel? Dr. Elizabeth Mitchell takes them to task in the article “The Bible Wins the Debate with Carbon-Dated Bones.”

  17. Everette: Facepalm.. This is precisely why peer reviews need to be done by experts from the field. Not by a gynecologist from Even if she could justify the suggested “six-century error” in this case (which if she could, she would be publishing elsewhere), the Bible would still be a way off.

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