Saturday, February 23, 2008

Review of a Review of a Report

PEQ vol. 139, #3, November 2007 (published by the PEF) first came to my attention at the tail-end of November, & I was obviously thrilled to see Lv1 cited by Peter James in his review (pp. 213-7; currently available online for the ridiculous price of $36) of David Ussishkin's final report on Lachish. Today I took the time to study it, & will share my review of his review, even though I had already published my own review of it 3 years ago (including this alternate version at Eisenbrauns)!

Peter James, as expected, focuses mainly on poking even more holes into the Swiss-cheese chronology upheld by mainstream/conventional historians. He along with David Rohl have published ideas over the past couple of decades that have become known as The Glasgow Chronology, or The New Chronology. A major emphasis of their hypothesis centers on a contraction of Egyptian chronology by several centuries.

So in this review, he begins with some compliments on the inclusion of finds from pre-Ussishkin excavations, but homes right in on fragmented bowls bearing Hieratic inscriptions "with the regnal years on some bowls assumed to be pharaonic." Here he cites several problems:
  • The lack of Egyptian parallels

  • Curiosities in the hieratic

  • Possibly a Hebrew word for "grain"

  • Their local manufacture

  • The assumption that they record a local-temple tax

He likewise questions Ussishkin's characterization of the Level-6 temple as Egyptian, citing a 1999 article where Ussishkin himself had retracted an earlier suggestion that its plan was Egyptian rather than a typical Canaanite one.

The bulk of his review, however, focuses on the deduction that Level 3's destruction was by Sennacherib in 701 BC. Here, James stresses that this association "does not depend on new evidence ... but on the lack of evidence from other strata"...

His next paragraph hints at, but does not flat out propose, that Sennacherib destroyed Level 4 rather than 3. He notes that neither the Assyrian nor Hebrew records state that Sennacherib's army burned Lachish, & devotes the subsequent paragraph to trumpeting this possibility. James concludes the matter by emphasizing that "the logic for dating [it]s destruction to 701 BC is seriously flawed."

(In anticipation of Lv2, I would interject here that the date of 701 itself is seriously flawed. Verily, we live in a cursed/flawed world!)

James offers no solution to the problem, nor chooses levels; remember, his primary role is that of a hole-poker (or cave discoverer, in what was previously viewed as rock-solid ground). He pleads with scholars/historians to consider "other possibilities ... urgently & open-mindedly" before Level 3's date concretionizes.

My opinion: Too late!

Then comes my favorite paragraph (for self-centered reasons), containing these 2 sentences:

"Since Ussishkin's 1977 article, there has been a tendency to assume that the floruit of the lmlk-jar ceased with the destruction of Lachish III in 701 BC, reinforced by the argument of Na'aman that all the vessels were manufactured in the reign of Hezekiah to store rations in preparation against Sennacherib's impending attack. Yet, as Mazar & others have frequently pointed out, lmlk jars are found at many sites in strata deemed to be 7th century (see e.g. Mazar, Amit & Ilan 1996, 208-209; Grena 2004, 333-338; van der Veen forthcoming, Excursus I), including a number of one-period settlements."

The full Mazar reference is:

Mazar, A., Amit, D. and Ilan, Z., 1996. 'Hurvat Shilhah: an Iron Age site in the Judean desert', in J.D. Seger, Retrieving the past: Essays on Archaeological Research & Methodology in Honor of Gus W. Van Beek (Winona Lake, IA IN: Eisenbrauns), 193-212.

(Their original publication on this subject was in Eretz-Israel vol. 17 back in 1984, an article entitled "The 'Border Road' Between Michmash & Jericho & the Excavations at Horvat Shilhah".)

One significant flaw in what James wrote that I should clarify: LMLK "jars" have not been found in 7th-century strata, but LMLK handles.

Then he notes that this 2005 report includes "a softening" of Vaughn's 1999 opinion that some of these 7th-century contexts "mean nothing in terms of dating" (p. 107 of Vaughn's book in reference to Arad handles; p. 301 of Lv1). Now, co-authoring with Barkay, they join Ussishkin in considering the possibility that these royal jars continued in use during the early part of the 7th century--but only elsewhere in Judah; James does not include their p. 2169 quote, "[I]t is clear that the LMLK phenomenon is limited to Level III" [i.e., at Lachish only].

James points out the hopeful prospect for "seeds of a more realistic picture", rather than one that imagines a production center that was established in the late 8th, then reopened for business again in the late 7th to make Rosettes.

This leads James to state that the destruction of Lachish Level 3 cannot be used to define the end of, what's known as, the "Lachish III horizon" for pottery. In other words, King Hezekiah--or whoever ruled Judah when the LMLKs were made--would've kept producing pottery after Sennacherib (or whoever burned Level 3) left.

Another interesting point James raises, that I had not thought about before, is why the builders of what became Level 2 did not remove the siege ramp used to conquer Level 3, especially since one part of it covers a Level-2 roadway.

My conjectures:
  1. Maybe they were liberal preservationists, & took students there on field trips to proudly recount the history of how Sennacherib used it to defeat their ancestors!

  2. Maybe they had an ancient "Duh" moment, & couldn't fathom the possibility that any other army would ever reconquer the site, even though it had a prefabricated siege ramp--basically a sign announcing, "Welcome! Please conquer me!".

  3. Maybe they wanted to remove it, & knew they should remove it, but were just too f~(k|n' lazy.

  4. Maybe they decided to pave it over & use it to set a (very poor) standard for modern handicapped/wheelchair-access requirements (in answer to the proverbial question, Who designed these stupid, way-too-steep ramps?).

(By the way, feel free to post additional ideas--maybe together we can compile a David Letterman Top Ten list.)

The final page of his review discusses the contributions by the late Orna Zimhoni to the study of pottery, & some of the problems her way-too-early death caused.

He concludes with a very loud, & well-deserved, series of compliments to David Ussishkin for his accomplishments.

The pages that Peter James cited from my book, 333-8, span the first half of chapter 15, which includes Tables 29 & 30, available in an updated version online at the LMLK Stratigraphy page. The key point being the evidence to support my belief that about half the jars were made before Sennacherib's campaign against Judah, & the other half (shortly) thereafter.

Overall, I applaud Peter James for giving us an excellent, interesting review, which I would have done even if he had not cited my book.

Song of the week: "The Siege of Lachish" by Melechesh (click the song title to visit Amazon; click here for a 24-second sample; 328kb).
G.M. Grena

Monday, February 18, 2008

My Last Issues

I lied to Hershel Shanks.

I told him & others that I had a complete run of BAR magazine, but actually I've been missing 1 particular issue: vol. VIII #2, Mar/Apr 1982. This week I finally obtained a copy of this last issue for my collection. Though the covers are missing, as with any decent piece of literature, it's the content that counts.

The most interesting item in this one is, "BAR Jr.: On the Surface" by Hershel Shanks. He relates the story of one of his 2 daughters (I didn't even know he had any kids) finding a very rare, post-fired incised jar handle on the surface of Hazor. In this photo straddling pp. 42 & 43, you see what is labeled "a Syro-Hittite deity incised on a pottery handle from about 1,400 B.C." on the left, & LMLK VIP, Yigael Yadin with 6-year-old Elizabeth Shanks researching it on the right:

I've been a subscriber beginning with vol. 23 #4, Jul/Aug 1997, which bore a prophetic headline (in light of my research that supports the reliability/historicity of Chronicles): Biblical Minimalists Meet Their Challengers. I love God's sense of humor! Looking back now a decade hence, this issue was full of it!

The "First Person" editorial was titled, The End of the Paper Trail: Final Reports Must Go Electronic. Now we've seen benefits from not just the final ones, but the preliminary ones, the intermediate ones, & the post-final ones!

A major boost to my legacy of LMLK research & online publication of handles came in 2002 when I obtained permission to study Mizpah artifacts excavated by William Frederic Bade. The "Backward Glance" section of this issue was titled, A Legacy of Publication: William Frederic Bade and Tell en-Nasbeh.

Thanks again to the author of that article, Jeffrey R. Zorn, for autographing this particular issue for me! Altogether, 15 issues of my collection are autographed by 16 VIPs, including vol. 1 #1 by founder/editor, Hershel Shanks.

I haven't read every single issue yet--only about half of them. It's not because I'm not interested or offended by their content; I simply haven't had time yet.

I like magazines. Besides BAR, currently I'm subscribed to 15 engineering ones, 12 social(?) ones (university, health, automotive, religion, etc.), 2 philatelic ones, & yesterday I received the latest issue of Artifax (Winter 2008) edited by Gordon Govier. (Thanks to Clyde Billington for managing to mention LMLKs on p. 16 in an article on Goliath's height & giants encountered during the Exodus, believe it or not! And some people probably think I stretch the limits on the relevance of LMLK research!)

Also this week, in another twist of irony, came my last issue of Archaeology:

Though I bought a few used copies from 1996-1998 at the main Redondo Beach public library, my subscription began with vol. 51 #3, May/Jun 1998. It contains nothing relevant to my life over the past decade. I'm sure that if I were to take the time tonight to thumb through every BAR issue, & every Archaeology issue, more than half of the BARs would contain decent, interesting, relevant material, whereas only a handful of Archaeologys might.

For the most part, Archaeology's material isn't offensive ... just spots of baloney--insults & arrogance--scattered about to let you know they're right & you're either wrong or stupid. When I consistently read unscientific Evolution-bias, the rational section of my admittedly little brain waves its figurative hands & asks, "Why are you paying them money for this?"

I want info on the world of archeology. I don't want to hear a fairytale from an atheist's imagination; I could get children's books for 25-cents each on a local library's fundraising table, & get the same net benefit. That price would be less than what I'm paying for my Archaeology subscription, & would serve the culture of my local community rather than some arrogant, closed-minded liberal in Long Island City (the magazine's headquarters).

Since this will be my final issue of Archaeology, I thought it would be fitting to give it a royal send-off by reviewing its contents.

Cover: Terrific color shot of Nefertiti's famous eyeless bust, with uninspired, uninteresting, ambiguous captions.

Inside-cover & p. 1 spread: ad for the Houston Museum of Natural Science's exhibit of Lucy, featuring an insult to every human being, "Her story is Your story", & the question, "How do you relate?" I don't, & anybody who wants to believe their ancestor was a lifeless pile of minerals should stop & think about it independently for a few hours, if they're not too willfully lazy to do so. I wouldn't mind if the caption had been something objective like, "Come see the fossil that confused, depressed, &/or masochistic people believe is their common ancestor." I hate false advertising.

P. 5, photo of contributing journalist, Mara Hvistendahl: She's hot! Too bad they didn't spread her beautiful image over the space taken by the stupid Lucy ad.

P. 6, award presented to archeologist James Wiseman: Congratulations for his contributions to the field!

P. 8, letters to the editor: Informative, though nothing of interest to me; boring compared to BAR's letters.

Pp. 10-11, World Roundup: I've enjoyed this relatively new section where they show a world-map with featured archeological happenings all over the place. Nothing of particular interest in this issue, but one annoying comment about a "500,000-year-old Homo erectus bone". Too bad the editor didn't have space for a reference to what scientific evidence that nice, round, even number was based upon. I guess we're just supposed to bow & believe, like lambs at an intellectual slaughter.

Pp. 12-5, From the Trenches: Nice article on some fake & real exhibits of Emperor Qin Shihuangdi's tomb-statue soldiers. Another article on an interesting, online virtual presentation of a site in Turkey. 5 other articles of no particular interest.

P. 16, Conversation--Evolution Overdrive--The Human Genome Is Changing Faster Than Ever: An interview with associate editor, Zach Zorich about "race, breeding with Neanderthals, & Zach's lousy education." That quote accurately represents my opinion of the article. I also agree with the first statement he makes about the belief taught in schools as fact, that human evolution stopped because our population is too large. His response: "Yeah, your teachers were all wrong [laughs]." Yes, funny indeed. Ha! Ha! Ha! We were all misinformed, but it was all in good fun I suppose, all for a good cause--the promotion of the religion known as Evolution Science. Of course, nothing Evolution's adherents are teaching students nowadays will be laughed at 50 years from now, I'm sure. (There's that voice in my head again--I actually paid for this issue of Archaeology.)

Pp. 18, 20, & 56, Insider--Do Civilizations Really Collapse: I don't have any complaints about this article, but its content is more relevant to anthropology & ecology than archeology despite its quotes from archeologists.

Pp. 22-7, Blackbeard Surfaces: I don't care about some criminal from only 300 years ago, but the discussion of retrieving his ship's artifacts is worthwhile for people interested in that era, & that technology. The most interesting part for me was the sidebar on p. 25 discussing the removal of concretion from an iron cannon. Throughout the article, they carefully label this "rock-solid" patina as "concretion" so nobody will get the idea that rocks can form in a few centuries instead of millions of years. Nice photo of a stemware encased in rock concretion on p. 27.

Pp. 28-32, Nefertiti's Eyes: Again, excellent photos throughout the article. I got a kick out of the "'royal' marker" discussion near the end, which was used for distinguishing images of the king.

Pp. 33-5, Harvard Reconnects with Its Native American Past: I actually liked this article since it mentions John Eliot's famous 1663 Bible, the first printed in America, though in an Algonquin language practically extinct now. My rare-Bible-leaf collection, which preceded my LMLK collection, contains 1 page from this 1st edition, & another page from the 2nd edition (you can distinguish them because the 2nd edition contained English comments at the beginning of each chapter).

Pp. 36-9, New Hope for a Forgotten City: Assos, an archeological site in Turkey, not a typo referring to Evolution proponents! Overall a nice, well-done article for people interested in that area. The final remarks by author Mark Rose are ironic in light of my work this past week in promoting Karel Vriezen's excavation of Chephirah: "How could a place, with such impressive remains, vast unexplored areas, & a remarkable setting be so little known?"

Pp. 40-5, Rebuilding a Treasure Ship: The article by the hot honey/babe/chick mentioned above. Of course, if I were to hand out awards for this issue, hers would win hands down. Not a single old-Earth, evolutionary suggestion in it! An exceptionally intelligent journalist! She gets an A+ for including a photo of a 15th-century porcelain rice bowl with a large ink-inscription on the bottom.

Pp. 46-9, Shovel Bums--Inside the World of Contract Archaeology: OK article on guys digging in America.

Pp. 50-3, Ghosts of the Taino: Excavation of a site in Puerto Rico with some interesting carved glyphs.

Pp. 54-5, 57-8: Ads that my subscription helped pay to print & distribute.

Pp. 59-63, 65, Letter from South Africa--Home of the Modern Mind--Did Culture Begin with the Color Red & a Stone Age Clambake?: You have got to be kidding me! I paid for this?! This genius-quote on p. 59 really takes the cake: "[P]eople living 164,000 years ago had a culture as complex as modern-day hunter-gatherers." Wow. Really? How about the people living 165,000 years ago--were they as mentally disorganized as the editors of this magazine?

Pp. 66-71: More ads that my subscription $ paid for.

P. 72, Artifact--Mycenaean krater with "spotted bull": Yes, that's exactly how it's described. I could not think of a better way to describe the past decade of Archaeology magazine. Great way to end a subscription.

A much more economical way to stay abreast of developments in the world of archeology is at Archaeologica's News page.

Song of the week: "Time To Say Goodbye" by Sarah Brightman (click the song title to visit Amazon; click here for a 24-second sample; 328kb).
G.M. Grena

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Chephirah--The Biblical Village Roars Again

2008 began with an exciting lost-&-found story!

Back in January, Meindert Dijkstra, from the faculty of Universiteit Utrecht, informed me that his colleague, Karel Vriezen, had excavated extensively surveyed this site back in the 1970s. Furthermore, he had found a LMLK handle there!

This came as quite a surprise because of its absence from Yosef Garfinkel's otherwise-excellent, exhaustive LMLK corpus published in BASOR 271 (August 1988), & Andrew Vaughn's additional work in the 1990s (formally published in "Theology, History, and Archaeology in the Chronicler's Account of Hezekiah").

"Kefireh", as it was named in Conder & Kitchener's ambitious/successful survey of Western Palestine (SWP) conducted in the 1870s, is situated just north of modern Qatana ("Katanneh" on this map):

(And a bold-capital-letter THANKS to Todd Bolen for making this image available! If you'd like to own the entire hi-resolution map, please visit his Life in the Holy Land site, especially the "Survey of Western Palestine: The Maps" CD page.)

But I was in for an even bigger surprise when I learned that Dr. Vriezen's excavation survey of the site had been omitted from what is currently a standard reference work, "The New Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land" (NEAEHL), published by the Israel Exploration Society in 1993.

Nor does it appear in another otherwise-excellent reference book, "Archaeological Encyclopedia of the Holy Land" by Avraham Negev & Shimon Gibson!

It's not too hard to see why it's been overlooked, at least if someone were using this SWP map due to how the illustrator blended it into the terrain symbols (thanks again to Prof. Bolen for helping me find it).

However, LMLK VIP Anson F. Rainey & co-author R. Steven Notley get kudos for at least mentioning the site in their new landmark work, "The Sacred Bridge"! While discussing the location of the 4 towns in Joshua 9:17, p. 126 states: "Chephirah is easy since the perfect toponym is preserved at Khirbet el-Kefirah." Here's a small section of the map accompanying the text, whose caption reads "The Battle of Gibeon":

Much easier to see in that one!

Aside from Joshua 9:17, it's also mentioned in 18:26, & not again until the redundant passages of Ezra 2:25, Nehemiah 7:29, & apocryphal 1Esdras 5:19. All 4 citations merely name it in lists; apparently no specific actions took place there worthy of recording.

Karel J. H. Vriezen described the results of his excavation extensive surveys in ZDPV ("Zeitschrift des Deutschen Palastina-Vereins"; a journal published by the German Society for the Exploration of Palestine) band 91, heft 1, 1975, pp. 135-58; but somehow, for some reason, it's been overlooked by most scholars. So here's an "in-your-face" attention-getter:

Unfortunately for me, it was written in German, so it would be a bit tedious for me to translate here, but I'll include a few snippets. I am German illiterate, so please refer to the original publication for accuracy--my English quotes below are only ballpark estimates!

The ZDPV article's title is "Hirbet Kefire - eine Oberflachenuntersuchung" (a top-level survey/investigation). The first paragraph gives its coordinates as "1602.1375", & says it's on a 2-km summit situated at the upper edge of the western wastelands of the Judean mountains, 3 km southwest of el-Qubebe ("el Kubeibeh" on the SWP map), just above the village of Qatanne.

He visited the site while excavating a Lutheran Church in Jerusalem with Ute Lux from 1970-1974. It was not a very well known site at the time, but had a promising description from some visitors. It became the site of an apprenticeship/training course by the Deutsches Evangelisches Institut under Lux's direction on September 15, 1970. There they collected ceramic shards on the upper terrace as well as the north & east slopes. Dr. Vriezen revisted the site in June & July of 1973, then again in March & July of 1974. The article itself was written on "7.10.1974" (I'm guessing that's October 7th, not July 10th).

Here's a lo-res image of a nice fold-out map in ZDPV (Abb. 1):

As you can see, there was a citadel in the east/northeast corner of the site at the summit of the hill, & a lower city on the large terrace west of it. What you can't see in this image are 3 graves situated to the northeast of the site; drawings of their shapes are provided in Abb. 2 on p. 141. Tafel 12-15 show photos of the site, which is terrific to have since I've been told that the site has now been built over again in modern times.

He found evidence for 2 periods of ancient building activity--the Iron-II & Byzantine. Abb.3 on p. 144 & Abb. 4 on p. 145 show drawings of pottery cross-sections from Early Bronze, Iron I, & Iron II; Abb. 5 on p. 147 shows some Hellenistic ware; Abb. 6 on p. 148 shows some Roman ware; & Abb. 7 on p. 150 shows some Byzantine ware. It was a site with quite an extensive history of occupation! Of course the most interesting part begins near the bottom of p. 143:

"Auf zwei henkeln dieser Gruppe wurden Konigsstempel festgestellt, einer mit dem vierflugeligen und einer mit dem zweiflugeligen Symbol.

On 2 handles of this group King's-stamps were analyzed, one with the 4-winged & one with the 2-winged symbol.

Dr. Dijkstra informed me that they were both surface finds. Here's Footnote 22 attached to the end of the sentence:

"Der Abdruck des vierflugeligen Symbols ist leider sehr schlecht erhalten; er gehort wahr-scheinlich zu den umribhaften Darstellungen. Vgl. P. Welten, Die Konigs-Stempel (Wiesbaden 1969) S. 10 ff. Bei unserem Exemplar sind der Korper und die vier Flugel noch zu erkennen, der Kopf aber nicht. Besser erhalten ist der Abdruck des zweiflugeligen Symbols; er gehort in die Gruppe der ausgefuhrten Darstellungen. Im Zentrum hebt die Scheibe sich deutlich ab; die leicht geschwungenen Flugel enden in etwas hochgezogenen Spitzen; 'Kopf' und 'Schwanz' sind deutlich erkennbar, wobei der 'Schwanz' durch zwei Langslinien aufgeteilt ist. Bei beiden Beispielen ist die sonst vorhandene Inschrift nicht zu sehen.

The impression of the 4-winged symbol unfortunately is poorly preserved; it probably belonged to the schematic representations. (Here he cites pp. 10-6 of Welten's 1969 book, which discuss the x4x seals.) In our example the body & the 4 wings are barely recognizable, not even the head. The impression of the 2-winged symbol is better preserved; the gracefully drawn wings end in uplifted points; 'head' and 'tail' are clearly recognizable, whereby the 'tail' is divided by 2 longitudinal lines
[amazingly similar verbiage to my objective 'APL' used in my 2004 book]. In both examples the inscription usually available is not to be seen."

However, in our correspondence, Dr. Dijkstra said that one of the handles does not have any seals, even though it is obviously Type 484. The other, which is shown in a photo in Tafel 15.C, has a very deep impression of an x2x. He identified it as a Z2D, observing a "Zayin at the right side of the tail"; however, when I first saw the 1975 photo, I immediately felt it was not a Z2D, but a G2T based on its apparently inverted rays/beams in the icon's tail. But since the photo is so dark, I can't say for sure that what I perceive to be the inverted form of the rays/beams is not merely shadows, in which case the icon seems to resemble the H2D. (In previewing my electronic publication of it last night, Floridian collector/researcher, Michael Welch agreed with me.) We won't know for sure until I can obtain a better photo, which I've been assured I'll receive.

For now, I just added a standard cropping per the G2T design, & added it to the x2x page of The LMLK Research Website (presently #84 thereon; it's a 10:00 orientation, xxx ware, no incisions). I'm also going to accept at face value his statement that the other handle is completely stampless, though now that I've translated the original publication, I'm going to request a detailed photo of it as well.

As an interesting sidenote, Tafel 15.D shows the typical pre-fired Plus mark on a small handle (again, 1 of 2 found).

The final & very long section of his article discusses Biblical/historical views of the site, followed by a conclusion on p. 158 that includes this LMLK sentence:

"Die Auffindung zweier Krughenkel mit Konigsstempeln schliebt die Lucke, die es in der Distributionskarte dieser Stempel im nordlichen Bereich ihrer Verbreitung zwischen dem Hugelland (Geser) und dem Zentrum des Berglandes (el-Gib) gab.

The discovery of 2 jug handles with King's-stamps closes the gap, which was in the distribution map of these stamps in the northern area between the Hill country (Gezer) & the center of the Mountain country (el-Jib).

Indeed it does fill an important gap ... not quite as big now as it was in 1974, but still a gap as you can see on my updated site map.

Revue Biblique vol. 84 #3 (July 1977; a French journal published by Ecole Biblique) also contains an abridged summary/report from K. Vriezen on Khirbet Kefire in its "Chronique Archeologique" section spanning pp. 412-6. Here's the first page in your face again, & an equivalent French site drawing based on the German one in ZDPV:

Since my French translation skills are every bit as unreliable as my German, I'll cut right to the chase with this sentence from p. 415:

"A la céramique du Fer se rattachent deux anses à estampille royale.

To the Iron-age pottery belong 2 royal-stamp handles.

It's rather amazing that even Andre Lemaire didn't catch this & bring it to anyone's attention during the 1980s or 1990s, but I've done my best to bring it to everyone's attention now!

If anyone knows what the modern Arabic word "Kefireh" for the Hebrew word "EKFYRE" (Strong's 3716) means, please post a comment. I noticed that in Joshua, this is the only one of the 4 cities named with a definite-article Hey prefix & feminine(?) Hey suffix; so it would seem to read "The Chephirah", similar to "KFYR" (Strong's 3715) for "young lion" in numerous other verses, except for the common Aramaic translation of "villages" (KFYRYM) in Nehemiah 6:2.

Was this "The Young Female Lion", or "The (feminine) Village", or something else?

Song of the week: "Lost in the Travel Section" by John Archer (click the song title to visit Amazon; click here for a 27-second sample; 360kb).
G.M. Grena

Saturday, February 02, 2008

GRENa, EGGertS, & HAMs

When I first received notification from the Director of Creation Evangelism at Answers in Genesis [AiG], Cecil Eggert, that I'd be having breakfast with Ken Ham & their wives, I knew I'd be blogging about it, & immediately determined the title would be this takeoff on the Dr. Seuss classic!

Nebuchadrezzar/Nebuchadnezzar, king of ancient Babylon, was the first king mentioned in the Bible as being a "king of kings" (MLK MLKYM in Ezekiel 26:7 & MLK MLKYA in Daniel 2:37); Artaxerxes, from the Persian empire, was the 2nd (again, the Aramaic MLK MLKYA in Ezra 7:12). Jesus Christ is 3rd on the list, & even though Revelation applies the title twice (BASILEUS BASILEOU in 17:14 & 19:16), only Paul (1Timothy 6:15) qualified His title with the definite article: the King of kings (O BASILEUS TOU BASILEOUTOU).

Being the King of kings means that there are kings to be the King over; & the undisputed king of Young-Earth Creationism is Ken Ham, the president & CEO of AiG.

On Saturday, Jan. 26th, I attended an evening worship service at Grace Chapel in Lancaster, CA. Not only had I never been to this particular place of worship, but I had never even been to Lancaster (about a 90-minute drive from Redondo Beach when there's no traffic jam, & there was no jam on this occasion ... [Thank you, God!]). Along the way, I was treated to some spectacular geologic formations on either side of Hwy 14, demonstrating the aftermath of the Genesis Flood. Never had I seen so many near-vertical strata.

Here's a link to a nice page documenting them--notice in particular photos 18 & 19 along Hwy 14.

I later learned that one group in particular near the San Andreas fault line that terminated abruptly in mid-air are called Vasquez Rocks--a national park where TV shows & movies have been filmed. Here's a view from above courtesy of Google Earth:

When I arrived, I got a kick out of the church bulletin welcoming visitors, with an offer for a "king size candy bar":

After half an hour of song, an offering, & ministry news by the local pastor (Chris Johnson), Mr. Ham began his lecture, entitled: Genesis--Key to Reaching Today's World.

Most of his material consists of the same-old, same-old good news he's been preaching for many years, but he does a great job of keeping it fresh & updated. The most impressive highlight now is his use of videos that have been produced for the Creation Museum, which just opened last year. These videos just became available on DVD at the end of last year. They are of such high quality (typical of AiG), that Mr. Ham said, "You'll think the Discovery Channel got converted!"

The 1st one he showed was on the complexity of eyeballs, juxtaposed with manmade cameras. Then he highlighted a widely publicized quote from the idiot (my terminology for the shooter, not Mr. Ham's) who went on a shooting spree at Jokela High School in Finland back on 11-7-07. He pointed out that this person was only being consistent with the religion being taught in Science classrooms around the world.

Next he showed how numerous church buildings in England have been converted for other uses such as bars, shops--even a tattoo parlor. Why? Because relatively few Europeans worship God. Why? Because they view Genesis as a myth. Why? Because church leaders, who were supposed to watch for our souls (Hebrews 13:17), compromised with evolutionists in their mythological belief of millions of years.

Ken Ham is a master of graceful transitions from absurd humor to sobering reality, & back & forth.

Take, for instance, when he pointed out common challenges faced by preachers today as they explain foundational principles from Genesis 1-11. Peter & Paul didn't have to contend with questions like, "Hey, Apostles Peter & Paul, what do you do with dinosaurs?" "Excuse me, Martin Luther, what do you do with radiometric dating?"

Next point: Our enemy's tactics have never changed. Genesis 3:1 is just as relevant today as it was when Paul penned 2Corinthians 11:3-4. Later this year, he said AiG will be formally publishing the results of a survey of young adults, which reveals that most of them who entered public schools believing in God, graduated disbelieving in God; & the main reason is that they learned to doubt the Bible.

Then he asked the congregation (somewhere in the neighborhood of 600-700 by my estimate) why they believe in Jesus. And the answer is the same as it was in 1Corinthians 15:3 & 15:4--"The Scriptures". Again, he emphasized the problem facing the church world today is because of pastors who compromised the historicity of Genesis. It's impossible to understand why there's Death & Suffering today unless you have a proper understanding of history recorded in Genesis.

Halfway through his lecture around 6:35, he reassured us that he was "almost near the end", but quickly added, "I always say that ... What time am I supposed to finish this anyway? 7:30? 8:00? What time is it now?" Again, a great transition from the preceding subject--I love that!

What does Ken Ham love? Matthew 19:4-6: "Have ye not read? ..." He loves how Jesus certainly wasn't embarrassed about the history recorded in Genesis.

He played another museum video--one on Mt. St. Helens, featuring amazing similarities between that observed catastrophe, & the unobserved one that formed Grand Canyon.

Here I have to say, that even though I own these DVDs, the way he presented them during this lecture just really gave them a more memorable context. I can't imagine how anyone could watch this 2-minute video & still choose to believe Grand Canyon was formed over millions of years. Unfortunately, most scientists, particularly geologists, have never had the opportunity to see/hear this sort of argument from an alternative interpretation. It's truly sad. But as Mr. Ham noted from Psalm 11:3, if your foundations are destroyed, what can you do?

He closed his lecture with the riveting 2-minute dramatization of the Flood's initiation, from the thunderous, silence-shattering closing of the ark's door, to scared fish at the bottom of the ocean as the "fountains of the deep broke", then following a monstrous, God-only-knows how high, indiscriminate tidal wave as it swept over the land. Makes ya wonder how high the water has to rise before some people will focus on the possibility that God exists, & that they will be held accountable eventually whether they want to be or not.

Well, the next day, I decided to go back for 2 more lectures held at Lancaster's fairgrounds, in the Poppy Pavilion. They were scheduled for the evening, & I decided to take a small detour to the Hebrew Union College library near downtown L.A. to check/copy some material for a very important LMLK subject I'll be discussing in a separate blog.

One small problem ... somebody decided to hold the 14th Annual SAG Awards--without my permission--at the adjacent Shrine Auditorium!

In this image (also courtesy of Google Earth), the Shrine is in the bottom-right, & I drew a line connecting it to the library in the top-left. The police had the entire block around the auditorium barricaded off, & what's worse--they were using the library parking lot for limo drivers after dumping off the actors & actresses. When I realized that this may be the closest I ever get to Angelina Jolie in the flesh (<1,000 feet!) made the academic decision to press onward for the sake of scholarship despite my great tribulation, I went around the block, got in line with all the black stretch-limos & massive black hummers (I drive a green mini-SUV), & entered the library's lot, where I was greeted by a beefed-up bouncer who looked at me like, "You can't be serious, can you?"

Before he could say it, I rolled down my window & said, "I just need to visit the library for 15 minutes." He actually let me park! I went in, found my LMLK material, & exited 15 minutes later as promised. Despite all the commotion, & some fierce rain along the way, I was still able to get to Lancaster on time with about 5 minutes to spare! Either God answers prayers, or I was extremely lucky on Sunday! (Not quite Abiogenesis-odds lucky, but lucky still the same!)

After a couple of songs, Chris Johnson introduced Ken Ham with a cute anecdote about meeting him in an Atlanta airport. He knew who he was, & was trying hard to persuade him to lecture at his church in California. Well, Pastor Johnson's mother, who was watching from a distance, knowing her son's desire to introduce lost souls to the Lord, later asked him,"Did he get saved?"

That was funny enough, but then Mr. Ham opened the lecture by commenting on all the rain we'd been having, & said in his Australian accent, "It's all because of Global Warming, y' know..." I really love this guy! Later, he told us that when reporters ask him if he believes in Global Warming, he says, "Yes, Earth has been warming up ever since the Flood, & is going to continue warming, until it burns up!"

(Note--actually, what he means is that it's been warming since the Ice Age caused by the Flood, but most reporters don't have enough of a background in the Bible or Science to understand technical details like that.)

About 1,500 people attended this lecture, & since technically it wasn't a worship service, there were a bunch of kids & teenagers creating distractions. Most of the crowd was respectful, but it only takes a few undisciplined brats to spoil an entire occasion. During intermission between sessions, I switched to a different section, but encountered the same problem. (Sigh.)

He entitled this 1st lecture The Loss of Biblical Authority & the Age of the Earth, & at the outset stated a desire to address 3 questions:
  1. The age of the Earth--Does it matter?

  2. Six literal days or long periods of time?

  3. Is there evidence for a young world?

It ran from about 6:10 to 7:25, & like the night before, featured several of the newly produced videos from the museum. One was about coal, noting that it takes about 10 feet of plant material to form 1 foot of coal, & that the lack of roots running through coal seams indicates that these massive layers were produced in a short, singular event--not over many thousands or millions of years.

During this 1st segment, he briefly discussed alternative interpretations of Genesis such as the Gap Theory, Day-Age Theory, Theistic Evolution, Progressive Creationism, Local Flood Theory, & Framework Hypothesis. He made the point that they were all inspired by the common belief in millions of years of time. Theologians who promote those interpretations insist that "day" in Genesis 1 doesn't mean an ordinary day; it could mean thousands or millions of years.

So in the 2nd segment, he focused on the Hebrew word for "day", which was used 2,301 times in the Old Testament. Furthermore, 410x it appears with a number, & is always translated as an ordinary day; 38x "evening" & "morning" are used without "day", in the context of an ordinary day; & 23x "evening" or "morning" are used with "day" for an ordinary day.

To reinforce the point with humor, he showed an extremely cute cartoon of a very old, frail-looking man using a walker to march around Jericho, & asked rhetorically if Joshua marched for 7 days or 7 thousand years. He also showed a cartoon of an old man in a very tired-looking, wrinkled-skin whale wearing glasses, & asked if Jonah was in the fish's belly for 3 million years (sorry, I was not able to find a link to this one online, but you can easily imagine it after seeing the one of Joshua at Jericho in the link above).

In the 3rd segment, he emphasized that 90% of the scientific processes used by Evolution proponents actually give ages for the world in less than billions of years. The evolutionists merely ignore them because they don't support their belief.

One is the amount of salt we can measure filling seas today; another is the deposition of sediment on the ocean floors; another is the wood in basalt rock at the Crinum Mine; & again, ending on a humorous note, he showed the famous photos of a spark plug in a rock, & his personal favorite--a petrified hat!

He closed this segment by showing the museum video on the Ice Age, which probably occurred shortly after the Flood due to all the volcanism warming the waters to cause precipitation, & atmospheric ash blocking the sun to cause significant snowfall. After the video, Mr. Ham emphasized that secular models to explain multiple Ice Ages are in flux & uncertain, while a global flood is a stable/reliable model; & we'll never experience another Ice Age because there will never be another global flood.

At the intermission, which some people refer to as either a "coffee break" or a "potty break", he said that AiG prefers to call them "book breaks" so that attendees can shop in the lobby for AiG books & videos! He always makes 2 funny remarks as he shows slides of material for sale:

"People who are new to the Creation/Evolution debate, always ask me, 'If I only get one book, which would you recommend?', & I say, 'These seven.'"

"And here's one geared toward children ... which means moms & dads will be able to understand it. ... And if they still can't understand it, they can ask their children to explain it to them."

After a 20-minute break (during which time I spent a few moments chatting with Mrs. Ham as we watched the crowds anxiously perusing & purchasing AiG's publications), he continued with a 50-minute lecture entitled Defending the Christian Faith in Today's World.

Whereas his other lectures are more run-of-the-mill textbook-based, this was more of a passionate, engaging discussion about the differences between the views held by evolutionists & creationists. He quoted extensively from atheists (primarily Carl Satan Sagan & Dick Richard Dawkins [strikethrough-humor by me, not Mr. Ham]) & the Bible (listed here in order of appearance: Romans 1:20-1; Romans 10:17; Matthew 12:30; James 4:4 Romans 1:18-9; Romans 8:7; Colossians 2:8; Isaiah 55:11; Ephesians 2:1-2; Ephesians 2:8 2Peter 3:9; Romans 10:14-5; 1Peter 3:15; 1Corinthians 1:21; Hebrews 11:6; & Romans 10:9).

Probably the most emotional moment was after Ephesians 2:1-2, when he pointed out that we can't raise our opponents from the dead; only God can. All we can do is study & present this information to them, then "relax" while the Holy Spirit does the hard work.

Our breakfast on Wednesday morning was not the first time I've dined with a celebrity (& even if you've never heard of Ken Ham, he really is an international celebrity who has been interviewed by every major English-speaking news organization on the planet, plus many foreign-language ones).

Back in 1984 when I moved to California, before I became a Protestant, I joined SPERDVAC, & at their annual banquet, I shared a table with 2 well-known character actors featured in numerous episodes of "I Love Lucy" (Jerry Hausner, who co-starred on the historic, pilot episode, & had a recurring role as Ricky's press agent at the Tropicana; Herb Vigran, who played the police officer who confronted Lucy & Ethel when they worked as Martians for a publicity stunt on the roof of the Empire State Building--he was frozen by their ray guns; if you read the IMDB pages I linked to, the credits for these 2 gentlemen read like a history of radio & TV in America during most of the 20th century).

It was an incredibly great honor to spend what turned out to be 75 minutes with Mr. Ham; I initially expected only about 30. By the conclusion of our breakfast, the consensus opinion was that I definitely had "zeal" for the Lord, & for AiG's ministry thereto! Since none of them knew much about me beforehand, other than that I was a strong supporter of AiG, I came prepared to answer 2 questions:
  1. What do you do for a living?

  2. What do you do in your spare time?

I had the 1st one pegged--that's the first that both parties asked me (separately, as they hadn't arrived at the same time). I explained that I had the good fortune of earning my living by 1Thessalonians 5:21--I test all things, & keep what's good! (I've never memorized any verses until I began working on Genesis last year, but that one came naturally.)

The 2nd one turned out to be a real curve ball regarding marriage, children, & dating (not necessarily in that order).

I can't remember exactly what triggered it, but towards the end, after we had finished our meals, I just began telling them that my hobby is LMLK research, & asked if they had a few minutes to see some show-&-tell items. I showed them a photo of Timnah jar #7202-2, & passed around Redondo #62. I told them about the material I've studied in museums & published, & also showed them a 9-26-1948 FDC. I capped my 2-minute lecture on King Hezekiah by showing them the Amariah Hannaniah bulla.

Before parting company, they presented me with some promotional gifts including 4 of the Creation Museum DVDs mentioned above:
  1. Six Days, for anyone who's not familiar with the literal interpretation of Genesis 1.

  2. Flood Geology, for anyone who doesn't know there's scientific evidence for a global flood, even if you don't believe the Genesis version.

  3. The Last Adam, for anyone who doesn't understand the concept of Christ's atoning sacrifice, & how it relates to Genesis.

  4. Created Cosmos, for everybody else--this is my favorite of the entire 8 DVDs played at the museum, & you can preview it on AiG's website at this link (click "View sample video" just under the price along the right side).

I thought it would be fun pass these along to anyone with a DVD player interested in the subject, but not already a Young-Earth creationist, who happens to discover this blog. So first-come, first-served. Scoffers & critics welcome! Feel free to include a personal insult directed towards me, AiG, or God (since Evolution proponents can't disprove Young-Earth creationism, & since they're infuriated by how easily the same evidence that supports their position also supports our position, the only arguments they have are ad hominem). You can request one by writing to me via the address provided along the left-side menu found on any page of The LMLK Research Website. Please make sure you put something attention-getting in the mail's subject so it won't be flagged as spam & trashed (& please do your best to compose the insult without relying on profanity, since that will be trashed as well; even if you've never applied your brain in a Science class, you're gonna have to use it now if you want one of these DVDs). I'll add a message to this blog when all 4 DVDs have been claimed; any not claimed about a month from now will be donated to local libraries.

All in all, it's been a landmark/historic week for me personally, which is why I put all the effort I did into this particular blog entry. I've been flooded with fond memories, & inundated by blessings!

Song of the week: "Five Feet High & Rising" by Johnny Cash (click the song title to visit Amazon; click here for a 29-second sample; 360kb).
G.M. Grena