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Grant R. Jeffrey
The Signature of God by Grant R. Jeffrey
Reviewed by Stephen Meyers, Th.D.
Jeffrey makes great archaeological claims to confirm the Bible, but extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence which is lacking in his book (His web site at: http://www.grantjeffrey.com/). Jeffrey quotes from books printed in the 1800s to make his extraordinary archaeological claims. These books are out of date. One should use the latest evidence. The problem is that the latest evidence shows how wrong he is. He needs to refer to specialists in the field to confirm his findings. There have been a number of big claims that have fizzled out after careful reevaluation. Lets look at several examples.
Nebuchadnezzars Tower of Babel
A careful reading of a modern translation of the "Inscription of Nebuchadnezzar" will show no mention of the tower of Babel. Nebuchadnezzar was restoring a temple. There were many ziggurats in ancient times. We can not be sure this is the same one.
Jeffrey claims there is an inscription about Josephs seven years of famine in Egypt. The inscription tells of seven good years, but only two years of famine are mentioned. It also says that they lived in a "castle" which indicates a much later time period than Joseph. This inscription comes from Yemen which is far away from Egypt. There could be vastly different conditions in weather so far away. There also needs to be epigraphic evidence to show the time of the writing. There is also poor documentation of his sources like what was the original language that this inscription was written in?
There is far better evidence in Egypt itself for years of famine. There is an interesting study done by Barbara Bell on the records of the Niles water levels. She concluded that in the middle of the 12th Dynasty there were erratic Nile water levels that would cause crop failure (Bell 1975, 223-269).
There is "The Tradition of Seven Lean Years in Egypt" written during the Ptolemaic period about the reign of Djoser that states: "To let thee know. I was in distress on the Great Throne, and those who are in the palace were in hearts affliction from a very great evil, since the Nile had not come in my time for a space of seven years. Grain was scant, fruits were dried up, and everything which they eat was short. Every man robbed his companion" (ANET 1969, 31).
The Story of Two Brothers is an Egyptian text that dates to about 1225 BC that is very similar to the story of Joseph. This tale tells how a young man was falsely accused of a proposal of adultery by the wife of his older brother after he had rejected her advances (ANET 1969, 23-25: Lictheim 1976, 2:203-211).
Jeffrey makes the extraordinary claim that there are writings of the Hebrews from the time of the Exodus in Sinai. These are not Hebrew inscriptions from the time of the Exodus. These are Aramaic inscriptions from the time of the Nabateans who rose to political power after Alexander the Great conquered Persia. The Nabateans developed an elongated cursive style of Aramaic uncial (capital letters) block script (Harpers Bible Dictionary 1985, 677). An example is seen on page 54 of Jeffreys book. The volumes of Corpus Inscriptionum Semiticarum have carefully documented the inscriptions in Sinai. The inscriptions are transliterated into Hebrew and translated into Latin.
Another book entitled The Inscriptions of the Sinai (Part 2) by Alan Gardiner and T. Peet contain translations and commentary of the Egyptian hieroglyphic inscriptions in the Sinai. There are no accounts of the Hebrews wandering in the Sinai.
There is a detailed account of these inscriptions at Verifying the Signature of God.
Dead Sea Scrolls
Grant Jeffrey states, "The scholars discovered that the manuscript copies of the most authoritative Hebrew text, Textus Recepticus, used by the King James translations in 1611, were virtually identical to these ancient Dead Sea Scrolls. After carefully comparing the manuscripts they discovered that, aside from a tiny number of spelling variations, not a single word was altered from the original scrolls in the caves from the much copied AD 1100 manuscripts used by the Authorized King James Version translators in 1611" (pp. 97-98). There are a number of differences between the KJV and the Dead Sea Scrolls. The most significant one is in I Samuel 10 where a number of verses have been added in. To be published (September 1999) by HarperCollins is "Dead Sea Scrolls Bible" so you can compare the differences. This volume includes all 220 of the Biblical Dead Sea Scrolls with hundreds of new and different readings of the OT.
Jeffrey claims that Jesus is mentioned in the scrolls. This is not true. There are prophecies about the messiah in the Dead Sea Scrolls, but no specific mention of Jesus. Most date before Christ was born. The "Pierced Messiah" text, 4Q285 is highly questionable (See BAR 18:4, 80-82). 4Q246 is a Messianic pseudo-Daniel fragment in Aramaic that mentions "son of God" who is extremely warlike (Eisenman & Wise 1992, 68-69). This is hardly a description of Jesus and his ministry.
Jeffrey claims that the New Testament is quoted in the Dead Sea Scrolls. He claims there is a fragment of Mark 6:52-53 and several other New Testament verses. He refers to an article in Bible Review (December 1995), but this article is refuting his view. The best scholars who have analyzed the texts do not see any New Testament quotes in the Dead Sea Scrolls.
Jeffrey claims there are Bible codes that have been discovered by tracing equidistant letter sequences (ELS). There are several major problems with this view. First of all, any large book with at least a half million words will have codes in it. The Koran also has amazing codes in it. The book Moby Dick has amazing prophecies in it (Bible Review 13:4 (August 1997), 25). Are these also inspired by God?
Secondly, the purpose of the Bible is to reveal not to conceal. The Bible is not a magic book with secret formulas.
Thirdly, the textus receptus was only the standard text in the 16th century after the invention of the printing press. This is an eclectic edition from various manuscripts complied by Jacob Ben Hayyim (Ibid., 23). Our oldest and best Hebrew manuscripts, the Aleppo Codex, the Leningrad Codex (basis of Biblia Hebraica), the Cairo Pentateuch and the Damascus Pentateuch Codex all differ in their letter sequences because of spelling variations which throws off the ELS.
Fourthly, manuscripts from the Dead Sea Scrolls like 4Q Samuel has fewer vowel letters than later Masoretic texts. The spelling stems from the post-Exilic period (after the 6th century). Early texts from the time of Moses would have no vowel letters. Vowel letters began around the 9th to 8th centuries BC. This would throw off the ELS.
Hendel concludes, "All manuscripts of the Hebrew Bible, including all Masoretic manuscripts, differ in their number of letters, and the original texts were spelled differently from the manuscripts in our possession" (Bible Review 13:4 (August 1997), 24). Therefore the ELS would be different in every manuscript.
It should be noted that their are some legitimate sequences. There are alphabetical psalms where each verse starts with the next letter in the alphabet. Psalm 119 has eight verses for each letter of the alphabet. Other alphabetical acrostics are single lines for each letter of the alphabet like Psalms 25, 34, 145, or two lines Psalm 37. Psalm 111 and 112 form an alphabetical acrostic. Therefore originally they were one psalm. The same may be true for Psalms 9 and 10.
The entire book of Lamentations is poetic. There are five laments containing 22 verses except the third which is triple (66 verses). The Hebrew alphabet has 22 letters. The first four laments are alphabetical acrostics.
The Book of Esther does not have the name of God in it, except in acrostic form. Several times the name of God appears using the first of last letter of words in a forward or backward sequence (Bullinger 1968, 186; Esther 1:20, 5:4,13, 7:5,7). They are not equidistant. It might be more profitable to look at this type of sequence.
Science and the Bible
Jeffrey claims the Bible has amazingly accurate scientific statements way ahead of its times. He tries to demonstrate that certain verses in the Bible contain scientific truths that only now we are able to fully understand with the help of modern science.
Jeffrey is guilty of reading modern day science back into the Bible. This is called eisegesis. What is needed is exegesis. To get the proper meaning of a word in the Bible should one go to Websters dictionary or go back to the original languages of Hebrew, Greek, or Aramaic? Trying to find the original meaning is called the historical, grammatical interpretation of scripture. When the apostle Paul used the word "law" he was not referring to the constitution of the United States. At one time theologians thought that the language of the New Testament was a special holy Greek until scholars discovered it was the common language of that day.
This brings up the second objection to Jeffreys interpretation. Most of the verses that Jeffrey claims to be modern science are words and phrases that were commonly used by other nations back at that time. We will look at a number of these verses.
The third objection is that a number of these verses are just common sense poetical expressions, and not meant to contain hidden scientific truths. In Isaiah 51:6 the earth grows old like a garment. Is Isaiah trying to communicate the second law of thermodynamics in this verse? Things grow old is common knowledge not supernatural science.
The fourth objection is that a number of these verses are based on a poor translation of certain words from the original language into English. There has been a number of important discoveries of ancient texts since the King James 1611 translation of the Bible that help us to better understand the original languages of scripture. One major discovery was the ancient city of Ugarit. A number of tablets written in cuneiform were discovered. An analysis showed that this new language of Ugaritic was very close to Hebrew. Ugaritic can help us to better understand certain Hebrew words (Craigie 1983; Curtis 1985; Coogan 1978).
The final objection is that the Bible is not a science book. II Timothy 3:16 clearly states that the Bible is inspired by God so that it is profitable for instruction in righteousness not instruction in science. Much of the Bible is poetry. To take a poem and make it into a scientific text is wrong. One must understand the different genres of the Bible. One must understand the historical context and the meaning of the original language that the Bible was written in. Let us now look at some of the specific verses Jeffrey covers in his book.Isaiah 40:22 - The "circle of the earth"
According to Jeffery this verse describes a spherical earth (p.114). The Hebrew word is hwg. I believe that this refers to the circular horizon that vaults itself over the earth to form a dome (Meyers 1989, 63-9).
The Babylonian Map of the world clearly shows a circular earth surrounded by a circular sea (Cuneiform Texts from Babylonian Tablets in the British Museum 1960, part xxii, pl.48; for a translation see Horowitz 1988, 147-65; 1998, 20-42). The ama Hymn which is written to the Sun-god says, "You climb to the mountains surveying the earth, you suspend from the heavens the circle of the lands." The phrase "the four corners of the earth" which in Akkadian is kip-pát tu-bu-qa-at eerbitti, can be literally translated "the circle of the four corners" (Grayson 1972, 105).
In Egyptian literature the Hymn to Ramses II found on various stela inside the temple of Abu Simbel says, "like Re when he shineth over the circle of the world" (Erman 1927, 258-9). There is another similar phrase in The War Against the Peoples of the Sea" which comes from Ramses IIIs temple of Medinet Habu which says, They laid their hands upon the lands as far as the circuit of the earth " (ANET 1969, 262). Keel in his book The Symbolism of the Biblical World (pp. 37-40). Has many Egyptian drawings showing a circular earth surrounded by a circular sea.Job 26:7 - "(He) hangeth the earth upon nothing"
Jeffrey sees the earth as suspended in space, not supported on the back of a elephant or turtle (p.114). There are several verses that talk about the pillars of the earth (Job 9:6, Psalm 75:3) and the pillars of the heavens (Job 26:11). I think that Job 26:7 is just poetically describing the earth being spread out of the deep. This phrase parallels the stretching out of the heavens over the void or deep. The word "north" is used as a part for the whole heavens. The word for "stretched out" is only used of the heavens. The word "nothing" parallels the word "void" in the proceeding phrase. The word void is also used in Genesis 1:2, the earth was formless and void. I would translate this phrase as: He is suspending the earth over the formless deep.
In Enuma Elish (tablet IV:145, Heidel 1942, 43) it says, "The great structure Eaharra (earth) which he made as a canopy (over the deep)." The earth is seen here as a canopy that is stretched out over the ocean. The ama Hymn says, "You (ama, the sun god) climb to the mountains surveying the earth. You suspend from the heavens the circle of the lands" (Lambert 1960, lines 21-22). These are just common phrases that were used in the ancient world. One should not read modern science back into them.
Medicine and the Bible
Leviticus 17:11 - "The Life of the flesh is in the Blood"
Jeffrey states, "Incredibly, Moses reveals that our blood is the essence of life (p.154). This concept of life being in the blood is a very old concept common to the ancient Near East (Kedar-Kopfstein 1978, 237-9). Let us look at a few examples.
In Mesopotamia the code of Hammurabi (about 1727 BC) which came well before Leviticus was written says, ta-ba-ak na-pis-ti-u ki-ma me-e which Driver translates, "to pour out his life-blood like water" (Driver & Miles 1955, 101-3). The Akkadian word napitum is very similar to the Hebrew word nephesh (Driver & Miles 1955, 295). Probably around the same time that the code of Hammurabi was written, Enuma Elish was composed which describes the creation of man. Tablet VI says, "Kingu it was who created strife, And caused Tiamat to revolt and prepare for battle. They bound him and held him before Ea; Punishment they inflicted upon him by cutting (the arteries of) his blood. With his blood they created mankind" (Heidel 1942, 47). Kedar-Kopfstein states, "Blood is regarded as the true life substance, so that damu (blood) and balatu (life) can be used in parallelism .In rites of renewal, the blood of the person being renewed is obtained by cutting the skin, or an animal is slaughtered as his substitute and its blood used (1978, 238).
In Ugaritic there are also several parallels of dm, "blood" with nps, "soul" or "life" as there are in Hebrew (see Genesis 37:21-22, 42:21-22; Deut. 12:23; Psalm 72:14, 94:21, and Ezekiel 3:18-21, 33:8-9: Fisher 1972, #155). In the story of Aqhat, the son of Daniel it says, spill (his) blood like a like a killer on his knees. Let his breath go forth like a wind, his life like spittle" (CTA 18 IV:24-25, 35-36; Gibson 1977, 112-3).
In Egypt in 1862 Edwin Smith bought a papyrus in Luxor that has been dated to 1600 BC, but the archaic words in the text suggest that it was copied from an earlier text around 2,500 BC (Reeves 1992, 51). The Edwin Smith papyrus contains descriptions of 48 surgical cases. At the beginning of the papyrus it says, "The counting of anything with the fingers (is done) to recognize the way the heart goes. There are vessels in it leading to every part of the body When a Sekhmet priest, any sinw doctor puts his fingers to the head to the two hands, to the place of the heart it speaks in every vessel, every part of the body" (Reeves 1992, 52, S1; Breasted 1930). Reeves states that the Egyptians "believed the heart to be the source of life within the body and may, indeed, have felt the pulse and measured it by comparison with their own pulses. The Egyptians also believed that all the inner juices of the body flowed through vessels emanating from the heart" (Reeves 1992, 52-3). We must not read our modern science back into this Egyptian text, or the Hebrew text. We must understand these texts in their cultural context.
Jeffrey states, "the Egyptians level of medical knowledge was extremely primitive and dangerous" (p.141). Having compared Egyptian medicine with Hebrew medicine, I found the Egyptians to be far more advanced. Egyptian doctors were world renown in the ancient world. Jeffrey talks about the terrible use of urine and dung by the Egyptians. Reeves states, "the fact that the Egyptians recognized that urine carried the pregnancy factor was remarkable" (1992, 54). The use of mud, urine and dung is similar to homeopathic medicine today where like is treated with like. Louis Pasteur discovered that bacteria living in the bodies of humans and animals release byproducts into dung and urine which are antibiotic (Reeves 1992, 59-60). Certain soils also produce fungi that can kill bacteria (Ibid.). Today urine (uric acid) is used in many hand creams to preserve the skin. A very common prescription was the use of honey which is very resistant to bacterial growth. Numerous herbs were also used that are still useful today.
There was also personal hygiene (Reeves, 18) and disposal of impurities by burying, washing, or burning (Wright 1987, 258-259). Evil was banished in a similar way to the Biblical scapegoat rite (ZAW 92 (1980) 43-59). Mesopotamian rituals mainly got rid of the demons where Hittite rituals were generally nondemonic (Wright 1987, 261). The Egyptians did mix magic with medicine, but some manuscripts (Edwin Smith papyrus) show little use of magic, and followed rational means of diagnosis and treatment (Nunn 1996, 26). .
Even before the Ebers Papyrus was written, the Egyptians had discovered the use of Castor oil, Onions for antiseptic use, plus many more substances that have been shown to be helpful according to modern science (Bryan 1930, xvii). A.S. Yahouda saw Moses as "the child of the Nile" with the OT medical knowledge essentially identical with Ebers Papyrus (Ibid.). I see the Ebers Papyrus as far more detailed and technical than the OT.
Contrary to what Jeffery says, the leprosy mentioned in Leviticus 13-14 is probably not the leprosy we commonly know today. Wenham comments, "It is difficult to find one English word to cover these diverse conditions. Inspired by the Greek translation (lepra), traditional English translations have rendered tsaraat by leprosy. This is obviously inappropriate in the case of mold and mildew in clothes and houses. As for the various skin complaints covered by the Hebrew term, it is doubtful if any of them corresponds to true leprosy (Hansens disease; 1979, 192). Avalos states, "In this regard, Leviticus is consistent with Mesopotamian sentiments about skin diseases such as saharsubbu" (1995, 311). He also doubts that the word rendered "leprosy" is the modern day Hansens disease (Ibid., 311-318). "K. van der Toorn has documented the overlap between Mesopotamia and Israel insofar as ideas concerning hygiene, illness, sin, and punishment are concerned" (Ibid., 13-14).
In conclusion Jeffrey's book is not worth the paper it is printed on. Spend your money on a good archaeology book like "Archaeology and the Old Testament" by Alfred J. Hoerth published by Baker.