Under the guise of criticizing the new Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C., Science magazine published many spurious attacks on the Bible and Christianity.1 This shows that their agenda is not clearheaded, unbiased thinking, but atheistic propaganda.
The less-than-scholarly concern is evident early on in the piece. They review the evangelical beliefs of the Green family, the founders of the Hobby Lobby chain of arts-and-crafts stores, and their successful Supreme Court case. This challenged the health care law’s requirement that the health insurance they provide to employees provide ‘contraceptive’ options that violated their beliefs because they were really abortifacients—a victory for freedoms of religion and conscience.
They then criticize the museum, concerned that “the museum will use artifacts to further an evangelical view of the Bible as historically accurate and immutable” (p. 295). They then find a liberal scholar to cite such a goal as “extremely problematic” (p. 295). This despite the fact that most science museums are cathedrals to evolution, so you’d be hard-pressed to find a museum that doesn’t promote a narrative. Why shouldn’t there be a museum presenting the evidence for the Bible’s historical accuracy, when even many secularists concede that the Bible is a remarkably accurate ancient historical document?
They then report on some problems the Greens have had regarding their artifact purchases. Issues of provenance are important. Apparently the Greens have learned their lesson and have hired experienced experts to help authenticate their artifacts, but this doesn’t stop Science from casting a shadow over the whole museum. They also highlight that their claimed Dead Sea Scrolls fragments might be forgeries, which of course doesn’t invalidate the evidence for the Bible from the undisputed Scrolls. Of course, evolutionists have had their own problems with forgeries like Archaeoraptor and others, but that doesn’t invalidate evolution itself in their eyes.
While the tone of the piece is critical overall, a few quoted scholars defend the Museum of the Bible. Archaeologist Robert Cargill is quoted as saying, “When you critique someone and they listen to that critique and make changes for the good, you should applaud that. We call that peer review” (pp.295–296). They also note that the museum is working with other respected scholars.
However, Barry Wood of the University of Houston does not believe that the article was critical enough of the Museum of the Bible. In a letter to the editor,2 he says that the author of the article “stops short of recognizing that the museum’s premise—that the Bible can be supported by scientific evidence—is an extended tiptoeing exercise.”
He makes the sweeping statement “There is no evidence for major Biblical events”. His first example is that there is no evidence for the sojourn of Israel in Egypt and the Exodus. He fails to note what physical and documentary evidence one might expect. Scholars are divided on the issue, at the very least. The documentary Patterns of Evidence contains an interpretation of the evidence that supports the Bible’s historical record, and we have published an article explaining the issues surrounding Egyptian chronology and the Bible.
He then cites that there is no evidence that the first Temple or Solomon’s palace were anywhere near as big as they were described. He fails to recognize that very little of Jerusalem has actually been excavated, because it is currently inhabited and the place that would be excavated is considered holy by both Jews and Muslims.
He then claims that evidence of worship of Baal and Asherah in Israel invalidates claims of Old Testament monotheism. However anyone who has actually read the Old Testament history of Israel knows the Bible itself records worship of the false gods throughout their history until the Exile, which seems to have finally taught the Jews their lesson. It is reminiscent of a claim earlier this year that the Bible was falsified because DNA evidence shows that the Canaanites were not wiped out. But that’s exactly what the Bible says.
He then questions whether the Church of the Nativity actually stands on the place where Christ was really born, which is really neither here nor there as far as the Bible’s reliability goes. But he uses this as an excuse to claim that Matthew and Luke were written “at least eight decades after the birth,” a questionable claim to say the least. Similarly, the reliability of the Bible hardly stands or falls on centuries-later claims about the “true cross” or the location of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
Where does Barry Wood get the expertise to criticize the Bible? Is he perhaps a Ph.D. scientist? What about an archaeology degree or text criticism? How about a related area of ancient history? His University of Houston page3 states that he has a Ph.D. in—wait for it—English and Humanities, with a minor in Religious Studies. Even better, it is a ‘self-designed interdisciplinary doctorate’. There is no language requirement—in fact, Stanford’s page on the Religious Studies minor4 states that only one related language may be counted toward the minor. And one may glean from Wood’s faculty page that his work was concentrated in Eastern religions, not Christianity. But of course, when it comes to criticizing the Bible, an associate professor of courses such as “Native American Literature” and “History of Drama” is good enough.
I haven’t been able to visit the Museum of the Bible. I’m not convinced that there aren’t problems with the provenance of some of the remaining artifacts—and if there are, that should be straightened out. But I’m willing to give the ‘benefit of the doubt’ to them as they’ve shown that they are committed to scholarship, going as far as hiring people who are by no means evangelical fundamentalists.
The history of the Bible is fascinating, and the Museum of the Bible invites people to learn more. That is a good thing, and as Christians we can celebrate that this is being discussed. Unfortunately, Science magazine seems to oppose anything outside the narrow range of evolutionary orthodoxy.