In 1 Samuel 27:5–6 we read about David receiving refuge from King Saul. It reads:

Then David said to Achish, “If I have found favor in your eyes, let a place be given me in one of the country towns, that I may dwell there. For why should your servant dwell in the royal city with you?” So that day Achish gave him Ziklag. Therefore Ziklag has belonged to the kings of Judah to this day.

Archaeologists and researchers from the Hebrew University, the Israel Antiquities Authority, and Macquarie University believe that they have discovered the long-lost town of Ziklag mentioned in 1 Samuel (and other passages) which provided refuge for David from King Saul.

Image result for 2 samuel 3

Here are some videos about the discovery:

1 Samuel 30 details how the town of Ziklag was raided and burned down by the Amalekites. The first two verses of that chapter:

Now when David and his men came to Ziklag on the third day, the Amalekites had made a raid against the Negeb and against Ziklag. They had overcome Ziklag and burned it with fire and taken captive the women and all who were in it, both small and great. They killed no one, but carried them off and went their way. 

The Israel national news, Arutz Sheva, reportst that:

The excavation, which began in 2015 at the site of Khirbet a-Ra‘i in the Judaean foothills – between Kiryat Gat and Lachish, has proceeded in cooperation with Prof. Yosef Garfinkel, Head of the Institute of Archaeology at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Saar Ganor of the Israel Antiquities Authority and Dr. Kyle Keimer and Dr. Gil Davis of Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia. The excavation was funded by Joey Silver of Jerusalem, Aron Levy of New Jersey, and the Roth Family and Isaac Wakil both of Sydney. The excavation has been ongoing for seven seasons with large areas being exposed – approximately 1,000 sq.m., leading to this new identification for Ziklag.

Aerial stills of the excavation site. (Emil Aljem, Israel Antiquities Authority)

Resources:

Biblical City From Time of King David Discovered” by staff | Arutz Sheva: Israel National News 7/8/19

Biblical City with Links to King David Discovered in Southern Israel” by James Rogers | Fox News 7/9/19

Lost biblical city of Ziklag discovered by archaeologists” by staff | By Strange Sounds -Jul 9, 2019

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Post about other biblical archaeological discoveries from this blog include:

A Guide to Internet Archaeology

Clay Seal of King Josiah’s Aide Found

Ring of Pontius Pilate Discovered

Caiaphas Ossuary

The Prophet Isaiah

23 New Testament Figures Confirmed

History Has Gone to the Toilets-The Ancient Latrine of Lachish

Virtual Unwrapping of Levitical Scroll

City of Geza

Philistine Cemetery

Ancient Shopping List Provides Evidence of When Bible Was Written

Hezekiah Bulla

12th Dead Sea Scroll Cave Found!

Bethsaida

53 People in the Old Testament Confirmed Archaeologically

New ESV Archaeology Study Bible


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It has been stated, repeatedly, that religion, especially Christianity, has done more harm that good. Bertrand Russell in his book Why I am Not a Christian stated categorically that “the Christian religion, as organized in its churches, has been and still is the principal enemy of moral progress in the world.” In short, Christianity and religion is evil, and as the late Christopher Hitchens put it: poisons everything:

Phil Zuckerman, a professor of sociology and secular studies at Pitzer College, wrote a piece at Psychology Today titled “Does Christianity Harm Children?” in which he concluded:

The notion that Christianity is good for kids has been trumpeted for centuries, virtually unchallenged and uncontested.

What hasn’t been trumpeted nearly enough – nor studied nearly enough — is the potentially dangerous aspects of Christianity, aspects that stem from the very core/central tenets of the faith.

As a secular parent, I believe that we need to talk more openly about the potential harm Christianity can do to kids – not just the potential good. We mustn’t shy away from such skeptical scrutiny for fear of offending people.

Books have been written on the harm religion and Christianity can have on children such as Breaking Their Will: Shedding Light on Religious Child Maltreatment by Janet Heimlich and Spare the Child: The Religious Roots of Punishment and the Psychological Impact of Physical Abuse by Philip Greven.

I agree with Dr. Zuckerman, that we should talk more openly about the potential harm Christianity can do to children. In fact, Harvard University has done just that. The Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health released a study last year reporting on the benefits of being raised in religion. Ying Chen, the author of the study reported that “these findings are important for both our understanding of health and our understanding of parenting practices. Many children are raised religiously, and our study shows that this can powerfully affect their health behaviors, mental health, and overall happiness and well-being.”

The Harvard study followed 5,000 children between the ages of 8-14 and controlled for variables such as maternal health, socioeconomic status, and history of substance abuse or depressive symptoms, to try to isolate the effect of religious upbringing.

The result found that those children raised with regular spiritual habits such as attending weekly religious services, practiced daily prayer, or meditation were less likely to . . .

  • be depressed
  • smoke
  • use illicit drugs
  • have sexually transmitted infections

. . . than those people who were not raised with regular spiritual habits.

Dr. W. Bradford Wilcox, director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia, also concurred that religion is good for kids and their families. In the Washington Post Wilcox reported that:

On average, religion is a clear force for good when it comes to family unity and the welfare of children — the most important aspects of our day-to-day lives. Research, some of it my own, indicates that on average Americans who regularly attend services at a church, synagogue, temple or mosque are less likely to cheat on their partners; less likely to abuse them; more likely to enjoy happier marriages; and less likely to have been divorced.

Dr. Wilcox also reports:

when it comes to kids, the research tells us that religious parents spend more time with their children. Indeed, the Deseret News/Brigham Young University American Family Survey tells us that parents who attend religious services weekly are more likely to eat dinner with their children, do chores together and attend outings with their children, even after controlling for parental age, gender, race, marital status, education and income.

While these studies don’t show that Christianity is true, it is interesting that it has inherent benefits on the individual. In fact, it benefits the community.

As I have reported before, Christian missionaries have been deemed racists, imperialistic, and intolerant, but the truth of the efforts of missionaries has some very interesting seemingly unintended consequences: liberal democracies to name just but one. Realistically, the benefits of religion are replete.

Some of the benefits include:

  • increased literary rates
  • mass education
  • civil rights
  • education for  women and the poor
  • better health
  • lower infant mortality
  • lower corruption
  • mass printing
  • liberal democracies

These positive increases in social indicators has been discovered by the work of Dr. Robert Woodberry.  Woodberry, a sociologist, used statistical analysis to uncover the benefits that Protestant missionaries bring to an indigenous people group. 

Here is a video answering the question “What good is Christianity?”:

Here is an extensive documentary of Dr. William Lane Craig’s England tour from 2011 titled The Case for Christian Theism: The Reasonable Faith UK Tour

Image result for mama bear apologeticsI remember when my son was in 4th grade one night when he was getting ready for bed, brushing his teeth.  He came into the hall, yanked the toothbrush out of his mouth, asked in an exasperating toothpaste filled mouth: “Dad, dad, what happens to those people who never hear about Jesus?”  First, what 4th grader thinks up such a question when they are getting ready for bed. Second, I believe this actually happens more often than we realize.  Fortunately for me, I had pondered that question myself and I was able to give a satisfactory answer to his 4th grade mind, that moved him along to bed. But, I am sure there are parents who have experienced similar incidents from their children, but where not prepared to give an answer.  They either make up an answer, which is almost certainly wrong, or set them up for future failure with the adage: we just have to have faith.

Now, there is a book available for parents who don’t have time to take seminary and graduate level classes on philosophy, theology, and apologetics. And also for parents who need assistance in communicating apologetically and biblically informed answers that are age-appropriate to their children: Mama Bear Apologetics.

Mama Bear Apologetics: Empowering Your Kids to Challenge Cultural Lies released this week. In previous posts under “Apologetic Trends” I covered the trend of Children’s Apologetics and Women in ApologeticsThis book, edited by Hilary Morgan Ferrer, is a combination of both trends.  It is geared toward parents in training their children in apologetics and it is entirely written by women.  With the Foreword penned by the godmother of apologetics, Nancy Pearcey writes that “Until recently, fewer women than men have been interested in apologetics. But that is changing rapidly – especially among women with children.” Pearcey goes on to say that in her view: “mothers are especially well equipped for this task. Why? Because effective apologetics requires empathy.” 

A group of ladies, dubbed Mama Bear Apologetics, was started by Hilary Morgan Ferrer in 2014 when she recognized “that out of all the demographics currently involved in apologetics, moms seemed to make up the fewest participants. She also realized that out of all the demographics that need apologetics, moms are among the most important!” I couldn’t agree more. Hilary, to meet this need, started the website Mama Bear Apologetics which houses a multitude of articles, blogs, and podcasts geared toward parents to train their children and answer their kids’ questions in an age-appropriate way.

With the publication of this book, the ladies of Mama Bear Apologetics have provided another wonderful and needed resource for parents and ultimately their children in answering these questions.  The contributors to this volume include Hilary Morgan Ferrer, Julie Loos, Hillary Short, Teasi Cannon, Rebekah Valerius, Cathryn S. Buse, and Alisa Childers which many of their bios can be read on the Mama Bear website. They cover some of the following issues: how to be a Mama Bear, detecting faulty reasoning, self-helpism, naturalism, skepticism, postmodernism, moral relativism, emotionalism, pluralism, new age, Marxism, feminism, and progressive Christianity.

I am looking forward to reading this book myself, to learn different ways to explain things to my students.  If you can explain it to a child, then you certainly can explain it to an adult.

 

 

 

 

 

Animated ApologeticsOver the past several years there has been a boom in Christian Apologetic animated videos.  While there are plenty of apologetic videos from debates, podcasts, presentations, etc., here I want to focus on just those videos that are of high animated quality, relatively short (under 10 minutes), and are focused on Christian apologetics. Over at Prove the Bible, the whole website is videos (live and animated) all sorted by topic. It is definitely worth a look. You also can check out some YouTube channels dedicated to apologetics (both live and animated) such drcraigvideos, Sean McDowell, Mike Winger, Whaddo You Meme, Cross Examined, and Acts17Apologetics, amongst others.  Here, I have focused solely on animated apologetics videos.  I sorted them by topic.

God

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bible

 

 

 

 

 

Jesus

 

 

 

 

Resurrection

 

 

 

Problem of Evil

 

 

 

 

 

 

Science and Religion

 

 

Cults and New Religious Movements

 

 

 

 

Christian Doctrine

 

 

Philosophy of Religion

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Social/Ethical Issues

 

 

 

 

General

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Have you ever come across (or been sent a link via email or facebook) about a giant skeleton discovery that confirms the size of Goliath? I have. Many times.  They have all been internet hoaxes (like the picture below).

Image result for giant skeletons found israel goliath

Over at Epic Archaeology Ted Wright has written an excellent article titled “A Quick Guide to Internet Archaeology” in which he provides some principles “and a plea to Christians to be more cautious and use critical thinking skills when it comes to posting internet articles on archaeological discoveries as they relate to the Bible. Not all archaeological discoveries are equal in terms of weight and evidence.”

He recommends five principles before clicking and sharing a post about an archaeological discovery as it relates to the bible.

  1. Primary and Secondary Archaeological Reporting – Pay attention to who is reporting the excavation.
  2. Avoid Sensationalism – Double check the facts and not be taken in just because it supports one’s preconceived ideas.
  3. Know How Archaeology Works – Do some background reading so you know how archaeology is done; what it can do and not do.
  4. Theological Commitments – Everyone has a theological commitment (or a-theological), so vet the sources, and understand how that commitment colors the excavation.
  5. The Questions of Apologetics – Archaeology has been a powerful ally of the bible, but there are limitations.

It is definitely worth the read given the proliferation of memes, posts, shares, and tweets that are inundating us today concerning biblical archaeology.

He also provides some helpful internet resources on biblical archaeology.  An abbreviated list:

Christian Sources:

Associates for Biblical Research

Epic Archaeology

Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts

Non-Christian Sources:

Israel Antiquities Authority

Heritage Daily 

Biblical Archaeology Society  

Some other suggestions I would add include:

  • Fact check it at some fact checking websites like snopes.com or truthorfiction.com. While not everything is correct at snopes (and they have a theological commitment as well), it is a good place to start to determine if it is an outright hoax.
  • Get the ESV Archaeology Study Bible or the NIV Archaeology Study Bible to see what archaeological insights and confirmational discoveries relate to scripture.
  • Subscribe to the Biblical Archaeological Review, a bi-monthly journal to keep up to date with some of the discoveries.

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Post about other biblical archaeological discoveries from this blog include:

Clay Seal of King Josiah’s Aide Found

Ring of Pontius Pilate Discovered

Caiaphas Ossuary

The Prophet Isaiah

23 New Testament Figures Confirmed

History Has Gone to the Toilets-The Ancient Latrine of Lachish

Virtual Unwrapping of Levitical Scroll

City of Geza

Philistine Cemetery

Ancient Shopping List Provides Evidence of When Bible Was Written

Hezekiah Bulla

12th Dead Sea Scroll Cave Found!

Bethsaida

53 People in the Old Testament Confirmed Archaeologically

New ESV Archaeology Study Bible

Image result for So the Next Generation Will Know: Preparing Young Christians for a Challenging WorldSean Mcdowell and J. Warner Wallace have teamed up to bring us a practical guide for equipping the next generation with a biblical worldview in their soon to be released book So The Next Generation will Know: Preparing Young Christians for a Challenging World(May 1, 2019)

Many books on apologetics and worldviews claim to be a guide in sharing the biblical truth with the next generation, but McDowell and Wallace deliver on that promise: “We’ve written many books that make the case for God and Christianity. Those books describe what is true and why we should believe it. This book is different. We wrote it for a very practical reason: to show you how to teach the truth of Christianity to the next generation.”

In showing how to teach the truth McDowell and Wallace have four target readers in mind: parents, youth workers, Christian educators, and people who love young people. Their intentionality is evident throughout the book.  Suggestions are provided for each group not only in the text of chapter of the book, but with useful sidebars designated for each target group.  These suggestions range from a list of questions parents can ask their kids to polling students for the Christian educator.  The training and preparation McDowell and Wallace provide go beyond theoretical and moves quickly and evidently to the practical.  

For example, in a chapter helping the next generation develop a passion for the truth, one of the challenges is helping young Christians who might be spiritually dispassionate avoid apathy. They suggest the “Two Whys for Every What” approach.  They explain that “as pastors, parents, and educators, we’ve all explained what is true to our young people. What we believe about God? What are the claims of Christianity? What does the Bible teach about important moral issues? . . . simple propositional truths about the nature of God or the claims of Christianity may or may not ignite a fire in our young people.” They suggest that for every “what” you offer young people you follow up with two “whys.” The first why is “why is the claim you’re making true?” Young people (contrary to popular opinion) want to know why we believe what we believe. “If we want them to get excited we need to help them see that the Christian worldview is reasonable and evidentially true.” The second why is “why any of this should matter to them.” After describing “what is true and and why it’s supported by the evidence, take the time to explain why they should care in the first place.” How does this truth impact their lives, what difference does it make in the everyday living? How does this change the way they view themselves? How does it protect or guide them?

Some of the highlights from the other chapters include the challenge of Generation Z (the generation born between 2000 and 2015), balancing truth and relationship, understanding Generation Z, building a biblical worldview, training versus entertaining, providing life changing experiences, and engaging contemporary culture. Each chapter. along with the sidebars for each focus group, includes activities, teaching methods, and constructive tips. It is backed with the latest research to guide the reader to effectively reach the next generation.

This book is not a book on apologetics, you will not learn the different reasons for God’s existence or the evidence for the resurrection, but they include in the appendix a list of resources for gaining that information. And not just a list of other books, but videos, curriculum, conferences, websites, trip resources, sample surveys, and trip itineraries, in the areas of apologetics, theology, and spiritual development.

McDowell and Wallace are keenly equipped to write this book.  Both have years of experience with training not only young people but other youth workers, parents, and apologists. Sean McDowell is an associate professor of apologetics at Talbot School of Theology, Biola University as well as a part time high school teacher who regularly blogs at seanmcdowell.org. J. Warner Wallace, a cold-case homicide detective, is a Senior Fellow at the Colson Center for Christian Worldview and adjunct professor of apologetics at Biola University with years experience as a youth worker.  Between them they have authored, coauthored, and edited dozens of books on apologetics, including:: Evidence That Demands a Verdict,  Is God Just a Human Invention?The Fate of the Apostles (Sean McDowell) and Cold-Case ChristianityGod’s Crime SceneForensic Faith (J. Warner Wallace).

If you pre-order the book and send a copy or screenshot of your receipt to offer@coldcasechristianity.com you will receive further resources including 25 youth training articles, 15 MP3 audio podcasts addressing issues from the book, a previously unreleased youth training video, and a PowerPoint presentation about the unique characteristics of Gen Z. Details for this offer can be found out:

https://seanmcdowell.org/item/so-the-next-generation-will-know-pre-order-offer

This is a fine book that should be a helpful resource in training those who are equipping the next generation so they will know the truth. 

Screen Shot 2019-04-10 at 9.09.06 PMWe have all heard about the “Dark Ages” between 500 AD and 1500 AD.  Some common descriptions include:

“There was a time when religion ruled the world. It is known as the Dark Ages.” – Ruth Hurmence Green (1915-1981, a notable atheist with the publication of her book The Born Again Skeptic’s Guide to the Bible).  Joseph Lewis in An Atheist Manifesto claims that, “If you do not want to stop the wheels of progress; if you do not want to go back to the Dark Ages; if you do not want to live again under tyranny, then you must guard your liberty, and you must not let the church get control of your government. If you do, you will lose the greatest legacy ever bequeathed to the human race—intellectual freedom.”  Jeffrey Taylor, correspondent for Atlantic Monthly and NPR’s All Things Considered, states in Salon.com, “There is a reason the Middle Ages in Europe were long referred to as the Dark Ages; the millennium of theocratic rule that ended only with the Renaissance (that is, with Europe’s turn away from God toward humankind) was a violent time.”  Even as recently as Catherine Nixey’s book The Darkening Age: The Christian Destruction of the Classical World states emphatically that “This is a book about the Christian destruction of the classical world. The Christian assault was not the only one – fire, flood, invasion and time itself all played their part – but this book focuses on Christianity’s assault in particular” (xxxv). (See below for an several extensive reviews and critiques of Nixey’s book.)

The diagram below, which has circulated on the internet, claims to demonstrate that the Middle Ages caused a tremendous hole in advancelearning and advancement caused by Christianity.  Anne Fremantle in her study of medieval philosophers, The Age of Belief (1954), wrote “of a dark, dismal patch, a sort of dull and dirty chunk of some ten centuries.”  Voltaire, the French Enlightenment writer, historian, and philosopher, who attacked the church, describe the period as one when “barbarism, superstition, and ignorance covered the face of the world.”  Rousseau declared that the era following the fall of Rome caused “Europe [to] relapse into the barbarism of the earliest ages.  The people of this part of the world . . . lived some centuries ago in a condition worse than ignorance.”  The great Roman historian Edward Gibbon called the fall of Rome the “triumph of barbarism and religion.”

Unfortunately, this derision of the Middle Ages being a darkened period, continues into contemporary descriptions.  Such perpetrators include Bertrand Russell, Charles Van Doren, and William Manchester.

Like the myth that the church hindered science, or that everyone in the middle ages believed the earth was flat, or that Galileo was thrown in jail for promoting the heliocentric model of the universe (which you can read about in my previous posts linked); the term “dark ages” is a pejorative term to deride the period as backwards, ignorant, and dismal.  Given that the church and Christianity was the most influential institution in the Middle Ages, to reference that time period as the “dark ages” is in essence to slander Christianity.  Who, in their right mind, wants to associate themselves with “incessant warfare, corruption, lawlessness, obsession with strange myths, and an almost impenetrable mindlessness” as Manchester does in his A World Lit Only by Fire.

The problem with this myth is that it is so contrary to the facts.  If the “dark ages” were so unproductive and backwards, how does one explain the proliferation of inventions and developments during this time period.  A simple listing of inventions, discoveries and developments demonstrates the the Middle Ages were anything but dark:

  • The collar and harness for horses and oxen enabled the drawing of very heavy wagons, with increases in speed
  • The invention (8th century) of iron horseshoes that protected the feet of horses but greatly improved their traction in difficult conditions
  • The swivel axel (9th century) was developed that made large transport carts much more maneuverable
  • The invention of the horse drawn furrow plow increased food production
  • The water mill was invented in the Middle Ages
  • The mechanical manufacturing of paper instead of by hand and foot
  • Windpower was harnessed to mill, grind, and to pump water
  • Eyeglasses were invented in 1284 in northern Italy
  • The mechanical clock, a 13th century invention, for centuries existed only in Medieval Europe
  • The blast furnace (12th century)
  • Spinning wheel (13th century)
  • The agricultural revolution of the three-field system
  • Chimneys (12th century)
  • Universities
  • Quarantine (14th century)
  • Musical Notation (11th century)
  • Western Harmony
  • Local Self Government
  • Chartered Towns

Also, perpetuated about the “dark ages” is the loss of literary concern.  Stephen Greenblatt in The New Yorker (promoting his book The Swerve) declares that:

It is possible for a whole culture to turn away from reading and writing. As the empire crumbled and Christianity became ascendant, as cities decayed, trade declined, and an anxious populace scanned the horizon for barbarian armies, the ancient system of education fell apart. What began as downsizing went on to wholesale abandonment. Schools closed, libraries and academies shut their doors, professional grammarians and teachers of rhetoric found themselves out of work, scribes were no longer given manuscripts to copy. There were more important things to worry about than the fate of books.

In truth, the the Middle Ages “did have a thriving literary and intellectual culture in which monks played a crucial, creative, and engaged role.” (source)

Here is a small list of literary, historical, and philosophical masterpieces written during the so-called “dark age”:

  • Alexiad, Anna Comnena
  • Beowulf
  • Caedmon’s Hymn
  • Book of the Civilized Man, Daniel of Beccles
  • The Canterbury Tales, Geoffrey Chaucer
  • Consolation of Philosophy, Boethius
  • Decameron, Giovanni Boccaccio
  • The Dialogue, Catherine of Siena
  • La divina commedia (The Divine Comedy), Dante Alighieri
  • First Grammatical Treatise, 12th-century work on Old Norse phonology
  • Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum (The Ecclesiastical History of the English People), the Venerable Bede
  • The Lais of Marie de France, Marie de France
  • Mabinogion, various Welsh authors
  • Il milione (The Travels of Marco Polo), Marco Polo
  • Le Morte d’Arthur, Sir Thomas Malory
  • Poem of the Cid, anonymous Spanish author
  • Proslogium, Anselm of Canterbury
  • Queste del Saint Graal (The Quest of the Holy Grail), anonymous French author
  • Revelations of Divine Love, Julian of Norwich
  • Sic et Non, Abelard
  • Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, anonymous English author
  • The Song of Roland, anonymous French author
  • Spiritual Exercises, Gertrude the Great
  • Summa Theologiae, Thomas Aquinas
  • The Tale of Igor’s Campaign, anonymous Russian author
  • Tirant lo Blanc, Joanot Martorell
  • The Travels of Sir John Mandeville, John Mandeville
  • Troilus and Criseyde, Geoffrey Chaucer
  • Yvain: The Knight of the Lion, Chrétien de Troyes

A host of other can be mentions but just check out this wikipedia article on “Medieval Literature.”

The fact of the matter is the term “dark ages” is a form of the ad hominem argument.  In short, it’s name calling.  Until one can demonstrate that the middle ages was backward and made no technological, societal, or intellectual advancement (which is not possible given the proliferation of advancement during this time as shown above), the term “dark ages” is just a term of derision that is vacuous of any substance.  One more telling point to demonstrate that the Middle Ages were much more advanced than even our current modern and contemporary age. In the Middle Ages a peculiar institution completely disappeared, but tragically was reintroduced in the modern era: slavery.  This very fact shows that the Modern Age is much more dark than the Middle Ages ever were.

As Anthony Esolen, professor of English at Providence College says at the end of the video below: “Instead of the ‘Dark Ages’ as it is popularly called.  The Middles Ages might better be described as the “Brilliant Ages.'”

Resources

Quick Quotes from the Experts:

“Nevertheless, serious historians have known for decades that these claims [that the Middle Ages were dark] are a complete fraud.  Even the respectable encyclopedias and dictionaries now define the Dark Ages as a myth.  The Columbia Encyclopedia rejects the term, nothing that ‘medieval civilization is no longer thought to have been so dim.’ Britannica disdains the name Dark Ages as ‘pejorative.’ And Wikipedia defines the Dark Ages as a ‘supposed period of intellectual darkness after the Fall of Rome.’ These views are easily verified.” (Rodney Stark, How the West Won. ISI Books, 2014)

“Let’s set the record straight. From 962 to 1321, Europe enjoyed one of the most magnificent flourishings of culture the world has ever seen.  In some ways it was the most magnificent.  And this was not despite the fact that the daily tolling of the church bells provided the rhythm of men’s lives, but because of it.” (Anthony Esolen, The Politically Incorrect Guide to Western Civilization, p.132)

“It’s not hard to kick this nonsense to pieces, especially since the people presenting it know next to nothing about history and have simply picked up these strange ideas from websites and popular books. The assertions collapse as soon as you hit them with hard evidence. I love to totally stump these propagators by asking them to present me with the name of one – just one – scientist burned, persecuted, or oppressed for their science in the Middle Ages. They always fail to come up with any.” (Tim O’Neill “The Dark Age Myth: An Atheist Reviews ‘God’s Philosophers'” Strange Notions)

“Western civilization was created in medieval Europe. The forms of thought and action which we take for granted in modern Europe and America, which we have exported to other substantial portions of the globe, and from which indeed we cannot escape, were implanted in the mentalities of our ancestors in the struggles of the medieval centuries.” (Cambridge University historian George Holmes’ Oxford Illustrated History of Medieval Europe)

Books:

The Politically Incorrect Guide to Western Civilization by Anthony Esolen (Regnery, 2008)

The Genesis of Science: How the Christian Middle Ages Launched the Scientific Revolution, by James Hannam. (Regenery, 2011)

Those Terrible Middle Ages: Debunking the Myths, by Regine Pernoud. (Ignatius, 2000)

How the West Won: The Neglected Story of the Triumph of Modernity by Rodney Stark (ISI Books, 2014)

Articles:

The Dark Age Myth: An Atheist Reviews ‘God’s Philosophers'” by Tim O’Neill. Strange Notions n. d.

“5 Ridiculous Myths You Probably Believe about the Dark Ages” by

“Top 10 Reasons the Dark Ages Were Not Dark” by Jamie Frater. Listverse June 9, 2008

“15 Myths About the Middle Ages” by Sandra Alvarez and Peter Konieczny. Medievalists June 27, 2014

“Misconceptions About the Middle Ages Debunked Through Art History” by Bryan Keene and Rheagan Martin. Iris: The Online Magazine of the Getty February 20, 2015

“Myths about the ‘Dark Ages'” by John Tertullian. Contra Celsum April 13, 2011

“How the Middle Ages Really Were” by Tim O’Neill. Huffington Post September 8, 2014

“Top 10 Inventions of the Middle Ages” by Jamie Frater. Listverse September 22, 2007

Review of The Darkening Age by Catherine Nixey” by Tim O’Neill. History for Atheists November 29, 2017

6 Reasons the Dark Ages Weren’t So Dark” by Sarah Pruitt. History.com May 31, 2016

 

Videos:

 

 

 

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Review of modern books that perpetuate the Dark Ages myth:

1. The Swerve: How The World Became Modern by Stephen Greenblatt

Greenblatt’s Pulitzer Prize winning (and National Book Award, MLA book award, swerveamongst others) The Swerve (2011) tells “a literary detective story about an intrepid Florentine bibliophile named Poggio Braccionlini, who, in 1417, stumbled upon a 500-year-old copy of [Lucretian’s] De Rerum Natura [On the Nature of Things] in a German monastery and set the poem free from centuries of neglect to work its intellectual magic on the world.” (source) While the literary side of the story is commendable (Greenblatt is a Shakespearean expert), it is the historical matter that is problematic. Greenblatt’s view of the Middle Ages continues to it as a dark and shallow intellectual vacuum in which the Renaissance (and later the Enlightenment) overcame its backward and regressive mentality.  Greenblatt declares in his The New Yorker article “The Answer Man: An Ancient Poem was Discovered – and the World Swerved”:

Theology provided an explanation for the chaos of the Dark Ages: human beings were by nature corrupt. Inheritors of the sin of Adam and Eve, they richly deserved every miserable catastrophe that befell them. God cared about human beings, just as a father cared about his wayward children, and the sign of that care was anger. It was only through pain and punishment that a small number could find the narrow gate to salvation. A hatred of pleasure-seeking, a vision of God’s providential rage, and an obsession with the afterlife: these were death knells of everything Lucretius represented.

Unfortunately, Greenblatt hasn’t kept up with modern medieval historiography.  Both Jim Hinch, in the Los Angeles Review of Books, and Laura Miles, over at Vox, point at his errors.

Why Stephen Greenblatt Is Wrong — and Why It Matters” by Jim Hinch | Los Angeles Review of Books Dec 1, 2012

Apparently, Lucretian was not as obscure in the Middle Ages as Greenblatt represents.  Hinch writes that “Cambridge classicist Michael Reeve pointed out five years ago in The Cambridge Companion to Lucretius, scholars have long detected ‘Lucretian influence in north-Italian writers of the ninth to eleventh century, in the Paduan pre-humanists about 1300, in Dante, and in Petrarch and Bocaccio.’ Greenblatt cites the Cambridge Companion numerous times in his endnotes. Did he read it?” Obviously not.

Greenblatt’s caricature of the (read the quotes with sarcasm) “Dark Ages” as living life as if God is a cosmic kill joy is puzzling to Hinch as well: “Equally untrue is Greenblatt’s claim that medieval culture was characterized by ‘a hatred of pleasure-seeking, a vision of God’s providential rage and an obsession with the afterlife.’ I know Greenblatt has read Chaucer. He’s quoted from him in numerous books. Has he forgotten the ribald pleasure-seeking in The Canterbury Tales? What about the 13th-century French courtly love epic The Romance of the Rose? The twelfth-century Arthurian romances of Chrétien de Troyes? I find no rage in Dante’s complex vision of human morality and providential grace in the Divine Comedy. Nor do I detect an ounce of asceticism in the ravishing unicorn tapestries in the Cloisters Museum in New York. Or in the rose window in Chartres. Or in the Sainte Chapelle in Paris. Or in the gracious courts of the Alhambra.”

It seems Greenblatt is a good literary scholar, but a terrible Medieval historian, according to Hinch.

Stephen Greenblatt’s The Swerve racked up prizes — and completely misled you about the Middle Ages” by Laura Saetveit Miles | Vox July 20, 2016

Laura Saetveit Miles, professor at the University of Bergen in Norway, declares that

The Swerve doesn’t promote the humanities to a broader public so much as it deviously precipitates the decline of the humanities, by dumbing down the complexities of history and religion in a way that sets a deeply unfortunate precedent. If Greenblatt’s story resonates with its many readers, it is surely because it echoes stubborn, made-for-TV representations of medieval “barbarity” that have no business in a nonfiction book, much less one by a Harvard professor.

In a very revealing moment in Miles article on The Swerve she declares the book as dangerous: “When I finished, I put down The Swerve on the table, and the academic side of my brain kicked back in. I had let myself read it as fiction. Yet it was supposed to be not fiction. When I thought of it as a scholarly book, and thought of all those thousands and thousands of people out there who read it and believed every word because the author is an authority and wins prizes, I realized: This book is dangerous.” [emphasis added]

Why is it dangerous? Because it is worse the Dan Brown’s The DaVinci Code:

Every page of The Swerve strives to present the Renaissance as an intellectual awakening that triumphs over the oppressive abyss of the Dark Ages. The book pushes the Renaissance as a rebirth of the classical brilliance nearly lost during centuries mired in dullness and pain. (In Greenblatt’s Middle Ages, bored monks literally sit in the dark when not flagellating themselves.)

This invention of modernity relies on a narrative of good guys (Poggio, as well as Lucretius) defeating bad guys and thus bringing forth a glorious transformation. This is dangerous not only because it is inaccurate but, more importantly, because it subscribes to a progressivist model of history that insists on the onward march of society, a model that all too easily excuses the crimes and injustices of modernity.

But history does not fit such cookie-cutter narratives. Having studied medieval culture for nearly two decades, I can instantly recognize the oppressive, dark, ignorant Middle Ages that Greenblatt depicts for 262 pages as, simply, fiction. It’s fiction worse than Dan Brown, because it masquerades as fact.

Book Review: The Swerve: How the Renaissance Began” by John Monfasani | Reviews in History July 2012

John Monfasani, professor of history at the University at Albany, State University of New York damning declares that “Greenblatt has penned an entertaining but wrong-headed belletristic tale.”

2.  A World Lit Only by Fire: the Medieval Mind and the Renaissance by William Manchester

Manchester begins his scatthing history of the middle ages by claiming that “The densestImage result for a world lit only by fire medieval centuries – the six hundred years between, roughly, A.D. 400 and A.D. 1000 – are still widely known as the Dark Ages.” (Manchester, 3) William Mancester does admit that modern historians have abandoned that phrase but the “intellectual life had vanished from Europe” and declares in the very first paragraph of the book: “Nevertheless, if value judgments are made, it is undeniable that most of what is known about the period is unlovely. After the extant fragments have been fitted together, the portrait which emerges is a melange of incessant warfare, corruption, lawlessness, obsession with strange myths, and an almost impenetrable mindlessness.”

The wikipedia entry about the book states that, “In the book, Manchester scathingly posits, as the title suggests, that the Middle Ages were ten centuries of technological stagnation, short-sightedness, bloodshed, feudalism, and an oppressive Church wedged between the golden ages of the Roman Empire and the Renaissance.”

Technological stagnation

Short-sightedness

Bloodshed

An oppressive church

Between the golden age of Rome and the Renaissance.

Nothing really new about this negative report about the so-called “dark ages.”  The only problem is that other modern historians have dismissed and criticized the book because of its gross errors, misinformation, and out of date understanding of the era.

Jeremy DuQuesnay Adams, professor and Altshuler Distinguished Teaching Professor of Medieval Europe of SMU and Ph.D. from Harvard (Manchester has an BA and MA in English, no training in history or a history degree), grudgingly reviewed the book. In Speculum: A Journal of Medieval Studies, Adams remarked that Manchester’s work contained “some of the most gratuitous errors of fact and eccentricities of judgment this reviewer has read (or heard) in quite some time.” He begins the review by lamenting:

This is an infuriating book. The present reviewer hoped that it would simply fade away, as its intellectual qualities (too strong a word) deserved. Unfortunately, it has not: one keeps meeting well-intentioned, perfectly intelligent people (including some colleagues in other disciplines – especially the sciences) who have just read this book and want to discuss why anyone would ever become a medievalist.

Adams goes on to point out that Manchester’s assertions about clothing, diet, and medieval person’s views of time and sense of self ran counter to the conclusions of established historians of the Middle Ages of the 20th-century.

An example of his errors is with the famed Pied Piper. Manchester claims that the Piper of Hamelin was  “was horrible, a psychopath and pederast who, on June 24, 1484, spirited away 130 children in the Saxon village of Hammel and used them in unspeakable ways. Accounts of the aftermath vary. According to some, the victims were never seen again; others told of disembodied little bodies found scattered in the forest underbrush or festooning the branches of trees.”

Over at The Straight Dope we learn that “Manchester doesn’t footnote this passage” and that their own “research suggests that Manchester got some of the details wrong–among other things, he appears to be off about 200 years on the date.”

Review of A World Lit Only by Fire” Kirkus Review, May 20th, 2010.

This review reveals that Manchester, by his own admission, did NOT master any scholarship on the early 16th century, which ” dooms him to retelling the same old stories recounted countless times before.”

In the book’s “Author’s Note”, Manchester says, “It is, after all, a slight work, with no scholarly pretensions. All the sources are secondary, and few are new; I have not mastered recent scholarship on the early sixteenth century.

So, Manchester, who has no formal training in history, not a medievalist, admits to not using primary sources as well as not mastering any recent scholarship of the early 16th century, has penned a propaganda piece (at best) of the middle ages. Again, another myth that the middle ages were dark.

3.  The Darkening Age: The Christian Destruction of the Classical World by Catherine Nixey

The Darkening Age by Catherine Nixey is one of the latest publications (2017) propagating the the dark ages myth.  Nixey studied classics at Cambridge and taught the subject for Image result for the darkening ageseveral years before becoming a journalist on the arts desk at the Times (UK). Her book, The Darkening Age, no surprise, focuses on “the Christian destruction of the classical world” (xxxv).  Her prologue characterizes Christians as “destroyers, . . . marauding bands of bearded, black-robed zealots” whose “ . . . attacks were primitive, thuggish, and very effective.” She goes on to say that “these men moved in packs—later in swarms of as many as five hundred—and when they descended utter destruction followed” (xix).

Some of the reviews and reactions to Nixey’s book can be listed:

  • The esteemed historian of Late Antiquity of Oxford Univeristy, Dame Averil Cameron, calls Nixey’s book “a travesty” condemning it as “overstated and unbalanced.”
  • Lecturer of Medieval history at Exeter University, Dr. Levi Roach, stated that Nixey’s book “does not seek to present a balanced picture (…) this is a book of generalisations. (…) Nixey (…) is unwilling to see shades of grey” in his evaluation at Literary Review titled “At Cross Purposes.” He goes on to state in the article that, “to characterize late-antique Christians as ‘thugs’, as Nixey repeatedly does, it perhaps defensible, to call them ‘primitive’ and ‘stupid’, as she also does, is not. All to often Christians are cast as the aggressors, even when, as Nixey acknowledges more than once, they are responding to prior attacks.” And “Perhaps most worryingly, in embracing this line of argument [i.e., over-generalizing] Nixey ends up endorsing the long-debunked view of the Middle Ages as a period of blind faith and intellectual stagnation (which she again, problematically equates with one another.)”
  • Tim O’Neill, over at his website History for Atheists, give a long, detailed analysis of Nixey’s book and concludes, “Good history books, including good popular history, should give the reader a greater insight into the period and the subject. They should make the reader better informed and, in doing so, make them wiser. They should deepen understanding, so that anything else read on the subject from that point tends to add layers to that depth. Watts’ book [The Final Pagan Generation] does this. O’Donnell’s book [Pagans: The End of Traditional Religion and the Rise of Christianity] does this. Duffy’s book [The Stripping of the Altars: Traditional Religion in England, 1400-1580] does this. Nixey’s book does not. Anyone reading Nixey’s book is likely to come away thinking they know and understand more but will actually have learned things that would have to be unlearned or corrected later. Nixey’s is not a good history book. It is, as Dame Averil said so pithily, ‘a travesty’.”

Reviews of Nixey’s book:

Review of The Darkening Age by Catherine Nixey” by Tim O’Neill. History for Atheists November 29, 2017

When History Turns Anti-Christian” by Bryan Litfin. The Gospel Coalition April 5, 2019

Book review, ‘The Darkening Age: The Christian Destruction of the Classical World’ by Catherine Nixey” by Joshua Herring. The Acton Institute December 22, 2017

Blame the Christians” by Averil Cameron. The Tablet September 21, 2017

At Cross Purposes” by Levi Roach. Literary Review November 2017

Reactions to and Reviews of Catherine Nixey’s The Darkening Age” by Cornelis Hoogerwerf. What is Written October 22, 2017

2 Kings 23:11 – “He [Josiah] removed from the entrance to the temple of the LORD the horses that the kings of Judah had dedicated to the sun. They were in the court near the room of an official named Nathan-Melek. Josiah then burned the chariots dedicated to the sun.” (NIV)

A clay seal of King Josiah’s aid mentioned in the above passage was found recently found.  According to the Daily Mail, “The seal was found inside a two-storey office building which experts say was burned down by the Babylonians when they conquered the city in 586 BC.”

Nathan-Melech, a high-ranking official in the court of King of Judah, is named in the inscription of one of the tiny clay seals (pictured). It was found inside a two-storey admin building which archaeologists say was burned down by the Babylonians

Nathan-melech, the aide described in the 2 King’s passage, is described as one of Josiah’s officials.  There apparently is little extra-biblical evidence of King Josiah, but this find makes an archaeological connection to this individual.  The inscription on the ring above says, “(belonging) to Nathan-Melech, Servant of the King.”

Here is a short video of the discovery:

 

Other sources concerning this archaeological discovery:

Clay seal of King Josiah’s aide is found in the remains of an ancient office burnt down by Babylonians in 586 BC – adding weight to proof that the king really existed” by Joe Pinkstone | Daily Mail. April 1, 2019

Tiny First Temple find could be first proof of aide to biblical King Josiah” by Amanda Borschel-Dan | The Times of Israel. March 31, 2019

Archaeological discovery: Small seal mentioning King Josiah court official mentioned in Bible found in Israel” by  Michael Gryboski | The Christian Post. April 1, 2019

______________________

Post about other biblical archaeological discoveries from this blog include:

Ring of Pontius Pilate Discovered

Caiaphas Ossuary

The Prophet Isaiah

23 New Testament Figures Confirmed

History Has Gone to the Toilets-The Ancient Latrine of Lachish

Virtual Unwrapping of Levitical Scroll

City of Geza

Philistine Cemetery

Ancient Shopping List Provides Evidence of When Bible Was Written

Hezekiah Bulla

12th Dead Sea Scroll Cave Found!

Bethsaida

53 People in the Old Testament Confirmed Archaeologically

New ESV Archaeology Study Bible

campus

Being, I suppose, a professional student and spending over fourteen years in undergraduate and graduate education and another seven years as a professor at the collegiate level, it is disappointing the anti-Christian bias that is found on the college campus today.  Instances have ranged from prohibiting Christian clubs from require its leaders (not members), its leaders to be Christian, to being shouted down in class for endorsing Christian views. The rise of anti-Christian bias on campus is evident.  Granted, many of the instances listed here are in no way comparable to what Christians are facing around the world, but an indicator of the rise of this attitude was a 2007 study to discover anti-Semitism on campus. In 2007, the Institute for Jewish and Community Research released a study on the political beliefs and attitudes of college professors. The study was commissioned in part because of concerns that anti-Semitism was rising on campus. Rather than finding anti-Semitism, the Institute discovered that 53% of college professors admitted to “unfavorable” feelings about evangelical Christians.  No other religious group (including Muslims) was even close to this number. Provided are some instances of this “unfavorable” feelings about Christians on college and university campuses today:

1)

“Stomp On Jesus Assignment at FAU” at Townhall – Assignments, not just diatribes by the professor, are part of the “unfavorable” attitudes against Christians.  If it was the name Muhammad, I believe there would have been a very different outcome.

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