Thursday, 30 January 2014

Archaeology: A domestic hearth 300,000 years old

From Wikipeebia: http://wikipeebia.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=5&t=446

According to an article by Roff Smith in yesterday’s National Geographic Daily News, the oldest known hearth, more than 300,000 years old, has been found in Palestine. It is in the Qesem Cave and it contains many layers of wood ash containing fragments of animal bones, showing that it was used to cook meat over a period of many years. Flint tools near it were probably used for butchering the meat. 


The human remains found in the cave resemble modern humans more closely than they resemble Neanderthals, so they might well have been ancestors of the Canaanite and Jewish populations that we read about in the Old Testament. 

For details of the article, see http://tinyurl.com/q9ucato

Let us hope that the next edition of the Darby Bible printed by the BGT does not contain a chronological table implying that humans have only existed since about 4000 BC. That table makes the Brethren look woefully misguided and has probably played a part in making people think that Christianity and ignorance are an indivisible job-lot.

A most interesting paper to read can be found here:http://www.discourses.org.uk/fundamentalist.pdf

And here's the timeline from the Darby bible:


  1. J N Darby (1880-1882) is still the Exclusive Brethren's main reference point in matters of biblical interpretation, ancient history, archaeology and geology. It's therefore probably quite difficult for many brethren to accept the age of the universe and of our planet, Earth.

    I've tried to inform some members of this group of Exclusive Brethren about the history of the territory of Israel and the Palestinian Authority ('The Holy Land'), but, as far as I recall, none of my PBCC correspondents has ever replied to the carefully presented evidence I've offered them.

    In my view, there's a wilful dishonesty about any church which sticks to the PBCC's 'New Translation' chronology, and I'm always sad that these Brethren children and young people are deprived of the opportunity to learn about our wonderful universe and our solar system. John Darby himself struggled with the new scientific discoveries of C19 - I expect he'd have had something to say about the current 'Rosetta' space probe - but William Kelly, Darby's esteemed younger colleague, was quite clear (as was Augustine of Hippo in C3-C4 AD) that Christians look foolish if they deny scientific evidence about these important matters.

    Readers of this thread may be interested to check out the oldest site in the Holy Land, Ubeidiya in the Jordan Valley. Scavenged bone remains of hippos, elephants, rhinos, crocodiles, horses, deer and turtles, together with tools and hand axes, have been excavated there - from 1.4 million years ago when homo erectus journeyed from Africa to Asia and Europe through the land bridge of Israel/the Palestinian Authority.

  2. CORRECTION - This month I received an acknowledgement from a PBCC 'brother' concerning the material I'd sent him a while go about the history of the territory of the Holy Land. He apologised for his delay in replying. Sadly, he made no further comment about it, but I was glad to receive his acknowledgement.

  3. Interesting contribution, Joan. It seems bizarre that a PBCC company Edulab (CEO Mark Hynd - see elsewhere on this blog) and an associate company in Australia, sell equipment to schools to teach, among other things, earth sciences, including the use of fossils, and so on. I am not sure if Focus Group schools are clients; but it does seem the PBCC are happy to compromise beliefs where business is concerned.


    1. On my first ever visit to London I photographed the huge dinosaur skeleton standing in the main hall of the Natural History Museum. When my mother saw the photo she gasped with horror and said, “So it’s true then?” suddenly realising for the first time that dinosaurs really did exist, when she had previously been told they were only a fiction invented by scientists. I don’t know if it was Brethren that had indoctrinated her with that idea, but you don’t need to look very far in Brethren ministry to find really silly things said about science, especially since about 1960.

      Not that science alone bears the brunt of the Brethren’s attempts to suppress honest, objective knowledge. In the ministry you will also find incredibly silly things said about literature, history, language, communications technology, economics, medicine, politics and various arts.

      However, I am glad to hear that Edulab is contributing to the study of Earth Sciences and distributing fossils even if it may be motivated only by money, just as I was happy to see in the new Preston Down Trust Deed the endorsement of some Christian principles, even though it is widely suspected that the decision was based mainly on business criteria. Doing the right thing for materialistic motives is arguably better than not doing it at all. Maybe in time more noble motives might sneak in when no one is watching.

    2. Yes and on the Devon coast fossils are still being dug out of the cliffs. How did they get there? In the Southern Alberta Canada "badlands" eroded semi desert area many dinosaur skeletons are still being discovered, with a large modern museum displaying several as "in situ". I have seen fossil oyster shells embedded in the rock 4,000 ft up in the Cdn Rockies.

    3. Many Creationist Christians believe that God 'planted' fossils deep in the ground to fool disbelievers. Is God really a con man and no better than the EB themselves, then?

    4. The most elaborate version of that idea is in a book called Omphalos by an EB man called Philip Henry Gosse. As far as I know, no one has ever taken the book seriously apart from its author, though I remember Jim Taylor saying something equally implausible about the flood. He said God used the flood to mislead the unfaithful as to the age of the Earth.

      There is something rather inconsistent about saying God’s works are deceitful while his word is not, and something rather unappealing about depicting God as both deceitful and inconsistent.

      Another crazy idea of Jim Taylor was that the pressure of the flood is what caused diamonds to form. This was referred to approvingly by JSH (New Series Vol. 17 page 133).

      Where is Augustine of Hippo when you need him, or William Kelly? Either of them would have told Jim T not to make a fool of himself.

  4. Fossils buried in layers of sediment?...Fish fossils found in the middle of the desert in Australia?... Anyone would think there had been a global flood! I agree with the Bible. Darby, actually would not associate himself with the present PBCC, so please don't drag his name or character through the mud with them.

    1. To give Darby his due, he recognised that some chapters of the Bible that look like history are not actual history. Speaking of Genesis 10 (though I think he meant Genesis 11) he said, “Chapter 10 is not history, but a survey of the whole earth. There were no tongues or nations at all till Babel; if you try to put this chapter into time, you will go all astray.” I think JND knew too much about the history of languages to classify the story of Babel as literal history.
      (See http://www.stempublishing.com/authors/darby/EXPOSIT/19002E.html)

  5. Ahh...you see..the natural human mind just cannot grasp these mysteries of god, you see, this is all part of the great mystery, you see. Best not to ask any questions at all to avoid going to hell. And I can get you into heaven because I'm the Lords servant. You see!

  6. The dinosaurs were around at the time of Noah. Who's to say he didn't take them into the Ark, only to die out at a later time from natural causes?

    We can safely say creation and living things came into existence approximately 6,000 years ago. Scientists have fanciful theory and thesis, but zero evidence to prove. In other words, their so called knowledge is based on pure speculation and not fact.

    Watalota Tosh

    1. Mr Watalota Tosh,

      Have you actually looked at any of the evidence for a very old universe, a very old Earth and very early life? You find the evidence almost everywhere you look. Some of it is so direct and simple that you don’t need any special expertise to interpret it.

      For instance, if you just count the annual growth rings in the trunks of trees and match up the patterns in different pieces of timber, that alone is enough to establish that trees were growing much earlier than your 6000 years ago. You can read all the details of this method under the heading of dendrochronology. Its evidence is simple, direct and almost impossible to explain away.

      There are several isotope dating methods that can go back much further than dendrochronology, the best known being carbon dating, which we know is reasonably accurate within its range of applicability, because it agrees with dendrochronology and with the several other isotope dating methods. These all show consistently that many fossils are hundreds of millions of years old and many rocks are billions of years old.

      Then if you look up into the night sky on a clear moonless night you can see with the naked eye objects such as the Andromeda Galaxy that are so far away that the light from them has taken more than 2 million years to reach us.

      To explain all that away you need more than a sweeping assertion that there is “zero evidence.”

  7. Anyone who genuinely believes that planet Earth is 6000 years old should take a boat trip towards the horizon, where they will hopefully fall off!

    It's 2014, the ignorance of the EB is extraordinary. Even a Focus School pupil must be able to work out the difference between 6,000 and 4.5 billion. If they don't know Bruce Hales will, as it makes one hell of a difference on a tax return! That's if he's ever filled one in.

    Now let's see, 4.5 billion + 25% Gift Aid.....................

    Mr HMRC

    1. I'm not quite sure what Watalota Tosh considers was 'the time of Noah'.

      Yesterday in Room 55 of the British Museum in London I saw an Old Babylonian cuneiform tablet which is about the size of a mobile phone. It dates from about 1,750 BC and the sixty lines of writing on it give details of dimensions and instructions for building a huge coracle-shaped Mesopotamian 'ark'.

      Irving Finkel, Assistant Keeper in the Department of the Middle East at the British Museum, has this week published a book about this tablet. He's called his book, "The Ark Before Noah - Decoding the Story of the Flood", and it's published in the UK by Hodder and Stoughton. I can recommend it as an excellent read for anyone interested in ancient boat building, cuneiform writing or the Old Testament.

      Chapter 11 of the book, "The Judaean Experience" is the most useful, succinct review I've ever read of how the 58 years of exile in Babylon, beginning in 586 BC, affected the displaced people of Judah/Jerusalem. Mr Finkel refers to the opening verses of the Old Testament Book of Daniel and believes that the three year teaching programme (provided in Nebuchadnezzar II's court for the brightest and best of the Judahite exiles) introduced them to Mesopotamian literature about the Flood. You can read for yourself how he links this with the writing and redaction of the Hebrew traditions about Noah and his differently-shaped vessel. Mr Finkel is particularly delighted that the Mesopotamian tablet records that the animals went into the coracle ark "two by two".

      Whatever Watalota Tosh believes about the time of Noah, we are all indebted to the authors and scribes in the Ancient Levant and Mesopotamia who recorded their various narratives of the Deluge. I'm sure that Watalota Tosh knows that the earliest writing (from Sumer/Southern Iraq) is dated from around 3,500 BC and that alphabetic Hebrew, in which Genesis was written, came into being at the time of the united monarchy in Israel, in C10-C9 BC.

  8. Those who study ancient writings tell me that ancient Egypt, Greece, India, New Guinea, the Americas and Australia each have a tale in which a virtuous man and his family survive the waters to start afresh. These stories must have been written by people who had some experience of actual floods, or at least had heard of them. However, some of the stories are based around different characters, different deities and different kinds of boat, so they probably reflect the universal appeal of the scenario rather than being derived from the same actual flood, or from the same original story.

    However, the Noah flood story, the Gilgamesh flood story and the Atrahasis flood story have so many details in common that they must have a common written source, probably derived from Mesopotamia, where the plains around the Tigris and Euphrates were prone to flooding. As Joan has indicated, that written source existed long before the book of Genesis was written, but the various stories have different names for the characters and the deities.

    My favourite among the ancient flood stories is the one written by Ovid in his Metamorphoses, as translated by John Dryden. It also has quite a lot in common with the Mesopotamian stories, but is masterful in its vivid depiction and its emotional impact.

  9. Joan and Ian - If this makes this a little easier for you to grasp?
    The time of Noah is a reference to the period of time between his birth and death.
    He would then have had ample time in which to construct the Ark as directed and the Bible even records the measurements and the type of wood to be used in considerable detail. In all, Noah's lifespan was 950 years - See Genesis 9 - 29. The King James or JND translation probably affords the most accurate account.
    We should remember the Earth was a very different place in his times.
    The earth was not watered by rain, but by springs and mists. The climate and atmospheric conditions were thus very different from post flood.
    After the flood, it could be reasonably deduced God changed the Earth's atmospheric conditions. What is 100 % certain however, is God shortened our lifespans considerably. The bible gives a figure of around 70 years or if by reason of strength, can live longer.

    Ian, you are kidding yourself very nicely to believe in objects being billions of light years away. Man has not been given the capacity to calculate or comprehend such time and distance, even if it exists in theory. I think you are a very confused and deluded individual who is trying to prove something that God will not allow you to know.
    God has not created us and never intended mankind to have the capacity to know the further reaches and deeper mysteries of his universe.
    He has allowed man to go so far, but only that it be a witness to his might and majesty.

    Watalota Tosh

    1. Mr Tosh,

      There are several of your statements, indeed most of them, to which I would give the same answer, i.e. How do you know?

      For example,
      “The King James or JND translation probably affords the most accurate account.”
      “The earth was not watered by rain, but by springs and mists.”
      “After the flood, it could be reasonably deduced God changed the Earth's atmospheric conditions.”
      “Man has not been given the capacity to calculate or comprehend such time and distance”
      “God never intended mankind to have the capacity to know the further reaches and deeper mysteries of his universe”

      I can think of good reasons to question all of these statements, so I wonder why you think they are true.

    2. Mr Tosh,

      There are several of your statements, indeed most of them, to which I would give the same answer, i.e. How do you know?

      For example,
      “The King James or JND translation probably affords the most accurate account.”
      “The earth was not watered by rain, but by springs and mists.”
      “After the flood, it could be reasonably deduced God changed the Earth's atmospheric conditions.”
      “Man has not been given the capacity to calculate or comprehend such time and distance”
      “God never intended mankind to have the capacity to know the further reaches and deeper mysteries of his universe”

      I can think of good reasons to question all of these statements, so I wonder why you think they are true.

  10. Watalota Tosh - thank you for your posting. (I wish that you'd sign it with your real name.)

    I'm interested that you seem to view the part of the Old Testament relevant to Noah as scientific writing. Who do you think wrote those chapters? Who redacted them to combine the two accounts? Do you think the authors/editors were scientists or were they writing and composing a religious document?

    I've written to Irving Finkel, whom I mentioned above, and have suggested to him that the Hebrew account of the ark's configuration might have been influenced by the Phoenician ships which plied the Mediterranean. The Uluburun shipwreck (late C14 BC) confirms that ocean-going ships were out and about trading across the Mediterranean around the time that the Israelites settled in the highlands of the land of milk and honey. What do you think?

  11. 2348 BC in the Middle Eastern Bronze Age is your year of the Flood, Watalota Tosh. That's recent human history. Writings from other cultures in that period don't show any chronological break pointing to a deluge.


  12. Joan - I'm really glad you have inquired further and thank you for your patience.
    Whilst I'm no biblical expert into Biblical writings of Genesis, there is enough recorded to piece together certain conditions and events of that dispensation.
    By the way, any so called scientist or historian who overlooks or ignores these writings, has no right to make any kind of judgement.
    First, they must have the balls and intelligence to open and examine those documents.

    The atmospheric conditions / irrigation systems of the Earth and lifespan of humankind was very different to the following dispensation.
    The bible when examined, is not only found to be historically accurate, but has been recently discovered to be remarkably in line with well established (proven) scientific facts.

    Ian obviously has no idea that theory or thesis is not evidence and should stop foolishly doing so before he digs himself a much deeper hole. His claims about fossils being millions of years old have no proven scientific foundation and the world has yet to see it. It will never be so. We don't even know yet whether Dinosaurs were all cold blooded or whether some were hot blooded, so let's get real when speculating how old they are. Theory which remains theory, is most definitely not science based on reality. It is very bad science to call fictional imaginations - fact.
    The British scientist, Richard Dawkins also makes the same absurd error, time and time again. He is a man who has turned his back on God and is misleading others by deception of his own error and self will. The fruit of this error is man away from God. He has yet to present one spec of evidence from his research.
    It's very sad to see such an intelligent and kindly man so far off course from reality.
    I believe the Holy bible to be the 100 % Truth and every word contained in it to be the inspired word of God. God has overlooked the times of ignorance and commands men everywhere to repent. Whilst I'm not a member of the PBCC, I think they have got a lot of things right and should be respected for their faith in this day of rapid moral decline and family breakdown.

    Watalota Tosh

    1. Mr Tosh,

      The great ages of the dinosaurs, of fossils, of rocks and of galaxies are not a matter of speculation, theory or “fictional imaginations” as you seem to imply. Many of these are known with pretty good precision from several independent lines of strong evidence that all agree with one another. I have only described a few pieces of the evidence, but there are masses of it, widely published and easily found by anyone who wants to examine it critically.

      The fact that life existed hundreds of millions of years ago and rocks billions of years ago is established beyond all reasonable doubt. I don’t know of a single person who has examined the evidence honestly in detail and still thinks Archbishop Ussher’s Biblical chronology or the version of it printed in the Darby Bible is anywhere near to being literally true. There must be very few facts that meet with such complete unanimity among those who have studied the evidence. Every dating method has a known margin of error, of course, but none of these is nearly large enough to accommodate a literal view of Biblical chronology.

      I do not want to disparage Ussher or Darby on that account, because they had to make do with the evidence available at their time, which was not very much. Today it is different. You can only hold on to literal biblical chronology now if you adopt a policy of wilful ignorance and refuse to examine evidence.

      It is known from the fossil record that nearly all the dinosaurs, along with almost every land animal bigger than a small cat, died out suddenly 65 to 66 million years ago, so no human ever saw a living one. The problem of accommodating them on the Ark would not arise.

      It is also known from geological evidence that an asteroid collided with the Earth 65 to 66 million years ago, landing in the Gulf of Mexico. Chemical elements characteristic of asteroids must have been spread all round the globe by the force of the blast, because they are found in rocks all over the world at the boundary between the Cretaceous and Tertiary strata.

      So the evidence from fossils and the evidence from geology both point to a major catastrophe between 65 and 66 million years ago.

      I have cited this catastrophe only as one example to show how independent evidence from different sciences provides mutual confirmation. The fossil record shows that there have actually been several catastrophes involving mass extinctions during the last 400 million years, but none at the time when Noah might have lived, and we also know a lot of detail about the drift of continents that has occurred over the same period.

      Speaking of continents, may I raise the question of whether Noah’s rescue of the animals, when interpreted very literally, is practicable? Do you think he went to the Arctic Circle to collect polar bears, to Australia to collect kangaroos and wallabies, to Madagascar to collect various species of lemurs, to Borneo to collect orang-utans, to Africa to collect chimps, gorillas and bonobos and to South America to collect the many species of New-World monkeys? Or did these animals find their own way to the Ark? Could they swim that far and would they know where to go? Or would you find it more reasonable to think the flood stories could be based on experience of a local flood? And does it concern you that the number of animal species on earth is somewhere between 3 million and 30 million?

      I would have liked to finish by finding some common ground with you, but the only thing you have said so far that I can unreservedly agree with is your kind acknowledgement of Joan’s legendary patience.

  13. Watalota tosh, Tosh...I do not find Ian's contributions "foolish"; just opposed to your views, that is all. Clearly you are to be unmoved from your position, so just to take up the more practical implications of your last sentence. You have a very black and white notion of the world; I haven't evidenced this "moral decline" among people, in quite the same way as you. From all accounts, the Exclusive brethren (PBCC Ltd) have had many a moral stumble along the way. Regarding family breakdown; could it be that it be that the Exclusive Brethren chain their people in such a way that divorce, or separation, is not possible without lawless and authoritarian interference and penalties? Finally the Exclusive Brethren (PBCC) have created more family breakdown, through their policy of separation, than any other religious, or secular group, known to me.


  14. Genesis 7 contradicts itself, demonstrating that it is not a scientific manual but rather a guide about relationships. Sometimes it is two of every kind, sometimes seven. Sometimes two only of unclean animals but elsewhere pairs of all animals.

    Given that the things when we see the stars we are looking back in time millions of years, given the length of time it takes for light to reach us, we know that the creation is more that a few thousand years.


  15. Ian - Can I make it plainer for you?
    You have faith, even Evolution is a form of faith, but it is a false faith founded on man's natural reasoning and is therefore error. Your belief in theory being evidence is certainly not real science and certainly cannot not be claimed to be so.
    Dawkins even has a motto - Science and Reason, but there is no link between the two ( at least in his case)

    I too have faith, but it is a real faith founded on the sure foundation of Jesus Christ. The event of Christ's death on a cross and his resurrection was witnessed and acknowledged by the Roman authorities, many eye witness accounts and backed-up by a very genuine historical document of amazing detail.
    The detail of accounts throughout the Bible, simply dismiss the notion they aren't true or accurate in the context intended.
    I believe in the living God who created the habitable Earth, the majestic universe and its vastness, which are a firm witness, not only to his glorious presence, but that man's/our capacity to comprehend it is constrained and limited to the measure he has allowed. We don't need to know what is beyond a certain point of time and space. When man landed on the Moon, sin arrived on it too. It is my gut feeling that God will not allow man to take sin further in his creation.
    It is a realm that is only known to God himself who is the creator of all things.
    You might again ask - How do I know?
    Perhaps you need real faith Ian because real faith IS evidence of things not seen.
    When you have real faith, it cannot be shaken because it is based on reality and conviction of soul and spirit.

    Watalota Tosh.

    1. Mr Tosh,

      It is a pleasure to find in your latest post some bits I can identify with. I share your faith in Jesus Christ and in the living God who created the habitable Earth, the majestic universe and its vastness. Just to contemplate the wonders of the universe, the bits we can fathom as well as the bits we can’t, is in itself a spiritual experience, and the process of observing and participating in the rapid advances in human understanding of the universe are among the most exhilarating experiences of our time.

      I deeply regret the fact that my former friends and acquaintances among the Brethren are almost completely cut off from this kind of experience, being forbidden to become scientists and being forbidden to study in depth the understanding and insights that have been granted us through the work of scientists, philosophers, theologians, archaeologists, cosmologists, anthropologists, psychologists, Bible scholars and religious teachers.

      For example, I regret that by being coerced into obeying their own leaders they are prevented from obeying the teachings of Jesus Christ, some of whose central, salient and treasured teachings are explicitly rejected by Exclusive Brethren ministry.

      But although we have some common ground, you again say some things that make no sense at all to me. Where do you get the idea that I think theory is evidence? I have never said or implied or believed anything so obviously false. Theory and evidence are different things. A lot of the statements you have made might optimistically be called theory, but you seldom seem to cite any evidence to support them, even when it is asked for. Without evidence they only seem like empty assertions.

      Where do you get the idea that there is no link between science and reason? Without reason there could be no science worthy of the name. Science starts with observations, which may be observations of natural events or observations of the results of experiments; it interprets these observations with the help of reason and arrives at some general conclusions. Without reasoning it would only be fact-collecting, about as much fun as stamp-collecting and not much more useful.

      These general conclusions may never be known with total certainty, but they have enabled us to predict and to control many of the events around us, to predict weather or to control diseases for example, and by doing so it has contributed enormously, vastly, spectacularly to human health, safety, prosperity, longevity, comfort and peaceful co-existence. Why would anyone think a benevolent God would be opposed to that? Does it not make more sense to thank God for the work of scientists and the understanding they have given us?

      . . . continued below

    2. . . . continued from above

      Science has not only practical value, but great cultural value too. The commitment to pursue and search out truth is one of the central and most admirable parts of the ethos that pervades science. Truth is largely what science is all about.

      Where do you get the idea that man's natural reasoning is necessarily in error? I know several Brethren leaders have said this kind of thing, but the same leaders use their own natural reasoning to support their own ideas. The very leaders who condemn science sometimes use scientific findings to support their views. Didn’t you do something similar in your post of 1 February 2014 at 03:41?

      Who created our brains and gave us our ability to reason logically? Were we intended to use our brains, or only to carry them around? And can you think of a single case in which valid logic has ever led to a false conclusion?

      A nice thing about deductive logic is that if it starts from true facts, and follows the rules of propositional logic as set out by Aristotle or the rules of predicate logic as set out by later logicians, it has never yet led to a false conclusion. You can’t get much more reliable than that. Another nice thing about logic is that even if we have never heard of Aristotle its rules seem to be hard-wired into our brains. For instance, our brains are naturally very averse to believing two contradictory things at the same time. Try it, and you will find it is very difficult. Who do we have to thank for that logical faculty, which helps us to make wise decisions and helps to protect us against deceivers?

      I recognise how important faith and evidence are, but when you speak about faith and about evidence I think you perhaps understand these words differently from me. You say faith is evidence. Could you explain what you mean by that? Evidence of what?

  16. So, Watalota Tosh, you're not volunteering for a one-way trip to Mars?

  17. Watalotatosh.......You mention, above, that the Exclusive Brethren (PBCC Ltd) are to be applauded for the lack of family breakdown. This is strange, since this group have caused more family breakdowns than any other religious or secular group known to me. Furthermore, perceived family unity is preserved partly because of the authoritarian regime, including lawless punishments and sanctions that might follow upon attempted separation or divorce. Finally, the Exclusive Brethren (PBCC) have been in their own moral free-fall over the decades with various scandals, from time to time, dependence on alcohol and a focus on the creation of wealth coupled with a lack of Christian compassion and tolerance to others.


  18. In connection with the Chronology printed in the 'New Translation', it's interesting that when the Irish biblical scholar Bishop Ussher completed his calculations in the middle of the seventeenth century he chose to work from the early Middle Ages' (AD) Hebrew Masoretic text rather than from the older C3-C1 BC Greek Septuagint version. The data vary in these two Old Testaments.

    I noticed that in one of his contributions about Noah, Watalota Tosh commented, "The King James or JND translation probably affords the most accurate account." I appreciated his use of "probably" because it left space for a different viewpoint.

    In the "Revised Preface to Second Edition of the New Testament (1871)" at the front of the 'New Translation', John Darby wrote about the inadequacy of the sources available in C17 to the translators of the KJV, and he listed the new authorities he was able to use in C19 - a century when ancient manuscripts of the Bible were being discovered and beginning to be widely used by textual scholars.

    John Darby admitted that from constant use of the KJV his mind was filled with its phrases, but said that his work had been based on the best available Greek sources (he was talking about the New Testament) newly available to him. He revised his New Testament translation at the end of his life and would, I'm sure, have welcomed and used the textual discoveries of Ugarit, the Dead Sea etc for his Old Testament work had he lived on into C20.

    Perhaps, Watalota Tosh, you could bring your influence to bear with the PBCC to consider using a more accurate, modern Bible translation than either the KJV or the 'New Translation'. The NIV or the NRSV come to mind as possibilities.

  19. Britain: One Million Years of the Human Story

    This is the title of a temporary exhibition that opens on 13th February in the Natural History Museum, London.

    It will display more than 200 specimens, objects and life-size models to illustrate the story of ancient Britain, its changing landscapes and the people that lived here.

    The exhibition is described in detail by the FT Magazine along with many photos of the exhibits at

    It is also the title of a book on the same subject by Rob Dinnis and Chris Stringer. Here is how Amazon.com describes the book.

    "The amazing story of human life in Britain during the last million years, told by two scientists at the forefront of research into ancient ancestors

    When did the first humans arrive in Britain? Where did they come from? And what did they look like? This amazing story of human life in Britain begins nearly one million years ago, during the earliest known human occupation, and reveals how early humans lived, survived, and died. The book travels through time to reveal which human species lived in Britain during multiple waves of occupation. Drawing on a wealth of dramatic new evidence from excavation sites, it describes who they were, what their habitats were like, which animals shared their landscape, and what they were capable of doing, from the controlled use of fire to specialized hunting. It shows how humans have changed, evolved, and migrated, adapting to dramatically changing climate and landscapes. The authors describe the discoveries, the key fossil specimens, and the science behind recent remarkable findings. Written in a lively and engaging style, and fully illustrated with maps, diagrams, and photographs, this is an incredible journey through ancient Britain and a groundbreaking guide to our earlier humans. The book is based on the groundbreaking work of the Ancient Human Occupation of Britain project."

    1. Maybe Ian, you and Joan could invite Peter Trevvett and Garth Christie for a guided tour?

    2. Followed by a discussion about the exhibition over lunch?

    3. Ian 12-36 - Ha ha ha ha he he he he he he ha ha ha ha - Come again

      What utter rubbish you write...Stop making us all laugh.
      One million years. The human story???
      Yes, a giant cock and bull story without any evidence in the fossil record either. (Read 23-47s common sense view on fossils)

      Anon 23-47 here on the other hand, writes common sense and based on the evidence available. Well done old chap.

      Mr Passme Da Salt

    4. Young-Earthers keep saying “there is no evidence.” I suggest you go to the exhibition and look at the original evidence for yourself. There will be people there who can discuss it with you, and will not mind scepticism and criticism. You will be able to ask what dating methods were used, and how they know the various artefacts were made by humans. Or if you live too far away from London, you can look at the photographs and read Stringer’s book.

  20. Anonymous 2 February 2014 12:46 and Laurie - great suggestions. I'd so much welcome the opportunity to share a museum visit and lunch with Peter and Garth. I have books by Chris Stringer on my shelves - the forthcoming exhibition is in good hands.

    I have tried to encourage members of this group of Exclusive Brethren to visit the British Museum, either with me or on their own. I've also mentioned the (free) Sir John Ritblat Gallery at the British Library, but I haven't heard that they've taken up those suggestions.

  21. 300,000 years old or 6000 years old?
    I think the scientists are having a wild guess because they don't know.

    1. This archaeological work has all the usual hallmarks of careful, honest, objective science with no signs of any wild guesses.

      The researchers were working in the Weizmann Institute of Science, a reputable research institute. One of the authors is Dr. Ruth Shahack-Gross, who has been working on the study since the year 2000, and is an expert on the analysis of ancient ash. She has described her methods in detail, and so exposed them to the scrutiny of anyone who wishes to criticise them, in the book Microarchaeology by Dr Sterphen Weiner, published by Cambridge University Press in 2010.

      Their findings in the Qesem Cave were published in a peer-reviewed journal, the Journal of Archaeological Science. So their evidence would have been checked independently by reviewers before it was accepted for publication. The reviewers would not have allowed them to report an age of 300,000 years unless there was adequate evidence for this estimate obtained by validated and tested methods of dating. These methods all have known margins of error, but not nearly enough to mistake 6,000 years for 300,000.

      I don’t believe such researchers would put their personal integrity and considerable reputations at risk by trying to pass off a wild guess as a proper scientific estimate.

      I have known many scientists and many religious fundamentalists. The former in my experience rarely tell lies about their field of interest, whereas the latter frequently do. The Kitzmiller v. Dover lawsuit provided a very public example of that cultural difference.

    2. Ian - I am confused by your posts - do you believe that the flood happened or not?

    3. There have been a lot of floods, and the many flood stories were clearly written by people who had direct or indirect knowledge of them. But none of these floods covered the entire globe. If they had done, there would be biological and geological evidence to show it. There isn’t.

    4. 23:32 You don't need to be confused. I think Ian is the confused one -

      The truth is, Ian doesn't really know and cannot prove anything by the theory he has wrapped around his head. Theories are largely projections based on little or nothing of substance. Very poor science when you do not take into account an authentic document and record - The Bible.

      Back to school.

    5. I used to question about the Big Bang theory and Creation when I was a kid. My dad always told me that the Bible doesn't say how God made the earth and so could have used that method. also that it doesn't say how much time elapsed or what happened between Genesis 1 verse 1 and verse 2. obviously dinosaurs existed as you can see their remains, as did prehistoric forests which remains now give us oil. That made sense to me and so I have no difficulty reconciling dinosaurs and long periods of time etc with the Bible. Also as God is all powerful then he can do anything.
      To my mind, to suggest that all the incredible richness of nature just happened to evolve is far more ridiculous an idea than creation. I have studied the animal kingdom in depth and the more I study the more I feel that it couldn't have "just happened". Also why do we never find fossils of animals that have half-evolved?
      All very thought provoking and amazing. God is great.

    6. I think J. N. Darby gave some credence to the Gap Theory, the theory that Genesis 1 describes events in chronological order and there could be a gap of billions of years between verses 1 and 2. This was one way to accommodate fossils and still hold on to a literal reading of Genesis. However, if chapter 1 is assumed to be in chronological order, then chapter 2 is not.

      Some of the events in Chapter 1 are known from scientific evidence to be roughly in chronological order. For instance, light was one of the first things to be created, even before the sun and stars, and man was one of the last.

      Your question about animals that have half-evolved is interesting. I don’t think there were any animals with half an eye or half a head, if that is what you mean. But there were and still are animals with very primitive, simple eyes or very primitive, simple brains. Sometimes it is alleged that I am one of them.

    7. Thanks Ian - how could light have been made before the sun - what do scientists say about that? Surely all light either comes from the sun directly or else energy which emanated from the sun originally. Did God make the light?
      My point about evolution just to clarify is - the theory is that everything evolved from single cell organisms as I understand it, so surely evolution would have taken a long time and so we should have millions of fossils of animals, fish, birds etc that are on their evolving journey so to speak. it always interests me that no-one ever asks this question or speculates why no such fossils are ever found. Evolution is accepted as fact whereas if you stop and think and study nature then you can pick it full of holes. it is only a theory not the fact that it is so often presented as.
      The way the animal kingdom works in harmony is amazing and it baffles me how anyone can think "It just happened".
      Moving on - I am confused by your posts Ian because you indicate that you are a Christian and believe in the Bible and yet you also seem to say that some parts (such as the flood) are basically incorrect. My question to you is that on this basis, where do you stop - are the Gospels also possibly inaccurate? Do you believe in the resurrection or would you need scientific evidence for that before you believed it? Where is Heaven and Hell??
      I will be interested in your response to my questions and points

    8. Those are a lot of interesting questions, Anonymous. I like to see people with an inquiring mind. Sometimes asking the important questions is more valuable than knowing all the answers, or thinking that you know all the answers. I don’t know the answers to all your questions, but I can tell you what answers you will find in credible sources, and point you in the direction of some of the evidence.

      Science and Genesis 1 agree about light being created before the sun and the stars. According to the current consensus among cosmologists, the universe for tens of thousands of years consisted mostly not of matter but mostly of radiation, including light. Then it was dark for a while and a few hundred million years later it lit up again as galaxies and stars appeared.

      You say, “we should have millions of fossils of animals, fish, birds etc that are on their evolving journey so to speak.” You are quite right. We do have millions of fossils, even if you only count the ones in museums. Perhaps they were all on their evolving journey, and perhaps we are too. Even if we didn’t know anything about fossils, what we have seen and known about present-day mutation, recombination, genetic drift and natural selection would lead us to the inevitable conclusion that evolution is bound to happen. It is hard to see what could prevent it.

      . . . continued below.

    9. . . . continued from above

      You say, “are the Gospels also possibly inaccurate? Do you believe in the resurrection or would you need scientific evidence for that before you believed it? Where is Heaven and Hell?”

      Historical accuracy is no longer available to us. We know that the gospels contain historical inaccuracies, because they contain many internal contradictions about details of events. They were written probably several decades after the events that they describe, so with the authors’ best intentions, inaccuracies are to be expected. However, the parts of the gospels that matter most are the teachings and work of Jesus. There is room for doubt about details like the actual words he used, but there is no room for doubt about the tenor of his ministry, and that is what matters most. It is as powerful today as it ever was, and its power does not depend on all the fine details.

      You ask about resurrection. Among Christians there are various views about what resurrection means. Most Brethren don’t realise that in the Bible there are also various views about it. The Bible actually presents a variety of differing views about a whole load of doctrines, and if we were guided by the Bible we would do so too. Pluralism is not tolerated among Brethren, but the Bible is full of it.

      Some Biblical authors did not believe in resurrection. For example,

      Job 7:9
      As the cloud is consumed and vanishes away, so he that goeth down to the grave shall come up no more.

      Psalm 6:5
      For in death there is no remembrance of thee: in the grave who shall give thee thanks?

      Ecclesiastes 3:19
      For that which befalleth the sons of men befalleth beasts; even one thing befalleth them: as the one dieth, so dieth the other; yea, they have all one breath; so that a man hath no preeminence above a beast.

      Ecclesiastes 9:5
      The dead know not anything, neither have they any more a reward.

      Ecclesiastes 9:10
      For there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.

      Isaiah 26:14
      They are dead, they shall not live; they are deceased they shall not rise.

      Isaiah 38:18
      For the grave cannot praise thee, death can not celebrate thee: they that go down into the pit cannot hope for thy truth.
      On the other hand, there are often-quoted scriptures that describe the resurrection as a physical event, and others that describe resurrection as a spiritual event.

      Paul describes resurrection as a spiritual event. In 1 Corinthians 15 he says it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. And in 2 Corinthians 5 he says, For we know that if our earthly tabernacle house be destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For indeed in this we groan, ardently desiring to have put on our house which [is] from heaven.

      In these passages Paul indicates a difference between the body that is buried and the body that is raised. The body that is buried is destroyed, and the resurrected body is a spiritual body, a building from God, a house not made with hands … our house which is from heaven. What exactly this means is something I would not like to pontificate about. I am happy to wait and see.

      You ask where is Heaven and Hell. Your question suggests that these are physical places with geometrically or astronomically defined boundaries. In common with many others, I think of these as spiritual states, not as literal places. I think Brethrenism has made us much too materialistic, not only in the sense of striving for material gain, but in the sense of thinking of spiritual things as if they were physical things.

  22. Back to school - for a model of how to conduct a correspondence with someone with whom you strongly disagree, take a look at the three paragraphs of Chapter 1 of Augustine of Hippo's Letter 82 to Jerome.

    This letter was written in 405 AD - Augustine was in Algeria and Jerome in Bethlehem. The two of them disagreed about Jerome's use of Hebrew documents, rather than the Greek Septuagint, for his Latin translation of the Bible. Augustine's Letter 82 is a model of how to conduct a correspondence about a contentious matter.

    1. Is it not Chapter 5 of Jerome’s letter that deals with the contentious question of whether the Hebrew or the Greek versions of the Old Testament is more faithful to the intentions of its authors? The version I have been reading is at http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/1102082.htm

      That question, as it happens, is still contentious. I used to assume the Hebrew would be superior because most of the OT was written in Hebrew, but I keep finding examples in which the Greek (LXX) version seems more accurate than the surviving Hebrew. Where is Sir Lancelot Brenton when you need him?

    2. Sorry, I should have called it Augustine’s letter.

  23. A post script to 'Back to School' - I should have said that Augustine and Jerome were also dealing with a serious difference of view of Galatians 2:11-14, and Augustine deals with this matter at length in Letter 82.

    Let me quote, though, the very end of this Letter 82 which refers to their dispute about the primacy of Hebrew or Greek sources for Jerome's Latin Bible. I hope these moving words from Augustine in 405 AD will help us as we try to understand each other better:

    "Let us, however, resolve to maintain between ourselves the liberty as well as the love of friends; so that in the letters which we exchange, neither of us shall be restrained from frankly stating to the other whatever seems to him open to correction, provided always that this be done in the spirit which does not, as inconsistent with brotherly love, displease God. If, however, you do not think that this can be done between us without endangering that brotherly love, let us not do it: for the love which I should like to see maintained between us is assuredly the greater love which would make this mutual freedom possible; but the smaller measure of it is better than none at all."

  24. Yesterday a very important discovery was published that provides some of the earliest evidence of humans in Britain. It is hoped that there is enough time to present some of the findings in the forthcoming exhibition in the Natural History Museum.

    The full report is at http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0088329

    Here are parts of a brief summary published in The Independent.

    Around 50 footprints, made by members by an early species of humans almost a million years ago, have been revealed by coastal erosion near the village of Happisburgh, in Norfolk, 17 miles north-east of Norwich.

    The discovery - made by a team of experts from the British Museum, the Natural History Museum and Queen Mary University of London - is one of the most important archaeological discoveries ever made in Britain and is of great international significance, as the footprints are the first of such great age ever found outside Africa. Indeed even there, only a few other examples have ever come to light – all in Kenya and Tanzania.

    The Happisburgh prints appear to have been made by a small group, perhaps a family, of early humans, probably belonging to the species Homo antecessor ('Pioneer Man'). Of the 50 or so examples recorded, only around a dozen were reasonably complete - and only two showed the toes in detail.

    It's likely that the prints represent a group of at least one or two large adult males, at least two or three adult females or teenagers and at least three or four children.

    When they left their footprints, the group was walking across tidal mud flats at the edge of what, at that stage in prehistory, was the estuary of the Thames which flowed into the sea some 100 miles north of the present Thames estuary.

    The group was walking upstream - away from the open sea, which was several miles behind them.

    Archaeologists are now trying to determine the precise age of the footprints. They have so far succeeded in narrowing it down to two possible dates - around 850,000 years ago or 950,000 years ago. Only intense further study will reveal which of those two alternatives is the correct one.

    The archaeologists have also found some 80 flint knives and scrapers from the Happisburgh site dating from the same period, so the humans that lived there were skilled tool makers.

  25. It's interesting that around 800,000 years ago Happisburgh in Norfolk (locally pronounced 'Haysborough') was situated on the (British) peninsula at the northwestern fringe off the Eurasian continent - the English Channel as we know it did not exist then. Very early humans could simply have walked to Norfolk, perhaps following the Rhine towards the north-facing bay into which the Rivers Thames and Bytham also flowed. (At that time the Thames flowed further north than it does today.)

    The footprints are important because there are no human fossils from early Happisburgh. Anyone who's really interested in this subject might like to refer to the fragmentary fossil record from Gran Dolina at Atapuerca in southern Europe.

    I have a ticket for the Natural History Museum's exhibition this month. If I remember, I'll report back whether they've been able to incorporate evidence of the footprint finds.

  26. When discussing the sudden disappearance of the dinosaurs about 66 million years ago, I mentioned earlier in this thread that in the last 400 million years there have been several occasions when most life forms on earth were wiped out in a relatively short period of time.

    The worst of these disasters occurred at the end of the Permian period, when it has been estimated that up to 96 per cent of all life, both terrestrial and aquatic, was killed off. That included, for example, the trilobites, which until then had been widespread and abundant.

    Now a new scientific study, not yet in print, has pinpointed the dates when the great dying began and ended and has shown that the deaths were preceded by a sharp rise in carbon dioxide concentrations, possibly coming from volcanic eruptions. The rise in carbon dioxide occurred about 10,000 years before the deaths began, not very long in geological time, and it would have been enough to cause a 10 degree C rise in ocean temperatures, which could be the reason for the deaths.

    Seth Burgess of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology said, “It is clear that whatever triggered extinction must have acted very quickly.”

    Sam Bowring, a co-author said, “We’ve got the extinction nailed in absolute time and duration.”

    They estimate that the dying began about 251,941,000 years ago and finished about 251,880,000 years ago.

    The title of their paper is High-precision timeline for Earth’s most severe extinction
    The authors are Seth D. Burgess, Samuel Bowring, and Shu-zhong Shen
    The journal is Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2014, published ahead of print February 10, 2014.

    The existence of these great extinctions is sobering, perhaps even more sobering than the story of Noah, because we know for a fact that they affected the entire globe, and we cannot avoid the thought that it might well happen again.

  27. Crystals more than 4 billion years old - just confirmed yesterday

    In 2001 some extremely old zircon crystals were found embedded in newer rocks in Jack Hills, Western Australia. See http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v409/n6817/full/409175A0.html

    The oldest crystal was dated at 4,400,000,000 years old, using the Uranium-Thorium-Lead method. Its great age implies that it must have formed very soon after the Earth’s first solid crust began to form. Its isotopic composition has also revealed considerable information about the environment in which it formed.

    Since that first discovery the crystal has been tested by other methods to check that the measurement had not been biased by movement of lead ions within the crystal, and just yesterday the findings were published, confirming that the age estimate was accurate. See http://www.nature.com/ngeo/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/ngeo2075.html

    I don’t want to ridicule the chronological table produced by Archbishop Ussher and the version of it that appeared at the front of the first French Darby Bible, because Ussher and Darby lived in a time when very little was known about geology and other sciences, and they had to make do with the information they had at the time, but I would expect the Brethren’s censors of school books to know better, and the Bible and Gospel Trust too.

  28. In my first scripture lesson at grammar school we were told that the story of the flood was not true. My mum wrote to the teacher and we were excused from attending any more scripture at school. I now believe the teacher was right.

    At the end of the last glaciation, about 16000 years ago, the sea began to rise as ice on land melted. During this, the Holocene interglacial, the sea rose more than 100m (330') and at the rate at times of a metre every 10 years. Coastal civilizations would have been constantly on the move. The Mediterranean and the Black Sea were depressions that could have been filled quickly by water spilling over at Gibraltar and then the Bosporus.

    1. There is a sense in which the story of the flood is true, or at least some of the lessons you can learn from it are true. It is true that a civilization or a society can become so bad that it would be better not being there at all. It is true that even in such a society, not everyone is bad. It is true that disasters happen and heroes can rescue the victims. It is true that saving animals matters as well as saving people. It is true that foreseeing a disaster and preparing for it can be a lifesaver. It is also historically true that there have been many disastrous floods, and the people who wrote flood stories knew about them.

      It is also true that one particular flood story existed in Mesopotamia about a thousand years before any of the Bible was written and it finished up getting into Genesis by two separate routes in two separate versions that were then merged into one. The idea that it was all written by divine dictation to Moses is a bit disrespectful to God. If it had come from God as directly as that, God would have made a better job of it.

      A Quaker who visited me a few years ago put it this way: “The Bible is true and some of it happened.” I think the message is that different literary genres are found in the Bible. History is only one of these genres, and the flood story does not belong to that genre.