[b-hebrew] Rohl's Chronology Deconstructed

MarianneLuban at aol.com MarianneLuban at aol.com
Mon Jul 26 16:25:09 EDT 2004

In a message dated 7/26/2004 11:40:00 AM Pacific Daylight Time, 
dwashbur at nyx.net writes:

> > Rohl's identfying King Saul with Labayu, places Saul and the events in 
> his
> > life in a Late Bronze Age setting (ca. 1560-1200 BCE). Mainstream
> > scholarship understands Labayu to be a contemporary of  Pharaoh Akhenaten
> > who reigned ca. 1350-1334 BCE according to Clayton (p. 120. Peter Clayton.
> > _Chronicles of the Pharaohs_. Thames & Hudson. London. 1994).
> >
> > The biblical chronology suggests for the mainstream scholars that Saul
> > reigned ca. 1050-1020 BCE,  _not_ some two hundred years earlier. Saul is
> > understood by the mainstream to be an Iron Age monarch (ca. 1200-1000 
> BCE),
> > _not_ a Late Bronze Age ruler as maintained by Rohl.
> But that's the whole point.  Rohl's evidence indicates that the Egyptian 
> timeline as set forth by "mainstream scholars" (whatever that may mean) has 
> a 
> serious glitch in it, and his only goal is to correct that.  If you read his 
> material, he has no stake at all in whether the Bible aligns with anything 
> else in history; he simply doesn't care, and the fact that he can fine 
> alignments between the Bible and his revised chronology is a curiosity to 
> him, nothing more. 
> The "mainstream" may be a stagnant pool at times--but that still doesn't 
> mean that just anyone who comes along to make ripples in it is going to do so 
> well enough to "clear the waters" of stagnation so that everything becomes so 
> clear you can see right through to the bottom!  I think you are absolutely 
> mischaracterizing Rohl.  His "Pharaohs and Kings", for example, contains 
> attempts to reconcile the Bible and Egyptian history much of the time.  In fact, 
> that seems to be the entire goal of the book!  If he mere wanted to make points 
> for a new Egyptian chronology, he could have utilized Egyptian evidence 
> alone--but instead he drags in the Biblical narratives--big time!

 So it's not as if he has a biblical ax to grind here, his 
> purpose is purely Egyptological, and his goal is to correct what he sees as 
> an erroneous chronology on the part of "mainstream scholars."

And yet his arguments against those "mainstream scholars" (who are not 
exactly in agreement on chronological matters, themselves) have persuaded few 
knowledgeable persons.  If you are saying that these "mainstream scholars" never pay 
any attention to new and persuasive arguments from their peers--you would be 
very wrong, indeed.

> > If Rohl is correct that Saul is Labayu, then the places mentioned in
> > association with Saul's wars against the Philistines (cf. 1 Samuel,
> > chapters 6-14) "ought" to possess archaeological evidence of being in
> > existence in Late Bronze Age times and _not_ the Iron Age (1200-1000).
> >
> > My investigations into the archaeological findings on the various towns
> > mentioned in the Saul narratives concluded that these towns did _not_ 
> exist
> > in the days of Akhenaten and Labayu, they existed ONLY in Iron Age times,
> > after the arrival of the Philistines who arrived ca. 1175 BCE as the 
> Pelest
> > in the days of Pharaoh Ramesses III who reigned ca. 1182-1151 BCE. Ergo,
> > Rohl's "alternate chronology" needs some more "work." For the data cf. the
> > below article
> Please.  We all know that archaeology is based on the accident of 
> preservation.  To say that we "ought" to find archaeological material at 
> such 
> and such a place for such and such a time, is to bypass the actual sporadic, 
> not to say whimsical, flyspecks of preservation that we do encounter and 
> suggest that what is essentially a random process - the accident of 
> preservation - should follow some kind of rule set that makes what we want 
> accessible to us several thousand years later.  It just doesn't work that 
> way.  Factors such as erosion, rebuilding, destruction on a massive scale by 
> enemies, and what-have-you, combine to make the whole thing a very 
> unpredictable process.  That may not be what we want, and we may not like 
> it, 
> but those factors tell us, in essence, that if we don't like it, too bad.
> This is why arguments from silence will never get anywhere, especially in 
> this 
> field.  To say that "there's no positive evidence where we 'ought' to expect 
> it," is equally to say "there's no negative evidence where the accident of 
> preservation might have wiped something out, either."  It would be nice of 
> scholars would get a handle on the fact that absence of evidence does NOT 
> equal evidence of absence.  If you're into C programming, it would look like 
> this:
> (absence_of_evidence) != (evidence of absence)
> That's how arguments from silence ALWAYS work.  What's important is for 
> qualified Egyptologists who, like Rohl, don't have some kind of ax to grind, 
> to examine the revised chronology *on its own merits* and *based strictly on 
> the evidence presented* and determine whether there might be something to 
> it.  
> Unfortunately, since he presented the material in popular form, first in a 
> television show and then in a popular book, too many scholars have just 
> written him off as a headline-grabbing crackpot instead of seriously 
> examining what he said.  That's just sad.
> Before someone brings it up, I really don't care one way or another whether 
> Saul was Labayu or whether he was Saul.  None of this chronology stuff 
> matters to me at all, I have my own little niche off in the grammatical 
> corner.  But the way that Rohl's material has been treated by "scholars" 
> betrays an attitude that really bothers me, and that's the only reason I get 
> involved in this type of discussion.
But these "scholars"--and I don't know why you cast doubt on them by putting 
this word in quotes--don't simply say "Oh that Rohl, he is a boat-rocking 
trouble-maker" but give reasoned arguments contra him.  I would say that that re
ally bad treatment in the academic world is to ignore someone altogether.  One 
of the reasons I believe Rohl has received so much attention from other 
scholars is that they have seen the potential impact his theories have on the 
uninformed.  Rohl wrote the above mentioned book and it was so  well-produced and so 
expertly laid out(graphics and whatnot) that few laymen would suspect that 
claptrap could be so beautifully presented. (Most scholarly works tend to look 
the opposite of "fancy" but those for "popular consumption" do--no accident 
there).  Plus, Rohl was very visible on television, going about like Indiana 
Jones, complete with a "sidekick", Bob Bianchi.  I think it is scarcely any wonder 
that other scholars decided to deal with all this before it got to be "dogma" 
in the eyes of too many people.  But, even so, it is, to a considerable 
degree.  There is an entire mailing list devoted to Rohl and his theories.  I once 
joined it and got tremendous flack for making too many "points" against him.  
The opposition I received was virulent and hardly reasoned.  It was like "This 
is a list of Rohl fans and we don't want your arguments."  When my points were 
too sensible, the moderator, who apparently worshipped Rohl (a woman) simply 
did not allow them through. So I quit.  And I am not the only person who had 
this experience.  And that, sir,  is the other side of the coin of intolerance.

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