[b-hebrew] Rohl's Chronology Deconstructed

Dave Washburn dwashbur at nyx.net
Mon Jul 26 17:48:47 EDT 2004

On Monday 26 July 2004 14:25, MarianneLuban at aol.com wrote:
> 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!

First, the way your mailer appears to indicate quotations got a bit confusing 
here; it took me a few moments to discern what was actually your comment.  I 
don't know why, but I've noticed it happening a couple of times over the past 
few days.  Just an observation, I have no idea what to do about it ;-)

I don't know where the phrase "just anyone" came from, it certainly didn't 
come from anything I said.  Yes, the book does spend a lot of time connecting 
to the Bible.  But in the introduction, he not only says explicitly that he 
really doesn't care about the accuracy of the Bible, he also explained why he 
used it so much.  I'm not the one mischaracterizing him here, because my 
characterization is based on his own words right there in the book.

>  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.

I didn't say that, and I would appreciate it if you don't put words in my 
mouth.  And while we're at it, "knowledgeable persons" is a matter of 
definition, as we all know.

> > > 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

I put the word in quotes because I was quoting someone else.  And with the 
exception of Kitchen, the "boat-rocking trouble-maker" is the most common 
characterization I have seen out of his critics, and Kitchen is the only one 
I have seen who truly gives "reasoned arguments."  At this point, I'm still 
undecided between the two, but IMNSHO they both make good points.

> 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. 

Thank you for making my point with the "claptrap" comment.  Is that what is 
considered a "reasoned argument"?  The implications of his restructuring of 
the TIP have far-reaching consequences for both egyptology and biblical 
studies, and all the rest is based on that, as Peter pointed out.  ISTM that 
too many of his critics only see the later stuff in the book where he's 
relating his new chronology to the Bible, and don't see the real issue: the 
TIP is the question.  The biblical stuff is nothing more than ripple effects 
that spread from that focus.  Hence, it is that question about the TIP that 
should be the actual focus of inquiry when dealing with him.  I don't see 
many of his critics doing that.  I can't help but wonder why.

> (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.  

So putting together a presentation that looks good and that "gets the hay down 
out of the loft onto the barn floor where the cows can get at it," as Walter 
Martin used to quote, is a bad thing?  Again, thank you for making my point.

> 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.

Intolerance?  Hardly.  When someone sets up a mailing list devoted to a topic 
and with clearly-defined guidelines, is it intolerant to expect people to 
abide by those guidelines?  I've been to the list, used to be part of it and 
only left it because I was getting too much mail and some things had to go.  
Your little "when my points were too sensible" undoubtedly reflects the chip 
that you carried on your shoulder into the list, and considering that the 
list IS for "Rohl fans," as you yourself admitted, can we really blame them 
for wanting you to abide by the list guidelines?  I've seen folks on that 
list question some of Rohl's stuff, but they do it respectfully and with 
deference to each other.  I was quite pleased with the balance and with the 
respect they showed each other.  I did see a few people jump on for a few 
days, self-appointed experts who were going to set these people straight and 
threw a lot of attitude around, and yes, they didn't last long.  For one 
thing, that is in fact outside the guidelines of the list.  For another, it's 
lousy Nettiquette, IOW, it's rude.  And someone who takes the trouble to set 
up a list, maintain it AND moderate it, doesn't have to put up with that.  
Such a thing hardly constitutes intolerance, it's simply a case of trying to 
maintain respectful attitudes on the list.  The owner of a list has the right 
to do that.

Dave Washburn
Insert clever epigram here...or not

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