Friday, July 30, 2010

Archeological/Historical Apologetics: The Destruction of Tyre and Sidon: Help Wanted

(something's going on with my paragraphing - not working right -- sorry.)

Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes -- Jesus.

Were Tyre and Sidon destroyed as predicted by Ezekiel 26/27?  

Currently I have two votes for "no". 

The Ball Bounces is "open for business" -- what do you say?  I'm not really an archeology guy. Any fledgling Christian apologist out there got a copy of Josh McDowell's Evidence That Demands A Verdict handy?  Meanwhile, I'm trolling for information...

From what I have read so far, two distinctions must be made.

1. In Ezekiel -- Nebuchadnezzar, i.e., "he", vs. Nations, i.e., "they" coming against Tyre and Sidon.

2. In history -- Tyre vs. the rebuilt on another location "New Tyre".

3. A third point -- the distinctions that Ezekiel makes between what will happen to Tyre vs. Sidon are instructive.

The principle I use is this: when there is an apparent discrepancy between the Bible and empirical evidence, it is usually because of "too little" evidence, not because there is "too much".

"Probably the best-known episode in the history of Tyre was its resistance to the army of the Macedonian conqueror Alexander the Great, who took it after a seven-month siege in 332. He completely destroyed the mainland portion of the town and used its rubble to build an immense causeway (some 2,600 feet [800 metres] long and 600–900 feet [180–270 metres] wide) to gain access to the island section. After the town’s capture, 10,000 inhabitants were put to death, and 30,000 were sold into slavery. Alexander’s causeway, which was never removed, converted the island into a peninsula". -- Encyclopedia Brittanica.

The Destruction Of Tyre by David Padfield

Ezekiel and the Oracles against Tyre Dennis Bratcher (uses NRSV - Liberal view)

Christian Courier - A Study of Ezekiel 28 BY WAYNE JACKSON (disagrees with me on Satan/Antichrist!)

A Ready Defense. Seven predictions and their "disposition". Quoting George Davis, "The prophecy against Sidon is very different from that concerning Tyre. It was foretold that Tyre would be destroyed, made bare like a rock, and built no more. The prediction against Sidon is that blood will be in her streets, her wounded shall fall in the midst of her, and the sword is to be on her every side. But there is no doom of extinction pronounced against her as was the case of Tyre."

Ancient Bible prophecies fulfilled.  Similar 7-prediction approach. "Prophecy scholar, George Davis, concludes: "No human mind could have foretold 2,500 years ago that Tyre would be extinct, and Sidon would continue, but suffer tribulation during the succeeding centuries; instead of Tyre enduring sorrows, and Sidon being desolate and deserted during the long period."

Some good photos in this one.

(Tip: use your browser's "Find" function to locate Tyre and/or Sidon within these articles)


Joe said...

I always find archeological apologetics interesting but not very fruitful. Those who believe the Biblical accounts will not be deterred should the story not be true and those who do not believe the Biblical accounts will not believe when said accounts are proven to be true. I honestly can't find a historical story in the Bible that is not born out in actual history but that in itself proves nothing except the Bible records history. As I have said previously "faith is an experience not and intellectual exercise". In that experience is profound intellectual exercises but the exercises are the result of the experience not the other way around.

RkBall said...

I'm hoping to find a young archeological apologist who can help me out.

Anonymous said...


No make that 'rolling on the floor, roaring my arse off with laughter.'

What we have here is 'Archeological Apologetics' with apparently nary a qualified or experienced archaeologist, or a shred of archaeological evidence, in sight.

I think the thread should be relabelled 'Archaeology-free Apologetics'.

P@J said...

Look, Rick. You don't need a apologist. The prophesy said Tyre would be detroyed and made bare like a rock, and built no more. No longer a thorn in the side of Israel

People live there today. Israel seems to think Lebanon is rather thron-like. What more evidence do you need?

Anonymous said...

I would further point out that the city was sacked (as happened to a large number of ancient and medieval cities -- including Jerusalem on a number of occasions) not razed (destroyed, a far less frequent occurrence).

Also Tyre was not "rebuilt on another location 'New Tyre'" -- New Tyre was simply the settlement on the adjacent mainland that was already extant at the time of Alexander.

Anonymous said...

(After Alexander's time, his mole attracted additional sediment, creating a permanent land-bridge bwtween the island Old Tyre and the mainland New Tyre.)

Anonymous said...

(This can be confirmed by looking at the city on Google Maps -- although the connection is now much more substantial than a mere 'land-bridge'.)

Anonymous said...

"The prophecies concerning Israel were generally conditional upon Israel's faithfulness to God."

Which always gives the prophecy-interpreters an out -- any failed prophecy simply means that Israel was, in some unspecified way, unfaithful to God. Trouble was that Israel's worst setbacks often occurred during times of maximal apparent piety.

RkBall said...

" No longer a thorn in the side of Israel"

1. The prophecies concerning Israel's well-being were generally conditional upon Israel's faithfulness to God. You will see this over and over again in Scripture.

Having said this, I'm not sure that modern-day Tyre is would be considered a thorn in Israel's side.

RkBall said...

"Tyre" at the time was a "player". I would say its day has passed. The king of Tyre hasn't been in the news lately. Israel, as prophesied, is, once again, a going concern.

RkBall said...

The prophesy said

Tyre would be destroyed -- it was

Made bare like a rock -- it was

Built no more -- the part made bare like a rock, i.e., the part that is the focus of the prophesy, has not been rebuilt

No longer a thorn in the side of Israel - it isn't

Did Ezekiel write his prophecy before or after Alexander's destruction of Tyre?

jonathan said...

Prophecy's are fallacies.

Anonymous said...

"Son of man, say to the ruler of Tyre, ... some day about a thousand years from now, give or take, trade routes will change and your city won't be particularly important any more."

And the King of Tyre wept, because compound discounting of future earnings hadn't been invented yet.

Anonymous said...

Ricky-the-completely-out-of-touch-with-reality blathers:

"Tyre would be destroyed -- it was"

...without offering ONE SHRED OF CREDIBLE EVIDENCE that it was destroyed, when no account suggests that Alexander razed the city or rendered it uninhabitable, and when the city still exists on the original site.

This is 'archaeological apologetics'? Make up nonsensical archaeological claims to support ludicrous defences of prophecies that quite simply didn't happen at all let alone according to the explicit storyline the prophecy set (Nebuchadnezzar, not Alexander).

P@J said...

"Tyre would be destroyed -- it was"
No, it was not.

"Made bare like a rock -- it was"
No, it was not.

"Built no more -- the part made bare like a rock, i.e., the part that is the focus of the prophesy, has not been rebuilt"
Please show some evidence of this.

"No longer a thorn in the side of Israel - it isn't"
The why do the Israelies still bomb it?,7340,L-3286565,00.html

Did Ezekiel write his prophecy before or after Alexander's destruction of Tyre?

Alexander did not destory Tyre. The records kept from the time are very clear: he sieged it, invaded, and killed off some people. He hardly destroyed it. It was never razed to rock, never stopped being a city.

first rule of holes, Ball...

Anonymous said...

On the New Tyre/Old Tyre confusion, it seems we can, in part, blame the (ancient) Greeks:

"It was on this island, in longitude 35 [degrees] 15' east, and latitude 33 [degrees] 15' north. It took its name Tyre ... from the island, the Semitic Sur, meaning Rock. At a later time the new city, or an extension of the old city, was built upon the mainland. The city on the mainland was designated as Old Tyre ... by the Greeks."
-- The History of Tyre, Fleming Bruce

So it is clear that the city-on-the-island (now peninsula) is, and has always been, the original city.

He goes on to state:

"Alexander left the city which was half-burnt, ruined and mostly depopulated. ... The city did not lie in ruins for long. Colonists were imported and citizens who escaped returned. The energy of these with the advantages of the site, in a few years raised the city to wealth and leadership again."

From this it is clear that the city was neither completely destroyed, nor rendered uninhabitable. It was merely heavily damaged and quickly rebuilt.

RkBall said...

I'll get back to you guys on this.

I've got a book in Toronto I want to check out.

Will re-post at top of site.

Late September.

Anonymous said...

Unless the book in question is written by a credible archaeologist or historian (hint: the likes of Josh McDowell don't come anywhere close), I don't see what it would add to the discussion.

What's the book?

RkBall said...

RkBall said...

"Evidentialists point to three clusters of fulfilled prophecies as evidence for the divine inspiration and truth of the Bible. First, the Old Testament contains numerous prophecies concerning the rise and fall of various nations and cities surrounding Israel, such as Egypt, Tyre and Sidon, Babylon, and Nineveh. There is some dispute about the details of the Tyre prophecy in Ezekiel 26, but evidentialists are confident that the chapter, properly interpreted, was dramatically and literally fulfilled."

Anonymous said...

On In Defense Of Miracles:

No apparent legitimate archaeology or historical research (the book appears to rely entirely on the Bible and philosophical arguments), so the thread-title remains a misleading misnomer.

"First, the Old Testament contains numerous prophecies concerning the rise and fall of various nations and cities surrounding Israel, such as Egypt, Tyre and Sidon, Babylon, and Nineveh."

As we have already seen in the case of Ezekiel and Tyre, the prophecy is sufficiently vague, and the ex post facto interpretation so excessively liberal that I call the Texas sharpshooter fallacy. I would further point out that such arguments are frequently employed as a defence of horoscopes.

This is not genuine 'Evidential Apologetics' as there is no unambiguous evidence. Rather it would more accurately be labelled 'Tendentious Apologetics' -- as it appears to involve the tendentious ex post facto interpretation of prophecies to fit events.

I would finally note that Robert J. Fogelin has recently published A Defense of Hume on Miracles.

Anonymous said...

Further on my first point above, I would note that Geisler has no background whatsoever in history, let alone archaeology. Further, as he testified in defence of creationism in McLean v. Arkansas, he has serious credibility problems within the mainstream academic community.

Anonymous said...

I would also point out that Judaism does not endorse this excessively liberal ex post facto interpretation:

"Ezekiel had positively prophesied the capture and destruction of Tyre by Nebuchadnezzar, but after thirteen years of fruitless labor the latter had to raise the siege and to arrange terms of peace with the city. Thereupon, in the above-mentioned passage, Ezekiel promises Egypt to Nebuchadnezzar as an indemnity. Here, then, is an oracle the non-fulfilment, of which the prophet himself is destined to see. Yet he does not venture to change or to expunge it." -- Jewish Encyclopaedia

I also would note that the entry makes no mention of the King of Tyre being the devil.

But hey, what does Judaism know about the Old Testament?

Anonymous said...

I would further point out that this excessively liberal ex post facto interpretation waters the prophecy down to the point of being both OBVIOUS and TRIVIAL!

Given the instability of the time, and the Levant's geographical position at the crossroads between Europe, Africa and Asia, saying of any major city that 'you'll endure multiple sieges and eventually be badly damaged in the next few centuries' is a bit like stating that water is wet.

As such, it has zero evidential or apologetic value.

RkBall said...

Anonymous said...


1) Ulrich does not appear to be advocating the view that the prophecy was in any way that would allow it to be considered "evidence" of the occurrence of a "miracle", but that rather than " subsequent history of Tyre [unfolding] as the prophet literally foresaw" or "one-for-one correspondence between prophetic image and historical
referent" that interpretation "must leave room for symbolic and typological depth". The trouble is such vague, non-literal and heavily interpreted prophecies have zero evidential value.

2) I could find no evidence that Ulrich has any pertinent qualifications.

3) Ulrich appears to cite no sources for his historical claims.

4) In fact, as far as I can tell he doesn't cite any historical scholarship whatsoever, but merely theological works.

All this may be very well for saying what Ezekiel means for Christians (or more particularly Christians of certain theological leanings), but has no basis for credibility to anybody else.

To put it another way:

It would appear that 'Evidential Apologetics' has no value beyond 'preaching to the choir'.

Anonymous said...

Further, I would note that Ulrich makes no mention of the King of Tyre, let alone linking him to either Satan or the devil -- which was after all the original reason this prophecy was brought up.

RkBall said...

Anonymous said...

This appears to be a rather improbable 'explanation as to why prophecies don't turn out' rather than a defence of the claim that they do turn out.

It is "improbable" in the Tyre instance, in that there is no evidence that the Tyrians (or their purportedly literally-diabolical king) 'reformed' substantially in the short period between the prophecy and Nebuchadnezzar's siege, as "a positive response to the prophet’s exhortations", obviating the need for the prophesied destruction.

But even if this 'explanation' is deemed credible, there is still NO EVIDENCE of a sufficiently improbably accurate prediction (the explanation simply attempts to explain away why the prediction wasn't improbably accurate), and thus NO EVIDENCE that the Old Testament was divinely inspired.

Anonymous said...

I would further point out that bringing theological articles and arguments to bear on what is a dispute of fact (whether Tyre was destroyed), amounts to a Courtier's Reply, and as such is of no probative merit.

Anonymous said...

( The Courtier's Reply is in fact simply an example of the logical fallacy of Begging the question. The courtier in his reply is implicitly assuming the existence of the 'Emperor's New Clothes' in his defence of them. Similarly, Christian theology implicitly assumes the existence of the Christian God, so cannot validly be used to defend that God's existence. )

RkBall said...

Anonymous said...

Another less-than-credible author, another ludicrously tenuous, Texas Sharpshooter interpretation of a prophecy. More of the same, no real evidence here.

"... nothing intellectually compelling or challenging.. bald assertions coupled to superstition... woefully pathetic"