The Camels are Coming
Posted on February 17, 2014 by Sister Carol Perry

I hope you weren't upset by the latest news from the world of archeology about the Bible and camels. As a longtime Bible teacher, I was quite frankly delighted to see one of my favorite theories being verified.

I am not a literal reader of the Bible because I am not a literal reader of literature. I have long loved language and its ability to make words dance as it paints worlds for us. Since God needed human scribes to put his words before us and since human beings are so individual, I love the fact that each book of the Bible has its little human touches to help distinguish it from another. And so the camels are verifying my beliefs!

Who are these camels? They have been the subjects of radiocarbon dating done by scholars who have just reported that domesticated camels date only from the last third of the 10th century B.C. So they could not have traveled with Abraham eight hundred years earlier in the book of Genesis. What are we to think?

We are to think that, as many scholars have said for years, our ancestor stories in Genesis were part of an oral tradition for years, told and retold around the hearthfire until someone finally said, "If we don't put these in some written form, we will one day lose them." In about the 8th century B.C. this solidifying of biblical history began. By that time, camels were on everyone's travel screen, bringing the mysterious East closer to Israel. So, quite naturally, the camels were folded in, a charming anachronism which it has taken us until 2014 to discover.

The scientists concerned studied the stress marks in camel leg bones to indicate when the beasts had carried burdens and were no longer wild animals. Even David and Solomon would not probably not have known them as part of a daily life. Their grandchildren would have.

In no way does this change my love for and my appreciation of God's word as revealed in scripture. It is just a footnote to the fact that the Word of God had human scribes who knew their world but little of more ancient history.

And don't worry. By the time the Wise Men made their way to Bethlehem camels were available for their travel plans!

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Sister Carol Perry

A gifted teacher and resident bible scholar at Marble, Sister Carol uses her extensive scholarship and imaginative storytelling skills to offer a fresh and innovative approach to exploring the Scriptures, bringing the stories of the Bible to life.

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