See the two previous installments:
The Hittites: Atheist "DagoodS" Lies About Christian Apologists Supposedly Lying About How Biblical Critics Once Doubted Their Historical Existence
Habitually "Lying" Christian Apologists?: 19th Century "Hittites Didn't Exist" Radical Skepticism & Examination of Atheist DagoodS' Replies & Charges
"DagoodS"' words will be in blue; Vinny's in green.
* * *
This brought back to mind one of my great concerns while deconverting—how many times I caught Christian apologists in non-truths. . . . they were either incredibly incompetent in doing even the most elementary research OR they printed an outright fable—either way, it is not persuasively credible. . . .
This—THIS—is where I struggled in my research. Too many times, Christians were willing (myself included) to believe anything--anything--in support of the belief. . . .
As I deconverted, I would read the non-believer’s position. Then I would read the believer’s position. Time and time again, I found the believer’s position to be based on non-truth.
I heard the statement how skeptics once claimed Hittites didn’t exist, but it turns out they did. Not true—no skeptic said this.
In my previous research, I have found corroboration that such skepticism certainly existed, but it has been surprisingly difficult to find absolutely unquestionable statements (individual instances of such skepticism) of a sort that no one could dispute (that directly mention the Hittites, etc.). DagoodS makes a great deal about this lack of specificity (thus far) and his recent rhetoric has become increasingly harsh and obscurantist and irrelevant to the discussion at hand. He has repeatedly demanded (with a certain tweaking triumphalism at first) that I name a person who denied the existence of the Hittites, and provide documentation:
. . . we can never find these supposed skeptics who claimed the Hittites didn’t exist. Where are these alleged skeptics? What are their names; where can we find the quotes?
. . . all he has to do is produce one (1) prominent skeptic who denied the Hittites’ existence.
. . . what is the name of that one (1) prominent skeptic who specifically claimed, “Hittites didn’t exist”? See, after removing all the fluff and bibliographies and muddling about, Dave Armstrong fails to do the one thing he needs to do—produce the skeptic!
Oh, he gives examples of specific people claiming “someone” said Hittites didn’t exist—but those people don’t provide names for those skeptics, either. . . .
I state, “Christians apologists are incorrect when they allege, ‘Skeptics claim Hittites did not exist.’” At this juncture we have proposed names, but we still do not have a Skeptic quotation specifically stating, “Hittites did not exist.” . . .
Can you give a citation with even one (1) name where they said “Hittites did not exist”? . . .
If you ever do find a quote from a skeptic who stated, “the Hittites did not exist” I would appreciate the information (although I don’t think wild elephants could hold you back if you ever find it! *grin*) If I am incorrect about this situation regarding Skeptics & Hittites, I would like to know. . . . I don’t see how asking for one (1) quote from one (1) skeptic who said, “Hittites don’t exist” to support the claim “Skeptics said, ‘Hittites don’t exist’” is over the top. I would hope--if this was true--we could produce one!
That's fine. I intended to do that all along, and I have been pursuing it aggressively. I simply asked him to be patient: that the research was much more difficult than I initially thought it would be (since quotations of this sort would be 140-150 years old or more) and would take a lot more time. Google Books volumes (available online) generally date from the 1870s onward. Most, therefore, that are available, that deal at all with the Hittites, date from past the time when archaeology had laid the matter to rest (as early as the mid-1880s).
Nor do recent books on the Hittites that I consulted in a library provide specific instances of skepticism. They merely allude to the fact that little was known about the Hittites prior to 1880 or so. But the lack of specificity doesn't disprove the existence of radical skepticism. I have uncovered multiple references to the fact that it did indeed exist (unfortunately, minus the exact documentation).
I have read in a few places that an edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica (sometime prior to 1881) reputedly stated that the Hittites were "a mythological civilization mentioned only in the Bible." I couldn't locate an old set in the Detroit area, and at this juncture I have asked friends if they can possibly access one.
In the meantime, my good friend and fellow apologist Steve Ray has discovered a definite quote by a biblical skeptic of the type I have been looking for. It comes from William Graham Sumner (1840-1910), a brilliant scholar (and polymath), Episcopal minister, and professor at Yale. He studied theology in Germany in the 1860s:
He was deeply affected by the dedication of his underpaid Göttingen theological tutors. From their biblical criticism he learned "rigorous and pitiless methods of investigation and deduction." . . .
Sumner left Yale in 1869 to accept a position as rector of the Morristown, New Jersey, Church of the Redeemer. Hoping to reconcile science and theology, he published a short-lived Episcopalian paper defending rational theology (The Living Church). Distaste for ministerial social duties, however, underscored the fact that he had chosen the wrong calling. As he struggled to become a completely rational scientist, as he put nature in God’s place as the force governing man, Sumner lost his faith. . . .
Rejecting metaphysical teleology and theology, Sumner thought that “The end of life is to live.”
("William Graham Sumner, 1840-1910: His Life and Work," Robert C. Arne)
Sumner was clearly at least an agnostic and was thoroughly secular in worldview after he stopped being a clergyman. He thought that faith and science were fundamentally in conflict (a very fashionable but utterly wrongheaded view in academia then and now: which motivated me to produce a book refuting the myth: Science and Christianity: Close Partners or Mortal Enemies?).
Here is what he wrote, in commenting on 2 Kings 7 (preceded by the main biblical passage in question, and with my bolding):
2 Kings 7:6 (RSV) For the Lord had made the army of the Syrians hear the sound of chariots, and of horses, the sound of a great army, so that they said to one another, "Behold, the king of Israel has hired against us the kings of the Hittites and the kings of Egypt to come upon us."
It is worth while to notice also the graphic force which is given to the story by quoting what purport to be the exact speeches of all the parties. We are told just what Elisha said, and what the officer said, and what the lepers said, and finally what the Syrians said, as if the speeches had been recorded at the time they were uttered. But how could any one tell what the Syrians said in their encampment at night? Evidently the writer puts himself in the place of the Syrians, and imagines what their interpretation of any sudden alarm would be. Instead of stating this in the flat and colorless form in which a modern historian would state it: The Syrians thought that some one was coming to help the Israelites — he gives the speech in what purport to be the exact words. The mention of the king of the Hittites is very strange. No such nation as the Hittites any longer existed, and the kings of Egypt did not interfere in Asiatic affairs throughout this entire period. Yet we should expect that the Hebrew writer would ascribe to the Syrians such fears as they would be likely to have under the circumstances.
(John Peter Lange, Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical, With Special reference to Ministers and Students, Vol. VI: The Books of the Kings, by Karl Christian Wilhelm Felix Bähr [1801-1874], Book II translated, enlarged, and edited by W. G. Sumner [originally 1872]; New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1899; quotation from Book II, p. 72)
The book appears to have been translated and put together around 1879, according to partial translator Philip Schaff's introductory remarks. That would give Sumner some excuse in not knowing about archaeological finds that were either very young or not yet discovered. The work of Sayce, Wright and others on the Hittite monuments and inscriptions and sites, was, by the late 1880s, very well-known and their initially wildly controversial positions had increasingly become the consensus of archaeology.
In any event, Sumner made the bald statement of denial of existence, thus directly questioning the historicity of the biblical text, and he was dead wrong, as archaeology was soon to show (or had already shown, depending on his date of writing).
The Pulpit Commentary (edited by H. D. H. Spence-Jones; London: Kegan Paul: 1881) observed, concerning the passage in question, and mentioning Dr. Sumner:
Nothing can be more weak and irrelevant than to remark, with Bähr, “There are instances, even nowadays, that people in certain mountainous regions regard a rushing and roaring sound, such as is sometimes heard there, as a sign of coming war.” The Syrians thought they heard the actual arrival of a vast army. And they said one to another, Lo, the King of Israel hath hired against us the kings of the Hittites. This supposition has been thought “strange,” almost inexplicable. “No such nation as the Hittites any longer existed,” says Mr. Sumner (‘The Books of the Kings,’ vol. ii. p. 72, Eng. trans.). But the Assyrian records of the ninth and eighth centuries b.c. make it evident, not only that the Hittites still existed at that date, but that they were among the most powerful enemies of the Ninevite kings, being located in Northern Syria, about Carchemish (Jerabus) and the adjacent country. It is also apparent that they did not form a centralized monarchy, but were governed by a number of chiefs, or “kings,” twelve of whom are mentioned in one place (G. Smith, ‘Eponym Canon,’ p. 112). It was no very improbable supposition on the part of the Syrians that Jehoram had called in the aid of the Hittite confederacy, and that they had marched an army to his assistance.
(obtained from Steve Ray; Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2004; Logos Bible Software program, under 2 Kings 7:6)
Assyrian documents have proven that though the Hittite kingdom (strictly speaking) was indeed destroyed in the 2nd millennium (Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1985, "Hittite," places the "fall of the Hittite Empire" at "c. 1193 BC") , many Syrians were known as "Hittites" in the 1st millennium.
Sumner makes a very curious mistake, in using the singular "king" whereas the commentary text he was elaborating upon, from Bähr, uses "kings," as does the biblical text in question (KJV, RSV: "kings"). He seems to have in mind the empire and one unified kingdom with one king. But the Bible is referring to smaller fiefdoms. In RSV, the phrase "kings of the Hittites" appears not only in 2 Kings 7:6, but also in 1 Kings 10:29 and 2 Chronicles 1:17. But the singular "king" with regard to the Hittites is not used. This harmonizes with the known archaeological facts of the period (summarized by the Pulpit Commentary above).
Thus, Encyclopaedia Britannica ("Hittite," 1985) comments:
While the heartland of the empire was inundated by nonliterate Phrygians, some of the Cilician and Syrian dominions retained their Hittite identity for another five centuries, evolving politically into a multitude of small independent principalities and city-states, which were gradually incorporated into Syria until by 710 BC the last vestiges of Neo-Hittite political independence had been obliterated.
The text in question was in the time period of the prophet Elisha, whom the 1985 Britannica ("Elisha") dates at "c. 851" (The New Bible Dictionary places him in the "9th-century"). That is right within the range of time mentioned above, of neo-Hittite power in the area. The Bible mentions "kings" which is in exact accord with what we know from archaeology.
Current research corroborates the biblical account. For example, Trevor Bryce, in The Kingdom of the Hittites (Oxford University Press, new edition, 2005, p. 356) comments on 2 Kings 7:6:
This conveys the impression that the Hittite kings were at least commensurate in importance and power with the Egyptian Pharaohs. A similar impression is conveyed by 2 Chron. 1:17 . . . In these cases the references may well be to the neo-Hittite kingdoms of Syria. . . .
Hoffner [see his many books on the topic] has commented that Hittite cultural influence reaching the Israelites indirectly via the Canaanite kingdoms, after a passage of time, is detectable in many instances. His contention is that through many years of contact with cities in Syria and Phoenicia (Carchemish, Aleppo, Ugarit) Hittite civilization left its mark there. From their Hittite influences may have filtered southwards to Israel just prior to the beginning of the kingdom of David. . . .
[related footnote 142 on p. 487] . . . see most recently the discussion of Singer . . . who regards as conclusive the identification of these [Canaanite, biblical] Hittites with those of the neo-Hittite kingdoms of Syria and southern Anatolia.
On p. 388 Bryce refers to "the period from c. 1100 to 700 BC, i.e., the period of the neo-Hittite kingdoms."
Sumner even got his Egyptian history wrong, too. He wrote (above), "the kings of Egypt did not interfere in Asiatic affairs throughout this entire period." That's not what one website that presents an outline of Egyptian history asserts:
The 22d dynasty (945-730 BCE) was founded by Sheshonq I, probably descended from long-settled Libyan mercenaries, the Meshwesh. He supported Jeroboam against King Solomon's son, Rehoboam and campaigned later in Palestine (ca.930) laying tribute upon the king of Judah. He instituted a decentralized system, with kings based in the north and their sons ruling key centers elsewhere. Rivalries and sporadic civil wars followed, and by the 8th century BCE Egypt had been divided into eleven autonomous states, whose inhabitants depended on congested, walled towns for security. Their increased anxiety found expression in their worship of local rather than national gods.
The Egyptians were indeed involved in the affairs of Palestine, or Canaan during this period, just as the Bible stated. Also noteworthy is the mention of "a decentralized system, with kings based in the north." For this reason, the Bible refers to "kings of Egypt" (the plural form was thought to be odd by some commentators on the passage). If the above report is accurate, this would explain the use of the plural, since the Egyptians of the period (like the neo-Hittites) were splintered and often engaged in civil war.
Sheshonq I (a contemporary of the prophet Hosea) is even referred to in the Bible, as Shishak (see 1 Ki 11:40; 14:25; 2 Chr 12:2, 5, 7, 9). He is called "king of Egypt" (in the first three and last of these references) since Egypt was still unified and was not to split up till after the reign of Osorkon II, c. 872-837: some hundred years later (during Elisha's life). An Egyptian timeline site verifies this:
Osorkon II was the last pharaoh of the 22nd Dynasty who ruled over a unified Egypt. After his reign, Egypt was divided into smaller kingdoms, each ruled over by one of the kings in the remaining part of the 22nd Dynasty.
So the Bible was accurate again: noting a single king (Pharaoh) and then multiple kings, according to Egyptian political history, now verified by archaeological and historiographical research. Sumner was wrong on both neo-Hittite and Egyptian history.
Osorkon II allied himself with Israel:
Despite his astuteness in dealings with matters at home, Osorkon II was forced to be more aggressive on the international scene. The growing power of Assyria meant the latter's increased meddling in the affairs of Israel and Syria – territories well within Egypt's sphere of influence. In 853 BC, Osorkon's forces, in a coalition with those of Israel and Byblos, fought the army of Shalmaneser III at the Battle of Qarqar to a standstill thereby halting Assyrian expansion in Canaan, for a brief while.
(Wikipedia, "Osorkon II")
The cumulative evidence of hundreds of such details enables one to cogently, sensibly believe on the basis of such facts that the Old Testament is historically accurate.
Some of the more radical higher critics / skeptics of the early 19th century claimed that the Hittites (and/or the neo-Hittites) did not exist. Archaeology soon proved otherwise, and the Bible had been accurate all along: not only regarding the simple fact of their existence (that it alone seems to have preserved), but about relatively minor details (such as multiple kings of both Egypt and the "post-Empire" neo-Hittites in the 9th century, during the time of Elisha).
As a representative example of dozens of similar statements I have seen in my research, we have the following from Bibliotheca Sacra: the oldest theological journal in America: published by Andover Newton Theological School from 1844 to 1884, Oberlin College from 1884 to 1922, Xenia Seminary from 1922 to 1934, and Dallas Seminary ever since. The following is from an article written by M. B. Stearns (my bolding):
It is also well to remind ourselves of the numerous facts stated in the Bible which were formerly ridiculed by the critics, but which have now been confirmed by archaeology. Among others, there is the early date of writing. It is many a long year since the critics argued that Moses could not write, for tablets are now available dating from about 3500 B.C. written in the ancestor of cuneiform script. Then there is the famous case of Belshazzar of Babylon whose existence used to be doubted, until archaeology came to his rescue. Similarly with the Hittite race, now discovered to have been one of the great peoples of antiquity. It is interesting to know that Sir Leonard Woolley, whose name has become a household word because of his remarkable discoveries at Abraham’s city of Ur, is at present engaged in the excavation of a great Hittite palace near Antioch in Syria, built about 1600 B.C. Of this discovery he himself has written to the London Times, “The frequent references in the Old Testament to Hittites living in Syria and Palestine in the Patriarchal age, which have often been rejected as anachronisms, may yet prove sound history.” For if the Hittites were established in Antioch as early as 1600 B.C., there may well have been some members of their race farther South.'
("Biblical Archaeology and the Higher Critics," Vol. 96 [July-Sep 1939], 307-318; citation from pp. 316-317; thanks to Douglas E. Ward from Miami University for this information)
More replies and counter-replies (words of DagoodS in blue):
I first planned to write a blistering comment regarding the insufficiency of research (or worse—attribute nefarious motives) but nobody can be this inept. No one would claim this author was stating, “Hittites didn’t exist,” realizing I would look up the work, discovering the polar opposite. (In fact, the quote itself indicates Hittites existed!)
What am I missing here…is it some other citation? Is this a clever plot?
For the quick version—Dr. Karl Bahr (German) wrote a two volume commentary on 1 & 2 Kings (books in the Tanakh.) called The Books of the Kings. It was translated, enlarged and edited—the First Book (1 Kings) by Edwin Harwood [except one chapter]; the Second Book (2 Kings) by William Sumner. It is not precisely clear what was translated and what was enlarged; it possible this is Bahr’s work and not Sumner’s. To keep convention, I will use Sumner’s name.
If unfamiliar with Commentaries—they are exactly what it sounds like. The verses are quoted and the author makes “comments” providing additional information. 1 & 2 Kings contains statements regarding Hittites, and every single time this Commentary makes comments (whether Bahr or Harwood or Sumner), Hittites are treated as historical. They are treated just as historical, without qualification, as the Egyptians, or Israelites or Assyrians or Syrians.
Simple to determine; download the pdf, and search “Hittite.” (Since both books are in a single pdf, the number in parenthesis is the pdf page number.)
Vol. 1. Pg 123 (123) notes same Hittites in 1 Kings 10 as 2 Kings 7 (important!).
Vol. 1. Pg 126 (126) refers to Hittites without qualification.
Vol. 2. pg 74 (348) refers to Hittites without qualification.
Vol. 2. pg 186 (460) Notes Hittite god names and Assyrian god names. Treats both nationalities as historical, without qualification.
2 Kings 7:6 indicates the Syrian army withdrew from a siege, thinking the Israelites had hired the Hittites kings. Sumner comments, “The mention of the king of the Hittites is very strange. No such nation as the Hittites any longer existed…” Vo. 2. pg 72 (346)
Oddly, it appears this statement is what is relied upon for the allegation Sumner “made the bald statement of denial of existence.” What am I misunderstanding here? Look at these statements:
S1: At this time, the Confederacy no longer existed.
S2: The Confederacy never existed.
S1: As this time, the Roman Empire no longer existed.
S2: The Roman Empire never existed.
S1 and S2 are clearly not saying the same thing! What I am looking for—a skeptic who said, “Hittites never existed”—is akin to S2. What Sumner said is akin to S1; at the time of 2 Kings 7:6 the Hittites no longer existed as a nation. Not that they never existed!
Indeed, if one looked at the paragraph above, Sumner states explicitly the Hittites existed, and describes his position on them!
“The slight remains of the nations of the Hittites having been subjugated by Solomon (1 Kings ix.20) we have to understand that reference is made here, not as Thenius thinks to “an independent remnant of this people, living near their ancient home (Gen. xv.20; Numb. xiii.29) towards the river of Egypt,” but to an independent Canaanite tribe which had withdrawn into the northern part of Palestine.” Vo. 2. pg 72 (346)
There must be some other link, or some earlier edition, or this was some artifice I am missing. How could this remotely qualify for a skeptic who said, “Hittites never existed”? (1-20-11)
You took exactly the approach (in argument) that I knew you would take. I don't blame you. You're holding on to whatever you got left, trying to assure all your followers that you are still on the right side of this.
This is why I don't think the quotation I have from Sumner is conclusive (and said as much to a friend last night). The really conclusive one would be like the reputed words of the mid-19th c. Encyclopaedia Britannica: "a mythological people."
It is not precisely clear what was translated and what was enlarged; it possible this is Bahr’s work and not Sumner’s. To keep convention, I will use Sumner’s name.
The citation in question is clearly from Sumner, since it is bracketed and followed by his initials. That can be seen in the Internet Archive link I provided. For my purposes, that is all we need to know; it's unquestionably his writing and his opinion.
Many (if not all the rest of the) references to the Hittites in the work are (it seems clear to me) from Bahr and not Sumner, since Sumner is merely the translator, editor, and "enlarger." And they don't agree on everything. Sumner is more skeptical. So the other references are neither here nor there. (1-20-11)
If all you have left is to congratulate yourself on knowing that Dagoods would point out that you cited material which did not support the proposition for which you cited it, perhaps you should cut your losses and find some more constructive use of your time. (1-20-11)
You would love that! Then for sure (if I gave up now) I wouldn't find the quotations that would put a decisive end to this controversy. If I pursue it, it'll take a lot more work, and I'll be accused of being obsessed and not having a life, etc. (and far worse, from Bare-Brained Bum) LOL.
Isn't the life of an apologist wonderful? I'm given two choices in this venue, courtesy of my esteemed atheist admirers:
1) Pursue and research the topic for many more hours on end, and then get accused of obsessions and agendas and trolling and nefarious motivations and quixotic pursuits (granted, I did post a picture of Don Quixote on one of my papers) and overall weirdness for having the gall to take up a challenge and make a defense in the first place. That seems to be a big thing here: mock the people who are doing the research.
2) Stop, in which case we get the triumphant gloating of DagoodS and further mocking that Christians don't do their research when they make claims, and that I momentously failed in my task.
Which do you think is the preferable option? #1 means (according to the mentality displayed here) I am a "loser" in the general sense. #2 means I am automatically a loser in the debate (i.e. in DagoodS' eyes; I don't think it is that clear-cut myself).
Which would you choose if you were in my shoes, Vinny?
My main motivation has been my own intellectual curiosity (that often drives me in my major research projects). I believe that this opinion existed, because time and again I've seen reference made to it, and I don't think that comes out of nowhere. Many reputable archaeologists and other scholars refer to it. There was such a thing as higher criticism and radical skepticism and arguably its heyday was 1770-1870 (roughly speaking).
But documentation has taken a lot more work than I ever thought, in the age of Google Reader and Internet Archive. DagoodS thinks that is because the reputed opinions don't exist. I think it is because they are difficult to access, being so old (and many would be in untranslated German as well, since this thought mostly came from Germany), and because those who believe it wouldn't necessarily have to always specifically say "the Hittites didn't exist" because it would be assumed within a larger paradigm of extreme skepticism of OT historical claims.
Tell me (I'm curious): if we did find the alleged Encyclopaedia Brittanica quote that Hittites were "a mythological people" do you think that would that settle the issue in my favor? What would be the comeback to that (if any)?
We may still find it. Something of relevance is in those old encyclopaedia entries on the Hittites, and the significance of them (if they are anything like I suspect) won't be able to be dismissed because it would be proof of the opinions existing in influential scholarly places. We just have to access them somehow, somewhere. (1-20-11)
I best cover this now.
After your citing of The Books of Kings turned out to be….incomplete…shall we say?--I would anticipate your providing a photocopy or picture of the actual full and complete article. Not a paraphrase. Not a quote. Not a typewritten blog entry.
Something to verify what the original article says. That, to me, would be the easiest way to settle this issue. I’m giving you full and fair warning now, so when you are able to obtain a copy, you understand what we are looking for.
Remember we are skeptics, after all. Like you said—you know the approach I would take. Which means looking at the original article itself, rather than what someone else says the article contains. (1-20-11)
So let me understand you correctly. If we produce that (complete with photocopy or sworn testimony of the librarian at the Library of Congress or British Museum or something), and it says "mythological people" then you would concede the point and this would be settled? That would be sufficient to prove what I have been contending? (1-20-11)
I wanted to add above, also, that another factor in making it difficult to find the sort of skeptical statement I seek, is the fact that higher criticism was almost entirely German in the period we are talking about. Nowhere near all of that material would be translated into English. And so likely statements that might be found are in German only.
The English scholars who are skeptical to whatever extent always seem to go back to the Germans (e.g., Cheyne, Sumner). That's where all this started. It was the seedbed of the larger theological liberalism as well. (1-20-11)
After your citing of The Books of Kings turned out to be….incomplete…shall we say?
It was not "incomplete" in the sense you are speaking now: providing undeniable proof of sources. The issue, rather, was about historically finite denial vs. an absolute denial of Hittites never existing at any time.
I knew that already (and highly suspected that was the line of attack you would take), which is why I wrote on my blog last night before you replied: "I think it is pretty good, but I still want to find the Britannica statement, if it exists. That one would blow the opposing opinion out of the water for good."
--I would anticipate your providing a photocopy or picture of the actual full and complete article. Not a paraphrase. Not a quote. Not a typewritten blog entry.
Whatever. If we're able to do that, we will. If we can't (not always possible with books that old) then you'll have to decide if you want to continue to deny the existence of a quote that we have verified and seen with our own eyes (i.e., myself or -- more likely at this point -- one of my friends: one who is looking is an attorney like yourself; another a professor of mathematics; another a [non-Catholic] OT professor). Your choice.
But in the previous case, a photocopy was indeed available off of the link I provided to Internet Archive. You can choose "read online" which leads you to a photocopy (well, jpgs or some other sort of visual file). I verified the page number myself by looking at that.
So you have no grounds for charging "incomplete documentation" there. The beef had to do with partial, time-bound "Hittite skepticism" vs. absolute skepticism. By 1879 no one could be expected to be foolish enough to believe the latter any longer; it was far too late.
The radical skepticism occurred 10-70 or so years earlier, precisely because the Bible was the only evidence available, prior to modern archaeology. Therefore the Hittites were "dissed" because the Bible was not considered by the higher critics to be trustworthy enough on its own, to be relied upon as the sole source. We Christians got the last laugh there . . .
It's like the similar example of Belshazzar. Some radical skeptics even to this day want to deny the existence of King David (just as others are so foolish and out to sea as to question Jesus' existence).
But I never thought for a second that this quote found by Steve Ray yesterday was or would be decisive in and of itself. It's further down the road, and the best we have so far (in terms of specifically mentioning the Hittites), but we still have work to do to fully document this.
The more we are mocked and called names, the more motivated that will make us, to find further proofs. Keep mocking, then, if you like. I enjoy being motivated, and I am not averse to prevailing in disputes, either. :-) If it takes a lot more time, I have plenty of that. The final result (as I fully expect to accomplish in due course) will be well worth it, and we'll see who has egg on his face at the end of all this. (1-20-11)
I don’t think that there is any way for you to overcome the charge that Christians don’t do their research. If even a small fraction of the Christians who have repeated the “skeptics-deny-Hittites” claim had the slightest interest in verifying the truth of the claim or the slightest curiosity about the sources on which the claim was based, it wouldn’t have taken you all this effort to verify it. I think the difficulty you are having shows how happy so many Christians are to uncritically repeat any apologetic argument they hear.
This is a phenomenon I have observed when discussing whether the apostles died for their beliefs or how long it takes for legends to grow. Christians repeat arguments that they read in Evidence that Demands a Verdict or The Case for Christ, but they are usually ignorant of the sources on which these arguments are based.
All I have seen so far is that scholars in the nineteenth century expressed legitimate reservations about details in the biblical accounts of the Hittites given the state of archeological knowledge at the time. I would expect them to express similar reservations about any other ancient stories that could not be corroborated by archeological evidence. So while you may ultimately succeed in showing that there was in fact one scholar who categorically denied the existence of the Hittites, I don’t think it would justify the hubbub that apologists have made about the question even if Dagoods was compelled to admit that you were right. (1-20-11)
I agree that there is a great degree of sloppiness -- especially on the popular lay level. But that is by no means confined to Christians. I think it is a general trait that flows from bias and shared assumptions.
Hence, atheists are every bit as prone to sharing undocumented wives' tales that flow from their own anti-Christian bias, as we are, within our Christian bias.
An example would be the "common knowledge" among atheists that science / reason and faith / religion are somehow inexorably opposed, by their very nature. I just wrote an entire book about that, showing that it is a complete myth and that science was almost completely developed and maintained within a Christian (not an atheist worldview) and that even today a large proportion of scientists proclaim theistic or Christian religious views. That's only one example of many.
Secondly, I'm not convinced that all such broad statements need to be thoroughly documented. It would be better if they were, but it's not always strictly necessary. I gave as an analogy earlier, the example of Troy. Because it is more or less common knowledge among, say, the college-educated, that the existence of Troy was once widely questioned and denied, no one feels a particular need to prove that any longer. And so we can simply say, "there used to be many skeptics who completely denied the existence of Troy." Then archaeology verified it.
I don't see that that is vastly different from the case at hand regarding the Hittites.
On the other hand, and even given the above statement, I freely grant you that there is sloppiness and too often a lack of solidity and completeness in documentation. We are one in decrying that. I don't think you and I are all that different. I care just as much about documenting things as you do, and I do so in my writing.
I wrote the following today in a private letter to fellow Catholic apologist and good friend Steve Ray. If we get beyond the polemics (and Bum's juvenile insults) for a moment, I think we'd find considerable common ground:
I would still love to find an absolutely decisive reference of utter nonexistence, mythical status, etc.
If Christians claim over and over that this was the case, I don't think it is unfair or objectionable at all to request that we produce hard proof and documentation. This is what is so immensely frustrating to me. I don't doubt that the opinions did exist (since so much reference is made to them), but no one ever documents them, so here we are doing this work because no one (that I can find, anyway) seems to have bothered, or thought it was important enough to actually document.
I think it is a lesson to apologists: not to make striking assertions minus any hard proof or evidence of same. When we don't, it can come back to haunt us, . . .
I believe in documenting things. I've been doing it for 30 years in Christian apologetics. This is why I'm working so hard on finding this information now. It's important; it's required in good research, and it is a matter of intellectual curiosity (and integrity).
So you guys can't have it both ways: you can't demand documentation and then mock a person because he is working very hard (in agreement with the goal that it is important to document) to accomplish that end.
Each Christian apologist stands responsible for his own conduct and competence. It's not nearly as bad as atheists make out, but it's often also not nearly as good or unanswerable as Christians make out.
Apologetics is hard work, without a doubt. I'm in a position to know that! (1-20-11)
And so we can simply say, "there used to be many skeptics who completely denied the existence of Troy."
I don't think we would say that. I think we would say "At one time archeology couldn't establish that Troy existed, but now it can." By the same token, we might say "Archeology cannot establish that Camelot or King Arthur existed, but some day it might." Until it does, it is entirely reasonable to entertain the possibility that Camelot and King Arthur are mythical or legendary, just as it was once within the realm of legitimate scholarship to infer from the available evidence that Troy may have been mythical or legendary.
If the general scholarly consensus is that there is no good reason to believe that Camelot or King Arthur existed (and I am not sure whether there is or not), then it would be inaccurate to say "skeptics completely deny the existence of Camelot" because it implies that there is some non-skeptical group of scholars that has a reasonable basis for believing that Camelot exists. (1-20-11)
I don't think we would say that. I think we would say "At one time archeology couldn't establish that Troy existed, but now it can."
Of course we can say it. It's apples and oranges. We can say that there used to be a class of folks who denied that Troy was historical. Or we can make a statement (as you did) that considers the question primarily from the standpoint of archaeology. The way you put it is not dealing with the historical fact of claimed non-existence (especially since there really wasn't any field of archaeology to speak of in the early 19th century). Your statement reflects a more modern perspective that wasn't present before.
But you seem to miss my larger point, which was to say that people commonly make undocumented references of this nature without feeling the need (much less requirement) to document to a tee. I think Troy was a pretty good analogy to the Hittites issue. No one demands that it is documented.
Likewise, we know that extreme biblical skepticism existed, that relegated large portions of the Bible to mythology. There is no doubt about that. I deny that it is even necessary for my argument to prevail, to have a statement mentioning the Hittites in particular, if it is clear that a person thinks several early biblical books are more or less complete mythology. The Hittites are part of the larger category. I have already provided those quotes, from Schultz and David Strauss (and Strauss mentions many others of like mind).
In the same way, one could say, "the accounts of the Arthurian era in England are entirely mythical and non-historical." It would follow that in their opinion King Arthur was mythical as well, no?
So why wouldn't it follow if someone said that the biblical books up through Joshua are mythical and legendary and not historical (i.e., prior to archaeology and the knowledge acquired therein), that this incorporates within itself a denial of the Hittites?
DagoodS demands that the word "Hittites" has to appear in my proofs. But I'm not at all convinced that this is logically necessary. It's ideal, but not intrinsically required for me to prove what we have been contending.
And, by the way, I believe most historians hold that Arthur was historical, but that many myths and legends (the whole Camelot bit) were built up around him. The question is not whether he existed, but how much (if any) of the myth can also be substantiated from what we are able to know from historiography, archaeology, etc. The real person was probably unrecognizable as the figure in the colorful legends later built up and romanticized to the max (since much of that stemmed from the much later medieval ideal of the chivalrous knight, as it was).
Thanks for the cordial and substantive discourse. I am enjoying it. (1-20-11)
I ran across another interesting citation. This person, Claude Reignier Conder, denies that there was such a thing as the "Hittite Empire" and also that the Hittites were a "distinct race" (my bolding):
I have always felt that the theory of a 'Hittite Empire' rested on no very secure base. If we had found the Hittites to belong to some distinct race, the theory might be still necessary, but it is so no longer. On the monuments we hear of the Hittites only as a powerful and civilized tribe of Syria. The tribes of Asia Minor did not bear the name. In the Bible we have no notice of a Hittite Empire, but only of the chiefs of the Hittite country—which was Northern Syria. Herodotus could not have had any personal objection to the Hittites, but he certainly never tells us of a Hittite Empire, nor does any other ancient writer. This empire was not, I think, 'forgotten,' for it never existed. The point may seem very unimportant, but I think one reason why the texts have never been previously read is because they were not recognised as Altaic, and because the Hittites were regarded as a distinct stock.
(Altaic Hieroglyphs and Hittite Inscriptions, London [?]: Richard Bentley and Son, 1887, pp. 138-140)
The difference is that nobody would talk about "extreme Troy skepticism" because nobody thinks that a scholar (whether archeologist or historian) who doubted the historicity of the Iliad was driven by some sort of methodological or epistemological bias towards Homer rather than a reasonable analysis of the available evidence. On the other hand, the whole point of the "skeptics deny Hittites" claim is to cast doubt on any scholar who holds the Bible to the same standard as other ancient works.
If I say that Gone with the Wind is a work of fiction, that doesn't mean that I think the Confederate Army was a fictional body of people. I can say that the stories about King Arthur are legends without denying the existence of England or Englishmen. Similarly, I can say that the first five books of the Bible are unhistorical without denying the existence of every place and group of people mentioned therein.
I do not deny that "extreme biblical skepticism" did exist or that it still does exist, however, I hardly think it can be applied to every scholar who ever questioned the historicity of anything in the Old Testament. (1-20-11)
There is no antipathy to Homer, or secondarily, to the existence of Troy, because Homer is harmless fantasy that has no bearing on anyone's life. It doesn't claim to be revelation. No one is obliged to follow any moral commands in the book. Therefore there is no reason to have a strong hostility against it.
My specific analogy has not been overturned:
A) Many people used to deny that Troy existed because only Homer mentioned it.
B) Many people used to deny that the Hittites existed because only the Bible mentioned them.
A2) No one feels any particular need to document the former skepticism about Troy, because it is so widely understood to have occurred.
B2) Therefore, by analogy, no one necessarily feels any particular need to document the former skepticism about the Hittites, because it is so widely understood (at least by the archaeologists who first challenged it) to have occurred.
C) But the history of pre-archaeological biblical skepticism is not as widely known as the history of the view of Troy and the beginnings of archaeology; therefore, it is demanded that defenders of the Bible have to document to a tee, since the history is more unknown.
D) But none of this proves that the Hittite skepticism didn't exist. Many reputable, credentialed scholars say that it did, and there is no good reason to doubt their professional opinion about the history of their own field.
In any event, my analogy was not to some imagined "extreme Troy skepticism" but merely to the analogous claim of nonexistence.
I am generally critical of biblical higher criticism but that is not my immediate aim: which is to simply prove the existence of such skepticism, so as to remove a polemic used to discredit Christian apologetics. If I show it existed, then the canard that apologists have been lying about this is shown to be a sham and ought to be withdrawn in honesty.
Secondly, the problem is not holding the Bible to the same standard; it is the opposite: holding it to a far different standard than other works. The Bible is not taken at face value when it presents history, even though it has been corroborated by outside evidence again and again. There is exponentially greater skepticism brought to it by the skeptical mentality: that nothing else is subjected to.
The prior [early 19th century] bias, I believe worked in the following way: "if only the Bible mentions the Hittites, then I cannot trust it, because it is a religious document." But the Bible is also historical, and presents accurate history. This was denied by some simply because it was also religious, and claimed to be revelation.
In terms of archaeology and historiography, all we're asking for is that the Bible is treated like any other document, and not approached with extreme hostility (as in DagoodS' and most atheists' method) before any particular question is even considered.
Fiction, even historical fiction (Gone With the Wind, etc.), is understood to be just that. I grant that one could still hold that there was a Moses and an Abraham and Hittites, while claiming that the accounts are essentially mythological. But archaeology has shown that the Bible is far more than myth, which is the point.
Similarly, I can say that the first five books of the Bible are unhistorical without denying the existence of every place and group of people mentioned therein.Okay. But a person could also think the books and everything in them are pure myth, too. It could go either way. I'm exploring logical necessities and possibilities. I think DagoodS' skepticism defies even basic logic at times, as we saw in his treatment of Joseph of Arimathea.
I do not deny that "extreme biblical skepticism" did exist or that it still does exist, however, I hardly think it can be applied to every scholar who ever questioned the historicity of anything in the Old Testament.
I never said it did. My quotes that allude to this consistently state that it was a small group of radical, extreme skeptics. (1-20-11)
Melvin Grove Kyle (D.D., LL.D.), The Deciding Voice of the Monuments in Biblical Criticism (Oberlin, Ohio: Bibliotheca Sacra Co.: 1912), pp. 105-106 (my bolding):
Some had even gone so far as to say, though not often for publication, that "no such people as the Hittites ever existed." Budge, in his History of Egypt, says: "The Kheta, who are, no doubt, the people referred to by the Assyrians under the name of Khatti, have been identified with the Hittites of Holy Scripture, but on insufficient grounds," and again, "In passing it must be stated that the commonly accepted identification of the Kheta with the Hittites of the Bible is as yet unproved, since it rests only upon the similarity between the Hebrew name Heth, and the Egyptian name Kheta."
The inhabitants of old Troy were no more in need of a Schliemann to justify their claim to a right of real existence and a place in history, than the Hittites were of some friendly discoverer to deliver them from the serious suspicion of, to say the least, legendary accretions of character, if not even of unreality. In 1906 the deliverer came. Winckler uncovered the ruins at Boghatz-keui and brought to light, in addition to architectural ruins and a treasury of inscriptions in Hittite hieroglyphs, also tablets in cuneiform script. Among these latter was found the Hittite copy of the same treaty of peace between Rameses II and the "Kheta." What these tablets, when fully understood, may yet reveal concerning the Hittites and what vast and amazing additions to learning may come with the decipherment of the Hittite hieroglyphs themselves, an event which certainly cannot much longer be delayed, no one can tell. Already there is this important result; no one is saying now that "no such people as the Hittites ever existed."
So one by one the so-called myths and legends of the Bible are being given their place in sober history and the ghostly heroes are walking in common flesh and blood among the other real heroes of life. As this process goes on (and the list of illustrations might be extended to nearly every patriarchal narrative) there is being supplied that complete historical setting into which the narratives of the Bible fit with perfect naturalness. But legends and myths do not receive such confirmation and do not so fit into an historical setting. That they do not do so is one of the characteristics which mark them as myths or legends.
Now, almost by accident, I have managed to discover the identity of the anonymous person above who denied that the Hittites existed at all. This is done by comparing another statement from Kyle. His piece entitled, "The Recent Testimony of Archaeology to the Scriptures," was Chapter 17 of Volume 1 of The Fundamentals: A Testimony to the Truth (1909): the famous work of Christian defense. In his chapter, he wrote (my bolding):
II. The Hittite Vindication
A second recent testimony of archaeology gives us the great Hittite vindication. The Hittites have been, in one respect, the Trojans of Bible history; indeed, the inhabitants of old Troy were scarcely more in need of a Schliemann to vindicate their claim to reality than the Hittites of a Winckler.
In 1904 one of the foremost archaeologists of Europe said to me: "I do not believe there ever were such people as the Hittites, and I do not believe ‘Kheta’ in the Egyptian inscriptions was meant for the name Hittites." We will allow that archaeologist to be nameless now. But the ruins of Troy vindicated the right of her people to a place in real history, and the ruins of Boghatz-Köi bid fair to afford a more striking vindication of the Bible representation of the Hittites.
Only the preliminary announcement of Winckler's great treasury of documents from Boghatz-Köi has yet been made. The complete unfolding of a long-eclipsed great national history is still awaited impatiently. But enough has been published to redeem this people completely from their half-mythical plight, and give them a firm place in sober history greater than imagination had ever fancied for them under the stimulus of any hint contained in the Bible.
When the two passages are examined side-by-side, it is clear that the person who made the striking, sweeping statement of denial was none other than Sir Ernest Alfred Thompson Wallis Budge (1857-1934), someone I had already named as "skeptical of the Hittites" but "to a somewhat lesser extent" (based on the information I had before: which was basically the published statements above). I had also suspected before that he might be the anonymous person (because of being mentioned in the context), but I had no evidence at my disposal to be sure.
Kyle's own credentials are exemplary. He was an Egyptologist and Newburg Professor of Biblical Theology and Biblical Archaeology at Xenia Theological Seminary, associate editor of Bibliotheca Sacra, and author of the books, Moses and the Monuments: Light from Archaeology on Pentateuchal Times and The Problem of the Pentateuch: A New Solution by Archaeological Methods (both Oberlin: 1920).
The fact that Kyle and Budge were both Egyptologists explains how they would have been friendly enough for Budge to have confided to him privately that he thought the Hittites never existed. Kyle was charitable enough to not name him, but left clues that I managed to decipher (ironically an exercise of a sort of fun "literary archaeology") by consulting the similarities of the two above accounts (and another below).
That Budge would qualify as "one of the foremost archaeologists of Europe" is unarguable, after one looks at his credentials, accomplishments, knighthood, numerous important publications (over 120 books!), etc. (see an online biography that summarizes his incredible academic achievements). In 1904 at the time of the private communication he was Keeper at the British Museum.
Note that Kyle says that the blanket denial was made privately, since those who held such views expressed them "not often for publication." They were cautious: an important consideration to bear in mind. It was still considered a very radical view, even among academics. This would go a long way in explaining why my task in tracking down such radical statements was so extremely difficult.
A third clue lies in Kyle's article for The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, ("Archaeology," Vol. I, dated 1915). The following quotation from p. 231 (my bolding again):
(2) The Hittites:
Then grave doubts in the past have been raised concerning the Hittites. Occasionally it has been boldly said that "no such people ever existed" (compare Newman, Hebrew Monarchy, 184-85; Budge, Hist of Egypt, IV, 136). But in addition to the treaty of Rameses II with the "Kheta," long generally believed to have been the Hittites (RP, 2nd series, IV, 25-32), and the references to the "Hatti" in the Tell el-Amarna Letters, also thought to be the same people, we now have Winckler's great discovery of the Hittite capital at Boghaz-Koi, and the Hittite copy of the treaty with Rameses II in the cuneiform script. The Hittites are seen to be a great nation, a third with Egypt and Babylonia (OLZ, December 15, 1906).
Thus we have three statements from Kyle, dating from 1909 (The Fundamentals), 1912 (The Deciding Voice of the Monuments in Biblical Criticism), and 1915 (The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia: "Archaeology"). Do they prove that the eminent Sir Ernest Alfred Thompson Wallis Budge is the one who made the statement that will put this debate to rest? I say it is quite clear (at least if we take Dr. Kyle at his word) that he is. Let's compare:
1) The reputed private statement
1909 "In 1904 one of the foremost archaeologists of Europe said to me: 'I do not believe there ever were such people as the Hittites . . .'"
1912 "Some had even gone so far as to say, though not often for publication, that 'no such people as the Hittites ever existed.'"
1915 "Occasionally it has been boldly said that 'no such people ever existed'".
2) Who is named immediately after the private statement is revealed?
1909 [no one]
1912 "Budge, in his History of Egypt, says: . . ."
1915 "(compare Newman, Hebrew Monarchy, 184-85; Budge, Hist of Egypt, IV, 136)"
[Francis William Newman (Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman's brother) died in 1897, making it highly unlikely that he was talking to Kyle in 1904; thus, that leaves Budge by elimination. I think Kyle was deliberately leaving a clue as to the identity of the unnamed source]
3) What did the eminent archaeologist in 1904 who denied the Hittites' existence, say about the Kheta?
1909 "I do not believe ‘Kheta’ in the Egyptian inscriptions was meant for the name Hittites."
1912 Cf. "Budge, in his History of Egypt, says: 'The Kheta, who are, no doubt, the people referred to by the Assyrians under the name of Khatti, have been identified with the Hittites of Holy Scripture, but on insufficient grounds,' and again, 'In passing it must be stated that the commonly accepted identification of the Kheta with the Hittites of the Bible is as yet unproved, since it rests only upon the similarity between the Hebrew name Heth, and the Egyptian name Kheta.'" [source]
1915 No name mentioned, but the Kheta-Hittite equation is mentioned by Kyle right after the statement of doubt is alluded to.
[Moreover, in his book, Budge's Egypt: A Classic 19th Century Travel Guide (1890; rep. Courier Dover Pub.: 2001; p. 254), Budge wrote: "The Cheta have, during the last few years, been identified with the Hittites of the Bible; there is no ground for this identification beyond the slight similarity of names." Again, in his work, The Mummy: Chapters on Egyptian Funereal Archaeology (Cambridge Univ. Press: 2nd ed., 1894, p. 39), he stated: "the Cheta who, without, in my opinion, the slightest evidence for the theory, have been identified with the Hittites of the Bible . . ."]
4) Analogy of the "Lost" Hittites to Troy and the Trojans
1915 Not Present
5) Mention of Winckler's Seminal Hittite Excavations of 1906
When we consider all of this together, and make a simple deduction, everything fits. Budge is the man who made the statement that removes all doubt as to whether anyone held such a view. And he did this (even more strikingly) in 1904 after it was almost inexcusable to still take such a view.
In his 1929 (originally 1913?) book, The Rosetta Stone, Budge gives indirect indication of his skepticism in print, by putting every instance of the word Hittite or Hittites in the text (pp. 194-196) in quotation marks: thus suggesting a questionable identification, whereas he does no such thing for Babylonians, Assyrians, etc.
Budge writes similarly in his volume, A Guide to the Babylonian and Assyrian Antiquities (London: Harrison & Sons: 1900), where he uses skeptical phraseology such as ". . . which has been called Hittite" (p. 27) and "seals inscribed in the so-called Hittite character" (p. 200).
Our arduous journey has, therefore, come full circle, and we have accomplished our task. The atheist hyper-skeptic and ultra-critic of Christianity and Christian apologists, "DagoodS", stated:
I heard the statement how skeptics once claimed Hittites didn’t exist, but it turns out they did. Not true—no skeptic said this.
We now have documentation that this is indeed untrue, so that the general statements of apologists are not indications of lying or gross incompetence, but rather, the correct memory of true past events. Eminent Egyptologist Sir Ernest Alfred Thompson Wallis Budge stated in private conversation with another eminent Egyptologist, Melvin Grove Kyle (according to the latter), the following, in 1904:
I do not believe there ever were such people as the Hittites.
He also told him (or someone known to him, in scholarly circles), at an undisclosed date:
No such people as the Hittites ever existed.
That fulfills our requirement for proof of such skepticism, though DagoodS will almost certainly (in his hyper-skeptical wisdom) object on the grounds that it is the mere report of a private conversation (hearsay: he, being an attorney). He will probably require something in print, such as the reputed mid-19th century Encyclopaedia Britannica statement of the Hittites being a "mythological people." But for most folks who aren't inclined to doubt the printed, published word of eminent scholars about their own field and communications from a colleague in the same field, what we have found is, I submit, quite sufficient.
The clues as I have discovered them myself, would have been utterly obvious to Budge, assuming he read his colleague's words (which is probable), and if he had not said such a thing, he could easily have disputed the subtle near-claim and semi-revelation. And Kyle knew that. It was precisely because it was true, that he felt emboldened to reveal it, while not outright naming Budge. Nor would Kyle have had any plausible motivation (that I can see) to make up or misrepresent such an incident.
Dr. Kyle left the clues as to the identity of this person, perhaps anticipating the very objections I now am dealing with. He didn't want to say it outright, in deference to a friend and colleague, so as not to embarrass him, but on the other hand, it was valuable information on the presence of such skepticism, and how archaeology eliminated such a radical view, so he felt obliged to leave strong inferences: strong enough that I can stumble upon them almost a hundred years later and put two and two together.
And, of course, Budge was (inevitably) a theological liberal, so that he would have no problem casting doubt upon the Old Testament accounts. An online biography page informs us:
Sir Ernest Alfred Thompson Wallis Budge was an English Egyptologist, Orientalist, and philologist who worked for the British Museum and published numerous works on the ancient Near East. Budge was was a strong proponent of liberal Christianity and was devoted to comparative religions.