Countering Biblical Minimalism

Fallacy: Lack of archaeological evidence implies non-existence.

Biblical Minimalists often argue that many people or places mentioned in the Tanach did not exist, and that many events mentioned in the Tanach did not occur, because archaeologists have found no evidence of them. This is a fallacious argument. If archaeological evidence of something is found, then this proves its existence. But if no evidence is found, no conclusion can be reached. One cannot distinguish between the case of something never having existed, and the case of the evidence having been lost or destroyed over the centuries. Archaeology merely provides a random snapshot showing the few things which have survived by chance and which have subsequently been found.

Fallacy: Traditional explanations are automatically wrong. Alternative highly improbable barely possible contrived explanations are facts.

An example of this sort of nonsense is the claim that Rachel and Leah were a totem ewe and totem wild cow originally. This claim ignores the fact that the use of animal names was commonplace and had no religious or mythological significance. It ignores the fact that traditional understanding of the name Leah is "wearied" and that "wild cow" is merely one alternative speculative proposal for the meaning of the name. It ignores the fact that all sources consistently claim that Rachel and Leah were ordinary human beings, the daughters of Laban. It ignores the fact that totem worship is a custom of Native Americans and is unknown in the ancient Middle East. Biblical Minimalists come up with hundreds of these contrived groundless alternative explanations.

Last updated 3/4/2001