9

According to the Associates for Biblical Research, the walls at Tell es-Sultan (the Biblical Jericho) fell outward:

In reality what Kenyon, Garstang and other excavators have found at Jericho correlates precisely with the account in the book of Joshua. They found collapsed walls, not walls that were broken down from the outside but that had fallen down (Jos 6:20). The walls had not fallen inward, but outward, creating a ramp of fallen bricks by which the Israelites "went up into the city, every man straight before him" (Jos 6:20).

Is this an accurate representation of the archaeological finds?

  • 5
    The except from the "scholarly" article from the Associates for Biblical Research cracks me up. They point out Kenyon dated the fall of the walls to at least 1500 BCE in the 1950s, which was too early for the ~1400 BCE Israelites. Then they complain about her analysis and claim that it became "entrenched" in academia. Oh yeah? What about the follow up radiocarbon dating from the 90s that confirmed that picture? So there was no wall when at the time they are claiming the Isrealites were there, as a simple wikipedia search cites. – KAI Oct 12 '16 at 23:13
  • 3
    I'm confused. They claim if the walls were brought down by trumpets, they would not be "broken down from the outside". Isn't the simplest alternative hypothesis that they were never brought down, but simply collapsed as ruins over time, in which case they would not be "broken down from the outside"? – Oddthinking Oct 13 '16 at 3:03
  • @Oddthinking I don't know. A good answer would address that, I suppose. – Mr. Bultitude Oct 13 '16 at 3:04
  • The text may just be referring to the pile of stone and rubble that is created when ancient wall systems are breached. If an army knocks enough rumble down, a force could use the rubble as a platform to get over the remaining wall. – Mark Rogers Nov 28 '16 at 16:04
2

Current evidence:

  1. Lauren Axelrod, an anthropology student studying for her PhD in archaeology states in her blog Ancient digger that one expedition dated the city of Jericho to 15th century and other to 13th century.

In conclusion, radicals date Jericho to 15th century and minimalists date it to 13th century. Kenyon dates it to 1550 B.C.E. based on the fact there were no walls at that time. Kathleen Kenyon never found pottery from Cyprus, but she failed to look for pottery of the Canaanites. This is an enormous issue considering she didn’t take into the account the social organization of Jericho at the time of the destruction. Therefore, she would have never found pottery from Cyprus, which represented a richer class of people. Garstang dated the site to 1400 B.C.E. according to biblical accounts and he then attributed his findings to the Late Bronze Period where biblical scholars expected it to be. Source: Walls of Jericho: The Archaeology that Demolishes the Bible?

  1. Brett Palmer a student of biblical inerrancy issues states in Skeptical review online that Kenyon’s original findings place the date for Jericho’s destruction at c. 1550 BCE which is too early for Joshua’s conquest as described in the Bible.

She did, however, assume at the outset that her work would confirm the biblical account and from her writings it seems she was quite depressed that this didn’t happen. Kenyon wrote in Digging Up Jericho: If the Biblical computation that the entry into Palestine took place 440 years before the foundation of the Temple in Jerusalem by Solomon in 960 B.C. is accepted, we should expect to find Jericho destroyed about 1400 B.C. If the views of scholars who attempt to reconcile the description of events in Egyptian history are accepted, a date of c. 1260 B.C. is to be expected. (p. 259)

Kathleen Kenyon’s original dating of the destruction of Jericho’s walls remains accepted to have occurred c. 1550 BCE, too early for Joshua to have been there by traditional biblical reckoning. To be sure, the c. 1550 BCE city does in fact show a collapsed defensive wall, residential, commercial and civic areas burned to ruins and evidence of a recent harvest that occurred just prior to the city’s destruction, matching some of the descriptions for Jericho’s devastation at the hands of Joshua’s army as told in the Bible’s narrative. It’s unfortunate for apologists defending the historical reliability of the Old Testament that archaeologists consider the city to have been destroyed by some natural disaster a century and a half before the biblical Joshua would have reached it. Source: The Walls of Jericho by Brett Palmer

  1. Eben Scheffler from the department of Biblical and Ancient Studies, University of South Africa, South Africa states that it can be concluded that the basis of the archaeology of Jericho, that the Israelites did not conquer the city as related in Joshua 6.

Finkelstein and Silberman (2002) conclude: In the midst of the euphoria – almost at the very moment when it seemed that the battle of the conquest was won for Joshua – some troubling contradictions emerged. Even as the world press was reporting that Joshua’s conquest had been confirmed, many of the most important pieces of the archaeological puzzle simply did not fit. … Jericho was amongst the most important. As we have noted, the cities of Canaan were unfortified and there were no walls that could have come tumbling down. In the case of Jericho, there was no trace of a settlement of any kind in the thirteenth century BCE, and the earlier Late Bronze Age settlement, dating to the fourteenth century BCE, was small and poor, almost insignificant, and unfortified. There was also no sign of a destruction. Thus the famous scene of the Israelite forces marching around the walled town with the Ark of the Covenant, causing Jericho’s mighty walls to collapse by the blowing of their war trumpets was, to put it simply, a romantic mirage. (pp. 81–82) Source: Jericho: From archaeology challenging the canon to searching for the meaning(s) of myth(s)

TL;DR:

  1. Jericho was a significant fortified city in the Early and Middle Bronze Ages. However, the Egyptians destroyed it violently at about 1550 B.C which resulted in the loss of its significance and fortifications required for defense in warfare. Later erosion in the site is blamed for removal of evidence to pin point the actual time of destruction of the city of Jericho.

The problem seems to lie in the chronology and the reliability of the biblical narrative. It’s not a question as to whether Jericho existed, because it did. It’s also not a question as to whether people ever occupied the site of Jericho, because they could have, even as far back as the tenth century B.C.E, according to stratigraphic layers and common foodstuffs discovered. The issue seems to be that it’s “virtually” impossible to assess the site of Jericho because the biases of scholars alike cloud the actual archaeological evidence. Furthermore, the chronological dating of specific samples, as Bryant explained prior, gives us too many dates to pinpoint an actual point of destruction at Jericho. Consequently, stratigraphic layers are not always contemporaneous with each other. Source: Walls of Jericho: The Archaeology that Demolishes the Bible?

  1. The claim that 'they found collapsed walls, not walls that were broken down from the outside but that had fallen down' is not backed by archaeological data since there was no evidence of fortification walls of Jericho to destroy during the fourteenth century B.C.E., as described in the biblical account and Jericho was an insignificant, poor and small settlement. There was also no archaeological evidence of a Late Bronze Age II occupation at Jericho.

On the basis of the archaeological evidence provided by Kenyon (1957) that there is no trace of a LBA II occupation at Jericho, some scholars conclude that the biblical story of the fall of Jericho is not historical (Bartlett 1982:34; Bienkowski 1986) and that it ‘seems to be invented out of whole cloth’ (Dever 2003:41–47). The same archaeological evidence also lies at the basis of a similar conclusion by Finkelstein and Silbermann (2002:80–82) referred to above. Source: Jericho: From archaeology challenging the canon to searching for the meaning(s) of myth(s)

| improve this answer | |
  • It seems that the tl;dr is actually in the Palmer quotes: "The c. 1550 BCE city does in fact show a collapsed defensive wall. ... Archaeologists consider the city to have been destroyed by some natural disaster a century and a half before the biblical Joshua would have reached it." I think it's a pretty good answer, but could you 1) give the quote I highlighted more prominence, and 2) comment on the credentials of those you quote? – Mr. Bultitude Oct 26 '16 at 19:10
  • 2
    Excellent edit. However, I think now point 1 of the tl;dr makes it sound like there was never a wall, which is contradicted by the quote below it and other quotes. If you can rephrase to fix that, I'd be grateful. Also, it seems to me that the supporting quote for point 2 of the tl;dr undermines a lot of the rest of the answer by saying that it is unclear when the destruction happened when the rest of the answer seems to be making the case that the probable date of the destruction is after the wall. Can you clarify this point as well? – Mr. Bultitude Oct 28 '16 at 15:12
-3

The first thing to note is that the ancient city of Jericho lies directly over a major transcurrent fault - actually one of two bounding faults which create the Jordan valley. This is one of the Earth's major plate boundaries in which two tectonic plates slide past each other. Consequently, it has been geologically active for several million years. So an earthquake collapse is certain to happen - in fact, most likely on multiple occasions, and since Jericho is reckoned to be one of the oldest inhabited cities in the world, it was probably destroyed several times over. Therefore, over reliance on a single radiocarbon date should be treated with caution.

Secondly, When an earthquake shakes a wall, the direction of failure is very strongly linked to the relative buttressing of each wall. It is likely that the wall of Jericho was roughly rectangular, so if a long-wavelength shock wave shakes a wall, there is nothing to stop the wall falling outwards, but both ends of the wall are buttressed by the adjacent right-angle walls from falling inwards. If you wish to see numerous such examples go and look at the collapse debris from last year's earthquake in Kathmandu, Nepal.

So it is generally argued, by rational Christians, that the theological intent of the Biblical narrative is not about the walls of Jericho collapsing due to trumpet calls, but rather it is about God's exquisite timing (of the earthquake) in relation to his prophetic knowledge to Joshua et al., and in relation to God's unfolding plan.

| improve this answer | |
  • 6
    Welcome to Skeptics! Please provide some references to support your claims. The theological intent of the Biblical narrative (and people's opinions about them) are off topic here. Try hermeneutics.SE. – Oddthinking Oct 26 '16 at 6:03
  • 2
    The thesis of this answer seems to be, "Based on archaeological and geological evidence, the wall (and quite possibly the city itself) was probably destroyed by an earthquake, which caused the walls to fall outward." That has the makings of a good answer, but it would be tremendously improved if you cited sources on each of the constituent claims. Also, I'm not sure what your point is about radiocarbon dating; can you explain further? – Mr. Bultitude Oct 28 '16 at 15:07

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .