Two Chapters from The Book of Heresy
by Yehoshua Etzion
(Translated from Hebrew)

Did the Archaeologists Discover Evidence for Two Biblical Miracles?
In the year 1986 I finished writing my book “The Lost Bible", in which I examined whether there is a match between the archaeological evidence and the biblical stories. The results were astounding. Not only did my investigation reveal a substantial correspondence between the remains of the ancient material culture unearthed in Israel and the biblical traditions, but in two places it seemed as if the archaeological evidence alludes to a miracle mentioned in the Bible.
The first place is Jericho. At this ancient site the excavators unearthed the demolished remains of a huge wall. The archaeological evidence indicated that immediately after the town fortifications collapsed, the people of Jericho made a valiant effort to replace the wrecked wall with a temporary barricade hastily assembled from any material at hand, but to no avail. Waves of warriors stormed the town, conquered it and razed it to the ground.
The way in which the fortifications collapsed seemed peculiar. Massive blocks of bricks were dislocated and barricaded against the exterior of the wall. The hypothesis that the warriors who conquered the town undermined the foundations of the wall thus causing its collapse was not confirmed. Indeed, the foundations alone remained undamaged.
Prof. J. Garstang, who excavated Jericho in the years 1930-1936, assumed that the collapse of the wall was the result of an earthquake: “One conclusion indeed seems certain: the power that could dislodge hundreds of tons of masonry in the way described must have been superhuman. Earthquake is the only known agent capable of the demonstration of force indicated by the observed facts; and there is reason to believe that in this lies the real answer to our question” [J. Garstang, The Story of Jericho, London, 1948, p. 135].
However, Garstang’s hypothesis does not comply with a bizarre phenomenon that had been observed in an ancient burial ground adjacent to the Tell: “All the tombs of the period [prior to the collapse of the walls] are found roofless. Evidence that they once were roofed comes from those in which the beginning of the curve-over of the roof survives and from the fact that their entrances were approached by shafts. On the other hand, the tombs of the period [following the collapse of the walls] are intact” [Kathleen M. Kenyon, Digging Up Jericho, London, 1957, p.184].
The question is, what kind of force could have brought about the disappearance of the roofs in the ancient tombs at Jericho? The earthquake theory does not solve the mystery, as earthquakes can cause the collapse of roofs but not their disappearance.
No natural explanation for the collapse of the walls of Jericho has yet been found. Hence we are left, on the one hand, with the biblical description, and, on the other hand, with the archaeologists’ claim that superhuman forces must have been at work in the area.
Another place where the archaeological evidence points to a miracle mentioned in the Bible is the Sinai peninsula. The material evidence from this area indicates that in ancient times entire tribes abandoned Egypt and migrated into the desert [See, Y. Etzion, The Lost Bible, pp. 53-57]. This phenomenon is rather difficult to comprehend. The River Nile is Egypt’s life blood. The inhabitants of the Land of the Nile knew that whoever left the water source and marched into the desert pronounced a death sentence upon himself. What then motivated a vast assembly of people to depart from Egypt and to wander into the arid wilderness? We have no answer to this enigma, except for the biblical tradition which is inlaid with stories about miracles. Moreover, grindstones that were found at the camping sites in Sinai and signs of heavy wearing of the teeth of the people who were buried in the desert soil, corroborate the biblical description of the Manna that the people of Israel gathered from the sandy earth and ground in their mills.
Is it possible, then, that some of the miracles described in the holy scriptures were true events that were documented by the ancients?

The “Impossible” Barrier in the Bible
As stated in previous chapters of “The Book of Heresy”, the doubts regarding the historical authenticity of the biblical stories were raised mainly by Renaissance scholars, who could not accommodate the biblical stories about miracles in their newly revived rationality. However, a thorough review of the Bible shows that there is no basis for Spinoza’s claim that the faith of the ancients in miracles was rooted in their ignorance. Time and time again the peoples of ancient times tried to find natural explanations for the miracles they witnessed. The story describing the Philistines’ behavior after they seized the ark of God is a good example.
According to the Bible [I Samuel, 5-6], extraordinary events occurred wherever the Philistines placed the ark of God. Each morning Dagon’s statue was found fallen to the ground on its face before the ark of the Lord. But the Philistines dismissed the idea that this occurrence was a miracle. Even after plagues erupted in every city where the ark was carried about, the lords of the Philistines refused to admit that what they faced was an unnatural phenomenon. Seven months passed before they consented to consider the possibility that a superhuman power had brought about their troubles.
Furthermore, the biblical story of the Exodus is inlaid with episodes demonstrating that the masses who fled from Egypt did not believe in God’s omnipotence. The oppressed Israelites did not put their trust in the might of God and were reluctant to leave Egypt. Even after the Ten Plagues, when Pharaoh and his army overtook the fleeing Israelites, they did not think that God had the power to save them. The mistrust reached its peak when they finally reached the border of Canaan. In spite of the fact that in the course of the previous two years the multitudes had witnessed a sequence of extraordinary phenomena, they doubted the ability of God to defeat the people of Canaan. There are even examples in the Bible of prophets and leaders doubting the moral integrity of God. Time and again they wondered whether God had established justice in his world.
We see then that the Renaissance scholars were not the first to doubt. No less skeptical were the spiritual men of biblical times, who expressed ideas that the people of the seventeenth century did not even dare to put into words. Why then did our ancestors in their writings regard miracles as events that actually happened? Is it possible that the difficulty to accept the authenticity of the biblical traditions does not stem from the ignorance of our ancestors but from some flaw in the modern view of the world?
In my opinion, an inherent premise of modern western culture hampers our ability to comprehend the biblical evidence. It is a premise that manifests itself whenever we encounter an event in the bible that we perceive as “impossible”.
How do we establish the “impossibility” of a biblical tradition?
The problem seems to be that the principal criteria against which we assess the “possibility” of ancient traditions is our image of reality in present times, which is based on the inherent assumption that our culture is the most advanced that has ever evolved upon this planet.
In the following chapters I will try to show the erroneousness of such an assumption. I intend to present a series of archaeological finds indicating that long ago in the distant past there existed upon this planet a culture that in some fields had reached a technological level equal to that of modern civilization and in some cases even higher.
In the ensuing chapters I would like to propose an alternative assumption of “other possible worlds”. This assumption may prove useful in deciphering historical texts and ancient traditions in a completely different manner than is currently accepted. It will serve as a starting point for a new interpretation of the Bible.