D’oh!

New archaeological finds show that Homeric and Hollywood epics may be based on more than just myth

The famous story - originally told in Homer’s epic poem The Iliad - has always been considered more myth than reality. Now, says Ms Hughes, a collection of shattered tablets discovered beneath the Greek city of Thebes could completely overturn that belief.

“Up until now, no one has written seriously about the characters in The Iliad: the people who make it live and breathe,” said Ms Hughes, who has been working on a biography of Helen for the past four years. “Evidence like this means that at last we can start to draw lines between the three points of the triangle - the archaeological, textual and literary sources.”

Interesting. One discovery of tablets that supports the content of an ancient story and all of a sudden legend becomes history, yet the Bible was written by over 40 people, in three languages, on three continents over a span of 1,500 years and 40 generations by people who were kings, fishermen, rabbis, tax collectors, shepherds, generals, and doctors all while maintaining harmony and continuity with each other – but of course there isn’t enough evidence to consider it more than myth.

If whatever is found on Mt Ararat this summer actually turns out to be Noah’s Ark, you can bet that people will be grasping at turds to come up with any theory that explains how a gigantic boat got to the top of a mountain range. Some people would rather bury their heads in the sand than come to terms with the fact that they are accountable to an Almighty Creator God.

9 Responses to “D’oh!”

  1. Mike O Says:

    “but of course there isn’t enough evidence to consider it more than myth.
    I may have a comment, but I’m waiting for my laughter to quit. In this case it appears taht sarcasm becomes you.

  2. Elle Says:

    Good to know there are other fans of sarcasm out there, Mike. :)

  3. Ed Brayton Says:

    I think you’re building a false dichotomy here. A story, or a book full of stories, can be both real and mythical. In fact, most myths are based upon real people, whose exploits are then exaggerated, mixed with supernatural elements, or in some cases entirely made up. This is true not only of ancient figures but of modern ones as well. George Washington was a real person; the story of him chopping down the cherry tree is a myth. No one in their right mind believes that the bible is full of entirely fictional characters that never existed.

  4. Elle Says:

    I’m not arguing that because someone believes the Bible is full of myths, they deny that those people existed. Since, as you stated, “most myths are based upon real people,” one need not deny the existence of the people in the Bible in order to relegate it to mythology.

    I agree, no one in their right mind would believe that the Bible is full of entirely fictional characters that never existed.

  5. Ed Brayton Says:

    Then I guess I just don’t see what your point was. The article that you cited didn’t say, or even imply that suddenly the Iliad was seen as all literally true. The article in fact places the Iliad on pretty much exactly the same ground as the Bible in the eyes of a non-Christian - a book that contains real people and real places but contains many myths about them. Yet you claimed that this was somehow in contrast to beliefs about the bible, implying that there was a double standard whereby people accepted archaeological evidence in support of the Iliad, but not the bible. When you said, “One discovery of tablets that supports the content of an ancient story and all of a sudden legend becomes history, yet the Bible was written by over 40 people, in three languages, on three continents over a span of 1,500 years and 40 generations by people who were kings, fishermen, rabbis, tax collectors, shepherds, generals, and doctors all while maintaining harmony and continuity with each other – but of course there isn’t enough evidence to consider it more than myth.”, you were clearly implying a double standard, but the article that you cite doesn’t support that at all. In fact, it cuts against that implication because it is saying very much the same thing that skeptics say of the Bible, that archaeology can confirm many basic facts - people, places, events - but that those facts are intermingled with the mythology of epic history and exaggerating the exploits of both individuals and whole cultures.

  6. Mike O Says:

    Ed
    I think that Elle was pointing out that there was a great deal more extra-biblical evidence archaeolgical and other validating the veracity of the Bible.
    ” but that those facts are intermingled with the mythology of epic history and exaggerating the exploits of both individuals and whole cultures.” This is of course an assumption since none of us was there, but look at the Bible. The people are shown there with all their faults. In most history of that day you can read of a kings victories in his countries history but you find his defeats in his neighbors history.

  7. Elle Says:

    Ed: The article in fact places the Iliad on pretty much exactly the same ground as the Bible in the eyes of a non-Christian

    That is my point. The article – and the relatively small amount of evidence related in it - places the Iliad on pretty much exactly the same ground as the Bible - which has a tremendous amount of historical, archeological, cultural, anthropological, etc evidence supporting it. That is exactly my point.

    There is a lot of evidence supporting the Bible and what it contains, yet it is held no higher than a legend that has one recent archeological find.

    Maybe I am making a mistake thinking that if there is more evidence for something, it should be held as more believable, historical, reliable and/or factual than something that has just a fraction of that kind of evidence supporting it.

    I’m not criticizing anything in the article. I think it would be quite interesting if what they find actually has more of a historical basis than not.

  8. Ed Brayton Says:

    I think you’re misunderstanding the point I’m trying to make. There is archaeological evidence of the same type for the basic elements (meaning people and places and general events) of many biblical stories (and quite a lack of evidence for many others, but that’s hardly unexpected given how long ago it was written - archaeology can’t find evidence of every single event in history, some simply didn’t leave much evidence behind, or it can’t be found). But that doesn’t really provide any evidence for elements that one would consider mythological in nature in any other context. And the amount of evidence supporting only the existence of people and places has no bearing on whether those supernatural elements should be believed.

    For example, there are many myths about Julius Caesar. During and after his life, a great many things were written of a mythological nature about him, including an alleged virgin birth and the ability to heal (not at all unusual for emperors and kings in that era, almost all of whom had similar myths told about them. No matter how much archaeological and textual evidence we have of the existence of Julius Caesar, or for the mundane facts of his life - date of birth, how he died, decrees that he made as emperor, etc - you would not feel at all compelled to believe any of those elements in various texts that appear mythological, i.e. that are supernatural. The same is true of the Iliad, of course. If we find strong archaeological evidence for the existence of Achilles and Helen of Troy and that there was indeed a Trojan War, that will not compel you (or probably anyone else) to believe the supernatural and mythological parts of Homer’s story.

    The point I’m trying to make is that archaeological evidence for the existence of people and places and the occurence of events does not necessarily lend credence to myths that grow up around real people, real places and real events. And that doesn’t change based upon the amount of archaeological evidnece one finds of those mundane elements, especially when no one really doubts that they were relatively accurate in the first place. So contrary to the original post, there is no double standard going on. In fact, I would argue that the real double standard is the inconsistent application of the argument that archaeological evidence means one has cause to believe all of the supernatural elements of myths that grow up around the real elements supported by the evidence. You would not accept that argument for Caesar, or for Troy, or for any of the innumerable stories that combine real and mythological elements, but you make that argument for the bible and think others should be convinced by it.

    By the way, this is not an argument against the validity of the bible. You could of course make other arguments for why you believe the bible stories to be true in their entirety but don’t believe other stories. That would undoubtedly be based upon personal experience that feeds your faith, and while I wouldn’t accept that as compelling for me to believe, I’m not going to deny that it’s real to you. My point is simply that THIS argument by itself, that archaeological evidence compels belief in those supernatural elements that are not supported by that evidence, isn’t a very good one. And furthermore, that the implication of the original post that there is a double standard, is false.

  9. Elle Says:

    I’m not limiting the evidence to just archeological. Archeology, does not create faith. Only the word of God can do that.

    The Bible says, “Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.”

    It can, however support the historical accounts in the Bible and the faith of those who have it.

    I do think there is a double standard. I don’t think it is held by everyone, but I’ve been confronted with it. I think generalizing (which I, personally, love to do) that there is not a double standard is assuming everyone thinks through the facts more than they probably do.

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