Review of The Bible in World History

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by Michael J. Findley

bible in world history graphic

The Bible in World History is by Stephen Leston, PhD (in Bible) (Click the image to see the book on Amazon.com.

This is the first paper book I have read since converting to ebooks many years ago and I find that I do not like it. It is only available in paper. The type is too small. It is difficult to read in the dark. I miss the easy search functions.

But these are petty complaints. This is a very well-laid out and attractive book. A very honest comment from a 5 star review on Amazon said, “I picked up this book and was originally drawn in by the colorful pictures–there are hundreds of them!!!!!” The beauty and quality of both the artwork and the binding for the price are phenomenal.

The author is a graduate of Master’s International School of Divinity, Evansville, IN.

Another 5 star Amazon review said, “Really enjoyed reading this book. For only 260 pages it really packs a punch. … I appreciated the flow of the book.”
I picked up this book because I am writing on a related topic. There are very few books on the subject of Biblical World History and I am always interested in learning what I can from the very few people who support a Biblical world view.

Most of the people who reviewed the book on Amazon loved it because of the layout, the pictures, and the perspective, and all of these are wonderful.

When I looked at the content, I realized that there is only one footnote. While modern writing style often replaces footnotes with chapter endnotes, there are no endnotes, either. Neither is there a bibliography. There is a brief and vague acknowledgements page, but there are almost no specific references to outside works in the entire book. As another Amazon reviewer who gave the book only two stars correctly observed: “I was hoping for a definitive, citable resource, with, for example, pages of footnotes, acknowledgements, and a lengthy bibliography, a book to help me understand the context in which the Bible was written. This is really the opposite, a glossy, handsome, easy to read book with a general overview of history during the time (including areas far outside of the Middle East, like China, which did not seem germane to my Bible study), coupled with the author’s view of how God had shaped that history. The book has a page and a half of photo credits, and a short list of suggested reading. I view it more as an inspirational book than a history book.”

Though the topical index begins on page 267, pictures, charts, sidebars, and blank spaces take up more than half of the book. 50 pages and more at the beginning consist of commentary on the opening chapters of Genesis. Including the opening commentary, there are only about 125 pages of text for a book on world history.

The commentary is good, but it seems out of balance with the overall brevity of other subjects. There are only thirty one pages covering the first century AD and nothing more recent than the Apostle John.

The book improves as it moves forward in time. That is, at it approaches the modern era.
I wish that there was some way of saying this kindly, but the number of glaring, serious errors seems to indicate that the manuscript was only edited for layout, appearance, spelling, and grammar. It seems to be exceptionally clean in the these areas. But the number of factual errors, which I am certain would be corrected by a careful content editor, are distressing. To keep this from being nothing more than a gratuitous assertion, here are just a few examples.

1) Commenting on the Antediluvian population, p. 24 states, “Leon Morris observes…the earth’s population would have grown to at least 120,000 in the first 800 years.” While exact numbers are impossible to know for certain, the numbers in the book are certainly erroneous. Jewish tradition states that Adam and Eve had 55 children themselves. “Relying on a letter from his friend, Rev Temple Chevallier, professor of mathematics at the University of Durham, [1830s Anglican minister Thomas] Gisborne argued that the number of people on the earth at the time of the Flood would have been in the tens of billions.” http://creation.com/british-scriptural-geologists-in-the-first-half-of-the-nineteenth-century-part-6

This might not seem important because Dr. Leston is supporting a large population (“at least 120,000 in the first 800 years”) compared to secularists who deny the very existence of the flood and creation. By itself, this would not be worth mentioning.

2) Post-flood technology is attributed to the antediluvian civilizations. page. 24 “ During this time, world witnessed the invention of the wheel, sailing ships, metallurgy, and oven-baked pottery. These inventions were developed in the area called Mesopotamia, the region where the first inhabitants of the earth lived.” As this statement stands, it denies the flood and promotes a uniformitarian point of view. Yet earlier, the author claims that this book opposes secularism. Genesis 4 records antediluvian civilizations developing metallurgy, musical instruments, agriculture and cities, but not the wheel, sailing ships, and oven-baked pottery.

What is important is the reliance on secular conclusions based on radiometric dating of artifacts. We certainly do not know if antediluvian civilizations had wheels, sailing ships, and oven-baked pottery or not. But Dr. Leston seems to rely on uniformitarian dating schemes to arrive at his conclusions. Without citing any references, it is impossible to know why Dr Leston states this. This error is repeated in the chart on page 41.

On page 32 he definitely uses secular reasoning. “In January 1996 National Geographic did a comparison between rodeo riders and their injuries, and skeletons uncovered from the time of Noah.” There are no skeletons from the time of Noah. The oldest skeletons in existence are many years younger than Noah. These are not antediluvian skeletons, because we do not have any antediluvian skeletons to examine.

The earth before the flood was a single continent. The geographic areas we have today very likely did not exist before the breakup of continents. Mesopotamia likely did not exist, nor could people have lived there, until after the breakup of the continents. http://www.amazon.com/Earths-Catastrophic-Past-Geology-Creation/dp/0932766943

3) The strict reading of the chronologies in Genesis give us 1656 years from Adam to the Flood. The LXX (Greek OT) gives us a longer timespan, but it almost universally rejected. If Dr. Leston chose to use the LXX chronology, he owes his readers an explanation as to why. The chart on page 40 has the date of the flood, with a series of question marks, well before 3200 BC. That is older than even the LXX date, yet there is nothing in the chart or text to provide justification for this date. The same chart repeats the error of the inventions of the wheel and pottery before the flood. Perhaps these were invented before the flood, but we have no evidence that Noah and his children knew about the wheel and pottery.

4) Abraham was born 292 years after Noah and his family left the ark. The standard date, using Archbishop Ussher and Isaac Newton’s chronologies, puts leaving the ark at approximately 2350 BC. This roughly fits with the 2166 date in the chart for the birth of Abraham, but it does not fit any of the given dates in the chart for the flood. 2166+292=2458 BC for the flood. What is the 3200 BC date on the chart for? It causes confusion and is not explained in the text.

5) On page 61 “Around 1792 BC, a king named Hammurabi inherited the throne of Babylon from his father.” In uniformitarian dating schemes, this is the commonly accepted “middle position.” Unbelievers are desperate to “prove” that the Law of Moses “evolved.” So the possibility that Hammurabi could be placed around 1200 BC, which is more likely the correct placement of hs law code, is discredited whenever possible, because that would make Hammurabi’s law code almost 250 years after God gave Moses the Law on Sinai. Here is a blog post I wrote about dating Hammurabi’s law code. http://elkjerkyforthesoul.wordpress.com/2012/10/17/the-problem-with-dates-in-history-hammurabais-law-code/ I would be very interested in investigating the sources for many of the claims about Hammurabi made in this book, but once again, there is no documentation.

6) Without detailing how Dr Leston follows secular Egyptian dating, because his lack of documentation makes it unclear what dating scheme he uses, here are the various Egyptian dating schemes. The last dating system in this article keys Egyptian events to events recorded in the Bible. http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/nab2/doesnt-egyptian-chronology-prove-bible-unreliable

7) Page 80 “The framework of this book assumes the earlier ‘high date.’” [for the Exodus] Then why is that date (approximately 1446 BC) not included in the text? The date of the Exodus is the key date for determining the entire dating scheme of the OT. This is particularly confusing because the time chart on page 92 clearly states 1446 BC as the date of the Exodus.

8) And Zillah, she also bare Tubalcain, an instructor of every artificer in brass and iron…Genesis 4:22 (Antediluvian civilization) But Dr. Leston says on page 80 “The use of smelted and tempered iron became common among the Hittites during the period extending from 1900 to 1400 BC.” Dr. Leston uses the same incorrect arguments put forward by secularists. Bronze is a combination of copper and some other metal. Depending on what other metals are mixed with the copper, it can be harder than steel. It is lighter than iron and does not rust. It is not as abundant as iron and is more difficult to work with. The reasons for switching to iron from copper were economic.

I could list other examples, a few serious, most minor. But this review is not intended to be an attack piece. The many 5-star reviews show this is a much needed work, especially something readable. I just wish that is had been checked for content before it was published.

What I hope for is a second edition of this book with sources, footnotes, or endnotes, a thorough bibliography, and content editing. This might be too much ask, but I would very much like an appendix which explains why certain things were included while others were ignored, because this is very much a needed work.

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