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Old 30th October 2017, 09:27 AM   #1
Meadmaker
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Solar eclipse, Ramses the Great, and the Book of Joshua

I just read this article which I find interesting. I'm starting a thread on it in case others have more information.

The basic version of events is that the story in the Book of Joshua about the "sun standing still" might be a reference to an eclipse. Astronomers can figure out when eclipses occurred, and cross referencing with an Egyptian text can then precisely date the reigns of some important Egyptian pharaohs.

I'm not going to jump into the believer category on this one. Mass market media loves to do "Science confirms something in the Bible" stories, because it's great click bait. This particular article proves its worth by confusing the word "annual" with "annular" when describing eclipses. Still it might be interesting. I'll be trying to find some more information on it, to determine whether it is great science, mediocre science, or pseudoscience, and would appreciate anyone else who can do the same.

Here's the link to the Newsweek article I read:



http://www.newsweek.com/ancient-egyp...pse-and-695921
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Old 30th October 2017, 09:40 AM   #2
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If an observer of an eclipse were to write their experience of it, don't you think they'd start with "it went dark in the middle of the day", or "the sun was hidden", or somesuch? I doubt anyone looks at an eclipse and thinks..."the sun stood still". Therefore I'd respectfully suggest that this story is built on very flimsy ground. There's a lot of "could be"s in that text.
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Old 30th October 2017, 09:49 AM   #3
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If you read the article, you'll see that your point is addressed. Apparently, the authors claim that the original Hebrew has an alternate interpretation, that the sun and moon stopped their normal function, rather than their motion. That is, they stopped shining, which describes an eclipse pretty well.

I'm not a Hebrew scholar, and haven't read the original paper, but the idea of a relatively subtle mistranslation does not seem an outrageous idea.
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Old 30th October 2017, 09:52 AM   #4
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I did read the article. As I said, it said "could be" about the translation thing.
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Old 30th October 2017, 09:52 AM   #5
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I clicked on the original source from my link, and it seems very, very, flimsy.

Not something I can immediately dismiss as useless, but definitely suspicious. The authors explain that "the sun stood still" could be a mistranslation, but I would have to go back and read Joshua. I thought that the point of the story was that the sun stood still to give the Israelites more time to go about their business of killing Canaanites, something the eclipse certainly would not accomplish.

One thing I found amusing was that the authors wanted to claim the title of the oldest verified eclipse, and they compared it to a Chinese account a millennium earlier, but noted that the historical fable about the eclipse was almost certainly apocryphal. So, we can't trust the historical accounts from China, but a story of a guy who knocks walls down by blowing on trumpets is unimpeachable?
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Old 30th October 2017, 12:08 PM   #6
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Of course, the bigger problem with this is that the whole Exodus and Conquest of Canaan story is made out of whole cloth.
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Old 30th October 2017, 01:10 PM   #7
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According to Britannica, Jericho was occupied sporadically from ~9,000BCE till ~2,000BCE; shortly thereafter it is thought the Canaanites became a presence in the region through acculturation. Dating the various stages of Jericho's history is quite problematic. Calculating eclipses can be done with a decent degree of precision; dating other aspects of historical events in the Levant through that period not so much. I suggest the "conquest" of Jericho was more a remarking generations later on an end to or recognizable shift in the acculturation process rather than any military action. And cultures tend to make their progenitors larger than life.
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Old 30th October 2017, 01:54 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by Meadmaker View Post
Here's the link to the Newsweek article I read:
http://www.newsweek.com/ancient-egyp...pse-and-695921
The article and paper is wishful thinking.
Joshua 10:12-13
Quote:
On the day the LORD gave the Amorites over to Israel, Joshua said to the LORD in the presence of Israel: "Sun, stand still over Gibeon, and you, moon, over the Valley of Aijalon."
So the sun stood still, and the moon stopped, till the nation avenged itself on its enemies, as it is written in the Book of Jashar. The sun stopped in the middle of the sky and delayed going down about a full day.
It is both the Sun and Moon "standing still" with the implication of separately since Gibeon and the Valley of Aijalon are different places.
There is nothing about the Moon moving in front of the Sun. The event happened for a full day. Thus it cannot have been any kind of solar eclipse.

The paper states that the Moon actually stood still ("The term 'amad is a broader word meaning to stop or stand.") The Sun is asked to stand still where "The Hebrew word dm means to be silent, dumb or still.". The Sun is said to be dumb, i.e. stopped shining. But they match the event with an annular eclipse where it is obvious that the Sun is still shining and it is the Moon that goes dark. A credible description of a annular eclipse or indeed any solar eclipse would have the Moon dm and the Sun might be 'amad.

The authors cannot have cherry pick a part of the text and interpret it as a real event without treating the rest of the text as also real. The text would be a "solar eclipse" that lasted a day with the Sun over one location, the Moon over another location. The authors trying to argue this away as analogy ("as on a whole day") allows the entire episode to be an analogy or just poetic license.

There is the question of why Joshua would want a day or period of darkness in the middle of a battle. The usual and more practical interpretation is that Joshua wanted longer daylight to fight the battle.

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Old 30th October 2017, 02:05 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by Reality Check View Post
It is both the Sun and Moon "standing still" with the implication of separately since Gibeon and the Valley of Aijalon are different places.
There is nothing about the Moon moving in front of the Sun. The event happened for a full day. Thus it cannot have been any kind of solar eclipse.
...unless that solar eclipse were described in the text very allegorically and mythologically, which I think we all ought to agree it is.

The story is legend. It may have been inspired by a real event, but in the many subsequent retellings the story became embellished and mythologised, because that is what humans do.

Finding the real historical inspiration behind mythological stories is near-impossible, which is why the article is speculative. You can't think that any story that old would describe an event accurately. Historians weren't even invented yet.
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Old 30th October 2017, 02:40 PM   #10
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Having read the article again, I'm leaning strongly toward pseudoscience on this one.

The dating of an eclipse might be just fine. The equation of the eclipse with the phenomenon described in Joshua is tenuous at best. However, the authors go on to use that data, somehow, as the date of a campaign described in the Merneptah Stele. It is here that they seem to me to go quite off the rails. Somehow they are saying that the date of the Stele in the fifth year of Merneptah must be relatable to the year of the eclipse, which must have been the year of Joshua's conquest, and then he draws inferences from that. Seems rubbish to me. Joshua's conquest is a legend. The connection with the eclipse very weak, and the events described on the Merneptah Stele would only establish that, somewhere, there was a tribe called Israel (assuming the translation is correct). Even if this is a reference to the ancient Israelites, it could refer to any period of the Israelite history, not just the year of the legendary conquest.

In terms of dating any Egyptian events, it seems quite useless.

It is marginally interesting, and it does establish that a rare solar event (an annular eclipse) happened sometime in the period that might correspond to some events where the legend of Joshua was eventually recorded, but really that's about it. Rather disappointing, really, that the journal would have published the work. Maybe the eclipse data calculation was more significant than I give it credit for. It's not something I can judge.
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Old 30th October 2017, 05:32 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by Meadmaker View Post
Somehow they are saying that the date of the Stele in the fifth year of Merneptah must be relatable to the year of the eclipse, which must have been the year of Joshua's conquest, and then he draws inferences from that.
That is a big hole in the story the paper tells.
The Merneptah Stele is currently accepted as the earliest known textual reference to a people labeled as "Israel". The date of the reference would not be the date of the conquest of Canaan by the tribes of Israel under Joshua which would be earlier. The conquest could have happened decades before Merneptah's campaign.

More problems.
  • The authors are not archeologists.
    Colin Humphreys: Dept of Materials Science and Metallurgy and Selwyn College, University of Cambridge
    Graeme Waddington: Astrophysicist and independent scholar, North Oxford, UK.
  • A quick search suggests that this is their first paper on archeology.
  • The paper is not in an archeology journal
    Astronomy & Geophysics, Volume 58, Issue 5, 1 October 2017, Pages 5.39–5.42.
ETA: Colin Humphreys and Graeme Waddington back in 1985: The Date of the Crucifixion
Colin Humphreys

ETA2: Merneptah
Quote:
Merneptah or Merenptah was the fourth ruler of the Nineteenth Dynasty of Ancient Egypt. He may have been born in 1273 BC, ruling Egypt for almost ten years from late July or early August 1213 BC until his death on May 2, 1203, BC, according to contemporary historical records.[2]
But these authors want his reign to start in 1209 or 1210, i.e. 3 or 4 years before those contemporary historical records (unfortunately the reference is to a book).

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Old 30th October 2017, 05:59 PM   #12
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Er, and the Israelites and the Canaanites were, Archaeologically, similar to the point of identity. Suggesting they never left.
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Old 31st October 2017, 04:07 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by Reality Check View Post
ETA2: Merneptah
Quote:
Merneptah or Merenptah was the fourth ruler of the Nineteenth Dynasty of Ancient Egypt. He may have been born in 1273 BC, ruling Egypt for almost ten years from late July or early August 1213 BC until his death on May 2, 1203, BC, according to contemporary historical records.[2]
But these authors want his reign to start in 1209 or 1210, i.e. 3 or 4 years before after those contemporary historical records (unfortunately the reference is to a book).
FTFY. However, it's not clear from that wiki sentence whether those historical records apply to the start or to the end of Merneptah's reign, nor how this absolute chronology was attained. I general, there is some leeway with the accepted Ancient Egyptian chronology:
Quote:
Despite this consensus, disagreements remain within the scholarly community, resulting in variant chronologies diverging by about 300 years for the Early Dynastic Period, up to 30 years in the New Kingdom, and a few years in the Late Period.[1]
The highlighted portion would apply to Merneptah.

Absolute chronology of the ancients is a bitch. Egyptian inscriptions would read something like "in the 5th year of Merneptah's reign, this or that happened". Babylonian or others ditto. The didn't have a uniform year numbering with a "year zero". So it's easy to get a few years off.
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Old 1st November 2017, 12:29 PM   #14
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I can see a story about the sun vanishing in the middle of the day and being replaced by it's corona being retold and retold and someone reinterpreting it as "crazy stuff happened with the sun" and using the "sun stopped" because it fits with the story better. Especially if one would use similar words for the sun not shining and the sun not moving.
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Old 1st November 2017, 12:45 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by RussDill View Post
I can see a story about the sun vanishing in the middle of the day and being replaced by it's corona being retold and retold and someone reinterpreting it as "crazy stuff happened with the sun" and using the "sun stopped" because it fits with the story better. Especially if one would use similar words for the sun not shining and the sun not moving.
It's plausible. Lots of other explanations are also plausible.

The disappointing thing about this story, which I thought might be cool because it appeared in a journal, would be something that links the event in Joshua to Egyptian history. That's kind of what the article implied, was that you could use something about the Joshua story to verify something about Egyptian history. I was kind of expecting a case where there was an Egyptian eclipse reference that could be dated, and the astronomical references could link two other points. Nothing like that happened.

Unfortunately, it really wasn't like that at all. It was "there was an eclipse in Canaan in this year, so that must mean that it was the thing mentioned in Joshua, which means that this inscription where the word "Israel" is mentioned must refer to the same year (I really couldn't understand what the authors thought the connection was), therefore, something....with a kind of implied, "Therefore Joshua was a real person who really conquered Palestine like it says in the book. Jesus is Lord."

I'm kind of disappointed it would appear in a journal, although maybe I'm giving that publication more credit than it deserves. I didn't look around the web page except for that one article. Maybe it isn't a real journal at all. Either way, the dating of the eclipse might be legitimate, which might make it journal-worthy, but the associated "history" was kind of junk.

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Old 1st November 2017, 01:02 PM   #16
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Originally Posted by RussDill View Post
I can see a story about the sun vanishing in the middle of the day and being replaced by it's corona being retold and retold and someone reinterpreting it as "crazy stuff happened with the sun" and using the "sun stopped" because it fits with the story better. Especially if one would use similar words for the sun not shining and the sun not moving.
It is one word for the Sun's state as in the paper: "The Hebrew word dm means to be silent, dumb or still.". The authors assert that the silent or dumb meanings can also mean not functioning as expected, e.g. a shining Sun stops shining.

The paper does not analyze the other motion references in Joshua 10:12-13
Quote:
On the day the LORD gave the Amorites over to Israel, Joshua said to the LORD in the presence of Israel: "Sun, stand still over Gibeon, and you, moon, over the Valley of Aijalon."
So the sun stood still, and the moon stopped, till the nation avenged itself on its enemies, as it is written in the Book of Jashar. The sun stoppedI n the middle of the sky and delayed going down about a full day.
I do not know Hebrew but there are translations (a Bible site so with a bias to actual stopping):
Sun, "stand still" = dō-wm
sun "stood still" = way-yid-dōm
moon "stopped" = ā-māḏ
sun "stopped" = way-ya-ă-mōḏ
sun "delayed going down" = wə-lō- (and not) āṣ (do hurried)
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Old 1st November 2017, 01:22 PM   #17
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I think, when dealing with translations, the ultimate authority for all questions has to be google translate. Right? Google knows everything.

Se we use google to look up the verse in Hebrew, using the first link found, and paste the Hebrew into google translate. The result is:



Then the Lord spoke to Yahweh, in the day that the LORD had put the Amorite before the children of Israel. And he said to the eyes of Israel, Sun is in the shade of the blood, and the moon, in the depths of the island.


Q.E.D.
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Old 1st November 2017, 03:08 PM   #18
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Originally Posted by Meadmaker View Post
I think, when dealing with translations, the ultimate authority for all questions has to be google translate. Right? Google knows everything.

Se we use google to look up the verse in Hebrew, using the first link found, and paste the Hebrew into google translate. The result is:



Then the Lord spoke to Yahweh, in the day that the LORD had put the Amorite before the children of Israel. And he said to the eyes of Israel, Sun is in the shade of the blood, and the moon, in the depths of the island.


Q.E.D.
I'm afraid that makes about as much sense to me as the youtube videos about putting these two characters int translate multiple times

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Old 2nd November 2017, 12:07 PM   #19
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Originally Posted by Meadmaker View Post
I think, when dealing with translations, the ultimate authority for all questions has to be google translate. Right? Google knows everything.

Se we use google to look up the verse in Hebrew, using the first link found, and paste the Hebrew into google translate. The result is:



Then the Lord spoke to Yahweh, in the day that the LORD had put the Amorite before the children of Israel. And he said to the eyes of Israel, Sun is in the shade of the blood, and the moon, in the depths of the island.


Q.E.D.
Everyone knows the original Bible text is the KJV.
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Old 3rd November 2017, 01:32 AM   #20
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The text offers no support to an eclipse explanation. The exact contrary is demanded by the context which states that the sun kept shining, even after it would normally have set, while Joshua went about his bloody activity.
12 Then Joshua spoke to the LORD in the day when the LORD delivered up the Amorites before the sons of Israel, and he said in the sight of Israel, "O sun, stand still at Gibeon, And O moon in the valley of Aijalon." 13 So the sun stood still, and the moon stopped, Until the nation avenged themselves of their enemies. Is it not written in the book of Jashar? And the sun stopped in the middle of the sky and did not hasten to go down for about a whole day. 14 There was no day like that before it or after it, when the LORD listened to the voice of a man; for the LORD fought for Israel.
My suggestion is that we have a look in the Book of Jasher, to settle this question once and for all. Anyway, if there was no day like it before or after, that too argues against an eclipse, for these are observed quite frequently.
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Old 3rd November 2017, 05:27 AM   #21
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Originally Posted by ddt View Post
Everyone knows the original Bible text is the KJV.
Good point. It's amazing that the authors overlooked this basic fact of accepted scholarship.
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Old 3rd November 2017, 09:24 AM   #22
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Originally Posted by Craig B View Post
The text offers no support to an eclipse explanation. The exact contrary is demanded by the context which states that the sun kept shining, even after it would normally have set, while Joshua went about his bloody activity.
12 Then Joshua spoke to the LORD in the day when the LORD delivered up the Amorites before the sons of Israel, and he said in the sight of Israel, "O sun, stand still at Gibeon, And O moon in the valley of Aijalon." 13 So the sun stood still, and the moon stopped, Until the nation avenged themselves of their enemies. Is it not written in the book of Jashar? And the sun stopped in the middle of the sky and did not hasten to go down for about a whole day. 14 There was no day like that before it or after it, when the LORD listened to the voice of a man; for the LORD fought for Israel.
My suggestion is that we have a look in the Book of Jasher, to settle this question once and for all.
My humble suggestion is that we apply Betteridge's law of headlines.
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Old 8th November 2017, 12:58 AM   #23
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I believe there is a similar Greek story about some character imploring Zeus to not make the Sun go down?

I've also heard Joshua himself is a euhemerized solar diety, possibly.
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Old 8th November 2017, 01:16 AM   #24
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Craig is right.

the whole point of the "sun standing still" story is to give God's army the time to annihilate the enemy, which could escape when night fell.
An eclipse would serve the exactly opposite purpose.

So no, there is no way this passage can honestly be read as an eclipse.
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Old 8th November 2017, 06:41 AM   #25
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Originally Posted by IIIClovisIII View Post
I believe there is a similar Greek story about some character imploring Zeus to not make the Sun go down?

I've also heard Joshua himself is a euhemerized solar diety, possibly.
Or possibly not. Objections to that thesis were made over a century ago in this book. See ch 2, pp 92-94. I thought euhemerised deities were human brings elevated to the status of gods. I find that improbable for a sun god. But are you suggesting a sun god reduced to Biblical human status? That would be the opposite of euhemerism. We might therefore call it dyshemerism.
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Old 8th November 2017, 07:00 AM   #26
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Originally Posted by Meadmaker View Post
I clicked on the original source from my link, and it seems very, very, flimsy.

Not something I can immediately dismiss as useless, but definitely suspicious. The authors explain that "the sun stood still" could be a mistranslation, but I would have to go back and read Joshua. I thought that the point of the story was that the sun stood still to give the Israelites more time to go about their business of killing Canaanites, something the eclipse certainly would not accomplish.

One thing I found amusing was that the authors wanted to claim the title of the oldest verified eclipse, and they compared it to a Chinese account a millennium earlier, but noted that the historical fable about the eclipse was almost certainly apocryphal. So, we can't trust the historical accounts from China, but a story of a guy who knocks walls down by blowing on trumpets is unimpeachable?
So true - for the suckers in the audience!!!!!
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Old 5th December 2017, 10:50 PM   #27
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Originally Posted by Craig B View Post
Or possibly not. Objections to that thesis were made over a century ago in this book. See ch 2, pp 92-94. I thought euhemerised deities were human brings elevated to the status of gods. I find that improbable for a sun god. But are you suggesting a sun god reduced to Biblical human status? That would be the opposite of euhemerism. We might therefore call it dyshemerism.
No I disagree. I do vividly remember that euhemerism is a de-mythologizing of a story by later readers who may consider the original a bit fanciful or otherwise nonhistorical. Add some verisimilitude and make em a "hairy man", like the Sun's rays, and you have the Sun god manifest.
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