Of Camels, and ships and sealing wax…


As I am sure you know, there are varying degrees of opposition to Christianity around the world. In the West particularly, a small number of vocal anti-Christians sometimes define themselves as militant Atheists or militant Agnostics or militant anti-Christians. To the extent that such militant Atheists or militant Agnostics work to attack and undermine Christianity, it is not unreasonable to refer to them as militant anti-Christians. The term is not meant to be pejorative.

I compiled this write-up below in response to a seeker who was influenced by militant anti-Christians who attacked the reliability of the Bible. The anti-reliability claim had to do with camels in the OT.


On various occasions, I have seen militant anti-Christians attack the Bible (with any means at their disposal, whether rational or not).

As I have read their writings (or dialoged on occasion with some), I have noticed a few common themes. For instance, I have noticed:

  1. A strong desire and commitment (on the part of militant anti-Christians) to reject the Christian God.
  2. A strong desire and commitment to rationalize their rejection of the Christian God, i.e., to come up with excuses and reasons to reject Him.
  3. A strong desire and commitment to reject the Christian Bible.
  4. A strong desire and commitment to rationalize their rejection of the Christian Bible, i.e., to come up with excuses and reasons to reject the Christian Bible.

I have also noticed a few irrational foundational presuppositions that are subscribed to by such individuals:
  1. There is no God.
  2. Therefore there can be no miracles.
  3. Therefore any miracles presented in the Bible, could not possibly have happened.
  4. And any prophecies (that can be seen from history to have come true) in the Bible have to have been written "after the fact" (despite any evidence to the contrary).

Using these foundationally irrational presuppositions, such militant anti-Christians build up edifices of speculation (and militant anti-Christian myths) that they then present to the unwary as "fact", and by doing so, deceive some.

I have found this (the use of this kind of methodology) to very often be the case when I see militant anti-Christian attacks, particularly on the reliability of the Bible.

In this brief note, I would like to address one such attack on the reliability of the Bible.

An Militant anti-Christian "Camel" Myth

Fact: The Old Testament presents camels in the context of Abraham (who lived about 2000 BC) and in the context of Moses (who lived about 1500 BC/ 1300 BC).

And now, here is the "Camel" myth … Allegedly (according to the Camel Myth), archeology has shown us that camels arrived on the scene (of the Middle-East) much later than the times of Abraham or Moses. Allegedly, camels arrived about 1100 BC or later.

As the myth goes, "this proves that the Old Testament is not reliable, and that the biographies of Abraham and Moses were written about 700 BC (rather than about 2000 BC for Abraham and about 1500 BC/ 1300 BC for Moses)."

Looking at the Evidence

Rather than just blindly accepting this militant anti-Christian myth, let us look at the evidence. <1>

As discussed in ref <1>, the Bible presents a minimal role for camels at the time of Abraham (and later, Moses). Camels are presented as the least and last of Abraham's possessions (Gen. 12:6), used only for the long desert-edge trip to Harran and back by Abraham's servant to obtain a bride for Isaac (Gen 24:10-64). Similarly, with Jacob (camels are listed among the last of his possessions -- Gen 30:43; 32: 7,15 -- and used only for the long desert-edge trip from Harran to Canaan – Gen 31:17,34). Midianites who travel in the desert used camels (Gen 37:25). At about the time of the Exodus, camels appear only once among the transport animals owned by Pharaoh (Exodus 9:3), and twice in the list of animals not to be eaten (Lev 11:4; Deut 14: 7).

Is there evidence from archaeology for the presence of camels in the Middle East in the 2000BC-1200 BC time-frame ?

The answer is YES.

Examples of Evidence

Here (listed below) are a few examples of archaeological finds that indicate that camels were indeed present in the Middle-East during the time periods in question (the times of Abraham through the times of Moses).

Dated 2000-1400 BC: from Egypt, a camel skull from the Fayum "Pottery A" stage of occupation. <2>

Dated 1900-1700 BC: from Byblos, a figurine of a kneeling camel. <3>

Dated 1900-1550 BC: from Canaan, a camel jaw from a Middle Bronze Age tomb at Tell el-Far'ah North. <4,5>

Dated 1800-1700 BC: from northern Syria, a cylinder seal with deities on a camel. <6>

Dated 2000-1700 BC: mention of camels in the Sumerian Lexical writing HAR.ra-hubullu. <7,8>

Dated 1300-1200 BC: from Egypt, a figure of a kneeling camel loaded with jars, from a tomb. <9>

Dated 1300-1150 BC: from northwest Arabia, a broken figure of a camel on painted pottery from Qurraya. <10,11>

Dated 1300-1200 BC: from Pi-Ramesse, a camel on a pottery shard. <12>

Dated 3000-2000 BC: from Egypt and Arabia, other indicates of presence of camels. <13-16>

What can we Conclude:

Based on the evidence, it is rational to conclude that the claim* in question is just another militant anti-Christian myth.

*) The claim in question being that archaeology has shown that camels were not present in the Middle East at the time of Abraham/ Moses and thereby proving the non-reliability of the OT.

Once again, I find that it is the militant anti-Christian claims that are unreliable (rather than the Bible).


  1. On the Reliability of the Old Testament, K.A. Kitchen (Grand Rapids, Michigan/ Cambridge, U.K: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co, 2003). Refs below cited therein.
  2. O.H. Little, Bulletin de l'Institut d'Egypte 18 (1935-36):215.
  3. P. Montet, Byblos et l'Egypte (Paris: Geuthner, 1928), 91 and pl. 52, no. 179.
  4. De Vaux, Revue Biblique 56 (1949):9 n. 8.
  5. For recent examples in Canaan, C. Grigson, in T. Levy, ed., The Archaeology of Society in the Holy Land (London: Leicester University Press, 1995), 259 and references 573-576.
  6. E. Porada, Journal of the Walters Art Gallery 36 (1977): 1-6.
  7. I.J.Gelb et al, The Assyrian Dictionary 7/I-J (1960),2.
  8. Also, W.G. Lambert, Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research 160 (1960): 42-43.
  9. W.M.F. Petrie, Gizeh and Rifeh (London, BSAE, 1907)., 23, pl. 27.
  10. M. Ingraham et al., Atlal 5 (1981): pl. 79:14.
  11. Also P.J. Parr, in D.T. Potts, ed., Araby the Blest (Copenhagen: University Press, 1988), 86.
  12. E. Pusch, Agypten und Levante 6 (1996):107-18, with figs. 3-7.
  13. M. Ripinsky, Journal of Egyptian Archaeology 74 (1988): 245-48.
  14. Also, G.R. Stone, in Buried History 27 (1991): 100-106,
  15. Also, G.R. Stone, in Buried History 28 (1992):3-14.
  16. Also, J. Sarins in D.N.Freedman et al., eds., The Anchor Bible Dictionary (New York: Doubleday, 1992) 1:824-26.

This short note has dealt with Camels. We shall leave ships and sealing wax for future discussion (joke).