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ChurchWatch 03/12/08

Sodom & Gomorrah Discovered? Keith Richards Reads the Bible?

Then the LORD rained down fire and burning sulfur from the sky on Sodom and Gomorrah. He utterly destroyed them, along with the other cities and villages of the plain… (Genesis 19:24-25a, NLT)

Controversy has surrounded the search for the biblical cities of Sodom and Gomorrah as archaeologists debate various possible locations.

The latest buzz on the subject has come from Dr. Steven Collins, dean of the college of archaeology and biblical history at Trinity Southwest University. Archaeologists have suggested sites for Sodom and Gomorrah along the southeastern shore, or even underneath the Dead Sea. But Collins dismissed these sites after he looked to the Scriptures to discover where the cities were located.

Gordon Govier of Christianity Today reports that based on his reading of Genesis 13, Collins believes Sodom is located at Tall al-Hammam in Jordan. "The Bible makes it very clear," Collins said. "Sodom is the largest Bronze Age city east of the Jordan River, north of the Dead Sea."

Collins defends the historicity of the Bible and calls on archaeology to help substantiate scriptural claims. The legitimate discovery of the "Cities of the Plain," as Sodom and Gomorrah are called in the Bible, would provide solid archaeological evidence that the historical information in Genesis is factual. "Such a discovery would be one of the most important biblically-related archaeological finds in history," Collins said.

Eric Cline, an archaeologist at George Washington University and the author of From Eden to Exile, told Christianity Today that Collins might be on to something, but that he "has not yet produced any compelling archaeological evidence."

Furthermore, Cline said, Collins's research was "putting the proverbial cart before the horse and excavating with an a priori bias." Cline said all Collins had so far was a hypothesis.

Both Collins and Cline agree that another site favored by some archaeologists, the ruins of Bab edh-Dhra and Numeira, cannot be the site of Sodom and Gomorrah. These two cities were also destroyed in fiery conflagrations. The cities were excavated along the southeastern shore of the Dead Sea in the late 1970s.

"But they are in the wrong place at the wrong time," Collins said. Evidence dates Bab edh-Dhra's destruction to around 2350 B.C., while traditional biblical chronology places Abraham several hundred years later.

Michelle Vu of The Christian Post reports that Collins told students and faculty of Erskine College and Seminary that the key to locating the Cities of the Plain is an intricate analysis of the biblical text.

"The three main biblical criteria for correctly identifying these famous cities are geography, chronology and stratigraphy," Collins said. "The Bible clearly says they were located on the eastern edge of the Jordan Disk, that well-watered circular plain of the southern Jordan Valley just north of the Dead Sea."

He said it is also clear from the text that Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed during the Middle Bronze Age, the time of Abraham and Lot. He estimated the Middle Bronze Age to be between 2300 and 1550 B.C.

"Had scholars analyzed the biblical text carefully, they would have realized that the general location of the cities is laid out quite clearly and unambiguously," Collins said. "If you take the textual data of Genesis 13-19 seriously, the location is pretty much a no-brainer."

No Satisfaction with the Bible?

He's toured the globe with Mick Jagger and The Rolling Stones, starred as the father of Captain Jack Sparrow in "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End," and made headlines for over four decades with his bad boy antics. Now we're learning that Keith Richards is also a seeker of truth.

MonstersAndCritics.com is reporting that The Rolling Stones' guitarist admits he frequently studies the Christian holy book, but thinks it is boring.

"I read the Bible sometimes but it bores me to death. I just want to know what other people find so bloody fascinating. Why are they all hung up on all that, 'In the beginning' stuff? Ah, well. At least life is stable. It has said the same thing since I was a kid."

Richards, 64, has lived the rock and roll lifestyle since the 1960s when The Rolling Stones became world famous. His excessive use of drugs and alcohol led to five arrests for drug-related offences. He finally sought treatment for heroin addiction in the 1970s -- a move that most likely saved his life.

MonstersAndCritics.com announced that details of Richards' life will be included in a soon-to-be-released autobiography. Rumors are that he will receive a $7.3 million advance on the book.

"They've paid me a … fortune, so of course I'm writing it. We're just trying to make an interesting story out of it, without every chapter ending, 'And then I found out I only had £30 in the bank. And then I did this, and that'. No! I'm trying to come out with a story with a narrative."

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