(BNC) by Stephen Lord — Recently, sixteen scientists co-published an article titled, “Continuity and Admixture in the Last Five Millennia of Levantine History from Ancient Canaanite and Present-Day Lebanese Genome Sequences” (The American Journal of Human Genetics, online edition, July 27, 2017). The researchers sequenced the DNA of five skeletons from Sidon, in Lebanon, that are believed to be about 3,700 years old. They then compared that small sampling to the DNA of 99 individuals currently living in Lebanon.
From the results, the researchers inferred that the average Lebanese living today shares about 93% of their DNA with the five ancient Sidonians. Their conclusion is that the people living in Lebanon today are direct descendants of the people who lived there 3,700 years ago:
“We show that present-day Lebanese derive most of their ancestry from a Canaanite-related population, which therefore implies substantial genetic continuity in the Levant since at least the Bronze Age.”
While that’s interesting, what is even more fascinating is what the popular press did with this research.
Consider the headline for the article by Ian Johnston, Science Correspondent for the British newspaper Independent (27 July 2017): “Bible says Canaanites were wiped out by Israelites but scientists just found their descendants living in Lebanon.”
In a Washington Post article by Ben Guarino (“Ancient DNA solves mystery of the Canaanites, reveals the biblical people’s fate,” July 27, 2017), the journalist wrote, “a study of Canaanite DNA … rules out the biblical idea that an ancient war wiped out the group.”
Cosmos, a quarterly popular level science magazine which boasts it holds “47 awards for high-quality journalism and design,” ran a July 28, 2017 piece by Andrew Masterson titled, “DNA vs the Bible: Israelites did not wipe out the Canaanites.”
These and similar articles that reported on the original essay all share a common theme—use the research to trash the reliability of the Bible.
There is only one problem. These “award-wining” news outlets failed to do what should be standard in any reporting—check and validate your sources.
Anyone who has read the biblical books of Joshua and Judges even once, just skimming, knows the Bible never says the Israelites wiped out the Canaanites, not even close (Josh. 9; 13:13; 16:10; 17:13; Jdg. 1:21-35; 2:20-23; cf. 2 Sam. 24:2-7; Ezra 9:1-2).
In the research paper, the DNA of five ancient skeletons excavated near Sidon were sequenced and inferred to be quite similar to DNA of living Lebanese. In point of fact, the Bible explicitly states that the region of Sidon was not conquered (Josh. 13:1-6; Jdg. 1:31; 3:1-6; cf. 1 Ki. 16:30-31; Matt. 15:21-22).
The reason the Bible gives for Israel’s failure to eliminate the Canaanite threat was that the Israelites broke faith with God, mingling with the Canaanites and adopting their idols. Therefore, God ceased helping the Israelites, keeping the Canaanite population around on purpose (Jdg. 2:11-3:7).
How, then, could any informed journalist seriously claim that the data “rules out the biblical idea that an ancient war wiped out the group”? If anything, the original essay affirmed the biblical account of the incomplete conquest of Canaan by Israel.
What this type of reporting does do is clearly demonstrate the strident anti-Bible bias and lack of objectivity that has multiplied in media sources over the years.
Sadly, the average person’s ignorance of the actual content of the Bible has also multiplied so that the typical news reader of today is no longer equipped to spot such demonstrably false nonsense.
Stephen Lord is a gospel preacher working with the Liberty, Mo., congregation.