Bible Errors: Canaanites Did Not Practice Child Sacrifice

Abraham prepares a human sacrifice

Do not hold back from your harvest and your wine vat. The firstborn of your sons you will give me. Thus you will do with your oxen and sheep: seven days it will be with its mother, and on the eighth day you will give him to me –Exodus 22:29-30

As we saw in the section above, we have a fair amount of evidence that helps us understand Canaanite culture from the 2nd millennium BCE, the period described in the Old Testament as one of gross immorality and child sacrifice. The land of Canaan—during the Late Bronze Age (1550-1200 BCE)—was firmly under the control of the Egyptians and does not reflect the descriptions of the Canaanites given in the Old Testament. More specifically, however, the archaeological evidence that we have for child sacrifice does not come from the 2nd millennium, but from the middle and latter portions of the 1st millennium BCE. The evidence itself also does not come from the land of Canaan, but from Carthage and the Punic colonies. Thus, we have no solid evidence of child sacrifice in Canaan proper [during the time period of the alleged “Conquest of Canaan” as described in the Bible].

Finally, we saw that, while child sacrifice was very likely performed sporadically during the 1st millennium, it was not only practiced by the Canaanites, but also by the Israelites. These child sacrifices were offered to Yahweh, not to other deities. In short, the depictions of the Canaanites presented in passages like Leviticus 18 and 20 do not reflect historical reality and clearly functioned as a form of anti-Canaanite propaganda.

–Dr. Joshua Bowen, The Atheist Handbook to the Old Testament, Volume 1, pp. 137-138

Dr. Bowen holds a Doctor of Philosophy in Near Eastern Studies from The Johns Hopkins University where he majored in Assyriology and minored in Hebrew Bible. In addition, he specializes in the Summerian language. He has been awarded the American Fullbright Scholarship as well as the German Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst (D.A.A.D.) Scholarship. In addition Dr. Bowen holds a Bachelor of Science in Religion from Liberty University, a Master of Theology in the Old Testament from Capital Bible Seminary, and a Master of Arts in Near Eastern Studies from The John Hopkins University. Prior to entering academia, Joshua was a chaplain in the US Air Force. Once a fundamentalist Christian, he now identifies as an atheist.

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