Agnosticism, Atheism, Bible Geography, Christianity, Faith, God, Religion, Truth

This City Doesn’t Exist

TyreStreetThis might look like your typical city street, but don’t be fooled. This city street doesn’t really exist. Confused? Let me explain.

This city street has the misfortune of being built in a spot that the Bible says would remain desolate forever. Ezekiel 26 and the next two chapters prophesy that the city of Tyre would be destroyed and never be rebuilt. This is why we can’t be misled by pictures like these. Despite their seeming undeniable hold upon reality, Tyre can’t really be there. After all, many Bible apologetics books have stated that Tyre is just a bare rock where fishermen spread their nets. That’s all fine and good, but we probably shouldn’t tell that to the people living there. Imagine how disorienting it would be to find out your city isn’t there!

TyreCondosHow do we explain this anomaly? I can only think of two possibilities. Perhaps we are witnessing a tear in the fabric of reality. This might simply be a glimpse of a reality in which Ezekiel did not prophesy that Tyre would never be rebuilt. Somehow we’re able to see it, but it’s obviously not our reality, because Ezekiel said Tyre shouldn’t be here.

However, there is another possibility. There’s a remote chance that Ezekiel was wrong about Tyre. A ludicrous proposition, I know, but technically, it is a possibility.

TyreSidewalkWe may never come to a true resolution of this ambiguous issue. Is it really there, or isn’t it? It seems that each individual will have to come to his or her own conclusion. One thing is certain, however. The apologists have definitively staked out the position that Tyre doesn’t exist, while the residents of Tyre disagree.

If you’d like to learn more about this issue, you can read this article.
TyreMapTyreHarbor

100 thoughts on “This City Doesn’t Exist”

  1. Thanks for sharing and I really enjoyed how you handled the topic in your previous blog post (which you linked to).

    I look at the bible now and everything in it makes sense – not because it’s true – but because it sounds exactly like something written by people who came from those time periods.

    It reminded me of this post from Greta Christina about how religious people are constantly engaged in a game of Twister:

    http://freethoughtblogs.com/greta/2007/08/19/a-self-referent/

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  2. Interesting observation, Brenda.

    @Nate – I love Ezekiel. He’s got the best imagination. His zombie army is magnificently described.

    I’ll check out both your links.

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  3. @tmso — Zombie army! He conjured a friggin zombie army!?! I must hear/read more about this army. That sounds great, and highly entertaining!

    @Nate — This is pretty funny stuff. I never took these stories literally, like you did back in the day, and I never studied the majority of them. It’s fun to read about these prophecies…keep em coming. It’d be fun to hear some responses from the citizens of Tyre. They’d probably just sigh…maybe chuckle, before declaring their undying devotion to beheading all of us infidels.

    Also, if you end up doing a story relating to Samson (sp?) killing a gazillion folks with a bone, please, I’m begging, you’ve got to figure out how to encapsulate some great imagery to show the last guy wading through the sea of his fellow soldiers’ bodies to fight this barbarian madman…who I always thought of as Hercules growing up.

    Great stuff!

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  4. This is a great find! I love finding little situations like this where people evangelize a statement only to be made a fool.

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  5. Does it not give you guys the least bit of pause that they ancient kingdom of Tyre was destroyed repeatedly exactly was Ezekiel describes? It was so thoroughly destroyed by both armies and nature that we don’t even know where it is. The mainland part may or may not be beneath the modern part and the island part is completely lost. So yes it is gone and was never rebuilt. The modern city bears no connection with the ancient one. It is a provincial, inconsequential city. The ancient one controlled a vast trade network and commanded the respect of the ancient world. Now we don’t know where it was.

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  6. But if you still want to say they are the same city, you cannot deny the accuracy of Ezekiel’s predication concerning its fall. Many scholars also widely note the use of literary hyperbole as a sort ancient “trash talking” in various parts of the HB which does not discount its accuracy.

    What I am saying is whichever way you want to go, Christians are fully aware of modern Tyre and are not stupid and ignorant for continuing to believe in Ezekiel’s integrity.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. @bburleson
    But I think that is the island. The isthmus you see is the causeway that Alexander the Great built to reach the island – well after the Babylonians. Is that not right? And I think Nate did a pretty good job of showing how the prophecy was not accurate. Plus, Jesus himself mentioned the city as being in existence when he was alive (which was well after Alexander)- if it’s good enough for Jesus…

    Tyre may have been destroyed or sieged or sacked, but it was most definitely rebuilt and didn’t Ezekiel said it would never be rebuilt?

    I don’t quite understand this one.

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  8. Ok let me be more clear.

    First, I was saying the hyperbole argument is an option that some take. I personally think the prophecy is literal here.

    Second, I know we know the rough location of ancient Tyre, the peninsula where the modern one exists. What I am saying is the kingdom prophesied against, the Phoenician one, is gone, was never rebuilt, and the ruins are now underground or underwater. That is what I meant by we don’t know the location. You cannot go and see the ruins of Phoenician Tyre. You can I believe see Roman and Byzantine ruins, but Phoenician Tyre is buried. Travelers in the middle ages reported seeing the ruins of what they called “old tyre” underwater off the coast. Now it is lost. Today’s city is a part of another country entirely, not the powerful independent kingdom that sneered at Jerusalem and grew spiritually corrupt because of its riches and thus drew Ezekiel’s wrath.

    Peace,

    Ben

    Liked by 1 person

  9. @bburleson
    I can see that reasoning. To me, though (and I can only speak for myself), it seems like it Ezekiel would have cleared up a whole lot of misunderstanding if he had said that Phonecia would be destroyed and never rebuilt.

    As it is is written now, it says Tyre, but i can see where you’re coming from. It’s these easy fixes that weren’t made that give a lot of people pause.

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  10. Ben,

    Do you think Jerusalem has been destroyed and never rebuilt? I’m just curious, because many of Jerusalem’s ruins lie beneath the surface. In fact, that’s the case with every major city. Did a prophecy need to be given for that?

    Ruins do litter Tyre. They’re visible in Google Maps. They might be from a later time period — I don’t know. But I don’t see how that really changes anything. All cities go through those kinds of changes. And it’s just not true that we don’t know where ancient Tyre was. I think that’s something that’s been spread around by apologists. Some of its ruins may lie beneath the water, or underneath later ruins, but that’s not very surprising either. Modern Tyre now covers both the original island and the mainland that was the site of Paleotyre. So the prophecy fails no matter which part Ezekiel was prophesying about. I’ve heard apologists say that Tyre is now just a bare rock that fishermen spread their nets on. As these pictures show, that’s just not true.

    Did you know that Jerome was bothered by Tyre’s existence? He really had trouble squaring it with Ezekiel’s prophecy.

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  11. The following is directly from Gleason Archer, a respected Old Testament scholar, not an “apologist.”

    Ezekiel 26:3–14 contains a striking series of prophecies that foretell the complete downfall of the proud merchant city of Tyre, to be brought about by the armies of Nebuchadnezzar. Yet from 29:18 it is clear that Nebuchadnezzar had not succeeded in capturing the island city offshore from the mainland port of Tyre. Undoubtedly the inhabitants had removed their most valuable possessions from the old city when they saw that its defenses could not hold out against the Chaldean siege engines. They had conveyed these possessions by ship to their island fortress, which was securely protected by Tyre’s formidable navy against the landings attempted by Nebuchadnezzar’s sea forces. Thus he had experienced years of frustration in the vain attempt to capture that prize. By way of compensation the Lord promised the king a successful venture against Egypt.

    A careful examination of 26:3–14 indicates a two-stage level of punishment for Tyre. Verses 3–4 predicted that “many nations would come up against” it and would break down its towers and walls. This fits in well with the Chaldean campaign and its thorough destruction of the mainland city. Verses 5–6 go on to speak of the removal of all the bricks and rocks and everything movable from the site of that ruined city—a most unusual procedure in dealing with a city taken by storm. Generally such locations would be left a chaos of rubble rather than being swept clean.

    Verses 7–11 specify that Nebuchadnezzar will capture, plunder, and thoroughly destroy the parent city on the shore. But v.12 seems to usher in the later phase, using an unspecific “they” as the subject of “shall make a spoil of thy riches.” Continuing through vv. 13–14, the specifics point very strikingly toward the later attack on the island city of Tyre that was successfully carried through by Alexander the Great (ca. 332 B.C.). History tells us that after Alexander’s naval forces proved incapable of storming the island (due to the determined resistance of the superior Tyrian fleet), he resorted to an ambitious engineering effort, consisting of a mile-long mole built out from shore to the east wall of the island. In order to get material for this causeway, the Greek invaders used every movable piece of rock or stone to cast into the sea, until and the city sacked. Exasperated by the long delay in his invasion schedule, Alexander resolved to make a fearsome example of Tyre; so he had the island city totally destroyed so that it should never be rebuilt (v.14).

    In point of fact, the mainland city of Tyre later was rebuilt and assumed some of its former importance during the Hellenistic period. But as for the island city, it apparently sank below the surface of the Mediterranean, in the same subsidence that submerged the port of Caesarea that Herod had built up with such expense and care. All that remains of it is a series of black reefs offshore from Tyre, which surely could not have been there in the first and second millennia B.C., since they pose such a threat to navigation. The promontory that now juts out from the coastline probably was washed up along the barrier of Alexander’s causeway, but the island itself broke off and sank away when the subsidence took place; and we have no evidence at all that it ever was built up again after Alexander’s terrible act of vengeance. In the light of these data, then, the predictions of chapter 26, improbable though they must have seemed in Ezekiel’s time, were duly fulfilled to the letter—first by Nebuchadnezzar in the sixth century, and then by Alexander in the fourth.

    Peace,

    Ben

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I’m with you right up till the last paragraph. I have not seen any actual evidence for this claim. I have The History of Tyre by Wallace Bruce Fleming, and I’ll pull some information from it for you. As far as I can tell, the assertion that the island just “broke off and sank” is myth.

    Also, the “Hellenistic period” is the same period in which Alexander the Great lived. There was very little time between his sacking of Tyre and its rebuilding.

    I’ll get back to you on it.

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  13. From The History of Tyre page 64:

    Alexander then left the city which was half burnt, ruined, and almost depopulated… The siege had lasted from the middle of January to the middle of July, 332 BC. The city did not lie in ruins long. Colonists were imported and citizens who had escaped returned. The energies of these with the advantages of the site, in a few years raised the city to wealth and leadership again.

    Like most ancient cities in that part of the world, Tyre has been defeated and rebuilt many times in its long history. But it’s always been rebuilt. And I’ve found no indication that the island portion “sank” in anything I’ve read, unless it’s apologetic in nature.

    The nice thing about the book I quoted is that it’s just a history. It’s not out to prove or disprove the Bible in any way. That’s no guarantee that it’s being objective, but it’s a decent indication. Gleason Archer was a well respected scholar, from what I can tell. But he was also a Christian that wrote apologetic material like The Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties. I’m not saying that disqualifies what he said, but I could see where he would probably prefer to present things in a way that puts the Bible in the best light possible.

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  14. The modern Tyre has ports. If the original island sank, and all that remained was Alexander’s causeway, ports seem unlikely. Artificial ports are a fete today, much more so in the distant past. Just a thought.

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  15. That’s a good point William. In fact, if the island broke off and sank into the sea (which reminds me of the Monty Python line: “it burned down, fell over, and then sank into the swamp…”), I’m not sure how the causeway would have remained anyway. It only built up over time because it was stretched between two land masses, so sediment was able to accumulate. Without the island, I think it all would have drifted away.

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  16. Nathan,
    I have been reading your exchanges with Ben, and I have a few observations. Some are general, and some are specific in regard to Tyre, the “city that doesn’t exist”.

    First of all, I think it is important to comment in a general way. It is obvious that you reject any argument that is in opposition to your view of atheism. As evidence of your mindset, you could look at your list of books that you have reviewed. on the Josh McDowell book you comment (I’m paraphrasing) that it is a good book that raises some good points, but he doesn’t include things that would be detrimental to his argument. You comment that you understand why, but it seems to me that this is included to impinge the author and his book. Maybe this isn’t intentional, but it seems to be said for that effect, as if this somehow detracts from his arguments. Can’t you say the same thing about the books written by skeptical authors? Yet you seem to gush about how great they are. I think this is telling evidence about your attitude concerning the Bible.

    Another thing that should be pointed out is the point of view of the other writers as well as yourself. You don’t want to accept the findings of “apologist” writers and scholars, because they (in your view) are prejudiced toward a belief in God and the Bible. How then can you accept the arguments of “skeptics”? Most of those writers and scholars approach an examination of the Bible with the predetermined mindset that there is no God, and therefore no inspiration of scripture nor any such thing as miracles. Obviously, if you begin with this thought, then the ONLY possible view of the Bible is that it is a myth written by humans out of their own imaginations. Therefore, there can be no consideration of Daniel, Ezekiel, or other prophets or books as inspired. They had to be written at a later date through hindsight and could not have been prophetical. As proof, theories are offered as to the unknown, the known is discarded, and the “fact” that there is no God and no Miracles is presented to deny the claims of the writer. It should be noted, however, that what is known of history doesn’t disprove what is claimed by the writers of the Bible, rather what is NOT known through secular history. To me, this is like telling the Wright brothers that man will never fly, because man has never flown. We might of thought it improbable, but it obviously wasn’t impossible.

    Here’s another thing. In talking about Daniel, or any of the other prophecies, it is unarguable that prophetic and often poetic language is used. Even Ezekiel 26, dealing with Tyre, contains this type of language. Can anyone say with certainty how much and which part of these prophecies are specifically literal? Which of them are more generic? Which parts are poetic statements meant to be applied in a broad way and not literally? We can argue over these things forever without totally knowing for sure, except where the Scripture makes specific reference to something as being fulfilled.

    My point in these general observations is that no matter what your view, skeptic, apologetic, or objective, faith is required. You either have faith that there is no God (you cannot prove He doesn’t exist), or you have faith that there is a God (I believe there is sufficient proof in all of the things around us, but that is another argument). We all choose where to place our faith.

    Now, specifically about Tyre. If you examine closely and objectively Ezekiel 26, I don’t believe you can make the specific literal interpretations that you have made. Rather, what I mean is that you can make the observations that yoy have made, but I don’t think you can limit the possibilities to them. Yes, certainly, there is a city of Tyre that exists today. However, it is also true that the ancient city has been destroyed, and according to reputable sources (such as the World Book Encyclopedia) there is part of the anciet city area that is just bare rock where fishermen spread their nets. It is also true that while there is a city of Tyre, there is no longer a kingdom of Tyre. IF the correct view is that it is only the city being refered to and that the prophecy is completely literal, then you have grounds to make the claim that the propheciy is in error or is unfulfilled. However, if it is possible that the prophecy could have a broader meaning, or if the language is somewhat poetic and not meant to be entirely literal, then you cannot claim that the prophecy is an error or that it is unfulfilled.

    Now, I know what what your view is and what your response will be. You refuse to acknowledge the evidence of an all powerful creator in the things of nature you see all around you, so of course you will look for anything you can to try to discredit the Bible or it’s claims. That is fine, you have the freedom to do that. I just wish you would recognize that you are just as prejudiced against the Bible as I am prejudiced for it. Since I believe in an all powerful God who has created everything, I have no problem accepting the idea of miracles or the claims of the Bible. Your faith is in your own ideas, based on the writings of those who are prejudiced against the Bible. My faith is in the recognition of God and the writings of the Bible itself.

    We both have faith., just in different things. I see the benefits of living a life prdicated on my faith in God and the Bible. I fail to see the benefits of living with your views.

    Love,

    Dad

    Liked by 1 person

  17. If one can take the places of the Bible that do not line up with history and science, and excuse them or justify them by saying the the bible is figurative or poetic in those parts, then what contradiction or error could not be explained away in a similar fashion? And how then could know which parts to take literally?

    Does it really take the same amount of faith to believe in a man being raised from the dead as it does to believe that the Persians invaded Greece? I think there is an obvious difference.

    The issue of faith is interesting though. What is a persons faith in? I submit that it is always in ones self (experiences/observations) or other people – although this would technically fall within what you experience I would argue that a divine revelation from God would be another, but I doubt many here would argue that they have witnessed or have been contacted by such. If you have faith in the bible, then that is not faith in god, but in man. Man wrote it. Man copied it. Man passed it from one man to another. You must have faith that they were all honest. That they made no mistake. Sure there were miracles, man said so. Man said that God inspired them to write a book or a letter. Man said that only the righteous would believe them. Man told the emperor that he made the finest silks that only fools could not see…

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  18. William,

    To say that the Bible came about through man’s imagination is more miraculous than any of the miracles contained within it.

    The reason i have faith in the Bible is because of all the evidence that supports it. Should those things just be ignored? Yes, all the objections to the Bible can be explained away. Does being able to explain something mean it is not true? If so, then truth doesn’t exist. Why does it take less faith to believe the Persians invaded Greece? Did you witness it? Did you experience it? Just because you look at everything thru a denial of God doesn’t mean you are right.

    The Bible gives a concise and reasonable explanation for the creation of the world and the purpose of mankind. Why is it more reasonable for you to believe that the complexity of creation just “happened”?

    For the Bible to be false, the writers would have had to have been geniuses while at the same time being idiots. It just isn’t logical for it to be as cohesive a text when written by so many from different backgrounds and from different countries, speaking different languages, with all the obstacles of communication that existed from that time without some explanation other than man’s imagination.

    Jim

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  19. William,

    As for fools, well, Psalm 53:1 says “the fool hath said in his heart, there is no God”

    Jim

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  20. Mr. Owens,

    I do not claim to be an atheist, although I would imagine that you would categorize an agnostic in the same lot. But again, Psalms 53:1 could also be an illustration of the point I made above. It could be true, it could be from God. How do we know this, or how could we be convinced of this? Because it says we should? Do you have faith in everything that claims to be from God or a god? Or are you largely skeptical, and if so why? Maybe your faith is mostly within the bible. If so, your faith seems to be in the men that wrote it and compiled it and delivered it to you, just as i suggested earlier.

    So you have faith in the bible because of the evidence that supports the bible. The best miracle that you point to as evidence for the bible is the fact that it was written. It’s not that I have an agenda of any type, but I just don’t think that would hold up as logical reasoning for anything.

    However, what do you do with the evidence against the bible? Explain it away by saying “there could be an explanation, so we’ll assume it’s true? The bible was written after all.” Toss them away because they were not written in your bible (use the bible to verify science/history instead of the other way around)?

    Some things are a literal contradiction in the bible. Somethings are plainly inaccurate. And to overcome those one must invent theoretical possibilities as to why they’re not really problems. I grew up in very small non-denomination church in Ontario – I even drank the kool-aid for most of my life – I know how it goes as i used to do it too. So I’m pretty sure how you’ll respond as well, but for me it got to be too much. Too much intellectual, metaphysical gymnastics to be sustainable anymore. There may be a god, but I am no longer convinced that it is the god of the bible.

    Some things are true and nice and verifiable, but “some” does not argue “all.” There are problems there, and the way in which they’re ignored or “answered” would be enough to explain any problem away. “we don’t know all the answers yet…” “it is speaking figuratively here, but not there…” “who are we to question god…” “God is wiser than man, so we cant understand all of his ways…” The list goes on as I am sure you know. I am certain that these are enough for any person to justify their faith, their god, and their book, or whatever they have. But the bible’s different because it was written?

    There used to be miracles but fortunately we don’t have them any more, we have something much better, “a book.” We all know that people cant write books.

    At some point it’s going to get harder to deceive yourself – that’s all you’re doing.

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  21. Hi Dad,

    Thanks for the comments. You make a good point about the brief comments I’ve made in my “Books” section. I’ve tried very hard to be objective in my research, but I’ve felt that by and large, the skeptical books made better arguments. I didn’t mean to give the impression that skeptics don’t make bad arguments, or that they don’t sometimes misuse passages, or that they always provide all the information. Sometimes, they fail in those things, and my most recent post actually talks about that a little.

    At the same time, most of the skeptical books I read do talk about the theories Christians sometimes use to explain the Bible’s issues. Then they discuss why those theories don’t pan out. So I do think you often get a fuller picture from the skeptics’ books. However, to get the fullest picture of the situation, it’s best to read books from apologists and skeptics. I don’t believe you’ve read any of the skeptical books yet, but you can borrow some of mine if you like.

    If you do, you’ll see that their problems don’t stem from a presupposition that God doesn’t exist or that prophecies and miracles don’t occur. In fact, the majority of skeptics I’ve encountered were once believers themselves. Their initial presuppositions were ones of belief.

    Thanks

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