By Brian Nixon, special to ASSIST News Service
Dr. Steven Collins, the unassuming archeologist from New Mexico, was at a crossroad. The site he was helping to excavate in the West Bank (Ai) from 1995-2000 closed down due to warfare and political maneuvering in the region. Steve, and project director Bryant Wood, had to close up shop.
“I didn’t know what to do,” he told me in a recent interview. “For the past five years, my life had been consumed by this dig. Then it was gone. I was dumbfounded.”
But this closed door proved to be an opening for something more amazing.
“It was then that I decided to conduct some research on a thought I had in 1996. During an archeology tour, I found that the traditional site for Sodom (known as the “Southern Theory”) didn’t match the geographical profile as described in Genesis 13-19.”
“As I began to research it more, and read through Genesis 13-19 several times, I had a thought that I had to pursue: they have the wrong location.”
“Many think Sodom is in the South (modeled after the famous archeologist, William F. Albright’s views), but the text seems to indicate that the site is in the Northeast,” he continued.
As “Indiana Jones” as Steve’s thoughts were, the conclusions and findings could be even more monumental than any blockbuster movie.
Essentially, Steve took the literal text of Genesis 13-19 and created a theoretical map, using the research methodology of Dr. Peter Briggs. This “map” utilizes a scientific approach to determine the validity of ancient texts. The conclusion? The texts in Genesis are reliable geographical indicators.
Working with Briggs, Collins developed a theory that the location was not in the Southern region, but in the Northeast.
From there, Dr. Collins began to flesh out his thoughts in a formal paper. This 250-page research paper was highlighted at the Near-Eastern Society Conference.
In his research, Collins focused in on five key areas: the geographical indicators, the chronological indicators, the terms of the destruction, the architecture and pottery, and the facts themselves.
“What I didn’t want to do,” he said, “was trample down the well-worn theories of past commentators and scholars. Basically, I wanted the text to speak for itself.”
“At the NES meeting, I received favorable comments from men of whom I have the utmost respect. I knew we were on to something quite thrilling.”
The one thing left to do was further research and the beginning of a dig.
“So my wife, a couple of students from Trinity Southwest University, and I headed off to Jordan to do research. We were in Jordan by 2002.”
“When I was doing research in the U.S., many of the maps and books were conspicuously absent of any detailed information regarding the north eastern region of the Dead Sea. Sadly, many of the scholars had ignored the text in Genesis.”
In Jordan, Collins found a host of helpful material.
“While in Jordan I found many maps, books, and archeological information at the American Center for Oriental Research library. In particular, a book by the journalist Rami Khouri, gave me the foundation I needed to get started.”
“Though this book was a popular work, it quoted from—and made reference to—many scholarly works. From that point on, we used Khouri’s book as a guide to the Jordanian literature on the sites north of the Dead Sea . We spent hours copying as much material as we could.”
“What we discovered seemed to coincide with our findings: Sodom was not in the south, it was northeast of the Dead Sea.”
“We were able to locate some information from one of the last major digs that occurred in the area. We also paid close attention to a 1975/1976 survey of the Jordan Valley. This survey stated that the area of our interest had many ancient sites.”
“So we headed off to the area northeast of the Dead Sea and began to look around. What we found amazed us. There were at least ten sites that could possibly be ancient Sodom.”
“Sodom is mentioned first in the Bible—consistently—thereby giving it prominence as the largest city in that area. So based upon the text and our previous research we chose the largest site. And let me tell you, this find at Tel-al-Hammam turned out to be much greater than we ever hoped for.”
Report from the Christian Telegraph
By Brian Nixon
Special to ASSIST News Service
I met Dr. Steven Collins in the reception area of Trinity Southwest University in Albuquerque, where he serves as provost and professor. Instead of staying at the school, we headed off to a local coffee shop.
Dr. Collins didn’t look like your average jet-setting archeologist: no Indiana-Jones leather jacket, hat, or whip. Instead, Steve wore jeans, sandals, and a “Life is Good” t-shirt. And for Steve, that motto is playing out in his own life.
With his newest discoveries in Jordan, life is turning out very good for the unassuming archeologist from New Mexico.
I first got word of his recent finding at Calvary of Albuquerque, where Steve sat down for an interview with Senior Pastor, Skip Heitzig. Steve brought some convincing evidence of a monumentally significant find. Dr. Collins contends that he may have discovered the historic city of Sodom.
Steve told me in our interview that his interest in the location of Sodom began in 1996. Then, Steve was working on a dig in the West Bank north of Jerusalem, the site of biblical Ai, but was also leading archeology tours in the Near East.
It was on one of these trips that Steve began to question the traditional site of Sodom, what is known as the “Southern Theory.” This theory attributes the site of Sodom to the southern region of the Dead Sea.
“I began to read Genesis 13-19, and realized that the traditional site did not align itself with the geographical profile described in the text,” Steve told me.
“Now let me say,” he continued, “that many scholars don’t have a high view of Scripture. Some even frown upon using biblical texts as a tool for location designation. My philosophy is that the text is generally reliable and can—and should—be used (at bare minimum) as a basic guide for a geographical profile.”
“When I read how the author of Genesis described the area of Sodom and then looked at the area of the traditional site in the Southern region, I said: ‘This cannot be the place. There are too many differences of description.’
“Sadly, because of my work at the site of Ai, I was unable to really investigate and do research on my initial thoughts. So I let it sit for over five years.”
The geographical point at issue, according to Steve, is how the text in Genesis describes the region of the Kikkar, understood as “the disc of Jordan.”
Dr. Collins continued, “When the Bible uses the description of Kikkar, it is only referring to the circular region of the Jordan Valley east of Jericho and north of the Dead Sea.”
“This region is the breadbasket of the area, full of freshwater and farmland,” he explained. “All of this is interesting to me because Kikkar can also mean “flat bread,” like a tortilla here in New Mexico.”
So what’s the issue?
According to Collins, “The traditional “Southern Theory” site of Sodom does not have the geographical parallels described in the text. Namely: 1. One can see the whole area from the hills above Jericho (Bethel/Ai), 2. It must be a well-watered place (described, “like Egypt.”), 3. It has a river running through it (the Jordan), and 4. It must follow the travel route of Lot” (who went to the other side of the Jordan, eastward, away from Jericho.)
Though the traditional site does not have any of these geographical indicators, the site in Jordan, Tel-al-Hamman, does. How did Dr. Collins become aware of this site? That is a fascinating story in and of itself—which we’ll turn to in Part 2.
Report from the Christian Telegraph