Media Get It Wrong on Bible Account of Canaanites; Only 1 Issues Correction

(Photo: REUTERS/ Ali Hashisho)An archaeologist unearths a human skeleton dating back to the Canaanite period, around 1800 B.C. at an excavation site in Sidon, southern Lebanon August 5, 2008. Archaeologists have been working on the site for 10 years in a project undertaken with the British Museum.

At least a dozen headlines declared that a recently released human genetics study disproves a biblical account found in the Old Testament. But Christians are pointing out that the media got it wrong and only one has issued a correction.

"The Bible got it wrong: Ancient Canaanites survived and their DNA lives in modern-day Lebanese," says a Pulse headline published last week. Meanwhile, U.K.'s the Daily Mail wrote, "Bronze Age DNA disproves the Bible's claim that the Canaanites were wiped out."

The Telegraph also declared that the study that was published in the American Journal of Human Genetics disproved the Bible but it was the only publication among the 12 examined that issued a correction and modified its headline. The correction reads: "The original version of this story erroneously said the Bible claimed the Canaanites were wiped. However, elsewhere in the Bible, it says the elimination was not successful."

The headlines were prompted by a study where a team of geneticists and archaeologists sequenced five whole genomes from ∼3,700-year-old individuals from the city of Sidon, a major Canaanite city-state on the Eastern Mediterranean coast, as well as the genomes of 99 individuals from present-day Lebanon. What they found was "that present-day Lebanese derive most of their ancestry from a Canaanite-related population."

The team notes in its study that many uncertainties surround the origin of the Canaanites as well as the fate of that population, given that few textual records have survived. Most of their history has come from ancient Egyptian and Greek records, the Hebrew Bible and archaeological excavations.

Citing the Bible, the team states: "the Bible reports the destruction of the Canaanite cities and the annihilation of its people; if true, the Canaanites could not have directly contributed genetically to present-day populations. However, no archaeological evidence has so far been found to support widespread destruction of Canaanite cities between the Bronze and Iron Ages: cities on the Levant coast such as Sidon and Tyre show continuity of occupation until the present day."

Michael Brown, author and host of "Line of Fire," argued that unlike many of the headlines, the results of the study actually confirm what the Bible states. In Deuteronomy 20, God orders the Israelites to completely destroy the Canaanites, among others. But they did not complete their mission. Thus, "the inhabitants of Lebanon were not driven out, as these DNA discoveries seem to confirm."

"So, the headlines should have read, 'DNA Confirms the Bible,'" Brown said, echoing what other Christians have also pointed out in the comments sections of the articles in question.

Greg Koukl, founder and president of Stand to Reason, wrote in an earlier article on the Canaanites that the Israelites did not complete their conquest of Canaan, citing Judges 3 which states that "the sons of Israel lived among the Canaanites."

Here are other publications with misleading headlines on the study:

The Independent: Bible says Canaanites were wiped out by Israelites but scientists just found their descendants living in Lebanon
Newser: Canaanites Weren't Annihilated by Ancient Israelites After All
ABC (Australia): Canaanites survived Biblical 'slaughter', ancient DNA shows
Cosmos: DNA vs the Bible: Israelites did not wipe out the Canaanites