The Problem with Dates in History: Hammurabai’s Law Code

In 1901-1902 AD a French team excavating in Susa, one of the ancient Capitals of Elam, then Persia, now modern Iran, discovered pieces of a basalt stele. It was completely reconstructed and now sits in the Louve, in Paris. The head of the French team, M. de Morgan used the surroundings where it was found to date the stele, the now famous Law Code of Hammurabi around 1100-1200 BC.

An American/German team headed by the German born American Hermann Hilprecht was excavating in Nippur at the same time. Nippur is in ancient Mesopotamian, an area ruled over by the Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, Ottoman Turks and is now modern Iraq. They found a kings list with the name Hammurabi on it. This list made Hammurabi a ruler in the 24th century, BC. Hermann Hilprecht immediately (January 1903) proclaimed the Hammurabi stele as the oldest law code ever found in a lecture at the University of Pennsylvania.

A book entitled The Oldest Code of Laws in the World, by Hammurabi, King of Babylon was immediately published in early 1903 and is available as an ebook through Project Gutenberg. It proclaims that Hammurabi ruled from 2285-2242 B.C. The forward is by C.H.W. Johns, M.A. of Cambridge. The book was printed in Edinburgh.

Since 1903, several other Sumerian kings lists were discovered. A rather brief but thorough article in the Roman Catholic online encyclopedia New Advent describes the major positions mainstream archeologists take on the time Hammurabi actually ruled. Most 21st century archaeologists hold to some type of a “middle” position, that Hammurabi ruled around 1700 B.C.

It is very important to Liberals and Secular Humanists that the law code of Hammurabi be older than the Law Code of Moses. They insist that the Mosaic Code “evolved” from the lower Hammurabi Code, and that our laws today have “evolved” beyond the Mosaic Code. Since the Law was divinely given by God, it makes no difference if Hammurabi wrote his Law Code before God gave Moses the Law on Sinai. Since God revealed His Law to Noah, Hammurabi’s Law code is still a corruption of God’s revealed Law. God saw that man had corrupted His Law and needed to reveal it once more in writing to Moses.

If the 1700 date for Hammurabi is correct, then Hammurabi ruled while the Children of Israel were slaves in Egypt. They would remain slaves for another 250+ years before Moses would lead them out.

However, if the original date of M. de Morgan is correct, then Hammurabi’s Law Code was written about 250 years after God revealed His Law to Moses on Sinai. While this seems to make very little difference, it is anathema to Evolutionists.

The important point is how can the uncertain date of Hammurabi’s Law Code be a “backbone” on which to base history? “Human history has become too much a matter of dogma taught by professionals in ivory towers as though it’s all fact. Actually, much of human history is up for grabs. The further back you go, the more that the history that is taught in the schools and universities begins to look like some kind of faerie story.” (Graham Hancock Fingerprints of the Gods

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