Expert Q&A With David Rohl
David Rohl's books and documentary series have given the world a completely fresh understanding of biblical history. His journeys back through time have provided some of the first archaeological confirmations for many of the great events and personalities in the Old Testament.
David holds a degree in Egyptology and ancient history from the University College, London. He is the archaeology correspondent for the The Express newspaper, as well as the chairman of the Institute for the Study of Interdisciplinary Sciences, and president of the Sussex Egyptology Society.
In addition to hosting ancient world tours, lecturing and producing television projects, David continues to travel throughout the Middle East gathering evidence and making new discoveries.
Question: What initially sparked your interest in Egyptology, the Middle East and the Bible legends?
Answer: I have been fascinated by Egyptian civilization ever since I was a boy. My first trip to Egypt found me sailing up the River Nile in King Farouk's royal paddle-steamer (the Kased Kheir) all the way from Cairo to Abu Simbel (before the High Dam was constructed). Can you imagine what it was like for a 10-year-old boy to walk down the gangway all alone onto a sandy beach at dawn, and to enter the great rock-cut temple as the sun's rays lit the corridor all the way to the holy of holys? How could that not have affected a young mind and laid the foundations for a lifelong passion for the land of the Pharaohs?
But my interest in the Bible as a source for history came about in a much more indirect way. For 20 years, both before and while I was at university studying ancient history and Egyptology, I came to the conclusion that Egyptologists had reconstructed the Egyptian timeline incorrectly, and had inadvertently overextended the chronology. Being an interdisciplinarian at heart, I knew that this had major implications for the chronology of the whole of the ancient world. Moreover, the lack of archaeological confirmation of the biblical stories might be explained by the dislocation of the archaeological timeline from the historical sequence laid out in the Old Testament. Once I had readjusted the Egyptian chronology, the whole archaeological and historical system slotted neatly into place, and suddenly much of biblical history was supported by the archaeological discoveries. The conclusions of this research were broadcast in a three-part TLC documentary series entitled Pharaohs and Kings.
So my interest in the Bible really came out of my Egyptological research, which soon pointed me in the direction of the Holy Land.
Question: Do you consider yourself a man of faith or religion, as well as a scientist? And if so, how have your own discoveries affected your personal beliefs?
Answer: As my previous answer indicates, the interest I have in the Bible comes from my historical research. I am not a religious person in the sense that I do not hold to any particular faith. At the same time, I do not regard myself as an atheist. Perhaps one could best describe me as an agnostic. Of course, the fact that I (and others) have convincingly demonstrated that many of the events described in the pages of the Bible really did take place is of great comfort to people of faith who have long been fed up with being told that the Bible is a fairy tale. However, discovering that the Old Testament reflects real history need not exclusively be of interest to Christians, Jews or Muslims. Anyone interested in uncovering truth or finding explanations for the mysteries of the past can get a great deal out of this new research.
Question: What do you believe is the one, most convincing, piece of evidence that the Garden of Eden was located in the modern Adji Chay Valley in northwest Iran, at the heart of the regional capital of Tabriz?
Answer: The arguments for placing the traditional site of the original Garden of Eden in the region of Tabriz are, in a sense, interrelated and follow a logical path of deduction each clue coming from the previous one. However, the starting point for the investigation has to be the four rivers of Eden (mentioned in the second chapter of Genesis), which had their sources in Eden. Two of the these rivers the Perath (Euphrates) and Hiddekel (Tigris) have always been known. They have their headwaters (Hebrew roshim) in the mountains of eastern Turkey around Lake Van. The trick was to identify the other two rivers the Gihon and Pishon. We have now been able to show that they are the Gaihun-Aras and Kezel-Uizhun, both flowing into the Caspian Sea. They have their headwaters around Lake Urmia.
So Eden was situated in the region where the sources of these four rivers are still located today in other words in the mountains of Ararat (Assyrian Urartu) around the two great salt lakes of Van and Urmia. The next step was to look for the Garden of Eden in the eastern part of Eden, where Genesis 2:8 tells us it was located. There is only one large valley due east of Lake Urumia, hemmed in on three sides by snowcapped mountains and that is the Adji Chay Valley, at the heart of which stands the ancient city of Tabriz.