Historiography and the Scriptures of Israel
kdlitwak at concentric.net
Sat Feb 20 02:47:33 EST 1999
Ian Hutchesson wrote:
> When you write a draft of a thesis how long does it take for the draft to
> become the final product? The autograph will show the same sorts of signs
> as the draft; the copy will be as neat as the final thesis. This means that
> there could be a gap of say a week between the autograph and the copy -- as
> an indication of the usefulness of making a distinction between autograph
> and copy.
This is all well and good if you can demonstrate it. As y own
dissertation shows me, my first draft of any portion of a chapter is not
at all like what it becomes three months later in many respects. After
he feedback on the start of my third chapter, it is going to need
radical work. As for how long a copy takes to produce, when was the
last time you tried to copy a Hebrew papyrus MS? How do you know how
long that takes in, say, the 3rd century BC?
> >I would make
> >two points. First, you do in fact say that you assign some texts to the
> >second century BC. Why?
> 1) No-one cites the work until after the time of Josephus, who knows 1 Esdras
> 2) The character is specifically missing from Ben Sira's list of important
> 3) The Aramaic of the text has been repudiated as not authentic of the
> Persian era, Garbini calling it a much later attempt to simulate Persian
> chancelry Aramaic.
> Ezra is a cannibalised form of the Hebrew original version of 1Esdras: when
> it was constructed part of 1Esdras was probably incorporated in Nehemiah as
> well (Ne 7:73b - 8:12, though almost certainly to the end of the chapter,
> for the end of 1 Esdras has been lost).
These are, IMO, weak arguments for Ezra being late. It doesn't matter
particularly whom Ben Sira notes. Dating Aramaic is a notoriously, and
circular activity. YOu say it's late, so it's late.
> (Hopefully there's no need to list the numerous indications that it came
> from the second century. If you find need, I'll gladly accommodate.)
I'm aware of the arguments but find them wanting from a methodological
point of view.
> 1) All dated uses of el elyon are to the second century
Excuse me? How do you come up with that? Aren't we being circular
ALl uses are form the 2nd century. So all uses are from the 2nd
> 2) The passage is not found in Jubilees (which was written in the second
YOur point being? I've read much of Jubilees in Hebrew. It is not an
exact redoing of Genesis. The absence of a passage from Genesis is
irrelevant as proof for anything except perhaps the interests of the
author(s) of Jubilees.
> 3) Besides Ps110, GenApoc and 11QMelch no text knows of Melchizedek until
> the book of Hebrews
Let's be precise technically. Other texts don't mention Melchizedek. I
don't have the clairvoyance to know whether any other authors knew of
Melchizedek. Of course, you then have to circularly date Ps 110 to the
2nd century. Could it be that other writers didn't find a
use/need/desire to mention Melchizedek?
> 4) Melchizedek combines the two function of priest and kings only as the
> Hasmoneans did
That's a pretty sweeping statement to make. YOu are sure that never at
any time in history before the Hasmoneans someone was a priest and a
king? Do you suppose that Egyptian pharaohs, worshipped as gods, never
carried out any religious ritual?
> 1) Not even found amongst the DSS
> 2) Combines the roles of king and priest (historically attested only to the
> 3) Cites Melchizedek (see above)
Yes, I saw above the weakness and circularity of these arguments.
> Seems specifically to allude to the temple of Onias at Heliopolis.
The challenges of accurately identifying what some passage in a
literary text refers to are numerous and you haven't begun to delineate
criteria for this. Since that's the key issue in the method for my
dissertation, I've read quite a lot on it. I have my criteria. What
> Naturally the archaeological record is incomplete: it's like using the
> contents of one person's garbage bin to comment on the whole culture of the
> epoch. Yet from that garbage bin certain things can be ascertained and it
> is those things that become primary witnesses to their period. One still
> has to fathom the quality of the witness.
Why should those minimal bits from the garbage be given precedence? And
how do we put controls upon their interpretation?
> >b. The most that one may gain from epigraphic data is that at some point
> >in time, someone recorded something in writing. This tells us nothing
> >about the veracity of the writing at all. Most of the evidence you tend
> >to cite comes from official annals, the very kind of source I consider
> >least reliable.
> Cyril Aldred made an extremely detailed analysis of events in Akhetaten
> based mostly on wine jar seals and the archaeological evidence. It is worth
> All witnesses must be tested. If they cannot be tested, then they have
> little use.
Whew. that discounts a lot of the epigraphic data you depend upon.
> >c. 99% of what we "know" historically is based on textual accounts, not
> >on material evidence, whether archaeological or epigraphic.
> Sorry, Ken, but with regard to the ancient world this pronouncement is
> *totally wrong*. The world of Ebla at the end of the early bronze period
> has come to light expressly through the archaeological and epigraphic
> records. Many ancient cities have come to light even though there was no
> literary texts that dealt with them. Our knowledge of Egypt comes from an
> enormous series of contemporary reports found on temples and in tombs which
> were at the time published available to public criticism if they were
> seriously false.
Apart from disagreeing with you, my impression is that most of what we
know of Ebla or Ugarit comes from _texts_ in the relevant languages, not
stela or pottery or other epigraphic data.
> In Roman studies, where there is a conflict between the literary account
> and the archaeology and epigraphy, it is always the literary account that
Can you demonstrate that? Let's go further though. I can't prove from
any physical data that the Peloponesian War ever took place or that
Julius Caesar ever existed or that Hannibal ever crossed the Alps. Yet
no scholars I'm aware question these "facts" in the least.
> >the alleged lack of such physical corroboration is not particularly of
> >relevance in my view.
> If you don't want to do history, this is fine.
I keep asking you to define your principles of historiography, or at
least tell me from whom you got yours. I can mention some names like
Cook, White and Fornara. I'm all for doing very rigorous historical
work. Rigorous historical work, however, means, among other things,
looking at physical data and looking at texts and using the texts to
help interpret the data and not just the other way around. You seem to
only want to go the latter direction, reading archeological data without
any controls at all.
> >It may help illuminate a particular period, or
> >tell us something about a given site, and suggest possibilities, but
> >that is about all. Most evens I can point to which most scholars would
> >say happened are based on textual accounts. What makes Tacitus or
> >Polybius especially trustworthy? It's certainly not some mountain of
> >archaeological and epigraphic data.
> It is because they have shown themselves to match the archaeology and
> epigraphy on the occasions where applicable, along with the individual
> writer's express views on historiography, that render them usable as
> sources. Without that relationship with the archaeological and epigraphic
> record they can't make the grade. If you cannot test a witness for
> veracity, how can you use the testimony?
There's not that much physical data to confirm any Roman or Greek
historians. We mostly accept them on faith. It's not because they have
shown themselves to match the data hat much. IF you've got examples,
I'd like to know of them.
> >The biblical texts are not credible
> >or incredible based on the amount of archaeological data or epigraphic
> >data I can find to corroborate them . They stand alone as texts, on an
> >equal footing with any Assyrian text.
> In a court of law, ie where evidence really counts, unqualified witnesses
> are not permitted. Many Assyrian texts that we have come to us from well
> defined archaeologically dated periods, ie they were in the right place at
> the right time, important in our court of law. Whether there testimony is
> valid or not, rests to be ascertained.
Precisely. Their reliability does not rest in their date. So it must
be ascertained some other way. What way is that? I'm including
epigraphic data in this question. Putting something on a stela doesn't
make it inerrant. In any case, courts of law and historiographers ask
different questions and use different criteria.
> >Here's the dating issue Ian. YOu
> >would likely assign several Assyrian texts to about the time of the
> >events they describe. Since we don't have a physical biblical MS from
> >that time, you seem to discount the biblical texts aa later, unreliable
> The best we can say is that we can only date the biblical accounts back to
> the second century and are therefore not locatable at the right time.
WHich implies what for their reliability, if we grant this assertion?
> >If that is not your view, it is certainly my reading of
> >other scholars, such as the Copenhagen school. Dubbing an eight century
> >Assyrian tablet as reliable,
> As I have said before, and let me repeat it again, the ancient text, be it
> Assyrian or whatever, is at least in the right place at the right time.
> They are the equivalent of the eye witness. You still have to evaluate
> their testimony. Please do not mistake my argument. If it is still unclear
> ask, do not misrepresent it.
The same can be said of epigraphic evidence. You should _never_ accept
epigraphic data at face value. You should also evaluate carefully
archaeological data, since such data is never neutral. It is always
interpreted data, interpreted by the interpretive grid of the
researcher. This is impossible to escape. The data is also subject to
the quality of the exploration and the explorers. Merely being in the
right place at the right time doesn't seem to have made any difference
in Washington, D.C. lately.
> >just because it is not biblical and because
> >it is eighth century is not valid in terms of historiographical method.
> >A biblical text, whose autograph is of unknown date may be just as
> When you say "may be just as reliable", you say that it isn't, for due to
> its "may" status we cannot place it anywhere. It is purely optative.
No, what I am saying is that an eight century Assyrian monolith is no
more and no less reliable than a biblical text. ITs closeness to the
alleged events proves relatively nothing about its overall reliability.
Your argument only works if you assume that the biblical texts are
late. If they had their origins centuries before, they differ not at
all in any way from Assyrian texts. Since we can't say when they date
from, and the archaeological nd epigraphic data you hold so strongly to
shows evidence that Genesis contains elements only knowable and valid in
the 2nd millennium BC, we can just as easily assume they are early as
opposed to late. Since we can prove neither conclusively, we need a
different model than one based upon date.
> >That is NOT how historiography is done. So I would
> >assert that making a connection between the existence of physical data
> >and a text, while interesting, bears little relevance on its
> Without corroboration of the witness, Ken, they can say whatever they like
> and there is no way to test them. This is not evidence.
So you are saying that a literary account, if there is nothing else at
all, is worthless? MOst historiographers would disagree with you
> >If you haven't read Cook, Writing/History, I suggest that
> >you do so before you respond.
> If Cook doesn't provide any substantial means of testing the veracity of
> his witnesses, I'd recommend some other analyst of historiography. The
> first step in doing history is to muster reliable sources.
He deals with this issue quite a lot, actually, particularly Roman and
Greek historians. In light of your comments about Roman history, you
should really read him.
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