Historiography and the Scriptures of Israel
mc2499 at mclink.it
Sun Feb 21 17:39:07 EST 1999
At 23.47 19/02/99 -0800, Ken Litwak wrote:
>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 wasn't talking about a first draft, but perhaps a final draft, the one
that is used to prepare the publication text.
>> >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
>> 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.
Read the Garbini article found at my site:
>> (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.
You are apparently then not aware of the arguments. (Look for example at
the same web page as above.)
>> 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
*All* datable uses are from the second century. This shows a tendency for
the use in the second century and as there are no examples from any other
period, it seems reasonable that this also was from the second century.
This is pretty a standard analytical approach, Ken.
>> 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.
Jubilees covers most of the same material as Genesis: they seem to be based
on the same materials. Jubilees tends to be fuller than Genesis.
Melchizedek is noteworthily absent, though due to the connection of the
text with DSS thought and the presence of Melchizedek in the DSS, there is
no political reason for its absence from Jubilees. This is an indicator
that it wasn't in the material that Genesis and Jubilees used, though it
did make it into GenApoc.
>> 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?
Ken, you have circular arguments on the brain.
I merely argued that all datable examples come from, or after, a specific
period. From there comes a natural generalization. This is loosely known as
the law of uniformity, a well-used approach in scientific research and
>> 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?
Ken, we aren't dealing with Egypt. We are dealing with a Jerusalem which at
least in a period of several centuries only knew thw Hasmoneans as kings
and those as priests.
>> 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.
And go round and round and round in the circle game. I don't think your
desire to impute circularity on the argument has been substantiated in any
instance you imputed it.
>> 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
The only Yahweh temple we know about in the midst of the land of Egypt is
that of Onias. The text we are examining seems to be aware of the Hebrews
at the (southern) border of Egypt. If this is so, it makes the text at
least as late as 450 BCE and the Hebrew colony at Elephantine. The linking
of Egypt and Assyria a few verses later finds a historical relationship
with the twin Greek realms of the Ptolemies and the Seleucids, a struggle
between whom was manifested from the beginning of the third century down to
>> 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?
Because they are **expressly from the period**. Unsubstantiated claims from
texts datable to many centuries after the reputed events have no
demonstrable connection with the period.
>And how do we put controls upon their interpretation?
That is a problem in its own right, which must be dealt with. The lawyer
puts forward the corroborated witness and the jury makes the
interpretation. You want to put forward the uncorroborated witness and the
other lawyer gives the objection that there is nothing to connect the
witness to the matters at hand.
>> >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.
The Ebla tablets are epigraphy. They are the only information we have
besides the archaeological information. The Ugarit texts are basically the
>> 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?
We have now reevaluated the pessimistic analyses of Caligula, Nero and
Commodus, and attenuated the results, based mainly on numismatic and
>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
I can show you what Julius Caesar looked like at different times in his
life. You have zippo for the stuff you would like to submit for use.
>or that Hannibal ever crossed the Alps.
Let's pass the crossing of the Alps to the Battle of Lake Trasimene where
you will find the remains of weapons from the battle between the
Carthaginians and the Romans. You don't want to know this because it
doesn't adhere to your not giving any value to hard data.
>Yet no scholars I'm aware question these "facts" in the least.
The texts have been well corroborated. Do the same with any of the texts
you would like to use.
>> >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,
Ken, you are being wilful. You refuse to read the posts I have sent to this
list. You ignore the data I use as the basis of my approach to the study of
history. You may keep asking, but you don't listen to the answer at all.
History is the attempt to reconstruct the past based on hard evidence
(archaeological and epigraphic) and supplemented with literary evidence
that has been corroborated as qualified witnesses.
>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
Why not look before you speak. Come to Rome. Take a walk around the ruins.
Read a few lapidary stones. Check out the coins.
>We mostly accept them on faith.
Sorry, Ken, but that is rubbish.
>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.
I've mentioned a few in this post concerning the Carthaginians and Caesar.
You might like to check out the Res Gestae of Augustus which we have a few
copies of, ie contemporary historical chronicles in stone. Oh, you can
follow his statues for about forty years of development. Ken, there is so
much evidence in stone that you should check it out before you make any
further unsupported statements.
>> >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.
Yes, precisely. You use the date as a necessary, but not sufficient,
>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.
If you can't place the witness at the scene, the witness is excused. It's
that simple in law.
>> >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?
That they cannot be used historically to refer to earlier periods without
corroboration from the epoch.
>> >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.
Who does this, Ken? You perhaps don't remember commenting on this sentence
of mine earlier:
>>Whether their testimony is valid or not, rests to be ascertained.
You are *misrepresenting* me yet again.
>You should also evaluate carefully
>archaeological data, since such data is never neutral.
The archaeological data is pretty neutral. The interpretation of it is
>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.
Being in the place at the right time is a necessary condition.
>> >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
The strict analogy I have been following, which you should have perceived
by now, is one of verified witness to events. The witness may be mistaken.
The witness may be lying. But the witness, by being placed there at the
right time gets listened to. The others don't -- if you want to do history.
>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.
This is unsustainable wishful thinking. Following your logic they could
just as easily have been written in the third millennium BCE or the third
century BCE, ie we cannot know and as we can't they have not been verfied
as witnesses related to the events.
>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 sharply.
Fine. History is not democratic.
>> >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.
I have too much to read now. I have a fair grasp of historiography, Ken.
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