[b-hebrew] Question for moderators/Year of Exodus
bill.rea at canterbury.ac.nz
Thu Jan 15 15:41:55 EST 2009
>B-Hebrew is a forum for the discussion of Biblical Hebrew language and
>literature. That means our focus is primarily on the language, but quite often
>we have to venture into the details of the biblical texts to do this.
> I feel somewhat misrepresented here, which is probably my own fault. In my
> previous post, I set out to present the "mainstream" view of those scholars,
> who do assume that there was some sort of historical event that lies behind
> the Exodus story. This is what I understood Oun Kwon's original question to
> be about. In other words, "assuming that there WAS an "Exodus", when was it
> most likely to happen?" For the record, I also think that there must have
> been SOMETHING behind the story, and that the 13th century, i.e. the reign
> of Raamses II, is the most likely time for it. I also realize that since
> there is no hard evidence, my opinion is no more than that, and other
> opinions, as long as they don't contradict what evidence there is, are also
> legitimate. I specifically stated that I would let Karl, Jim and others
> present their own views, and I think that they certainly have.
>I only wish to add that while obviuously?people?will form their own views,
>ignorance of evidence is not a good basis?to form?such a ?view. Just one
>example: of course one may reject Kitchen's?conclusions, but only if one
>refutes them, or ignores the vast amount of extra-biblical?material on which
>they are founded.
>As I mentioned, one of my difficulties with the biblical narrative is the
>huge?number of people involved.?This does?lead us directly to a legitimate
>subject matter of this list: the meaning of?? ")LP", "eleph" .
I thought I would combine these two threads as in many cases history and
language are inseparable.
I thought Yigal's original post was quite clear in its intentions, namely
that he was presenting the mainstream view in answer to Oun's question. On
the point that one's opinion shouldn't contradict the evidence there are a
couple of things to say. One is, as Uri has rightly pointed out, that the
text says there were *lots* of people in the Exodus. If I recall correctly a
number of 605,000 men is given. Its not convincing to argue that all
evidence of that number of people wandering around the Sinai peninsula for
40 years would just vanish. So a belief in the historical accuracy of the
Exodus as presented in the texts we have is unsupported by the evidence. If
we wanted to save some of the accuracy of the text we would have to ask the
question -- do we really know what eleph means? I suspect we don't, and
further I suspect its meaning changed over time so that what it means in
Exodus is different to what it means in the David narratives. But evidence
is hard to come by.
The second point really is an issue of methodology. This list is supposed to
work according to scholarly principles but often the arguments posted are
really nothing more than statements of religious belief. Uri's point is well
taken by me but I expect other list members reject it outright. Some are
intentionally ignorant of the evidence and quite vocal in holding that
position. Religion can work that way, though I do not think it is required,
but scholarship has to work within the evidence available. Relabelling
scholarship as religion is a feeble line of defence.
So to conclude I think the often stated position that history is off topic
is detrimental to studying the text. Often the questions of language are
interconnected with history. So a more pragmatic approach, which I think is
the one used in practice, would be that historical discussions are
admissible where they have a bearing on the understanding of the language.
Bill Rea Ph.D., ICT Services, University of Canterbury \_
E-Mail bill.rea at canterbury.ac.nz </ New
Phone 64-3-364-2331, Fax 64-3-364-2332 /) Zealand
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