Melchizedek (More Dave) (Peter's response)

peter_kirk at sil.org peter_kirk at sil.org
Thu Dec 23 00:58:05 EST 1999





______________________________ Reply Separator _________________________________
Subject: Re: Melchizedek (More Dave) (Peter's response)
Author:  <mc2499 at mclink.it> at Internet
Date:    22/12/1999 13:41


At 15.18 22/12/99 -0500, peter_kirk at sil.org wrote:
>Let me take the heat off Dave by trying my own answers to the 
>following questions.

Dear Peter,

I don't particularly like tag-team matches, especially when I don't have a 
partner and the fellah who's being relieved has been shooting all the big 
guns and using dirty warfare. I would have thought that it was better that 
Dave not put so much wood on the fire. (I get the feeling that living here 
for too long I don't know how to deal with subjunctives anymore.)

PK: If you didn't stick your head up above the parapet so much, you 
wouldn't get shot at so much. At least I try to shoot cleanly, just at 
your arguments and not at your person.

>Let me ask:
>1) is the earliest form of the Melchizedek episode that of the 
>   Genesis Apocryphon?
>
>PK: Earliest surviving, perhaps, but this could well be because of the 
>chances of preservation.

This is true.

>If you wish to demonstrate your theory rather 
>than just rubbish counter-arguments,

This I haven't just done. You are attempting to deal with the demonstration 
of my theory.

>you need to show either than
>GenAp is older than Genesis

I don't have to show that GenAp is older than Genesis generally. All I have 
to do is to point out the unsupported assumption that GenAp is based on 
Genesis. We actually have a synoptic problem here.

PK: Your theory relies on this Genesis 14 passage being 2nd century. 
You have completely failed to prove that. In principle you could prove 
it by proving that at this point Genesis depends on GenAp (and that 
GenAp is 2nd century), but you have not been able to prove it, only to 
show that perhaps this synoptic problem is insoluble. If your theory 
depends on an unprovable solution to an insoluble problem, it is 
worthless.

>or that the Melchizedek passage is a later 
>interpolation.

This is the argument based on the usage of el elyon which is found nowhere 
else in the Pentateuch. In the OT/HB it is only found in Daniel and an 
Asaph psalm (one of which shows knowledge of a destruction of Jerusalem 
that I would argue was that of Antiochus IV -- note the people remain in 
the land and are derided by their neighbours). All the argument requires to 
be put in doubt is an example in the Hebrew literary or epigraphic 
tradition that uses el elyon considerably before the second century.

PK: That would prove you wrong. All you require to prove yourself 
right is the proof I mentioned above. Since neither proof is 
forthcoming, you are wandering in the land of unprovable speculation.

>So far you have shown neither. Unfortunately, in
>history (unlike perhaps in natural science) a theory is not proved 
>true by the failure to prove that it is false. If there is neither 
>positive nor negative proof, it has to be relegated to the large pile 
>of "perhaps, but we cannot be sure" theories.
>
<snip>

>4) is it true that in a space of only five verses in Genesis the 
>   term is used four times and found nowhere else in the book?
>
>PK: Probably. Of course this is the only passage in Genesis which 
>refers to a person who worships God Most High, so it would be out of 
>place elsewhere, among stories of Israelites who did not use this 
>name.

Which Israelites and how do you know? The assumptions here are based on an 
epistemological nightmare.

PK: Perhaps "Israelites" was a loose term which I used. I mean that 
the subject of much of Genesis is Abraham and his descendants, and (in 
the author's view) these people did not use the term "God Most High", 
but Melchizedek did. So the term is used only in the short passage in 
which Melchizedek appears. Rather obvious, really, and whether Genesis 
is fact or fiction is irrelevant to the argument.

>5) is the term found in other books commonly thought of as older? 
>
>PK: Commonly thought of by whom?

By those who have attempted to provide verifiable datings.

PK: I'm not sure who you mean by this. If you are talking about dates 
verifiable by your methods, it would be impossible to prove any book 
older than Genesis as you can prove no earliest date for Genesis. 
Well, I suppose it must postdate the foundation of Egypt! If you tell 
me which books you are referring to, I will tell you whether the term 
is found in them, if you can't read those books yourself.

>I don't think of any other books as older than Genesis.

Well, can you provide anything verifiable?

PK: You were the one who used the words "thought of as older" in your 
question. Now you are adding to the question.

>Others might well date Psalm 110 earlier
>than Genesis. (OK, no "God Most High", but Melchizedek is 
>mentioned.)

Your answer is clearly "no". You are therefore arguing for my point: 
although the phrase is used a lot in the second century it is quite unique 
in Genesis.

PK: The term is used in several books whose dates cannot be verified 
by your methods. You cannot prove that these books do not belong 
together. I'm not quite sure how it would help your argument if you 
could.

(One of the interesting things to read in the very old commentary on the 
Psalms by Briggs ["Int. Crit. Commentary" Vol 2, T&T Clark] is that the 
psalms were based on meters and one can see interpolations in the psalm 
when the meter has been broken. According to the analysis, the line about 
Melchizedek breaks the metrical pattern.)

PK: And what date does Briggs give for this psalm? Try looking at a 
modern commentary - is this sort of metrical analysis still accepted 
as useful?

>6) is Melchizedek speculation evidenced anywhere prior to the era 
>   of the Qumran documents (ie late or post biblical)?
>
>PK: By "evidenced", I can only assume that you mean that datable 
>manuscripts survive. So, of course not, because nothing in Hebrew 
>(except for a few scratchings) is evidenced prior to the era of the 
>Qumran documents.

Qumran acknowledges a book of the law. It was obviously around prior to the 
Qumran documents for it to have the priviledged position.

But your answer is clear again. There is no speculation to be found prior 
to the second century.

PK: If you mean "No speculation has been found in MSS datable to 
before the second century", yes. If you mean "There is no speculation 
in books which were written before the second century", my answer is, 
no, there is such speculation in Genesis 14 and Psalm 110. I may not 
be able to prove their dating before the second century, but you 
cannot disprove it either. If you are insisting on provable datings, 
are there any Jewish books datable to before the 2nd century which do 
NOT evidence Melchizedek speculation?

>7) is it true that the Hasmonean rulers who flourished around that 
>   time were known as the "priests of the Most High God", the
>   epithet found in Genesis only in the Melchizedek episode? 
>
>PK: Maybe, but this tells us nothing except for the obvious suggestion 
>that the Hasmonean rulers valued the Melchizedek tradition. Of course 
>that does not imply that they invented it.

Given the emergence of a Melchizedek literature that appeared in Qumran 
times, the times of the Hasmoneans, and that they were in fact 
priest-kings, hinted at in the name Melchizedek, -- the amalgamation of 
roles that had never been *institutionalized* before...

PK: Never? What about David? What about the historical Melchizedek? I 
cn't prove their existence, but you can't disprove it.

.. <snip> ... We see that before Qumran times there is no Melchizedek 
speculation,...

PK: No we don't, you speculate about it.

.. <snip>

Peter Kirk




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