Melchizedek (More Dave) (Peter's response)
peter_kirk at sil.org
peter_kirk at sil.org
Fri Dec 24 11:53:08 EST 1999
Dear Niels Peter,
Thank you for your contribution. Maybe Ian and I confused you, but the
point you are commenting on is Ian's not mine. For it seems that Ian
is happy to follow the principle you make here when he is trying to
knock down anyone else's arguments, but doesn't allow it to be applied
to his own arguments.
I take your point and Diebner's, and I have to accept that we cannot
prove beyond a shadow of doubt that anything is older than the
earliest manuscript we possess of it. Yes, Ian has actually persuaded
me of that point. So what can we do? We can give up and go home, or we
can work on the balance of probabilities, which for some may be tipped
by their personal faith. But surely there is a difference between the
balance of probabilities and guesswork?
To oversimplify, there are three main hypotheses around for the
composition of the bulk of the Hebrew Bible as we know it:
1) The Copenhagen approach, if I may correctly so call it, that most
was written in the 2nd century BCE, or not long before;
2) The traditional scholarly approach of dating books over a range
from roughly the 8th to the 4th century;
3) The evangelical approach, attributing the Pentateuch to Moses and
dating other books as more-or-less contemporary records.
Approach 2) has been rightly criticised as lacking real evidence. The
problem to me is that I have not seen any real evidence for approach
1) (but then I have not read your books, I am afraid). I know that
approach 3) cannot be proved, but at least it has the possible
evidence of the self-attribution of the books and of ancient
tradition, and also some support from the archaeological record
(although that is of course also dubious). So I see no good reason to
abandon approach 3), though I have to admit that one reason for
preferring it is the presuppositions of my personal faith.
______________________________ Reply Separator _________________________________
Subject: Re: Melchizedek (More Dave) (Peter's response)
Author: <npl at teol.ku.dk> at Internet
Date: 24/12/1999 13:00
> From: peter_kirk at sil.org [SMTP:peter_kirk at sil.org]
> Sadly we have to work with the data we have. ...
> The situation however is relatively simple. We have a number of documents
> that are principally before the second century BCE.
[Niels Peter Lemche]
You are talking about data available. Please, tell me what kind of
data say that we have a number of documents from before the 2nd century BCE?
Yes, inscriptions from Palestine in the Iron Age, of course, Elephantine
papyri also ... talking only of Hebrew literature, but when we approach the
Bible, what 'data' do we possess that proves anything to be 'principally pre
2nd century BCE'? Never forget the often quoted (by me) line from Bernd Jrg
Diebner of the Dielheimer Bltter: 'We cannot prove it, but it is a fact!'
-- the addition to that line (again Diebner) is 'Speech of figure instead of
argument within OT scholarship' (Sprachfigur statt methode in der
Erforschung des AT'.)
This mail is principal in character. I do not say that there cannot
be anything older than the 2nd century BCE. But it is hard to prove if we
have no data, as you may see it. the oldest MSS for the Hebrew texts are
still DSS, i.e. presumably 1 cent. BCE, or perhaps 1st cent. CE, which means
that the ungoing discussion about the dating of the DSS is very important
also for the dating of biblical texts. Whenever we moves beyond the time
limit set by the date of the earliest manuscripts, we are depending on
personal ideas, wishes, guesses etc.
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