second century etc.

Niels Peter Lemche npl at
Fri Dec 24 04:39:56 EST 1999

> [snip]
> > 	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.
>  NPL,
> Looking for a clarification here about methodology, so hopefully the 
> analogy I use won't seem too terribly off-topic.  Westcott and Hort 
> argued that the phenomena they saw in certain NT manuscripts of 
> the 4th century CE enabled them to place the text underlying the 
> mss around the second century, based on a number of criteria that 
> would take us too far afield to list.  Am I correct in understanding 
> that you question this kind of methodology?  IOW, if 4th-century 
> mss are all we have, a 4th-century text is all we can discover?  If 
> I've misunderstood you here, please correct me.
> Dave Washburn
	[Niels Peter Lemche]  
	You see, there are presumably several indications that parts of the
texts may go further back to archival notes or the like -- who knows -- and
Gilgames XI and Flood story are so close that it is quite obvious at least
to some of us to say that the one in Genesis comes from Gilgamesh in the
Neo-Babylonian version (or very close to it). Think of the redundant raven
in genesis and the role of the raven in Gilgamesh. Still the MSS business is
the tough part. It means that you have to present an argument whenever you
want to date a text to a period before its oldest physical appearance. I am
not saying that it is impossible, only that the burden of proff rests on the
scholar who wants to argue an earlier date.
	One such example may be the autobiography of Nehemiah--discussed for
a short moment on the lists--because its information is so different from
what one should expect from a later 'canonized' version of Jerusalem under
	Other examples are seemingly archival notes in Kings, and hard
evidence of early texts are the Katteph Hinom silver inscriptions with the
Blessing of Aaron. Again we should be ready to accept a difference in time
between single pieces of tradition and redaction.
	An example of this could be the discussion about the centralization
of the cult. We hardly have any evidence for this from the Iron Age, but we
possess a lively 'discussion' about it in the 2nd century. It is not
reflected in the quest of the Elephantine papyri for a new temple to
substitute the one that was destroyed by local people, but probably in the
reaction to the acts of the banned high priest from Jerusalem who went to
Egypt to built a temple of his own in Leontopolis.

	By the way, personally I am not at this moment very interested in
dating the text. It is more important to find out what kind of message is
provided by these texts, why they were written and for whom, and here I find
the distinction made by Jeremiah 31 between the ol Israel and the new Israel
extremely important. Does the author of the story about old Israel that went
into exile write this for the sake of old Israel, already in exile, or for
ndew Israel, yet to appear?


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