Methods in biblical scholarship

Ian Hutchesson mc2499 at
Sat Dec 25 21:25:39 EST 1999

Peter wrote:

>I'm not sure how soundly, that the self-attestation of a book, 
>its internal evidence of authorship and dating, should be taken at 
>face value unless good reason is shown why a particular inaccurate 
>attestation has been given - 

I don't think we can give the writer the benefit of the doubt, unless you
can establish a trend for only one person writing a work in the Hebrew
religious tradition. We have a number of examples of more than one writer
to a text, so it would seem to be the norm rather than the exception.

>and also how a recently written book 
>could become accepted as ancient scripture. (Yes, I know that there 
>are demonstrably pseudonymous books from Hellenistic times e.g. Enoch, 
>but they were never taken as canonical.) Then there is potential 
>evidence from agreement with archaeology and accurate picturing of 
>ancient times and customs. (Yes, I know the evidence is equivocal on 
>this one, but for example the Tel Dan inscription seems to tell us 
>that David really existed, or at least that the traditions about him 
>are very much older than the 2nd century.)

The Tel Dan inscription is so far from being of any use that there is no
point in mentioning it other than for the propaganda value for those who
already believe. Garbini has argued that the text is a fake. A certain
professor from Copenhagen has brought people's attention to chisel marks on
the fragments indicating the manufactured nature of the fragments. Others
have asked what bytdwd actually means. The one meaning you seem to support
is not the only one. It's just convenient.

>PK: Here is what I consider to be strongest evidence for taking the 
>books to be what they claim to be. I would challenge anyone to explain 
>why writers in Hellenistic times (or even in earlier post-exilic 
>times) would have portrayed their ancient patriarchs and kings (e.g. 
>Abraham, Moses, David) in such equivocal terms, certainly not as 
>heroes, but not as out-and-out villains either, rather as very 
>fallible men (and women e.g. Sarah). 

When God is the central figure of all the texts. This was the case with
various religions throughout the ANE. Humans were only adjuncts at a
performance level. Humans were always fallible. Gilgamesh made his mistakes. 

>Is there any precedent in other 
>literature of the period or earlier for such ambiguous portrayals of 
>main characters? On the other hand, we know that real people are like 
>that. So I consider this to be good evidence that the narratives are 
>based on accurate reports of these people's real lives.

What you expect from characters is not necessarily in any way reflective of
what was required from figures in cultic writings of over 2000 years ago!



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