Methods in biblical scholarship

Niels Peter Lemche npl at
Sun Dec 26 04:40:12 EST 1999

	[Niels Peter Lemche]  From the interchange between Peter Kirk and
Ian H. 

> 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 - 
	[Niels Peter Lemche]  
> and Ian
> 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.
	[Niels Peter Lemche]  First we have to see whether the authorship
can be authentic. If not we have a different situation. Let's forget the
Pentateuch for a moment and take the case of the Books of Samuel. Did Samuel
write his books? Hardly as he dies in 1 Sam 25. Then we have a case of
presuo-authorship in the HB. When this has been established, it is much
easier to cope with the rest, Song of Songs or Qohelet or Proverbs
(Solomon), Psalms (David), and people who believe in th Mosaic authorship of
the Pentateuch has a problem because they have to explain why the situation
is different here.
> >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.) 
	[Niels Peter Lemche]  
	The is blatantly wrong. It is true as far as the HB and the Western
canon is concerned, but the writer is unaware of his eurocentrism, the Greek
canon includes scriptire that is not canonical according to the HB or Latin
tradition, the Coptic canon still others and the Ethiopian as well
(including Henoch). The Nestoian tradition is still another tradition. We
can now see what happened, as e.g. the figure of Henoch was rather popular
before the relatively late deleniation of what was in the eyes of the Rabbis
canononical and what not. Back to DSS again, and to other Jewish literature
from the Hellenistic-Roman period.
> 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.
	[Niels Peter Lemche]  Yes, but I have to repeat that I was much more
in doubt when confrontd with the inscription itself. There are so many
problems with this inscriptions, also the way it has been joined, although a
famous israeli archaeologist  [Niels Peter Lemche]  and friend of mine said
to me a couple of years ago after having inspected the fragmnts that there
is no joint. Now, the last time I sam the inscription  [Niels Peter Lemche]
in the Israel Museum, the 'joint' had been plastered over by clay so that
nobody can see, a kind of official   [Niels Peter Lemche]  proof. 
> >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. 
	[Niels Peter Lemche]  and as I said in an earlier mail, even
Alexander. Even Augustus is presented by Roman authors in an equivocal
light. We could almost say that this is standard in classical literature.
Think also of the heroes of Troy and among the Greeks outside the city: Some
Sir Galahads? Hardly. The equivoqueness rather says that these biblical
figures are the production of a literary mind that includes equivoqueness as
a literary device. 
> >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.
	[Niels Peter Lemche]  already answered. 
> 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!
> Cheers,
> Ian
	[Niels Peter Lemche]  NPL who is sorry for all the NPLs Bill Gates
has placed in this mail. 

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