Autographs...: BH, Moabite and DSS language

peter_kirk at sil.org peter_kirk at sil.org
Tue Dec 28 17:19:01 EST 1999


Many thanks for your support, Ken. Though it would be easier to read 
if you could correct your spelling.

You reminded me of a further argument which has not been made 
recently. On 26th December Randall Buth wrote (as part of a different 
thread) concerning the Moabite Stone: "for one, it's judean hebrew, 
too, ... here it's in stone, so it can't be easily dimissed." No-one 
has tried to play the "forgery" card with this as they did when I 
dared to mention the Tel Dan inscription. So can I assume that the 
Moabite Stone is accepted as a genuine inscription from the 9th 
century BCE or thereabouts?

Now let me ask a question. The Pentateuch and the historical books of 
the Hebrew Bible are written in a fairly uniform language - if we 
discount for now Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah and Esther which show 
linguistic differences often described as "Late Biblical Hebrew". Now 
let me ask, is this uniform biblical Hebrew closer to that of the 
Moabite Stone or to that of the Dead Sea Scrolls (those known to have 
been written in the 2nd-1st century BCE) and/or of the Mishnah?

Then let me follow up and apply this to a hypothesis that the Hebrew 
Bible was written in the 3rd-2nd century BCE. Is it likely that the 
north-west Semitic language used in and around Judea would have 
changed rather little between the 9th and 3rd century, so that the 
Moabite Stone is in similar language to the Hebrew Bible, even though 
there was no literary tradition during that time - and then that it 
would have changed abruptly during the 2nd century so that the newly 
written literature quickly seemed to be archaic in style (and was 
often not understood by translators into Greek)?

I consider this a powerful argument that the bulk of the Hebrew Bible 
was written or revised at a time closer to that of the Moabite Stone 
than to that of the DSS, so perhaps pre-exilic. The clear linguistic 
differences ("Late Biblical Hebrew") noted in some books, including 
tendencies towards Mishnaic Hebrew and increased Aramaic borrowings, 
are good evidence for these books having been written or edited at a 
later date, perhaps after the exile. Some books e.g. Esther may have 
been written later in archaising style, but that possibility cannot 
apply to all books as it is only possible to archaise if one has a 
body of genuine older literature in archaic style to use as a model. I 
accept that there is not enough linguistic evidence to say anything 
very definite here, but there is surely enough to say something.

Peter Kirk


______________________________ Reply Separator _________________________________
Subject: Autographs, MSS and REAL Historiography  Re: Methods in bibl
Author:  <kdlitwak at concentric.net> at Internet
Date:    27/12/1999 23:37

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