Autographs, MSS and REAL Historiography Re: Methods in biblical scholarship

Moshe Shulman mshulman at
Tue Dec 28 12:32:45 EST 1999

At 11:37 PM 12/27/1999 -0800, you wrote:
>  I would like to suggest, in fact, that tring to approach this
>scientifically, is a wrong-headed model. You can't prove history
>scientifically.  You assess records in more of a legal way, or ougyt
>to.  You deermine, whre you can, when th witnesses have told the truth
>and try to determine how true their accounts are or how problematic
>their accounts are.  Based onw aht I read in Assyiran or Egyptian
>history, I'd say it's all wrong because pharoahs and Assyrian rulers
>don't lose -- ever.  They live from thousands of years.  Hey never lose
>battles.  Everyuthing is great under them.  Yeah, right.  

If I might add a word to what Ken has written. My academic background is in
the scientific/mathematical field as opposed to the liberal arts. The
methodology I have seen here proposed woudl be laughed out of any
mathematical conference on logic (including inductive studies.) UNIQUE
criteria are applied to the Biblical text, that would not be to any other
text in liturature. NEVER is there an attempt to applie the same
methodology to a test sample where the results are KNOWN. (I exclude from
this the C14 dating.) Ken your point here is clear and logically valid. The
existance of a given text PROVES the LATEST date for that text, and not the

I think if you wish to have an idea of what I am saying and where I am
coming from on this there is a two volume work called 'Mathematics and
Plausible Reasoning' by the late Professor Polya of Stanford. The first
volume is quite technical, and unless you have a good understanding of at
least calculus you will be lost. The second volume around chapter 15 he
systematizes whathe has shown, and gives a way of dealing with a logic of
plausibility. (Something that obviously directly relates to the subject we
are interested in here.) 

Let me deal with one practical example that deals with our present subject:
The date of the Biblical text. (or say the Torah.) There are various
theories proposed. However we do have an interesting FACT. They have found
a first temple example of a passage in Numbers called the 'priestly
blessing' From this there is one clear deduction and one clear plausible
inferences (I could mention more but I will leave it at this.).

Deduction: The priestly blessing (i.e. that passage in Numbers) cannot be
dated later then that and because of it's usage is clearly from an earlier

Inference: The possibility of Numbers being pre-exile is more plausible and
conversly the proposal that Numbers is post exile is less plausible.

There is no HARD evidence that would imply that the inference is incorrect.
Theories are not evidence. They are ASSUMPTIONS and PROPOSALS on how to
solve a problem. The history of science is filled with examples of true
theories based on fact being rejected because they opposed long held
theories. (Ptolemaic astronomy comes to mind as the best example) I could
have also gone on here about the bogus use of and inferences made from a
sampling which while random we have no way of identifying any factors about
it that could tell us the distribution of the sample. (i.e. the DSS.) The
bottom line being that when you present a case for a certain point of view,
it is good to be aware of the assumptions you are making, and if they are
valid or supportable. ALSO what would DISPROVE your assumptions (or prove
them to be true.)

moshe shulman mshulman at    718-436-7705
CHASSIDUS.NET - Yoshav Rosh  
Outreach Judaism             
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