Autographs, MSS and REAL Historiography Re: Methods in bib lical scholarship

Niels Peter Lemche npl at
Wed Dec 29 05:09:22 EST 1999

>   Asking whether Herodotus had clear purposes or not is not really the
> issue, as I see it.  The issue is twofold:
> 1.  What did Hellenistic historiographers say they were trying to
> accomplish?  
> 2.  Has anyone ever written ideologically free history or written
> history without an ideological agenda?
> For the first, history should be accurate, based on eye witness accounts
> primarily, and only secondarily, well-written and entertaining, or as
> Lucian puts it, a "well-seasoned soup" or some such thing (the word is a
> hapax and difficult to translate).
>     As for 2., the answer is no.  No one, not me, not Lemche, not
> Thucydides, no one ever wrote an ideology-free, aim-free historical
> work.  It cannot be done.  It's of little moment to say that an ancient
> writer had purposes.  All history writers have purposes.  When I was in
> high school I had to read an American history text called "land of the
> Free", a book that a Democrat would love and Republican would hate, as
> it was clearly written from a specific political perspective and with a
> specific political agenda in its selection and presentation of events,
> and I don't think for one solitary moment my teacher was unaware of
> this.  This is simply illustrative of how all historiography is done. 
> It's methodologically improper to treat ancient historigraphy as
> different in kind than modern.
> Ken Litwak
	[Niels Peter Lemche]  While agreeing with most at this--as I wrote
in some article published in Germany--at least my version of Israelite
history was my own version and not just another paraphrase of the biblical
account (but still it wasd mine--Ken will without doubt have a different
one), we can see from Cicero, from Quintilian, and other classical sources
that the purpose was not to describe 'wies es eigentlich gewesen', but
more--as part of the academic curricukum--to educate the next generation by
drawuíng its attention to the good and bad examples of the previous
generations. On the other hand, ancient authorities were able to distinguish
between the kind of history in Herodotus and in Thucydides. That Thucydides,
however, was not a historian in any modern sense of the word can be
demonstrated by his version of Pericles' speech at the funeral of the KIAs
in the first year of the Pelopponesian war, a famous example of an invented
speech--which was acceptable to the ancients. 

	So where is this leading?


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