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

Ken Litwak kdlitwak at
Wed Dec 29 03:27:26 EST 1999

I have some things I want to note about the response I got.  
.  I have, admittedly, read much more by Thomas THompson that Lemche. 
I'm threfore representin the view I reaad in THompson and I'm also
building on what Niels Lemche has writtne in posts on this list.  Is he
disavowing the contents of those posts?    Just becuase you don't like
how I read Thomas Thompson or your own posts is hardly justification for
saying that I don't know what I'm talking aout.

2.  The case with classical writigns is no different at all from the
Hebrew Bible.  The question is, what is the relation between theearlist
known MS and the autograph.  The question is, does the date of teh
earliest known MS have anything to do with the date of the autograph,
other than setting the latest possible date. ?  You didn't answer that. 
YOu just made an ad hominem atack on me.  

  Finally, as a matter of ffact, I've hread several anceint authors on
ancient hisoriography, especially THucydides, Josephys, Xenophon and
Lucian, but QUintillain is in there too, and I've done so mostly in
Greek.  What about you?  What did you read in them aout ancient history
writing that I didn't?  Please enlighten us on whatyou think ancient
historians wre up to.  I hope it's not that nonesense about ancient
historians didn't intend to convey fact but just wanted to entertain. 
It's plainly obfious to the most casualobserver from reading THucydides
and Lucian, for example, that such a view is a modern myth not based on
the actual data.  I'm willing to discuss this though, but I don't
suppose this is the place to step through LUcian's on History Writing in
Greek.  I'mr aedy though, if you've got data on this.  I suspect, like
others, that you make this claim but can't show me passages from these
authors when push comes to shove to show a idfferent positoin.  Sure,
you can point to Homer, but those who wrote aout histoircal method, like
Lucian, put Homer in a totally different category from Thucydides andthe

   As for classical evidence, I can point to lots of alleged historical
events known to us only from texts which there is no hard evidence for. 
Since all the classical texts come from the 6tth cent AD or alrer, they
wree obviously all doen y the same group so of course they reflect the
same positions.  

Ken Litwak

Niels Peter Lemche wrote:
> > Basically here, as elsewhre, Niels Lemche (along iwth others) have
> > stated tat since there are no biblical MSS from before the 2nd century
> > BCE (a later dating for many DSS would really invalidate all the factors
> > used to decide the dating of MSS, unless of course one conisdres Frank
> > Moore Cross and colleagues to b unscholarly).  If we grant that there
> > are no biblical MSS from before the 2nd century BCE, this is supposed to
> > proe sometihng, Nields would have us believe.  I reject this as patent
> > nonesense in anoy other area where MSS are involved.
> >
>         [Niels Peter Lemche]
>         The nonsense is that you are introducing something you cannot
> control and continue in the old fashion to build hypotheses on hypotheses
> until you end up with the nonsense called 'ancient Israel'. I cannot prevent
> people for reacting according to their beliefs but the have to follow
> procedures they themselves and other scholars can control. The examples
> mentioned from classical literature are different because of the many ways
> of external control. Thus is is quite easy from a historians point of view
> to argue that Caesar's Galic wwars belongs to the period described. It can
> be done from archaeology (Roman influebce in Gaul), and it can be done by
> comparing the information there to other Roman and Greek information. There
> are plenty of external sources.
>         Again Litwak is making the usual mistake of thinking that we are
> arguing for a Hdellenistic date without assuming that something is earlier.
> We never did. If Mr. Litwak goes back to the article I wrote about this in
> SJOT seven years ago, he will se that the argument there is that we have to
> present a decent argument if we want to antedate the content of a manuscript
> to the period that precedes the oldest copy of the text. The burden of proof
> rests on the people who think so, that the text is older than the oldest
> extant manuscript, but I did not say that it is always impossible. Sometimes
> it would be nice if people tried to read and see for themselves what is our
> position instead of creating images of their 'enemies' that are false.
> >  If The Copehagen
> > position is valid, I would like to invie any of its adhernets to go to
> > next yearr's annual SBL meeting and attend the "Septuaint and COgnae
> > Studies group" meeting.  Stand upa nd ell them taht because the earliest
> > complete LXX MS is Vaticanus, dated aorund the 4th to 5th century AD,
> > that this is when the Septuagint originated or very close to it.
> > Go to a meeting of classicists. Telll them that since there are no MS of
> > classical writers such as Plato, Aristotle, Seutonius, Thycidedes, etc,
> > from before aout 700 AD, that these works acame into ein at or just
> > before the 8th cent AD.
> > IN boht cases I predict you'll either be laughed out of he room or
> > simply ignored as a nut case.  Virtually no one in LXX studies, no NT
> > textual criticism or classical studies or Shakespeare studies or any
> > other area of historiography or literatrystudes equts the date of the
> > earliest MS with the date of the autorgraphs.  If no one else makes this
> > assumption, that there must be some connection, an assumption Niels has
> > made, and assertd, but never given real argumentation for, is there any
> > reason whatsoever that we should treat the Hebrew Bible as an
> > exceptoin?  No, we should act like scholars in all other disciplines and
> > specialties.  The date of the earlisest MS is completely irrelevant to
> > the date of the composition of its autograph.
> >
>         [Niels Peter Lemche]
>         I suppose that the laughing will be about you as you did not check
> your sources befoe you started talking so you do not not know what you are
> attacking, a ghost perhaps of something you imagine. If you want to speak
> about stupidity, then start doing it privately that I can answer you in the
> same fashion without troubling the community on this list.
> >     ANother matter that springs from this is taht those who make the
> > assumption taht MS date somehow relates to auttograph date is that we
> > should not have a prolem with saying the biblical texts are not
> > historical while treating stelas as plain, objective truth.  The texts
> > have been robbed of the chance to speak of what happneed.  So to deal
> > with this, they are givne genres completely out of keeping with what
> > they internally show of htemselves.  1 Samuel is historiography.  Read
> > Albert Cook, Histoyr/Writing, before you disagree.  It is not simply
> > eidfying litrature or fictiojn just because one wishes to pan its
> > accounts as unhistorical.
> >
>         [Niels Peter Lemche]
>         Your hvae so litrtle sense of what history was about in ancient
> times that I suggest that you start studying the subject. I would suggest
> that you start by reading Quintillian, and continue with Cicero, and then
> you can come back.
>         And let it end here...
>         NPL

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