Methods in biblical scholarship (Peter)

Ian Hutchesson mc2499 at
Wed Dec 29 19:11:58 EST 1999

Dear Peter,

I've just noticed this unsent in my mailer.

>OK, pseudonymous, like Jubilees, also misclassified as pseudepigraphic...
>PK: No, not pseudonymous, not pseudepigraphic, but anonymous.

So, I'm suffering from alexia. Anonymous, like Jubilees.

>.. Nevertheless, would you like to contemplate a single author who wrote in 
>one chapter that Saul, after failing to get his armour-bearer to kill him, 
>finally kills himself and is followed by the armour-bearer in death, wrote 
>in the chapter immediately following that Saul was killed by a just happened 
>to be there resident alien Amalekite stranger who came and told David and 
>who David in turn immediately killed?...
>PK: Obvious. The Amalekite was obviously lying in the hope of a 
>reward. Anyway, your objection applies equally to a redacted version.

While David clearly seems to believe the Amalekite, I'm impressed that you
can divine that the Amalekite was lying. On what grounds? It would seem to
me that you are rationalising the conflict of the two accounts, not dealing
with them.

>>.. Would the same writer have forgotten that David killed Goliath and go on 
>>to say that El-hanan son of Ja'are-oregim actually killed Goliath? 
>>.. The Davidic materials at the end of 2Sam have 
>>all the appearance of early traditions that a redactor had come across
>>the writing of the main body of work and stuck the material on at the end
>PK: This is a possible speculative and unprovable explanation for 2 Samuel 
>23:8-38 and perhaps also chapter 21. One thing we do know about these 
>passages is that they are textually corrupt and very different in places 
>from their parallels in Chronicles. In places such as 21:19 which seem to 
>contradict both 1 Samuel 17 and the Chronicles parallel, I think we have 
>reasonable grounds (though not proof) to propose that the text is corrupt.

The evidence is usually taken to show that Chronicles with its knowledge of
the complete Samuel text felt the necessity to correct the latter's error
by introducing a brother of Goliath for Elhanan to slay. I see no grounds
for an assumption of corruption there. Chronicles is noted for adapting its

You are skirting the issue, Peter. The materials after David's last words
are additions from written sources referring to various times in the life
of the king, ie different writers.

Your convenient, but unreasonable, analysis of the death of Saul doesn't
deal with the exclusive nature of the two accounts (which fit into an
observable pattern in OT/HB literature, in which different traditions are
placed together or at times even interwoven). These accounts show not a
single author but different source texts.

>>Abram and Sarai in Egypt, or Abraham and Sarah in Gerar, or Isaac 
>>and Rebekah in Gerar.
>PK: The lesson is simple here as well. Abraham failed to learn from 
>his mistake in Egypt and tried the same trick at Gerar. Isaac failed 
>to learn from his father's double mistake and tried the same trick 
>himself. The three times repetition (maybe historically it happened 
>more than three times!) was used by the author as part of his literary 
>skill to underline the stupidity of such action, which is clearly 
>condemned in the text.

There is no comment made in the text that shows any such morality as you
want to extract. In fact, in each case which the protagonist is --
according to you -- to be condemned, he is *rewarded* with livestock and
other wealth, so such a rearguard defence based on some sort of odd
morality is not supported by the text. This has all the earmarks of
multiple tradition. 



(And of course Abimelek must have been a doddering old lecher as well, not
having remembered the Abraham/Sarah scam. Beware of lying patriarchs, Abim.)

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