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

Niels Peter Lemche npl at
Thu Dec 30 03:48:09 EST 1999

	Litwak, is this a response to me or sombody else?
>     Finally, as for where this is heading, nothing that Niels has said
> about Hellenistic historiographers as such is a surprise to me.  There
> are, however, two points worth mentioning.  Lucian, in a work whose nam
> I can't remember right off, explicitly states that he is going to write
> a historical work that is like that of he history writers he condemns,
> i.e.., it contains fictional events and speeches, things the writers
> made up and which never happened, and especially accounts of Hades. 
> Lucian and other historiographers knew the difference quite well between
> fact and fiction.  Just because I have an aim and a world view is no
> reason to assume that I am incapable of presenting facts about the
> past.  It only means those facts will be selective and presented in a
> way compatible with my world view and aims.  This holds true for modern
> historiography, for Hellenistic historiography, and Israelite
> historiography.  I think we can drop the discussion of Hellenistic
> historiography because 1 Samuel or 2 Chronicles was not done with
> Thucydides' preface in mind.  
	[Niels Peter Lemche]  Well you are forgetting that there were more
than one school of historical thinking in the ancient world. If you refer to
the one major recent work on the relationship between HB and classical
history writing--by John Van Seters--you will see little reference to
Thucydides, and a lot to Herodotus. As I wrote in another mail, the great
history of Rome by Livy is probably more in line with Herodotus than with
Thucydides, so what has Thucydides with Samuel to do? he was not alone on
the market.  

> The author of Judges never heard of
> Thucydides.  
	[Niels Peter Lemche]  
	No, but what about Herodotus?

> Instead, Israelite historiography should be studied as its
> own form of history writing, just like Tacitus and Seutonius don't
> follow the rules of Thucydides a such.  Seutonius, unlike Thucydides,
> makes many asides and analyses the events he describes, which is a
> fairly unique approach among Hellenistic historiographers.  In any case,
> the Former Prophets, unless you force them into  say the 1st century BC,
> and written under Hellenistic influence, do not fit into Hellenistic
> historiography, so what Cicero says about history is irrelevant to the
> Hebrew Bible.  
	[Niels Peter Lemche]  
	Of course you are wrong but that is because you try to impose here a
one-eyed idea of classical history writing.

>     That's why I pointed to History/Writing, for a good, short treatment
> of Israelite Historiography and a comparison to Hellenistic
> historiographers.  I'd like to see you read that book a nd then come
> back and we'll talk about Israelite historiography. 
	[Niels Peter Lemche]  
	present the title a second time. As far as I am concerned, i am much
more interested in Van Seters major work than in a short study by a person I
never heard about (or did I?)

>  Till then there is
> really nothing else to say about Hellenistic historiographers that is of
> relevance to this discussion.  
>     I'd rather go back to issues like, 
> 1.  If the Hebrew Bible was done in t he Persian period, why does it us
> Hebrew?
> 2.  Why does the Hebrew of the TaNaKh use much more primitive Hebrew
> forms than the Hebrew found in the DSS non-biblical texts?  If it was
> written in or near the 2nd century BC, why is the Hebrew so different
> from Qumran Hebrew?  In fact, how can a Persian period authorship
> account for very primitive Hebrew forms in Exodus and Leviticus as
> compared to the entire corpus?  Why use Hebrew at all, and how do we
> account for the apparent unevenness of development of the language
> including spellings and vowel representation (defective versus full)? 
> Niels wants to deal with hard evidence.  This is hard evidence that
> seems to require documents written over a very long period of time, not
> just 100-200 years? .  
	[Niels Peter Lemche]  
	Again you are telescoping the issues. 1-200 years are as a matter of
fact a very long period, and the biblical Hebrew is not the late Palestinian
Amorite of the Iron Age. As I write this I am waiting for the new grammer of
the inscriptions, I saw at the SBL stand in Boston in November, but although
morphology seems close, syntax is not--lack of xconsecutive forms--so
biblical Hebrew is not the language of the Iron Age as maintained by many
scholars who should know. And I still have to wait for some to stand up
against Knauf's claim that biblical Hebrew--which is only attested in the HB
and in literature quoting from the HB--is an artificial language. 

	The question why Hebrew? is redundant, although it could be
answered, but like the question is probably not legitimate (how can we know
why an author choose a certain language when he does not tell us why?), any
answer will also be deficient because of lack of control of the premises.


> Ken Litwak
> Niels Peter Lemche wrote:
> > 
> > >   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?
> > 
> >         NPL
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