Methods in biblical scholarship (Peter)

peter_kirk at peter_kirk at
Fri Dec 31 17:28:40 EST 1999

Ian wrote:

     Perhaps a third time you'll be lucky, or perhaps you might decide 
     that these are two irreconcilable accounts involving the death of 
     Saul that, taken together, indicate different sources.

Yes, indeed there were two sources for this story, two eye-witness 
accounts of the death of Saul. One was from an Amalekite, the other 
from the unknown source of 1 Samuel 31. There is some lack of perfect 
agreement between them, as would be expected in eye-witness accounts 
from a confused battle-field, and when the Amalekite was as capable as 
later historians of putting his own twist on history. Now surely when 
you speak of different sources for a book, you mean more than that the 
words of third parties have been incorporated into a narrative by one 

Now you may have an argument that the narrator must have invented 
verses 4-5 as no eye-witnesses (except those far away on the other 
side of the valley) to these events survived, or are recorded as 
having survived. But then if one Amalekite was nearby, there may have 
been others. But you have no argument for multiple sources.

Your references to verses 6 and 7 are quite irrelevant as the 
narrative does not locate the time of the coming of the Amalekite to 
Saul within the time sequence of 1 Samuel 31. So the Amalekite could 
well have come and killed Saul between verses 5 and 6.

Peter Kirk

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