SV: The Origins of the United Monarchy

Thomas L. Thompson tlt at
Thu Feb 4 05:25:04 EST 1999

Dear Randall Buth,
Thanks much for the references. I haven't seen Rainey's AJSR review of my
work so I will wait until I can find a copy of it before commenting on it.

Of course, Davies must also present his own case. However in the summer at
the IOSOT congress, Hurvitz and Davies had some interesting exchanges that
makes the picture seem  a little more nuanced for me than seems implied by
the authorial voice of some of your quotations:
	In making these comments, I speak only for myself -- not Philip

You write:
> granted the linguistic chronologies are relative, they also put major
> chunks of material into the first temple period and in relatively good,
> 'clean', shape. such stratified data are not predicted by those such as
> davies who would date 'everything' 3-6th centuries BCE. see below.
That the linguistic chronologies are relative is but one issue. But it is an
important one. The statement that "Davies would date everything to 3-6th c.
BCE" is awkward for two reasons: First of all it is an absolute chronology
that is referenced *not* a relative one as used by Hurvitz. Does Davies also
date your or Avi's  "first temple" materials to the 3-6th. c. BCE? Secondly,
it is not entirely accurate. Even one of the quotations from Hurvitz below
regarding "non-biblical texts" that Davies has referred to refers in fact to
texts which antedate the 6th. c. BCE. This makes me believe that Davies does
not date "everything" to 6-3 c. What Davies is dating is not clear in
Hurvitz' discussion. Even Wellhausen dates "everything" to the 6-3rd. cent.
A hypothesis about stratified literature is not the same as a stratified
tell. Moreover, I know from other grounds -- See his new Scribes and Schools
of 1998 -- that he dates a considerable number of texts (including many from
Qumran and from the Bible) -- to a time later than the 3. c. BCE, so I
suspect that 6-3 century is not really a date that Davies attributes to
"everything" or even "everything biblical." Does Hurvitz have a clear and
accurate idea of the Davies he is scolding so roundly?
	Furthermore the terms "linguistic chronologies" and "linguistic
strata" are exceedingly vague. I have the suspicion that their reference is
mostly to "linguistic distinctions" rather than either chronologies or
strata. The chronologies used seem rather more like those of Kaufmann or, at
times, Wellhausen, and might be better described as "historical-critical
chronologies". These, of course, have been put at serious risk by John Van

(further below)
> "his statements [davies-rb] 'there is extraordinarily little by way of
> external control on the dating of "classical Hebrew" ', and that  'we have
> very few non-biblical texts by which to date the evolution of the language
> in which the biblical literature is written'   are far from being
> accurate."(evaluation by hurvitz, p. 307)
	The quotation does not really seem to fully account for Hurvitz'
statements in Oslo or in the seminar in Jerusalem with me, where Hurvitz
admitted that classical biblical Hebrew is not clearly dated within fixed
parameters, and that the controls are in fact mostly internal and ideal. It
is Late Biblical Hebrew that is the more definable both chronologically and
linguistically. About that, Hurvitz and I have no argument.
(further below)

> "we [hurvitz-rb] have, therefore, to conclude that 'classical BH' is a
> well-defined linguistic stratum, indicative of a (typologically)
> distinctive phase within biblical literature and a (chronologically)
> datable time-span within biblical history--notwithstanding davies'
> assertion to the contrary."(p. 309)
Here, Hurvitz overstates his case. We can only date the beginning of the
span. He gives us no clear date for a period after which classical biblical
Hebrew was no longer written. Nor will he argue that classical biblical
Hebrew is always earlier than LBH. Davies and Hurvitz are arguing from two
different perspectives and do not always engage on the issues.

> "however, the evidence presented above conclusively demonstrates that none
> of these options [davies' options--rb] prevails in our biblical texts;
> instead, what we have is a clear-cut distribution pattern which may be
> accounted for satisfactorily only in chronological terms."(p.313)
Not geographical or social? The rhetorically effective word here is
"satisfactorilly". Hurvitz assumes rather than argues that his chronology is
in fact satisfactory. Though many scholars who use absolute (e.g., Lemche)
and many scholars who use relative (e.g., Schmid, Van Seters) chronologies
for biblical traditions do not agree that the chronology Hurvitz borrows is
satisfactory at all. That all other explanations are unsatisfactory is only
a reasonable argument if there are in fact other explanations that are both
as well developed and as sustained as the chronological one. A better
argument might be to give a reason why chronology is being used to explain
the distribution patterns. What is it about these patterns (in Classical
biblical Hebrew) that is intrinsically chronological? I suspect that the
chronological explanation is being sought primarily because it has worked
rather effectively in defining Late Biblical Hebrew.

> "I leave all the other aspects of Davies's work--historical,
> archaeological, theological, etc. -- to experts in these matters.  As far
> as I can see, many of the critiques published so far on these aspects of
> his work are not more favourable than the present one."(p. 314)
This ad-hominem attack, I am afraid, should not have been written. Both
scholars are linguists of considerable experience. Both have made serious
blunders in their research and writing as we all have. Both have different
perspectives on an open and still much debated issue.
But there is also another problem that exposes itself here. Davies'
historical work is not irrelevant to an evaluation of Hurvitz' work. In
fact, one might suggest strongly that Hurvitz needs to address both literary
critical traditions of scholarship over the last 30 years and historical
questions of both Palestine's history and of the biblical tradition if he
wishes to resolve some of the contradictions of the premises of his work.
Hurvitz uses a model of biblical literature which Davies does not accept and
which Davies has raised considerable objections to. Can Hurvitz legitimately
leave these issues to others as this citation in the VT seems to imply.


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