Question Concerning Inspiration (was Joe)

Peter Kirk Peter_Kirk at sil.org
Sat Dec 9 03:03:06 EST 2000




-----Original Message-----
From: Ian Hutchesson [mailto:mc2499 at mclink.it]
Sent: 08 December 2000 22:32
To: Biblical Hebrew
Subject: Re: Question Concerning Inspiration (was Joe)


>>... the fact that Judah does in fact spring into history a generation
>>before Hezekiah.
>>
>>PK: OK if you mean "is first attested in the archaeological record". But
>>please don't even think of taking this to mean "first came into
existence".
>
>Please don't tell me what to, or not to, think, Peter.
>
>PK: OK, think what you like. And I'll think what I like of your thoughts.

You are naturally free to think what you like, but you don't expect to be
taken seriously, when you tell someone not to examine possibilities while
offering no method or reasoning for taking such a step.

I can see no reason why I should not contemplate for a moment that the
kingdom of Judah "first came into existence" -- contra your instructions --
at least approximately at that time. It's a valid hypothesis.

PK: Yes, the proposition X "Judah first came into existence shortly before
the time of Hezekiah" is a valid hypothesis and you are welcome to
contemplate it, though such contemplation would be a bit pointless unless
you can find evidence to support the hypothesis. My point, when I wrote
"taking this to mean", was that it would be logically incorrect to state
this proposition X as a deduction, rather than a hypothesis, from the
proposition Y "Judah is first attested in the archaeological record shortly
before the time of Hezekiah". Lack of evidence for the existence of
something is not proof of its non-existence. X is a hypothesis, "Y implies
X" is a logical error.

<snip>

>That is why I am citing texts. Am I not even allowed to talk about the
text?
>This is the b-hebrew list, remember!

Discussing (literal) significances of texts is not the same thing as doing
history. As long as you are aware you are not doing history, you can discuss
to your heart's content. When you think for some reason that what you are
doing is history, then, unless you have changed your methods and started
working using contemporary evidence, you are deluding yourself.

PK: I insist on my right to discuss the (literal or otherwise) significances
of Biblical Hebrew texts on the b-hebrew list, including consideration of
questions of historical accuracy. It is not for you to impose conditions on
what I discuss, though you are welcome to ignore my postings. If anything is
inappropriate on this list, it is your attitude that the texts must be
ignored. The only matters you are prepared to discuss have nothing to do
with Biblical Hebrew. Perhaps you should take your discussions to another
list.

>><snip>

>but
>I outline below good evidence for the divided one (taking "divided" to
imply
>only lack of present unity, not necessarily previous unity).

You are not using evidence at all, but misapplying the mathematics of
probability.

PK: Mathematical probability is an important branch of logic. Without logic
you can get nowhere with your evidence. As for your charge of "misapplying",
please be specific or withdraw your comment.

><snip>
>
>I don't see how you can. The earliest record of Judah (Yaudi) you have is a
>seal of Hezekiah's father, precisely the time when Samaria was suffering at
>the hands of Assyria. Lots of evidence for Samaria before that, none for
>Yaudi. You've got nothing to hang your divided kingdom on.
>
>PK: Yes, I have. Suppose, for the sake of argument, that there is a 50%
>probability that the correct name of any one king of Judah or Israel is
>recorded in the book of Kings.

Peter, you are joking. I can imagine what you would do with a book called
"Creation", which gets so much history right despite the fact that it was
written long after the events, that, according to your attempts at importing
probability into a field where evidence is the rule, your probabilistic
calculations would thrill you.

>[Omitted probabilities]
>Conclusion: very probably the names of the kings of
>Judah in the books of Kings are actual names of rulers of at least a small
>state of Judah, "divided" from Israel. Isn't this argument a reasonable
one?

Obviously not. It's validity is terminally impaired when you think of the
example I gave of a book called "Creation", which describes the ins and outs
of the Persian empire with uncanny exactness. It has a lot of other
unverified material, but, given the exactness of the historical content, the
unverified material must be correct as well according to your logic.

I'm withholding information about "Creation" just as information is not
available to you for the books of Kings. You know nothing about the
writer(s), the means available, sources, or the purposes of writing....

PK: Your statement is incorrect. (I have nailed you down for once!) I know
this book, indeed I have a copy. It is a historical novel, a clearly
recognisable modern genre. Did this genre exist in antiquity? Given that the
author, Gore Vidal, did his research well, I would expect that the book does
give a reasonably accurate general picture of the Persian empire at the time
in question, even though some of the details are unverifiable for this exact
context, because they have perhaps been imported from similar cultures or
from a different period. Though I think he projects rather too far into the
past when he portrays the Jews in Babylon as bankers.

... This
lack of vital information should show the total irrelevance of your
mathermatics. I know for a fact that the unverified material in "Creation"
is not based on what happened in the past, but your mathematics cannot know
or show that.

PK: I assume the unverified material you refer to here is the details of
individual's lives, rather than the general picture which is based on past
customs if unverifiable in detail. But actually the situation is not
comparable because Vidal had access to the evidence we have (except perhaps
for very recent discoveries) and could distinguish in advance what is known
today (with which he made his book correspond) from what is not known (which
he filled in from his imagination). However, the writers of Kings did not
know what evidence would be available in 2000 CE, so the only way they could
ensure that their text agrees with that evidence would be for them to make
it agree with all historical facts. But in fact we find that their text does
agree with the evidence now available. That tends to suggest that their text
is reliable history.

PK: Suppose, purely hypothetically, that after the writing of "Creation"
some evidence is found that several more of Vidal's characters actually
existed. If that evidence was dug up somewhere (and so could not have been
known to Vidal when he wrote), that would be good reason to think that Vidal
was in fact writing history, using sources lost to us, under the guise of a
novel - most unlikely in this instance, but such things have sometimes been
done to get around restrictions imposed by totalitarian regimes, plus there
have been many novels which are disguised autobiographies.

>I know it's not absolute proof, but there is absolute proof of almost
>nothing in this game.

I think the evidence of a strong Israelite presence at Kuntillat Ajrud is as
close as anything you might want to call absolute proof of their presence
there, a presence which argues against any notion of a divided monarchy.

PK: It is evidence which tends slightly against this notion but is very far
from absolute proof of it.

Ian

Peter Kirk




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