Dating the Pentateuch

Walter Mattfeld mattfeld at
Wed Jun 13 23:43:06 EDT 2001

Dear Jonathan,

The strong points in your logic as I see them are two. First, your
observation that Media (Madai) is mentioned but not Persia, and secondly,
that the Primary History (Genesis-2Kings) ends ca. 560 BCE (cf. 2 Kings

In regards to the ending of 560 BCE- this certainly supports your notion
that Persia has not yet arrived on the world scene as a great power, as
Cyrus doesn't prevail over Media until ca 550 BCE, which would explain why
Persia isn't mentioned in the Table of Nations, if it was written ca 560

However, some assumptions are at work here. Just because the narrator chose
to end his story of the Nation in 560 BCE doesn't mean neccessarily that he
wrote it at that time. It could be a composition of any time thereafter. If
I chose to write a history of the United States and ended it in 1776, might
not some future archaeologist think it was written in 1776 ? One of the
clues that it is a composition of the 20th century would be the word forms
and expressions of the language. They aren't the words and expressions of
the 18th century. There would be other clues to the text's true age. Now, of
course, this is all well known to you. You are aware that tradition claims
the Pentateuch was written by Moses ca. 1446 BCE (cf. 1 Kings 6:1), and by
your own admisssion, you recognize that Meshech is the Muski mentioned by
the Assyrians ca. 8th/7th centuries BCE, providing a marker to date the
You are also aware of the Wellhausen paradigm that posits a Priestly
redactor at work in the Pentateuch, and that he is dated by some authorities
to the 5th century BCE. If you buy into the plausibility of a 5th century
BCE Priestly redactor, why can't you buy into Noah's blessing for Japheth
being a blessing for Cyrus and the Persians in the 5th century BCE, and that
Persia's claims on Athens as being their patrimony because their ancestor
Medus of Athens was wrongfully deprived of his inheritance (per Datis the
Mede's letter to the Athenians) in 490 BCE ??? Do you resist the notion that
a 5th century Priestly redactor could have written Noah's blessing for
Japheth, intending to honor the Persians as Medes (Daniel understands
Persians to be Medes, Herodotus at times lapses and calls the Persians Medes

All the best,  Walter

Walter Reinhold Warttig Mattfeld
Walldorf by Heidelberg
Baden-Wurttemburg, Germany

----- Original Message -----
From: Jonathan D. Safren <yonsaf at>
To: Biblical Hebrew <b-hebrew at>
Sent: Wednesday, June 13, 2001 9:57 AM
Subject: Re: Dating the Pentateuch

> The Table of Nations (Gen. 10) mentions Media but not Persia; Ionia but
> Doria; the Romans are not at all within the ken of its author. It mentions
> the Scythians and the Mushku, known to us from 7th century BCE
> I imagine that "fundamentalist" minimalists will claim that this is
> archaizing; but I see it as clear evidence for an early date of
> But we've already had this argument, Walter!
> Yours,
> Jonathan D. Safren
> Chairman
> Dept. of Biblical Studies
> Beit Berl College
> 44905 Israel

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