What other ancient Hebrew texts?

b.gardner at abdn.ac.uk b.gardner at abdn.ac.uk
Thu Mar 1 16:13:34 EST 2001

> Raymond wrote:
>  > On 26-02-2001 15:44 Karen Spray <karen.spray at lineone.net> wrote:
>  >
>  > > I was wondering what (if any) other Hebrew texts of comparative antiquity
>  > > exist which might shed light on word meanings etc in the Hebrew Bible.
>  >
>  > Karen,
>  >
>  > there are Hebrew inscriptions dating from the biblical times. However, they
>  > do not help very much with regard to the meaning of words, though sometimes
>  > they do.
>  >
>  > On the other hand, sometimes they are rather revolutionary with regard to
>  > the religion or history of ancient Israel. For example, an inscription from
>  > Kuntillet `Ajrud mentions that Yhwh has an Ashera. An inscription from Tel
>  > Dan (though in Aramaic) mentions the _BYTDWD_ which refers to the house of
>  > David (see http://members.nbci.com/gathas/teldan.htm for much more
>  > information).
> Agreed.  At the same time, it's necessary to use caution when
> interpreting what these items really mean.  In particular, does the
> Kuntillet `Ajrud inscription indicate that ancient Israel *universally*
> and consistently believed YHWH had an Asherah, or does it
> indicate a localized phenomenon that took place during one of
> Israel's many reported periods of idolatry?  People's answers will
> vary with their presuppositions about things like what we can know
> about ancient Israel, how reliable the biblical texts are, the history
> of religions and other aspects of the field.  But in most cases, there
> are several ways of looking at the implications of these brief and
> often cryptic messages.
>  > In case you're interested in some additional material for the study of the
>  > meaning of (Biblical) Hebrew words, you will have to study some other
>  > NW-Semitic languages, like Aramaic and Ugaritic.
> Most definitely.  Ugaritic has done a lot for my study of Hebrew,
> Aramaic (non-biblical kind) less so but still useful.  I found
> Akkadian negotiable; in some cases it seemed to shed a little light
> on the Hebrew language, but not much and not very often.  I spend
> almost no time in that one any more.  Your Mileage May Vary.

Dear Tony and All,
                 I think one has to beware of accepting a strict biblical (and 
especially the particularist) view of history as the ancient norm in religion.

These were only versions of Jewish reality in the politico-religious milieu of 
that time.  There is the example of Elephantine where not only did Yahweh have 
a wife, Anath-Yahu, but there seems no conscious sense of disloyalty to Judaism.

Ernst said history was the propanganda of the victors but in religio-historical 
terms it could be said that propaganda may have been the history of the victors!

Bruce Gardner.

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