A 'Thrashing' Floor?

b.gardner at abdn.ac.uk b.gardner at abdn.ac.uk
Fri Mar 9 02:10:30 EST 2001

Hi Bill,
        May I recommend Jacob Neusner's 'Between Time and Eternity' for just 
one alternative way of seeing the biblical accounts? You are correct that the 
remarks by Samuel must indicate an underlying philiosophy - doesn't everything?

However, the approach Samuel represents to you takes account of the text as it 
stands and it doesn't have to posit lost sources and traditions for the which 
no evidence is presented it seems, to explain the uncomfortable discrepancies.

Those discrepancies show evolving theological perspectives inside a growing, 
overall, Jewish tradition which involves both the editing and canon, and the 
Kings/Chronicles analogy is, at least, one clear, logical way of seeing the HB.

For other examples of theological history revised from different perspectives, 
look at the 'doublets', such as the wife/sister stories in Genesis 12, 20 and 
26, and Exodus17/Numbers 20 versions of water from the rock. Genesis 1:1-2:4a 
and 2:4bf, roughly-speaking show the update (1:1-2:4a) of a previous tradition 
(2:4bf) judged by the relative sophistication and abstraction of the first over 
the second, with its recognisably priestly concern with sacred numbers inside a 
universal conception of God as Creator of the whole world (cf. Isaiah 40) which 
to me indicates the Exile, Return and after, because the universal world-view 
is compatible with the syncretistic approach of the Persians whose victory over 
Babylon set Jews (who chose to be so) free to return to re-establish Jerusalem.

As a particular example of the uneasy alliance between Judaism and Mesopotamia, 
note there is a duality of number 6/7 in the Creation story. The distinctive 
Babylonian number system was based on 60, the wonder of the ancient world, and 
the Jews were focused on their religious number 7. In the Creation narrative, 
the Creation is made in 6 days, representing earth's limits in the achievement 
of science and mathematics in Babylon, which could measure the heavens and had 
records of astronomical observation going far back in history. But God rests on 
the seventh day and the Jews show their distinctive relationship to the Creator 
himself by their worship on that day. The duality shows how some Jews learned 
the science of Babylon (cf. Daniel 1 which even if not proven to be historical 
nevertheless represents attested Babylonian re-education policy for captives) 
while, at the same time, keeping their own religious counsel. The same Priestly 
writer, dealing with the years of Noah and his son Shem, uses another variation 
on the base-number 60: in Noah's 600 years to the Flood mirroring Shem's age.

The Chronicles, in the original Hebrew Bible, do not appear after Kings, as in 
the Christian Bible, but as the conclusion to the whole canon. That is: where 
the Bible of Christianity ends with Malachi 4, the Hebrew Bible ends with 2nd 
Chron 36 and so the Hebrew Bible ends with the Decree of Cyrus. This gives the 
clear impression (since the Chronicler's history starts with Adam) that, very 
like Revelation in the Christian canon, there is a challenge to Israel in some 
sense to 'go up' applying to the Chronicler's age and thereafter to all Judaism.

Secondly, our Samuel is attempting to see the text as it was in Judaism rather 
than imposing a late Second Temple - even Christian - agenda upon it. Thirdly, 
it is an approach which need not exclude faith, whereas your position seems to 
depends on faith and a particular view of historicity to underpin its validity.

Finally, I hope - remembering my earlier remarks about the link (unconscious it 
seems to Christians) between very definite 'Christianities' and fascism - that 
there will never be any need, or desire, in any of us, to 'beat' those with a 
different view. It may be that as historicism loses credibility even with those 
thinking evangelicals that once defended it, the diehards will turn to force. I 
myself saw a McCarthyite victimisation of a community leader in an evangelical 
part of Scotland because he simply asked a public speaker on Creationism if the 
six days of Genesis 1 could be six epochs. To me, it was non-question in a way 
since Genesis 1 is not OUR science, but even that variation brought a reaction.

I know there may be many historicist Christians who might not be so oppressive, 
but it does seem to follow where a faith-position refuses to respect any other.

So, please, no more talk of beating. We are doing our best to get to the bottom 
of the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament. Let's try to show respect where we disagree.

Yours tolerantly,


> Samuel wrote:-
> >There is no need to try to accommodate the two accounts. It is quite obvious
> >what has happened. The writer of Samuel is thinking only of what the GROUND
> >would have been worth, and merely wants to make it clear that David paid a
> >generous price, amply more than it was worth. For the writer of Chronicles
> >this is not enough. He is thinking of what the TEMPLE was worth. Such a
> >paltry sum as a mere 50 shekels of silver as an initial outlay is unworthy
> >of the temple. The price should be a figure that sets a standard for the
> >opulence and slpendour of the temple. So he makes the figure 600 shekels of
> >gold.
> >
> >This is the way religious history is written.
> It seems Ian hasn't beaten you for making such statements so I'll do
> his job for him. 
> This is nothing more than pure conjecture. It tells us more about your
> belief system than it does about the text.  It is no more plausible
> than other attempts to harmonize the accounts or the suggestion that
> the original tradition was split in to two at some indeterminate point
> in the past and continued to develope independently. Can you give us
> any other evidence, apart from your personal belief, that your version
> is correct? Can you demonstrate "This is the way religious history is 
> written"? Even if you can, how can you be sure you can apply it in this
> particular case?
> Bill Rea, Information Technology Dept., Canterbury  University  \_ 
> E-Mail b dot rea at it dot canterbury dot ac dot nz             </   New 
> Phone   64-3-364-2331, Fax     64-3-364-2332                   /)  Zealand 
> Unix Systems Administrator                                    (/' 
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