Iron and Bronze

Ian Charles Hutchesson MC2499 at
Wed Sep 4 13:00:03 EDT 2002

> > Given I think enough evidence for an earliest date
> > for the writing of Genesis (including the iron
> > discussion), I would like to know what evidence puts
> > the first writing of Genesis traditions before the
> > exile?
> Do want to go down the oral tradition route again?

I don't think you have considered the points I listed. Your hopes for an oral tradition, though such is probable in some form, require late datings for its formation if it assumes the existence of the Philistines in Southern Levant. The Abraham story in the context of Philistines has either changed bad guys or was written long after the  Philistine arrival. The torah simply doesn't know that the Philistines arrived after the Hebrews were supposed to be in Southern Levant. The mention of  Kittim in the table of nations says it was probably first written (ie it is a literary work and not anything to do with any oral tradition)  in the first millenium BCE. What are the Hittites doing in the area when historically they never made it that far south? Etc, etc. 

> I was only curious really about the possible use of
> 'iron' pre-iron-age. Personally I take most of the OT
> to be reliable as far as the narrative, but also
> appreciate that others hold a different view.

You may take whatever you like to be reliable. In public however you need to be able to defend such highly improbable positions, otherwise they come down as faith and on the par of any faith positions, be they Christian or Hindu.
> Although there may not be any evidence for an oral
> form of these texts (well there wouldn't be, would
> there!), I still believe that they were capable of
> being transmitted nearly entirely intact to successive
> generations. 

The magic word above is "believe". We are attempting to deal coherently with the past and its literature. Your beliefs have little directly to do with this. We usually talk about what is consistent with the evidence. To understand a literature you need to understand its milieu.

> People even today have memorised entire
> books of the bible, one gentleman even committed the
> entire new testament to memory a couple of years back.
> I'm sure there a Jewish scholars capable of similar
> feats!

Umm. Yes, I know. You have jumped the gun however and entered the realm of rearguard apologetics. Instead of taking the approach of looking at what evidence there is, you are proposing possibilities of why things don't seem to be the way you want them to be.
> This may explain the text being "updated" in areas
> where place names etc have fallen out of use, but on
> the whole I stick to its reliability.

How do you know which parts are updated or not when you have no historical frame of reference outside the text which you will trust? 

Is the tribe of Dan not as has been proposed really a member group of the sea peoples, ie the Danoi, who arrived on the coast in ships? Aren't the Perizzites and the Hivites merely vague local memories of the Philistines and the Achaeans, two more groups of the sea peoples? The persistence of this sort of information points to an oral heritage, but not one that you might appreciate.

> If you haven't a TV then histories and stories are a
> compelling and valuable resource to entertain and to
> pass on valuable information about your ancestors. I'm
> sure they would have been considered priceless.

Historiography is a relatively newfangled thing, which emerged in the writings of some Greek historians in an evolution from the time of Herodotus. The word history comes from the source of our word story. Before the separation there were only stories.
> So in summary, however old books like Genesis can be
> proved to be, to me they are the oldest stories I know
> of and I 'believe' them to be in origin much older
> than the later books (in regards of narrative).

Why don't you attempt to give some substance to your belief in the age of the texts? Look at the historical context that can be reconstructed from the archaeological and epigraphic record. Did the Hebrew language exist prior to the tenth century BCE? If not in which language were these oral traditions of yours? Why are there no Egyptian words in the basic Hebrew language? (Not simply a few names, but after hundreds of years in a more advanced culture not a single word to describe the benefits of that culture remains.) If there is evidence against the exodus, what hope is there for the traditions which are placed before it? 

You should read about Erra, Gilgamesh, Zuisudra, Sinouhe, Wen-Amun and a host of others who are definitely pre-biblical to get a perspective of the literature of the Ancient Near East. Of course there is a lot of religious literature as well, Mesopotamian, Ugaritic, Egyptian...

Ian... H.

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