[b-hebrew] Dahood on `ecah, derek, mow$ab

Dave Washburn dwashbur at nyx.net
Thu Oct 2 23:37:23 EDT 2003

On Wednesday 01 October 2003 14:31, Peter Kirk wrote:
> On 01/10/2003 12:42, Dave Washburn wrote:
> > ...
> >
> >Bryan,
> >Dahood's approach really threw the scholarly world for a loop when it
> > first appeared, because his extensive use of Ugaritic in his lexicography
> > stood the field on its collective ear.  Some of his proposals are
> > speculative, as Peter suggested; however, Ugaritic exists and we need to
> > deal with it.
> >Unfortunately, that means that a lot of folks' houses of cards come
> > tumbling down if Dahood's approach is viable.  Hence, the scholarly world
> > has done with Dahood's commentaries on Psalms what it frequently does
> > with drastic new ideas based on new evidence: it has ignored them in
> > favor of Qumran and the versions (again, see Peter's response).
> I don't think this is fair. Dahood's reconstructions were not ignored
> arbitrarily. Before Dahood's commentaries were published, his
> methodology of reliance on a cognate language had already, along with
> all other etymological approaches to determining the meaning of words,
> been thoroughly weighed in the balance and found seriously wanting by
> James Barr, e.g. in "The Semantics of Biblical Language" (1961). Most
> scholars have accepted Barr's arguments and so rejected such etymologising.

I'm glad you clarified the Barr reference in a separate post, because I didn't 
remember any such material in "Semantics" (I did like his critique of TDNT).  
It's been a while since I read him, but to call Dahood's approach 
"etymologising" is also unfair.  Those who call his approach etymological 
haven't really understood him, IMNSHO.  Granted, he sometimes goes too far, 
but then, so do plenty of others.  And of course, "most scholars" can be and 
often are, wrong.  I also suspect that this statement about "most scholars" 
is a bit overstated.

> >Dahood in his lifetime was aware of this trend; in a festschrift for Cyrus
> > H. Gordon he wrote an article, "Ugaritic and Phoenician or Qumran and the
> > Versions" (_Orient and Occident: Essays Presented to Cyrus H. Gordon on
> > the Occasion of his Sixty-Fifth Birthday_, ed. by Harry A. Hoffner, Jr. 
> > AOAT 22 Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener Verlag, 1973, p. 53-58) in which
> > he argued strongly that evidence from the Palestinian/Canaanite
> > languages, Ugaritic and Phoenician, is much more important and useful
> > than the Qumran materials for understanding the HB.  I highly recommend
> > it.
> I haven't read this. It does sound interesting. But does Dahood, writing
> twelve years after Barr, give a convincing answer to Barr's criticism of
> his methodology?

He didn't mention Barr specifically, which may suggest what kind of impact 
Barr's criticism had on the circles in which Dahood moved (disclaimer: this 
is pure speculation on my part).  What he did was give profuse examples from 
all over the Hebrew Bible to illustrate his points about the usefulness of 
Ugaritic and Phoenician for both textual criticism and exegesis.  He referred 
to a number of published responses to his methodology, as well.  But the bulk 
of the article consists of examples that further illustrate and support his 
approach.  NB: one problem with the article is his inconsistent 
transliteration scheme, but a couple of careful readings can overcome this.

Dave Washburn
"God does a lot of things in the Psalms
that He can't get away with in systematic theology."

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