[b-hebrew] Yahwism (was: their altar)

Peter Kirk peterkirk at qaya.org
Tue Mar 8 06:29:01 EST 2005

On 08/03/2005 08:48, Yitzhak Sapir wrote:

>I fail to see the relevance of such arguments as the KKK 
>metaphor. ... do you 
>intend to suggest the probability of an opposing scenario 
>has the same probability as all of American society 
>disappearing and only Ku Klux Klan material surviving?  
>That probability is equivalent to zero. ...

I accept that the KKK was perhaps too extreme a scenario. But the point 
was the simple one, that it is very dangerous to assume that any single 
example, chosen effectively at random, is typical of a whole society. 
And all the more so when the example comes from the geographical fringes.

For a real parallel, consider Aramaic of the 5th century BC, the Persian 
period. It is well known that this language was widely written. But the 
only extensive surviving materials are the Elephantine letters, written 
by Jews living in Aswan, on the very fringes of the Persian empire (and 
presumably preserved because of the exceptionally dry climate of Upper 
Egypt). If we were to take these letters as typical of Persian religion 
(and if we rejected all accounts of Persian religion not proven to be 
contemporary e.g. in the Bible and Herodotus), we would conclude that 
the Persians practised a form of Judaism. I doubt if anyone accepts this 
logic. But it seems to be the same logic as you are using concerning the 
fringe settlement of Kuntillet Ajrud.

>... In that case, yes, we may suggest 
>that Kuntillet Ajrud was a pilgrim site for non-Israelites. ...

I didn't suggest a pilgrim site. What I had in mind was a trading centre 
where trade routes met, and where a non-typical group of international 
travellers may have set up shrines nominally to their home deities but 
also have mixed in elements from the different religions they had come 
across during their travels. In other words, classic syncretism.

>... It may even be the most likely scenario, given your goals. ...

What do you mean? What goals do you think that I have? My only goals 
here are to find the truth, and to oppose hypotheses for which there is 
insufficient evidence, especially when they are presented as unqualified 
assertions and so inevitably confuse some, especially any beginners who 
may be on this list.


>Peter Kirk wrote:
>>Not necessarily, only that very little written material 
>>has survived. 
>For what it's worth, that is what I meant by "writing at all 
>is very rare."  Nevertheless, do you have some way to 
>explain why very little survived prior to this period and 
>quite a lot (relatively) survives afterwards? ...

Yes. Writing at this period was mostly on perishable materials. Only 
later were imperishable materials used. I note that many later survivals 
are ostraca, scraps of pottery used when other materials were not 
available and so a sign of poverty or siege conditions, not wealth. 
There is also a general shortage of archaeological evidence for this 
period in Israel and Judah (and in fact for every part of the 
Mediterranean world), but that is a separate issue.


>I fear you are not following me.  The goal is to argue for 
>consistency between J and Kuntillet Ajrud, religiously 
>and politically.  For that, I don't need any later sources, 
>nor do I need to concern myself with the possibility that 
>the contemporary inscriptions and J are all injected with
>some value system.  That is the whole  point.  To show
>that the value system of J is consistent with the value 
>system of Kuntillet Ajrud.  For that matter, J could 
>easily be a made up document picked at random from the
>Torah.  That doesn't mean it won't have statements that 
>would translate to a value system, and that this value 
>system can't be compared to Kuntillet Ajrud.
OK, I understand that you don't need other documents for the limited aim 
of comparing Kuntillet Ajrud with J, although you do for determining 
whether this is typical. But this comparison does require that J is a 
meaningful document. At least, if J is in fact a random selection from 
the Torah, a comparison with Kuntillet Ajrud (itself a random survivor 
from Israelite religion of the period) is meaningless. And if, as I in 
fact hold, J is a selection from the Torah which is not random but 
selected for its religious outlook, then any parallel with Kuntillet 
Ajrud tells us more about Wellhausen and co's presuppositions than about 
ancient religion.

Peter Kirk
peter at qaya.org (personal)
peterkirk at qaya.org (work)

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