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

Yitzhak Sapir yitzhaksapir at gmail.com
Sun Mar 13 11:37:14 EST 2005


"Innocent until proven guilty" may be a good policy for judicial 
use, since we don't want to hang the innocent.  But it's a bad 
policy for scientific work, because we don't want to assume 
that which is baseless.  In the end, any science must, of 
course, take certain axioms upon assumptions -- even 
mathematics, the most exact of all sciences.  Generally, though,
we try to minimize that which is assumed to the bare minimum.
Another problem with this policy of "innocent until proven guilty"
is that it assumes a black or white scenario - either the bible is 
innocent or it is guilty.  If I point out that the battle of Qarqar is
not mentioned in Kings and this is important information that
changes our entire perception of Ahab, you might conclude that
the bible is "innocent" as it simply was selective in the 
information it provided.  I might conclude that it is "guilty" 
because I find out I cannot make useful historical assessments
based on the information it provides.  An "innocent until proven 
guilty" also assumes that one manuscript is correct over another 
without particular substantiation.  For example, why should
we pick the Massoretic over the Septuagint or the Samaritan?

Lastly, by assuming the Pentateuch is dated to Moses, you 
are first making assumptions about when Moses lived, which I 
pointed out is not that clear.  However, you are also assuming 
that when the Pentateuch refers to "this torah" it refers to the
Pentateuch in its entirety and not specific verses.  Thus, you 
are assuming a specific interpretation of the words is correct 
in order to date your text.  One can read the Pentateuch
without making this interpretation and based on various verses
(such as Gen 36:31-39, Nu 21:28-30) that reference events 
that occured during the Monarchy as events of the past or 
present, conclude that the Pentateuch is no earlier than the 
Monarchy.  These are just some examples of "doubting the
Tanakh's authors" based on historical grounds.  There are
many others, and you should read modern critical
commentaries to get some ideas of the issues.

Now, would you be willing to provide your methodology for
determining how to prove if the bible is "innocent or guilty?" 
for if you don't even set out to prove or put the bible "on trial," 
you are in effect simply assuming the bible is "innocent."

But I think where you are definitely wrong is in trying to make 
an historical analysis of the language based on your beliefs 
of the date of the books.  I think today it is possible to make 
some reasonable historical reconstruction of important parts 
of the language based on inscriptional evidence alone, and 
this is much more useful than a reconstruction based on 
supposed datings.  This would show that even the 
Pentateuch (and the entire Bible, actually) is written in 
spelling that does not predate the exile.  This provides the
linguistic grounds for doubting the authorship.


It seems to me that some progress has been made now, 
since you accept that the historical sources (Kings, mainly) 
cannot provide evidence for the condemnation of Asherah in 
earlier times.  I agree, that since this is evidence from silence, 
this in itself cannot be used as evidence.

This is why the final step is to look for evidence for the contrary
position - that Asherah-type worship of Yahweh was done in line
with the establishment view.  Since I have already detailed this
view, you might just want to reread it.  Namely, the Asa episode
and Ex 34:13 can be read as implying that Yahweh may have
had an Asherah and that this was accepted by religious/royal
authorities.  Together with a lack of inscriptions blessing by 
Yahweh alone in this early time, this points to Yahweh worship
at this time including Asherah. 

I do find it interesting, that originally, though, you claimed that
"we have historical records in the books of Kings, as well as the
Mesha stela."  Now, though, when I presented a possible
interpretation of the Mesha stele, you say that it is speculation
upon speculation.  It is speculation to interpret the Mesha stele
or the book of Kings as agreeing with one point of view, but it is
hard evidence when used for the Deuteronomistic point of view?

As for your comments regarding Mt Carmel, I point out that I
do not accept the claims made by the book of Kings at all.  I
simply asked whether there is any grain of truth to this Mt. 
Carmel episode.  I suggested this grain of truth might be mass
conversion to Yahweh and set out to test it by comparing the
royal names.  I do not know if Mt. Carmel was involved in this
mass conversion.  I start out by testing for general claims that
can be useful for historical reconstruction - in this case, mass
conversion to Yahweh.  So working out specific dates, and even
pointing to the name of Abiyam, is not a problem, since I'm not
dealing with specifics here.  Each of those specifics will have to
be authenticated or verified separately.

Now, it is nice you agree that the people at K. Ajrud were
"obviously" religious people.  I personally would have used the
word "likely."  Anyhow, it is unlikely that "religious people," 
prophets or priests, would have allowed "regular people," even 
believers, to enter their holy site.  The prohibitions regarding the
Temple, as well as the behavior of Elisha in 2 Ki 6:1-3, suggest
that prophets and priests tended to seclude themselves in the
specific sites they inhabited, and I believe various ANE parallels
could be brought up for this.  So this further makes in unlikely 
that merchants would have used these rooms, in my opinion.


You had earlier claimed that not a single "Israelite" name 
refers to a goddess.  I have tried to look up the references,
and one (Rise of Yahwism) was unavailable to me.  Regarding
Tigay's study, I note that it seems to cover mostly 8th century
onwards, and does not contain names prior to this period.  (It
actually cannot, for there is insufficient inscriptional evidence).
Since I suggested there is reason to believe a mass conversion
to Yahwism occured around this time, evidence from prior names
may be much different.   Just as an example, it occured to me
that Avital (2 Sam 3:4) could refer to T.al, the daughter of Baal 
in Canaanite myth.  I am uncertain whether the "Ab" (father)
renders this impossible but in light of clear modification of 
Biblical names so that they don't read as idolatrous names,
the problematic reading of such a root as a verbal form,
and the fact that this name is probably to be read as a feminine
name, the possibility that it refered to a goddess cannot be
excluded.  Nevertheless, when I say that Yahweh worship in
the 9th century probably included Asherah, I take no position
on what Asherah may mean, and it does not have to mean 
"consort" or "goddess."  I actually stated that the word in 
Ex 34:13 seems to me to mean an object used in worship 
and not a diety.

Yitzhak Sapir

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