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

Peter Kirk peterkirk at qaya.org
Mon Mar 14 05:59:39 EST 2005

On 13/03/2005 16:37, Yitzhak Sapir wrote:

>...  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.

This procedure, even if valid, provides no such grounds. It is common 
practice for many schools of copyists to update spellings - as you will 
find when you compare the DSS Isaiah scroll with the MT consonants, and 
is even more clear when from New Testament manuscripts. But a change of 
spelling does not imply a change of authorship, but only superficial 
editing (possibly unconscious) to fit modern standards.

>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. ...

Not at all, concerning the Asa episode. You cannot make a passage which 
says "black" say instead "white". The passage as it stands paints 
Asherah worship black, with no compromise. There may be good reason to 
consider this black to be a later coat of paint. But that is not 
evidence that in fact at the time Asherah worship was white. The paint 
analogy is not a perfect one, because in this case there is no way of 
stripping off a new coat to find what lay beneath. If we reject the 
blackening as unreliable, we are left with no information either way 
about the previous colour.

Even the argument that Asa's mother Maacah approved of Asherah worship 
cannot be used as it is simply unsafe to accept part of a sentence 
("because she had made an image of Asherah") while rejecting the rest of 
the sentence "Asa deposed his mother Maacah ... repulsive". If the 
rejection and deposition is a later fiction, then the idolatry may just 
as well be.

As for Exodus 34:13, to quote your words, "why should we pick the 
Massoretic over the Septuagint or the Samaritan?"

>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?

I agree that basing reconstructions on Kings is somewhat speculative, 
although less so than some of yours in that I am working from an actual 
existing text, rather than from a speculatively reconstructed text like 
J. But you ignore my repeated point, that we can say almost nothing one 
way or the other, because, as I have accepted, both sides are 
speculative. But you continue to try to tilt things so that your side is 
preferable to what you consider to be mine, although there is in fact 
even less evidence for your side than for mine.

>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. ...

You misunderstand me. I didn't mean that they were religious 
professionals. I doubt if there were any at K. Ajrud. I mean that they 
were regular people, traders, who were religiously observant, as perhaps 
everyone was in those days.

>... 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, ...

Again, I note that you bring up Kings when it suits you. But it doesn't 
help you here; there is no reason to suppose that the building built for 
Elisha was holy or off limits to ordinary people.

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

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