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

Yitzhak Sapir yitzhaksapir at gmail.com
Wed Mar 16 16:16:11 EST 2005


You cannot claim impartiality nor claim that "I am not making
any claims" when you adopt the "innocent until proven guilty" 
approach.  That approach is partial to the suspect in criminal
cases, for the simple reason that we fear to judge him guilty 
unjustly.  We would rather let some guilty go free than let
some innocent be unjustly imprisoned (or worse).  So in adopting
this approach to the biblical material, you are adopting the side
of the biblical claims as they have come to be understood after
traditional classical commentary.  It is actually this commentary
that first seemed to see in the discussion of Gen 36:31 a claim
to Monarchic authorship of parts of the Pentateuch.  With the
systematic archaeological digs and surveys of the past century,
even this classical side needs to find a way to support its
position with regards to archaeological evidence, so that claiming
it has convinced scholars for thousands of years is somewhat
misleading.  First let us see a way that matches the Biblical
claims to archaeological evidence, and then we can relate to
those claims.  As hard as it is to prove something did not
exist without relying on claims of silence, it is even harder
when you yourself would not commit to a date for the time
this something supposedly existed.

In any case, Heshbon was not taken as negative evidence in
attack of the position of Mosaic authorship.  It is positive
evidence for dating the Pentateuch to the Monarchic period.  I 
don't think the Pentateuch has to be read in such a way that
claims the Pentateuch, not the statements contained therein,
not the speech of Moses, but the Pentateuch was written in
Mosaic times.  Because most of the Pentateuch, even Moses'
speech, is surrounded by descriptions of past events ("This is
what Moses said..."), it so happens that the Pentateuch itself
makes no claim as to when it was written.  Not many passages
in the Pentateuch stand out as speaking of the time of the
author(s) of the Pentateuch but the passage in Numbers is one 
of them.  Using it to date the Pentateuch by matching it up with 
the building of Heshbon is an interesting endeavor and I think the
fact that the passage seems to match up with some datings of JE
is interesting even more.  If you would like to argue the Pentateuch
is of Mosaic times, and this passage refers to some other as yet 
unexcavated Heshbon, it would be you who argues from silence.

On a second point you mentioned, the spelling of the Pentateuch
may have been "updated" to Second Temple conventions but it 
stopped at this time.  As an example of apparently ancient 
spellings maintained in the Pentateuch, I could point to the 
spelling of the feminine pronoun "she", spelled "hw)" in the 
Pentateuch almost exclusively, while it is clear that the newer
spelling was "hy)".  [This example is somewhat problematic in 
that I would like to be able to connect it to First Temple spelling 
of the masculine pronoun "he" as "h)".  But I know of no better 
explanation.] We are entitled to ask and try to ascertain in light 
of these, how much freedom scribes had in copying their texts, 
and how much freedom was limited in the Second Temple period.
Was it just the spelling that stopped changing?  Or perhaps 
editing the whole was stopped?  Examples from Qumran, such as 
the Genesis Apocryphon and the Book of Jubilees, that suggest
that rewriting the Pentateuch was considered acceptable into the 
late Second Temple times, might point in the direction of the latter.  
Besides, I don't know if you have seen how a modern scribe copies
the Torah, but your claim that he would routinely update spelling is 
simply flat out wrong and the reality is quite the opposite.

Lastly, the list is very close to an academic list and many
scholars participate.  It seems that if we should be partial or 
accept any position as the primary approach, it should be the
approach accepted by the current scholarly community.  This
approach views Deuteronomy as a product of no earlier than
the late Monarchic period, and views the Documentary 
Hypothesis theory with most acceptance although its problems
are recognized.  The other suggestions and alternatives
proposed have thus far not gotten anywhere near the 
consensus that the Documentary Hypothesis has achieved.

Yitzhak Sapir

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