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

Peter Kirk peterkirk at qaya.org
Wed Mar 16 19:02:14 EST 2005

On 16/03/2005 21:16, Yitzhak Sapir wrote:

>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). ...

I realised even as I wrote before, and so as well as "innocent until 
proved guilty" I wrote about "the lesser burden of proof which applies 
in such cases". If we want to keep up the legal analogy, a better one 
would be a civil case, in which two parties are claiming damages from 
one another. And I continue to play the role of judge, and for the time 
being, pending further evidence, my judgment is that neither side has 
proved its case and so neither side will be awarded damages. But you, 
Yitzhak, started this discussion, so you are the plaintiff, and so the 
greater burden of proof is on you. You can't launch a lawsuit and then 
require the other side to disprove a case for which no positive evidence 
has been produced.

>... 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. ...

I accept that many people have long held the position that this verse 
and a few others, and the last chapter of Deuteronomy, were added after 
the time of Moses. But an odd verse or two is not authorship but 
redaction. A whole chapter is perhaps a matter of authorship, and I 
would not dispute any claim that this one chapter and perhaps a bit more 
is not of Mosaic authorship but was written after Moses' time - perhaps 
by Joshua as traditionally believed. But your claim is much wider than 
this, as I understand it that none of the Pentateuch is from Moses' 
time. And this is the claim for which no evidence has been presented.

>... 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.

I am not even going to suggest a date because I am playing the judge. 
You are suggesting a date after 1000 BCE for the whole Pentateuch, I 
suppose. The most I will say is that the alternative position is that 
essentially the whole Pentateuch was written by 1000 BCE, with only 
minor editorial changes after that.

>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. ...

It is negative evidence because it is evidence from silence. There is no 
proof that Heshbon did not exist during the time of Moses because there 
can never be proof from archaeology of the non-existence of anything, 
because so many things can be and have been destroyed through the millennia.

>... 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. ...

True, but this is a claim that Moses spoke these words, and that the 
text is a reliable and accurate (although I would not claim precisely 
word for word) record of what Moses spoke on a particular occasion. 
Again, it is a claim which needs to be tested, but it is a claim.

>... 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.

I agree that this is an interesting endeavour (note the spelling 
change!), but as far as I can tell the evidence is negative on both 
sides. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. Heshbon, 
unfortunately, doesn't seem to help us in either direction.

>... 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. ...

At Qumran we find both Genesis and the Genesis Apocryphon, as two 
separate and distinct works. The former seems to have been copied 
carefully without detailed editing - at least we clearly see this 
picture with Isaiah, in which there were spelling changes but almost no 
content changes between DSS and MT. But the latter was a distinct work 
which made no claim to be a copy of the book of Genesis - it is a 
different work, perhaps like Chronicles is a different work from KIngs 
and not the result of copyists making small changes. I'm sure if a 
copyist was asked to copy Genesis and produced something like the 
Genesis Apocryphon, he would immediately be fired, or the equivalent at 
that time, for not doing his job properly.

>... 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.

I am well aware that modern, and indeed mediaeval, scribal practice with 
the Torah was very different from what I suggest. But, as you have just 
pointed out, practice in the Second Temple and earlier periods seems to 
have been different.

>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.
The Documentary Hypothesis has been under increasing fire in recent 
years and is by no means accepted by all scholars. This list does not 
belong to those who accept it, or to those who reject it. Yitzhak, you 
started this, and it is for you to make your case.

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

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