[b-hebrew] Looking into the Wellhausen JEPD Theory

belaga at math.u-strasbg.fr belaga at math.u-strasbg.fr
Sun Dec 23 22:39:01 EST 2007

Dear Ytzhak and Yigal,

I do not agree with the currently dominant academic interpretation of  
the historical roots of the Biblical narratives. Such disagreement is  
permitted in hard sciences where the modern upheavals have  
demonstrated the value, if not necessity of sometimes apparently  
"crazy" ideas.

How then could I discuss with you my doubts ? Your strict adherence to  
the currently dominant academic positions and norms has finally  
convinced me to expose here my supra-academic worries in the case, the  
real source of my anxiety. Sorry if it might sound for your ears as a  
heavy metal music. But let me start.

If it is permitted to question the accepted for centuries authenticity  
of the Patriarchal Narratives and, more generally, of the Hebrew  
Bible, as well as the good faith of its "creators", it is surely  
permitted to question the academic authenticity and the academic good  
faith of the Graf-Wellhausen JEPD Theory.

The problem is that, starting with at least Arthur Schopenhauer, the  
German school of thought, the academic school of thought including,  
has been slowly approaching the vision and the will which, at the  
hands of the Nazis, became the academic theory and will of the  
extermination of the Jews, starting with their mental and intellectual  
extermination from the religious, cultural, and intellectual scenes.

In his book "The World As Will and Representation" (Volume I, Dover  
Publications, New York 1969. Translated from the German by E. F. J.  
Payne), Schopenhauer writes, as always very eloquently (page 232):  
"Historical subjects have a decidedly detrimental effect only when  
they restrict the painter to a field chosen arbitrarily, and not for  
artistic but for other purposes. This is particularly the case when  
this field is poor in picturesque and significant objects, when, for  
example, it is the history of a small, isolated, capricious,  
hierarchical (i.e., ruled by false notions), obscure people, like the  
Jews, despised by the great contemporary nations of the East and of  
the West. Since the great migration of peoples lies between us and all  
the ancient nations, just as between the present surface of the earth  
and the surface whose organisms appear only as fossil remains there  
lies the former change of the bed of the ocean, it is to be regarded  
generally as a great misfortune that the people whose former culture  
was to serve mainly as the basis of our own were not, say, the Indians  
or the Greeks, or even the Romans, but just these Jews."

This, in my opinion, explains in particular the primary super-cultural  
and meta-scientific motives and purposes of the Graf-Wellhausen JEPD  
Theory. These relatively modern (from two hundred to fifty years old)  
ideological undercurrents of their and their followers and peers  
theories are much better documented and easier verified than those of  
the supposed late "creators" of the Biblical narratives. As to the  
Archeological data left to itself, it is certainly very far from  
speaking so obligatory and single-mindedly in the favour of the  
Graf-Wellhausen JEPD Theory or any other similar theory.

This said, I do not simplify, and surely not negate the importance of  
the problem of the Bible historical, literaty, and linguistic origins.  
I am actually working on an article related to these origins (but not  
to the Graf-Wellhausen JEPD Theory, sorry).

It would be certainly a mistake to construe these my remarks,  
difficult even for me - a "hard scientist" as I am - to spell out, as  
an accusation of those who today believe in, and work on the  
Graf-Wellhausen JEPD Theory to be Jews-haters or Jews-bashers. Too  
historically guillible ?

> On Dec 23, 2007 8:26 AM,  wrote:
>> > Your previous statement on the subject: "It is nice to see that many
>> > people on this
>> > b-Hebrew list do not accept the majority view of today's secular
>> > academic scholars
>> > that the Patriarchal narratives are a myth created by multiple
>> > southern Hebrew authors
>> > in the mid-1st millennium BCE," was more reasonable.  Take out
>> > "southern", "mid-",
>> > "secular", and replace "are a myth" by "were", and you have an
>> > accurate statement.
>> > ................
>> > Yitzhak Sapir
>> Dear Yitzhak,
>> Thus, the accurate statement should be, according to you:
>> "The Patriarchal narratives were created by multiple Hebrew authors in
>> the 1st millennium BCE."
> The correct statement which I feel Jim Stinehart would have been justified
> posting is:
> "It is nice to see that many people on this b-Hebrew list do not accept the
> majority view of today's academic scholars that the Patriarchal   
> narratives were
> created by multiple Hebrew authors in the 1st millennium BCE."
>> What really troubles me in this "accurate" -- and correct? --
>> according to you claim, is the term "created". Why not just to say
>> "were written down»?
> Because that is not the view of the today's academic scholars.
>> My proposal does not reflect my opinion on the subject, but it is
>> still looks sufficiently reasonable for me and potentially amendable
>> for corrections, in the case of new discoveries, to be passed by
>> without too much objections.
> The issue is not "new discoveries."  The issue is current discoveries.
> It's not that evidence is lacking.  It's that there is evidence to the
> contrary.
>> It is just because the authoritative majority of learned Jewish
>> "academics" of this early epoch, to which even the Documentary
>> Hypothesis is obliged to assign the "creation" of the narratives in
>> question, were deeply religious people, for whom "the spirit" and "the
>> letter" were not yet divorced, or worse still, for whom "the spirit"
>> was nonexistent and only "the letter" was real, as to many of us, that
>> we can be absolutely sure that these academics(whom I admire for their
>> scientific and spiritual perseverance in the time when all books were
>> written and when wars were destroying libraries forever) have written
>> down something known to even children for many centuries with the most
>> great accuracy. Oral precedes written and the written, in its
>> beginnings, faithfully reproduces the oral (see, for example, the
>> articles of Frank Polak, of the Tel Aviv University).
> Let me respond to this by saying that it took me quite a while to figure
> out what you're trying to say here.  It seems to suggest that the texts
> were written down and copied accurately, and that the written tradition
> faithfully reproduces the oral received tradition.   You quote Frank Polak
> on the subject, and it seems one main article of his that deals with oral
> vs written is available here:
> http://www.jtsa.edu/Documents/pagedocs/JANES/1998%2026/Polak26.pdf
> But if you read Polak's essay you'll see that even he accepts the Documentary
> Hypothesis, and that his theory is about discerning which elements   
> were written
> earlier in the 1st millennium and which later.  (You'll note that this
> issue is one
> of the comments I made to Jim Stinehart).  Furthermore, when he discusses
> "oral," he explicitly claims that "this thesis is not intended to   
> mean that this
> corpus itself was oral." (p 102, p. 44 in the pdf).  I'll also point
> out that the
> discussion which concludes that late 9th century BCE Mesha stele must
> indicate that certain sources must have been composed prior to the Mesha
> stele is probably to be challenged on various grounds including: 1) Moabite
> literary development must be distinguished from Samarian and Judean literary
> development, 2) his central thesis that simpler constructions date   
> earlier needs
> to be tested against attested evidence, and if attested evidence   
> indicates that
> already the earliest attestation is complex, then the basic   
> conclusion must be
> that perhaps simpler and complex constructions can coexist.  Finally, Frank
> Polak's position on the issue must be considered the most conservative end
> of the academic spectrum.
>> This said, personally, I do believe ? for historical, psychological,
>> and, yes, spiritual reasons outlined above (which does not mean
>> ?fundamentalist? and even "religious", as this word is spelled out by
>> unbelievers, -- your original unfortunate, discriminatory terms which
>> have the potential to destroy the very climate of the academic
>> objectivity that you are so much promoting) -- that the Patriarchal
>> Narratives were written down much earlier than the 1st Millennium BC.
> You may want to go back to the message to which I responded where the
> original poster used terms much harsher than "fundamentalist."
> "Fundamentalist,"
> however, has a specific meaning and it was also the self-adopted name of
> a particular group of people, historically.  As such, it refers to a  
>  person who
> adheres strongly to a set of basic beliefs such as the infallibility
> of the Bible
> and Mosaic authorship.  Primarly, the fundamentalist movement rejected the
> Documentary Hypothesis along these lines.  I don't see any problem then in
> using "fundamentalist" in this context, and I think it is very
> appropriate.  Your
> personal conclusions are yours, but I stand by my original statement  
>  that given
> what we know today, the archaeological evidence does not support an earlier
> date.  Again, I recommend the book by Finkelstein and Mazar.
> Yitzhak Sapir
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Edward G. Belaga
Institut de Recherche en Mathématique Avancée
Universite Louis Pasteur
7, rue René Descartes, 67084 Strasbourg Cedex, FRANCE
tel.: 333 90 24 02 35, FAX: 333 90 24 03 28
e-mail : edward.belaga at math.u-strasbg.fr

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