[b-hebrew] Looking away from the Wellhausen JEPD Theory

belaga at math.u-strasbg.fr belaga at math.u-strasbg.fr
Wed Dec 26 09:42:31 EST 2007

Dear Yigal,

Thank you very much for this attentive, even if not exactly relevant  
to my worries answer.

By the way, I do understand and willingly accept -- eise hu hacham ?  
halomed mi cal adam -- the superior competence, yours and Ytzhak's, in  
the b-Hebrew matters we discuss, so I am really glad to be at this  
moment a newcomer to an intelligent forum, not to the American foot's  
training camp.

(1) First, I wasn't primarily interested in discussing and debunking  
the Documentary Hypothesis. It is already around for a while, and as I  
am aware, many respected researchers just ignore its existence, others  
not, etc.

(2) Defending "crazy" solutions, I didn't mean anything particular on  
this forum, and, say, the "Amarna letters" interpretation, or  
substitution of the Patriarchal Narratives would be as good or as bad,  
and surely as irrelevant to the origins of these narratives as the  
Documentary Hypothesis (another question is the value of the Amarna  
data relevant to the Patriarchal epoch).

(3) My worries relevant to the functioning of this forum are the  
one-dimensionality of the dominant, guiding vision provided by you  
and, especially, Yitzhak.

(4) To illustrate the point: you dismiss or at least intentionally  
ignore all appeals for the SCIENTIFIC respect of the intellectual  
integrity of the Jewish academicians of the pas who have faithfully  
transmitted to us the Biblical texts. Moreover, it was enough that a  
certain mediocre German scientist, systematically referred by Yitzhak  
as "Professor Wellhausen", with no firsthand knowledge in the matter  
(I mean both the Jewish Orthodox tradition and the rich Christian  
theology, mostly Catholic), certainly condescending intellectually to,  
and in the all evidence, disgusted culturally by all Biblical  
narratives as human, if not divine documents (he just was not able to  
mention the priestly texts without a dismissive shrug), -- it was  
enough for this academician belonging to the intellectual school  
preparing the elimination of the Jewish component from the foundations  
of their superior, Arian culture, to suggest that the Pentateuch is  
just a Jewish complot program, worked out by smart ideologues in the  
time of an urgent political necessity, -- that some are ready to fully  
accept it, debunking proudly the rich and fruitful, many thousand  
years long Judaeo-Christian tradition.

(5) You say:

> The main part of your message claimed that the Graf-Wellhausen theory should
> be discounted because its proponents were anti-Semites, predecessors of the
> Nazis.

It is not true, as you see: my main point is that I feel it  
inappropriate that this theory is treated by you and Yitzhak as the  
most "scientific".

(6)On a more personal note, you continue:

> While it is true that every scholar is a product of his or her
> society and generation, and some of them may have actually been despicable
> human beings, the scientific method that I was taught says that one should
> evaluate a theory by what it says, not by who said it.

I do not see that Schopenhauer whom I cite or Wellhausen have been  
"products of their society and generation". They were the educators of  
the perpetrators of horrendous crimes.

(7) As a mathematician, I was also exposed to the problem of how  
accept the work of the truly Nazi or too enthusiastic Soviet  
colleagues. Still, Mathematics is too far away from the core human  
existence. Medicine is not: people who today are trying to use the  
"medical evidence" accumulated in the Nazi camps by such "doctors" as  
Mengele are missing something crucial about what means science.

(8) Science is about integrity, the intellectual integrity in the  
first place, but also about moral integrity.

(9) Linguistic analyses of Biblical texts were initiated by Orthodox  
Rabbis, with the first modern dictionary of B Hebrew belonging to  
Kimche. I do not see why such analysis should be associated with  
Wellhausen in the first place.

> Dear Edward,
> Please don't missunderstand; no-one here has claimed that it is "not
> permitted" to question the Documenary Hypothesis. Quite the contrary -
> Yitzhak has mentioned the many changes and ammendments that have been
> proposed over time, as our understanding of the archaeological,
> geographical, historical, literary and linguistic background of the biblical
> world has evolved. In any kind of science, a theory/hypothesis (and that
> really IS all we are discussing here) is only valid as long as it is the
> most reasonable way to understand the evidence as it is known at the time.
> As new evidence comes in, the theory must be either updated or abandoned. In
> the field of biblical studeis, the past 150 years have produced more
> evidence than did the previous 1500 years, and yet the basic methodology
> behind the DH has proven to be sound. So that while present-day renderings
> of the DH are as similar to the "original" Graf-Wellhausen theory as
> present-day biology is to Darwin's original theory of evolution, it can
> certainly be said that (in both cases) the "original" still stands. Of
> course, an astonishingly new discovery this afternoon may force all of us to
> eat our hats, but I wouldn't hold my breath.
> You are also correct, that in all sciences (not just "hard science") someone
> does occasioally come along and revolutionalize the field. Even if a
> person's "radical new" ideas eventually turn out to be wrong, "rocking the
> boat" and frosing everyone to re-think their positions is a good thing.
> However, the difference between humanistic studies, especially biblical
> studies, and the "hard sciences" is that no-one would dare claim that the
> accepted theories that guide physics are wrong, without first aquiring a
> proper education and the approprate degrees in those theories. In the case
> of biblical studies, many people feel free to criticize without first really
> studying what they propose to knock down. Of course, this is met with
> antagonism from the "professionals". Now it is still possible that someone
> from "left field" might actually be right - but for every persecuted
> Galileo, there are a hundred more would-be wanna-be's who just do not get
> it.
> The main part of your message claimed that the Graf-Wellhausen theory should
> be discounted because its propnants were anti-semites, predecesors of the
> Nazis. While it is true that every scholar is a product of his or her
> society and generation, and some of them may have actually been despicable
> human beings, the scientific meathod that I was taught says that one should
> evaluate a theory by what it says, not by who said it.
> Yigal Levin
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: <belaga at math.u-strasbg.fr>
>> 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 ?
>> Edward G. Belaga
>> ******************************************************
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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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