[b-hebrew] Tithing and Wellhausen: Part I of II

Stoney Breyer stoneyb at touchwoodcreative.com
Fri Dec 28 14:31:21 EST 2007

Jim Stinehart -

YOU: Why don't you see aleph-mem as meaning "if " at Genesis 28: 20?
ME: Because it can just as readily mean 'when' or 'since', which in this
context is a more sensible interpretation.
YOU: (a)  I do not think that II Samuel was composed in the 2nd
millennium BCE. That's impossible.
ME: I didn't really think you did ;) But you still haven't answered the
objection, which is that that's a consequence of your argument.
YOU: (b)  It may well be true, as you allege, that some writers of the
Bible " repudiated Levite pretensions".  Yet my point still stands.
There is nothing in the Patriarchal narratives that indicates that the
author of the Patriarchal narratives knew that there would be a line of
Levite priests in the 1st millennium BCE.  That is consistent with my
controversial view that the Patriarchal narratives were composed in the
mid-14th century BCE.
ME: Well, I'll accept that "Nothing ... Indicates that the author ...
ACKNOWLEDGED a line of Levite priests." Which is consistent with MY
(equally controversial) view that the Patriarchal narratives were
composed in the reign of Solomon.

YOU: In my view, that is a 1st millennium BCE reaction to the truly
ancient Patriarchal narratives, &c
ME: OK, you think that Samuel was written in response to Genesis; I
think that Samuel provides the Sitz-im-Leben for Genesis. Not much room
for compromise there, so maybe we'd better drop that one.

YOU: (1) Haran, who does not even survive his own father.  
ME: OK, I'll buy that

YOU: Note that the passage you quote says nothing whatsoever about
Abraham " crow[ing] about the badger game his hero pulls on Pharaoh", as
you allege.
ME: Never said Abraham crowed. I said the author crowed.

YOU: the Patriarchal narratives are centuries older than the rest of the
Bible.  That's precisely the point I am 
ME: That's the point you're advancing, but you're taking your
demonstrandum as your demonstrant. That's circular.
YOU: the Patriarchal narratives come straight out of the well-documented
secular history of the mid-14th century BCE.  
ME: Well, for my money the PN come straight out of the Court History of
David, which is not documented but DOES appear in the same collection of
texts - a not entirely irrelevant consideration.
YOU: no scholar supports my controversial theory of the case.  To date,
no scholar has been brave enough 
ME: It doesn't take courage - it takes conviction.

YOU: All scholars, whether religious or atheist or agnostic, insist
rather on interpreting the Patriarchal narratives through the prism of
the Book of Exodus.  
ME: Not me. I interpret the PN through the prism of the Book of Samuel
(and the early chapters of Kings).

YOU: If the Documentary Hypothesis were valid, wouldn't scholars be able
to show the mid-1st millennium BCE origin of the 
Patriarchal narratives without resort to the Book of Exodus?  They
can't, you see.  If they could, they would, but they can't.
ME: They're not trying to. Wellhausen set out to show that the
Pentateuch, taken as a whole (as it almost universally was when he
started), should be disintegrated into four distinct religious
ideologies. The scholarly consensus is that by and large Wellhausen got
it right, and ever since source-critical scholars have been squabbling
about who wrote which verses and why and when and where and whether
there weren't maybe six authors and two editors and so forth - or
possibly just one Maccabean encyclopedist making the whole thing up...
Plenty of heat to warm your hands at, and some light to see by.
Eventually people found other interesting things to say about these
texts, so the source-critical stream has dwindled considerably.

Your thesis has nothing to do with any of this. You argue that JEPD have
nothing to do with Genesis; in effect, you introduce a fifth author -
shall we call him/her G?

Now I, personally, am sympathetic to your effort, because I take a
similarly unconventional attitude toward the authorship of Genesis; but
I'm not convinced by your interpretation because I don't see that it
provides one whit more intelligibility to the PN than my own
interpretation. A difference, however, is that I don't publish my
interpretation and call scholars names when they don't take it
seriously, because I know the difference between forensics and
scholarship - between "it could be this" and "it unquestionably is
this." My interpretation, like yours, is circumstantially plausible; but
there's nothing in it to recommend it to scholarly interest. If I ever
do publish it, it will be in the form of a novel, not a monograph,
because as Aristotle says, in poetry the plausible impossible is
preferable to the implausible probable. There I will address such issues

* Who wrote the works in question
* For what audience
* To what end, and
* How they came to be enshrined in a religious tradition to which they
were in many respects hostile.

Can you do that?

Stoney Breyer

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