[b-hebrew] Wellhausen

Yitzhak Sapir yitzhaksapir at gmail.com
Sat Dec 29 14:33:01 EST 2007

On Dec 28, 2007 3:23 PM, K Randolph wrote:

> > Already the Talmudic sages were divided on the last verses of the Torah,
> > and others (prominently Ibn Ezra) also noted anachronisms.  These were
> > all good god-fearing people who believed in prophecy, and yet they allowed
> > that anachronisms are not necessarily explained by prophecy.   What is
> > significant, however, is that a prophecy can tell the future, but it
> > speaks to
> > the present.  Thus, even a prophecy of the future should show signs of
> > recognizing all the conditions (for example, the political conditions) of
> > the
> > time it was given, even if they would be long gone by the time the
> > prophecy
> > is fulfilled.  Someone who substantiates a text's anachronisms on
> > prophetic
> > grounds, must still show how it applied to the time to which he believes
> > it was originally given.
> This is a view of prophecy that is not accepted by many on this list. The
> moment that the requirement that a prophecy apply also to the time it was
> given is removed, so also the "anachronisms" connected with them are
> removed.
> You are adding a requirement that did not exist in the original text, i.e.
> you practice eisegesis.

The one who is adding is the one who claims that a given verse is in itself
prophetic.  If we get the verse, "These are the kings of Edom who ruled in
Edom before a king ruled in Israel," that verse cannot be assumed to be
in any way prophetic without adding things not in the original text.  However,
if you claim that it is prophetic, then I think the very least is to restrict
yourself to examples of known prophecies from the Bible, whether true or
false.  These always speak to someone.  They always convey the prophecy
in terms that person understands.  Furthermore, they always use certain
grammatical forms to relate to the future, even if that is the "prophetic
perfect."  In any case, any verse or anachronism which is claimed to be
in truth not anachronistic but prophetic, and which does not claim by itself
to be prophetic, then at the very least, the claim that reads into the Bible
that it is prophetic must show how it speaks in terms that the purported
hearers understand, and using grammar that is consistent with other known

Shoshanna Walker wrote:
> Could you please give me some examples of archeological evidence that
> is incompatible with many details of the Torah.
Karl Randolph wrote:
> I echo Shoshanna Walker here concerning archeological evidence.

I intend to deal with this in some way in the response to the Kenneth Kitchen
article I just read, but here are some non-exhaustive examples.  I do not intend
to argue them through.  Please read the book by Finkelstein and Mazar for
further information.  What I list below is in general agreement by all
archaeologists of Israel (although I may be corrected -- I'm basing myself on
Finkelstein and Mazar here, primarily):

There were no Philistines in Canaan during the time of the Patriarchs
Camels were not domesticated and used in caravans as in the time of
the Patriarchs.
There is no evidence for a population of the order of 600,000 having
stayed or left
Goshen.  Even Kitchen agrees that that evidence must exist.  (See the reply on
his point which I'll send later on today or tomorrow).
The time of Conquest at around 1200 BCE is the most logical time
because that is when many hilltop settlements appear which later become the
Israelite towns.  Any other dating for the Conquest is more
problematic.  But even
this date is problematic:
Heshbon, Arad, Ai, and Yarmuth were not inhabited during
These new hilltop settlements also appear in the Transjordan, but Moab didn't
conquer Canaanites.
While both Hazor and Lachish were destroyed around this time, Hazor was
destroyed approximately one hundred years prior to Lachish.
Furthermore, continuity in all aspects of life in the Israelite towns
suggests that
they were no other than the Canaanites who lived there prior to the destructions
and upheavals that took place in the end of the Late Bronze Age.

For more information, please read Finkelstein/Mazar, "The Quest for
the Historical
Israel".  Here is part of Mazar's discussion in that book about the Patriarchs:

"During the 1970s, John Van Seters and Thomas Thompson suggested, in two
detailed monographs, exilic or post-exilic dates for the entirety of
the Patriarchal
traditions, and argued against their affinity to any second-millennium BCE
backgrounds.  Their views became influential, and today most scholars indeed
define the Patriarchal tradition as a late invention with no
historical validity.

"Yet the questions of when and with whom these stories originated and what is
the background to their creation can still be asked.  I continue to
believe that
some of the parallels between the second-millennium BCE culture of the Levant
and the cultural background portrayed in the Patriarchal stories as mentioned
above are too close to be ignored, indicating that perhaps certain components
in the biblical stories are recollections of memories rooted in the second
millennium and preserved through common memory and oral traditions.  Such
stories and traditions could have been transmitted orally over many generations
until they were inserted into the biblical narrative sometime during the first
millennium BCE.  To be sure, in the process of oral transmission, many features
had been lost, expanded upon, distorted, or changed over the ages, and still
others, reflecting much later historical situations, added.  This does not mean
that the stories should be taken at face value as reflecting the deeds
of actual
people, nor should they be taken literally as reflecting actual
Israelite history.
On the contrary, this aspect of the stories may indeed be a late innovation.  I
merely wish to claim that some elements of the second-millennium BCE milieu
mentioned above, such as private names, place-names, and the status of a
Semitic prince in  the Egyptian court, may suggest that the stories contain
kernels of old traditions and stories rooted in second-millennium BCE realia.
As we will see below, this line of thought can be applied to the Exodus and
Conquest traditions."

One example of such a memory is suggested by Mazar to be Hazor's burning
by fire.  Hazor was in the 2nd millennium BCE a very large city-state, larger
than any other, and the palace and temples in Hazor were indeed burned to
the ground.  So the mention of Hazor's burning, in exception to the rest of the
towns in Joshua 10-11, and its designation as the "head of all these kingdoms,"
does fit (Josh 11:10-11).  It suggests a cultural memory which survived among
the traumatized peoples of Canaan.  But Lachish was not destroyed "without
a trace" before Hazor as in Josh 10:31-33.  It was destroyed a hundred years
later.  So Joshua is not historical, but some of the details are based on
authentic memories.  Other details, as is the entire structure of the book,
are not.

Yitzhak Sapir

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