[b-hebrew] Academic Debate

K Randolph kwrandolph at gmail.com
Tue Oct 30 22:39:14 EDT 2007


I studied archeology (not much, enough to get my feet wet), have been
out on a dig, but mostly have studied the materials brought in by
other digs. With rare exceptions, the materials recovered after two or
more millennia make up only a very tiny amount of the physical
culture, and from that archeologists need to speculate to try to get a
halfway full picture, and that only of the material culture. What
about the immaterial aspects of culture, the dreams, ideas, songs,
paintings, etc. .... gone, all of it.

I used to think that the archeologists were discovering sooo much,
until an archeologist brought me up short with this assessment: while
historians may complain about the incompleteness of Thucydides' record
of the Peloponnesian War, there is absolutely no archeological record
that it ever occurred, If we were to depend on archeology, we would
not know that it occurred. The written record is the only record we
have of it.

Compared to the invisibility of a major war in the archeological
record, the mere total depopulation of a land following an invasion
that destroyed only the major, fortified cities for only 70 years
would be even more invisible. There are many places in the world where
houses that have been abandoned for centuries can, without a lot of
work (replace a thatched roof, new door and windows, that's all) be
made livable again. 70 years is short enough that many houses out in
the villages would need only a major cleaning plus minor repairs to be
made livable again. That sort of repopulation after such a short time
would look like continuous occupation in the archeological record. If
the land was totally depopulated, the only way we could know is from a
written record.

Which brings us back to an analysis of the text. Does the text
indicate a total depopulation? Jeremiah 43 is pretty clear—everyone is
everyone. In fact, within the context, it's twisting the language to
make "all" mean something other than all.

The question is, did Jeremiah tell the truth in this historical
record? There's another record from 2 Kings 25 that says the same
thing. Are they independent records of the same event that support
each other?

Because of two records written within a couple of generations of each
other, apparently independent of each other, both claiming the same
thing, shouldn't that be more trustworthy than claims based on
archeology of an event that should be invisible to archeology?

Now we get to the theological question, that of inerrancy. To the one
who trusts the theological meaning, that is frosting on the cake. But
that is outside of the realm of this discussion board, so I will say
no more.

Notice, even without referring to the theological argument, I already
indicated the primacy of written records over archeological
discoveries. Archeology is a great tool, but in this instance, we are
asking more of it that it can deliver.

Karl W. Randolph.

On 10/30/07, Kevin Riley <klriley at alphalink.com.au> wrote:
> -------Original Message-------
> From: K Randolph
> Date: 31/10/2007 11:38:57 AM
> There is yet another question: is the external evidence of such a quality as
> to impeach the written record?
> ********************************
> Is not the primacy of the written record a presupposition?  You are assuming
> that it is accurate, and then demanding that the evidence for other views be
> persuasive before you will consider revising your understanding of the
> written record.  I think we all agree that proving God wrote anything is
> outside our capabilities, so are we not instead left with the question of
> whether the written record accurately [however you wish to define that]
> represents reality?  In other words, the historical record that you say is
> not sufficient to warrant reconsidering the written record, also is not
> sufficient to warrant accepting the written record.  If you do not start
> with the assumption that the written record is accurate - I.e. literally
> factual - then your conclusions can be very different.  If you do not start
> with the assumption that "all" must mean "everyone" as opposed to "most
> people" - which is a possible meaning elsewhere - or that the record is just
> an eyewitness account rather than a rhetorical piece with an agenda and so
> the use of language may be rhetorical rather than literal, then there is no
> reason to insist on the primacy of the written word as understood literally.
>  Unless we specifically include the authorship of God and an understanding
> that that in itself guarantees accuracy - which we cannot do if we wish to
> study the Hebrew text in a group like this - then we are all left only with
> historical evidence and our understanding of linguistics with which to argue
> our case.  I don't believe either can deliver a knock-out blow for either
> side on this question, but some of us find the evidence persuasive enough to
> read "all" as "most people".  It obviously isn't persuasive enough for
> everyone, and unless we are to address the issue we all avoid [due to list
> rules] of inspiration and inerrancy, is it possible to come to a conclusion
> or are we just restating what we have said many times before?  How much
> evidence does it take to persuade someone who holds to a belief in an
> inspired inerrant scripture that *one* text in the Bible/Tanakh is wrong?  I
> suspect about the same amount as it takes to convince an atheist that God
> did inspire an inerrant scripture.  I doubt that much evidence exists.
> Kevin Riley

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