[b-hebrew] Wellhausen

Yitzhak Sapir yitzhaksapir at gmail.com
Thu Jan 10 03:43:33 EST 2008

On Jan 9, 2008 11:27 PM, K Randolph wrote:

> The author admitted on p. 10 of the .pdf (page 26 of the original) "A major
> difficulty in dealing with our subject is [sic] the biases relating to
> biblical and extra-biblical texts." He fleshes out the problem on this and
> the next two pages. Yet it is clear from his discussion that the "biases"
> are no more, no less than ideological (religious) beliefs.

The author is Amihai Mazar, and I did not see where he discusses religious
beliefs.  Not all ideology is religion.  Even Mazar does not dispute that
certain archaeological evidence is incompatible  with other claims of the
Bible.  I posted some of his comments on the issue, and you can read it all
yourself in his book published together with Finkelstein.  Don't take what he
says out of context.

> By 1889 there was already more than 80 years of teacher-student process,
> affecting even in the U.S. At that time, many Americans got their training
> in Europe, especially their graduate school training. Furthermore, who did
> that American professor count as "Old Testament scholars"? Did he have a
> broad, or restricted view, and if restricted, how restricted?

Wellhausen published his Geschichte Israels) in 1878.  While the theory had
developed and based upon concepts developed earlier -- its roots can be traced
back to the Talmudic discussions on the authorship of the last verses of the
Torah -- his formulation, integrated with a historical account of the
of ancient Israel, led to its widespread acceptance.  As far as I am aware, the
formulation as indicated in the article I posted of Prof. Moore includes
concepts based on Wellhausen's formulation.  If the theory had won widespread
acceptance beforehand, then Wellhausen's formulation would be just one
possible way of viewing the generally accepted Documentary Hypothesis, of
which the earlier widespread formulation was accepted.  Just because
Wellhausen refined a previously developed idea does not mean that everyone
now accepts his refinement.  As for the use of the term "Old Testament
scholars," why should it be restricted?  Prof. (Rev. Dr.) Charles M. Mead is
named as one of these scholars.  Perhaps instead of asking questions that
cast doubt but have no basis, you should provide evidence for your assertions.

Also, in your response to Bill, you continue to claim that the Documentary
Hypothesis along with advances of Biblical literary analysis is based on an
ideology.  What ideology was behind Ibn Ezra's suggestion that the book of
Isaiah was written by two different authors?  Instead of continuing to voice
your assertions, perhaps you should respond to the evidence which has
already been elaborated against your claims.

In any case, the appropriate way to view a theory is not to try to analyze the
ideology behind the methodology first, and definitely not based on some
external source, but first to read it yourself, in a modern statement that takes
into accounts changes and refinements as ideological and methodological
flaws have been answered and sifted out, and then, having read the theory,
to try to read reviews and counter-arguments by others who have read the
same book.  Afterwards, even if there are flaws, ask yourself -- can I restate
the theory in such a way that the ideological flaws are removed to my
satisfaction?  One such book would be Friedman's "Who wrote the Bible?"
My guess is that you haven't read it, but I guess I must ask anyway: Have
you read it?  Have you read any modern statement of the Documentary
Hypothesis?  Have you ever tried yourself to test the Documentary
Hypothesis objectively?

I did.  I had only read criticisms of the DH by religious authorities when it
occurred to me to test the DH.  Using a concept that I read in a different
connection (Zoroastrianism), I looked at the frequency of the use of the
word "iron" in the Bible, and compared its frequency in the Pentateuch
to other books.  One of the original considerations was that the Iron Age
is pretty much only considered to have begun at 1250 BCE, which is
widely accepted by conservatives as the date of the Exodus.  Of course,
more conservative datings, such as yours, have more devastating results.
The book of Deuteronomy cannot be differentiated from other books of
the Deuteronomistic History in its frequency of the use of the word "iron,"
although the other books of the Pentateuch have much lower frequencies.
(There are also definitely late books with low frequencies, such as Esther).
Because of its use in other portions of the Bible, I could not ascribe such
differences to genre.  Moreover, ascribing the two portions (Deuteronomy
and the rest) to different schools was more convincing.  The most
reasonable conclusion was and remains that the Pentateuch is a composite
work.  While it didn't prove the DH itself, it showed that the basic assumption
of the DH had some force to it.

You don't have to look for the word "iron," although I think you would be
surprised at the results when you compare with other ancient documents
of the time to which you date the Exodus.  But did you ever try to test the
idea that the Pentateuch is a composite work?  Is there any test that you
could construct that would convince you that the Pentateuch is not
a unified work?  Yes, we may not have the original documents that made
it up -- but that doesn't change the fact that the final work may be a result
of composition.  So how would you determine if the final work is or is not
the result of composition including, among others, sources much later
than Moses, allowing for the possibility that in the second case, the
original independent source documents did not survive?

Yitzhak Sapir

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