[b-hebrew] Jim Stinehart's Theories

JimStinehart at aol.com JimStinehart at aol.com
Tue Oct 7 15:08:03 EDT 2008

Karl W. Randolph:
I have typed up drafts of detailed responses to your prior messages.  But I did not post them, because in looking them over, there was virtually no discussion of Hebrew words or Hebrew language issues, which are the focus of the b-hebrew list.
But I will respond to your latest message.  However, I, along with virtually everyone else on the b-hebrew list, want to be discussing Biblical Hebrew language issues, and not get hung up on questioning people’s beliefs.
1.  You wrote:  “Where are you coming from? What is your belief concerning Biblical
My controversial view is that the Patriarchal narratives were composed by the first Hebrew, in the mid-14th century BCE.  There is only one author of the Patriarchal narratives.  The text was later “copy-edited”, modernizing the Hebrew grammar.  But the substantive content was left virtually untouched, so the stories that one sees in the received text are the same, unedited stories that were reported in the mid-14th century BCE, using virtually the exact original wording.  (There are only a tiny handful of editorial additions to the original text, in my view.)
The rest of the Bible, by contrast, was composed by multiple authors, many centuries after the composition of the Patriarchal narratives.
I have no particular expertise beyond the Patriarchal narratives.  I see no J, E, P or D authorship of the Patriarchal narratives.  To what extent JEPD may have composed several other early books in the Bible is beyond my range of interest and competence.
If you are asking about Moses, all I have to say is that the early Hebrew author of the Patriarchal narratives long pre-dates any historical Moses.  The Patriarchal narratives are much older than Moses.  I see the Patriarchal narratives as having been written down, to a certain extent, from the very beginning.  At first, it was just names of people, but then names of places, and then common words generally, were also added to the written account.  The oral tradition of the Patriarchal narratives was always supplemented by written notes, and later by written text.  There was a concerted effort by the Hebrews never to change the substantive content of the Patriarchal narratives, and it never changed.
2.  You wrote:  “On this list we have minimalists who believe that the text is largely
 post-Exile and mostly legendary, going up to maximalists who accept that it
 mostly reflects accurate history, then there are those like myself, other
 Biblical Christians and Orthodox Jews who claim the theological belief that
 it is accurate history, rejecting the Documentary Hypothesis. Where do you
 fit in?”
I am a Biblical Maximalist as to the Patriarchal narratives, which is the one part of the Bible on which I post.  As to the rest of the Bible, you would probably characterize me as being a Biblical Minimalist.  In fact, I have no particular expertise regarding the rest of the Bible.  My “agenda” is to show that the Patriarchal narratives were composed in the mid-14th century BCE, by a single author, the first Hebrew, whose work was never edited substantively, and who lived in northern Canaan, at least north of Jerusalem.  The first Hebrews had to contend with a strange Egyptian pharaoh, whom the first Hebrews worried might not defend Canaan (and the first Hebrews) from a feared military onslaught by the dreaded Hittites from the north.  In my controversial view, this rational, albeit short-lived, early Hebrew fear of a possible invasion of Canaan by the mighty Hittites, under Hittite King Suppililiuma I, is one key to understanding the underlying mindset of the Patriarchal narratives.  In the Amarna Age of the mid-14th century BCE, Canaan was not a safe place!  
I utterly reject the Documentary Hypothesis as it relates to the Patriarchal narratives, which is the only part of the Bible that I post on.  I have no particular view as to whether or not the Documentary Hypothesis may or may not apply to other books in the Bible.
3.  You wrote:  “From recent discussions it seems to me that you have a new theory that I haven't seen before, namely that after the Israelite invasion, east of the
 Jordan under Moses, west of the Jordan under Joshua, during the middle
 bronze age, that the invaders then realized that the civilized inhabitants
 had a "history" telling where they came from, therefore the invaders also
 made up one drawing parts of their stories from the cities around them?”
That is not my theory at all.  The Hebrews are indigenous to Canaan.  The Hebrews did  n-o-t  come from the east.  The Patriarchal narratives open with Terakh’s family being on a one-time caravan trip way out east to Ur to buy lapis lazuli.  But you know that the Hebrew word “am” is never used regarding Abraham’s relatives at Ur or Harran.  No, the word consistently used is “molodet”, meaning “one’s father’s descendants”.  The reason why the text of the Patriarchal narratives never asserts that Terakh’s “am”/ancestors lived in Mesopotamia is because they didn’t.
I do not see the storyline of the Patriarchal narratives as being “made up”.  On the contrary, all of my posts always stress that the Patriarchal narratives very closely follow the well-documented secular history of the mid-14th century BCE.
4.  You wrote:  “That you are quite a high maximalist, saying that this authorship occurred early, during the late bronze age? That the evidence for the dating of these
 legends is the archeology from late bronze age Israel?”
I do  n-o-t  see the Patriarchal narratives as being “legends”.  On the contrary, the Patriarchal narratives were composed in the mid-14th century BCE, and very closely reflect what actually happened regarding the first Hebrews in the mid-14th century BCE.  The early Hebrew author uses artistic license, however, to make everything fit into a smooth storyline.  For example, in secular history it was actually the men of Jenin, not Jacob’s #2 and #3 sons, who killed the leader of Shechem and the men who were with him in a sneak attack that was surprisingly successful.  But that is not a “legend”.  No, it is very closely based on what historically did actually happen in the mid-14th century BCE.  Events like the historical Decapitation of the Shechem Offensive in the mid-14th century BCE were of profound concern to the first Hebrews, who could have been effectively eliminated as a separate people by the aggressive leaders of Shechem (per chapter 34 of Genesis).
As another example (on which I’ll do a post later), one key to understanding the Sodom sequence in the Patriarchal narratives is to do a linguistic analysis of the name “Sodom”.  That’s the type of issue where there’s considerable expertise on the b-hebrew list.
As to “the archeology from late bronze age Israel”, that is very important.  But instead of focusing on buildings, I am more interested in inscriptions.  What I have been working on for the last year is documenting that all 15 cities and regions where the Patriarchs are portrayed as sojourning in the text are historical names of historical cities and regions in Late Bronze Age Canaan, north of Jerusalem.  The key is to examine the inscriptions from the mid-15th century BCE (shortly before the first Hebrews appeared) and the mid-14th century BCE (the Patriarchal Age), and then compare these ancient non-Hebrew west Semitic inscriptions to the Biblical Hebrew of the last 40 chapters of the received text of Genesis.  I am particularly excited about Late Bronze Age inscriptions that I see as evidencing the name “Arbe” or “R-B city”, for Kiriath Arbe, and the word aleph-bet-resh as the basis for the Hebrew name “Hebron”.  Given the great deal of expertise in Biblical Hebrew by you and many others on the b-hebrew list, I see this as the ideal forum for setting forth these controversial ideas of mine, which argue for a composition date of the Patriarchal narratives about 700 years earlier than scholars currently see as being the case.  The key is to understand how the early Hebrew author of the Patriarchal narratives uses Hebrew words and puns, which should be the long suit of the b-hebrew list.
5.  You wrote:  “If you have developed such a theory, please explain. We could then integrate your claims into a coherent whole. Right now, you are coming across as a
 nutcase with excessive verbiage.”
I do not post on the Exodus, the Conquest, Moses, or on much of anything except the Patriarchal narratives.  Many people may think I am a “nutcase” for seeing the Patriarchal narratives as having been composed by a single early Hebrew author in the mid-14th century BCE, with such composition never being substantively edited thereafter.  But I relate each and every story in the text to what actually happened in the mid-14th century BCE.  In particular, as just noted I am currently working on matching all 15 cities and regions where the Patriarchs are portrayed as sojourning to well-known Late Bronze Age inscriptions in Canaan north of Jerusalem.  One of the main reasons why scholars have overlooked these well-known inscriptions to date is because scholars uncritically accept the 2,500-year-old traditional view that the Patriarchs are portrayed in the text as usually sojourning south of Jerusalem when they are in Canaan.  That simply is not the case.  That is not what the text says.
The only way to establish the historicity of the Patriarchal narratives, in my opinion, is to get the basic geographical facts right in the first place.  After leaving Beth-el, Abraham went west of Beth-el, to “the well-watered meadowland place”, which he called “Hebron” (the Patriarchal version of the aleph-bet-resh from a mid-15th century BCE inscription), located 17½ miles west of Beth-el.  The valley there (Genesis 37: 14 refers to Hebron as being a “valley”) was  i-d-e-a-l  pastureland in Canaan.  That interpretation of the text is sensible, instead of the traditional view, which is entirely illogical, that Abraham chose to take a huge flock of sheep and goats and 318 armed retainers “up” into the “hill” country at the city of Hebron, 20 miles south of Jerusalem, a locale where there is precious little good pastureland.
What may prove the validity of my new theory of the case is that there is no “Arbe” attested south of Jerusalem in the ancient world, and no name “Hebron” attested south of Jerusalem prior to the 8th century BCE.  But I have found inscriptions from the mid-15th and mid-14th centuries BCE which I think are non-Hebrew versions of “Arbe” and “Hebron”.  It’s a question of analyzing these Hebrew names, and non-Hebrew possible equivalents of these Hebrew names from the Late Bronze Age.  That’s what I’m interested in, and that’s what I post on.  Rather than talking about general theories, I want to discuss how individual Hebrew words in the text of the Patriarchal narratives may or may not match up with non-Hebrew west Semitic inscriptions from the Late Bronze Age.  If we can get the historical geography of the Patriarchal narratives right, and understand the brilliant use of Biblical Hebrew punning in the Patriarchal narratives, then we can determine the historical time period of the composition of the Patriarchal narratives and of the Patriarchal Age, both of which I myself see as being the mid-14th century BCE. 
Jim Stinehart
Evanston, Illinois

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