[b-hebrew] Complexity and Dating of Hebrew Texts

dwashbur at nyx.net dwashbur at nyx.net
Thu Apr 23 20:50:44 EDT 2009

On 24 Apr 2009 at 10:27, George Athas wrote:

> Karl wrote:
> There is evidence even among Biblical books. Those that were written before
> the Babylonian Exile show a greater linguistic complexity than those written
> afterwards, e.g. the final three prophets, Haggai, Zakaria and Malachi used
> the language in a simpler manner, as befits those who do not have native
> fluency of the language, than their pre-Exile predecessors.
> ----
> Karl, I'm not sure how you're defining 'complexity' here, but I'd beg
> to differ on that one. 

Like you, I'm not sure what Karl means by "complexity" so I'm going to hold off comment 
until I get more info (hint hint, Karl :-)

The Book of the Twelve must be a post-exilic
> book, and there doesn't seem to be any great disparity between the
> Hebrew of, say, Hosea and Zechariah. 

In its present form, yes.  But in terms of composition, do you suggest that, e.g. Zephaniah is 
actually post-exilic even though there are hints that he was a contemporary (and relative) of 

> I would argue that Ezekiel
> preserves an at times strange brand of Hebrew. 

Ezekiel preserves a strange brand of everything!!!!

Furthermore, you have
> the problem of identifying the date of particular books, which is very
> difficult to do. One could legitimately make the case that some (or a
> lot) of the material in the Pentateuch is post-exilic. 

Dating the texts is beyond me.  I decided that long ago when I decided to take up a little 
project to try and date parts of the so-called Deuteronomic History (a designation I actually 
reject, but use the term for the sake of convenience).  Basically, I focused on the phrase (D 
HYWM HZH, `ad hayyom hazzeh, to this day, as a possible dating tool: X put up a 
monument, and it's still there today, Y built a city and it's still there today, that sort of thing.  
The project never materialized because, quite simply, I couldn't find any datable information 
about the monuments, objects and other items mentioned.  Archaeology can't really help 
because it depends on the accident of preservation, which is capricious at best especially 
where texts are concerned.  So we're left with little more than guesswork.  After the `ad 
hayyom hazzeh project collapsed, I decided that life was too short for me to spend any time 
trying to find ways to date the text.  I'll settle for trying to understand it.

I speak only for myself, of course, and I admire those who have the gumption to plunge in 
and keep looking for reliable dating methods.  

Dave Washburn

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