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ANAHITA  July 1997

ANAHITA July 1997

Subject:

Re: The age of the OT (response to Jim).

From:

Tilde Binger <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Women and Gender in the Ancient World <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Mon, 14 Jul 1997 03:00:18 -0400

Content-Type:

Text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

Text/plain (186 lines)

Jim,
I do not think this kind of argument belongs on ANAHITA.
Perhaps we should withdraw from the list and continue this discussion
off-list ? Or, mark it clearly so that anyone un-interested can
delete it unread.

I am aware that you are trying to sound like a voice of reason here,
my only trouble - as will be evident in the following - is, that your
"reason" is not reasonable or scholarly sound as seen from the view
of an European university scholar.

For anybody elses warning:
 The following is not terribly relevant for ANAHITA, but arguments of
this kind may be found any day at the Ioudaios-list if you are
interested.

Jim wrote:
> For the record, the faction of Biblical scholarship which treats the bulk
> of the Hebrew Bible/ Old Testament as Persian Period/Hellenistic is
> definitely on the fringe.
It might be in the US or in the circles within which you move, but it
is definitely main-stream, not to say old hat in academic Europe.

> Most Biblical scholars still find the bulk of the Hebrew Bible to
> be pre-exilic.
In Europe, we would say, "most fundamentalists", or, if we are very
kind "most conservative scholars".

But Jim, I would like to know what you term "the bulk".
(The following dates are for the most part taken from Eissfeldts
"Introduction to the OT", from 1964, so the datings are not terribly
revolutionary).
If we look clearly at it, then Chronicles could not
possibly have been written before 586 BCE, neither could Ezra or
Nehemiah. Deuteronomy, and the so-called Deuteronomist history (i.e.
Joshua, Judges, Ruth, Samuel and Kings)  has long been understood as
having been written during or after the exile.
Of the major Prophets, Jeremiah and Daniel has long been acknowledged
to be post-exilic, Ezekiel dates himself as exilic, and Deutero- and
Trito-Isaiah is, by the most conservative standards, post-exilic.
All wisdom-litterature is considered (by even the most conservative
of scholars) to be post-exilic. Ca. half of the minor prophets are (by a
conservative estimate) pre-exilic, the other half is post-exilic and
the same goes for the Psalms.

What is left as pre-exilic are, the first four books of the Pentateuch
(Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers) Song of songs, some Psalms
the first part of Isaiah and about half of the minor prophets.  Of
those, the Pentateuch has, for the past 15-20 years, been considered
post-exilic. This is not only an European view, the original theories
concerning the datings of this part of the OT came independently from
two very fine US scholars, namely John van Seters and Thomas L.
Thompson.
(I know that Hershel Shanks of BAR calls van Seters "a dangerous
nihilist", but this says more of Shanks than it does of van Seters.
van Seters is a very fine scholar of great integrity who publishes
the results he finds, without bending to the dogmatic demands of any
religious community, but this might equal nihilism in the US ?)

To return to the issue at hand: Are these books, (the first 4 books of
the Pentateuch, the song of songs, the first half of Isaiah, half of
the minor prophets and part of psalms), what you call "the bulk" of
the OT ?

> It is a highly contentious issue, but the
> various inscriptions, etc. uncovered over the past century or so has placed
> the extremist late-daters in an untentable position.
I sense a chip on your shoulder here. Am I included in the
"extremist late-daters"? If what you mean is "Tilde Binger" or even,
"people like Tilde Binger" do me the favour of being specific.
I do not feel insulted by being classed with fine scholars of high
personal and scholarly integrity.

IF you see me as one of the "extremist late-daters" (which I by no
European standard am, as is written above, the dates here quoted are
found in a standard text-book from 1964), then you have got the
matter entirely wrong.
Why on earth should any of the inscriptions found over the past
century place me in an untenable position ?
Which inscriptions are you referring to ?
If it is Tell Dan and Merneptah you are referring to, then let's by
all means continue to discuss them, but not on ANAHITA, they are
irrelevant here.

> More moderate scholars,
Well, here again, I would prefer the term "conservative", or even
"religious" or possibly "dogmatic", but I am in a kind mood this morning.

> who believe the bulk of the texts are pre-exilic but some were significantly
> modified in the Persian period, have a more defensible position and receive
> more respect within the academic community.
Which academic community ?
Not the ones found in Europe. Not the academic communities I know,
but then, I do not know every academic community in the world.

...But, concerning datings, I see. You date the texts by dating the
earliest possible part of them. I date the text as we have it, i.e.
the end-product, not the putative but now (unfortunately) lost or
mangled "original".
We cannot, as serious scholars, work with what we do not have,
therefore we cannot work with an "original" but now lost OT. We can
only proceed from what we have, in this case, the finished text.

>    On the Asherah texts--I would wait for more such inscriptions before
> drawing any firm conclusions.  The "asherot" of ancient Israel were either a
> pole or idol erected in a sacred space for worship purposes--related to, but
> not necessarily identified with the god being worshipped.

I do not wish to be rude here, but find myself unable to contain
myself: Nonsense.
"the "asherot" of ancient Israel" were nothing of the kind.
We have - among other things - blessings of Yahweh (or, "of his
Yahu") and blessings of Asherah. If the pole theory should
hold true, then the analogue moderne phenomenon would be "the
blessings of the altar-piece", which would clearly be nonsense.
It is nonsense now, and it was nonsense then.

If "Asherah" is indeed referring to an Idol - or to the more neutral
"cult-statue" (which it might very well be in the OT) - then your
argument does not hold true either. The Idol (and the word alone
here gives connotations of right and wrong) is seen by us, at the end
of the twentieth c. CE, as being a false idol and an empty symbol. It
was not so BCE. The idol was not an idol, it was a cult-statue and
the statue WAS the god (male or female), neither more nor less.

The only reasons - as far as I can see - to maintain the (sorry)
downright silly idea that "asherah" in the OT and in "ancient Israel"
was a thing and not a referent to a goddess are the reasons found in
dogma, and in the fact, that a religious person - be s/he a scholar
or a lay-person - might have trouble handling the fact that her/his
religion might not always have been what s/he thought it was.

> Again, there is so
> little information to go on.  If the illustration is indeed of YHWH and his
> asherah, it could be an illustration of a liturgical act rather than a
> mythological scene.
Pardon my ignorance. What on earth do you mean ?

> Finally, if the ahserah is defined by YHWH ("his
> asherah"), any goddess implied may not be a goddess in her own right, but
> merely the consort of the named god.
Oh dear, and, by inference I guess that "his/her Yahu" (as are the
grammatical and historical indications of the name Yahweh/YHWH, where
the form YHW, without the final Hei is the older) indicates that
Yahweh is not a god in his own right, but merely the consort or son of ...
"his" Asherah ?

What kind of non-argument is this Jim ?
Would you prefer Jesus Christ not to be god in the christian sense of
the word, merely because he is (to misquote a bit) "not a god in his
own right, but merely the son of the named god" ?

> Again, more texts would certainly help clarify the situation.
The texts we have are quite, quite unambiguos on this issue, so why
do we need more ? It would be nice to have, true, but the picture is
very, very clear, and if we were dealing with anything but the
historical roots of Judaism and Christianity, no-one would have any
trouble digesting this..

Best wishes


Tilde Binger
University of Copenhagen
Dptm.of Biblical Studies
Kcbmagergade 44-46
DK-1150 Copenhagen K
Denmark
Phone +45 35 32 36 58
Fax   +45 35 32 36 52
e-mail [log in to unmask]

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