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Monthly Archives: July 2010

Κατά τας Γράφας ή Καθώς Γεγράπται;

According to the scriptures, or as it is written?

Here is an interesting exchange arguing that the Pauline resurrection account at 1 Cor 15:1-9 is a post-Mark, yet pre-Matthew addition to 1 Corinthians.

Jiri

It is my understanding, Andrew, that most exegets read a portion of this passage (3-7) as a ‘credal statement’ by Paul for which he uses phrases seen nowhere else in the corpus or ideas which at variance with what he says elsewhere. Examples of non-Paulinisms are, “according to the scriptures” (κατα τας γραφας, where Paul routinely uses καθως γεγραπται – “as it is written”), “was buried”, “the third day”, “he was seen” (note that the only other Paul’s “seeing” Jesus (1 Cr 9:1) is in active perfect, while the “seeing” Jesus in this passage is passive aorist – Jesus “being seen (by)”). Am I correct in accepting that it would be the majority view of NT scholarship that at least this portion of the passage, Paul would be using church credal formulas rather than his own customary conceptual framework ?

Let us say then, FSOA, that Robert Price was not first exeget who saw these non-Pauline turns, and the curious bunching of “novelties” here for the Pauline repertoire, i.e. the notion of ranking the apostolic mettle on the basis of Jesus appearances, the mention of “The Twelve”, the 500 to whom Jesus appeared before James and Paul, the idea of Paul “unfitness” to be an apostle (directly contradicting Paul’s “competence” granted by God – 2 Cr 3:5), Paul seeing himself as eκτρωμα, against everything else he says about himself vis-a-vis other men in flesh believed to be apostles. Now, if it is accepted by a large group of scholars that Paul articulates in the passage credal norms existing prior to his conversion rather than his own ideas, what is the evidence that would make this the preferred interpretation, say, to the notion that these credal manifests were written up later in Paul’s name ?

Much obliged.

Best,
Jiri

Andrew

Hi Jiri

I think we can agree that parts of this passage are in origin non-Pauline ie they are either pre-Pauline material that Paul is using (which in effect taking the passage as authentic is what Paul is claiming) or they are a post-Pauline interpolation.

I have argued on external grounds that they are not a 2nd century interpolation, when one could argue that the passage arose as a “catholic” attempt to counter the Marcionite and Gnostic use of Paul.

The problem IMO with the suggestion that the passage is both 1st century and non-Pauline is that the idea that the passage was added that early to counter mis-interpretations of Paul seems difficult for 2 reasons.

a/ We have no evidence that disputes about the right way to interpret Paul started that early and it seems more likely that serious controversy about Paul’s leters began in the 2nd century.

b/ What I meant by a possible 1st century interpolation was the possibility that the first publishers of 1 Corinthians (eg Onesimus or the Corinthian church or …) 80-90 CE, interpolated the passage. ie I was thinking of the idea that although the passage is non-Pauline there was never a generally available version of 1 Corinthians without this passage. In this case the interpolation by definition pre-dates any widespread controversy about the interpretation of Paul’s letters. It just doesn’t seem likely to me that the first publisher of Paul’s leters, trying to remind his fellow Christians of a partly forgotten pioneer, would have added material about Paul being unfit to be an apostle.

This argument obviously depends on my views of the 1st century history of Paul’s letters, you may well disagree. If you want to follow this up, please make clear what is your view of what happened to Paul’s letters after Paul’s death.

Andrew Criddle

Jiri

Thanks, Andrew. This is a significant point because agreeing that this dichotomy exists, is agreeing that Paul’s style here does not match his style elsewhere. That means there are internal textual grounds for doubting the passage’s authenticity. It is not some caprice.

I believe you are correct [they are not a 2nd century interpolation]. This insert would not have been made to defy Marcion. It could have been made in response to Markan Paulinists who would have scoffed at the idea that Jesus “appeared” to Peter “and the twelve” (at least until Matthew ratified it by re-writing the empty tomb mystery). So, I would say, if this is interpolation it would have to be defended as an early one. It seems clear that by Marcion’s time the gospel resurrection narrative perimeter would have been too firmly set to allow a variant as distant as 1 Cor 15:3-8.

I beg to differ [that we have no evidence that disputes about the right way to interpret Paul started (in the first century)]. Galatians speaks volumes about the precarious relationship Paul had with the Jerusalem missions, and therefore the reports of Epiphanius that he was considered an apostate by the “Jewish heretics” most likely originated in Paul’s own lifetime. Mt 5:19 can also be seen as an early ‘dissing’ of Paul.

Again, I would reply to [the idea that some would have added material about Paul being unfit to be an apostle] that we need not to assume a single source of controversy around Paul’s writings. The motive to rewrite Paul in order to cut him to size would have existed as soon as the Palestinian Nazarenes and Pauline Christians began mixing and converging which I have grounds to believe happened after the war of 66-70. The most significant impetus for an insert into 1 Cr 15 would have been Paul’s non-traditional, speculative view of resurrection, exhibited later in the chapter (48-54), which clashed with the emerging view of physicality of Jesus’ rising when Mark was digested by the Petrines.

I think the possibilities [about what happened to Paul’s letters after Paul’s death] are endless. To begin with, IIUC the prevailing view is that both Corinthians were assembled from several letters. If there were extant copies of whole letters or specimen of alternative arrangements of the chapters, we could perhaps glean more about the stages of transmission. But I am not aware of evidence of this sort. Was there a master of 1 Corinthians (in a master collection like ‘Apostolikon’) ? Was it kept at Corinth ? With Onesimus ? Onesiphorus ? Who had access to it ? How many copies were made ? I really don’t know where one would begin.

Thanks again for writing.

Jiri

Andrew

Hi Jiri

Can I clarify a point ?

You seem to be saying that although you don’t think the passage in 1 Corinthians is authentically Pauline you do regard it as our earliest surviving account of the resurrection appearances.

Am I understanding you correctly ?

Andrew Criddle

Jiri

Close to, yes. I believe Mark ended at 16:8, and described the experience of the resurrected Jesus as his Transfiguration. The passage of 1 Cr 15:3-8 might well have been from the period between Mark and Matthew, articulating for the first time Jesus post-mortem appearances as confirmation to the select witnesses that he had risen. It could have been written after Matthew, but not long after, because Matthew was superior writing which likely overturned Mark on short order. (I read the SE & LE of Mark as attempts to re-establish Mark as the premier gospel authority, a losing cause.)

Best,
Jiri

Andrew

I regard the eleven in Matthew 28:16 compared to the twelve in the best text of 1 Corinthians 15:5 as evidence that the Corinthians passage is pre-Matthaean.

Andrew Criddle

Jiri

Yes, it is a point to consider. My inclination is to view the mystical “twelve” as a literary creation of Mark which was “converted” into an explicit, ID-ed “twelve disciples” by Matthew. That Mark did not use the “disciples” to overlap with the “twelve” is apparent from 2:15, 4:10 cf. 4:34, and his other uses of the mystical number. The power of Matthew’s suggestion that this is what Mark meant permanently restricted the exegesis of the original narrative gospel even though I believe Matthew was well aware of the eschatological function of the “the twelve” (19:28). Mark 3:14 does not appoint a restricted group of disciples to preach but an eschatological cipher “twelve” representing the twelve tribes. The only character explicitly linked to “the twelve” in Mark is Judas.

So, if I am correct about the origin of “the twelve”, the theoretical terminus a quo for 1 Cr 15:3-11 would be the gospel of Mark, and ad quem, the writing of Matthew. In practical terms, since we do not know the rate of diffusion of Matthew, or its early oral deposits, the period would be extended somewhat. The situation is somewhat similar to Gospel of Peter, which does not know the reduction to eleven, but which most exegets see as dependent on Mark.

Best,
Jiri

 
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Posted by on July 21, 2010 in interpolation, paul

 

The Book of Jonah

The book of Jonah is unique among the books of the prophets, because it is not a collection of oracles at all. Rather it is a well-wrought, comic novella which, through its broad humor, makes a very decisive prophetic point. It was written tongue-in-cheek and must be read accordingly if its message is to be properly assessed.

The actual composition of the book is not datable except within the broadest boundaries (ca. 750-250 BCE.) simply because there are no certain indications in it of date. The considerations most seriously cited as relevant to the issue of dating are four: (1) the supposed Aramaisms in the language, such as ‘on whose account?’ in 1:7 and 1:12; (2) the possible dependence of certain motifs or theological considerations on the book of Jeremiah; (3) the close verbal connections with Joel 2; (4) the supposedly erroneous identification of Nineveh as the actual royal capital of Assyria in Jonah’s time – i.e. the phrase “king of Nineveh” is as nonsensical as saying “the king of Pittsburgh”.

The exact reference to Jonah in 1:1 roots the book in history (2 Kings 14:25), but literary features (e.g., irony, satire, hyperbole, repetition, humor, and the ending) indicate a nonhistoriographic purpose. The book is best seen as an interpretive development of these roots in the form of a short story pervasively didactic and carefully structured. Jonah himself becomes a type representing certain pious Israelites who hold a problematic theological perspective; Nineveh (cf. Nah. 3:1) is probably cipher for the Persians (cf. Jth. 1:1). The book is a unity, as most recent scholars recognize, though the author uses many earlier motifs and traditions (cf. Gen. 18; 1 Kings 19; Jer. 18, 36; Joel 2, an a possible unknown Psalm inserted at 2:2-9). The book is prophetic in that it speaks a word of judgment and grace to a specific audience, evoking amendment of thought and life.

The name Jonah in Hebrew means “dove,” which denotes various meanings, such as “chaste,” “fragile,” “fickle,” “asinine,” and the like. In Jonah 1:1, Jonah is described as the son of Amittai, which adds to the satirical element, literally meaning, “dove, my truthful son.” The irony is that Jonah’s prophetic behavior shows otherwise. This name of Jonah signals the comparable depiction and role of the dove in the flood narrative. In Gen 8:8–12, Noah sent out the dove three times from the ark; the dove returned to the ark the first time, brought a freshly plucked olive leaf the second time, and did not return the third time. The role of the dove indicates its ability to find the location and fidelity to fulfill the task. With regard to similarity, just as the dove was sent as a messenger, Jonah assumes the role of messenger to Nineveh. Just as the dove was dispatched with the anticipated sign of hope to those in the ark, Jonah was thrown out from the ship yet helped calm the storm and convert the sailors.

 
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Posted by on July 17, 2010 in jonah, tanakh

 

Another Small Anachronism

So I was reading the wiki article on Tacitus on Jesus and came across this lttle nugget:

It should be noted that after Herod Agrippa’s death in AD 44, when Judea reverted to direct Roman rule, Claudius gave procurators control over Judea

Why is this describing an anachronism in Mark and John? Well, this means that prior to 44 CE, Jews probably had the authority to execute people according to their own laws. John states:

18:31 Pilate said, “Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.” “But we have no right to execute anyone,” the Jews objected.

The Jews handing Jesus over to a prefect makes no sense, they should have been able to handle matters on their own. In Josephus, another Jesus is handed over to Roman rule. But he’s handed over to a procurator (Jesus Ananias is handed over to Albinus), not a prefect. Besides this, Herod was able to execute John the Baptist (according Josephus) without needing Roman approval. And in the gospel of Peter, it actually is Herod who gives the order to execute Jesus.

So this means that the gospel stories at the least were written by someone who lived after 44 CE. Not that this is a big deal or anything, since even most NT scholars date Mark to after 70.

 
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Posted by on July 10, 2010 in 2nd temple judaism

 

Why Historical Jesus Studies are like Creationism

I’ve been following the “debate” between Neil Godfrey and James McGrath on their respective blogs, and I’ve been pretty disappointed at the level of debate. Namely, that Prof. McGrath likens “Jesus Mythicism” (MJ) with Creationism. I’ve read and participated in plenty of debates with Creationists and while McGrath has some valid points of comparison, the analogy overall is faulty.

McGrath points out how Creationists will quote-mine a debate between two biologists about a particular sub-set of evolutionary theory (like say between Punctuated Equilibria and Gradualism) and then conclude that the theory of evolution as a whole is in doubt. While this is something that I’ve seen MJs do, it’s not the focal point of their ire.

Where the analogy is more consistent is when Creationists critique the methodology of biologists, saying that their reasoning doesn’t infer common descent. So for example, say a person wants to find out whether one of ten men is his grandchild. We would do an analysis of DNA evidence to see how similar the alleged grandchildren’s DNA is to the person. At a certain similarity threshold, you can tell that the child is biologically related in some way to the person. Either as a grand-nephew, third cousin, etc. At higher levels of similarity, they would be able to tell if the child is directly related to the grandparent.
This same methodology of analyzing DNA is used by evolutionary biologist to conclude that humans and chimps have a common ancestor. Creationists will agree with the grandparent/grandchild analogy, but then claim that this same methodology can’t be used with humans and chimps.

In other cases, Creationists will claim that methodological naturalism doesn’t apply to biology. If they applied this consistently to all other sciences, we would still live in the dark ages. The problem with Creationism is special pleading – as in the grandfather example – or simply attacking the philosophy of science altogether which has a greater ripple effect in all of science and not just biology.

From what I’ve read on Godfrey’s blog, he is attacking the methodology of NT historians, not simply pointing out discrepancies between two different NT historians and concluding that Jesus was a myth – as Creationists would do in the biology example. If biologists had their own criteria for doing biology that didn’t apply to other sciences, then Creationists would have a valid point in their debate. That biologists had their own type of “science” that they do that if it were applied in other fields of science would make science itself unreliable.

Quite ironically, Godfrey’s point (though he hasn’t made it) is that HJ studies shares a major premise with Creationism. That the Bible contains history in some form. Both camps’ (Creationist and HJ) arguments follow from that major premise. Creationists assume that Genesis – 2 Kings is 100% history, or has some grain of history to it, and then all of their other arguments rest on that premise. NT historians do the same – they assume that [Mark, Matt, Luke, and John] is 100% history, or has some grain of history to it, and then all of their other arguments rest on that premise. From that premise NT historians follow some form of criteriology to determine which parts are history and which parts aren’t. Creationist also do the same. For those that don’t think that Genesis is 100% history, they follow ad hoc criteriology to determine what’s literal and what’s allegory.

To point out what’s faulty about this, why don’t NT historians use their criteriology on, say, the Acts of John, or the Acts of Peter? Because they already assume that AoJ/AoP aren’t historical.

The problem with Creationism is that it undermines the entire scientific method, not just biology. Their critiques of biology overlap into other realms of science even though they don’t realize it. MJs (at least in their critiques of HJs) are simply following the same methodology that all other non-biblical or secular historians do. Not assuming that anonymous written documents contain history. MJs are actually doing the opposite of what Creationists do! They seem to be trying to get NT historians to follow the same historiography that non-biblical historians follow. It would be like Creationists who are trying to get biologists to do the same scientific methodology that cosmologists and chemists do (I have yet to encounter a Creationist who does this).

The analogous situation in NT historiography would be about another character called “Jesus”, but in the Tanakh. For a long time it was assumed that the “Jesus” narrative in the Tanakh was historical, written by eyewitnesses, and archaeologists and historians in the 18th and 19th centuries used this anonymous narrative as their “primary” historical source and guide in unlocking the history of Israel and Judah. It turns out that this anonymous narrative with a “Jesus” as the main character was simply fictional. That Jesus did not mount a successful military campaign invading Canaan and led the wandering Israelites to their new home in the Levant. Old Testament historians realized that you couldn’t depend on anonymous narratives to guide history. That you need primary evidence to reconstruct history and only depend on anonymous works (like the book of Joshua/Jesus) if they are externally and independently corroborated with primary evidence or other unbiased narratives/written works.

The book of Joshua – our main narrative about Joshua’s actions on earth – was written anonymously and in third person. The book of Mark – our main narrative about Joshua’s (Jesus’) actions on earth – was also written anonymously and in third person. We have only large date ranges for when these two books were written. What’s going for Joshua is that it seems to be a fairly straightforward origins story. Mark on the other hand has elements of entertainment or literature in it – themes like irony and allegory. Joshua seems to have been written in the native language of its central character. Mark, on the other hand, was written in Greek and its main character(s) was supposed to speak Aramaic.

Without external support for either narrative, we have no reason for thinking that these two Jesus stories are history in any way. A more accurate assumption for written works would be that the writer is writing what s/he wants us to believe, not that they are writing history. So they are primary evidence for the author and their thoughts, but not primary evidence for their content.

Creationists start from the premise that both anonymous narratives contain history. Secular historians of I&J used to assume that the book of Joshua was historical, but no longer since they don’t treat it as primary evidence. The primary evidence that they do have shows that this Jesus narrative in the Tanakh actually can’t be historical – which pushes things towards that particular Old Testament Jesus being mythological. NT historians are still assuming that their Jesus narrative contains history – assuming their conclusion. MJ proponents don’t work under the assumption that either anonymous Jesus narrative contains history. And from what I read, Godfrey is trying to get NT historians to acknowledge this fundamental assumption.

Now, just to counterpoint everything I’ve written above, showing that the entire NT is about a mythical character in no way means that “a” Jesus character related in some way to Christianity positively didn’t exist. The guy’s name doesn’t even have to be “Jesus”. The nature of the HJ/MJ debate isn’t an exclusive either-or situation. If MJ’s prove that the entire NT is historically unreliable, or about a mythical character, this does NOT mean that a Jesus-like character didn’t exist in some peripheral way. It just means that we should be agnostic about the issue. We don’t have enough positive evidence on the other side of the fence to point things in that direction. I personally think that the entire NT is historically unreliable, but this doesn’t mean I promote a “mythical” Jesus (I don’t even know what that means in this context). My position is summed up by a comment on Godfrey’s blog by “timvonhobbyhorsen”:

If an historian had four anonymous, hearsay accounts of the battle, all written several decades after the event and they all contradicted one other, what do you think he’d do? Imagine that they not only contradict one another, but we have no external evidence — no written inscriptions, no military records, no physical evidence — nothing that can corroborate the anonymous hearsay accounts. What then?

Now, suppose these four anonymous, third-hand, uncorroborated, contradictory accounts of the battle also contain various descriptions of Athena appearing on the battlefield, killing mortals and shielding others? What would a real historian do then?

Now, what if these four anonymous, third-hand, uncorroborated, contradictory accounts of the battle that had Athena appearing on the battlefield also had a history of redaction, rewriting, and interpolations inserted into them by various different communities at different time periods (that were antagonistic towards each other) to promulgate a particular [political] view about Athena’s actions on the battlefield? Should we still assume without good cause that these four anonymous documents are historical?

Just to recap some basics about the gospels:

The four canonical gospels were written in third person (hence, not by eyewitnesses which would be in first person) by anonymous omniscient narrators in Greek (this, by the way, is the reason why we call Jesus the Latinized Greek “Jesus” instead of the Hebrew/Aramaic “Joshua”). The first time that a Christian asserted that people named Mark, Matt, Luke, and John wrote gospel narratives was around 180 CE, and he did this for anti-heretical purposes. Before that, Christians just cited “the gospel” when quoting from Mark, Matt, et. al.

Since these gospels were originally anonymous, we have no reason for believing anything that is written in them. We don’t know who the authors were. We don’t know who they were writing to. We don’t know where they wrote. We don’t know when they wrote. Nothing. What if the first gospel written was written as a play, or a satire, or theological allegory, or to make fun of Christians? What if it was written to explain why Biblical Joshua-style Jewish Messianism was in error? We have no idea since we don’t know anything about the author. In all of the NT epistles, there are no references to “disciples” of Jesus.

We have references to “servants” and “slaves” of Jesus, references to “those who are sent out” (i.e. apostles) of Jesus, but no disciples. There are no references to any teachings of Jesus in the NT epistles. If all we were left with were the letters in the NT, we would have no reason for thinking that the Jesus they’re talking about was a wandering preacher who was crucified because “the Jews” were jealous about his popularity.

Curiously, as soon as the first gospel is written asserting a teaching Jesus, we start getting the “heresy” of Gnosticism. Which was all about the “secret teachings” of Jesus. I don’t think this is a coincidence at all.

 
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Posted by on July 6, 2010 in historiography, jesus myth

 

Name Change

So to like the one or two people who read this blog, I changed the name of it. Why did I do that?

Well, as I outlined in one of my first posts, I chose the Greek word “pente” for my blog because that’s what my last name literally is in Greek. However, I first came across the word “pente” when I was studying music (former music major here) – as in pentatonic scale.

Anyway, a “diapente” is the musical term for a perfect 5th, which happens to be what I play a lot on my guitar since I play rock/metal music. In fact, one of the songs I wrote is named after my blog and website: Deus Diapente. I chose to name that song what I did because it includes a Tritone substitution, which I stole from jazz. That basically means substituting one “diapente” with a diminished version of it which just so happens to flip another diminished diapente in the original chord around.

Needless to say, it’s pretty goddamn awesome. A “godly perfect fifth” if you will.

Anyway, back to business as usual.

 
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Posted by on July 2, 2010 in diapente, music, perfect fifth

 

Who Wrote the Torah? JEDP

(This post is basically a compilation of various sources)

JEDP

While tradition asserts that Moses was the author of the Torah (or Pentateuch), modern scholarship sees at least four different authors: JEDP. “J” stands for “Jahwist” or “Yahwist”, the author from the southern kingdom of Judah who prefers to write the Four Letters YHWH. “E” stands for “Elohist” and is from the northern kingdom of Israel. This author prefers the more generic Canaanite term for god “El” or “Elohim”. “D” stands for “Deuteronomist”; a reformist from king Josiah’s (or Josiah himself) court. “P” stands for “Priestly”, a writer who focuses on authentic priestly duties and lineage; sacrifices to YHWH or El could only be done by a priest from the tribe of Aaron, Moses’ brother. Thus any priestly duties occurring before the covenant on Sinai — like the enigmatic Melkitsedek (or Melchizedek) in Genesis 14 — would not have been written by P. There are actually arguments that Genesis 14 wasn’t written by any of the four streams due to the strange name. Melkitsedek can be liberally translated as “my righteous king”; Melkitsedek is both a king and a priest. This doesn’t happen in the history of Israel and Judah until Maccabean times (c. 150 BCE).

In P, only priests in the lineage of Aaron are people with access/communication to God. There are no angelic visitations, dreams, talking animals, or anything else like that. All the other sources include God communicating with people via these means. E and D both repeatedly refer to prophets and prophesy. Neither P nor J ever does (P uses the word once – metaphorically – to refer to Aaron himself). P never mentions judges – only allowing Aaronid priests to mediate. P also does not classify non-Aaronid Levites as priests, and only allows the Aaronids to have access to the Urim and Tummim. P only allows atonement for sins via sacrifices brought to Aaronid priests. In short, in P sources, the Aaronid priests and only the Aaronid priests have access to God. In D, on the other hand, all Levites are considered priests.

In P, as mentioned, the only contact with God is through priests. God never appears in person. He is never referred to as merciful or kind – indeed, the words “mercy”, “kindness”, “grace” and “repentance” are never used in P. The God described in P is implacable and all stories about him refer only to his wrath and justice; never to positive character traits. All the stories with positive (and more human) character traits of God are in J and E. In J, on the other hand, God makes frequent personal appearances. He walks in the garden in Eden, personally makes Adam and Eve’s clothes, personally closes the door of the Ark, and so on. In E as well, God wrestles with Jacob and appears personally to Moses. In P, on the other hand, God never makes a personal appearance.

J and P both refer to Mount Sinai repeatedly. E and D refer to it as Mount Horeb. There are no exceptions to this.

J and E range from 700-622 BCE, D to 622 BCE, P from 587-539 BCE, and the joining up done sometime around 450 BCE (although there is a good argument to suggest that tinkering with the text continued well into Hellenistic times). It is important to remember that nothing in the Torah (well… there are some poems like the Song of Miriam) is as old as Homer. These four authors also did not come from a vacuum, their theology was formed from pre-existing Canaanite theology and pantheon. Along with El (Elyon, or “El Most High”) and YHWH, the Canaanite pantheon included YHWH’s wife Asarah (or Asherah), Baal, Chemosh, Shalim, Shachar (“shachar” means “dawn”, and appears in Isaiah 14:12 [“dawn”]; the taunt song in Isaiah 14 is an old Canaanite song), and many others.

Basically, J and E were written independently, telling the same stories with slightly different emphases. At some point these were edited together into a single JE document. Some time after the writing of the first documents, a P document was written – telling the same stories but with a very different theological basis. Some time later still, a D document was written telling the more recent history of Judah and Israel, and claiming that they were once a unified kingdom, which fits with the period after the Assyrian conquest of Israel c. 720 BCE and the archaeological emergence of Judah due to Israelite refugees fleeing south. The tensions between the two nations before Assyrian conquest was apparent in such places as Isaiah 7:10-16. At some point after this, all four documents were edited together into a single document that became the Torah we know.

This might seem contrary to what’s taught in Sunday School, but just like most religions, there’s a separation between the religion practiced by the common people and the religion practiced by the priests. Analogous to modern times, there’s a huge gulf between the Christianity learned and taught by seminaries and Biblical scholars (“scholarly” Christianity) and the common person’s Christianity (“popular” Christianity). The same sociological context was extant in ancient Israel and Judah. Popular Judaism of ancient I&J was more polytheistic, acknowledging YHWH and his wife Asarah whereas the priestly Judaism of ancient I&J leaned more towards henotheism or monolatry. Of course, the priests controlled the texts since they were the ones writing them and eventually Priestly Judaism won out. Hence all of the Asarah bashing by D and P; archaeology shows a lot of veneration of Asarah by the common people.

If we look at all the J texts, they are consistent in that people started to call God YHWH right from the beginning (Gen 4:1 and Gen 4:26). The P and E texts, however, are both consistent in that people only started to call God YHWH when he revealed his name to Moses (Ex 6:2-3). Additionally, whilst the J author does call God Elohim, he only ever does this whilst narrating events – he never has a character refer to God as Elohim.

Multiple temples…

The letters from Elephantine show that both the Judean and Samaritan (capitol of the northern kingdom of Israel) temples coexisted. The Elephantine letters also strongly suggest that the holiday of passover was started during or after the Babylonian exile.

A recent carbon-dating of materials that come from a specifically locations in Israel (Megiddo K6 and Lachish VI — the numbers indicate strata) provides an uncalibrated dating range of 1194-1114 BCE. The Philistine pottery at those sites at those levels date early Philistine presence to that time. [I. Finkelstein & E. Piasetsky, “Radiocarbon Dating and Philistine Chronology”, Egypt and Levant XVII, ed M. Bietak, Vienna 2007]

A reading of Judges doesn’t know anything about the arrival of the Philistines on the Levantine coast. In fact, in Genesis the Philistines are already in the Levant at the time of Abraham and Isaac. The arrival of the Philistines was such a serious event in the area that soon after that time the Egyptians had lost control of the coastal area and later the uplands as well.

The bible knows nothing about the arrival of the Philistines, yet if a culture was there at the time they couldn’t miss such a presence. I’d have to conclude that there was no maintained tradition that reached back as far as the arrival of the Philistines, for if there had been, you’d expect the bang to be recorded. Instead, you have the local population (without sign of a recent arrival of its own) becoming aware of the Philistines as its awareness spread beyond its little world around Jerusalem and then the wider uplands area.

This suggests that this group of people as a cultural entity doesn’t go back as far as the arrival of the Philistines. (This seems to match the linguistic evidence that the Phoenicians were the earliest separation from the Canaanite group of languages and Hebrew was a later, more conservative split.)

 
 
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My ὑπομνήματα about religion

The New Oxonian

Religion and Culture for the Intellectually Impatient

The Musings of Thomas Verenna

A Biblioblog about imitation, the Biblical Narratives, and the figure of Jesus