The Age of the Hebrew Bible — the other view

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by Neil Godfrey

I have posted many times on the works of scholars who have argued that none or very little of the Hebrew Bible can be dated before the Persian or Hellenistic periods: Thompson, Lemche, Davies, Whitelam, Gmirkin, Wajdenbaum, Wisselius, Mandell & Freedman(?) and possibly others whom memory fails at this moment. So what does the “other side” have to say about it all? Two scholars, Ronald Hendel and Jan Joosten, introduce their opposing arguments on Bible and Interpretation:

Their book is How Old Is the Hebrew Bible? A Linguistic, Textual, and Historical Study. They state

Many scholars largely disregarding linguistic data insist that most or all of the Hebrew Bible was written in the second half of the first millennium BCE, during the Persian and/or Hellenistic periods, and draw the inference that there is little or no historical content that predates this era. The history of ancient Israel from roughly 1200 to 500 BCE, they say, has little or nothing to do with the biblical accounts. The conflicts among the different scholarly positions – often caricatured as minimalists, maximalists, and meliorists – have become familiar features of the scholarly landscape.

Our book brings together different bodies of evidence to show that the age of the Hebrew Bible can be ascertained to a reasonable degree by integrating the fields of historical linguistics, textual criticism, and cultural history. 

A first thought that comes to mind is the problem of circularity. But I don’t know the relevant languages and have not seen the details of their case. Perhaps others with more knowledge can weigh in with a comment or two.

(What and who are the meliorists?)

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Neil Godfrey

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5 thoughts on “The Age of the Hebrew Bible — the other view”

  1. The Jews were a traumatized people. Over and over again their God had failed to keep His sworn promise to protect and preserve the House of David FOREVER. Not having the guts to blame God, they of course blamed themselves (as children do when they are abused by their parents or guardians).

    1. The people were deceived into believing that such promises were made by their deity, when in fact all those promises, as well as all other pronouncements attributed to YHWH, were just man-made declarations.

  2. Merriam-Webster – Definition of meliorism. : the belief that the world tends to improve and that humans can aid its betterment.

    As far as it being an scholarly position, this from the Wikipedia article on meliorism, “William James was an earlier adherent to meliorism as a halfway between metaphysical optimism and pessimism.”

    Still sort of an obscure observation from Thompson et al., though.

    1. This is Ronald Hendel’s and Jan Joosten’s observation, I think. Inigo Montoya would chip in here; they evidently mean it as half-way between minimalist and maximalist.

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