2006-12-13

Methodology: Comparing New Testament & Old Testament origins

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by Neil Godfrey

How justifiable is it to compare the arguments of the “Copenhagen School” that suggests the evidence favours, say, David being a theological and literary creation with certain arguments of the “Jesus mythicists”?

I’m thinking of Thompson’s “It is a fundamental error of method to ask first after an historical David or Solomon, as biblical archaeologists and historians have done. We need first to attend to the David and Solomon we know: the protagonists of Bible story and legend. The Bible does not hesitate to tell these stories as tall tales.” (The Mythic Past, p.45)

Compare Davies’ “So far, historical research by biblical scholars has taken a … circular route …. The assumption that the literary construct is an historical one is made to confirm itself. Historical criticism (so-called) of the inferred sources and traditions seeks to locate these in that literary-cum-historical construct.” (In Search of ‘Ancient Israel’, pp.35-37)

If we accept the nature of the old testament biblical literature as suggested by Thompson, Davies, Lemche et al (i.e. that it was composed largely as a literary founding myth which bears little if any relationship to real history — check out my above link to In Search of ‘Ancient Israel’ for links to details), is it not a small step to seeing the first gospel as equally creative in its foundation myths for the ‘new and true people of God’? Are not the studies of the Gospel of Mark that offer the greater explanatory power for its various parts and characters those that analyze its literary context and nature (e.g. Tolbert’s Sowing the Gospel) in ways that leave much of the older discussions about traditions underlying various bits and pieces somewhat irrelevant?

Should not the real question ask for the origins and context of such a literary work, leaving it open as to whether the most satisfactory answer is to be found with a heroic founder or with something more complex, as some argue was the case with the literature about David?

One initial objection might be that the multiplicity of varying gospels argues against such a possibility but again we may well be reading the same phenomonon of rival scribal schools in dialog with one another as we appear to find among the OT prophetic and historical writings.

Neil

(I originally asked this question back in 2000 in JesusMysteries — my thoughts have only strengthened in this direction since.)


2006-12-03

Moses’ Exodus and Xerxes’ Greek Campaign

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by Neil Godfrey

More occasional notes added here. This time a web page comparing the biblical story of the Exodus with Herodotus’s account of Xerxes‘ invasion of Greece. A table outlines dot points from the views of Dutch Head of Department of Semitic Studies in the Theological University of Kampen, Dr Jan-Wim Wesselius. Not everyone will have a chance to afford or borrow Jan-Wim Wesselius’ “The Origin of the History of Israel : Herodotus’s Histories as Blueprint for the First Books of the Bible” (Sheffield, 2002) so hopefully the link here will be of some interest to others. I make no comment myself here on the strength of Wesselius’s argument. Hopefully further discussion will come with time to do more reading on the various sides of the controversy.

Neil Godfrey


Technorati Tags:
moses, exodus, xerxes, primary+history, herodotus, bible+history,


2006-11-20

In Search of Ancient Israel

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

by Neil Godfrey

In 1992 Philip Davies published a monograph that began a heated controversy over the origins of the Bible and what light archaeology shed on this question. Davies criticized conventional biblical scholarship for lacking the rigour found in archaeological studies of sites without theological significance. He argued that the archaeological evidence suggested that the Bible was composed as late as the Persian era and that the stories of Abraham, the Exodus, David and Solomon were mythical inventions. I have begun to summarize the argument of Davies’ book, In Search of Ancient Israel.

Book details: Davies’ In search of ancient Israel (Sheffield, 1997)

Neil Godfrey


Technorati Tags:
bible+archaeology, biblical+archaeology, bible+archeology, biblical+archeology, ancient.israel, bible.history, bible,

 

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