Sunday, 20 July 2008

Colloquim on linguistic dating of the Hebrew Bible.

There is a fascinating colloquim going on at the moment on the Biblical Studies List concerning linguistic dating of the Hebrew Bible. It's main interlocuters are Ian Young, Robert Rezetko and Martin Ehrensvärd, authors of the forthcoming Linguistic Dating of Biblical Texts. Volume 1: An Introduction to Approaches and Problems and Volume 2: A Survey of Scholarship, a New Synthesis and a Comprehensive Bibliography. BibleWorld. London: Equinox Publishing, 2008. You can find a description of the books, their contents, and several pre-publication reviews here.
Their point is that relating so-called Early Biblical Hebrew with so-called Late Biblical Hebrew in terms of chronology does not do justice to the evidence, involves circular reasoning and thus pervants that nature of linguistic diversity in the Hebrew Bible. If you join the list, you not only get to take part in the discussion but also have access to a summary of their main arguments.

Here's a summary of their proposal:

We suggest that following through the logic of this chronological approach to BH actually leads inevitably to the conclusion that all the biblical texts were composed in the postexilic period, which is exactly the opposite of what its proponents have claimed. Now, this may in fact be a conclusion which is congenial to some. But others will not find this agreeable, so we will offer a way out of this conclusion by arguing that the presuppositions of the chronological approach are undermined by the evidence. On the contrary we will argue that the best model for comprehending the evidence is that ‘Early’ BH and ‘Late’ BH, so-called, represent co-existing styles of Hebrew throughout the biblical period. Then we will deal with the objection that Persian loanwords are an irrefutable proof that the chronological approach is correct. Finally we will step back and ask some hard questions about the presuppositions involved in the dating—by linguistic or other means—of the books of the Hebrew Bible.

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