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Wednesday, March 02, 2016

Recommended Resources for Dealing with the Extremes of Biblical Criticism

For students of the scriptures who are interested in understanding modern debates over the Bible as history as well as the impact of Higher Criticism on the Book of Mormon, there are several resources I wish to recommend:
  • Richard Elliott Friedman, Who Wrote the Bible, 2nd edition (New York: HarperCollins, 1997) — a widely read, popular work that has introduced many people to source-criticism, the branch of Higher Criticism that examines the text of the Pentateuch especially to determine the origins of different hypothesized documents that were assembled together into its current form. Friedman offers arguments for a priestly source composed in the days of Hezekiah, well before Nephi, for those who have encountered arguments against Book of Mormon plausibility because of its heavy Exodus content, much of which is said to derive from the Priestly source, according to the Documentary Hypothesis, a source that has been given a late date by a number of scholars. Friedman's book carefully explains why Julius Wellhausen blundered in reaching that conclusion. Friedman is a strong advocate of the Documentary Hypothesis, which is still a subject of debate, but an important paradigm to consider. 
  • James K. Hoffmeir, Israel in Egypt: The Evidences for the Authenticity of the Exodus Tradition, (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 1996) — an extremely thorough examination of the plausibility of the Exodus in spite of the absence of clear archaeological evidence (from regions where it is unreasonable to expect the kind of evidence some critics demand). Hoffmeir, a significant scholar, provides a credible and wide-ranging case against the claim that the Exodus account was largely created after the Exodus. His approach has some lessons in methodology that are relevant to Book of Mormon studies.
  • James K. Hoffmeier, Ancient Israel in Sinai: The Evidence for the Authenticity of the Wilderness Tradition, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005) — a book that build on his previous case for the reality of the Exodus, now exploring what we can learn of Sinai and Israel's era in the wilderness. He shows that archaeological evidence, textual material, geography, place names, and personal names all combine to create a reasonable case for the historical reality of the wilderness tradition. He also updates some of his proposals made in his earlier Israel in Egypt to reflect more recent discoveries. Hoffmeir provides evidence, for example, that the wilderness itinerary in Numbers 33 has support from the 14th century B.C., in contrast with the widespread view that it must be from the so-called Priestly source of much later origin.
  • K.A. Kitchen, On the Reliability of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2003) — an extensive and colorful, if not sometimes overly passionate response to the many critics who minimalize the Old Testament. Based on abundant data, Kitchen concludes that we can firmly reject the hypothesis that the Old Testament books originated as late as 400 to 200 B.C., as many minimalists maintain, and that we have strong evidence for the reality of the Exodus from Egypt and a Sinai covenant that must have originated between 1400 to 1200 B.C. Kitchen's work is also useful in showing weakness in the methodologies used to downplay the biblical text, many of which may resemble some of the techniques used against the Book of Mormon.
  • James K. Hoffmeier and Dennis R. Magary, editors, Do Historical Matters Matter to Faith? A Critical Appraisal of Modern and Postmodern Approaches to Scripture, (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2014). Relevant highlights in this compilation include Richard E. Averbeck, “Pentateuchal Criticism and the Priestly Torah” and Robert B. Chisholm Jr., “Old Testament Source Criticism: Some Methodological Miscues.” Chisholm critiques traditional source-criticism (the Documentary Hypothesis) by exploring the two most famous "parade cases" from source-criticism, the Flood story and the account of David in Saul's court. He challenges the reasons given for viewing these as a patchwork from contradicting original documents and goes on to show that their literary design and coherence points to either a single source or a masterful blending if multiple sources were used. He condemns the arrogant attitude of many scholars who seem to say that "if the text does not fit my idea of what literature should look like, it must be flawed," when in fact a more careful reading can resolve alleged problems and reveal that the Hebrew author was more knowledgeable and skilled than the critics admit. I also recommend Richard L. Schultz, "Isaiah, Isaiah, and Current Scholarship," with important information relevant to the presence of allegedly late Isaiah material in the Book of Mormon, and James K. Hoffmeir, "'These Things Happened': Why a Historical Exodus Is Essential for Theology," which provides a good review of the rise of biblical minimalism and the devaluation of the Bible as a text with historical content, with a clear review of high vital the Exodus theme is throughout the Bible.
In addition to the above books, many shorter articles and papers could be cited. A few of note include:
  • Joshua Berman, "Was There an Exodus?," Mosaic Magazine, March 2, 2015 — a fascinating recent contribution looking at long overlooked evidence from Egypt in support of the reality of the Exodus. This publication in Mosaic Magazine includes responses from other scholars, both for and against.
  • Yosef Garfinkel, “The Birth and Death of Biblical Minimalism,” Biblical Archaeology Review 37/3 (May/Jun 2011): 46–53, 78 (subscription required for the full online article). This is a bold critique of the biblical "minimalists" and their panicked response to compelling archaeological evidence for the reality of the House of David. The application of his insights to the Book of Mormon was appropriately made by Neal Rappleye and Stephen Smoot in another highly recommended work directly related to the Lehi's trail, "Book of Mormon Minimalists and the NHM Inscriptions: A Response to Dan Vogel," Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture, 8 (2014), 157-185.
  • Kevin L. Barney, “Reflections on the Documentary Hypothesis,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 33/1 (Spring 2000): 57–99 — a thoughtful and frequently cited essay from a faithful LDS scholar who explores how Latter-day Saints may respond to widely accepted scholarly theories on the origins of Bible documents.
For those of you who find value in the Bible beyond its literary value (i.e., recognize that it is more than just pious fiction), do you have any favorite resources that have been helpful to you, say, in understanding the agenda and distortions of biblical minimalists, or in understanding the limitations of the Documentary Hypothesis?

24 comments:

Quantumleap42 said...

I have Who Wrote the Bible? by Friedman sitting on my desk right now. It's quite interesting.

Anonymous said...

As a student in a biblical studies program I find your list extremely limited and wanting for a much broader perspective on these issues. Your gratuitous statement at the end of the post about "the agenda and distortions of biblical minimalists" is fascinating in light of the list that you posted, and I wouldn't even consider myself a minimalist. I do not get the impression that you have actually read, let alone engaged with, any of those "minimalists" research? Can you name a few of them at least?

James Anglin said...

At some point I read that you can recognize the seams in Genesis by the changing names for God. I said, "What?" but then I flipped open Genesis and found that, my goodness, it's just true. At many points there's a kind of abrupt change of topic or story line, and you go from everything being done by the LORD to everything being done by God — or the other way around.

That's all I really know about the Documentary Hypothesis, other than a vague understanding that if you look more carefully you can identify four or more contributing sources. I was pretty impressed by that discovery in Genesis, however.

I'm curious who these authors in your list are, Jeff. Is this really a genuine controversy in which there are reasonable arguments on both sides? Or are these guys you cite basically crackpots, who just seem impressive to people who don't really know the field? I ask because I know from the example of physics that there are plenty of crackpot books out there, which may seem to a lay person to be impressively solid, but are actually pure nonsense.

I could be convinced that these authors were serious scholars if they turned out to speak at mainstream conferences, or contribute chapters to reputable books, or hold chairs at respectable institutions. Or, since authority isn't everything — in fact it's just a time-saving proxy for real value, kind of like paper money — I could also be convinced if I saw a bit of back-and-forth discussion between these revisionist authors and some respectable mainstream scholar. Just to hear the other side of the story.

Conventional orthodoxy can certainly be wrong; but there are also a lot of incompetent crackpots who merely would have you believe that conventional orthodoxy is wrong. Reasonable minority views are one thing; crackpottery is another. How can I tell which case we're dealing with, here? Simply reading these books might not make that clear to me, because on this topic I'm no expert, and a crackpot could probably bamboozle me.

James Anglin said...

With regard to the request in Jeff's closing sentence: there exist people who do find more than literary value in the Bible, and yet have no problem with higher criticism.

In principle, God could give us a profound revelation by arranging for zillions of snowflakes to spell out the text of a parable on somebody's lawn. The snow itself would still just be snow, and meteorologists could study how those snowflakes formed and fell into place. Nothing they might conclude would make the resulting parable any less meaningful.

If God could thus send revelation in falling snow, how much more could God send revelation, in any century, through the writings of earnest and intelligent human beings. If those writings were made and revised and compiled through natural human processes that textual scholars can study, that doesn't necessarily destroy the revelation they contain, any more than meteorology would destroy the revelation in the hypothetical snow parable.

I'm not saying that naturalistic explanations of how a text got that way have no impact at all upon faith in revelation. If snow seems to spell out, "Stop drinking cold beverages!" on my lawn, but a meteorologist somehow explains that this arrangement of flakes was a simple fluke of the wind, then I may decide that the message was not really a commandment from God, after all. Commandments require authority in a way that parables don't, and maybe parables aren't everything.

So higher criticism may well threaten some kinds of value that people find in scripture. I'm just saying that it doesn't threaten every kind of value apart from literary value as fiction. There's a lot of genuine faith and spirituality that has no trouble with Biblical criticism.

Pierce said...

Thanks for the list Jeff.

Also, well said James.

Jeff Lindsay said...

The Documentary Hypothesis (not really a "minimalist" effort, but a foundation for modern biblical criticism with its minimalist excesses being rather vocal among many far less radical scholars) can, unfortunately, be wielded as a direct challenge to the faith of many Christians. The concept of multiple sources can be instructive, but the implications of the theory and late dating of the sources can be used as a weapon against belief in the Bible (and the Book of Mormon), though it need not be so.

The DH's primary father, Julius Wellhausen was quickly convinced that the Torah must be a fabrication coming after the exile and the writings of the prophets. Quotation from a letter of his: "In the course of a casual visit in Gottingen in the summer in 1867, I learned through Ritschl that Karl Heinrich Graf placed the Law later than the Prophets, and almost without knowing his reasons for the hypothesis, I was prepared to accept it; I readily acknowledged to myself the possibility of understanding Hebrew antiquity without the book of the Torah." That suggests he began his study with a preconceived notion, one that fit his evolutionary views. The role of personal bias in approaching sacred texts needs to at least be recognized. Defenders of scripture are often dismissed as just being apologists, while those who trash scripture like to pretend they have no ideological axe to grind. This may not be the case.

Modern biblical scholarship can be quite challenging when some of its claims are presented as if they are based on two-centuries of solid scholarship. To be told, for example, that the Exodus never happened, that Moses never existed, that there was no Tabernacle, no covenant at Sinai, that the great patriarchs are all fiction, and that Christ and the Apostles didn't know what they were talking about when they made references to all that fiction, he made reference to such things, can throw a vulnerable Christian into an intellectual tailspin.

One easy online source for reading Wellhausen's Prolegomena to the History of Ancient Israel is http://www.sacred-texts.com/bib/cv/phai/index.htm.

James Anglin said...

I don't know anything about Wellhausen, but the letter indicates only that he was "prepared to accept" this hypothesis, and that he "acknowledged ... the possibility" that the Torah might be of late origin. This kind of readiness may count as bias, but only if we completely relativize the whole concept of bias. Relative to a firm prejudice in favor of an early Torah, then, a willingness to consider a late Torah might be labeled as bias.

In normal usage, though, I think that what Wellhausen expressed would be called open-mindedness. I still don't know any of the actual arguments for or against a late Torah. But I can imagine that it would have been a responsible scholarly insight to notice something like, "Hey, you know, the Prophets really don't ever quote from the Torah explicitly. Why the heck is this, if the Torah was already the basis of Israelite religion in the Prophets' own time? Wouldn't that be like Billy Graham never quoting the Bible?"

I don't actually know the Prophets well enough to say that they never mention the Torah. But this possibility comes to mind because I realize that I can't recall any famous prophetic passages that do refer to the Pentateuch. So just as a hypothetical example of how a scholar might be thinking: If the Prophets really don't seem to refer to the Torah, then for all we know, the Prophetic writings might just as well have come out as they are even if the Torah wasn't there at all at the time they were composed. A scholar who has recognized this fact (if it is a fact!) has acknowledged the possibility of a late Torah. I wouldn't call this kind of thinking "bias".

It is true that liberal or unbelieving scholars can be biased. Especially if the available evidence isn't really compelling either way, it can be very much in the eye of the beholder as to which side the evidence favors. And then, having built a career on following out the consequences of the one hypothesis that seemed most favored, the most skeptical scholar can be just as committed to ignoring the other possibilities as any old pilgrim who has devoted their life to belief.

Judging bias is itself highly subject to bias, however. One person't bias is another person's willingness to face facts.

Mary Ann said...

There's a book called "The Bible and the Believer" where scholars from Jewish, Evangelical, and Catholic backgrounds describe how they reconcile biblical criticism with belief in the divine origins of the bible. The evangelical author from that book, Peter Enns, has also written other books on the same subject. David Bokovy's "Authoring the Old Testament" and Michael Austin's "Re-reading Job" have also addressed current scholarly views on the bible from Mormon backgrounds.

Mary Ann said...

I also really enjoy this summary from the book "Jehovah and the World of the Old Testament" written by LDS scholars Holzapfel, Pike, and Seely: "The Documentary Hypothesis has multiple challenges, including the dubious nature of some of its basic assumptions, the ongoing revisions scholars have made to it over the past century, and the lack of a close parallel to the hypothesized phenomenon of redacting such differing genres of texts. The ever-increasing corpus of ancient Near Eastern texts has encouraged scholars to be more sensitive to ancient literary features, such as repetition, that are sometimes quite different from 'Western' styles. And religious practices once thought to be 'late' have now been discovered in second millennium Near Eastern texts, encouraging some scholars to express more confidence in the biblical text and its claims. Alternative approaches have been proposed, including an emphasis on large-scale literary forms that run across JEDP source divisions. However, despite serious challenges in the past four decades, no single scholarly approach to the origins of the Pentateuch has arisen to replace the Documentary Hypothesis." (p. 145)

Anonymous said...

I am a lifelong Mormon who discovered biblical scholarship a few years ago. In so doing, I learned what real scholarship on religion actually looks like. Scholars of other Christian denominations are several orders of magnitude more sophisticated than those who produce the drivel we pass off as scholarship at BYU, FARMS, Interpreter, and the like. It's actually quite embarrassing how bad we LDS are at studying and interpreting the Bible.

There are numerous reasons why we're so unsophisticated - we don't have professional scholars, really, and the few who might be considered such have no authority. Any scholarly finding they might make cannot contradict statements made further up the hierarchy, for fear of reprisal. Scholarship always takes a back seat to authority in our church.

In light of our unsophistication, I think it best, Jeff, to tone down the swagger about "the extremes of biblical scholarship." I can almost guarantee that you don't know what real biblical scholarship is, and I'd make a bet that you've never really engaged with it (even if you might have read a little in your free time). And I shouldn't blame you - you are extremely intelligent, but an absolute amateur on these matters - dividing your time between your job as a patent thought-leader, executive, husband, etc. No one can blame you for not being a biblical scholar, but let's just call it like it is - you're not even a spectator in a sport filled with Olympians. And none of us are any better. We LDS are all amateurs in an endeavor where there are professionals, and we should be humble enough to admit it.




Jeff Lindsay said...

I am all for real biblical scholarship. But to deny that there are extremes, radicals, or an agenda in minimizing the Bible is foolish. The appeal to authority is improper for a field in relative chaos and absent widespread consensus on critical issues, in spite of many voices telling the rest of us that we just need to humbly submit to "real scholarship" and be embarrassed about LDS drivel such as the writings of its scholars--and its sacred texts, especially the Book of Mormon (you didn't mention the Book of Mormon itself, but that's the next step many people take after believing a professor or a footnote-laden minimalist who declares that there was no exodus, no Moses, no David and Solomon, etc., and nobody in 600 B.C. citing scripture about Moses and the Exodus).

To tell us to just accept the weight of real scholarship and be embarrassed about LDS views on scripture is bald rhetoric and a line straight from someone's agenda, hardly a statement reflecting reasonable scholarship (as often seems to be the case with anonymous authors making sweeping proclamations based on their scholarship). Of course LDS efforts are varied, ranging from my weak amateur reflections and possibly even more uninformed speculation by others, to much more serious work that deserves respect. But the scholars I cite in my post are mostly non-LDS and not just uninformed apologists.

Jeff Lindsay said...

I would be interested in knowing which "minimalist" scholar you feel is a sterling example of real scholarship? One that we should defer to versus, say Friedman, Hoffmeir, Kitchen, or LDS scholars? Then we can better understand where you are coming from, for right now your sweeping statement is pretty nebulous.

Quantumleap42 said...

Anonymous, I remember reading a news story about some (American) celebrity who declared their intention to move to Europe. One of the reasons they gave was that buildings in Europe were old and had character, while buildings in the US had no character and they couldn't understand why there weren't more old buildings with character in the US like there were in Europe. This pronouncement started a round of internet facepalming while others pointed out the obvious that Europe has had hundreds and thousands of years of uninterrupted building, while the US has had not quite 400 years in a few select places, and really only 50-150 years in most.

This reminds me of the numerous times in philosophy classes where professors and students would say that there is no real American philosophy (some would admit that maybe perhaps Process philosophers like William James were real philosophers, but apparently in Europe Process Philosophy is a dirty word). But we have philosophy, and Americans do philosophy, it's just very different from Continental Philosophy.

Other Christian churches and traditions have the advantage of hundreds of years to filter out the "drivel" as you call it, while we have had only 150-ish years to begin the filtering process. I guarantee that if you read everything that came before all that real biblical scholarship in other Christian denominations you would find plenty of drivel.

We are forging a new idea with Mormonism, our scholarship grew up in the wilderness, quite literally. We are trying to interpret the Bible in light of all our other revealed scripture, so forgive us for not doing a copy and paste of another denomination's tradition. It will take us some time to reach our full potential, but when we do it will be in our own tradition, not theirs. Some of the stuff we currently pass off as scholarship is quite forgettable, but some of it really is world class scholarship, and it is our world class scholarship which will endure and will form the basis of sound LDS scholarship in the future, just like it has in all other Christian traditions.

Jeff Lindsay said...

Quantumleap, I like the way you said that, thank you.

One of my misgivings about some of the self-styled intellectuals in Christendom is that there is far too much reliance on appeals to the authority of scholars, and often a condescending attitude toward the ability of the unwashed, unanointed lay people to understand and discuss the scriptures. Just as the reading and interpretation of the scriptures used to be reserved to the priests who had been properly trained for the ministry, so today there is a tendency to defer to the new secular priesthood of scholars with the proper training and backgrounds. To even point to other notable scholars who can and do effectively challenge some of the undermining of scripture from modern revisionists (e.g., those of the so-called Copenhagen School, etc.) results not in a response to the arguments made by those scholars, but a talking down to the unworthy lay person who cites them. Thus, "I do not get the impression that you have actually read, let alone engaged with, any of those "minimalists" research? Can you name a few of them at least?" and "I can almost guarantee that you don't know what real biblical scholarship is, and I'd make a bet that you've never really engaged with it (even if you might have read a little in your free time)....- you're not even a spectator in a sport filled with Olympians."

Only the grand Olympians can compete in this arena, to which we lowly LDS apologists aren't even worthy of gaining a seat as a spectator. So hush! OK, my humble apologies if I've offended. But I was not boasting of my achievements in this competition, but was looking to worthy champions who can challenge the revisionists. I find Friedman's case for an early P compelling, and Hoffmeir's case for plausibility of key sections of the Pentateuch to be quite interesting. So let us know where they are wrong rather than just telling us how bad LDS scholarship is--not an especially useful argument here, since they are not LDS.

As for alleged lack of exposure to minimalists and bible scholarship, first let me point out that it's not easy to be an LDS apologist without running into arguments arising from minimalist positions, especially the alleged fictional nature of the Exodus or of the patriarchs. While I agree there are big gaps and some obvious problems in our understanding and texts, I think there are good reasons to resist the modern revisionism of, say, Philip R. Davies, Thomas L. Thompson, Keith W. Whitelam, and Niels Peter Lemche. Many scholars dislike the "minimalist" label, but sometimes the positions they take seem to fit. Some may say this about some positions of the American scholar, John Van Seters.

The perspectives of archaeologist William G. Dever on Davies is especially interesting in his excellent What Did the Biblical Writers Know and When Did They Know It?, though Dever, of course, is one who in spite of defending the reality of the House of David and much in the Bible, does not accept the reality of the Exodus account. Though he has long since lost his personal faith, his use of the archaeological record to oppose some of the "excesses" of minimalism is noteworthy, in my opinion, particular the claim that the Bible simply cannot be relied on to learn about the history of Israel.

If Dever is hopelessly misguided in his applications of archaeology, if Kitchen fails in his Egyptology, if Friedman blunders in his analysis of the text, let us know where and how. That's how it's supposed to work. My purpose here is to give people some resources to understand that there is a debate, not a final death sentence on scripture.

Jerome said...

I wouldn't categorize the Documentary Hypothesis as extreme Biblical scholarship (and I don't think you have, Jeff). On its face, it seems to present a problem for those who consider the Book of Moses to be historical. How do you reconcile them? Do you reject the Documentary Hypothesis?

Jeff Lindsay said...

At its core, I think we can view the Documentary Hypothesis as an attempt to explain the apparent influence of multiple sources that appear to have been patched together to form the Hebrew text of the Bible. The complex use of multiple documents is actually something we see at work in some detail in the Book of Mormon, with information being pulled from many sources such as the large plates, the small plates, the brass plates, the record of Zeniff, etc. While Mormon's technique is fairly transparent, there are times when the various sources are in turn quoting from or building on earlier sources that we still need to sift through and analyze. Things get even more interesting, thanks to modern scholarship from Royal Skousen and others, when we look at the details of the translation process and the subsequent editing and errors that occurred (from dictation to Original Manuscript to Printer's Manuscript to the various printed editions), not to mention the complex issues being brought up regarding the language of the dictated translation and the implications of its Early Modern English strands that go way beyond Joseph's dialect and KJV language. There are complex things going on before our eyes.

Latter-day Saints can readily appreciate some basic aspects of the Documentary Hypothesis such the complex combination of documents, the role of human influence and also the potential for corruption, etc. We have long understood that the Bible has been heavily edited and some plain and precious info has been lost or corrupted. We can cope with that.

The challenge comes in assigning of dates to the various sources and their origins. Wellhausen's views on the evolution of Israel and religion may have driven him to see the law, the Exodus, etc., as late creations, and so he felt that the relevant "Priestly" material was concocted after the exile. That poses a lot of trouble for us if it is true. However, one of our day's leading voices for the Documentary Hypothesis, Richard Elliott Friedman, sees the Priestly source as being written well before 600 BC, likely in Hezekiah's day, and its origins (the traditions and events behind it) naturally could be much earlier. As he has indicated in at least one interview, he believes there was an exodus (though it may have been much more limited than in the account in Exodus). But other scholars don't think Moses was real or that the exodus ever happened, that these things were invented after the Exile, and if that is true, the Book of Mosses would be pious fiction (a position some faithful Latter-day Saints are OK with, seeing it as Joseph's (somewhat?) inspired expansion of biblical lore to teach us principles, not actual history. But since the Book of Mormon affirms that Nephi and his family knew of Moses and the Exodus, that it was recorded on the brass plates, then believing that Moses is a post-exilic literary invention also will lead one to view the Book of Mormon as mere fiction. So this is an important debate for Book of Mormon students. At least one LDS writer has even proposed that the Book of Mormon may have some rooting in reality, but that Joseph expanded upon the original text to add material about Moses, the Exodus, etc., and to quote late sections of Isaiah which may scholars say came after the Exile.

On the other hand, the Book of Mormon may be providing us with important data to help clarify some of the debates about the origins of the Bible. Its role as a witness for the Bible may be more important than we have realized. I believe it is worth careful study and investigation.

Jeff Lindsay said...

Some LDS writers have found value in the Documentary Hypothesis. John Sorenson even observed that it might shed some insight into the Northern Kingdom flavor of the Book of Mormon, which shows some characteristics of the Elohist (E) source. Read Friedman, then consider how the Book of Mormon treats Moses and Aaron (in terms of the competing priesthoods issue possible behind some of the difference in sources) and the name of Deity.

Also keep in mind that the DH approach is one of several and some of its claims can be challenged in a number of ways. It is the product of source criticism that looks at intricate details of the text and splits the text up into various sources. But no document has ever been found that actually corresponds to the hypothetical original sources that have been patched together. Much is based on conjecture, but some of it seems quite plausible and fascinating. But there are other schools and methodologies, some radical. A lot of debate. Some even say chaos. I suggest we keep in mind that it is a debate, not a consensus. Those are just my 2 cents as a complete amateur, outsider, and unworthy spectator-wannabe without a ticket to see what's really going on in the stadium yet who enjoys hearing the rise of an occasional "ooh and aahh!" from the crowd of spectators within.

Jerome said...

I'm not sure if your last two comments were intended as a response to my comment/question (not that they needed to be), but I was asking about the compatibility of the Documentary Hypothesis with the Book of Moses, not the Book of Mormon. The Genesis creation account contains two different versions of creation, one in which humans were created after all other animals on the sixth day (P source, chapter 1), and God is referred to as "God." In the second version in chapter 2, man is created before the animals (J source), and God is referred to as "Lord God." This is one of the primary inspirations for the Documentary Hypothesis and shows evidence of multiple authors. The incompatibility with the Book of Moses comes from the fact that in it, God presents both creation versions to Moses, who is told to write God's words in a book that would be restored someday when God raises up another like Moses. It presents both creation accounts as the work of a single author. Somebody involved with the writing of the Book of Moses recognized the presence of two creation accounts and harmonized them by saying that one was spiritual and the other physical; the implication is that the spiritual one occurs first, leaving the second creation account as the physical one, where Adam is created before the animals.

Anonymous said...

Jeff, I agree with the other anonymous: you are in over your head here, boldly commenting on things you've only given a cursory glance. This makes you look ignorant and amateur. I find it very hard to take you seriously when you limit yourworld view on so important a topic to so very tiny a slice of this enormous pie.
As others have implied, you have an organized church to defend, and a legacy of "prophets" to make sure you don't cross. You are not impartial in matters of biblical scholarship. It takes more than a dilettante to bring anything substantive to the table of scholarship.

James Anglin said...

Anonymous, if you can point out some specific error in Jeff's post, then do that. He's very tolerant of criticism. If you can't actually put your finger on anything wrong in what he's said, though, don't just call him names. That's a waste of bandwidth.

Jeff Lindsay said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jeff Lindsay said...

James, thank you for a very helpful comment. Much appreciated. Yes, when people resort to name calling and vague, unsupported claims based on authority alone, it certainly raises questions about the approach. Thanks for pointing that out. I'll also note that you do a great job of staying tactful and reasonable when disagreeing with me here, which deserves a lot of respect. Thanks!

Jeff Lindsay said...

Anonymous @1:58AM, perhaps you also missed the point that I'm not citing my own original research in this area. I'm pointing to some works by people I consider reasonable scholars with reasonable credentials who give us reasons to see that there is a debate, not a conviction and death sentence, regarding charges that the Exodus story is a late fabrication that could not have been known and used in a 600 B.C. text. In response to the previous "you're out of your league, so shut up" comment, I pointed that out and asked for guidance on where, say, Friedman had gone wrong in reaching his conclusions. I realize not all agree. I realize you can challenge his assumptions on the dimensions of the Tabernacle and advocate different interpretations of the data--which is the nature of a debate rather than a firmly resolved unassailable conclusion.

While not directly related to the issue of the Exodus, I also recommend Robert Eisenmann's The Dead Sea Scrolls Discovered to set the stage for understanding the limitations of your appeal to authority and the implicit demand that outsiders be silent. The story told in the opening pages about ugly, unscholarly political battles that kept the Dead Sea Scrolls locked up and out of the hands of unfavored scholars for the benefit of a few egos and careers is a painful one that might suggest it is unwise to put too much reliance on the appeal to elite authorities in biblical scholarship.

Yes, I recognize there is a heavy price to be paid to enter the arena and make significant contributions that can withstand the scrutiny of other scholars. But that does not mean that others cannot point to the works of such real scholars and the positions they advocate. If amateurs like myself err in citing those works and drawing implications from them, real scholars who disagree should respond, in my opinion, by explaining the errors and offering substance. When the response of those more educated elites is to turn to insults (anonymous ones, no less: "ignorant," "out of your league," etc.), it does not smell like scholarship to me.

Scholarship is about substance, not blanket appeals to authority and attempts to silence dissenters with name calling. Such antics only confirm the pictures painted by Dever, Kitchem, Hoffmeir, and Garfinkel of the tactics of the revisionists in biblical scholarship. Substance, please. Would love to see some.

James Anglin said...

Academic authority isn't a club — in either sense of the word. It's not just the prejudice of a like-minded group, but it's also not a cudgel. It's more of a pillow.

Nobody is such a big authority that they can't be wrong, even on important points of their own specialties. Conversely, a person with weaker credentials can be right. But top experts are smart and experienced, while the person with less of a track record may well have made schoolchildish errors and just not realized it. So relying on authoritative judgements by experts isn't always a sure bet, but it's sometimes the best bet, when life is too short to study everything for yourself. Other times it's too risky a bet to just take someone's word for something important. Academic authority, or its absence, can be the difference that makes such bets good or bad.

Authority isn't a cudgel because academic debates are like pillow fights, anyway. No argument or evidence ever does more than tip the balance of probability, by a bit, one way or the other. So nothing ever hits all that hard, and no-one ever gets knocked out, but at worst loses balance. Authority means a heavier pillow, but that's all. This is bad news if you're trying to argue for a view whose a priori probability is considered low by everyone else. You just aren't going to be able to convert them all with a knockdown argument, even if you think you have an authority on your side, because pillow. Conversely, though, if you're awkwardly perched in an unstable position, someone will probably take you out pretty fast; but if your feet are on the ground, you have no reason to be afraid of academic debate with opposing viewpoints, no matter how authoritative. It's a pillow fight.