Monday, April 25, 2016

More on ancient literacy in Judah

EPIGRAPHY AND LITERARY CRITICISM: Trying To Discover When The Good Book Was Written Is A Bad Idea (Ian Young, HuffPo). Perhaps not so much bad as just asking the wrong question. But Professor Young raises a very good point:
In fact, the whole discussion misses the really interesting breakthroughs scholars have made about the composition of the Bible since the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Scholars have become aware that Old Testament books were not ever just written in one go. "When was the Bible written?" is the wrong question. Ancient books were fluid entities that were written and rewritten, each manuscript a different rendition of the community tradition that lay behind it.

We are used, in the modern world, to a book, once it is written, staying written. Also, modern books usually have an identifiable author or authors. The Bible is, on the contrary, community literature, reflecting community traditions that appear in different ways in different renditions of the same book or passage. Even within the Bible that we know, we find multiple versions of the same stories and traditions. Outside the Bible, the Dead Sea Scrolls and other ancient texts, like the earliest translations into Greek, show us yet further variant versions, all of which were likely considered to be valid representations of the tradition about great Biblical themes like God's relationship with the peoples of the earth.

So, for many of the familiar texts of the Bible, the answer to the question about whether they were written in 600 B.C., or earlier than that, or at a later date, may simply be "yes".
Background here and links.