In looking beyond the Hebrew scriptures to the epigraphic corpus of the ancient Near East, we multiply the data from which to adduce theories of textual development. When biblicists hypothesize theories of textual development, they do so situated in a distinctly modern textual culture and are prone to project anachronistic attitudes and practices upon cultures at a great distance in time and place. Empirical models offer us methodological control as we observe how ancient scribes more closely contemporaneous with the scribes of Israel edited and expanded cherished texts across the centuries.The new book sounds interesting, as do the ideas summarized in the essay. But the use of "empirical models" to study biblical source criticism isn't all that new. The phrase comes from the book Empirical Models for Biblical Criticism, edited by Jeffrey Tigay in 1985. (A reprint by Wipf and Stock is available here). And that book was influenced by Tigay's 1982 monograph, The Evolution of the Gilgamesh Epic. The 1985 collection really belongs in the bibliography of this essay.
See Also: Inconsistency in the Torah: Ancient Literary Convention and the Limits of Source Criticism (Oxford University Press, 2017)
By Joshua Berman
Associate Professor of Hebrew Bible
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