Scratched Silver and Painted Walls: Can We Date Biblical Texts Archaeologically?

By Zevit, Ziony | Hebrew Studies Journal, Annual 2007 | Go to article overview

Scratched Silver and Painted Walls: Can We Date Biblical Texts Archaeologically?


Zevit, Ziony, Hebrew Studies Journal


This article is a contribution to ongoing discussions about the problem of dating biblical texts. Initially, it sketches briefly progress in dating--defining "progress" as movement toward a designated goal that is measurable by the success with which researchers are able to determine and eliminate incorrect answers to their questions--made by employing literary, socioanthropological, and linguistic criteria. It then considers the usefulness of archaeological discoveries for such dating through an evaluation of what might be learned from Iron Age inscriptions with biblical connections discovered in excavations, concluding that "the contribution of archaeology to dating biblical texts is nil."

**********

Biblical texts are not easily dated, particularly with regard to their terminus a quo. Terminus ad quem dates are more readily provided, but the safer the date, the later it is. There is little value for contemporary research in knowing that all of the extant books in the canon of the Hebrew Bible were completed by the beginning of the first century B.C.E. As a consequence, the discoveries of biblical manuscripts at Qumran are not important to the history of biblical literature, only to the history of the transmission of the text.

Biblicists and historians interested in the history of the literature in its being made and being produced and in what such literature may reveal about Israel's social, political, and religious history about 1000-400 B.C.E., require tighter chronological controls that will enable dating to within decades, as is the case with Egyptian pottery, and not dating within centuries as is the case with Syro-Palestinean Iron Age pottery. No archaeologist has uncovered a seventh century temple containing Ur-Deuteronomy, perhaps the first canonized book of the Tanak, in palaeo-Hebrew script. The revolution in scholarship that such a find would cause in scholarship were Ur-Deuteronomy to be found in an eighth century archaeological context with a colophon signed "Isaiah" can easily be imagined.

1. PROGRESS IN DATING

Absent such discoveries, bibliology has progressed in its attempts to date texts through disciplined inferences from data examined within paradigms that are regularly examined and critiqued. The underlying methodologies of bibliology and other forms of historical inquiry have been successful in producing important answers to questions. The fact that the answers have changed and that we no longer accept all or many of the earlier ones is an indication of such progress. Progress, understood as movement toward a designated goal, in this case, responses to particular questions about dates, is measurable by the success with which researchers are able to determine and to eliminate incorrect answers to their questions.

From the beginning of critical, historically oriented bibliology in the middle of the nineteenth century, progress in dating specific pericopes, genres, and books has been achieved, even giving rise to the sub-disciplines of Form Criticism and Redaction Criticism, the latter of which possesses distinctive ties to the History of Ideas. Work in dating Pentateuchal sources, however, stalled by the teens of the twentieth century as Pentateuchal criticism itself became an ignored research paradigm, especially in the United States. In recent decades, however, it has become the renewed focus of interest and debate both here and abroad. (1)

2. EARLY ATTEMPTS AT DATING

Early scholars attempting to date texts achieved much. First and foremost, as part of the modernist movement whose foundations lie in seventeenth century science, philosophy, and religious thought, they were involved with the disenchantment of nature, social orders, claims to political authority, and claims of religious authorities. Disenchantment eliminated the mystique of conventional authority and enabled questioners to evaluate the basis of traditional answers to questions such as "How could Isaiah of Jerusalem know about Cyrus? …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Scratched Silver and Painted Walls: Can We Date Biblical Texts Archaeologically?
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.