Homer, the Bible, and Beyond: Literary and Religious Canons in the Ancient World

By Margalit Finkelberg; Guy G. Stroumsa | Go to book overview

ON WRITTEN LIES

CRISTIANO GROTTANELLI


1. The Lying Pen of Scribes

If the construction of the biblical canon in the narrow sense—or rather of the various biblical canons—was the authoritative distinction between inspired texts and texts that are not inspired, and thus also between texts that tell the truth and lying texts, then a biblical text associating the term torah Yahweh to the term šeqer (usually translated as “lies”, “deceit”) is necessarily meaningful in discussing such a construction. This is the case in the passage of the Book oJeremiah I wish to deal with. Jeremiah 8:8–9 means something like: “How can you say: ‘We are wise, and the torah of Yahweh is with us’? Behold, the lying pen of scribes has indeed worked hes! The wise are ashamed, they are terrified, and they are captured. Behold, they have rejected the word of Yahweh; and what wisdom is theirs?”

In my discussion of this passage I shall begin by trying to show by which hermeneutical strategies, and for what reasons, scholars of various denominations have interpreted the embarassing text. Then I shall turn to some more general observations.

Let me begin by reminding my readers that what is usually called the “scholarly consensus” of the translators I shall consider about the time and the writings of Jeremiah and about Jeremiah 8:8–9 in particular is based upon shared conjectures and assumptions, treated as facts by most specialists. The main assumptions are the following: 1) that in the time of king josiah of judah a holy book was (presented as) found in the temple of Jerusalem; 2) that, as a consequence of that (pretended) discovery, or in any case in connection with that text, a cult reform, dated 621, took place in Judah; 3) that the text in question was actually the biblical book Deuteronomy; 4) that Jeremiah 8:8–9 was produced by a prophet “speaking some time after josiah’s reform and the publication of the Book of the Torah”

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