Re: Exile and return -- was the First Historians
- Dear George - I waish I was in Rome at the SBL meeting! Ah well!! I have no doubts that the chronology works - but how does it work? Is it a chronology based on "historical" events and persons? or as an ideological structure? Either way, the chronology should work. Two years ago, at the SBL meeting in Vienna, I gave a paper in which I argued ALL the chronological information from Josiah (including his regnal term) to Ezra/Nehemiah was one whole system of ideological numbers. Scholars, almost universally, separate the chronological information in Ezra/Nehemiah from that of the last chapters of Kings (usually assigned to Dtr2). In several papers, Sarah Japhet has claimed the 26 regnal years occupied by Ezra/Nehemiah probably had some hsitorical basis because the number 26 is not an ideological number. She is correct - but only because she never looks at the whole system. Necho to the destruction of the temple is 22 years; the Edict of Cyrus to the rebuilt temple is 22 years; and the 26 years of Artaxerxes = total 70 years. You will see the number 70 used repeatedly in this sytem - Necho to Cyrus - 70 years. Temple to temple - 70 years. Jehoiakim rules 11 years, rebels and that leads to a 70 yr exile (according to Jeremiah); Zedekiah rules for 11 years and rebels and that leads to 70 years from temple to temple. In the Babylonian counting system, ther are two signs for 70 - one for 10 and another for 60. When you switch the places of these two sign, then the number for 10 remains that but the sign for 60 now becomes the number one - hence 11. So swtching the places of these sign and you go from 70 to 11 or 11 to 70. Evdently that idea must have been in the mind of the Dtr2 when he wrote. In Ezekiel, Zedekiah was given 12 years and the Babylonian Chronicles also suggest 12 years (unless you are willing to change the traditional date for the destruction of Jerusalem to 587 BCE as many do). The number 12 represents perfection and a later redactor would have little compunction about altering the regnal term for the king who caused the destruction of the first temple. Also, I would argue that the regnal term for Jehoiakim was changed to 11 years to suit the chronological needs - and the regnal term of Josiah was altered from 39 to 31 years. And so on.
The ideological structure also shows a progression that is more fitting for an "ideal" than reality. The story from Necho is that Judah lost its independence and the dominancne of the torah with Josiah's death and then a long slow progression of 22 years in which there was a loss of the Davidic family as rulers, the loss of the kingdom, the loss of the city, the temple and then exile. Cyrus starts the process in reverse - first the return of the chosen people to the promised land, then the rebuilt temple where Yahweh dwells, then the torah or the law of Yahweh and the foundation of the new community, and then the city of Jerusalem - chosen as the city for his dwelling place by Yahweh. What is still missing from the time of Josiah is "independence" for the kingdom and the return of the house of David as rulers. The story in Ezra/Nehemiah seems to be constructed in a progressive sequence and suggests something more must occur in the future.
I agree that Edelman's argument is not convincing but does the sequence in Ezra/Nehemiah sound convincing as well? A mass migration of people return with the support of the good king Cyrus, and they rebuild the temple first with financial support from the king of Persia and then the city walls? There is absolutely no archaeological or historical evidence that support the claim that anyone returned, so at best only a handful of people returned. How could a handful of people impose their ideology on those living in Jerusalem and Judea already? How would they manage to make the temple in Jerusalem the dominant temple in Judea when the mass of the population would have allegiances to their own established temples and priests? There is absolutely no archaeological or historical evidence to support the claim that the major temple for Yahweh in the kingdom of Judah was in Jerusalem. There is evidence that the ruins of Jerusalem was used by people shortly after its destruction and it is unlikely they would live there without some sort of religious sanctuary - a temple no matter how small it was. The temple in Ezra/Nehemiah is a large public temple sanctioned, supported and financed by the state. This was not a common policy during the time of the Persian empire so why would the Persian kings choose this backwater town?
Not only is the whole story of Ezra/Nehemiah extraordinary and unique in the entire history of mankind, but so are any of the parts. Can you think of another example in history similar to that found in Ezra/Nehemiah? Can you think of another small, rural group of defeated people in history who created so many texts containing such sophisticated theology in so many varieties? I cannot. In order to accept the "Exile/Return" story, you have to assume one unique feature after another to these Judeans - so many in fact they become super-humans.
The chronolgy and sequence of events seem to be ideological constructions and the story is historically unlikely - certainly odd and unique.
- A case of Heineken - who cares? But a case of Guiness and I would purchase a new spade!! Gad!! Frank Clancy
--- In ANEfirstname.lastname@example.org, George F Somsel <gfsomsel@...> wrote:
> In some cases that is indeed unfalsifiable; but, if you are digging where a case of Heineken ought to be according to the text, and you don't find the case of Heineken anywhere close, I suppose that's falsification (or you assume someone got thirsty).