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Literary dating of the book of kings [was Re: [ANE-2] Re: Exile and return -- dating questions

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  • Ariel L. Szczupak
    Let me offer a (quick, very sketchy) reasoning concerning the literary dating of the book of kings which (if accepted) should put things in the correct (IMHO)
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 2, 2009
      Let me offer a (quick, very sketchy) reasoning concerning the
      literary dating of the book of kings which (if accepted) should put
      things in the correct (IMHO) perspective of 50/50 uncertainty.

      1st argument: "biblical stories" existed before the book of kings.

      "Before the book of kings" - the timeline in the stories provides the
      terminus ante quem to be used, the earliest date(s) the story(ies)
      could have been written, roughly the beginning of the 1st mbc.

      "Biblical story" has two literary meaning. The 1st deals with the
      literary arrangement of the people and events using some unified
      comprehensive "human condition" point of view. Similar in approach to
      Greek tragedies (but very different when it comes to the role of free
      will) or to the Njal & Laxdaela Icelandic sagas (again different re
      free will). This 1st meaning is art-oriented. The 2nd meaning is the
      technical aspect of the telling, the "ancient historical novel". It
      deals with literary craftsmanship.

      Evidence: good old Sinuhe.

      The artistic value of Sinuhe's tale is debatable (personally I don't
      think it has the force of a "biblical story"), but it's the 2nd
      meaning, the technical aspect that is important for the sake of this
      argument. And Sinuhe's tale has many characteristics of BH stories.

      In every art form the technique is the vessel that is filled by
      individual (and very rarely groups) with artistic contents that
      ranges from the awful, through mediocre to the masterpiece. The
      important question for this argument is was the technique known,
      ready to be used by a master artist, or would this master artist have
      to invent the technique too.

      And artistic technique is not an "all or nothing" that an artist has
      to adopt. E.g. cubistic technique involves the platform (oil,
      drawing, etc, techniques) and the a range of visual characteristics
      developed by several master artists.

      What do we know about Sinuhe's tale? That it dates to the early 2nd
      mbc and that it was a best seller.

      2nd argument: the author of the book of kings could have known of the
      Sinuhe story-telling technique.

      BEC's "back to the future" version notwithstanding, I'm assuming a BH
      speaking primary audience for the book of kings.

      Whatever was the ethnic, religious or sociopolitical identity of this
      group, we know it used the scripts I like to call "linear Levant
      Semitic" and "square Levant Semitic" (Phoenician/Canaanite and
      Aramaic scripts respectively).

      Evidence: the "proto Levant Semitic" script

      The early version of these scripts, the "proto" version, is strongly
      connected to Egypt in shape and in evidenced locations, and, to a
      lesser degree, in suggested phonetics. That provides a script-based
      link over time.

      A script-based link does not imply necessarily a literary-culture
      link. But when coupled with archeological evidence links to Egyptian
      material culture in the locations of the book of kings, and with
      Egyptian archeological evidence with links to the same locations, I
      think the overall picture is more likely to be one of full cultural
      link, literary culture included, than one which excludes literary culture.

      I'm nor arguing the biblical testimony about such a link because the
      counter argument would be that the testimony has self-serving purposes.

      And I'm not arguing that the artist and audience of the book of kings
      belong to the same group that used the "proto" script. I'm arguing
      that whatever cultural path the script took to reach the artist and
      audience could have been taken by other aspects of the Egyptian
      culture, including some literary best sellers.

      The "proto Levant Semitic" script gives us a date of mid to late 2nd mbc.

      Inference: an artist wishing to write the book of kings could have
      been familiar with the Sinuhe-like story telling technique as early
      as the book's terminus ante quem.

      I'm not claiming that it is likely that he used this story telling
      technique. I'm claiming that it's not impossible and not improbable,
      bringing us to the "no idea whatsoever" 50/50 range.

      [A similar, though somewhat weaker, argument can be made linking
      other aspects of the literary technique used in the book of kings to
      the Ugaritic literature, with the consonantal shorthand aspect of the
      script providing the link].

      So can we, please, put this aspect of historicity to rest until new
      evidence is uncovered?


      [100% bona fide dilettante ... delecto ergo sum!]

      Ariel L. Szczupak
      AMIS-JLM (Ricercar Ltd.)
      POB 4707, Jerusalem, Israel 91406
      Phone: +972-2-5619660 Fax: +972-2-5634203
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