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Biblical editors, or not?

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  • Graham Hagens
    Working my way through John Van Seters The Edited Bible (2006), I am wondering how his thesis that the concept of biblical editors is a fantasy has fared
    Message 1 of 10 , Oct 7, 2009
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      Working my way through John Van Seters 'The Edited Bible' (2006), I am wondering how his thesis that the concept of biblical editors is a 'fantasy' has fared over the past 3 years.

      Some quotes:

      'biblical scholars may quite glibly question the existence of an author or the historian in antiquity, but may never question the existence of the redactor ...after 150 years in which redactional analysis, especially of Homer, dominated classical studies, in the course of the last 50 years this form of literary analysis has virtually died out ...Why did this happen in classical studies [but] not in biblcal studies' (xiv)

      'what I intend by this study is to challenge all those who seriously engage in biblical criticism ...to justify their notion of an edited Bible' (xv)


      'I have concluded that there never was anything like 'editions' of literary works that were the result of ...editors ..It is a figment of the scholarly imagination that had its origin in an anachronistic ... supposition that the scribes in antiquity were engaged in the same kind of activity [as] European scholars of the Renaissance...consequently all talk of 'redactors' or 'redactions' should be scrupulouslly avoided in biblical studies (p.398)

      '...the Pentateuch and the Deuteronomistic History are to be understood on the model of ancient historiography ...with numerous comparitive parallels, in preference to the model of the 'editor' which has no comparable parallel in antiquity ...The notion of the ancient editor was created out of an obvious anachronism and developed in the interest of literary and text-critical theories ... it has become devoid of all contact with reality ...Modern scholars ... have populated their imaginary biblical world with myriads of text-corrupting editors who virtually replace the actual authors of the text. These editors are given the authority to shape the text as they wish until the form of the text is declared canonical. It is time to rid biblical scholarship of this fantasy.' (p. 400)

      Comments?

      Graham Hagens
    • Niels Peter Lemche
      Perhaps a little abriged resumé? Van Seters shows as everybody should know that the idea of the editor was adopted from classical studies at the end of the
      Message 2 of 10 , Oct 7, 2009
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        Perhaps a little abriged resumé? Van Seters shows as everybody should know that the idea of the editor was adopted from classical studies at the end of the 18th century. When classical scholars gave up the idea a generation later, it persisted in biblical (read foremost: pentateuchal) studies. So, JVS tells us that it is an anachronism. Biblical scholars are really not in a position to decide. It will demand the help from classical scholars. A main argument is that this guy, the editor, did not exist, and JVS tells us that in the classical world from where he is supposed to come, he was not.

        It should be worth a symposium between people in biblical studies and classical scholars.

        Niels Peter Lemche

        PS: I side with JVS: If this guy did not exist, then he did not exist. And that would be the end of siscussion.



        -----Oprindelig meddelelse-----
        Fra: ANE-2@yahoogroups.com [mailto:ANE-2@yahoogroups.com] På vegne af Graham Hagens
        Sendt: 8. oktober 2009 01:37
        Til: ANE-2@yahoogroups.com
        Emne: [ANE-2] Biblical editors, or not?

        Working my way through John Van Seters 'The Edited Bible' (2006), I am wondering how his thesis that the concept of biblical editors is a 'fantasy' has fared over the past 3 years.

        Some quotes:

        'biblical scholars may quite glibly question the existence of an author or the historian in antiquity, but may never question the existence of the redactor ...after 150 years in which redactional analysis, especially of Homer, dominated classical studies, in the course of the last 50 years this form of literary analysis has virtually died out ...Why did this happen in classical studies [but] not in biblcal studies' (xiv)

        'what I intend by this study is to challenge all those who seriously engage in biblical criticism ...to justify their notion of an edited Bible' (xv)


        'I have concluded that there never was anything like 'editions' of literary works that were the result of ...editors ..It is a figment of the scholarly imagination that had its origin in an anachronistic ... supposition that the scribes in antiquity were engaged in the same kind of activity [as] European scholars of the Renaissance...consequently all talk of 'redactors' or 'redactions' should be scrupulouslly avoided in biblical studies (p.398)

        '...the Pentateuch and the Deuteronomistic History are to be understood on the model of ancient historiography ...with numerous comparitive parallels, in preference to the model of the 'editor' which has no comparable parallel in antiquity ...The notion of the ancient editor was created out of an obvious anachronism and developed in the interest of literary and text-critical theories ... it has become devoid of all contact with reality ...Modern scholars ... have populated their imaginary biblical world with myriads of text-corrupting editors who virtually replace the actual authors of the text. These editors are given the authority to shape the text as they wish until the form of the text is declared canonical. It is time to rid biblical scholarship of this fantasy.' (p. 400)

        Comments?

        Graham Hagens





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      • sambacats
        Hello Graham, ... and ... Well Graham, not that I believe that Biblical Critisism is without its faults and misunderstandings, but don t you know that editing
        Message 3 of 10 , Oct 8, 2009
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          Hello Graham,

          You wrote:
          > 'what I intend by this study is to challenge all those who seriously engage in biblical criticism ...to justify their notion of an edited Bible' (xv)>
          and
          > 'I have concluded that there never was anything like 'editions' of literary works that were the result of ...editors ..>

          Well Graham, not that I believe that Biblical Critisism is without its faults and misunderstandings, but don't you know that editing is an ongoing process? The latest 'editions' of the Bible date from this year. Translators constantly change words and phrases to their own likings, to make it more 'readable' for the next generation, or according to the latest generally 'accepted' opinions, otherwise the book would soon become obsolete and editors and booksellers will not have their bread on the table anymore. This editing has been done ever since writing and copying began, say since 4000 BC. And it doesn't matter what text you are talking about. All surviving texts on perishable material sooner or later have to be or has been reproduced, over and over again, especially if many copies were to be made, but after some time, when language changes, as did Hebrew, Aramean and Greek and every other language back then and and still do, the texts must also be edited to at least remain readable for any next generation, in whatever language or time it may once have been written or will be written. Inevitably, all texts change, for the good or the better, whether you like it or not. It is not that the Bible is written in gold on imperishable material and never changed a jota. It is for instance acknowledged that the Massoretic version has added reading signs to the original and that some of these signs changed the original meaning of certain words. But apparently people had trouble reading the original unambiguously at the time.

          It is naive to think that a book as thick and old as the Bible (Old Testament, New Testament, the books that have later been left out, the books that have later been added) was never ever updated to the language spoken and understood by its adherents, and that there never ever was made one little copying mistake or misunderstanding by the copyist, or that never ever anything has been added or changed by someone. Take the New Testament. It is regarded to be an extension to the Old Testament, but it is in fact a later addition, a new edition, and it has never been accepted as authentic or even true by the Jewish adherents of the Old Testament. And why then do we find, for instance at Qumran, multiple variant versions of this never ever edited book, the Bible? Which Bible are we talking about? I am guessing that you mean the Torah. But which one? The Massoretic? the Septuagint? the Samaritan? They all differ, and all extant copies exist in variant versions of these as well. Is that a figment of imagination? I don't think so. How come that these versions even exist if editors never existed, people who had their own thoughts of what should be written and read and what not? Someone has already decided for you what to read and what not.

          A real challenge may be to explain the very existence of these varying versions, all diverging heavily from one copy to another. And then to tell which original is the real original, and why this is so. Do you really think that anyone knows which version Jesus was reading and preaching? Or which version Moses had written? Or which version Ezra took from Babylon with him? Or from which version the Massoretic was copied and re-edited?

          Cheers,
          Ian
        • Jean-Fabrice Nardelli
          As a classical scholar whose work focuses on Homer and a student of ANE, I would distance myself from Van Seters. The domination of Oral theories in the field
          Message 4 of 10 , Oct 8, 2009
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            As a classical scholar whose work focuses on Homer and a student of ANE, I would distance myself from Van Seters. The domination of Oral theories in the field of early Greek epic did indeed rule out the old Analytical creed and its crude set of tools theoretical and practical ('old' = simple and short, 'recent' = complex in terms of subject-matter and literary polish ; 'old' = archaic in termes of diction, 'recent' = phonologically advanced, e.g. widespread vocalic contractions, more neglected digammas), but lead straight to a sort of collapse in philology, whereby everything in the standard editions of Homer (mainly the OCT) came to regarded as Homer's ipsissima verba. Furthermore, a modified kind of Analysis, called Neo-Analysis, is still holding its own, mainly in the German-speaking area, where the primitivist poetics favored by most American Homerists since Parry and Lord discovered how the Homeric bard was similar to the Yugoslav guslar never found much adherence, whereas some Homerists are pioneering what they call post-oral theory (Rainer Friedrich). So beware of oversimplification. I would caution against using the Homeric epics as a comparison/foil for the Hebrew Bible unless one provides much, much technical qualification.
            The text of Homer we have been bequeathed in the medieval manuscripts is an edition /a recension, ekdosis, in my own judgement an alexandrino-roman one (the text established by Aristarchus to be used together with his hypomnemata was taken over by the booksellers who compromised between it and the common texts in circulation : the number of lines is basically Aristarchus', viz. those lines he cut out did disappear, but his lections, being rather too learned, were doctored in conformity with the literary taste of first-century BC Alexandria, not philological notions ; with the Roman rule, this text did extinguish the other ones and became the archetype of the textual tradition), while large chunks from the Hebrew Bible ultimately stem from a similarly constructed, textual state, the dating and outlook of which are perhaps clearer in the Historical books such as Samuel and Kings than it is in the Pentateuch. It does not help to confuse the 'higher criticism' of Homer (how the Iliad and the Odyssey as literary works came to be composed) with the 'lower' one (how they were transmitted as material texts, viz. their Textüberlieferung, influenced their wording). 'Editor' therefore seems to me an unfortunate choice of word by Van Seters ; 'redactor' or 'composer' would be far better.

            J.-F. Nardelli
            Université de Provence

            [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
          • Jim West
            Personally I don t buy it. Without some sort of editorial hand we d have nothing. These texts didn t just dollop together like balls of dust under a bed.
            Message 5 of 10 , Oct 8, 2009
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              Personally I don't buy it. Without some sort of 'editorial' hand we'd
              have nothing. These texts didn't just dollop together like balls of
              dust under a bed.

              Graham Hagens wrote:
              >
              >
              > Working my way through John Van Seters 'The Edited Bible' (2006), I am
              > wondering how his thesis that the concept of biblical editors is a
              > 'fantasy' has fared over the past 3 years.
              >
              > Comments?
              >
              > Graham Hagens
              >

              ++++++

              Jim West
              http://jwest.wordpress.com
            • Bradley Skene
              How does von Seters deal with Chronicles or Jubilees? Bradley A. Skene ... [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
              Message 6 of 10 , Oct 8, 2009
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                How does von Seters deal with Chronicles or Jubilees?
                Bradley A. Skene


                >
                >


                [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
              • Niels Peter Lemche
                That is because you by editor think about something. -body not intended in JVS book. The biblical redactor -- our companion in my generation -- was a
                Message 7 of 10 , Oct 8, 2009
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                  That is because you by "editor" think about something. -body not intended in JVS' book. The biblical "redactor" -- our companion in my generation -- was a construct by German academic scholarship in the early days of higher criticism. So the concept is strongly connected to the early higher criticism and it division of the Pentateuch into three (four) strings, or better a mixing together of three written documents where an editor was working with scissors and glue.

                  JVS has since his Abraham book back in the mid 1970s opposed this construct, and has since then talked of authors, not modern ones but ancient putting together whatever they found fit, but getting their things together with a purpose- That is why JVS wrote more than one book about the Jahwist, his favourite author.

                  The "editor" is an implant from German universities towards the end of the Enlightenment.

                  When we oppose something, we should first of all realize what we are opposing.

                  Niels Peter Lemche



                  -----Oprindelig meddelelse-----
                  Fra: ANE-2@yahoogroups.com [mailto:ANE-2@yahoogroups.com] På vegne af Jim West
                  Sendt: 8. oktober 2009 13:44
                  Til: ANE-2@yahoogroups.com
                  Emne: Re: [ANE-2] Biblical editors, or not?

                  Personally I don't buy it. Without some sort of 'editorial' hand we'd
                  have nothing. These texts didn't just dollop together like balls of
                  dust under a bed.

                  Graham Hagens wrote:
                  >
                  >
                  > Working my way through John Van Seters 'The Edited Bible' (2006), I am
                  > wondering how his thesis that the concept of biblical editors is a
                  > 'fantasy' has fared over the past 3 years.
                  >
                  > Comments?
                  >
                  > Graham Hagens
                  >

                  ++++++

                  Jim West
                  http://jwest.wordpress.com



                  ------------------------------------

                  Yahoo! Groups Links
                • Peter T. Daniels
                  I got about halfway through van Seters s book and gave up. The whole book (thus far) seemed to be about the meaning of the English words edit(or) and
                  Message 8 of 10 , Oct 8, 2009
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                    I got about halfway through van Seters's book and gave up. The whole book (thus far) seemed to be about the meaning of the English words "edit(or)" and "redact(or)," and (by that point) he had nothing to say about the composing, writing, development, or finalization of the Hebrew/Aramaic text.
                     --
                    Peter T. Daniels grammatim@...

                    >From: Jim West <jwest@...>
                    >To: ANE-2@yahoogroups.com
                    >Sent: Thursday, October 8, 2009 7:44:23 AM
                    >Subject: Re: [ANE-2] Biblical editors, or not?
                    >

                    >Personally I don't buy it. Without some sort of 'editorial' hand we'd
                    >have nothing. These texts didn't just dollop together like balls of
                    >dust under a bed.
                    >
                    >Graham Hagens wrote:
                    >>
                    >>
                    >> Working my way through John Van Seters 'The Edited Bible' (2006), I am
                    >> wondering how his thesis that the concept of biblical editors is a
                    >> 'fantasy' has fared over the past 3 years.
                    >>
                    >> Comments?
                    >>
                    >> Graham Hagens
                  • RUSSELLGMIRKIN@aol.com
                    Van Seters book is well worth reading and deeply considering. His criticisms of the modern notion of the biblical redactor are mainly on the money. The
                    Message 9 of 10 , Oct 8, 2009
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                      Van Seters' book is well worth reading and deeply considering. His
                      criticisms of the modern notion of the biblical redactor are mainly on the money.
                      The thesis that the Pentateuch and Deuteronomist history are to be
                      understood by comparison to other examples of ancient historiography (Greek and
                      Mesopotamian) rather than by the purely hypothetical model provided by
                      redaction criticism is very sound.

                      That said, his interpretation of the ancient evidence sometimes appears
                      slanted towards his thesis. He doesn't adequately deal with the standard
                      arguments for the circulation of a critical edition of Homer's works by
                      Zenodotus and he completely glosses over the significant testimony of the Letter
                      of Aristeas with respect to the Jewish idea of a canonical or authoritative
                      text. He also reasons that because a standard Homeric text never
                      prevailed in the book markets, therefore the Alexandrian editors never intended to
                      create a standard, authoritative public edition, which in my opinion is an
                      example of post hoc ergo propter hoc logical fallacy. I also remain
                      unconvinced that the Talmudic 'Scroll of the Courts' did not refer (at least
                      theoretically) to an authoritative temple exemplar (as seemingly required for
                      the Torah of the King in Deut. 17).

                      Best regards,
                      Russell Gmirkin




                      Working my way through John Van Seters 'The Edited Bible' (2006), I am
                      wondering how his thesis that the concept of biblical editors is a 'fantasy'
                      has fared over the past 3 years.

                      Some quotes:

                      'biblical scholars may quite glibly question the existence of an author or
                      the historian in antiquity, but may never question the existence of the
                      redactor ...after 150 years in which redactional analysis, especially of
                      Homer, dominated classical studies, in the course of the last 50 years this
                      form of literary analysis has virtually died out ...Why did this happen in
                      classical studies [but] not in biblcal studies' (xiv)

                      'what I intend by this study is to challenge all those who seriously
                      engage in biblical criticism ...to justify their notion of an edited Bible' (xv)

                      'I have concluded that there never was anything like 'editions' of
                      literary works that were the result of ...editors ..It is a figment of the
                      scholarly imagination that had its origin in an anachronistic ... supposition that
                      the scribes in antiquity were engaged in the same kind of activity [as]
                      European scholars of the Renaissance.'I have concluded that there never was
                      anything like 'editions' of literary works that were the result of ...e

                      '...the Pentateuch and the Deuteronomistic History are to be understood on
                      the model of ancient historiography ...with numerous comparitive
                      parallels, in preference to the model of the 'editor' which has no comparable
                      parallel in antiquity ...The notion of the ancient editor was created out of an
                      obvious anachronism and developed in the interest of literary and
                      text-critical theories ... it has become devoid of all contact with reality ...Modern
                      scholars ... have populated their imaginary biblical world with myriads of
                      text-corrupting editors who virtually replace the actual authors of the
                      text. These editors are given the authority to shape the text as they wish
                      until the form of the text is declared canonical. It is time to rid biblical
                      scholarship of this fantasy.' (p. 400)

                      Comments?

                      Graham Hagens









                      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                    • MarcC
                      There is an interesting review of J. Van Seters, The Edited Bible: The Curious History of the Editor in Biblical Criticism, online at
                      Message 10 of 10 , Oct 8, 2009
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                        There is an interesting review of J. Van Seters, The Edited Bible: The Curious History of the "Editor" in Biblical Criticism, online at

                        http://www.bookreviews.org/pdf/5237_5516.pdf

                        Marc Cooper
                        for the Moderators

                        --- In ANE-2@yahoogroups.com, RUSSELLGMIRKIN@... wrote:
                        >
                        >
                        > Van Seters' book is well worth reading and deeply considering. His
                        > criticisms of the modern notion of the biblical redactor are mainly on the money.
                        > The thesis that the Pentateuch and Deuteronomist history are to be
                        > understood by comparison to other examples of ancient historiography (Greek and
                        > Mesopotamian) rather than by the purely hypothetical model provided by
                        > redaction criticism is very sound.
                        >
                        > That said, his interpretation of the ancient evidence sometimes appears
                        > slanted towards his thesis. He doesn't adequately deal with the standard
                        > arguments for the circulation of a critical edition of Homer's works by
                        > Zenodotus and he completely glosses over the significant testimony of the Letter
                        > of Aristeas with respect to the Jewish idea of a canonical or authoritative
                        > text. He also reasons that because a standard Homeric text never
                        > prevailed in the book markets, therefore the Alexandrian editors never intended to
                        > create a standard, authoritative public edition, which in my opinion is an
                        > example of post hoc ergo propter hoc logical fallacy. I also remain
                        > unconvinced that the Talmudic 'Scroll of the Courts' did not refer (at least
                        > theoretically) to an authoritative temple exemplar (as seemingly required for
                        > the Torah of the King in Deut. 17).
                        >
                        > Best regards,
                        > Russell Gmirkin
                        >
                        >
                        >
                        >
                        > Working my way through John Van Seters 'The Edited Bible' (2006), I am
                        > wondering how his thesis that the concept of biblical editors is a 'fantasy'
                        > has fared over the past 3 years.
                        >
                        > Some quotes:
                        >
                        > 'biblical scholars may quite glibly question the existence of an author or
                        > the historian in antiquity, but may never question the existence of the
                        > redactor ...after 150 years in which redactional analysis, especially of
                        > Homer, dominated classical studies, in the course of the last 50 years this
                        > form of literary analysis has virtually died out ...Why did this happen in
                        > classical studies [but] not in biblcal studies' (xiv)
                        >
                        > 'what I intend by this study is to challenge all those who seriously
                        > engage in biblical criticism ...to justify their notion of an edited Bible' (xv)
                        >
                        > 'I have concluded that there never was anything like 'editions' of
                        > literary works that were the result of ...editors ..It is a figment of the
                        > scholarly imagination that had its origin in an anachronistic ... supposition that
                        > the scribes in antiquity were engaged in the same kind of activity [as]
                        > European scholars of the Renaissance.'I have concluded that there never was
                        > anything like 'editions' of literary works that were the result of ...e
                        >
                        > '...the Pentateuch and the Deuteronomistic History are to be understood on
                        > the model of ancient historiography ...with numerous comparitive
                        > parallels, in preference to the model of the 'editor' which has no comparable
                        > parallel in antiquity ...The notion of the ancient editor was created out of an
                        > obvious anachronism and developed in the interest of literary and
                        > text-critical theories ... it has become devoid of all contact with reality ...Modern
                        > scholars ... have populated their imaginary biblical world with myriads of
                        > text-corrupting editors who virtually replace the actual authors of the
                        > text. These editors are given the authority to shape the text as they wish
                        > until the form of the text is declared canonical. It is time to rid biblical
                        > scholarship of this fantasy.' (p. 400)
                        >
                        > Comments?
                        >
                        > Graham Hagens
                        >
                        >
                        >
                        >
                        >
                        >
                        >
                        >
                        >
                        > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                        >
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