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Tel Dan Stele

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  • Greg Doudna
    Speaking of the somewhat negative review of Athas s book of Schniedewind, the closing paragraph of Schniedewind s review in Review of Biblical Literature
    Message 1 of 3 , Apr 1, 2008
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      Speaking of the "somewhat negative" review of Athas's
      book of Schniedewind, the closing paragraph of
      Schniedewind's review in Review of Biblical Literature
      opens with this howler:

      "This book is a convenient summary of the analyses of
      the Copenhagen International Seminar..."

      The "Copenhagen International Seminar" is the name
      of a publishing series and there is no "analysis/analyses"
      of this publishing series of the Tel Dan stele. Athas's
      key argument concerning the positioning of the fragments
      and his extensive work on the readings and reconstructions,
      as well as the entirety of his work is clearly his own original
      work and not drawn from some mythical "Copenhagen
      position" or influence from the series editors. (I speak as one
      who was at Copenhagen in the midst of it all.) Surely
      Schniedewind could give Athas credit
      for publishing his own original ideas. Athas does cite
      in passing suggestions from Thompson and Cryer on
      the Dan Stele along with publications and suggestions
      of others on the Stele but that is nothing more than
      routine interaction with secondary literature. There is
      no unusual prominence nor controlling influence of
      anything identifiably "Copenhagen" in Athas' work on
      Tel Dan with the possible exception [I am speaking
      from memory not having Athas's book at hand] of Cryer on
      palaeography (and that isn't because it is Copenhagen
      but because it was a scholarly publication that Athas
      found worthwhile). If Schniedewind honestly reads
      Athas's book in this way (as somehow derivative from and
      summarizing a "Copenhagen consensus"--presumably
      that would include Athas's central argument that
      the Stele is genuine), I can only shake my head
      in bafflement and wonder. Continuing with
      Schniedewind's closing paragraph:

      "...but it is unlikely to achieve the author's stated aim
      of creating a more rational interpretation of the
      inscription. It should not be surprising, given how much
      attention the Dan Stele has received, that there is not much
      original here" [in Athas' book].

      Uh, except for his argument on the position of the fragments,
      his argument for its historical context and dating, his
      reconstruction of how the stele was produced
      and what he believes was its original size, his
      arguments for unique readings and reconstructions,
      his argument that "bytdwd" is a geographical location,
      among other things ... all of this, which is the bulk of Athas's
      detailed work, is original.

      "Indeed, this makes one wonder about the value of the
      Tel Dan Inscription as a dissertation topic or as an
      expensive new monograph."

      The ultimate reviewer putdown (and that is the closing
      sentence of the review): the topic itself, irrespective
      of anything that might be said about it, doesn't merit
      a book-length study.

      Schniedewind also appears to fundamentally misunderstand
      Athas's argument concerning "bytdwd" being a geographical
      location. Schniedewind writes: "The suggestion [of Athas]
      that replaces the straightforward reading of _bytdwd_ as a
      dynastic name is that _bytdwd_ is a geographical name
      for Jerusalem. We do not have evidence that Jerusalem was
      called _bytdwd_..."

      But that is not quite Athas's argument. Athas's argument
      is that bytdwd is a geographical location, not that it is
      Jerusalem. This is important. AFTER making this argument
      Athas THEN speculates--identifying it as speculation and
      only tentative--that the geographical location COULD be
      Jerusalem (principally in light of biblical tradition associations).
      But the identity with Jerusalem is, so to speak, an afterthought
      that follows after the argument itself, which is that bytdwd
      is a geographical location. By misrepresenting Athas's
      argument in this way, Schniedewind sets up a straw
      man easy to knock down: is there not plenty of
      evidence for byt-X names for dynasties? And none
      at all for Jerusalem being named bytdwd? q.e.d.

      But the argument correctly represented would run
      differently. For there is substantial evidence of
      geographical locations named byt-X (e.g.
      Bethlehem, Bethhoren, etc. etc.), just as
      there is also evidence of dynasties named byt-X. When
      represented accurately, Athas's argument is not
      so easily knocked down as Schniedewind sets forth.
      It is in principle possible that Athas's argument on
      bytdwd as geographical identification could be correct
      and the referent is not Jerusalem.

      Whether Athas's specific and original arguments in
      his work are in fact correct are distinct issues.
      I could defend Athas's work more strongly if I were
      convinced of his argument on the positioning of the
      fragments, but unfortunately (since my sympathies
      are with the risk and hard work and argumentation
      of the original research set forth by Athas, as opposed
      to what comes across to me as the condescending tone
      of the review) I am not convinced Athas is right on
      that, and am persuaded Schniedewind's proposal
      to adjust the alignment of the existing join in fact
      removes the principal arguments of Athas against
      the existing join.

      Athas's argument for reading bytdwd as a geographical
      location may however be a different matter. Has
      Athas's argument on this _as Athas argued it_ (as
      distinguished from Schniedewind's straw man
      representation) been convincingly refuted in print?

      Greg Doudna
      Bellingham, Washington, USA
      (dr. theol., University of Copenhagen)

      _________________________________________________________________
      How well do you know your celebrity gossip?
      http://originals.msn.com/thebigdebate?ocid=T002MSN03N0707A

      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
    • Thomas L. Thompson
      I would like to thank Greg Doudna for his corrections to the rather misleading review of George Athas book in BRL. As general editor for the monograph series
      Message 2 of 3 , Apr 1, 2008
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        I would like to thank Greg Doudna for his corrections to the rather misleading review of George Athas' book in BRL. As general editor for the monograph series Copenhagen International Seminar, I would like to confirm that the books of this series do not reflect the opinions or scholarly positions of either me or any of the other editors related to the series. I think George himself, must be rather surprised that Schniedewind, who has assuredly read both the little I have written on the texts from Tel Dan and Athas' book, would think that our understanding of these inscriptions is as similar as his remarks imply!

        Thomas



        Thomas L. Thompson

        University of Copenhagen



        -----Oprindelig meddelelse-----
        Fra: ANE-2@yahoogroups.com [mailto:ANE-2@yahoogroups.com] PĂ„ vegne af Greg Doudna
        Sendt: 1. april 2008 09:40
        Til: ane-2@yahoogroups.com
        Emne: [ANE-2] Tel Dan Stele





        Speaking of the "somewhat negative" review of Athas's
        book of Schniedewind, the closing paragraph of
        Schniedewind's review in Review of Biblical Literature
        opens with this howler:

        "This book is a convenient summary of the analyses of
        the Copenhagen International Seminar..."

        The "Copenhagen International Seminar" is the name
        of a publishing series and there is no "analysis/analyses"
        of this publishing series of the Tel Dan stele. Athas's
        key argument concerning the positioning of the fragments
        and his extensive work on the readings and reconstructions,
        as well as the entirety of his work is clearly his own original
        work and not drawn from some mythical "Copenhagen
        position" or influence from the series editors. (I speak as one
        who was at Copenhagen in the midst of it all.) Surely
        Schniedewind could give Athas credit
        for publishing his own original ideas. Athas does cite
        in passing suggestions from Thompson and Cryer on
        the Dan Stele along with publications and suggestions
        of others on the Stele but that is nothing more than
        routine interaction with secondary literature. There is
        no unusual prominence nor controlling influence of
        anything identifiably "Copenhagen" in Athas' work on
        Tel Dan with the possible exception [I am speaking
        from memory not having Athas's book at hand] of Cryer on
        palaeography (and that isn't because it is Copenhagen
        but because it was a scholarly publication that Athas
        found worthwhile). If Schniedewind honestly reads
        Athas's book in this way (as somehow derivative from and
        summarizing a "Copenhagen consensus"--presumably
        that would include Athas's central argument that
        the Stele is genuine), I can only shake my head
        in bafflement and wonder. Continuing with
        Schniedewind's closing paragraph:

        "...but it is unlikely to achieve the author's stated aim
        of creating a more rational interpretation of the
        inscription. It should not be surprising, given how much
        attention the Dan Stele has received, that there is not much
        original here" [in Athas' book].

        Uh, except for his argument on the position of the fragments,
        his argument for its historical context and dating, his
        reconstruction of how the stele was produced
        and what he believes was its original size, his
        arguments for unique readings and reconstructions,
        his argument that "bytdwd" is a geographical location,
        among other things ... all of this, which is the bulk of Athas's
        detailed work, is original.

        "Indeed, this makes one wonder about the value of the
        Tel Dan Inscription as a dissertation topic or as an
        expensive new monograph."

        The ultimate reviewer putdown (and that is the closing
        sentence of the review): the topic itself, irrespective
        of anything that might be said about it, doesn't merit
        a book-length study.

        Schniedewind also appears to fundamentally misunderstand
        Athas's argument concerning "bytdwd" being a geographical
        location. Schniedewind writes: "The suggestion [of Athas]
        that replaces the straightforward reading of _bytdwd_ as a
        dynastic name is that _bytdwd_ is a geographical name
        for Jerusalem. We do not have evidence that Jerusalem was
        called _bytdwd_..."

        But that is not quite Athas's argument. Athas's argument
        is that bytdwd is a geographical location, not that it is
        Jerusalem. This is important. AFTER making this argument
        Athas THEN speculates--identifying it as speculation and
        only tentative--that the geographical location COULD be
        Jerusalem (principally in light of biblical tradition associations).
        But the identity with Jerusalem is, so to speak, an afterthought
        that follows after the argument itself, which is that bytdwd
        is a geographical location. By misrepresenting Athas's
        argument in this way, Schniedewind sets up a straw
        man easy to knock down: is there not plenty of
        evidence for byt-X names for dynasties? And none
        at all for Jerusalem being named bytdwd? q.e.d.

        But the argument correctly represented would run
        differently. For there is substantial evidence of
        geographical locations named byt-X (e.g.
        Bethlehem, Bethhoren, etc. etc.), just as
        there is also evidence of dynasties named byt-X. When
        represented accurately, Athas's argument is not
        so easily knocked down as Schniedewind sets forth.
        It is in principle possible that Athas's argument on
        bytdwd as geographical identification could be correct
        and the referent is not Jerusalem.

        Whether Athas's specific and original arguments in
        his work are in fact correct are distinct issues.
        I could defend Athas's work more strongly if I were
        convinced of his argument on the positioning of the
        fragments, but unfortunately (since my sympathies
        are with the risk and hard work and argumentation
        of the original research set forth by Athas, as opposed
        to what comes across to me as the condescending tone
        of the review) I am not convinced Athas is right on
        that, and am persuaded Schniedewind's proposal
        to adjust the alignment of the existing join in fact
        removes the principal arguments of Athas against
        the existing join.

        Athas's argument for reading bytdwd as a geographical
        location may however be a different matter. Has
        Athas's argument on this _as Athas argued it_ (as
        distinguished from Schniedewind's straw man
        representation) been convincingly refuted in print?

        Greg Doudna
        Bellingham, Washington, USA
        (dr. theol., University of Copenhagen)

        __________________________________________________________
        How well do you know your celebrity gossip?
        http://originals.msn.com/thebigdebate?ocid=T002MSN03N0707A <http://originals.msn.com/thebigdebate?ocid=T002MSN03N0707A>

        [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]





        [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
      • Jean-Fabrice Nardelli
        Greg Doudna wrote : Uh, except for his argument on the position of the fragments, his argument for its historical context and dating, his reconstruction of
        Message 3 of 3 , Apr 1, 2008
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          Greg Doudna wrote :

          "Uh, except for his argument on the position of the fragments, his argument for its historical context and dating, his reconstruction of how the stele was produced and what he believes was its original size, his arguments for unique readings and reconstructions, his argument that "bytdwd" is a geographical location, among other things ... all of this, which is the bulk of Athas's detailed work, is original."

          No one would contest that there is not enough res nouae in Athas ; rather the contrary -- it disregards too much the common lore and has a tendancy to put forward sensational claims which ultimately rest on filmsy grounds : the placing of the fragments looks like a reductio ad absurdum (viz. if you refuse the seemingly satisfactory joint between A and B, then how can he be sure that B only pertains where he ascribes him ? epigraphy, be it Greek, Semitic or cuneiform, works with the eye and some flair and tends to ignore flights of imagination not grounded in provable observation) ; the dating of the stele verges on the comical in its precision (is a 20 years range of uncertainty really warranted? given that Athas questions the consensus of Biran, Naveh, Lemaire & co., the onus of the poof does fall on him, and this he provides with rather more heat than flame); the success of his radically new interpretation of the inscription depends to an excess in bold, not to say rash, conjectures, both textual (his supplements in fr. A, l. 3-4, his reading of A., l. 1) and exegetical (bytdwd as a city-name referring to Jerusalem is unattested, thus barely commendable). It certainly was an excellent dissertation, but as a monograph, it comes perilously close to being a house of cards ; whereas, in most scholarly books, a few tiles may drop off the building without signifying its collapse, here, with the not uncommon mistakes especially in the historical commentary, the rhetorical veneer (Athas is certainly lacking in self-effacement, to the point that he seems patronizing at times) and the degree to which interesting yet speculative guesswork pervades everything, an unkind reader may describe his book as proving false all written hitherto
          and putting us to ignorance again.

          In other words, as I repeatedly advise my students when they try their hand at feats of reconstruction : Papier ist geduldig.

          Jean-Fabrice Nardelli
          Université de Provence

          [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
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