Re: [ANE-2] Tel Dan Stele
- 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.
Université de Provence
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