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Re: [ANE-2] Van Seters Review

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    Stephen Goranson writes, Gmirkin s book Berosus and Genesis, Manetho and Exodus has been reviewed by J. van Seters... in the current issue on JTS, 2008
    Message 1 of 1 , May 31, 2008
      Stephen Goranson writes,
      Gmirkin's book Berosus and Genesis,
      Manetho and Exodus has been reviewed by J. van Seters...
      in the current issue on JTS, 2008
      59(1):212-214, available to subscribers at:
      Perhaps Russell would offer any corrections he may have to Van Seter's
      Van Seters’ skimpy 2-page review unfortunately fails top do justice to the
      scope or depth of my arguments in Berossus and Genesis. Indeed, he appears to
      summarize only such points in my book that he plans to take issue with.
      Since my conclusions regarding the Pentateuch’s dates differ from his, the tone
      of his review is understandable, but given his desire to minimize the impact
      of my book, his points of criticism are surprisingly mild and rarely come
      close to hitting the mark.
      He remarks, for instance, “All references to the stories of Genesis or
      Exodus in the rest of the Hebrew Bible, such as the numerous allusions in Second
      Isaiah to creation, to the flood story, to the patriarchs, to the exodus and
      sea crossing, to the wilderness journey, are disqualified as unreliable for
      dating the Pentateuch and are therefore not even considered.” Van Seters’
      implicit assumption of the antiquity of these references might constitute a valid
      criticism to my thesis if the Prophets could be independently dated, but
      since their date is itself entirely speculative, they are indeed irrelevant for
      dating purposes. Au contraire, the Hellenistic Era date of the Pentateuch
      established the earliest possible date for the references Van Seters alludes
      Van Seters also chastises me for discussing only Wellhausen and ignoring
      later developments. In my opinion all variations of the Documentary Hypothesis
      are equally good or equally bad, since J, E, P and D can all independently be
      shown to date to c. 272 BCE. I arbitrarily chose to discuss Wellhausen as
      the best known version of the Documentary Hypothesis, but I will touch on
      post-Wellhausen developments in Berossus and Kings. Van Seters inaccurately
      suggests his own late, exilic era dating of JE would accommodate the data I
      develop. I fail to grasp how parallels in Gen. 1-11 with innovations to the
      cuneiform traditions first introduced by Berossus in 278 BCE are accommodated by
      shifting JE from the 9th to the 5th century BCE.
      Van Seters also points out well known parallels between biblical materials
      and the Sargon Legend as well as the Hammurabi code, neither of which I
      discuss. While these demonstrate a terminus a quo of c. 2300 (Sargon I) and c.
      1800 BCE respectively, I believe their relevance is somewhat overshadowed by
      other parallels pointing to the third century BCE.
      On one particular point Van Seters apparently failed to follow my argument,
      or at least fails to present it accurately. He writes, “In the case of
      Manetho, the radical differences between his account of the expulsion of the Hyksos
      and the biblical exodus from Egypt are explained as a polemical response to
      counter ‘the slanderous version of Jewish origins found in Manetho’, even
      though he also argues that Manetho knew nothing about any such Jewish
      traditions and made no mention of them!” A particularly important section of Berossus
      and Genesis demonstrates that Manetho’s story of the revival of the Egyptian
      cult of Seth-Typhon at Avaris under the leprous priest Osarseph, the return
      of the Hyksos, and the expulsion of all these by Ramesses into Syria was based
      entirely on Egyptian traditions, and specifically on the historical revival
      of the Sethian cult in the Ramesside period, and owed nothing to Jewish
      traditions. The equation of Osarseph and Moses in “current talk about the Jews”
      by Manetho’s contemporaries was not part of the original anti-Typhonian
      written Egyptian literary tradition. This oral afterthought to the tale current
      in Manetho’s day allowed the anti-Typhonian literary account to be
      interpreted as a slanderous tale of Jewish origins where the Typhonians were now
      understood as the ancestors of the Jews. Given the clear parallels between the
      Exodus story and Manetho’s story of the expulsion of Osarseph and the polluted
      Egyptians, and given that the latter did not draw on biblical materials, it
      follows that to the extent the two stories are related the Exodus story
      responds to the late anti-Semitic version of the tale noted by Manetho. Van Seters
      characterizes this carefully constructed and documented source critical
      argument as “special pleading,” but is only able to do so by inaccurately
      summarizing it.
      A recent, more extensive review by Étienne Nodet may now be found in Revue
      Biblique 114.4 (2007), 615-621. Since Nodet doesn’t have anything personally
      at stake reputation-wise, I think readers will find his review more
      informative and objective in tone.
      Best regards,
      Russell Gmirkin

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