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RE: [XTalk] History vs. history

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  • John C. Poirier
    ... I m not sure: my dealings were with Paul Mojzes. ... I ll be sure to read your book as soon as I get a chance. I m always willing to learn. One thing s
    Message 1 of 13 , Feb 7, 2001
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      Thomas L. Thompson wrote:

      > [D]oes Len Swidler still edit [JES]?

      I'm not sure: my dealings were with Paul Mojzes.

      > [S]ee: Thompson, The Messiah Myth, 2005: chapter 9; The Mythic Past, 1999,
      > chapter 9).

      I'll be sure to read your book as soon as I get a chance. I'm always
      willing to learn.

      One thing's for sure: the multivalence of the term "history" has created a
      huge mess.


      John C. Poirier
    • Thomas L. Thompson
      The issue Gordon Raynal has raised seems more interesting than simply whether the discussion has its roots in fundamentalist/modernist debates. What Liz has
      Message 2 of 13 , Dec 7, 2005
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        The issue Gordon Raynal has raised seems more interesting than simply whether the discussion has its roots in fundamentalist/modernist debates. What Liz has suggested about the "Acts of God" and what Bob seems to be referring to when he tries to identify what writers of Tanakh thought about history seem rather to be an echo of the neo-orthodoxy/historical criticism debates of an American George Ernest Wright on one hand and a European Gerhard von Rad on the other, both eagerly talking about the Bible in their own projection of salvation history. I don't know how much Liz identifies with Wright's theology, whose language she uses, but Jim West certainly seems to be coming out of von Rad's closet.
        Of course, many things have changed in the field during the past 50 years. One is that one needs to have some evidence--at least a text or two--before one can state convincingly that "the writers of Tanakh consider history" to be anything whatsoever. It is not "history" which is presented as their past, but a never-ending story of failure. The "God of history" which has been discussed over the last couple of days is a literary trope--a biblical figure, not the author's concept of the divine. God in Genesis and Isaiah is a character in a story. A God who acts in history with the blessings and curses of retribution is, I believe, recognized already in antiquity (think of the "Lord of the Flies") as a primitive concept of the divine which biblical authors exploit for a pedagogy of personal and political ethics. That they wrote history is a modern conceit.

        Thomas

        Thomas L. Thompson
        University of Copenhagen

        John Poirier wrote:
        I know Bob can fend for himself, but I think you have misunderstood what he
        said. He said that "the writers of the Tanakh . . . consider[] 'history' to
        be what happened in the past". He did not say that the whole Hebrew Bible
        is historiography. I don't see how anything that Bob said emerges from the
        "Fundamentalist/ Modernist debate", and I don't see how any of it dispenses
        with the importance of understanding the literary aspects of the Hebrew
        Bible. If the earliest readers of (say) Jonah understood that it was just a
        parable, that would not detract from what they thought "history" was, or of
        how God related to history.


        John C. Poirier





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      • Jim West
        Thomas L Thompson wrote:... That they wrote history is a modern conceit. ... I m reading a fascinating biography of Beethoven by M. Solomon. In the preface he
        Message 3 of 13 , Dec 7, 2005
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          Thomas L Thompson wrote:...


          That they wrote history is a modern conceit.
          >
          > Thomas
          >
          > Thomas L. Thompson
          > University of Copenhagen

          I'm reading a fascinating biography of Beethoven by M. Solomon. In the
          preface he warns readers that documentary evidence must be treated with
          extreme care; today's trusted source may tomorrow be debunked, as indeed
          happened in the "Life of Beethoven" search.

          It's curious to me, that biblical scholars are eclipsed by musicologists
          in the careful use of sources. The credulity of many is, to be frank,
          simply amazing. In fact, it seems to me that many are simply taking at
          face value the biblical account without further ado- sort of like "...
          for the Bible tells me so" of the pious, yet unlearned, simple believer.

          What ever happened to scholarly healthy skepticism? If Beethoven
          scholars can discern fact from fiction, why is it so hard for biblical
          scholars and historians to do so?

          Jim
          (evidently out of the von Radian closet).

          --
          D. Jim West
          Biblical Studies Resources - http://web.infoave.net/~jwest
          Biblical Theology Weblog - http://biblical-studies.blogspot.com
        • John C. Poirier
          ... Thomas, Let me first say that I largely agree with you, except that I think that your last sentence, while correctly qualifying the sense in which there is
          Message 4 of 13 , Dec 7, 2005
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            Thomas L. Thompson wrote:

            > The issue Gordon Raynal has raised seems more interesting than simply
            > whether the discussion has its roots in fundamentalist/modernist debates.
            > What Liz has suggested about the "Acts of God" and what Bob seems to be
            > referring to when he tries to identify what writers of Tanakh thought
            > about history seem rather to be an echo of the neo-orthodoxy/historical
            > criticism debates of an American George Ernest Wright on one hand and a
            > European Gerhard von Rad on the other, both eagerly talking about the
            > Bible in their own projection of salvation history. I don't know how much
            > Liz identifies with Wright's theology, whose language she uses, but Jim
            > West certainly seems to be coming out of von Rad's closet.
            > Of course, many things have changed in the field during the past 50 years.
            > One is that one needs to have some evidence--at least a text or two--
            > before one can state convincingly that "the writers of Tanakh consider
            > history" to be anything whatsoever. It is not "history" which is presented
            > as their past, but a never-ending story of failure. The "God of history"
            > which has been discussed over the last couple of days is a literary trope-
            > -a biblical figure, not the author's concept of the divine. God in Genesis
            > and Isaiah is a character in a story. A God who acts in history with the
            > blessings and curses of retribution is, I believe, recognized already in
            > antiquity (think of the "Lord of the Flies") as a primitive concept of the
            > divine which biblical authors exploit for a pedagogy of personal and
            > political ethics. That they wrote history is a modern conceit.

            Thomas,

            Let me first say that I largely agree with you, except that I think that
            your last sentence, while correctly qualifying the sense in which there is
            history in the Hebrew Bible, is an exaggeration. They didn't write history
            in the modern sense (with modern historians' ideals, etc.), but they did
            care about recording stories that they believed to be true (e.g., Abraham's
            migration, the Exodus), and some that they perhaps did not believe to be
            true (e.g., Jonah?).

            As for the role of history, and its relation to the piety of those who wrote
            the Hebrew Bible, I would agree with your comment about a "never-ending
            story of failure", but I would say that it applies with varying success,
            depending on which part of the Hebrew Bible one is talking about. E.g., it
            can be applied more successfully to the Pentateuch and the historical books
            (!) than to the Prophets. But I think that history itself, lifted out of
            pious narrativity and into more the realm of a record, emerges with the
            prophetic corpus (including the earliest writings in the Hebrew Bible), and
            that it is no coincidence that early Christian theology, with its emphasis
            on history (in the form of promise and fulfillment and also in the form of
            the historicity of the kerygmatic narrative), spent more time with Isaiah,
            Psalms, Zechariah, etc., than with those texts that rabbinic Judaism
            concentrated on. It all depends on which part of the Hebrew Bible one
            reads. (It is for that reason that I recently wrote a response to Jon
            Levenson's *Sinai and Zion* [to be published some day in the Journal of
            Ecumenical Studies]: I felt that his understanding was one-sided, and that
            it depended on his ignoring the presence of apocalyptic within the Hebrew
            Bible.)


            John C. Poirier
          • Thomas L. Thompson
            Dear John Poirier, I look forward to reading your article in the JES (does Len Swidler still edit it?). As for history-writing in the bible: Your examples of
            Message 5 of 13 , Dec 7, 2005
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              Dear John Poirier,

              I look forward to reading your article in the JES (does Len Swidler still edit it?). As for history-writing in the bible: Your examples of Abraham's migrations and the Exodus are reiterative narratives of exile and when you think of Gen 12,10-20's echoes of the plundering of Egypt motif (see G. Coats in the 1970s), you can hardly see this as historiographical: not even in Na'aman's understanding of retrojective history, but rather have clear examples of reiterative narrative (see: Thompson, The Messiah Myth, 2005: chapter 9; The Mythic Past, 1999, chapter 9).

              My principle of never-ending story of failure has its roots in Isaiah first and is taken up by Samuel-Kings and the gospels (Messiah Myth, 2005; Hjelm, Jerusalem's Rise to Sovereignty, 2004), which in turn is transposed--but hardly historiographically--by the reception of the Psalter.

              I do not know what you mean by "the earliest writings of the Hebrew Bible": especially when this is contrasted to the Pentateuch. I have given a relevant evaluation of the gospel's "emphasis on history" in my Messiah Myth, chapters 1-4: an emphasis which I doubt one can call "promise and fulfillment", howevermuch this may be a trope of Matthew--though I do relate it to both reiterative narrative and apocalyptic.
              Again, I look forward to seeing your response to Levenson.
              Thomas

              Thomas L. Thompson
              University of Copenhagen


              ________________________________

              John Poirier wrote:

              Let me first say that I largely agree with you, except that I think that
              your last sentence, while correctly qualifying the sense in which there is
              history in the Hebrew Bible, is an exaggeration. They didn't write history
              in the modern sense (with modern historians' ideals, etc.), but they did
              care about recording stories that they believed to be true (e.g., Abraham's
              migration, the Exodus), and some that they perhaps did not believe to be
              true (e.g., Jonah?).

              As for the role of history, and its relation to the piety of those who wrote
              the Hebrew Bible, I would agree with your comment about a "never-ending
              story of failure", but I would say that it applies with varying success,
              depending on which part of the Hebrew Bible one is talking about. E.g., it
              can be applied more successfully to the Pentateuch and the historical books
              (!) than to the Prophets. But I think that history itself, lifted out of
              pious narrativity and into more the realm of a record, emerges with the
              prophetic corpus (including the earliest writings in the Hebrew Bible), and
              that it is no coincidence that early Christian theology, with its emphasis
              on history (in the form of promise and fulfillment and also in the form of
              the historicity of the kerygmatic narrative), spent more time with Isaiah,
              Psalms, Zechariah, etc., than with those texts that rabbinic Judaism
              concentrated on. It all depends on which part of the Hebrew Bible one
              reads. (It is for that reason that I recently wrote a response to Jon
              Levenson's *Sinai and Zion* [to be published some day in the Journal of
              Ecumenical Studies]: I felt that his understanding was one-sided, and that
              it depended on his ignoring the presence of apocalyptic within the Hebrew
              Bible.)


              John C. Poirier





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            • Jim West
              ... I agree completely! 100%! It s a red letter day! Jim -- D. Jim West Biblical Studies Resources - http://web.infoave.net/~jwest Biblical Theology Weblog -
              Message 6 of 13 , Dec 7, 2005
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                John C Poirier wrote:
                >
                > One thing's for sure: the multivalence of the term "history" has created a
                > huge mess.


                I agree completely! 100%!
                It's a red letter day!

                Jim

                --
                D. Jim West
                Biblical Studies Resources - http://web.infoave.net/~jwest
                Biblical Theology Weblog - http://biblical-studies.blogspot.com
              • Daniel J. Gaztambide
                Myth vs. history vs. History... yum! Anyone wanna talk Childs? I can t think of a work as controversial that deals with the issue of myth and history! ... --
                Message 7 of 13 , Dec 7, 2005
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                  Myth vs. history vs. History... yum!

                  Anyone wanna talk Childs? I can't think of a work as controversial that
                  deals with the issue of myth and history!

                  On Wed, December 7, 2005 11:25 am, Jim West wrote:
                  >
                  >
                  > John C Poirier wrote:
                  > >
                  > > One thing's for sure: the multivalence of the term "history"
                  > has created a
                  > > huge mess.
                  >
                  >
                  > I agree completely! 100%!
                  > It's a red letter day!
                  >
                  > Jim
                  >
                  > --
                  > D. Jim West
                  > Biblical Studies Resources - http://web.infoave.net/~jwest
                  > Biblical Theology Weblog - http://biblical-studies.blogspot.com
                  >
                  >
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                  --
                  Daniel Gaztambide

                  http://profiles.yahoo.com/priestwguns777

                  Henry Rutgers Scholar (Psychology and Religion)
                  Rutgers University
                  New Brunswick NJ 08901
                  31045 RPO Way

                  Writer/Co-writer, "AramaicNT.org"
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                • Bob Schacht
                  ... This looks suspiciously like a swipe at (and a misunderstanding of) something I wrote. It further illustrates the problematic meaning of the word
                  Message 8 of 13 , Dec 7, 2005
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                    At 04:39 AM 12/7/2005, Jim West wrote:

                    >. . .I'm reading a fascinating biography of Beethoven by M. Solomon. In the
                    >preface he warns readers that documentary evidence must be treated with
                    >extreme care; today's trusted source may tomorrow be debunked, as indeed
                    >happened in the "Life of Beethoven" search.
                    >
                    >It's curious to me, that biblical scholars are eclipsed by musicologists
                    >in the careful use of sources. The credulity of many is, to be frank,
                    >simply amazing. In fact, it seems to me that many are simply taking at
                    >face value the biblical account without further ado- sort of like "...
                    >for the Bible tells me so" of the pious, yet unlearned, simple believer.
                    >
                    >What ever happened to scholarly healthy skepticism? If Beethoven
                    >scholars can discern fact from fiction, why is it so hard for biblical
                    >scholars and historians to do so?
                    >
                    >Jim
                    >(evidently out of the von Radian closet).

                    This looks suspiciously like a swipe at (and a misunderstanding of)
                    something I wrote.

                    It further illustrates the problematic meaning of the word "history."

                    It is clear that "history" means different things to different people.

                    Which was my point.

                    Bob


                    [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                  • Ernest Pennells
                    [Thomas L. Thompson] ... story of failure.
                    Message 9 of 13 , Dec 8, 2005
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                      [Thomas L. Thompson]
                      >It is not "history" which is presented as their past, but a never-ending
                      story of failure.<

                      There is a debate about "New Chronology" among archaeologists and
                      Egyptologists sparked by David Rohl's work that includes "A Test of Time", a
                      BBC TV series, and has spawned its own Yahoo group
                      NewChronology@yahoogroups.com which is very active. The "New Chronology"
                      prompts claims by David Rohl and others that their findings complement the
                      bondage and Exodus traditions in Tanakh, endorsing their historical value.
                      David Rohl disclaims any religious motivation in the book.

                      I am not in a position to judge how the academic community assesses this.

                      Regards,

                      Ernie Pennells
                      Samaa el Maadi Tower No 2B
                      Level 12 Apartment 4
                      28 Corniche el Nil
                      Cairo, Egypt
                      Tel: (20-2)526 6383 Mobile 0121001490
                      http://www.trafford.com/4dcgi/robots/03-1982.html
                    • Rikk Watts
                      Indeed Bob. And so we come at last via Dilthey to Heidegger for whom the hermeneutical circle, or even spiral, is fundamentally ontological, and to Gadamer,
                      Message 10 of 13 , Dec 8, 2005
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                        Indeed Bob.

                        And so we come at last via Dilthey to Heidegger for whom the hermeneutical
                        circle, or even spiral, is fundamentally ontological, and to Gadamer, where
                        every act of understanding is conditioned by its motivation and prejudices.
                        Even as we seek to understand the past, we find that our own
                        historicity‹i.e. prejudice and subjectivity‹is therefore not so much a
                        limitation to be overcome as the very principle of our understanding. ³It is
                        history that determines the background of our values, cognitions, and even
                        our critical judgments² and as such demonstrates our finitude. Makes for an
                        interesting life.

                        (Jim, did you really mean this? Or what it simply a rush of pre-yuletide
                        egg-nog blood to the head? Under what rock have you been hiding for the last
                        200 years? You can't be suggesting that "many" "biblical scholars" are
                        simply unaware of the question about the value of sources? Waiter! I'll have
                        what's he's having!) :)

                        Regards
                        Rikk



                        On 7/12/05 11:48 PM, "Bob Schacht" <r_schacht@...> wrote:

                        > At 04:39 AM 12/7/2005, Jim West wrote:
                        >
                        >> . . .I'm reading a fascinating biography of Beethoven by M. Solomon. In the
                        >> preface he warns readers that documentary evidence must be treated with
                        >> extreme care; today's trusted source may tomorrow be debunked, as indeed
                        >> happened in the "Life of Beethoven" search.
                        >>
                        >> It's curious to me, that biblical scholars are eclipsed by musicologists
                        >> in the careful use of sources. The credulity of many is, to be frank,
                        >> simply amazing. In fact, it seems to me that many are simply taking at
                        >> face value the biblical account without further ado- sort of like "...
                        >> for the Bible tells me so" of the pious, yet unlearned, simple believer.
                        >>
                        >> What ever happened to scholarly healthy skepticism? If Beethoven
                        >> scholars can discern fact from fiction, why is it so hard for biblical
                        >> scholars and historians to do so?
                        >>
                        >> Jim
                        >> (evidently out of the von Radian closet).
                        >
                        > This looks suspiciously like a swipe at (and a misunderstanding of)
                        > something I wrote.
                        >
                        > It further illustrates the problematic meaning of the word "history."
                        >
                        > It is clear that "history" means different things to different people.
                        >
                        > Which was my point.
                        >
                        > Bob
                        >
                        >
                        > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                        >
                        >
                        >
                        >
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                      • Jim West
                        Actually I only meant the last paragraph. The rest was egg nog fluff designed to simultaneously confuse and disorient. ;-) Best, Jim ... -- D. Jim West
                        Message 11 of 13 , Dec 8, 2005
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                          Actually I only meant the last paragraph. The rest was egg nog fluff
                          designed to simultaneously confuse and disorient.

                          ;-)

                          Best,

                          Jim


                          Rikk Watts wrote:

                          > (Jim, did you really mean this? Or what it simply a rush of pre-yuletide
                          > egg-nog blood to the head? Under what rock have you been hiding for the last
                          > 200 years? You can't be suggesting that "many" "biblical scholars" are
                          > simply unaware of the question about the value of sources? Waiter! I'll have
                          > what's he's having!) :)
                          >
                          > Regards
                          > Rikk
                          >
                          >>>What ever happened to scholarly healthy skepticism? If Beethoven
                          >>>scholars can discern fact from fiction, why is it so hard for biblical
                          >>>scholars and historians to do so?

                          --
                          D. Jim West
                          Biblical Studies Resources - http://web.infoave.net/~jwest
                          Biblical Theology Weblog - http://biblical-studies.blogspot.com
                        • Gordon Raynal
                          Thomas, John and all, ... I agree that it is more interesting than just the connection to the fundamentalist/ modernist debates, but then what you re going
                          Message 12 of 13 , Dec 8, 2005
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                            Thomas, John and all,
                            On Dec 7, 2005, at 9:21 AM, Thomas L. Thompson wrote:

                            > The issue Gordon Raynal has raised seems more interesting than simply
                            > whether the discussion has its roots in fundamentalist/modernist
                            > debates.

                            I agree that it is "more interesting" than just the connection to the
                            fundamentalist/ modernist debates, but then what you're going on to
                            talk about with neo-orthodoxy and historical criticism is in part a
                            reflection on that great debate which is, of course, still very much
                            alive. (example: Here we are in the 3rd millennium and we have the
                            evolution/ creationism (now "intelligent design") controversy swirling
                            in a number of places in the USA and in our politics to the highest
                            levels. "Newsweek" magazine, for instance, just had a cover story
                            article about this an issue or so ago). I do understand that Bob's
                            earlier post was about the different ways the word "history" is used
                            and the appropriate need for care to be addressing the same use in
                            communication. I quite agree with him about that. Where we disagree
                            is in his sweeping generalization about "the perspective of Tanakh"
                            writers. I think Thomas addresses this very nicely below and I'll
                            highlight this with [** **]:

                            > What Liz has suggested about the "Acts of God" and what Bob seems to
                            > be referring to when he tries to identify what writers of Tanakh
                            > thought about history seem rather to be an echo of the
                            > neo-orthodoxy/historical criticism debates of an American George
                            > Ernest Wright on one hand and a European Gerhard von Rad on the other,
                            > both eagerly talking about the Bible in their own projection of
                            > salvation history. I don't know how much Liz identifies with Wright's
                            > theology, whose language she uses, but Jim West certainly seems to be
                            > coming out of von Rad's closet.
                            > Of course, many things have changed in the field during the past 50
                            > years.


                            > [** One is that one needs to have some evidence--at least a text or
                            > two--before one can state convincingly that "the writers of Tanakh
                            > consider history" to be anything whatsoever.
                            > It is not "history" which is presented as their past, but a
                            > never-ending story of failure.**]

                            It would be nice to have some more evidence, wouldn't it:)!


                            > The "God of history" which has been discussed over the last couple of
                            > days is a literary trope--a biblical figure, not the author's concept
                            > of the divine. God in Genesis and Isaiah is a character in a story. A
                            > God who acts in history with the blessings and curses of retribution
                            > is, I believe, recognized already in antiquity (think of the "Lord of
                            > the Flies") as a primitive concept of the divine which biblical
                            > authors exploit for a pedagogy of personal and political ethics. That
                            > they wrote history is a modern conceit.

                            Thomas, I really like this last sentence:)! I read your book ("The
                            Mythic Past") when it came out and found a great deal to agree with. (I
                            have not read your latest book on the Messiah Myth yet). Related to
                            this group and it's subject of HJ and earliest Christianity I think the
                            conclusion is one that needs to be mulled over at great length. The
                            theology found in the Jonah story and what I conclude to be the
                            authentic sayings of Jesus are positively related and as I think Jonah
                            is an extended parable, Jesus' own chief form of communication relates
                            to the heritage of this kind of story telling.

                            About TANAK, I quite agree with you in your late dating and your
                            conclusions about the nature of the whole. I do squirm a bit at the
                            use of "never-ending story of failure" as being sufficiently broad
                            enough characterization, however. Such a negative overall summary
                            statement doesn't sufficiently point to the positive characterizations
                            of faithfulness of the divine the authors are affirming through their
                            story telling, nor the instances of faithfulness amidst all the
                            failures that the story surely avows. This is probably a conversation
                            that should take place off list in detail about your views on Tanakh,
                            but insofar as it does relate to HJ as a son of this storied past, I'll
                            be interested in how you see the connections to the way the NT and
                            extra canonical authors write about HJ and the early writers. I look
                            forward to those contributions.

                            Gordon Raynal
                            Inman, SC
                            >
                          • Rikk Watts
                            Thanks Jim. (But I d still like some :) ) Best wishes. Rikk
                            Message 13 of 13 , Dec 8, 2005
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                              Thanks Jim. (But I'd still like some :) )

                              Best wishes.

                              Rikk


                              On 8/12/05 5:33 AM, "Jim West" <jwest@...> wrote:

                              > Actually I only meant the last paragraph. The rest was egg nog fluff
                              > designed to simultaneously confuse and disorient.
                              >
                              > ;-)
                              >
                              > Best,
                              >
                              > Jim
                              >
                              >
                              > Rikk Watts wrote:
                              >
                              >> (Jim, did you really mean this? Or what it simply a rush of pre-yuletide
                              >> egg-nog blood to the head? Under what rock have you been hiding for the last
                              >> 200 years? You can't be suggesting that "many" "biblical scholars" are
                              >> simply unaware of the question about the value of sources? Waiter! I'll have
                              >> what's he's having!) :)
                              >>
                              >> Regards
                              >> Rikk
                              >>
                              >>>> What ever happened to scholarly healthy skepticism? If Beethoven
                              >>>> scholars can discern fact from fiction, why is it so hard for biblical
                              >>>> scholars and historians to do so?
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