Can the Ages of Biblical Literature be Discerned Without Literary Analysis?

Review-Essay of Ronald Hendel and Jan Joosten.
How Old is the Hebrew Bible? A Linguistic, Textual, and Historical Study. (The Anchor Yale Bible Reference Library; New Haven/London: Yale University Press, 2018; xvi + 221).

Hendel and Joosten’s book is chock-full of insightful observations on a multitude of linguistic, textual, and cultural/historical phenomena, and they argue cogently that the best method for dating biblical writings should include all three of these data sources. Nonetheless, their answer to the question, "How Old is the Hebrew Bible?," is unoriginal because they do little more than offer a sophisticated repackaging of the traditional linguistic dating approach and results, and it is also unsatisfactory because they eschew literary criticism in the formulation of their model of consilience for determining the ages of biblical literature.

By Ian Young
Associate Professor
Department of Hebrew, Biblical and Jewish Studies
University of Sydney

By Robert Rezetko
Research Associate
Radboud University Nijmegen & University of Sydney
January 2019

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Article Comments

Submitted by Ron Hendel and… on Wed, 01/23/2019 - 11:10

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We have three comments:
1.The idea that we “eschew literary criticism in the formulation of their model” is news to us. Here’s a characteristic passage from the chapter in question: “If we grant that J and E (including the core of the Covenant Code) – or some analogous construction of non-P texts – were sources of Deuteronomy, then the relative chronology of these textual relationships yields a larger consilience” (p. 112). We engage with sources and redaction where relevant to the data and arguments. Notice that our statement in this case is formulated to be open to discussion by as large an array of biblical scholars as possible. On p. 21 of their review, Young and Rezetko mention our section on “historical linguistics and redaction criticism,” further undermining their claim that we eschew literary analysis. In sum, Young and Rezetko simply mischaracterize our book.
2. We devote a section of our book to a critique of the model advocated by Young and Rezetko (pp. 135-144). The main theme of their 32-page unpublished review is that we did not engage more systematically with their views. Given our focused critique of their model and its logical, philological, and methodological features, this is a spurious complaint. Their insistence that we ignored their work is simply unwarranted.
3. In theory, we would welcome a philological conversation with Young and Rezetko about other details, such as the qal passive and niphal, the construction hinne-na’, and the linguistic features of the two editions of Jeremiah. In practice, however, their aggressive (and aggrieved) tone and their misleading and ad hominem statements do not give us much hope that this will be possible. This is a shame, because there are important issues at hand, central to the field.

Submitted by Ian Young and … on Wed, 01/23/2019 - 17:18

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We thank Ron Hendel and Jan Joosten for this response to our review of their book. We consider our review covers many more substantive points than just a complaint about inattention to our work (in fact we suggested that they did not engage with our methods, and noted more generally their lack of engagement with *any* recent scholarship in this field), and we did note some references to literary matters (but we argue that they do not engage with them in a substantive way). We are happy to let the reader of their book and our review judge for themselves about these matters and whether our comments are fair and in line with the evidence or merely misleading and ad hominem.

Submitted by Robert Rezetko on Thu, 01/24/2019 - 18:13

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For those who are still following this discussion and are interested, the technical appendix 2 cited in footnote 34 in our review is available.

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