Unless we have external evidence of a biblical event, it is very difficult to know what is truly “historical” and what is not. Of course, this does not mean the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament should be left aside when writing a history of Iron Age Palestine; it means, instead, that the biblical narrative is not the first or main source for commencing the production of a critical historical reconstruction.
Chapter from: Finding Myth and History in the Bible: Scholarship, Scholars and Errors (Equinox Publishing March 25, 2016).
By Emanuel Pfoh
University of Buenos Aires
Dear Emanuel Pfoh,
You write: "Unless we have external evidence of a biblical event, it is very difficult to know what is truly “historical” and what is not. Of course, this does not mean the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament should be left aside when writing a history of Iron Age Palestine; it means, instead, that the biblical narrative is not the first or main source for commencing the production of a critical historical reconstruction."
Your name is familiar. Were you on ANE-2 before yahoogroups shut down their discussion lists? I was there. My posts regarding the structure and theology of the Torah caused some issues, though, curiously, the Hellenistic dating of Russell Gmirkin didn't cause any issues at all. Lemche wrote me aside to tell me to get a higher degree or no academic would listen to me. When I was allowed to post, my arguments were rarely refuted, when they were I defended them successfully. When some of my statements were questioned and I replied to defend them, the posts just weren't accepted. Why? Because there were certain people who went after me all the time when my posts even suggested the Torah was not history. Why do scholars care so much about Iron Age Palestine? Everybody's at an impasse over the logjam in Biblical Studies but nobody sticks to the text. If it's not history, why the pursuit of a critical historical reconstruction of Iron Age Palestine?
I recently saw this: Konrad Schmid’s: ‘The Sources of the Pentateuch, Their Literary Extent and the Bridge between Genesis and Exodus: A Survey of Scholarship since Astruc,’ which appears in Part 1 (The Literary Transition between the Books of Genesis and Exodus) of Book-Seams in the Hexateuch I: The Literary Transitions between the Books of Genesis/Exodus and Joshua/Judges edited by Christoph Berner (author, editor) and Harald Samuel (editor) with the assistance of Stephen Germany published by Mohr Siebeck (Tubingen, Germany 2018) and posted at www.academia.edu.
Schmid writes: “A central question among current theories is how to interpret and date the literary transition between Genesis and Exodus.“ He continues: “In terms of the narrative organization of the Pentateuch, the literary boundary between Genesis and Exodus provides the most significant caesura within the Torah: It separates – to use John Van Seters’ term – the “Life of Moses” in Exodus-Deuteronomy… from the primeval and ancestral history in Genesis… which Van Seters calls the “prologue to history.”
A survey of the scholarship regarding the central question regarding the formation of the Pentateuch dated 2018! It's current so a response to it would comprise most if not all recent scholarship on the subject.
Emanuel Pfoh writes, "Unless we have external evidence of a biblical event, it is very difficult to know what is truly “historical” and what is not."
The argument Pfoh is an age-old one that raises the logical fallacy of argument from absence. One cannot argue from the absence of evidence of "external evidence" for drawing sound conclusions.
What if we turn that statement around about other histories, "Unless we have external evidence in biblical record for [fill in the blank: Plato, Socrates, Aristotle, the Hittites, etc.], it is truly difficult to know what these authors really wrote. For a long period, scholars continued to claim there was no record for any Hittite civilization and impugned the Bible as inaccurate. But their discovery suddenly surprised liberal biblical scholars.