Date: Thu Oct 03 2002 - 15:24:46 EDT
<< Wiseman suggests that Genesis was transmitted on clay tablets before
Jacob moved to Egypt (cf. his Colophon in Gen.37:1-2a), and that from
then on, presumably Egyptian writing customs obtained, i.e. papyrus. In
striking contrast to Gen.1-36, there is no indication of systematic
tablet characteristics (colophon etc.) in any other OT text. It may very
well be that Moses, or even Joseph already, copied Jacob's tablet
collection to papyrus (Wiseman didn't speculate on that). But archeology
apparently confirms that clay tablets, not papyrus, were the ordinary
writing substrate all over the Near East - apart from Egypt - until long
after Moses' time. >>
In the ancient Near East in the time of the patriarchs, only about 5% of the
population could write. One had to hire a scribe (a lawyer) even to send a
letter to someone, and at the other end, one had to hire a scribe to read the
letter to you. Consequently, the vast majority of tablets are
commercial/legal tablets. The non-commercial tablets were largely religious
myths, hymns, spells or epics about kings or demi-gods like Gilgamesh.
Genealogies, "generations of, " are rare, and only about kings, and not very
long. In addition, these tablets all show up in royal libraries or temples.
I have never heard of a semi-nomadic tribe carrying around cuneiform tablets.
Gen 5 or 11 could have existed, but Gen 12 - 36 is about a private family of
semi-nomads with lots of details about their history. There is nothing
really comparable to that in the thousands of tablets thus far discovered and
translated. I could accept that maybe the genealogies per se were written
down, though they are kept orally in most tribes, but the idea that Gen 12 -
36 was all inscribed on tablets before the author of Genesis got it is
As for Gen 1-11, if one accepts the biblical account as literal history, the
tablets up through Noah (1-9) if they existed prior to the Tower of Babel
would have been written in a language that no one after the Tower of Babel
could have understood (Gen 11:9). So, how could Joseph or Moses have read
Victor Hamilton, The Book of Genesis Chapters 1-17 (Eerdmans, 1990) 8-10
gives other reasons for doubting Wiseman's theory.
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