Re: Genesis in cuneiform on tablets

Date: Thu Oct 03 2002 - 15:24:46 EDT

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    Peter wrote,

    << 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
    historically improbable.

    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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