From: Peter Ruest (email@example.com)
Date: Tue Oct 08 2002 - 00:37:39 EDT
> 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.
It probably wouldn't be easy to document such a figure of 5%, even its
order of magnitude. I consider it a plain speculation.
> 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.
This is where where most digs would have been attempted. A camp
consisting mainly of tents is not likely to leave a mound inviting
modern archeologists. So it's rather unlikely that any of Abraham's or
Jacob's discarded tablets (after making a new copy) will be found.
> I have never heard of a semi-nomadic tribe carrying around cuneiform tablets.
You have if you read P.J. Wiseman.
> 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.
Wiseman estimated that (by 1936) 250,000 clay tablets had been found. He
mentions some examples of very ordinary, every-day letters. Abraham's
family history contained some very important divine promises for future
generations. There is nothing really comparable to that in the rest of
ancient history. I think the supposition that Abraham's family wouldn't
have inscribed these things on tablets is historically improbable.
Wiseman calls the supposition of a merely oral tradition of the Genesis
material a fiction spun out of thin air.
> 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
Genesis gives a (more or less?) continuous line of descent from Adam
through Noah and Abraham to Moses. It is clear that during this time,
languages changed, but I am persuaded that a suggestion that children
would no longer understand their parents' language would be far-fetched
and ridiculous. The corollary of this is, as Wiseman suggests, that
occasionally, copying of the family's clay tablets would entail
translation into (then) modern diction (or even a different language)
and script. That's what we do with our Bible. Whatever the language
confusion after the Tower of Babel means, it certainly cannot imply a
break of communication within Shem's family or descendents. That would
> Victor Hamilton, The Book of Genesis Chapters 1-17 (Eerdmans, 1990) 8-10
> gives other reasons for doubting Wiseman's theory.
I'll try to find that in a library.
-- Dr. Peter Ruest, CH-3148 Lanzenhaeusern, Switzerland <firstname.lastname@example.org> - Biochemistry - Creation and evolution "..the work which God created to evolve it" (Genesis 2:3)
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