Archive for the ‘Davies,Philip R’ category

Davies, Philip R, “Biblical Hebrew and the History of Ancient Judah: Typology, Chronology, and Common Sense,” Pages 150-163 in Biblical Hebrew: Studies in Chronology and Typology Edited by Ian Young. London: T&T Clark, 2003.

August 20, 2008

Davies’ essay begins the second half of this volume, which is titled “Challenges to the Chronological Model”. As he is one of the scholars who has proposed dating much of the biblical literature composed in Classical Biblical Hebrew (CBH) to the Persian period and beyond, he here defends his position against the typological method of dating texts. His main argument is that typological categories do not necessarily convert to chronological ones. Rather, Hurvitz and his followers have not taken into account the problems of dialect diversity, especially the differences between spoken and literary dialects. Thus, while Classical Biblical Hebrew (CBH) may indeed be closer to the language of the extant Iron Age inscriptions, there is no reason why scribes could not have continued to write texts using this literary dialect after the exile.

For instance, Davies points to several CBH texts which he claims have a terminus a quo in the sixth century: Leviticus 26, 1 Kings 8, and 2 Kings 25. These texts are often dated to the exile, but he sees no reason why they could not be later. If scribes continued to copy, edit, and expand CBH texts up to the time which the Qumran biblical manuscripts were copied, then why could Judean scribes not write CBH texts? The phenomenon of a literary language outliving its spoken counterpart is attested from Akkadian, Greek, Latin, and Arabic. Often there is a gradual change in this literary language over time, but the process of the language becoming totally dead is much longer than a century. For example, the literary dialect ‘Standard Babylonian’ was used for literary works beginning in the middle of the second millennium, and remained unchanged for about a thousand years before being succeeded by a type of archaizing Akkadian. Thus, while a ‘classical’ language may be typologically older than its ‘post-classical’ replacement, it is not true that one displaces the other suddenly or that the two cannot coexist.