Friday, December 4, 2009
A Light For Our Path...
2. The OT stories occur generally between 6,000 BCE to about 500-ish BCE [source]. The stories of the Return from Exile as told in some of the latter [chronological] stories of the OT would be amongst the last stories told.
3. Thus, MOST of OT history falls into the "prehistory" category - these are stories told before recorded history.
4. The Epic of Gilgamesh would be another example of early "history," as told in the norms of the day...
"Gilgamesh is one of the oldest recorded stories in the world. It tells the story of an ancient King of Uruk, Gilgamesh, who may have actually existed, and whose name is on the Sumerian King List. The story of Gilgamesh, in various Sumerian versions, was originally widely known in the third millennium B.C. After a long history of retellings, this story was recorded, in a standardized Akkadian version, in the seventh century B.C., and stored in the famous library of King Assurbanipal. "
5. These stories were recorded faithfully and carefully.
"There were schools for scribes that taught a set curriculum of texts to copy precisely and in a fixed order. This resulted in lots of copies being made of many stories, with few variations, because accuracy of transcription was highly desired."
6. Nonetheless, the stories do not always remain unchanged...
"Without a fixed written text, stories can be told for thousands of years, varying from teller to teller, adapted to this folk and that folk, with the names of kings, places, people added and subtracted to meet the needs and interests of a current audience. The story of Gilgamesh was originally part of such an oral tradition. "It is virtually impossible to determine when the material was first written down, let alone when it originated orally or how long it existed in an oral tradition. Rather it can be assumed, from the materials handed down from succeeding ancient peoples and languages, that it was not composed all of a piece and at one time but was added to gradually and varied by many tellers.""
7. From that same source, we see that Gilgamesh was likely a real king and so in some sense, this was a "history." And yet, the story has Gilgamesh seeking immortality, was the son of a goddess and contains a description of a "netherworld" and other conventions of Epic Storytelling (which does not stick strictly to literal facts).
8. In other words, in Gilgamesh, real history and fictional embellishments occur side-by-side, back and forth with no warning as to what was literal and what was fiction. That was not the point of the storytelling. It was a different culture with different norms for passing on history. They weren't WRONG for telling historical tales that weren't wholly factual, it was just the way they did it. For us to suggest ancient cultures which mixed fact and fiction interchangeably were wrong or duplicitous for doing so is cultural elitism.
9. Gilgamesh is not alone in using Epic Storytelling norms for telling history. We have Homer's Iliad, describing the Trojan War, for instance, as well as the Odyssey and Virgil's Aeneid. Ancient histories often included gods and goddesses, real people and fantasy events. Do you have any examples of what we might call "actual" histories (ie, histories told without obvious fictional devices)? I can't think of any, especially anything from the time period 6000 BCE to 1000 BCE - the very period we are talking about.
So, if you can't provide any instances of history being told in wholly factual ways from that time period, if all our earliest examples are more of the Epic Storytelling vein, then that suggests to me that such a storytelling style was the norm of the day. ON WHAT BASIS would we conclude that these OT stories were passed on differently?
If you can provide no examples offering a different , then on what possible basis would we presume that the OT histories are told in a wholly factual manner, contrary to the norms of I believe most ancient storytelling?
It would seem to be cultural hubris to assume that THEY MUST tell history in the same manner that we do. Says who? ON. WHAT. BASIS?
If it's merely your hunch, once again, why should someone believe you? "On What Basis?" is a meaningful question to answer IF one is taking Bible study seriously.
Seems to me.