Gmirkinism

Discussion about the Hebrew Bible, Septuagint, pseudepigrapha, Philo, Josephus, Talmud, Dead Sea Scrolls, archaeology, etc.
RandyHelzerman
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Gmirkinism

Post by RandyHelzerman »

I certainly love reading Gmirkin's books; new arguments for new hypothesis always perks my interest.

But sometimes I do regret that he writes these ginormous tomes, and it does seem a bit like "proof by exhaustion". Certainly very informative and provocative, but after a while, I find myself saying 'man...I'll believe anything you want me to, just tell me exactly what and why I should believe it!!"

Some specific concerns I have with going full Gimirkin:

1. The Samaritans have their version of the Pentateuch, and they write it in a script which perhaps even Ezra would have found old-fashioned. Are we so sure that those book didn't exist in pre-exilic times?

2. The Deuteronomistic history, from Samuel through Kings, seems very old. And David doesn't seem like a literary character at all. He comes so alive in those pages that he seems more real to me than most people I know, who just kinda zombie through life. I and II Chronicles has certainly been bawlderized, but I and II Samuel shows all the warts, human-all-too-human nature of the actors, and indeed a good deal of the polytheism characteristic of 10th-century Israel (cf. David making his escape by putting a household idol in his bed...)

3. The law codes of Leviticus and Deuteronomy contradict each other on many points (e.g. leverate marriage) so it seems like putting them together is more of a conservative move to preserve the past, rather than a clean-slate endeavor. If these texts reached their final form only after hellenization, why don't we get a super-hyper-harmonized law code which actually was suitable for living in an empire of greek city-states, rather than two which largely seem like they presuppose a way of life which was long gone?

I find the idea that the Pentateuch was really created only when it was "translated' to be utterly fascinating, and indeed, the process of selecting texts to be translated--and the process of translating them, i.e. interpreting them for what they meant and thinking about how to express that meaning in a very different language, must have played some role in their canonization.

Still, after reading Gmirkin's long, long books, I come away with the feeling that the nail hasn't quite been hit squarely on the thumb yet. Is there some precis of his arguments? It would be nice to have some very concise, cogent summary of the arguments which really provided a nice, tight connection between hypothesis and evidence--is there any such thing out there?
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Leucius Charinus
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Re: Gmirkinism

Post by Leucius Charinus »

RandyHelzerman wrote: Sun Oct 22, 2023 11:03 am It would be nice to have some very concise, cogent summary of the arguments which really provided a nice, tight connection between hypothesis and evidence--is there any such thing out there?
There is an independent assessment by Yonatan Adler of the archeological material indicating that a broad set of rules proscribed within the Torah do not appear to have been followed before the 2nd century BCE at the earliest.
RandyHelzerman
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Re: Gmirkinism

Post by RandyHelzerman »

Leucius Charinus wrote: Wed Nov 01, 2023 11:51 pm
RandyHelzerman wrote: Sun Oct 22, 2023 11:03 am It would be nice to have some very concise, cogent summary of the arguments which really provided a nice, tight connection between hypothesis and evidence--is there any such thing out there?
There is an independent assessment by Yonatan Adler of the archeological material indicating that a broad set of rules proscribed within the Torah do not appear to have been followed before the 2nd century BCE at the earliest.
True, but the Torah bitterly complains about that very fact :-)
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Leucius Charinus
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Re: Gmirkinism

Post by Leucius Charinus »

RandyHelzerman wrote: Thu Nov 02, 2023 5:05 am
Leucius Charinus wrote: Wed Nov 01, 2023 11:51 pm
RandyHelzerman wrote: Sun Oct 22, 2023 11:03 am It would be nice to have some very concise, cogent summary of the arguments which really provided a nice, tight connection between hypothesis and evidence--is there any such thing out there?
There is an independent assessment by Yonatan Adler of the archeological material indicating that a broad set of rules proscribed within the Torah do not appear to have been followed before the 2nd century BCE at the earliest.
True, but the Torah bitterly complains about that very fact :-)
True but according to Momigliano "The Law of the Jews was definitely beyond history". Historical claims made in any book should be tested against the primary and (then) secondary evidence for those claims in the surviving archeological and physical manuscript evidence from the epoch being investigated. Lest we forget that historical fiction is often a popular form of political and religious propaganda.


p.20
"The Greeks like history, but never made it the foundation of their lives."

"To the biblical Hebrew, history and religion were one. This identification,
via the Gospels, has never ceased to be relevant to Christian civilisation."

p.23
"History had nothing to explain and little to reveal to the man who meditated
the Law day and night. The Torah is not only permanent in its value, but
regular in its effects."


p.24
"The Law of the Jews was definitely beyond history".


The Classical Foundations of Modern Historiography
Arnaldo Momigliano
Sather Classical Lectures (1961-62)
Volume Fifty-Four
University of California Press, 1990

NOTE: the observation at p.23 (highlighted above) was in regard to his father,
RandyHelzerman
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Re: Gmirkinism

Post by RandyHelzerman »

Leucius Charinus wrote: Thu Nov 02, 2023 5:04 pm
RandyHelzerman wrote: Thu Nov 02, 2023 5:05 am True, but the Torah bitterly complains about that very fact :-)
Historical claims made in any book should be tested against the primary and (then) secondary evidence
True enough, but wouldn't this be an example of the Torah *agreeing* with the primary evidence? Viz, we've got that long list of kings in I and II Kings who "did evil in the eyes of the LORD, all the days of their lives", complaining about Ashera poles, groves in high places, idols, etc. And sure enough, when we investigate the archeology of Israel in those days, we find Ashera poles, groves in high places, idols---basically anything *but* YHWH worship?

Really, the only place we would expect to find primary evidence of the cult of YHWH along Josiah/Deteronomistic lines would be on the temple mount, and that has been off limit to archeologists forever.
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Leucius Charinus
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Re: Gmirkinism

Post by Leucius Charinus »

RandyHelzerman wrote: Thu Nov 02, 2023 6:10 pmReally, the only place we would expect to find primary evidence of the cult of YHWH along Josiah/Deteronomistic lines would be on the temple mount, and that has been off limit to archeologists forever.
How does YHWH cult differ from Judaism or Torah observance?

Judaism has often been described historically as a religious framework centered upon practice, with ritual obligations and prohibitions dictating almost every aspect of daily life. The observance of Jewish ritual practices played a central role in the day-to-day lives of Jews throughout extended periods of Jewish History, and indeed serves as a hallmark of Judaism as we know it today. But when and how did this practice-centered Judaism first emerge and develop?

Beginning with the 19th century Wissenschaft des Judentums movement, scholarship has made great strides in investigating how various aspects of Jewish practice originated and developed over time. Unfortunately, this vitally important field of inquiry has focused its efforts almost exclusively on the evidence provided by written sources—mostly late Second Temple period Jewish literature and early rabbinic texts. Material evidence provided by archaeology was unavailable to the earlier researchers, and mostly overlooked by later ones.

Recognizing that archaeology is actually indispensable for a comprehensive understanding of the genesis and early development of Judaism, The Origins of Judaism Archaeological Project seeks to recruit data from archaeology in tandem with textual evidence with the goal of studying how ancient Judaism originated and subsequently developed over time.

Archaeology and texts tend to provide very different kinds of information, and if brought together prudently, hold the potential to afford a much more comprehensive and accurate understanding of the genesis of Judaism and the ways it was observed in the ancient past.

Among the most salient topics analyzed under the aegis of The Origins of Judaism Archaeological Project are stepped immersion pools (“mikva’ot ”), chalkstone vessels, ancient tefillin (phylacteries) from the Judean Desert, and archaeozoological evidence of kashrut (dietary law) observance.

The Origins of Judaism Archaeological Project
Directed by Dr. Yonatan Adler
https://www.ariel.ac.il/wp/ioa-au/proje ... m-project/

Adler talks about his methodology here:
https://youtu.be/vD5VmGkqfAg?t=1545

25:40

The method is actually quite simple and straightforward. I take a period of time in which we have ample evidence ... that Judaism exists. This is the first century of the CE. So in the 1st century of the CE ..... this century has provided a tremendous amount of evidence both textual and archeological which points to widespread observance of the Torah .... as a rule if you were a Jew living in the 1st century of the CE then you certainly knew about the Torah and you were basically keeping the laws of the Torah. I take that as the benchmark.

So this is the period of time when we know we have Judaism. I then go backwards in time from this benchmark to see if we continue to have evidence in the earlier periods. So I go to the 1st century BCE and then the 2nd century BCE ...

The result of this study reveals that --- going backwards in time --- this pattern of evidence essentially disappears around the middle of the 2nd century BCE. What provisional conclusions may be drawn from this pattern of evidence? We could say that Judaism as Torah observance seems to begin in the archeological record around the middle of the 2nd century BCE.

The Torah could have been sitting around - observed by a priesthood and unobserved by the people - for some time prior to the mid 2nd century BCE. This is of course quite possible. Russell Gmirk's thesis of a c.272 BCE origin puts that period as about a century. Those arguing for a pre-Hellenistic origin need to put that period as at least two centuries. The earlier the Torah origin theory more centuries intervene between the creation of the Torah and the earliest archeological evidence for its open observance by the common people.

How is this to be explained?
RandyHelzerman
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Re: Gmirkinism

Post by RandyHelzerman »

Leucius Charinus wrote: Sat Nov 04, 2023 11:43 pm How does YHWH cult differ from Judaism or Torah observance?
If you look at, say, I Samuel, there is a story about Samuel's mother visiting a local shrine to YHWH. This is against "the law" of Deuteronomy. And therefore, there probably isn't a Torah yet , to tell them not to worship at those local shrines. A local shrine like that is something we wouldn't expect to leave any trace in the archeological record. YHWHists, after all, did not make images of YHWH. Statues and figurines to every other god would be exactly what we would expect to find in the archeological record.

This is quite different from the world we see in the NT: everybody only sacrifices at the Temple in Jerusalem. There are synagogues everywhere. And nobody has household idols (like David did, see his chilling story of escape when he put one in his bed to make it look like he was still there after he fled Saul). No Ashera poles, groves in high places, etc etc.

So by "cult of YHWH" I mean something like what we see in the early books of the NT. Just local shrines, and no exclusive worship of YHWH, and even no widespread worship of YHWH. By "Judaism" I mean the second thing: existence of a Torah, which is observed, centralized worship at the Jerusalem temple, exclusive monotheism, synagogues, etc etc.

The observance of Jewish ritual practices played a central role in the day-to-day lives of Jews throughout extended periods of Jewish History, and indeed serves as a hallmark of Judaism as we know it today.
Yup. Looks like we're on the same page here.
But when and how did this practice-centered Judaism first emerge and develop?
Synagogues look to me like they were patterned after and in reaction to gymnasia. So that part probably came in after the Selucids. Depending upon how seriously you take I Macabees, Jerusalem was pretty much like any other greek polis for a hundred years: it had gymnasia, optional circumcision, ham sandwiches, etc. There was a temple to YHWH in Jerusalem, and they were touchy about sacrifices to other gods happening there.

Then some (speaking anachronistically) red-state religious zealots from the countryside lead a revolution....after that succeeded was probably when Judaism in the full sense evolved into the world we see in the NT.

Note the above is quite compatible with Gmirkinism: we wouldn't expect any archeological trace for either the YHWH cult or early Judaism outside of the temple mount, which is unfortunately off limits.

Archaeology and texts tend to provide very different kinds of information, and if brought together prudently, hold the potential to afford a much more comprehensive and accurate understanding of the genesis of Judaism and the ways it was observed in the ancient past.
Certainly.
The result of this study reveals that --- going backwards in time --- this pattern of evidence essentially disappears around the middle of the 2nd century BCE. What provisional conclusions may be drawn from this pattern of evidence? We could say that Judaism as Torah observance seems to begin in the archeological record around the middle of the 2nd century BCE.
Yes, but also note that the OT itself claims this very thing. The prophets are continually complaining about polytheism, household idols, etc etc.
How is this to be explained?
Not much to be explained, really....as far as when YHWH worship and Torah observance became mainstream, the OT and the archeological record are in agreement: it wasn't mainstream until after the 250's bc.

Where I start to wonder is whether Gmirkin's stronger thesis that the Torah was essentially created during the process of "translating" it to greek. Leviticus and Deuteronomy present two different systems of laws, which are contradictory at points (e.g. leverate marriage. If they were both written around the same time, seems like they wouldn't be contradictory, indeed it seems like there would be only one of them. Exodus is a rollicking good story, but seems kind of a weird story to be created on the behest of and financed by a Pharaoh!!

Maybe I'm misunderstanding Gmirkin here; and discounting too much the places where he says, e.g. that Plato's laws endorse collecting and systematizing as much pre-existing lore as possible to legitimate the new colony, etc etc. But there are plenty of places an in youtube vids he says things like "I think the translators of the septuagint *were* the J, P, and E sources" etc etc. Seems like a bridge too far, but I'm willing to be persuaded otherwise.
Jair
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Re: Gmirkinism

Post by Jair »

RandyHelzerman wrote: Sun Oct 22, 2023 11:03 am I certainly love reading Gmirkin's books; new arguments for new hypothesis always perks my interest.

But sometimes I do regret that he writes these ginormous tomes, and it does seem a bit like "proof by exhaustion". Certainly very informative and provocative, but after a while, I find myself saying 'man...I'll believe anything you want me to, just tell me exactly what and why I should believe it!!"

Some specific concerns I have with going full Gimirkin:

1. The Samaritans have their version of the Pentateuch, and they write it in a script which perhaps even Ezra would have found old-fashioned. Are we so sure that those book didn't exist in pre-exilic times?

2. The Deuteronomistic history, from Samuel through Kings, seems very old. And David doesn't seem like a literary character at all. He comes so alive in those pages that he seems more real to me than most people I know, who just kinda zombie through life. I and II Chronicles has certainly been bawlderized, but I and II Samuel shows all the warts, human-all-too-human nature of the actors, and indeed a good deal of the polytheism characteristic of 10th-century Israel (cf. David making his escape by putting a household idol in his bed...)

3. The law codes of Leviticus and Deuteronomy contradict each other on many points (e.g. leverate marriage) so it seems like putting them together is more of a conservative move to preserve the past, rather than a clean-slate endeavor. If these texts reached their final form only after hellenization, why don't we get a super-hyper-harmonized law code which actually was suitable for living in an empire of greek city-states, rather than two which largely seem like they presuppose a way of life which was long gone?

I find the idea that the Pentateuch was really created only when it was "translated' to be utterly fascinating, and indeed, the process of selecting texts to be translated--and the process of translating them, i.e. interpreting them for what they meant and thinking about how to express that meaning in a very different language, must have played some role in their canonization.

Still, after reading Gmirkin's long, long books, I come away with the feeling that the nail hasn't quite been hit squarely on the thumb yet. Is there some precis of his arguments? It would be nice to have some very concise, cogent summary of the arguments which really provided a nice, tight connection between hypothesis and evidence--is there any such thing out there?
I’ve never read his books. I’ve only happened upon his theories in a very limited manner here on the forums. There are a lot of things I don’t know about his proposal. I think the main thing is, as you’ve pointed out, the Pentateuch so very obviously has redactions. Does Gmirkins hypothesis account for these? I would imagine so but with some of the talk of ditching the documentary hypothesis, I wonder how the redactions are accounted for.
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billd89
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Re: Gmirkinism

Post by billd89 »

Apparently Russell Gmirkin has idiots who haven't read his books shrieking on the internet.

Internet winner, obviously.
RandyHelzerman
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Re: Gmirkinism

Post by RandyHelzerman »

Jair wrote: Sat Nov 18, 2023 7:00 pm There are a lot of things I don’t know about his proposal. I think the main thing is, as you’ve pointed out, the Pentateuch so very obviously has redactions.
I recommend his books to you. They are long but he has a nice style which can keep your attention, and his theses are fascinating.
blld89 wrote: Internet winner, obviously.
Be the change you want to see man.
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