Plato’s Timaeus and the Biblical Creation Accounts [Gmirkin]

Discussion about the Hebrew Bible, Septuagint, pseudepigrapha, Philo, Josephus, Talmud, Dead Sea Scrolls, archaeology, etc.
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Leucius Charinus
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Plato’s Timaeus and the Biblical Creation Accounts [Gmirkin]

Post by Leucius Charinus »

Russell Gmirkin has a new book:

Plato’s Timaeus and the Biblical Creation Accounts
Cosmic Monotheism and Terrestrial Polytheism in the Primordial History

https://www.routledge.com/Platos-Timaeu ... 1032020822
StephenGoranson
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Re: Plato’s Timaeus and the Biblical Creation Accounts [Gmirkin]

Post by StephenGoranson »

I haven't read it. I hope it gets reviewed.

Fwiw, I was not persuaded by some of his previous work, including Berossus and Genesis, Manetho and Exodus: Hellenistic Histories and the Date of the Pentateuch (2006).
In 2006 I wrote, in part:

"[.....]From page one:
> "The central thesis of this book is that the Pentateuch was composed in its
> entirety about 273-272 BCE by Jewish scholars at Alexandria that later
> traditions credited with the Septuagint translation of the Pentateuch into
> Greek."
> I find the book unpersuasive, despite its frequent use of words such as
> "doubtless" in its string, thicket, of hypotheses and assertions. The bold
> thesis statement is restated later, but with various weasel words added (e.g.
> pages 21, 251, 253). It is unclear, for example, whether the book settles on
> translation by the seventy or seventy-two proposed fluent bilingual visitors
> to the Library of Alexandria or "a single individual (or a very small group) as
> shown by consistent style and vocabulary."(251) [....]

In 2006, iirc, he credited Berossus with inspiring the beginning of Genesis. Now Plato? Minimising Hebrew contribution?
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DCHindley
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Re: Plato’s Timaeus and the Biblical Creation Accounts [Gmirkin]

Post by DCHindley »

Hi Stephen,

I've often wondered whether Judaism as we know it around the turn of the common era was not a product of the Maccabean revolution and Simon's "popular election" as king.

I lump Ezra-Nehemiah-Esdras along with Daniel as products of this era. The Judaism that preceded Antiochus' attempt to fully Hellenize (assimilate) Judeans may have been much less "Jewish" than what is presented in the Hebrew scriptures, its Greek translation of 3rd century BCE, Josephus, the NT or the Mishna/Tosefta.

How old that Hebrew Law was is the open question. I think Gmirkin does have a point that no gentile source talked about it until Greek times. That does not mean it was necessarily invented then, but it does give me pause to wonder.

The backlash against forced Hellenization created a movement back towards their more ancient practices. Probably much of that was already lost by then, just folk history remained, so they recreated it as best they could, like the way modern Israel reconstituted Hebrew as the national language, but is not really Biblical or Talmudic Hebrew.

DCH
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Re: Plato’s Timaeus and the Biblical Creation Accounts [Gmirkin]

Post by StephenGoranson »

Hi DCH,
I don't doubt changes over time, and some adopted Greek names.
But there was paleo-Hebrew writing before Hellenistic times
And there was a Jerusalem temple, before Babylonians destroyed it, that had priests and --I bet--texts.
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Re: Plato’s Timaeus and the Biblical Creation Accounts [Gmirkin]

Post by Secret Alias »

Whether or not there was a 'Jerusalem' temple it was later than the Pentateuch. The Pentateuch does not mention Jerusalem and most of its action is centered around Gerizim. It was a document from an essentially 'foreign' culture - the northern Israelite culture. The Jews came on border as a secondary culture.
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DCHindley
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Re: Plato’s Timaeus and the Biblical Creation Accounts [Gmirkin]

Post by DCHindley »

StephenGoranson wrote: Sat Jul 02, 2022 3:31 am Hi DCH,
I don't doubt changes over time, and some adopted Greek names.
But there was paleo-Hebrew writing before Hellenistic times
And there was a Jerusalem temple, before Babylonians destroyed it, that had priests and --I bet--texts.
Hi Stephen,

Yes, I agree. There was probably something. Of course, the rituals of a temple destroyed by Babylonians do get lost after "70" years. The general uprooting of the priestly and aristocratic classes that occurred during the Babylonian period must IMHO have had some effect on the memory of traditions. How much personal stuff did the Babylonians allow these deported folks to bring with them, and how were they preserved and perhaps shared? We really know nothing.

The Samaritan schism, which shared the books of the law also revered by the Judeans and had their alternative "legitimate" priestly class, but little else in common. Either the books if the Law were already known in the region when the Judeans returned, or the Judean returnees brought them and Samaritans adopted by them shortly after their return.

Of course, the way that Judeans described their relations with the Samaritans and the "people of the land" in Ezra-Nehemiah leaves no trace of anything remotely resembling that.

The split was probably initiated when John Hyrcanus destroyed their Temple, in 128 BCE. I've read James D. Purvis' monograph The Samaritan Pentateuch and the Origin of the Samaritan Sect, (ISBN 9780674435117, 01/01/1968) which was informative but seemed to raise more questions than it answered.

Simon achieved recognition of independent status by the Syrians in 143/142 BCE. Of course I had reviewed Josephus' accounts. Every ancient source had its own spin on what happened, and several versions of the Macedonian calendar were employed without distinction.

The true origins of the Samaritan sect might be deduced from this mess, but I'm not holding my breath. :sick:

DCH
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Re: Plato’s Timaeus and the Biblical Creation Accounts [Gmirkin]

Post by StephenGoranson »

Hecataeus of Abdera wrote earlier than Gmirkin's proposed Alexandria composition time of c. 273-270:

'....At the end of their laws there is even appended the statement: "These are the words that Moses heard from God and declares unto the Jews." Their lawgiver was careful also to [etc.]'

Additional C14 tests have been made on Qumran mss, which--preliminary reports suggest--may show some texts (copies) to be earlier than proposed paleographic date range estimates of F. M. Cross. From Alexandia to Qumran....
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Re: Plato’s Timaeus and the Biblical Creation Accounts [Gmirkin]

Post by ABuddhist »

StephenGoranson wrote: Sat Jul 02, 2022 7:10 am Hecataeus of Abdera wrote earlier than Gmirkin's proposed Alexandria composition time of c. 273-270:

'....At the end of their laws there is even appended the statement: "These are the words that Moses heard from God and declares unto the Jews." Their lawgiver was careful also to [etc.]'

Additional C14 tests have been made on Qumran mss, which--preliminary reports suggest--may show some texts (copies) to be earlier than proposed paleographic date range estimates of F. M. Cross. From Alexandia to Qumran....
Gmirkin's argument includes a detailed discussion about what exactly Hecataeus of Abdera wrote in which Gmirkin attempts to show that Hecataeus of Abdera is not a witness to a pre-273 BCE Pentatuch.
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Re: Plato’s Timaeus and the Biblical Creation Accounts [Gmirkin]

Post by StephenGoranson »

Among possible responses:
I am familiar with previous dismissals of contrary evidence.
Were you persuaded?
To borrow from Mandy Rice-Davies: Well he would, wouldn't he?
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Re: Plato’s Timaeus and the Biblical Creation Accounts [Gmirkin]

Post by ABuddhist »

StephenGoranson wrote: Sat Jul 02, 2022 10:34 am Were you persuaded?
To borrow from Mandy Rice-Davies: Well he would, wouldn't he?
With all due respect, I was simply noting his counter-argument because your comment created the impression that Gmirkin had simply ignored Hecataeus of Abdera in laying out his theory.

As for whether I found his argument about what Hecataeus of Abdera said persuasive, I do not recall it as being un-persuasive, although I cannot recall what it was. But it addressed the claim that Hecataeus of Abdera proves that the Pentatauch predates 273 BCE in some depth and was able to convince me at the time that Gmirkin's argument was worth considering seriously.

Of course, we people differ in what we regard as persuasive arguments, given that many other people accept divine revelation and miracles as persuasive arguments and that many people also accept as persuasive arguments that souls exist and that an uncreated creator god exists - all of which are to me incorrect positions to hold. Cf., to defend only an obscurer point in my response, the Kevaṭṭa Sutta (DN 11) for why even authentic miracles are not persuasive arguments.
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