David Bokovoy has written a response to Jeff Bradshaw’s review of Authoring the Old Testament.
Although David seems rather averse to answering direct questions about his scholarship, his response to Jeff raises a few issues in my mind.
1. I certainly agree with David that ancient texts cannot prove historicity, as I discussed in “DH 20: Historicity 2.” Ancient texts can only tell us what ancient people believed about Abraham and Moses. However David has ignored the flip side of the equation. Literary theory and biblical studies cannot disprove the historicity of Abraham or Moses either. Do you agree, David?
2. The existence of ancient Israelite traditions regarding Abraham and Moses are certainly evidence–though not proof–for their historicity. Is it more reasonable to believe that the Israelites told and preserved stories about their real ancestors? Or that someone invented imaginary stories about fake ancestors? Why would stories about imaginary ancestors have become widely accepted by ancient Israelites who had never heard of such ancestors? To that degree, at least, it is more probable that Abraham and Moses really existed than that they were late literary inventions somehow successfully foisted on ancient Israelites who had never heard of them before. Do you agree, David?
3. Oral tradition can, of course become corrupted or even invented. But it is a very modern idea to assume that textual traditions are necessarily more accurate than oral traditions. There are many historically demonstrable cases of the accurate transmission of oral traditions for centuries or even for over a thousand years. Homer is the best know example, but we find the same phenomena in rabbinic literature, the Zoroastrian Gathas, Buddha’s teachings, and the Indic Vedic literature. For example, most scholars believe that much of the Rig Veda dates to the late second millennium BC. However, it was not written down until around the fifth century AD; this represents an oral transmission of over a thousand years after its composition, and fifteen hundred years for its earliest parts. The oldest surviving manuscript of the Rig Veda dates to AD 1464, nearly 3000 years after the composition of its oldest parts. Rejecting oral tradition because it is oral is a faulty assumption. Do you agree, David?
4. Granted that historical methodologies have limitations in trying to reconstruct the ancient events, is it possible for God to reveal true and accurate information about the past to his prophets? If so, is it possible that a text that dates literarily to the seventh century BC could contain true and accurate information about Abraham and Moses? Or should revelation be rejected as a possible source of truth about the past?
5- Are biblical studies methodologies the only legitimate scholarly mechanism for understanding the Bible?
6. Are secular presuppositions about the Bible just as much “faith”-based as religious presuppositions? Or is an atheistic belief that the Bible is purely a human text somehow methodologically and epistemologically superior to a religious belief that the Bible is inspired?
I hope David will answer these sincere and important questions.