In two previous posts (1, 2) we discussed our position in the current debate over whether we can date linguistic features found in Biblical Hebrew texts. In a nutshell, while we agree with the weaker hypothesis that texts cannot be dated absolutely by linguistic means, we disagree with the stronger hypotheses is that no dating at all is possible and argue that the relative dating of features, and the texts in which they cluster, is possible if the analysis is carried out with a sound linguistic and philological methodology. To assert otherwise, to put it bluntly, represents an extreme historical and linguistic skepticism that we find hard to justify.
In our first post we provided links to our two articles (Cook’s, Holmstedt’s), which are forthcoming in a volume titled Diachrony in Biblical Hebrew (edited by Ziony Zevit and Cynthia Naudé-Miller; Eisenbrauns). These articles are revisions of papers given at the 2009 NAPH meeting at the annual SBL meeting. The keynote speaker at the meeting was the linguist B. Elan Dresher (University of Toronto), who masterfully discussed methodological issues in working with the linguistic features of “old” texts. Elan is a colleague of mine at Toronto and has graciously allowed us to post his revised paper (which will also be included in the Diachrony volume).
The decision to post this paper comes on the heals of a rather energetic exchange between Ronald Hendel and Rezetko, Young, and Ehrensvärd at the Bible and Interpretation site: see here for Hendel’s criticism and here for Rezetko et al’s response. Note also the vigorous and often pointed exchange in the comment sections of both posts!
As I (RDH) indicated in my comments (##4, 12) on Rezetko’s response at the B&I site, it is deeply troubling that Young, Rezetko, and Ehrensvärd are following up their first work, which contains methodological flaws and a tremendous amount of circular chop logic, with a second volume that will supposedly focus on language. (They repeatedly claim that their first volume was focused only on texts, not language, but the very fact that they propose to replace the ancient-standard-late BH chronological model with a concurrent dialects model indicates very clearly that they make just as large claims about language as they do about texts).
YRE’s responses to the linguists and Hebraists who have interacted with their Linguistic Dating of Biblical Texts show that rather than take the opportunity to learn from those who have been trained in linguistics, they are merely adding a linguistic sheen to their rhetoric and repeating the same claims.
Hence, the addition of Dresher’s article to our part of the exchange. Click here for the PDF.