Thursday, September 20, 2007

Joseph, Ants, and Meme Stability (part 1)

The heroine in exile, the hero in a foreign land—both distanced from the familiar. Foreign tongues, ideas, ritual, customs…life is relearning, relearning the profane while cognizant of the holy.

A recurrent theme in Israel’s scriptures is that of the hero/heroine in exile. The heroic protagonist finds herself in the midst of circumstantial promotion. Joseph becomes the authority over Egypt, second only to the Pharaoh. Daniel is exalted in the palaces of kings. Esther and Judith receive honor in the royal courts of Persia and Susa. The heroes gain prominence through dream interpretation—recognized as an indicator of God’s spirit. The heroines aspire through their beauty and cunning. All bring success to their people in the midst of settings that threaten identity cohesion.

The similarities between the exilic-exaltation epics are evident. Why, though, does this theme repeat in Israel’s scriptures? What explicative exigencies can be proposed for the exilic-exaltation epics?

The recurrence of the exilic-exaltation theme is suggestive of the settings in which they were composed. It is likely that the communities which benefited the most from these stories were those either already in exile or under foreign dominion. While in exile and under foreign dominion, Israel lacked centripetal identity cohesion in the aftermath of the 586 BCE destruction of the Temple. Where the tide promoted identity diffusion, the zealous maintained identity through community identity markers—observable rituals or behaviors that reinforce identity cohesion.

Identity markers such as Sabbath observance (אוֹת הִוא בֵּינִי וּבֵינֵיכֶם), dietary restrictions (e.g., Daniel’s recourse to pulse), and circumcision assumed added import. The importance of these three observances cannot be overstated as they became the sin quo non identity markers of 2nd Temple Jewry. Critical scholarship posits that priestly works such as Leviticus (especially the Holiness Code of chapters 17ff) and Ezekiel (the Temple vision) are evidence of settings that jeopardized the integrity of Israel’s identity. In the face of threat to identity, a greater emphasis was placed on ritual and legal minutia.

The epic of Joseph, the story of Daniel, the exaltation of Esther, and the justification of Judith together speak succor to the exiled and oppressed. The Joseph narrative and the book of Esther were most likely penned while Israel was in Babylon and Persia. The stories of Daniel and Judith, though, herald to post-Exilic times when Israel was under harsh foreign dominion.

9 comments:

Andrew T. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Andrew T. said...

ha-Sheim strengthens His servants, and weakens His enemies.

Reference: Torah

Tandi said...

Hello Peter,

Thank you for a new post and a refreshing change of subject. I will comment on what jumps out at me.

Re: Community markers

This phrase reminds me of one of your best writings on your previous blog entitled Community Markers II (Love). See entry for 12/3/06 at

http://ahavat-shalom-uchesed.blogspot.com

I will never forget this line.....

“Rather than bubbled love, Yeshua desires effervescent love. Effervescent love bubbles over—it overflows as the living waters (mayim chayim) of the Spirit.”

There is something to this “community markers” concept relative to all generations, including today’s generation. I agree with this statement you make:

“Where the tide promoted identity diffusion, the zealous maintained identity through community identity markers—observable rituals or behaviors that reinforce identity cohesion.”

Today, God’s people are in exile as well. We are awaiting the Restoration of the Kingdom. We need to be identified by community markers, including Shabbat, dietary restrictions, and avoidance of all pagan practices (culturally, sexually, etc.). This makes Leviticus 18, rather than relegated to a bygone era, especially relevant today, as even bestiality is making a comeback....with some outrageous liberals advocating “heavy petting” ....with our pets!

Re: Book of Daniel

While liberal scholars date this book to the second century BCE, this cannot be true for the following reasons:

In Matthew 24:15, Yeshua mentions Daniel as an actual person and a prophet (“one who proclaims inspired utterances on behalf of God”). The Book itself claims to be written in the 6th century BCE (during the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim).

There are counter arguments to alleged historical errors using recent archeological findings (such as the discovery of the Nabonidus Chronicle).

What purpose would chapter 4 (Nebuchadnezzar’s testimony) serve as an encouragement to the Jews in the time of Antiochus? Chapters 1-6 of Daniel can only refer to the Exilic period alone. Besides the fact of the great detail about the Exilic period, there is too little consistent parallel with the sitz em leben of the Maccabean Age.

Many manuscripts of Daniel were found at Qumran and have been dated prior to the date deemed necessary by Maccabean theorists. There would have been insufficient time for a Maccabean composition to be circulated, venerated, and accepted as Canonical Scripture by a Maccabean sect.

Daniel wasn’t placed in the Ketubim until the 4th century CE (as opposed to the Prophet canon). Josephus placed it among the 13 prophets/historians (Against Apion).

Concerning genre and vocabulary: There is an avalanche of evidence demonstrating the presence of the Greek language in the Semitic milieu long before the 6th century BCE. Persian loan words have been determined to be of the Achaemedian tongue (539-332 BCE). 90% of the Aramaic words are found in texts of the 5th century BCE or earlier. There are other literary affinities to the time of the Exile.

Hermeneutical foundations: Both Judaism and Christianity are founded on the supernatural workings of a personal God who acts in human history. This is not a pseudipigraphical book written to encourage second century BCE Jews, but a book written by the Prophet Daniel to the kings of a country which had taken his people captive to a foreign land. The second half of the book is one of the rare accounts of detailed fore-telling in Scripture by a prophet, as opposed to the more common forth-telling.

Source: Historical Dating of the Book of Daniel, by Jeramy Townsley (fully referenced paper). Available online.

PeterS said...

Hello Tandi,

The book of Daniel falls into the category of psuedopigrapha much like the Book of Enoch. In my review and study of the prophecies in the later part of this book, it has become obvious to me that the author(s) is attempting to address the dilemmas forcefully cultivated by Antiochus’ rule over Judah. The apocalyptic predictions of Daniel foresee a fictitious future that includes the resurrection of the dead, or the end of the age, in the immediate aftermath of Antiochus’ plummet from power. This did not happen—placing the book of Daniel on par with other intertestimental writings.

The “historical” section of Daniel (chapters 1 through 6) contains several anachronisms and possible historical mistakes. It is not my intent to discuss these at present, but I am content to state that there are problems with the historical narratives in Daniel.

Daniel said...

Peter, you wrote:

"The Joseph narrative [was] most likely penned while Israel was in Babylon and Persia."

I see you are trying to discover a different explanation for the existence of bible stories other than that they are completely true and accurate accounts of what really happened.
If Joseph was penned when you say, then the whole story would be a complete fabrication. Is that what you are saying? At any rate, that is logically what you are saying. What you are also saying is that ancient societies fabricated lies to meet social needs.
I would ask you if you have ever lied because of a social conflict? Since, you know the answer to this, I would also suggest that if you are capable of deceiving others, you yourself are capable of being deceived. You are both being deceived by the higher critical commentary on the Bible and practicing deceit by using it.
Joseph lived from 1881/80 B.C. to 1771/70 B.C. exactly. The text gives his age at 110 years, which was young compared to his brothers. The famine in Egypt happened at the ending of the ice age with massive flooding/melting and large quantities of dust causing the famine. The timing is exactly right, some 500 years after the flood based on Michael Oard's calculations. It was at the same time that the Mammoths died out.
I would also suggest that you are expressing your hatred for Christianity and Judaism by so profaning their beliefs in the accuracy of the scriptures. You are showing yourself intolerant of sound reasoning and teaching. You pontificate your commentary as if it was the only viable view, when you know very well that there is no shred of evidence that favors your view.

Daniel said...

Peter,

You know very well that the book of Daniel was written around 539-530 B.C. But even the 2nd century B.C. will not bail you out of the Daniel 9:24-27 proof of divine prophecy, because the 7-7's, 62-7's, and then Messiah will be cut off prophecy were already in print before Yeshua died, and he met the schedule exactly right. The author of the book could not have predicted humanly when Yeshua would come. Furthermore, the fact that I reconstructed all of biblical chronology using the sabbatical timing stands as a witness to your utter disregard of the truth and rebellious spirit. In due time God will again fulfill biblical prophecies.

Andrew T. said...

Peter,

I agree with Daniel about the 70 weeks dating -- Seipher Daniyeil holds that 434 years after that time the Mashiakh would be killed (falling exactly on 30 C.E.), and Ribi Yehoshua was the only Ben-David candidate in history that fell into conformity with that prophecy. See netzarim.co.il/Shared/MessPro.htm esp. under the Daniel 9.24-27 section.

Prominent antimissionary rabbi Toviah Singer was so troubled by Daniyeil 9.24-27 that he actually had the audacity to resort to publishing that Daniel (rather than himself) was mistaken!!! The "antimissionaries" are left trying to fabricate and explain away fringe interpretations of Daniel's 70 weeks that controvert the entire historical Jewish traditional interpretation (!), no less ridiculous than the efforts of Christians to count "partial days" in order to maintain that "J*esus" was resuscitated on Sun-g*od-day rather than Shabat.

Have a nice Yom Tov, Peter.

PeterS said...

Knowing how much time and study you have put into the book of Daniel and biblical chronology, I am reluctant to reply to your recent comments. There is no question in my thinking that of all the Christian attempts to harmonize Daniel 9:24ff with the history of Jesus’ crucifixion, the model that you have made excels them all. In fact, your model was often a basis for faith for me—the reason why I held on to faith, kept in tow by the force of predictive prophecy. I can no longer claim that your model works for me.

The prophecies of Daniel detail many events that were current from a Judean idiolect in the 160’s BCE. As the author of this pseudonymous work advances beyond her era into the future, she does formulate predictive prophecies. However, the transition between descriptive (current and recent historical events) and the predictive is not discernable as all of the apocalyptic material itself is presented as predictive.

The author is bent on constructing the illusion of authority through attribution to Daniel. She displays concern for then-present exigencies—the rise of Antiochus, the profanation of Temple and Alter, the disposition of the priesthood, and the persecution of the people. Through the attribution of advanced awareness of these events to Daniel, she hopes to gain the audience of her people. The historically descriptive, non-predictive material is accurate in detail; however, the genuinely predictive material fails to meet up to actual history. As with every doomsday cult, the predictions of cosmological collapse failed, and the people were left with the burden to spiritualize and reinterpret the book.

It is noteworthy that several copies of Daniel have been found among the DSS corpus. The presence of this text among the DSS is used as an argument for the antiquity of the book. The logic of this argument posits that the book must have had enough time to be distributed to be found among the sect’s literary collection. Before I ever read this argument for the antiquity of Daniel, I independently made this observation and argument.

A similar problem exists within the book of Daniel itself. In Daniel chapter 9, the prophet states that he was reading from the book of Jeremiah in “the Scriptures.” Jeremiah lived and conducted his prophetic ministry in brief overlap with Daniel’s time in exile. From what is presented in the book of Jeremiah, Jeremiah never won a single convert to his message. He was a persecuted prophet—rejected by his people. Yet, less than a generation removed from Daniel, his book is in circulation and is deemed part of a proto-canon? How can this be? The author of Daniel chapter 9 refers to a sacrosanct selection of “Scriptures”—books esteemed by the people. Not only did Jeremiah experience extremely limited popularity, but his book was unlikely in wide circulation at the supposed time of the composition of Daniel 9. The reference to “the Scriptures” is evidence of the later date of this book—written at a time when the sacred and esteemed qualities of Jeremiah were accepted by the Jews.

It is difficult to date the texts at Qumran. The sect itself appears to originate in the era following the Maccabean rise. Several texts refer to the sect’s self understanding of post-Exilic chronology and the rise of their remnant sect vis-à-vis the apostasy of the corrupted Temple establishment priesthood. The sect is content with distribution of multiple pseudonymous works attributed to Moses (Jubilees, Temple Scroll), Enoch (book of Enoch), Levi (Testament of Levi), etc. It should come as no surprise that the apparently popular and “newly published” work of “Daniel the prophet” with the books expressed concern for Temple and priesthood should find early acceptance among the sect. Hence, arguments based on the apparent acceptance and popularity of the book at Qumran cut both ways and fail to prove the genuineness of the work.

Tandi said...

Hello Peter,

Daniel 9:2 KJV says:

“In the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, understood by books (sefer) the number of the years whereof the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah the prophet, that He would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem.”

Where does it say “Scriptures” with the definition, “books esteemed by the people in wide circulation” as you suggest?

Daniel was exalted to be the first of three presidents in the Babylonian kingdom, under Darius. The king wanted to place him over the entire realm because of his “excellent spirit.” Others were jealous of him. He no doubt had privileged access to the books in the king’s possession. When he came across the writings (sefer) of Jeremiah, he took note of the seventy year prophecy concerning Jerusalem.

Jeremiah’s scrolls were re-written after the original was burned (Jeremiah 36) and these made their way to Babylon by the Sovereign protection and preservation of God, just like the Scriptures that have made their way to us today. It is not important to have the originals. It is not important to have the exact words of the originals (words were added in the copy of Jeremiah’s scroll (vs 32). It IS important to believe God’s Word! Daniel prayed and fasted, made supplication and confession, and believed God’s Word.

Jeremiah was a “thus saith the LORD” prophet. His words are powerful and anointed. We can dismiss Jeremiah’s words (and Daniel’s) as uninspired, but we do so at our own risk. These words have, and will, come to pass.

“For thus saith the LORD, that after seventy years be accomplished at Babylon I will visit you, and perform my good word toward you, in causing you to return to this place. For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.....

...And ye shall seek Me, and find Me, when ye shall search for Me with all your heart.”
Jeremiah 29:10-13.

Seek Him, Peter. Your eternal destiny hangs in the balance. Don’t miss the Kingdom because of a satanic closet of doubt. “The future is awesome!”