Apr 12, 2016

Literacy Study and the Composition of the Hebrew Bible

A number of news outlets (e.g., ABC News, New York Times, Haaretz) are reporting on a study published this Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The study was based on a trove of about 100 letters inscribed in ink on pieces of pottery, known as ostracons, that were unearthed near the Dead Sea in an excavation of the Arad fort decades ago and dated from about 600 B.C. That was shortly before Nebuchadnezzar’s destruction of Jerusalem and the kingdom of Judah, and the exile of its elite to Babylon — and before many scholars believe the major part of the biblical texts, including the five books of Moses, also known as the Pentateuch, were written down in any cohesive form.
While these ostracon do provide data supporting a more widespread literacy than some have held, they really do not have much to say about when the Hebrew Bible was written. So the headlines about providing evidence for when the Bible was written is misleading at best. I am glad that some are now suggesting an earlier date of composition that is often posited but the implied dating in the study is not nearly early enough.

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