As someone who focuses on interpreting the Hebrew Bible, I face the problem of “insufficient data.” So much of the history, culture and literature of the Ancient Near East has been lost, making the problem of interpreting the ancient text very problematic. The temptation is to fill in the blanks to a greater degree than is supported by hard, empirical data. Bible scholars for some reason hate to admit that they simply don’t know and that we can’t know the answers to some questions until and unless new evidence comes to light. So there is a lot of speculation and outright fiction being written about the Hebrew Bible.
It is, then, a pleasure to run across examples of honest grappling with the data as it actually exists. The most recent exemplar are two related blog posts, here and the earlier Part 1 here, on the vexed question of the identity of “Daniel” in Ezekiel 14:14 & 20. Does it refer to Ezekiel’s contemporary whom we know from his eponymous book, Daniel? Does it refer to the Canaanite legendary hero, dn’il, as narrated in the Ugaritic texts? Or perhaps to someone whose existence and biography has since been lost to us?
I’ll leave it to you, dear reader, to peruse the details of the debate. What is exemplary is that:
- the extent and limits of the real-world evidence is described
- the writer grapples with how far that evidence can be pushed
- he refuses to go beyond what can be justified
The reader comes away with a clear understanding of the issues, the evidence, and the possible conclusions that may be drawn. Most of all, it’s honest. This is the way biblical scholarship (or any scholarship, really) should be done.
I’ve added this blog to the blog list at the bottom of the page (see Further Information).