Sunday, December 10, 2006

OT Inconsistancy 2

When it comes to apparent biblical inconsistencies or contradictions, I try to be cautious and presume innocence before guilt. It is easy to mistake something as an error when one does not understand it. It is even easier to do so when dealing with a text which has come down to us with variants or was written in a foreign language, culture, and world-view. That having been said, I think I've found my second unequivocal Old Testament inconsistency (the first being detailed in my post “OT Hebrew Problems").

The conservative Rabbi Umberto Cassuto, who boldly upheld the sacredness and God-breathed nature of the Old Testament, who was a renowned scholar as well as the head of a Rabbinic seminary, and who fought boldly against Modernistic and Reductionistic interpretations of scripture which denied or destroyed its truth, said this is “the most serious discrepancy in the entire book of explicit inconsistency that cannot possibly be reconciled; all the efforts of the harmonizers to do so have failed.” (The Documentary Hypothesis, p.80)

From texts on Isaac's history:
And when Esau was forty years old he took to wife Judith the daughter of Beeri the Hittite, and Basemath the daughter of Elon the Hittite
--Gen 26:34, ASV

and Esau went unto Ishmael, and took, besides the wives that he had, Mahalath the daughter of Ishmael Abraham’s son, the sister of Nebaioth, to be his wife.
--Gen 28:9, ASV
From text on Esau's history:
Esau took his wives of the daughters of Canaan: Adah the daughter of Elon the Hittite, and Oholibamah the daughter of Anah, the daughter of Zibeon the Hivite, and Basemath Ishmael’s daughter, sister of Nebaioth.
--Gen 36:2-3, ASV
In the first account, Esau's wives are:
  • Judith, daughter of Beeri, of the Hittites
  • Basemath, daughter of Elon of the Hittites
  • Mahalath, sister of Nebaioth, of his kin
In the second account, Esau's wives are:
  • Adah, daughter of Elon, of the Hittites
  • Oholibamah, daughter of Zibeon, of the Hivites
  • Basemath, sister of Nebaioth, of his kin
The only remaining sections from the Dead Sea Scrolls that correspond to these verses appear in 4QGen-Exod. I checked it for a variant and found none. I checked the Old Greek for a variant and found none. I checked Targum Onkelos for a variant and found none.

Without further information or evidence, we are left with a direct and glarying discrepancy. The different accounts do not give us any reason to believe that the three wives mentioned are not the only ones and every reason to believe that they are. And yet not only do some of them have different names in the different histories, they also sometimes have different fathers who sometimes come from different ethnic groups. Unlike Genesis' genealogical lists which skip generations between fathers, chapter 36 is concerned with detailing the lineages of each of Esau's sons. To think that chapter 36 would thus simply leave out the sons or daughters of Judith or the sons and daughters of Basemath (of Elon) is akin to saying that Noah could've had other sons besides Shem, Ham, and Japheth. This doesn't just destroy the cohesion of known history (based on nothing), it actually turns the text into a shape worse than it was to begin with.

Although it couldn't solve the problems, I would be interested in learning about possible linguistic characteristics in the names... Could Judith be a Canaanite name?


Blogger Lazlo said...

This sounds like a JEDP thing -- diverging oral traditions from different periods, in this case, don't appear to quite reconcile. As for the name Judith, I'm going to hazard a not-so-wild guess and say that it's Yehudith in Hebrew, which would suggest a meaning like "woman from Judah," which in turn would suggest a later tradition at work in this account.

8:33 AM  

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