Wednesday, 30 May 2012

"My research" - a new, monthly column in the RREblog

My research- by Martin Ehrensvärd, Copenhagen University

I've been asked to write a few words about my research. Well, my early
research was on the incredibly interesting nuances in the use of the
definite article in Hebrew, compared to a bunch of other languages. Then I
moved on to investigating the fascinating syntax of negated infinitives in
Biblical Hebrew, but neither of these subjects is what I will write about
here - for I ended up looking at how syntax, and language in general, might
be used as tool for dating biblical texts.

This turned out to be a controversial topic, especially since I landed
right in the middle of the 'minimalist-maximalist debate'. To put it
crudely, the debate is about whether to date the biblical literature
earlier - in which case it is more likely to contain correct historical
information - or later, in which case it is more justified to read it
primarily as literature/ theological narrative rather than historical

Anyways, what I ended up arguing was that language, as opposed to what the
received wisdom said, didn't seem to be able to serve in the dating of
biblical texts, because we simply do not know enough about biblical Hebrew
to talk with any kind of precision about linguistic dating. The consequence
of this potentially is that the maximalist/ conservative argument is
weakened, since some of the strength of the maximalist hypothesis is
dependent on linguistic dating.

This has led to a fierce debate spanning the last decade. The debate
doesn't seem likely to end anytime soon. For a statement about my views,
you can read a co-authored statement found here:

For an example of criticism, see

- and here is the attempt at a rebuttal of the criticism:

Note how the discussion continues in the comments section below the

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