Thursday, June 30, 2011

Computer software confirms 'documentary hypothesis

Ever since the idea was first proposed more than a century ago by Julius Wellhausen, nonfundamentalist biblical scholars (of course, fundamentalist, by self-definition, aren't full-fledged biblical scholars) have postulated, developed and refined a "documentary hypothesis" for the writing, then later editing together of various sections of the Torah/Penteteuch, or the first five books of the Tanakh/Christian bible, which the nonscholars allege was written by Moses.

The hypothesis says that a "Yahwist," called the J author because Wellhausen was German, and the J has the y-sound there, ja, wrote large chunks, especially of Genesis, that focus on the use of the divine name. Theoretically, this author lived about 900 BCE in the southern "kingdom" of Judah after a united Israel (if it existed, as Old Testament minimalists question) split.

Another author, writing slightly later, is the "Elohist" or E author. He allegedly wrote slightly later, from the post-split northern kingdom of Israel, which included Ephraim (an "E" help mnemonic, as Judah is for the "J").

Then, a third author, a "Deuteronomist," is posited as the primary author of the book of Deuteronomy, just in time for Josiah, king of Judah, to "discover" about 621 BCE.

Fourth, a "Priestly' author wrote down all the ritual observances, the first version of the Genesis creation story, the dietary laws and similar stuff, after leaders of Judah were carted off to exile in Babylon.

Some say this person may have lived later and been the scribe Ezra, of the book of that name. Some postulate an original priestly author, but Ezra as a major redactor.

Well, at least between the priestly and nonpriestly sections, new computer research confirms the division. That's despite this background:
Three of the four scholars are religious Jews who subscribe in some form to the belief that the Torah was dictated to Moses in its entirety by a single author: God.
Just a reminder that religious fundamentalism isn't limited to Christianity.

Anyway, the computer software found multiple authors elsewhere, not just in the Torah. The software sees multiple authors in Isaiah, as do critical scholars.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Chomsky should think again - within himself

Sounds like this is a definite book to read: The Recursive Mind: The Origins of Human Language, Thought, and Civilization.

Michael Corbalis, as noted in this review, thinks its recursive thinking, done without any special fluency in language, let alone a language "module," that makes us human.