Tuesday, July 15, 2008

How old is my house?

<idle musing>
In a post yesterday, I mentioned that we removed the overhang from the north side of the house. It changed the appearance of the house quite a bit. Does that mean my house is only a week old? Hardly!

How about the flower boxes I added in June? Or the electrical work I did in January? No? Well then the major plumbing work that I did in November with Joel and Ryan's help? What? Still not enough to make the house new?

OK, surely the wood floor that Ryan and I laid in Octber qualifies! No? Well, how about the remodeling of the kitchen 4 years ago? Or the bathroom remodel at the same time? Or the new roof? No? Boy, you sure are hard to please!

OK, surely this will qualify to make the house new. in the mid-1970's the upper story was expanded. A new stairway was put in to get upstairs and downstairs. New windows were put in and vinyl siding was used on that part of the house. The size of the house was increased by about 35%. Surely this make the house new!

If I were to claim any of these dates for the building of the house, the bank would laugh at me. Everyone knows that the date of a house is from the initial building, in my case 1942.

Well, then why is it that on the biblical studies list, the date of the biblical text is dated by the date of the oldest complete manuscript that we have? So, the biblical text has to be no earlier than the Dead Sea Scrolls! The snippets that were uncovered on the amulets don't count; they simply show that there were ideas floating around that might eventually become the biblical text. By that reasoning, my house was built last week! And, the Septuagint and Peshitta would have to be considered the oldest versions of the Hebrew bible outside of the Dead Sea Scrolls—after all, our oldest codex is only 1000 years old this year—the Leningrad Codex

Just a thought...

Another question: How old is the Gilgamesh epic? Do we date it by the last and final version? Or, do we date it by the various translations? Or, do we date it by the earliest version we find? Of course, it could well be that it is all just a bunch of forgeries and the real version is in English—King James English, of course! :)
</idle musing>


Bill Heroman said...

Nice illustration. You reminded me how much I'd like to see a scholarly piece on the manuscripts of the scriptures versus classical manuscripts - you know, a reputably academic version of the typical apologetic stuff that goes around. Aside from oversimplifying, I'm sure, I'd like to know how much accuracy there was in those apologetics.

Do you know of any such research?

Anonymous said...

Interesting James, but I'd say your analogy has some difficulties. To illustrate, say they laid the foundation of your house in the Fall of 1941 but did not complete the structure until 1942. Would you date it to the beginning of the construction or the completion of it? What if this past year or so you did not simple alter the existing structure but added an entire new living area, wouldn't you then say something like, "The main house is 1942, but the extension is 2008? It seems to me it all has to do with distinguishing "finish product," which is extremely difficult to do with ancient texts until they reach the stage of "stability" after which various manuscripts are largely in agreement about the text.

jps said...


A few come to mind:
Both OT and NT, but has some serious errors:
http://www.eisenbrauns.com/wconnect/wc.dll?ebGate~EIS~~I~WEGSTUDEN A Student's Guide to Textual Criticism of the Bible

http://www.eisenbrauns.com/wconnect/wc.dll?ebGate~EIS~~I~COMENCOUN Encountering the Manuscripts

Soon to be republished by Hendrickson:
http://www.eisenbrauns.com/wconnect/wc.dll?ebGate~EIS~~I~GRENEWTE Introduction to New Testament Textual Criticism


Of course there are problems! But to say that none of it has any validity until the final version is also wrong--and that is the perception I am against. Besides, you know I like to paint with a broad brush :)