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Linguistic dating of biblical texts : proponents, challengers and Judges 5 Felushko, Brian G.


Whether the biblical texts can or cannot be dated has a significant impact on the reliability, or usefulness in using them to reconstruct Israelite history. In addition, knowing when a text was written impacts our ability to understand what its meaning was for its readers. Some biblical texts can be dated to the post-exilic period with relative confidence based on convergences between content and historically dated extra-biblical material and/or literary sources. This corpus, for most scholars, would include Esther, Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah and Chronicles. Beyond these, however, there is much debate about whether it is possible to even provide relative dates to any other texts. Numerous scholars, past and present, confidently assert that linguistic features can date biblical texts, on the basis of typology, to at least one of three periods: pre-monarchic, pre-exilic or post-exilic. In contrast, especially since the early 1990s, numerous linguists, Hebraists, and Hebrew Bible scholars have challenged that thesis. In large part, they reject the idea that typology indicates chronology and argue rather that it is indicative of authorial/editorial style and of genre. The purpose of this paper is, first, to summarize and explain each side in this debate. This will be followed by a linguistic analysis of Judges 5 in order to demonstrate the principle that linguistic features alone are insufficient for textual dating. This conclusion will be supported through a critique of some of the essential assumptions on each side of the debate. Finally, I will offer a path through the current impasse and towards continued study and respectful discussion that will add to our knowledge and deepen our understanding of the role of linguistic features in the dating of biblical texts.

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