Ellen Battelle Dietrick: A Nineteenth Century Minimalist -- By: Mayer I. Gruber

Journal: Tyndale Bulletin
Volume: TYNBUL 54:2 (NA 2003)
Article: Ellen Battelle Dietrick: A Nineteenth Century Minimalist
Author: Mayer I. Gruber

Ellen Battelle Dietrick:
A Nineteenth Century Minimalist

Mayer I. Gruber


Revisionist historicism dates most Hebrew Scripture to the Hasmonean Era. Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s plea that heroines should be named suggests that credit for the revisionist thesis be given to Ellen Battelle Dietrick, who expounded it in 1895. Moreover, Dietrick’s exposition fully displays the eisegetical method by which the revisionist claim is read into 2 Maccabees.

In his highly provocative, The Mythic Past: Biblical Archaeology and the Myth of Israel, Thomas L. Thompson argues on the basis of 2 Maccabees 2:1315 (which he calls 2 Mac. 4) that the oldest testimony to the existence of Hebrew Scripture comes from ‘the Hasmonean state, created by the Maccabees’.1

Unfortunately, in The Mythic Past Thompson seldom cites previous research. In this regard, Thompson seems not to discriminate on the basis of gender. However, with respect to the radical assertion that most of Hebrew Scripture, including the Books of Kings, was composed in the Hasmonean era,2 Thompson writes out of the history of biblical research the scholar who published this very thesis in 1895. She was Ellen Battelle Dietrick, one of the seven wise women who collaborated with Elizabeth Cady Stanton in the writing of the

commentaries included in The Woman’s Bible, Part I: Comments on Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy.3

Mrs Dietrick writes as follows:

Not until about 247 b.c.4 (some theologians say 2265 and others 169 b.c.)6 is there any record of a collection of literature in the rebuilt Jerusalem, and, then, the anonymous writer of II Maccabees briefly mentions that some Nehemiah7 ‘gathered together the acts of the kings and the prophets and those of David’ when ‘founding a library’ for use in Jerusalem.8

The relevant passage from 2 Maccabees 2:131...

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