Documents From Old Testament Times: A Survey Of Recent Discoveries -- By: Edwin M. Yamauchi

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 41:1 (Fall 1978)
Article: Documents From Old Testament Times: A Survey Of Recent Discoveries
Author: Edwin M. Yamauchi

Documents From Old Testament Times:
A Survey Of Recent Discoveries1

Edwin M. Yamauchi

The biblical historian has several types of documentary evidences at his disposal: 1) First of all, he has manuscripts in Hebrew and Aramaic of the Old Testament, supplemented by versions and paraphrases such as the Greek Septuagint, the Aramaic targums, the Syriac Peshitta, etc. 2) Secondly, for the latter Old Testament period he can make use of the Old Testament Apocrypha and of Josephus’ Antiquities, though the latter embellishes the biblical narrative more than illuminates it.2 3) Thirdly, he has important though biased royal inscriptions and annals from Egypt, Mesopotamia, Syria, etc. together with treaties, laws and other public texts. 4) Fourthly he has such “incidental” inscriptions as funerary epitaphs, letters, receipts, contracts, etc., which illuminate the lives of commoners. 5) Finally, he has the material remains unearthed by excavations such as buildings, works of art, pottery, etc. — a category which we shall not examine in this essay.3

In the following article we shall survey the various discoveries made in the first four categories, particularly from Cis-Jordan

or Palestine, and Transjordan. Important documentary evidences also come from Phoenicia, Syria, Egypt, Mesopotamia, and Persia where many Jews were dispersed.

In view of the fact that the most important texts relevant to the Old Testament were published by J. B. Pritchard in 1955 and 1969, we shall concentrate on discoveries made in the last decade.4 For the most part, we shall simply cite the latest publications on earlier discoveries as these list the earlier references.5

A. Writing Materials

The most important finds of any expedition are written documents. Unfortunately in contrast to the 500,000 cuneiform tablets and countless stone inscriptions from Mesopotamia and Anatolia, and the myriads of papyri and wall inscriptions from Egypt, the finds of written texts from Palestine until 30 years ago were quite meager. This may be due in large part to the loss of perishable materials in the moister areas of Palestine. The almost total lack of royal stelae may stem from the fact that unlike the divine pharaohs of Egypt and the exalted kings of Mesopotamia the kings of Israel and of Judah assumed a less self-congratulatory attitude. We know that the prophets constantly rebuked kings who forgot that they were the servants of Jehova...

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