Ancient Records and the Structure of Genesis --- TABLET THEORY

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Posts 249
Fred J. Morgan | Forum Activity | Posted: Wed, Aug 26 2009 7:29 PM
  • Ancient Records and the Structure of Genesis: A Case for Literary Unity by Wiseman, P. J., Wiseman, D. J., Thomas Nelson, Inc., 1985, ISBN 9780840775023.
  • I own a printed paperback edition of this book which has been OOP for years.

    It is a wonderful book presenting the Tablet Theory of Genesis by P.J. Wiseman and updated by his son D.J. Wisman.

    This would be a wondrful addition to my Logos Library since I do refer to this book often.

     

    Morganfj

    Posts 21
    Quipper | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Aug 27 2009 5:02 AM

    I wholeheartedly agree. My father paid nearly $200 to get a copy of this. I kept my eyes open and someone gave it up for a lot less, though ;)

    The problem with Libronix publishing this book, though, might be that I believe it's an 'orphan' book; but I'd sure like to see it happen!

    Posts 2481
    Ronald Quick | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Aug 27 2009 5:45 AM

    What's an "orphan" book?

    Posts 5620
    Todd Phillips | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Aug 27 2009 7:21 AM

    RonaldQuick:
    What's an "orphan" book?

    An out of print book still under copyright for which there is no clear rights holder (author dead, unknown heirs, and publisher out-of business).

    Wiki Links: Enabling Logging / Detailed Search Help - MacBook Pro (2014), ThinkPad E570

    Posts 249
    Fred J. Morgan | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Aug 27 2009 10:35 AM

    O.K.  - Thanks for the Responses thus far...

    This is an Orphan Book...  However, isn't D.J. Wiseman still alive?

    I found his name even in logos searches as a commentator on some Acheology Books and a General Google Search reveals comments on books as new as this year?

    Wouldn't he have the copywrite???

    Thanks - God Bless

    Fred

    Posts 249
    Fred J. Morgan | Forum Activity | Replied: Sun, Sep 20 2009 7:53 PM

    FYI - Book is still available at Amazon in Used Books

    I just purchased a backup copy and received it in paperback in NEW condition for $24... Not Bad!

    If you don't own this one, and have not read it.

    Go to your local Library and ask for them to find it from the LOAN list from other Libraries.

    Everyone interested in Bible History/Ancient Text should read this Book...  Yes

    God Bless

    Posts 9947
    George Somsel | Forum Activity | Replied: Sun, Sep 20 2009 8:43 PM

    FredMorgan:

    FYI - Book is still available at Amazon in Used Books

    I just purchased a backup copy and received it in paperback in NEW condition for $24... Not Bad!

    If you don't own this one, and have not read it.

    Go to your local Library and ask for them to find it from the LOAN list from other Libraries.

    Everyone interested in Bible History/Ancient Text should read this Book...  Yes

    God Bless

    There is a reason this book has been out of print for some time.  It is not because it is widely accepted, but rather because the theory is so ludicrous that no scholar will give it the time of day.  Of course, some will accept any theory which seems to support their preconceived ideas.  If that's your cup of tea, have at it.

    george
    gfsomsel

    יְמֵי־שְׁנוֹתֵינוּ בָהֶם שִׁבְעִים שָׁנָה וְאִם בִּגְבוּרֹת שְׁמוֹנִים שָׁנָה וְרָהְבָּם עָמָל וָאָוֶן

    Posts 2793
    J.R. Miller | Forum Activity | Replied: Sun, Sep 20 2009 11:16 PM

    Hi Fred, I had not heard of this book.  

    Books go in and out of print all the time, so I thought I would do a quick search of my Logos library and locate a meaningful review from a serious scholar or two who have demonstrated in their own body of work a capacity to research, write, and publish works of substance.  

    Here is what I found

    ------- First, a mention of this theory in Bible and Spade -------------

    The Tablet Theory

    During his tour of duty in Mesopotamia, where much of the earliest Bible activity took place, Air Commodore P.J. Wiseman became interested in the archaeology of that area, and especially in the many ancient clay tablets that had been dated to long before the time of Abraham. He recognized that they held the key to the original writings of the early Bible, and especially the book of Genesis. He published Ancient Records and the Structure of Genesis in 1936. More recently his son, Professor of Assyriology D.J. Wiseman, updated and revised his father’s book.1

    He found that most of the old clay tablets had “colophon phrases” at the end; these named the writer or owner of the tablet; they had words to identify the subject, and often some sort of dating phrase. If multiple tablets were involved, there were also “catch-lines” to connect a tablet to its next in sequence. Many of these old records related to family histories and origins, which were evidently highly important to those ancient people. Wiseman noticed the similarity of many of these to the sections of the book of Genesis. Many scholars have noticed that Genesis is divided into sections, separated by phrases that are translated “These are the generations of...” The Hebrew word used for “generation” is toledoth, which means “history, especially family history ... the story of their origin.”2 Most scholars have recognized that these “toledoth phrases” must be important, but they have been misled by assuming incorrectly that these are the introduction to the text that follows. (Several modern translations have even garbled these phrases.) This has led to serious questions, because in several cases they don’t seem to fit. For example, Genesis 37:2 begins, “These are the generations of Jacob. . .” But from that spot on, the text describes Joseph and his brothers, and almost nothing about Jacob, who was the central character in the previous section. However, Wiseman saw that the colophons in the ancient tablets always were at the end, not the beginning. He applied this idea to the toledoth phrases in Genesis, and found that in every case it suddenly made good sense. The text just preceding the phrase “These are the generations of . . .” contained information about events that the man named in that phrase would have known. That person would be the logical one to write that part. In other words, each toledoth phrase contains the name of the man who probably wrote the text preceding that phrase. Or, in still other words, the book of Genesis consists of a set of tablets, each of which was written by an actual eye-witness to the events described. These tablets were finally compiled by Moses. Enough archaeological confirmation has been found so that historians now consider the Old Testament, at least that part after about the eleventh chapter of Genesis, to be historically correct. It seems strange that seminary professors often still teach the old “doubtful criticism” theories, even though the basis on which they were started has now been thoroughly discredited.

    BSP 7:1 (Winter 1994) p. 26

    -------- A Book Review ----------

    Book Review:
    Ancient Records and the Structure of Genesis

    Reviewed by 

    Ron Zuck

    For the past 200 years, the book of Genesis has been under attack from many quarters. In the mid 1700’s a French physician, Jean Astruc, began promoting the “Documentary Hypothesis” which divided Genesis among various source documents. Identification of each source was based on different names for God. This theory, popularized and expanded in the late 1800’s by Graf and Wellhausen, is still in vogue among non-evangelical scholars and ministers. Much good material has been written to undermine this erroneous theory, but most people are not aware of it.

    For the serious Bible student Ancient Records and the Structure of Genesis, by P.J. Wiseman, is a timely reissue. His son, also an outstanding scholar of the ancient Near East, Donald J. Wise-man, has recently updated and expanded this valuable work of his father’s. Originally published in 1936 as New Discoveries in Babylonia About Genesis, the demand was such that new printings were ordered immediately. What prompted such a phenomenal response? The content!

    P.J. Wiseman invested many years in research before writing his book. For years at the sites of Ur and Kish during their actual excavation in Iraq, he observed the evidence first-hand. Concerned over the subjective analysis of the Documentary Hypothesis, which denies that Moses was the author of Genesis, Wiseman believed that by studying excavation results, he would gain an understanding of the literary methods used by ancient peoples.

    Taking his cue from these studies, the origins of the book of Genesis unfolded to him. He theorized that Genesis was originally written on tablets in an ancient script by the patriarchs themselves (or dictated to a scribe), recording events with which they were intimately acquainted. Later, Moses compiled the books of the Pentateuch as we now have them. In Genesis he plainly directs attention to the true sources of his information.

    In support of this theory, Wiseman in a simplified manner charts a course leading the reader through convincing evidence. R.K. Harrison makes this comment about Wiseman’s work, “After a brief description of archaeological discoveries in Babylonia, he examines ancient scribal methods before discussing the phrase, “These are the generations of … ‘ which for him holds the answer to the literary structure of the book of Genesis… By adducing comparable literary materials from secular society to support his thesis, he brings a greater degree of realism to his task than is achieved by any other treatment of the sources underlying Genesis… Wiseman’s work represents an important forward movement in an understanding of the source criticism and compilation of Genesis against a background of the Babylonian ‘life-situation,’ As opposed to purely hypothetical ‘documents,’ the reader is introduced to realistic literary sources for Genesis that accurately reflect the culture and scribal traditions of highly literate peoples who did not hesitate to record in writing the important events of their day” {p. 18).

    ABR recommends this book as an important study in understanding Genesis and in refuting the outmoded Documentary Hypothesis. After reading the book, one cannot help but believe that Moses compiled Genesis from eyewitness accounts written by the Patriarchs themselves. Significantly, it also implies that we have a document actually authored by Adam who obviously did not evolve from lower forms of life.

    Published byThomas Nelson © 1985. Paperback: 148 pages. Order from ABR for $6.95 + .75 postage.

    --------------

    There you go, the power of Logos at work!

    My Books in Logos & FREE Training

    Posts 507
    Greg | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Sep 24 2009 4:49 PM

    Interesting book, and I'd like to read it if I ever come across it, but, at least from these descriptions, I think its a big leap between identifying literary divisions in a text and saying who the actual authors were. 

    For example, there's no evidence to suggest Adam was an eye-witness to the creation of the universe, and also none to suggest that God told any of it to Adam. In other words, there isn't anything solid to build on; just a gung-ho attitude to try and connect Genesis with an eye-witness, prove all the evil naysayers wrong, and, according to the reviewer, make a satisfying jab at the theory of evolution.

    I have no problem believing Moses was the primary writer and compiler of Genesis to Numbers, but to say the individual toledoths go back to Adam is a bit of a stretch. Maybe there were written or oral accounts held among the Hebrews during their captivity that defined and explained their existence, but I find it hard to believe they had actual written accounts going back to creation. That and the fact the creation account fits beautifully in a post-Exodus pre-conquest context causes me to be very cautious with this suggestion.

    I can buy the toledoths being cherished accounts that were used by Moses to compile Genesis. But the bridge connecting the toledoths with Adam and the other patriarchs simply doesn't exist. Right now it's as imaginary as the documents proposed by the Documentary Hypothesis.

    Posts 249
    Fred J. Morgan | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Sep 25 2009 12:04 AM

     I appreciate your response. And I agree it would require a Big Leap between identifying literary divisions in a text and saying who the actual authors were.  Especially due to the time involved. Wiseman himself addresses some of these concerns in the book.  There is still debate over who wrote some of the epistles in the New Testament which was just two thousand years ago compared with Genesis. 

    However, I find it also a Big Leap for me to believe that God Created an capable of speech and naming all the animals, a creation in the image of God who was illiterate and did not have the capability of transmitting knowledge above oral communication. After all we know that God can give all knowledge to anyone as in Dan1:17, why would he have withheld a written language to Adam?

      The other large leap for me is that if these compilations of Moses were simply a compilation of "cherished accounts" pass through the flood period by oral transmission. Is it possible that Noah being the last of mankind not corrupted could have collected these traditions and accounts and passed them along,  due to the long lifespan prior to the flood, Noah would not have been long from Adams Death. However this still is a large leap, a oral tradition passed through a diminishing Godly population which ended with just one family to pass them past the flood period orally?  

    The last consideration is that if he is correct in identifying the identifying literary divisions, which appears to be good science. Then we are left with who did write these tablets? Who would God have chosen to pass this knowledge via tablets to Moses?

    I accept that I could be completely wrong in my assumptions. I make no claim of scholarship or any special knowledge of this. From your note I feel you have studied this much more than myself. But I BELIEVE that God did give communications to his creation and not just speech. In Luke 34:27, Jesus explained all thing written of Him, Jesus confirms these writings as true, thus I believe the Bible is inerrant. This would have been a good way of Moses to acquire these text, saved not by oral tradition through the fall of his people under the bondage of slavery, but by sacred tables preserved by the priest from Noah till the time God choose. And that by whatever means they were transmitted, they are correct.

        All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:  That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works. (2 Ti 3:16-17)

    Thank you for your interesting insight. It certainly gave me thought. 

    God Bless

     Fred


    Posts 249
    Fred J. Morgan | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Sep 25 2009 12:10 AM

    I do not make it my living for Christ to make comments on post simply to spread my name and oponions in short. That is not MY CUP OF TEA. (603 post?)

    However, I do appreciate this book and believe that a quick search of the internet and Logos find you in error on the reason this book is not in print.

    Thank you for you comment however. I am sure their are other who agree with your opinion.

    May God bless you and your family

    Fred

    Posts 507
    Greg | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Sep 25 2009 11:05 PM

    Fred,

    Thank you for your reply.

    The colophon hypothesis certainly has some appeal, and at first look there may be some truth to it. Maybe the various sections of Genesis were written on tablets, with the colophons used to connect them together. As to who wrote them and when, that is simply a question that is more difficult to give an answer for.

    I'm of the general belief that Genesis was written mostly by Moses and done to provide the newly freed Israelites with a national identity and sufficient knowledge of their Savior God. Where he got his information I do not know. I am comfortable with the finished version of Genesis as it is, and while certainly interesting, the origins of the text aren't crucial to my understanding it.

    I do believe scripture is inerrant, but my understanding is slightly more flexible than some. For example, if undeniable proof of the Documentary Hypothesis were found, my definition of inerrancy and inspiration would be able to accommodate it. Just as we believe the original authors to have been inspired, so too could the redactors have been.

    I follow John H. Walton, who maintains that the creation account is focused on the creation of functional aspects of creation and not necessarily physical as is usually assumed by many Christians. Additionally, I believe he makes a strong case for showing the creation account to meet the immediate needs of the Israelites directly after the Exodus from Egypt. If that's the case, and it were written in that time period, probably by Moses, than it would limit the idea that Adam wrote it. 

    Of course these stories had to come from somewhere, assuming Moses had the same freedom in writing under inspiration as Paul or John did. How far back these stories go, how much of them are based off of the collective cultural history and identity of the Ancient Near East, and how much of them actually do need to be interpreted in a literal and historical fashion, all this I'm still trying to figure out!  It may be that the actual inspired function of certain parts of Genesis may be different than how we've been treating it. For example, the creation account as I described above. It is popular to treat it in a very literal fashion, but upon closer examination I do not think that is the best approach. Looking at it from this different angle revealed a whole new realm of meaning the text had to the ancient Israelites that has been overlooked for a long time, and I wonder if the same thing can't happen to later chapters of Genesis.

    Fred, seeing your interest in Wiseman's book, you may also be interested in some of Walton's. If you aren't familiar with him, he's a professor of Old Testament at Wheaton College and an expert in the Ancient Near East. He's also written extensively on these two subjects, some of which have just been placed on the Pre-pub page now that Zondervan is playing along with Logos!

    Here's a list of some relevant books by him:

    Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary: Old Testament (http://www.logos.com/products/prepub/details/5606)

    The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate (http://www.amazon.com/Lost-World-Genesis-One-Cosmology/dp/0830837043/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1253944701&sr=8-1)

    Ancient Near Eastern Thought and the Old Testament: Introducing the Conceptual World of the Hebrew Bible (http://www.amazon.com/Ancient-Near-Eastern-Thought-Testament/dp/0801027500/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1253944701&sr=8-3)

    Genesis: NIV Application Commentary (http://www.amazon.com/NIV-Application-Commentary-Genesis/dp/0310206170/ref=sr_1_8?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1253944701&sr=8-8)


    The Lost World of Genesis is more directly related to what we are talking about, so I'd recommend that before all else. The Ancient Near Eastern Thought one is very good as well on the more broader subject on the Old Testament's relationship to the Ancient Near East.

    Finally, Logos had Walton give a nice lecture a little over a year ago called Genesis One as Ancient Cosmology, and it is a one hour version of his Lost World book. Its found here: (http://www.logos.com/lecture) on June 23, 2008.

    Take care,

    Greg

    Posts 1630
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    Veli Voipio | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Dec 8 2012 12:04 PM

    I recently bought this book as used, and it is interesting. Someone with a positive attitude to this theory should do a proper study based on the recent results. I use a chronology based on the generations, thus Adam lived in about 2000 BC, and the Gen 1-11 is a story of the tribe of Adam. Well, with this ultralate chronology tablet theory is far more plausible.

    Gold package, and original language material and ancient text material, SIL and UBS books, discourse Hebrew OT and Greek NT. PC with Windows 8.1

    Posts 9947
    George Somsel | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Dec 8 2012 12:21 PM

    Veli Voipio:

    I recently bought this book as used, and it is interesting. Someone with a positive attitude to this theory should do a proper study based on the recent results. I use a chronology based on the generations, thus Adam lived in about 2000 BC, and the Gen 1-11 is a story of the tribe of Adam. Well, with this ultralate chronology tablet theory is far more plausible.

    Surely you're not serious !  Hmm

    george
    gfsomsel

    יְמֵי־שְׁנוֹתֵינוּ בָהֶם שִׁבְעִים שָׁנָה וְאִם בִּגְבוּרֹת שְׁמוֹנִים שָׁנָה וְרָהְבָּם עָמָל וָאָוֶן

    Posts 11433
    DMB | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Dec 8 2012 1:52 PM

    Well now, hold off here. I'm been zipping through my Samaritan book and stumbled over a quote that Babylonian time keeping (periodically) had years far shorter than the 36x variety (thereby calculating rulers of unbelievable ages). Now, you add to this that the Exodus (and Genesis) accounts seem to know nothing of the pyramids (which of course 'some scholars' view as having arrived from beings from another planet, completely documented here in Sedona).  2000 years or so isn't out of the question.

    "God will save his fallen angels and their broken wings He'll mend."

    Posts 9947
    George Somsel | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Dec 8 2012 2:03 PM

    DMB:

    Well now, hold off here. I'm been zipping through my Samaritan book and stumbled over a quote that Babylonian time keeping (periodically) had years far shorter than the 36x variety (thereby calculating rulers of unbelievable ages). Now, you add to this that the Exodus (and Genesis) accounts seem to know nothing of the pyramids (which of course 'some scholars' view as having arrived from beings from another planet, completely documented here in Sedona).  2000 years or so isn't out of the question.

    Tell that to the Sumerians. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sumer.  The Egyptians too http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Egypt

    george
    gfsomsel

    יְמֵי־שְׁנוֹתֵינוּ בָהֶם שִׁבְעִים שָׁנָה וְאִם בִּגְבוּרֹת שְׁמוֹנִים שָׁנָה וְרָהְבָּם עָמָל וָאָוֶן

    Posts 5657
    DIsciple II | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Dec 8 2012 2:08 PM

    Fred J. Morgan:
    However, I find it also a Big Leap for me to believe that God Created an capable of speech and naming all the animals, a creation in the image of God who was illiterate and did not have the capability of transmitting knowledge above oral communication. After all we know that God can give all knowledge to anyone as in Dan1:17, why would he have withheld a written language to Adam?

    Fred my intent is not intended to be a criticism of what you have said here.  I agree with your sentiment but thinking about it, and I don't have the answer, one way or the other, maybe written communication wasn't required in the garden and would not have been if humanity had not rebelled against God.  It certainly was a requirement post rebellion so God could provide us with a written record of his Word - maybe written communication was a grace received by humanity from God after the fall, before the fall God communicated directly with humanity because there was no separation caused by sin - just a thought, I haven't delved into the topic before, so it may not be about God withholding something from humanity - but it initially being something that wasn't necessary.

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