Dating of ancient books and scripture.

The study of religious or heroic legends and tales. One constant rule of mythology is that whatever happens amongst the gods or other mythical beings was in one sense or another a reflection of events on earth. Recorded myths and legends, perhaps preserved in literature or folklore, have an immediate interest to archaeology in trying to unravel the nature and meaning of ancient events and traditions.

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Dating of ancient books and scripture.

Postby popelane24 » Fri Jul 25, 2008 5:33 am

Hi guys -

I want to find out how they/we can date ancient writings. I am particularly interested in early Christian stuff and found www.earlychristianwritings.com to be an AMAZING collection of early X-ian literature.

But what techniques do they use to date it? Carbon dating? References to other literature? References to world politics/events at the time?

How do we know whats fake and whats real?

Thanks guys. Anyone interested in this stuff should check out that site too. I give it a good mark - lots of different literature up to about 250 AD.

Thanks - Lane P.
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Postby Ishtar » Fri Jul 25, 2008 6:09 am

:lol: :lol: :lol:

Welcome to the glorious can of worms, Popelane!

I think you'd be surprised to learn how much scholars squabble over such matters - far more than is good for their general health, no doubt!

Texts can be dated by the usual methods - carbon-14 etc. But sometimes the usual scientific dating methods are too robust and could damage the papyrus or clay, if it's a tablet or stele.

Also, if they are thought to be copies of texts, it presents a problem because if you can date it, that doesn't give you date of the original, which is what scholars are usually after.

So that's when the fun begins - with scholars looking for attestations in other writings of the time that refer to the text, and then arguing about the dating of that writing, and so it goes on.

Here's one example of the widely varying dates that scholars can come up with. It's the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas, one of the Nag Hammadi texts unearthed in 1945.

Some scholars date it to 50 AD because it's similar to Mark which is also dated to that time. But the dating of Mark is in itself tenuous ... and on top of that, other scholars point out that although Thomas and Mark are similar if not identical in parts, Thomas also mentions strange Gnostic archetypes like the Demiurge and Archons and so on, which is "definitely not Christian", as Forum Monk and KB would say - so it can't be 50AD. But there's a reason it's "definitely not Christian". It's because Iranaeus, an orthodox 2nd century bishop, chucked it out of the canon and replaced it with John - just as they did with anything that showed their Gnostic roots. However, they forgot to tell India...and so far many centuries after that, until some missionaries showed up to tell them it was 'definitely not Christian', the Christians in southern India had for their gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke and Thomas. They'll probably go to hell for it and it wasn't even their fault.

Do you see the difficulties here ....?



:D
Last edited by Ishtar on Fri Jul 25, 2008 8:54 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby popelane24 » Fri Jul 25, 2008 6:42 am

Thanks Ishtar.

Welcome to the glorious can of worms


I just had to smile when I saw that, after reading many of the previous discussions on these forums :) . I have so much that I'm curious about and I dont wanna wait for university...!

How can one REALLY dig into archaeology using the internet anyhow?

How do you trust anything on the internet? :roll:

All this ancient stuff really seems to charge me up - I want to make a career about it and hope you guys on this forum can help me with your knowledge and/or wisdom :).

I'm particularly interested in how science and religion come together. I have faith in both; its just a matter of bridging rather large gaps. Perhaps studying the early Christian movement can help me to understand it all, is what I was thinking.

I like worms, they catch fish. Sorry that was a bad joke.

Hoping to find some amswers,

-L.P.
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Realization.

Postby popelane24 » Fri Jul 25, 2008 6:55 am

Hey there - I just realized that in fact they do have some information on the dating of the texts at earlychristianwritings.com, on each of the text's pages..... there's a lot to go through.... but that's why I own a computer, so I can "geek out" in archaeology/history.

Here's to a better view of our past.

-L.P.
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Postby seeker » Fri Jul 25, 2008 7:59 am

propelane - You asked how you can trust anything on the internet. The answer is that you have to check references. If you come across an article without footnotes take it with a grain of salt, if the article has footnotes see if you can find some of their references online so you can read the original source material.

Especially in the field of biblical research be sure you look at bios of the authors of articles. You will find that serious scholars are far outweighed by people with religious agendas (on all sides of the spectrum) and that even serious scholars like Kenneth Kitchen and David Rohl are so attached to their ideology that they are capable of great insight and incredibly sloppy reasoning in the same sentance
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Postby Minimalist » Fri Jul 25, 2008 8:13 am

The trouble with C14 dating is that it only dates the papyrus...not the writing.
Something is wrong here. War, disease, death, destruction, hunger, filth, poverty, torture, crime, corruption, and the Ice Capades. Something is definitely wrong. This is not good work. If this is the best God can do, I am not impressed.

-- George Carlin
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Postby Ishtar » Fri Jul 25, 2008 8:17 am

And on top of that, every single one of us is blinded by our own agendas so that we miss really important stuff that's staring us straight in face because, as in Bell's Theorem (look it up) we only find what we are looking for.

:cry:
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Postby War Arrow » Fri Jul 25, 2008 1:04 pm

seeker wrote:propelane - You asked how you can trust anything on the internet. The answer is that you have to check references. If you come across an article without footnotes take it with a grain of salt, if the article has footnotes see if you can find some of their references online so you can read the original source material.

Wise words.
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Postby Forum Monk » Fri Jul 25, 2008 1:57 pm

seeker wrote:propelane - You asked how you can trust anything on the internet. The answer is that you have to check references. If you come across an article without footnotes take it with a grain of salt, if the article has footnotes see if you can find some of their references online so you can read the original source material.

Especially in the field of biblical research be sure you look at bios of the authors of articles. You will find that serious scholars are far outweighed by people with religious agendas (on all sides of the spectrum) and that even serious scholars like Kenneth Kitchen and David Rohl are so attached to their ideology that they are capable of great insight and incredibly sloppy reasoning in the same sentance

I agree with all of this. I also think very little from the internet is trustworthy or based on sound science. But even scientists have very obvious agendas at times.
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Postby Ishtar » Fri Jul 25, 2008 2:17 pm

I don't agree wholeheartedly, Monk, about the untrustworthiness of the internet, because it has provided us with some amazing tools. I think Wikipedia is a bloody marvel - not because what it contains is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, because it doesn't. But it does contain a carefully reviewed update of the latest thinking on a subject. This is something we never ever had before the internet - and printed encyclopaedias would take forever to update their entries.

I also rely quite a lot on sacred-texts.com. Again, never before have we had all the original sacred texts in one place. To do the kind of research that I've been doing the past ten years or so before the internet would have taken me a whole lifetime or travelling from one dusty old library to another in far flung parts of the world, trying to piece it all together. Again, I think sacred-texts.com is a flippin' marvel too!

That said, you have to know what you're doing because there's an awful lot of crap out there.


:D
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Postby rich » Fri Jul 25, 2008 2:26 pm

Knol from google is coming out (it's already out but just sort of starting). Supposed to be another online encyclopedia but they're hoping to attract professionals by paying for articles thru ads. Might want to check it out.


http://knol.google.com/k#
i'm not lookin' for who or what made the earth - just who got me dizzy by makin it spin
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Postby seeker » Sat Jul 26, 2008 8:32 am

Forum Monk wrote:
seeker wrote:propelane - You asked how you can trust anything on the internet. The answer is that you have to check references. If you come across an article without footnotes take it with a grain of salt, if the article has footnotes see if you can find some of their references online so you can read the original source material.

Especially in the field of biblical research be sure you look at bios of the authors of articles. You will find that serious scholars are far outweighed by people with religious agendas (on all sides of the spectrum) and that even serious scholars like Kenneth Kitchen and David Rohl are so attached to their ideology that they are capable of great insight and incredibly sloppy reasoning in the same sentance

I agree with all of this. I also think very little from the internet is trustworthy or based on sound science. But even scientists have very obvious agendas at times.


It all depends on the source, some sites are notoriously unreliable and then there are some sites that, over the four or five years I've been visiting them are pretty reliable. I still try to do a lot of fact checking though, especially when I run across something I hadn't read before.

Some scientists do have agendas but they are usually easy to spot. If you stick to peer reviewed publications you are usually pretty safe. Where it gets tricky is when you run across sites like BAR that seem very scholarly but end up touting things like the Saint James Ossuary that are obvious fakes without critical analysis because if bias or anti religious sites that talk mis-identify the canon of the bible as being set at Nicea when it was really set at the Synod of Hippo in 393 CE (look it up, its a very common misconception).
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Postby War Arrow » Sat Jul 26, 2008 9:33 am

Further to this, there's a site to which I am eternally grateful for its onlining of a certain old conquest era document, which includes jpegs of original pages with accompanying English translations from Spanish texts which (unfortunately) even I noticed was in error (the translation accounted for roughly one third of the actual text, thus missing out several important points)... and this isn't one of those THEY FAKED THE MOON LANDING science-fiction archaeology (heh heh - oh I'm so amused and comfy!) type sites either.

So as everyone has already said, be vigilant.
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Postby Minimalist » Sat Jul 26, 2008 9:47 am

Even a heavily footnoted site has to be examined carefully. The dear, departed, Arch, was always able to cite books from 1908 which swore that archaeology supported his vision of the OT. Those books are still out there even though their conclusions have been overturned by later scholarship.

Unfortunately, there really is no way to avoid having to constantly study up on a subject.
Something is wrong here. War, disease, death, destruction, hunger, filth, poverty, torture, crime, corruption, and the Ice Capades. Something is definitely wrong. This is not good work. If this is the best God can do, I am not impressed.

-- George Carlin
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Postby seeker » Sat Jul 26, 2008 10:40 am

Minimalist wrote:Even a heavily footnoted site has to be examined carefully. The dear, departed, Arch, was always able to cite books from 1908 which swore that archaeology supported his vision of the OT. Those books are still out there even though their conclusions have been overturned by later scholarship.

Unfortunately, there really is no way to avoid having to constantly study up on a subject.


In general any source in biblical studies before 1970 is suspect and really quite a bit after that has to be approached with some caution. The sad fact is that anything critical of prevailing religio-political beliefs was suppressed for much of history. The very bitter minimalist-maximalist debate that only recently has been put to bed is a great example.
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