Niels Peter Lemche: A Followup on Philip Davies’ Essay

NPL at his desk in his home in Sweden

Niels Peter writes (in response to the previous essay)

In 1813, H.C. Ørsted, the inventor of electromagnetism, travelled widely in Germany. At the same time Napoleon with his last “grande armée” was also travelling in Germany fighting numerous battles ending with the disaster at Leipzig in October. Not a word about these events in Ørsted’s letters. Evidently another example of the scholar who tries to ignore reality.

Reading Philip Davies’ apropos here, I dare say that scholars are notoriously dishonest. If we look for an honest scholar, it could be Johannes Hempel, at that time editor of Zeitschrift für die alttestamentliche Wissenschaft, who in 1943 closed down his journal with the words that he was now going out to fight Bolshevism. It was not a clever decision and it followed him for the rest of his life, but he was honest. Strangely―or is it really?―his main work was Das Ethos des Alten Testaments (1938), the ethic of the Old Testament.

Philip is reacting against dishonesty in biblical studies and reacts as a victim of a furious series of attacks which have branded him as well as I, Thomas Thompson, Keith Whitelam as antisemites, nazists and many more similar things. It is called the maximalist-minimalist debate but it has really been a campaign conducted to eliminate what could be dangerous for the Zionist foundation story for modern Israel as found in the Old Testament. In many ways the debate was hijacked by religiously and politically inspired persons who had no intention of dealing fairly with anything that could be considered problematic to the story of Israel in ancient as in modern times. Never has history and scholarship been abused to such a degree, and biblical scholars have in this way become useful idiots of a modern political program.

If biblical studies with the special twist called Old Testament studies is to regain any kind of respectability among other humanistic disciplines, it is necessary that it comes to grips with reality and begin to follow the rules of other disciplines. If not, we might be at the end of critical biblical scholarship.

6 thoughts on “Niels Peter Lemche: A Followup on Philip Davies’ Essay

  1. “If not, we might be at the end of critical biblical scholarship.”

    Hector Avalos was right after all.


  2. To Martin

    Correct! But then has any in natural science invented anything? They only discovered it. Not a big problem.

    And to Jim, it could be said tha the end of biblical scholarship happened when its centre moved from Germany to the USA. Then so many things came in that had nothing with scholarship to do. It is not that the Germans were perfect (on the contrary) but their agenda was mostly scholarly.



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