By Christopher A. Rollston
Toyozo Nakarai Professor of Old Testament and Semitic Languages, Emmanuel Christian Seminary
For those working in the field(s) of ancient history, ancient literature, archaeology, or epigraphy there often seems to be a strong desire to associate some new archaeological find, or some recent epigraphic discovery, with some person or event known from literary texts discussing the days of yore. This basic phenomenon has a long history with regard to literary texts. For example, within the Hebrew Bible, the book of Lamentations is anonymous, but through the centuries many contended that it was written by the Prophet Jeremiah. Similarly, the book of Ruth is anonymous, but through the centuries many argued that it was written by Samuel. Or again, within the Greek New Testament, the book of Hebrews is anonymous, but many attempted to argue that it was written by Paul. Similarly, the four Canonical Gospels are anonymous, but through the centuries, many have argued that these books were written by known figures of Early Christianity. Fortunately, critical scholarship has pushed back against such positivistic assumptions and reasserted the obvious: the evidence for these assumptions is not convincing, but specious.