Saturday, May 27, 2006

Historicity, Historical, & History

In response to a scholar studying the use of the word "historicity" in scientific publications, I quoted Andrew Vaughn's use of "historical veracity", of which "historicity" could be considered a contraction. Also in his dissertation on Chronicles ("Theology, History, & Archaeology in the Chronicler's Account of Hezekiah" [Scholars Press, 1999]), Vaughn used:

"historical data"
"historical value"
"historical reliability"
"historical understanding"
"historically accurate tradition (or source)"

In a more recent radio interview with Gordon Govier, Vaughn pointed out that archeological data such as LMLK handles can only "raise varying degrees of probability".

Based on this, I'd define "historicity" as:

"The quality/value of data derived from present traditions or tangible artifacts of the past that raises/lowers degrees of probability towards an accurate account of what happened in the past."

The actual quality/value should not be thought of as true/false, but "in flux" getting closer to or further from the truth since we will never have all the data of contemporary eyewitnesses. Archeology is ever ongoing. Historians can agree unanimously today, but when a new datum makes headlines tomorrow, history textbooks must change to accommodate it. What's the percentage of scientific publications written a mere 50 years ago that have not already been superseded on one or more points?

I think of History as an interpretation, & Historicity as a quality test (what I've done for a living the past 2 decades) or state of the interpretation, sort of like a thermometer measuring the degree of probability towards certainty.

Recently an article by Nadav Shragai entitled "Temple Mount politics make strange bedfellows" appeared in Ha'aretz, undoubtedly based on info gleaned from Gabriel Barkay:

"Charles Warren, who over 140 years ago excavated vertical shafts and tunnels in the area, discovered that the cornerstones of the five lower support collars were built into a layer of red earth containing shards dating from the First Temple period. The first lamelekh ['to the king'] ring seals found in the Land of Israel were discovered in this red earth. These are official seals embossed on the handles of jugs from the time of King Hezekiah of Judea (late eighth century, B.C.E.). Near the corner of the walls of the Temple Mount, Warren also found the first clay vessel from the First Temple period that was discovered in Eretz Yisrael. During the period of Jordanian rule, archeologist Kathleen Kenyon and Father Roland De Vaux uncovered six support columns from the stones of the eastern wall that had been previously concealed. Barkai notes that in 1967 the Israeli government declared the area a national park in recognition of the importance of the shards there and that the area adjacent to the east of the southeastern wall of the Temple Mount is a key site for finding the ancient remnants of the Temple Mount."

It's fun studying subjects so relevant to recent events, yet tied to important ancient history!

Song of the week: "The Way It Used To Be" by Engelbert Humperdinck (click the song title to visit Amazon; click here for a 24-second sample; 302kb).
G.M. Grena

P.S. This is the first time I've heard anyone refer to them as "ring" seals, which is highly improbable considering that their overall size exceeds a 1-inch oval!

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