P. J. Wiseman was neither an archeologist nor a scholar of ancient languages but he was a keen observer, an avid reader and a diligent Bible student. These qualities and the fact that he was stationed in close proximity to live Middle Eastern archeological digs in the 1920’s and 30’s made him a reliable source for some thought provoking ideas about the structure and composition of Genesis.
Prior to any real knowledge of ancient literary methods, in fact, at a time when scholars weren’t convinced that any type of writing was done much before the 1st millennium BC, the compilation of Genesis was surmised only through subjective reflection on the text alone. The result was a variety of theories involving several different and unconnected sources – named by the letters J, E, D and P – none of which are substantiated by copies of any kind.
The information gained from archeological finds, however, have shattered these theories and P. J. Wiseman is credited with first putting into print observations and arguments which suggest:
- These earliest biblical records were “written” biographies not oral traditions.
- Genesis was originally produced as a series of clay tablets each of which was signed by the original composer and passed down through successive generations.
- Based on the overwhelming volume of literary artifacts, the signature closes a section of the book rather than opens it. This runs contrary to liberal scholarship, which suggests the signature introduces rather than closes a section.
- Repetitive phrases in Genesis, not apparently necessary in the present format of the text, were required in antiquity to identify the sequence in which a multi tablet document was to be read.
- That Moses would have compiled the tablets into one document making editorial changes only to properly identify place names of geographical locations.
- That only the people credited with the writing could have provided the insights provided in the text.
Wiseman also provides arguments to counter other ideas associated with liberal thinking and copiously quotes New Testament writers and even Jesus to show that discrediting Genesis renders the New Testament senseless. The obvious conclusion is that Genesis may very well represent records from the earliest stages of human history, exactly what the book claims.
He did consult with archeologists on site and provides references in the body of the text. The greatest weakness of the book is the lack of an index. Although the material was first written in the mid 1930’s the information is timeless and is worth reading any time at any price.
Wiseman is a great example to follow. A lifer in the Royal Air Force Accountancy Branch, he found himself stationed in an unaccommodating part of the world for several years. Instead of complaining he found a way to use it for good thus showing that any person of any background giving enough attention to detail and diligently investigating the facts can unearth nuggets of truth that baffle the apparently more informed.
Influenced by his example, his son, D. J. Wiseman, pursued academic studies in archeology and ancient languages and has written the following books:
- 1 And 2 Kings: An Introduction and Commentary (Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries),
- Nebuchadrezzar and Babylon (Schweich Lectures of the British Academy 1983) and
- The Alalakh tablets (Occasional publications of the British Institute of Archaeology at Ankara).
Read the book. Tell us what you THINK!AboutIt.