Archi Responds to Pettinato
The original Italian article from which the foregoing article by Professor Pettinato was adapted has not gone unanswered. Professor Archi has responded to Professor Pettinato in the Italian journal Studi Eblaiti in an article entitled, “Ancora Sul-Ebla e la Biblia” (“Again on Ebla and the Bible”). With this summary of Professor Archi’s recent response BAR seeks to present both sides of the continuing dispute about interpretation of Ebla.
Archi calls Pettinato’s article an “insulting evaluation”: “Uncontrollable anger like this,” says Archi, “is impermissible even in the most heated scholarly polemics … Pettinato, substitutes insults for the facts which he ought to supply in support of his theses.” In the absence of such facts, says Archi, the insults “fall back on him [Pettinato].” Having said this, Archi takes the position that he, unlike Pettinato, will confine himself to scientific evidence.
The first disagreement Archi discusses concerns the appearance at Ebla of Ya which, Archi says, is “considered an archaic form of Yahweh” (the distinctive name of the Hebrew God): Archi finds no evidence of the presence of Ya in the Ebla tablets. The cuneiform signs AN.NI (in the personal name AN.NI-ra-mu), which Pettinato reads dingir ya or ia
As concerns Pettinato’s contention that oil was used for anointing kings at Ebla, Archi again disagrees. Pettinato relies on an Ebla tablet which refers to the pouring of oil on a bride’s head at a wedding. But, Archi charges, Pettinato gives no textual analysis of the passage. In fact, according to Archi, comparable texts indicate that a bride was anointed upon the delivery of nuptial gifts. “It is well known that in some societies of the ancient Near East anointing was done not only at the wedding ceremony but also at the emancipation of a slave and on the completion of a bill of sale.” Continuing his argument, Archi considers further contextual evidence and finds that the oil, in the passage which Pettinato cites, is as much related to the mother as to the bride. Furthermore, “It does not relate to a marriage ceremony” but rather to a delivery of cloth and “certainly … cannot indicate the ceremony of royal anointing.” Archi concludes that there is no connection whatever between the use of oil at Ebla and the anointing of Hebrew kings.
If oil was not used for anointing kings at Ebla, neither were Eblaite judges similar to Israelite judges. Pettinato’s arguments are based on his contention that the Eblaite word for judge is synonymous with lugal which refers to a governor of the kingdom. Archi again disagrees because, he says, lugal and the Eblaite word for judge are not synonymous: The Ebla judges “were part of the royal administration while the famous ‘judges’ of ancient Israel … were officials in a tribal organization which was just in the process of urbanization … the historian must avoid unrefined comparisons among widely differing kinds of social settings.”
The continuing disagreement about the Eblaite creation story broadens as Archi promises a separate study devoted to this alone. He claims that even accepting Pettinato’s translation of the text, it is “unwarranted and misleading” to suggest, as Pettinato does, that the Ebla creation story, “calls to mind” the creation story in Genesis. The Ebla creation story, Archi believes, “lies squarely in the Sumerian tradition.”
With regard to the five cities of the plains mentioned in Genesis 14 and 19 (Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, 043Zeboim and Bela=Zoar) Pettinato has declared that these five cities were attested in the Ebla tablets. Archi, in rebuttal, charges that “Pettinato has never identified the inventory number of the tablet (or tablets) on which his statement is based:a Nor has Pettinato elaborated the linguistic principles which justify the alleged correspondence between the Eblaite cities and the Biblical cities. “Pettinato bears responsibility for subverting a universal principle of all science: He who formulates a thesis must furnish the proof.”
In addressing Pettinato’s criticism of Archi’s reliance on secondary sources (David Noel Freedman) instead of relying on Pettinato’s own words, Archi is very clear. “If … what was stated [by David Noel Freedman] was not valid, then it is necessary to make a proper correction, particularly when other scholars do not have control of the texts.”
Responding, finally, to Pettinato’s charge that Archi’s positions are politically motivated and designed to please the Syrians, particularly with regard to Archi’s reference to the languages of South Arabia in relation to Eblaite, Archi writes, “If Pettinato would consult any manual on the subject, he would learn that the languages called South Arabic are not Arabic dialects spoken in South Arabia. These languages are attested by ancient inscriptions found in Southern Arabia and contain archaic elements which makes my assertion exactly pertinent.”
In summary, Archi characterizes Pettinato’s article as follows: “Pettinato feels free to contradict himself at will, assuming he does not have to prove his contentions. He reproaches whomever asks for proof and refuses to give documentation while attributing to others what they never said or intended to say. He denies, despite witnesses to the contrary, what he wrote and what he is responsible for. After having stated that Sodom, Gomorrah and the other three cities [of the plain] and their king are attested at Ebla, he refuses to provide the textual support while he simultaneously accuses others of ‘forcing the texts’ … [Pettinato’s] insinuations [of political motivations], supported by inconsistent arguments and unrestrained invective, provide a precise measure as to how personally adequate Pettinato is and whether we can expect from him, to use his own words ‘a serious study of the epigraphic treasure of Ebla.’ The tone of Pettinato’s article and its scorn for the norms which provide the most basic principles of scientific investigation has no precedent in the history of our discipline.”
The original Italian article from which the foregoing article by Professor Pettinato was adapted has not gone unanswered. Professor Archi has responded to Professor Pettinato in the Italian journal Studi Eblaiti in an article entitled, “Ancora Sul-Ebla e la Biblia” (“Again on Ebla and the Bible”). With this summary of Professor Archi’s recent response BAR seeks to present both sides of the continuing dispute about interpretation of Ebla. Archi calls Pettinato’s article an “insulting evaluation”: “Uncontrollable anger like this,” says Archi, “is impermissible even in the most heated scholarly polemics … Pettinato, substitutes insults for the facts which he […]