The present study is a survey of scholarship on the linguistic dating of biblical texts. Avi Hurvitz has sought to establish a dating method for biblical texts on the basis of linguistic data. He has argued, first, that linguistic change in Biblical Hebrew (= BH) during the exile was so decisive that Early Biblical Hebrew (= EBH) of the pre-exilic period is clearly distinguished from Late BH (= LBH) of the post-exilic period; and, second, that, since EBH and LBH are distinct both in form and chronology, one can date biblical texts by using linguistic data only.
Hurvitz’s method soon became a standard in the scholarly guild, and Hurvitz himself and other younger scholars produced studies that attempt to date biblical books/texts on linguistic grounds. These studies have treated, for example, the J source, the P source, Ezekiel, individual psalms, the prose portion of Job, Qoheleth, Esther, and so forth.
Since 2003, a challenging voice crystallized through a succession of publications: an essay collection entitled Biblical Hebrew: Studies in Chronology and Typology (2003), volumes 46 and 47 of Hebrew Studies (2005-2006), and Ian Young, Robert Rezetko, and Martin Ehrensvärd’s Linguistic Dating of Biblical Texts (2008). The challenging voice, represented by Young, Rezetko, and Ehrensvärd, has argued the following: first, EBH and LBH are not completely distinct in form and chronology, though it is true that they are not identical. Second, EBH and LBH should rather be considered stylistic options from which the post-exilic biblical writers were free to choose. Third, accordingly, it is impossible to date biblical texts on the basis of linguistic data only.
The present study, first, introduces Hurvitz’s method of linguistic dating and surveys the studies of Hurvitz himself and his followers; second, it examines the challenging voices against Hurvitz’s method; and, third, it discusses two of the most recent attempts published in 2012, Diachrony in Biblical Hebrew, edited by Cynthia Miller-Naudé and Ziony Zevit, and Dong-Hyuk Kim’s Early Biblical Hebrew, Late Biblical Hebrew, and Linguistic Variability, and probes their significance in the debate.