Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Summary of Hodayot Seminar

Much of the seminar discussion was about details of the complete essay and need not detain us here. Instead, I will concentrate on some interesting themes that arose in the conversation.

One early question was in what sense the Hodayot and the sectarian Scrolls in general teach "predestination." One suggestion was that, in contrast to the predestination of salvation in the Calvinistic tradition, Qumran predestination was about determinism in human lives in general. I don't know much about Calvinism, so I can't comment on that. But the key statement of sectarian determinism in the Scrolls, the Treatise on the Two Spirits in the Community Rule, seems to me to teach a general determinism, but with predestined salvation and damnation built into it. I'm less sure about the theology of the Hodayot, and the deterministic passages in col. 9 do seem to me to be more general. (All this is my considered off-the-cuff opinion as I type hurriedly in the late afternoon while fighting a cold, after a day with four hours of meetings.)

Incidentally, in this part of the discussion I emphasized the importance of appealing to specific primary references when discussing a thematic issue.

We spent some time on the issue of genre, noting the two basic genres generally agreed to be found in 1QHa:

Thanksgiving songs of the individual ("teacher" hymns)
Hymnic songs of confession ("community" hymns)

We touched on the question of whether the Hodayot were used for private devotion or in public liturgy, or some one and some the other. Rather than trying to answer the question, we talked more about how liturgical texts might look different from devotional texts (e.g., the use of 1st person plural forms, imperative calls to praise, instructions for ritual use, antiphonal responses, mention of accompanying instruments, etc.)

We noted the relevance of the Cave 4 Hodayot manuscripts for our understanding of 1QHa. The latter recension also appears in the early manuscript 4QHb and some evidence for source collections incorporated into this larger collection may be found in 4QHa, 4QHc, and 4QHc

We also discussed the importance of asking very basic questions of the primary text of ancient works like the Hodayot, such as: Why were the Hodayot written? What were the objectives of the author(s) and did they differ from the objectives of the editor of 1QHa? What were the main points they wanted to get across? What themes do they stress over and over? Who was the intended audience?

As for the proposed authorship by the Teacher of Righteousness, we noted that Sukenik apparently was the first to suggest this. He would already know about the Teacher of Righteousness from the Damascus Document manuscript from the Cairo Geniza, with more information about the Teacher coming from 1Qpesher Habakkuk, which he also would have seen. It certainly would have been tempting at that point to read the Hodayot alongside these texts, with the author's voice identified with the Teacher, and there are some striking points of comparison between 1QPHab and 1QHa which could be taken in that direction.

Nevertheless, the situation may well be more complicated. It was pointed out that even though some of the biblical Psalms actually have titles apparently attributing them to David, the consensus among Psalms scholars is that most or all of these are secondary and do not really indicate Davidic authorship. The Hodayot, by contrast, have no titles at all to the individual compositions. (It's difficult to tell how normal the lack of titles is for Jewish hymns of this period. The obvious point of comparison is the Psalms of Solomon, but their evidence is equivocal. The Greek version does have titles, but the Syriac version doesn't. Does this mean there were titles in the putative original Hebrew? Were these kept by the Greek translator and deleted by the Syriac translator, or are they a secondary addition in the Greek version?

In any case, there is no explicit claim that the Hodayot are by the Teacher of Righteousness - he is never mentioned in any of the 1QH or 4QH manuscripts. We may (or may not) infer from their content that he was the author, but how can we be sure that the hymns were not written much later than his time by someone writing on his behalf or under his prophetic inspiration or to evoke his memory or the like? (Cf. the Pastoral Epistles in the NT.)

As for the article by Douglas, it's perhaps helpful to summarize his two main arguments. The first is stylistic: unique stylistic peculiarities establish that much of cols. 10-17 share the same style and therefore come from the same author. Second, this author was the Teacher of Righteousness: the situation of the Teacher as presented in the pesharim is comparable to the situation of the author of this Hodayot unit; specifically both correspond closely to Victor Turner's anthropological model of social conflict.

I share Matthew's skepticism of this conclusion. A few observations:
    On the stylistic argument:
  • A group or a school can share a style - a distinctive style does not necessarily point to a single author. The parade example is the style of the Deuteronomistic School, which is distinctive and which shows up in various places in the documents in the Hebrew Bible.
  • Our sample of Hebrew poetry from this period is small.
  • The supposed sample of this one author's work is very small.

    On the anthropological model:
  • Turner's work is not very recent and I would feel more comfortable if Douglas had cited some more recent literature that critiqued it.
  • Douglas has to accept an extremely literalistic reading of some very arcane poetry in the Hodayot to reach his conclusions.
  • We know nothing about the opponents' view of the situation or how they would have described it.

Finally, there is the question of how reliable a source we should take the Pesharim to be for information on the Teacher of Righteousness. The pesharim often base their supposed historical descriptions very closely on the wording of scriptural passages, which should make us nervous. Judging by the usually accepted paleographic dates, the pesharim may well have been written long after the Hodayot. Indeed, the possibility has been raised by both Philip Davies and George Brooke that 1QpHab is actually dependent on the Hodayot. Note that 1QpHab 11.2-8 has some connection with 1QHa 12.7-12. Is this because they describe memories of the same event or because one is based on the other? If the latter, it seems a good bet that the Hodayot are the older of the two and the source of the pesher, in which case most of the supposed historical evidence for the activities of the Teacher of Righteousness evaporates.