Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Abstract: The Hodayot

This is the abstract for the seminar paper for this afternoon:
The Hodayot, found in Caves 1 and 4, have remained under scrutiny since 1QHa was first published in 1955. Many have sought to use these hymns as a viewing glass into the worship of the life of the Qumran community. However much that is assumed about the Hodayot is uncertain. This paper aims to unearth some of these assumptions and foundational ambiguities. Part I focuses upon authorship (often ascribed to the "Teacher of Righteousness"), and the ambiguous nature of the whole discussion. Both the nature of the text as poetic liturgy and of the content leaves no certainty of authorship. Moreover the Teacher of Righteousness is a more evasive figure than sometime portrayed. In particular the recent new data presented by Michael C. Douglas ("The Teacher Hymn Hypothesis Revisited," DSD 6 (1999): 239-66) are assessed. Douglas attempts to build up a block of material around a "signature phrase," which may be ascribes to an author (namely the Teacher of Righteousness). However, it will be argued that in this Douglas provides an argument for literary unity, not authorship. The assessment of Douglas's argument is crucial to acknowledge the limited information possessed at present. In this case, I believe, the scholarly position is in affirming the uncertainty of authorship. Part II moves to examine other possible means of understanding the hymns. This takes the form of studying the Hodayot as sectarian, theological and liturgical. In this, the more certain suppositions of literary genre and theology are affirmed to provide possible insights into the social situation. Meanwhile less certain suppositions of specific social situation and sectarian nature of the texts are presented as ambiguous. These questions are essential in understanding how much about the Qumran community can be know, and how much cannot. Through our study of the Hodayot we conclude that although much has been hypothesised, ambiguities remain and must be recognised.

Matthew J. Ford

After the seminar - probably sometime tomorrow - I'll post a summary of our discussion.