Friday, March 11, 2005

Calendrical Texts

As I noted yesterday, one of next week's seminars will be on the Qumran calendrical texts.

One tidbit in advance: here is a page from the Library of Congress exhibit that deals with one of the Mishmarot texts (4Q321) which give the schedule for the rotation of the priestly courses in the Temple service.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

The Songs of the Sabbath Sacrifice

The seminars scheduled for next week deal with the Songs of the Sabbath Sacrifice and the calendrical texts. Tonight I'll give you a few links that deal with the SOSS.

Here's the entry from the Library of Congress exhibit on the SOSS. It includes a photograph of 4Q403 (click on it for an enlargement), some information on the work, and an excerpt from Newsom's translation.

Here's an abstract of a paper on the SOSS ("The Macrocosmic Temple, Scriptural Exegesis, and the Songs of the Sabbath Sacrifice") which I presented in my 2001 Dead Sea Scrolls conference. The whole paper was published as an article in Dead Sea Discoveries in 2002. You can access it here, but it requires a paid personal or institutional subscription. Other relevant papers from that conferences included my "Melchizedek, the 'Youth,' and Jesus: the Dead Sea Scrolls and Messianism, Christology, and Mysticism" (abstract); Ra'anan Abusch, "Seven-fold Praise in the Songs of the Sabbath Sacrifice and the Hekhalot Literature: Literary Context and Historical Continuity in Early Hebrew Hymnic Poetry" (abstract); and Alexander Golitzin, "Recovering the Glory of Adam: Selected Themes from the Dead Sea Scrolls Present in the Macarian Homilies and Other Christian Ascetic Writings of Fourth-Century Syro-Mesopotamia" (abstract). All three were published in the conference volume.

My book Liturgical Works (Eerdmans Commentary on the Dead Sea Scrolls 6; Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2000) has a long chapter on the SOSS. You can read part of it in the Amazon excerpt, although it doesn't work very well with a dial-up connection. The entry on the Eerdmans website works better and also has an excerpt on the SOSS.

NOTE: Blogger has been suffering numerous server errors recently, which has led to annoyances such as stuttered posts and posting lost during publishing. It also makes it very hard sometimes to correct typos. Apologies in advance for any problems.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Summary of 4QMMT Seminar

We started by discussing the implications of the copyright ruling in the Qimron-Shanks case. The general sense of the class was sympathy with the result on the grounds that a scholar should be rewarded for his or her contribution as long as other scholars remain free to interact with the reconstructed text and offer improvements on the reconstruction. But follow the link for a different view!

We moved to the hypothesis that the Qumran sectarians were Sadducees and the question arose whether and to what degree it was compatible or mutually exclusive with the Essene hypothesis. The classical formulation of the Essene hypothesis has the break with Jerusalem happening over priestly issues. Often the theory is accepted that the Teacher of Righteousness was the man who by rights was next in line to become high priest, but he lost his place when the Hasmoneans (who were priests, but not of the high-priestly family) took over the high priesthood. Despite being widely held, this theory is very speculative. Nevertheless, if it be accepted, it seems compatible with Schiffman's view that the sectarians were a branch of Sadducees (i.e., Zadokite priests). Schiffman seems to think this is possible when he says "The dominant Essene hypothesis, if it is to be maintained at all, requires radical reorientation." (Reclaiming the Dead Sea Scrolls, 89).

This led to the broader question of in what sense the Qumran sectarians could have been Sadducees, based on the evidence about the latter in the New Testament and Josephus. If the Sadducees disbelieved in angels, the afterlife, or determinism (i.e., fate), how can they be reconciled with the Qumran sectarians, who believed in all three? If I understand him correctly, Schiffman postulates a breakaway group from the Hellenized Zadokite priests in Jerusalem, which group produced 4QMMT and the Temple Scroll (which are compatible with the picture of the Sadducees we get from Josephus and the NT) and then developed along a sectarian, eschatological-apocalyptic trajectory that took up beliefs in angels, afterlife, radical dualism, and apocalyptic determinism, while keep the basic Zadokite/Sadducean halakhic interpretations, which differed recognizably from the halakhah of the Pharisees. This group in due course produced the sectarian literature we find in the Dead Sea Scrolls. Schiffman also says "I am not claiming that the Dead Sea sect as we know it is Sadducean, only that its origin and the roots of its halakhic tradition lie in the Sadducean Zadokite priesthood" (Reclaiming, 89 - and see the discussion in general on pp. 88-89). I am not sure how helpful it is to invoke the term "Sadducees" in this discussion, given the baggage associated with them in the Greek sources. It might be clearer just to say "Zadokite priests." But in any case, Schiffman's nuance here needs to be kept in mind.

Next we discussed the three scenarios that have been proposed to explain the origins of 4QMMT. The one proposed by the original editors in DJD 10 and still widely accepted today is that it is a letter from early in the history of the sect by sectarian leaders (the "we"; perhaps the Teacher of Righteousness and his group) to a political leader and potential ally and his group (the "you"; perhaps the Wicked Priest, not yet wicked, and his followers) in opposition to people following a rival halakhah (the "they"; perhaps the Pharisees). It is thus an important contemporary source for the schism that led to the founding of the sect.

The second, argued by Steven Fraade, is that 4QMMT is a treatise intended for internal consumption -- aimed at members of the sect and used for paranesis (instruction). (These two possibilities are not entirely mutually exclusive: a copy of a letter by the founders to outsiders could have been kept by the sectarians and used for instruction by later generations. This is what happened to the Pauline epistles, although in their case it was probably the recipients rather than the senders who preserved the letters.)

The third is that 4QMMT is a historicizing document written long after the founding of the sect but saying what the authors thought the founders would have said (either to outsiders or to their followers) had they gotten around to writing it down. In other words it is fictional, almost pseudepigraphic (although technically it makes no explicit claims about its own authorship). It thus would be somewhat analogous to the pseudo-Pauline literature in the New Testament. It would also give us no reliable or at least contemporary information about the founding of the sect. Maxine Grossman has given the most extensive treatment of this possibility.

It is not easy to choose between these. For my part, I find the content of 4QMMT difficult to reconcile with the first scenario. If it were a real letter by a particular person to particular people and about the views of particular other people, I would expect some names and other personal details to come up. The utterly impersonal nature of the work gives it a homiletic and communal air that makes me think scenarios 2 or 3 are more likely.

One intriguing point raised in the discussion was the fact that no answer to the letter (if letter it was) has been preserved in the Qumran library. If 4QMMT is a letter of the founders preserved as an historical relic, it seems likely that any reply would have been preserved with it. (Or is it? No replies to Paul's letters survive either.) If the recipients didn't reply, is this because they didn't think it was important enough to reply to? Or, contrawise, did they take it as a significant challenge, but one best ignored rather than being given further legitimacy by a reply? Or is 4QMMT a treatise for internal consumption to which no reply was expected?

Likewise, why are there so many copies (6) and why are they all in Cave 4, unlike the Community Rule, the Damascus Document, and the War Scroll, all of which are found in multiple caves? Here we come to matters that are very uncertain. The one sure datum about the origins of the Qumran library is that the scrolls were found in the eleven caves near the Wadi Qumran. Any attempt to explain how they got there involves quite a lot of speculation. One possibility, the one often taken for granted as obviously correct, is that Pliny's celibate, quasi-monastic community of Essenes lived in the nearby buildings and they hid their library in the caves (some of which perhaps were already used for scroll storage) in advance of the conflict with the Romans. Another possibility is that various sectarian communities throughout Judea consolidated their personal and communal (synagogal?) libraries and hid them together in these caves during the war. That option would explain much better the multiple recensions of the Community Rule and some of the scriptural books in the Qumran library. These two explanations are not mutually exclusive and the truth may involve elements of both. We just don't know.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

4QMMT Abstract

Here is the abstract for today's essay on 4QMMT:
4QMMT is a Halakhic letter, and the Composite Text has been put together by Elisha Qimron. There has been much controversy over the "ownership" of this text, a case that has been brought to court in Israel, giving Qimron copyright. I will focus on this case and the main controversies in the first part of my paper.

The contents of 4QMMT, as we have it in the Composite Text, are comprised of three main sections; a calendar, a list of the halakhah, or rules of the community, and a concluding exhortation. Within my second section I will discuss three views of the genre of 4QMMT, and the implications this has for the way we view the letter, and with whom we identify the "we", "you" and "they" parties mentioned in the letter.

I will end the paper by discussing two other issues brought up by scholars; firstly, whether the scriptures of the writers of 4QMMT corresponded to the Hebrew Bible as we now have it, in its three sections, and secondly, how the problem of having a calendar on only one of the six copies of 4QMMT can be solved.

Kelda Hunter

Monday, March 07, 2005

Change of Plan and 4QMMT

The student who was set to do the Temple Scroll essay has been ill, so that topic will have to be covered later in the course. This means that our only topic this week will be 4QMMT. Here are a few relevant websites:

The Library of Congress DSS exhibit has a page with a nice photo of 4QMMTc (4Q396) (click on the photo in this link to see the whole thing) as well as a brief introduction and a translation of some of the text.

Again from Taylor University College and Seminary, Canada, for REL 365: The Dead Sea Scrolls, we have An Introduction to the Miqsat Ma’ase ha-Torah (4QMMT) by Angela J. Lalk.

And on the Orion website, we have a paper by Qumran scholar Charlotte Hempel: "The Laws of the Damascus Document and 4QMMT."