Friday, April 15, 2005

Summary of Seminar on the Temple Scroll

We looked briefly at Stegemann's argument that the Temple Scroll was unlikely to be a sectarian document on the grounds that there are so few copies (two from Cave 11 and perhaps one from Cave 4). It seems like a foundational document for someone but probably not the people who preserved it for us.

Then we discussed the potential significance of the unusual (I believe unique) presentation of the Temple Scroll in the first person singular with God as speaker. It's not entirely clear what this was supposed to prove, but it certainly seems to be emphasizing the authority of the traditions in the Temple Scroll, notably the Temple described therein, which was radically different from the Temple that actually stood on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Whether this was thought of as legitimizing rejected traditions or adding a layer of tradition over the Pentateuch to make it relevant again (as with Deuteronomy for the Tetrateuch) or something else is open to debate. The Temple of the Temple Scroll is not eschatological. (We know this because in column 29 it seems to be distinguished from a future Temple that God will create at the end time.) Therefore it is probably best to regard the Temple Scroll as a utopian document, one that intended its program for real life, even though there was no real chance of it being implemented.

We talked about several specific points in the essay which we needn't go over here. But one thing we did go over that is worth mentioning, is some of the halakhic detail that is important for Schiffman's and Baumgarten's Sadducean origin hypothesis. First, let me note something important about halakhic texts: the thing that makes them so difficult is that they represent debates about fine details between people who agreed on nearly everything. These people took the details on which they disagreed very seriously indeed, but in order to make any sense of the texts you have to master the much larger areas of agreement that the writers take for granted. As an example of this sort of problem we discussed at length the basic concepts behind the issue of Tevel Yom.

I don't have the energy here to go through all the details. Briefly, in order to produce the ashes of the red heifer (Numbers 19), which is the only means of purifying people from "corpse impurity" (ritual defilement by touching a dead body), a ritually pure priest must slaughter the heifer outside the camp and burn it to ashes. There are a number of situations in the laws Pentateuch in which if one becomes ritually impure, one must go through an immersion ritual and then be considered pure again when the sun goes down. This left a certain ambiguity in the system: what is the state of people between immersion (tevel) and the end of the day (yom) when the sun goes down? Are they still fully defiled (in which case what was the point of the immersion)? Are they now purified (in which case why are they "unclean until evening")? Or are they something in between -- purified for some purposes and still impure for others? According to the Mishnah the Sadducees took the strictest interpretation and considered them still impure for all purposes, but the Pharisees thought their status was in between and they were ritually pure for some purposes, including a priest carrying out the rite of the red heifer.

The interesting thing is that according to the Temple Scroll, the Tevel Yom is considered strictly impure, along the lines of the Sadducean view (see 45.7-12 [sexual intercourse]; 49.19-21 [corpse impurity]; and 51.4-5 [contact with creeping animals]). 4QMMT also has the same view. In a number of other cases (although not unambiguously in all such cases) the Temple Scroll and 4QMMT take positions equivalent to those attributed to the Sadducees in the Mishnah. These include (possibly) the question of whether animal bones are unclean (all agreed that human bones were) and whether impurity could travel upstream when liquid was being poured from a pure vessel into an impure one. This is the basis for the Sadducean origin hypothesis.

UPDATE: I spoke imprecisely above. Schiffman is the one who promotes the Sadducean origin hypothesis. He does so on the basis, in part, of parallels between Sadducean and Qumran halakhah pointed out by Baumgarten, but Baumgarten himself does not promote this theory.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Lecture on the Archaeology of Qumran

The Baptist Press News reports the following:
Dead Sea Scrolls still kindle archaeological debate, Ortiz says
Apr 13, 2005
By Michael McCormack

MOBILE, Ala. (BP)--The 1948 discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls proved to be the greatest archaeological find of the 20th century. But more than 50 years after their discovery, many questions remain as to who wrote them and who actually lived at the Dead Sea community of Qumran where they were discovered.

Steven Ortiz, associate professor of biblical archaeology and director of the Center for Archaeological Research at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, addressed some of these questions, as part of the Gulf Coast Exploreum’s Dead Sea Scrolls lecture series in Mobile, Ala ...

Primarily he surveys the Essene hypothesis, held by Magness and many others, and the "manor house" hypothesis recently defended by Hirschfeld. He also discusses the primitive archaeological techniques available to De Vaux when he excavated Qumran.

Temple Scroll Abstract

Here the abstract of the essay on the Temple Scroll, the seminar for which was held on Tuesday:
In 1967, Yigael Yadin acquired the Temple scroll, the longest of the Dead Sea Scrolls. The Scroll is comprised of four parts; plans for a new Temple, purity regulations, a festival calendar, and a Deuteronomic paraphrase of the law of the king. As the first editor of the text, Yadin posed the initial conclusions from the document. He claimed it to be of Essene origin, an item of additional Torah, a sectarian text and dated the Scroll to the second half of the second century BCE. All of these statements have been heavily disputed, revealing much about the people who wrote the Temple Scroll, and the political atmosphere of the Second Temple Period. Unique in its genre, and illuminating in its proclamations, the scroll has been dubbed by scholars, such as Hartmut Stegemann, to be the most important of the preserved Dead Sea Scrolls. This paper aims to detail some of the main issues that have arisen since the Scroll's publication and determine why it is considered so important.

Leon Rogers

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Class Update

Our seminar on the Apostle Paul has been rescheduled for next Tuesday, due to student illness. And due to a computer crash, the abstract for the Temple Scroll essay has not yet reached me. Please bear with us as we cope with these circumstances beyond our control.

High Point Exhibit Ends

The Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit at High Point, North Carolina, did very well during its stay:
Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit ends in High Point with heavy attendance

Associated Press

HIGH POINT, N.C. - An exhibit featuring fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls ended its 87-day stay here on Sunday with significant attendance and an economic impact of at least $3.6 million, officials said.

The 54,206 visitors and their "conservative economic impact" on High Point's economy were second only to the twice-a-year International Home Furnishings Market held in High Point, said Charlotte Young, president of High Point Convention & Visitors Bureau.


Dead Sea Scrolls Wedding Update

Congratulations to Mary Grant and Joseph Bland, who exchanged wedding vows in front of the Dead Sea Scrolls in the exhibit at the Exploreum in Mobile Alabama on Saturday.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Summary of Seminar on Jesus and the Dead Sea Scrolls

We were tempted at the beginning of the seminar to consider whether John the Baptist was an Essene, but that's another seminar (which this course has considered in past years and may consider again some day), so we resisted temptation and stuck to Qumran messianism and Jesus.

One slightly tangential question that we talked about for a while was whether the traditions about the priestly Messiah (usually alongside the Davidic Messiah or Messiah of Israel) reflected in some way the social situation of the Qumran sect. 1Q28 (the Messianic Rule or Rule of the Congregation) could be used to make a plausible case along these lines. It pictures the Yahad in the "last days," evidently the eschaton, and describes an assembly in which a priest presides over the meal with precedence even over the Messiah of Israel. Was this the ideological innovation of the priestly-centered sectarians? Maybe.

We moved on then to discuss how the Jesus tradition in the New Testament picks up many of the same "messianic" traditions as those found in the Scrolls. Jesus is the Davidic Messiah and so picks up on the royal tradition. Jesus is celestial high priest in Hebrews. Moreover, the writer of Hebrews seems to be saying that it is Jesus rather than Melchizedek who is celestial high priest. This seems rather an odd thing to make an issue of until one reads 11Q13 (11QMelchizedek) and perhaps the Songs of the Sabbath Sacrifice (see next paragraph) and realizes that Hebrews is reacting something like the ideas found in them. The tradition of the warrior Messiah (and Melchizedek as warrior angel) is also paralleled by Jesus, especially in Revelation 19, where he functions as the divine warrior. We considered whether the Gospels were inverting the warrior tradition indirectly by presenting Jesus as the suffering servant rather than the warrior Messiah, but we could not come up with specific passages in support of this (the closest we came was John 6:14-15, which really isn't quite the same thing). We also found ourselves tempted to take up Jesus as the Danielic and Enochic Son of Man, but we resisted this as well.

We considered the challenge of finding adequate terminology for talking about figures like the Davidic and Aaronic Messiahs, Melchizedek, and the speaker of the Self-Glorification Hymn at Qumran (and also the Son of Man elsewhere. "Messiah doesn't do as a general term, since not all of them are "anointed." Two useful terms that specialists settled on in the 1980s and 1990s are "eschatological redeemer," which applies to such figures who are active at the time of the end, and the still more general "divine mediator figure," which applies to figures who are also active in the past or present. I have a big website devoted to Divine Mediator Figures in the Biblical World, which arose from a course I taught on the subject in 1998, followed by a conference here at St. Andrews on the origins of the worship of Jesus. There I lay out a methodology and typology for talking about such mediator figures (it was later published in expanded form in the conference volume) and apply it in a very preliminary way to the figures of Enoch (also covered in the same article) and Melchizedek. I returned to Melchizedek in my 2001 conference on the Dead Sea Scrolls and my article on him was published in that conference volume. Some of my preliminary thoughts about Jesus and Melchizedek are given in the two Melchizedek links above.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Jesus Abstract

Here is the abstract for tomorrow's seminar on the origins of the worship of Jesus and the Dead Sea Scrolls:
The Dead Sea Scrolls appear to put forward the evidence for an evolution in messianic thought. In comparison with the Hebrew Bible messianic figures have developed in the way they are eschatological and divine. The hope of a Davidic Messiah moved towards the expectation of a divine warrior to tackle Israel’s enemies. There are parallels with the divine figures described in the scrolls and the way Jesus was understood as divine, particularly the use of titles and alluded Old Testament texts. But there is by no means any direct links and there are also disagreements in thought. But the scrolls may provide an understanding of messianic hope in the 1st Century CE among Jews. As these texts are of the Jesus era they may clarify how Jesus came to worshipped as a divine being.

Charles Goodwin