Friday, April 22, 2005

Summary of Babatha Archive Seminar

We opened by asking to what degree we can generalize about second-century Jewish women from what we know about Babatha. She herself was from the upper stratum and was well off; she was wealthy and owned property. Therefore, she may give us only limited insight into other and economic and social levels. Nevertheless, the Ketubba (marriage contract) and the divorce papers would have been standard templates for all Jewish women.

We noted that Babatha had family connections with the leaders of the Bar Kokhba revolt, which is usually given as the reason for her ending up in the Cave of the Letters. But she also had property in Ein Gedi, so she may have been motivated to keep close in order to keep an eye on it.

We asked if Salome Komais and Yeshua son of Menahem (pap. Yadin 37) had any kind of official relationship while they were cohabiting before they got married. Such indicators as we have point to the cohabitation being an entirely informal arrangement, but this is debated and we do not have enough information to be entirely sure.

We also discussed briefly how the lots of women in the Qumran texts compared to that of women in the Babatha archive (the latter of which deals with a number of women, not just Babatha). There was less overlap than we would have liked to find in the two corpora, but we did come up with a number of points of comparison.

This was now the third hour of straight seminar on Tuesday and fatigue was setting in for all of us. Seminar summarizing fatigue has also set in for me, so I will conclude this summary here.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Summary of "Women in the Dead Sea Scrolls" Seminar

We touched on the evidence of the Qumran cemetery first. The very interesting question was raised as to whether the excavated graves were a representative sampling from the site as a whole (albeit a small one)? The general memory during the seminar was the sampling was pretty representative, and a look at relevant maps and such afterward confirms this. See especially the new survey published by Broshi, Eshel, Freund, and Schultz: "New Data on the Cemetery East of Khirbet Qumran," DSD 9.2 (2002): 135-65.

We then moved to the texts and began by discussing the androcentric nature of the Hebrew language. The, if you will, default gender in Hebrew is male and this comes through particularly with plural nouns, adjectives, and verbal forms. Mixed groups of men and women are addressed or referred to using masculine plural grammatical forms. You can have a hundred women and one man, and you would still use the masculine plural forms. Maxine Grossman has explored the implications of this grammatical androcentrism in her work. Suffice to say that this feature sometimes leaves us in the dark as to whether given laws, etc. are being applied to an all-male group or to a group of mixed gender.

We talked briefly about whether it might be possible to discern an evolution over time in the role of women in the sect. Paleography is too blunt a tool to allow us to date the composition of individual works in relation to one another with much confidence, but there are one or two other clues to ponder. For example, women are mentioned in 1QSa (the "Messianic Rule" or "Rule of the Congregation") with a fairly substantial social role. This may be contrasted with the complete lack of explicit mention of them in the Community Rule. It may be that the eschatological community described in 1QSa was seen as having a greater role for women than the current community in 1QS. Such questions are worth asking, although any answers are speculative.

Then we looked at three especially interesting and, typically, especially difficult Scroll passages that deal or may deal with women. In her essay, Lindsey noted that there is an important damaged spot in 1QSa 9-11 which can be read in two ways. Referring to when a man can get married, it can be read either "And he shall not draw [near to] a woman to know her carnally unless he is fully twenty years old when *he* knows good or evil" or "And he shall not draw [near to] a woman to know her carnally unless he is fully twenty years old when *she* knows good or evil." The word in question is a damaged pronominal suffix that can be restored either as a waw ("he") or a he ("she"). The first reading is interested only in the responsibility level of the man, whereas the second addresses the issue for both. I have to say, however, that the first looks more likely to me to be right. The passage flows well if we take it to say that the man is twenty years old and therefore has reached an age of accountability. But I'm not quite sure why his age would be an issue in relation to when his bride has reached the age of accountability.

The second and third passages are in 4Q502, which I have interpreted as a wedding ceremony, following Baillet in DJD 7, but others have taken as a "golden age" ritual (i.e., involving retired persons) or a New Year's rite. For our purposes the overall interpretation does not matter. In two places Baillet found mention of "female elders," women with an official role of elder. I followed him in my commentary, with some reservations. Having continued to think about the passages, I have more reservations still. The Hebrew word for "elder" (ZQN), can mean simply "old man" or it can have an official sense of "elder," entirely according to context. The female form of the word (ZQNH) is only used in the Bible (and, I believe, in the rabbinic literature) to mean "old woman," but at least theoretically it could be used in an official sense as well. Both passages in 4Q502 involve the mention of (masculine plural) ZQNYM followed by the same word, but with the ending broken away. Baillet wanted to fill in the words with the feminine plural (ZQNWT), but the last two letters do not survive on the papyrus.

4Q502 frag. 19.2 probably should be restored as ZQNYM WZQ[NWT], because the word pair appears in a context that lists other male-female pairs (youths and virgins, young men and young women). But the problem is that the context therefore also makes it more likely that the word pair means "old men and old women" rather than "male and female elders." There is no clear reason to give the phrase an official capacity.

4Q502 frag 24.4 does use the words in an official capacity. We are told of an unidentifiable woman (the context is badly broken) that "she stands in a council of ZQNY[M] ZQ[ ..." (The letters of the second word are badly damaged but the readings look reasonably likely. We could restore the last word as ZQ[NWT] and translate as "elder m[en] (and) eld[er women]." But if this is correct, it is odd that there does not seem to be a conjunction waw, "and," between them. Given the broken context, I would not like to rule out the possibility that a full stop was intended after ZQNY[M] and the next word began a new sentence, in which case it too could have been ZQ[NYM], "elder men."

In sum, it is possible that women acted as "elders" in whatever rite 4Q502 described, but this is by no means certain.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Summary of Paul Seminar

The first question we considered was the degree to which the doctrine of justification by faith in the sectarian scrolls was different from Paul's version of the same doctrine. They agree that humanity is fallible and imperfect and therefore that following the Law is not in itself enough. Salvation comes through faith, but faith for Paul has to be in Jesus and Jesus is the center of his whole system of salvation, whereas no messianic figure in the Scrolls (and as we've seen there are a number of such figures) has any connection with justification by faith. The Scrolls do regard the Law as the will of God which must be followed and which is of great worth in and of itself. I am not a specialist in Paul and don't pretend to understand all the nuances and developments of his views, but it seems pretty clear that Paul regarded the Law as a means to the end of showing sinful humanity their sin so that they would be prepared to take the salvation of Christ when it was offered.

We talked briefly about the relationship of Paul's doctrine of predestination in comparison to the Calvinist doctrine, but none of us knew enough about Calvinism to get very far with the discussion. Then we observed that a difference between the Pauline literature and the Scrolls was that the Pauline literature had been the subject of devotion and study for many centuries and so had been systematized into a theology that may have been foreign to the original nature of the letters and that for our purposes acted as a varnish that needs to be stripped from our exegesis of Paul before we can understand him on his own terms. The situation is rather different from the Scrolls, which became available less than 60 years ago and which do not form a canon that provides theology for a particular religious tradition (even though scholars must be vigilant not to let particular theories about their history settle into a varnish over our exegesis).

We also discussed some specific parallels between Paul and the Scrolls. One of the most interesting is the passage on being "unequally yoked" with unbelievers in 2 Cor 6:14-7:1. This has an especially high density of connections with Qumran sectarian theology, including references to Belial ("Beliar"), the community as Temple of God, the sense that believers should separate themselves from a godless environment, light-darkness dualism, etc. It also is widely agreed to be an interpolation or an errant fragment incorporated into 2 Corinthians (which itself is widely regarded as a collection of Pauline fragments) and not actually by Paul. The parallels to Qumran theology are interesting and it is not impossible that the 2 Cor fragment was written, say, by a convert from that group.

We talked also about how to evaluate what the parallels mean, and I took the opportunity again to hawk my online essay on "The Perils of Parallels" (which I have done more work on over the years and which I do mean to pull together into a proper article one day). Some thoughts I applied today from that piece and subsequent research on it include the following. To evaluate parallels one needs to ask what kind they are: verbal parallels (whether technical terminology [e.g., sons of light, new covenant, works of the Law], direct quotations, etc.) or conceptual parallels (e.g., the community as temple), etc. We need categories to evaluate them as well. A parallel may be a borrowing (in which case one needs to ask who borrowed from whom -- often the answer isn't obvious). It is very difficult to prove direct influence of one text upon another. Usually this requires either direct quotations or a substantial pattern of thematic or conceptual parallels (and in both cases, again, one has to establish the direction of borrowing). In general, patterns of parallels are more important than individual parallels. Indirect influence is also possible: each may borrow independently from a third source (as Matthew and Luke borrow independently from Mark). Likewise, parallels may arise independently from things like scriptural exegesis (both Paul and the sectarians may have independently latched onto the "new covenant" of Jeremiah 31:31-34 for their own purposes). Parallels that are overly general (e.g., light-darkness dualism) run the danger of being vacuous. Finally, it is important to take into account both similarities and differences when evaluating parallels. For example, Timothy Lim has shown that the use of "new covenant" by the sectarians is quite different from Paul's use of the same term. For Paul it is a new dispensation with Christ at its core, whereas for the sectarians the new covenant is a renewed version the old one (Lim, "The Qumran Scrolls and Paul in Historical Context," 141-42).

What then is the relationship of Paul to the Qumran sectarian literature? I would not rule out the possibility that he was acquainted with Qumran sectarians (or "Essenes"). He lived at the right time and seems to have spent time in Palestine when he could have encountered them. But by the same token, I do not see compelling evidence that the parallels between them arise from more than a shared cultural matrix of first-century Judaism.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Abstract on Women in the Dead Sea Scrolls

Here is the abstract for the essay for today's seminar on women in the Dead Sea Scrolls:
This paper addresses the issue of women in the Dead Sea Scrolls. It does so by taking a primarily-text based approach, believing that it is mainly though the texts themselves that we will discover the people who wrote and used them. Accordingly, the role played by women in the sect is examined through three texts, the Damascus Document, the Rule of the Congregation (1QSa), and a text depicting a Wedding Ceremony (4Q502). In doing this, conclusions have been drawn about how these relate to one anther and to the wider corpus of texts found at Qumran. This essay also examines the impact that excavation of the cemetery at the Qumran site has had on the topic of women, and how this debate has been changed by recent reanalysis of some of the remains from the site. The inconclusive nature of these excavations is highlighted and questions asked as to what we can really learn from them. Finally, the topic of marriage and celibacy is addressed, and the approach of using other sources questioned.

Lyndsey McLean

Paul Abstract

Here is the abstract for the essay on the Apostle Paul and the Dead Sea Scrolls, the seminar rescheduled for today:
Before the fall of the Jewish Temple in 70 C.E., Judaism was a widespread and diversified religious movement. It is widely accepted that in first century Palestine Judaism was full of sectarian elements, among which were the Essenes, Sadducees and of course, Pharisees. The apostle Paul, who was born around the time of Jesus and died around 65 C.E., helped define Christianity as we know it today. Many of the Dead Sea Scrolls are thought to have been written around the same time as Paul,s letters. This being the case, it is the purpose of this paper to trace the similarities between Paul's writing and theology and that which is espoused in the scrolls. If we accept the Essene hypothesis we can go one step further to venture the possibility that Paul had contact with this sectarian group or if nothing else, was in some way informed by their theology. While there remains no incontrovertible evidence to prove that Paul borrowed ideas or phrases from the scrolls, our analysis will show that the parallels between the two sets of writings are nonetheless striking

Allison Smith

Monday, April 18, 2005

Bar Kokhba-Era Texts Abstract

Here is the abstract for the essay on the Judean Desert texts from the Bar Kokhba era. The focus of the essay is the Babatha archive.
The discovery of Babatha's archive inside the Cave of Letters by Yigael Yadin and his team of explorers in January of 1961 was a major breakthrough in the study of women's lives during the early second century C.E. Babatha, a wealthy Jewish woman living in the Dead Sea town of Mahoza, kept a meticulous set of records concerning her two late husbands, her son, her property, and the three different lawsuits involving her. Arguably the most important document in the cache was her Ketubba, or marriage contract, which details the obligations of the bridegroom to the bride during this time, and also protects the wife against future monetary concerns. The evidence concerning Babatha's daughter-in-law Shelamzion, whose Ketubba as well as a possible divorce document are included within the archive, further details the legal standing of women in this time. Briefly mentioned is Julia Crispina, possibly the last Jewish princess in Israel before the Bar Kokhba revolt, whose role in the Roman court demonstrates a different side of a woman's status in court. The powers of women and their most pressing concerns are what Babatha's archive reveals, and their continued study will vastly aid scholars in understanding the struggles in the daily lives of these women.

Erica Lehneis