Scripture and Interpretation

Reviews of the Enoch Seminar 2015.12.18

Ariel Feldman and Liora Goldman, Scripture and Interpretation: Qumran Texts that Rework the Bible. Edited and introduced by Devorah Dimant. Beihefte zur Zeitschrift für die alttestamentliche Wissenschaft 449. Berlin: de Gruyter, 2014. ISBN 978-3-11-030298-1. Pp. xi + 383. € [D] 99.95 / $140.00. Hardcover.

 Atar Livneh
Ben-Gurion University of the Negev

 This volume presents new editions and commentaries to fourteen scrolls consisting of ten exegetical compositions that form part of the Rewritten Bible / Scripture genre. Its unique contribution lies in the fact that, while this field has been the subject of extensive research over the past fifteen years, few studies have combined new editions with detailed discussions of several fragmentary texts. It thus offers a broad and deep analysis that allows scholars to engage in detail with specific works—some of which have received little scholarly attention to date—within the context of a group of texts. The introduction by Devorah Dimant, who also contributes her own insights throughout the book, complements the study of the individual texts, addressing major issues of Rewritten Bible research in its theoretical and methodological aspects. The book as a whole thus enhances our understanding of this genre and the forms of biblical exegesis it typically employs.

The book is divided into two sections. The first, contributed by Ariel Feldman, treats 1Q19-1Q19bis, 4Q370, 4Q577, 4Q422, 4Q464, 2Q21, 4Q368, 4Q377, and 1Q22. The surviving fragments of the first three compositions refer exclusively to antediluvian events. The Book of Noah, 1Q19-1Q19bis, depicts the giants’ misdeeds and Noah’s birth. Feldman’s detailed comparison with parallel accounts in 1 Enoch 7–9, 106–107 and 1QapGen II–IV illuminates the complex relation between these sources. Although each shares similarities with 1Q19-1Q19bis, they also differ in certain regards. With regard to the account of Noah’s birth, Feldman suggests that 1Q19-1Q19bis reworked an exegetical tradition also developed by other ancient authors, thus neither being dependent upon nor the source of 1 Enoch 106-107 or 1QapGen.

While 1Q19-1Q19bis reflects the way in which biblical texts were expanded via haggadic accounts—primarily attested in Rewritten Bible texts preserved in a relatively more complete form (e.g., 1QapGen and Jubilees)—4Q370 (Admonition on the Flood) demonstrates another typical feature of this literary category in the Qumran scrolls, namely, the placing of literary units belonging to different genres side by side. The narrative of the flood in col. I is thus followed by an admonition in col. II. Feldman convincingly demonstrates that, despite the divergence in literary form, the two columns exhibit linguistic and thematic affinities. This may suggest that the admonition elaborates on the lessons to be learned from the flood story, i.e., the consequences of rebelling against God.

While 4Q577 (Text Mentioning the Flood) consists of small fragments that recount the flood episode, the extant fragments of 4Q422 (Paraphrase of Genesis and Exodus) refer to the creation, flood, and Exodus. Although not surviving in complete form, this composition appears to have addressed a selection of biblical episodes, reworking them in such a way as to emphasize the theme of sin and punishment and portraying God’s punishment as a means for making His glory known. Together, the texts therefore serve a didactic purpose.

As Dimant cautiously suggests, 4Q464 (Exposition on the Patriarchs) may also have “contained a selection of reworked biblical events in the vein of 4Q422” (11). In addition to the selective approach characteristic of the two texts, they also share a concise representation of biblical stories. Feldman’s analysis demonstrates that the surviving fragments of 4Q464 describe incidents relating the patriarchs, especially Abraham, and the Exodus. However, its fragmentary state precludes any determination as to whether this composition also covered antediluvian events or contained an overall didactic massage.

The final four scrolls all rework biblical passages dealing with the period of wandering in the wilderness. The Apocryphon of Moses? (2Q21), of which only two small fragments have been preserved, contains a discourse that refers to Aaron’s sons and a prayer by someone (possibly Moses) seeking God’s forgiveness. Unlike 2Q21, 4Q368 (4QApocryphal Pentateuch) has survived in ten fragments. These include laws, narratives, and discourses and exhibit a variety of exegetical techniques. Fragments 1 and 2 quote extensively from Exod 33–34, especially those places that adduce the parallel injunctions from Deuteronomy, betraying the author’s harmonistic approach. While this reworking remains relatively close to the biblical text, other fragments contain non-biblical expansions; they are nevertheless inspired by biblical language and style.

In contrast to 4Q368, a little-studied scroll, 4Q377 (4QApocryphal Pentateuch B) has been the subject of numerous studies (see the bibliography listed on p. 195). Most interest has been devoted to frag. 2 II, which depicts the Sinai theophany in detail and ascribes several attributes to Moses—“as an angel he spoke from His mouth” (l. 11), for example. Feldman’s analysis evinces that Moses’s unique position was highlighted not only via a reworking of the Sinai account but also by means of a rewriting of Num 12 (frag. 1). He also sheds light on the nature of the work as a whole, indicating that it consists of a set of lists, narratives, and speeches relating to the period of Israel’s sojourn in the desert. While 4Q377 contains diverse admonitions and events that presumably occurred at different (temporal) points during the wanderings, the discourses between God and Moses in 1Q22 (Words of Moses) are dated to “the [fortieth ye]ar after the [children of I]sra[el] lef[t the land of E]gypt, in the [el]eventh mo[nth] on the first day of the [mo]nth” (1Q22 I, 1–2; cf. Deut 1:3). Despite borrowing both its temporal framework and literary structure from Deuteronomy, 1Q22 also provides some specifications that diverge from this biblical text. It appears to treat only a selection of the commandments in Deut 12:1–26:15, demonstrating a preference for laws related to the appointed times and the land, also including legal material from Lev 12 and 25 (see cols. III–IV).

The second section of the book, authored by Liora Goldman, deals with the four copies of the Apocryphon of Moses (4Q375, 4Q376, 1Q29, 4Q408). These scrolls are a prime example of the challenges Qumran scholars face. The overlap between 1Q29 III–IV and 4Q408 II and recurring phrases, some unique to these scrolls (e.g., “tongues of fire”), has prompted some scholars to argue that they constitute copies of a single composition. No agreement exists with regard to the precise relationship between 4Q375 and 4Q376, however. Goldman’s analysis leads her to conclude that 4Q375 and 4Q376 differ in both content and biblical background.

4Q375 focuses on the theme of the true and the false prophet, identifying these on the basis of a harmonistic reworking of Deut 13:1–6 and 18:15–20 (I, 1–5). It then proceeds to describe a juridical procedure and ritual conducted by the high priest in the temple intended to determine their identity. Although this does not derive from the biblical text, it is influenced thematically and stylistically by various passages from Deuteronomy and Leviticus. By contrast, 4Q376 focuses on the theme of permitted war. Here, too, however, the high priest takes center stage, inquiring of God through the Urim and Thummim whether such a war should be undertaken. The reply is received, in the presence of the “assembly,” in a form of “tongues of fire” shining from the onyx stone on the shoulder and the breastpiece stones of the priest’s ephod. The figure of the priest and the inquiry via the Urim and Thummim also recur in frags. 1, 2 of 1Q29, the third copy of the same composition.   

While 1Q29 1 partially parallels 4Q376 II, it possibly specifies a separate juridical case, namely, that of a person who refuses to accept the priest’s authority. Lines 3–4 contain words of a prayer that have been preserved more fully in 4Q408. It praises God as the creator of the luminaries and light, thus being thematically linked to the halakic sections of the work, which repeatedly refer to the Urim and Thummim / tongues of fire. Goldman analyzes the biblical background from which such an association may have arisen (e.g., Zeph 3:5), also pointing to the affinities between the portrayal of the luminaries and light in 4Q408 and writings originating in the Qumran sect. While the precise relation between the Apocryphon of Moses and the sectarian writings remains undetermined, this work clearly constitutes a halakic document that presents the high priest as the supreme juridical authority.

The new edition of these fourteen Qumran scrolls provide a basis for the commentaries, which in turn provide detailed analyses of linguistic issues, biblical background, and nonbiblical parallels. The plethora of data is nevertheless “packed” in a clear and logical manner that makes it easy to follow both the specific information and the arguments based on them. The subsections of the individual chapters and the graphic design allow the reader to easily locate specific information: previous studies of a particular scroll, commentary to a fragment, outline of a manuscript’s content, etc.

The volume thus provides Qumran scholars with a wealth of information that is both detailed and broad-based. The introduction treats important methodological and theoretical issues, the new editions form a significant contribution to Qumran studies, and the commentaries deepen our understanding of the Rewritten Bible genre and its exegetical features. In addition to enhancing the study of these scrolls, the volume also lays the foundations for future study regarding “meta questions” such as a catalogue of techniques typical of Rewritten Bible compositions. This is a worthy collaborative endeavor indeed, from which all Qumran scholars can benefit greatly.

Atar Livneh
pdfRES 2015.12.18 Livneh on Scripture and Interpretation.pdf

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