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Grand Rapids-Cambridge: Eerdmans 2011. XIII, 390 S. gr.8° = Eerdmans Commentaries on the Dead Sea Scrolls. Kart. US$ 36,00. ISBN 978-0-8028-4384-5.
Daniel J. Harrington
This treatment of the Qumran wisdom texts is part of a projected sixteen-volume series edited by Martin A. Abegg and Peter W. Flint. The focus is on specific texts, their translation, and interpretation. The goal seems to be to move forward from the editions published in the Discoveries in the Judaean Desert (DJD) series in light of the availability of the whole Qumran corpus and of continuing re-search over many years.
In his 35-page general introduction to Qumran wisdom literature and its context, John Kampen, now professor of biblical interpretation at Methodist Theological School in Ohio and author of The Hasideans and the Origin of Pharisaism (1989), surveys the corpus of biblical wisdom literature, describes the wisdom texts from Qumran, shows how they blend wisdom and apocalyptic, notes that most of these compositions are not sectarian, and draws attention to their possible links with Matthew’s Gospel and other New Testament texts. Then for the individual works (all in Hebrew) he provides introductions, bibliographies, translations, notes, and commentaries for Instruction (1Q26, 4Q415–418, 423), Mysteries (1Q27, 4Q299–300, 301?), Evil Seductress (4Q184), Wisdom Composition (4Q185), CryptA Words of the Maskil to All Sons of Dawn (4Q298), Sapiential-Didactic Work A (4Q412), Ways of Righteousness (4Q420–421), Instruction-like Composition B (4Q424), Beatitudes (4Q525), and Wisdom of Ben Sira.
These wisdom texts constitute a substantial part of the Qumran library. There are many parallels to them in what are considered as such core »sectarian« texts as the Rule of Community and Thanks-giving Hymns. However, K. (correctly) regards most of them as, if not sectarian, certainly influential in the formation of the sect’s theological vocabulary and conceptuality.
A very large part of this book (36–190) is devoted to the massive but fragmentary and often obscure work here entitled »Instruction« (formerly known as »4QInstruction« and previously as »Sapiential Work A«). What is unique about this work is that it addresses not elite young men with a bright future (as in the »Wisdom of Ben Sira«) but rather (according to K., 59) »framers, craftsmen, women, slaves, and persons burdened with debt and usury«. Here the sage giving the instructions provides advice to such persons about the nature of true wisdom (»the mystery of existence«) and how to navigate their way through life without the advantages of wealth and high social status. For New Testament studies, the work is especially important because of its integration of wisdom and apocalyptic.
I worked for many years with my mentor and friend John Strugnell (1930–2008) on the edition of Instruction that appeared in 1999 in DJD 34. In his translations, notes, and comments K. has made good use not only of our work but also of the many dissertations, monographs, and articles that have appeared subsequently. Whereas we adopted the somewhat archaic »King James« English in our translation, he offers a clear and contemporary American English version. In his notes on the text he has diligently compared our work with the suggestions made by Eibert Tigchelaar and others, and in his commentaries he has profited from the more up-to-date concordances of Qumran texts and focused on trying to clarify the work’s distinctive vocabulary. However, I find his rendering of the key term rz nhyh as »the mystery of existence« to be too abstract and not sufficiently expressive of the eschatological dimension of the concept. Nor am I happy with »man of discernment« for mbyn. Also the garbled printing (on p. 71) of the key Hebrew phrase for »the vessel of your bosom« (kly hqkyh) needs correction in light of its importance for the debate about interpreting 1Thess 4,4.
In treating other texts, K. views Mysteries as close to Instruction in vocabulary, structure, and content, as well as even more emphatic in its dualism and its integration of wisdom and apocalyptic. He regards the poem about the Evil Seductress (formerly known as Wiles of the Wicked Woman) as especially inspired by the portrait of Lady Folly in Proverbs 7. While noting that the word »wisdom« does not appear in 4Q185, he contends that the obvious referent in the exhortation known generically as Wisdom Composition is Wisdom personified, and that it tries to make the case for equating wisdom and the Torah.
In some instances K. suggests that a text may be both sapiential and sectarian. He describes CryptA Words of the Maskil to All the Sons of Dawn as an example of a sectarian composition solidly rooted in general wisdom teaching. It may have served for use by the sage (the maskil, who was perhaps the community’s spiritual director) to invite (potential?) novices (»sons of dawn«) about joining the community. Thus the esoteric script would prevent it from being used by anyone except the sage. He regards the close links in vocabulary between Hodayot and Sapiential-Didactic Work A as indicating a sectarian provenance for what may have been part of a wisdom composition. Likewise, he considers Ways of Righteousness as combining wisdom sayings with sectarian organization and legislation relating to the temple. In its wisdom sections it provides another example of the »two ways« tradition best known in Di-dache 1–6 and glimpsed in various New Testament texts (Mt 7,13–14; Gal 5,16–26; Jas 3,13–4:10).
The Instruction-Like Composition B lists persons to be avoided and persons to be cultivated if one wishes to live in the pursuit of knowledge and wisdom. The work known as Beatitudes is noteworthy not only for its series of macarisms (see Mt 5,3–12 and Lk 6,20–23) but also for its personification of Wisdom, its equation of Wisdom and Torah, and its mixture of sapiential and apocalyptic elements. Also discussed are the fragments of Sirach in 2Q18 (1,19–20; 6,14–15.20–31) and in the scroll designated Mas1h (Sir) from Masada (39,27–43,30).
Throughout this volume K. generally follows the broad »consensus« views about the Qumran scrolls that, despite having been attacked many times over the years, still provide the presuppositions and general framework for most scholars in the field today. He also takes seriously the views of those who have worked most closely on the Qumran wisdom texts regarding their content, dating, historical setting, literary character, and textual tradition. And he has diligently applied himself to restudying the texts, finding more ancient parallels, and working through the modern scholarship on them. The result is a useful and balanced presentation of the material, and a solid contribution to further research on these often frustrating texts.
Since the volume does not contain the Hebrew texts, it would be advisable to use it (and presumably the other volumes in the series) alongside the six-volume Dead Sea Scrolls Reader, edited by Donald W. Parry and Emanuel Tov (Leiden: Brill 2004), which provides on facing pages the DJD texts and translations. There are short bibliographies at the end of the general introduction and at the ends of the introductions to the individual works, and the author has managed to include most of the relevant secondary literature in his many footnotes. But a comprehensive general bibliography would have further facilitated the use of this fine book.