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The SNTS Seminar on Early Jewish Writings and the New Testament took as its subject for 1986 and 1987 the Testament of Job (hereafter T. Job). This testament is one of the less familiar writings among the pseudepigrapha, but deserves – for reasons indicated below – to be more widely known. Since the five papers read at the two meetings cover between them several of the most important issues that arise in the study of T. Job it seemed desirable to the conveners of the Seminar (Knibb and Van der Horst) that they should be published as a group rather than scattered amongst different journals. The volume will, it is hoped, provide a comprehensive introduction to the study of this writing and serve to make it more accessible to scholars. Matters of a bibliographical, text-critical, literary-critical, exegetical and theological nature are all discussed in this volume, and the contributors include the two scholars who have most recently produced translations of and commentaries on this work.
During the sessions of the Seminar it became increasingly clear that T. Job sheds light on several aspects of ancient Judaism and early Christianity. In the first place, it is a fascinating example of early post-biblical haggada which deserves to be studied closely for its haggadic procedures and as such invites comparison with other writings of a similar midrashic nature.
Bringing together as it does papers delivered at the 1986 and 1987 meetings of the Studiorum Novi Testamenti Societas Pseudepigrapha Seminar, this collection takes as its theme the Testament of Job. For much of the modern period the Testament of Job has been one of the lesser-known pseudepigraphic products of early Judaism, and this book attempts to remedy the deficiency of scholarly material in the area with a well-balanced treatment of its central concerns. Approximately the length of the New Testament book of Romans, the Testament celebrates the virtue of patience through a folkloristic elaboration of the Biblical story of Job. Yet the Testament adopts from the Biblical story scarcely more than the framework, much of it highlighting themes unusual in both early Christian and early Jewish writings. From the viewpoint of the history of religions it is of interest for its image of Satan, its ecstaticism and its emphasis on magic; it sheds light on the Jewish background of the early Christian phenomenon of glossolalia; and it is intriguing because of the remarkable role it assigns to women. The contributors to this volume are all distinguished scholars, and they provide an accessible introduction to this relatively neglected ancient document.
The Genesis Apocryphon, as we have just seen, represents a reworking of material in Genesis and forms one of a number of writings from Qumran of various kinds in which biblical material has been reworked. By contrast the Prayer of Nabonidus (4QPrNab) represents an older form of a tradition preserved in the Bible, namely the story of Nebuchadnezzar's madness (Dan. 4). The Prayer therefore is not strictly speaking ‘exegetical’, but it is included here because of its close relationship to Dan. 4.
The story of Nebuchadnezzar's madness forms part of the cycle of traditions associated with the figure of Daniel. This cycle includes not only the biblical book that bears his name, but also the stories in the Apocrypha of Daniel and Susanna, and Daniel, Bel, and the Snake. To this cycle have now to be added the fragments of three different writings in Aramaic that were found in Qumran Cave 4: (1) an apocalyptic work in which Daniel speaks before the king and his courtiers and gives an account of the history of the world from the flood onwards (4QPsDan ara–c); (2) a second apocalyptic work which is unclear in many respects, but is of interest because of its use of the terms ‘Son of God’ and ‘Son of the Most High’ (4QPsDan Aa (= 4Q243)); (3) the Prayer of Nabonidus. The Jewish hero of the Prayer is not in fact named in the fragments of this work that have survived, and it is by no means certain that he was named; but there is no question that this writing is related to the narrative of Dan. 4.
A florilegium is a ‘(collection) of selected passages from the writings of previous authors’, or in other words an anthology, and inasmuch as the work known as 4QFlorilegium provides not only a collection of texts, but also commentary on them, the title is not entirely accurate. In fact the work is best seen as a kind of loosely structured commentary (pēšer) of the kind known from Qumran. Obvious affinities can be seen with the commentaries, such as those on Nahum, Habakkuk and Psalms, but it differs from these in a number of respects: it is not concerned with a single biblical book, or even parts of a single book, but with a selection of texts from different writings; it lacks the consistent use of a series of stereotyped formulas to introduce the commentary; passages from other parts of the Old Testament are frequently used in the course of the commentary sections. This work has also been called ‘A Midrash on the Last Days’. This title is appropriate inasmuch as the work is very much concerned with ‘the end of days’ (see below), and inasmuch as the exegetical methods used within it are comparable to those of the later rabbinic midrashim (for the midrashim, see above, pp. 184–5). The word ‘midrash’ actually occurs in the text (line 14, here translated ‘explanation’), but it would be misleading to think of 4QFlorilegium as if it were a midrash of the type familiar from the later rabbinic literature.
The Community Rule (1QS) was one of the first of the Qumran scrolls to be found and remains one of the most important. It provides a set of regulations to govern the life of a community living an independent existence and is most naturally interpreted as being intended for those members of the wider Essene movement who lived at Qumran. But it contains more than a series of rules; two obvious exceptions are the section on the two spirits, which represents an important statement of the community's beliefs, and the hymnic material with which the document ends (the latter is not translated here).
The existence of a series of headings throughout the Rule, together with the fact that the manuscript itself has been divided into paragraphs by marginal signs and by blank lines and spaces, serves to divide the document into a number of separate sections. The major divisions are as follows: statement of the aims of the community, i.1–15; entry into the community, i.16–iii.12; the teaching of the community, iii.13–iv.26; the common life, v.1–vii.25; programme for a new community, viii.1–ix.26a; a liturgical calendar and concluding hymn, ix.26b–xi.22. It is difficult to believe that these sections all belonged together originally, and indeed it seems clear not only that the Rule as a whole is a composite document, but also that the major sections listed above are in some cases composed of smaller units which were originally independent.
The largest group of exegetical writings discovered at Qumran consists of the biblical commentaries. These writings are linked together by a common literary form: a biblical book (most often a prophetic book) is quoted section by section, and each portion of text is followed by an interpretation. The pieces of interpretation are introduced by a number of stereotyped formulas in which the word pēšer (‘interpretation’) is used, and from this usage the commentaries are often referred to by the Hebrew word pešārîm, the plural form of the word pēšer. The pieces of interpretation were intended to make the biblical text refer to the history and circumstances of the Qumran community, within which the commentaries were composed. This was done on the basis that the prophetic books were understood to contain only a partial revelation. In an important passage in the Commentary on Habakkuk (1QpHab vii.1–5a) the words of the prophets are described as ‘mysteries’ (Hebrew rāzîm), whose full meaning was only disclosed to the teacher of righteousness.
Fragments of fifteen writings that can clearly be regarded as belonging to this literary genre are in existence. Twelve of these are commentaries on prophetic books (five on Isaiah, two each on Hosea and Zephaniah, one each on Micah, Nahum, and Habakkuk), while the remaining three are commentaries on the book of Psalms. Three of the most important of these commentaries – on Nahum, on Habakkuk, and the Commentary on Psalms known as 4QpPsa – are given here.
The Rule of the Congregation (1QSa) is so called because of the frequency with which it refers to the group with which it is concerned as ‘the congregation’ (contrast the single reference to ‘the congregation of holiness’ in the Community Rule (1QS v.20b)). It is concerned with the education and career of the members of the congregation and with the administration of certain aspects of its life. As such the Rule of the Congregation may be compared with the Community Rule and the Damascus Document. But whereas these two latter documents reflect the actual life of the Essene movement in the various different forms which it assumed, the Rule of the Congregation is said to be for ‘the end of days’ (1.1). It is, that is to say, concerned with the life of the community in the new age, the messianic age, and indeed a major concern of this document is with the positions to be occupied by the priest-messiah and the messiah of Israel in the messianic age; for this reason this documents is also known as the Messianic Rule. Because of its future concerns the Rule of the Congregation may be seen to have close affinities with the War Scroll (1QM, not translated here), which lays down the rules of conduct and the tactics to be followed in the last great battle against the forces of evil.
The crucial importance of the Hebrew Bible within the Qumran community can hardly be overstated. Manuscripts of the books of the Old Testament form a major part of the manuscripts found at Qumran. Study and observance of the law represented one of the basic aims of the community, as we have noticed several times. The sectarian writings, such as the Damascus Document or the Community Rule, were profoundly influenced by the Hebrew Bible and quote from it, or allude to it, in practically every line of text. In these circumstances it is perhaps hardly surprising that the Qumran writings should include a number of works that may be described as exegetical. These vary considerably in character. Some represent a reworking or elaboration of biblical material, as for example the Words of Moses (1Q22, also known as 1QDM), a farewell speech inspired by various passages in Deuteronomy, or the New Jerusalem (found in several fragmentary manuscripts, particularly 5Q15 (5QJN ar)), a description in Aramaic of the Jerusalem of the eschatological period that draws its inspiration from Ezek. 40–8. One of the most important writings of this kind is the work in Aramaic known as the Genesis Apocryphon, a reworking of material in the book of Genesis.
The Genesis Apocryphon (1QapGen) is one of the seven major manuscripts that were found in Qumran Cave 1 in 1947 and was thus one of the first of the scrolls to be discovered.
The document known as 4QTestimonia, presented here as a final example of Qumran exegetical literature, consists of a single piece of leather containing one column of text; the work has been preserved almost in its entirety, with only the loss of the beginning of lines 25–9 (the one word in line 30 was written at the end of the line). The contents of this work are divided clearly into four paragraphs. The first three consist of quotations from the Pentateuch which were obviously intended as prophecies of the coming of a prophet, of a royal messiah, and (implicitly) of a priestly messiah. The fourth paragraph is a quotation from a sectarian work known as the Psalms of Joshua. This passage takes the form of an explanation of Josh. 6:26 in terms of contemporary events and refers, amongst other things, to two men, apparently brothers, who rebuilt Jerusalem, committed profanity and blasphemy, and shed much blood. The manuscript dates from the first quarter of the first century bc. The Psalms of Joshua, since they are quoted in the manuscript, must be older than this (i.e. from fairly early in the history of the community), and 4QTestimonia itself could be older.
The title given to this document, Testimonia, reflects the fact that a large part of it consists of a collection of ‘testimonies’ or messianic proof-texts. The same is true of another title given to it, ‘A Messianic Anthology’.