Journal of Hebrew Scriptures - Volume 10 (2010) - Review
The relationship between the Temple Scroll (TS) and the Pentateuch functions on two levels. At the level of composition, a major portion of TS consists of revised and rearranged pentateuchal texts. On the other hand, at the level of textual authority, TS puts itself into indirect conversation and competition with the Pentateuch by claiming to originatelike a substantial amount of the Pentateuch itselffrom Mt. Sinai. This monograph engages the relationship between TS and the Torah at both of these levels, but takes its starting point from what the author describes as a lacuna in the study of TS's compositional reuse of the Torah. Paganini notes (pp. 12) that the detailed 1995 study by Dwight Swanson, The Temple Scroll and the Bible, lacks an examination of those latter portions of the Scroll that constitute a rewriting or re-presentation of the legal corpus of Deuteronomy. By offering just such an examination, Paganini proposes to shed light not only on the specifics of the reuse of Deuteronomy in TS, but also on the second-level question of how the authors of TS understood their new composition in relation to Deuteronomy and the rest of the Torah. The bulk of the book (pp. 29238) thus consists of a detailed comparison of TS columns 48, 5166 with their parallels in Deuteronomy, followed by a Systematische Fragestellung that considers issues of authorship, purpose, and hermeneutical approach (pp. 239301).
Paganini presents a compelling and generally convincing portrait of TS as a programmatic, deeply conservative blueprint for the reconfiguration of Jewish religious life, beginning from the Temple but proceeding outward to address the whole of society. In the comparison of TS with Deuteronomy, he properly stresses the independence with which the authors of TS used biblical language, feeling free to alter, expand, or leave aside portions of the text as they saw fit. The overall goal was to produce a law expressing the authors' particular vision for society that at the same time attained a level of clarity and coherence exceeding that of the Torah. With regard to the hermeneutical attitude of TS towards the Torah, Paganini argues that TS uses its narrative setting in Moses' second ascent to God on Sinai after the golden calf debacle (Exodus 34), as well as its self-presentation as the direct (first-person) words of God, to position itself as God's own interpretationand thus, the only authoritative interpretationof divine law. In Paganini's opinion, TS goes beyond simply ignoring and pre-empting Moses and the Mosaic exposition of divine law found in Deuteronomy. Instead, he argues, TS explicitly removes Moses from his role as divinely commissioned interpreter and, as a result, denies Deuteronomy's claim to represent the final, authoritative interpretation of divine revelation. The evidence for this last aspect of TS's legal hermeneutic is lacking (see below), but Paganini's stress on TS's self-presentation as an independent, divine revelation that admits no secondary or derivative status and sees itself as the most authoritative Torah is certainly well-placed. Here Paganini builds upon an insight that goes back as far as the work of Yadin, Brin, and Baruch Levine in the late 1970s and early 1980s and has been the focus in recent years of studies by Bernard Levinson, Eckart Otto, and myself. Paganini also makes a valuable contribution to the study of the Scroll in his insightful consideration of possible reasons why TS, though not a product of the Qumran Yaḥad, nonetheless seems to have been highly regarded at Qumran (pp. 27178).
While Paganini's work does fill a gap by providing a thorough, complete study of the use of Deuteronomy in the latter sections of TS (though it should be pointed out that Yadin's analysis in his edition and numerous articles by Schiffman and others have covered some of the same ground), a number of problems arise from his textual analysis. Two can be mentioned here. First, the analysis literally focuses on Deuteronomy, skipping over or treating in less detail the sections in columns 4866 that draw from, say, Leviticus instead of Deuteronomy. This begs the question whether TS deals with other parts of the Pentateuch in the same way as Deuteronomy, and precludes serious consideration of the role played by combination or integration of passages from different parts of the Pentateuch in TS's reworking of Scripture. Furthermore, the focus on Deuteronomy alone leads to undue emphasis on the relationship between TS and Deuteronomy in Paganini's concluding discussion of TS's legal hermeneutics. TS's claim to be direct divine revelation at Sinai does have implications for the status of Deuteronomy, but to my mind the nature of TS is misstated if that claim is understood only in relation to Deuteronomy, without consideration of its implications for the status of the rest of pentateuchal law.
The second problemand this constitutes in my mind the book's greatest weaknessis that Paganini consistently argues that the authors of TS constructed their new composition by directly rewriting a pentateuchal Vorlage that was, for all practical purposes, identical with the Masoretic Text (MT). Paganini is correct to stress the direct relationship between TS and the Pentateuch in this part of the Scroll (as opposed to the popular source-critical understanding whereby the authors of TS did little more than stitch together a series of existing compositions); the issue is what amounts to an argument that the pentateuchal Vorlage that TS rewrites corresponded to MT in all particulars. In the many minor cases where TS agrees with the Septuagint (LXX) and/or the Samaritan Pentateuch (SP) over against MT, Paganini repeatedly dismisses the possibility that these variant readings were already present in the Vorlage of TS, insisting instead that the agreements with LXX and SP much more likely result from parallel exegetical practices (p. 261). That is, he argues that these small variants, which tend to increase the readability or coherence of the biblical text, likely represent changes made independently to an MT-like Vorlage by TS, LXX, and SP; the agreements are therefore coincidental and imply no textual relationship. Given the degree of variation that we know existed in the pentateuchal manuscripts of the Second Temple period, however, there is simply no justification for this position. If, as Paganini correctly implies, the desire to improve the pentateuchal text in minor ways can be detected in numerous biblical (and extrabiblical) manuscripts from the Second Temple period, then both alternatives are equally likely. Of course a given variant may have been introduced by more than one individual independently, but there is no reason to conclude that such a reading could not already have been present in TS's pentateuchal Vorlage. One cannot presume to learn anything about TS's approach to the biblical text from these variants, because one cannot be confident that they in fact originate with TS.
Besides leaving the reader unconvinced of his explanations in some portions of the textual analysis, this issue takes on special importance because Paganini's most original suggestion regarding TS's legal hermeneutics, a proposal already hinted at in the title of the book, depends almost entirely on a variant of this type. According to Paganini, TS deliberately disqualifies Moses from his Deuteronomic position as authoritative, divinely commissioned interpreter of God's law by presenting God as actually forbidding Moses any interpretive role. The argument is based on the statement All the things that I am commanding you today you shall be careful to perform; you shall not add to them or take away from them (TS 54:57). This statement is derived from Deut 13:1, and the full weight of Paganini's theory rests on the fact that TS reads אנוכי מצוכה, I am commanding you (sg.), instead of MT's reading אנכי מצוה אתכם, I am commanding you (pl.). The change from a plural to a singular suffix, Paganini argues, indicates that God does not mean that the people as a whole should refrain from altering his statutes, but that Moses, individually, is prohibited from adding to or subtracting from divine lawwhich is, of course, exactly what Moses does through his explication of the law in Deuteronomy (p. 208). The textual evidence, however, instills little confidence that TS in fact deliberately altered the plural suffix. SP and most manuscripts of LXX, as well as the Syriac and the Vulgate, share TS's reading of מצוך with the singular suffix (a change most likely prompted by the 2ms verbs later in the verse). While it is possible that the authors of TS could have made this change deliberately and polemically, the fact that the singular reading occurs in so many different manuscript traditions strongly suggests the possibility that this was simply the reading in TS's pentateuchal Vorlage. I do not see any way of defending the position that a deliberate change is more probable. Paganini interprets the command to Moses that he must not change anything of what God says as the key to a proper understanding of the legal hermeneutic of TS, but his argument cannot be compelling when it is based on such a tenuous interpretation of the evidence. It is surely true that Moses is sidelined in TS in favour of God's own authoritative voice, and that TS seeks to displace in terms of ultimate authority the Deuteronomic law it rewrites, as others have pointed out. The interpretation of these particular lines in TS as conveying a more thoroughgoing and polemical rejection of Moses as authoritative interpreter, however, cannot be sustained.
Although I cannot accept its most daring and original proposal, this book constitutes a welcome call for further attention to the hermeneutics of the relationship between TS and the Pentateuch as the key to a proper understanding of the Scroll. Despite its limitations, it raises many important questions and contains much that will stimulate future research.