Journal of Hebrew Scriptures - Volume 10 (2010) - Review

Puech, Émile, Qumran Grotte 4 XXVII: Textes Araméens Deuxieme Partie (DJD, XXXVII; Oxford: Clarendon, 2009). Pp. xxvi + 561 + Plates. Hardcover. US$220.00. ISBN 978-0-19-955004-3.

This much-anticipated volume represents the culmination of decades of work on the Aramaic Dead Sea Scrolls by Émile Puech. Scholars now have access to the final batch of Aramaic texts to be published in DJD, some of which have not been made available previously or were published only in preliminary form by J. T. Milik.  Puech presents the reader with approximately 40 manuscripts representing up to 35 compositions, though, as those familiar with the Scrolls already know, many of these are very fragmentary and resist easy categorization or description.  Each manuscript is given its own introduction - typically with a physical description and treatment of manuscript issues, overview of contents and connections with other texts, and discussion of date, palaeography, orthography, and language – after which the fragments are presented, in order, with each followed by notes on difficult readings (i.e., epigraphic concerns), a French translation, and line-by-line commentary.  A good reason for consulting this series is its inclusion of all smaller fragments associated with each manuscript, something usually left out of popular editions and translations of the Scrolls.  With the majority of scholars, Puech understands all of these texts to derive from outside the Essene sect living at Qumran and hence to be “préqumranienne” in composition, though copies were likely made at Qumran.

The first text, “550. 4QJuifs à la cour perse ar,” had been referred to earlier by J. T. Milik as an Aramaic source (or “modèle”) for the book of Esther (4Qproto-Esther), causing considerable excitement given the lack of canonical Esther among the Judean Desert finds.  This is a fascinating text, strongly resembling certain Mesopotamian Jewish court tales such as those in Esther, Daniel, and Ezra-Nehemiah, but Puech correctly steers away from any direct correlation with Esther.  Instead, what we seem to have here is an independent and previously unknown tale of court intrigues and Jewish success set in the reign of King Darius and employing a cast of previously unknown characters with Persian names, such as Patireza, Bagasarava, and Bagoshi.  Of further interest is the prominence of “books,” “scribes,” and associated court affairs, which has been a matter of notable interest in recent scholarship on the Bible and cognate disciplines.  While the manuscript is dated by Puech to the mid-1st century BCE, he contends that its composition must have been much earlier (between the reign of Xerxes and the late 3rd century BCE).  Even if 4Q550 is not related directly to Esther, its importance for comparative study with canonical texts of its ilk is significant. 

Milik originally suggested that the next text, “551. 4QRécit ar,” preserves an account parallel to the Greek Daniel and Susanna, though again Puech rightly judges that this proposal outstrips the meagre evidence at hand.  The broken narrative contains a partial genealogy (Yehonatan, Yeshua, and Ishmael), but Puech, rightly in my opinion, dismisses Beyer's claim that it also names the toponym Gibea (frg. 1:1).  Based on isolated mentions of congregating and speaking, we can see again that this is a previously unknown Jewish story written in Aramaic, perhaps even a rewritten scriptural account.  The script is dated to around 50 BCE.

“552-553-553a. 4QLes quatre Royaumesa-c” gathers three manuscripts that Puech suggests are copies of a single composition recounting, through apocalyptically-charged tree symbolism, a succession of four kingdoms.  The first two are Babylonia/Persia and Media, and the third is likely Greece (though the name is not preserved).  Although the fourth kingdom is not mentioned in the extant fragments, Puech argues that it belongs to the Most High God (cf. Dan 2).  The narrative setting is that of a vision related by an angel to an individual (Puech proposes Daniel, which seems to me mere speculation) in which the seer and trees carry on a conversation.  This work has striking affinities to a number of biblical texts (Dan 2, 4, 7; Ezek 31; and Judg 9), and it is also noteworthy that 4Q553 1 i mentions Moses, especially given his relative absence from most of the Aramaic corpus.  Puech dates the composition to between the end of the 4th and beginning of the 2nd centuries BCE, though the manuscripts are dated to the 1st century BCE.  While 4Q552 and 4Q553 contain an overlapping section, and are thus securely copies of the same work, 4Q553a (which is distinguished by Puech from 4Q553 on material grounds) has no overlap, and thus its connection with the “Four Kingdoms” composition is not assured.

The relatively well-attested New Jerusalem composition (also found in Caves 1, 2, 5, and 11) is represented from Cave 4 by “554-554a-555. 4QJérusalem Nouvellea-c ar.”  Puech provides a helpful introduction to the composition as a whole, which he dates to the Hellenistic period (probably 2nd century BCE; these copies are dated to various parts of the 1st century BCE).  The Cave 4 fragments represent different portions of New Jerusalem: 4Q554 1-10 and 554a recount an elaborate description of the future (eschatological) city of Jerusalem akin to those found in Ezek 40-48 and Rev 21 (cf. also Num 2 and 11QTemple 39-41); 4Q555, though very fragmentary, records an account of the Temple and aspects of its service presumably placed at the climax of the city's description: and 4Q554 13-14 contain an eschatological (p)review of history in terms of successive kings and kingdoms à la Dan 2, the Four Kingdoms text, and other Persian and Hellenistic era apocalyptic works.  From other copies we know that this text is presented as an apocalyptic vision given to a seer whose name is no longer extant (though Tigchelaar suggests Jacob as a possibility), making even more prominent the clear affinities New Jerusalem has with Ezekiel and Revelation.  This is clearly an important text for Jewish apocalyptic thought and opinions concerning the Temple during the Hellenistic period.

“556-556a. 4QProphétiea-b ar” are two manuscripts that Puech suggests may be copies of the same work, though this strikes me as very tenuous.  Both are previously unknown, mention prophets, and are concerned with historical places and events such as Sinai and multiple kingdoms.  Puech proposes that these works may be dependent on Daniel, especially chapters 7-11.  Whether this is the case or not, these works do fit into a broader tradition attested by a surprising number of texts in this volume, and in the Aramaic Scrolls more generally, where apocalyptic or visionary reviews and/or previews of history figure prominently.  In this respect, these two manuscripts do deserve study as new representatives of the sort of account present in the latter part of Daniel and other previously known apocalyptic works.

A fragmentary but interesting text naming the angel Gabriel and again seeming to recount a visionary, historical description is found in “557. 4QVisiona ar.”  The voice of the speaker is in the first person plural (“the words of our mouth” [1:4]) and we have mention of topics like impurity, favour, distress, and the sword.  Though it is difficult to tell what is going on in these two fragments, they appear to deal with supplication and interaction with the heavenly realm.  Puech raises possible connections with 1 Enoch.

I found “558. 4QpapVisionb ar” to be one of the most fascinating texts in this volume.  Written on papyrus (all the documents discussed thus far have been on leather) in a distinctive, semi-cursive hand dated by Puech to the 1st century BCE, this work draws together a number of biblical elements into what must have been an unusual mélange.  Now frustratingly incomplete, the scroll appears to be narrated in the first person (or at least some characters are quoted as such) with angels and symbols (especially trees, but also some animals), giving the impression that we have here an apocalyptic/visionary account as in so many of the Aramaic Scrolls.  However, alongside of this we find multiple references to people and places from Israelite history, such as Horeb, Egypt, Aram, Uzziah, Elijah, and Elisha.  The reference to Elijah being sent forth (quoting Mal 3:23) following mention of an “elect one” (frg. 51) makes clear that the scroll had an eschatological orientation with messianic interests.  In addition, there are clear moral judgments of various events or figures made throughout the account (e.g., the naming of evil or sinful parties).  The combination of historical (p)review set within an apocalyptic vision, or perhaps juxtaposed to it, again reminds us of Daniel and other of the Aramaic Scrolls in a broad sense, but the specific combination attested here seems to match something more like Revelation or 4 Ezra.  Puech has isolated seven inconsequential fragments originally allotted to 4Q558 that do not seem to belong with that manuscript (nor do they all necessarily belong with one another): these he has grouped under the enticing title “558a. 4QpapNon-identifié ar.”

“559. 4QpapChronologie biblique ar” is extremely interesting not as much for its content as its format.  From what little we possess this seems to be a boiled-down chronological text: what could almost be described as a list.  One of the most legible bits (frg. 4) chronicles some of the book of Judges as follows: “35 [years] in Gilgal, [5] y[ears in Shiloh,] 4 years [in Shechem], and from the deat[h of Eleazar and Joshua ]Cush Reshataim King of[ Aram Naharaim], 8 years.  Othniel so[n of Kenaz, 40 year]s, Eglon King of Moab, [18] yea[rs, Eh]ud son of Gera 80 years, Sham[gar son of Anat…].”  Here, it seems, we may have a rare glimpse behind chronologically-attuned texts like Jubilees and other Jewish and Christian Pseudepigrapha, which would later influence Syriac and Byzantine chronographers.  A number of “resource texts” like these have been found among the Scrolls and provoke questions like: How were these texts used?  Why were they developed, and by whom?  This will surely be a fruitful area for future research.  Puech includes extensive comments on many of the lines, providing references to pertinent ancient texts that make use of chronological data such as we find in these fragments.

“560. 4QLivret magique ar” and “561. 4QHoroscope ar” are two texts of quite different sorts from those surveyed thus far.  4Q560 (titled by some “4QExorcism ar”) is an early 1st century BCE manuscript that belongs to a broader genre of mantic texts composed in Aramaic, Mandean, and Syriac dealing with the knowledge and manipulation of demons or spirits.  This is, in fact, a broader area of concern and interest for other Aramaic compositions from around this time (e.g., Tobit, the Prayer of Nabonidus, and the Genesis Apocryphon), and for other Jewish works such as Jubilees and the editorial portion of 11QPsalmsa (cf. also the Gospels).  However, whereas these works may tend to draw on the concept of spirit possession and associated mantic arts, 4Q560 appears to be an apotropaic, or exorcistic, manual in the vein of later magical incantation bowls.  Here we may have a rare, Second Temple period glimpse behind the stylized narrative scene of stories like Abram's expectoration of the demon from Pharaoh in 1QapGen 20.  4Q561 is yet another sort of text, this time attesting, according to Puech, to interest in horoscopic, physiognomic, and astrological matters.  This early to mid-1st century group of 8 parchment fragments contains a partial description of physical features of individuals, listed from the head downwards (cf. the description of Sarai in 1QapGen 20), perhaps corresponding to different “houses,” or zodiacal signs.  Hence, in frg. 1 we read, “his eyes are between clear and dark, his nose long and beautiful, and his teeth even, and his beard e[ven] and fine…”  In a recent monograph Mladen Popović has helpfully situated this and the similar 4Q186 within the very lively world of Greco-Roman and Mesopotamian horoscopy and physiognomy during this period.[1] The presence of this text and 4Q186 at Qumran is striking, and speaks to at least some Jewish interest in, and exposure to, these topics.  According to Puech, 4Q561 also “est un témoin important de ce genre littéraire dans la culture juive ancienne, bien antérieur à celui des zodiaques bien connus dans les mosaïques des synagogues palestiniennes…” (p. 305).  It should be noted, however, that Popović has contended “[t]here are no clear and indisputable references to zodiacal signs or other astrological notions.  There is no reason whatsoever to suggest the genre horoscope for this text.  The fragments represent the remains of a physiognomic catalogue that lists bodily descriptions of different types of people.”[2]

From this point in the book we begin to find a number of smaller, more poorly preserved texts, often represented by one or two fragments only, though this is interrupted occasionally by a more well-preserved work.  “562. 4QTexte non-identifié A ar” is a narrative in the first person plural mentioning priests, an unnamed prophet, a burial place, Israel, and the toponym Susan.  “563. 4QÉcrit de sagesse ar” is frustratingly fragmentary, but the 3 fragments do suggest that it represents a late 2nd century BCE Aramaic wisdom text akin to the wisdom discourses of Tobit or the patriarchs in the testamentary literature.  “564. 4QTexte non-identifié B ar” contains little intelligible text apart from the suggestive phrase “and we are demons” (1 ii 2; perhaps part of the Enochic/Book of Giants traditions?), while “565. 4QVisionc ? ar” mentions that “] righteousness will be destroyed from[” (1:5).  “566. 4QProphétiec ar” and “567.4QTexte non-identifié C ar” are difficult to contextualize, though the latter may contain the phrase “al]l the evildoers of huma[nity” (1:2).  One relatively full line is preserved in “568. 4QProphétied ar” telling of an individual who “will go and busy himself, and will say, ‘I will go to the ends of the earth, and the Most High[…’.”  Slightly more is preserved on the 4 fragments of “569. 4QProverbes ar,” which appears to be some sort of wisdom instruction (e.g., “You shall not debase yourself…”).  Though “570. 4QTexte non-identifié D ar” is comprised of 46 fragments, we are only able to say from the mention of words like “king,” “rule,” and the names of various countries that it may have been a visionary or prophetic historical work along the lines of the Four Kingdoms text (4Q552-553a) or 4Q558.  A notable Aramaic trait of this text is its repeated use of final mems for suffix endings, which attests to either the earlier Aramaic form (cf. parts of Ezra and the Elephantine Papyri) or Hebrew interference.  The single fragment of “571. 4QParoles de Michela ar” represents a second copy of a text that begins, “The words of the book which Michael told to the angels…” (cf. 4Q529 1:1).[3]  Here again we find the kind of visionary, apocalyptically-charged text, pseudepigraphically attributed to a biblical character (this time angelic), that we have come to expect of the Aramaic Scrolls.  One interesting feature of this fragment is that the large blank area of parchment to the right of the inscribed column clearly indicates the beginning of the manuscript.  This is also one of the few manuscripts dated by Puech to the 2nd century BCE.  4Q572-575a preserve only isolated words and partial phrases on small fragments, though some of these are enticing: “the king from [the] furnace” (4Q572), “to the gates of heaven, revealing…” (4Q574), “…to a pit.  I was envisioning…” (4Q575).  4Q580-582 are all titled “Testament” by Puech.  The first has 14 fragments and gives no sure indication that it is, in fact, a testament.  Still, it does include a mention of “my son” (frg. 8) and several of a “chosen/beloved one,” in addition to the common themes of knowledge, righteousness, darkness, and walking on paths.  The second seems to be a historical preview of interaction between an individual and a group of others, though at one point (1:9) the narrative may switch to the second-person address, indicating the first-person narration common in revelatory accounts.  The third is poorly preserved, but mentions “knowledge” (twice) and “my lord.”  “583. 4QProphétiee ar” consists of only a few partial lines, but they are very interesting nonetheless.  The first line's “See, from the north comes the evil…” is close to a translation of Jer 1:14 (cf. Jer 4:6 and 6:1), line 2 mentions the “structure of Zion, and in it all the afflicted ones of [the] people will hide themselves,” and line 4 lists “Media, Persia, and Assyria.”  A mixed collection of stray fragments are grouped under the headings “584a-x. 4QFragments non-identifiés A ar,” “585a-z. 4QFragments non-identifiés B ar,” and “586a-n. 4QFragments non-identifiés C ar.”  Many of these do not warrant discussion here, but I do recommend a glance at some of the more intriguing specimens (4Q584 e, i, l; 4Q586 c, g, and n).  “587. 4QTestamentd ar” places together two previously estranged fragments owned by the Norwegian private collector Martin Schøyen (frg. 1 was previously published in DJD 36).  There is little to warrant the title “Testament” (other than that it is more exciting than “non-identifié”), though like so many of these Aramaic texts 4Q587 it is addressed to “you,” speaking about what “they” will do in the future.

The book concludes with 6 short appendices on small fragments that Puech places with previously published Aramaic texts.  The first is frg. 14 of “203. 4QGéantsa ar” (i.e., the Book of Giants), which speaks of a warrior/man, and perhaps names the Watcher Shemihazah.  There are also very small bits added to “206. 4QHene ar” (= 1 En. 90:18-19?), “529. Paroles de Michel ar,” “531. 4QLivres des Géantsc ar,” and “541. 4QApocryphe de Lévib? ar.”  The most substantial appendix is a new fragment of “213a. 4QLévia ar,” which Puech attaches to Stone and Greenfield's frgs 3-4 (cf. DJD 22).  Though it contains only 7 partial words, this fragment does fill in a bit of this important text at a spot that has no correspondence in other Levi material.

A volume with the level of detail provided in DJD 37 stubbornly resists the sort of simplistic review necessary here, but two general statements may be made regarding Puech's work.  First, his epigraphic and philological analysis is characteristically sound.  In my random soundings of readings in comparison with the photographs I found nothing major to dispute.  Second, Puech's reconstructions are (again characteristically) often very speculative and should be handled with due caution.  Good examples of this are 4Q559 and 4Q569, where his extensive reconstructions may give the uninitiated an impression that we have much more to work with than we actually do.  One does find the occasional missing bracket, etc., but these occurrences are kept to a minimum.  A concordance incorporating all texts in the volume is included near the back, preceding the photographic plates.  To summarize, this volume offers a fascinating collection of Israelite texts and thought, establishing a reliable foundation for asking exciting new questions about the literature and society of Persian and Hellenistic period Israel.  There is much synthetic work now to be done.  This volume will be of great interest not only to those working with the Dead Sea Scrolls specifically, but more generally to those attracted to the literature and history of Persian and Second Temple period Judaism, biblical studies, and Aramaic studies.  Puech is to be most heartily congratulated and thanked for another important contribution to our unfolding knowledge of the Dead Sea Scrolls and the times, places, and people they represent.

Daniel Machiela, McMaster University

[1] M. Popović, Reading the Human Body: Physiognomics and Astrology in the Dead Sea Scrolls and Hellenistic-Early Roman Period Judaism (STDJ 67; Leiden: Brill, 2007). reference

[2] Popović, Reading, 55. reference

[3] In Puech's first major volume of Aramaic manuscripts, Qumrân Grotte 4. XXII. Textes araméens. Première partie (4Q529-4Q549) (DJD XXXI; Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2001), 1-8. reference