Review of M.T. Davis and B.A. Strawn, Qumran Studies

Journal of Hebrew Scriptures - Volume 9 (2009) - Review

Michael Thomas Davis & Brent A. Strawn (eds), Qumran Studies: New Approaches, New Questions (Grand Rapids/Cambridge: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2007). Pp. xxviii + 296. Paper US$30.00, £16.99. ISBN 978-0-8028-6080-4.

This collection of papers is dedicated to the well-known scholar Professor James H. Charlesworth, who directs the Princeton Theological Seminary Dead Sea Scrolls Project. The contributors, many of whom are involved in this endeavor, are either Charlesworth's former pupils or colleagues. Five of the papers (Novakovic, Elledge, Miller, Rietz, and Strawn) were originally delivered in two special sessions devoted to Qumran and Related Studies at the Mid-Atlantic Region of the Society of Biblical Literature in New Brunswick, NJ, in March of 2001. The book includes a foreword by James A. Sanders, founder and president emeritus of The Ancient Biblical Manuscript Center, Claremont, CA, that examines trends among the second and third generations of Qumran scholars. An “Introduction” by Michael Thomas Davis and Brent A. Strawn (pp. xxiii-xxvii) summarizes the essays.

The first paper by J. B. Faulkenberry Miller, “4QLXXLeva and Proto-Septuagint Studies: Reassessing Qumran Evidence for the Urtext Theory” (pp. 1-28), explores whether 4QLXXLeva (4Q119) supports the Urtext thesis of Paul de Lagarde. After exploring Paul Kahle’s multiple translation theory, Miller discusses the problematic nature of LXX manuscripts, namely that many contain both original and unique readings. After a careful examination of 4Q119, Miller concludes that its readings are mixed, and that it cannot be used to support Lagarde's theory.

The paper of Henry W. Morisada Rietz, “Identifying Compositions and Traditions of the Qumran Community: The Songs of the Sabbath Sacrifice as a Test Case” (pp. 29-52), uses the Songs of the Sabbath Sacrifice to explore the problematic issue of how to determine whether documents important to the Qumran community were actually written by them. A companion essay by Brent A. Strawn and H. W. Morisada Rietz, “(More) Sectarian Terminology in the Songs of the Sabbath Sacrifice. The Case of תמימי דרך ” (pp. 53-64), seeks to support the previous essay’s argument for a Qumranic origin for the Songs of the Sabbath Sacrifice. It includes an extensive listing of Qurman texts (pp. 55-57) that use תמימי דרך as a self-designation of the community to support their thesis.

The essay of Brent A. Strawn, “Excerpted ‘Non-Biblical’ Scrolls at Qumran? Background, Analogies, Function” (pp. 65-123), explores the question of whether excerpts are not confined to biblical texts, but are also found in authoritative Qumran compositions. Although he concludes that there is insufficient evidence to answer this question, Strawn suggests that some Cave 4 copies of the Community Rule may be excerpts, and not witnesses to the textual history of these documents.

Loren T. Stuckenbruck, “Temporal Shifts from Text to Interpretation: Concerning the Use of the Perfect and Imperfect in the Habakkuk Pesher (1QpHab)” (pp. 124-49), explores the shifts in verb formations in the Habakkuk Pesher (1QpHab). After an extensive review of scholarship on the Hebrew perfect and imperfect, he concludes that shifts in tense in this document do not show a lack of respect for the biblical text, but reflect the pesharist's belief that he was living “at the end of days.”

Michael A. Daise, “The Temporal Relationship between the Covenant Renewal Rite and the Initiation Process in 1QS” (pp. 150-60), examines the temporal relationship between the two Qumran ritual processes in 1QS: the covenant renewal ceremony (1QS 1.18-2.25) and the initiation procedure (6.13-23 and 5.7-11). He proposes that the former was observed once per year, while the latter began when anyone presented himself to join the Council of the Community.

Shane A. Berg, “An Elite Group within the Yaḥad: Revisiting 1QS 8-9” (pp. 161-77), examines 1QS 8-9. Several scholars have noted that this section appears to describe the community's past, while 5.1-7.25 regulates community life at the time of the compilation of 1QS. Berg views 1QS 8-9 as a bold plan to create an elite group within the Community whose life is ordered and described by 1QS 1-7.

C. D. Elledge, “The Prince of the Congregation: Qumran ‘Messianism’ in the Context of Milḥāmâ” (pp.178-207), opposes much recent scholarship that views the “Prince” in Qumran literature as a Davidic Messiah. After cautioning against excessive harmonization of texts with this term, Elledge concludes that this figure should be considered a “quasi- or proto-messianic” figure.

Lidija Novakovic, “4Q521: The Works of the Messiah or the Signs of the Messianic Times” (pp.208-31), suggests that 4Q521 focuses less on the figure of the Messiah and more on the events that will take place when he arrives. This fragment neither ascribes miracles directly to the Messiah, nor clarifies his identity.

Carsten Claussen and Michael Thomas Davis, “The Concept of Unity at Qumran” (pp. 232-53), explore parallels to the Qumran term יחד. They conclude that the Qumran community used this term to highlight their close fellowship, as well as their separation from mainstream Judaism, and did not merely take it from Semitic or Greco-Roman cultures.

Loren L. Johns, “Identity and Resistance: The Varieties of Competing Models in Early Judaism” (254-77), builds upon Adela Yarbro Collins’s concept of active and passive resistance to examine violence and resistance in documents from the time of the Maccabees to the book of Revelation.

Some of the essays in the present volume do not present any major new discoveries, or pioneer new approaches. The individual and joint essays by Rietz and Strawn, and the contribution of J. B. Faulkenberry Miller, however, are essential reading. Overall, the present volume, with its extensive bibliographies in each chapter, is an excellent contribution to the field of Qumran studies. It is a fitting tribute to James H. Charlesworth, whose pioneering work continues to shape the field.

Kenneth Atkinson, University of Northern Iowa