Avenues of Access to Scripture in Early Jewish Literature

James A. Sanders

Ancient Biblical Manuscript Center

1. Last year David Washburn published an updated thesis entitled A Catalog of Biblical Passages in the Dead Sea Scrolls (Washburn 2002). It was part of a recent flurry of such efforts, and it is perhaps time to look at what is now available and how they may be helpful in different ways.

2. Washburns's effort at a catalog of biblical passages in the Dead Sea Scrolls was begun as a master's thesis at Denver Seminary (1983). It purports to cover the Scrolls published through DJD 35 (even though a few volumes are yet to be published), is designed as an on-going project, and calls for reader response for corrections and improvements. DJD 39 (2002) has a number of indices, including an index of the passages in the biblical texts, but it does not include a catalog of scripture passages that appear in the Scrolls other than those classified as "biblical." Listings of scripture passages not only in biblical scrolls but also in the non-biblical materials at Qumran are in James VanderKam and Peter Flint, The Meaning of the Dead Sea Scrolls (VanderKam and Flint 2002: 407-433). The introductory paragraphs in the latter note some prior listings, but not all. Vol 1 of the famous concordance begun on 3x5 cards in the late 1950s has started to appear in hardcopy in an expanded format (see Abegg et al. 2003). The electronic version compiled by Martin Abegg, available in the Accordance software package but in English (QUMENG), is probably the most complete, and being electronic continues to grow as allusions and echoes of scripture are located in non-biblical scrolls.

3. The format of Washburn's effort, after four pages of introductory observations about the Scrolls generally and the mode of construction of the catalog, is user-friendly. The biblical reference (passages with chapter and verse designations) is followed by the scroll sigla ("title" abbreviation where available, and assigned number), the publication where the text of the passage and plates are found, and "comments" by the editor about the state of the Scroll material and the text-critical value of the text cited. The main difference between Washburn's format and those of VanderKam/Flint and of Harold Scanlin in The Dead Sea Scrolls & Modern Translations of the Old Testament (Scanlin 1993: 141-168) is that (where convenient) the latter grouped all the verses of a single chapter from the same provenance together, whereas Washburn separates them; so that in Washburn the extant non-continuous verses of the same chapter are noted separately. Scanlin and VanderKam/Flint do not use the more recently assigned number designations in the index to the biblical scrolls but do so in the index to "quotations and allusions" in other scrolls. Scanlin did not include phylacteries and pesharim as do the others.

4. Curiously, neither Washburn nor VanderKam/Flint mentions Scanlin in the front matter or in the bibliography. One is hard pressed to understand why Washburn would not at least acknowledge Scanlin's work which appeared well before his. It is because Scanlin and similar efforts were becoming dated that the field needed a fresh, open-ended effort of the sort Washburn has produced. Even so, one will still want to refer to Scanlin's work. Scanlin offers an index to each scroll or fragment, with a succinct description of each, separate from the catalog itself. Washburn tries to make up for lack of providing an index by offering "comments" in the catalog about each entry. While some of these are helpful, others are superficial or even impertinent. They do not substitute for the information an index can offer. In addition, Scanlin's discussions of the history of the discoveries, his introduction to the Scrolls generally, and his overview of the importance of the Scrolls for the dramatic revision they have caused in understanding the history of the early transmission of the text of the HB, are, though dated, still valuable. Nor does Washburn refer to or make any noticeable use of The Dead Sea Scrolls: Documents, Photographs and Museum Inventory Numbers, compiled by Stephen A. Reed, Marilyn Lundberg, and Michael Phelps, of the Ancient Biblical Manuscript Center (Reed, Lundberg, and Phelps 1994).

5. In the "comments" Washburn often offers purely subjective judgments, and his terminology is ambiguous. One of the most common terms he uses throughout in the comments is "follows MT," or a variant of it. Washburn clearly does not base the term on any known view of the history of transmission of the text, in which one might supposedly set the stabilization of the "MT" before the Qumran Scrolls. When he says "follows MT" one has to assume he means that the Scroll text at issue is the same as the Hebrew Bible text that he learned to read in seminary, in this case the BHS, a perspective a seminary student might indeed bring to the delicate task of composing such a catalog: since he read BHS as a student first and the Scrolls thereafter, the latter in his mind did indeed follow the former. Not far into the catalog the reader learns to abandon all hope of a considered judgment about whether the text at hand is pre-Masoretic or proto-Masoretic in the now generally accepted history of transmission of the text. For Washburn it either "follows" the MT or the LXX, or mostly follows or generally follows one or the other.

6. In the cursory, four-page Introduction Washburn labels the Scrolls as basically Masoretic in character, with some passages reflecting LXX readings. Washburn seems unaware of the fluidity of text in the pre-Masoretic period, often unrelated to the question of Vorlage. He notes the importance of the Nahal Hever Dodecapropheton but does not relate it to Barthélemy's history of transmission of the text (Barthélemy 1953 and 1963), or to any other similar discussion--the only firm base for a hermeneutic of text criticism (see Sanders 1995 and 1997). Washburn is apparently unaware that the practice of accurate copying (so-called "verbal inspiration") did not begin until the proto-MT period.

7. The introduction also offers highly subjective judgments about the nature of the Cave Eleven Psalms Scroll (11QPsa) based on quite inaccurate, cursory observations. On p. 3, Washburn states: "11QPsa is an oddity among the DSS. It contains most [sic] of the Psalter, but in a very strange order. It includes some apocryphal psalms and makes distinctive interpolations [sic] in canonical ones. How it came to be will probably always remain debatable, but its textual usefulness is questionable. My own view is that it was a lectionary of some kind." One is tempted to correct those four sentences point by point, but one wonders if it is worthwhile doing so. Suffice it to point out that Washburn concludes them with a vague, unspecified reference to Peter Flint's The Dead Sea Psalms Scroll and the Book of Psalms (Flint 1997). But Flint's thesis (originally a dissertation done under the direction of Eugene Ulrich at Notre Dame, the current co-editor with Emanuel Tov of the DJD series) strongly supports the view advanced by the editor of the Psalms Scroll (Sanders, ed. 1965) and even improves on it, above all opposing Washburn's view that the Psalms Scroll was "a lectionary of some kind" (see my review of Flint in Dead Sea Discoveries [Sanders 1999], as well as that of Shemaryahu Talmon in JBL [Talmon 1999].) Washburn apparently assumes a settled "canon" of Jewish scripture prior to the first century CE, but he does not make the case.

8. In conclusion, the reader is advised to ignore both the introduction and the "comments" in Washburn. Otherwise the catalog itself is useful in that it includes the pesharim, phylacteries, and other documents that help in perceiving the state of the text of scripture, and its uses, at Qumran. And he has clearly updated the catalog since it was accepted as a master's thesis in 1983. What is needed in the field is a reliable index and catalog to all scripture passages in the Scrolls wherever they appear, in biblical texts, in quotations, in paraphrases, or in allusions. This is a far more complex task but one that should be attempted in order to gain a clear picture both of how scripture was viewed and how it functioned at Qumran, or in Judaism generally, at the time. This needs to be followed by a scripture index to all Early Jewish literature if the full picture of the Nachleben of scripture is to be attempted. (Note that VanderKam/Flint at least includes an index to passages from the Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha in the Scrolls.) Only by compiling indices of all the Scrolls passages where scripture functions will the fuller meaning of scripture as canon be known (see my "The Issue of Closure in the Canonical Process," in The Canon Debate [Sanders 2002]). Former students in comparative midrash and the Nachleben of scripture have compiled such indices and catalogs, but they eventually need to be brought together with other tools in a focused effort to be fully useful: see Delamarter 2002 and Evans 1995.

© TC: A Journal of Biblical Textual Criticism, 2003.


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