Mburu, Qumran and the Origins of Johannine Language and Symbolism

Qumran and the Origins of Johannine Language and Symbolism
Elizabeth Mburu

Due out in a little less than one month is the revised version Elizabeth Mburu’s PhD thesis, Qumran and the Origins of Johannine Language and Symbolism. In the book, Mburu

sets out to demonstrate that the sectarian Qumran document The Rule of the Community, provides linguistic clues which illuminate our understanding of how the author of the Fourth Gospel used truth terminology and expected it to be understood.

[The book] establishes that there are significant linguistic similarities shared by these two corpora. While these may be attributed to a development of the common tradition shared by both, as well as the influence ideology, the semantic continuity with the Rule of the Community makes it likely that the author of the Fourth Gospel was familiar with the mode of thought represented in the linguistic matrix of the Qumran literature and that he followed this in articulating his ideas in certain parts of his Gospel (Continuum).

Today’s Dead Sea Scrolls Today

Dead Sea Scrolls Today
James VanderKam

A revised edition of James VanderKam’s excellent introduction to the Dead Sea Scrolls is making its way to retailers. This new edition “retains the format, style, and aims of the first edition, and the same wider audience is envisaged” (xii). Consequently, this edition includes five primary categories of changes (xii–xiii):

  1. Updates to VanderKam’s 1994 first edition that account for developments in scrolls publication and research over the past 16 years,
  2. More extensive chapter bibliographies,
  3. An added section about the scrolls’ witness to other Second Temple Judaisms,
  4. Numerous rephrasings of the text, and
  5. Revised quotations of the scrolls to reflect Vermes’s Complete Dead Sea Scrolls in English (5th ed).

According to Eerdmans,

The premier Dead Sea Scrolls guidebook for general readers ever since its original publication in 1994, James VanderKam’s Dead Sea Scrolls Today won the Biblical Archaeology Society’s Publication Award in 1995 for the Best Popular Book on Biblical Archaeology. In this expanded and updated edition the book will continue to illuminate the greatest archaeological find in modern times.


In this post:

James VanderKam
James VanderKam
Dead Sea Scrolls Today
James VanderKam
Complete Dead Sea Scrolls in English
Geza Vermes

Torah as Interpreted Torah

In an essay entitled “Paul and James on the Law in the Light of the Dead Sea Scrolls,” Martin Abegg incisively observes that

The interpretation of the law, which had been revealed by God, is the focus of the phrase “works of the law” [at Qumran]. . . . No doubt the emphasis is on Torah in its entirety (see 1QS 8.1–2) but “obeying the law” was in accordance with the correct interpretation, that which had been revealed by God. . . . [T]he phrase does not simply mean “works of the law as God has commanded,” but rather “works of the law that God has commanded and revealed fully only to us” (72–73; italics original).

Thus, at least to a great degree, Torah functions not so much as it is in itself but as it is interpreted by the Qumran community. For this preeminently defining element, opposing interpretations were not credible (e.g., CD 1:13–2:1; 4Q266 f2i:21–f2ii:2). Consequently, entering and remaining in the community necessarily implied returning and adhering to Torah, where Torah was understood according to the proper conception of Torah that the community believed itself to have (e.g., CD 15:12–13; 1QS 5:8–10, 20–22; 4Q271 f4ii:3).


In this post:

Christian Beginnings and the Dead Sea Scrolls
John Collins and Craig Evans

PhD Opening at Groningen

The University of Groningen is seeking a PhD candidate for the project: The Jewish Revolt against Rome: Religious Groups and the Shaping of Identities in First-Century Judaea:

The Graduate School of Theology and Religious Studies of the University of Groningen is looking for a PhD candidate (0,9 fte) for the project ‘The Jewish Revolt against Rome: Religious Groups and the Shaping of Identities in First-Century Judaea’.

This PhD position is financed by a grant of the SNS/Reaal Fund. It will run parallel to the interdisciplinary NWO VENI project The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Jewish War against Rome (66–70), which investigates the impact of Rome on the self-understanding of a Jewish group at Qumran prior to the revolt. PhD candidates are expected to carry out research within the historical and archaeological framework of first-century Judaea in relation to the impact of the Roman Empire on the region and the conflict of 66–70/73. Projects may investigate e.g. Flavius Josephus’ position, specific Jewish groups, Roman reactions, specific sites, regions or interregional connections from different perspectives and on the basis of different sources (literary, archaeological and/or numismatic). The final form of the PhD project will be determined in consultation with the PhD candidate.

For more information, see the University’s website.

HT: Chris Brady

Two New Dead Sea Scrolls Resources from Brill

Brill recently released the following two new resources for Dead Sea Scroll studies:

Biblical Texts from Qumran and Other Sites (Dead Sea Scrolls Concordance, Volume 3)

Biblical Texts from Qumran and Other Sites
Martin Abegg Jr.
According to the publisher,

For decades a concordance of all the Dead Sea Scrolls has been a major desideratum for scholarship. The Dead Sea Scrolls Concordance covers all the Qumran material as published in the Discoveries in the Judaean Desert series, as well as the major texts from caves 1 and 11, which appeared elsewhere.

This keyword-in-context concordance, prepared by Martin G. Abegg in collaboration with other scholars, contains a new and consistent linguistic analysis of all the words found in the Dead Sea Scrolls. The total number of entries is around 134,000. Every entry includes the keyword with its context, exactly as published in the editions referred to above, with notes on some readings. All keywords have an English translation, and they are listed in alphabetical order rather than by verbal root, which makes the concordance easier to consult for the non-specialist.

Revised Lists of the Texts from the Judaean Desert

Revised Lists
Emmanuel Tov
According to the publisher,

Many details in the inventory list of the texts found in the Judaean Desert have altered since their initial publication by E. Tov in DJD XXXIX (2002) 27–114. Such changes were inserted in some twenty-five percent of the lines of the database, and this information is now presented to the public at the end of the publication procedure of the DJD series. The updating reflects corrections made to imprecisely recorded details, the data published in the last DJD volumes, inscribed archeological evidence not recorded previously, new fragments, changed names, new identifications and arrangements of fragments, updated bibliography, etc. The volume also contains an updated version of the categorized list of biblical texts from the various sites in the Judaean Desert.

Was the Teacher of Righteousness Considered to Be a Messiah?

John Collins rightly argues that the possibility of a positive answer to this question depends heavily on what one means by משיח (messiah) (“A Messiah before Jesus?” 15–35). Most notably, messianic language at Qumran refers to the so-called “Davidic” and “priestly” messiahs (1QS 9:11; 4Q161 3:22–29; 4Q174 3:7–13; 4Q252 5:1–7; 4Q266 f2i:11; f10i:12; 4Q285 f7:1–6; 4Q479 f1:4; 11Q14 f1i:5–15; CD 12:23–13:1; 14:19; 19:10–11; 20:1; cf. 4Q504 f1-2Riv:6–8),1 but some Qumran texts also use messianic language about prophets (28). For example, one may cite the following texts (cf. 28):

  • ויודיעם ביד משיחי רוח קדשו וחוזי אמת (and he taught them by the hand of the ones anointed by his holy spirit and the seers of truth; CD 2:12–13)
  • דברו סרה על מצות אל ביד משה וגם במשיחי הקודש (they spoke rebellion against the commands of God by the hand of Moses and also by the holy anointed ones; CD 5:21–6:1; cf. 4Q266 f3ii:9–10; 4Q267 f2:6; 6Q15 f3:4)
  • וביד משיחיכה חוזי תעודות הגדתה לנו קצי מלחמות ידיכה (and by the hand of your anointed ones, seers of decrees, you told to us the times of the wars of your hands; 1QM 11:7–8)

4Q521; 11Q13 2:18 may also arguably fall under this category (28–29), and if the Teacher is to be assigned to the category of ‘messiah’, he should be so assigned under the rubric of this third, prophetic type of messiah (32–33). Yet, nowhere do the “Teacher Hymns” claim any anointing for their author (30, 33), even though there is ample reason to affirm that the Teacher saw himself as a prophet (32). Thus, in a loose sense by which anointing and prophetic vocation were held together, the Teacher might be termed a messiah, but Collins thinks that “it is misleading to speak of him as the eschatological prophet or as a messiah, in the definitive eschatological sense” (33).

This point is well taken, and the desire that Collins consistently expresses throughout his essay to describe the Teacher, messiahship, and Jesus on their own individual terms is both appropriate and commendable. Still, texts like CD 1–2; 1QpHab 2:1–10 may well set up for the Teacher a “definitive eschatological” role that also differs distinctly at certain points from the “definitive eschatological” role that the early Christian community assigned to Jesus (cf. 29). Perhaps most obviously given Qumran’s likely witness to Davidic and Aaronic messiahs as well, the Teacher does not constitute the sole person in whom יהוה’s purposes for his people ultimately come to fruition. Rather, taken as a whole, the sectarian manuscripts may be understood as divvying out to several parties what the New Testament assigns collectively to Jesus (e.g., 2 Cor 1:20; Gal 1–2; Heb 6:19–7:28; Rev 5). Thus, the exclusivity of influence for the Teacher’s “definitive eschatological” role may be comparatively smaller and otherwise expressed for the Qumran community than it was for the role that Jesus exercised on the early Christian community, but because the Teacher was יהוה’s appointed guide (e.g., CD 1:1–11), there seems to be good reason to suppose that the Teacher’s eschatological definitiveness would have been quite strong within its own designated sphere.

Despite this qualification, “A Messiah before Jesus?” offers concise summary of and engagement with the theses that André Dupont-Sommer advanced early in the history of Qumran scholarship and that others (e.g., Michael Wise, Israel Knohl) have more recently revisited. Particularly, Collins’ conclusion helpfully draws attention to some key points of difference between Jesus and the Teacher that those who have taken the Dupont-Sommer line may have insufficiently appreciated (33–35). This essay and its sister (Collins, “An Essene Messiah?” 37–44) are generally both judicious and informative, and the rest of the volume promises to be quite engaging also.


1 The reference system adopted here follows the conventions of Martin Abegg, Qumran Sectarian Manuscripts.

In this post:

Qumran Sectarian Manuscripts
Martin Abegg Jr.

Christian Beginnings and the Dead Sea Scrolls
John Collins and Craig Evans

2010 SECSOR Presentation

A few weeks ago, I received confirmation that my paper, “‫ מורה הצדק‬ as a Hermeneutical Functionary in the Qumran Sectarian Manuscripts,” has been accepted for presentation at the 2010 meeting of the Southeastern Commission for the Study of Religion. Here is a brief abstract:

Although a good deal of work has been done on the hermeneutical method(s) found at Qumran, to date, insufficient attention has been given to the presuppositional matrix that allowed these methods to function at Qumran as they did. For, after all, considered in themselves, theses and interpretations appear valid not primarily because of the method by which they were derived but because of the perceived fit between a given thesis and an accepted worldview paradigm. Therefore, this paper will seek to show: (1) that ‫מורה הצדק‬ (the teacher of righteousness) himself definitively determined the Qumran community’s hermeneutical matrix in certain, specific respects and (2) that these specific determinations helped the Qumran community understand their scriptures in conjunction with what they knew to be their own, special position in ‫’יהוה‬s plan for Israel.

I am very much looking forward to this presentation and the interaction that follows. If you are interested in attending and honoring me with your ears, I believe this presentation, unless something changes, will be in the American Academy of Religion’s first History of Judaism section.

מורה הצדק and Qumran Hermeneutics

In working through some bibliography recently for a conference paper proposal about מורה הצדק (the teacher of righteousness), I came across the following:

Der Lehrer [der Gerechtigkeit] ist von Gott autorisiert, die Geheimnisse der Prophetenworte zu enträtseln, denn die Worte der Propheten sind Geheimnisse (רזים [pHab] 7,5), die man ohne Auslegung des Lehrers nicht verstehen kann. Der Lehrer tritt also mit seiner Verkündigung nicht neben die Schrift, sondern er basiert auf der Schrift. Er allein hat von Gott das rechte Verständnis offenbart bekommen. Darum kann er und mit ihm seine Gemeinde nach dem Willen Gottes leben (Jeremias 141).

The teacher unlocked prophetic meaning in the community’s scriptures, and the community depended precisely on this insight to learn the proper practice(s) to which they were called through the prophets.


In this post:

Gert Jeremias
Gert Jeremias