Monday, November 29, 2010

Schiffman – Golb – Hudson – 4QMMT (Acts of Torah)

Schiffman (Qumran and Jerusalem, 2010), on p.84 he writes: “The text (of 4QMMT) was probably composed soon after 150 B.C.”  On p.101,102 he writes: “The Qumran sect came into being as a discrete group in the aftermath of the Maccabean revolt when the Hasmonean high priests decided to ally themselves with the Pharisees against the hellenizing high priests, many of whom had been Sadducees. A group of pious Sadducees left the temple and protested to no avail the abandonment of Sadducean priestly practice for the halakhic rulings of the Pharisees. This group, after failing to sway their colleagues and their Hasmonean leaders by means of the Halakhic letter (4QMMT), eventually relocated to Qumran, where they lived lives of piety and holiness, preparing for the end of days.”  It sounds like a good story, as good as the myth of Masada. Unfortunately, it uses terms like Pharisee and Sadducee that the Scrolls through their long and varied history up to the first century, do not recognize. The writings attributed to Josephus have been edited to retrospectively incorporate the various sects of Essenes, Pharisees, and Sadducees.

On p.151, Schiffman writes:  "To whom is this letter addressed?  The text alternates between the singular and the plural.  When in the singular, the manuscript assumes that it is addressing a leader who can by virtue of his position, identify with the kings of Israel.  It appears that the head of the Jerusalem establishment with such status must be the high priest during Hasmonean times."  Schiffman offers no proof that 4QMMT was originally written in early Maccabean times, only the circumstantial evidence of the history recorded in Josephus.  He offers no proof that a Hasmonean priest-king was being addressed.  He isn't even certain that a priest was being referred to.  Golb on the other hand has a remarkably different answer as to when 4QMMT was written and who was being addressed.

Golb (Who Wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls, p.180) wrote about Father Joseph Milik of the Ecole Biblique in Jerusalem:  “in 1962 his interpretations of the minor “caves” appeared in the extensive third volume of the Oxford series. Discussing certain linguistic features of the Copper Scroll, he compared them to analogous ones that he referred to as to as “4QMishn” (4QMMT), and gave several quotations from the latter showing its special idiom and content. On p.183, Golb writes: "The importance of Milik's observations about the idiom of the Acts of Torah resided in the necessary implication that the work was written during the early or middle first century A.D., before which no evidence could be found for the existence of such an idiom. Indeed, Milik had made use of passages from the Acts of Torah to elucidate his discussion of a first-century A.D. documentary (an autographical) work composed in the same idiom - the Copper Scroll. The only other manuscripts written in essentially the same form of Hebrew were the early second century second century A.D. Bar Kokhba documentary texts. The idiom appears in no written testimony from before the turn of the era."  Thus we have the opinion of one expert, Golb, that the text was early or middle first century A.D. and the opinion of a second expert, Milik, to the same effect.

On p.210, Golb writes: “the opinion (Schiffman’s) that the epistle was addressed to a priestly figure is capricious: Its wording actually carries no such implication. Secondly, its evocation of the deeds of past kings … indicates that he (the author) was addressing not a sacerdotal figure, but rather a royal one who was not a priest. In addition, the epistle reveals no demonstrable connection at all with Hasmonaean (i.e. second- and first-century B.C.) figures. The language of the text indicates that it was written around the beginning of the first century A.D., and its specific wording shows that it was addressed to a royal personage of that time.”

In this time of the early first century, there MAY be one king being addressed, seen as of Hasmonean descent.  Eisenman and Wise write in Dead Sea Scrolls Uncovered, p183, "If placed in the first century, where we would prefer to place it because of its language - a form of 'proto-Mishnaic Hebrew' ... then the addressee is Agrippa I ... who made a pretence at Torah observation."  So now we have four experts in Hebrew who would place 4QMMT in the first century A.D.  And two of them plumb for Agrippa I.  But I think Agrippa I is just a little too late.  So who was the king being addressed in 4QMMT?