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The Scrolls and the Hebrew Bible (Or: anticipating publication of 4QSama)

12th April 2005

It is well-recognized that the Dead Sea Scrolls have revolutionized – and exceedingly complicated – our understanding of the text and history of the Hebrew Bible. Most of my research on the scrolls has focused on what has been perhaps one of the greatest catalysts for reviewing the development of the canon, namely, the so-called Qumran Psalms Scroll (11Q5 = 11QPsa). This psalms manuscript has a number of significant differences in content and order with the MT Psalter. The official editor of the scroll, James Sanders, and his heir apparent (and my personal friend), Peter Flint, have published extensively on this manuscript, laying out their “Qumran Psalms Hypothesis.” This view posits that the Qumran scrolls bear witness to a two-stage stabilization of the book of Psalms (Pss 1-89 and 90-150) and that 11QPsa contains the latter part of a “true Scriptural Psalter” or “edition” of the Psalter, among other things. While Flint and Sanders (and others) have argued their case extensively, I remain unconvinced on a number of points. That being said, this isn’t the scroll I wanted to talk about! If you want to know more about my own views on 11QPsa, you can take a look at my comments on this scroll on my Scrolls Introductions page. You can also stay tuned for some comments on a recent book devoted to 11QPsa by Ulrich Dahmen, Psalmen- und Psalter-Rezeption im Fruehjudentum: Rekonstrucktion, Textbestand, Sturktur und Pragmatik der Psalmen Rolle 11QPsa aus Qumran, which I will be reviewing for the Journal of Hebrew Scriptures).

What I wanted to comment on is a second scroll which has also had significant influence on our understanding of the development of the biblical text, namely, the Samuel scroll from cave four (4QSama), which is just being published in DJD 17 (those in the UK and Europe may already have a copy in your hands as its release date was April 7; in North America we have to wait until April 20 to get our hot little hands on it). My interest in this scroll is indirect. A number of scholars (e.g., Lemke, Ulrich, and McKenzie) have argued that 4QSama better represents the Vorlage of Chronicles than MT Samuel. Furthermore, it is argued that 4QSama reflects the same text-type as LXX Samuel. This means that places where Chronicles differs from MT Samuel, but agrees with 4QSama, that the Dead Sea Scroll may better represent his Vorlage. So rather than the Chronicler modifying his sources to fit his ideology (as virtually all commentators thought pre-Qumran), he was actually faithfully following his source text — but it was a text more akin to what is found in 4QSama or the LXX, rather than the MT. It will be nice to see the “official” edition of 4QSama, especially considering Herbert’s fairly recent monograph (A New Method for Reconstructing Biblical Scrolls, and its Application to the Reconstruction of 4QSam-a [Brill, 1997]) has identified 55% more deviations between the texts than previous publications. All this is to say that I looking forward to getting my hands on Qumran Cave 4.XII: 1-2 Samuel (DJD 17). Eight days and counting! (If you are as excited as I am, feel freel to buy it from Amazon.com!)

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