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Archive for the 'Psalms Scrolls' Category

The Relationship between the Septuagint and Qumran Psalm 151

6th August 2009

As I mentioned in my previous posts on Psalm 151 in the Biblical Tradition, there is significant debate on the relationship between the Septuagint Psalm 151 and the version of the Psalm found in the Qumran Psalms scroll (11Q5 Psalm 151A and B).

The editor of 11Q5 Psalm 151A and B, James Sanders, argues that 11QPsa 151A and B, while related to, are not identical with the Vorlage of LXX Ps 151. He further argues that “there can be no hesitancy whatever in affirming that 11QPs 151 is the original psalm” (The Psalms Scroll of Qumrân Cave 11 (11QPsa); DJD 4 [Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1965; buy from Amazon.com], 60), and that the LXX Psalm is a later translation of an “amalgam” of the Qumran originals (63). Most (but not all) scholars have followed Sanders in his reconstruction of the relationship between the Greek and Hebrew versions of Psalm 151.  Peter Flint considers the Greek version a “transformation of two separate psalms into a single piece” (“Apocryphal Psalms,” Encyclopedia of the Dead Sea Scrolls [2 volumes; Oxford University Press, 2000; buy from Amazon.ca | Amazon.com. ],  2:708), while his Dead Sea Scrolls Bible (HarperCollins, 1999; buy from Amazon.ca | Amazon.com) also popularizes Sanders’s view:

The text found in 11QPs-a represents the original Hebrew with two originally separate Psalms, which the Greek translator has reworked and synthesized into a single Psalm (p. 585).

Beyond the question of the relationship between these psalms, Sanders has little good to say about LXX Psalm 151.  He calls it “meaningless” (DJD, p. 60), and maintains that without the background provided in Psalm 151A, the LXX psalm “makes little or no sense at all” (p. 59). Furthermore, he argues that the individual who brought together the Vorlage of LXX Psalm 151 destroyed “the beauty and integrity of the original” and “sacrificed not only the artistry but also the sense of the one, and probably as well of the other” (p. 63). In his popular work, The Dead Sea Psalms Scroll (Cornell University Press, 1967; buy from Amazon.ca | Amazon.com), Sanders further refers to the Greek version of Psalm 151 as “nearly meaningless” (p. 94) and “comparatively ridiculous” (p. 95).  Sanders is not alone in his low opinion of the Septuagint Psalm 151. For instance, Strugnell echoes Sanders when he describes it as “largely meaningless” (“Notes on the Text,” 259), while Meyer considered it a “dogmatic correction” of a rustic psalm (“Die Septuaginta-Fassung von Psalm 151:1-5,” 172).

While I agree that the Qumran psalms are related to the Vorlage of LXX Psalm 151, there are significant differences between the texts that indicate that their relationship is not so simple, and that the texts are more dissimilar than even Sanders admits.  In fact, I think – in line with the works of Haran, Smith, Segal, and most recently Debel (in part) – that it is more plausible that the Qumran psalm(s) are a later reworking of the shorter Hebrew Vorlage of LXX Psalm 151. Furthermore, in contrast to Sanders, I will argue that LXX Psalm 151 is a coherent text in and of itself, and that it doesn’t need 151A/B to make sense of it. In this regard I argue that while LXX Psalm 151 is shorter, it is in fact a well-constructed midrash on 1 Samuel 16-17.

In fact, I would argue that reading LXX Psalm 151 in the light of the Qumran psalms actually hampers our understanding of it, since the later Qumran versions take the psalm in a slightly different direction. In a recent article, Segal (“Literary Development,” Textus 21[2002], 143), has made the bold claim that

the bias towards the Hebrew version of the psalm has resulted in a skewed view of the meaning of the Greek edition, as all scholars have assumed that this shorter poem [i.e., the LXX] necessarily addresses the same topics as the longer version.

While Segal overstates the case, I concur with his evaluation. In my next post I will explore in more detail the relationship between the Greek and Hebrew versions of this psalm.


Posted in Dead Sea Scrolls, LXX Psalms, Psalm 151 in the Biblical Tradition, Psalms, Psalms Scrolls, Septuagint | 1 Comment »

Psalm 151 at Qumran

4th August 2009

As mentioned in my previour post on Septuagint Psalm 151 (first installment in my series on Psalm 151 in the Biblical Tradition), the discovery of Hebrew psalms clearly related to the Septuagint Psalm 151 created quite a stir among biblical scholars.  Prior to the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, Psalm 151 was only know to us from its Greek and Syriac versions. At the beginning of the last century Septuagint scholar Henry B. Swete noted that “there is no evidence that it [Ps 151] ever existed in Hebrew” (Introduction to the Old Testament in Greek [Hendrickson, 1989], p. 253; buy from Amazon.ca | Amazon.com), and in the 1930s Martin Noth “expressed doubts” about a Hebrew original to LXX Psalm 151 in his study of the five Apocryphal psalms and did not bother to provide a Hebrew retroversion of Psalm 151 in that study.

It was not until the discovery among the Dead Sea Scrolls of the so-called “Qumran Psalms Scroll” (11QPs-a or 11Q5; see my Scroll Introduction) that contained two Psalms (Ps 151A and B) that were clearly parallel with the LXX 151, that scholars universally recognized that LXX Psalm 151 had a Hebrew Vorlage (i.e., a Hebrew original), though the precise relationship between LXX Psalm 151 and 11Q5 Psalm 151 remained under debate.

Before we discuss the nature of the relationship between the Greek LXX Psalm 151 and the Hebrew 11Q5 Psalms 151A and 151B, it would do us well to carefully examine the psalms in question. I have already provided a translation of LXX Psalm 151 in my previous post; here I provide a translation of Psalm 151A and B as found in column 28 of 11Q5:

11Q5 Ps 151A-B

11Q5 Ps 151A & B
3

הללויה לדויד בן ישי

A Hallelujah of David son of Jesse.

קטן הייתי מןאחי

Smaller was I than my brothers

וצעיר מבני אבי

And the youngest of the sons of my father
4

וישימני רועה לצונו

And he made me shepherd of his flock

ומושל בגדיותיו

And ruler over his kids

ידי עשו עוגב

My hands made a (musical) instrument

ואצבעותי כנור

And my fingers a lyre
5

ואשימה ליהוה כבוד

And I rendered glory to the Lord

אמרתי אני בנפשי

I said within myself

ההרים לוא יעדו לו

The mountains do not witness to him,
6

והגבעות לוא יגידו

Nor do the hills declare;

עלו֯ העצים את דברי֯

The trees have cherished my words

והצואן את מעשי֯

And the flock my works.
7

כי מי יגדי ומי ידבר

For who can declare and who can speak,

ומי יספר את מעשי֯ אדון

And who can recount the works of the Lord?

הכול ראה אלוה

Everything has God seen,
8

הכול הוא שמע

everything has he heard,

והוא האזין

and he has heeded.

שלח נביאו למושחני

He sent his prophet to annoint me,
9

את שמואל לגדלני

Samuel, to make me great

יצאו אחי לקראתו

My brothers went out to meet him,

יפי התור ויפי המראה

Handsome of figure and handsome of appearance

הגבהים בקומתם

They were tall of stature
10

היפים בשערם

Handsome by their hair,

לוא בחר יהוה אלוהים בם

The Lord God did not choose them.

וישלח ויקחני מאחר הצואן

But he sent and took me from behind the flock
11

וימשחני בשמן הקודש

And annointed me with holy oil,

וישימני נגיד לעמו

And made me leader to his people
12

ומושל בבני בריתו

And ruler over the sons of his covenant
13

תחלת גב[ו]רה ה[דו]יד

משמשחו נביא אלוהים

At the beginning of [Dav]id’s p[ow]er after the prophet of God had annointed him

אזי רא֯[י]תי פלשתי

Then I s[a]w a Philistine
14

מחרף ממ[ערכות האיוב]

Uttering defiances from the r[anks of the enemy].

אנוכי [     ]  את

I   […]  ’t […]

I should note that while the translation is my own, the above reconstruction follows that by the scroll’s editor, James Sanders (which I do not entirely agree with, but I’ll discuss that in another post).  The line numbers in the left-hand column are not precise; they reflect the line divisions of the editor.  According to Sanders’s reconstruction, Psalm 151B begins in line 13.

In the actual scroll, the column is laid out as follows:

11Q5 Column 28

יהוה העומדים בבית יהוה בלילות שאו ידיכם קודש וברכו

1

את שמ יהוה יברככה יהוה מציו[ן] עושה שמים וארץ

2

vacat

הללויה לדויד בן ישי קטן הייתי מןאחי וצעיר מבני אבי וישימני

3

רועה לצונו ומושל בגדיותיו ידי עשו עוגב ואצבעותי כנור

4

ואשימה ליהוה כבוד אמרתי אני בנפשי ההרים לוא יעדו

5

לו והגבעות לוא יגידו עלו֯ העצים את דברי֯ והצואן את מעשי֯

6

כי מי יגדי ומי ידבר ומי יספר את מעשי֯ אדון הכול ראה אלוה

7

הכול הוא שמע והוא האזין שלח נביאו למושחני את שמואל

8

לגדלני יצאו אחי לקראתו יפי התור ויפי המראה הגבהים בקומתם

9

היפים   בשערם לוא בחר יהוה אלוהים בם וישלח ויקחני

10

מאחר הצואן וימשחני בשמן הקודש וישימני נגיד לעמו ומושל בבני

11

vacat בריתו

12

תחלת גב[ו]רה ה[דו]יד משמשחו נביא אלוהים אזי רא֯[י]תי פלשתי

13

מחרף ממ[ערכות האיוב] אנוכי [     ]  את

14

Here is an English translation:

11Q5 Ps 151A & B
1 of the Lord, who stand in the house of the Lord by night. Lift your hands in the holy place and bless
2 the name of the Lord May the Lord, maker of heaven and earth, bless you from Zion.
blank space
3 A Hallelujah of David son of Jesse. Smaller was I than my brothers And the youngest of the sons of my father
4 And he made me shepherd of his flock And ruler over his kids My hands made a (musical) instrument And my fingers a lyre
5 And I rendered glory to the Lord I said within myself The mountains do not witness
6 to him, Nor do the hills declare; The trees have cherished my words And the flock my works.
7 For who can declare and who can speak, And who can recount the works of the Lord? Everything has God seen,
8 Everything he has heard, and he has heeded. He sent his prophet to annoint me, Samuel,
9 to make me great My brothers went out to meet him, Handsome of figure and handsome of appearance They were tall of stature
10 Handsome by their hair, The Lord God did not choose them. And he sent and took me
11 from behind the flock And annointed me with holy oil, And made me leader to his people And ruler over the sons of
12 his covenant
13 At the beginning of [Dav]id’s p[ow]er after the prophet of God had annointed him Then I s[a]w a Philistine
14 Uttering defiances from the r[anks of the enemy]. I   […]  ’t […]

As you can see, the actual scroll does not divide the Hebrew psalm into poetic lines, but takes up the width of the column with as much text as possible. (By the way, the top of the column [lines 1 and 2] consists of all but the first part of Psalm 134 [LXX Ps 133]).

Comparing Sanders’s line divisions with that of the actual scroll raises an issue common with any analysis of the Dead Sea Scrolls; the issue of editorial reconstruction.  A number of aspects of Sanders’s reconstruction of Psalms 151A and B have been severely criticized by scholars — especially his reconstruction of lines 6-8. That being said, even a quick comparison of LXX Psalm 151 with this text from Qumran suggests some sort of literary relationship between the texts, though as I noted above, the precise nature of that relationship is debated.


Posted in Dead Sea Scrolls, LXX Psalms, Old Testament, Psalm 151 in the Biblical Tradition, Psalms, Psalms Scrolls, Septuagint | 1 Comment »

Latest in the Dead Sea Discoveries

24th July 2006

Jim Davila over at PaleoJudaica has the table of contents from the latest Dead Sea Discoveries. Among other things, there is an article on the Qumran Psalms Scroll that looks interesting:

  • Vered Noam, “The Origin of the List of David’s Songs in “David’s Compositions” (pp. 134-149)

Posted in Dead Sea Scrolls, DSD, Psalms Scrolls, Reviews & Notices | Comments Off

Thank God for Worms, Decomposition, and Computers:Reconstructing the Dead Sea Scrolls

18th August 2005

I am currently working through Ulrich Dahmen’s excellent monograph on the so-called Qumran Psalms scroll (11QPsa), Psalmen- und Psalter-Rezeption im Fruehjudentum: Rekonstrucktion, Textbestand, Sturktur und Pragmatik der Psalmen Rolle 11QPsa aus Qumran (Studies on the Texts of the Desert of Judah 49; Leiden: Brill, 2003; Buy from Amazon.ca or Amazon.com).

Dahmen proposes a new reconstruction of the beginning of the Psalms scroll based on the techniques developed by H. Stegemann and others. What I find the most fascinating is the help that worm traces and decomposition patterns — as well as computers — play in the reconstruction. His reconstruction is similar to that of Peter Flint’s in The Dead Sea Psalms Scroll & the Book of Psalms (Leiden: Brill, 1997; Buy from Amazon.ca or Amazon.com), though Dahmen omits Psalm 110 from column 4 since its inclusion would make the line and column lengths too large. That seems quite plausible to me.

Who would have thought that worms, decomposition, and computers would all work together to help us reconstruct and interpret ancient biblical scrolls? I find it all quite fascinating.

Posted in Dead Sea Scrolls, Psalms, Psalms Scrolls | Comments Off