4Q525 (4QBeatitudes) – More with Jesus, Lady Wisdom and Folly

By Rembrandt.
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As I noted before, my year long blog project for 2011 is to read the Dead Sea Scrolls. None of these are complete nor meant to be anything more than a self-discipline which hopefully allows me to learn from others as to the things that I miss. Today, I would like to post on 4Q525, a pre-Christian set of Jewish Beatitudes, which for this section (focusing on Fragment 2), I am using (and would equally refer you to), although slightly modified using Geza Vermes massive work, Dr. Barber’s post of same text. Also see Craig Even’s article here as well as Sidnie White Crawford’s work here which focuses on Lady Wisdom and the Dame Folly.

This fragment, 2, catches my attention because of my recent readings with Lady Wisdom countered with Folly in Proverbs. Further, as Evans notes, this is the first non-canonical collection of sayings which is found later in the words of Christ which we call the beatitudes. In other words, the Gospel of Matthew (compare Matthew 5.3-12 and Luke 6.20-26 with the text given below) is not inventing Jesus and some new method of speaking, but most likely delivering a historical (style of) address made by Jesus. So, we have two things which interest me – a testament to the historical (style) of Jesus, which in my opinion helps to date the Gospel of Matthew earlier that a minority would have us believe, as well as the use of this type of language to convey wisdom. To make the New Testament connection, we find that even the Gospel of Matthew, Christ is associated with the Divine Wisdom (see Matthew 11.2, 19, 28-30; 23.34-39) and is seen as a Teacher of Wisdom. George J. Brooke argues in The Dead Sea Scrolls and the New Testament that this sapiential poem might have served as an initiation rite in the community (xxi). He includes an entire chapter (p217-234) at connecting Matthew’s Beatitudes with the ones found at Qumran, and demonstrates his points soundly in my opinion. Finally, he concludes that the speech given by Jesus is an expanded form (note the expansion of eschatology, a theme found in the ninth beatitude in both sets, by Jesus which is only hinted at in 4Q525) of a traditional motif.

[Blessed is]…with a pure heart, and does not slander with his tongue.
Blessed are those who adhere to her laws, and do not adhere to perverted paths. 
Bles[sed] are those who rejoice in her, and do not burst out in paths of folly.
Blessed are those who search for her with pure hands, and do not pursue her with a treacherous [heart.]
Blessed is the man who attains Wisdom, and walks in the law of the Most High, and directs his heart to her ways, and is constrained by her discipline
and alwa[ys] takes pleasure in her punishments;
and does not forsake her in the hardship of [his] wrong[s,]
and in the time of anguish does not abandon her,
and does not forget her [in the days of] terror,
and in the distress of his soul does not loathe [her.]
For he always thinks of her, and in his distress he meditates [on her, and in all his life [he thinks] of her, [and places her] in front of his eyes in order not to walk on paths [folly]
[…] together, and on her account eats away his heart […]
[…] … and with kings it shall make [him s]it […]
[with] his [sc]eptre over … […] brothers … […]
[…] Blank […]
[And] now, sons, lis[ten to … and do] not reject […]
[…] … the evil of […]

It is the message of the Wisdom portion of Proverbs delivered as beatitudes. Like Ben Sira and (1st) Baruch, Wisdom may be seen as the Torah although still developing as a personification of the Law.

Craig A. Evans, in his book Ancient Text for New Testament Studies, notes that Fragment 15 parallels Luke 10.19 but that in the Gospel passage, Christ explicitly gives power to His disciples over the things that Fragment 15 warns against. For those interesting, Evans’ book includes a chapter of allusions between the New Testament and works such as the Dead Sea Scrolls. It seems as well that fragment mentions at the very least imagery later associated with Hell.

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Joel L. Watts
Joel L. Watts holds a Masters of Arts from United Theological Seminary with a focus in literary and rhetorical criticism of the New Testament. He is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of the Free State, analyzing Paul’s model of atonement in Galatians. He is the author of Mimetic Criticism of the Gospel of Mark: Introduction and Commentary (Wipf and Stock, 2013), a co-editor and contributor to From Fear to Faith: Stories of Hitting Spiritual Walls (Energion, 2013), and Praying in God's Theater, Meditations on the Book of Revelation (Wipf and Stock, 2014).

3 thoughts on “4Q525 (4QBeatitudes) – More with Jesus, Lady Wisdom and Folly

  1. Those people lived as we. The recognition that God is, and is to be set apart as “other”.

    Every day I wake to remember three things: The One who is spoken of as “Holy, Holy, Holy”, the marvel of my status before His Holy Throne by the Glory of Jesus, and the utter depravity of the world in which I find my breath.

    The calling to proclaim God, and all His Holy ways is first among men as our purpose. We proclaim to ourselves, then to others.

    Oh! How God’s people long for the place of promise. How we yearn that others would live and not die. And how deeply we seek that His peace would return as it was before the creation’s fall.

    With all sincerity, may God bless you with the fullness of Grace intended for His Glory through you.

    By His Grace.

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