Review, @degruyter_TRS “The Rewritten Scrolls from Qumran: Texts, Translation, and Commentary”

 The Dead Sea Scrolls, as a mystical object the majority of Jewish and Christian believers still ignore, is relatively new. As an object of study, newer still. Yet, in recent years scholars have paid more attention to the content of the scrolls more than the scrolls themselves. We have come to understand a lot about these lost desert communities, isolationists who had retreated to wait for the end of their world. While many scholars focus on the more well-known works, there is still room yet to explore the richness of works largely ignored. Such is case with Ariel Feldman (Ph.D, University of Haifa) who has turned his attention the rewritten Joshua Scrolls (4Q378, 4Q379, 4Q522, 4Q123, 5Q9, Mas 1039-211).

There is not merely a propositional monograph supported with eruditic footnotes. Rather, Feldman presents us a unique type of scholarship, so that while he examines the scrolls for their connectivity, he likewise gives us a solid commentary on the fragments therein. This book of 9 chapters is divided into several parts. First, Feldman gives us an introduction to the history of these particular scrolls. In the first chapter, Feldman makes the argument (as he reminds us in the final chapter) that Joshua is the most rewritten book among the Minor Prophets. He then gives details about the scrolls themselves. Following this are several chapters dedicated to succinct literary and contextual commentary on the various scrolls and fragments. Following this are two concluding chapters arguing for various positions on composition and vorlage. His conclusions, because he has invested such a great amount of work in the preceding chapters, are almost unquestionable at this stage of scholarship.

I will briefly focus on the commentary section. For this, I will use his chapter on 4Q378 (the second chapter of the book), for no other reason than the material provides for an allusion in my New Testament studies. We are introduced to the manuscript itself, giving us the sequence of fragments. Following this is the author’s summary of the contents. For this scroll, we are introduced to one relatively free of narrative but filled with discourses. The author gives us an approximate span of the canon where the fragment would appear. The central portion of each chapter is the text and commentary. The text, of course, is given in the original language. The commentary covers the text, different readings, and includes the author’s comments. I am reminded most of the Hermeneia series. After this, there is a detailed discussion of the contents of the fragment, calling attention to (in this case) Joshua and Moses and Joshua’s succession. Finally, Feldman gives us a list of biblical allusions and discusses provenance.

In total, this is a highly detailed and much needed contribution to these scrolls. If all such Dead Sea Scroll fragments were treated in such a manner, scholarship in this area would find itself near completion. I am most impressed with the attention to detail of the text and the sharp focus of the commentary. Feldman does not get bogged down into outlying issues but remains focused on the fragments and their suspected place as rewritten Scripture. Anyone studying this area, as well as the New Testament or Second Temple Judaism must find this book a necessity.

In the Mail: @DeGruyter_TRS “The Rewritten Scrolls from Qumran: Texts, Translation, and Commentary (Beihefte Zur Zeitschrift Fur Die Alttestamentliche Wissenschaft) “

Among the unknown Jewish writings that emerged from the caves of Qumran are five scrolls rewriting the Book of Joshua. The present volume offers a detailed analysis of these texts and explores their relationship with each other and other Second Temple Jewish writings concerned with the figure of Joshua. The first full-blown study of this group of scrolls, this book is of interest to students and scholars working in the fields of the Dead Sea scrolls and ancient Jewish biblical interpretation.

Part of my dissertation is looking at rewriting… so this will come in handy, I believe.

God Behaving Badly – Personal Thoughts

This will conclude my series of posts on David Lamb’s God Behaving Badly from IVP-Academic. You can read the posts on the author and contents: here and here.  Thanks again to IVP-Academic for seeding the review copy.

I will start off by saying that this week I had to make a real-time decision concerning God Behaving Badly. It just so happens, that this week I covered the issue of violence in the Old Testament in one of the introductory courses I’m teaching this semester. (I would like to attribute the timing to divine providence, but it probably had more to do with me being about two weeks behind on everything right now). So, I came upon the decision of whether I would recommend God Behaving Badly to my students – I did, but with a proviso.

With regard to the proviso, my main concern with God Behaving Badly was that I felt it lacked nuance at certain points. I’ll give a couple of examples:

In Chapter 4, Lamb suggests that the accounts in Joshua are hyperbolic – a point with which I mostly agree. Yet, even in my own recognition that texts in Joshua (and other places) may be hyperbolic, I find myself confronted with a passage like 1 Samuel 15 (I double-checked the scripture index and do not think Lamb deals with this text with regard to violence). In 1 Samuel 15, the very thing that seems to get Saul in trouble is not taking the command of Samuel literally. So, while I may suggest to my students that Old Testament texts may contain hyperbole, I do make mention that 1 Samuel 15 is a text that presents some difficulties for using that view too broadly.

Also in places, I do not feel that Lamb treats some of the more problematic texts emphasized by those who approach the issues in God Behaving Badly differently. In neither his chapter on gender nor his chapter on racism does he deal with Ezra 9-10, especially in relation to his discussion of the foreign grandmothers of Jesus (pp. 86-87). Ezra 9-10 is one of the more difficult sections in the Old Testament and is pertinent to that particular section of the book since some see the Book of Ruth as a response to that part of Ezra.

I felt this lack of nuance at various places throughout the book. So, why did I recommend God Behaving Badly to my students? And, even moreso, why do I recommend it here? I think there are two main reasons.

First, my students are undergraduates, and as such, most of them don’t require nuance at this stage. They still have courses upcoming on Pentateuch, Prophets, and Wisdom Literature where they can approach this question in more depth. In a similar way, for many general readers, I think God Behaving Badly could provide a good entryway into a number of important topics. So, I recommended God Behaving Badly to my students with the proviso not to stop their reading there. In fact, I think Lamb would agree as he states in his concluding chapter: “While all our questions may never fully be answered, we will find that Yahweh and Jesus can be reconciled and that the God of both testaments is loving.”  From this, I take it that Lamb wasn’t trying to treat every difficult text in the Old Testament, but to show how one can approach some of these difficult issues.

Second, what I think Lamb does well in God Behaving Badly is that he highlights many of the more positive texts in the Old Testament. In response to the new atheist readings of the Old Testament, this in itself is important. Someone who reads the the likes of Dawkins and Hitchens would read God Behaving Badly and realize that the new atheists are reading the Old Testament very selectively. Encountering these differing viewpoints should encourage further study of the issues.

With all of this said, I have recommended God Behaving Badly to my students and  recommend it to more general readers who follow this blog. It is a good entryway into a number of important topics. You may still leave the book feeling like you would like to read further. Yet you will at least leave the book with an awareness of many of the higher points in the Old Testament and a better understanding of the context of some difficult Old Testament texts.

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lf you believed, you’d be healed.

Cover of "License to Wed (Combo HD DVD an...

Cover via Amazon

Watched this Robin Williams movie License to Wed last Sunday afternoon. Pretty lame movie (like most of Williams’ movies in recent years), which has just a couple of funny scenes. Including this one:

It is also almost the only scene that has anything to do with Jesus Christ. I wouldn’t recommend anyone watch the whole movie.

A more worthwhile movie is Joshua, the story of what might happen if Jesus came back in a small American town. In the movie there is a scene where a fake faith healer in a tent pretends to heal a woman in a wheel chair. The Joshua character sees this and tells the faith healer “you don’t have faith’. Joshua then turns to a blind woman in the front row of the tent and says “she has faith”. He then holds her head and heals her blindness. In Joshua, everyone is changed. It’s just a movie. But is really thought provoking.

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Thoughts on the Whore and Jesus

From: Hans (Jan) Collaert (Antwerp, 1566-1628)...
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This is from a short paper written for class. A rough draft of course…

חֶ֔סֶד was what Rahab extended and was what Rahab asked for. It wasn’t merely for the sparing of her and her family’s life, but ultimately for inclusion in YHWH’s covenant with Abraham (Genesis 24.12)

‘You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, and on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing חֶ֔סֶד to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments. (Deuteronomy 5:9-10 NASB)

We must ask first of the importance of Rahab’s action. She was a prostitute, and it must be noticed first the connection between this story and the story as found in Numbers 25. Unlike this time, the spies most likely engaged in some sort of sexual license but remained faithful to the Covenant. Further, they didn’t give a false report, remained strong, and fulfilled God’s commands, reaping God’s rewards. And in this, when God’s covenant was fulfilled, a family of Gentiles were saved through the חֶ֔סֶד showed to Moses and promised to those who would obey God’s commands.

Further, the covenant between Rahab and the spies of Israel explicitly challenged Deuteronomy 7 in which YHWY thunders,

“When the LORD your God brings you into the land where you are entering to possess it, and clears away many nations before you, the Hittites and the Girgashites and the Amorites and the Canaanites and the Perizzites and the Hivites and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and stronger than you, and when the LORD your God delivers them before you and you defeat them, then you shall utterly destroy them. You shall make no covenant with them and show no favor to them. (Deuteronomy 7:1-2 NASB)

Further, verse three states that no intermarriage between the native inhabitants of Canaan and the Israelites could happen. (We see the enforcement of this principle in Ezra-Nehemiah when the purity of Israel demanded exclusion of all others.) However, in Matthew 1.5, the great Judge Boaz is said to be of a Gentile mother – Rahab. Granted, Boaz didn’t do any better, as he would take a wife of another banned race, the Moabitess Ruth. The inclusion of Rahab must stand as a testimony first to the influence of Deuteronomy in the Pharisaic Community of the Jewish Church and then as a monument to how Matthew interpreted Christ. I would contend that the Beautitudes as found in Matthew 5 corresponds to the Deuteronomic blessing and curse cycle. If this is so, then it may be possible that the ἐλεηθήσονται of Matthew 5.7 is referring to the covenant of Rahab (given that Joshua is of the Deuteronomic school) (cf PsSol 15.13).

Rahab is the example of extending the Covenant to Gentiles through their response to YHWH. Rahab’s speech is a precise reciting of the precepts of the Covenant which acknowledges Israel’s right to the Land, the Exodus story (important in Luke’s Gospel), and the supremacy of YHWH ‘in heaven above and on earth beneath’ (v11). By extending to the spies of Israel the חֶ֔סֶד of YHWH, she was in part re-enacting the Covenant itself. Because of this, it was her right to ask for it to be returned. By placing her in the genealogy of Christ, Matthew is calling attention to the New Covenant which the Gentiles were expected and welcomes to respond to. Further, it answers the racism of Ezra-Nehemiah in that Gentiles were include in the family line not only of the Davidic kings, but now of the Davidic Messiah.

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Joshua's Choice

“Now therefore, fear the LORD, serve Him in sincerity and in truth, and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the River and in Egypt. Serve the LORD! And if it seems evil to you to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” (Joshua 24:14-15 NKJV)

Joshua stood at the head of all Israel, and it came down to a choice – not between the nation but the family. God’s basic unit is always the family. It was the first covenant made – that of marriage. Here, Joshua was making the bold statement, one reminiscent of David Crockett’s before the U.S. House on the eve of the Texas Revolution. You can do as you wish, Joshua said, but for him, he and his house would serve the Lord.

Regardless of the morality and faithfulness of the nation, Joshua was determined to live for God. The same could be said about our families, or our congregations. Too often I find that people rely upon those around them for standards, for morality, for holiness, instead of charting the course for God themselves. How long can the high standards of morality be held if it is a contious race to the bottom? If one person is able to get away with something, then the next person will try something worse.

The choice that we must make is one that is individual, but it will effect those around us. If we stand to hold the light high, then we will loose friends and companions, but in the end, we will have God. Even if we see those around us fall, we must be willing to press forward, to that mark, to that high calling of God in Christ Jesus. It is a choice made by Abraham, Moses, Joshua, Paul, our fathers in the faith, and with the grace of God, it is a choice made by us.