Friday, August 31, 2012

Reading Scripture for the Church

That title describes this stimulating post by Derek Olsen, who tells us why Christians should read scripture with the Church Fathers, and, more importantly, how we can imitate their reading habits. There are several good passages in the post. Here is one of them, to whet your appetite:
We do need to be reading more of the fathers. But we also need to be reading them in the right way. I put Paul and the fathers in the same category in terms of how they need to be read. Sometimes they teach us by what they say in the decisions they come to. But other times they teach us because of the ways that they show us to think. Paul has given us a treasure in First Corinthians; while it may not wrestle with justification like Romans or present a grand vision of the church like Ephesians, First Corinthians shows us a master edifier working through the practical problems of the local church in light of the resurrection and the Scriptures. We need to learn from his example, not just his conclusions. The same is true of the fathers – we need to learn from their examples, not just their conclusions.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Greek Canon Lists: Melito of Sardis, part 4

This post will wrap up my series on the list of OT books given by Melito, bishop of Sardis, and preserved by Eusebius. Here are the previous posts in this series:

Part 1 (introduction, text of the canon list, the order of the Pentateuch)
Part 2 (did Melito include the Wisdom of Solomon?)
Part 3 (the absence of Lamentations, Nehemiah, and Esther)

The Number of Books
Melito does not name a number of books constituting the OT, as do some later Greek authors. The most commonly-cited number in Greek sources for the OT books is 22, which several Greek writers explicitly connect to the number of letters in the Hebrew alphabet (more here). If you simply count the names of the books as listed by Melito (see the first post on Melito for a simple list of the names), you'll find 21 titles. This is so close to 22 that you might be tempted to look for a missing book. Esther is an obvious candidate, but I haven't found any scholar who wants to include Esther in Melito's list for the sake of counting 22 books. That's good, since last time we found good reasons for thinking that Esther was omitted intentionally and so would not have been counted among the 22 books. (One might also think that Wisdom of Solomon is a good candidate for the missing book, but see here.)

However, some scholars do want to count Melito's books as 22. Sundberg (pp. 133-34) thinks that Lamentations was not counted as part of Jeremiah (as I argued in the previous post), but rather was accidentally left off, and so adding it back in with its own number results in a total of 22 books. Difficulties attend this interpretation. Aside from the very great probability that Lamentations should actually be seen as a part of Jeremiah here, this way of counting the books would require putting all 4 books of 'Kingdoms' (= 1-2 Samuel and 1-2 Kings) together as one book, and I know of no other ancient writer who did this. It seems doubtful that this is what Melito intended. In fact, Melito simply says of Kingdoms and Chronicles: "Of Kingdoms, four; of Paralipomena, two."

So, Katz (p. 196) has a bit better way of arriving at  22 books in that he separates Melito's one title "Kingdoms" into two: Samuel and Kings. This finds agreement with many other lists that count Kingdoms as 2 books and Chronicles as 1, so that's a possible way of getting to 22 for Melito. But if so Melito is far from explicit on the point. He does not say that Kingdoms counts as one (Sundberg) or two (Katz), he says it is four. He does not say that Paralipomena counts as one (Sundberg and Katz), he says two.

Counting all the 'books' that Melito mentions (4 for Kingdoms, 2 for Chronicles, 1 for the Twelve, etc.), you get 25 books (see Beckwith, pp. 184-85). That is not a number otherwise attested for the HB/OT, as far as I know. In fact, it does not seem that Melito is really all that concerned with the number of books, despite his mentioning the 'number' (ἀριθμός) as one aspect of his researches (Hist. eccl. 4.26.13). The only time he might be concerned about the way books are counted is for the Twelve, which he reports are in one book. Katz (p. 196) regarded that as "an unmistakable hint at the sum total." But why then does he say four of Kingdoms and two of Chronicles, parallel to his mentioning five of Moses, which certainly count as five? If he wants to hint at the number 22, it seems to me he has done a poor job.

And why would he want to 'hint' anyway? Why not just tell us, if he cared? I think the mention of "Twelve in One" for the Minor Prophets is simply a reference to the number of scrolls required to contain these 'twelve,' namely, one. At the end of the day, it seems to me that Melito is not concerned with a 'magical' number--as many of the later Fathers are aiming specifically at 22--but simply with relating to Onesimus how many scrolls it would take to have the entire library of the OT = 25.

The Identity of Melito's Source
Melito does not tell us whom he asked for this information. He says he went to Palestine (or, to the 'east'), but it would be nice to know if he saw fit to seek out a Jew or was content to ask a Christian.Some scholars have argued that Melito would not have needed to go to the east to ask Jews because there was a large Jewish population in Sardis that he could have asked had he wanted their opinion. One may respond that there was also a Christian population in Sardis, but of course he didn't ask the Christians in Sardis because he did not think he could trust them on this matter. He did regard someone in the 'east'--whether Jew or Christian--to be more trustworthy on this score, apparently because this was the homeland of the Bible. (Note that Melito says [apud Eus., Hist. eccl. 4.26.14] that he went "to the place where these things were preached and done.")

I suggested in my book (p. 24) that Melito, being a Christian, probably would have asked Christians rather than Jews. If the argument presented last time regarding the rationale behind Esther's absence from Melito's list holds water, then this suggestion is strengthened. I have gone back and forth on this issue in the past couple of years, and for now I'm leaning toward Christians (and thus against Zahn, p. 196 n. 11, and other sources; cf. my book, p. 23 n. 34).

Why Did Melito Have to Ask?
It seems odd that a bishop (!) would have to go to Palestine to ask which books should be in the OT. What does this mean about the state of the OT in the early church? Scholars have correctly noted that at least it demonstrates that some confusion surrounded this issue in Asia Minor during the second century (McDonald, p. 201).  

But I think we can say a little more than that based even on the little snippet preserved by Eusebius. I suggested in my book (p. 23) that the circulation of pseudepigrapha in the early church led to confusion about the proper contents of the OT. When the question comes up, I think it important that we note that Melito thinks he knows how to find the answer, even if the answer itself is not on the tip of his tongue. In other words, even though Melito does not know the list of books before traveling to Palestine, he knows that someone should know the list of books, because he is convinced that there is a list of books. Melito's confusion over the canon issue, and the confusion of Onesimus, does not demonstrate an open canon or no canon. Melito investigates the matter under the assumption that there is a proper list of OT books and that someone in the 'east' will be able to tell him what is on the list.

This is, in fact, not all that different from situations today. I don't know about the people you go to church with, but many of the people I go to church with would not be able to rattle off a full list of OT books. That does not mean that they doubt there is such a list; they just don't have all the titles committed to memory. They would know where to look if pressed, though (i.e., their Bible's table of contents). If you asked them whether the Book of Hezekiah is in the OT, some might have to give it some thought, and some just might not know. I suggest that that is the situation Melito and Onesimus were in. Is Enoch in the OT? Are these genuine OT writings? What about Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs, or even Tobit, Judith, and the others? Melito might not know the answer to these questions before his trip to Palestine, but he thinks that there is an answer and he knows how to find it. 

Monday, August 27, 2012

Greek Canon Lists: Melito of Sardis, part 3

The first post on Melito introduced his canon list, provided the text in Greek, and discussed his strange order for the Pentateuch (Numbers-Leviticus). The second post considered whether Melito included the Wisdom of Solomon in his list. 

This post considers the rationale behind Melito's failure to mention certain books included now in the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible. After brief discussions of the cases of Lamentations and Nehemiah, we will spend more time investigating Melito's omission of Esther.

Lamentations was commonly included as a part of Jeremiah in Christian lists. Melito's list is the first Christian list, so we can't be sure that the same was true for him, but the practice is so common later on that it would be foolish to say Melito must have omitted the book. 

The absence of any mention of Nehemiah by Melito can probably be explained similarly. In Jewish and Christian tradition, Nehemiah was commonly counted as one book with Ezra, which is included in Melito's list under the title 'Esdras'. That title probably refers to 1Esdras, which includes only a bit of Neh. 8. [On the other hand, Sundberg (p. 133) suggests that "[i]n Melito's list Esdras probably designates Ezra-Nehemiah," but it seems more probable that the bare title 'Esdras' in Greek would refer to 1Esdras.] It is probable that when the Fathers thought of 'Esdras' (whether 1Esdras or 2Esdras or both [see here to sort out the names of these books]), they assumed they were getting a version of the Ezra-Nehemiah story equivalent to those books in circulation among the Jews. After all, the title of the Ezra-Nehemiah book in the famous baraita in b. B. Bathra 14b is "Ezra." The upshot of all this is that when Melito listed "Esdras" as one of the biblical books, he probably assumed this title was comprehensive of whatever material the Jews included under the title "Ezra" (= Ezra-Nehemiah). 

Melito's list does not include the Book of Esther, which was never included with any other book, as we have seen was the case for Lamentations and Nehemiah. Some scholars (e.g., Ellis, p. 11) suggest that Melito or his source accidentally left Esther out, and that it should really be in the list. I incline to the view that this omission was intentional. The book is omitted also in the lists of Gregory of Nazianzus (Carmen 1.12) and Amphilochius of Iconium (Iambi ad Seleucum 261-89); this latter writer mentions that some include the book of Esther in the canon. Athanasius puts Esther among the outside useful books (Ep. fest. 39). Also, of course, it has not been found at Qumran (see here and here), and some Rabbis had some difficulties with the book (cf. Meg. 7a; on all this see Beckwith, pp. 291-97, 314-15; Leiman, pp. 200-1 n. 634). In view of the questions regarding the book entertained by some ancient Jews and Christians, it seems likely that Melito's source harbored similar doubts and did not include Esther in the list he transmitted to the bishop.

But why was Esther omitted by Melito or his source? Hennings thinks that the Jewish doubts about the book influenced Christians, or, alternatively, that the Christians regarded the book as too 'pro-Jewish' (p. 151 n. 85). On the other hand, Leiman thinks that omission of Esther was due to Christian ambivalence toward books not translated by the Seventy. This is an interesting idea that I'd like to discuss a little further. Leiman's suggestion has a certain plausibility to it, since Christians did commonly regard every OT book in Greek as part of the inspired LXX translation; books that could not claim the authority of the LXX were held in suspicion (this is, in fact, the argument in my book, pp. 92-98). After establishing that the Church Fathers were often more concerned with the number 22 than with the actual books of the canon (for more on this, see my book, pp. 85-92), Leiman writes:
Esther, rather than another biblical book, was excluded from some lists because it was the last title on most of the lists which included it [cf. Origen, Bryennios List, Epiphanius 3x, Jerome, Hilary], and because Melito had established a precedent for omitting Esther. It was last on the lists, and omitted by Melito, not because of Jewish doubts about its canonicity, but because the colophon to the Greek Esther indicated that it was the only Greek translation of a biblical book, included in LXX [sic], and yet not part of the original LXX translation. (p. 160 n. 239)
The colophon in question reads thus (trans. Karen Jobes, NETS):
In the fourth year of the reign of Ptolemy and Kleopatra, Dositheos, who said he was a priest and a Leuite, and Ptolemy his son brought the above letter about Phrourai, which they said existed, and Lysimachus son of Ptolemy, one of those in Ierousalem, translated it.
Lysimachus of Jerusalem is credited with translating "the above letter about Phrourai," where Phrourai is a Greek transliteration of the Aramaic form of the word Purim, and so the whole phrase--the letter about Phrourai--is equivalent to our "the Book of Esther" (see Bickerman, pp. 349-51).

Leiman's argument makes some sense. Presumably, in ca. 180 CE, if Melito had asked a Palestinian Jew for a list of canonical books, Esther would have been included. Possibly not, but probably. [Note Talmon, p. 266: "in the third century CE, the Book of Esther had definitely been accepted as part of the Hebrew Bible."] Leiman does point out (earlier in the same note) that the Church Fathers who stress that their list of OT books derives from Jews (e.g., Origen, Epiphanius, Jerome) do include Esther. Earlier, Josephus seems to have included Esther among his 22 books (cf. Beckwith, p. 322). Apparently 4Ezra 14:45 also regarded the inclusion of Esther in the canon a foregone conclusion (assuming Esther was among the 24 books). If it was doubted earlier by some Jewish groups (e.g., Qumran) and would continue to be questioned by certain Rabbis, that apparently had little effect on its position within the scriptural canon of the post-70 Palestinian Jews.

Christians were another matter. If they did pay much attention to the colophon, that would show that the Greek Esther had not originated with the original LXX and would raise some doubts. But, there are still some questions I have about this: (1) I'd like a Church Father explicitly to attribute his doubts about Esther to the colophon; (2) a doubtful Greek translation does not necessarily lead to doubts about the book itself.

In other words, I argue in my book (pp. 92-98) that the desire to include certain 'extra' books ('extra' in the sense of 'beyond the Jewish canon,' e.g. Wisdom of Solomon, Tobit, etc.) led to the placement of these books in the 'LXX' (both physically--in a codex--and conceptually, thinking that these books were translated also by the Seventy). This was true even for some books (e.g. Wisdom of Solomon) that were originally written in Greek.The point is, the Fathers (I argue) worked with a theory such that OT books should have been originally delivered to the ancient Hebrews, and thus should have originally been written in Hebrew. If a book was originally written in Greek, this criterion would tell against its canonicity. And so if a Father wanted to include in his canon a work originally written in Greek (like 2 Maccabees or Wisdom of Solomon), he might include it in the 'LXX' translation, and this would imply that it had a Hebrew original, whether it really did or not. (For more on this, see here.)

But this is not what's going on with the Esther colophon. The colophon makes clear that the Book of Esther did have a Hebrew original and that it was not translated by the Seventy. Of course, just because it had a Hebrew original did not necessarily make it canonical. That was a necessary criterion but not a sufficient criterion. If Leiman is correct, and it was the colophon that caused doubts among Christians, perhaps it worked this way. Maybe the very early Fathers assumed that if Esther was not translated by the Seventy, that means that it did not form a part of the scriptures at the time of the translation, and thus should be rejected by the Church. If it was added subsequently to the canon by the Jews, Christians also knew the Jews to have altered other features of the received biblical canon (cf. Origen's Epistle to Africanus).

If this reasoning lies behind the omission of Esther in Melito's list, we can draw two further implications. (1) Apparently Melito consulted Christians in Palestine rather than Jews. This issue will be discussed further in a subsequent post, but for now, see my book, pp. 22-24, for an overview. (2) The Esther colophon does not seem to have caused such concerns for many Christians, because many OT canon lists do include the book.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Esther at Qumran, part 2

In the previous post, I briefly laid out the case made by some scholars for positing a knowledge--even an intimate knowledge--of the text of Esther at Qumran despite the absence of any Esther manuscript among the discoveries there. In this post I reflect on the implications of this for the status of Esther at Qumran.

We have opposing indications for the reception of Esther at Qumran. One line of evidence--close linguistic parallels--suggests that the Qumran group did read Esther, and even this is putting the matter too mildly for some scholars, who would prefer to say that some scribes at Qumran knew the text of Esther very well. On the other hand, not only did the Qumran library yield no Esther scroll, but the community omitted Purim from their celebrations.What does this mean?

In the article by Shemaryahu Talmon mentioned last time, Talmon deals with this question in the following way (pp. 265-67). He rejects three commonly proposed reasons for Esther's absence at Qumran:

  • the brevity of the book makes it more likely to have perished; Talmon responds that fragments of shorter books were found (e.g. Song of Songs, Lamentations); 
  • the Community rejected the book for theological/ideological reasons; "If this were indeed the case, Yaḥad authors and scribes undoubtedly would have refrained from incorporating explicit quotations from the book in their works"; 
  • though a manuscript has not turned up yet, one might be found among the unidentified fragments. Certainly this last proposal is even more unlikely in 2012 than it was when Talmon wrote in 1995. 

So, what explanation does Talmon put forward? 
It would appear that the above discrepancy is best explained by the assumptions that while the Book of Esther was well known in the late Second Temple period, when most if not all Qumran manuscripts were penned, it had not yet achieved "canonical" status, viz. was not yet recognized as part of Hebrew Scriptures. (p. 266)
I don't think this quite settles the matter. Let me offer some reflections on the evidence to hand.

The Absence of an Esther Manuscript

Recent scholarship on the biblical canon and the evidence to be gleaned for it from Qumran has emphasized that the presence of manuscripts are not necessarily decisive for the acceptance of a book as canonical. Actually, recent scholarship has argued for the complete anachronism of the concept of canonicity at Qumran, so let's say the presence of a manuscript does not necessarily mean a work is received as scripture. (VanderKam and Flint (pp. 178-79), along with many other scholars, do think that the presence of a work in many manuscripts indicates its reception as scripture.)

On the other hand, the absence of a manuscript in a community's archives--in a synagogue, for example, or a church building--would not necessarily indicate that the community did not regard that particular work as scripture. Indeed, it seems unlikely that many synagogues and church buildings around the turn of the era did possess copies of all the books they deemed as scripture. Still, Qumran is a bit different, for they obviously possessed more scrolls than an average community their size. The absence of a copy of Esther would seem to indicate that the community did not regard it as scripture, but not necessarily, especially if we posit (against Talmon but with some other scholars, noted in the previous post) that hungry worm or mouse may have served a fatal blow to Esther.

The presence or absence of a manuscript actually relates to reading habits. The 36 copies of Psalms at Qumran shows that Psalms was a popular book--many copies were required because people wanted to read/study it. Same for Isaiah, Deuteronomy, etc. Chronicles was not so popular. The one manuscript recovered of Chronicles does not mean that it was or was not deemed scriptural by the community; it means not many people cared to read it. The absence of Esther in the recovered manuscripts indicates that the community did not spend much time reading/studying the scroll of Esther. Even if there was a scroll there that succumbed to a hungry mouse, still the relative paucity of manuscript evidence for Esther confirms that Esther was not on the best-sellers list at Qumran.

All of this is, of course, related in some ways to 'scripturalness', but there is not so close a relationship as is often supposed. The Qumran community certainly housed scrolls that they would not have considered scripture, so even if they did not consider Esther to be scripture, that is really no reason to lack a copy of the scroll. Rather, they did not have a copy--or they had very few copies, all of which have perished--because not many people cared to read it.

The Linguistic Parallels

The linguistic parallels (see previous post) show that some people had read the book, or, actually, they had spent quite a bit of time with Esther and gotten some of the wording stuck in their heads. Whether this reading/studying of Esther took place at Qumran or elsewhere is a moot point. It does show that some members of the Qumran community were well aware of the existence of the scroll of Esther, so its absence from Qumran cannot be attributed to ignorance.

The Absence of Purim

Purim is not included among the festivals mentioned in the Qumran calendrical texts. The linguistic parallels between Esther and some scrolls show that some of the authors of the Dead Sea Scrolls did know about Purim, including its date. Apparently they did not celebrate it. To my mind, this is the strongest argument against the idea that Esther could have enjoyed any sort of 'authority' at Qumran. The celebration of Purim is a command in the Book of Esther, some members of the Qumran community read the Book of Esther, the Qumran community did not celebrate Purim. Esther could not have been seen as scriptural.

Implications and Conclusions

What does all this mean for the status of Esther at Qumran? Talmon mentioned four scenarios that might explain the absence of an Esther manuscript, only the last of which did he support: (a) an Esther scroll housed at Qumran perished; (b) the Qumran community rejected Esther for ideological/theological reasons; (c) an Esther scroll still might turn up; and (d) the Book of Esther was not considered scriptural in Judaism at the time.

The third option must be judged as extremely unlikely now (though the recent discovery of a Nehemiah scroll, in private hands for decades, cautions us against judging this scenario impossible).

Although Talmon thinks the first option to be wrong, the evidence he himself provides shows that some members of the Qumran community did read Esther, so they must have encountered a scroll, at Qumran or elsewhere. Possession of a scroll does not imply attribution to the scroll of religious authority. I don't see anything that would indicate that this option is not possible. But, in any case, that doesn't really answer our question as to what the Qumran community thought about the scroll of Esther.

To understand the status of Esther at Qumran, the options--it seems to me--are really between Talmon's second and fourth scenarios. Either the Qumran community consciously rejected Esther as scripture (as VanderKam and Flint think, discussed in the previous post), or the book of Esther had not achieved scriptural status in Judaism yet, either at Qumran or elsewhere. Talmon dismisses the second option because he does not believe that a community that rejected Esther as scripture would incorporate into their own writings phrasing from Esther. Is this reasoning valid? Might a Protestant incorporate into his writing some phrasing derived from a deuterocanonical book? Might a Jew incorporate into his writing some phrasing derived from the New Testament? Might a Christian or Jew incorporate into their writing phrasing derived from the Quran? This does not strike me as impossible or even improbable. Rejecting a document as scripture does not imply anger at the document, refusal to read the document, or any such thing. Some early Christians were quite explicit on the point that certain 'rejected' documents could be quite helpful. (For more, see this fantastic article.)

So, both Talmon's second option and his fourth option seem possible. How to decide? One would have to determine whether Esther was seen as scriptural in Judaism outside Qumran. This would help determine whether the Qumran stance on Esther as non-canonical was a conscious rejection or not.

Evidence for the scriptural status of Esther in Judaism before the turn of the era is difficult to come by, and what is available is difficult of interpretation, but I'll briefly mention some things. The celebration of Purim seems to have been widely established by the end of the second century BCE. The "Day of Mordecai" (ἡ Μαρδοχαϊκὴ ἡμέρα) is mentioned in 2Mac 15:36 (ca. 100 BCE or earlier; see new Schürer, 3.1.532-33) as a recognized festival, and this is apparently an early name for Purim. The colophon of LXX Esther (which will receive treatment in a future post on Melito's canon) also mentions the feast of Purim, and this would date to around the same time as 2Mac. Josephus speaks of Purim as if every Jew in the world celebrated it annually (Ant. 11.292-95). This indicates that the directive in Esther to celebrate this feast was taken very seriously at this time. As for evidence for the book of Esther itself, it was translated into Greek fairly early, as I mentioned, and Josephus (note especially his terminus for the end of "the exact succession of the prophets," C.Ap. 1.40-41) and 4Ezra both seem to assume that it is canonical. That's admittedly not very early.

Does this mean that Esther was viewed as scripture in wider Judaism and consciously rejected by the Qumran community? That still seems most likely to me. Indeed, the scriptural status in wider Judaism would help to explain why some scribes at Qumran were so familiar with the text. Nevertheless, they rejected it because it prescribed a festival unknown to the Torah, a festival which would have fallen on a Sabbath according to their calendar, and thus a festival in conflict with the way they perceived the cosmos as ordained by God. In other words, surely the covenanters knew about Purim (the celebration of which has to be based on the authority of the Esther scroll) and consciously chose not to celebrate it and thus consciously declined to cede religious authority to the Book of Esther.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Esther at Qumran, part 1

No scroll of Esther was discovered among the 220 or so biblical scrolls recovered in the eleven caves around Qumran, making it the only book of the current Hebrew Bible omitted from the discoveries. A good case can be made that the Qumran community consciously rejected Esther as a scriptural book. Indeed, VanderKam and Flint assert: "Research and evidence from certain nonbiblical scrolls, however, show that Esther was rejected by the Qumran community for theological reasons" (Meaning of the Dead Sea Scrolls, p. 119). They mention as possible reasons for this rejection (a) the lack of any mention of God, (b) the marriage of Esther to a pagan, and (c) the book's emphasis on retaliation as contrasted with the Community's own teaching (c.f 1QS 10.17-18). But the real reason, "almost certainly," is the innovation in Esther of the Purim festival, not mentioned in the Torah. Confirmation that the Community did not celebrate Purim comes from the calendrical texts, which lack this festival.

But perhaps the lack of an Esther manuscript at Qumran is a mere accident. Frank Moore Cross has written:
The library [of Qumran] contains specimens of all the works of the Hebrew canon with the exception of the book of Esther. Its absence, however, may be owing only to chance. The Book of Chronicles has survived at Qumran only in a single small fragment despite its larger size; an additional hungry worm, and Chronicles, too, would have been missing. (From Epic to Canon, p. 225)
Similarly, Armin Lange says that Esther's absence from Qumran's library could result from "the appetite of the Mouse in Qumran" (Handbuch, p. 502).

In fact, some scholars have found what they deem to be evidence that the Qumran community, or at least some of its scribes, knew the Book of Esther. While he had his predecessors in asserting that the Qumran community did know and use Esther, Josef Milik created a bit of a stir in 1992 when he proposed that 4Q550 was an Aramaic 'proto-Esther'. This seems not to have been well-received by scholars; Shemaryahu Talmon (here, pp. 252-56), Sidnie White Crawford (here), Kristin De Troyer (here, pp. 405-11), and Lange (Handbuch, pp. 497-98) all think that the common themes and language shared by Esther and 4Q550 might demonstrate a common literary tradition but fail to demonstrate that the MT Esther descends directly from the Qumran document.

But, three of those scholars--Talmon, De Troyer, and Lange--try to make the case that linguistic similarities between Qumran sectarian literature and the Hebrew text of Esther show that Esther was known at Qumran. Talmon bases his case mostly on eight biblical hapax legomena occurring only in Esther but recurring also in certain Qumran sectarian literature. Lange makes a similar move, and since his contribution is more recent and briefer, I'll mention his evidence.

Lange first states that case that he seeks to make: "At least for the author of some texts found in the Qumran library, allusions to the Book of Esther and recordings [Aufnahmen] of the same prove knowledge of the text" (Handbuch, p. 498). He gives five examples of such allusions and recordings. Lange gives the Greek text for the biblical examples along with the Hebrew text; I'll just give the Hebrew text.
  1. Esther 2:9: וַתִּשָּׂא חֶסֶד לְפָנָיו and Esther 2:17: וַתִּשָּׂא־חֵן וָחֶסֶד לְפָנָיו compared with 1QS 2:4: וישא פני חסדיו לכה. 
  2. Esther 3:7: מִיּוֹם לְיוֹם וּמֵחֹדֶשׁ לְחֹדֶשׁ compared with 4QD-b 9 1:1: מיום ליום ו]מחודש לחודש
  3. Esther 3:14: לִהְיוֹת עְַתִדִים and Esther 8:13: וְלִהְיוֹת הַיְּהוּדִיים עְַתדִים compared with 1QSa 1:26-27: להיות כול הב עת[יד. 
  4. Esther 8:15: וְתַכְרִיך בּוּץ וְאַרְגָּמָן compared with 1QapGen 20:31: ולבוש שגי בוץ וארגואן. 
  5. Esther 9:22: וְהַחֹדֶשׁ אְַשֶׁר נֶהְפַּךְ לָהֶם מִיָּגוֹן לְשִׂמְחָה וּמֵאֵבֶל לְיוֹם טוֹב compared with 4QpHos-a 2.16-17: ו[כול שמחה  ]נהפכה להם לאבל. 
According to Lange, two conclusions result from the above linguistic parallels (p. 501). (1) "There can be no doubt that the Book of Esther was known and read in the Essene movement." (2) The text of Esther read could not have been the Alpha-text, and in most cases could only have been the Hebrew text (not the LXX).

With regard to the second example mentioned above, Jonathan Ben Dov published a brief article in which he argued (persuasively, I think) that the phrase in 4QD-b מחודש לחודש was actually a scribal mistake arising from a remembrance of Esther 3:7 and inserted in a context in the Qumran scroll where it actually does not make good sense. Ben Dov says about the scribe of this manuscript: "His acquaintance with the Book of Esther must have been so profound that characteristic words from its text occurred in his mind while copying other compositions, and found their way into the copied text."

So, quite a bit of evidence--some of it rather strong--indicates that some of the Qumran sectarians did read Esther. Lange does not think this indicates that Esther "enjoyed religious authority," and he even suggests that the "reverse quotation" of Esther 9:22 in 4QpHos-a 2.16-17 may "point to a distancing from the Purim festival." Nevertheless, they did read the scroll, and so they probably possessed a copy, Lange thinks (pp. 501-502), and so our failure to discover their copy of Esther may be due to the mouse, as I mentioned earlier.

In the next post, I'll offer some reflections on the place of Esther at Qumran.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Greek Canon Lists: Melito of Sardis, part 2

In my previous post, I quoted Melito's OT canon list from the late second century CE and discussed his unusual order for the Pentateuch. In this post I'll seek to answer the following question.
Did Melito include the Wisdom of Solomon in the list?

This question relates to the listing by Melito of the books of Solomon, which begins with these words: Σολομῶνος Παροιμίαι ἡ καὶ Σοφία. There are two options here: either Melito means "Of Solomon, Proverbs and [the book of] Wisdom," or he means, "Of Solomon, Proverbs, which is also [known as] Wisdom." That is, either he means two different books or two different titles for the same proto-canonical book of Proverbs.

Three reasons persuade me that he is giving two different titles for Proverbs. First, Eusebius--earlier in the same book in which he quoted Melito--informs his readers that 'Wisdom' commonly stood in for 'Proverbs' as a title for the proto-canonical book: "And not only he [= Hegesippus] but also Irenaeus and the whole company of the ancients [ὁ πᾶς τῶν ἀρχαίων χορός] called the Proverbs the All-virtuous Wisdom [πανάρετος Σοφία]" (Hist. eccl. 4.22.9, LCL translation).  

Second, Rufinus seems to have taken Melito in this way, for his translation of the Ecclesiastical History renders the phrase this way: Salomonis Proverbia quae et Sapientia

Third, I think it highly unlikely that Melito's source--whoever that was--would have included Wisdom of Solomon in a list of sacred books such as this. If his informants were Jewish, and if Jews contemporary with Melito did in fact make some use of the Wisdom of Solomon, it is still improbable that they would have listed it as a fully 'biblical' book in this way. For instance, the Jewish writer of 4Ezra 14 (ca. 100 CE) clearly wants to magnify the status of a wide variety of sacred literature (the 70 outside books), but his means of doing this does not include expanding the recognized 24-book canon beyond its normal limits. It seems as though, even for those Jews who freely make use of 'outside' books, adding such books to an official list of recognized sacred literature was not an option. (On all this see William Horbury's essay in Wisdom in Ancient Israel). 

If his informants were Christians, they would still seem to have been heavily influenced by a Jewish list of books, because that's essentially what Melito supplies (of course, without Esther, to be discussed in a later post). And we have just as little evidence that Christians would have included Wisdom of Solomon in a list of sacred books at this time--after all, Melito provides our first Christian OT canon list. While Christians at this time did make use of Wisdom of Solomon (see Horbury, already cited, and Stuhlhofer, p. 147), this book does not appear in a canon list--aside from Melito's possibly and depending on the interpretation and date of the Muratorian Fragment--until the late fourth century in some Latin sources (Mommsen Catalogue, Augustine, Breviarium hipponense).

So, it seems to me that the evidence points firmly (if not decisively) away from the supposition that Melito included Wisdom of Solomon in his list.

Preview of My Book

I see Google now offers a nice preview of my book, Hebrew Scripture in Patristic Biblical Theory. Those of you who have held off on buying it until you could view the Table of Contents and read some selections can now bite the bullet and pony up the cash. Believe me, it's worth it. You'll never see patristic reception of the Hebrew Bible for definitions of canon and text of the Old Testament the same again!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Greek Canon Lists: Melito of Sardis, part 1

The earliest preserved list of books of the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament (not counting the baraita in Baba Bathra, the date of which is debatable) is the one that Melito, Bishop of Sardis (in Asia Minor), provides for his 'brother' (fellow bishop? cf. Audet, p. 143) Onesimus. It was written in a work called the Eklogai, or Extracts, which has not been preserved complete, but only in fragments in Eusebius.The commonly cited date is 180 CE.

In this post I introduce the list briefly and discuss one issue, that of its order for the Pentateuch. In later posts I will tackle further issues arising from a consideration of Melito's canon list.
Melito of Sardis, Eklogai
(preserved in Eusebius, Historia ecclesiastica 4.26.12–14)
Edition: Eduard Schwartz, ed., Eusebius Werke 2.1: Die Kirchengeschichte, Bücher I–V, GCS 9.1 (Leipzig: Hinrichs, 1903), 386–88. Thanks to the Internet Archive, this edition of Eusebius' Ecclesiastical History (with Rufinus' facing Latin translation) is fully available online: first part, second part, third part. Various translations are available; here's one that is online: book 4.
(12) ἀλλὰ ταῦτα μὲν ἐν τῷ δηλωθέντι τέθειται λόγῳ· ἐν δὲ ταῖς γραφείσαις αὐτῷ Ἐκλογαῖς ὁ αὐτὸς κατὰ τὸ προοίμιον ἀρχόμενος τῶν ὁμολογουμένων τῆς παλαιᾶς διαθήκης γραφῶν ποιεῖται κατάλογον· ὃν καὶ ἀναγκαῖον ἐνταῦθα καταλέξαι, γράφει δὲ οὕτως. (13) «Μελίτων Ὀνησίμῳ τῷ ἀδελφῷ χαίρειν. ἐπειδὴ πολλάκις ἠξίωσας, σπουδῇ τῇ πρὸς τὸν λόγον χρώμενος, γενέσθαι σοι ἐκλογὰς ἔκ τε τοῦ νόμου καὶ τῶν προφητῶν περὶ τοῦ σωτῆρος καὶ πάσης τῆς πίστεως ἡμῶν, ἔτι δὲ καὶ μαθεῖν τὴν τῶν παλαιῶν βιβλίων ἐβουλήθης ἀκρίβειαν πόσα τὸν ἀριθμὸν καὶ ὁποῖα τὴν τάξιν εἶεν, ἐσπούδασα τὸ τοιοῦτο πρᾶξαι, ἐπιστάμενός σου τὸ σπουδαῖον περὶ τὴν πίστιν καὶ φιλομαθὲς περὶ τὸν λόγον ὅτι τε μάλιστα πάντων πόθῳ τῷ πρὸς τὸν θεὸν ταῦτα προκρίνεις, περὶ τῆς αἰωνίου σωτηρίας ἀγωνιζόμενος. (14) ἀνελθὼν οὖν εἰς τὴν ἀνατολὴν καὶ ἕως τοῦ τόπου γενόμενος ἔνθα ἐκηρύχθη καὶ ἐπράχθη, καὶ ἀκριβῶς μαθὼν τὰ τῆς παλαιᾶς διαθήκης βιβλία, ὑποτάξας ἔπεμψά σοι· ὧν ἐστι τὰ ὀνόματα· Μωυσέως πέντε, Γένεσις Ἔξοδος Ἀριθμοὶ Λευιτικὸν Δευτερονόμιον, Ἰησοῦς Ναυῆ, Κριταί, Ῥούθ, Βασιλειῶν τέσσαρα, Παραλειπομένων δύο, Ψαλμῶν Δαυίδ, Σολομῶνος Παροιμίαι ἡ καὶ Σοφία, Ἐκκλησιαστής, Ἆισμα Ἀισμάτων, Ἰώβ, Προφητῶν Ἡσαΐου Ἱερεμίου τῶν δώδεκα ἐν μονοβίβλῳ Δανιὴλ Ἰεζεκιήλ, Ἔσδρας· ἐξ ὧν καὶ τὰς ἐκλογὰς ἐποιησάμην, εἰς ἓξ βιβλία διελών».  καὶ τὰ μὲν τοῦ Μελίτωνος τοσαῦτα

Melito says that he has traveled "to the east" (i.e., Palestine) to obtain his list of books, and he mentions that he is concerned with the order (τάξις) of books.Here's the list of books that he provides.

1-4 Kingdoms (i.e., Samuel and Kings)
1-2 Chronicles
Proverbs and Wisdom [to be discussed in a later post]
Song of Songs
The Twelve

The order for the Pentateuch is odd, with Numbers coming before Leviticus. Rufinus fixes this in his translation of Eusebius. Here's how Rufinus renders Melito's list.

ibi igitur quae cum omni investigatione conperi, haec sunt: Moysei libri quinque: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numeri, Deuteronomium; tum deinde Iesus Naue, Iudicum, Ruth, Regnorum libri quattuor, Paralipomenon libri duo, Psalmi David, Salomonis Proverbia quae et Sapientia, Ecclesiastes, Cantica Canticorum, Iob; prophetae autem Esaias, Hieremias, duodecim prophetarum liber unus. Danihel, Ezechihel, Hesdras.
But did Melito intentionally put Numbers before Leviticus, or was it an accident? Is he just that ignorant of the order of the biblical books, or was his source? Did he mis-copy (or mis-remember) his source, or is it possibly a textual error? Sid Leiman thinks that the sequence Numbers-Leviticus may have been intentional: "The sequence probably reflects an attempt to connect the narrative portions of the Pentateuch. Leviticus was perhaps considered a continuation and elaboration of the sacrificial legislation in Numbers 28 and 29" (The Canonization of Hebrew Scripture [1976], p. 165 n. 264). Part of the reason for saying that the order was intentional is because it also appears in the Mommsen Catalogue (ca. 359 CE) and in a work called De Sectis (act. II), dating to the sixth century and formerly (but no longer) attributed to Leontius of Byzantium (cf. PG 86/1.1200d-1201a).

If Leiman is correct, what are the origins of this order for the Pentateuch? If Melito did not just accidentally reverse Leviticus and Numbers, then he presumably adopted his order from his source. If his source was Jewish (an issue I will treat in a later post), this would suggest competing Jewish orders for the Pentateuch. But this cannot have been too widespread, both because we lack sufficient attestation of it, and because Leviticus itself provides internal evidence that it takes place between the events of Exodus (in which Israel arrives at Sinai, ch. 19) and Numbers (in which Israel leaves Sinai, 10:10). That is, in a few places, Leviticus mentions that its events happened at Sinai (7:38; 25:1; 26:46; 27:34), all of which are attested in the LXX as also containing the mention of Sinai.

Friday, August 10, 2012

συναγωγή & ἐκκλησία in the Bible

You know how I like to see the use of a particular word throughout the Bible, even at the very basic level of where it shows up (example here). This post is a bare-bones example of that.

200x in LXX of protocanonicals
--136x in Pentateuch (2x in Deut.)
--21x in History Books (1x in Chronicles—2Chron. 5:6, never Ezra-Nehemiah)
--12x in Psalter
--2x in Prov.
--1x in Job
--28x in Prophets
28x in OT ‘apocrypha’ (= 'LXX plus', including deuterocanonicals, but more besides)
56x in NT
--only 5 of these are not in Synoptics and Acts
--2 in John (6:59; 18:20)
--2 in Revelation (2:9; 3:9)
--once in reference to a Christian assembly (James 2:2; also uses ἐκκλησία 5:14)

77x in LXX of protocanonicals
--9x in Pentateuch, all in Deut.
--10x in Deut. Hist.
--32x in Chronicles
--11x in Ezra-Nehemiah (neither term—συναγωγή or ἐκκλησία—occurs in 1Esdras)
--10x in Psalter
--1x in Prov.
--1x in Job
--3x in Prophets
26x in OT ‘apocrypha’
114x in NT
--3x in Matthew (16:18; 18:18 twice)
--3x of a ‘mob’ (Acts 19:32, 39, 40)

Sunday, August 5, 2012

SBL Program 2012

I just noticed that the online program is available for the SBL meeting this Fall in Chicago. I'll be in two sessions, as follows. For my presentations I link to the abstracts that I previously mentioned here.


Greek Bible
4:00 PM to 7:00 PM
Room: S101a - McCormick Place, Tony Michael, York University, Presiding
Mark C. Kiley, Saint John's University
Matthew: kyklos, phylakterion, kraspeda (30 min)
Edmon L. Gallagher, Heritage Christian University
The Patristic Reception of Zechariah ben Jehoiada (30 min)
Noah Hacham, Hebrew University of Jerusalem
The Concept of Exile in the Septuagint (30 min)
Tyler A Stewart, Lincoln Christian University
Lament and Victory: LXX Psalm 43.23 in Romans 8.36 (30 min)


Function of Apocryphal and Pseudepigraphal Writings in Early Judaism and Early Christianity
1:00 PM to 3:30 PM
Room: S505a - McCormick Place, Lee McDonald, Acadia Divinity College, Presiding
Edmon L. Gallagher, Heritage Christian University
Writings Labelled “Apocrypha" in Latin Sources of the Fourth and Fifth Centuries (25 min)
Ida Fröhlich, Pázmány Péter Katolikus Egyetem
Tobit as an Authoritative Book in Qumran (25 min)
Frank Shaw, Independent scholar
The Onomastica – Shouldn't They Be among the Pseudepigrapha? (25 min)
Lori A. Baron, Duke University
The Shema in the Apocrypha (25 min)
Stewart Felker, University of Memphis
The Influence of Enochic (and Related) Judaisms on Gnosticism (25 min)
Brigidda Bell, University of Toronto
"Displaced Pseudepigraphy" in the Sibylline Oracles: Christian and Jewish Appropriation of a Pagan Mouthpiece (25 min)