Monday, December 30, 2013

The Hasmoneans and the Zadokites

I don't recall how I came to believe that the Hasmoneans were not Zadokite priests. I suppose I read it in a book, and it fit well with what I thought I was seeing in the ancient literature, especially some of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Since scrolls such as the Damascus Document and the Community Rule use the term "sons of Zadok" as a self-reference, I guess I interpreted this as sort of a polemical jab at those non-Zadokite Hasmoneans. I am certainly not alone in having assumed this; as I said, I'm sure I first read it in a book, perhaps Cross' Ancient Library of Qumran (ch. 3), or any of a number of other books on the DSS. It's a pretty common assumption, nearly universal, I think.

Helen Bond summarizes the usual scholarly view.
The conventional view is that the Zadokites held the high priesthood only until the disturbances in the second century B.C.E. that led to the Maccabean revolt. The high priesthood was then claimed by the heirs of the Maccabees, the (non-Zadokite) Hasmoneans, who held the position until the reign of Herod I. Later high priests are generally regarded as insignificant, non-Zadokite priests, plucked from obscurity by Herod or the Roman governors and installed as puppet high priests, with no personal claim to any kind of authority in the eyes of the people. (Caiaphas, pp. 149-50). 
Bond goes on to say: "There is, however, very little evidence for this view" (p. 150), by which she refers specifically to the latter part of her summary, about the priests chosen by Herod. She suggests that these may well have been Zadokite priests. Bond repeatedly refers to the Hasmoneans themselves as non-Zadokite.

But were the Hasmoneans non-Zadokite? Nearly a decade ago, Alison Schofield and James VanderKam published an article in JBL questioning the scholarly consensus. You can read how they analyze the data for yourself, but here's their conclusion: “we have considerable reason to believe that the Hasmoneans were a Zadokite family and no evidence to the contrary” (87). Some others also cast suspicion on the usual scholarly view, e.g., Joshua Efron (p. 58 n. 55), Alice Hunt (who doubts the existence of Zadokites, but note this review by Deborah Rooke), and Regev Eyal (pp. 120-24).

On the other hand, Hanan Eshel goes the other way:
As opposed to Alison Schofield and James VanderKam, it seems that since we do not find explicit statement [sic] saying that the Hasmoneans were Zadokites, we should assume that they were not from this family. Schofield and VanderKam believe that since we do not find an explicit accusation saying that the Hasmoneans were not from the House of Zadok, we must assume that they were. (55 n. 71; see also p. 60; but Collins [p. 97 n. 43] charges Eshel with mis-representing the argument of Schofield and VanderKam)
Timothy Wardle argues in the same way as Eshel, and considers the last line of Schofield and VanderKam's article (quoted above) to be "much stronger than the evidence suggests" (p. 73 n. 90).

I can't solve this problem, though I think Schofield and VanderKam especially have demonstrated that there is at least enough doubt to warrant some reservation in declaring the Hasmoneans as non-Zadokite. I'll have to revise some of my lecture notes. I'll also need to have a look at Deborah Rooke, Zadok's Heirs, which I haven't been able to do yet.

I'd like to know where the idea came from that the Hasmoneans were not Zadokite. I believe it is assumed already by the original Schürer (2.2.41). It appears that Wellhausen considers the possibility that the Hasmoneans are non-Zadokite, but he is not sold on it (Pharisees and Sadducees, pp. 76, 81, 82). He cites Geiger (1810-1874) as affirming it. And here's a note from Albert Baumgarten:
The notion that the rise of the Hasmoneans created a fundamental change in Jewish life, with the attendant demotion of the old Zadokite families, is an old one. It goes back, in one form or another, at least as far as A. Geiger [...]. 
Baumgarten cites Geiger's Urschrift und Übersetzungen der Bibel (orig. 1857), pp. 101-2; and his Judaism and Its History (orig. 1866), pp. 102-3.

Apparently since Geiger's time (or before?) the tendency to classify the Hasmoneans as non-Zadokite (whether rightly or wrongly, I'm not at this point sure) has been so strong that even VanderKam seems to assume it in some of his other publications, such as The Dead Sea Scrolls Today (19941, p. 101 = 20102, p. 129; also Meaning of the Dead Sea Scrolls, p. 286; but not From Joshua to Caiaphas, p. 270 n. 90).

For sane summations of the data and scholarly opinion, it's hard to do better than John Collins.
The Hasmoneans were not Oniads; they did not belong to the family that had occupied the office in the third century BCE. But they may still have been Zadokite by genealogy. Conversely, it has been noted that "Zadokite" was by no means a standard or common way of referring to the high priestly line in the Second Temple Period [here citing Hunt's monograph, noted earlier]. The appeal to "sons of Zadok" in the Scrolls is primarily a claim of spiritual superiority rather than genealogical legitimacy. (pp. 97-98)
As Collins goes on to note, this has major implications for how the origins of the Qumran community is envisaged, and, whether Schofield and VanderKam have succeeded in their case for a Zadokite lineage for the Hasmoneans, they have at least succeeded in demonstrating that there is not much ancient discussion of Hasmonean lineage in our ancient sources, suggesting that it was not such a big deal to them as it has been in modern scholarly imaginations.

UPDATE (3 Jan. 2014): just got notice from Jack Sasson of the publication by Vasile Babota of his dissertation, The Institution of the Hasmonean High Priesthood (Brill). From the Google Books preview I can't quite tell how he answers our question (or to what extent he deals with it), but it looks like (from pp. 274ff.) that he says that it was more important for priests to claim descent from Aaron than descent from Zadok in the second century BCE.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Article on "The Blood from Abel to Zechariah"

Earlier this week I received notice of the electronic publication of my article in New Testament Studies about the "blood from Abel to Zechariah" (Matt 23:35; cf. Luke 11:51) in the history of interpretation. This is an issue I started researching a few years ago because of a student's question. Since a popular interpretation of this saying of Jesus is that it refers to the borders of the Hebrew Bible (Genesis and 2Chronicles), it has relevance for many of the issues I discuss on this blog. My article is not so much an examination of the saying itself--in my view, H.G.L. Peels effectively rebutted the common interpretation more than a decade ago--but rather I trace the history of interpretation of the verse, trying to determine when the interpretation arose linking it to the Jewish canon.

You can read it here, and here's the abstract:
The saying in the Gospels about the blood ‘from Abel to Zechariah’ has generated a number of theories regarding the identity of Zechariah and why Jesus specifically mentions these two martyrs. While a prominent interpretation today regards the names as pointing to the bookends of the Hebrew Bible, the Greek and Latin Fathers had their own peculiar ways of solving the exegetical puzzles connected to the saying. It seems that the invention of the printing press, and the stable sequence of books it created, exerted an influence on the development of the popular modern view.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

A Temple Collection? (part 2): Tov's Argument

Last time I discussed the statements in ancient writings about scrolls stored in the Jerusalem temple and what these statements might mean for the canon of scripture. I encourage you to look at the comments to that post as John Meade has pointed us to another couple of passages (Letter of Aristeas 49; Josephus, Against Apion 1.29-42) that also seem to attest the view that scripture was stored in the temple.

Besides these ancient testimonia, there is another line of evidence that might point to a temple collection of scripture. Emanuel Tov's analysis of the texts from the Judean Desert leads him to guess that there must have been a standard scroll that served as the Vorlage for some of the scrolls discovered in the desert, and the rabbinic evidence (see previous post), along with common sense, I suppose, encourages Tov to suggest that this standard scroll was stored in the temple (see esp. pp. 8-15 of this article).

This post will, as briefly as possible, summarize Tov's argument. A subsequent post will offer an evaluation and reflections.

This is how Tov arrives at his suggestion:

The many biblical scrolls found in the Judean Desert during the mid-twentieth century may be divided into those that were found in the eleven caves around Qumran and those that were found elsewhere. There are 25 texts in the latter group, and they all reflect the consonantal framework of the medieval Masoretic text exactly.
All the texts that were found at sites in the Judean Desert other than Qumran display identity with the medieval tradition of MT. [...] This group of twenty-five texts from the Judean Desert includes both the earlier site of Masada (texts written between 50 B.C.E. and 30 C.E.) and the later sides of Wade Murabba'at, Wadi Sdei, Nahal Hever, Nahal Arugot, and Nahal Se'elim dating to the period of the Bar-Kochba revolt in 132-135 C.E. (texts written between 20 C.E. and 115 C.E.). (Tov in HB in Light of the DSS, p. 42; similiar passage at TCHB p. 29).
Tov includes this important note.
All the texts copied from the beginning of the first century C.E. until 65 C.E. from Qumran are of a varied nature, with only very few reflecting MT while the texts from the same period (until 115 C.E.) from Judean Desert sites other than Qumran only reflect MT. (ibid., p. 42 n. 4)
Tov is well-known for updating his views and his statistics. Only a few years ago (2008), he was still giving the figure 23 as the number of texts found in the Judean Desert at sites other than Qumran (here, p. 6; here, pp. 3, 10). The above quotation, however, is from 2012, and seems to represent Tov's latest statistics. He also gives the number 25 in the 3rd ed. of his TCHB (2012, p. 29).

These 25 fragments include the following:
  • Wadi Murabba'at (DJD 2): Genesis (Mur 1), Exodus (Mur 1), Numbers (Mur 1), Deuteronomy (Mur 2), Isaiah (Mur 3), Minor Prophets (Mur 88)
  • Nahal Hever (DJD 38): Numbers (5/6HevNum-a; XHev/SeNum-b), Deuteronomy (XHev/SeDeut), Psalms (5/6HevPsalms)
  • Nahal Se'elim (DJD 38): Numbers (34SeNum)
  • Masada (Masada VI): Genesis (MasGen), Leviticus (MasLev-a; MasLev-b), Deuteronomy (MasDeut), Ezekiel (MasEzek), Psalms (MasPs-a; MasPs-b)
  • Wadi Sdeir (DJD 38): Genesis (SdeirGen)
  • Nahal Arugot (DSD 13, 2006, pp. 55-60): Leviticus
  • X: Joshua (DJD 38: XJoshua)
  • X: Judges (DSD 14, 2007, pp. 354-58)
  • X: Biblical Text (DJD 28: XBiblical Text?)
This list combines those in Tov's article in HB in Light of the DSS (pp. 42-43) and this article (p. 9). I'll be honest, I haven't figured out how Tov arrives at the number 25. I've been working with his Revised Lists (pp. 126-28, with more than 25 texts), and the various editions he references in his notes in his various articles. Anyway, I'll take his word for it that they add up to 25 and they include these books. 

In terms of books of the Bible, here's what we're talking about: 
  • Torah (each book represented)
  • Judges
  • Isaiah
  • Ezekiel
  • The Twelve
  • Psalms
According to Tov: "Thus the 23 [actually, now 25] texts that were found at these sites agree with L [= Leningrad Codex, 1009 C.E.] to such an extent that they are actually identical with that manuscript" (here, p. 6). What he means is not that these scrolls are actually identical with L, but they are as close to L as any Masoretic manuscript is. 
The differences between these scrolls and L are negligible, and in fact their nature resembles the internal differences between the medieval manuscripts themselves. Accordingly, the small degree of divergence between L and texts from the Judean Desert, mainly texts outside Qumran, allows us to regard these texts as belonging to the same group, or in our terminology, the inner circle of proto-rabbinic texts. This inner circle contained the consonantal framework of MT one thousand years or more before the time of the Masorah codices. This applies also to the second circle of Masoretic texts [found at Qumran]. (here, pp. 6-7). 
This identity relates not just to which words are present on the scroll, but even to the orthography (TCHB, p. 29 n. 8), the stichographic arrangement of poetic sections, and the sense divisions of the text (HB in Light of the DSS, pp. 44-45). (Not everyone would articulate the matter in this way, e.g., Ulrich.)

For Tov's definitions of the inner circle of texts (identical to L) and the second circle (closely resembling L but not identical to it), see p. 6 here. Though Tov's statement quoted above (cf. also earlier on p. 6) implies that Qumran itself yielded a few manuscripts of the "inner circle," other passages in Tov's writings clarifies that he does not generally accept this view, but rather at Qumran all of the MT-like texts--except for one (4QGen-b; TCHB, p. 31)--were merely "close" to L and not identical to it (see p. 11 of the same article; p. 22 of this article, p. 179 of TCHB, etc.). Note that in HB in Light of the DSS, p. 44, he describes some of the minor differences between the proto-MT Qumran scrolls and L, specifically referring to orthographical and linguistic differences from L contained in 1QIsa-b and 4QJer-a.

Of course, at Qumran there was a variety of textual forms, usually classified as proto-MT (the majority), pre-Samaritan, texts close to the presumed Vorlage of the LXX, and non-aligned (see, e.g., Tov, pp. 22-26; or his TCHB, pp. 107-10).

So, why does Qumran exhibit this textual plurality while simultaneously, in the Judean Desert outside Qumran, textual uniformity--both internally and with the medieval text--was the order of the day?
What the earlier site of Masada (texts written between 50 B.C.E. and 30 C.E.) and the Bar-Kochba sites [= Nahal Hever, Wadi Murabba'at, etc.] (texts written between 20 C.E. and 115 C.E.) have in common, in contradistinction to the Qumran scrolls, is that the people who left the scrolls behind at these sites (the Masada rebels and the freedom fighters of Bar Kochba) closely followed the guidance of the Jerusalem spiritual center in religious matters. (Tov in HB in Light of the DSS, p. 46)
Tov's answer is that non-Qumran Judean Desert biblical scrolls are tied in some way to the spiritual leadership of Jerusalem, they derive from there. Tov admits that this is a guess, but it is a reasonable guess.

Next, Tov considers the rabbinic evidence regarding Torah scrolls kept in the temple and used for adjudicating among variant readings (see previous post for some references). He also mentions Lieberman's argument that depositing a scroll in a temple was one way of 'publishing' a literary work in the ANE (Hellenism, 85-87).

If the non-Qumran Judean Desert texts reflect exclusively MT and if those who used these scrolls can be reasonably considered to have recognized the authority of the Jerusalem temple and its leaders--and to have obtained their biblical texts in reliance on this Jerusalem leadership--and if rabbinic writings testify to the existence within the temple of a scroll of the Torah and possibly other biblical books used for corrections, then perhaps the manuscript evidence confirms these rabbinic statements and we should connect the non-Qumran textual uniformity to the temple.
It seems to us that identity between two or more texts could have been achieved only if all of them were copied from a single source, in this case (a) master copy (copies) located in a central place, until 70 CE probably in the temple, and subsequently in another central place (Jamnia?). The textual unity described above has to start somewhere and the assumption of master copies is therefore necessary.
This is a mere hypothesis [...]. [...] [The rabbinic statements about master scrolls kept in the temple] probably referred only to the Torah, but it stands to reason that the other Scripture books were also found in the temple. [...] These Scripture books, together with the master copy of the Torah were probably part of a temple library. It should be admitted that the evidence for the existence of the books of the Prophets and Hagiographa in the temple is based on limited evidence, more so on inference relating to the unified textual tradition of these books. [...] We suggest that the internal identity of this group of texts, subsequently perpetuated in the medieval tradition, was created because they were copied from or revised according to the master copies in the temple. (Tov, here, pp. 8-10; very similar argumentation in HB in Light of the DSS, pp. 47-49, and TCHB p. 30 with notes.) 
Tov goes on to suggest that the "second circle" of MT-like texts at Qumran may have been copied not from the master copies in the temple but from the "inner circle" of copies made from the master copies (same article, p. 12; TCHB, p. 108; more firmly worded here, p. 25).

When could we date this temple collection of scripture?
One possibility would be that as late as the early Hasmonean period a master copy was instituted in the temple court because of the extant textual plurality, but neither an early nor a late date can be supported convincingly. (here, p. 12).
This seems to be Tov's latest possible date. Elsewhere he affirms that we have manuscripts of MT-like texts from the third century BCE (HB in Light of the DSS, pp. 50, 53).
[MT] was a firm text throughout the period that is known to us, from c. 250 BCE onwards, so shaped because of conservative textual transmission, and not because of any form of stabilization of the Bible text. (TCHB p. 180). 
Since we have "second circle" texts dating back to the third century, and since these "second circle" texts are obviously typologically secondary in comparison to the "inner circle" (as Tov says at HB in Light of the DSS, p. 51), presumably the "inner circle," and thus also the master copy, must predate the third century.

What to make of all this?

Tov has certainly given us a lot to think about. I believe the first time Tov published his argument on this issue was in 2003, and since that time I'm not aware of further scholarly discussion outside of Tov's own writings, except that Ulrich has responded a little bit. Tov himself says that this is an issue on which few scholars have expressed themselves. I hope I have accurately summarized his position.

Later I'll offer some reflections on these arguments and on what all this might mean in terms of the biblical canon.

UPDATE: I put in an email to Emanuel Tov to see if he would clarify for me how he arrived at his number of "25" biblical texts from Judean Desert sites other then Qumran. Prof. Tov responded by saying that he counted all the provenanced texts plus the unprovenanced ones (preceded by an X) that had been published at the time, but that really we should count all of the unprovenanced texts. He would now count all of the scrolls listed in his Revised Lists (Brill, 2010), pp. 126-29, equalling 41 texts. He also advised that other texts are known about but are not in the hands of scholars, and the unprovenanced texts may derive from Qumran, making problematic the distinction between Qumran texts and non-Qumran texts. So the statistics will always be approximate.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

A Temple Collection? (part 1)

The temple in Jerusalem almost certainly contained a deposit of various books, at least some of which were scriptures. While Philip Davies asserts, "The case for temple archives is not so convincing" (p. 86), he means in the monarchial and early Second Temple Period. He does not dispute the existence of a temple collection of scripture in Late Second Temple times (see below).

The evidence for a temple collection of scripture is twofold, or, at least, I plan to explore two types of evidence. In this post we will look at ancient testimonia to a temple collection, or to a collection that many scholars associate with the Jerusalem temple. In the next post, we will explore the second line of evidence, having to do with the textual analysis of ancient biblical scrolls (see Emanuel Tov).

I'll say now that the evidence makes it probable that the temple housed a collection of scripture, but it is hard (impossible) to know the exact contents of this collection, and it seems unlikely that it contained precisely the Jewish canonical books, no more and no less (though some scholars have suggested this, as we will see).

The Hebrew Bible itself attests that some authoritative and sacred documents were stored in a sanctuary, whether the ark of the covenant, or the tabernacle, or the temple (e.g. Exod 40:20; Deut 31:24-26; 2Kings 22:8). There are also parallels to ANE and Greco-Roman societies, in which maintaining a collection of sacred works within a temple was pretty common (see van der Toorn, pp. 236-40).

Various other ancient sources also speak of or allude to a collection of scripture in the temple. An oft-cited passage comes from the deuterocanonical book 2Maccabees:
The same things are reported in the records and in the memoirs of Nehemiah, and also that he founded a library and collected the books about the kings and prophets, and the writings of David, and letters of kings about votive offerings. In the same way Judas also collected all the books that had been lost on account of the war which had come upon us, and they are in our possession. (2Macc 2:13-14)
This text probably dates to the latter half of the second century BCE (see Schwartz, pp. 11-15). On this passage, Davies says:
This statement probably means that in the author's day there existed in Jerusalem a library of books which was thought to have been there since the time of Nehemiah, the contents of which correspond very well with what might have been the 'canon' of the day. (p. 87) 
And, later in the same book:
We should of course assume that there had previously been collections of scrolls in the temple, where the composition, copying, and editing also took place. That library, presumably, was destroyed. But now, whatever might have been the collection of books previously, a decision was needed about what books to include. What were the writings sacred to Judaism? Which were authoritative and holy? (p. 178)
Davies is hinting here at an idea not too uncommon in scholarship on the canon, viz., that the collection of scripture in the temple bore a close relation to what became the scriptural canon of Judaism. This idea has enjoyed a long history in scholarship, going back at least to Johann Gottfried Eichhorn's Einleitung in das Alte Testament (vol. 1: 1780), as Stephen Chapman has recently reminded us (in his contribution here, pp. 659-67). This same idea played an important role in Moses Stuart's history of the canon in 1845 (sec. 8, pp. 171-88): "We can have no doubt, therefore, that each and every part of the Jewish Scriptures was deposited in the synagogues respectively, and of course in the temple" (p. 184). Stuart goes on to argue that only canonical books could enter the temple collection.

More-or-less the same position appears more recently in Roger Beckwith's major work on the canon (pp. 80-86; cf. also Stone, p. 86). Beckwith (pp. 81-82) cites evidence showing that it was customary in the ancient world and in the Hebrew Bible to deposit important documents at a shrine. For the Bible references, see Exod 25:16, 21; 40:20; Deut 10:1-5; 31:24-26; Josh 24:26; 1Sam 10:25; 1Kings 8:6-9; 2Chron 5:7-10; 2Kings 22:8; 23:2, 24; 2Chron 34:15, 30. Beckwith feels justified in making the following statements.
[...] and it [= the suitability of using holy books in holy spaces] was recognized by the Pharisees and Sadducees, in that they admitted no books but the Scriptures and items like the priestly and Levitical genealogies into the Jerusalem Temple. (p. 81)
Certainly, uncanonical books would not normally be brought into the Temple, which was the place for laying up holy books. (p. 85)
The introduction of a book into the Temple collection would have been an occasion of great deliberation and solemnity, and an event which could hardly be either anticipated or reversed. (p. 86) 
I have not omitted Beckwith's citations for these assertions; he does not provide any. The conjectural nature of his discussion should be apparent and is really no surprise to anyone who has worked closely with his book (see, e.g., here and here).

There are some other ancient statements regarding scriptures stored in the temple, but not many, and they're not all that helpful.
  • Josephus also has some references to scriptures being housed in the temple, mostly the Pentateuch (Ant. 3.38; 4.302-4; War 7.150), but also the Book of Joshua (Ant. 5.61). (However, see Tov, p. 9 n. 35.) [See also Life 418, mentioning "sacred books," but were these from the temple?] 
  • Some rabbinic sources talk about 
    • reading liturgically the Torah in the temple (m. Yoma 7.1; Sota 7.7-8)
    • a Torah scroll called the sefer ha-'azarah (alternatively: "Book of Ezra") kept in the Temple (m. Kelim 15.6; m. Moed Qatan 3.4; etc.; see Tov, p. 9)
    • keeping the high priest awake the night before Yom Kippur by reading to him from Psalms, Job, Proverbs, Daniel, Ezra, and Chronicles (m. Yoma 1.6-7; t. Yoma 1.9; y. Yoma 1.6) 
    • Torah scrolls being kept in the Temple and used for the purpose of correcting other scrolls (e.g. Sifrei Deuteronomy 356; see Talmon's article)
So, what does this tell us? Unfortunately, not a whole lot. Certainly we cannot agree with Beckwith and Stuart without engaging in a significant amount of speculation. The temple collection of scripture may have been equivalent to the biblical canon, but maybe not.

Van der Toorn's discussion (pp. 236-47) presents a reasonable alternative.
"Though the founding of the library by Nehemiah may belong to the realm of legend, the library's existence in Jerusalem seems assured." (based on 2Macc 2:13-14; p. 238)
"We have no evidence about the acquisition policy of the Jerusalem library." (p. 240)
Van der Toorn then surveys the ANE evidence for library acquisition policies, generally finding a liberal policy. He then turns his attention to Qumran before concluding:
"It is theoretically possible that the temple library of Jerusalem was smaller than the library of Qumran. This, however, seems highly unlikely. The authors of the letter quoted in 2 Macc. 2:13-15 assume that the Jerusalem library has various works not available to the Jews in Alexandria. Ben Sira was available at Qumran and Alexandria; it must have been present in the Jerusalem library as well. The fact that it was not included in the Hebrew Bible shows that there is no one-to-one correspondence between the Masoretic canon and the holding of the temple library in Jerusalem." (p. 242)
Of course, we don't really know that the temple contained a copy of Ben Sira, but it well might have.

On the all-important passage from 2Macc 2:13-14, Lim warns us:
There is no mention of Judas establishing a library. To read the construction of a Maccabean library into this verse is to overload the comparative sense of the adverb ["likewise"]. In fact, the recovered books are not in a library but "in our possession" or "among us" (παρ' ἡμῖν). The plural subject of this phrase most naturally refers to the authors of the letter, who are inclusively the Jerusalemite and Judean Jews, the elders of Israel and Judas. (p. 116) 
In sum, the adverb in v. 14 ("in the same way") should not be pressed beyond what it can bear. The comparison should be understood in a general sense. Judas did not collect the same kinds of books, nor did he found a library like Nehemiah. What he seemed to have done was, like Nehemiah, to collect books. The books that he gathered were damaged during the war [cf. 1Macc 1:56-57], and his reassembling of them formed part of the restoration of Jewish heritage. They were now back among the Judeans. (p. 117)
I also note that 2Macc 2:13-14 does not mention the temple. I wonder why some scholars can so confidently declare "The collection of the ancient books was placed in the temple library or archive (see 2 Macc. 2:13f.)" (van der Kooij, p. 31). We may know from other sources that the temple contained a collection of scripture (as van der Kooij's next sentence says, and as demonstrated earlier in this post), but the text of 2Macc does not specify that Judas' literary activity related to the temple. I grant that this is a natural inference, but the text does not say it.

So, what does all this tell us? The temple probably contained a collection of scripture, including the Pentateuch and other books regarded as scripture. Exactly which books these were, we don't know. Whether the temple included books that were considered not scripture but simply important for some other reason, we don't know, though this seems likely. The idea of a temple collection of scripture might help us think about some aspects of the ancient Jewish encounter with scripture, but it doesn't really help us understand much about which specific books were considered scripture or constituted a biblical canon.

Next time we'll look at the argument for a temple collection of scripture based on a textual analysis of ancient scrolls.

Monday, December 9, 2013

The Arrangement of the Megilloth

Some time ago, I put up quite a few posts on the order or sequence of the Hagiographa (= Writings = Ketuvim; see here). I have now gotten my hands on a new book, The Compilational History of the Megilloth (Mohr Siebeck, 2013), the published St. Andrews dissertation of Timothy J. Stone. I was excited to read it mostly because I was pretty sure I would not agree with the argumentation and I wanted to see if Stone could convince me. Alas, he has not succeeded.

The basic thesis is that the Megilloth (Ruth, Song of Songs, Ecclesiastes, Lamentations, Esther, in that sequence) in the order of the earliest Masoretic codices (Aleppo and Leningrad, 10th-11th centuries) were intentionally arranged very early, perhaps before the turn of the era. Others have argued that the Tanakh structure of the Hebrew Bible goes back to pre-rabbinic times, and some have argued that the specific order for the Hagiographa found in Baba Bathra dates to the second century BCE (or earlier). Stone's thesis is innovative in that he favors what he calls the "MT sequence" (with grouped Megilloth) over the sequence found in Baba Bathra (without grouped Megilloth), and he spends half of his book arguing from internal clues within the Megilloth for their intentional grouping.

I appreciate his argument for the priority of the sequence in the Aleppo and Leningrad codices over the order found in Baba Bathra; it's interesting, though I wouldn't say I'm sold on it. At least he has a good point that the grouping of these five books perhaps led to their all being linked to a festival rather than the reverse, that their each being linked to a festival led to their being grouped in manuscripts, which is the usual scholarly assumption. And I'm glad to see that Stone gives some consideration to why Chronicles moved from first position in the Writings to last (or vice versa; pp. 114-16), though he does admit: "There does not appear to be a way to adjudicate the direction of Chronicles' migration in the Writings" (115).

I do have some trouble accepting the basic premises of the thesis, though. This is nothing new; I've written about these things before.

Briefly (well, sort of):

  1. There is no positive evidence against the Tripartite arrangement of the canon in pre-rabbinic times (as Stone says), but there is hardly any positive evidence for it, either. 
  2. Stone too easily dismisses the evidence of the Greek canon lists as possible sources for Jewish views (pp. 93-102), without considering any recent patristics scholarship (not exactly a fair criticism since Stone is not a patristics scholar). I especially missed any interaction with the work of Gilles Dorival. 
  3. He does not pay any attention at all to Jerome, who is the only Church Father to talk about the tripartite structure of the Jewish canon. 
  4. Stone uses the Twelve Minor Prophets and the Psalter as analogies for the idea of linking books together via catchwords and other similar devices. He then tries to find similar phenomena for the Megilloth. But the Twelve and the Psalter do not seem to me to be the most effective examples, because they were written on single scrolls in antiquity, and we have explicit ancient comments about how they were considered single books (the Twelve, on the one hand, and the Psalter, on the other). 
  5. He seems to admit that there are no catchwords binding together the Major Prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and he admits that the order here does not matter, p. 91) nor for the books of the Writings (p. 91). So the only books that we can say are bound together by catchwords are the Primary History (= Enneatuch = Torah & Former Prophets = Genesis - 2Kings) and the Twelve. But for both of these collections, we already knew that the had to follow a certain sequence: the Twelve Prophets are all written on the same scroll, and therefore in a particular order, and the Primary History necessarily follows the sequence of history. 
  6. Stone is arguing that "the order of the books contributed to how they were understood long before the invention of the codex" (p. 93). But what ancient evidence, nay, what evidence before about twenty years ago, can be cited to suggest that anyone paid any attention whatsoever to the order of books when it came to interpretation? I don't remember Stone ever establishing that the ancients thought order was important. There are some ancient comments regarding order (Jerome, Baba Bathra, Melito), but no exegetical practice that I can remember is tied to order. This further leads me to wonder whether one sequence (e.g., Baba Bathra) developed out of another sequence (e.g., the MT), or whether they were just different meaningful ways of arranging things. 
  7. Stone has a confusing (to me, anyway) discussion of the possibility that the Psalter at one time headed the Ketuvim (p. 93), whereas Chronicles stands first in the Ketuvim in the MT and Ruth stands first in Baba Bathra. I'm not sure how this would work historically. When would there have been a tripartite canon with Psalter in first position in the third section? I thought Stone wanted to argue that the MT order (with Chronicles first) was already pre-rabbinic, or even before the turn of the era. But he also suggests: "[the Psalter] may have held first position in the collection [of Writings] for a long time." So he must push the tripartite canon way back in history, if the Psalter stood first in the Writings for a long time but was displaced by Chronicles before the turn of the era. Indeed, he continues: "If this were the case, then, in all Jewish orders, it [= the Psalter] would have directly followed the Twelve. As the corpus of the Twelve grew and came to include Malachi, the Psalter's beginning and Malachi's end were shaped or positioned to bind the two sub-collections (Twelve and Psalter) at their seams. This joint may have also served to bind a nascent collection of Writings forming after the Psalter to the Prophets as both collections grew. Over time, either Ruth or Chronicles displaced it from first position." So, I think we are to imagine that the Psalter headed the Writings (he later calls it a "nascent collection of Writings") before Malachi was added to the Twelve, but there was enough of a Twelve-collection for the Psalter to follow it. Then Malachi was added to the Twelve, then Malachi and the Psalter were redacted so that they would be bound together at the seams, then the Psalter was displaced by Chronicles or Ruth as the first book of Writings, all before the turn of the era. So just when did the tripartite structure of the canon originate? Long before we have any evidence for it. 
  8. Stone's assertion that only two Jewish orders before the twelfth century are known (pp. 4, 111) is: 
    1. based on a complete lack of evidence, as only two Jewish sources on order are known before the twelfth century (MT and Baba Bathra). This is especially stark in contrast to the diverse Greek arrangements (93-102), of which Stone makes a big deal in contrasting it with the supposed unity of the Hebrew arrangement: "In contrast to the Greek, the Hebrew canon's stability in scope, text and arrangement is remarkable" (p. 102). Stone also asserts: "From the end of the ninth century C.E., the Masoretic order alone is well attested for at least the next two hundred years. [Exactly what evidence is available for those two centuries? I count seven mss in Brandt, pp. 159 and 165.] Following the decline of the Masoretes in the eleventh century C.E., the Writings' stability eventually gave way to a variety of orders" (p. 111; cf. 105 n. 126). Why not rather say that the manuscripts are indicative of the multiple orders of the period they were copied, only to be stabilized with the printing press?
    2. completely wrong, as Josephus definitely gives us a divergent Jewish order (which Stone "excepts" on p. 102), and most scholars would say the same for both Origen and Jerome. Certainly Jerome is familiar with some of the details of the Jewish arrangement, as he describes the tripartite structure, and it is unclear why he would alter his Jewish source in reporting on the order of the Hagiographa.