Tim Bulkeley notes in a recent comment that a Dead Sea Scrolls scholar has suggested that some of the extra-biblical prayers attested at Qumran might be added to the liturgical repertoire of churches (or synagogues) today. The remark is not off-base. I will prove it in this post.
The Hodayot, a fascinating collection of Qumran thanksgiving psalms preserved in multiple copies, would be a logical place to begin, but I will put that off for another time. One of the first people to comment on this blog was Julie Hughes. She had just finished her dissertation at the time, which has since been published:
Hughes, Julie A. Scriptural Allusions and Exegesis in the Hodayot. Studies on the Texts of the Desert of Judah- STDJ 59. Leiden: Brill, 2006.
The volume is a fine addition to research on the Hodayot, right up there with the monographs of Bonnie Pedrotti Kittel and Carol Newsom. For an introductory bibliography on the Hodayot, see that of Aryeh Amihay, who nevertheless fails to list Newsom’s essential volume:
Newsom, Carol A. The Self as Symbolic Space: Constructing Identity and Community at Qumran. Studies on the Texts of the Desert of Judah 52. Leiden: Brill, 2004.
In the future, I will show how the text model of ancient Hebrew poetry I have developed applies to the Hodayot.
The text I introduce here is known as 4QBeatitudes. The beauty of its measured cadences is redolent. The web of its parallelisms is carefully constructed. The feminine hypostasis referred to in it is חוכמה ‘wisdom’ which is equated with תורה ‘instruction,’ as in Ben Sira 14:20-15:10. Four lines beyond the text reproduced below, Wisdom directly apostrophizes her students, as she does in Proverbs 8:32: “[And] now, O sons, listen . . .” (4Q525 f2ii+3:12). I present the best preserved portion of Fragment 2, one of 24 fragments that have reached us.
4QBeatitudes reads as if it were meant to be the spiritual manifesto of those who resisted the ban on adherence to Torah law under Antiochus Epiphanes IV. The ban was an impolitic reaction to violent resistance by religious nationalists to the Hellenization of Judah by another faction. Hellenization, albeit in less extreme forms, nevertheless continued after independence was won.
The prosody and texture of 4QBeatitudes is akin to that of examples of highly structured mashal poetry attested in the Bible, e.g., Psalms 111-112. The rule of “twos and threes” is instantiated throughout. The poetry is formatted accordingly. The translation I offer is my own.
For text and translation, go here.
 Ben Sira 14:20-15:10 is mistranslated, alas, in every modern translation (in accordance with the Greek): 14:20-27 and 15:1-10 are joined by כי ‘for’ in the Hebrew, which subordinates 15:1-10 to 14:20-27.