Timothy H. Lim. Holy Scripture in the Qumran Commentaries and Pauline Letters. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997. ISBN: 0-19-826206-X. Pp. xiv + 221. US $75.00; Can $116.00; UK £40.00.
1. Lim, Lecturer in Dead Sea Scrolls and Christian origins at the Faculty of Divinity, University of Edinburgh, has thoroughly revised his 1991 Oxford dissertation to produce this book. It is a work of about 10 years in the making. It is an inquiry into how we can get at the attitudes that ancient Jewish authors had toward their Scriptures. There is a continuum along which they can lie, from considering themselves (1) to be composing scriptures and thus freely altering the texts they had; to (2) to be rewriting scriptures, as in Jubilees; and to (3) merely to be commenting on their scriptures, which they considered the inviolable word of God. The concern that Lim brings to this study is that scholars have simply assumed that such ancient authors altered their texts, thus placing them somewhere in the first and second options on the continuum, but no clear evidence has been provided that this was the case. It has simply been assumed that citations that vary from the MT, SP, or Greek were altered.
2. In order to address this sloppy approach to the question, Lim writes what is more of a programmatic essay than a detailed consideration of passages. There is the latter, but each case that is discussed is only an example used to prove a point. In his work Lim is seeking to sharpen, possibly even move to a higher level, the scholarly discussion of ancient exegesis of holy scriptures in the second temple period. He challenges several unquestioned working assumptions and brings more rigor to the methods used for examining quotes. However, the comprehensive, detailed work that makes use of Lim's methodological refinements remains to be done. The monograph has ten chapters arranged into five parts. The first two parts ("Prolegomena" and "Aspects of Ancient Bible Interpretation") cover a variety of preliminary matters. The second two parts come to the issue at hand and treat the pesherists ("Pesherite Exegesis and Hermeneutics") and Paul ("Pauline Interpretation of the Bible"). The volume has a very brief summary for the final part.
3. Lim takes as his starting point the light shed by the Dead Sea Scrolls on second temple scribal and interpretative practices and the textual situation. He shows why it is no longer possible to assume that a quote that diverges from the MT, SP, or Greek is an exegetical alteration. By placing the quotes that one examines into the broader picture of the fluid textual situation as outlined by Emanuel Tov in his theory of multiple-texts (Qumranian, proto-Masoretic, pre-Samaritan, Septuagintal, non-aligned/independent; as opposed to that of Frank Moore Cross's theory of local texts [Egypt, Palestine, Babylonia]), it becomes clear that divergence from the traditional standards may be due to the use of a different or non-aligned text type (Emanuel Tov, Textual Criticism of the Hebrew Bible [Minneapolis: Fortress, 1992; Assen/Maastricht: Van Gorcum, 1992], 114-117, 160-163; Frank Moore Cross, The Ancient Library of Qumran, 3rd ed. [Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1995],168-194). While Lim provides examples to prove this, he also observes that for cases where there are no extant texts that have survived at Qumran, there is still good reason for caution.
4. The second refinement that Lim makes is to show that there was a concern for the very words of the scriptures used by the two faith groups under consideration. This concern is widely found in such sources as Deut 4:2 and 13:1 (and a variety of similar injunctions in a wide assortment of literatures), Mt 5:17-19, and what is reported about Rabbi Akiba ben Joseph's teachings. Furthermore, there are the highly literal Greek translations represented by 8H9evXIIgr, the kaige recension of the LXX, Qohelet, Song of Songs, and Aquila, along with the Aramaic translation by Onkelos. Lim places the pesherists and Paul into that general milieu and notes how they were concerned at times with the specific words of the text more than with the general sense of passages. He demonstrates that in Qumran exegesis could be governed by the structure of the biblical texts; by focus upon key words to which particular interpretations are attached; and by the lexical interplay between the lemma and interpretations, where among other things there is evidence that the pesherists made use of variants to broaden the possibilities for interpretation. Paul exhibits a similar exegetical approach, for example in Gal 3, where much is made of the singular number of the word for "seed."
5. Against this backdrop of complexity, Lim sets out to examine the writings of the pesherists and Paul to discover whether it can be shown that they did in fact alter their texts. His conclusion is that alterations did take place but that the burden of proof is on the scholar to show it in any given instance. Beginning with the pesherists in part three and then moving to Paul in part four, Lim examines what we can now say about the text-types used by each, considers how we can know if they changed the texts that were before them, and then ends each part with a consideration of the authors' understanding of whether they were merely interpreting or were authoring scriptures. He concludes that the textual situation of both is complicated. The texts cited in the 16 continuous pesherim (based upon a comparison of the lemmata they cite) differ from the MT on average in 12% of the readings (excluding orthographic differences), as compared to 1QIsaa, which differs only 3% of the time (based upon chapter 10, which has the longest portion cited in any pesher and occurs in two pesherim). The highest reliable percentage difference is found in 4QpNah at 17%, and the lowest in 4QpIsac at 5%. Whether it is possible to say that the texts of the pesherim are proto-Masoretic or not will depend upon what a scholar is willing to allow, but the range of percentages shows the problem of identifying the text-types.
6. The situation with Paul is just as inconclusive. In "Paul and his Old Testament Quotations" (chapter 9), Lim argues that, although Paul shows that he had no problem using different forms of the same text, e.g., Isa 40:13 in 1 Cor 2:16 and Rom 11:34, it is now uncertain to what extent he altered texts and to what extent he used existing, differing texts. Also, he claims, it is not possible to say that Paul used primarily Septuagintal biblical texts. Texts should not be referred to as "Septuagintal" simply because the same words are found in one of the editions of the Greek Jewish scriptures. That term should be reserved for those texts where citations agree with the Greek against the MT and SP.
7. The question of alteration of texts has different answers for the two groups. Looking at the peshers on Hab 2:17; 1:13; 1:14-15; Nah 3:5; 2:14; Pss 37:20 and 37:10, Lim concludes that the pesherists did alter their texts. His comparison is not with external texts (MT, LXX, Qumran texts) but between the lemmata and their interpretations and citations elsewhere in the peshers considered. By carefully analyzing these, Lim concludes that some of the apparent alterations are more certain than others. The types of changes found are the reordering of the sequence of words and phrases, the atomization of phrases, and the changing of words to alter such things as the grammatical person of verbs and pronouns. For Paul, again, the situation is more complex. As noted above, Paul was not adverse to using different forms of a text, but given the pluriformity of texts available it is now not possible to determine with certainty whether he was consulting more than one form or altering the one before him. It is now necessary to compare citations to the Qumran texts and to allow for such things as differences in pointings. Lim also argues that Paul used collections of excerpted texts with differing text-types.
8. Lim's findings lead him to conclude that both the pesherists and Paul did alter their texts and considered themselves to be composing scriptures, not just interpreting existing scriptures. In chapter 7, "The Nature of Pesherite Interpretation," Lim looks for the hermeneutical principles underlying the pesherists' exegesis. Based upon his working hypothesis of a Qumran-Essene sectarian community, he builds the picture of a community that was devoted to the interpretation of scripture and saw itself as part of a continuing process of an unfolding revelation. The epitome of this was the Teacher of Righteousness, to whom God made known all the mysteries of the prophets (1QpHab 7 ll. 4-5) in a quasi-prophetic attribution. In this way, the pesherists seem, to Lim, to be more than mere interpreters of the scriptures; they became biblical authors who reused the texts they had before them.
9. Paul functions in a way similar to the pesherists, using techniques similar to theirs--what Lim labels as "pesheresque." In addition to those techniques, at least one more is noted by Lim that has not been noted before; that is, the use of phrases like "as it is written" to introduce abbreviated quotes or summaries, such as in Ezr 3:2-5, which refers to the content of Num 29:12-38. This technique is also found in MMT. Lim argues that it helps to clarify Gal 3:13, which is more of a digest of the content of, than the words of, Deut 21:22-23. There is one major difference between the pesherists and Paul, however. What allows Paul to use a range of techniques, from an insistence upon the singularity of a noun like "seed" to free renderings of passages, in the same letter (Galatians) is his Christological hermeneutic: Christ is the key to understanding the scriptures, but only with the aid of God who must lift the veil on their eyes of understanding and, in Paul's case, give him revelations. These, Lim argues, allowed Paul the freedom to utilize a variety of methods to show how the scriptures are to be understood in light of the Christ event.
10. As is inevitable, a number of errors and typos occur in the book. Those that were noted are here listed for the reader's benefit. One is confusing: on pages 73, 88, and 109, reference is made to a difference between MT Ps 37:10 and 4QpPsa 1-10. ii. 7. On p. 73 we find <heb>whtbwnnt</heb> and <heb>w)tbwnnt</heb>; on p. 88 <heb>)tbwnnh</heb> and <heb>hbwnnt</heb>; and on p. 109 <heb>)tbwnnh</heb> and the second person in the MT (i.e., <heb>htbwnnt</heb>). Another is exactly the opposite of what is expected because a 'not' has been left out: p. 109, "... has been careful [not] to impute to the pesherists exegetical modifications simply ...."! A few others are: p. 93, in line 2, 12% should probably be 11%; "Table 9" seems to refer to "Table 8"; p. 103, "you are not able to regard upon trouble" ("regard evil" or "look upon trouble"); p. 106, "particularly in view of the immediately following the Lord's proclamation" for something like "... the Lord's proclamation immediately following...."; 148 <grc>aui)tw=|</grc> for <grc>au)tw=|</grc>; p. 160 "begin[n]ing"; pp. 166-167 have two garbled lines of Hebrew from 4QpNah and the Temple Scroll; and p. 167 "... Paul understands[,] is paradoxically ...."
11. As with any work, there will be details with which we could take issue. We will not deal with these. It seems to this reviewer that Lim has established his methodological modifications sufficiently that his work must be reckoned with by anyone trying to understand the quotes and techniques used by the pesherists and Paul, and by others. Clearly he is correct when he writes on p. 149, "a comprehensive study of all the Pauline quotations from the perspective of textual plurality is a desideratum." This, of course, is true of other such writings as well. There is a need, with all such literature, for a more nuanced discussion of both the lemmata cited and the interpretations offered on the basis of them. He makes this point well in the introduction to chapter 6:
The ancient exegete modified his biblical text. This is the premise on which this study is based, since reinterpreting biblical texts and recasting their words are ways of renewing the sacred message, fixed in written words, for subsequent generations. Scripture is believed to be holy not because it is unchangeable and static, but because it is divinely inspired. Yet the occasional emphasis upon the preservation of the literal word of the written text suggests that ancient exegetes worked with a more complex set of procedures. It was not simply a matter of moulding holy scripture, whether by paraphrase of whole passages or modification of verbatim quotations, to say something quite different from its written form, but there existed a tension between a multiplicity of interpretative forces.
© TC: A Journal of Biblical Textual Criticism, 1998.
R. Glenn Wooden Acadia Divinity College