Exploring the Unidentified KURIOS fragment 4Q126: A parabiblical reworking of Deuteronomy 8?

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ConfusedEnoch
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Joined: Sun Sep 13, 2020 11:39 am

Exploring the Unidentified KURIOS fragment 4Q126: A parabiblical reworking of Deuteronomy 8?

Post by ConfusedEnoch »

So there is an obscure Greek manuscript at Qumran preserved only in small fragments which as far as I know has not been identified with any known text. This text, known as 4Q126, is notable for attesting the word κύριος and if the text is biblical, then it may represent the earliest known substitution of YHWH with κύριος (the manuscript is dated to the first century BCE). However it is clear from what little can be gleaned from the text that the manuscript does not correspond to any known passage in the LXX or any other known Greek version. The editio princeps in DJD makes no attempt at identifying it and my cursory article search has turned up nothing. I don't see anyone else making any guesses. Now, I have zero training whatsoever in paleography, so this post may not have much evidentiary merit, but as the word nerd that I am, I thought it would be fun to just explore the text and see what comes up. What I find makes me wonder if the text might be a reworking of ch. 8 of Deuteronomy. There are probably many other possibilities, but maybe there is enough to suggest a provisional hypothesis.

I guess the first assumption that I make is that the text is somehow Pentateuchal. The Cave 4 Greek fragments were largely Pentateuchal. These include LXX fragments (4Q119-122, aka 4QLXXLeviticusᵃ, pap4QLXXLeviticusᵇ,4QLXXNumbers, 4QLXXDeuteronomy) and a paraphrase of Exodus (4Q127 aka pap4QparaExodus). Second, the DJD editors note that one of the fragments of 4Q126 was originally wrongly assigned to 4QLXXDeuteronomy (dating to the second century BCE), suggesting it may have been in proximity with 4Q122. That pap4QparaExodus is parabiblical is also noteworthy since 4Q126 does not correspond precisely to any LXX text. Elsewhere at Qumran there were other attempts at rewritten Bible (such as 4Q Reworked Pentateuch). So as a starting hypothesis, I am going to assume that 4Q126 is Pentateuchal.

Fr. 2 is the most important fragment, as the other fragments are less helpful beyond commonplaces. Here is the text:

1 ]σαπο̣·ρ[

2 ]σ̣κορπιδ[

3 ]ηεμπ[

4 ]ν̣εμπαση[

5 ]ε̣ιτε κυριο[

This is essentially the transcription in DJD with one exception: I added a lacuna the space of one character on line 1. I don't know why the official transcription lacks it but the photographs show the parchment is broken off between the last two extant letters.

The DJD editors note that the word on line 2 "may help determine the identity of the work," as it is the most specific term in the manuscript. The word here is evidently σκορπίδιον, the diminutive of σκορπίος "scorpion". Its only occurrence in the LXX is at 1 Maccabees 6:51 where it refers in a technical sense to an engine of war. But if 4Q126 is a parabiblical paraphrase then we may want to consider where scorpions are elsewhere referred to in the OT. It turns out that the only place in the Torah where scorpions are mentioned is Deuteronomy 8:15 ("He led you through the vast and dreadful wilderness, that thirsty and waterless land, with its venomous snakes and scorpions"), where σκορπίος appears in the LXX. So this narrowed my focus to ch. 8 of Deuteronomy, with Deuteronomy as a whole in view if the author drew on other Deuteronomist phrases in his reworking. The next clear passage is in line 5. Here we find a phrase with the word κύριος. The letter combination found on this line matches εὐλογεῖτε κύριον (you people bless the Lord) in Judges 5:2, 9, reflecting Hebrew בָּרֲכ֖וּ יְהוָֽה. This phrase does not occur in this precise form in Deuteronomy, but in 8:10 we find εὐλογήσεις κύριον which is singular future rather than plural imperative. The use of εὐλογέω with κύριος is a commonplace (found in Deuteronomy 2:7, 12:7, 14:24, 14:29, 15:4, 10, 14, 18, 16:10, 15, 23:21, 24:19, 28:2, 30:16, 33:10), but it does occur somewhat close to the mention of scorpions in v. 15 (the order however reversed in the text under consideration.

The other three lines are less clear. In line 4 we find ]ν̣εμπαση[ and the DJD editors suggested that this may have the adverb ἔμπᾱς (likewise, anyway), but this seems unlikely since this word is more common in Epic poetry and Ionic Greek as opposed to Koine (apparently not appearing in the LXX, Philo, Josephus, or any church father before Eusebius). The editors also suggested that the line may include the words ἐν πάσῃ with a scribal error but this seems to be ruled out by line 3 which has the same letter sequence of εμπ (imo an occurrence of the same word). Another possibility seems feasible: ἐμπάσῃς (you sprinkled on), an aorist form of ἐμπάσσω. So the line would be parsed as ]ν̣ εμπαση[ς. Does this verb make sense in the context of Deuteronomy 8? I think it does! Deuteronomy 8:3, 16 makes reference to God providing manna to the Israelites to eat in the wilderness. Now both Philo of Alexandria (De decalogo 16.4) and Origen (Homiliae in Psalmos, 13.1.6, 21.2.4, 9) used the metaphor of rain (employing the verb ὕω) to describe the provision of manna, drawing on Psalm 78(77):24 LXX (έβρεξεν αὐτοῗς μαννα φαγεῗν, utilizing a different verb βρέχω). Pseudo-Philo, LAB 19:10 similarly describes God raining down manna. The verbs ἐμπάσσω and πάσσω were used to refer to the sprinkling or scattering of dust, ashes, hair, and other things. Sirach 43:17 employs πάσσω to describe the falling of snow (πάσσει χιόνα), and Psalm 147:5(16) LXX applies it to frost (ὁμίχλην ὡσεὶ σποδὸν πάσσοντος), both snow and frost compare well to the concept of manna falling from heaven. One later author may have used πάσσω to describe the provision of manna: "And then he rained down (ὗε) the well-known sweet (γνωστὸν γλυκερόν), sprinkling manna for them (σφισι μάννα πάσασθαι)" (Apollonaris, Metaphrasis psalmorum 2.77). So it looks like ἐμπάσσω was a suitable word for paraphrasing Deuteronomy 8:16, which is in close proximity to the mention of scorpions (v. 15) and blessing the Lord (v. 10).

This leaves us with line 1 unaccounted for. I think ]σαπο̣·ρ[ may be parsed as ]σ ἀπὸ ·ρ[ and this fits one recurring phrase in Deuteronomy LXX: (ἀποστρέφω / ἐκτρίβω / ἐξολεθρεύω) αὐτοὺς ἀπὸ προσώπου, found in 2:12, 9:3, 5, 12:30, 31:6 LXX. So this is not a phrase from ch. 8 specifically but it is typical of Deuteronomy.

Fr. 1 is less helpful but may furnish some clues:

1 ]σ̣ποδ·[

2 ]·ν και κυ[

3 ]νων ασ ...[

4 ]φρο ...[

Line 1 looks like it may be τοὺς πόδας. There is a reference to feet in Deuteronomy 8:4: "Your feet (οἱ πόδες) did not become hard". Line 2 is difficult to make sense of but κυ[ may be another instance of κύριος. This letter sequence does occur in Deuteronomy 10:17's "God of gods and Lord of lords" (θεὸς τῶν θεῶν καὶ κύριος τῶν κυρίων in the LXX). As for line 3, the same sentence in Deuteronomy 8:15 referring to scorpions mentions the ὄφις δάκνων (stinging/biting serpent), which makes me wonder if ]νων ασ ...[ might represent δάκνων ἀσπίς (stinging asp) or perhaps Isaiah 11:8's ἐκγόνων ἀσπίδων (offspring of asps). Note that ἀσπίς occurs elsewhere in Deuteronomy (in 32:33) and δάκνω is used with ἀσπίς by Philo, Diodorus Siculus, Julius Africanus, and others. As for line 4, there is very little to go on, but φρονέω and its derivatives occur three times in Deuteronomy LXX (22:21, 28:47, 32:29).

The other fragments are even less informative. Fr. 3 has ]ενμο··[ in line 1, which could probably fit many hundreds of phrases in the LXX but it does match ἐποίησέν μοι in Deuteronomy 8:17. Fr. 7 has ]·ας παιδ[ which is suggestive of τὰς παιδίσκας, a word occurring 9 times in Deuteronomy but not in ch. 8 (which has the verb παιδεύω in 8:5).

All this may be too slender to support even a hypothesis that 4Q126 is related to Deuteronomy and ch. 8 in particular, but it has been fun trying to make sense of the fragments. Comments are welcome.
ConfusedEnoch
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Joined: Sun Sep 13, 2020 11:39 am

Re: Exploring the Unidentified KURIOS fragment 4Q126: A parabiblical reworking of Deuteronomy 8?

Post by ConfusedEnoch »

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ConfusedEnoch
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Re: Exploring the Unidentified KURIOS fragment 4Q126: A parabiblical reworking of Deuteronomy 8?

Post by ConfusedEnoch »

Obviously, the "wilderness of Paran" which Deuteronomy 8:15 refers to as "that great and terrible wilderness, wherein there were fiery serpents and scorpions, and no water" is the same as the wilderness of Sinai.
If, as my previous posts have established, Mt. Sinai is to be taken as Hermon and the wilderness/reed sea as the Beqaa valley/Lebanon, then the references to scorpions fit extremely well, almost disturbingly so.

In one of the undamaged tablets of the Epic of Gilgamesh, Tablet VIII to be exact, this happens:
Gilgamesh stays by his friend’s body until a worm crawls out of its nose. Then he casts aside his royal garments with disgust, as if they were filthy, and dons unscraped, hair-covered animal skins. He pours honey into a carnelian bowl, places some butter in a bowl of lapis lazuli, and makes an offering to Shamash. Then Gilgamesh sets off into the wilderness, just as Shamash had told the dying Enkidu he would. He wanders alone, desolate with sorrow, wondering if he must die too. At last he decides to seek out Utnapishtim, who survived the flood that had almost ended life on Earth and subsequently became the only mortal granted everlasting life by the gods. He hopes Utnapishtim can tell him how he too might escape death. Utnapishtim lives in the far-off place where the sun rises, a place where no mortal has ever ventured.

One night in the mountains before going to sleep, Gilgamesh prays to the moon god, Sin, to grant him a vision. In the middle of the night he awakens, surrounded by lions. Drawing his axe from his belt, he attacks them, reveling in the slaughter. After more journeying, he arrives at Mashu, the twin-headed mountain. One peak looks west, toward the setting of the sun, and the other looks east toward its rising. The summits of Mashu brush against heaven itself, and its udders reach down into the underworld. Two monsters, a Scorpion-man and his wife, guard its gates. The male monster tells his wife that the person who dares to come here must be a god. The wife says that two-thirds of him is god, but the rest of him is human.
Here we have four motifs found in the Exodus (and more specifically Deuteronomy 8):

Milk and Honey (Deuteronomy 8:8)
Scorpions (Deuteronomy 8:15)
Underwater fountains/Underworld (Deuteronomy 8:7)
Deserted wilderness with "separated mountains" (Deuteronomy 8:15)
ConfusedEnoch
Posts: 25
Joined: Sun Sep 13, 2020 11:39 am

Re: Exploring the Unidentified KURIOS fragment 4Q126: A parabiblical reworking of Deuteronomy 8?

Post by ConfusedEnoch »

From my previous post,
The other three lines are less clear. In line 4 we find ]ν̣εμπαση[ and the DJD editors suggested that this may have the adverb ἔμπᾱς (likewise, anyway), but this seems unlikely since this word is more common in Epic poetry and Ionic Greek as opposed to Koine (apparently not appearing in the LXX, Philo, Josephus, or any church father before Eusebius). The editors also suggested that the line may include the words ἐν πάσῃ with a scribal error but this seems to be ruled out by line 3 which has the same letter sequence of εμπ (imo an occurrence of the same word). Another possibility seems feasible: ἐμπάσῃς (you sprinkled on), an aorist form of ἐμπάσσω. So the line would be parsed as ]ν̣ εμπαση[ς. Does this verb make sense in the context of Deuteronomy 8? I think it does! Deuteronomy 8:3, 16 makes reference to God providing manna to the Israelites to eat in the wilderness. Now both Philo of Alexandria (De decalogo 16.4) and Origen (Homiliae in Psalmos, 13.1.6, 21.2.4, 9) used the metaphor of rain (employing the verb ὕω) to describe the provision of manna, drawing on Psalm 78(77):24 LXX (έβρεξεν αὐτοῗς μαννα φαγεῗν, utilizing a different verb βρέχω). Pseudo-Philo, LAB 19:10 similarly describes God raining down manna. The verbs ἐμπάσσω and πάσσω were used to refer to the sprinkling or scattering of dust, ashes, hair, and other things. Sirach 43:17 employs πάσσω to describe the falling of snow (πάσσει χιόνα), and Psalm 147:5(16) LXX applies it to frost (ὁμίχλην ὡσεὶ σποδὸν πάσσοντος), both snow and frost compare well to the concept of manna falling from heaven. One later author may have used πάσσω to describe the provision of manna: "And then he rained down (ὗε) the well-known sweet (γνωστὸν γλυκερόν), sprinkling manna for them (σφισι μάννα πάσασθαι)" (Apollonaris, Metaphrasis psalmorum 2.77). So it looks like ἐμπάσσω was a suitable word for paraphrasing Deuteronomy 8:16, which is in close proximity to the mention of scorpions (v. 15) and blessing the Lord (v. 10).
Manna being snow fits exquisitely with an identification of Mt. Sinai/Bashan/Horeb/Hor/Hormah/Sion with the Hermon. For biblical (and extra-biblical) references to Hermon's sacred (and eternal) snow, see E. Lipsinki's "El's abode: Myths relating to Mount Hermon".

"Heavenly snow" and "eternal snow" are also used as placeholder terms for Mt. Hermon in the Epic of Gilgamesh (Tablet IV):
On the sixth day of their journey to the Cedar Forest, they climbed the Mountain "Shoulder" (Twin mountains with a valley, pretty obvious what this is in reference to) They climbed past steaming vents, and stopped to rest.
They climbed into the eternal snow, found shelter
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