Spirit in the Qumran Texts: 1QH 6:19-33

1QH 6

(Unless otherwise noted, the translations of 1QH are my own.)

It is possible that the hymn beginning at line 12 of column V (cf. the previous notes) continues on into column VI. It has been suggested that the hymn extends through 6:18, or even through line 33 (cf. the discussion by the editors in DJD XL, pp. 77-8, 88-90); however, it may be better to treat 6:19-33 as a separate hymn. In any case, many of the themes in column V continue in column VI; the poems certainly share a number of features and aspects in common.

The difficulty in determining the division of the hymns stems, in large part, from the missing lines (1-11) at the beginning of column VI. Lines 12-18 emphasize once again that those righteous persons, who are able to obtain wisdom and understanding, do so through the mercy and favor of God. There is a strong predestinarian orientation to the Qumran Community, which is expressed here in the Hodayot, in a number of the hymns.

Those who receive the inspired revelation from God are described as “men of truth and the chosen (one)s of righteousness” (line 13); they are characterized by virtues that reflect the fundamental attributes of God Himself, being enabled to pursue wisdom and understanding by God’s spirits: “[(those) searching for insight and seeking understanding […] (the one)s loving compassion and (those) lowly [i.e. humble] of spirit…” (lines 13-14). Through God’s favor—His guidance and protection, given through His spirits—the chosen ones are able to remain faithful to the end, even in the face of affliction and persecution (lines 15-18).

The section (or separate hymn, cf. above) that begins at line 19, opens with a blessing (to God) which makes clear, again, that the ability possessed by the righteous/faithful ones is given to them by God:

“[Blessed are you,] my Lord, the (One) giving [i.e. placing] understanding in (the) heart of your servant, (for him) to gain insight in(to) all these (thing)s, and to have under[standing of…], and to hold himself (firm) against (wicked) deeds, and to bless with rightness all (those) choosing (what is) pleasing to you, [to choose all th]at you love and to abhor all that [you hate]…” (lines 19-21f)

As we have seen, elsewhere in these hymns the same wording from line 9 is used with a Divine spirit (j^Wr) as the object of God’s giving (4:29; 5:36) . The virtue or attribute (here “understanding”, hn`yB!), defined abstractly, can also be personified dynamically as an active spirit. The hymnist could just as well have used the expression “spirit of understanding” (cp. “spirit of knowledge” in line 36). It is thus a gift from God that enables the chosen one to have wisdom and understanding, and to resist the evil influences that lead humans to wickedness. Human begins must choose (vb rh^B*) between what is pleasing to God and what He despises/abhors, but only through the favor and guidance of God is one able to make the right choice (on a regular basis).

The deterministic emphasis, in this regard, is expressed quite clearly in line 22f:

“You have given your servant insight in(to) [… (the) lo]ts of humankind, for (according) to (the) mouth of (the) spirits you made (the lot) fall for them between good and evil, [and] you have established…”

In the expression “mouth of (the) spirits” (twjwr yp), the noun hP# (“mouth”) is presumably used in the abstract sense of “measure, portion”. The idea seems to be that the spirits have been measured/portioned out to different people (cp. the similar wording, applied to Jesus, in John 3:34), so that they will incline toward either the good or the evil. As we have seen, according to the thought-world of the Qumran hymns, there are both good and evil spirits that influence human beings, with people being trapped between the two forces. By nature, the spirit/nature of a human being (“spirit of flesh”) is corrupt, being ruled by a perverting spirit (“spirit of crookedness”). It requires a special gift/favor by God in order to enable a human being to be faithful and righteous. The protagonist of the hymn describes this very dynamic:

“And I (indeed) know, from your understanding, that through your favor to a m[a]n you make [abundant his inheritance] in (the) spirit of your holiness, and so you bring him near to your understanding…” (lines 23b-24)

Here, again, we find the expression “spirit of (God’s) holiness” (vd#oq j^Wr), as representing the principal spirit that God gives to His chosen one, reflecting the fundamental Divine attribute of holiness. God gives His holy spirit to all of His chosen ones, but gives to some a greater portion (i.e., a more abundant “inheritance” [hl*j&n~]). This spirit draws the person toward God’s understanding, bringing him/her near to it (vb vg~n`). Significantly, the protagonist states that it is from God’s own understanding, gifted to him by God’s spirit, that he has obtained his knowledge.

The possession of this spirit, and the inspired wisdom/understanding that it brings, enables a person to remain faithful and righteous in all things. This ethical-religious principle is developed in lines 25-33. It is according to the measure/portion of the person’s “nearness” (being near, brwq) to God’s understanding, that he/she will be faithful. The same expression as in line 22, with the noun hP# (“mouth”) in the abstract sense of “measure/portion”, is used. A person will act righteously, and remain faithful to God, to the extent that God’s holy spirit is present, drawing the person ever closer to God’s own wisdom and understanding.

The final line (32-33) makes clear that this faithfulness is defined in traditional terms, according to loyalty to the covenant (i.e., observance of the Torah precepts and regulations): “I will not bring into the council of [your] tr[uth any] (one) turning (away) [from] your [b]inding agreement [tyr!B=, i.e. covenant]”. It was expected that every member of the Community would be meticulously loyal and devoted to the Torah.

In the next note, we will at the remaining lines (34-41) of column VI.

DJD XL = Discoveries in the Judean Desert, Vol. XL: 1QHodayota, with Incorporation of 1QHodayotb and 4QHodayota-f, by Hartmut Stegemann with Eileen Schuller, translations of texts by Carol Newsom (Clarendon Press: 2009).

March 16: Isaiah 61:1-2

Isaiah 61:1b-2a

As mentioned in the previous note, there are six verbal phrases (infinitives) which summarize the mission of the Anointed Herald in Isa 61:1-3. God sent him (vb jl^v*), specifically, to do six things—and these six actions can be divided into three pairs. The first pair—

“to bring (good) news (for the) oppressed,
to bind (up wounds) for (the) broken of heart”

we examined in the previous note. Now we turn to the second pair:

“to call (out) freedom for (the one)s taken captive,
and (the) opening up for (the one)s bound (in prison);
to call (out) a year of favor for YHWH,
and a day of vengeance for our Mighty (One)”

Here both infinitives are identical: ar)q=l!, “to call (out)”, which is a fitting activity for a prophetic Herald. What he is to “call out” is two-fold: (1) freedom/release for those in bondage, and (2) a time dedicated to YHWH, when both blessing and judgment will occur. In each case, the verbal phrase is expanded to form a bicolon (couplet) of two lines. The first couplet is:

“to call (out)
freedom for (the one)s taken captive,
and (the) opening up for (the one)s bound (in prison)”

The term rorD= fundamentally refers to a freedom of movement, and thus to “freedom” in a general sense. One who is taken captive (vb hb*v*) has no such freedom. We should understand this ‘captivity’ here in a general and comprehensive sense—i.e., to any form of bondage. It can be taken figuratively, but must also include bondage and servitude in a real (socio-economic) sense. The idea has special resonance for Judeans in the post-exilic period, the generation(s) who had just recently returned from captivity. As Nehemiah 5:1-5 makes clear, economic conditions in Judah in the early post-exilic period (mid-5th century B.C.) were such that some peasants and lower-class families, facing burdensome debt, felt they had no choice but to sell off their children into slavery.

The second line refers more specifically to those who are actually bound (vb rs^a*) in prison. There is some difficulty involved in the curious compound form j^oq-jq^P*; it may be parsed as an expanded (q§taltal) form of the verb jq^P* (“open”), or as a scribal error for the verbal noun j^oqP* (“opening”). The duplicated portion may simply be stylistic, to fill out the rhythm of the line. In any case, this “opening” is equivalent to the “freedom” mentioned in the previous line—i.e., the opening of the prison doors (so to speak), and a release from captivity.

The LXX renders the second line as kai\ tufloi=$ a)na/bleyin, referring to the blind being able to see again. This almost certainly came about because the verb jq^P* typically is used in the Old Testament for the opening of eyes. However, as far as I am aware, there is no (surviving) Hebrew text that would support the LXX, which should probably be regarded here as an attempt to explain a difficult line (and likely influenced by the wording in Psalm 146:7-8). Even so, it had the interesting effect of introducing a miraculous-healing element into a passage which otherwise had none, and made Isa 61:1-3 more applicable to the ministry of Jesus (cf. also the same kind of emphasis, by way of association with Psalm 146:7-8, in the Qumran text 4Q521).

The second couplet in this pairing is:

“to call (out)
a year of favor for YHWH,
and a day of vengeance for our Mighty (One)”

This “year of favor” (/oxr* tn~v=) is a time when YHWH shows special favor (/oxr*) to His people. The root hx*r* refers to something being received favorably by a person, indicating that one is pleased with it and accepts it. The verb can also be used in the active sense of showing favor, and that is how the derived noun (/oxr*) is used here. The “year of favor” must be understood in terms of the Sabbatical (seventh) year, when debts were forgiven and people sold into indentured service were freed (cf. Exod 21:2; Deut 15:1-11; Jer 34:8-22). The same expression “to call (out) freedom” (rord= ar)q=l!, cf. above) was used in connection with the Sabbatical year (Jer 34:17). Cf. Blenkinsopp, p. 225.

The flip side of the favor shown to the oppressed is the vengeance (<q*n`) YHWH shows to the oppressors (i.e., the wicked). The term <q*n` may also be understood in the sense of “vindication”, when injustice is corrected, and the wicked punished, etc. The context of the first pairing (cf. the previous note)—viz., the injustice and oppression within Judean society at the time—is vital for a proper understanding of these lines here. The oppressed will be freed/released from their bondage (“year of favor”), while the oppressors will come under harsh judgment (“day of vengeance”). The specific expression “day of vengeance” is a reflex of the ancient “day of YHWH” motif in the Prophetic writings, emphasizing the time when God will judge and punish the wicked.

YHWH declares his hatred of injustice (v. 8a), a familiar theme in the Prophets; and there can be no such injustice or oppression in the New Age that is to come for His people. The Anointed Herald’s mission is to announce the coming of this New Age, when the current conditions will be reversed: the oppressed will find favor, and oppressors will experience suffering. This same reversal-of-fortune motif is used consistently by Jesus, in his Beatitudes, and in other teachings and parables as well.

In the next note, we will turn to the third (and final) verb pair (in vv. 2b-3ab), which brings the description of the Herald’s mission to a close.

References above marked “Blenkinsopp” are to Joseph Blenkinsopp, Isaiah 56-66, Anchor Bible [AB], vol. 19B (2003).


December 31: John 1:16 (continued)

John 1:16, continued

kai\ xa/rin a)nti\ xa/rito$
“and favor in place of favor”

This is the last of the three phrases in verse 16:

“and out of his fullness
we all (have) received,
and favor in place of favor

It modifies and supplements the first two lines, and is thus epexegetical. The explanatory force of the line rather depends on how the initial conjunction kai/ is to be understood. There are two possibilities:

    • In addition to receiving from the fullness of the Son, believers receive the “favor a)nti/ favor” expressed in the third line
    • The expression “favor a)nti/ favor” further defines what it is that we we receive from the fullness of the Son

The second option is to be preferred; in this light, the conjunction kai/ could also be translated as “even”:

“and out of his fullness
we all (have) received,
even favor in place of favor”

There are two other components to the line: (1) the noun xa/ri$, and (2) the preposition a)nti/. We will examine each of these, and then see how they function in their combination.


The noun xa/ri$ essentially means “favor” —that is, the favor that one person shows to another. Frequently in the New Testament, it refers to the favor that God shows to His people—particularly, to believers, in saving them from sin and Judgment. It is a common early Christian term, but, rather surprisingly, hardly occurs at all in the Johannine writings. Apart from the occurrences here in the Prologue (4 times in vv. 14, 16, 17), the only other instance is in 2 John 3, where it is used as part of a greeting. Thus, unlike many of the featured words in the Prologue, xa/ri$ is not a distinctly Johannine term.

It is thus necessary to consider carefully how the word is used here in the Prologue. The word describes the do/ca (“honor, splendor, glory”) of the pre-existent Logos (and Son) of God, and refers to the filling of the Son by the Father. Both this aspect of “filling” (adj. plh/rh$, noun plh/rwma), and the pairing of xa/ri$ with “truth” (a)lh/qeia), suggests strongly that it is the Spirit of God that is primarily in view. A careful examination of the Johannine theology and the context in the Prologue would seem to confirm this point (cf. also the discussion in the previous notes, on vv. 14, 16). God the Father shows favor to the Son by giving to him His own Spirit. An identification with the Spirit also fits the idea in the first two lines of v. 16—namely, that we, as believers, share this same fullness. We are united, through the Spirit, with both the Father and Son (cf. below).

The other occurrence of xa/ri$ is in the following verse 17, which will be discussed in turn; however, it is worth at least giving some consideration to it here, in terms of the meaning of the term xa/ri$. The point being made is a contrast between the Torah of the Old Covenant and the New Covenant realized (for believers) through the person of Jesus Christ. It thus represents a special kind of favor, whereby the Covenant relationship, between God and His people, is no longer established through sacrificial offerings, nor governed through the regulations of the Torah. Instead, it was established through the sacrificial death of Jesus, and is now governed through the presence and power of the Spirit.

Paul expresses this point in more traditional religious and theological terminology, in his letters, compared with the Johannine writings. However, the idea is certainly present in the Johannine Gospel (the Discourses). At a number of points, Jesus identifies himself with a particular aspect of the religious ritual and tradition. From an Israelite and Jewish standpoint, such tradition had largely been defined within the parameters of the Old Testament Torah. For more on this subject, cf. my earlier articles in the series “Jesus and the Law”.


The fundamental meaning of this preposition is “against”. While this meaning may be understood in the negative sense of opposition, there are many other instances where we have the more general idea of two people (or objects) facing each other. A face-to-face position may indicate antagonism or opposition, but can just as well signify a friendly encounter or exchange. The idea of an exchange is frequent with a)nti/, either in the sense of replacement, or as indicating a mutual relationship.

Let us now consider the meaning of the expression “favor a)nti/ favor”. Two questions must be asked. First, what are the two favors? and, second, how are they related (through the preposition a)nti/)? These questions are interconnected, and cannot be addressed separately. In the analysis that follows here, they will be discussed together.

To begin with, the identity of the two “favors” depends on the force of the preposition a)nti/ (“against”); and there are three options (cf. Brown, p. 16): (a) replacement, (b) exchange, or (c) accumulation. Unfortunately, the preposition only rarely occurs elsewhere in the Johannine writings, and never in its independent, unprefixed form, so there is little opportunity for comparison.

Some commentators (e.g., Brown, pp. 16, 33-35) take their cue from the verse that follows (17), understanding in this line a similar contrast between the Old and New Covenants. In which case, the preposition a)nti/ would have the sense of replacement—i.e., the New Covenant in Christ (and the Spirit) taking the place of the Old Covenant and the Torah. Two factors lead me to consider this interpretation to be incorrect. First, there seems little basis for applying the word xa/ri$ (“favor”) to the Old Covenant. That would tend to contradict the regular use of xa/ri$ among early Christians, as seen throughout the New Testament. But, more importantly, it is invalidated by the very contrast made in verse 17; there, the word xa/ri$ is decidedly not used in reference to the Old Covenant, but only to the New.

The idea of accumulation—i.e., a)nti/ in the sense of one thing stacked up against another—also seems to require an identification of the first xa/ri$ with the Old Covenant (i.e., in addition to the first covenant, we now have the greater New Covenant). If so, I would have to consider that line of interpretation to be incorrect as well. However, it may be that what is being expressed is the idea that, for believers, life in Christ, in the Spirit, is defined as the experience of one blessing after another. That would be more tenable as an explanation, though, in my view, still off the mark.

I would maintain that only the sense of an exchange properly captures the meaning of a)nti/ in context. The only question is whether it is a mutual exchange, or signifies a chain of transmission. Both are possible, but the latter option seems better to fit the Johannine context. There is a strong hierarchical emphasis in the Gospel: the Father gives to the Son, who, in turn, gives to believers (3:34-35; 5:20-21ff, 26ff; 6:27ff, 57; 12:49-50; 14:6-10ff, 21ff; 15:9, 15, 26; 16:15; 17:2, 7ff, 12, 14, 18, 22-23ff; 20:21).

According to this pattern, the favor the Father gives to the Son, the Son, in turn, gives to believers. It is the same favor, essentially identified with the Spirit of God (cf. above), and the exchange proceeds from Father to Son to believers. However, there is also an aspect of mutuality that is tied with the idea of union through the presence of the Spirit. Through the Spirit, we, as believers, are united with both the Father and the Son. I like to illustrate this with the following simple diagram:

Nowhere in the Gospel of John are the two aspects of hierarchy and mutuality more beautifully combined than in the great Prayer-Discourse of chapter 17, especially the closing section (vv. 20-26):

“That they all should be one, even as you, Father, are in me, and I in you—that they also should be in us… And the honor/splendor [do/ca] that you have given to me, I have given to them, so that they should be one, even as we (are) one—I in them and you in me, (so) that they should be (one)s having been made complete(ly) into one…” (vv. 21-23a)

References above marked “Brown” are to Raymond E. Brown, S.S., The Gospel According to John (I-XII), Anchor Bible [AB], vol. 29 (1966).