February 13: Galatians 4:21-31

Galatians 4:21-31

Galatians 4:21-31 represents the final section of the probatio of the letter (chaps. 3-4), and also the final argument used by Paul in support of his central proposition (expressed in 2:15-21). By these arguments, Paul endeavors to ‘prove’ (thus, probatio) his proposition, regarding the relation of believers in Christ (Jewish and non-Jewish) to the Torah.

I have discussed this section previously, most notably as an article in the series “Paul’s View of the Law”. Here I will be focusing on the particular theme of the sonship of believers, contrasting this sonship with a condition of slavery. This is a theme which runs through chapters 3-4—and, indeed, through the entire letter. Are believers still in bondage to the regulations of the Torah (under the term no/mo$), thus continuing in a kind of slavery? or, as sons, who have now come of age, able to inherit everything that belongs to the Father, are we free of this guiding authority? Paul argues strenuously against the former, while affirming (just as vigorously) the latter. The allegorical illustration he uses in 4:21-31 represents his final argument (of the probatio) toward this goal. He frames the illustration with a pointed rhetorical question for his audience:

“Relate to me, (you) the (one)s wishing to be under the Law, would you not hear the Law?” (v. 21)

This rhetorical device is known as the interrogatio method, by which Paul questions his audience, prompting them and allowing them to bring forth a determination themselves. The question actually serves as a challenge to the Galatians, and cuts right to the heart of Paul’s message in the letter. It also alludes to the seemingly paradoxical character of Paul’s view of the Torah. In support of his argument that believers are no longer bound by the Torah’s authority, he appeals to the Torah’s authority.

There is actually a double-use of no/mo$ here, referring both to the Torah regulations (recorded in the Pentateuch) and, secondly, to the narratives of the Pentateuch. This is significant since Paul’s argument is based upon the interpretation of a specific Scriptural narrative (from the Torah/Pentateuch). The expression “hear the Law” also has a two-fold meaning: (1) to obey the Law, and (2) literally, to hear the words of the Law (i.e. of Scripture). The latter is what Paul means primarily here, but he may also be saying, “if you want to be under the Law, are you willing to obey the Law (i.e. the true Law of Christ)?”

In verses 22-23, Paul summarizes the Scriptural narrative found in Genesis 16:1-6; 21:8-14, citing Gen 16:15; 21:2-3, 9. That Hagar was a slave or “servant-girl” (paidi/skh) is indicated in the narrative (Gen 16:1ff; 21:10ff, also 25:12); the contrast of Sarah as a free woman can be inferred/implied naturally from the context. This establishes the contrast between slavery and freedom—a key theme which Paul introduced (2:4) and developed (3:23-29; 4:1-10) earlier in the letter (cf. the previous notes on 3:26 and 4:4-7). It also sets the stage for the specific emphasis on freedom in Christ to follow in 4:31/5:1ff.

The contrast, expressed through the figures of Hagar/Ishmael and Sarah/Isaac in the narrative, is also expressed grammatically by the me/nde/ (“on the one hand…on the other…”) construction in verse 23 (cf. also vv. 8-9) [Note: some manuscripts (Papyrus46 B f vg) omit me/n]. The contrast/conflict between freedom and slavery is also defined as being between the “promise” (e)paggeli/a) and the “flesh” (sa/rc):

“the (one born) of the servant-girl has come to be (born) according to (the) flesh,
but the (one born) of the free (woman) through (the) e)paggeli/a [i.e. promise]” (v. 23)

The promise is closely connected with the Spirit (Gal 3:14). Meanwhile, the expression “according to (the) flesh” (kata\ sa/rka) is used frequently elsewhere in Paul’s letters (Rom 1:3; 4:1; 8:4-5, 12-13; 9:3, 5; 1 Cor 1:26; 10:18; 2 Cor 1:17; 5:16; 10:2-3; 11:18), and a Spirit-Flesh dualism is an important aspect of Paul’s thought in both Galatians (Gal 3:3; 4:29; 5:16-17; 6:8) and Romans (Rom 8:1-17) [cf. also Phil 3:3].

The two kinds of sons thus symbolize this dualistic orientation of Paul’s theology. The symbolism is based on his interpretation of the Genesis story as an “allegory” (a)llhgori/a), that is, a description of one thing under the image of another. Familiar from Greco-Roman and Hellenistic-Jewish literature and philosophy, it is also similar to the creative midrash interpretive tradition in Judaism; for other examples in Paul’s letters, cf. 1 Cor 10:1-13; 2 Cor 3:7-18. The contrast/conflict between Hagar/Ishmael and Sarah/Isaac in the narrative is coordinated and aligned together (sustoixe/w, v. 25) as follows:

Slave-girl vs. Free (woman) [v. 22b]

Flesh vs. Promise [v. 23]

(Old) Covenant vs. (New) Covenant [v. 24]

Jerusalem (on earth) vs. Jerusalem above [v. 25-26]

Hagar/Ishmael vs. Sarah/Isaac [v. 28-29]

As indicated in verse 24, Paul gives prominence and priority to the idea of two covenants—the Greek word rendered “covenant” (diaqh/kh) is literally something “set through” or “put in order”, often in the legal sense of a will or testament (as in Gal 3:15-17), but here corresponding to the Hebrew tyr!B= (“binding agreement”)—that is, the agreement (covenant) established between God and his people (Israel). The two covenants—old and new—are contrasted syntactically by way of another me\nde/ formulation (see above):

    • me/none (the old) from mount Sinai into/unto slavery [ei)$ doulei/an]… (vv. 24-25)
    • de/(the other), the Jerusalem above, (which) is free [e)leuqe/ra e)stin]… (vv. 26-27)

Paul establishes this line of association first by equating Sinai with the (current) earthly Jerusalem in verse 25; he does this by way of (allegorical) correspondence, even though he recognizes that Mt. Sinai is actually in “Arabia” (presumably the Sinai peninsula). This equation has the following interpretive relationship:

    • The Sinai covenant (the Law/Torah) leads to slavery [doulei/a] =>
    • Jerusalem is currently serving as a slave [douleu/ei]

The last point could be taken either in a socio-political (i.e. under Roman occupation) or religious-spiritual (bondage under the Law and sin) sense, or both. This contrasts sharply with the traditional Jewish self-understanding of freedom related to the Torah and the covenant with God (see Mishnah Abot 6:2, also e.g. John 8:33), which Paul reverses completely. Here is the associative logic as a whole:

    • The Old Covenant (the Law/Torah) given at Mt. Sinai
      • Sinai = earthly Jerusalem
        • The Jerusalem below | Slavery
        • The Jerusalem above | Freedom
      • Jerusalem (above) = believers in Christ
    • The New Covenant (the Spirit/promise) realized in Christ

This idea of a heavenly Jerusalem came to be well-established in early Christian thought (see Hebrews 12:22; 13:14; Revelation 3:12; 21:2-22:5), and generally builds on the (eschatological) Old Testament and Jewish tradition of a “new Jerusalem”—e.g. Isa 54:10ff; 60-66; Ezek 40-48; Tobit 13:9-18; Jubilees 4:26; 2/4 Esdras 7:26; 10:40ff; 2 Baruch 4:2-7; 32:2-23; 1 Enoch 90:28f; 2 Enoch 55:2. Another familiar, and related, Jewish tradition was Jerusalem/Zion as a mother (v. 26). As such, this image is parallel to that of the Jewish concept of freedom associated with the Law and Covenant; and, again, Paul reverses this traditional association, by way of citing Isaiah 54:1 (LXX), a passage which came to be used in Judaism in the context of the rebuilding of Jerusalem (see the Targum; Pesiqta Rabbati 32:2). The context of Paul’s citation (v. 27) rather suggests a correlative juxtaposition between physical barrenness and spiritual life.

In verses 28-31, Paul applies this interpretation to the identity of believers in Christ. These verses begin and end with statements of Christian identity, related to the parallel concepts of promise and freedom, and emphasizing again the theme of the sonship of believers

V. 28: “But you*, brothers, according to Isaac, are offspring of (the) promise
{* some manuscripts read “we”}

V. 31: “Therefore, brothers, we are not offspring of the (slave)-girl, but of the free (woman)”

Verses 29-30 stand in between, and are descriptive of conflict for believers:

    • V. 29: External—drawing upon Jewish tradition of conflict between Ishmael and Isaac (not indicated specifically in the Scripture narrative itself), see t. Sota 6:6; Genesis Rabbah 53 (34a), etc. This is interpreted by Paul according to two aspects:
      (1) Jewish hostility and persecution toward early Christians, attested to amply by Paul in his letters and in the book of Acts.
      (2) The dualism of kata\ sa/rka (“according to the flesh”) vs. kata\ pneu=ma (“according to the Spirit”). Here the conflict is still external—i.e. the issue being that regarding circumcision and actual observance of the Torah commands; for an internal expression of this dualism in the hearts/minds and lives of believers (before and after conversion), cf. Romans 7-8.
    • V. 30: Internal—quoting Gen 21:10 and applying it primarily in a religious-spiritual sense: believers are the heirs in Christ (Gal 3:29; 4:1, 7; see also Rom 4:13-14; 8:17), and should no longer wish to come under a yoke of slavery. That Paul may here be expressing the rejection of Jews is certainly possible (see 1 Thess 2:14-16; Rom 9-11), but I do not believe that this is his emphasis—it rather relates more properly to his exhortation to the Gentile Galatians that they “cast away” the yoke of bondage (i.e. observance of the Torah) which they are considering placing upon themselves.

The thematic structure of these verses may be outlined as follows:

    • V. 28—Believers are children of the promise
      • V. 29—Conflict for believers: Flesh vs. Spirit
      • V. 30—Action for believers: “Cast out” the son of the slave-girl (i.e. slavery)
    • V. 31—Believers are children of the free woman

Significantly, these verses, which conclude the probatio, also prepare for the ethical instruction that follows in the exhortatio (“exhortation”) section, 5:1-6:10. Indeed, here Paul begins to turn his readers’ attention to the implications and consequences of what it means to be “sons/children of God”.

One primary implication has been the main focus of the letter, up to this point: believers are no longer under the binding authority of the Torah regulations (such as circumcision, the dietary and purity laws, etc), and are not obligated to observe them. This is emphasized by the ‘outer’ verses (vv. 28, 31) of the outline above.

The second implication (cf. the ‘inner’ verses 29-30), which is just as important, comes to be the focus in 5:1-6:10. Now that believers are freed from the Torah regulations, how is our life and behavior to be regulated? This is defined principally by the conflict between flesh and the Spirit. The impulses of the flesh (toward sin) still need to be curbed. However, this is no longer achieved through the external authority of the Torah regulations, but through the internal guidance of the Spirit. Even what remains of the Torah regulations—namely, the command/duty to love one another (5:13-15; 6:2ff)—is interpreted in light of the new reality that believers now live and act according to the Spirit. Paul expounds this quite clearly in 5:13-24, a passage which lies at the very heart of his instruction in 5:1-6:10.

This message may be summarized by the principle that: the sonship of believers is defined by the presence and work of the Spirit. In the next daily note, will begin examining this principle further, as Paul develops and explains it, in Romans.

Spirit in the Qumran Texts: 1QH 6:34-41

(After a short hiatus, I am picking up again with my series of period notes on the subject of the spirit [specifically, the use of the word jwr] in the Qumran texts.)

1QH 6, continued

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

Lines 12-33 of column VI were discussed in the previous note. Most commentators recognize a new hymn beginning at line 34, and restore the initial word as i[dwa] (;d=oa), “I give you thanks/praise”, lit. “I throw you (thanks/praise)”, to reflect this. Even if this division is correct, it is still difficult to know if (or how far) the hymn extends beyond line 41. It may well have continued on into the missing lines (1-10f) of column VII; the DJD editors (p. 99) suggest that the hymn concludes with VII.20.

As for the certain portion we have (VI.34-41), it begins with lines of thanksgiving and praise to YHWH:

“[I throw] you (praise), my Lord,
according to (the) great(ness) of your strength
and (the) abundance of your wonders,
from (the) distant (past) even to (the) distan[t (future)—
abundant in (act)s of lov]e and great in [(deed)s of kind]ness,
granting forgiveness to (those) turning back (from) a breach (of trust),
yet dealing with (the) crookedness of (the) wicked
in (the) willingness of their [heart].
But you hate crookedness unto (the) end!” (ll. 34-36a)

In the next portion, the hymnist reflects on how YHWH has dealt with him personally, identifying himself as a faithful servant (dbu) of God, much in the manner that we have seen in the prior hymns:

“And I [i.e. as for me], your servant, you have favored me with the spirit of knowledge, (so as) to [choose fir]mness [and right]ness, and to abhor every way of crookedness [i.e. crooked way]” (ll. 36b-37a)

This repeats a typical theme of the Hymns—namely, a recognition (by the author/protagonist) that one’s ability to remain faithful to YHWH is due to a favor (root /nj) granted to the individual by God Himself. This favor comes in the form of a spirit (j^Wr) given by God. It is thus a Divine spirit, in that it comes from God and reflects His own nature and character. We have seen this use of the noun j^Wr in the previous hymns we have examined.

Also, according to the prior usage, j^Wr occurs in a construct expression (i.e., “spirit of…”), where the qualifying term (noun or adjectival substantive) defines the particular Divine attribute or characteristic in focus. Here the term is tu^D^, “knowledge”, emphasizing that it is Divine knowledge that the spirit brings to the protagonist. This was stated earlier in 5:36:

“And I, your servant, know by the spirit that you have given me…”

It is Divine knowledge, which allows the individual to discern the will and purpose of YHWH, and so to choose (vb rh^B*) the right path and to reject (lit. “abhor,” vb bu^T*) the wrong. The right path fundamentally means faithfulness to YHWH. This is expressed by a traditional pair of terms—tm#a# and qd#x#.

The noun tm#a#, which is often translated flatly as “truth”, actually has a much wider range of meaning. It derives from the root /ma, which denotes being firm; thus tm#a# fundamentally means “firmness”, often in the sense of being sound, secure, trustworthy. The parallel root qdx denotes what is “straight” or “right”. The derived noun qd#x# is typically translated “justice” in the social-ethical sphere, and “righteousness” in the religious-moral sphere; I tend to render it more fundamentally as “right(ness)”. The contrast with what is “firm” and “straight/right” is, naturally enough, lw#u*, meaning “crookedness” —i.e., bending or deviating from the right norm.

The use of the construct expression “spirit of knowledge” here may be inspired by its occurrence in Isa 11:2, along with the related constructs “spirit of wisdom” and “spirit of understanding”, which also appear in the Qumran texts. There is a strong noetic and sapiential emphasis to the use of j^Wr in the Qumran writings, as there is, indeed, in the New Testament Scriptures. As we proceed in these notes, certain more precise parallels will be mentioned. Other occurrences of the expression “spirit of knowledge” (tud jwr) are found throughout the texts (e.g., 1QS 4:4; 1QSb 5:25; 4Q161 8-10 12), and will be looked at in turn.

The idiom of God favoring someone with a spirit, using a collocation of the verb /n~j* (with suffix) with the noun j^Wr, also occurs in other texts—1QSb 2:24; 1QHa 8:27; 4Q504 4 5; 11Q5 19:14. The ability of the chosen individual, so favored by God, to hate crookedness, as a result of his portion in firmness (truth) and rightness, is emphasized (in comparable terms) in 1QS 4:24. Cf. Tigchelaar, p. 190.

In line 37b, the hymnist goes on to express his love for YHWH, recognizing (again) that his ability to remain faithful (and choose to follow the right path), is because of the way that the Creator God has shown him favor, in His gracious mercy and love. Another important theme that we have encountered in these hymns is an emphasis on the weakness and mortality of the created being, which requires a special gift from God in order to know and understand the truth. This is expressed in lines 38-39f, though the final two fragmentary lines (40-41) are a bit difficult to interpret.

As we turn to column VII, the first 11 lines are almost completely missing, so it is impossible to know for certain whether the hymn of 6:34-41 continues into the next column (or how far it might extend). A new hymn certainly begins at line 21, but the status of the prior lines 12-20 is less clear. Line 12 may begin a new section, and the DJD editors (cf. also Schuller/Newsom) interpret it this way, restoring the opening words of the line (according to my translation) as: “Blessed are you, Mighty (One) Most High who by…”.

Whether or not 7:12-20 belongs to the same hymn as 6:34-41, there is a continuation of theme, as the hymnist praises God again for the knowledge and understanding He has given. The specific term used here in line 12 lkc (vb lk^c*, Hiphil), denoting a practical kind of wisdom or understanding, often translated (in ethical terms) as “prudence”, or noetically as “insight”. The nouns lk#c# and tu^D^ are paired in line 15. The noun “spirit” does not occur here, but it may perhaps be inferred from the expression “spring/fountain of your strength”, water-imagery being traditionally applied to the Spirit of God in Old Testament and Jewish tradition.

People who have not been so chosen (and favored) by God, are not able to understand the wondrous things that He has done (lines 14ff). But the chosen ones, recognizing what God has given to them, are quite aware, and feel compelled to praise Him fully (thus these Hodayot hymns).

In lines 17-20, the protagonist positions himself as belonging to a community of the faithful. These elect/chosen ones are identified as those having knowledge (lit. “knowing [one]s,” <yudy), and who are instructed by God. Almost certainly, the Community of the Qumran texts is in view, with the hymnist/protagonist likely identifying himself as a lyk!c=m^ for the Community (cf. line 21)—viz., one who is specially gifted by God to instruct and guide the other members in the way of God’s wisdom. The reference in line 18, to the Community “recounting together the knowledge of God”, may allude to the communal worship setting of these very hymns.

Like the chosen individuals, the Community of such persons is to be distinguished from the rest of humankind. Only they are able to understand and to walk in the knowledge of God. This is expressed in line 19:

“…in the assembly of[…] and our offspring you have made to understand…in the midst of the sons of man”

Schuller/Newsom = Eileen M. Schuller and Carol A. Newsom, The Hodayot (Thanksgiving Psalms): A Study Edition of 1QHa, Early Judaism and Its Literature Number 36 (Society of Biblical Literature: 2012)
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).
Tigchelaar = Eibert J. C. Tigchelaar, “Historical Origins of the Early Christian Concept of the Holy Spirit: Perspectives from the Dead Sea Scrolls,” in The Holy Spirit, Inspiration, and the Cultures of Antiquity, Ekstasis series, eds. Jörg Frey and John R. Levison (De Gruyter: 2014)

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).

Spirit in the Qumran Texts: 1QH 5:30-40

1QH 5, continued

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

In lines 24-30 of the Column V hymn, discussed in the previous note, the author describes the role that the principal spirits of holiness, wisdom, etc, played in the Creation, having themselves been established by God before anything else in the universe had been created (cf. Proverbs 8:22-31). These spirits, reflecting the fundamental attributes of God, thus have knowledge of the deepest plans and “mysteries” of God. This is to be compared with the situation of human beings, who are unable to possess true wisdom or understanding unless God Himself, through His spirits, enables the person. Without this ‘special revelation’, human beings simply cannot obtain to the Divine wisdom. The author expresses this, quite clearly, with his rhetorical question in lines 30-31:

“[But how i]s a spirit of flesh (able) to gain understanding of all these (thing)s, and to have discernment of[…] great […]?”

As in 4:37 and 5:15 (possibly also in line 14), the distinctive expression “spirit of flesh” (rc*b* j^Wr) is used, in reference to the nature of a human being. It refers to the created/limited character of this nature, but also to the corruption of it, so that a person is, by nature, influenced and dominated by sin and by evil/harmful spirits. Here, the principal point of reference is to the human being as a created being, with the weaknesses and limitations that this implies:

“And what (is one) born of a woman among all your [gre]at (and) fearsome (work)s?” (line 31b)

The expression “born of a woman” is clearly parallel with “spirit of flesh”. Yet, as the following lines indicate, this created nature is also corrupt, having been perverted and dominated by sin:

“Indeed, he (is but) built of dust and kneaded (with) water. G[uilt and s]in (are) his foundation, (the) nakedness of shame and a so[urce of im]purity; and a spirit of crookedness rules over him.” (ll. 31-33)

The existence of a human being is established (lit. founded, vb ds^y`) on guilt (hm*v=a*) and sin (ha*F*j^), implying that a person is trapped in an existence dominated and influenced by sin from birth. The expression “nakedness of shame/disgrace” probably alludes to the tradition in Gen 2:25; 3:7, 10-11. This natural inclination to sin is further described as a “source of impurity”.

Beyond this, the author/protagonist recognizes that there is also a “spirit” that rules (vb lv^m*) over the human being. This is described specifically as “a spirit of crookedness” (hw@u&n~ j^Wr). The noun hw@u&n~ is verbal, being a participle from the root hwu (I), “bend, twist”; thus hw@u&n~ indicates the action of this spirit—twisting, bending, i.e., perverting, in a negative ethical-religious sense. As discussed in a prior note, lines 12-20 of the Column IV hymn refer to the harmful actions of various “spirits” on human beings. Humans are largely helpless against this influence, unless it is counteracted by other good spirits specifically given by to the individual by God (lines 29ff). Much the same idea is expressed here: the perverting spirit is counteracted by the holy/righteous spirit that God gives to His chosen ones (such as the hymnist/protagonist):

“Only by your goodness can a man be righteous, and by (the) abundance of [your] compas[sion…].
And I, your servant, have knowledge by (the) spirit that you gave [i.e. placed] in me […] and all of your works are righteous” (lines 33b-34a, 35b-36)

The emphasis on the action/effect of this God-given spirit is knowledge (i.e. wisdom and understanding). The protagonist is able to understand the nature of these spirits, and their dynamic (interaction with human beings, etc) in the context of the eternal plans and mysteries of God (see the fragmentary lines 37-40). He says nothing here directly about the cleansing/purifying effect of the spirit, though this is implied in lines 33-34ff. However, in column VI, there is at least one reference to the “spirit of (God’s) holiness” —the principal spirit given to the chosen ones. Indeed, there are parallel references in column VI to the “spirit of holiness” (line 24) and the “spirit of knowledge” (line 36), indicating the important relationship between righteousness/purity and wisdom. This will be discussed further in the next note.

Spirit in the Qumran Texts: 1QH 5:12-30

1QH 5

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

Column V of the Hodayot (Thanksgiving Hymns) manuscript 1QHa, beginning with line 12 (lines 1-11 are lost), contains a relatively lengthy hymn that may extend into column VI. It is clear that this hymn begins at line 12, which means that lines 1-11 likely contained a separate shorter hymn (now lost).

Lines 12-14 form the heading for the hymn, in the manner of the Biblical Psalms; however, this introduction is longer, providing a detailed explanation of the purpose of the hymn. It is intended for the lyk!c=m^ (maskîl), a verbal noun from the root lkc (I), denoting a use of the mind, or manner of thinking, which implies that a person possesses insight and understanding. As a verbal noun, lyk!c=m^ is a participle in the Hiphil (causative) stem, indicating something that makes a person wise, causes them to have knowledge or understanding, etc.

In the Biblical Psalms, lyk!c=m^ refers to a type of poem, which may be set to music (i.e. sung), with a didactic purpose—i.e., used for teaching and instruction. For more on this, cf. the Sunday Psalm study on Ps 32; the term also occurs in Pss 42, 44-45, 52-55, 74, 78, 88-89, and 142. However, here in the Hodayot, lyk!c=m^ clearly refers to a person—i.e., one acting in a teaching or instructing role, presumably within the religious and organizational structure of the Qumran Community. Translations typical render the word here as a title: “Instructor” or transliterated as “Maskil”.

This person, who will give instruction, first is to “fall down” (vb lp^n`, Hiphil stem) in an attitude of humility and worship before God (line 12). This same wording occurred in the column IV hymn (line 30, cf. the prior note), where it also reflects the attitude and intention of the hymn’s protagonist. This parallel suggests that the lacuna (gap) here in line 12 before the expression “deeds of God” could be a form of the verb rp^s* (“give account of, recount”), as in 4:29. I.e., in an attitude of humble devotion, the protagonist will tell others of God’s righteous and merciful acts; by so doing, he will help those with less learning and wisdom gain in understanding (lines 13-14). In particular, people will come to understand about—

“[…] flesh and (the) counsel of (the) spirits of […] they walk” (line 14b)

The gaps here are intriguing. For the first gap, one is tempted to read “spirit of flesh” (rc*b* j^Wr), as in lines 15, 30 (and earlier in 4:37, cf. the previous note); the DJD editors (XL, p. 78-9) mention the proposed restoration rcb rxy (“[vessel] formed of flesh”), as in 18:25. The second gap probably indicates a construct expression (“spirits of…”), such as we find frequently with the noun j^Wr in the Qumran texts (especially the Hodayot).

However, the pattern “spirit(s) of…” can be used in reference to both good and evil spirits. As a characteristic of human beings (and the human condition) generally, the phrase almost certainly should be understood in a negative context. In this regard, the restoration hlwu yjwr has been proposed (DJD XL, p. 79); the noun hl*w+u^ (“crookedness, perversity, injustice”) is used elsewhere in the Qumran texts in just such a context, viz., referring to the corrupting spirit(s), “spirit(s) of perversity/injustice”, that influence humankind.

The reference would thus be two-fold: (a) the corrupted human spirit (i.e. ‘spirit of flesh’), and (b) the evil/harmful spirits that influence and direct human beings on a regular basis—their daily life and habitual behavior being indicated by the verb El^h* (in the Hitpael reflexive stem), i.e., “walk about”, as a traditional ethical-religious idiom (cf. the prior note on 4:36).

The hymn proper begins in line 15, with a praise/blessing of God by the protagonist, according to the regular pattern of the Hodayot (cf. 4:21, 29, 38). The broken condition of the beginning of many lines means that this blessing formula often has to be restored (where plausible), as here in line 15. The emphasis in the blessing section is comparable to what we found in the column IV hymn: the protagonist recognizes that God is wholly responsible for giving wisdom and understanding to a chosen individual (here called a lyk!c=m^, cf. above), through His goodness and mercy. The protagonist refers to himself as a “spirit of flesh” (rc*b* j^Wr), used previously in 4:37 (cf. above); as I discussed in the previous note, the expression refers to the weakness and limitations of the human being’s created nature, but also to the corruption of that nature, so that a person is inclined toward sin and is unable to understand (or receive) the ways of God.

The understanding and insight that God provides to the holy/righteous ones, chosen by Him, is given entirely by His initiative. A strong predestinarian (foreordination) emphasis in this regard is clear from lines 17-18, in spite of their fragmentary condition:

“[…] all insight and in[struction] and the mysteries of the plan and the beginning[…]you established
[…] in holiness from a[ges] of old [and] to everlasting ages you yourself resolved […]holy ones”
(Translation Schuller/Newsom)

This understanding involves the mysteries or “secrets” of God, utilizing the Aramaic loanword zr* (found frequently in the book of Daniel, 2:18 et al). Thus, we are not dealing here with ordinary religious-ethical instruction, but a special kind of inspired teaching. The protagonist, as a maskîl of the Community, claims such special inspiration for himself:

“[…] and in your wonderful mysteries [you] have instructed [me for the s]ake of your glory, and in the depth [… source of] your insight not
[…] you yourself have revealed the ways of truth and the works of evil, wisdom and folly[…] righteousness” (lines 19-20, Schuller/Newsom)

It is important to emphasize again the theological-anthropological principle at work in the column IV and V hymns. The human being, as a limited and corrupted “spirit of flesh”, is unable to obtain the true wisdom and understanding, the knowledge of God; it has to come entirely from God Himself, through an act of mercy and loving-kindness on His part. This Divine wisdom is ancient, going back to the very beginning of creation, contained in mysteries (cf. above) established by God at the beginning of the Ages. The hymnist expresses this belief, grandly, in lines 24-30.

However, it seems that, implied within this song of praise, is the fundamental idea that the ancient/eternal wisdom is conveyed to the holy/chosen one through the spirits that God gives to the person. I suspect that it is these spirits that the author is specifically referring to in lines 24ff:

“And these (are) what [you] es[tablished from (times) before] (in the) distant (past), to judge by them all (the) works of you(r hands), before you created them (together) with (the) army of your spirits and (the) assembly of (the) [mighty (one)s (together) wi]th (the) hammered (sphere) [i.e. firmament] of your holiness and all its armies, (together) with the earth…”

As we shall see as we continue through the Qumran texts, there is a close connection between the principal “spirits” and the fundamental attributes/characteristics of God. Some of those attributes are listed in lines 20-23, and it seems likely that they continue to be primarily in view in the praise section of ll. 24-30. The reference to the “spirit of (God’s) holiness” was already discussed in the previous note (on 4:38).

These principal spirits of God play a central role in the eternal plans (the “mysteries”) of God, through which the creation was established, and all the other heavenly beings (the “army of spirits”) were created. They are then given to the holy ones, those human beings chosen by God, enabling such humans to understand the Divine mysteries. There can be no doubt that the Qumran Community saw itself as possessing a uniquely inspired teaching. It was given to its leaders (like the maskîl-protagonist of the hymn), who then were able to give it, in turn, to the other members.

In the next note, we will proceed to the next section of the column V hymn (lines 30-40), where the protagonist’s identification of himself as a “spirit of flesh” is developed in a different way.

Schuller/Newsom = Eileen M. Schuller and Carol A. Newsom, The Hodayot (Thanksgiving Psalms): A Study Edition of 1QHa, Early Judaism and Its Literature Number 36 (Society of Biblical Literature: 2012)
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).

Spirit in the Qumran Texts: 1QH 4:37-40

1QHa 4, continued

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

In the remaining lines (37-40) of what survives of the column IV hymn, there occur two key expressions which are most instructive for an understanding of the theology (and anthropology) of the Qumran Community, as expressed particularly in the Thanksgiving Hymns (Hodayot). These parallel, contrastive expressions are:

    • “spirit of flesh” (rc*b* j^Wr) [line 37]
    • “spirit of holiness” (vd#oq j^Wr) [line 38]

The first of these occurs at the end of the third surviving section (ll. 29-37, discussed in the previous note). The psalmist praises God for His mercy and help, recognizing the need for God Himself to act on his behalf, “…for your servant (is) a spirit of flesh”.

The noun rc*B* (“flesh”), in the Old Testament, serves as a designation for a human being, and for human nature in general. By using the term “flesh”, the emphasis is on the createdness of the human nature, in its weakness and limitation (particularly in its mortality). The term is often specifically used to contrast the human being with God. Indeed, “flesh” is that which distinguishes a created (physical/material) human being from God, who is identified with spirit (see esp. John 4:24). Admittedly, this specific distinction is not made precisely in the Qumran texts; but there can be no doubt of the important contrast between God (and the Divine nature) and human “flesh”.

In line 37, the author/protagonist is particularly emphasizing the weakness and limitation of his human nature, which requires God to act on his behalf, delivering and protecting him from sin and the attacks of harmful “spirits”. But, while the use of the word rc*B* (“flesh”) is fully in keeping with Old Testament usage and tradition, the specific expression “spirit of flesh” is peculiar. Indeed, for readers familiar with the spirit/flesh contrast in the New Testament (especially in Paul’s letters), the expression may seem quite contradictory. How, indeed, can there be a spirit of flesh?

I think that the expression can be understood on several levels. First, there is the basic idea of a person’s material body (“flesh”) being animated by a spirit (or “soul”). In other words, “spirit of flesh” can simply serve as a way of referring to a living human being. Secondly, the “spirit” also reflects an operating mindset (and will) that governs the flesh (i.e., body) of a person. The spirit directs and influences the life and action, thought, etc, of a human being. Thirdly, “flesh”, in the anthropological sense, can connote, not only human weakness and limitation, but can also be used in the more negative sense of a human nature corrupted by sin and evil. This last aspect of meaning comes close to the starkly negative meaning of “flesh” (sa/rc) in the letters of Paul.

Until recent decades, there were many attempts by scholars to ascertain the origin and background of Paul’s distinctive use of the term “flesh”. Parallels in contemporary Judaism were difficult to find—that is, until the discovery, reconstruction and publication of the Qumran scrolls. In a number of those texts, including here in the Hodayot, we find a negative anthropological use of the term “flesh” (Heb. rc*B*) that resembles Paul’s usage in a number of ways. This will be discussed further as we continue through these notes.

In the context of the 1QHa column IV hymn, the contrast to the expression “spirit of flesh” is found at the beginning of the next (fourth) section (lines 38-40f). As mentioned in the previous note, sections 2 and 3 (ll. 21-28, 29-37) each begin with a praise/blessing of God, praising Him for what He has given to the hymnist/protagonist. In line 29, specific mention is made of the “spirits” God has given to (i.e., placed “in”) him. These spirits are apparently the means by which God guides and protects the person. The wording in line 38 is parallel, both in form and meaning:

“[Blessed (are) you, God Most High, that] you have sprinkled (the) spirit of your holiness over your servant, [and have] purified (the) […] of his heart”

The verb form htwpynh can be derived either from [Wn I (“wave, shake”) or [Wn II (“sprinkle”); I have opted for the latter (cp. Schuller/Newsom, p. 19; DJD XL, p. 74). On possible restorations for the lacuna in line 38, cf. DJD XL, p. 72).

If various “spirits” have been placed within in the hymnist, as a representative of the faithful/righteous Community, then also the spirit of God’s holiness has also been “sprinkled” over him. The expression vd#q) j^Wr is sometimes translated “holy spirit”, but this can be misleading (particularly for Christian readers); a proper rendering is “spirit of holiness” (cf. Romans 1:4). This pattern of expression (“spirit of…”) occurs frequently in a number of the Qumran texts, as we shall see. The particular construct genitival pattern likely was influenced by Old Testament usage—particularly the sequence in Isaiah 11:2.

There are many such spirits that come from God (cf. above on line 29), however the spirit of holiness (vd#q)) is especially associated with God Himself, reflecting the important Divine attribute/characteristic of holiness (Lev 11:44-45; 19:2; 20:7, 26; 2 Kings 19:22; Psalm 71:22; 77:13; 78:41; 99:3ff, 9; Isa 1:4; 6:3, etc). Even so, the specific expression “spirit of holiness” is quite rare in the Scriptures, occurring only in Psalm 51:13[11] (“spirit of your holiness”) and Isa 63:10-11 (“spirit of His holiness”); cf. also Daniel 4:8-9, 18; 5:11. The expression here in line 38 essentially matches that in Psalm 51:13: “(the) spirit of your holiness” (;v=d=oq j^Wr), i.e., “your holy spirit”.

The faithful/loyal Israelite (that is, member of the Community) is made holy by the spirit of God’s own holiness—the chief of the “spirits” that are given to the individual. This enables the human being, with his/her corrupted “spirit of flesh” (cf. above), to remain pure (i.e. holy) and faithful to the covenant (lines 39-40). The “spirit of flesh” is restored to purity, so that the human spirit is now able to receive knowledge and insight from God, and to follow the Instruction (Torah) without stumbling. The author of the hymn, as an exemplar for the Qumran Community, represents all the Community members. Just as he is made holy by God’s holy spirit, so are all those who join the Community. The spirit of holiness is given to the member—an event and dynamic that is symbolized in the ritual of the Community (to be discussed esp. in the upcoming notes on the Community Rule documents).

The column IV hymn apparently ended with line 41, since the remainder of the column (at the bottom of the page leaf) was left uninscribed (see the information given in DJD XL, pp. 77-8). A new hymn must have begun at the top of the next leaf (column V); however, lines 1-11 of column V are lost, with another hymn beginning at line 12. The short hymn at the beginning of column V presumably ended on line 10 or 11.

In the next note, we will begin looking at the hymn in column V, which may extend (partway) through column VI. There are important spirit-references in this hymn which will allow us to build upon our notes thus far. In particular, the expression “spirit of flesh” is repeated (cf. above), as is the idea of God giving a holy/righteous spirit to the author (protagonist) of the hymn.

Schuller/Newsom = Eileen M. Schuller and Carol A. Newsom, The Hodayot (Thanksgiving Psalms): A Study Edition of 1QHa, Early Judaism and Its Literature Number 36 (Society of Biblical Literature: 2012)
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).

Spirit in the Qumran Texts: 1QH 4:21-37

1QHa 4, continued

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

Following a description of the attacks on human beings by various evil “spirits”, in lines 12-20 (cf. the previous note), the psalmist shifts his focus to the praise/blessing of God. The sections ll. 21-28 and 29-37 each begin with the phrase “Blessed (are) you, God of…”; however, this must be stated with some caution, as the beginning of lines 21 and 29 are broken, and the proposed reading is based on a (plausible) reconstruction of the text in these lacunae (marked by square brackets [] in critical editions and translations).

In the first of these sections (ll. 21-28, section 2 of the surviving portions of the hymn in column IV), the author praises God “from [i.e. for] the hidden (thing)s th[at…]”, apparently referring to things provided by God which have protected the author/protagonist and have allowed for the removal of sin (and its effects). The removal of sin is particularly emphasized in lines 23-24 and 27:

“…your servant from all his transgressions, through the [abundance of] your compassion
[…just as] you [sa]id through Moses [your] servant, [to remo]ve iniquity and sin, and to atone for [transgress]ion and unfaithfulness” (23b-24)
“[…] transgression and casting out all their iniquities and giving them an inheritance in all the glory of Adam for long life.” (27)
(Translation Schuller/Newsom)

The reference to Moses in line 24 would seem to be an allusion to the sacrificial ritual required by the Torah regulations. However, the Community of the Qumran texts, in their rejection of the current Jerusalem Temple (and its priesthood), saw the fulfillment of the ritual obligations as being realized in a different way, through the life and ritual of the Community. The sacrificial ritual was internalized and ‘spiritualized’ within the Community, representing the faithful/righteous ones of Israel. Prayer and communal worship tended to take the place of the Temple ritual, much as it did among early Christians.

As in the Scriptural Psalms, the psalmist/composer of the Hodayot represents the faithful/righteous ones of Israel—that is, he represents the Community itself, as a whole. This is clear by the way that he describes the “hidden things” of God’s compassion as being directed toward:

“…those who serve you loyally [so that] their posterity [may] be before you for all time. And [their] nam[es] you have raised up” (line 26, Schuller/Newsom)

That is, the Community represents God’s faithful servants, with the hymnist serving as a leading representative.

This personal aspect is emphasized in section 3 (ll. 29-37), as the hymnist speaks of the “spirits” (twjwr) which God has placed in him:

“[Blessed (are) you, God of compassio]n, from [i.e. because of] the spirits that you have given [i.e. placed] in me” (line 29a)

These “spirits” must be seen as parallel with the “hidden (things)” (twrtsn) mentioned in line 21 (cf. above). This may be a way of referring to the invisible, unseen nature of the spirits given to the psalmist by God. This giving of the spirits is described as something that has already taken place for the protagonist, and, we may assume, quite recently. It is the reason for the author’s praise and acts of worship (lines 29b-30f):

“…I will find an answer for (my) tongue, to recount your righteous (act)s and your length of face [i.e. patience/longsuffering] […] your […] and the deeds of (the) right hand of your strength, and to give out (confession) over (the) breaches of faith of (my) former (deed)s, and to fall down and ask for favor over […] my deeds and the crookedness of my heart—for I have rolled around in impurity.”

The psalmist’s actions are traditional acts of worship: recounting (in praise) the righteousness of God, confessing one’s prior sins, falling down and asking for mercy. He also confesses that he has “gone out”, away from the prior crooked ways of his heart (line 31). This inclination toward wickedness is intrinsic to the human nature, in its corrupt weakness and mortality, expressed here by the colorful expression “the council of wor[ms]”; the psalmist no longer “joins himself” to this evil inclination of his human nature.

How was this achieved? From the author’s words in lines 32-33ff, it is clear that he acknowledges that God Himself is responsible, drawing the person whom He has chosen to Him, then freeing the chosen one from the evil influence, and equipping him/her to remain faithful and to keep away from sin. Based on the context of line 29, we may fairly assume that this work is done by God through the “spirits” He gives to the chosen one. However, this association does not come into view until line 35:

“[…(to keep)] your servant from sinning against you, and from stumbling in all of (the) matters of your will. Strengthen [his] loins (so as) [to stan]d against (the) spirits”

The implication is that the spirits given to the psalmist by God enable him to “stand against” the evil/harmful spirits (mentioned in lines 12-20, cf. the previous note). This opposition between good and evil spirits is fundamental to the dualistic worldview and theological outlook of the Qumran Community, and we shall have occasion to discuss it further in these notes.

The result of this spirit-enabling is expressed in line 36:

“[…and that he may w]alk about in every(thing) that you love, and to despise every(thing) that you hate, [and (so) to do] th(at which is) good in your eyes”

The love/hate juxtaposition is another expression of the dualism that pervades the Qumran Community’s religious thought. The idiom of “walking (about)” (vb El^h*, Hitpael reflexive stem) is a traditional religious expression, referring to a habitual way of living and acting; however, the specific idea of walking under the guidance of the spirits can be compared, to some extent, with Paul’s famous reference to “walking about in/by the Spirit” in Galatians 5:16 (cp. Romans 8:4). The Greek verb peripate/w (“step/walk about”) is comparable in meaning to El^h* in the reflexive stem; indeed, Paul’s usage derives from the same line of Old Testament ethical-religious tradition as that used here in the Hodayot.

In the next note, we will examine line 37 in connection with the fourth section (ll. 38-40ff), of which only a small portion survives; however, the surviving three lines contain an important reference to “the spirit of holiness” (i.e., holy spirit), which needs to be looked at closely. In particular, we will consider the contrast between the expressions “spirit of flesh” and “spirit of (God’s) holiness”, which, in many ways, functions as a central theme of the hymn.

Schuller/Newsom = Eileen M. Schuller and Carol A. Newsom, The Hodayot (Thanksgiving Psalms): A Study Edition of 1QHa, Early Judaism and Its Literature Number 36 (Society of Biblical Literature: 2012)

Spirit in the Qumran Texts: 1QH 4:12-20

In connection with this year’s celebration of Pentecost, as well as the study series “Spiritualism and the New Testament”, I am embarking on a series of regular notes dealing with the use of the word j^Wr (rûaµ, “spirit”) in the Qumran Scrolls. I treated this subject in an earlier two-part article, focusing specifically on the Holy Spirit. However, these notes will provide a more detailed word study, with exegesis on all the most relevant passages. The manuscript copies of the Old Testament Scripture-texts will not be referenced (nor the copies of the deutero-canonical books of Enoch and Jubilees), except in rare instances; attention will be focused entirely on the non-canonical or extra-canonical writings.

There have been a number of fine studies on the use of j^Wr in the Qumran texts. Among the most extensive (and useful) of these are the dissertation (published as a monograph) by Arthur Everett Sekki, The Meaning of Ruaµ at Qumran, SBL Dissertation Series 110 (Society of Biblical Literature: 1989), and the more recent article by Eibert J. C. Tigchelaar, “Historical Origins of the Early Christian Concept of the Holy Spirit: Perspectives from the Dead Sea Scrolls,” in The Holy Spirit, Inspiration, and the Cultures of Antiquity, Ekstasis series, eds. Jörg Frey and John R. Levison (De Gruyter: 2014). I have, to some extent, used Tigchelaar’s selection and arrangement of texts as a guide for my presentation. Other works will be cited on occasion during the course of these notes.

j^Wr in the Thanksgiving Hymns (Hodayot)

It is customary to begin this kind of study by focusing on the Community Rule document (1QS/4QS), since that document is seen as one of the central, defining texts for the Qumran Community. However, I have chosen to start with the so-called Thanksgiving Hymns (Hodayot), 1QHa-b and 4QHa-f. In some ways, these hymns provide a better introduction to the range and diversity of the spirit-concept, represented by the word j^Wr, as we find it in the Qumran texts. The standard critical edition of the Hodayot is that of Hartmut Stegemann and Eileen Schuller in the Discoveries in the Judaean Desert (DJD) series—Volume XL: 1QHodayota, with Incorporation of 1QHodayotb and 4QHodayota-f (Clarendon Press: 2009). The translation of the texts in this volume was done by Carol A. Newsom, who has also produced (along with E. Schuller) a fine study edition, with translation, that is more readily accessible for students and non-specialists: The Hodayot (Thanksgiving Psalms): A Study Edition of 1QHa, Early Judaism and Its Literature, Number 36 (Society of Biblical Literature: 2012).

Before proceeding with the first text, a couple of points should be mentioned. The referencing of the Hodayot can be misleading. A citation such as 1QHa 4:19, for example (see below), suggests that the verses of individual hymns is being referenced, as in the Scriptural Psalms. However, the reference is actually to the column and line number for the manuscript leaf; a hymn may begin/end in the middle of a column, and there may be more than one hymn to a column—in other words, four columns does not necessarily demarcate four distinct hymns. Also, the column numbering used by scholars today, following that of the DJD critical edition, replaces the older numbering (by Sukenik); older reference works may still be using the Sukenik numbering, and this can create some confusion as to which hymn is actually being referenced. For a comparative list, see Schuller/Newsom, pp. 4-9.

Like virtually all Qumran manuscripts, those of the Hodayot are highly fragmentary, with significant portions missing, along with smaller gaps (lacunae) in the text. These gaps are typically indicated by square brackets ([ ]), a convention that I will be following. Sometimes scholars are able to reconstruct plausibly the missing text, presenting it within the brackets; when reconstruction is not possible (or is doubtful), the gap is marked by an ellipsis ([…]).

1QHa 4

Column 4 (IV) of 1QHa seems to represent the bulk of a single, relatively large hymn (or psalm). It probably began at or near the beginning of the column; however the first eleven lines are missing, so we cannot know for certain. The editors of the critical edition (DJD XL, pp. 64-5) identify four sections to the surviving portions of the hymn (lines 12-40).

The first section (12-20) is highly fragmentary, and it is difficult to discern the flow of the author’s thought. However, there are repeated occurrences of the expression “from a spirit (of)” (jwrm), in a context referring to the physical affliction of human beings; the expression occurs in lines 14 and 19, and has been restored/reconstructed within the lacunae in lines 16-18 as well. The idea seems to be that the affliction mentioned is caused by certain spirits, or by a ruling figure (spirit), grammatically feminine, who makes use of these spirits. Line 19 perhaps gives us the clearest sense of this dynamic:

“[…] (act)ing deceitfully with […] [with] n[o] command [i.e. unlawfully], from a spirit of kw[…] m

The action is deceitful (hm*r=t*) and unlawful (lit., with no command, i.e., not according to God’s Law), and proceeds from a “spirit of kw[…]” ([…]wk jwr). As we shall see, the construct expression “spirit of {}” occurs regularly in the Qumran texts, generally indicating an attributive characteristic of the spirit. Here, however, the specific characteristic is uncertain, since the word is only partially preserved. A number of reconstructions have been suggested (cf. DJD XL, p. 67), but none have been widely accepted. One proposal is l?wk, which could be vocalized as a verbal noun (active participle, lv@oK) of the root lvK, denoting “to stumble”; the reference then would be to a “spirit of stumbling” —i.e., causing people to stumble.

Despite the textual uncertainty and fragmentary condition of the section, we can discern a basic principle being expressed, which we will encounter in numerous other places in the Qumran texts. There was a belief that human beings are attacked/afflicted by various evil spirits, and that individual “spirits” were identified with specific attributes or characteristics. In line 19, the reference is to a “spirit of [stumbling?]”, while in the prior line (18) there is a verbal expression “a spirit seeking (out) […]” that may similarly convey a specific sort of action. Overall, the emphasis in lines 12-20 seems to be on the way that human beings are afflicted by these (evil) spirits.

In the next note, we will examine the second (ll. 21-28) and third (29-37) sections of this hymn, considering how the author shifts focus from the attack of evil spirits, to the deliverance provided by God, and the good spirits which are given to counteract the evil influence.

August 13: 1 John 2:20

1 John 2:20

Having considered the use of the title “the holy (one) of God” in Jn 6:69 (the confession by Peter, cp. Luke 9:20 par) in the previous note, I wish to examine now the same title (“the holy [one]”) in 1 John 2:20. In the previous discussion, I had mentioned that, within the Johannine theological context, the title “holy one of God” in Jn 6:69 contained an allusion to the important association between the Son (Jesus) and the holy Spirit of God. It is worth giving further consideration to the point by examining the evidence in the Gospel.

First, we have the Paraclete-saying in 14:25-26, in which the Spirit-Paraclete is specifically referred to as “the holy Spirit” (v. 26). In point of fact, the adjective a%gio$ is rather rare in the Gospel of John, occurring just five times. In addition to Peter’s confession (here, 6:69), and one occurrence in the Discourse-Prayer of Jesus (17:11, addressing God the Father), it is only used in three references to the Spirit (with the full, qualifying expression “[the] holy Spirit”, [to\] pneu=ma [to\] a&gion).

It is significant the way that these three Spirit-references frame the Gospel narrative, in relation to the ministry of Jesus (the incarnate Son of God) on earth:

    • 1:33—at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, part of the Johannine version (cf. also verse 26) of the saying by the Baptist (cp. Mark 1:8 par), alluding to the promise of Jesus’ giving the Spirit to believers: “(he) is the (one) dunking [i.e. baptizing] in (the) holy Spirit”.
    • 14:26—the Johannine narrative of Jesus’ ministry is structured around the great Discourses, culminating in the Last Discourse (13:31-16:33), in which Jesus gives the final teaching to his close circle of disciples (and true believers); the Paraclete-sayings deal with the coming of the Spirit, following Jesus’ teaching to this effect in the earlier Discourses—cf. the Spirit-references in 3:5-8, 34f; 4:10-15 [7:37-39], 23-24; 6:63.
    • 20:22—at the end of Jesus’ ministry, following the fulfillment of his mission (and his exaltation), Jesus finally gives the Spirit to his disciples (the first believers).

It is only natural that holy one of God (Jesus) would give the holy Spirit of God, particularly since the Son (Jesus) possesses the fullness of the Spirit, having received it from the Father (3:34-35). This Christological dynamic makes the use of the title “holy (one)” in 1 John 2:20 particularly intriguing:

“But you hold (the) anointing [xri=sma] from the holy (one) [o( a%gio$], and you have seen [i.e. known] all (thing)s.”

There is some debate among commentators as to whether the title o( a%gio$ (“the holy [one]”) refers specifically to Jesus (the Son) or God the Father. In the previous note, I discussed the use of the title “holy one” (in Hebrew, the use of the substantive adjective vodq* corresponds with a%gio$ in Greek). In the Old Testament Scriptures, almost exclusively it is used as a title for God the Father (YHWH)—particularly in the expression “the Holy One of Israel” (most frequent in the book of Isaiah)—and only very rarely is applied to human or angelic beings as God’s consecrated servants (Num 6:17; Psalm 106:16; Dan 8:13); the same usage is attested in the subsequent Jewish writings from the first centuries B.C./A.D.

By contrast, in the New Testament, “[the] holy one” ([o(] a%gio$) is predominantly a title, with Messianic significance, that is applied to JesusMark 1:24 [par Lk 4:34]; Acts 2:27 and 13:35 [citing Ps 16:10]; Rev 3:7, and of course in John 6:69 (cf. also 10:36); the Messianic context of these references was discussed (and established) in the previous note. Only in Rev 16:5 is the title used in its more traditional religious-historical aspect, as an epithet of YHWH. Interestingly, as I had mentioned, the adjective a%gio$ is actually rather rare in the Johannine writings (Gospel and Letters), occurring just five times in the Gospel and once (here) in 1 John. In the Gospel, once it is applied to Jesus the Son (6:69), once to God the Father (17:11), and three times to the Spirit (i.e., “[the] holy Spirit,” 1:33; 14:26; 20:22).

Overall, the New Testament and Johannine usage favors o( a%gio$ (“the holy [one]”) here as a title of Jesus Christ (the Son).

Rather more certain, in my view, is the conclusion that the term xri=sma (“anointing”) here (and in v. 27) refers to the presence of the Spirit. The noun xri=sma occurs nowhere else in the New Testament, so there is little opportunity for comparative examination of word-usage. However, for reasons I detailed in the earlier article on 2:18-27, the anointing which believers received (v. 27) is best understood as a reference to the Spirit. Most likely, in common with other early Christians, the Johannine churches viewed the believer’s baptism as representing the moment when he/she received the Spirit (cf. Jn 1:33); to view the baptism as an ‘anointing’ by the Spirit was natural, drawing upon the type-pattern of Jesus’ own baptism (cf. especially the Lukan emphasis of 4:18ff, in light of 3:22; 4:1, 14). Also significant and influential are the Prophetic passages referring to God ‘pouring out’ the Spirit on His people in the New Age (cf. the Introduction to this series for the key passages).

But does the believer receive the Spirit from Jesus (the Son) or from God (the Father)? The immediate evidence from 1 John (3:24; 4:2ff, 13; 5:6-8ff) indicates the latter—that it is God the Father who gives us the Spirit. However, the Gospel emphasizes Jesus’ role in giving the Spirit (cf. above). According to the framework of the Johannine theology—expressed clearly in the Gospel, and only alluded to in the Letters—the Son (Jesus) receives the Spirit from the Father, and then, in turn, gives the Spirit to believers. The Father is the ultimate source, but the Son is the immediate giver; thus, there is a certain variability and interchangeability with how this is expressed in the Johannine writings (cf. for example, the variation in the Paraclete-sayings, in 14:16, 26; 15:26; 16:7b, 13-15).

The focus in 2:18-27 is on the person of Jesus—the Anointed One (xristo/$) and Son of God—and this would tend to confirm the point of reference for the title “holy one”. It also corresponds with the Messianic (and Christological) significance of the title in Jn 6:69, as was discussed in the previous note.

Yet in verse 27, the Divine subject, in relation to the anointing (xri=sma), is expressed more ambiguously:

“But (as for) you, the anointing which you received from him, it remains in you, and you do not have a need that any (one) should teach you; but, as his anointing teaches you about all (thing)s, and is true and is not false, and even as it (has) taught you, you must remain in him.”

The phrase “the anointing which you received from him” seems to allude back to verse 20; if the title “the holy one” refers to the Son (Jesus), then it is most likely that the pronoun of the prepositional expression “from him” (a)p’ au)tou=) also refers to Jesus. Turning ahead to verse 28, where Jesus is clearly the implied subject of the second clause, the implication is that the pronoun of the expression “in him” (e)n au)tw=|), at the end of v. 27 and beginning of v. 28, likewise refers to Jesus; certainly, there is no obvious indication of a change of reference. For the same reason, it would be simplest to interpret the qualifying subject “his anointing” (to\ au)tou= xri=sma) as meaning the anointing received from Jesus.

In other words, all the third person singular pronouns in vv. 27-28, refer primarily to Jesus Christ (the Son). It is he who gives the anointing (i.e., the Spirit) to believers, having himself received it from God the Father. As noted above, the Father is the ultimate source of the Spirit, but it is given through the mediation of the Son. Just as it was promised that the Jesus would baptize believers in the Spirit, so he anoints them, pouring out the Spirit upon them. Yet the anointing does not simply come from without, like physical liquid poured out on a person, but abides within; this is the clear significance of the use of the verb me/nw (“remain, abide”)—both here and throughout the Johannine writings. The anointing (i.e., the Spirit) remains within (cf. 3:24; 4:13; Jn 14:17), and is the means by which believers remain in the Son; and, in turn, it is through the presence of the Son that we remain in the Father (and He in us). This is the essence of the Johannine theology; even though it is expressed more clearly and precisely in the Gospel, the theology is equally present, in an implicit and allusive fashion, throughout 1 John.


August 9: John 6:63 (8)

John 6:63, concluded

“…the utterances which I have spoken to you are Spirit and are Life.” (v. 63b)

In this final note on Jn 6:63, we will examine the second part of the verse (b) in terms of the second Christological difficulty (related to the Bread of Life Discourse, cf. the disciples’ reaction in v. 60) outlined in the prior notes—namely, the idea that is necessary to eat Jesus (as “bread from heaven”). The first Christological difficulty—viz., Jesus’ claim of having come down from heaven (i.e., his heavenly origin)—in relation to v. 63b, was discussed in the previous note.

(2) The need to eat Jesus (as “bread from heaven”)

This aspect of the Discourse (see vv. 27, 32f, 35, 48ff, 50, 51ff) has been discussed in the prior notes, including its specific relation to the statement in v. 63a. Now, we will be looking at v. 63b: “…the utterances which I have spoken to you are Spirit and are Life.”

In applying this statement to the idea of eating Jesus, the most obvious implication is that Jesus’ words in the Discourse to that effect must be understood (and interpreted) in a spiritual manner. If his words (r(h/mata) are Spirit, then they can only be understood correctly in a spiritual way. From the Discourse itself, it is clear that “eating” Jesus means trusting (vb pisteu/w) in him (i.e., as the one sent by God the Father from heaven). This is indicated clearly in vv. 29, 35f, 40, 47; even so, Jesus’ hearers at the time (including his disciples) would have found it difficult to understand the connection. His words became particularly “harsh” (v. 60) once Jesus began to explain this eating in terms of eating his flesh (v. 51). Some of those who heard him naturally asked, “How is this (man) able to give us [his] flesh to eat?” (v. 52).

Modern commentators continue to be “tripped up” (v. 61) over this point, but for a different reason—as many take more or less for granted that the eucharistic language in vv. 51-58 refers to a physical eating of the (sacramental) bread (i.e., in the Lord’s Supper ritual). Against this understanding, verse 63 suggests that a spiritual interpretation of the Supper is intended.

The shift from the motif of “bread” to “flesh” represents a narrowing of focus—from the Son’s incarnate “stepping down” (to earth as a human being) to the fulfillment of his mission through his death (as a human being). While the idiom of eating is the same in both instances, the emphasis of the “bread” motif is on Jesus’ heavenly origin (“bread from heaven”), while that of “flesh” (and “blood”) is on his sacrificial death. In both instances, “eating” refers to trust in Jesus (cf. above)—i.e., trust in his heavenly origin (“bread [from heaven]”) and trust in his sacrificial death (“flesh [and blood]”).

Trust results in receiving the Spirit, which the Son gives/sends to believers, having himself received it from the Father (3:34f). Only when the believer has come to be born “from above” (3:3-8)—that is, from the Spirit—is he/she able to recognize the heavenly origin and spiritual nature of Jesus’ words (cf. 3:31ff), and to begin to grasp their true meaning. Spiritual words can only be understood in a spiritual way (cp. 1 Cor 2:13ff).

In 4:10-15, the very idiom of eating/drinking is applied to the idea of believers receiving the Spirit, as the parallel in 7:37-39 makes clear. It is fair to assume that the “living bread” in chap. 6 (vv. 51) has a correspondingly similar meaning as “living water” in 4:10f; 7:38. In both instances the living (zw=n) nourishment is given by Jesus (4:10, 14; 6:27, 33, 51), just as he gives the Spirit (1:33; 16:7b; 20:22; cf. also 3:34f). Elsewhere in the Gospel, it is life (zwh/) that the Son (Jesus) gives (5:21, 26; 6:33, 57; 10:28; 17:2, etc). There is certainly a very close connection between Life and the Spirit, as stated here in v. 63.

Thus, what the believer takes in (i.e., ‘eats’ or ‘drinks’) is the Spirit, which is also living (zw=n)—which refers to the Divine/eternal life (zwh/) that God possesses. The Son gives life, but so does the Spirit (according to v. 63a); the implication is that the Son gives life through the Spirit. However, in the Bread of Life Discourse, the “living” bread is not just given by the Son, it is identified with the person of the incarnate Son (Jesus) himself. From the standpoint of the Johannine theology, this is best understood by the principle that the Son (Jesus) is present in the believer through the Spirit. Thus, one “eats” Jesus by trusting in him, and thus receiving the Spirit, which gives eternal life that the believer possesses (“holds”) within; the eternal Son (Jesus), who is life (1:4; 14:6), is also personally present through the indwelling Spirit. In so doing, one also eats/drinks the “flesh/blood” of Jesus, meaning that the life-giving (and cleansing) power of his death is communicated to believers, through the Spirit (cf. the earlier note on 1 Jn 1:7ff).

But what relation does this have to the specific words (r(h/mata) uttered by Jesus? In a sense, the believer also ‘eats’ these words, though in the Johannine idiom this is expressed more properly through the idea of the word(s) abiding within the believer, utilizing the key-verb me/nw (“remain, abide”). As discussed in the previous note, the singular noun lo/go$ can refer both to (1) a specific saying or teaching by Jesus, and (2) to the living/eternal Word of God (of the Johannine Prologue, 1:1-2, 14) with whom Jesus (the Son) is personally identified. In 1 John 1:1, these two aspects are blended together with the traditional use of lo/go$ to refer to the “account” of Jesus (i.e., the Gospel). The words abide through the presence of the abiding Word, though the repeated exhortations (in the Gospel and First Letter) indicate the importance of believers holding firm to the teachings (and example) of Jesus which they received. For the key Johannine references in this regard, using the verb me/nw, cf. 5:38; 6:27, 56; 8:31; 14:17; 15:4-10; 1 Jn 2:14, 24, 27-28; 3:9, 24; 4:12-13, 15-16; 2 Jn 2, 9. The words give life because the abiding Word gives life; both are Spirit, and must be understood and recognized according to the Spirit.

In the next daily note, we will look briefly at the confessional statement by Peter in verse 68.