Fishbane on the Temple Scroll

Michael Fishbane, “Use, Authority and Interpretation of Mikra at Qumran,” Mikra: Text, Translation, Reading and Interpretation of the Hebrew Bible in Ancient Judaism and Early Christianity, ed. Martin Jan Mulder (Peabody: Hendrickson, 2004) 339-377.

My Plunder Paper is for the same class as my Fishbane paper. My plunder paper concerns the Temple Scroll’s treatment of the Torah’s laws on plunder. Somewhere in my paper is the question of how authoritative the Qumran interpreters deemed the Pentateuchal laws to be. Michael Fishbane offers his insights.

Fishbane argues that the Temple Scroll is faithful to the biblical traditum, since it draws from books of the Torah and seeks to harmonize its different laws (349-350). At the same time, because God himself is presented as speaking the laws in 11QTemp, Fishbane maintains that the Temple Scroll was intended to be a new Torah (351). So it seems that the Qumran community (or whoever produced the Temple Scroll) viewed the Torah as authoritative, and yet not entirely, since it could be replaced.

Fishbane uses the idea of “ongoing divine revelations” to bridge these seemingly contradictory notions. 1QpHab 2:1-9 talks about the Teacher of Righteousness, who knows the mysteries of the prophets (361), which will be revealed to God’s community in the last times (361-362). Such a notion extended to the legal part of the Bible, for Fishbane states: “Indeed, on their view, God revealed to the sect the hidden interpretation of the Law by which all Israel, including even its great leaders, like David, unknowingly went astray (CD 3:13; cf. 4:13-6)” (364). Moreover, the Rule Scroll exhorts the Qumran sectarians to perform what has been revealed “at each period” (8:15-16; cf. 9:19-20).

For Fishbane, the Qumran community believed in progressive revelation. When they approached the Torah, therefore, they interpreted the laws in light of their newly-revealed meaning. They believed that God was intimately involved in their community, however, so they didn’t just act as if they were interpeting a book. Rather, they held that God was revealing to them a new Torah, which was continuous with the old Torah, yet was relevant to the end times.

In Biblical Interpretation in Ancient Israel, Fishbane acts as if Jubilees (second century B.C.E.) was an interpretation of the biblical text, whereas others maintain that it was written as an alternative to the Pentateuch. Could both be the case, as Fishbane says is true of the Temple Scroll? Jubilees does refer to the giving of the law at Sinai, plus there is overlap between what it has and the laws and stories contained in the Pentateuch. Maybe Jubilees believed in progressive revelation. Or there’s another possibility: Jubilees refers a lot to heavenly tablets, as if a law existed before creation. Perhaps Jubilees sees itself as the perfect expression of that law.

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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