The Genesis Creation Account in the Dead Sea Scrolls
- ISBN: 9781532607769
- Published By: Pickwick
- Published: April 2019
The study of the Hebrew Bible and ancient Judaism was revolutionized by the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1947. These scrolls are one of the most important archeological discoveries in the 20th century. They offer a unique window into the history of Second Temple Judaism as well as the development and interpretation of what later became known as the biblical texts. Among these scrolls, we find the oldest known manuscripts of the book of Genesis. There are nineteen, maybe twenty copies of Genesis dating from 250-150 BCE to 50-68 CE, of which only six contain parts of the creation account. Additionally, there are six other manuscripts that contain interpretations of the Genesis creation story. Although there are several notable scholarly works focusing on the creation account found in the scrolls found in Qumran, the purpose of Jeremy D. Lyon’s The Genesis Creation Account in the Dead Sea Scrolls is to provide “a more comprehensive treatment of Qumran texts dealing with interpretation of the creation account” (6).
Lyon’s book has two major focuses. The first is “the text of the Genesis creation account in the Dead Sea Scrolls” (1). Chapter 2 deals with textual issues of the six Qumran manuscripts that contain parts of the creation account. These manuscripts are: 1QGen, 4QGenb, 4QGend, 4qGeng, 4QGenh1, and 4QGenk. Lyon also offers the preserved Hebrew text from the relevant columns of each of these six manuscripts. The goal of this chapter is to examine the ways in which these Qumran manuscripts are important for textual studies. Chapter 3 explores the scribal practices discernable in the Qumran Genesis manuscripts. This chapter will be of interest to anyone studying scribal culture and transmission of texts in the late Second Temple Period. Lyon argues that paying attention to the compositional strategies employed in these manuscripts “shed[s] light on [the scribes’] understanding of the literary structure of the creation account” (35).
The second major focus of this book “is interpretation of the Genesis creation account in the Dead Sea Scrolls” (2, emphasis original). Chapters 4-9 engage with the following Qumran manuscripts: Words of the Luminaries (4Q504), Paraphrase of Genesis and Exodus (4Q422), 4QInstruction (4Q416, 4Q417, 4Q423), Meditation on Creation (4Q303-305), Miscellaneous Rules (4Q265), and Jubilees (4QJuba). These manuscripts are not copies of the book of Genesis, yet they are “the most ancient surviving interpretations of the Genesis creation account” (2). In each of those chapters, Lyon presents these manuscripts in light of their discovery, their physical descriptions, their status and place within the Qumran community, their history of research, their content and literary structure, and the interpretations of the creation account that are presented in them. Chapter 10 concludes with a summary of the main themes related to the interpretation of the creation account in the Dead Sea Scrolls. At the end of the book, there are six appendixes (A-F) where the reader will find the translations of the texts dealt with in chapters 4-9.
My major criticism of this book is the way Lyon uses the expressions “biblical” and “non-biblical” texts in relation to Second Temple Judaism, and, more specifically, to the scrolls found in Qumran. Based on this usage, the reader may get the impression that these texts were already “biblical” and/or “canonical” texts during this period of Jewish history. However, using “biblical” and “non-biblical” in relation to the Dead Sea Scrolls is an anachronism.
In fact, as Eva Mroczek argues in The Literary Imagination in Jewish Antiquity, (Oxford University Press, 2018), one of the ways the discovery of the scrolls has revolutionized the study of ancient Judaism is by challenging concepts of fixity in relation to texts that were still in flux and only later came to be known as biblical books. In other words, ideas and expressions like “Bible,” “biblical book,” “biblical text,” “non-biblical text,” and “biblical canon” are best not applied to these ancient Jewish scrolls. One way of avoiding this anachronism is by using different categories to divide the scrolls, as Sidnie White Crawford does in Scribes and Scrolls at Qumran (Eerdmans, 2019). She uses “classical literature of ancient Israel” instead of “biblical texts” or “biblical scrolls from Qumran,” as well as “nonsectarian texts” (or “sectarian texts,” as the case may be) and “affiliated texts” instead of “non-biblical texts”.
Nonetheless, Lyon offers a valuable contribution to the study of the Qumran Genesis manuscripts. This book is an accessible reference work to everyone interested in the reception and interpretation of the Genesis creation account(s) in the period of Second Temple Judaism.
Eduardo Folster Eli is an independent scholar.Eduardo Folster EliDate Of Review:February 24, 2022