PEARLS & DIAMONDS- Good message to the poor as messianic principle found in the dead sea scrolls- by ArchBishop UWE AE Rosenkranz


The Messianic Apocalypse (4Q521)The NEW MESSIANIC EARTH-like a scroll rolling out and pulsating
Several fragments of the text of the Messianic Apocalypse survive, but the one that has attracted the most attention is the largest and best preserved, that from column 2, since it appears to look forward to a Messiah who will heal the wounded, revive the dead and bring good news to the poor, and also refers to God as liberating captives, restoring sight to the blind, and straightening the bent. Although such phrases are more or less Old Testament quotations (from Isa. 61:1 and Ps. 146:7–8), their association with the coming of the Messiah makes them appear close to Gospel passages such as Lk. 4:18–21 and Mt. 11:4–5. The apparent link is strengthened by the fact that, unlike the biblical passages to which they allude, both 4Q521 and the Gospel passages refer to raising the dead.46
The English translation given below is based on that of Vermes [V], adjusted in Line 8. This has been compared with several alternative translations (of Puech [P], Eisenman and Wise [E-W], and Wise and Tabor [W-T]).47
1. … [the hea] vens and the earth will listen to His Messiah,
2. and none therein will stray from the commandments of the holy ones.
3. Seekers of the Lord, strengthen yourselves in his service!
4. All you hopeful in (your) heart, will you not find the Lord in this?
5. For the Lord will consider the pious (hasidim) and call the righteous by name.
6. Over the poor his spirit will hover and will renew the faithful with his power.
7. And he will glorify the pious on the throne of the eternal Kingdom.
8. liberating the captives, restoring sight to the blind, lifting up the b[ent]
9. And f[or] ever I will clea[ve to the h]opeful and in His mercy …
10. And the f[ruit …] will not be delayed for anyone
11. And the Lord will accomplish glorious things which have never been as [He …]
12. For He will heal the wounded, and revive the dead and bring good news to the poor
13. … He will lead the uprooted and knowledge … smoke(?)
Before one can discuss the significance of this text in relation to the miracles of Jesus, one must first resolve a number of uncertainties in the translation.
Line 8: This line is a quotation from Ps. 146:7b–8.48 The wording is identical to the Hebrew text of the psalm verse, apart from the threefold omission of the name יהוה as the subject of each verb. If line 8 is regarded as a separate sentence, then a translation in the present tense as in Psalm 146 might be more appropriate, but this would be problematic since the participles would then have no subjects (the name YHWH having been removed in each case). The V translation (‘He who …’) seems odd, both because this would require a definite article in front of the participles (which is not there), and because it weakens the grammatical link of this line with its context. The most literal translation of the last clause of this line would be ‘lifting up the bent’. If ‘bent’ is taken literally, then the text envisages healings comparable to Lk. 13:10–13, as P and V suppose; if ‘bent’ is meant as a sociological metaphor, then the meaning is ‘downtrodden’ (as in E-W and W-T). After ‘liberating prisoners and opening the eyes of the blind’ either sense seems possible, but if the Qumran writer intended the biblical quotation as a gloss on the previous line, the sociological sense is more likely to be the one intended.49
Line 10: This line is in a very poor state of repair. It has been variously translated: ‘And the frufit of a] {good} [wor]k will not be delayed for anyone’ (V, P); ‘and [His] Good[ness …] of Holiness will not delay …’ (E-W); ‘a[nd in His] go[odness forever. His] holy [Messiah] will not be slow [in coming]’ (W-T). These translations result from very different ways of reconstituting the text. The two relevantly different reconstructions of this line of Hebrew are as follows:
ופרִ[י מצש]ה טוב לאיש לוא יתאחר (P)
וט[ובו לצד משיחו] הקדש לוא יתאחר [לבוא] (W-T)
W-T’s introduction of the word ‘Messiah’ into this line is purely speculative.50 It is introduced because W-T suppose that the text is going on to talk about the Messiah in lines 11–13, but this is something yet to be established. P’s reading of the Hebrew text includes letters after the first lacuna that are incompatible with W-T’s speculative משיחו, although P marks them as damaged letters whose reading is uncertain.
Line 11: This is also a contentious line. E-W has ‘And as for the wonders that are not the work of Lord, when He …’ W-T adds ‘(i.e. the Messiah) [com]es’. V has ‘And the Lord will accomplish glorious things which have never been as [He …]’. The two important questions here are, first whether it is ‘wonders’ in the sense of miracles here, or simply ‘glorious deeds’; and second, whether the point is that the deeds will be performed by someone other than God (as in E-W and W-T) or that God is going to perform unprecedented actions (as in V and P). The differences arise partly from different ways of transcribing the Hebrew text:
ונב] דות שלוא היו יצשה אדני באשר רִ[בר] (P)
ונב] דותִ שלוא היו מצשה אדני באשר י[בוא] (W-T)
At Ps. 87:3 RSV renders נבבדות ‘glorious things’. It derives from the root בבד, ‘to be heavy, weighty, severe, numerous, considerable, renowned’. P’s ‘glorious deeds’ is thus to be preferred to W-T’s ‘wonders’, which reads too much into the text. Moreover, W-T achieve their translation by reading מצשה for P’s יצשה, thereby turning the imperfect verb into a noun. The phrase מצשה אדני could indeed mean ‘work of the Lord’, which would then yield the translation ‘And the glorious deeds that were not the work of the Lord when …’ Compared with E. Puech’s translation, this seems grammatically clumsy; one might expect the conjunction ‘when’ to follow a clause with a main verb (which W-T’s translation lacks), and ‘as for’ has to be understood to make sense of the W-T translation at all. On balance, Puech’s reading seems the more plausible: it is grammatically smoother, while W-T show suspicious signs of wanting the text to provide a ‘disjunction’ at this point.51
Line 12: Here, V and P have ‘wounded’ (P blessés [à mort]) where E-W and W-T have ‘sick’, which seems closer to the idea of healing expressed in the Gospels. The Hebrew word in question is חללים, ‘pierced’, ‘killed’, ‘slain’, so perhaps, ‘mortally wounded’ (as in P). Although the root חלל more often means ‘kill’ than ‘wound’ in the Old Testament, the latter meaning is occasionally found (e.g. Judg. 9:40; Job 24:12; Ps. 69:26; Ezek. 26:15) and it would be odd to say ‘he will heal the slain’.
To move on to the significance of this text, the most important crux is who performs the miracles in line 12: the Messiah, or God?
If Puech’s translation of Line 11 is accepted then the context would seem to demand that it is God who performs these eschatological acts, for lines 11 and 12 then read:
And glorious actions which have never been the Lord will realize when he [speaks?] for he will heal the mortally wounded, revive the dead, and preach the good news to the poor.
Further support for seeing God as the one acting here comes from another fragment of this text, in which it appears to be the Lord who is envisaged as raising the dead.52 Moreover, although there are close correspondences to the wording of Isa. 61:1 in lines 8 and 11, as Eisenman and Wise point out, there are also
word-for-word correspondences to the Eighteen Benedictions, among the earliest strata of Jewish liturgy and still a part of it today: ‘You will resurrect the dead, uphold the fallen, heal the sick, release the captives, keeping faith with those asleep in the dust …’, referring obviously to God.53
The correspondence is yet another reason for taking God to be the subject of the verbs in line 12 of the text.
But there is another side to the argument, since it is hard to see how the preaching of good news to the poor can be carried out directly by God, especially since at Isa. 61:1, which the text appears to echo at this point, it is expressly said to be the task of the one anointed by the spirit of the Lord for that very purpose.54
The precise interpretation of line 8 becomes crucial here. If line 8 refers to God’s future actions (continuing the tense of line 7), why should God who is going to liberate captives, restore sight to the blind and straighten the bent leave healing the mortally wounded and reviving the dead to his Messiah? One would naturally expect these actions to be performed by the same agent. In which case it must be God who is the subject of the verbs in line 11, whatever difficulty may be involved in his preaching the good news to the poor. But if the author had intended the verbs in line 8 to describe the future acts of the Lord, why did he not change them into the imperfect tense? It cannot be simply because he wished to preserve the wording of Psalm 146; had that been his main concern he would either have kept יהוה as the subject of each verb, or at least replaced it with אדני instead of dropping it altogether. Besides, the change from participle to imperfect would be no greater than the change he has made to his (apparent) quotation from Isa. 61:1 at the end of line 12, changing ‘to preach good news’ to ‘he will preach good news’ in order to fit the new grammatical context. This, presumably, is why Vermes chose to translate the participles by ‘he who … ‘,55 understanding the author to be referring to God’s habitual acts rather than his future ones, as in the psalm from which the quotation is taken. On this reading, it could be argued that he who regularly does these activities in the present may yet plan to do his greater saving actions through his Messiah in the future.
In favour of the future interpretation is the fact that the immediate context implies a future hope, and the idea of being about to liberate captives and lift up those bowed low would constitute some kind of parallelism with the ideas expressed in the previous line. If the Lord is already liberating captives, restoring sight to the blind and elevating the downtrodden, it is unclear why the audience have to be exhorted to hold on for future deliverance; whereas if the participles are being used to express an action in the imminent future (which would be one grammatical possibility), this would tie in with the absence of delay apparent in line 10. On balance, then, it seems most likely that line 8 does intend a future reference, although the grammatical construction is admittedly unclear.56
This leaves the problem of how God can be said to be about to preach the good news to the poor. Whatever weight is placed on the particular use of בשר at Isa. 61:1, nowhere in the Old Testament is this verb used with God as its subject, but always of human proclaimers of (mostly good) news. Added to the fact that Isa. 61:1, which appears to be in view here, speaks of one anointed by God’s spirit to perform various actions on God’s behalf, the difficulty seems almost insurmountable. There thus appears to be an exegetical deadlock. Every other consideration points to God being the subject of the verbs in Line 12, and yet the third of these verbs, preaching the good news, stubbornly resists having God as its subject.
At this point one must step back and consider some broader questions about the genre and purpose of this text. It appears that 4Q521 is hymnic in type. In Puech’s view, the different themes evoke the genre of an exhortation on the blessings and punishments that God will bring about in the days of his Messiah. In language that is half-prophetic and half-apocalyptic the author invites the just to persevere in the law and in the orthodox practice of the cult.57 This view seems reasonable. But this means this text is not a systematically constructed theological treatise but a poetic evocation of God’s imminent saving act; it is highly allusive in nature, making frequent use of psalms and prophecy and weaving them into a tapestry designed more with evocative than with didactic goals in mind. The author may not have taken minute pains to express himself precisely at every turn; he was more concerned with inspiring his audience.
This does not mean that he will have been content to write any old nonsense. But it allows the possibility that he was prepared to slip a little carelessly between one subject and another. In particular, he may not have been greatly concerned to distinguish between what God was going to bring about directly and what God was going to effect through the person of his Messiah.58 Or he may have considered that the action of a Messiah sent by God was the equivalent of God acting himself (on the shaliach principle).59 In Isa. 61:1–2 the prophetic figure (perhaps reinterpreted as the Messiah by the author of 4Q521) is anointed with God’s spirit to act as God’s agent; on the shaliach principle the acts he performs while carrying out this mission may also be seen as God’s acts: he proclaims the good news on God’s behalf, so that his words may be regarded as God’s words just as the prophets of old certified their proclamations with ‘Thus says Yahweh.’ Or again, the text may describe what God is going to do quite apart from the Messiah.60
Where does this leave the raising of the dead and the other miraculous deeds? In the end, one can only say that the text does not make it clear whether these are to be performed through the Messiah or not. This is not a distinction the author was concerned to make: in common with several other authors of intertestamental texts his interest lay not with the person of the Messiah but with what God was going to do in the Messianic age. The Messiah will come and the great age of salvation will dawn (for the pious); that is the author’s message; demarcating a precise division of labour is not his concern.61
Moreover, it is not even clear that the text looks forward to the performing of actual individual miracles of healing and raising the dead. As in 1.8 so also in ll. 11–13 the language may be rather the traditional language of salvation. What may be in view is not so much a literal revival of the dead or healing of the mortally wounded as the revival of God’s hard-pressed people (cf. Ezek. 37:1–14; Hos. 6:2). This may well be the language of eschatological salvation, but it is not necessarily a prediction of individual healing miracles.62
The importance of this text is not that it associates the coming of the Messiah with an eschatological action of God that includes the literal restoration of sight to the blind, healing, raising the dead, and preaching good news to the poor, but that it provides an example of this type of language being applied to the end time, even if only in a metaphorical sense. This provides a background against which Jesus’ reply to John the Baptist makes sense, not as a literal fulfilment, but as a novel interpretation of traditional expectations.63 We shall return to this point later.

Eve, E. (2002). Vol. 231: The Jewish Context of Jesus’ Miracles. Journal for the Study of the New Testament. (189). London; New York: Sheffield Academic Press.

Published: July 12, 2012, 15:51 | 1 Comment on PEARLS & DIAMONDS- Good message to the poor as messianic principle found in the dead sea scrolls- by ArchBishop UWE AE Rosenkranz
Category: ArchBishop, concept, Philosophy, teaching

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