The Puzzling Case of 1QHodayota Fragment 10 — The Research Problem (Part 2)

[Originally published on the blog of the Sherman Centre for Digital Scholarship]

In my last post, I described two kinds of reconstructions that are relevant to my research problem: reconstructions of manuscripts and reconstructions of text. A manuscript reconstruction is an arrangement of fragments in the order that they are hypothesized to have stood in the manuscript before it was damaged, whereas a textual reconstruction is a proposal of a section of text where the written lines of a manuscript have decayed or have become illegible. Textual reconstructions may be made on the basis of text that is found in other manuscripts containing the same work, on the basis of similar phrases found in other works, or on the basis of what the scholar is willing to extrapolate. When there is parallel text in another copy that can be used as a guide, textual reconstructions are used to justify the placement of fragments. In other cases, where there are no other manuscripts containing parallel text, fragments are placed by identifying material joins where the edges of fragments match neatly or by placing fragments by their shapes and how they match repeating patterns of damage in the scroll. In this latter case, any subsequent textual reconstructions are contingent upon the accuracy of the scholar’s reconstruction of the manuscript, which ultimately cannot be verified. In other words, where there is no parallel text available, a textual reconstruction is only as sound as the manuscript reconstruction.

Stegemann’s reconstruction of column 7 of 1QHodayota is complex because the fragments are placed using different kinds of evidence: some fragments are placed on the basis of a material joins or textual parallels, while others are placed solely on the basis of shape. This blog post will explain how Stegemann reconstructed 1QHa col. 7 and his reasoning for placing each fragment. Unfortunately, I cannot display copyrighted images of col. 7 itself, but a contour drawing of the column is sufficient to show where Stegemann placed these fragments in the column.

1QHodayota col. 7 DiagramUndisputed Aspects of Stegemann’s Reconstruction of Column 7

Stegemann’s col. 7 is composed of several fragments of various sizes, most of which are undisputed. Much of the surviving material is a large fragment extending from the left edge of column 6 to the right edge of col. 8. Two other large pieces from cols. 6 and 8 also contain text from the right and left edges, respectively, of the writing block of col. 7. Other smaller fragments have been added to these large pieces of the manuscript. At the bottom-right of the column, frg. 32 has been placed without any textual parallel because its top and right edges neatly match the manuscript’s edges; thus, we have a material join. Similarly, SHR 4276 was added by Émile Puech on the basis of another convincing material join.[1]

Disputed Aspects of Stegemann’s Reconstruction of Column 7

The fragment placements at the bottom of the column are uncontested; however, the placements of frgs. 10, 34, and 42 are more tenuous. Unlike frg. 32 and SHR 4276, these fragments cannot be physically joined to the rest of the column nor is there a helpful textual parallel that ties them to this location. Stegemann placed frg. 10 in the middle of the upper half of the column because he expected there to be a piece of manuscript roughly that size in that location in light of the contours of the damaged remains of the upper parts of cols. 5–6. Stegemann considered the case for placing frg. 10 to be strong enough that it could, “be proposed with some confidence,” despite the lack of a material join.[2]

The Textual Parallel in 4QHodayota

4QHa contains the only overlapping text for frg. 10, but it does not yield any evidence that allows us to link frg. 10 to any part of col. 7. Although 4QHa allows us to place frgs. 34 and 42 just to the left of frg. 10, it does not shed light on where this cluster of fragments should be placed in the manuscript. Another possibility is that the fragments come from cols. 1–3, for which we have only a handful of small, tentatively placed fragments. These columns are the only other part of the scroll that could accommodate such a large cluster of fragments. They could not fall anywhere in the latter columns of the scroll because a second scribe began copying midway through col. 19, and the handwriting on frgs. 10, 34, and 42 belongs to the first scribe. In sum, the cluster of fragments constituted by frgs. 10, 34, and 42 has no material join or textual links to col. 7, and it is only placed there on the hypothesis that it completes a pattern of damage that this scroll sustained while rolled.

Stegemann’s Textual Reconstruction of Line 21

Stegemann was confident enough in the placement of the frg. 10 cluster to reconstruct part of the text between the right edge of col. 7 and the right edge of frg. 10 on line 21 of the reconstructed column. In the rest of his reconstruction of 1QHa, Stegemann was reluctant to reconstruct letters in lacunae unless he had a convincing case, so we can infer that he was confident in his reconstruction.

He reconstructs the following:

ב֯ר֯ו[ך אתה אל הרחמים ב]ש֯י֯ר מזמור למ֯ש[כיל]°°°[          ]ד֯ רנה

  1. Bless[ed are you, God of compassion, with a ]song, a psalm for the Ins[tructor] °°°[…]d glad cry […]

Brackets enclose the part of the text that Stegemann is reconstructing, and circlets are placeholders that denote traces of letters that are too faded or damaged to read.

In another publication, he claims that “[t]his [reconstruction] would fit the gap perfectly,” though he also allows for the possibility that another similar “blessed are you” formula may have been used.[3] But does this textual reconstruction fit in the space between the fragments? And does it create a text that has precedence in other Dead Sea Scrolls compositions? Moreover, there is also the larger question of whether the placement of frg. 10 in col. 7 solely on the basis of its shape is warranted. If frg. 10 is incorrectly placed, then Stegemann’s textual reconstruction of line 21 is almost certainly inaccurate.

In the next post, I will discuss some of the reasons that scholars have regarded the placement of frg. 10 in col. 7 to be problematic, and why Stegemann’s textual reconstruction is almost certainly not possible on the basis of insights drawn from my project at the Sherman Centre for Digital Scholarship.

[1]. Émile Puech, “Un hymne Essénien en partie retrouvé et les béatitudes,” RevQ 13 (1988): 59–88, 62; pl. III, no. 2.

[2]. Hartmut Stegeman and Eileen Schuller, DJD 40, 99.

[3]. Hartmut Stegemann, “Methods for the Reconstruction of Scrolls from Scattered Fragments,” in Archaeology and History in the Dead Sea Scrolls: The New York University Conference in Memory of Yigael Yadin, ed. Lawrence H. Schiffman, JSPSup 8 (Sheffield: JSOT, 1990), 189–220, 197.

Works Cited

Puech, Émile. “Un hymne Essénien en partie retrouvé et les béatitudes.” RevQ 13 (1988): 59–88.

Schuller, Eileen and Hartmut Stegemann. Qumran Cave 1.III: 1QHodayota with Incorporation of 1QHodayotb and 4QHodayota-f. DJD XL. Oxford: Clarendon, 2009.

Hartmut Stegemann. “Methods for the Reconstruction of Scrolls from Scattered Fragments.” Pages 189–220 in Archaeology and History in the Dead Sea Scrolls: The New York University Conference in Memory of Yigael Yadin. Edited by Lawrence H. Schiffman. JSPSup 8. Sheffield: JSOT, 1990.

The Puzzling Case of 1QHodayota Fragment 10 — The Research Problem (Part 1)

[Originally published on the blog of the Sherman Centre for Digital Scholarship]

In my last post, I introduced my Sherman Centre project, which is examining the placement of fragment 10 in the Dead Sea scroll, 1QHodayota, a manuscript from c. 30–1 BCE that contains a collection of previously unknown psalms called the Thanksgiving Hymns. Over the next several posts, I am going to describe my research problem in greater detail, highlighting why the placement of fragment 10 in column 7 is so uncertain. This entry discusses two kinds of reconstructions that are important concepts for understanding this research problem: 1) reconstructions of entire manuscripts, and 2) reconstructions of the text between fragments of a manuscript.

1) Reconstructions of Manuscripts

Almost every Dead Sea scroll has sustained enough damage that it has broken into pieces, so a significant proportion of the first fifty years of scrolls scholarship was dedicated to putting these pieces back together in order that they could be published in the Discoveries in the Judaean Desert Series by Oxford University Press. These attempts to arrange the fragments in their original places in the scroll are called manuscript reconstructions. The fragments in such a reconstruction are placed on the basis of other copies of the same text, material joins between fragments, or the regularly appearing contours of damage sustained while the scroll was in a cave for two millennia.

Stegemann reconstructed 1QHa in his dissertation in the early-1960s, and he continued to refine his proposal for the rest of his career.[1] Stegemann’s reconstruction was edited and published posthumously in 2009 by Eileen Schuller, currently a professor at McMaster University and my dissertation supervisor.[2] Before Stegemann’s unexpected death, they had arranged to work together to publish his reconstruction as one of the final volumes in the Discoveries in the Judaean Desert series, the official publication series of the Dead Sea scrolls. Schuller had published six other manuscripts found in a nearby cave that contained the same psalms, so she was uniquely qualified to bring Stegemann’s work to publication.[3] Most aspects of Stegemann’s reconstruction were well received; however, the placement of fragment 10 in column 7 is still debated.[4]

2) Textual Reconstructions

Almost every Dead Sea scroll manuscript has lines of text that processes of decomposition have interrupted with large gaps, and scholars sometimes make educated guesses about which words might have been lost. These proposals for the missing sections of manuscripts are referred to as textual reconstructions. In some cases, scholars can supply text by using other manuscripts containing the same composition. In other cases, where there is not a manuscript containing a parallel text, scholars may propose a reconstruction of what they suppose to have existed in the gap based on the context of the passage. These suggestions are usually made on the basis of formal similarities or standard phrases found in other compositions. For example, if a Dead Sea scroll is loosely alluding to a passage from the book of Isaiah, and there is a gap between fragments, a scholar may offer a suggestion for the missing text using words from the same part of Isaiah that fit into the space. In Dead Sea scrolls scholarship, it is commonly held that any reconstruction proposed without the aid of a parallel text from another manuscript is very tentative and provisional. In fact, even those reconstructions made with the benefit of a parallel are subject to debate.

As we will see in the following posts, the problem created by Stegemann’s placement of fragment 10 arises out of both his approach to manuscript reconstruction in columns 5–8 and his proposal of several words for the gap between column 7 and fragment 10—a textual reconstruction. In the next post, I will discuss why the placement of fragment 10 in column 7 on the basis of its shape is problematic. In subsequent posts, I will explain why many of the very distinctive characteristics of this fragment seem out of place in Stegemann’s reconstruction.

[1]. Hartmut Stegemann, “Rekonstruktion der Hodajot: Ursprüngliche Gestalt und kritisch bearbeiteter Text der Hymnenrolle aus Höhle 1 von Qumran,” (PhD diss., University of Heidelberg, 1963).

[2]. Hartmut Stegemann and Eileen Schuller Qumran Cave 1.III:1QHodayota with Incorporation of 1QHodayotb and 4QHodayota–f DJD XL (Oxford: Clarendon, 2009).

[3]. Eileen M. Schuller, “Hodayot” in Qumran Cave 4.XX: Poetical and Liturgical Texts, Part 2 (eds. E. Chazon et al.; DJD 29; Oxford: Clarendon, 1999)

[4]. Elisha Qimron, The Dead Sea Scrolls: The Hebrew Writings, Volume One, Between Bible and Mishnah (Jerusalem: Yad Ben-Zvi Press, 2010), 66.

Works Cited

Qimron, Elisha. The Dead Sea Scrolls: The Hebrew Writings, Volume One. Between Bible and Mishnah. Jerusalem: Yad Ben-Zvi Press, 2010.

Schuller, Eileen and Hartmut Stegemann. Qumran Cave 1.III: 1QHodayota with Incorporation of 1QHodayotb and 4QHodayota-f. DJD XL. Oxford: Clarendon, 2009.

Schuller, Eileen. “Hodayot.” Pages 69–254 in Qumran Cave 4.XX: Poetical and Liturgical Texts. Part 2. DJD XXIX. Edited by Esther Chazon et al. Oxford: Clarendon,1999.

Stegemann, Hartmut. “Rekonstruktion der Hodajot: Ursprüngliche Gestalt und kritisch bearbeiteter Text der Hymnenrolle aus Höhle 1 von Qumran.” PhD diss., University of Heidelberg, 1963.

Sherman Centre Project – A New Direction

[Originally published on the blog of the Sherman Centre for Digital Scholarship]

As I’ve further developed my dissertation proposal, I’ve altered my Sherman Centre project to better serve the changing demands of my research. Initially, I was looking into comparing the syntax of the texts of two ancient Jewish corpora, the Psalms and the Thanksgiving Hymns (transliterated Hebrew title: Hodayot). The book of Psalms is well known from Jewish and Christian Bibles, but the manuscripts of the Thanksgiving Hymns are relatively recent and less studied. They are collections of distinctive psalms that we’ve only been aware of for almost 70 years, since their discovery among the Dead Sea scrolls in 1947. However, there are some basic questions about the most important manuscript of the Thanksgiving Hymns, 1QHodayota (1QHa), that need to be addressed before sound comparisons with other literary corpora can be made. I am refashioning my former, stand-alone project on syntax into a more integrated and directly relevant series of smaller projects that will allow me to address a key issue in 1QHa—the placement of fragment 10 in column 7 of 1QHa.

When the antiquities dealer Feidi Salahi sold 1QHa to the archaeologist Eleazar Sukenik of the Hebrew University in 1947, it was delivered in two bundles. One included three well preserved but disconnected sheets from the middle of the scroll, while the other was a smashed and twisted mass of decayed fragments from the sheets at the extremities of the scroll. My thesis supervisor, Eileen Schuller, co-published Hartmut Stegemann’s reconstruction of this scroll, originally his 1963 dissertation but only translated into English, edited, and made public in 2009.[1] The reconstruction assumes that repeating patterns of damage can serve as a reliable guide for putting the fragments of the scroll back into order. In the majority of cases this approach to reconstruction has produced good results that were later confirmed by the overlapping texts found in the Cave 4 Thanksgiving Hymns scrolls that Schuller published in 1999.[2]

However, the placement of fragment 10 of 1QHa is difficult in a number of ways. It does not physically touch other fragments in the reconstruction, and its shape is not an obvious fit when compared with the contours of damage preceding and following its proposed place in the scroll. It also creates a superscription that is unique and perplexing in light of other titles and headings in ancient Hebrew texts by combining an in-composition subheading format with a compositional title for a work. In view of the peculiar title it creates and the inconclusive grounds for placing the fragment, it is possible that this fragment has been located in the wrong place in the reconstruction 1QHa.

My dissertation research is on the Community Hymns, the subgroup of Thanksgiving Hymns that includes the title and text created by the placement of fragment 10. Accordingly, I need to look more closely at this fragment placement before I use the text in my study. The objective of my Sherman Centre project is to try various approaches and technologies for testing fragment placements on other possible locations for fragment 10 in the scroll. My top priority is to answer a high-stakes question for my dissertation, but I also want to contribute my evaluation of techniques and method to the broader discussion of manuscript reconstruction in my discipline.

In the next blog posts I will share my progress on testing the placement of this fragment using computer-aided methods—some which are currently being used by scrolls scholars tackling similar challenges, and one that I’m developing specifically for 1QHa. Stay tuned for more!

Notes

[1]. Hartmut Stegemann and Eileen Schuller Qumran Cave 1.III:1QHodayota with Incorporation of 1QHodayotb and 4QHodayota–f DJD XL (Oxford: Clarendon, 2009).

[2]. Eileen M. Schuller, “Hodayot” in Qumran Cave 4.XX: Poetical and Liturgical Texts, Part 2 (eds. E. Chazon et al.; DJD 29; Oxford: Clarendon, 1999).

Works Cited

Schuller, Eileen and Hartmut Stegemann. Qumran Cave 1.III: 1QHodayota with Incorporation of 1QHodayotb and 4QHodayota-f. DJD XL. Oxford: Clarendon, 2009.

Schuller, Eileen. “Hodayot.” Pages 69–254 in Qumran Cave 4.XX: Poetical and Liturgical Texts. Part 2. DJD XXIX. Edited by Esther Chazon et al. Oxford: Clarendon,1999.

Michael Brooks Johnson is a PhD candidate in the Department of Religious Studies at McMaster University. He specializes in early Judaism and the Dead Sea scrolls found at Qumran in Israel. His research focuses on poetic collections from the scrolls, especially the Thanksgiving Hymns (Hodayot) and how we can better understand them and the communities that read them by examining the compositions’ rhetorical features. He is also interested in how digital scholarship offers new ways to reconstruct ancient manuscripts and study them.