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.