Wednesday, November 11, 2009

New Testament Intersections 6: Pesher Commentaries

Previous posts in this series include:

Most Apocrypha and Alexandrian Literature
Enochic Literature and 4QMMT
Covenant of Damascus
Community Rule
Qumran Hymns

The next installment of our run through intertestamental literature for its possible intersections with the New Testament leads us to the Habakkuk, Nahum, and Psalms commentaries at Qumran. Their principle intersection with the NT is their method of interpretation.

They are of immense value, however, in relation to the history of the Qumran community and the Essenes in general. They generally date to the first century BC and so were copied at Qumran. I locate them as sectarian documents of the Qumran community, therefore, and perhaps less documents of broader Essenism. The sense of Hab. and Nahum that the Kittim (Romans) have broad judgment on the wicked, without hardening into the view against them found in the War Scroll, speaks of a date somewhere around 60-50BC.

Habakkuk Commentary (4QHab)
Historical Data
1. Wicked Priest/Liar versus TR again (1, 2, 8, 9, 10); Wicked Priest (Jonathan Maccabeus) pursued the TR to the house of his exile on Day of Atonement (11); WP defiled temple (12)

2. TR called a priest (2)

3. Kittim=Romans (2), sacrifice to their standards (6)

4. Absalom=Pharisees? (5)

New Testament Intersections
1. Pesher method of interpretation quotes an OT Scripture and then applies it directly to the Qumran sect and its history is much like the way Matthew interprets OT Scripture in relation to the life of Jesus (e.g., Matt. 2:15), although Matthew does not format his interpretation in commentary form.

2. new covenant again (perhaps equated with Covenant of Damascus; 2)

3. Essenes as the elect (5)

4. Idea that they were in the final generation (7); judgment coming (13)

5. circumcise foreskin of heart (11)

Nahum Commentary (4Q169)
Historical Data
It mentions Demetrius III (1) and thus implies that the "seekers of smooth things" were the Pharisees who sided with Demetrius against the Hasmonean king-priest Alexander Janneus (103-76BC) around 88BC. Janneus, the "furious young lion" then crucified 800 Pharisees.

We also learn that "Ephraim" is symbolic for the Pharisees as well (2), as is "House of Separation" (4). "Manasseh" could refer to the Sadducees.

New Testament Intersections
same pesher method of interpretation

Psalms Commentary (4Q171)
Historical Data
1. Liar/Wicked Priest (Jonathan; 1, 2); tried to kill TR because he sent him a "law" (4; in ref. to 4QMMT?)

2. wicked of Ephraim and Manasseh (Pharisees and maybe Sadducees; 2)

3. TR a priest (2, 3)

New Testament Intersections
1. same pesher interpretive method

2. Belial again (2)

3. poor will inherit the world; cf. Matt. 5; Luke (3)

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