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  • Wisdom at Qumran: A Form-Critical Analysis of the Admonitions in 4QInstruction
  • Matthew Goff
Wisdom at Qumran: A Form-Critical Analysis of the Admonitions in 4QInstruction, by Daryl F. Jefferies. Gorgias Dissertations, Near Eastern Studies 3. Piscataway, NJ: Gorgias Press, 2004. 336 pp. $75.00.

Jefferies' Wisdom at Qumran is the first monograph devoted to the literary forms of the text of 4QInstruction, the longest wisdom composition of the Dead Sea Scrolls. The second edition of Wisdom at Qumran was published in 2004. The first edition appeared in 2002 and is based on the author's 2001 dissertation from the University of Wisconsin at Madison. There is no major difference between the two editions, and neither one represents a substantial revision of the dissertation. Wisdom at Qumran is part of a dissertation series and in that sense extensive revisions should not be expected. But one should note that the book shows no familiarity whatsoever with the burgeoning number of studies devoted to 4QInstruction that have appeared since its official publication in 1999 (edited by John Strugnell and Daniel Harrington as volume 34 of Oxford's "Discoveries in the Judean Desert" series [DJD 34]). There is almost nothing in the bibliography of the 2004 edition later than 1999. [End Page 203]

The citation format used by Jefferies makes his book difficult to use. Following the standard practice of scholars of Qumran literature, Strugnell and Harrington classify the manuscripts that comprise 4QInstruction as 1Q26, 4Q415, 4Q416, 4Q417, 4Q418, and 4Q423 (the "Q" is for Qumran and the number preceding the "Q" signifies the cave in which the manuscript was found). Jefferies organizes material from 4QInstruction into six parts, such as "Dealing with Others" and "Requiring the Proper Lifestyle," and each section is divided further into subsections. He often cites the text using his own system rather than the normative format—that is, for example, citing "C. Ln. 2" of section 4 for a line normally referred to as "4Q416 2 iii 2" (p. 216). Thus it can be difficult to follow Jefferies' train of thought, even if one is an expert in 4QInstruction.

Since Wisdom at Qumran is a technical, detailed study, it should be mentioned that a complete critical edition of the 4QInstruction fragments was published in 2001 by Eibert J.C. Tigchelaar (To Increase Learning for the Understanding Ones: Reading and Reconstructing the Fragmentary Early Jewish Sapiential Text 4QInstruction [Leiden: Brill]). This valuable book presents the text of 4QInstruction in ways that often differ slightly but significantly from DJD 34, and since 2001 scholars have turned to both volumes when reading fragmentary passages of 4QInstruction. Neither edition of Wisdom at Qumran was updated to incorporate Tigchelaar's study.

The problems with Wisdom at Qumran notwithstanding, it offers ideas and interpretations that contribute to the scholarly discussion on 4QInstruction. The bulk of the book is chapter six, "A Form Critical Analysis of the Admonitions in 4QInstruction." Admonitions are hortatory statements often found in wisdom literature (such as the book of Proverbs) and are thus important in the classification of 4QInstruction as a wisdom text. Each of Jefferies' six units of 4QInstruction material is analyzed according to the following format: "Hebrew Text," "Translation," "Textual Discussion," "Structure," "Genre and Forms," "Setting," and "Intention." The author concludes that the monostich, or single line, format is important in 4QInstruction and that this phenomenon should be understood in terms of "Hellenized forms of Jewish wisdom such as Pseudo-Phocylides," a work of ethical instruction written in Greek (p. 320). Even if one were to grant that the single line format is Hellenistic, there is very little in the composition that can be understood as direct engagement with the wider Greco-Roman world. The author of 4QInstruction betrays no knowledge of Greek and he shows no interest in Gentiles.

Jefferies attributes 4QInstruction to the Dead Sea sect on the basis of vocabulary and themes common to both 4QInstruction and key sectarian works such as the Community Rule (pp. 59–70). The author is surely right that there [End Page 204] are important affinities between this wisdom text and the undisputedly sectarian literature from Qumran. But one should consider important differences as well. 4QInstruction shows no...


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