“Liturgical Scrolls and their Contribution to the Study of the Formulation of the Amidah Prayer”
Prof. Menahem Kister
Given at the Orion Center Greenfield Scholars’ Symposium, 10 January, 2007 [Abstract]
The 'Amidah prayer was formulated, according to rabbinic tradition, at Yavne after the destruction of the Second Temple. Scholars are divided on the question of whether it originated at Yavne in the first century CE or rather in the Second Temple period. The earliest liturgical Hebrew text-witnesses of the 'Amidah are mediaeval manuscripts reflecting differing versions, the so-called "Palestinian" and "Babylonian" versions, with many substantial variations. Another problem of scholarly controversy is how to account for the very different forms of the 'Amidah blessings.
The first part of the lecture was devoted to what can be learned concerning the different versions of the 'Amidah blessings (as well as other liturgical works) from the Constitutiones Apostolorum (fourth century CE). It has been noted that book VII of this composition contains a Christian adaptation of the Sabbath 'Amidah; in this lecture, the implications of the Constitutiones Apostolorum for the documentation of early versions of the Amidah blessings were studied.
The second part of the lecture dealt mainly with fragments of a liturgical scroll found in the Judaean Desert (either in Nahal Se'elim or Nahal Hever), which was written circa 100 CE. This scroll was written in the same period in which the 'Amidah prayer was formulated at Yavne. A blessing, parallel in content and style to modim of the 'Amidah, occurs in these fragments. It is therefore instructive to compare the formulae and the wording of this liturgical fragment to the synagogal versions of the 'Amidah prayer.
The comparative study leads to the conclusion that some of the late mediaeval versions of the synagogal prayer are in fact ancient, and have striking parallels in texts from the first centuries CE, and in one case even in a text from the Second Temple period.