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orion: Musings on 4Q448
The mention of 4Q448 with its apparent reading praising king Jonathan
brings this comment. Almost a year ago I ordered a color negative of that
text from Bruce Zuckerman to check that reading. I was suspicious of
this reading on two grounds: (1) it didn't seem to make sense--the other
comparative parallels in 1QH of language praising the great king, etc. is
the language of God, not a human. The prediction would be for an
attribute descriptive of or praising God, not the name "Jonathan".
A reading of "Jonathan", then, did not fit into a natural slot as
expected but is an "oddball" reading. An odd or unexpected reading is a
reading if it is a reading. But (b) this particular reading is right
at the margin of legibility, i.e. it both lacks comparative attestations
elsewhere in Qumran texts and is a difficult reading on letter-remains
grounds. That was the background of my question about this.
Anyway at the end I was persuaded the Jonathan reading (of Yardeni,
Eshel, and Eshel) looks like its there (in keeping with a lot of other
sets of good eyes). The letter remains seem readable as YNTN and
there seems to be no alternative reading giving a sensible word (if
anyone can suggest another possibility this would be of interest).
Therefore odd as it may be, it looks like its there.
A pro-Jonathan text (I have never heard and cannot imagine this
reading being interpreted as an anti-Jonathan text) is obviously of
much significance for the Qumran texts. First the identity of the
Jonathan--in principle one could imagine a fictitious Jonathan or a
biblical Jonathan as the referent, but no known biblical or fictive
Jonathan correlates to the image in this text of this king, and a
real king Jonathan is attested by coins at the very time when many,
if not practically all, of the scrolls were produced and copied.
This points to Jannaeus.
Yet assuming the soundness of the reading and the correctness of the
identity of the Jonathan, what might it mean? The puzzle is that if
this is really a pro-Jannaeus text, why are there not five or ten
pro-Jannaeus texts? Why only this one? No answer proposed here for
this (this was one of the original reasons to me for scrutiny of the
But what to make of it? One line of reasoning would be, "the sages,
the pharisees, were persecuted by Jannaeus, according to all the
stories from that era, so this text, 4Q448, could not come from the ones
Josephus calls pharisees." But this may be an example of the kind of
leaping to conclusions on the basis of slender data that has plagued
the Qumran field.
For does it not say somewhere in Josephus that the Pharisees gave
Alexander Jannaeus an honorable burial and praised him after his death?
And would not this strange text, 4Q448 with its hymn of praise to king
Jonathan, sound like something to be read at a funeral, or composed
in memory of a dear departed ruler?
There--is this not "evidence"--from 4Q448--that the Qumran
scribes were all Pharisees? :-)