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orion F. Cryer on ostracon
Hello, orion list.
The library here just received Frederick H. Cryer's article, "The Qumran
Conveyance: A Reply to F.M. Cross and E. Eshel," Scandinavian Journal of
The Old Testament 11 (1997) 232-40. Of course, suggested alternate
readings should be given due consideration. (Does anyone know where Ada
Yardeni's will appear? in IEJ?) Since I just read the article today, I have
not had time to follow up some of the suggestions, but here are some
Page 232 note 3 gives some incorrect information about the
archaeology of the discovery, as can be seen by a comparison with the
description provided to orion list by Prof. Strange. See orion archives
August 15 (with a correction also that day, correcting Ib to II) and
September 2. (As an aside, anyone who has seen excavations by Prof. Strange
will know that the word "hasty" was an unfortunate choice to use in this
note.) Cryer wrote: "...it is impossible to say anything certain about the
find context...." and that the ostraca were found "in a pile of earth that
had been displaced by the bulldozer from its original site." These
statements are false. Perhaps Prof. Strange's information appeared on orion
too late for Prof. Cryer (who is an editor of the journal) to correct his
text. It may be appropriate for the journal editors to print a correction
in the next issue. In any case, the information given by Prof. Strange
makes quite difficult Cryer's dating of the ostracon to circa 120 CE or
later. Cryer even ventures a possible dating of 135 CE, based on his
suggested reading of line one. Cryer's statement (p. 239) "Nor does the
archaeology militate against this possibility [a 135 date]..." apparently
Cryer's reading of line 1 I leave for later discussion. (Using the
root str, he translates "In the year of the destruction of J...") I can
agree with his note that this is not a "conventional conveyance date
formula." But he does not mention the year two of Essene initiation
Cryer emphasizes a denial of the word yahad in line 8. However one
sees that, it should be recalled that that one word is not the only link of
the ostracon with serek ha-yahad.
A note on line 2 cites Akkadian and Aramaic and declares that
"natan in this context cannot mean 'give.'" This declaration appears
insufficient. Further, he appears to allow (p. 239) that a "testamentiary"
conveyance is possible--although, perhaps, this may be only an
acknowledgement that others have suggested that possibility.
N. 7 allows that it is possible that Jericho might refer to the
"administrative district" [toparchy], but then suggests that making such an
assumption "smells of explaining away," which can be taken as an effort by
Cryer to explain that possibility away. In other words, the question of
what toparchy Qumran was in is not addressed squarely. It should be.
Rather, the misleading statement is offered, "...the ostracon does not
claim the Qumran provenance that is claimed for it by others."
That is followed by "Scholars tend to make all too much of the find
circumstances of documents." Whether this is true others may evaluate. But
one can note that, while it is possible to make too much of a find
location, it is also possible to take too little note of it. (For example,
on orion a few posters still appear to assume that documents found at
Qumran should be assigned to Jerusalem as if a natural default.)
Already on the first page but especially in note 17, it appears to
me that Cryer is suppositious, writing that Esther Eshel's "clear
misreading" (as Cryer calls it) arose because "she has seen what she
wanted, or expected, to see." While alternate suggested readings are fair
game, unless he had a relevant chat with Esti which he doesn't cite,
presumption about her wants and expectations are not appropriate. (Plus,
Cross was involved, too.)
The above comment is in a note to line 8. Among other issues in
this line is his use of the niphal, which was already questioned on orion.
No doubt the last word on line 8 has not been spoken. N-shaped hets, and
the initial verb, among other things, deserve further comment.
Cryer criticizes G. Vermes for criticizing N. Golb (in a speech I
did not hear) "for failing to provide an alternative reading..." Cryer
opines, "A moment's reflection shows this to be an absurd request..." This
seems a rather harsh retort, even if one might allow that a given word
might remain uncertain.
There is much else to evaluate. But I'll be (relatively) brief.
And, to end on a more positive note: Cryer's reading of line 12 and note
suggesting that wbyd *could* be translated, not necessarily "by the agency
of," but, perhaps, literally as "a phrase introducing the name scribe who
wrote the document" is true.
Stephen Goranson email@example.com