The Eschatologizing of Wisdom in the Dead Sea Scrolls
John J. Collins
The phrase "the eschatologizing of wisdom," "die Eschatologisierung der Weisheit," is associated above all with Gerhard von Rad's celebrated thesis that the roots of†Apokalyptik were to be sought in wisdom rather than in prophecy. The problems with that thesis have often been rehearsed, and need not be repeated here. Most fundamentally, von Rad did not pay sufficient attention to the range of materials that can be subsumed under the category wisdom. On the broadest level, any discourse that lays emphasis on knowledge and understanding can reasonably be called wisdom, but knowledge and understanding can be of many different kinds. In the context of biblical studies, wisdom literature is normally understood to refer to the books of Proverbs and Qoheleth and, with some qualification, the book of Job. These books derive from a tradition of instructional literature that was common to much of the ancient Near East, and exemplified especially in Egypt. It is continued in the Book of Ben Sira, who expanded the tradition significantly by including the Torah and sacred writings of Israel in his curriculum. In general, this tradition could be said to share a worldview, that was this-worldly in focus and skeptical of claims of higher revelation. But there were other kinds of instruction available in ancient Judaism, including some that offered a higher, revealed, wisdom. The astronomical lore in 1 Enoch 73-82 could reasonably be described as a kind of wisdom, even though it was supposedly revealed to the author by the angel Uriel and contained some restrained eschatological predictions at the end. Von Rad rightly noted that the pseudonymous visionaries of the early apocalypses, Enoch and Daniel, were presented as wise men, and their teachings as wisdom. But this wisdom was very different in kind and worldview from the material that normally passed as wisdom in the biblical corpus.
With the publication of 4QInstruction, however, we now have a bona fide example of a wisdom text of the traditional type in which eschatological expectations play a significant part. My purpose in this paper is to examine the kind of eschatology that we find in this document, its probable derivation, and its function in the sapiential text. I will conclude with some reflections on the relation of this text to the sectarian writings of the Scrolls and its relevance to the debate initiated by von Rad on the relation between sapiential and apocalyptic literature.
The eschatology of 4QInstruction
4QInstruction is not a discourse on eschatology. Most of the references to a final judgment have the character of allusions, made in the context of a discourse on something else. So, for example, in 4Q417 1 i (formerly numbered 2 i) the addressee is told to meditate on the mystery that is to be, "and then thou shalt know truth and iniquity, wisdom [and foolish]ness thou shalt [recognize], every ac[t ] in all their ways, together with their punishment(s) in all ages everlasting, and the punishment of eternity" (lines 6-8). The punishments are not described, as they often are in apocalypses. Or again in 4Q416 3, in a very fragmentary passage, we read "until wickedness comes to an end; for there will be wrath in every pe[riod] . . ." Here again there does not seem to be any description of how wickedness comes to an end, or of the wrath. This kind of allusive reference is typical of what we find in 4QInstruction.
The most extensive passage dealing with eschatology is found in 4Q416 1, a fragment which, in the judgment of the editors, came from the beginning of the work. The first nine lines or so are very fragmentary, and seem to deal with the order of nature. There are references to "season by season" and to "the host of heaven" and "for their portents," which suggests a discussion of heavenly bodies. But then verse 9 refers to "all their visitation" (hmtdwqp lk). The word hdwqp is a favorite term of 4QInstruction, occurring 16 times. It is not fully clear here whether the reference is to the visitation of the host of heaven (compare Isa 24:21: "on that day the Lord will punish the host of heaven in heaven," or the end of the Astronomical book of Enoch) or whether it refers to the visitation of humanity in the following passage. The passage then continues, in the translation of Strugnell and Harrington:
"From Heaven He shall pronounce judgement upon the work of wickedness, but all his faithful children will be accepted with favor by [Him ] . . . the end, and they shall feel dread, and all who defiled themselves in it (wickedness) shall cry out in distress. For the heavens shall fear . . . The [se]as and the depths fear, and every spirit of flesh will be destroyed (?). But the sons of Heave[n] sh[all rejoice in the day when it (wickedness) is ju]dged, and (when) all iniquity shall come to an end, until the epoch of tru[th] will be perfected . . . in all periods of eternity. For He is a God of fidelity, and from of old, (from) years of [eternity]. . . So that the righteous may distinguish (?) between good and evil, so that . . . every judgm[ent] . . . [the in]clination of flesh is He(?), and from understanding . . ."
This passage clearly implies a judgment scene in the tradition of the theophany of the divine warrior, where the appearance of the deity is greeted by convulsions of nature. Such theophanies are well known in biblical tradition (Judges 5:4-5; Ps 68:7-8; Habakkuk 3, etc.). Closer to the time of our text, it is of interest that the Book†of the Watchers in 1 Enoch begins with such a theophany (1 Enoch 1). In the biblical theophanies, God sometimes appears in defence of Israel, and sometimes in judgment on them. In 1 Enoch, the judgment is on all flesh, but there is a distinction between the righteous, with whom God makes peace, and the impious whom he destroys. There is a similar distinction in 4QInstruction. Iniquity will come to an end, and "every spirit of flesh will be destroyed." In another passage of 4QInstruction, 4Q417 1, the "spirit of flesh" is contrasted with "the people of spirit." There is then an element of dualism here, that goes beyond the usual sapiential antithesis of the righteous and the wicked. The reference at the end of the passage to the "inclination of flesh" (rcb rxy) adds to the impression that the distinction between righteous and wicked is a permanent one. The righteous are also called "his faithful children" and are said to be accepted with favor. Elsewhere in 4QInstruction they are called
_wxr yvna"men of good pleasure" (4Q418 81 10, a passage that has been compared to Luke 2:14, "and on earth peace to men of good pleasure" (ajnqrwvpoi" eujdokiva"©Æ
One other feature of this text requires comment: the use of the word≈q in the sense of "period." The word may be used in the sense of "end" in line 11 (hxq); alternatively that word may be read as qa2s5ehÆ In line 13, however, tmah ≈q means "the period of truth" which will be perfected forever. This is followed by a reference to
d[ yxq lk, all the periods of eternity. As Torleif Elgvin has noted, there is a parallel here to the Apocalypse of Weeks in 1 Enoch 91: 12, 17. The eighth week in the apocalypse is the week of righteousness. After the tenth week "there will be many weeks without number forever." 4QInstruction does not necessarily depend on the Apocalypse of Weeks, but at least it presupposes a similar division of history, and even of "eternity," into periods. Such an understanding of history is well attested in the Dead Sea Scrolls, e.g. in the Pesher on the Periods in 4Q180-81. The wisdom text, then, presupposes a fuller understanding of history and eschatology than it expounds explicitly.
Engraved is the ordinance
The terms≈q and hdwqp also figure prominently in 4Q417 1 i. There the addressee is told to gaze on the mystery that is to be, which evidently pertains to the deeds of old as well as that which is to come. By this study, the wise person is to know every deed "together with their punishment (hdwqp) in all ages everlasting
®_lw[ yxq© and everlasting punishment (_lw[ tdwqp)." This passage does not go further in describing the punishment, but it puts it in a wider context: "Engraved is the ordinance, and ordained is all the punishment. For engraved is that which is ordained by God against all the ini[quities of] the children of Sheth, and written in his presence is a book of memorial of those who keep his word." The book of memorial is an allusion to Mal 3:16, but the passage as a whole brings to mind the Mesopotamian tablets of destinyÆ The idea that future events are written on tablets or in a book is an important motif in apocalyptic literature. Compare "the book of truth" in Dan 10:21, and the heavenly tablets in 1 Enoch 93:2. I take "the sons of Sheth to be a reference to Balaam's Oracle in Num 24:17, which says that the scepter that rises from Jacob will crush the skulls of the sons of Sheth. The book of memorial, we are told, is the Vision of the Hagu (or meditation). A book of Hagu is mentioned three times in the Damascus Document (once restored) and once in the Rule of the Congregation (1QSa). In each occurrence, it is an object of study. It has been variously identified as the Mosaic Torah or as some more esoteric document. In 4QInstruction, at least, the latter alternative must be preferred. It is one of the distinctive characteristics of this text that it never thematizes, or explicitly discusses, the Torah. (It is possible, however, that the Hagu took on a new meaning in the sectarian texts). The vision of the Hagu, we are told, was given to vwna with a spiritual people (jwr _[). I have argued elsewhere that vwna in this passage should be read in the context of Genesis 1-3, as also in 1QS 3:17. More precisely, the reference is to the Adam of Genesis 1, who was fashioned in the likeness of the holy ones (a paraphrase for "the image of God" in Gen 1:27), in contrast to the Adam of Genesis 2-3, who failed to distinguish between good and evil. Both Adams are understood typologically, one representing the jwr _[, or spiritual people, and the other the spirit of flesh that is doomed to destruction. The distinction comes close to the contrast of the spirits of light and darkness in 1QS 3, but does not yet have the fully developed dualistic terminology of light and darkness. Note, however, that people are deemed wicked in accordance with their inheritance in the spirit of flesh (line 24; compare 1QS 4:24: "In agreement with man's inheritance in the truth, he shall be righteous . . . and according to his share in the lot of injustice, he shall act wickedly . . .").
This passage in 4Q417 goes some way towards filling out the theological presuppositions of 4QInstruction. This instruction is not addressed to humanity at large, in the manner of Proverbs, or even to Judaism at large, like the book of Ben Sira. It is addressed to "the people of spirit," who are elect and enlightened. Their election is based on theiryes5er, the disposition given to them by their creator, which is in the likeness of the holy ones or angels. This elect status is affirmed very explicitly in 4Q418 69 10, where the elect are addressed as "you who are the truly chosen ones," and are urged to model themselves on "the sons of heaven" whose lot is eternal life. Compare also 4Q418 81 1-2 which says "He separated thee from every fleshly spirit." The elect have access to a revelation, known as the Hagu or Meditation, which is denied to those with spirit or inclination of flesh. This Hagu is evidently related to the "mystery that is to be." I am inclined, however, with Torleif Elgvin, to see the latter not as a specific writing but as a comprehensive term for the entire divine plan, embracing past, present and future. The future aspects of this plan assure the elect that the wicked will be punished and destroyed in due course.
An inheritance of glory
The assurance given to the elect is not just that the wicked will be destroyed. By meditating on "the mystery that is to be" they can "comprehend the birth-times of salvation, and know who is to inherit glory and toil" (4Q417 2.11), for joy has been appointed for those who mourn. 4Q416 2 6-8 tells the addressee: "Let not thy spirit be corrupted by it (money?). And then thou shalt sleep in faithfulness, and at thy death thy memory will flow[er forev]er, and˚tyrja will inherit joy." Strugnell and Harrington translate "your posterity," which might be taken to imply that the individual only enjoys immortality of remembrance. ˚tyrja, however, can be taken at least as well to mean "your hereafter," and this would fit better with the frequent comparisons with the immortal angels in this text. 4Q418 126 ii 7-8 promises "to raise up the head of the poor . . . in glory everlasting and peace eternal." There seems little doubt that the elect are promised a blessed afterlife.
It is not apparent to me that there is any reference in this text to bodily resurrection. Elgvin finds such a reference in 4Q418 69 ii 7:
††††¸yfpvml wrw[y tma yvrwd, which he translates "the seekers of truth will wake up to the judgments [of God]." The final yod of yfpvm is only a trace, and Strugnell and Harrington read a kaph. They translate: "those who investigate the truth shall rouse themselves to judge y[ou," taking "those who investigate the truth" as some kind of angelic beings. The context favors the latter interpretation. The passage is addressed to people who are told "to the everlasting pit shall your return be. For it shall awaken (≈yqt) . . . its dark places [ ] shall cry out against your pleading, and all those who will endure forever, those who investigate the truth, shall rouse themselves for judgment . . ." The view of the afterlife here is similar to what we find in the second column of the Damascus Document or in the discourse on the Two Spirits in the Community Rule. The wicked are damned to the dark places of the netherworld, and the righteous are promised eternal life. The reward of the righteous is life with the angels, presumably in heaven, rather than bodily resurrection. This is in fact the most common view of the afterlife in the early apocalyptic literature as well as in the sectarian scrolls.†
Elgvin has also argued that the perspective of "realized eschatology" can be found in 4QInstruction. By this he means the kind of present participation in glory with the angels that is widely acknowledged in the Hodayoth. The evidence for this in 4QInstruction, however, now seems to me less than conclusive. Most of the passages adduced as evidence can be read as anticipating future glory, rather than enjoying it in the present. So for example 4Q418 81 3-5 we read: "And he made them to inherit each his own inheritance; but he is thy portion and thy inheritance among the children of mankind, [and over] his [in]heritance has he set them in authority. But thou, by (doing) this honor him, by consecrating thyself to him, just as he has appointed thee as a Holy of Holies [over all the] earth, and (just as) among all the [ ] has he cast thy lot, and has magnified thy glory greatly. He has appointed thee for Himself as a first-born among . . ." The phrase "thy portion and thy inheritance" is derived from Num 18:20, where Aaron is told that God is his portion and inheritance among the sons of Israel. The passage seems to imply that the person of understanding (_ybm) is to humanity as Aaron was to Israel. Whether it implies actual priesthood is not clear; the priestly role may be metaphorical. Neither is it clear whether the understanding person has already received the inheritance. Strugnell and Harrington restore "among all the [God]ly [Ones] has he cast thy lot," but even this may only mean that the person is destined for life among the angels, not that he already enjoys it, in the manner of the Hodayot. Another passage, in 4Q416 2 iii 11-12, seems to speak of present exaltation: "for out of poverty he has lifted up thy head, and with the nobles has he made thee to be seated, and over a glorious heritage he has place thee in authority." The context of this passage however is an hypothetical situation: "But if (men) restore thee to splendor (?) walk in it" (vs. 9). In light of this, it seems likely that the passage is giving advice for the eventuality that a person rise from poverty to wealth in this life, and has no bearing on eschatology at all. Nonetheless, it is true that the text expresses the certainty of future glory and it is a short step from there to the sense of present exaltation that we find in the Hodayot.
Wisdom and Eschatology
Everything we have seen about 4QInstruction up to this point suggests that this text has a view of the world that is very different from the wisdom of Proverbs or Ben Sira. It is surprising, then, that Strugnell and Harrington regard the text as "common Israelite wisdom" and place it typologically between Proverbs and Ben Sira. Admittedly, we have only been looking at one aspect of the text. It also deals with traditional wisdom themes, such as poverty and marital relations. The question arises how these two aspects of the text, the practical and the speculative wisdom, are related to each other. There are, of course precedents for combining practical and speculative, or theological, wisdom in Proverbs and Ben Sira. The wisdom instructions in Proverbs 1-9 are quite different in character from Proverbs 10-31. In Ben Sira, poems on wisdom are interspersed with long sections of mundane advice. The speculative sections of 4QInstruction, however, are of a different nature, and their role in the composition is partially obscured by the fragmentary character of the text.
Torlief Elgvin has argued that the presence of two kinds of material in the text should be explained by redaction criticism: "an editor has loosely bound together older wisdom admonitions and texts which stress eschatology and revelation." His argument is based on a perceived lack of coherence in some passages, and on theological tension in others. As an example of the lack of coherence, he cites 4Q417 2 i 9-19:
"And not for thyself alone shalt thou increase [thy appetite . . .]
For what is more insignificant than a poor man? And do not rejoice in thy mourning, lest thou have trouble in thy life. [Gaze upon the mystery that is to come, and comprehend the birth-times of salvation. And know who is to inherit glory and toil. Has not [ ] and for those among them who mourn eternal joy. Be an advocate on behalf of thy own interests, and let not [ ] by every perversity of thine. Pronoun[ce] thy judgments like a righteous ruler .†. . and do not overlook thy own sins. . ."
Elgvin comments: "In this passage admonitions and eschatological statements follow closely upon another, but it is difficult to see any clear logical line between them." But there is an obvious connection. The point is that the understanding person must do everything in light of "the mystery that is to be" and the expectation of a future judgment, that will determine who is to inherit glory or toil. In this case, the mystery provides a perspective on poverty. It†relativizes the importance of wealth and reminds one of the importance of humility.
The perception of incoherence in a passage such as this may be due to the fact that the ethic of 4QInstruction is not always different from the traditional ethic of Proverbs or Ben Sira. It is largely an ethic of caution. One should look out for one's own interests. One who borrows money should not rest until it is paid back, lest one fall into the power of the lender (4Q417 2 i 22-23). One should honor one's parents (4Q416 2 iii 15-17) and control the vows of one's wife (4Q416 2 iv 7-9). This is not the kind of "interim ethic" that one often associates with apocalyptic literature, where the time is supposed to be short. But 4QInstruction never indicates that the end is near, or that its admonitions are meant for a short time of crisis. The eschaton is not imminent, but it is assured. (In fact, while some apocalyptic literature is crisis literature, written in expectation of an imminent end, much of it is not). One should live one's life sub specie aeternitatis. This does not mean that one should neglect this life, but that one should live it properly. Those who will inherit glory are those who live life wisely, and that involves taking care of business and attending to family relations. Awareness of the mystery makes a difference on some issues. Poverty, for example, is seen to inconsequential. But on many issues the only difference it makes is that it raises the stakes. What is at issue is not only one's prosperity in this life but also one's fate in the hereafter.
Elgvin has noted that 4QInstruction appeals to two different kinds of authority. The admonitions about business affairs are not incited by any expectation of the eschaton; they arise from the pragmatic tradition of old wisdom. In contrast, the mystery that is to be and the prospect of future glory are not things that can be learned from observing human experience. They presuppose revelation, over and above empirical wisdom. This is true, but the two sources of wisdom are complementary rather than opposed. The mystery does not require that one behave in a way that is counter to earthly wisdom. 4QInstruction is not an ascetic document. Poverty is not an ideal. Knowledge of the mystery can help one endure it® but there is no virtue in remaining in poverty if one has any option about it.
I am skeptical, then, of Elgvin's argument that it is possible to separate the admonitions and the discourses into two distinct literary layers. It is true that there are different kinds of material in the text, and that only one of them is consistent with traditional wisdom. But whether an editor added the eschatological discourses to an older wisdom document or, as I think more likely, an author composed a wisdom text that embodied a new perspective, the presence of the eschatological material in a Hebrew wisdom text requires some explanation. How are we to account for the development of a new, eschatologically oriented, perspective, in a wisdom text of the second century BCE?
The derivation of eschatological wisdom
Essentially, two kinds of answer have been offered for this question. Von Rad did not know 4QInstruction but he argued that the apocalyptic view of history had its roots in the wisdom tradition itself. "Can we not interpret this interest in time and the secrets of the future shown by the apocalyptic writers," he asked, "in light of Wisdom teaching that everything has its times, and that it is the part of Wisdom to know about these times (Ecc. III.1ff)?" Qoheleth chapter 3, to which he referred, is not a very good analogue for apocalyptic determinism, but there are some genuinely deterministic passages in Ben Sira. God, we are told, did not make all days alike, but hallowed some and made some ordinary. Similarly, he blessed and exalted some people, while others he cursed and brought low (Sir 33:7-13), Moreover,
"Good is the opposite of evil, and life is the opposite of death;
so the sinner is the opposite of the godly.
Look at al the works of the Most Highª†
They come in pairs, one the opposite of the other" (Sir 33:14-15).
One can trace a line of development from this kind of sapiential reflection, through 4QInstruction, to the dualism of the two spirits at Qumran. Armin Lange traces the continuity with respect to the "Weisheitliche Urordnung," entailing a concept of the totality of creation, which is a fundamental tenet of the biblical wisdom tradition, and here too there is genuine continuity that should not be denied. One might add that it is not difficult to see how statements in the book of Proverbs that wisdom is "the tree of life" (Prov 3:18) could give rise to the hope for a blessed immortality. Yet the fact remains that no wisdom book down to Ben Sira uses "mystery" as a fundamental concept. It may well be that thehyhn zr is a reinterpretation of the figure of Wisdom in the older texts, as Elgvin has suggested, but if so the reinterpretation is significant. Wisdom was in principle available to all, and it did not have the orientation to the future implied by "the mystery that is to be." Neither does any of the older wisdom texts have place for a judgment scene such as we find in 4Q416, nor do they promise an inheritance of glory to the elect.
A different kind of development is proposed by Elgvin. It is universally acknowledged that there are significant parallels between 4QInstruction and the early apocalyptic literature, primarily with the Enoch literature, but the word raz is prominent in the book of Daniel. Elgvin argues that "4QInstruction's understanding of the world and man is determined more by apocalypticism than by traditional wisdom" and notes that the text "shares what has been described as the core of the apocalyptic message: the unmasking of the otherwise unknown secrets of God." The parallels with the Epistle of Enoch are especially important. Here we find an explicit division into periods in the Apocalypse of Weeks. Moreover, the whole course of history is said to be engraved on the heavenly tablets. The Epistle promises the elect a blessed afterlife with the angels. Poverty is a prominent theme in both documents. The wisdom text does not exhibit as strong an animus against the rich as does Enoch, but it is clear that the addressees of both texts regarded themselves as poor. Even the motif of "planting," which appears in 4QInstruction and again in several Qumran texts, can plausibly be traced to the Apocalypse of Weeks. 4QInstruction never refers to Enoch, as the Damascus Document refers to Jubilees (CD 16:3-4), nor does it mention unmistakable Enochic themes such as the story of the Watchers (as in CD 2:18. The evidence for literary dependence, then, is not fully conclusive. But if the sapiential text was not influenced directly by the Epistle of Enoch, it must have had sources that were very similar to it. It is especially significant that both the Epistle of Enoch and 4QInstruction are addressed to an elect group, not to Israel at large and certainly not to humanity at large in the manner of the older wisdom books. I do not suggest that the two groups should be identified, but there was surely some relationship between them.
It seems to me, however, that the whole debate about the origins of apocalypticism is misleading, insofar as it presupposes that there were pure streams of tradition and that a text must draw either from wisdom or from prophecy but not from both. All of this literature was an exercise in bricolage, that pieced together a new view of the world that drew motifs and ideas from many sources. 4QInstruction was certainly informed by the kind of traditional wisdom found in Proverbs and Ben Sira (without the latter's incorporation of the Torah as the prime exemplar of wisdom). It was also informed by apocalyptic traditions of the type reflected in the Epistle of Enoch. The manner in which 4QInstruction alludes to the periods of history and the coming judgment shows that it presupposes an apocalyptic tradition that was already well developed. The author of 4QInstruction was a wisdom teacher who found such ideas congenial, although the mode of discourse of the apocalypses was different from his own. Whether the apocalyptic tradition was itself indebted to wisdom traditions at an earlier stage is a question for another occasion. It seems to me that the earliest Enoch tradition, as found in the Astronomical Book and the Book of the Watchers has strong sapiential interests, but that these have little in common with the kind of wisdom found in Proverbs and Ben Sira.
4QInstruction and the Dead Sea sect
Finally, we must comment on the relation between 4QInstruction and the sectarian writings from Qumran. The consensus that the wisdom text was not a product of the community described in Serek Ha-Yah5ad seems well founded. Not only does 4QInstruction presuppose family life and make no mention of community structures, but it pays no explicit attention to the law of Moses, in sharp contrast to other wisdom texts of the period, such as Ben Sira and 4QBeatitudes (4Q525). It alludes to the Torah many times, and evidently regards it as a source of wisdom. When it touches on halachic issues, however, such as the vows of women, it does not seem to share the understanding of these issues that we find in the sectarian scrolls, as Larry Schiffman demonstrates in this volume. For this reason, too, it seems unlikely to be a product of the "camps" of CD 7:6, or the "marrying Essenes" of Josephus, as these presumably shared the Torah-centered theology of the Teacher of Righteousness. The use of the Torah in the wisdom literature, however, is a topic that requires further exploration.
The wisdom text has nonetheless significant points of comparison with some sectarian texts. Lange has demonstrated its affinities with the Instruction on the Two Spirits, the Hodayot, and the wisdom passage in CD 2. We should not necessarily conclude that the people of theYah5ad came†from "wisdom circles." There were evidently many groups in Judea in the early and middle second century BCE who considered themselves to enjoy special wisdom available only to the elect. Some of them may have come together in the Dead Sea sect, or perhaps we should only conclude that the leaders of the sect were well read, and cobbled together their theology from a range of sources. The community of the new covenant drew its ideas, and probably also its membership, from various sources. It was not outgrowth of any single stream of tradition.
Strugnell and Harrington described 4QInstruction as "a venerable missing link" in the development of Jewish wisdom literature. And so it is. Typologically, however, it does not belong between Proverbs and Ben Sira, but it represents a different line of development. Just as Ben Sira incorporated the Torah into his wisdom curriculum, so the authors of 4QInstruction incorporated eschatology. The discovery of this wisdom text from Qumran shows that Jewish wisdom literature in the late Second Temple period was more diverse than we might infer from the book of Ben Sira.