Presentation: 23 January, 2003

"Dead Sea Scrolls, Parabiblical Literature, and Post-70 Judaism"

Moshe Bernstein (Yeshiva University) will speak about "Parabiblical Texts at Qumran" (see further below)
Burton Visotzky (Jewish Theological Seminary) will speak about "Parabiblical Literature and post-70 Judaism: Reflexes of Non-Canonical Materials in Later Rabbinic Midrashim" (see further below)
David Stern (University of Pennsylvania) will serve as respondant to both presentations

23 January, 2003

THE THIRD MEETING OF 2002-03 will be held on Thursday, 23 January, 2003 from 7-9 pm in the Second Floor Lounge, Logan Hall at the University of Pennsylvania, on 36th Street Walk just north of Spruce Street on the Penn campus. This year's topic is "Parabiblical Literature".

Persons wishing to dine with other participants prior to the meeting should meet at 6 pm at Logan Hall, Second Floor Lounge (southeast of Locust Walk and 36th Street Walk) or go directly to the Food Court in the basement of Houston Hall (just east of Logan, along Spruce Street), where an international variety of food choices is available at reasonable prices.

Additional Information

Moshe Bernstein will be talking about "Parabiblical Texts at Qumran," addressing the questions of what the Qumran corpus has to contribute to our understanding of what we call parabiblical, as well as the boundaries, such as they exist, between biblical texts at one end of the spectrum and material which loses the "right" to be called parabiblical on the other. He will be drawing on his as yet unpublished work on "'Rewritten Bible': A Generic Category Which Has Outlived Its Usefulness?" and "The Contribution of the Qumran Discoveries to the History of Early Biblical Interpretation," (both of which will be sent off to publishers fairly soon) as well as two published articles, "Pseudepigraphy in the Qumran Scrolls: Categories and Functions," Pseudepigraphic Perspectives: The Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha in Light of the Dead Sea Scrolls: Proceedings of the Second International Symposium of the Orion Center for the Study of the Dead Sea Scrolls and Related Literature, 12-14 January, 1997 eds. M.E. Stone and E.G. Chazon (STDJ 28; E.J. Brill, 1998) 1-26 and "The Contours of Genesis Interpretation at Qumran: Contents, Contexts and Nomenclature," Studies in Ancient Midrash edited by James L. Kugel (Harvard Center for Jewish Studies/Harvard University Press, 2001) 57-85.

He asks: "Can I assume that the participants in the group know something about the Qumran literature so that I don't have to review basics? E.g., would they know what 4QReworked Pentateuch is without further definition? Genesis Apocryphon? "pseudo-Jubilees"? I have no problem with defining and describing, but don't want to go over material unnecessarily in the presence of a learned audience." I've told him to assume general awareness if not precise and detailed knowledge.

Burt Visotsky will speak on "Parabiblical Literature and post-70 Judaism: Reflexes of Non-Canonical Materials in Later Rabbinic Midrashim." In addition to reflecting on the general mood(s) regarding "outside books" in rabbinic literature, he will use the Wisdom of Joshua Ben Sira as an example and test case. For example, see Sugya on Ben Sira- bSan 100b: R. AKIBA SAID: ALSO HE WHO READS UNCANONICAL BOOKS etc. A Tanna taught: [This means], the books of the Sadducees. R. Joseph said: it is also forbidden to read the book of Ben Sira. Abaye said to him: Why so? Shall we say because there is written therein, [1] 'Do not strip the skin [of a fish] even from its ear, lest thou spoil it, but roast it [all, the fish with the skin] in the fire, and eat therewith two [twisted] loaves'? Now, if [you object to it in] its literal sense, the Torah too states, Thou shalt not destroy the trees thereof. Whilst in a metaphorical sense, this teaches good taste, that one should not cohabit unnaturally. But if you take exception to the passage: [2] 'A daughter is a vain treasure to her father: through anxiety on her account, he cannot sleep at night. As a minor, lest she be seduced; in her majority, lest she play the harlot; as an adult, lest she be not married; if she marries, lest she bear no children; if she grows old, lest she engage in witchcraft!' But the Rabbis have said the same: The world cannot exist without males and females; happy is he whose children are males, and woe to him whose children are females. Again if because of the following: [3] 'Let not anxiety enter thy heart, for it has slain many a person!' But Solomon said likewise, Anxiety in the heart of man yashhenna [maketh it stoop]. R. Ammi and R. Assi [differ in its interpretation]: one rendered it, 'let him banish it from his mind,' the other, 'let him relate it to others.' And if because it contains, [4] 'Withhold the multitude from thy house, and bring not every one into thy house!' But Rabbi said the same, for it has been taught, Rabbi said: One should never have a multitude of friends in his house, for it is written, A man that hath many friends bringeth evil upon himself. But because there is written therein, [5] 'A thin-bearded man is very wise: a thick-bearded one is a fool: he who blows away [the froth] from off his glass [of liquor] is not thirsty; he who says, with what shall I eat my bread? - take the bread away from him; he whose beard is parted will be defeated by none.' R. Joseph said: [Yet] we may expound to them the good things it contains.

For orientation to the topic, see (among other things):

  • Annette Yoshiko Reed, PhD dissertation, Princeton, 2002;
  • Stefan Reif, A Jewish Archive from Old Cairo;
  • M. Segal, Sefer Ben Sira HaShalem (HEBREW);
  • Eli Yassif, Sippurei Ben Sira BeYemai HaBaynaim (Hebrew);
  • Saul Lieberman, Texts and Studies;
  • Ginzberg, An Unknown Jewish Sect;
  • R.H. Charles, Apoc.and Pseud. of the OT;
  • James Charlesworth, The OT Pseudepigrapha;
  • D. Stern and Marc Mirsky, Rabbinic Fantasies.