As I’ve mentioned on this blog previously one of my areas of interest is the relationship between the Messiah and the Spirit in Second Temple Judaism and nascent Christianity. I met John R. Levison of Seattle Pacific University for lunch a while ago to talk about this subject. He is one of the foremost scholars of Second Temple Pneumatology. At one point in our conversation he suggested that 4Q521 may be worth investigating since it does mention both the Messiah and the S/spirit. I decided to follow his advice.
In this text there is a frequent interplay between “the Lord” (Israel’s God) and the Messiah. It seems that the works of the Lord are the primary focus, yet there is so much that is messianic. In addition to this there is an underlying theme of the renewal of creation.
Fragment 2 begins with the statement that, “…[the hea]vens and the earth will listen to His Messiah…” (Geza Vermes, The Complete Dead Sea Scrolls in English, p. 412).
The “heavens and earth” (כי הש]מׄים והארץ]) is the summary of the created order. Everything will listen to/obey “his anointed/Messiah” (ישמעו למשיחו). The author goes on to say that no one in the world will stray from the commands of the “holy ones” (קדושים). There is an additional element of the people of God as well. So God’s Messiah reigns and the whole world obeys the holy ones, likely the sanctified remnant of Israel.
The author begins to edify the people of God and the he tells them that the Lord “will consider the pious and call the righteous by name. Over the poor His Spirit (רוחו) will hover and will renew the faithful with His power.” (trans., Vermes, p. 412) This seems to be a parallelism with the “pious” being the “poor” and the “righteous” being the “faithful”. As mentioned above, the creation element reappears with the hovering (תרחף) Spirit, echoing Genesis 1.2 where the Spirit hovers (מְרַחֶ֖פֶת) over the chaotic waters. This part ends with a promise that God “will glorify the pious on the throne of the eternal Kingdom.”
Fragment 2 continues with things that sound very messianic: liberated captives, restoring sight to the blind, straightens the bent, the healing of the wounded, the reviving of the dead (ומתים יחיה), and the bringing of the good news to the poor (ענוים יבשר) (there are echoes of Psalms and Isaiah here). Yet it is hard to differentiate these commonly messianic actions from the work of the Lord. In fact, it seems like the author is still attributing these actions directly to the Lord.
In Fragment 7 the earth and sea are mentioned again, though it is difficult to establish a context. Those who do good before the Lord are mentioned. Another messianic type statement is made about a “Life-Giver” who will “raise the dead of His people” (Vermes, p. 413).
I wish there was more to this document that still existed, but there are mostly just a word or two here and there on the other fragments. We can’t establish much other than that there was an expectation that the Lord would do great things. Some of these things are attributed to Messiah elsewhere and Messiah does receive mention. While I was aiming to find a more direct connection between Messiah and the S/spirit it appears quite loose, yet interesting. The S/spirit hovers over the poor in a way that seems to indicate a recreating, renewing, reorganizing affect. So when the Lord sends his Messiah, when the people of God reign and rule, so the S/spirit will do this action.
Anyone else have any particular insights? Am I missing anything important? I just began looking at this text in the Qumran Sectarian Manuscripts book on Logos Software by Marting G. Abegg, Jr., so it is altogether possible that I am overlooking something important.
John J. Collins has done some excellent work on 4Q521. See his article, “The Works of the Messiah,” in Dead Sea Discoveries (1994), available through jstor; he has written more recently in books, but I don’t have these here at home. Adela Yarbro Collins and he have written together on messianic figures, e.g., a book, King and Messiah as Son of God. Their scholarship is always solid and extremely well-informed.
I too wish we had more. These fragments are tantalizing but keep us guessing. Yet I think it’s good to keep guessing. Remember when we were little kids, how we loved to guess anything, from what was inside birthday boxes to where we were going in the car? (At least I did!) So I like little fragments–big presents in little doses. They keep us young and alert … and always looking ahead.
Indeed, this little text does keep us on the edge of our seat in anticipation, wondering if there is more. I do have Collins and Collins book, I will take a look at it.
This fragment was not on my radar. Thanks for this. I’ve since read a translation, and agree … it’s a pity we don’t have this fragment in complete form!
LUKE 7:22 and 4Q521
The real kicker in this fragment is its remarkable correspondence with Jesus’ response to the Baptist’s disciples, who are sent by their disconsolate leader to ask whether Jesus is The One or whether they should wait. Jesus responds in a way that mirrors the expectations of 4Q521: “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have good news brought to them” (Luke 7:22). If you made two columns, one with 4Q521 and the other with Luke 7:22, you’d find a lot in common.
What has particularly attracted scholars’ attention is the element of raising the dead. This is odd. This is unique. Yet this occurs in messianic descriptions in both 4Q521 and Luke 7:22. Remarkable!
We should never risk overstatement when comparing two ancient corpora, but it does seem as if Jesus responds to John the Baptist’s question by citing an inventory of works based upon something like the expectations of 4Q521. John’s disciples were simply asking whether they should wait; Jesus’ answer goes well beyond this simple query, to which a word or two would have been an adequate answer. From where does he draw his answer? If he had left raising the dead out, we could be content with citing reminscences of Isaiah 61, etc.The inclusion of raising the dead, which corresponds so closely with 4Q521, suggests the possibility of a stock inventory of first-century messianic expectations, which Jesus claims now to fulfill.
That is a fantastic insight. I should do a post comparing the two. I wonder if the Evangelist had access to a document like 4Q521? If it is a common messianic expectation then what does that say about what Qumran shared with other Jews?
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