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The Jewish Study Bible Contextualizes the Hebrew Bible with accompanying scholarly text on Jewish traditions and history.

Biblical Retellings

Examples of self‐effacing texts, which present themselves as editions or retellings of biblical texts, include Jubilees,the Genesis Apocryphon (1 QapGenar), Reworked Pentateuch (4Q 158, 4Q 354, 4Q 365, 4Q 366, 4Q 367), and the Temple Scroll (11 QT). These texts are often characterized as “pseudepigrapha”—as writings falsely attributed to earlier authoritative figures, such as Moses, Ezekiel, or Ezra. However, this term is misleading and anachronistic. It is misleading because it presupposes that, in contrast to these extrabiblical texts, the biblical texts are authentically attributed to certain authors— a presupposition that biblical scholars no longer maintain. In addition, the term is anachronistic, because it assumes a conception of authorial attribution—as marking a historical and proprietary fact—which was operative in some Greek‐speaking circles in late antiquity, long after the last scriptural works had been written and, indeed, canonized. There is no evidence, however, that this conception was operative for Second Temple writers and readers.

Self‐effacing texts rewrite traditions familiar from the Bible, sometimes in strikingly unfamiliar ways, in order to resolve interpretive questions and to serve particular theological and legal agendas, of which there were many in the diverse atmosphere of Second Temple Judaism. Since their authors do not identify themselves, they seem more like inner‐biblical than like rabbinic interpretations (which generally ascribe interpretations to a named Rabbi). In fact, it is anachronistic to apply the distinction between inner‐biblical and extrabiblical interpretations to Second Temple reworkings because, when these works were composed, there was no rigidly defined and universally accepted biblical canon. These works aspired not to replace, but rather to accompany traditions already regarded as authoritative, and thus to provide those traditions with their proper interpretive contexts. Just as the Deuteronomic law collection came to be accepted within the Torah alongside the earlier Covenant Collection in Exod. chs 20–23 , so it is possible to see the aforementioned extrabiblical works as accompanying the Torah texts at Qumran, where they have been found.

It was in this spirit that Jubilees, a work written in the land of Israel during the first third of the second century BCE, rewrote Genesis and the first part of Exodus. These sections of the Torah appear to be concerned exclusively with narratives about the patriarchs and matriarchs and about Israel's sojourn in Egypt. The absence of legal significance was problematic for Jubilees, as it would be, centuries later, to Rashi, the great medieval commentator (see “Medieval Interpretation,” pp. 1876–1900). Rashi's solution was the suggestion, derived from classical rabbinic sources, that the initial, nonlegal sections of the Torah serve to establish the Jewish people's right to the land of Israel. In contrast, the solution of Jubilees was to rewrite the narratives as stories with legal implications. These implications were explained in accordance with a par‐ ticular (nonrabbinic) view of law, especially regarding the calendar, which Jubilees insists should be solar. For example, Jubilees was bothered—like many other ancient, medieval, and modern interpretations—by a narrative in Genesis ch 38 in which Judah, son of Jacob, has sexual relations with his daughter‐in‐law, Tamar. To make matters even worse, accordingto Ruth ch 4 , the line of David springs from this illicit union! Jubilees offers an exegetically ingenious solution. In its version of the story, neither of Judah's sons, Er and Onan, consummated his marriage with Tamar (Jub. 41.2–5 ):

He hated (her) and did not lie with her because his mother was a Canaanite woman and he wanted to marry someone from his mother's tribe. But his father Judah did not allow him. That Er, Judah's firstborn, was evil, and the LORD killed him. Then Judah said to his brother Onan: “Go in to your brother's wife, perform the levirate duty for her, and produce descendants for your brother.” Onan knew that the descendants would not be his but his brother's, so he entered the house of his brother's wife and poured out the semen on the ground. In the LORD's estimation it was an evil act, and He killed him.

Consequently, although Judah transgressed, he did not, strictly speaking, commit the serious sin of adulterous union with his daughter‐in‐law. He therefore did not deserve the death penalty, and was able to achieve atonement through his remorse and through his expression of commitment to the law ( Jub. 41.27–28 ):

We told Judah that his two sons had not lain with her. For this reason his descendants were established for another generation and would not be uprooted. For in his integrity he had gone and demanded punishment because Judah had wanted to burn her on the basis of the law which Abraham had commanded his children.

Interpretations of this kind were not presented by Jubilees merely as plausible solutions to exegetical problems, which would have allowed them to compete with other possible solutions. Instead, Jubilees purports to be a text dictated to Moses, at God's command, by the angel of the Presence at Sinai. In some ways, this is similar to the notion of an authoritative Oral Torah that would become so central to rabbinic theology (see “Classical Rabbinic Interpretation,” pp. 1844–63). Here is the prologue to the book of Jubilees:

These are the words regarding the divisions of the times of the law and of the testimony, of the events of the years, of the weeks of their jubilees throughout all the years of eternity as He related (them) to Moses on Mt. Sinai when he went up to receive the stone tablets—the law and the commandments—on the LORD's orders as He had told him that he should come up to the summit of the mountain.

Toward the end of the first chapter Moses receives his command to record what is dictated to him ( Jub. 1.26 ):

Now you write all these words which I will tell you on this mountain: what is first and what is last and what is to come during all the divisions of time which are in the law and which are in the testimony and in the weeks of their jubilees until eternity—until the time when I descend and live with them throughout all the ages of eternity.

Many of the laws expounded in Jubilees were also said to be inscribed on heavenly tablets (following Mesopotamian models), and to have been transmitted by angels to a select line of humans, beginning with Enoch. Clearly, the stakes were very high in Second Temple contests of biblical interpretation. How else may we explain the need for so many modes of self‐authorization?

In addition to solving exegetical problems, another function of ancient reworkings was to spell out in detail what older traditions had expressed with great concision. For example, in Genesis 12.11 , Abram briefly acknowledges his wife's beauty: “[Hineh na] I know what a beautiful woman you are.” The first two words are left untranslated by NJPS, but may be translated as “now.” This immediately raises the question: What event had brought about Abram's recognition now? To answer this question the Genesis Apocryphon, a DeadSea text written in Aramaic, expands the biblical passage as follows (column 20.1–12 ):

1…[…] How…and pretty is the shape of her face, and how [l]ovely and how smooth the hair of her head! How lovely are her eyes; how pleasant her nose and all the blossom of her face…How graceful is her breast and how lovely all her whiteness! How beautiful are her arms! And her hands, how perfect! How alluring is the whole appearance of her hand[s]! How pretty are the palms of her hands and how long and supple all the fingers of her hands! Her feet, how lovely! How perfect her thighs! No virgin or wife who enters the bridal chamber is more beautiful than her. Above all women her beauty stands out; her loveliness is far above them all. And with all this beauty there is in her great wisdom. And everything she does with her hands is perfect. When the king heard the words of Hirqanos and the words of his companions, which the three of them spoke in unison, he desired her greatly and sent immediately for her to be fetched. He saw her and was amazed at all her beauty, and took her for himself as a wife. He wanted to kill me, but Sarai said to the king: He is my brother, so that I could profit at her expense. I, Abram, was spared on her account and I was not killed. But I wept bitterly that night, I, Abram, and my nephew Lot with me, because Sarai had been taken away from me by force.

The language of praise used here is from the Song of Songs. Use of traditions from other biblical books, which presupposes that all the biblical books bear one on the other, is characteristic of ancient reworkings, as well as of later rabbinic interpretations. But the above passage does more than expand Abram's remark. It justifies Abram's lying to Pharaoh, while also providing the careful reader of Genesis with a more complete picture of Abram's own inner spiritual struggles. The continuation of the passage challenges God to “do justice for me against him and show your mighty arm against him.” Such boldness is not out of character for Abram, as his challenges to God in Gen. chs 15 and 18 show. But it is not to be found in Gen. ch 12 . Motifs are thus moved from one section to another where they might appropriately belong. Clearly, one motive for the reworking is to emphasize central features of Abram's personality. Thus ancient reworkings seek to explain not only the legal, but also what we might call the literary aspects of the text, giving insights into character and plot.

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