By September 7, 2015 Read More →

Remarks on the Testament of Kohath from Qumran Cave 4, Edward Cook, Journal of Jewish Studies 44, p.205-219.

qumran-cave-4The recent publication of the fragmentary Testament of Kohath from Qumran Cave 4 (4QTQahat) is a welcome addition to the small but growing body of Jewish Aramaic texts from the Second Temple period. Emile Puech’s preliminary edition1 says all that can or need be said about the dimensions of the manuscript, the shape of the letters, and the paleographical dating of the text. In addition to this, he presents a transcription, translation, and in-depth commentary, which, in its attention to biblical and other ancient parallels, requires very little supplementation. Some of his interpretations of individual words, however, are open to question, and an informed description of the language of the fragment as a whole, drawing the necessary connections with knowledge previously gained from Qumran, is lacking. The present essay attempts to remedy these deficiencies and to draw some inferences for future research into the Aramaic of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

4QTQah consists of one sizeable fragment enlarged by a material join with another small piece as well as two other small fragments. In this essay, I will only deal with the large piece, containing one complete column of 13 lines and half of another column. The smaller fragments present no complete contexts to aid interpretation. In the transcription and translation that follows, I further limit myself to filling in small lacunae, eschewing wholesale speculative restorations of missing lines.

The text then, as I read it, is as follows:


Column I


1            ואל אלין לכול עלמין וינהר נהירה עליכון ויודענכון שמה רבא

2            ותנדעונה {{…}} די הוא אלה עלמיה ומרא כול מעבדיא ושליט

  • בכולא למעבד בהון כרעותה ויעבד לכון חדוא ושמחא לבניכון בדרי
  • קושוטא לעלמין וכען בני אזדהרו בירותתא די מהשלמא לכון
  • ודי יהבו לכון אבהתכון ואל תתנו ירותתכון לנכראין ואחסנותכון
  • לכילאין ותהון לשפלו ולנבלו בעיניהון ויבסרון עליכון די
  • להון תותבין לכון ולהון עליכון ראשין להן אחדו בממר יעקוב
  • אבוכון אתקפו בדיני אברהם ובצדקת לוי ודילי והוא קד[יש]ין ודכין
  • מן כול [ער]ברוב ואחדין בקושטא ואזלין בישירותא ולא בלבב ולבב
  • להן בלבב דכא וברוח קשיטה וטבה ותנתנון לי ביניכון שם טב וחדוא
  • ללוי ושמח לי[ע]קוב ודיאץ לישחק ותשבוחא לאברהם די נטרתון
  • והולכתון ירות[תא ד]י שבקו לכון אבהתכון קושטא וצדקתא וישירותא
  • ותמימותא ודכ[ותא וק]ודשא וכה[ו]נתא ככולדי פקדתון וככול די


Column II


1            אלפתכון בקושוט מן כען ולעד כו[ל

  • כול ממרי קושטא יאיתא עליכ[ון
  • ברכת עלמא ישכונן עליכן ולה.[
  • קאם לכול דרי עלמין ולא עוד תפ[
  • מן יסורכון ותקומון למדן דין ע[ל
  • ולמחזיא חובת כול חיבי עלמין הב.[
  • ובאישא ובתהומיא ובכול חלליא לבלד[ה
  • ב[ד]רי קושטא ויעדון כול בני רשע[א
  • וכען לכה עמרם ברי אנא מפק[ד
  • […]כה ולבניהון אנא מפקד ל[
  • ויהבו ללוי אבי ולוי אבי לי י[הב
  • כול כתבי בשהדו די תזדהרון בהון [
  • va[cat] לכון בהון זכו רבה באתהולכותהון עמכון





Column 1

  1. <…> God of Gods forever; and may he make his light shine upon you and make you know his great name
  2. so that you will know him, for he is the God of Eternity and the Lord of all deeds and ruler
  3. of all (people) to do with them according to his will. And he will make for you joy and gladness to your children in the generations
  4. of truth forever. And now, my children, guard carefully the inheritance that has been vouchsafed to you
  5. and that your fathers have given to you and do not give your inheritance to strangers or your heritage
  6. to assimilation, so that you become low and foolish in their eyes and they despise you; for
  7. they will become foreigners to you and they will be authorities over you. Therefore hold on to the command of Jacob
  8. your father; hold fast to the judgments of Abraham, and to the righteous acts of Levi and of me; and be holy and pure
  9. from all intermixture, and holding on to truth, and walking in honesty, and not with a double heart,
  10. but rather in a pure heart, and in a good and true spirit; and (thus) you will ascribe to me among you a good name, and joy
  11. to Levi, and gladness to Jacob, and happiness to Isaac, and praise to Abraham, because you have kept
  12. and passed on the inheritance that your fathers have left you, truth, and righteousness, and honesty,
  13. and perfection, and purity, and holiness, and priesthood, according to all that I have commanded you and according to all that


Column II

  1. I have taught you in truth now and forevermore.[
  2. all the commands of truth will come upon you[
  3. the eternal blessings will dwell upon you and[
  4. (will) remain for all the eternal generations and no more will[
  5. from your chastisement and you will rise up to give judgment on[
  6. and to behold the sins of all the sinners of eternity(?)[
  7. and in fire and in the abysses and in all the caverns to frighten[
  8. in the generations of truth and all the children of evil will pass away[
  9. And now to you, Amram my son, I command[
  10. [and to your children] and to their children I command[
  11. and they gave (it) to Levi my father, and Levi my father to me g[ave
  12. all my writings as a witness that you should be careful of them [
  13. to you. In them is great merit when they are passed on with you [





The putative setting of the text is a farewell address from Kohath (Puech’s ‘Qahat’ is drawn from the Septuagint), son of Levi, to his sons (presumably Amram, Izhar, Hebron, and Uzziel), especially Amram, on the privileges and responsibilities of the priesthood. This ‘testamental’ genre is well known from other works. The present fragment picks up in the middle of a hymnic section (I, 1–3), then moves on (at the word וכען) to an admonition addressed to the sons in general (I, 3–II, 8), then specifically to Amram (II, 9 and following), the end of which is not preserved. Testaments usually end with a narrative of the speaker’s death. The two small fragments apparently continue with the admonition, so the length of the whole is uncertain.

The message of the text deals primarily with the importance of keeping the priesthood and its duties and prerogatives pure. Although the text does not mention any historical figures, a possible Sitz im Leben for this testament is the religious crisis ignited by the accession of Menelaus to the high-priestly office in 171 B.C.E. If so, the testament and its congeners from Qumran, the Testament of Levi and the Vision of Amram, may have formed some of the earliest literature of the ‘Asideans’ (I Macc. 2:42).

The following remarks are intended to comment on certain points in the text and to improve, when necessary, on Puech’s readings and translation.

i,1. נהירה. If the spelling with yodh is correct, this would be the first attestation outside Daniel of the word נהיר (Daniel 2:22, ketiv; the usual word is נהור as in the qere).

i,3. Puech’s translation of בכולא as ‘sur l’Univers’ is too inaccurate. The following בהון shows that כולא refers to humanity. שמחא is a Hebraism; besides here and in 4QEnc (5 i 28), cited by Puech, the root occurs in 4QAmrame (MPAT 26:13).

i,4. Puech’s note on קושוטא is, ‘La forme QWŠWT (avant correction) et ii 1 montre non l’hésitation entre la forme qutl (type hébreu) et qtol (plus araméenne) mais un compromis… ’ (p. 39).2 This form demands more comment. It has been established since Kutscher’s study of 1QGenAp3 that words etymologically of the form qutl occur in 1QGenAp with the spelling קוטל: קושט (2: 7, 10, 18), שופר (20: 7), תוקף (20: 14), אונס (20: 11), עובע (20: 9). Kutscher later suggested that these forms were to be vocalized qutul or qotol, based on the fact that several *qutl forms in 1QIsa were spelt קוטול.4 Opposing this, T. Muraoka concluded that the absence of waw after the second radical favored a vocalization qutal:


[W]e must note that not in a single case a Waw is written between R2 and R3…. [The fact] that the stressed /u/ or /o/ immediately after R1 is occasionally written fully with a Waw and its total absence between R2 and R3 of the segolates concerned render it probable that the vowel between the last two radicals in forms like qwšt and ’wns was not /u/ or /o/, but rather /a/ and that they represent /qúšat/ or /qóšat/ and /’unas/ or /’onas/ respectively…. [O]ur conclusion is that the qutl segolates in 1QGenAp represent the second stage in the chain qútl>qútal>qútul>qutúl>qtúl>qtól. From this emerges the important implication that in the first century B.C. in this particular locality in Palestine the accent shift to the ultima had not yet taken place. Finally, we must posit by analogy qátal and qítal for the remaining segolate patterns.5


The forms found in 4QTQahat invalidate this line of reasoning, since waw is now found after the second and third radical.6 We can now see that Aramaic and Hebrew in the Dead Sea Scrolls were probably alike in vocalizing etymological *qutl as qutul or qotol. What is still not clear is the significance of this fact. Muraoka, as noted, considered the plene, writing in the first syllable a sign that the accent-shift to the final syllable had not yet occurred. I do not believe that this necessarily follows, since it is probable that short vowels had not yet reduced to zero at this period,7 and even if the process of reduction had begun, u-class vowels must have been among the last to be affected.8 They continued to be written even when, by any reconstruction, they were not stressed, as in עולימי (1QGenAp 22:23) or קודמיהא (1QGenAp 20:32) and later Jewish Aramaic חולף, קודם, and עולים.

i,4. מהשלמא. The scribe originally wrote משלמא then added a letter above the ש. Although difficult, the supralinear letter must be an א or a ה. The latter is grammatically preferable; an Aph’el passive would not have an א in the participle. Although Puech interprets the alternatives as participles of the Hoph’al or Oph’al, or, as originally written, Pu’al (! pp. 31, 39), it is questionable whether these binyanim were productive in Qumran Aramaic at this time. The passive participles of Haph’el/Aph’el/Pa’el, however, continue to be productive throughout later Aramaic: mehašlamā, mašlamā, mešallamā, respectively.

i, 5. אל תתנו. The jussive form of the prohibition (אל+short-imperfect verb) still survives in Qumran Aramaic alone of the Middle Aramaic dialects. The assimilation of the נ Puech considers to be a possible Hebraism (p. 31). The fluctuation between assimilation and non-assimilation is typical of Qumran Aramaic, however, and does not require Hebrew influence to explain it (see below).

i, 5. אחסנותכון. Puech’s translation ‘richesses, possessions, trésors’ is odd, since the meaning ‘inheritance’ for this noun is well established. Since the form אחסנות- is often used in later Jewish Aramaic as a construct of אחסנה,9 it is unclear whether the absolute form of this word is אחסנה or אחסנו.

i, 6. כילאין. Puech considers this word to be the plural of Biblical Hebrew כילי/כלי (Isa. 32:5, 7), ‘knave (?)’. He derives support for his interpretation from a parallel in the Aramaic Testament of Levi from the Cairo Geniza:


ולא דמ[ה ב]ה לנכרי ולא דמה בה לכילי[


‘and in him there shall not be one like a stranger or one like a kyly’ (Cambridge MS, col. f, line 10). This is possible, though it seems unlikely that the writer would have recourse to an obscure Hebrew word. There is room, however, to complete the word in the Geniza text כיל[אין], and even the trace of the final נ is visible in the photograph published, while the second yodh Puech wants is very dubious.10 In fact, in both Aramaic Levi and in 4QTQahat we have an Aramaicization of כלאים, a technical term in the Pentateuch (Lev. 19:19, Deut. 22:9) for things of mixed origin. As applied to people, its import is plain: it is a prohibition of mixed marriages, or marriage to wives of mixed blood, apparently originating in an allegorical exegesis of Lev. 19:19. The warning against assimilation is common in contemporary literature. The Greek Testament of Levi paraphrases the passage referred to above as follows:


Take, therefore, to thyself a wife without blemish or pollution, while yet thou art young, and not of the race of strange nations.


The Book of Jubilees strongly emphasizes this theme:


… let them not take to themselves wives from the daughters of Canaan; for the seed of Canaan will be rooted out of the land. (20:4)


And now, my son, hearken to my voice, and do the will of thy mother, and do not take thyself a wife of the daughters of this land, but only of the house of my father, and of my father’s kindred. (25:3)


And if there is any man who wishes in Israel to give his daughter or his sister to any man who is of the seed of the Gentiles he shall surely die, and they shall stone him with stones; for he hath wrought shame in Israel; and they shall burn the woman with fire, because she has dishonoured the name of the house of her father, and she shall be rooted out of Israel. (30:7) 11


i, 7. תותבין. The force of this statement is obscure, since it says that the ‘strangers’ (נכראין) shall ultimately become ‘foreigners’ (תותבין). The nuance seems to be that נכרי refers to those who are strangers to the priesthood, i.e. not of priestly lineage (see Num. 17:5); they will end by becoming תותבין, i.e. non-Jews. Such of course was the perspective taken by many on the Hellenizing party led by Menelaus. For the pejorative sense of תותב, compare Saying 30 from the Ahiqar text from Elephantine:


לא איתי זי קליל מן תותב, ‘nothing is of less account than a foreigner’.


i, 8. אתקפו. Puech parses this as Itpa’al (’ittaqqap­ū) calqued on the Hebrew התחזק (p. 33). It is more likely an Aph’el, ’atqepū; in the vocalised texts of Targum Onkelos similar forms are vocalized as Aph’els, as in Genesis 19:16, 21:18, Exodus 4:4, and elsewhere.12

i, 9. Puech’s restoration of the beginning of this line is מן כול[ זנו ]ברוב, which he translates as “de toute [impudicité?] en masse’ (p. 33), noting that the exact sense of ברוב is not clear (p. 41). Not only is it not clear, it is impossible: the sense of כול זנו, ‘every fornication’, excludes any kind of qualifier such as ברוב, ‘in general, in quantity’ (!). The lacuna obviously has to be filled in with something different, of which ברוב is the latter portion. I suggest [ער]ברוב, ‘mixture, mingling’.13 In Targum Neofiti, the word ערברוב is used to translate Hebrew ערוב in the Exodus plague account, based on the midrashic interpretation of this word as meaning a horde of mixed species of wild beasts.14 It also appears in this targum in Ex. 12:38 as an interlinear gloss translating Hebrew ערברב, ‘mixed multitude’ (?). The word appears once in Targum Onkelos to Numbers 11:4, translating Hebrew אספסף, ‘rabble’ (?).15 Perhaps most significantly, ערברוב appears in the Samaritan Targum translating כלאים.

None of these specific meanings can be applied without further ado to the context in 4QTQahat, which demands something in keeping with the predominantly moral tone of the exhortation: illicit intermingling with Gentiles, intermarriage, assimilatory customs or habits. All of these connotations are potential in the root ערב, whether or not they are attested in the word ערברוב.

i, 11. Puech had recourse to Biblical Hebrew and to Syriac for parallels to the root of דיאץ (p. 41); yet the word דיץ itself appears three times in the Targum to Isaiah (32:13, 60:15, 66:10).

i, 11. Puech states that תשבוחא is ‘le décalque aramaïsé de l’hébreu TŠBWHH’ (p. 41). I take him to mean that the vocalization is Hebraic, not the word itself, which is clearly native to Aramaic. Nevertheless, even the weaker claim is highly unlikely, since tšbwhh is found in Syriac and Christian Palestinian Aramaic.

i, 12. The word הולכתון (I so read it, against Puech’s הילכתון) is completely without analogy in Aramaic, as is אתהולכותהון in ii, 13. The root הלך occurs only in the Pa’el and Itpa’al in all other varieties of Aramaic, the Pe’al having early been replaced by the root אזל or the related הוך. Here, the form הולך takes an object, הולכתון ירותתא, and therefore a causative binyan is called for, as Puech sees (p. 42), the meaning being approximately ‘bring, carry, cause to go’. Here it must be a borrowing from Hebrew הוליך, which has that meaning. Usually הוליך is used of persons, but it can be used with non-personal objects, as in Zech. 5:10. The precise connotation, however, requires some comment.

The complete sentence is נטרתון והולכתון ירותתא, ‘you have kept and “brought”/”carried” the inheritance’, an obscure turn of phrase. (Puech: ‘vous avez conduit l’héritage’.) The clue to the exact meaning lies in the occurrence of the passive counterpart in ii, 13. Although the context is broken, the subject is the chain of tradition stretching from the patriarchs to Levi to Kohath (ii, 11); then Kohath speaks of his ‘writings’ that his hearers should ‘be careful of (תזדהרון, ii. 12); then he says, presumably still of the writings, that there is ‘great merit באתהולכותהון עמכון’. This cannot mean ‘in your conducting yourselves by them’ (Puech, p. 37), which would be באתהולכותכון בהון; it must mean, ‘in their being “brought” with you’—in context, a reference to the transmission of the writings: ‘there is great merit in their being transmitted with you, in your company’. So also in i, 12, the phrase must mean, ‘because you have preserved and transmitted the inheritance’. That is why Kohath’s hearers will give him a good reputation and joy to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Levi (i, 10–12): the priestly inheritance is being passed along without change or contamination from generation to generation.

i, 13. Puech’s emendation of פקדתון to פקדת<כ>ון is undoubtedly correct. The mistake was probably due to the proximity of נטרתון and הולכתון.

ii, 2. יאיתא. Puech understands this to be ‘la forme pe‘al a été corrigée en haf‘el YYT’, corrigée en pe‘al Y’T’, puis YT’, très probablement la forme pe‘al’ (p. 43). Whatever the sequence of writing was, it is unlikely that the copyist was hesitating between Haf’el and Pe’al, but between two alternate spellings of the Pe’al: יאתא and ייתא. The usual spelling of the imperfect אתי in Qumran Aramaic is יתא or יתה.16 The earlier spelling with יאתה prevails in Imperial Aramaic, except for the Hermopolis Papyri, which display the same orthography as Qumran Aramaic. In later Jewish Aramaic the ordinary spelling is ייתי. In this fragment the scribe hesitates between the archaic and the ‘modern’ spelling.

ii, 3. The form ישכונן shows an apparently unreduced theme vowel in an imperfect verbal form, as is often the case in Qumran Hebrew,17 and attested once previously in Qumran Aramaic (יכולון, 1QGenAp 20: 19). The vocalization of this root in Syriac would be neškan; but the u-class theme vowel for Qumran is confirmed by ישכון in 11QtgJob 33:9.

ii, 6. Puech parses למחזיא as a Pe’al infinitive ‘du type LMBNYH’ citing Ezra 5:9. That form is a peculiar one, combining the final -āh of the derived-stem infinitives with the miqtal schema of the Pe’al. It is more likely that it should be revocalized lemibneyēh, ‘to build it’.18 If so, the only analogy for the present form is the later Jewish Aramaic derived-stem infinitive with preformative mem and final -āh: meqattālāh for the Pa’el, maqtālāh for the Aph’el. This is the earliest attestation of this form of the infinitive in Jewish Aramaic. The earliest occurrences in Aramaic are in the Hermopolis Papyri19 and in the Ahiqar proverbs.20 In Middle Aramaic, the form is known from Syriac and Palmyrene, and later becomes generalized in Jewish Palestinian Aramaic. Its presence in 4QTQahat shows that the transition to the mem-bearing forms had begun in this period.

In this context, the Aph’el of חזי (‘to cause to see, to show’) is excluded, since it requires a double object, absent here; the form must be the Pa’el infinitive. If correct, this would be the third probable attestation in ancient Aramaic of the Pa’el of חזי.21

ii, 7. Puech’s restoration of the end of line 7, לבלבאש, ‘pour ne pas co[mmetre le mal?]’, is impossible. The particle בל is not Aramaic at any time. The traces of the last letter on the line could belong to a ב, but they could also belong to ד, ה, ח, מ, or ר. I propose to read לבלד or לבלד[ה], ‘to frighten’ or ‘for fear, fright’ (?), in accordance with the context, dealing with the punishment of the ungodly. The root בלד is found in Jewish, Samaritan, and Christian Palestinian Aramaic in this meaning.22

ii, 13. באתהולכותהון; see above.



Grammatical Analysis


It has become customary in describing Aramaic texts from Qumran to focus on a relatively limited number of features, orthographic and otherwise. Although I have my doubts about the usefulness of this procedure, I will follow it initially, but only as a foil to a following critique of it.23

  1. The indication of final ā
  2. With א.
  3. Determinate state: רבא (I/i, 1); מעבדיא (I/i, 2); כולא (I/i, 3); ירותתא (Ι/i, 4); קושטא (I/i, 9, 12; I/ii, 2, 8); ישירותא (I/i. 9, 13); צדקתא (I/i, 11); תמימותא (I/i, 13), כהנותא (I/i, 13); עלמא (I/ii, 3); תהומיא (I/ii, 7); חלליא (I/ii, 7); אנושא (II/i, 7); אבניא (III/ii, 11); זנותא (III/ii, 12).
  4. Feminine ending: חדוא (I/i, 3); שמחא (I/i, 3); מהשלמא (I/i, 4); תשבוחא (I/i, 11); אישא (I/ii, 7).
  5. Infinitives of the derived conjugations: למחזיא (I/ii, 6).
  6. Independent pronouns: אנא (I/ii. 9, 10; II/i, 13).
  7. Adverbs: לא (I/i, 9; III/ii, 13).
  8. With ה.
  9. Determinate state: עלמיה (I/i, 2).
  10. Feminine ending: קשיטה (I/i, 10); טבה (I/i, 10); רבה (I/ii, 5).
  11. Suffixed pronoun: לכה (I/ii, 5).
  12. Adverb: לחדה (III/ii. 13).

Discussion: The preference of 4QTQahat for א as the ending of both determinate state and feminine ending aligns it more with 1QGenAp and most other Qumran Aramaic texts against 11QtgJob and 4QEna. It should be observed, however, that the feminine endings with א (A.2 above) are substantives and those ending with א (Β.2) are adjectives. Without more text, it is impossible to tell whether this is a scribal quirk or not. As for A.4, the spelling אנא contrasts with אנה appearing in both 1QGenAp and 11QtgJob,24 and in all the other published Qumran Aramaic texts.

  1. The Indication of Final ē
  2. With י: All masculine plural construct forms.
  3. With א: מרא (I/i, 2); דכא (I/i, 10); יאיתא (I/ii, 2); מקרא (II/i, 5).
  4. With ה: No examples.

Discussion: The text’s preference of א aligns it more with 11QtgJob, 4QDana, and 4QEnc against 1QGenAp.20 Again, this may be no more than a scribal quirk.

  1. Internal Vowel Letters

The use of matres lectionis to indicate internal long ū and ī is well established in Qumran Aramaic. Less common—and therefore more significant—is the use of matres lectionis to indicate internal short vowels and internal long ā.

  1. The use of ו to indicate short u is common, especially in the word כול and in the pronominal suffixes -כון/-הון. Other examples are קושטא (1/i, 9, 12; I/ii, 2, 8), [ק]ודשא (I/i, 13), שורשה(III/i), and probably ישכונן (I/i, 11). Puech mistakenly takes all the matres lectionis in 4QTQahat to represent long vowels.
  2. (1) The use of א to indicate internal long ā occurs only in דיאץ (I/i, 11).

(2) The use of the combination אי to indicate the diphthong ay probably occurs in איתאי /’itay/ (III/ii, 13).

  1. The use of י to indicate internal short i is found in כילאין (I/i, 6) and אישא/’išsā/ (I/ii, 7).

Discussion: 3.A (use of ו) is familiar in other Qumran Aramaic texts, except for 4QEna,26 and becomes common in all the Late Aramaic dialects. 3.B.1 is known from 1QGenAp but is rare in the other texts.27 3.B.2, however, is, as far as I know, unprecedented in the Jewish Aramaic of this period, although it is common in later Jewish Palestinian Aramaic. It is a significant anticipation of the orthography of the later dialect. 3.C is also common in later Jewish Aramaic but otherwise unknown at this time.

  1. Spellings with –w’

The use of final א after word-ending ō or ī is a peculiarity of the orthography of Qumran Hebrew that has made its way into some Aramaic texts. In 4QTQahat, it occurs only in הוא/hawō /(I/i, 8), as in 11QtgJob 15:7.28

  1. The Spelling of Original ś

Original ś is always spelled with ש in this text; שמחה (I/i, 3), שמח (Ι/ϊ, 11), שהדו (I/ii, 12), and שגי (III/ii, 2). This contrasts with 11QtgJob and 4QEna and aligns it with 1QGenAp and Biblical Aramaic.29

  1. Haph’el versus Aph’el

The following forms of the causative stem occur in 4QTQahat: ינהר (1/i, 1); יודענכון (1/i, 1); מהשלמא (I/i, 4); אתקפו (I/i, 8). All of them are Aph’els except the third, which, significantly, had the ה of the stem added above the line. There is every reason to assume that the dialect of this text was an Aph’el-only text, as with most of Qumran Aramaic and Middle Aramaic in general.30 (I omit the forms built on Hebrew הוליך, which was borrowed as a unit, like הימין, and does not represent Aramaic usage.)

  1. Hith- versus ’Ith- in the Reflexive/Passive

As in other good Aramaic texts, 4QTQahat attests the preformative את- in the reflexive/passive: אזדהרו (I/i, 4), אתהולכותהון (I/ii, 13). Forms with הת- are Hebraisms in Jewish Aramaic texts.31

  1. Elision of א

Elision of א occurs in the word מאמר>ממר (I/i, 7; I/ii, 2). Non-elision, at least in orthography, is attested in ראשין (Ι/i, 7). Good manuscripts in later Jewish Aramaic continue to use the spelling ראש, however, even after the א has clearly elided.32

  1. Dissimilation and Assimilation of n
  2. Dissimilation of n is attested in תנדעונה (I/i, 2) and in תנתנון (1/i, 10). ינהר (I/i, 1) is not included since this verb never shows assimilation in Aramaic.
  3. Assimilation of n appears in תתנו (I/i, 5).

With respect to this feature, the orthography of Jewish Aramaic was in a transitional period during the time when the Qumran texts were written. It is likely that the n was no longer pronounced, as it was during the Imperial Aramaic period, but the orthography continued to reflect it for some time.33

  1. Verbal Endings

The ending of the perfect and imperative 3 m. pl. forms of the verb is uniformly ו, as is the case elsewhere at Qumran, with the exception of two supposed instances in 1QGenAp and one in 11QtgJob of the ending -ון (11QGenAp 19:15, 26, 11QtgJob 38:4).34 These occurrences are almost certainly to be taken as participial endings in -ין, however. The fem. pl. imperfect ending is found in 4QTQah (ישכונן, II, ii, 3), as in other Qumran Aramaic texts, but not in Biblical Aramaic.35

  1. The ל-prefix in the Verb הוי

As with most other Qumran Aramaic texts, 4QTQahat has the imperfect of the verbal root הוי beginning with ל (להון, I, i, 7, twice).36

  1. Other Features

The text has the 2nd m. sg. pronominal suffix ending in -כה, as occasionally in 1QgenAp,37 4QGiantsa, and4QDanb. Only the relative pronoun די occurs, not the later reflex ד, as in 1QGenAp and several other Qumran Aramaic texts. Some diagnostic features mentioned in the literature do not occur in the Testament of Kohath, such as the objective suffix -נון, the conjunction הן, the conjunction די למה, the word בדיל, the adverbs כמא and תמה, the demonstrative pronouns דן and אלן, the conjunction הן, etc.38





In the past, scholars have used the features mentioned above to place the Qumran Aramaic texts in a typological series as an aid to dating. Kutscher started the trend, showing that 1QGenAp was later than the Aramaic of Daniel and in transition to the Jewish Aramaic of a later stage.39 When 11QtgJob appeared, scholars argued that 11QtgJob was earlier than 1QGenAp but later than Daniel by using similar criterial features. But when the Enoch material was published, it could be seen that the typological method was in trouble. 4QEna, for instance, had several features considered as belonging to the late end of the spectrum: indication of final ā by ה; original ś spelt with ס; elision of א; use of אנון for direct object, not המון; and use of Aph’el instead of Haph’el.40 These led Sokoloff to date 4QEna after 11QtgJob, which he had previously dated ‘sometime in the late second century B.C.E.’.41 Unfortunately, paleographic features had already led J. T. Milik, who originally published 4QEna, to date it in the first half of the second century B.C.E.42 That would make the archetype of 11QtgJob earlier than Daniel. Since the dating of the Aramaic of Daniel in or around 165 B.C.E. is sometimes considered one of the firm foundations for the typological method, clearly something has to give: either the date of Daniel, the linguistic typological method, or the paleographic dating. Probably with the increasing number of new texts, all three of these benchmarks will have to be revised. We now have a good bit of Aramaic from the second century B.C.E. and it is clear that Daniel’s Aramaic is earlier. There is no return to the sixth-century dating, however, since we also have a good bit of fifth-century Aramaic, and Daniel is just as certainly later than those texts. For now, we can simply split the difference and put Daniel’s Aramaic sections in the early third century. That provides a little more room to work with, and fits in with current ideas of the composition of Daniel. But is it enough? By making Daniel’s Aramaic section early third century, the Job Targum late third century, 4QEna second century, the Genesis Apocryphon early first century B.C.E., we can save our linguistic order as well as accommodate the accepted paleographic datings.

Two considerations, however, should be counted against this solution. The first is the probability of orthographic and grammatical revision in the transmission of texts. H. Schaeder’s assertion that the text of Daniel has undergone orthographic updating in the course of its transmission is now widely accepted.43 The principle is not peculiar to the transmission of Daniel, of course; there is every reason to suppose that most texts with a long history of copying have been updated and modernized. If so, then not only is our revised date for the Aramaic of Daniel undercut, but so is every other point in the series. The best use of our new arrangement might be simply as a clue to the relative times of copying. But this, too, would be a mistake. Paleographic data can already tell us a great deal about the time of copying, and the times arrived at by paleographic analysis do not square with the times given above. The formal Herodian hand of 11QtgJob is surely later than the Hasmonean script of 4QEna; yet orthographically and grammatically the language of the former seems earlier.44

The mention of 4QEn leads to the second consideration. Enoch appears in multiple copies of different dates from Cave 4 and thus allows a comparison of different orthographies. It shows that Aramaic orthography did not follow a straight-line development. For instance, 4QEnc— supposedly from the ‘last third of the first century B.C.E’45—has the form יאבדון (I v 2), generally supposed to be a conservative form, while יבדון appears in 4QEnb (I iv 10), from the second century B.C.E. More surprisingly, 4QEne has the archaic relative/genitive זי (IV ii 13, iii 16), though it is from the first century B.C.E., while the ‘late’ ד appears in the second century 4QEna (I ii 4 and five more times). Although more examples could be cited, the point need not be laboured: Orthographical-grammatical phenomena did not develop in predictable directions at Qumran. Sokoloff himself seemed to sense this and pointed a way out:


[W]e may have in 4QEna a local Palestinian orthography which was employed in the earlier copies of Enoch, but which was displaced in the later ones by that of Standard Literary Aramaic.46


Of course, once you grant the existence of a variety of local orthographies, the linear stability necessary for the application of linguistic typology is lost. Yet nothing is more certain than that individual scribes differed in their use of such features as matres lectionis, use of שׂ or ס, retention of historical spellings with נ, and so on.47 Are we then, for the time being, in limbo, as far as dating the Qumran Aramaic texts are concerned? Since the texts have probably undergone grammatical revision since their composition, and since a linguistic analysis of the current state of the texts cannot give us even a relative order, I would say a provisional answer is ‘yes’, if the dating is based solely on linguistic criteria.

The Testament of Kohath raises the same sort of questions for the typological method as 4QEn. Although displaying some ‘conservative’ features (use of שׂ, non-assimilated נ), in general the profile of the text’s orthography gives an impression of lateness, especially with its use of matres lectionis to indicate short vowels. Yet, according to Puech (p. 27), who may be trusted in this matter, the paleography of the text points to a time between the last quarter of the second century B.C.E. and around 100 B.C.E.

Obviously, the entire method of dating Qumran Aramaic texts linguistically needs rethinking. I have suggested elsewhere,48 and repeat here, that basing linguistic typology on orthography is a very questionable practice. How the scribe chooses to encode the phonemes of a language in script is only of typological interest if it indicates a true dialectal difference. The spelling of s as שׂ or ס, or the spelling of kol as כול or כל, is simply irrelevant for dialectology. At Qumran, these differences reflect different contemporaneous scribal conventions, not different dialect stages. Hence all datings of texts based on such information should be reconsidered.

Of course, not all the criteria named above or used in the past are orthographic, but most of them are. Of the non-orthographic features named above (i.e., the verbal endings, the ל-prefix in הוי, various lexical items), none of them suffice to differentiate 4QTQah from the other witnesses of Qumran Aramaic. It is doubtful, in fact, whether there are enough significant differences between the Qumran Aramaic texts to establish any dialect variation. For now, at least, we should simply refer to all the Qumran Aramaic material—as well as that from the other locations in the Judean desert—simply as ‘Jewish Palestinian Aramaic of the Hellenistic Roman Period’.

The only significant non-orthographic dialectal feature given us by the Testament of Kohath is the appearance of the infinitive of the Pael with mem-preformative. It is not the earliest appearance (as noted before, they appear in the Hermopolis papyri and the Ahiqar proverbs) but it is the first in Jewish Palestinian Aramaic and it means that at this period such a verb-formation existed side-by-side with the more ‘standard’ form without mem; and indeed in a later period the mem-form became standard. Might this imply the existence of different dialects in this period, a standard (soon to disappear) and a spoken or vernacular form (soon to take over)? Such an idea has had a vigorous life in the literature on Aramaic dialectology, but even with this additional piece of evidence it cannot be sustained in a ‘strong’ form.49 Although it is likely that there was some variation, both lexical and grammatical, between written and spoken Aramaic (as in all languages), it would require much more evidence of this kind to sustain any theory of diglossia (that is, a pervasive written/spoken dichotomy amounting to bilingualism). On the other hand, a ‘weak’ form of the written/spoken hypothesis gains some plausibility, that is, that the vernacular accepted some changes and innovations that showed up only sporadically and unintentionally in written texts, but which were later to displace the older forms, Qumran Aramaic was not much different in this respect from any other language.50



1 Emile Puech, ‘Le Testament de Qahat en araméen de la grotte 4 (4QTQah)’, Revue de Qumran 15 (1991), pp. 23–54; hereinafter ‘Puech’. Other abbreviations used are MPAT=Joseph Fitzmyer and Daniel Harrington, A Manual of Palestinian Aramaic Texts (Rome: Pontifical Biblical Institute, 1978); DJPA=Michael Sokoloff, A Dictionary of Jewish Palestinian Aramaic of the Byzantine Period (Ramat-gan: Bar-Ilan Univ., 1990).

2 Puech believes that the ו in this word represents ū, not u. This is not possible, and his remarks on the orthography of this text (p. 30) show that he misconstrues the quantity of many vowels. See the remarks below on orthography.

3 ‘The Language of the Genesis Apocryphon—A Preliminary Study’, Scripta Hierosolymitana 4 (1958), pp. 1–35.

4 E. Y. Kutscher, ’The Genesis Apocryphon of Qumran Cave I’, Or 39 (1970), p. 181; idem., הלשון והרקע הלשוני של מגילת ישעיהו השלמה ממגילות ים המלח (Jerusalem: Magnes, 1969), pp. 396–98; see also E. Qimron, The Hebrew of the Dead Sea Scrolls (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1986), pp. 36–38.

5 T. Muraoka, ‘Segolate Nouns in Biblical and Other Aramaic Dialects’, JAOS 96/2 (1976), pp. 231–32.

6 Another (unlikely) interpretation of the 1QGenAp forms was that there was in fact no epenthetic vowel: J. A. Fitzmyer, The Genesis Apocryphon of Qumran Cave I: A Commentary2 (Rome: PBI, 1971), p. 85. This too is now invalidated. Even before the evidence of 4QTQah, the same conclusions could have been drawn from the 4QEnoch texts, which have forms varying between קושט (4QEnc 1 v 7), קשוט (4QEnc 5 ii 30), and קשט (4QEng 1 iv 22).

7 K. Beyer, Die aramäischen Texte vom Toten Meer (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1984), pp. 128–36.

8 See S. A. Kaufman, ‘The History of Aramaic Vowel Reduction’, in M. Sokoloff (ed.), Arameans, Aramaic and the Aramaic Literary Tradition (Ramat-gan: Bar-Ilan Univ. Press, 1983), pp. 49–55.

9 Sokoloff, DJPA, s.v. אחסנה, p. 46.

10 The photograph is published in RB 86 (1979), between pp. 224–225.

11 The quotations are taken ad loc. from the edition of R. H. Charles, The Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament in English, II (Oxford: Clarendon, 1913). Another Qumran application of this theme, with specific reference to כלאים in Lev. 19:19, is found in4QMMT B 75–77: ‘and concerning the fornication (הזונות) that is done in the midst of the people, … it is written that one should not make diverse kinds to copulate’ (כתוב שלא לרבעה כלאים).

12 There is some manuscript variation in the pointing of forms between Itpa’al and Aph’el, as in for instance, Deut. 25:11, where Sperber’s main text has tittaqqap but other manuscripts show tatqēp. In general, though, Hebrew Hiph’il חזק is translated by the Aph’el of תקף, while the Hithpa’el and Qal are translated by the Itpa’al of תקף. In Targum Neofiti the Itpo’el of תקף  is used to translate the Hiph’il of חזק.

13 Prof. S. A. Kaufman arrived at the same restoration independently.

14 See L. Ginzberg, Legends of the Jews (Philadelphia: JPS, 1946), II, pp. 343–44, 352–53 and literature cited in ibid., V, pp. 427 (n. 172), 430 (n. 188).

15 Alexander Sperber’s main text has רברבין, which is hardly possible; his apparatus makes it clear that the best reading is עירברבין (cf. his Bible in Aramaic (Leiden: Brill, 1959), I, p. 239. Targum Neofiti has ערבוב, which M. Sokoloff wishes to correct to ערברוב; cf. DJPA, s.v. ערברוב, p. 418.

16 Cf. the glossary of MPAT, p. 313, s.v. ’ty.

17 For two discussions among many of this phenomenon, see M. Goshen-Gottstein, ’Linguistic Structure and Tradition in the Qumran Documents’, Scripta Hierosolymitana 4 (1958), pp. 123–24; and Z. Ben-Hayyim, ‘Traditions in the Hebrew Language, with Special Reference to the Dead Sea Scrolls’, pp. 202–3 in the same volume.

18 H. Bauer and P. Leander, Grammatik des Biblisch-Aramäischen (Halle: Niemeyer, 1927), 156z, p. 131.

19 E. Y. Kutscher, ‘The Hermopolis Papyri’, IOS 1 (1971), p. 54.

20 J. Lindenberger, The Aramaic Proverbs of Ahiqar (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univ., 1983), p. 285.

21 The other two are worth a closer look at this juncture. The earliest occurs in the Sefire inscription, i A 13: פקחו עיניכם לחזיה עדי בר גאי[ה עם מתעאל], ‘Open your eyes to see the treaty of Bar-Ga’yah with Mati’el’. The second appears in the Si’-Gabbar inscription: בעיני מחזה אנה בני רבע, ‘With my eyes I see children of the fourth generation’. It has been common to interpret מחזה here as the interrogative pronoun מה+the Pe’al participle חזה, as in, for instance, H. Donner and W. Röllig, Kanaanäische und Aramäische Inschriften (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 1968), II, p. 276. This seems unrealistically clumsy. The Qumran occurrence should remove any inhibitions about parsing the form as a Pa’el participle. It is difficult to detect any nuance that differentiates the Pa’el of the root from the Peal. It may be observed that the object in each case is plural, which might place the Pa’el of חזי into the same category as, say, the Pa’el of קטל, which is used, in Syriac and in Jewish Aramaic, only with plural objects. It may have been the slightness of the difference between the stems that led, in later dialects, to the disappearance of the Pa’el of the root.

22 Sokoloff, DJPA, s.v. בלד, p. 104.

23 The lists of features are drawn mainly from Michael Sokoloff’s list in his Targum to Job from Qumran (Ramat-gan, 1974), pp. 9–24. The references to 4QTQah in this section include the short fragments not discussed in the commentary. The large Roman numerals refer to the fragments, the small ones to the columns, the Arabic numerals to the lines.

24 See Sokoloff, Targum to Job, pp. 9–11.

25 Sokoloff, Targum to Job, p. 12.

26 M. Sokoloff, “Notes on the Aramaic Fragments of Enoch from Qumran Cave 4’, Maarav ½ (1978–79), p. 202.

27 Sokoloff, Targum to Job, p, 13.

28 Sokoloff, Targum to Job, pp. 14, 124.

29 Sokoloff, Targum to Job, p. 15, and ‘Enoch’, p. 202. Sokoloff attributes the use of ש for ś as an attempt to archaize.

30 11QtgJob, 4QpapToba, 4QTobc, and Biblical Aramaic are exceptions; for the first, see Sokoloff, Targum to Job, pp. 15–16. All the Aramaic dialects of this period have gone over to the Aph’el; see E. Cook, ‘Qumran Aramaic and Aramaic Dialectology’, in T. Muraoka (ed.), Studies in Qumran Aramaic (Supplements to Abr-Nahrain 3; Louvain: Peeters, 1992), p. 14.

31 Cook, ‘Qumran Aramaic’, pp. 14–16.

32 Sokoloff, DJPA, s.v. ראש, p. 510.

33 See Sokoloff, Targum to Job, p. 18. Another possibility is that the variant orthographies reflect a real change in progress; the forms with and without n would then reflect real pronunciations as free variants.

34 Sokoloff, Targum, p. 18; Fitzmyer, Genesis Apocryphon, p. 112.

35 Sokoloff, Targum, p. 19.

36 Sokoloff, Targum, p. 21.

37 Sokoloff, Targum, p. 22.

38 For all these in 11QtgJob, see Sokoloff, Targum, pp. 22–23.

39 Kutscher, ‘Language’, p. 6.

40 Sokoloff, ‘Enoch’, p. 202.

41 Sokoloff, Targum, p. 25.

42 Sokoloff, ‘Enoch’, p. 203.

43 In Iranische Beiträge I (Schriften der Königsberger gelehrten Gesellschaft, Geisteswiss. Kl. 6/5; Halle, 1930), pp. 242, 245–46. The first to make the suggestion was actually W. St. C. Tisdall, ‘The Book of Daniel: Some Linguistic Evidence regarding Its Date’, Journal of the Transactions of the Victoria Institute 53 (1921), pp. 206–45. The updating process can now be caught in the act, so to speak, in 4QDana. The Masoretic text has מנהון at Daniel 2:41, 42, while the Qumran copy has the older form מנהם.

44 Sokoloff, ‘Enoch’, p. 202.

45 Sokoloff, ‘Enoch’, p. 198.

46 Sokoloff, ‘Enoch’, p. 203.

47 As is clearly shown by Stephen Pfann, ‘The Aramaic Text and Language of Daniel and Ezra in the Light of Some Manuscripts from Qumran’, Textus 16 (1991), pp. 127–37, esp. p. 131. All of the Aramaic texts considered by Pfann oscillate in many of the features discussed here, except for the Daniel manuscripts, suggesting that Daniel had already achieved a high degree of textual fixity in this period.

48 Cook, ‘Qumran Aramaic’, pp. 3, 5.

49 For what follows, see also Cook, ‘Qumran Aramaic’, pp. 18–21.

50 My skepticism about dating Qumran Aramaic is shared by Michael O. Wise in an article I first read after the above essay was finished (‘Accidents and Accidence: A Scribal View of Linguistic Dating of the Aramaic Scrolls from Qumran’, pp. 124–67, in T. Muraoka (ed.), Studies in Qumran Aramaic [Louvain; Peeters, 1992]). Wise’s opinions and mine, happily, coincide at a number of points, most notably in the critique of Sokoloff’s attempts to accommodate the Enoch literature into his prevailing typology (see especially his notes 14–18 on pp. 126–30), but there are also some significant, and abiding, differences. Wise is more inclined to explain the variation in orthography as due to scribal attempts to write ‘Standard Aramaic’, attempts that were occasionally undermined by a prevailing diglossia. As I mentioned above, I am not convinced by arguments in favour of Aramaic diglossia in this period. Nor do I understand why a lengthy and interesting analysis of the book trade in ancient Palestine (pp. 138–63) is necessary to make the fairly obvious point that there were lots of scribes around back then, spelling things differently. Finally, I cannot imagine that Wise’s statement about his fellow Aramaists’ ‘irremediable ignorance’ (p. 167) will be taken in good part.


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