Thanksgiving Hymns (1QH), H-J.V.D. Minde, Anchor Bible Dictionary (ed. David Noel Freedman), Doubleday, New York 1992.


THANKSGIVING HYMNS (1QH). Among the Essene writings found by the Ta’amire bedouin in Qumran Cave 1 were two leather packages that were stuck together. At one time they had formed a single leather scroll. Along a circuitous route these materials came into the possession of the Hebrew University, where they were opened and edited under the auspices of E. L. Sukenik (1955). These texts consisted of nonbiblical hymns, which the editor designated as Hodayot or songs of praise, because of their frequent use of the formula “I shall praise you, Lord” (siglum- 1QHa). Two additional fragments (siglum- 1QH b) were published as 1Q35 frs. 1+2 in DJD 1- 136–37. The first part of 1QH a to be opened was preserved on three sheets and later reconstructed as cols. 1–12 (sheet I = cols. 1–4; II = cols. 5–8; III = cols. 9–12). Roughly one third of the original 35–40 lines of the three sheets belonging to this first leather package was either damaged or completely destroyed. The second part contained a number of fragments that were difficult to arrange. The reconstruction of cols. 13–18, using this material, excluded 66 fragments. The editing disclosed large gaps, and the sequence of the columns was uncertain. For that reason J. Carmignac offered a new arrangement of the available textual material, including fragments that had not yet been taken into consideration (cf. the precise chart in Carmignac 1961- 281).

Among materials from Cave 4 there were further fragments of at least 6 Hodayot mss (4QH a–e and pap4QHf), which testify to a different arrangement of the songs (cf. Strugnell 1956- 49–67). Aided by these parallel texts, H. Stegemann reconstructed a new edition of the text having 24 columns. This reconstruction preserved a partially new arrangement (cols. 17, 13–16 before col. 1; in the editio princeps col. 17 was incorrectly collated) and included most of the fragments that had not yet been integrated into the text (Stegemann 1963; cf. recently Puech 1988- 59–88). A complete and final edition is still not available.

Several scribal hands are evident in the Hodayot manuscripts. In the editio princeps the end of the first manuscript appears at col. 11-22 (middle). The so-called second hand continued from 11-26 to the end of col. 18. The lines between 11-22 and 28 reveal a third hand at work (cf. Martin 1958, 1- 59–64). All three hands represent the Herodian script, particularly in its middle and late phases (cf. Cross 1961- 180; Avigad 1965- 76f; Birnbaum 1971, 1- 155).

Linguistic studies have shown that the language of the Hodayot is based on biblical Hebrew. Yet there are elements of Palestinian Aramaic and Late Hebrew as well as Samaritan influences. Characteristic of these songs is above all the liberal use of scriptio plena. Peculiarities can be seen in the suffix endings on verbs and nouns (e.g., in 2d-person masculine singular verbs- -tâh; in nouns indicating the 2d-person masculine singuline- -kâh); the loss of laryngeals, chiefly ˒alep and he; the elision of he in the infinitive construct; and even the quiescent ˒alep. Compared with the MT, there are several new words and a few syntactic peculiarities (in addition to the introductions in the commentaries, cf. esp. Mowinckel 1956- 265–76; Silberman 1956- 96–106; Goshen-Gottstein 1958- 103–12). Such orthographical, grammatical, and syntactic features link the Hodayot to the other writings associated with the Qumran community.

Analyses of each songs’ Gattung quickly revealed that this was a collection of “songs of praise” similar to the psalm tradition in the OT (cf. Carmignac 1961- 130ff.). As was the case with the OT Psalms, different types of songs could be found among the Hodayot. Based on their structure, A. Dupont-Sommer observed that a community must have stood behind some of the hymns, while behind others there was evidence of a particularly strong, single personality (1957- 7). In a thorough analysis of their individual elements, G. Morawe divided the songs into “thanksgiving songs of the individual” and “hymnic confessions” (1960, see esp. the chart on p. 166). This classification was frequently criticized and elaborated upon. G. Jeremias (1963- 170) and S. Holm-Nielsen (1968- 124ff.) viewed cols. 1, 9-37b, and 10-1–12 (Holm-Nielsen added to this list 7- 26–33 and col. 13) as an independent literary type, designating them as “hymns.” In these hymns the splendor of creation and of God’s omnipotence were praised.

The reports concerning distress and deliverance belong to a type called “thanksgiving songs of the individual,” which are also preserved in the individual thanksgiving songs of the OT (cf. Gunkel and Begrich 1985- 265–92; for the Hodayot, see the summarizing chart in Morawe 1960- 133–35). Unlike the biblical Psalms, however, the theme of deliverance from sickness or distress does not predominate in the Qumran hymns. Rather, the concern is God’s salvific action with respect to the mediator of his revelation, who has had to endure persecution because of his message (cf. Jeremias 1963- 170). The “I” of the one praying is individual and personal. Behind this “I” a historical person of significance for the community is discernible. He is usually identified with the “Teacher of Righteousness” (cf. Dupont-Sommer 1950- 86; 1957- 10–12; Jeremias 1963- 174–77; more restrained is Bardtke 1956- 220–33; 1956–57b- 93–104; Morawe 1960- 170–71, n. 2; Holm-Nielsen 1960- esp. 170 and 347; Hempel 1962- 281–374), and the songs are termed “songs of the Teacher.”

The “hymnic songs of confession” are characterized especially by hymnic sections, contemplation, soteriological statements, and meditations on human misery. The “I” of the one praying is no longer an individual, but rather a collective that includes every member of the community. Therefore, these songs were also designated as “songs of the community.”

Scholars have not given a unanimous answer to the question about the historical context out of which the Hodayot arose. Except for statements about their function, which are only very general, the songs themselves preserve no concrete instructions regarding particular cultic occasions. One must also consider the fact that the Qumran community no longer participated in the cult of the Jerusalem temple, but had discovered new oral forms for praising God (cf. Becker 1964- 129ff.; Klinzing 1971- passim, esp. 11–20). Consequently, it is not surprising that the Sitz im Leben was sought in other communal situations. The Hodayot’s didactic style and characteristic wisdom speech permit one to imagine a catechetical and meditative usage (Bardtke 1956- 220–33, esp. 230; cf. Maier 1960, 2- 64; Dupont-Sommer 1957- 8. [in partial agreement]). Yet the vague indicators in the songs (1QH 3-23; 11-13; 12-3–11) or even in the other writings (1QS 10-9f.) point positively to a communal use in the worship of God (cf. Holm-Nielsen 1960- 332–48). Relying on Philo’s description of the Egyptian Therapeutae (Vita Cont. §§27, 29, 80, 83–84), several scholars have argued that the Sitz im Leben is to be found in the common singing and praying of the community’s members (Dupont-Sommer 1957- 8; Carmignac 1961- 135; Reicke 1955- 37–44; Delcor 1962- 24–26). In contrast to these views, H.-W. Kuhn has postulated the entrance into the covenant (i.e., the annually recurring covenant festival) as a concrete occasion for the use of these songs. He bases his conclusion on the following elements- soteriological statements, doxologies dealing with the baseness of humankind, and meditations on human misery. It is also possible, Kuhn contends, that the community could have used these songs for their daily periods of prayer, as suggested in 1QS 10-10- “with the coming of the day and the night I shall again enter into God’s covenant” (Kuhn 1966- 29–33). The approach taken by Kuhn with respect to the songs of the community commends itself also for nuancing the use of the songs of the Teacher. It should also be asked in which communal situations the distress and deliverance reports could have been spoken, prayed, or sung. The mere presence of the songs of the Teacher in a collection with the songs of the community suggests that the community had adopted, and adapted, the songs which had originally been composed by, and been applicable to, a single individual.

Even if the Hodayot are in form prayers and songs, they do preserve implicitly or explicitly some traces of the theology of the Qumran community. That does not mean, however, that these hymns offer the material for a closed and unified systematic theology. Their different forms, different authors, and the probable lengthy span of time during which they were written suggest that one should expect divergent shapes and emphases (cf. the still optimistic view of Licht 1956- 1–13, 89–101). Based on this premise, a few characteristics can now be presented.

(1) One must start with the formula “I shall praise you, Lord,” or, less often, “Blessed are you, Lord,” which shows these texts to be songs of praise and thanksgiving. In terms of content, they include God’s works of creation, his salvific actions, and his judgments. In all of these actions, God’s mercy is revealed to the one praying (cf. 10-14), his truth and righteousness (cf. 4-31; 11-7; 14-16). God’s uniqueness, omnipotence, and holiness are indisputably certain for the one praying and form the prerequisite foundation for his anthropological, soteriological, and ecclesiological ideas.

(2) In the statements about the baseness of humankind and observations on human misery found in the hymnic songs of confession, which are also discernible in the thanksgiving songs of the individual, a picture of humanity is recognizable that is characterized by the conviction of the absolute nothingness, sinfulness, and thus the forlornness of all human beings. Expressions like “a thing formed of clay” (1-21; 3-23 passim), “a thing shaped out of dust” (18-31; frgs. 3, 5, 14), or “a thing molded out of water” (1-21; 3-24passim) appropriate OT ideas about creation, but go far beyond the latter by associating such phrases with ethical qualifications, e.g., “quintessence of shame” (1-22), “source of impurity” (1-22; 12-25). These expressions allow one to recognize an irreconcilable contrast between the nature of God and humankind (cf. Lichtenberger 1980- 77–87). In the reports of distress found in the songs of the Teacher, biographical reports that depict attacks and violent measures directed against the mediator of God’s revelation dominate. These reports lead on to a similar complaint about the vanity and hopelessness of the human condition.

(3) The soteriological statements present a response to the hopelessness of human existence as an inescapable predicament. God has placed his spirit within the one praying (12-11; 13-19; 17-26; cf. in the songs of the Teacher (4-31; 7-6), granted him knowledge (13-13; cf. also 11-27) and insight (14-8, 13), taught him ( 11-9–10), purified him of wickedness, sanctified him from impurity (11-10; cf. also 2-21; 7-30; 11-30), and delivered his soul (3-19–20). God is therefore the sole actor. In contrast, human beings are only capable of receiving and accepting.

(4) The result of crossing over from the sphere of calamity into the realm of salvation is entrance into the congregation of angels and the community of holy ones (cf. 3-21–22; 11-11ff.; 14-18) or membership in “your [God’s] covenant” (cf. 4-19, 24; 5-9) for the purpose of common jubilation and praise (3-21; 11-13). Analogous statements announce that the pious believe as much in a present salvation as they do in an eschatological one (3-21; 11-11ff.; cf. also 6-34). In these statements deliverance is interpreted as a new creation with respect to an eternal congregation.
The certainty of already participating in the eschatological salvation is documented in the constant use of the OT—above all the Psalms (cf. Holm-Nielsen 1960- 301–31; Carmignac 1960b; Jeremias 1963- passim). Thus the writings of the OT are not simply understood as linguistic aids, but serve rather to present the claim that the speaker is living in the age of fulfillment and completion (cf. 1QpHab 7-2–4). Accordingly, the perspective of these songs can be stated as follows- they present a new, completely genuine form of speech which represents the language humans will possess in God’s new creation (cf. esp. 1-27c–31a). Therefore, these songs of praise represent the community’s genuine response to God’s creation, his acts of deliverance, and his judgments.
Is this the Qumran community? Individual hymnic sections of other Qumran writings undoubtedly demonstrate shared themes with the Hodayot. For example, 1QS 10-9–11-22 preserves comparable theological, anthropological, and soteriological conceptions. Furthermore, the pesharim, especially the pesher on Habakkuk and the pesher on Nahum, with their concrete references to the “Teacher,” his community, and his opponent, appear to be a clear commentary on the reports of distress in the songs of the Teacher (cf. Carmignac 1960a).

From this one can conclude that originally at least the core of these songs derived from the Qumran community. The composition of the majority of these songs should be dated at the beginning of the history of the Qumran community, ca. the middle of the 2d century B.C.E. Some hymns or parts of the songs could be older and could have arisen in the circles called “Hasideans” in 1 Macc 2-42 and 7-13. These circles were no doubt the predecessors of the Qumran community.


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Trans. Phillip R. Callaway

Vol.6, p.438-440

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