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Rewritten Scripture

Abstract and Keywords

The term ‘Rewritten Scripture’ has been used most frequently by scholars to denote a group of texts that reproduce substantial portions of one or more biblical books, but modify the scriptural text by means of addition, omission, paraphrase, rearrangement, or other types of change. The clearest examples of Rewritten Scripture at Qumran include the Book of Jubilees, the Genesis Apocryphon, the Temple Scroll, and perhaps the Reworked Pentateuch manuscripts. This article begins by briefly describing the four Qumran texts. Then, it takes up the question of how ‘Rewritten Scripture’ might best be defined. The article concludes by discussing the importance of Rewritten Scripture texts for an understanding of the interpretation of scripture in late Second Temple period Judaism.

Keywords: scriptural text, Book of Jubilees, Genesis Apocryphon, Temple Scroll, Reworked Pentateuch, Second Temple Judaism

The term ‘Rewritten Scripture’ has been used most frequently by scholars to denote a group of texts which reproduce substantial portions of one or more biblical books, but modify the scriptural text by means of addition, omission, paraphrase, rearrangement, or other types of changes. The clearest examples of Rewritten Scripture at Qumran include the Book of Jubilees, the Genesis Apocryphon, the Temple Scroll, and perhaps the 4QReworked Pentateuch manuscripts. Numerous other Qumran texts have also been classified as Rewritten Scripture, but their textual character is difficult to describe with precision due to their fragmentary preservation (Pseudo‐Jubilees, Apocryphon of Moses, Apocryphon of Joshua, Vision of Samuel, and others; see Lange 2002).

The origins of the idea of a text group or textual phenomenon known as Rewritten Scripture can be traced back to Geza Vermes, who is credited with coining the term ‘Rewritten Bible’ in his 1961 work Scripture and Tradition in Judaism. He describes Rewritten Bible as the insertion of ‘haggadic development into the biblical narrative’ in order to resolve interpretive questions raised by the text (Vermes 1973: 95). As examples, he mentions the Palestinian Targum, Josephus' Antiquities, the Liber Antiquitatum Biblicarum of Pseudo‐Philo, Jubilees, and the Genesis Apocryphon. While Vermes' observation has proven foundational, in recent years a slight adaptation of his terminology has been introduced. Most scholars now agree that ‘Rewritten Scripture’ is a more appropriate label than ‘Rewritten Bible’ for Second Temple works of this type, since the Qumran discoveries have demonstrated that there was no such thing as ‘the Bible’ in the late Second Temple period: the Bible, in the form of a fixed list of specific forms of (p. 324) specific books, emerged only at a later date (e.g. VanderKam 2002: 42–3; Petersen 2007: 287).

Further development of Vermes' initial insight, as well as the publication of many more texts that seem in one way or another to reshape the text of scripture, has led to considerable discussion concerning the appropriate definition of ‘Rewritten Scripture’ and the best delimitation of the category's boundaries. These problems of definition are not merely terminological quibbles, but reflect an ongoing attempt to develop better conceptual models to understand the wealth of new data provided by the Qumran scrolls concerning the development, interpretation, and status of the biblical text. This chapter will begin by briefly describing the four Qumran texts that have figured most prominently in discussions of Rewritten Scripture. It will then take up the question of how ‘Rewritten Scripture’ might best be defined, and finish by discussing the importance of Rewritten Scripture texts for an understanding of the interpretation of scripture in late Second Temple period Judaism.

Four Key Texts

As mentioned, the four Qumran texts or text groups that have usually been taken to represent Rewritten Scripture most paradigmatically are Jubilees, the Genesis Apocryphon (GenAp), the Temple Scroll (TS), and the five 4QReworked Pentateuch manuscripts (4QRP). A brief description of each will help contextualize the following, more theoretical discussion.

Jubilees, preserved fully only in Ethiopic but represented in numerous fragmentary copies at Qumran, rewrites the contents of Genesis and Exodus from creation to the exodus (roughly Genesis 1–Exodus 12). It begins with Moses ascending Mount Sinai to receive the tablets of the Law (cf. Exodus 24), at which time God commands one of his highest angels to dictate to Moses what has happened and will happen ‘from the beginning of the creation until the time when my temple is built among them throughout the ages of eternity’ (Jub. 1: 27, tr. VanderKam 1989). The retelling of Genesis and Exodus in Jubilees is thus presented as divine revelation via an angel to Moses at Sinai (see Najman 1999). Jubilees is especially concerned to structure history according to forty‐nine‐year units called ‘jubilees’ (hence the name), and to present the laws of the Torah as already known and practised in the earliest periods of Israel's history. For instance, it makes clear through supplements to the biblical narrative that Abraham observed the feasts of firstfruits, booths, and unleavened bread (Jub. 15: 1–2; 16: 20–23; 18: 18–19).

The Temple Scroll, like Jubilees, presents itself as divine revelation to Moses on Sinai. Here, however, the speaker is not an angel but God. TS's character as a ‘divine (p. 325) pseudepigraphon’ (Schiffman 1999: 131) is clearest in the latter part of the scroll, where third‐person references to YHWH taken from the book of Deuteronomy are systematically changed to the first person. After a beginning that draws upon the account of Moses' second ascent of Sinai after the episode of the golden calf (Exodus 34), TS contains instructions for a vast temple and its courts (cols. 3–13, 30–45). Though the temple described in TS does not correspond precisely to the wilderness tabernacle or to Solomon's temple (Schiffman 1996), the author draws on scriptural language to create his account. The scroll also contains a rewritten version of the pentateuchal festival laws (cols. 13–29), an extensive section on purity laws (cols. 45–51), and a rewriting of most of the legal material of the book of Deuteronomy (cols. 51–66). In its rewriting of large sections of pentateuchal law, TS brings together laws on related subjects, harmonizes contradictions, and eliminates repetition, in addition to inserting entirely new laws (Yadin 1983, 1: 71–88). It thus includes with its temple instructions an ‘improved’ version of pentateuchal law, without the contradictions and redundancies of the Torah itself (Levinson and Zahn 2002: 306–8).

The Genesis Apocryphon (1QapGen ar), as it is preserved, retells and elaborates upon the stories of Noah and Abraham (roughly Genesis 6–15). While the first part of the scroll clearly depends upon the biblical account of Noah's birth, the Watchers, the Flood, and its aftermath, GenAp provides a much more expansive version, including a long section on Noah's birth (cols. 2–5). Here, Lamech, Enoch, and Noah present their stories directly, in the form of first‐person narrative, as opposed to the third‐person narration in Genesis. The Abraham section begins in similar fashion, with a much‐expanded, first‐person version of the story of Abraham's sojourn in Egypt (Gen. 12: 10–20). The final preserved section of the scroll, however (21: 23–22: 34), sticks much more closely to the text of Genesis 14, and refers to Abraham in the third person (Fitzmyer 2004: 16–20).

The five fragmentary manuscripts that make up 4QReworked Pentateuch (4Q158, 4Q364–367) were originally identified as five copies of a single, Rewritten scripture‐type composition (Tov and White 1994: 191). However, there is almost no meaningful overlap between them, and they are better viewed as five independent but related manuscripts (Segal 2000; Brooke 2001). All five rework the text of the Pentateuch in various ways, including several major additions of previously unknown material (such as the so‐called ‘Song of Miriam’ added after Exod. 15: 20 in 4Q365) and several previously unattested changes in sequence (such as the juxtaposition of material from Genesis 32 and Exodus 4 in 4Q158, or of Numbers 27 and Numbers 36 in 4Q365). Many fragments, however, simply present the text of the Pentateuch as known from elsewhere with minimal variations. Unlike Jubilees and TS, none of the 4QRP manuscripts preserve any hint of a new setting or speaker of the text. Several scholars have thus suggested that the 4QRP manuscripts are not Rewritten Scripture at all, but simply expansive copies of the Pentateuch (for a discussion, see Zahn 2008). (p. 326)

Defining the Category

While the idea of Rewritten Scripture is easily grasped intuitively, scholars have struggled to situate the category in relation to other ways of describing early Jewish texts and to newly revised ideas about the development and canonization of the Hebrew Scriptures. The problem is particularly vexed with regard to two related groups of texts: first, expanded and revised copies of biblical books (including translations); and second, the extensive body of early Jewish literature that, while not directly reusing scriptural texts in a sustained way, builds on biblical themes or expands upon the stories of biblical characters (e.g. the Enoch materials or the various testaments and visions in the names of patriarchs or other Israelite heroes). Overlaps between these three categories, as well as other considerations, have led several scholars to conclude that it is best not to view Rewritten Scripture as a text category at all, but rather a process or procedure common to several categories of texts but used in different ways in each. Each of these issues will be considered in turn.

Copies of Biblical Books vs. Rewritten Scripture

One of the most significant ways in which the Qumran discoveries have changed our understanding of early Judaism is the realization that the Hebrew text of the books that later became part of the Hebrew Bible was still substantially in flux in the late Second Temple period (Ulrich 2002). Among the biblical texts brought to light were, for instance, copies of Exodus and Numbers that followed the Samaritan Pentateuch (SP) instead of the Masoretic Text (MT), and copies of Jeremiah that followed the radically shorter form attested in the Septuagint instead of the longer MT form (thus indicating that the MT likely represents a later, more developed version of the text). All in all, we can speak of alternate ‘editions’ or versions of several biblical books (Ulrich 1999: 23–33). These manuscripts preserve many of the same types of changes as are attested in texts classified as Rewritten Scripture: additions, rearrangements, paraphrases, and so on (Segal 2005: 12–17). The question then becomes: how does one distinguish between a heavily revised copy of a biblical text—say, a revised version of Exodus—and a reworking of that same text that constitutes a new composition and therefore falls into the category of Rewritten Scripture? As mentioned above, this question is especially pertinent with regard to the 4QReworked Pentateuch manuscripts, which have traditionally been classified as Rewritten Scripture but are increasingly regarded simply as expanded editions of the Pentateuch, similar in character to SP or to the expanded edition of Jeremiah preserved in the MT (see now also Tov 2007: 365).

Some have suggested an essentially quantitative approach to the problem of distinguishing between expansive copies of biblical books and Rewritten Scripture: (p. 327) at some point a text becomes too different from the text it is rewriting to be considered a copy or new edition of that text (Crawford 2008: 14). However, Segal has pointed out that this quantitative approach is of little use, considering the sometimes dramatic changes that are attested in copies of biblical books (2005: 16, 18). Segal instead suggests that changes to literary features such as voice, setting, and scope are better indicators of a Rewritten Scripture‐type composition (2005: 20–7). For instance, the book of Jubilees is identified as a new composition, as opposed to a copy of Genesis 1–Exodus 12, through its pseudepigraphic presentation as angelic speech to Moses on Mount Sinai, in contrast to the anonymous narrative voice of Genesis and Exodus. Similar changes in voice are attested in TS and GenAp. In contrast, one of the arguments that the 4QRP manuscripts represent copies of the Pentateuch is the lack of any literary voice or setting other than that of the Pentateuch itself. The issue of scope pertains to whether or not the rewritten work covers the same ground as the book(s) it rewrites: Jubilees, for instance, cannot be a revised version of Genesis because it contains a substantial amount of material from Exodus, but equally it cannot be a revised version of Genesis and Exodus because it only includes material from the first twelve chapters of Exodus (Segal 2005: 20–1).

The distinction between revised copies of biblical books and new works that should be regarded as Rewritten Scripture may be somewhat more complicated than Segal suggests: presumably at some point, even if there were no changes in the voice, setting, or scope of a rewritten text, the text could be changed so dramatically that audiences would no longer consider it basically the same as the text it rewrites. But such a boundary, if it does exist, seems very hard to delineate with regard to ancient texts. More study of this issue is required, but in the meantime it seems reasonable to suggest that, in the case of rewritten texts that do not involve a change in the literary features that Segal discusses, the possibility should at least be considered that they represent expanded copies of the books they rewrite, as opposed to Rewritten Scripture.

A related question pertains to the status of translations. It was noted above that Vermes considered the more expansive and paraphrastic targumim as examples of Rewritten Scripture, and some have followed his lead (Hayward 1990: 597; Koskenniemi and Lindqvist 2008: 16). On the other hand, Bernstein has argued that, by this criterion, ‘almost any translation which is not hyperliteral’ could be considered Rewritten Scripture (2005: 175). Insofar as we can regard translations as generally concerned to represent the meaning of the text in the target language, and bound to the sequence and structure of the text (Samely 1992: 160–5), translations do not seem to represent a ‘new’ composition and thus should probably not be considered Rewritten Scripture, if Rewritten Scripture is regarded as a text category (see below). However, this should not obscure the fact that translations, just like revised Hebrew copies of biblical books, often employ the same techniques and address the same interpretive issues as Rewritten Scripture texts. Even if Rewritten Scripture is considered a special textual category, these overlaps in compositional technique and exegetical goals require further attention. (p. 328)

The Outer Limits of the Category

At the other end of the spectrum, the limits of what should be considered ‘Rewritten Scripture’ have also occasioned considerable debate. Simply put, the main issue is how much interaction with a prior scriptural text a composition needs to have in order to be considered Rewritten Scripture. Some would define the category narrowly, including only narrative texts that repeatedly return to the sequence and content of the text they are rewriting (e.g. Alexander 1987). Since the publication of the Temple Scroll at the end of the 1970s, however, most scholars have recognized that the category should not be confined to narrative texts alone. Others would cast the net much more widely to include texts that clearly interact with the scriptural tradition but do not actually rewrite the scriptural text in a sustained way. For example, Harrington (1986) considers 1 Enoch, 4 Ezra, 2 Baruch, the Life of Adam and Eve, and other similar texts as possible examples of Rewritten Scripture (see also Hayward 1990: 597). Bernstein points out that such a broad definition of Rewritten Scripture threatens to make the term vague to the point of irrelevance (Bernstein 2005: 187). Indeed, in this definition most of the literature extant from the Second Temple period could be considered Rewritten Scripture. Bernstein's objection in part reflects the fact that the term Rewritten Scripture has largely been used to refer to a more restricted group of texts: those that come back to the scriptural text again and again and rely upon it for their organization and content. That is, texts that may refer to or take their origin from a single scriptural episode but then continue in a different direction have usually been considered something other than Rewritten Scripture—even though the techniques they use to re‐present the text of that single episode may be similar to those used in Rewritten Scripture texts.

The Question of Genre

Some scholars have tried to get around the difficulties raised by all these overlapping text categories by challenging the identification of Rewritten Scripture with a specific text category in the first place. That is, instead of regarding Rewritten Scripture as a literary genre to which certain texts belong and others do not belong, they regard Rewritten Scripture as a compositional procedure or technique (Harrington 1986: 243; Brooke 2000: 780; Falk 2007: 17). The advantage of this more procedural definition is that it highlights the fact that the same techniques of reconfiguring a base text can be present in a variety of different settings and genres (copies of biblical books, translations, and new compositions; law, narrative, and poetry; etc.). It also allows us to account for works of which only a portion shows sustained interaction with the scriptural text. In fact, in many cases, even some of the most paradigmatic examples, it is somewhat of a misnomer to refer to entire (p. 329) works as Rewritten Scripture. GenAp, for instance, follows the story of Abraham fairly closely in the latter parts of the scroll, but the opening columns mostly contain material that has little direct connection to the text of Genesis. Similarly, Josephus draws heavily on scripture in the first portion of his Antiquities, but his history extends well beyond the periods covered by the scriptural text.

The downside to regarding Rewritten Scripture as a technique instead of a genre or text‐category is that we lose the convenient label it provides for works that seem to have reworking or re‐presentation of the scriptural text as one of their primary concerns, notably Jubilees, TS, and GenAp. Despite the fact that each has its own distinct character and purpose, do not these and similar works arguably constitute a particular kind of text; a genre?

To answer this question properly, more attention needs to be paid to the true nature and extent of the similarities between these texts. In recent years, genre theory has been moving away from defining genre as a set of specific formal features and towards more focus on the function and purpose of different kinds of texts (Devitt 2004). Given that what unifies Jubilees, TS, GenAp, and other rewritten texts is their steady interaction with the text of scripture, we must ask whether that scriptural reuse always serves a particular function or responds to the same compositional goals. It may be the case that, after more careful analysis, we will conclude that certain rewritten texts are similar enough in their character and function to constitute a genre called Rewritten scripture, at the same time as we recognize that the technique of rewriting is not limited to texts belonging to the genre, but can function in other contexts and for other purposes as well.

The Status and Authority of Rewritten Scripture Texts

Related to the issue of the function and purpose of texts classified as Rewritten Scripture is the status granted to these texts by their audiences. Of course determining the authoritative status of ancient compositions is often difficult. Nonetheless, several observations can be made.

First, it should be pointed out that the label Rewritten Scripture does not preclude a rewritten text from itself coming to be regarded as authoritative scripture, or even being included in the canon of the Hebrew Bible, once that canon was finally fixed. The books of Chronicles are an excellent example of Rewritten Scripture, since they represent a thorough reworking of the books of Samuel and Kings. Some scholars would also consider Deuteronomy Rewritten Scripture (e.g. Brooke 2000: 778). However Rewritten Scripture is defined, it always (p. 330) designates a text that reworks a text that is regarded as scripture by whoever is doing the reworking, without implying anything about the status or ultimate destination of the new text. Since the canonical form of the Hebrew Bible was not fixed until after the end of the Second Temple period, there was nothing to preclude a rewritten text from itself gaining the status of scripture and being included in the canon—which is exactly what happened in the case of Chronicles.

Although they were not ultimately included in the Hebrew Bible, there is evidence that some other Rewritten Scripture texts also achieved the status of scripture. Jubilees is cited as authoritative scripture in the Damascus Document (CD 16: 2–4), and is still a part of the canon of the Ethiopic church. TS makes a similar claim to represent divine revelation at Sinai, but in this case we do not have direct evidence for its authoritative status. The fact that it exists in at least three copies at Qumran (11Q19, 11Q20, 4Q524) implies that it was regarded as of some importance. For GenAp and the 4QRP manuscripts, the picture is less clear. Each is preserved in only a single manuscript copy. Unlike Jubilees and TS, GenAp makes no explicit pseudepigraphic or revelatory claim that would serve to enhance its authority, and we have little or no evidence as to how the text was received. If the Reworked Pentateuch manuscripts are simply copies of the Pentateuch, then presumably they were intended to be regarded as scripture. There is little positive evidence that they were received as such (see T. Lim, ‘Authoritative Scriptures and the Dead Sea Scrolls’, in this volume). On the other hand, fragmentary textual overlaps between 4Q365 and TS and 4Q364 and Jubilees may indicate that these manuscripts served as sources for later rewritings and thus may have been regarded as authoritative (Crawford 1999: 3–4).

In some cases, therefore, we have direct evidence that Rewritten Scripture texts themselves were considered scriptural; in other cases the evidence is unclear or we have no evidence at all. One question that deserves more attention is whether (and if so, how exactly) the process of rewriting itself constituted an authority claim on the part of the new composition. It has been suggested that, by cloaking itself in the language of scripture, language that is commonly regarded as authoritative, a rewritten text appropriates for itself some of the authority of the scriptural text it rewrites (Levinson 1997: 14–17; Najman 2003: 16, 46). In this model, the scriptural rewriting of the Temple Scroll, for instance, is not merely intended to resolve exegetical difficulties and reorganize biblical law, but also as a support for the scroll's claim to represent divine revelation: after all, since it reuses the language of the Torah, it sounds like divine revelation (Brin 1980: 214, 224; Zahn 2005: 441–2). For the Temple Scroll, this suggestion makes a good deal of sense. What is less clear, however, is whether rewriting also served this purpose in texts that make no claim to special authority and do not discuss law, like GenAp, or texts that reuse the scriptural text but also regularly introduce their own distinctive vocabulary, like Jubilees. In these cases, it may be more difficult to argue convincingly that rewriting served the specific purpose of authorization.

A related problem concerns the relative authority of a Rewritten Scripture text vis‐à‐vis the text it rewrites. Debate has arisen as to whether the rewritten work seeks to (p. 331) replace the work it rewrites, or merely to supplement it. (For various opinions on this question, see Brooke 1988: 41–2; Levinson 1997; Najman 2003: 46–50; Stackert 2007: 211–24.) In considering this question we must be careful to separate functional replacement from any notion of literal or physical replacement. For most rewritten works, especially those that rewrite the Pentateuch, it seems unlikely that their authors were actually seeking to displace the scriptural text or argue that it should no longer be preserved and read (though note that it was still possible to produce revised versions of the books of the Pentateuch, which were presumably intended to replace earlier versions). However, in functional terms, rewritten texts often present an alternative version of events or laws that the author must in some way have regarded as the ‘true meaning’ or proper interpretation of the scriptural text—otherwise the alteration of the text lacks motivation. Insofar as the ‘true meaning’ lies not in the original text but in the text as rewritten, the rewritten text may be said to ‘replace’ the older text.

This dynamic is especially clear for rewritten law. When TS presents a law that conflicts with what is said in the Pentateuch, it must be presumed that the author believed his version of the law was the correct one and the one that should be followed. When, as is the case in TS, alternative versions are further authorized by appeals to divine revelation, it is hard to escape the impression that, while formally the continued existence and authority of the Pentateuch may be recognized or assumed, in practical terms the author of the rewritten text means for his version to stand as the most authoritative formulation of divine law (Zahn 2005: 452–53). Thus, as long as the pragmatic perspective is maintained, it does seem appropriate to say that rewritten texts, especially those with strong authority claims, in certain ways do seek to replace the texts that they rewrite.

Scriptural Interpretation in Rewritten Scripture Texts

Insofar as Rewritten Scripture is defined by the interaction with and reconfiguration of earlier scriptural texts, Rewritten Scripture is inherently exegetical. There would be little sense in reworking a text if one did not believe that it required clarification, supplementation, or some other type of interpretation. In many ways, Rewritten Scripture represents a continuation of the processes of editing and glossing that are attested in the textual histories of the individual books of the Hebrew Bible, the difference being merely the incorporation of these changes into new compositions as opposed to their integration directly into the text of the books themselves (see Teeter 2008: 6–11).

(p. 332) Apart from a general concern with resolving various real and perceived ‘difficulties’ in scripture, Rewritten Scripture texts attest to a great variety of exegetical concerns. What they all share, because of their rewritten nature, is the exclusive use of implicit interpretation. That is, the exegesis always takes the form of reformulation of a particular scriptural unit to express what the author believes is the correct interpretation, as opposed to lemmatic commentary where a distinction is made between the scriptural text and its interpretation. This fact has several methodological implications for scholars concerned with these texts. First, since interpretation is not explicitly marked as such, sometimes we cannot be certain whether a particular departure from the text as known from elsewhere represents a deliberate change on the part of the author or a variant that was already present in the author's scriptural Vorlage. This is especially true for minor changes such as addition of direct articles, copulas, or pronouns, which often lack a clear exegetical purpose. Second, the implicit nature of the interpretation means that the exegetical reasoning behind a particular change cannot be explicitly provided without disrupting the voice and setting of the composition, and is therefore left to the reader to guess or surmise. Third, it is important to maintain a conceptual distinction between an author's reworking of a given scriptural text and the exegetical decision that led to that particular reworking.

Two examples will clarify these last two points. First, TS and the Damascus Document both contain a prohibition of sexual relations between a man and his niece. CD uses the form of lemma + comment:

Moses said, you shall not approach your mother's sister; she is your mother's close kin [Lev 18: 13]. Now the law of forbidden unions is written for [i.e. from the perspective of] males, but like them are the women. So if a brother's daughter uncovers the nakedness of her father's brother, she is also close kin. (CD 5: 8–11)

In CD, the exegetical reasoning is clear because the lemmatic commentary form allows the interpreter to explain it: although the law in Leviticus only explicitly considers men and their aunts, implicit in the law is the corresponding rule for women and their uncles.

TS, while its author may well share the exegetical reasoning of the author of CD, is bound by its compositional form to implicit interpretation, and therefore simply constructs an analogous law, written from the uncle's perspective:

A man shall not take the daughter of his brother or the daughter of his sister, for it is an abomination. (TS 66: 16–17)

We can presume that the author of TS was troubled in the same way as the author of CD by the lack of explicit consideration in Leviticus of sexual relations between a man and his niece (see further Zahn, forthcoming). But because of the necessity in TS of implicit interpretation, our supposition cannot be confirmed.

The second example demonstrates that the same exegetical conclusion can be presented in two different ways even within the framework of Rewritten Scripture. (p. 333) Gen. 12: 10–20 presents the story of Abraham's sojourn in Egypt, during which he requests of his wife that she pretend to be his sister so that he will not be killed by the Egyptians who will wish to take her for themselves (Gen. 12: 13). Abraham's apparent willingness to compromise Sarah's virtue in order to save himself constituted a problem for later interpreters, who expected only the most noble behaviour from the first patriarch (Kugel 1998: 254). Both Jubilees and GenAp rework the text in order to exculpate Abraham, but they do so in different ways:

There was a famine in the land. So Abram went to Egypt in the third year of the week. He lived in Egypt for five years before his wife was taken from him by force. Egyptian Tanais was built at that time—seven years after Hebron. When the pharaoh took Abram's wife Sarai by force for himself, the Lord punished the pharaoh and his household very severely because of Abram's wife Sarai. (Jub. 13: 10–13, tr. VanderKam 1989)

Now there was a famine in all this land, and I heard that [there was] gr[ai]n in Egypt. So I set out to [go] to the land of Egypt…and I, Abram, had a dream in the night of my entering into the land of Egypt, and I saw in my dream [that there wa]s a cedar tree and a date‐palm, (which was) [very beauti]ful. Some men came, seeking to cut down and uproot the cedar and leave the date‐palm by itself. Now the date‐palm cried out and said, ‘Do not cut down the cedar, for we are both sprung from one stock.’ So the cedar was spared by the protection of the date‐palm, and it was not cut [down]. That night I awoke from my sleep and said to Sarai, my wife, ‘I have had a dream’…So I began to tell her this dream [and made it known] to [her, and (also) the meaning of this] dream, (and) s[aid], ‘[ ] who will seek to kill me and to spare you. But this is the favor [that you must do for me]: In what[ever place we shall be, say] about me, “He is my brother” ’. (GenAp 19: 10–20; tr. Fitzmyer 2004)

In the first passage, Jubilees makes clear that Abram in no way condoned the taking of his wife by stressing that she was ‘taken from him by force’ (Kugel 1998: 254). As for Abram's request that Sarai lie about her association with him, Jubilees exonerates the patriarch by omitting it altogether. GenAp takes a different approach. It does not remove Abram's request to Sarai, but adds a dream sequence in order to make clear that Abram's request was not motivated by cowardice or selfishness, but by a divine message sent through the dream (Fitzmyer 2004: 184; Nickelsburg 1998: 148). This example highlights how the same exegetical issue—here, how to deal with Abram's unseemly behaviour—can be addressed compositionally in two different ways: through omission of the offending detail in Jubilees and through an addition that explains and contextualizes it in GenAp.


In sum, the Rewritten Scripture texts, besides providing a wealth of new information on how scripture was read in the late Second Temple period, constitute a (p. 334) profound reminder that lemmatic commentary was not the dominant form of scriptural exegesis in early Judaism. Instead, interpretation was primarily presented in the form of revisions and reworkings of earlier texts. For all the details that have yet to be clarified regarding the definition of Rewritten Scripture, the phenomenon makes clear once again that we cannot draw a firm line between the composition of the Hebrew Scriptures and their interpretation. Rather, interpretive rewriting produced various forms of individual books (as in the case of Exodus and Jeremiah) as well as a variety of new works, some of which are still considered scriptural (Chronicles, Jubilees) and all of which served as lenses by which earlier textual traditions could be seen in a new light.

Suggested Reading

The recent books by Falk (2007) and Crawford (2008) both provide good overviews of the issues pertaining to Rewritten Scripture and discuss a selection of the pertinent texts. Many questions regarding the definition and boundaries of Rewritten Scripture remain unresolved; the articles by Brooke (2000), Bernstein (2005), Segal (2005), and Petersen (2007) are especially important recent contributions; see also the articles of Brooke, Lange, Ulrich, and VanderKam in Herbert and Tov (2002). For more detailed studies of rewriting in the main texts considered here, see Yadin (1983) and Swanson (1995) on TS; Najman (2003) on TS and Jubilees; van Ruiten (2000) on Jubilees; Fitzmyer (2004) on GenAp; and Segal (1998, 2000), Bernstein (2008), and Zahn (forthcoming) on 4QRP.


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                    —— (2008). Rewriting Scripture in Second Temple Times. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.Find this resource:

                      Devitt, Amy J. (2004). Writing Genres. Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press.Find this resource:

                        Falk, Daniel K. (2007). The Parabiblical Texts: Strategies for Extending the Scriptures in the Dead Sea Scrolls. Companion to the Qumran Scrolls 8. London: T&T Clark.Find this resource:

                          Fitzmyer, Joseph A. (2004). The Genesis Apocryphon of Qumran Cave 1 (1Q20): A Commentary. 3rd edn. Rome: Pontifical Biblical Institute.Find this resource:

                            Harrington, Daniel J. (1986). ‘The Bible Rewritten (Narratives)’ in R. Kraft and G. Nickelsburg, eds, Early Judaism and Its Modern Interpreters. Philadelphia, PA: Fortress, pp. 239–47.Find this resource:

                              Hayward, C. T. R. (1990). ‘Rewritten Bible’ in R. J. Coggins and J. L. Houlden, eds, A Dictionary of Biblical Interpretation. London: SCM, pp. 595–8.Find this resource:

                                Herbert, Edward D., and Emanuel Tov, eds (2002). The Bible As Book: The Hebrew Bible and the Judaean Desert Discoveries. London: British Library.Find this resource:

                                  Koskenniemi, Erkki, and Pekka Lindqvist (2008). ‘Rewritten Bible, Rewritten Stories: Methodological Aspects’ in A. Laato and J. van Ruiten, eds, Rewritten Bible Reconsidered: Proceedings of the Conference in Karkku, Finland August 24–26 2006. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, pp. 11–39.Find this resource:

                                    Kugel, James L. (1998). Traditions of the Bible. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Find this resource:

                                      Lange, Armin (2002). ‘Annotated List of the Texts from the Judaean Desert Classified by Content and Genre’ with U. Mittmann‐Richert, DJD XXXIX, pp. 115–64.Find this resource:

                                        Levinson, Bernard M. (1997). Deuteronomy and the Hermeneutics of Legal Innovation. New York: Oxford University Press.Find this resource:

                                          —— and Molly M. Zahn (2002). ‘Revelation Regained: The Hermeneutics of יכ and םא in the Temple Scroll’. DSD 9: 295–346.Find this resource:

                                            Najman, Hindy (1999). ‘Interpretation as Primordial Writing: Jubilees and Its Authority Conferring Strategies’. JSJ 30: 379–410.Find this resource:

                                              —— (2003). Seconding Sinai: The Development of Mosaic Discourse in Second Temple Judaism. JSJSup 77. Leiden: Brill.Find this resource:

                                                Nickelsburg, George W. E. (1998). ‘Patriarchs Who Worry About Their Wives: A Haggadic Tendency in the Genesis Apocryphon’ in E. Chazon and M. Stone, eds, Biblical Perspectives: Early Use and Interpretation of the Bible in Light of the Dead Sea Scrolls. STDJ 28. Leiden: Brill, pp. 137–58.Find this resource:

                                                  Petersen, Anders Klostergaard (2007). ‘Rewritten Bible as a Borderline Phenomenon‐Genre, Textual Strategy, or Canonical Anachronism?’ in A. Hilhorst, É. Puech, and E. Tigchelaar, eds, Flores Florentino: Dead Sea Scrolls and Other Early Jewish Studies in Honour of Florentino García Martínez. JSJSup 122. Leiden: Brill, pp. 285–306.Find this resource:

                                                    Samely, Alexander (1992). The Interpretation of Speech in the Pentateuch Targums: A Study of Method and Presentation in Targumic Exegesis. Texte und Studien zum antiken Judentum 27. Tübingen: Mohr.Find this resource:

                                                      (p. 336) Schiffman, Lawrence H. (1996). ‘The Construction of the Temple According to the Temple Scroll’. RevQ 17: 555–71.Find this resource:

                                                        —— (1999). ‘The Temple Scroll and the Halakhic Pseudepigrapha of the Second Temple Period’ in E. Chazon and M. Stone, eds, Pseudepigraphic Perspectives: The Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha in Light of the Dead Sea Scrolls. STDJ 31. Leiden: Brill, pp. 121–31.Find this resource:

                                                          Segal, Michael (1998). ‘Biblical Exegesis in 4Q158: Techniques and Genre’. Textus 19: 45–62.Find this resource:

                                                            —— (2000). ‘4QReworked Pentateuch or 4QPentateuch?’ in DSSFYD, pp. 391–9.Find this resource:

                                                              —— (2005). ‘Between Bible and Rewritten Bible’ in M. Henze, ed., Biblical Interpretation at Qumran. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, pp. 10–29.Find this resource:

                                                                Stackert, Jeffrey (2007). Rewriting the Torah: Literary Revision in Deuteronomy and the Holiness Legislation. FAT 52. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck.Find this resource:

                                                                  Swanson, Dwight (1995). The Temple Scroll and the Bible: The Methodology of 11QT. STDJ 14. Leiden: Brill.Find this resource:

                                                                    Teeter, David Andrew (2008). ‘Exegesis in the Transmission of Biblical Law in the Second Temple Period: Preliminary Studies.’ Unpublished PhD dissertation, University of Notre Dame.Find this resource:

                                                                      Tov, Emanuel (2007). ‘3 Kingdoms Compared with Similar Rewritten Compositions’ in A. Hilhorst, É. Puech, and E. Tigchelaar, eds, Flores Florentino: Dead Sea Scrolls and Other Early Jewish Studies in Honour of Florentino García Martínez. JSJSup 122. Leiden: Brill, pp. 345–66.Find this resource:

                                                                        —— and Sidnie White (1994). ‘Reworked Pentateuch’ in DJD XIII, pp. 187–351.Find this resource:

                                                                          Ulrich, Eugene (1999). The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Origins of the Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.Find this resource:

                                                                            —— (2002). ‘The Text of the Hebrew Scriptures at the Time of Hillel and Jesus’ in Andre Lemaire, ed.,Congress Volume Basel 2001. VTSup 92. Leiden: Brill, pp. 85–108.Find this resource:

                                                                              VanderKam, James C. (1989). The Book of Jubilees. 2 vols. CSCO 510–511. Leuven: Peeters.Find this resource:

                                                                                —— (2002). ‘The Wording of Biblical Citations in Some Rewritten Scriptural Works’ in E. Herbert and E. Tov, eds,The Bible As Book: The Hebrew Bible and the Judaean Desert Discoveries. London: British Library, pp. 41–56.Find this resource:

                                                                                  van Ruiten, Jacques (2000). Primaeval History Interpreted: The Rewriting of Genesis 1–11 in the Book of Jubilees. JSJSup 66. Leiden: Brill.Find this resource:

                                                                                    Vermes, Geza (1973). Scripture and Tradition in Judaism: Haggadic Studies. 2nd edn. Studia Post‐Biblica 4. Leiden: Brill.Find this resource:

                                                                                      Yadin, Yigael (1983). The Temple Scroll. 3 vols. Jerusalem: Israel Exploration Society.Find this resource:

                                                                                        Zahn, Molly M. (2005). ‘New Voices, Ancient Words: The Temple Scroll's Reuse of the Bible’ in John Day, ed., Temple and Worship in Biblical Israel. Library of Hebrew Bible/Old Testament Studies 422. London: T&T Clark, pp. 435–58.Find this resource:

                                                                                          —— (2008). ‘The Problem of Characterizing the 4QReworked Pentateuch Manuscripts: Bible, Rewritten Bible, or None of the Above?’ DSD 15: 315–39.Find this resource:

                                                                                            —— (forthcoming). Rethinking Rewritten Scripture: Composition and Exegesis in the 4QReworked Pentateuch Manuscripts. STDJ. Leiden: Brill.Find this resource: