Liturgical Works

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Liturgical Works, by James R. Davila. Eerdmans Commentaries on the Dead Sea Scrolls 6. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2000. Pp. xi + 338. $25.00.

James R. Davila's Liturgical Works is the first volume published in Eerdmans Commentaries on the Dead Sea Scrolls series. This volume, which provides an introduction, annotated translation, and a line-by-line commentary for the liturgical documents found at Qumran, is an important contribution to the study of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Liturgical Works provides a commentary on those documents which "show evidence of composition for use in the ritual life of ancient Judaism, whether pertaining to the cycle of festivals and holy days, to daily prayer in various situations, to ceremonial purification, or to rites of passage such as marriage" (p. 2). The documents included are Festival Prayers (1Q34 + 1Q34^sup bis^, 4Q507, 4Q508, 4Q509 + 4Q505), 4QBerakhot (4Q286-90, 4Q280?), Songs of the Sabbath Sacrifice (4Q400-407, 11Q17, Mas1k), Times for Praising God (4Q409), Grace after Meals (4Q434a), A Lamentation (4Q501), A Wedding Ceremony? (4Q502), Daily Prayers (4Q503), The Words of the Luminaries (4Q504, 4Q506), and Purification Liturgies (4Q512, 4Q414). Of course, the boundaries between liturgical works and other compositions are not sharp. As Davila acknowledges, some of the contributions assigned to other volumes (e.g., 4Q510-11 and 1IQI 11, which contain exorcism rituals) may have been included here.

Davila provides helpful introductions to each document. First, the contents of the document are introduced followed by a discussion of the manuscript evidence, including the paleographical dating of the script. This is followed by a discussion of the document's structure and genre. Davila expands this section of the introductions to the Berakhot and to the Songs of the Sabbath Sacrifice to include a discussion of prosody. Especially appropriate for liturgical compositions, each introduction discusses the "life situation" in which the work may have been used. In this section, Davila discusses the document's provenience and possible relationship to the Qumran Community. A final section on "literary context" highlights some of the biblical influences on the document as well as similar compositions. So, for example, in discussing the Songs of the Sabbath Sacrifice, Davila briefly compares and contrasts it with two other compositions found at Qumran (Songs of the Sage [4Q510-51 11) and the Berakhot [4Q286-290, 280?]), Revelation, the Christian Gnostic corpus, and the Hekalot literature. Each introduction also contains a selected bibliography.

Davila's translations of the documents are readable but not idiomatic. When there are multiple manuscript witnesses to a passage, Davila provides a composite text. Other extensive reconstructions, however, are avoided. Untranslated letters are indicated by dots ("."), a convention which he does not mention in the list of "Special Abbreviations, Symbols, and Primary Sources."

The nonspecialist will appreciate Davila's introduction to the volume. In this chapter, he introduces some of the important concepts and terms used in the study of religion to discuss liturgical works, such as "cult" and "purity," as well as the form of ancient Near Eastern covenants. He then provides a brief sketch of Israel's ritual cycle as it is reflected in the biblical texts, reviewing the major festivals, holy days, and other sacred times. …