Academic journal article Journal of Biblical Literature

Is It Pesher? Readdressing the Relationship between the Epistle of Jude and the Qumran Pesharim

Academic journal article Journal of Biblical Literature

Is It Pesher? Readdressing the Relationship between the Epistle of Jude and the Qumran Pesharim

Article excerpt

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In the past several decades, it has become increasingly common for scholars to situate the epistle of Jude within a "Palestinian-Christian" or "Hellenistic Jewish" compositional milieu.1 The epistle's use of esoteric Jewish text traditions, the presence of Semitisms, and the employment of a pseudonymous author recognizable in a Judean context are features that suggest a Jewish Christian background to the epistle.2 One of the other prominent features mentioned in this discussion is the particular way Jude utilizes Scripture, an approach often referred to as "midrashic." One of the first scholars to make this observation was E. Earle Ellis, who wrote that Jude contains exegetical techniques "common to first century Judaism" and employs "not only quotations but also explicit and implicit midrashim on the Old Testament as their authoritative texts."3 Many of Ellis's ideas about Jude were subsequently taken up and developed by Richard Bauckham, who in recent years has been the principal proponent of the midrashic structure and form of the body of the epistle (vv. 5-19). According to Bauckham, many of the exegetical techniques employed by the epistle's author are formally similar to features found in the Qumran pesharim. Bauckham finds this resemblance between the epistle and the pesharim so striking that he goes so far as to say that the epistle of Jude is a tangible example of "pesher exegesis."

The issue in this study is the accuracy of this association of Jude with the pesharim. First, I will offer a summary of the main points proposed by Bauckham to support his assessment of Jude as "pesher exegesis." Second, I will provide a brief survey of recent scholarship on the pesharim with a particular focus on discussions concerning their form, content, and overall hermeneutical perspective. Third, I will critique Bauckham's points, concluding that, although Jude is not an example of pesher exegesis, there are still some fruitful avenues of comparative research to explore regarding the epistle and the Qumran pesharim.


Although Bauckham does not advance one distinct argument identifying Jude as an example of pesher exegesis, throughout many of his publications on the epistle he reiterates the same four basic points supporting his identification of Jude as a form of pesher exegesis. He recognizes three formal features and one hermeneutical perspective that are shared by the epistle and the Qumran pesharim.

A.A "Text"-Interpretation Formal Structure

First, according to Bauckham both Jude and the pesharim follow a pattern in which a scriptural quotation directly precedes the author's interpretation of that lemma. Bauckham claims that, like the pesharim, the epistle of Jude provides a series of so-called text citations (vv. 5-7, 11, 14-15, 17-18), each of which is subsequently followed by a "passage of interpretation" (vv. 8-10, 12-13, 16, 19).4 Along these lines, verses 5-19 consist of four main sections of "text" and corresponding commentary, with each commentary identifying the false teachers as the presentday subject of their respective "texts."5 Bauckham does acknowledge that this comparison has its difficulties. First, unlike the pesharim Jude does not directly quote from any text of the Hebrew Bible (much less the Septuagint) and offers only one specific text citation-1 En. 1:9 in verses 14-15.6 Second, while the pesharim direct their interpretive attention solely to prophetically oriented Scripture, Jude interprets two sets of paraphrased historical typologies (vv. 5-7, 11) alongside the quotation from 1 Enoch (vv. 14-15) and an apostolic prophecy (v. 17-18). Bauckham ultimately admits that these two formal deviations significantly hinder a direct comparison between the pesharim and Jude, yet he nonetheless asserts that "the structure of text and commentary is in every other respect too clear for the anomalous character of the actual 'texts' to outweigh" their comparison. …

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