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The Samuel Apocryphon (4Q160) in context : a comparative analysis Schrottner, Elisabeth Isabelle


The Samuel Apocryphon (4Q160) is a parabiblical Hebrew manuscript found at Qumran. The text reworks the biblical Samuel narrative by adding, omitting, and rearranging existing material from the Samuel tradition. Through this process, Samuel becomes the prophetic, authoritative voice through which the rest of the text is read. Besides the Samuel tradition, the manuscript also contains new material: two prayers in which the intercessor prays that “they” (an unnamed group) would remember their relationship with God and return to him with renewed purity. These prayers are “new” in the sense that they depart from the Samuel narrative and the author uses words and phrases from other traditions, such as the psalms. When read this way, with the Samuel narrative framing the prayers, the author is engaging in pseudonymity to lend authority to the text. The author’s interpretation of the biblical tradition can serve as a commentary on inter-Jewish dynamics and issues of purity and piety in the second century BCE. I propose that 4Q160 is a valuable source that contributes to our understanding of the Second Temple period and the inter-group dynamics that shaped Judaism at the time. In order to discover where 4Q160 fits literarily and historically, this study is a comparative analysis; 4Q160 is placed beside parallel texts from differing categories. First, 4Q160 is placed beside other Samuel narratives from Qumran and in later traditions (e.g., Josephus). Second, 4Q160 is compared with three different categories of non-biblical texts from Qumran: the Damascus Document, Community Rule, MMT, and Jubilees. All of these texts, including 4Q160, shed light on the socio-historical situations of the authors. While the study seeks to answer the question of “who’s who?” in the text, 4Q160’s fragmentary nature only lets us catch a glimpse. However, the comparative examination of 4Q160’s context proves that this text is useful for understanding the diverse expressions of Second Temple Judaism.

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