Students of nearly any piece of literature would normally read a text before turning to secondary literature to better understand it. Unfortunately, 1Q/4QInstruction (hereafter “4QInstruction”) cannot so easily be read on account of its fragmentary nature and so our conversations are really about a less than half-readable composition. There are different ways to read and assess literature, whether wholly intact or not. As I begin this project my intention is not to offer a new critical edition of 4QInstruction, nor an exhaustive commentary, but rather to attempt to assess this document while avoiding the well-worn topic of the “eschatologizing” of wisdom. This study is comprised of three main chapters each of which explores hierarchies, divisions, as well as exclusionary and inclusionary practices. These chapters take as their focus the categories of and relationships between: (1) speaker and audience; (2) spirit and flesh; and (3) mysteries and Mosaic Torah.1
The balance between presenting a readable and succinct study, on the one hand, and offering extensive commentary on reconstructions of often times ambiguous (and often composite) manuscripts, on the other hand, will undoubtedly be viewed more and less positively by different readers. Transcriptions and translations of pertinent passages of 4QInstruction in this study are my own, in consultation with: (1) several of the original manuscripts at the Israel Antiquities Authority, Israel National Museum in 2013 with financial support from the National Endowment for the Humanities; (2) the Leon Levy Dead Sea Scrolls Digital Library and the many re-imaged fragments available to the public at
I have heard colleagues comment that 4QInstruction is an unusually difficult text to read—I agree. The decision before us is to dare to venture out and say something about it, or to allow the limited nature of this material to cripple us from speaking. My hope is that the reconstructions, translations, and interpretations in the pages that follow are made persuasively on the basis of careful, thoroughgoing analysis of the material. However, a single lacuna or lost column could, naturally, change the entire conversation. I imagine there are few in the world who, like me, dream that one day a complete manuscript of 4QInstruction will be found; until then my curiosity about this intriguing composition leads me to seek meaning among its many fragments.