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4QInstruction’s Mystery and Mastery of Wisdom

In: Dead Sea Discoveries
Author: Davis Hankins1
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To paraphrase Victor Shklovsky, the idea that 4QInstruction presents a combination of distinct apocalyptic and sapiential components has survived the downfall of the theory that supports it. Scholars increasingly describe wisdom and apocalypticism as coexistent, mutually influencing currents of thought within a broader Hellenistic environment. Nevertheless, characterizations of their co-presence in texts like 4QInstruction tend to rely upon more simple, typological notions. This paper explores how the relationships of similarity and difference among various texts alter significantly when we discard such typologies and instead adopt a more complex, structural approach to the logic underlying their discursive components. I discuss several texts from Proverbs, Job, Daniel, and Ben Sira, but I focus on 4QInstruction, which I argue presents apocalyptic-infused teachings within a framework that is congruent with—even more logically rigorous than—traditional wisdom. However, amidst Second Temple Judaism’s heightened concerns with knowledge, this logical advance accompanies dangerous sociopolitical consequences.

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