Re: Greek in Qumran

Carl W. Conrad (
Thu, 28 Nov 1996 08:14:02 -0600

At 8:38 PM -0600 11/27/96, Cal Redmond wrote:
>My comments were simply to draw attention to the Greek in Cave 4 that is
>so seldom acknowledged. Personally, I think it's significant that we
>find Greek biblical MSS in Qumran as well as in some of the caves(like
>the "Cave of Horrors" at Nahal Haver (sp?) which were hiding places for
>the Jewish rebels in the Bar Kohkba rebellion. If ultra-conservative
>Jews could tolerate the LXX, Greek must not have been a terrible

I think this is not just a casual comment but a profoundly significant truth.

I don't know if ultra-conservatism from one culture to the next is a very
similar phenomenon at all, but I was once an undergraduate History major
and struck by the fact that some, at least, of the sects and groups most
singularly determined to recover the pristine purity of their tradition
(such as the 16th-century Protestant reformers and the Qumranites, whether
or not they were Essenes) have turned out to be radical
revolutionaries--not in their own eyes, of course, but in terms of their
synthesis of traditions old and new and even utterly alien to their
ancestral traditions. Thus the Zoroastrian influence upon the Qumranites is
profound, as is also, apparently, the impact of Chaldaean astrology, and
also, it would appear, of the arch-fiend, Hellenism.

I realize that this is tangential to discussion of the Biblical Greek text,
but I think it is not irrelevant. I personally do not understand the notion
that somewhere in Palestine at the time of Jesus there was some pure form
of Judaism that remained "unsullied" by Hellenism. I think there may have
been forms of Judaism hellenized in different degrees, but I doubt there
was any UN-hellenized Judaism. This is one reason why I think it not
unlikely (although I certainly would make no dogmatic assertion on the
matter) that Jesus did speak at least a little Greek. I don't see how a
thinking human being growing up in the first century of our era in
proximity to the Decapolis in "Galilee of the Gentiles" could have failed
to absorb some of that subtle but penetrating influence.

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University
One Brookings Drive, St. Louis, MO, USA 63130
(314) 935-4018 OR