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Throwback Thursday: New interpretation of circumcision

T-S B13.12
T-S B13.12 (P2 recto)
Melonie Schmierer-Lee
Thu 13 Jan 2022

Our Throwback Thursday this week is taken from issue 27 of the printed edition of Genizah Fragments, published in April 1994, by Uwe Glessmer of the University of Hamburg:

With Heinz Fahr, I have published an edition of T-S B13.12, entitled Jordandurchzug und Beschneidung als Zurechtweisung in einem Targum zu Josua 5, which appears as No. 3 in the Orientalia Biblica et Christiana series published by J. J. Augustin (Glückstadt, 1991).
The manuscript T-S B13.12 has been widely known – since Kahle mentioned it in The Cairo Geniza in 1947 – as testimony to an unpublished targum to the prophets in a dialect of spoken Palestinian Aramaic. Its importance, however, goes well beyond the scope of the dialectical debate that was once the preoccupation of the Kahle school.
The five leaves contain the festival hafṭarah reading for Passover in its liturgical frame, with alphabetic introduction, blessings, short résumé of the context in Joshua 3:4 and the usual targum to Joshua 5:2-15, as well as an “ epilogue” of Joshua 6:1f. Besides this arrangement, the manuscript is of special interest for the contents of the Aramaic rendering of the Hebrew text of Joshua 5:2-15, which is partly attested by two other manuscripts outside the Cambridge Genizah Collection but is not in accordance with the standard targum.
The interpretation of circumcision especially deserves attention. In the biblical text, circumcision is an important act that marks the separation between the 40 years’ time span in the wilderness – in which circumcision was not practised on the children born on the way – and the new age that begins with the crossing of the Jordan into the Promised Land.
T-S B13.12 (=CG) does not mention circumcision at all, just as Josephus omits it in his reference to the Passover of Gilgal in Antiquities V:20f. Instead of the rite of circumcision, CG interprets the biblical text as referring to an admonition delivered by representatives of God – namely, wise men. Their teaching is connected with the eschatological expectations of the righteous who are to enter the Promised Land and their final separation from those who do not abandon their wicked ways. Circumcision is thus interpreted in terms of such biblical texts as Deuteronomy 30:1f and Jeremiah 4:4f, which deal with the circumcision of the heart and the repentance that the angel Uriel demands in the CG version of verse 15.
Since Joshua 5 is one of the cornerstones of the rabbinic debate about the rites to be performed by proselytes, the question arises: What is the Jewish milieu of this divergent text? Some hints point in the direction of the Second Temple period and its literature. The Book of Jubilees (ch. 50) has a similar expectation of an eschatological Passover and a crossing into the land.
In the Damascus Document 20:14, the 40 years until “the end of all the men of war” should be seen as a reference more to Joshua 5:6 than to Deuteronomy 2:14 because of the number cited. (Similar hope is expressed in 4QpPs 37 2:5 and in 1QM 2:7f.)
The role of those who enter the community to circumcise their hearts (see 1QS 5:5f) and who admonish each other according to Leviticus 19:18 is similar to that of those who deliver the admonition in CG and is reminiscent of the Essene scenario of crossing into the covenant (Deuteronomy 29:30). Joining the symbolic military order is depicted in terms that relate to the crossing of the Jordan and the Jericho campaign in Joshua 3-6.
For the interpretation of CG, this background seems at the moment the most plausible context among ancient Judaisms. Our book seeks to demonstrate that the targumist is the author of a new text which sees itself not only as a translation, but also as intent on making a relevant contribution to the issue of eschatology.


I just came across this Blog and Melonie Schmierer-Lee's throwback from Thu 13 Jan 2022 - while searching the date of Prof. R.P. Gordon's talk 'T-S Unit looks to past and future' in GF 36. There he mentioned the problem of the designation of the Ms which was cited misleading as T.-S. B 13/2. - In the new edition to appear in spring there will be a treatment of the pre-history of the research done by Paul Kahle and - sadly not finished - by his doctorand Alastair McIntosh. The newer perspective will also include the immigration from Nazi-Germany (as described by Marie Kahle). But also the work by those scientists who have worked later on in this field I will describe now more extensivly compared to 1991. In spring 2022 a discussion with the witnesses from Qumran will be printed in "Qumran Chronicle" (Warshaw). Especially the Joshua-Mss (as 4Q47 fr. 1) will be delt with.

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