Article Information

Pieter M. Venter1

1Department Old Testament Studies, University of Pretoria, South Africa

Correspondence to:
Pieter Venter


Postal address:
PO Box 12060, Garden Route Mall, George 6546, South Africa

Received: 12 Jan. 2015
Accepted: 27 Mar. 2015
Published: 29 May 2015

How to cite this article:
Venter, P.M., 2015, ‘The confluence of “wisdom” and “apocalyptic” in 4QInstruction’, In die Skriflig 49(2), Art. #1922, 9 pages.

Copyright Notice:
© 2015. The Authors. Licensee: AOSIS OpenJournals.

This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

The confluence of ‘wisdom’ and ‘apocalyptic’ in 4QInstruction
In This Original Research...
Open Access
Gattung research in the light of the Dead Sea scrolls
   • רז נהיה – raz nihyeh
   • Raz Nihyeh and the confluence of the wisdom and apocalyptic streams
A probable timeframe
Cognitive Linguistics
Embodied mind in 4Q416, Fragment 2 III
   • Competing interests

A confluence of sapiential and apocalyptic thought is found in 4QInstruction. This article investigates this phenomenon in 4QInstruction by studying the two main genres used in the book, indicating the central role of the term raz nihyeh [the existing secret] in the book and presenting a cognitive analysis of this term in 4Q416 2 III. The thesis is proposed that an extended embodied, chronistic and spatial view of the world is found in this passage.


Die samevloeiing van ’wysheid’ en ’apokaliptiese denke’ in 4Qinstruction. ’n Samevloeiing van wysheids- en apokaliptiese denke kom in 4QInstruction voor. Hierdie artikel ondersoek bogenoemde verskynsel in 4QInstruction deur die betudering van die twee hoofgenres wat in die boek voorkom. Dit dui die sentrale rol van die term raz niyeh [die geheim wat bestaan] in die boek aan en bied ’n kognitiewe analise van hierdie term in 4Q416 2 III. Dit word gestel dat ’n uitgebreide beliggaamde, kronistiese en ruimtelike beskouing van die wêreld in hierdie gedeelte voorkom.


Some of the Qumran wisdom texts have a ‘cosmic, eschatological, and moral framework’ (Harrington 2001:77). Traditional wisdom literature is linked here to apocalyptic literature. The use of these two different genres alongside each other in the same document, represents not only the pairing of two traditionally different types of Gattungen [literary types], but also two different Sitze im Leben [life situations], implying different, if not conflicting sets of ideology.1

Old Testament wisdom deals with everyday earthly reality. Wisdom is ‘the reasoned search for specific ways to ensure personal well-being in everyday life, to make sense of extreme adversity and vexing anomalies, and to transmit this hard-earned knowledge so that successive generations will embody it’ (Crenshaw 2010:4). Because it is difficult to define wisdom more closely than that, Gravett (2014) rather refers to wisdom as influence, tradition, or world view.

Apocalyptic literature (2014a; 2014b) on the other hand, has a temporal-eschatological axis in a supernatural world frame. The standard definition used in literature is that apocalyptic literature is literature in the form of a narrative. In the story a revelation is mediated by an otherworldly being to a human recipient. The revalation discloses a transcendent reality. This reality is both temporal and spatial. It envisages an eschatological salvation involving another, supernatural world. Earthly circumstances are interpreted in terms of the supernatural world and of the future.

The Wisdom and Apocalypticism Group2 of the Society of biblical Literature (initially a Consultation in 1994) focuses on studying these two categories that have traditionally been kept apart. The Group has twofold goals in mind: a more accurate definition of the terms ‘wisdom’ and ‘apocalyptic’,3 and the study of the social world and roles of the authors of these two types of literature (cf. Wright & Wills 2005b:2). Texts arise from social worlds, therefore sapiential texts and apocalyptic texts are to be read against the different social backgrounds from which they originated. What the Group accomplished through the years ‘is to show that wisdom and apocalypticism are indeed related both in many of their literary aspects and in their social contexts’ (Wright & Wills 2005b:3).

An obvious candidate for studying the use of both wisdom and apocalyptic literature is the theoretical book of 4QInstruction, also known as Sapiential Work A, or as Mûsar lĕMēvîn. In this book material of both wisdom and apocalyptic provenance is found (cf. Goff 2007:11). This article investigates 4QInstruction in an effort to better understand the relation between wisdom and apocalyptic literature during the time of its creation during the last two centuries of the time before the Common Era. After a summary of genre research the content of the book is discussed next. The importance of the term raz nihyeh [the existing secret] found in the book is indicated and its probable meaning discussed. Finally a cognitive analysis of the term in 4Q416 2 III is used to shed some more light on the relation between the wisdom perspectives and the apocalyptic view.

Gattung research in the light of the Dead Sea scrolls

George W.E. Nickelsburg (2005b:36) indicated in his paper read at the first session of the Consultation in 1994,4 that ‘wisdom’ and ‘apocalyptic’ are flawed categories with regard to Qumran studies. Apocalyptic texts often contain elements that are usually found in wisdom texts and vice versa. Nickelsburg's (2005b:36) advice was to study the ‘nature and interrelationship of the wisdom, prophetic, and eschatological components in Jewish apocalyptic writings’.

The study of wisdom literature in the Dead Sea scrolls brought along some changes in the definition of the wisdom Gattung (cf. Kampen 2011:loc. 191). In his study of ‘wisdom’ texts in the Qumran library, Collins (1997b:278) comes to the conclusion ‘that the forms of sapiential instruction are not necessarily tied to a particular kind of content or a single worldview’. What is more, the focus on literary form shifted towards the worldview reflected in wisdom literature. The ‘idea that wisdom constitutes a particular understanding of reality’ (1997b:266) became important in the definition of wisdom. Wisdom is rather ‘a multivalent concept’ representing ‘various wisdoms on offer in the schools of Judea around the turn of the era’ (1997b:281). For Goff (2007:4) wisdom is ‘an admittedly vague category’ that already has the characteristic of diversity in the Old Testament. In the definition of biblical wisdom a change occurred as well. In the book of Proverbs, Fox (2007:669) finds that ‘a fair degree of ideological unity’ holds the material of the book together. This epistemology ‘is best described as a coherence theory of truth’ (2007:675).

The way in which wisdom is used in the scrolls makes it clear that it should be seen as an entity with ‘its own developmental history’ (Collins 1997b:281). Some development took place. According to Goff (2007:6) the wisdom texts in the Dead Sea scrolls ‘attest a trajectory of wisdom in the Second Temple period that is characterized by influence from apocalyptic tradition’.5 García Martínez (2003:xxxiiv) refers to ‘a new sort of wisdom’ at Qumran. As all genres are ‘inherently unstable’ (Brooke 2013:126), diachronicity (2013:126) should be kept in mind to understand the susceptible character of hierarchies of genres to change. Wisdom as genre should be viewed dynamically.

Although Goff (2007:5) still tries to identify wisdom at Qumran in terms of more traditional criteria like pedagogical intent, thematic affinity, key phrases and motifs, it is clear that the association of wisdom with either the Torah (4Q525) or with apocalyptic literature (4Q184, 4QSapiential Work, and 4Q298) leads to a new kind of wisdom. The ‘assumed autonomy’ (Kampen 2011:loc. 199) of wisdom can no longer be upheld. Saur (2012:152) remarks that the wisdom literature at Qumran cannot be separated from apocalyptic literature. It was no longer directed at everyday practice, but rather at what was coming, and the glorious future of the righteous after death against the backdrop of the present (cf. 2012:152).

This trend agrees with Williamson's genre study. The traditional reduction of genre ‘to a static system of taxonomic classification’ (Williamson 2010:323), should make place for a cognitive model, a ‘“system of expectations” mediating between author and audience’ (2010:325). Williamson follows Alastair Fowler's Cognitive genre theory of a ‘family resemblance approach to genre’ (2010:314). Genre represents the use of a selection of features having a family resemblance. Genres are ‘fluidly structured entities’ (2010:317) that can vary from traditional generic conventions, but be related to each other not ‘threatening the integrity of the genre’ (2010:318).

Although we are in a better position to identify the elements that would indicate an apocalyptic worldview, than to indicate what ‘it means to say that a text exhibits a wisdom worldview’ (Tanzer 2005:44), diachronicity and variety should still be kept in mind. Since the Maccabean revolt apocalyptic literature flourished and texts increased combining elements of apocalyptics and wisdom. These texts enlarge the endeavour to continue a dichotomous labelling of either ‘wisdom’ or ‘apocalyptic’. The terms ‘wisdom’ and ‘apocalyptic’ will have to be reviewed in this changing context. Tanzer (2005:43) remarks that some further work needs to be done in thinking through ‘the different typologies of wisdom that are attested in varieties of texts … and how these relate to the perceived worldview of the text’. This means that we will have to work ‘text by text on the definitional issue of wisdom’ (2005:45) before it is possible to relate ‘wisdom’ to ‘apocalyptic’ and know to what extent the boundaries between them are permeable.

Against this background texts in the scrolls with both wisdom and apocalyptic perspectives can be studied. It will also have to be kept in mind that these perspectives represent a dynamic process of change and adaptation. It should be envisagde as two different streams running alongside each other for centuries, but started to flow into each other at Qumran.


Collins (1997b:271) indicates 4QInstruction as being by ‘far the most extensive and important wisdom text7 from Qumran’.8 It is the ‘most comprehensive sapiential text in Qumran’ (Perdue 2003:250). Goff (2007:665) describes 4QInstruction as ‘the best example available of a Jewish wisdom text with an apocalyptic worldview’. Goff (2007:661) bases this identification on the ‘pedagogical ethos of 4QInstruction’ comprising of ‘admonitions and practical advice that are designed to improve the ordinary life of the addressee’. García Martínez (2003:xvi) reads 4QInstruction in an apocalyptic framework, and although hesitant to call it ‘apocalyptic wisdom’, he is of the persuasion that the author presents even traditional wisdom as revealed heavenly wisdom. Knibb (2003) denies that 4QInstruction is an apocalyptic writing. In line with the familial relationship discussed above, Knibb (2003:199) finds that it is ‘primarily in the theological ideas that undergirds the wisdom teaching’, not in any apocalyptic form, that relevance to the book of Enoch and 4QMysteries can be found.

Six fragments of the original work are available at Qumran. They partially overlap with each other.9 Scholars posit that they form part of an originally large sapiential text between 23 and 30 columns long (cf. Nickelsburg 2005a:170). Kampen (2011:loc. 503) does not deem it possible to make a ‘systematic reconstruction of a unified text incorporating all of the fragments’. Koch (2003:53) refers to the ‘unvollständige Rekonstrurierbare’ [incomplete reconstructable] and in its arrangement therefore not transparent writing. What is left of the original is found in scrolls10 1Q26, 4Q415–418, and 4Q423,11 ‘written in Herodian script of the late 1st century BCE or early 1st century CE’ (Perdue 2003:250; cf. also Harrington 2001:40), in Hebrew ‘which was undoubtedly the original language of composition’ (Harrington 2003:344).

The ‘extensive margin on the right-hand side’ (Harrington 2001:41; cf. 2003:344) in 4Q416 is ‘the most secure point’ (Goff 2013:8; cf. Kampen 2011:loc. 503, 515) of the beginning of the original document, providing ‘a cosmological and eschatological framework for the document’ (Collins 1997a:126; cf. also Harrington 2001:41). Although 4Q416 is badly damaged, Harrington (2001:41) deduces from what is available, that the rest that follows was presented from a theological perspective that was cosmic and eschatological and provided an apocalyptic context for all of the work.

Harrington (2003:343) gets ‘a glimpse of a sometimes awkward attempt at presenting wisdom teachings in an apocalyptic framework and with motivations that include some basic concepts of apocalyptic thinking’ in these fragments. Nickelsburg (2005a:170) sees in the preserved fragments12 ‘a compilation of units of practical wisdom, loosely strung together13 … with cosmological and eschatological components’. Perdue (2003:250) sees these texts as a combination of sapiential instruction in accordance with the way the sages understood the cosmological order. Wisdom is obtained here through supernatural revelation (cf. Goff 2007:663). According to Goff (2007:10) the work is ‘eudemonistic and has a pedagogical ethos’. Themes included in the document therefore deal with ‘creation, providence, wisdom, revelation, especially esoteric knowledge to the elect, eschatological understanding of history and the eons of the time, and a final judgment’ (Perdue 2003:250) and with ‘practical instruction on topics such as marriage, the payment of debts and the moderation of food’ (Goff 2007:9).

Most of the practical instructions in 4QInstruction are found in 4Q416 and 4Q41714 (cf. Collins 1997a:118). The readers are addressed here in the second person masculine singular (as mebin – ‘learner’) instructing them how to deal inter alia with money and cope with poverty. However, the sage not only instructs his pupils how to deal with worldly matters, but also ‘on many other matters that pertain to the realm of heavenly wisdom’ (García Martínez 2003:xv). Although it takes the form of a senior sage preparing juniors for an educational or leadership role, the instructions are ‘extended to the entire people15 with whom these individual are affiliated’ (Kampen 2011:loc. 476).

The largest piece of more or less running text is found in the three successive columns of 4Q 416 (cf. Nickelsburg 2005a:170–171). Harrington (2001:44) remarks that 4Q416, Fragment 2, is ‘the best preserved section’ in this work. In this fragment the term raz nihyeh plays a central role.

Before continuing with a discussion of 4Q416 Fragment 2, this term will now be studied as background to the contents of 4Q416 Fragment 2.

רז נהיה – raz nihyeh

The ethics in the Instruction is ‘grounded in a comprehensive view of the purpose of creation’ (Collins 1997b:272), ‘summed up in the enigmatic phrase raz nihyeh’ (Collins 1997a:121). Other themes, such as eschatological judgement, are also found, but supernatural revelation in the form of the raz nihyeh ‘is the main tool by which the addressee acquires wisdom’ (Goff 2007:10). The appeal of raz nihyeh to supernatural revelation ‘is the core of 4QInstruction’ (2007:13).

The term raz was originally a Persian word (cf. Goff 2007:14; Harrington 2001:48). In apocalyptic texts, such as the biblical Daniel and the Aramaic pseudepigraphic Enoch fragments, it ‘denotes supernatural revelation (e.g., Dn 2:18–19; 4QEnoch 5 ii 26–27 [1 Enoch 106.19])’ (Goff 2009:380). The expression is found 32 times in 4QInstruction and only three times in the rest of early Jewish literature – ‘once in the Community Rule (1QS 11.3–4) and twice in the Book of Mysteries (1Q27 1 i 3–4)’ (Goff 2009:380; cf. Tigchelaar 2003:79). Parallel combinations are found in plural forms: secrets of God's wonder and secrets of knowledge.

This phrase is translated in various ways:16 ‘the mystery that is to come’ (Collins 1997a:121); ‘the mystery that is to be’ (Collins 1997b:272); ‘mystery of existence’ (Tigchelaar 2003:79); ‘Geheimnis des Geschehenden’ [secret of what is happening] (Koch 2003:54);17Geheimnis des Werdens’ [mystery of becoming] (cf. 2003:56); and ‘the mystery of that which is coming into being’ (cf. Knibb 2003:200). Although no translation is comprehensive enough, Goff (2003) opts for the translation ‘the mystery that is to be’, because it ‘establishes that the phrase has a temporal meaning’ not implying ‘an exclusive future sense’ (Goff 2003:34). In the discussion below preference will be given to an all-encompassing temporal meaning.

Scholars differ on the way this term is to be understood. Some scholars refer to the future, or the past, or some are referring to the past, present and future.

Collins (1997b:274) sees נהיה רז (raz nihyeh) as indication of ‘the entire divine plan, from creation to eschatological judgment’. Having ‘an eschatological thrust’ (Collins 1997a:122) it indicates mysteries that will only become clear in the end of days (cf. Collins 1997b:274). From the contextual use of the term, inter alia in 1Q27, 1QS 3:15 and Sirach 42:19, Collins (2003:290) concludes ‘that the נהיה רז includes knowledge of eschatological reward and punishment, but it also includes the origin of the human and even the cosmic condition’.

Harrington (2001:48–49) understands 4Q416, Fragment 2, iii (that will be analysed below) as having ‘both cosmic and eschatological dimensions, as well as moral practical consequences’. The urge there to study the נהיה רז ‘concerns behavior and eschatology’ (Harrington 2001:49). Harrington (cf. 2001:71) finds confirmation of his analysis of the term in 1Q27 1 i 3–4 where the phrase is found in an eschatological scenario.

Kampen (2011:loc. 484) finds in the rationale given to seek the mystery, that ‘both present and future receive extensive treatment’. The author of the text ‘has provided a cosmological framework for an eschatology and a resultant ethic that will be developed throughout the remainder of the composition’ (2011:loc. 579).

Goff understands this phrase in terms of past, present and future. He bases his position on the Niph’al participium form of the verb hyh indicating duration (cf. Goff 2007:15). It indicates ‘the full chronological extent of God's deterministic framework’ (Goff 2003:33). It ‘signifies a comprehensive divine scheme that orchestrates the cosmos, from creation to judgment’ (Goff 2013:15). This raz nihyeh therefore enables a person to understand God's comprehensive plan that controls the history and provides him ‘with knowledge of the full extent of God's dominion over the created order’ (Goff 2007:665) and to behave accordingly.

Knibb (2003:201) understands נהיה רז (raz nihyeh) as ‘understanding of both past and future’ because the term is followed by ‘the former things’ in 1Q27 1 i, 4Q299 1 and 4Q 300 3. In the passages in which it is used, it is followed by an indication that the end was imminent.

Raz Nihyeh and the confluence of the wisdom and apocalyptic streams

An ongoing debate is found in scholarly work of the way in which the term raz nihyeh ‘sheds light on the interplay of sapiential and apocalyptic influences in 4QInstruction’ (Goff 2009:386). According to Goff (2007):

The main contribution of 4QInstruction to the issue of wisdom in relation to apocalypticism is that the work establishes that in the late Second Temple period a wisdom text could have an apocalyptic worldview. (p. 666)

Goff (2009:386) refers to ‘the countervailing construals’18 of the issue put forward by Lange and Elgvin choosing for either wisdom or apocalyptic as dominant genre. Nitzan's (2005:257–279) theory is that the combination is not a conflation of wisdom and apocalyptic, but the alternating use of different kinds of literature by the same author.

Goff (2013:20) himself prefers to focus on the parallel combination of wisdom and apocalypticism in 4QInstruction, rather than to speculate which tradition is more important in 4QInstruction. The work is ‘a product of complementary influence from the wisdom and apocalyptic traditions’ (2013:21). ‘Wisdom and apocalypticism are not mutually exclusive traditions’ (Goff 2007:21). Whilst wisdom is the basis of the inherent order of the world in Proverbs, the basis in 4QInstruction is the raz nihyeh. The movement away from biblical wisdom is ‘reasonably attributed to influence from apocalyptic tradition’ (2007:21). He says that wisdom and apocalypticism must be understood as ‘complimentary influences’. The work should also be seen against its contemporary background with its dominating influences and attitudes. The inclusion of apocalyptic themes, such as revelation and determinism into the wisdom tradition, is in agreement with the intellectual climate in the Hellenistic age. There was a ‘widespread sense of alienation, political upheaval, and the decline of national independence in the Near East’ (Goff 2009:388). Kampen (2011:loc. 561) also sees Instruction against its historical background as ‘an early and significant work in a particular trajectory of wisdom literature in Second Temple Judaism’.

Perdue and Koch approach the problem from another angle. Perdue sees 4QInstruction as the adversary of Qoheleth. He opposed the apocalyptic sages of the 3rd century BCE who combined apocalyptic language and thought with traditional wisdom and the Torah (cf. Perdue 2003:245–247). 4QInstruction (‘a precursor to the Qumran community’; – 2003:247) indicates that wisdom and apocalyptic literature had already come together by the 2nd century BCE. Several ‘originally different theological and literary traditions (wisdom apocalyptic, and Torah) existed side by side and eventually began to influence each other and even at times merge together’ (Perdue 2003:258).

Investigating the reference to time in 4QInstruction, Koch (2003:61) sees in this book a branch of later wisdom on a resolute way to apocalyptics. In this process the idea of Urzeit [primitive time], spanning the time between a far off past and a coming future, became a foothold in wisdom thinking (cf. 2003:61). There is a created and continuing Zeituniversum [time universe] (2003:67), an alldurchdringende Zeit [all penetrating time] (2003:67) that directs the world. This underlying principle is embedded in social life, dictates the contours of one's life, and determines life's ethos. Although it is a secret only known to God, God reveals aspects of this heavenly plan to humans so that they could live accordingly. This is what the term raz nihyeh refers to. The learners are instructed to pay heed to this zusammenhängende Nihyeh [coherent Nihyeh] (2003:67). This Geheimnis des Geschehenden [secret of what is still happening] (2003:61) teaches one what is happening in the world and what will happen in future.

A probable timeframe

Scholars like Goff, Perdue and Koch referred above to a contemporary background of 4QInstruction. Nickelsburg (2005b:30) proposed in his 1994 paper that ‘an attempt to reconstruct the institutions, social settings, and functions that gave rise to this literature’ should be made as well. Wright and Wills (2005:3) suggested that several methods should be applied to find the relationship between wisdom and apocalyptic. These would be identifying the author(s), locating where it was written and reconstructing the landscapes of Second Temple Judaism and early Christianity.

However, the precise life setting is elusive. One reason being that Sapiential literature projects ‘a certain antiquity and timelessness (as in Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Wisdom of Solomon)’ (Harrington 2003:354) and refers only in generic terms to life. Goff (2013:10) remarks that very ‘little can be determined about how instruction actually took place in the community to which 4QInstruction is addressed’. Nickelsburg rather focused on identifying types of figures than the wider social settings itself. He was quite aware of the wide diversity of the communities responsible for this literature. Tanzer (2005) referred in her reaction to Nickelsburg to the work of Jon Berquist (1995) and Richard Horsley (1994:733–751). Bequest's hypothesis on the social contexts and producers of wisdom and apocalyptic literature identifies literate scribes working outside the temple. Horsley studies the specific social world of the scribes on a text-by-text basis. He focuses on the attitudes towards people in power found in the texts. However, Tanzer (2005:48) warns19 that these theories may ‘mislead people into thinking that we know more about these scribes than we possibly can’.

Keeping Tanzer's warning in mind, it is clear that only very general remarks can be made, like 4QInstruction was presumably composed in the land of Israel in or before the 1st20 century BCE (cf. Harrington 2003:354). However, Horsley's approach can be followed to work on a text-by-text basis. There are no real clues in the texts to the precise situation. But the texts do refer to social phenomena, customs, viewpoints and ideas found amongst people. Study in this area requires intensive work with Jewish and non-Jewish texts, as well as ‘epigraphic and archaeological evidence, using the tools of philology, literary criticism, and social scientific methods’ (Nickelsburg 2005b:35).

There are several of these ‘social scientific methods’ Nickelsburg (2005b:35) refers to. In 4QInstruction cognitive verbalisation not only takes both wisdom and apocalyptic form, but in the case of 4Q416, Fragment 2 III referred to below, it is conspicuous how references to the human body are used to teach the pupil correct conduct. This means that conceptualising human experience on a cognitive basis includes doing it in bodily metaphorical terms. These body terms in Fragment 2 III can therefore be studied using the insights of Cognitive Linguistics focusing on spatial imagery, and specifically the body in this case. In turn this will illustrate how wisdom and apocalyptic ideas are formulated in bodily terms.

Cognitive Linguistics

The focus on reading and editing the many fragmentary manuscripts from the Judean desert caused the neglect of keeping track with hermeneutical readings of the scrolls (cf. Brooke 2013:xv). Brooke addresses this problem in his 2013 publication on reading and analysing the Dead Sea scrolls. He pays inter alia attention to theories developed in the social sciences, like the deviance theory.21 In a chapter on spatial imagery22 he studies the use of spatial language in the Qumran pesharim. His idea is that references to space in these pesharim were not only composed in the context of Qumran, but were also ‘construed as reflecting the ideology of those who lived there’ (Brooke 2013:140).

In Cognitive Linguistics a wide variety of human experiences are investigated, like space and time. Humans conceptualise the experiences of these entities in metaphorical analogical terms, mostly in terms of their own bodies. In this regard Lakoff and Johnson (inter alia 1999) proposed the embodied mind theory. This theory states that cognition is determined by the body. One's bodily experience forms the basis of one's perception of reality. These perceptions are translated into language ‘via metaphorical expressions’ (Coetzee 2008:300). Bodily experience uses ‘the motor system, the perceptual system, the body's interactions with the environment (situatedness) and the ontological assumptions about the world that are built into the body and the brain’ (Wikipedia 2014). It ‘includes high level mental constructs (such as concepts and categories) and human performance on various cognitive tasks (such as reasoning or judgment)’ (2008).

Malina (1993:300) indicated three areas of perception: emotion-fused thought, self-expressive speech, and purposeful action. The zone of emotion-fused thought is composed of body parts such as the eyes, the heart and the eyelids. These organs are used to see, to recognise, to comprehend, to reflect and to decide (cf. Coetzee 2008:300). The second category of expressive speech utilises the auditive organs such as the mouth, ears, tongue, lips, throat, teeth, jaws and their activities (cf. Coetzee 2008:300). The third zone of ‘purposeful action includes hands, feet, arms, fingers, legs, and the activities of these organs’ (cf. 2008:300).

Gillmayr-Bucher (2004:301) indicates that body imagery not only portrays experience with metaphorical language related to the body, but also characterises a person and reveals the ‘underlying concepts of communication and valuation’ of the person. What is of importance here is her remark that one of the important functions of body image is that it establishes a relationship between the persons mentioned in communication, or, in the case of psalms literature ‘between the psalmist and God’ (2004:325). Mirguet (2011:5) studies the use ‘of the body to express identity in Judeo-Hellenistic narratives’. The use of the body serves here as a marker of identity. There are ‘essential components of human identity, at both a personal and collective level’ (2011:17–18). These viewpoints can next be used to read 4Q416, Fragment 2 III, where superfluous references to the body are found.

Embodied mind in 4Q416, Fragment 2 III

The major themes in this passage deal with caution in financial affairs, the need to study and learn, conduct towards the parents and towards the spouse (cf. Goff 2013:94–95).

Several direct references to parts of the body are found in this passage: hand, face (God's countenance), head, shoulder, heart. They are all related to the ‘purposeful action’ (Coetzee 2008:300) of the body.

Some of these references to the body are metaphorically, for instance, ‘bring your shoulder under all instruction’23 and ‘purify your heart’.24

Bodily functions are indicated without referring directly to the part of the body concerned: rejoice (by using the mouth), accept goods (using your hand), lie in repose with the truth (your body lying down), confused by your inheritance25 (passive voice of Hebrew bl’ meaning ‘consume with the mouth’) (cf. Kampen 2011:loc. 939); move your boundary (with the hand), et cetera. These references belong to Malina's (1993) third zone of purposeful action (cf. Coetzee 2008:300).

Identification in terms of the body is found in reflexive remarks like remembering who you are (a poor person in want of food and property), desire nothing except your inheritance (living with contentment and not desire), and lie in repose with the truth (being intimate with what is the truth and therefore being a truthful person).

Gillmayr-Bucher's (2004:325) idea that body image ‘establishes a relationship between the persons mentioned’ can also be applied here. The person being a whole body meets another body – be it human or the embodiment of an idea. For instance, if the addressee does not know a person he should not accept any money from him (evaluating a relationship negatively); he should praise God's name and seek his favour (response with the body to God who gave him a position of honour); God has set you with the nobles (communion with people of importance, probably the angels;26) honour father and mother (relationship to people with whom he is genetically related).

The other bodies with whom the mebin [learner] stands in relation are depicted in metaphorical terms. Lifeless phenomena can act like living human beings who eat, attack and kill. If the person sets his hand upon what someone unknown has entrusted to him, its fire can burn his hand and devour his body (dangerous relationship); he should take responsibility of what was forced on him for life (like caring for a child); he should not let his spirit be seized by it (be swallowed with its mouth by what was entrusted to him); lying with the truth (meaning he will be in an intimate relationship with truth).27

Four pairs of items or persons are stated parallel to each other. What is of utmost importance here is that the term raz nihyeh is used in all four cases. First pair is that he should not be confused about his inheritance and be lead astray by it, because then he will be able to walk in it (leading the way not being lead where he does not want to go). This stands parallel with the conditional sentence in line 9, namely if he studies the raz nihyeh, he will know his inheritance and walk in it in righteousness (the mystery will teach him the right direction to take). His inheritance and this mystery he is investigating will both allow him righteous conduct.

The second pair is that poverty should not keep him back from attaining knowledge (seek for it, bring his shoulder under all instruction, study, examine). This is in parallel with line 14, namely to study the mystery and examine closely the ways of truth. Again, as in the case of the inheritance and the mystery above seeking knowledge (lines 12 and 13) and studying the mystery (line 14) are paralleled to each other. Together both will enable him to live knowledgeable (know what is bitter and what is sweet for man).

The mystery God revealed to his ear (line 18) and honouring the parents28 (line 18) will together29 have an effect on his life and lengthen his days is the third pair. Mystery and honouring the parents work together to better his life.

The fourth case is that his willingness to live in harmony with the spouse he is married to (line 20) stands in accordance with the mystery (line 21) and will enhance his life. In this pair a connection can be found to ‘the theme of marriage to supernatural revelation’ (Goff 2013:115).

In all four of these cases the mystery is paralleled to his relationship with persons of embodied objects. Inheritance and the mystery will allow the person to walk in righteousness; knowledge and the mystery will enable him to know what is positive and what is negative for human life; honouring the parents and receiving the revealed mystery will enrich his life in quantity and quality; and his marriage and the mystery go hand in hand in his life.


The agreement with Proverbs 8 is obvious. The raz nihyeh and the personified wisdom fulfil the same function. In Proverbs 8 ‘a character sketch of wisdom’ (Brown 1996:loc. 410) is presented. The link between wisdom and prudence, knowledge and righteousness in Proverbs is intended to create a bridge between the hearer and wisdom. It advances the ‘values of righteousness, justice, and equity’ (1996:loc. 420–421). Wisdom invites the hearers to take her into their life. As Brown (1996:loc. 420–421) formulates it: ‘Cast in the language of embodiment, the traits of wisdom are designed for appropriation.’

When wisdom's speech moves from normative character to ‘wisdom's primordial, albeit non-pre-existent, nature’ (Brown 1996:loc. 421) in Proverbs 8:22–31, the function of wisdom enters the cosmic realm. Within this context wisdom acts as ‘crafts(wo)man’ (Murphy 1998:54) setting herself in relation to God and his creation and through the indelible link to the recipient of her words, enables him to experience God's creation in all it splendour.

However, some changes are obvious. Whilst the wisdom in Proverbs 8 is the one calling upon the hearer to attend to her, here it is God himself who literally opens the ears by means of the mystery.30 It is no longer an entity next to God as in Proverbs 8, but something presented by God himself. It is a direct revelation by God. Apocalyptic revelation and wisdom instruction come together here. God's mystery and the instructions stand on one line.

The mystery in 4Q416, Fragment 2 III also leads to a full life. It is also linked to the different areas of life: inheritance, knowledge and correct relation to his parents and his wife. It is again something to be appropriated, and to be identified with. The use of so many body references in this section indicates that the mystery is bodily and fully integrated into the listener's life. It becomes part and parcel of his whole being. But in and through this mystery the reader becomes a person fully integrated in God’ creation, taking part in all there is. Embodiedness plays a bigger role than in Proverbs 8.

The mystery is in agreement with the wisdom in Proverbs with regard to its function in the hearer's life, but there is a conspicuous change in the character of the mystery here. No longer is the listener only linked to the Urzeit (cf. Koch 2003:61) of creation, but in and through the mystery his life is now extended to the future as well. The order of creation ‘plays a defining role in the development of ethical character’ (Brown 1996:loc. 460) and now the mystery joins in by showing the way from the present to the future developing an ethical character. Whether raz nihyeh is translated as present entity or as the mystery that will be, an avenue is opened up here for an extended chronological function of the mystery. It functions within the framework of a continuing Zeituniversum [time universe] (Koch 2003:67), a panchronistic immerhistoriese [ever historical] (Venter 1981:323) context. There is not any chronological scheme here, but a confluence of traditional wisdom and the apocalyptic view of time.

An extension of space is also caused by the confluence of wisdom and apocalyptic literature. A supernatural aspect is probably indicated by the reference to the princes in line 11, if this is translated as angels. However, in the case of 4Q416, Fragment 2 III there is not a supernatural intermediary angelus interpretus [interpreting angel] and no heavenly vision. There is not any heavenly scene here as in Job 1:6–12. What is revealed here is indeed a transcendent reality in the form of God's raz nihyeh that dictates everything, but it is fully integrated into the lives of people. The world in which 4QInstruction operates is much larger than the horizontal world of Proverbs, including the transcendental, but is not divided into an up and a below. Space is fully integrated here into one large cosmos ruled by God through his mystery.

This is not wisdom on a resolute way to apocalyptic as Koch (2003:67) sees it, neither an apocalyptic extension into wisdom, but rather a confluence between the wisdom and the apocalyptic traditions with cross cultural influence on each other. It reflects a changing world and time view in sapiential thinking where a hidden force behind all existence is identified with God's cosmic rule of everything he created. It is no longer a final system that God created at the beginning, but an abiding mystery that directs the cosmos right to the end. It is the task of the mebin [learner] to reflect on this all-penetrating mystery throughout his life. The role the Torah played in priestly circles is duplicated here as the revealed and revealing wisdom God commissioned his faithful to search for with all their heart all through their life.


This article is dedicated to my colleague Jan du Rand in appreciation of his research on New Testament apocalyptic literature.

Financial support by the NRF is recognised.

Competing interests

The author declares that he has no financial or personal relationship(s) that may have inappropriately influenced him in writing this article.


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1. Collins (1997a:267) says: ‘The this-worldly character of wisdom, however, often serves as a counterpoint to apocalypticism, which appeals very explicitly to extraordinary revelations, in the Hellenistic period.’

2. There are two groups studying wisdom literature in the Society of biblical Literature. The Wisdom and Apocalypticism Group aims at redefining wisdom and apocalyptic genres finding the historical and social location of texts belonging to these two categories. The parallel group Wisdom in Israelite and cognate Traditions focuses on wisdom literature found in the Bible and contemporary literature in the ancient Near East searching for new ways to understand this type of literature.

3. The standard terms used in the literature are ‘wisdom’ and ‘apocalyptic’. When the term is used in this article without quotation marks, it is used in an adjectival sense, for example: wisdom literature and apocalyptic literature.

4. Revised for the 2005 congress volume by Wright and Wills (2005:17–37).

5. Armin Lange (1995) is of the same opinion.

6. The translation of Goff (2013:92–93) is followed here.

7. Other Qumran sapiential texts are found in 4Q424, 4Q420–21, 4Q413, 4Q298, and 4Q525.

8. To this Perdue (2003:250) adds: ‘similar to the Book of Enoch, in particular “The Book of the Watchers” and the “Epistle of Enoch”’.

9. Cf. Goff (2007:11, note 6) for the fragments that overlap with one another. Goff (2013:3) refers to ‘a synoptic situation’. For a more extensive discussion of fragments overlapping cf. Goff (2013:3).

10. According to Harrington (2001:40) parts of the original work are also preserved in 1Q26.

11. These are the names given to these manuscripts by Strugnell, Harrington and Elgvin (1999).

12. Collins (1997a:118) describes the available manuscripts as ‘extremely fragmentary’, partly because the original ‘was loosely structured at best’.

13. Goff (2007:12) remarks that the reconstruction of 4QInstruction ‘is not a major issue in terms of the interpretation of the work’, as wisdom texts have a loose organisational form anyhow.

14. For a discussion of the contents of 4Q416, 4Q417 and 4Q418, cf. Harrington 2003:344–349.

15. According to Collins (1997a:120) this document is not addressed to ‘the Jewish society at large, but to those who share an understanding of this mystery and therefore have been initiated into some kind of movement …’.

16. Cf. Goff (2003:33–34) for the different possibilities for the translation of the phrase.

17. Koch (2003:56) says that nhyh is in the participium, and ‘keine Zeitstufe [ist] eindeutig’ [no single time stage]. It can be translated in different ways: mystery that came into being, mystery that is to come, existing mystery. Koch (2003:56) sees the term as referring not just to the beginning of time or its end, but also the ‘dazwischen ablaufende Geschichte’ [continuing history between the two].

18. According to Goff (2009:386–388), Lange (1995) sees 4QInstruction as continuation of sapiential tradition, but representing a stage of where wisdom is in a crisis. According to Goff, Elgvin (2000) sees 4QInstruction as more determined by apocalypticism than traditional wisdom (cf. also Goff 2013:19–20).

19. For a similar caveat cf. also Collins 1993:165–185.

20. Goff (2013:28) chooses for a time when apocalyptic tradition was flourishing in the 2nd century bce.

21. This theory investigates the phenomenon of groups willingly deviating from normative behaviour (cf. Brooke 2013:37–50).

22. ‘Room for interpretation: An analysis of spatial imagery in the Qumran Pesharim’, in Brooke (2013:137–149).

23. Goff (2013:107) interprets this as ‘a call to study’.

24. Goff (2013:107) reads the instruction to purify the heart as meaning that the mebin should focus on ‘understanding the special “inheritance” that God has given him’.

25. Goff (2013:101) understands this term as ‘a special allotment given to particular individuals by God’ that dictates their station in life. This inheritance has both worldly and heavenly aspects and can even include affinity with the angels and eternal life after death.

26. Both Goff and Kampen understand nobles to refer to the angels. The mebin shares his lot with the angels. Kampen (2011:loc. 973) concludes: ‘This suggests an understanding of some form of external existence for the righteous without the concept of resurrection.’ Goff (2013:105) interprets ‘sitting with the noble’ as parallel to inheriting glory and therefore understands nobles as reference to the angels.

27. Goff (2013:100) interprets truth as expressing ‘an affinity between God and the elect’, therefore a relationship not only with embodied truth but also with God.

28. Filial piety has a theological rationale. Honouring the parents is the same as honouring God. This in turn is based on God Who created all humans in his image (cf. Goff 2013:110–111).

29. Goff (2013:112) remarks that these lines ‘combine heavenly revelation with practical instruction on filial piety’.

30. Von Rad (1970:189) refers to wisdom as the self-revelation of creation (‘Selbstoffenbarung der Schöpfung’) in Proverbs 8, but here it is God who reveals the mystery.

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