Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Apocryphal Melchizedek - The Genesis Apocryphon

December 6, 2011
by Tim Barker

The meeting of Abram and Melchizedek1

The Genesis Apocryphon was found in the caves of Qumran, and constitutes part of the Dead Sea Scrolls (this scroll is referenced as 1Q20).  This apocryphal book of scripture stands apart from other texts from Qumran, as Joseph Fitzmyer notes, "there is nothing in this text that clearly links it with any of the known beliefs or customs of the Qumran sect.  There is practically no Essene theology in this work, and it is difficult to see what exegetical or doctrinal meditations were at work in the composition of this text."2  While this would seem to indicate a text pre-dating the Qumran community, nevertheless, Fitzmyer dates the language of the text to the 1st Century BCE.3  Other scholars have had differing opinions on the dating of the text.4  At any rate, the content itself is similar to Genesis with degrees of variation.  Avigad and Yadin noted that "it is actually a sort of apocryphal version of stories from Genesis, faithful, for the most part, to the order of the chapters in Scripture.  Some chapters of the scroll begin and end precisely as the comparable chapters of Genesis do, though the narrative in the scroll is in large part couched in the first person."5  Others have noted that with the additions made to the biblical text, it may be more of a commentary "in the manner of the Targumim."6 

The relevant portion of the text, Column 22, is provided below as an extract from the Genesis Apocryphon, in relation to Melchizedek.

Column 22

1. who was dwelling in Sodom, together with them -- and all his flocks.  But one of the herdsmen of the flock,
2. which Abram had given to Lot, who escaped from the captivity, came to Abram.  At that time Abram was
3. living in Hebron; and he informed him that Lot, his nephew, had been taken captive with all his flocks, but (that) he was not killed, and that
4. the kings had set out by the route <of> the Great Valley toward their province, taking captives, plundering, destroying, killing, and making
5. their way toward the city of Damascus.  Abram wept over Lot, his nephew; then he summoned up his courage, rose up,
6. and chose from his slaves the best men of war, three hundred and eighteen (of them); and Arnem
7. Eshcol, and Mamre set out with him.  He went in pursuit of them until he reached Dan and found them
8. encamped in the valley of Dan.  He fell upon them by night from all four sides.  He kept slaughtering
9. them (that) night, routed them, and pursued them, as all of them went fleeing before him,
10. until they reached Helbon, which is situated to the north of Damascus.  So he rescued from them all that they had captured
11. and all that they had plundered, and all their own goods.  Lot too, his nephew, he saved with all his flocks; and all
12. the captives that they had taken he brought backThe king of Sodom heard that Abram had brought back all the captives
13. and all the booty, and he went up to meet him.  He came to Salem, that is Jerusalem, while Abram was encamped in the Valley of
14. ShavehThis is the Vale of the King, the Valley of Beth-haccherem.  Melchizedek, the king of Salem, brought out
15. food and drink for Abram and for all the men who were with him.  He was a priest of God Most High, and he blessed
16. Abram and said, "Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Lord of heaven and earth!  Blessed be God Most High,
17. who was delivered your enemies into your hand."  And he gave him a tithe from all the goods of the king of Elam and his confederates.7

1 From Die Bibel in Bildern, Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld (1860), available on Wiki Commons.
2 The Genesis Apocryphon of Qumran Cave 1 (1Q20): A Commentary, Joseph A. Fitzmyer, S.J. (Biblica Et Orientalia - 18/B; Editrice Pontifico Istituto Biblico, Rome, Italy, 2004; 3rd Edition), 23
3 Ibid, 25-26
4 The Dead Sea Genesis Apocryphon: A New Text and Translation with Introduction and Special Treatment of Columns 13-17, Daniel A. Machiela (Brill, Leiden, The Netherlands, 2009), 17
5 As cited in The Genesis Apocryphon, 17
6 As cited in The Genesis Apocryphon, 18
7 The Genesis Apocryphon, 109

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