Ben Padiah (Angel) Scroll

The "Angel Scroll" or the Book of the Visions of Yeshua ben Padiah

 

Background

Four months ago I was approached by a senior writer from the Jerusalem Report, Netty Gross, and was asked if I would help verify the existence of a Dead Sea Scroll manuscript which had not been published previously.

I was aware of a story, known by other scholars, that there was at least one rather well-preserved scroll which had made its way to Europe and which was similar to the Book of Enoch or Jubilees. This may be identified as the source of a scroll fragment examined by Prof. John Strugnell sometime in 1967-1968 which he described elsewhere as something "resembling the Book of Enoch".

The scroll discovery at hand was already known at least as early as 1974 and may have actually been discovered in the mid-to-late 1960's. If its authenticity could be verified, its similarity in content to writings of the Enochic tradition would posit this as being either similar to or identical to the elusive scroll of Europe.

Basis for Assessment

Since neither the original manuscript nor photographs of the "Angel Scroll" have been made available to me, I am not able to confirm or reject the authenticity of the report. Transcriptions of approximately one-fourth of the posited text of the scroll were given to me for examination. These allowed me to ascertain somewhat the feasibility that the text might have been derived from a Dead Sea Scroll.

However, these partial transcriptions derived from a computer file based on a handwritten copy of the original text. Thus, I cannot even ascertain their accuracy since the actual, handwritten copy of the text has not been provided to me. 

The Title

The title "Angel Scroll" has been applied recently to the scroll by its current editors. In antiquity, however, a book was normally known by the name of its author who was specified in its first line as in the case of Biblical books (for example "The Vision of Isaiah ...." or sometimes more specifically "The Book of the Parables of ....").

Sources

From the limited sampling given to me for examination, the following tentative description can be offered at this time: At least two sources are evident in the scroll (or scrolls) - which have likely been produced by separate authors - tentatively called here "Source I" and "Source II".

Source I

Attributed to a certain "Yeshua ben Padiah": Since I have seen two versions of the first line of the scroll, each attributing the scroll to a different name, the attribution of this scroll to Yeshua ben Padiah should be considered tentative until the original or a photograph is produced.

The vision of Yeshua ben Padiah is stated to have taken place at Ein Eglatain (located near the Eastern shore of the Dead Sea on the Lisan).

Age of Scroll: It is said to be dated palaeographically to the 1st cent CE.

Language: Post Biblical Hebrew with certain terms borrowed from Greek and Aramaic.

Phrases in this source that are generally accepted as being associated with the Essene writings at Qumran include: Children of Light/Children of Darkness, "Passing into the Covenant", midrash ha-torah, the use of the word 'el for "God", "the Congregation of God", "the Holy Council", "the priests who are the keepers of the covenant", "Belial" and "Mastemah", "the Children of Belial", "his covenant will be renewed forever", "the Law/Torah of Moses."

The text of this source also contains the characteristic "Qumran spellings" noted by scholars since the first Dead Sea Scrolls appeared.

Structure: Since only part of this source has been made available to me, a structure of Source I can only be provisionally suggested as containing at least four sections:

  1. The Introduction, providing the recipient of the vision, the occasion of the vision, and the place of the vision.
  2. A prophetic or apocalyptic section which foresees the siege of Jerusalem, its temple and the suffering of the pious.
  3. An account of Yeshua ben Padiah's ascent to and description of the heavenly realm, aided by a certain angel named Panameia. This is similar to the ascent to the heavenlies found in 1 Enoch in that the visionary visits the heavenly realm and is provided with a guided tour by a heavenly being. In the case of Yeshua ben Padiah, he enters through the gates of a heavenly palace (hekhal) in order to view the various parts of heaven. However, in the sections to which I have been given access, it is not yet clear if the gates are understood to be of a single palace or access gates to each of the seven (or ten) heavens spoken of in the other sources (e.g., 2 and 3 Enoch and Paul in 2 Corinthians 12).
  4. There are additional paragraphs which describe the nature and moral character of the Children of Light who have been endowed with the Spirit of God (contrasted with that of the Children of Darkness). It is here that we find certain philosophical or theological conceptions that are reminiscent of both the Dead Sea Scrolls and, in several cases, the New Testament. In every case, however, these conceptions are clearly derived from a certain line of interpretation of the Bible. In at least two cases, the text of the Bible is quoted and elaborated upon with a metaphorical or midrashic interpretation following.

Source II

Unknown authorship.

Age of Scroll: Likewise is said to be dated palaeographically to the 1st cent CE.

Language: Post Biblical Hebrew with certain terms borrowed from Greek and Aramaic.

Some Qumran terminology including the term "Children of Light". This portion also contains what are likely quotes from certain Dead Sea Scrolls including, in particular, the Rule of the Community.

Several grammatical similarities to Mishnaic Hebrew:

  1. nunation (-în) instead of mimation (-îm) for masculine plural endings.
  2. sh- for the relative particle (instead of 'asher)
  3. shel for the genitive particle (instead of 'asher l-)

The grammatical features of this source are found at Qumran in 4QMMT and in the Copper Scroll from Cave 3.

Unique grammatical characteristics: Aleph is used to divide a vowel cluster, especially before the furtive patach lû'ach, rû'ach, mô'ach

The second source seems to be providing additional material which is intended to illuminate or elaborate on elements or themes provided by the account of Yeshua ben Padiah. It concerns itself with the mechanics of Religion and Creation in a more scientific or detailed form. At times the conceptions seem quite primitive providing detailed recipes containing ingredients for the resurrection of the dead (through a prescribed embalming process) and the use of herbs and certain specially marked stones with special powers for healing. (This practice was already attributed to the Essenes by the first century historian Josephus).

At other times the conceptions of this source seem quite advanced for his time. As is quoted in The Jerusalem Report article, the human being is birthed within the womb as a union between two seeds, each contributing its own information to the "knowledge" of the combined seed which produces the child. This seems to be a common sense expression of what we would call today genetics based upon sober observation and deduction. The concept of two seeds: the seed of the woman and the seed of a man can be drawn from the book of Genesis 3. This, however, runs contrary to the contemporary teaching which sees the man as being the sole source of the seed with the womb merely acting as fertile ground, or perhaps, an incubator in which the seed can grow.

The second source often provides prescriptions/recipes detailing the ingredients and methods used for God's creation and the means which He has provided for His people to use them to obtain guidance and to participate in His healing and creative activity in this world.

Implications

Until the authenticity and the palaeographic dating of the scroll (or scrolls as the case may be) can be confirmed by photographs or the actual manuscript(s), we must be cautious not to make too much from the content of the text. However, if this would be confirmed unambiguously, then this new discovery may well prove to be an important witness or "missing link" to the connection between Qumran, early Christianity, and early Judaism during the first century of the Common Era.

S. Pfann 27.9.99

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