A Worst-Case Scenario (Eldad and Modad)

(Summary of a lecture by J. R. Davila on 29 April, 1997)

In this lecture I want to talk about “quotation fragments,” a category of text all too relevant for OT Pseudepigrapha studies. I am defining quotation fragment here as a passage from an otherwise lost text which is quoted by another, later author. In the Charlesworth edition the Apocryphon of Ezekiel, bits of the Sibylline Oracles, Eldad and Modad, perhaps the Apocalypse of Zephaniah, the Prayer of Joseph, Ode of Solomon 1, and all of the texts in the Supplement of vol. 2 are preserved only in quotations. And of course, numerous other works and authors from antiquity, such as that of the church father Papias (early second century) or the Egyptian writer Manetho (third century BCE), have come down to us only in quotations or summaries by later writers. The fourth century church historian Eusebius of Caesarea is an especially important source of quotation fragments. In his Ecclesiastical History, Chronicle, and Preparation for the Gospel, he quotes from numerous authors who otherwise would be unknown or far more poorly known to us.

All of this being the case, I am quite surprised to report that there seems to be very little written on the methodology of analysing quotation fragments. Numerous editions of fragmentary works have been published, but generally the introductory material in them gives little information on the methodological principles being followed by the editors. Obviously, I haven’t been able to check all the literature, and it’s quite likely that I’ve missed something important. I hope that otpseud listmembers and others who read this will alert me to relevant bibliography.

Meanwhile, in this lecture I will propose some common-sense guidelines for dealing with quotation fragments, illustrated by specific problems that arise from Eldad and Modad and other texts. I don’t intend to say anything revolutionary; I merely find it helpful to make explicit what we normally do by instinct. These guidelines are not meant to be complete or definitive. They are very much work in progress and I welcome comments and criticisms. My three main guidelines are the following:

I. KNOW YOUR QUOTING AUTHOR. This seems to me to be a critically important principle, so I am especially surprised to find so little systematic analysis of specific authors in the literature, especially of Eusebius. Again, perhaps I just haven’t found it yet. Mostly analysis seems to have focused thus far on the biblical quotations in later authors, but there is the potential to learn a great deal more. If we take Eusebius as an example, it should be easy to cross-check his quotations of earlier works still in our possession (such as the NT, LXX, Josephus, and parts of the Apostolic Fathers, Clement of Alexandria, and Origen). This does not seem ever to have been done systematically (F. J. Foakes -Jackson published some general observations in 1933).

1. Some major and minor basic questions arise.

i. How well is the text of the quoting author established? The first step should always be to reconstruct the best possible text of the quoting author (which generally will mean using the best critical text available) and then take into account relevant redactional issues.

ii. How accurate are the author’s quotations of earlier texts that are still in our possession? We should start by analysing quotations explicitly attributed to a particular author or work, then look at unattributed quotations whose source is certain. Allusions to earlier works generally will be of little use here. We should try to work out the general attitude of the quoter to quotations. Is the quoter consistently careful or careless? Literal or paraphrastic? Does the quoting author show any particular tendenz in testable quotes? Is there any tendency to change wording by deletion or addition when specific topics arise or to omit to quote relevant material on certain topics? Do some authors receive different treatment than others when they are quoted? (We also have to keep in mind, however, that the quoted text may have been altered before it reached our quoter.) Do we have any evidence that the quoting author makes up fraudulent quotes from non-existent works? By asking this sort of question we can build up a profile of the quoting author which may help us make intelligent extrapolations about what the author is likely to be doing with quotation fragments whose contents we can’t check elsewhere.

iii. If we are especially lucky and we have a passage quoted by more than one author, we should also ask (after the analysis in the preceding paragraph is carried out for all quoters) how well the quotations agree and whether any of the differences can be explained by the tendenz of one or more of the quoting authors.

2. If we take Eldad and Modad as an example, we find that it truly is a worst-case scenario. The short quotation (four words in Greek) appears in the Shepherd of Hermas, Visions 2.3.4 (= 7.4) and in context reads:

“You shall say to Maximus, ‘Behold, tribulation is coming! If it seems good to you, deny again.’ ‘The Lord is near to those who turn,’ as it is writen in the (book of) Eldad and Modad, who prophesied in the wilderness to the people.”

The Shepherd of Hermas is a work included in the Apostolic Fathers and is generally dated in its final form to the middle of the second century, although internal analysis indicates that Visions 1-4 is a redactional unit that was probably written half a century or so earlier. We have no way of being sure if the exhortation to Maximus (who is not mentioned elsewhere) was included in the earlier document, although we have no particular reason to believe it wasn’t. Our best course seems to be to analyse the entire work as we have it now, but to keep an eye out for differences in the various redactional units.

The text of the work is not particularly well preserved. The Greek text is found in three MSS, none of which are complete, and some fragments. Later translations and some quotations allow us to fill in the gaps, but the textual base is not terribly wide. There are no significant variants in the passage quoted above, although different spellings of the names occur.

Unfortunately, our good intentions about cross-checking the quotations are thwarted by the strange fact that this reference to Eldad and Modad is the only attributed citation in the entire work! Numerous allusions to biblical (OT and NT) texts occur, including what seem to be some fairly direct citations, but I have not had time to analyse them in detail. It is hard to say what to make of this situation. It is clear enough that the authors/redactors of the Shepherd had little interest in quoting other works directly (presumably because of their own sense of prophetic inspiration). Whether this means they would take special care with the single direct quote or they would think that the spirit of the passage was more important than the letter is, I suppose, open to debate.

II. THE BURDEN OF PROOF IS ON SOMEONE WHO ARGUES THAT PASSAGES QUOTED BY TWO DIFFERENT AUTHORS BELONG TO THE SAME WORK. Numerous different scenarios can be imagined under this heading and I have arranged them below, more or less in what I see to be their degree of certainty, from quite certain to very speculative.

1. The document is quoted repeatedly by the same title in a single later work or at least in works by the same quoting author. For example, it is reasonable that when Eusebius quotes a number of time from Papias (whose work in five books Eusebius tells us was titled “Expositions of the Sayings of the Lord,”) we should take him to be quoting from a single author and probably a single work.

2. More than one later writer quotes the document, but always by the same title. Eusebius and Jerome both quote Papias’ work “Expositions of the Sayings of the Lord,” and again it is reasonable that we assume they are quoting from the same work. By the same token, the title “Eldad and Modad” is also listed in the Stichometry of Nicephorus, so there is a good probability that this is the same work quoted by Hermas. If so, Nicephorus gives us the additional information that the redaction of the work he knew contained 400 stichoi.

3. A document is quote by similar but not identical titles in the works of later authors. George the Sinner quotes the “Sayings of the Lord” of Papias, presumably the same work as the one quoted by Eusebius and Jerome. Likewise, Irenaeus refers to five books composed by Papias. Sometimes though, the conclusion is less clear. When Josephus refers to two books of Ezekiel, Epiphanius to an apocryphon of Ezekiel, and Clement of Alexandria and Tertullian attribute passages to Ezekiel that cannot be found in the canonical book, we should not assume without compelling evidence that they all are referring to the same book.

4. A document is quoted by title in one work and the same quote appears elsewhere unattributed but in a similar context. This is a very messy situation indeed. In Targum Pseudo-Jonathan to Numbers 11:26 there is an account of the prophecies of Eldad and Medad that includes the phrase QYRYS )Y+YMWS LHWN B$(T )NYQYN which is transliterated Greek with a little Aramaic for “The Lord is ready on behalf of those in the hour of distress,” a statement at least reminiscent of our single quotation from Eldad and Modad. Did the editor of the Targum know a Greek recension of this work and summarize it here? If so, the implication is that the interesting messianic and eschatological material in the Targum was also part of our lost book. It is very tempting to draw a connection, but proper caution dictates that we merely allow that the Targum and the book of Eldad and Modad drew on related traditions, without defining the connection further.

5. A document is quoted by title in one work and other material about the same subject matter appear in works by other authors. Additional stories about Eldad and Medad appear in Epiphanius and Pseudo-Jerome, but there is no particular reason to associate them with the book of Eldad and Modad rather than with a general fund of (oral?) traditions about the two elders. The Apocalypse of Zephaniah is a yet more frustrating example. Clement of Alexandria quotes a passage in Greek from this apocalypse. A fragment in Akhmimic Coptic contains apocalyptic material and its narrator explicitly calls himself Zephaniah. A heavily damaged Sahidic Coptic work overlaps in part with the Akhmimic fragment, but differs from it otherwise, never mentions Zephaniah, and seems to contradict Clement’s passage regarding the number of heavens. Are these all from the same work? I think Shaun Bourgeois was quite right to start from the assumption that the are not, although we do at least have to acknowledge that there is some literary relationship between the second and third.

In *all* of the situations outlined above (which are not meant to be comprehensive) we must keep in mind that different recensions of the quoted work may have been in circulation and in the hands of those quoting them, even if we have no explicit indication in a given case. The various recensions of Ahiqar and the Testament of Solomon (and, to a lesser degree, the Testament of Job) show that we cannot assume that only one form of a text existed.

3. THE DATE, AUTHORSHIP, AND INTERPRETATION OF QUOTED FRAGMENTS SHOULD BE DETERMINED PRIMARILY BY INTERNAL ANALYSIS, SECONDARILY BY COMMENTS OF THE QUOTER ABOUT THE FRAGMENT. People who quoted earlier works didn’t necessarily know their true provenance or understand what was being quoted. The book of Eldad and Modad and the Apocryphon of Ezekiel are late pseudepigraphs. It is doubtful that Eusebius understood some of the passages he quotes from Papias. His discussion of the elder John and his interpretation of the mysterious sentence “Therefore Matthew composed the sayings in the Hebrew dialect and each translated them as he was able” are certainly open to debate! Sometimes the only useful information the quoter provides is a _terminus pro qua_ for the work being quoted. It obviously existed before the later writer quoted it!

In the case of the book of Eldad and Modad, we can date it before the middle of the second century, and probably before the turn of that century. Hermas uses the quotation to exhort someone not to deny the faith in time of persecution. The contents and context of the quote seem to indicate that it was a prophetic exhortation by the two elders telling the people to trust in God and repent. This coheres with the original story in Numbers 11:26-29 although it goes beyond the earlier narrative. Beyond that, there is little we can say.

IV. I have not even touched on the problems associated with the other kind of fragments–pieces of damaged MSS. More has been written on this (see the bibliographical notes below) and I have already gone on too long here. Shaun addressed some of the problems last week and in our next session Kathryn Taylor will look at a text preserved both in quotation fragments and damaged MSS (Jannes and Jambres). Perhaps in another year I’ll have more to say about damaged fragments.

Some bibliographical notes:

On Eusebius’ use of sources: F. J. Foakes-Jackson, “First Five Books of the History,” in _Eusebius Pamphili, Bishop of Caesarea in Palestine and First Christian Historian: A Study of the Man and His Writings_ (Cambridge, U.K.: Heffer, 1933)

For Papias and the Shepherd of Hermas see: J. B. Lightfoot and J. R. Harmer (2nd ed. edited and revised by Michael W. Holmes), _The Apostolic Fathers: Greek Texts and English Translations of Their Writings_ (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker, 1992) and bibliography therein

Some analysis of the use of sources by the Byzantine Chronographer George Syncellus is found in: Willaim Adler, _Time Immemorial: Archaic History and its Sources in Christian Chronography from Julius Africanus to George Syncellus_ (Washington D.C.: Dumbarton Oaks, 1989) esp. ch. VI.

Other works:

E. G. Clarke et al., _Targum Pseudo-Jonathan of the Pentateuch: Text and Concordance_ Hoboken N.J.: Ktav, 1984)

James R. Mueller, _The Five Fragments of the_ Apocryphon of Ezekiel: _A Critical Study_ (Sheffield, U.K.: Sheffield Academic Press, 1994). (See also OTP I 487-95.)

Some bibliography on reconstructing damaged Dead Sea Scrolls:

Hartmut Stegemann, “Methods for the Reconstruction of Scrolls from Scattered Fragments,” in _Archaeology and History in the Dead Sea Scrolls: The New York University Conference in Memory of Yigael Yadin_, ed. Lawrence H. Schiffman (Sheffield, U.K.: JSOT, 1990) 198-220

Stephen A. Reed, “What is a Fragment?” _JJS_ 45 (1994) 123-25

Scott R. Woodward et al., “Analysis of Parchment Fragments from the Judean Desert Using DNA Techniques,” in _Current Research and Technological Developments on the Dead Sea Scrolls_, ed. Donald W. Parry and Stephen D. Ricks (Leiden: Brill, 1996) 215-38


(c) 1997
Reproduction beyond fair use only on permission of the author.

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