Presentation: Fiery “Sheol” in the Dead Sea Scrolls

When I throw this question at my boyfriend, who is a law student and thus a “non-specilaist” of the Bible: “How does the underworld look?” The first word comes out of his mouth is “fire”! When I am in the Vatican, looking at the fresco of the Last Judgment by Michelangelo, at the right hand corner, at the bottom, I see that the boatman Charon shove the damned souls into the fiery hole. When I read John Milton’s Paradise Lost, I imagine Satan falling into the “bottomless perdition” filled with “penal fire”. When I go to church on Sunday, I listen to the Lukan story of the rich man and Lazarus, where the former thirsts for water in the eternal flame.  Here comes one interesting fact: If we try to find a reference to fire in the “Sheol” (a uniquely Hebraic term to designate the abode of the dead) of the Hebrew Bible, we would be disappointed. Instead of with fire, the Hebrew Bible often associates “Sheol” with water (e.g. Job 26:5-6; Ezekiel 31:15; Psalm 69:2, 14). Where are all these images of fiery underworld coming from? I do not know the answer.

But tomorrow in one of the sessions of the SBL international meeting at St. Andrews, I would like to share with you how several Qumran texts (e.g. 1QM XIV, 16-18; 4Q 491 8-10i 13b-15; 1QHa IV 25-26a; 4Q184 1 6-10) attest to a fiery underworld, expressed through the term “Sheol”! First, I would like to draw your attention to how this fiery “Sheol” stands in contrast to the more watery “Sheol” in the Hebrew Bible. Second, I relate this fiery “Sheol” in the Qumran texts with the other fiery underworld in the Second Temple literature, esp. that of 1 Enoch. Rather than probing the origin of this fiery imagery, the focus will be on the literary function of this fiery imagery within the Qumran texts. At the end, I conclude that this fiery aspect of “Sheol” within the Qumran texts contributes to an annihilating concept of punishment after death in the Second Temple period. (Note: In case you are wondering how I get into this “deadly” business, it is because we also get the prevalent motif of death and Sheol in Ezekiel’s oracles against Egypt, which form the focus of chapter 3 of my dissertation)

So I send you my greetings from St. Andrews and look forward to seeing you and discussing with you here! 🙂

Here are the details of the session:


Qumran and the Dead Sea Scrolls
7/08/2013
9:00 AM to 12:00 PM
Room: Meeting Room 301 – Physics (15)Sidnie Crawford, University of Nebraska – Lincoln, Presiding
Helen R. Jacobus, University College London
Calendars from Jewish Documents in the Cave of Letters and Elsewhere in the Judean Desert (25 min)
Discussion (10 min)
David Willgren, Lund University
Psalm Use in the Dead Sea Scrolls (25 min)
Discussion (10 min)

Break (35 min)
Lydia Lee, Georg-August-Universität Göttingen
“Sheol” in the Dead Sea Scrolls (25 min)
Discussion (10 min)

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Scottish pipe music in the university of St. Andrews to mark the end of the conference 🙂

United Kingdom: Interesting Facts About the King James Bible

Went to the SBL international meeting in London in July 2011. In celebration of the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible, there was an exhibition of different translations of the Bible. In a booklet that was given to me, I found the following article:

Eight KJV errors (extract from Christian History, issue 100)

Printers do interesting things to texts sometimes, and the KJV was no exception. In various printings over the years, certain errors were so egregious that those editions got their own sarcastic titles. Among these:

1. The “Judas Bible” 1611: This Bible has Judas, not Jesus saying, “Sit ye here while I go yonder and pray” (Matthew 26:36)

2. The “Printers Bible” 1612: In some copies Psalm 119:161 reads “Printers have persecuted me without a cause” rather than “Princes have persecuted me…”

3. The “Wicked Bible” 1613: Omits an important “not” from Exodus 20:14, making the seventh commandment read “Thou shalt commit adultery.” The printers were fined 300 British pounds and most of the copies were recalled immediately. Only 11 copies are known to exist today.

4. The “Sin On Bible” 1716: John 8:11 reads “Go and sin on more” rather than “Go and sin no more.”

5. The “Vinegar Bible” 1717: The chapter heading for Luke 20 reads “The Parable of the Vinegar” instead of “The Parable of the Vineyard”

6. The “Fools Bible” 1763: Psalm 14:1 reads “the fool hath said in his heart there is a God,” rather than “… there is no God.” The printers were fined 3, 000 pounds and all copies ordered destroyed.

7. The “Lions Bible” 1804: 1 Kings 8:19 reads “thy son that shall come forth out of thy lions,” rather than “loins.”

8. The “Owl Bible” 1944: “Owl” replaces “own,” making 1 Peter 3:5 read “For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted God, adorned themselves, being in subjection to their owl husbands.” The error was caused by a printing plate with a damaged letter “n.”

Now, who dares say that reading a Bible is boring? 😉

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The display of the King James Bible in Weston Room. On display is the second (1613) edition of the King James Bible, sometimes known as the “Judas” Bible, owing to a misprint of “Judas” for “Jesus” in Matthew xxvi:36. The New Testament title page, shown here, is dated 1611.