The Aramaic texts form an important and remarkable group within the Qumran “library.” Among some 900 manuscripts found in the Qumran caves, 129 are – or appear to be – in Aramaic, and roughly 87 are sufficiently well-preserved to be studied.
These texts belong to different literary genres: (1) Targums (one of Leviticus, two of Job); (2) narrative compositions (among which a so-called Aramaic Proto-Esther and an Aramaic version of Tobit) – inspired by biblical texts (as in the case of the Genesis Apocryphon), or, in a more distant way, by Babylonian literature (e.g. the Book of Giants and the Prayer of Nabonidus); (3) apocryphal texts connected to the Patriarchs, which to some extent belong to the testamentary genre, and combine narrative sections, exhortations and predictions (Testament of Jacob (?), Testament of Juda, Testament of Joseph, Testament of Qahat, Visions of ‘Amram, Levi Document); (4) apocalyptical texts, such as the Book of Henoch and the Danielic literature; (5) a visionary text entitled The New Jerusalem, which can be compared to the end of the Book of Ezekiel and to the Temple Scroll; (6) wisdom literature (Aramaic Proverbs); (7) an astrological text, a Brontologion and an horoscope; (8) an exorcism; (9) a list of false prophets; and so on. Obviously, some texts belong to several literary genres. If the Aramaic texts cannot, therefore, be classified within a single category, does this mean that they do not have anything in common? Are they completely independent from one another, implying that the choice of Aramaic does not involve a common origin? From a linguistic point of view, they do in fact have some shared characteristics, even if the Aramaic of the Qumran texts is not uniform.
Programme : les textes araméens de Qumrân.pdf
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As Steven Fassberg has shown, at least one characteristic distinguishes them – 11QtgJob excepted – from the other Aramaic texts or documents found outside Qumran: the 2nd masc. sing. pronominal suffix –kh.
Other features are still debated.
From a thematic point of view, the Aramaic texts do tackle a great variety of topics. Some topics, however, seem to have attracted special attention. For example, 39 manuscripts – nearly half of the corpus – are linked to the stories of Genesis, and 2 more manuscripts evoke the beginning of Exodus (with figures such as Qahat, ‘Amram, Miriam and Hur). Therefore the question must be asked: what does such a predilection for the book of Genesis imply? Another example is the a relative lack of halakhic texts, a fact deserving some explanation.
From a cultural perspective, several texts refer to a Mesopotamian or a Persian background or imply a connection of some sort with one of these cultures. Apart from the Book of Giants and the Prayer of Nabonidus, at least 4QZodiacal Calendar ar, Henoch, Daniel, Proto-Esther and Tobit fall within this category. � Yet, concerning the question of the origin of these texts, one should keep in mind that although they show connections with the Babylonian and Persian worlds, they are generally written in a Western type of Aramaic.
While not appearing to be uniform, the collection of Aramaic texts found at Qumran therefore shows certain tendencies that need to be identified more precisely. Without excluding studies that deal with a particular text, papers focusing on a significant part of the collection of Aramaic texts or on the collection as a whole will be particularly welcome.
Another aim of the conference will be to compare the Aramaic texts with two other groups of texts: first, Aramaic literature outside Qumran; second, the rest of the Qumran “library.” Thus for instance, the issue of the connections with the Babylonian and Persian worlds can be answered satisfactorily only if one compares the situation of the Aramaic texts with that of the other Qumran texts. More generally, questions must be raised: 1) Concerning the specificity of the Aramaic texts within the Qumran corpus: in what respect do they differ from the texts in Hebrew? In what respect are they similar? 2) Concerning a possible “sectarian” origin of some Aramaic texts. Because of the dualistic terminology of 4Q548, some scholars have considered it a sectarian text. But is this really the case? Conversely, can one affirm that no Aramaic text is of sectarian origin and that they all come from a different non-sectarian milieu? At least in the case of 4Q246 and of the New Jerusalem texts, the issue is debated. But if one characterizes some texts as sectarian, then the question arises of what led members of the community to write certain texts in Aramaic rather than in Hebrew. Apart from these possible exceptions, are most of the Aramaic texts pre-qumranite compositions? Were they copied outside Qumran? Finally, what kind of information can the Aramaic texts provide with regard to the history of the collection found at Qumran and its origin? The conference aims at shedding some light on these crucial issues.