Bulls and Filth: New Readings in the Aramaic Levi Document

The Aramaic Levi Document (henceforth ALD) is an Early Jewish composition describing the life and priestly initiation of – not surprisingly – the patriarch Levi. Fragments of ALD were preserved in several manuscripts in Qumran, in a single medieval manuscript from the Cairo genizah, and in a Greek translation. The reconstruction of the early form(s) of ALD is a formidable task, both due to the fragmentary state of the textual witnesses and because they exhibit various textual discrepancies. While many of these discrepancies most likely reflect corrupt textual transmission, they might also attest to ALD’s varying textual forms already in Antiquity. In this paper I will offer new textual and lexical interpretations of a couple of passages from the priestly instructions in ALD, carried out as part of the preparation of a new edition of the Aramaic Qumran scrolls, directed by prof. Elisha Qimron. On the basis of a fresh examination of the fragmentary manuscripts, both from Qumran and the genizah, and a new collation of all the textual evidence, I will point to hitherto unnoticed lexical and terminological correlations between ALD, Christian Palestinian Aramaic, and Rabbinic Hebrew. These interpretations, if correct, contribute new lexemes to the Aramaic lexicon, while the terminological correlations between ALD – in its various versions – and the Rabbinic sources point to the antiquity of certain Rabbinic cultic terms and help affirm the historical-cultic reality behind both the literary fiction of ALD and the exegetical innovations of the Rabbis.

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