An Introduction to the Theology of the Hodayot Scroll

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    Author of the Paper: Jane Doe

    Title of the Paper: “An Introduction to the Theology of the Hodayot Scroll”

    Date Submitted: April 20th, 2012

    Title of the Class” The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Apocrypha: BOTB 685A


    When the first set of Dead Sea Scrolls was discovered in 1947, the collection contained several never before seen non-biblical scrolls. Among these unknown scrolls, was the scroll given the Hebrew name Hodayot or the Thanksgiving Hymns. The scroll received this name based on the presence of the phrases “I thank the, Lord” and “Blessed art thou,” which preceded the “psalm-like compositions.”(Page #1 of Bonnie Kittel) Cave 1 contained one large and rather well persevered version and one smaller poorly preserved version of the scroll. Cave 4 contained another six copies of the scroll, varying in size and quality. (Page # 86 in Vanderkam) According to Marilyn J. Lundberg, these scrolls represent the beliefs of those who lived at the Qumran site. (“The Discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls” by Lundberg) The number of Hodayot manuscripts and fragments found at Qumran implies the document was highly valued and used by the sectarian community residing there. A brief study of the scroll’s theological themes reveals that the theology of the Hodayot and New Testament share similar roots in Second Temple Period Judaism; thus, studying the text of the Hodayot could result in a deeper understanding of the environment from which early Christian thought and practices emerged.

    Theological Themes

    The theological themes of Hodayot vary greatly, but they can be centered on the idea of thanksgiving to God. While thanksgiving is a key component in all the hymns, Puech identifies two major areas of theological discussion that inspire thanksgiving to God: “the salvation of the just, and the final doom of the godless.” (Page # 367 in Puech) Menahem Mansoor provides the more detailed themes of God and creation, knowledge, salvation through election, humanity’s frailty and sinfulness, and dualism and predestination. (Page # 1-21 in Mansoor) Others have divided the theological themes by the two categories of the teacher hymns and the community hymns. Esther G. Chazon identifies the teacher hymns’ main themes as persecution, suffering, mockery of enemies, “reliance on divine salvation,” justice, and the destruction of evil; then, she identifies “the human condition, communal affiliation, congregational praise and communion with angels” as the main themes of the community hymns. (Page # 267 in Chazon) As can be seen, no clear consensus exists on the primary themes of the text. However, based on the above themes, most scholars agree the text deals primarily with the relationship between God and humanity. Specifically, the Hodayot speaks of humankind relying on God for life, preservation, salvation, and the punishment of the wicked, with the topics of predestination and dualism playing a vital role. Puech provides a great summary of the relationship between God and humanity in the Hodayot with the following statements: “God’s greatness and perfection is described, along with his justice and kindness, and his forgiveness. God’s creation of the universe is contrasted with the wretchedness and smallness of a human being, a creature of clay who is dependent on divine help.” (Page #367 in Peuch)

    As stated above, God’s role in creation plays a notable part in Hodayot. According to Eugene Merrill, the Hodayot’s author accepted “Creation as a direct act of God” that did not need to be questioned or explained. (Page # 24 in Merrill) The text shows that because God created the world his rule and authority over it cannot be questioned. It also reveals that God has an established law to which all creation, including its established order and pending events, is subject. (Page # 2 in Mansoor) Furthermore, creation’s primary function is to bear witness of God’s greatness. Mansoor has observed the progression in describing God that clearly took place between the Old Testament and the Hodayot; whereas the Old Testament primarily referred to God in anthropomorphic terms, the Hodayot speaks specifically of “God’s absolute word, his absolute will.” (Page # 3 in Mansoor) Included in God’s absolute control of creation is his absolute control of humanity. The text speaks of ordering the destinies and lots of all individuals, both righteous and wicked. (Page # 340 in Hopkins) Many see this order of destinies as a dualistic theme, stating that God created some with evil dispositions and others with good. (Page #25 in Merrill) This naturally results in the author, as one receiving the lot of righteousness and the spirit of God, expressing praise and thanksgiving to God for his place in creation. (Page # 341-343 in Hopkins) According to David Flusser, the Hodayot contrasts the flesh and the spirit very similarly to the New Testament where the Holy Spirit that God gives to his elect enables them to overcome the flesh and be saved. (Page # v in Flusser)

    Another Hodayot feature of the relationship between God and humanity is the contrast between God’s righteousness and humanity’s sinfulness. The writer of Hodayot clearly communicates the existence of a chasm between God and humanity created by the sinfulness of humankind and the righteousness of God. In addition, the author of Hodayot seems to employ the word “flesh” to describe the foundation of sinfulness and wickedness in humanity, which the Apostle Paul also does in the New Testament.(Page # 8 in Mansoor) Therefore, the author continuously praises God for extending his mercy, redemption, and salvation. (Page # 343-344 in Hopkins) According to Mansoor, the Hodayot communicates an utter dependence of humankind on God, so much so that an individual is only saved if God predestined that person to the elect and so chooses to extend his mercy and spirit. (Page # 6 in Mansoor) Furthermore, the extension of God’s mercy includes the ability to repent, an act of which only the elect are capable. (Page #6 in Mansoor) The extending of God’s mercy coincides with the extending of God’s knowledge, which explains the Hodayot’s emphasis on knowledge and revelation. For Hodayot’s author, the revelation of knowledge specifically applies to predestined eschatological events. (Page # 20 in Merrill)

    All knowledge in the Hodayot is attributed to the “God of knowledge” who crafted the divine order of the world and hid the mysteries of this order from humankind. However, God chooses to reveal knowledge of the divine order to those he has elected and who follow the law, which the author of Hodayot clearly believed was his sectarian community. (Page # 14 in Mansoor) Furthermore, the Hodayot reveals this knowledge was considered necessary for understanding one’s salvation and election and was only imparted to those within the covenant community. The knowledge consisted both of the secrets of the created order, the proper interpretation of the law, and the revelation of future events. (Page # 33 in Merrill) While the Hodayot contains many more themes, the theme of God’s relationship to humanity through creation, salvation, and revelation of knowledge serves as the foundation for all other themes not addressed by this paper, including angels and eschatology.


    The major area of relevance the Hodayot holds for New Testament studies is its deeper understanding of the culture and theology from which Christianity emerged. It reveals that many Christian concepts and themes scholars previously thought originated from Greek and Hellenistic culture actually originated within Judaism. (Page #21 in Mansoor) This does not imply that the community at Qumran influenced Christianity; it only means that Christianity had deep roots in the same Judaism as the Qumran sectarians. In other words, Christianity and Qumran were offshoots of the same tree. Therefore, the theology of Qumran gives greater insight into Jewish thought of the Second Temple Period, which in turn gives greater insight into Christian thought of this same period. Therefore, further study of the Hodayot and other Dead Sea Scrolls could significantly further New Testament studies. Since the Hodayot was an influential document at Qumran and reveals information concerning Jewish thought in Second Temple period Judaism, further study of this text is essential for gaining more insight into the environment from which Christianity was formed as well as the development of early Christian thought.

    Sources in Order of 1st Appearance

    Title of Book: The Hymns of Qumran: Translation and Commentary

    Volume #50 in SBL Dissertation Series.

    Book’s Author: Bonnie Kittel.

    Series editor: Douglas Knight.

    Total of 185 Volumes in the Series

    Series ran from 1972-2001

    Publisher’s Name: Scholars Press

    Year of Publication: 1981

    City of Publication: Chicago

    Title of Book: The Dead Sea Scrolls Today, 2nd ed.

    Book’s Author: James C. VanderKam,

    Google eBook

    URL for eBook:

    Publisher’s Name: William B. Eerdmans

    Year of Publication: 2010

    City of Publication: Grand Rapids

    Title of Website Article/Page: The Discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls

    Article’s Author: Marilyn J. Lundberg,

    Publisher: West Semitic Research Project

    Name of Cite: West Semitic Research Project

    Access Date: December 6, 2012


    Title of Article in Encyclopedia: Hodayot

    Article’s Author: Emile Puech

    Title of Entire Book: The Encyclopedia of the Dead Sea Scrolls (Volume 1)

    Editors of Book: Lawrence H. Schiffman and James VanderKam.

    Year of Publication: 2000

    Publisher: Oxford University Press

    City of Publication: New York

    Title of Journal Article: Studies in the Hodayot (Thanksgiving Hymns)—V: Some Theological Doctrines.

    Pages: 1-21

    Author’s Name: Menahem Mansoor

    Year of Publication: 1960

    Journal’s Name: Biblical Research

    Volume Number: 5

    Title of Article in Reference Book: Hymns and Prayers in the Dead Sea Scrolls

    Author’s Name: Esther G. Chazon

    Title of Reference Book: The Dead Sea Scrolls after 50 Years (Volume 1)

    Editors of Reference Book: Peter W. Flint and James VanderKam

    Publisher’s Name: Brill

    Year of Publication: 1998

    City of Publication: Leiden

    Title of Book: Qumran and Predestination: A Theological Study of the Thanksgiving Hymns.

    Author’s Name: Eugene H. Merrill

    Year of Publication: 1975

    Publisher: E. J. Brill

    City of Publication: Leiden

    Title of Journal Article: The Qumran Community and 1 Q Hodayot: A Reassessment.

    Author’s Name: Denise Dombkowski Hopkins

    Title of Journal: Revue de Qumran

    Pages: 324-364

    Year of Publication: 1981

    Volume Number: 10

    Issue Number: 3

    URL for Journal Article:

    Journal Homepage URL:

    Title of Journal Article: The Dualism of ‘Flesh and Spirit’ in the Dead Sea Scrolls and in the New Testament

    Author’s Name: Flusser, David

    Title of Journal: Tabiz

    Year of Publication: 1957

    Page Numbers: 158-165

    Volume Number: 27

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