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Title: Pesher  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Dead Sea Scrolls, John M. Allegro, 4Q252, 4Q240, Nahum Commentary
Collection: Dead Sea Scrolls, Essene Texts
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


Pesher (Hebrew: פשר‎, pl. pesharim from a Hebrew word meaning "interpretation" in the sense of "solution") is an interpretive commentary on scripture, especially one in Hebrew. It became known from one group of texts, numbering some hundreds, among the Dead Sea Scrolls.

The pesharim give a theory of scriptural interpretation, previously partly known, but now fully defined. The writers of pesharim believe that scripture is written in two levels: the surface for ordinary readers with limited knowledge, the concealed one for specialists with higher knowledge. This is most clearly spelled out in the Habakkuk Pesher (1QpHab), where the author of the text asserts that God has made known to the Teacher of Righteousness, a prominent figure in the history of the Essene community, "all the mysteries of his servants the prophets" (1QpHab VII:4-5). By contrast, the prophets themselves only had a partial interpretation revealed to them.


  • Types of pesharim 1
  • Historic individuals 2
  • Apocalyptic themes 3
  • Common pesharim 4
  • Modern usage 5
  • Further reading 6
  • See also 7
  • References 8
  • External links 9

Types of pesharim

There are generally considered to be two types of pesharim. Continuous pesharim take a book of the Hebrew Bible, often from the prophets, such as those of Habakkuk, Nahum, or from the Psalms, quote it phrase by phrase, and after each quotation insert an interpretation. The second type, the thematic pesharim, use the same method, but here the author (or pesharist) brings together passages from different biblical texts to develop a theme. Examples of the latter include the Florilegium and what has been termed the Melchizedek Midrash. Smaller examples of pesher interpretations can also be found within other texts from Qumran, including the Damascus Document. The method has been likened to later forms of rabbinic biblical interpretation found in the Midrash, termed midrash haggadah and midrash halakhah, although there are some significant differences. William Brownlee, the author of a textual study of the Habakkuk Pesher, even proposed a third category of midrash, midrash pesher. In general, however, scholars are divided as to whether the pesharim are a distinct genre.

The term pesher itself is used within these texts as a terminus technicus (although this is a gross simplification) to differentiate between the biblical text and its interpretation. Typical examples include: "its interpretation is/concerns" (pishro/pishro al); and "the interpretation of the word/passage is" (pesher ha-davar). It has been suggested that the Semitic root derives from a base meaning of "loosen" and a similar term appears in the Hebrew Bible in connection with the interpretation of dreams. The Ancient Near Eastern roots are fully discussed by Maurya Horgan in her comprehensive study of the pesharim.

Historic individuals

The pesharim are the main source for the history of the Teacher of Righteousness and his rival the Wicked Priest, but the texts also refer to a number of other individuals, such as the Liar (or 'Scoffer'), and groups, including the Kittim (identified by scholars such as Robert Eisenman as the Romans), Ephraim and Manasseh, Pharisees and Sadducees respectively. The authors of these texts claim that these references were fully integral to the original text, whose full meaning has been subsequently revealed by the Teacher.

Such philosophical claims are similar to those found throughout the region at the beginnings of the Common Era, as evidenced by the many mystery cults of Mithras, Isis, Dionysus, and others active at the time; the tradition continued through the Gnostic movements both Christian and non-Christian, and is still prevalent today among certain fundamentalist Muslim and Christian groups with a heavy emphasis on Holy Scripture.

Apocalyptic themes

Many allusions within the pesharim are apocalyptic, with clear references to the eschaton, or the End times, a theme familiar to readers of the New Testament. Other familiar themes from the New Testament found in the pesharim include the "Righteous One", the Poor, the community as temple, the holy spirit, the Star Prophecy, and other messianic images. These allusive images are tied by the pesharim in an apocalyptic manner to selected prized biblical texts.

There is a considerable body of scholarly research discussing the methods of the pesharim, which can be classified under the general category of fulfillment hermeneutics.

Common pesharim

  • Continuous pesharim
    • 1QpHab: Habakkuk pesher
    • 4Q161-165: 4QpIsa a-e (Isaiah pesher)
    • 4Q166-167: 4QpHos a-b (Hosea pesher)
    • 4Q169: 4QpNah (Nahum pesher)
    • 4Q170: 4QpZeph (Zephaniah pesher)
    • 4Q171 & 173: 4QpPs a-b (Psalms pesher)
  • Thematic pesharim
    • 4Q174: 4QFlor (the Florilegium)
    • 4Q177: 4QCatena a
    • 11Q13: 11QMelch (the Melchizedek Midrash)

Modern usage

In books and scholarly articles, author

  • Pesher and the Dead Sea Sectarians An Overview of the Pesher Technique in the Dead Sea Documents.
  • The Pesher to Habakkuk – A discussion of Peshar commentary in the Dead Sea Scrolls—particularly to the transcription of Habakkuk.
  • The pesher on Habakkuk (1QpHab) Barbara Thiering's interpretation of this pesher and its historical context.
  • The Pesher Technique – Analysis of Dr. Thiering's rules of pesher.

External links

  1. ^ Wright, N. T. (1993). Who was Jesus?. Grand Rapids, Mich: Eerdmans. pp. 19–23. 
  2. ^ Forbes, C.B. "Jesus the Man"Review of . Archived from the original on May 3, 2003. 
  3. ^ David Moshiach Praise - Pesher Revision - at


See also

  • Allegro, John M. (ed.), Qumran Cave 4, I (4Q 158 - 4Q 186), Discoveries in the Judean Desert (DJD), 5 (Oxford: Clarendon, 1968)
  • Brownlee, William H., The Midrash Pesher of Habakkuk, Society of Biblical Literature Monograph Series, 24 (Scholars Press, 1979)
  • Charlesworth, James H., The Pesharim and Qumran History: Chaos or Consensus? (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2006)
  • Doudna, Gregory L., 4Q Pesher Nahum: A Critical Edition, Journal for the Study of the Pseudepigrapha Supplement (Sheffield: Continuum International Publishing Group, 2002)
  • Greidanus, Sidney, Preaching Christ from the Old Testament: A Contemporary Hermeneutical Method (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1999)
  • Horgan, Maurya P., Pesharim: Qumran Interpretations of Biblical Books, The Catholic Biblical Quarterly Monograph Series, 8 (Washington: The Catholic Biblical Association of America, 1979
  • Lim, Timothy H., Pesharim, (Sheffield Academic Press, 2002)
  • Eisenman, Robert The New Testament Code: The Cup of the Lord, the Damascus Covenant, and the Blood of Christ (Sterling Publishing Company, Inc., Oct 28, 2006)
  • Thiering, Barbara, Jesus the Man: Decoding the Real Story of Jesus and Mary Magdalene (Simon & Schulster: Atria Books, 2006)9)
  • Van Gemeren, Willem A., Interpreting the Prophetic Word (Zondervan; New Ed edition, 1996)
  • Wood, Marcus E. M., History and Prophecy in the Qumran Pesharim: an examination of the key figures and groups in the Dead Sea Scrolls by way of their prophetic designations (PhD, University of Durham, 2001)

Further reading

For an example of how the pesher method may be used to expound upon the Copper Scroll of the Dead Sea Scrolls, see: David Moshiach Praise - Pesher Revision wherein the author, Yochanan (Mordechai Ezra) Hummasti, de Hurst challenges rabbinical sources for the claim that the Messiah must be a descendant of David, claiming that David himself is the Messiah which will be clear upon the resurrection of the dead when Israel as a nation begins to praise HaShem during Sukkot (The Feast of Tabernacles) which the Greek characters inscribed on the Copper Scroll when translated into Hebrew reveal the "Statute for Sukkot."[3]


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