4Q548 represents the remnants of an Aramaic text unknown before the Qumran discoveries. The text survives in only three small fragments whose genre is uncertain. Nevertheless, the document is significant because of its clear dualistic themes.
The scribal hand of the manuscript 4Q548 has been dated to the second half of the first century BCE (Puech, DJD 31: 393), though the exact date of the composition itself is unknown. Since the fragments of 4Q548 were recovered from Qumran cave four, the document was evidently read by some in that sectarian community. In general, though, the Aramaic texts among the Dead Sea Scrolls are thought to have been penned by Jews outside the movement.
4Q548 may be related to two other Aramaic compositions among the Dead Sea Scrolls, although it does not overlap textually with either. 4Q548 bears some broad similarities (e.g., first-person address and dualism) with Visions of Amram (4Q543–547). However, the resemblance is not close enough to warrant identifying 4Q548 as an additional copy of Visions of Amram. A more likely association is found between 4Q548 and 4Q580, another highly fragmentary Aramaic text with an interest in dualism and a first-person point of view. The physical shape of their largest surviving fragments (4Q548 1–2; 4Q580 2) suggests that they may have been part of the same scroll. It is not clear, though, whether 4Q548 and 4Q580 stem from the same composition or whether they were two independent compositions copied on the same roll.
The composition, or at least the literary unit that has survived in these fragments, is couched in a first-person address, perhaps indicating a setting of either patriarchal instruction or revelatory discourse.
The surviving text exhibits a strongly dualistic outlook, evident in light/darkness dichotomies. We also find an opposition between “sons of light” and “sons of darkness,” language which is typically associated with so-called Qumran sectarian texts penned in Hebrew. In fact, 4Q548 is the only place this terminology is found in the Aramaic Dead Sea Scrolls.
The present edition of 4Q548 was created on the basis of multiple image sets now available on the open-access Leon Levy Dead Sea Scrolls Digital Library developed by the Israeli Antiquities Authority in partnership with Google (http://www.deadseascrolls.org.il/explore-the-archive/manuscript/4Q548-1). For their original transcription, the OCP editors consulted a broad set of images, ranging from scans of the early PAM image plates from 1960 to full spectrum color and infrared digital images taken as recently as 2013.
Since our knowledge of 4Q548 is limited to the three fragments available, we adopted a conservative approach to reconstructions, only supplying the odd character or word at the fringes of fragments when the reading was highly likely due to context. The edition also includes a fresh and complete translation based on the OCP transcription.
The apparatus included in the OCP edition aims to consolidate the various ways the text has been transcribed by contemporary scholars. Once our own transcription was solidified it was compared against eight transcriptions found in print editions (see below). The apparatus lists all instances where these disagreed substantially, excluding minor disagreements in diacritical markings.
Fragments 1 and 2 likely originated in the same manuscript column. Yet, since their relation is not certain, the OCP edition presents the text of the fragments independently.
The following sigla are used throughout the transcription:
|א̊||open circlet above character||The character is damaged and the transcribed reading is possible.|
|א̇||dot above character||The character is damaged and the transcribed reading is likely (more confident than with an open circlet above).|
|◦||in-line open circlet||There are visible traces of a character which cannot be identified with any confidence.|
|[ ]||square brackets||Text between these brackets is lost due to physical damage to the manuscript. Text outside of square brackets is extant.|
|…||ellipsis||Within square brackets an ellipsis indicates an unreconstructed gap in the text due to damage. An ellipsis outside of square brackets in the translation indicates the presence of either indecipherable ink traces or characters of a partially extant word that cannot be translated.|
The OCP apparatus uses the following shorthand references to editions in the bibliography above:
|PH||Perrin–Hama (representing the OCP editors' transcription)|
The extant text of the manuscript 4Q548 is in the public domain. Reconstructions of missing characters are subject to copyright, but the inclusion of competing reconstructions in the OCP apparatus is considered to be "fair use" for academic purposes. Reconstructions included in the Perrin–Hama transcription are under copyright to the editors but are published under the Creative Commons "Attribution" license (CC–BY).