Book Note: Sekki's The Meaning of Ruaḥ at Quman

Arthur E. Sekki, The Meaning of Rua at Qumran (SBLDS 110; Atlanta: Scholar's Press, 1989). 261pp. 

A.E. Sekki's The Meaning of Rua at Qumran is a valuable resource for the study of ancient Jewish pneumatology. In this published dissertation Sekki examines closely the use of rua in all of the sectarian, Hebrew scrolls from the Dead Sea Scroll collection. In doing so he provided a weighty contribution to the study of Qumran's pneumatology, participating in a debate that had been active since the publication of the scrolls had begun a few decades earlier. Arguably, the most valuable aspect of the thoroughness of this study may be its usefulness for understanding the enigmatic "two spirits Treatise" found in 1QS 3.13-4.26, a section that had instigated a flurry of scholarly debate and that continues to be discussed to the present.

This work is divided into nine chapters. Chapter 1 is a brief introduction. Chapter 2, "A Chronological Survey of the Literature," evaluates scholarship on this subject from 1950 up until this Sekki completed his dissertation in 1987. This history is divided into three parts: 1950-1955; 1956-1961; 1961-1987. Major figures such as K.G. Kuhn, A. Dupont-Sommer, B. Otten, H. Wildberger, Y. Yadin, and E. Sjöberg have their scholarly work fairly surveyed and juxtaposed in preparation for Sekki's contribution. Chapters 3, 4, and 5 examine passages where rua seems to mean God's spirit, the human spirit, or an angel/demon respectively. In chapter 6 the remaining passages that include where the meaning of rua seems to be that of either "wind," "breath," or remains unknown are evaluated. Chapter 7 is an "analysis and comparison" of the results that derive from chapters 3-6. Chapter 8, "The Meaning of Ruaḥ in 1QS 3:13-4:26," alluded to above, applies the data that has derived from this research to the question of whether the "two spirits" of this section are cosmic beings or human dispositions. In chapter 9 there is a very brief conclusion. The book ends with a list of sources—which is quite valuable in that Sekki lists all the known uses of ruaḥ found in the published scrolls to date—and a classified biography.

The question of whether the "two spirits" of 1QS 3.13-4.26 where references to a good or bad human spirit or parallel to the Prince of Light and Angel of Darkness that are mentioned as well had been debated since Kuhn's early commentary in the 1950s. Sekki's observation that the human spirit is described in the feminine while angels/demons are masculine. The "two spirits" of 1QS 3.13-4.26 are in the feminine indicating that the author intended to describe two different human spirits. There remains much to debate regarding these spirits, what they say about humanity being possibly "predestine" in some sense to either redemption or damnation, and how exactly they relate to the work of the Prince of Light and the Angel of Darkness, but Sekki's central observation at least brings some much needed clarity to what sort of spirits are being discussed.

Scholars of Second Temple Judaism, the pneumatology of this era, and its particular manifestations at Qumran or amongst those part of the Jesus movement will find Sekki's study to be quite valuable to their own. Even as it nears two decades after its initial publication it continues to be cited frequently in studies to the present and it will likely continue to be cited for many more years.