Like a Bridegroom with a Bride

…to be comforted upon her mourning, her sorrow…
…to destroy peoples, and nations he will cut off and the wicked…
…renew the works of the heavens and earth,
and they will rejoice,
and all the earth be full of His glory…
…on behalf of their guilt, he will atone,
and the Great One of good will comfort them.
Good is the … to eat its fruit and its good.
Like a man whose mother comforts him,
so will He comfort them in Jerusalem….
…like a bridegroom with a bride,
with her He will dwell forever…
…His throne is forever and ever,
and His glory…
…and all peoples
…and there will be with Him…
…and their pleasant land…
…splendour…I will bless the…
…Blessed is the name of the Most High….
…Your mercy upon me…
…for the Law You have established…
…the Book of Your statutes….

That is my translation of 4Q434a, or 4QGrace After Meals. The reasons for the title Grace After Meals are found in the brilliant and incredibly rich publication of this fragment by Moshe Weinfeld, “Grace After Meals in Qumran,” JBL 111 (1992), 427-440. The parallels to later rabbinic instruction regarding prayers following meals are clear. Likewise, there is here a parallel to a prayer found in Didache 10.1-6 (translation from Niederwimmer The Didache, in the Hermeneia Commentary series, Augsburg Press, 1998):

1When you have had your fill, give thanks this way:
2“We thank you, holy Father,
For your holy name,
     which you made dwell in our hearts,
And for the knowledge and faith and immortality,
     which you made known to us
     through Jesus your servant.
To you be glory forever.
3You, almighty Lord, created all things for the
          sake of your name,
     and you gave food and drink to human
          beings for enjoyment,
     so that they would thank you;
But you graced us with spiritual food and
          drink and eternal life
     through your servant.
4For all things, we thank you, Lord, because
          you are powerful.
To you be glory forever.
5Be mindful, Lord, of your church,
     to preserve it from all evil
     and to perfect it in your love.
And <...> gather it from the four winds,
     into the kingdom which you have prepared for it.
For power and glory are yours forever.
6May grace come, and may this world pass by.
Hosanna to the God of David!
If anyone is holy, let him come.
If anyone is not, let him repent.
Maranatha! Amen.”

There are several interesting similiarities, as you can see, and the similarities of 4Q434a are dealt with in detail by Weinfeld, in the above-mentioned article. I’d like to mention a few interesting points regarding the Didache text, which is also recognized to reflect the influence of the rabbinic Birkat ha-Mazon (see Niederwimmer, 155-161).

Firstly, the line before the prayer here in Didache 10.1, “When you have had your fill, give thanks this way” is an obvious allusion to Deuteronomy 8.10, “When you have eaten and are full, give thanks….” In Didache 10.1 is εμπλησθηναι, in Deut 8.10 LXX, εμπλησθηνη. Deuteronomy 8.10 is the verse which is the origin for the tradition of the Birkat ha-Mazon, and seems to be taken the same way in the Didache, either directly, or, as is more likely, in continuation with the tradition of the earliest Church.

Weinfeld mentions (p. 429) that the three mandatory benedictions are for 1.) the food just eaten, 2.) for the Land of Israel, and 3.) for Jerusalem and the Davidic Dynasty. Likewise, we can see Christian alteration of these themes in the prayer in the Didache. First, the food just eaten is explicitly mentioned, and expanded to “spiritual food and drink and eternal life” (v. 3). The Land of Israel is likely represented by mention of the Church (v. 5a), as we are familiar with both Apostolic and Patristic equation of Israel with the Church. The Divine Kingdom (vv. 5b-6), perhaps on the analogy of the New Jerusalem, takes the place of Jerusalem, and we find also “Hosanna to the God of David” (v. 6), which mention of David seems a bit out of place, except when understanding the development of this prayer from a basic form such as described by Weinfeld. In the case of this prayer in the Didache, we thus find a continuation of typological interpretation as found in the New Testament and Patristic texts with regard to Old Testament texts, but rather with reference to prayer traditions after the meal.

Many thanks to Mike Aquilina for pointing me to 4QGrace After Meals.

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