Physiognomic Horoscopes
4QCryptic-4Q186, 4QPhysiogn=4Q561

Paraphrase and notes by Katie Kanyamas & Robin Kocot

Introduction by Alan Humm


These two texts may represent a variety of divination, known as physiognomy, in which a person's personality or fortune may be read from their physical appearance. They contain what appear to be a series of short body type descriptions which may be intended as a sort of catalogue of physical types which might be useful to the physiognomist. Another possibility is that these are 'prophetic' descriptions of the body types of important biblical or eschatological personages. J. Starky, for example suggests that a related text, 4Q534, is a description of the eschatological Prince of the Congregation, while Vermes (357) sees it as a description of Noah.

4Q186 is Hebrew written in a cypher of sorts. The text is written backwards (left to right) and a mixed alphabet is used (Aramaic square script, Paleo-Hebrew and even Greek characters). 4Q561 is in Aramaic.

The paraphrase of 4Q186 was prepared by Katie Kanyamas, and except for a few corrections is largely unchanged. 4Q561 was originally prepared by Robin Kocot but has been extensively revised by me.


4Q186 (Katie Kanyamas)

Frag.1 Col.1

The man, whose head and forehead are wide and curved, [...]but the rest of his head is not [...]

Frag.1 Col.2

...his stone is granite[1].
    He has fixed eyes[2]. He has long and slender thighs, toes, and feet. He was born during the second phase of the moon[3]. His spirit has six parts in the house of light[4] and three parts in the house of darkness.[5] He shall be born under the haunch of Taurus[6] and he will be poor. His animal sign is bull.

Frag.1 Col.3

...and his head...[and his cheeks are] fat. His eyes are terrifying... His teeth are different lengths. His hands and fingers are thick. Each of his thighs is thick and very hairy. His toes are thick and short. His spirit has eight parts in the house of darkness and one in the house of light.

Frag.2 Col.1

His eyes are neither dark nor light. His beard is light and curly. The tone of his voice is soft and gentle. His teeth are fine and well aligned. He is neither tall nor short, but well built. His fingers are thin and long. His thighs are hairless. The soles of his feet and toes are even and well aligned. His spirit has eight parts in the house of light in the second column and one in the house of darkness. His birth sign is...and his animal sign is...

4Q561 (Robin Kocot revised by Alan Humm)

Frag. 1 col. I

1 [His ????]... and they will be mixed and sparse. His eyes (will be) 2of a medium shade. His nose (will be) a long 3and attractive. And his teeth (will be) straight. And his beard 4will be relatively thin. His limbs will be 5in fit condition and niether underweight nor overweight. 6... 7... his elbows will be strong ... 8husky. And his thighs of [medium] 9bulk. And his feet will be [of medium] 10length. His foot 11... 12... 13... 14... his shoulder... [medium]... His spirit 15... 16... full bodied hair.

Frag. 1 col. II

1The voice will be ... 2stern (?)... 3it will not strain. 4The hair of his beard (will be) plentiful ... 5he will be neither fat n[or thin... 6And they will be short... 7His nails will be strong... 8and his height will be ...

Frag. 2

2[... His beard(?)]will be reddish... 3...His eyes] will be clear and circular... 4...The hair of his hea[d ...


[1] Granite refers to the birth stones of an individual.
[2] "Fixed Eyes are a regular category in Greco-Roman physiognomy and are generally a bad sign." (Wise, Abegg, and Cook 245)
[3] "The second phase of the moon or "station" of the moon (i.e., the places where it "stands"), suggests the present interpretation." (Wise, Abegg, and Cook 245)
[4] The house of light - "the good spiritual qualities of individual that is reflected in his share of light." (Vermes 357)
[5] The house of darkness - the bad spiritual of individual that is reflected in his share of darkness.
[6] The haunch of Taurus - "implied the concept of dodecatmoria. This Greek word is a name of further subdivision of the zodiac." (Wise, Abegg, and Cook 244)


Eisenmen, Robert H., Wise Michael. The Dead Sea Scrolls Uncovered. NY: Penguin Books.1992.

Lasor, William. The Dead Sea Scrolls and the New Testament. Grand Rapids: William B. Publishing Comp. 1972.

Martinez, Garcia. The Dead Sea Scrolls Translated: The Qumran Texts in English. New York: E.J. Brill Leiden and Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 1996.

Starcky, J. "Un texte messianique araméen de la grotte 4 de Qumrân," in Mémorial du Cinquantenaire 1914-1964 de l'École des Langues Orientales Anciennes de l'Institut Catholique de Paris, Paris, 1964, Pp. 51-66.

Vermes, Geza. The Complete Dead Sea Scrolls In English. New York: Allen Lane, The Penguine press, 1997.

Wise, Micheal, Abegg Jr. martin, and Cook Edward. The Dead Sea Scrolls: A New Translation. New York: Harper Collins Publisher, 1996.

Yadin, Yigael. The Message of the Scrolls. NY: Simon and Schuster. 1957.


November 23, 1998

prepared for Intro. to the Hebrew Bible
by Katie Kanyamas & Robin Kocot