Dead Sea Scrolls

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DEAD SEA SCROLLS , the popular designation given to collections of manuscript material found in 1947 and the following years in various caves west of the Dead Sea, notably at *Qumran, *Murabbaʿāt, Khirbat Mird, together with *En-Gedi and *Masada. This entry concentrates on those found in the Qumran region (by far the greatest in bulk and probably in importance); those found at En-Gedi, Masada, and Murabbaʿāt are treated under these respective headings. For the Bar Kokhba Letters found in the Judean Desert see *Bar Kokhba, and for the tefillin of the Dead Sea Scrolls see *Tefillin.

The Qumran Discoveries

Discovered by chance in 1947, the first scrolls, of which there were seven, some almost complete, came into the hands of dealers in antiquities, who offered them to scholars. The first scholar to recognize their antiquity was E.L. *Sukenik, who succeeded in acquiring three of them (the second Isaiah Scroll (B), the *Thanksgiving Hymns, the *War Scroll) for the Hebrew University. Between 1948 and 1950 he published specimens of them, his editio princeps of these scrolls appearing posthumously in 1955. The four other scrolls had been bought from a Bethlehem dealer (known as Kando) by Mar Athanasius Samuel, the Metropolitan of the Syrian Christian community, who had at first taken them to the American School of Oriental Research, where their importance was also recognized, in the absence of the school's director, Millar Burrows, by John Trever and William Brownlee. During the Israel War of Independence of 1948, these were brought to the United States, where they were studied by a group of scholars led by M. Burrows (d. 1980), who in 1950–51 published three of them – the first Isaiah Scroll, the *Pesher (Commentary) on Habakkuk, and the Manual of *Discipline. Subsequently the Israel government bought these four scrolls, and thus all seven came to their permanent abode in the Israel Museum's Shrine of the Book in Jerusalem. Only after it reached Jerusalem wasit possible to open the one hitherto unpublished scroll among the seven, the Genesis Apocryphon, which was published in 1956 by N. *Avigad and Y. *Yadin. In the meantime, with the West Bank now under Jordanian administration, the scrolls cave had been sought and identified, and, under the Jordanian Department of Antiquities, its director G. Lankester Harding and R. de *Vaux of the Ecole Biblique (in the then Jordanian part of Jerusalem) excavated it along with some 40 other caves in the vicinity of Khirbat Qumran and Ein Fashkha. Two years later, excavations began at the nearby ruins of Qumran, continuing until 1956, during which time the connections between the caves and the ruins became evident. Eleven more caves were discovered, some by the archeologists and some by the Bedouin, which contained scrolls, many of them highly fragmented. Many of these caves were man-made and lay on the edge of the plateau on which the settlement itself stood. By 1958 most of the material taken by the Bedouin had been purchased for the scholars, some through dealers in antiquities and sometimes with the assistance of overseas institutions. In view of the large quantity of material from cave 4, an international committee (understandably but regrettably excluding Jews) was appointed, under de Vaux, to publish the newly acquired materials in possession. Due to difficulties in deciphering, lack of funding and a declining level of enthusiasm, progress was slow, though a concordance of the Cave 4 scrolls was in fact completed in the late 1950s and early 1960s, yet was not made available, and then only to a limited circle of scholars, until 1989. Some texts were partly published in provisional articles in scholarly journals, and then gradually began to appear in definitive editions, in the series Discoveries in the Judaean Desert (Oxford). The first three volumes (1955, 1960, 1962) included the fragments from Cave 1, the documents from Murabba'at and the contents of caves 2–3 and 5–10 respectively. The intriguing and controversial *Copper Scroll had been unrolled in Manchester in 1956 and published, unofficially, by Allegro in 1960 (it has since resided in Amman). The disagreement between Allegro and his colleagues on the editorial committee foreshadowed disagreements that would later dog Scrolls scholarship. Allegro believed in rapid publication, even in provisional form, but also held controversial views about the Scrolls' significance, which he eagerly popularized. As a result he was marginalized. His views (for example, that the Scrolls helped to unmask Christianity as a fraud) have subsequently been rejected, though they have not perished; but his criticisms of the publication policy and practice of the editorial team were largely vindicated. In 1966, Sanders published the Psalms scrolls from Cave 11 (djd 4) and in 1968 the first official edition of texts from Cave 4 appeared (Allegro, with Andersen: djd 5). In 1967, the majority of the scrolls and fragments, which were held in Jerusalem's Rockefeller Museum, became available to Israeli scholars, and Y. Yadin also obtained a further important document, the *Temple Scroll, which he published in 1977 (English 1983). In 1971 De Vaux died and was succeeded as chief editor by Pierre Benoit, also of the Ecole Biblique, while further djd volumes of Cave 4 texts appeared very slowly (de Vaux [posthumously] and Milik in 1977 and Baillet in 1982). Meanwhile, those outside the editorial team were denied access to the contents of unpublished material. When Benoit resigned in 1984, the Israeli Department of Antiquities appointed John Strugnell, one of the members of the original editorial team, to oversee a more rapid publication, and several new members, including Jewish and Israeli scholars, were co-opted. But although some Harvard doctoral students published editions entrusted to their dissertation directors, wider access remained forbidden to others. Increasing protest over this situation was answered in a series of dramatic developments that began in 1990. Strugnell was replaced by Emanuel Tov as editor in chief, and in the following year a computer-generated reconstruction from the concordance of cave 4 texts (which Strugnell had released) was published, followed by an unauthorized facsimile edition of plates of all the scrolls and, finally, a decision by the Huntington Library in California, which owned a set of plates of the unpublished scrolls, to make them publicly available broke the embargo. Since then, the djd series has been completed, and Tov was able to resign, with his job done, in 2002.

[Jacob Licht]


The Qumran manuscripts were mostly written on parchment, some on papyrus. Most are in Hebrew, some in Aramaic, a handful in Greek. The Qumran caves are numbered serially, 1 to 11, in the order in which the manuscript treasure contained in them came to light. A manuscript is defined as a single scroll, usually represented by one or more fragments. A document may be represented by one or several manuscripts, and the manuscripts may contain different versions of that document. Hence the designation "Community Rule" cannot refer simply, as it once did, to the cave 1 manuscript. A more accurate method of designation is the cave number and location, such as 1qs ( = Serekh [ha-Yahad]). However, there are several different manuscripts of this document from Cave 4, givingrise to the labels 4qsa, 4qsb, etc. But the preferred method of designation is by cave, location and a unique number. Some of these numbers have changed over time, so that different manuscripts of the same document may form a sequence. Hence the document popularly referred to as the Halakhic Letter is also known as 4qmmt, but is strictly a (hypothetical, in this case!) reconstruction from fragments of the six manuscripts 4q394–99. In addition, manuscripts in Aramaic have "ar" added (6qapoc ar), and pesharim have a "p" inserted (1qpHab). Scrolls are written in columns, and the method of citation is by column and line (cd [ = Cairo Damascus] is an exception, being represented by two codices, having pages). However, in the case of a fragment of a manuscript that cannot be fitted into its place in the original scroll, individual column numbers are assigned. Thus, a citation from 4qpseudo-Jubileesa, or 4q225, might read 4q225 frag. 22, col. 3 line 6 – or, more simply, 4q225 22 iii 16. As more fragments become assigned to manuscripts and documents, either the enumeration will change, or, more probably, anomalies will enter the system. Indeed, the reordering of fragments of the Cave 1 Hodayoth manuscript (1qh) has already resulted in changes to the column numbering given in Sukenik's original edition.

Six caves (3, 5, 7, 8, 9, and 10) were discovered by archaeologists; the other five (and these included the most important in respect of their contents) were discovered by Bedouin of the Taʿamira tribe. There is strong evidence to connect these caves closely with the neighboring ruin of Khirbat Qumran; a reasonable assumption is that their contents formed part of the library belonging to a community, or a movement, to which the inhabitants of Khirbat Qumran belonged (see *Qumran). The nearly 900 manuscripts are commonly thought to have been hidden during the war with Rome from 66 to 70 c.e.; but they may not have been deposited in all 11 caves on the same occasion, for, whereas those in Cave 1 were carefully placed in covered cylindrical jars, those in other caves, and especially in Cave 4, which contained the greatest quantity of manuscripts, appear to have been dumped in haste. News of their discovery aroused intense interest throughout the world and considerable controversy, especially with regard to their dating. But paleographical and radiocarbon indications, together with the few historical allusions in the texts, point clearly to the 2nd century b.c.e.–1st century c.e. as the time of their writing, with a few manuscripts (according to radiocarbon dating) as early as the 4th century b.c.e. These dates mostly fit well with the period of occupation of the Qumran site in the Hellenistic era, which began in about 100 b.c.e. and ended in 68 c.e. The manuscripts were written over a period of several generations; in several cases (including the Damascus Document, Community Rule, and War Scroll) different recensions of the same work have been found (even in the same cave), enabling some deductions to be made concerning their history, and thus possibly the history of the sect that produced them. The Qumran scrolls are generally classified in three categories: "sectarian" works (200+ manuscripts); "biblical" manuscripts (also 200+); and other Jewish writings, whether previously known or otherwise (400+).

An extensive list of Qumran scrolls with their publications in English or Hebrew (including scrolls not mentioned in this article) appears in the Index Volume of this Encyclopaedia, in the list of bibliographical abbreviations under the letter Q.

Language, Orthography, and Spelling

The Dead Sea scrolls are mostly written in Hebrew, with some in Aramaic (a few fragments of a Greek translation of the Bible have also been found). Aspects of the evolution of ancient Hebrew from classical to Mishnaic remain disputed, in particular the relationship between written and spoken forms, and the question of dialects. The Hebrew of the non-biblical scrolls is not uniform: the majority of texts may represent a Judean dialect of spoken Hebrew or possibly a literary (scribal) language; the Damascus Document exhibits a Hebrew closer to biblical, while the Copper Scroll (and to some extent the Halakhic Letter) is very similar to Mishnaic Hebrew. As to orthography generally, the writing is often plene, characteristic forms being לוא ,כיא ,אמתכה. Thus the plural form of נגע is נגוּעים (or נגיעים); instead of הוא and היא we find הואה and אנשי=) אנושי ,(מלאות=) מולאת ,(ישר=) יושר ,(קצר=) קצור; היאה),. Whether this points to a system of pronunciation different from that transmitted in the Tiberian masorah is not clear. Indications of weakening of the gutturals, as for example אנשי=) הנשי) probably does: but in other manuscripts, and commonly in the biblical manuscripts, the writing is defective, as in the Masoretic text. It has been suggested by Tov that the plene manuscripts come from a Qumran scribal school, though it is also found in some biblical manuscripts. Generally the square Hebrew script is used, in the stage of its development a little prior to the final one (the present day printed type). Thus the ה is closed and has a cross beam protruding slightly to the left; the ד has no protrusion to the right; the ז is a simple, straight line, sometimes with a small head on the right. The great majority of scribes make no distinction between a ו and a י (both of which resemble the numeral 1), a few however writing the י not shorter but wider. Several phases of the script can be distinguished, the three major categories being "Archaic" (as in First Temple period inscriptions) "Hasmonean" (c. 150–50 b.c.e.), and "Herodian" (50 b.c.e.–70 c.e.). In some scrolls the Divine Names (the Tetragrammaton yhwh and at times also El) are written in the archaic script, this being a characteristic feature of the commentaries, as also of the scroll of the Book of Psalms. The style of handwriting is also divided into formal, cursive, mixed, semicursive, and rounded. Paleography is a useful guide to the dating of the manuscripts, but because of their varied provenance, it cannot be translated into very precise dates, as is sometimes attempted. Scripts cannot be assumed to have developed uniformly in every place. Indeed, the script of an individual scribe does not necessarily change over his lifetime to reflect the latest custom, and if a scribe learns to write from a single teacher rather then in a school, he can only be assumed to continue the script that he was taught.

The Materials Used

The scrolls are written on parchment prepared from the hair side of the skin, while *tefillin have been found written on parchment prepared from the flesh side of the skin. The skins were washed, soaked, depilated and sometimes tanned, then softened by beating, and cut. The length of a scroll varied, the longest (the Temple Scroll) being almost 9m. Longer scrolls were created by stitching skins together. Papyrus was made by cross-layering strips of the reed at right angles, gluing them together, scrubbing with pumice and cutting. Usually the surface was ruled with lines and margins to aid the scribe. Pens were fashioned from reeds, and about five inkwells (of clay, one of bronze) have been identified as coming from Qumran. The ink is almost invariably carbon-based, but ink of metallic origin was used for one scroll (the Genesis Apocryphon), which is consequently in a poor state of preservation, the inkhaving eaten into the parchment. In some scrolls the writing has become illegible, but various forms of photography, as well as computer enhancement, have recovered considerable areas of text. When completed, the scroll was rolled, with the beginning of the text on the outside. A tab was attached (if this had not been done during manufacture) and the scroll was bound together with a strap. Several scrolls were wrapped in linen, remnants of which have been found, and were placed in jars, some of them then sealed. However, the majority of the Qumran manuscripts were probably placed on shelves or in boxes (there are signs of shelving in Cave 4). They are now in small fragments and only a fraction of their content is preserved. Whether this fragmentary state is due only to the ravages of time and rodents, or human action, whether deliberate or accidental, ancient or more recent, can probably never be known. The matching of fragments and thus the restoration of original manuscripts was originally achieved by recognition of common content and handwriting, but another technique for correctly locating fragments within a manuscript analyzes the shape of damaged areas and matches them with the pattern of damage as reconstructed for the rolled-up scroll.

The Scrolls and Khirbat Qumran

The connection between the scrolls and the settlement at nearby Qumran, initially overlooked by the scroll hunters, has been almost universally taken for granted since excavations started there. There is no absolute proof of a connection, since the scrolls do not clearly allude to the site and the site itself contained no scrolls; but the circumstantial evidence is very strong. Two inscribed ostraca found in 1996 were claimed to contain the word yaḥad, the name of the sect in the Community Rule, but this has since been challenged, and no direct relation between these and the scrolls is proven. Evidence for the production and composition of scrolls at Qumran remains slight but not negligible. The suggestion by de Vaux that the nearby site of Ein Fashkha contained a tannery is now generally rejected. His view that an upper floor room of the easternblock of the Qumran settlement, whose floor had collapsed, was a scriptorium is still supported, though his reconstruction of a plaster table and writing benches now seems fanciful. The inhabitants of Qumran probably lived in the nearby caves; these inhabited caves show no evidence of scroll use; but cave 8 contained a collection of leather tabs, of the kind attached to the outer end of a scroll for aid in opening. It is now generally agreed that most of the scrolls were not written at Qumran, but taken there; however, the proximity of several caves to the site implies that their deposit was known to the inhabitants if not carried out by them. Several proposals have nevertheless been made that Qumran was not the site of a religious community but something else: a palace, fortress or trading post. The numerous cisterns are not all for immersion but probably for drinking water; those that were miqva'ot do not necessarily attest to an exceptional level of concern with purity, as the scrolls exhibit, but certainly inhabitants following standard Jewish purification practice. In retrospect, it has emerged that the initial interpretation of the site by de Vaux can be questioned, especially concerning the earliest phase of sectarian occupation and a possible period of abandonment late in the first century b.c.e. But despite several alternative theories about the nature of the settlement, his overall assessment still has its defenders (for further details see *Qumran).

[Philip Davies (2nd ed.)]

a brief history of research


Initial interest in the Scrolls, in which Christian involvement far outweighed Jewish, mostly for political reasons, focused on the identification and history of the Qumran sect and its relationship to the New Testament and early Christianity. With only the contents of Cave 1 published, it seemed possible to reconstruct with some clarity where and why the sect had been formed and what its major doctrines and its organization were. After a fairly brief period of debate, a consensus quickly emerged that the Dead Sea sect had been the Essenes, as described (though not without some contradictory details) by Philo and Josephus as well as the elder Pliny who, unlike the other two authors, specifically located them near the Dead Sea. It was also agreed that, like the Pharisees and Sadducees, this sect had arisen in the Hasmonean period. The founder of the sect had been a "Teacher of Righteousness" who had, as the Habakkuk pesher in particular described, been persecuted by a "Wicked Priest" and forced to flee to Qumran, where he established a community with his followers. The identity of this "Wicked Priest," was disputed, but the major contenders were the Hasmoneans Jonathan and Simon. During the 1970s this consensus was initially consolidated, and some important new data emerged. From the historical point of view the identification of the Qumran sect with the Essenes was supported by the excavations by P. Bar-Adon at Ein-el-Ghuweir, south of Qumran, uncovering a settlement from the same period as Qumran, also with large buildings suitable for communal activities. (Y. Hirschfeld has more recently claimed to find the Essene settlement to which Pliny refers overlooking En-Gedi.) The cemetery adjacent to the site displays the same peculiar form of burial found in the Qumran *cemetery (or cemeteries), including skeletons of women and children. The ongoing analysis of the Qumran literary documents received new impetus with the initial publication of several major texts. The most important of these is undoubtedly the Temple Scroll, the longest scroll yet found. Its publication marked the beginning of several important changes: Israeli and Jewish interest in the scrolls increased as the scrolls were now almost all now under Israeli control in Jerusalem, while the text itself, edited and published rapidly and expertly by Yigael Yadin, illustrated the importance of halakhah in understanding the Dead Sea scrolls, taking a good deal of emphasis away from Christian origins. However, Yadin's conclusion that the scroll was a product of the yaḥad provoked strong disagreement and reinvigo-rated discussion of the relationship between that community and the wider movement described in the Damascus Document. This in turn led to revised theories about the origins of the Qumran community, more complex than the Cave 1 scrolls had suggested. In particular, it began to be recognized that the yaḥad itself arose from a wider movement with well-established roots. Because of this, the problem of speaking simply of the "Qumran community" or "the sect" or even of "sectarian writings" has been more keenly appreciated. The publication of the fragments of 1 Enoch by Milik proved that the work was indeed originally composed in Aramaic and also highlighted the Enochic character of much of the scrolls' content. The question of the origins of the sect was to be complicated further by the Halakhic Letter, whose contents were revealed (originally as a "Letter from the Teacher of Righteousness") and discussed long before its official publication in 1994. In fact the editing and publication of this document were at the center of a controversy: a draft text and translation that had been informally circulating were printed and published by Z.J. Kapera of Cracow, who, under some kind of threat, had to destroy the remaining copies. But the Biblical Archaeology Review had printed a page from this edition, and E. Qimron, one of the official editors, sued that journal's editor for breach of copyright. His claim to be, effectively, the "author" of the Qumran document by virtue of his reconstruction was upheld on appeal and has set an unfortunate precedent. The Halakhic Letter lists a number of disagreements between its author and the recipient, who is apparently a Jewish ruler (king, high priest or both?). It prompts the suggestion that the origins of the sectarian movement may lie in conflicts between differing priestly traditions, which were debated before the decision to segregate into a sectarian lifestyle. A comparison of the Qumran halakhah with rulings ascribed to ẓeduqim in the rabbinic literature has also prompted some scholars to suggest that the sect may have been Sadducee rather than Essene, though the claim is based on a restricted number of cases. The publication of multiple texts of the Damascus Document and Community Rule has shown, too, how their complicated recensional history must be taken into account in any reconstruction of the history of the communities they describe. With each new publication of texts, it also became more difficult to fit all the contents of the scrolls into neat doctrinal systems. In general, the confident consensus that reigned between the 1950s and early 1970s has given way to a number of competing theories, to which doubts about the nature of the site of Qumran itself have added further confusion. The availability of all the texts has, nevertheless, led to a resurgence of interest in the texts, with a growing number of younger scholars now reexamining the very broad range of questions that the scrolls are generating. Much more knowledge has been accumulated, but with it rather less overall understanding of the phenomenon of Qumran and a better appreciation of the religious climate from which both rabbinic Judaism and Christianity grew.

Contents and Character of the Qumran Scrolls

sectarian writings

It would be rash to conclude that all the books in any communal or private library reflect the beliefs and practices of the community or individual to whom they belong. It is also sometimes difficult to distinguish sectarian writings from those that come from the particular milieu (represented by such works as Enoch and Jubilees) from which they emerged. The sectarian scrolls can be classified generically (or functionally) as "Rules," "Halakhic," "Exegetical," "Parabiblical" "Wisdom" and "Liturgical". "Sectarian" writings are identified as those that share a common ideology and vocabulary with three of the "Rules" that explicitly describe a sectarian community: the Community Rule (Manual of Discipline), the Damascus (or "Zadokite") Document and Rule of the Congregation (though it is perhaps a description of an idealized future Israel). These further texts comprise the Thanksgiving Psalms, the War Scroll (another "Rule"), the Temple Scroll, the Halakhic Letter, the pesharim (biblical commentaries), some other midrashic (the Florilegium, the Melchizedek fragments) and halakhic (Ordinances, Tohorot) compositions, and perhaps the Angelic Liturgy (Songs of the Sabbath Sacrifice). The wisdom texts are an especially interesting category: they exhibit many of the terms and themes of biblical wisdom books, but their traditional virtues and rewards, the materialistic ethic and the empirical basis of knowledge have been imbued with an esoteric flavor: there are "secrets" and an eschatological reward. These texts are not necessarily strictly of sectarian origin (the book of Daniel exhibits similar features) but they do indicate movement towards what is the clearly sectarian ethic of other scrolls. In the case of liturgical works, it is sometimes difficult to determine whether the contents are strictly sectarian. They are in any case steeped in biblical language and ideas, especially from the Psalms. The case of the Thanksgiving Hymns (Hodayoth) seems clear, however, as these are imbued throughout with a consistent, dominant sectarian ideology, including dualistic language. The main themes are that mankind is evil, its flesh polluted, but the author has been elected by God, rescued from destruction, purged, endowed with wisdom and placed among the "holy ones" (angels). He has also founded a community and suffered persecution, elements that prompt many scholars to regard them – or some of them – as compositions of a spiritual leader, such as the Teacher of Righteousness, the persecuted hero of the pesharim who, according to the Damascus Document, founded, or more strictly, refounded the sect. It is highly likely that they were used in the sectarian liturgy and may have provided some of the biographical data used in the pesharim. The Pseudepigraphic Psalms, by contrast, contain some terminology characteristic of the sectarian writings, but no distinctive sectarian ideology is present. There is a high degree of dependence on, and quotation from, the biblical psalms; one manuscript (4q236) even contains a highly variant version of Psalm 89. There are fragments of four manuscripts containing prayers for festivals, and three manuscripts of "Words of the Lights", apparently designed for each day of the week, and another manuscript containing morning and evening prayers (4q503). It is a reasonable guess that the sectarians inherited a rich Jewish liturgical tradition of which we would otherwise be unaware, and in this respect the Qumran scrolls make an important contribution to our understanding of the evolution of Jewish worship. From Cave 11 comes a manuscript containing four psalms apparently designed for a healing liturgy (11qpsapa). Finally, a number of hymn fragments (4q434–39) contain the phrase barki nafshi, "Bless, o my soul," one of which (4q434a) displays similarities with rabbinic blessings after meals and so may have fulfilled this function. Given the importance of the communal meal in the yaḥad, this is a plausible suggestion. Finally, a controversial hymn (contained within 4q448) asks for blessing on "King Jonathan and for all the congregation of your people Israel who are in the four corners of heaven." This Jonathan was identified by the text's editors as the Hasmonean Alexander Jannaues (Jannai) who ruled from 103–76 b.c.e. However, he is generally considered to have been a likely enemy of the sect. G. Vermes has therefore proposed the Hasmonen Jonathan, brother of Judas (ruled 160–142 b.c.e.), who, he argues, may have once been favored by them. Alternatively, the text could be seen as originating from outside the sect: in which case, why was it copied and kept by them?

The Damascus Document, which was already known from two mediaeval manuscripts found in the Cairo Genizah as well as several Qumran copies, describes the origin, history and beliefs, together with its halakhah and organization and its rules of life, of a sectarian movement that is clearly related to, but not identical with, that described in the Community Rule. The latter contains mostly the doctrines, organization and disciplinary rules of a sect calling itself the yaḥad ("Union"), but without any account of its origins or history. Both texts are composite, and the various copies betray a recensional history. (For more details, see *Yaḥad; *Dead Sea Sect; Book of Covenant of *Damascus.) One common feature of the sectarian texts seems to be the 364-day calendar that is also presented in 1 Enoch and Jubilees; the Temple Scroll in particular is constructed on this basis, and texts known as the Mishmarot (priestly courses) show the services of the priestly orders regulated according to a six-year cycle, which harmonizes the 26 annual courses of this calendar with the 24 of the lunar calendar. Another common thread is (temporary) alienation from the Jerusalem temple as a result of disagreement over the calendar and halakhah with its governing priesthood. The Angelic Liturgy (Serekh Shirot Olat ha-Shabbat) illustrates not only how the yaḥad maintained the ethos of the temple cult despite its (temporary, as it believed) abandonment of the Jerusalem sanctuary, but also throws important light on the community's beliefs about angels and its own mystical tradition in addition to four manuscripts from Cave 4 and a further one that came to light during the excavations at Masada. The document describes a weekly sabbath liturgy, over 13 weeks, in the heavenly temple. This text has opened up a new dimension in Jewish literature and religion of not only late Second Temple times, but subsequent Jewish mystical and angelic traditions while the Melchizedek midrash from Cave 11 features an angelic high priest who leads the struggle against Belial and his associates, but also effects the redemption of Israel at the end of the final era of history on the Day of Atonement. This work shows how the Genesis figure was interpreted in some circles (similar, but not identical, to the treatment in the Epistle to the Hebrews) and also sheds light on later Jewish speculation about heavenly redeemer figures: Melchizedek was later to be identified with both *Michael and *Metatron as the highest angelic figure below God. A further characteristic of the scrolls as a whole is a belief in the angelic origin of sin, as described in the Enochic "Book of Watchers," as a result of which humans remain subject to evil angelic powers, which will be destroyed at the end of days. The Flood that was sent upon the earth as a divine response to the angelic descent seems to have functioned as a prototype of the punishment to come, and Noah is prominent as the prototype of the righteous person (his illustrious birth is described in the Genesis Apocryphon). This view of the origin of sin, the differences in calendrical and halakhic matters, and the consequent breach with the Temple cult (minimal participation by the community in the Damascus Document, complete rejection in the case of the yaḥad) seem to combine into a kind of Judaism that has been called "Enochic" or "apocalyptic," but in fact it probably reflects very closely the views of the Priestly source within the Torah. The solar calendar is reflected in the p material in the Flood story (thirty-day months), and in the notion, expressed in that story, of a corruption of the earth by bloodshed (rectified in the Noachic covenant), p's doctrine of sin as a universal contagion and not just disobedience of the Torah, and the inclusion of the fallen angel 'Azazel in the Day of Atonement ritual (Lev. 16:21). If this observation is correct, the unresolved problem is to explain why this ideology came to be represented in a sectarian form in the second century b.c.e. The answer may lie in the intricacies of Hasmonean politics, but we cannot be certain. Yet it is evident that the ideology adopted by the writers of the scrolls is not a sudden reaction but the outcome of a longer process betraying differences within a Second Temple Judaism that was, before the discovery of the Scrolls, thought to be rather monolithic. Nevertheless, attempts to represent the so-called "apocalyptic" character of the Scrolls as in some way a forerunner of Christianity as against rabbinic Judaism have been frustrated by the prominence given in the scrolls to scrupulous observance of Torah, a high veneration of the temple, and an emphasis on a life of ritual purity.

Biblical Manuscripts

Most of these have survived only as fragments: all but two of the 24 books of the Jewish Scriptures are represented, the exceptions being Esther and Nehemiah (it cannot be said with certainty whether their absence is accidental or significant). The number of manuscripts of each books ranges from 36 (Psalms) to i (Chronicles). A few are written in the archaic Hebrew script. In addition, some Septuagint fragments have been identified: Cave 4 yielded fragments of two Septuagint manuscripts of Leviticus and one of Numbers; Cave 7, fragments of the Septuagint text of Exodus and of the Epistle of Jeremiah, a pseudepigraph commonly appended to the Book of Baruch. The most important Septuagint find made in the Dead Sea region comes not from Qumran but from the "Cave of Letters" in Naḥal Ḥever (see *Judean Desert Caves): It is a fragmentary copy of a Greek version of the Twelve Minor Prophets, identified as a new Greek revision, (now known as the Kaige or Proto-Theodotion revision), which apparently aimed at revising the lxx according to a Hebrew text close to the mt. Fragments of a Leviticus Targum were also found in Cave 4. A further contribution to the biblical material from Qumran is made by commentaries (see *Pesher) and parabiblical compositions, or rewritings of the scriptural contents. Whereas the biblical texts from caves farther south which were occupied during the Bar Kokhba Revolt (132–5 c.e.) uniformly belong to the "proto-masoretic" type (the consonantal text to which the masorah was added from the sixth to the ninth centuries c.e.), those found in the Qumran caves reflect a variety of text-types (see below).

biblical text and canon

As evidenced by the Minor Prophets scroll from Nahal Hever (see above), between 70 c.e. and the Bar Kokhba Revolt, the biblical text appears to have been standardized during the first century c.e. But at Qumran there existed no uniformity of text. At first it had been concluded that the Hebrew biblical texts at Qumran fell into three types, corresponding to the forerunners of the Masoretic, Septuagint, and Samaritan texts, each originating from three regions: Babylonian, Egypt, and Palestine respectively. But the "local text" theory and the theory of "text types' have now been abandoned. Yet a more careful analysis shows that no such grouping is possible. There is too much variation even within the different textual types; for instance, the mt uses the short text for the Pentateuch but the longer one for the Later Prophets and Writings, while the lxx employs the longer text for the Pentateuch but a short one for Jeremiah. Again, mt and lxx Jeremiah are not so much different text types as variant editions. As for the Qumran manuscripts, the textual variations reflect much more a spectrum than a set of textual types, while the Psalms manuscripts display, like Jeremiah, a variant edition rather then a different text type. The problem was perhaps more acute as long as the scrolls were all thought to emanate from a small isolated community, but if, as now believed, they originated in different places, the variety is less surprising.

Whether there was a fixed canon is also disputed: While all but two books of the Masoretic canon (Esther and Nehemiah) are represented, the number of manuscripts of each book preserved (see above) may suggest that not all books were equally venerated. There are numerous manuscripts of Deuteronomy, Isaiah, and Psalms, but Chronicles and Ezra are extant in only one copy. The Halakhic Letter (C10) runs "… in the book (sic) of Moses, and the books of the Prophets and in David…," the last referring probably to a collection of Psalms. However, other works may have been regarded within the sect as of a similar status and authority, such as the Book of Jubilees (cited in the Damascus Document as "The Book of the Divisions of Times into their Jubilees and Weeks" (cd xvi:4) or the Enochic writings or even the Temple Scroll. The biblical manuscripts were usually copied in the regular square Hebrew script, except for the Holy Name being occasionally written in paleo-Hebrew characters. However, some biblical manuscripts were copied in this ancient script in their entirety, as for instance, Job and Leviticus (4qpaleoJob, 4qpaleoLev).


Of the biblical manuscripts 86 are books of the Pentateuch, 30 of which are copies of Deuteronomy. While the Genesis and Leviticus manuscripts exhibit a stable text and a single manuscript tradition, Exodus is represented in two editions, one close to the mt and lxx, the other similar to the Samaritan text (but without the two most distinctive Samaritan variants relating to the Gerizim altar (Exodus 20:17 and Deut. 12:5, etc.)). The case of Numbers is similar to Exodus, though the non-mt edition is not specifically Samaritan, but only shares some features. Deuteronomy, the best represented of the Pentateuch, exists in a wider range of texts, and, in addition, there are some manuscripts apparently consisting of excerpts, presumably for liturgical purposes. In a few cases a Qumran reading is clearly superior to the mt: thus, for example, 4qdtq reads for Deuteronomy 32:8 bny'l, as does the lxx, instead of bny ysr'l of the mt.

former prophets

Joshua is represented by 2 (possibly 3) manuscripts, one of which (4qjosha) has some interesting differences from the mt: the altar-building in Josh. 8:30 (in mt) comes before ch. 5 – a sequence also followed by Josephus. Samuel likewise includes some variant passages, for example, in the Goliath story (1 Sam. 17–18). The most ancient manuscript, 4qsaam mb, is dated as the mid-third century b.c.e. and is related to the lxx of Samuel. The books of Judges and Kings have survived in small fragments only.

latter prophets

The 21 manuscripts of Isaiah present a more complex picture than was initially drawn by the two cave 1 examples, where Isaiah A is reasonably close to the mt and Isaiah B even closer. But several manuscripts also support lxx readings. Both the mt and the shorter proto-lxx editions of Jeremiah are attested. Given its ideological influence on Qumran, Ezekiel is surprisingly poorly represented with three short manuscripts, on which little can be said, while the eight manuscripts of the Minor Prophets exhibit little diversity, though they do not betray the same conformity to the mt as the Naḥal Ḥever scroll.


The 36 manuscripts of Psalm collections from Qumran make this the best represented of the scriptural books numerically. This is not surprising, given their influence on the other liturgical texts found in the caves. But none of the Psalms manuscripts' various sequences unambiguously supports the mt (and basically lxx) sequence. The best-preserved of the Psalms manuscripts from cave 11 (11qpsa) includes nine psalms not found in the mt, including what is Psalm 151 in the Septuagint, and also includes a list of "David's compositions," which attribute to him 3,600 psalms, 364 other songs, plus 52 for Sabbath offerings and yet more for festivals. (Perhaps these refer also to the so-called "Apocryphal Psalm" collections also found at Qumran.) The other Cave 11 Psalm manuscripts probably support this alternative sequence. Job has only four manuscripts, but, curiously, one is written in the archaic script, 4qpaleo Job. The eight Qumran fragments of Daniel do not include the apocryphal additions known from the lxx, and the points of transition from Hebrew to Aramaic and back are the same in the Qumran manuscripts as in the mt (Daniel 2:4 preserved in 1qdana and 8:1 in 4qdana,b).These manuscripts are, of course, likely to be fairly close in time to the autograph, probably composed in about 164 b.c.e.

parabiblical texts

The quantity of Qumran texts that range between (but not including) biblical manuscripts and midrash is considerable, and the term "parabiblical" has been coined to denote them. They are excerpts, rewritings, paraphrases or compilations of biblical texts. To this category can be assigned mezuzot (8) and tefillin (30); these sometimes contain a text differing slightly from the mt. Another category is targums: a Targum to Job (Cave 11 with an additional fragment in Cave 4) and Leviticus, also from Cave 4 (it may be wondered why a community that read, and possibly spoke, Hebrew needed targums.) Both of these avoid the midrashic amplifications so common in other Targums. By contrast, the Genesis Apocryphon is reminiscent of the more expansionary targums, though it is not usually classified as such. The Cave 4 Testimonia is almost entirely biblical quotation (from Deuteronomy, Numbers and Joshua), apparently on the theme of leadership. The so-called "Genesis Commentary" (4q252) is neither paraphrase nor commentary, but mixes both as it moves through the Genesis story, while the "Reworked Pentateuch" (four, maybe five manuscripts) combined topical juxtaposition with free composition. The Temple Scroll reorders biblical legislation (with some additions) into a more systematic form. A further text of this kind is a paraphrase of Joshua (4q123), while the "New Jerusalem" text, difficult to fit easily into any of the categories, is perhaps best understood as a systematization of part of the contents of Ezekiel 40–48. While these are not biblical texts as such, they represent ways in which the biblical material was reorganized, sometimes to emphasize aspects of sectarian belief. The Book of Jubilees, also found in Hebrew at Qumran, is an excellent example. It is not believed to be sectarian, but it does emanate from the circles from which the sect emerged.

Other Jewish Writings

These may be divided (though the distinction is often accidental) between works previously known and those unknown. Among those known are a Greek portion of the Epistle of Jeremiah from Cave 7, fragments of Tobit from Cave 4 (three in Aramaic and one in Hebrew) and of Ecclesiasticus (the Wisdom of Ben Sira) from Cave 2 (in Hebrew). Fragments of this work were also found at Masada. The Book of Jubilees (ten Hebrew manuscripts from Caves 1, 2, and 4) and four of the five sections that make up 1 Enoch: The Parables or Similitudes are absent, but there is in addition an Enochic "Book of Giants" (eight Aramaic manuscripts from Cave 4). Both of these maintain the solar calendar that the sectarian writings also follow. Some of the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs – works extant in their entirety in a Greek recension exhibiting Christian influence – have also been identified: the Testament of Levi by some scraps from Cave 1 and fragments of three manuscripts from Cave 4 (all in Aramaic, with a text similar to that of fragments from the Cairo Genizah) and the Testament of Naphtali in Hebrew fragments from Cave 4. The Qumran text of both these Testaments is longer than the corresponding passages in the Greek recension.

The number of hitherto unknown works, attached to biblical figures, is impressive. They attest to a previously unsuspected richness and variety in Jewish literature during the Second Temple period. A group of writings is associated with the figure of Daniel: the Aramaic Prayer of Nabonidus (4qprNab) is assigned to the second century b.c.e. It relates events similar to Daniel 4, except that the central figure is that of Nabonidus (nbny) and the name Daniel does not occur. Another Aramaic work, a Daniel Apocryphon (4qpsdanara,b,c), recounts the history of Israel. A number of works are ascribed to patriarchal figures: An Aramaic work, the so-called Visions of Amram (4qamrama–e) tells about Amram's visions in which a figure called Milki-Resa' appears. In another Hebrew fragment (4q280 2) the said Milki-Resa' is denounced as the head of the "Sons of Darkness." The name (unknown outside the Scrolls) is the opposite counterpart of Milki-Ṣedek, the eschatological judge who is the subject of another Hebrew work, the Midrash on *Melchizedek (11qmelch). Another Aramaic work, the Testament of Qahat (4qtqaahat hat), is ascribed to Qahat the son of Levi. The Apocryphon of Joshua (previously known as the Psalms of Joshua) may represent a farewell speech ascribed to the hero, and it shares with the Testimonia Joshua's curse on the man who would rebuild Jericho.

The Copper Scroll

This most unusual document, found in Cave 3, consists of a single roll of almost pure copper, broken in antiquity into two parts, each of which was rolled before storage. Identified by K.G. Kuhn, even before opening, as a list of buried treasure, the rolls were brought to Manchester, England, by J. Allegro and sliced open. The identification of the contents was then confirmed, but despite Allegro's anxiety to publish it, the task was assigned to Milik and delayed. The delay may have been occasioned by fear of what sort of treasure hunt the disclosure of its contents might provoke, and Milik aired the view that the list was fictional. The general opinion today is that the treasure was real and must have belonged to the Temple. If so – and nothing suggests that its deposit was independent of the other scrolls – the presence of this document in a Qumran cave requires some explanation, and it supports the suggestion that at least some of the scrolls may have originally come from Jerusalem (the "chief of the [sectarian] camps" according to the Halakhic Letter).

[Philip Davies (2nd ed.)]

Khirbat Mird

Khirbat Mird is a ruined Christian monastery of the Byzantine period, on the site of the earlier fortress of Hyrcanion, north of Wadi al-Nār. Here, in July 1952, the Taʿāmira Bedouin discovered manuscript material of great interest but of considerably later date than the finds at Qumran and other sites near the western shore of the Dead Sea. It included papyrus fragments of private letters in Arabic from the seventh and eighth centuries c.e., a Syriac letter on papyrus written by a Christian monk, a fragment of Euripides' Andromache in Greek, and a number of Old and New Testament texts in Greek and Palestinian Syriac. The Greek texts included fragments of uncial codices of Wisdom, Mark, John, and Acts (fifth–eighth centuries c.e.); those in Palestinian Syriac included fragments of Joshua, Luke, John, Acts, and Colossians (many of these were palimpsests). All the Khirbat Mird manuscripts are of Christian origin.

[Frederick Fyvie Bruce]


editions: Discoveries in the Judaean Desert, 39 vols. (1955–2002) M. Burrows, J.C. Trever and W.H. Brownlee, Dead Sea Scrolls of St. Mark's Monastery, 2 vols. (1950–51); E.L. Sukenik, Dead Sea Scrolls of the Hebrew University (1955); N. Avigad and Y. Yadin, Genesis Apocryphon (Eng. and Heb., 1956); Y. Yadin, The War of the Sons of Light against the Sons of Darkness (et 1962); J.T. Milik, The Books of Enoch (1976); Y. Yadin, The Temple Scroll (et 1983); J.H. Charlesworth (ed.), The Dead Sea Scrolls: Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek Texts with English Translations (1994-); F. García Martínez and E.J.C. Tigchelaar, The Dead Sea Scrolls Study Edition (2 vols. 1997–98). translations: G. Vermes, The Complete Dead Sea Scrolls in English (1997); M. Abegg, Jr., P. Flint and E. Ulrich, The Dead Sea Scrolls Bible (1999); M. Wise. M. Abegg, Jr., and E. Cook, The Dead Sea Scrolls: A New Translation.bibliographies: W.S. LaSor, Bibliography of the Dead Sea Scrolls, 1948–1957 (1958); C. Burchard, Bibliographie zu den Handschriften vom Toten Meer (1959); C. Burchard, Bibliographie zu den Handschriften vom Toten Meer ii (1965); M. Yizhar, Bibliography of Hebrew Publications on the Dead Sea Scrolls, 1948–1964 (1967); B. Jongeling, A Classified Bibliography of the Finds in the Desert of Judah 1958–69 (1971); F. García Martínez and D.W. Parry, A Bibliography of the Finds in the Desert of Judah 1970–95 (1996); J.A. Fitzmyer, The Dead Sea Scrolls, Major Publications and Tools for Study (1990); A Pinnick, The Orion Center Bibliography of the Dead Sea Scrolls (1995–2000) (2001). See also the regularly updated bibliography at See also the Encyclopedia of the Dead Sea Scrolls (2 vols: 2000). The following journals are devoted to Qumran: Revue de Qumrân (Paris); Dead Sea Discoveries (Leiden), The Qumran Chronicle (Cracow). introductions: H. Stegemann, The Library of Qumran (ET 1998); J.C. VanderKam, The Dead Sea Scrolls Today (1994); L.H. Schiffman, Reclaiming the Dead Sea Scrolls (1994); N. Golb, Who Wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls? (1995); J.G. Campbell, Deciphering the Dead Sea Scrolls (2002); P.R. Davies, G.J. Brooke and P.R. Callaway, The Complete World of the Dead Sea Scrolls (2002). On the history of discovery and interpretation: N.A. Silberman, The Hidden Scrolls. Christianity, Judaism, and the War for the Dead Sea Scrolls (1994); on the archaeology: J. Magness, The Archaeology of Qumran and the Dead Sea Scrolls (2002); Y. Hirschfeld, Qumran in Context: Reassessing the Archaeological Evidence (2004); on the ostraca, F.M. Cross and E. Eshel, "Ostraca from Khirbet Qumran," iej, 47 (1997), 17–28 (1997); A. Yardeni, "A Draft of a Deed on an Ostracon from Khirbet Qumran," iej 47 (1997), 233–37; on the Jewish background: G. Boccaccini, Beyond the Essene Hypothesis (1998). For a review of major trends, see R.A. Kugler and E.M. Schuller (eds), The Dead Sea Scrolls at Fifty (1999). biblical text and canon: F.M. Cross and Sh. Talmon (eds.), Qumrān and the Story of the Biblical Text (1975); E. Ulrich, The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Origins of the Bible (1999); P. Flint, The Bible at Qumran (2001); E. Tov, Textual Criticism of the Hebrew Bible (2001). other studies: Script: F.M. Cross, 'the Development of the Jewish Scripts' in G.E. Wright, The Bible and the Ancient Near East 170–264 (1965); Language: E. Qimron, The Hebrew of the Dead Sea Scrolls (1986); Damascus Document: P.R. Davies, The Damascus Covenant (1983); C. Hempel, The Damascus Texts (2000); Community Rule: J. Pouilly, La Règle de la Communauté: son evolution littéraire (1976); S. Metso, The Textual Development of the Qumran Community Rule (1997); Rule of the Congregation: L.H. Schiffman, The Eschatological Community of the Dead Sea Scrolls (1989); War Scroll: P.R Davies, 1qm, the War Scroll from Qumran (1977); J. Duhaime, The War Texts (2004); Pesharim: M. Horgan, The Pesharim (1979); T. Lim, The Pesharim (2002); Temple Scroll: M.O. Wise, A Critical Study of the Temple Scroll (1990); S. White Crawford, The Temple Scroll and Related Texts (2000); Halakhic Letter (4qmmt); J. Kampen and M.J. Bernstein (eds.), Reading 4qmmt. New Perspectives on Qumran Law and History (1996); Florilegium: A. Steudel, Der Midrasch zur Eschatologie aus der Qumrangemeinde (4qmidrescha,b) (1994); Copper Scroll: J. Lefkovits, The Copper Scroll (3q15); A Re-Evaluation (1999); G.J. Brooke and P.R. Davies (eds.), Copper Scroll Studies (2002); Melchizedek: P. Kobelski, Melchizedek and Melchiresvac (1981);see also C.A. Newsom, The Songs of the Sabbath Sacrifice (1985); E. Schuller, Non-Canonical Psalms from Qumran: A Pseudepigraphic Collection (1986); J.G. Campbell, The Exegetical Texts (2004); H.K. Harrington, The Purity Texts (2004); D. Harrington, The Wisdom Texts from Qumran (1996); B. Nitzan, Qumran Pyare and Religious Poetry (1994); J.C. VanderKam, Calendars in the Dead Sea Scrolls (1998). On the Essenes: G. Vermes and M.D. Goodman, The Essenes According to the Classical Sources (1989).

Dead Sea Scrolls

views updated May 11 2018


Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS) is the generic title for six groups of documents discovered between 1947 and 1956 in caves and sites of the Judean Desert in several wadies (torrent-beds) that empty into the western side of the Dead Sea; two other groups found elsewhere are related to them. Altogether they constitute one of the major archaeological discoveries of the twentieth century.

Definition. The most important group of these documents was found in eleven caves near the Wadi Qumran, and they are often called "Qumran Scrolls" (QS) or "DSS" (in the specific sense). The first Qumran cave was discovered by Bedouin shepherd boys in 1947, when the West Bank was part of the British Mandate of Palestine. Between 1952 and 1956 ten further caves were discovered, either by Bedouins or archaeologists, in the Jordanian-controlled West Bank. From these eleven caves came scrolls and fragments, dating roughly from the end of the third century b.c. to a.d. 68, written mostly in Hebrew, although many were in Aramaic, and a few in Greek. All told, they number today about 820 texts, usually divided into three classes: biblical, sectarian, and intertestamental Jewish writings.

Related to the QS are two groups of documents coming from elsewhere. One group was found in the genizah (hiding-place) of the Synagogue of Ezra in Old Cairo (Egypt) in 1896. Among the thousands of texts discovered there by Solomon Schechter were copies of two texts little understood at the time (Damascus Document [CD] and Testament of Levi [CTL]), both of which are now recognized as copies of or related to Qumran texts. The other group was found in 1963 by Israeli archaeologists at Masada, the remains of a Herodian fortress south of Qumran, to which Jews had fled after the destruction of Jerusalem (a.d. 70) and the Qumran community (a.d. 68). These were fragmentary documents, some biblical, but most nonbiblical, yet related to the QS.

Four other groups of documents, not related to the QS, were found, at first by Bedouins and later by archaeologists, in caves of Wadi Murabbaāt, Wadi abra (called in Hebrew Naal ever), Wadi Mahras (Naal Mishmar), and allegedly in Wadi Seiyal (Naal e'ĕlîm). Apart from the last mentioned, these caves are situated in torrent-beds south of and parallel to Wadi Qumran, mostly in Israel. Wadi Seiyal was said by the Bedouin finders of a Greek Minor Prophets scroll to be the site of its discovery, when it was brought to the Palestine Archaeological Museum in East Jerusalem, which was under Jordanian control at the time. Later it was learned that "Seiyal" was used to disguise the scroll's real provenience, Israeli Naal ever. The fragments coming from these sites have a few biblical texts among them, but are mostly domestic documents (letters, contracts deeds of sale). Some are dated and come from the period a.d. 70135; most are related to the Second Jewish Revolt against the Romans (a.d. 132135).

The eighth group of documents was found in 1952 at Khirbet Mird, the ruins of a Byzantine Greek monastery, Kastellion, built on the site of an older Herodian fortress, Hyrcanium near Wadi en-Nār, nine miles southeast of Jerusalem (not near the Dead Sea). Some are biblical documents (NT) written in Greek and Christian Palestinian Aramaic, but 100 are in Arabic, dating from the 6th-to-10th centuries a.d. Among the Greek texts, one is even a fragment of Euripides' Andromache. These texts are unrelated to the seven other groups; they have been called "DSS" simply because they were discovered about the same time as the QS and initially were thought to be related to them. These eight groups of documents from the Judean Desert make up the "DSS" in the generic sense. The rest of this article will be devoted to the QS or "DSS" in the specific sense.

Discovery and excavation of Qumran. Prior to 1947, little attention had been paid to Khirbet Qumran, the Roman-period stone ruins on a plateau immediately north of Wadi Qumran and a half mile south of Cave 1. A suspected connection between them was confirmed by the subsequent excavation of Kh. Qumran by G. L. Harding (Jordanian Department of Antiquities) and R. De Vaux, OP (École Biblique) from 1951 to 1956. The excavation revealed a community center belonging to an ascetic pre-Christian Jewish group (see qumran community). When in February of 1952 the Bedouins found Cave 2, three archaeological institutions of Jerusalem sent out an investigating party to scour the area about Qumran. They searched 267 caves or holes in the cliffs lining the northwest shore of the Dead Sea and found artifacts and evidence of human habitation in 37 of them, but only 25 caves yielded material related to Kh. Qumran. These were places where individuals of the community lived, who used the center for common activities (meals, meetings, study, baths, work areas). The numbered caves are those that yielded written material; some of them were also habitats. Cave 1 had been a genizah-like storage cave, and Cave 4, hollowed out artificially in antiquity, became the place where the community deposited its library of scrolls for safekeeping when it learned of the advance of a Roman legion against it in a.d. 68.

The community center had been built on the ruins of an earlier site, probably the Judean fortress, "Salt City" (Jos 15.62). Sometime prior to 135 b.c., they constructed the first stage of their building, which was later expanded, and more strongly rebuilt after an earthquake of 31 b.c., mentioned by Josephus (Ant. 15.5.2 §121). The community center is divided by a corridor separating its two main parts: the eastern part containing a large dining hall, kitchen, pantry, laundry, dyeing area, pottery kiln, defense tower, and second-floor scriptorium; the western part a storage and work area with stable, forge, bake ovens, cisterns, and a long aqueduct bringing water from the wadi to baths, a circular Iron Age cistern, and six rectangular cisterns constructed in Roman-period style. The community center finally was destroyed by fire, as a stratum of ash with Roman arrowheads reveals, suggesting that it was razed by the Roman Legio X Fretensis, which was in the Jordan Valley before it went up to the siege of Jerusalem (Josephus, Bell. Jud. 5.2.3. §70).

Publication of Scrolls. In 1947 seven major scrolls and fragments of some seventy other texts were retrieved from Qumran Cave 1. The seven scrolls were sold by the Bedouins in two batches. Four of the them (Isaiah A, Manual of Discipline, Pesher on Habakkuk, and Genesis Apocryphon) were acquired initially by the Syrian Orthodox Metropolitan of St. Mark's Monastery in Jerusalem, who allowed three of them to be published almost immediately by the American Schools of Oriental Research (editor M. Burrows, 195051). The other three (War Scroll, Thanksgiving Psalms, Isaiah B) were acquired by E. L. Sukenik, professor of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and published by him (195455). The fragments of Cave 1 were published by Clarendon Press (Oxford) in 1955 as volume 1 of Discoveries in the Judaean Desert (DJD), which is the series of official publication for the vast majority of the DSS.

The scrolls and fragments from Qumran caves 13, 511, the texts of Murabbaât and most of those of Naal ever were published with reasonable dispatch. The big problem was the Cave 4 material, discovered in 1952. From that cave came no full scroll, but more than 15,000 fragments, which had to be assembled like a giant jigsaw puzzle. In 1954 an international and interconfessional team of seven scholars was set up to work on these fragments housed in the Palestine Archaeological Museum (Jordanian-controlled East Jerusalem, to which no Jew was allowed to come, which explains why no Jewish scholar was on the team). By 1960 most of the jigsaw puzzle was complete, and publication of the fragments should have ensued; but for one reason or another delay set in (procrastination; desire to write full commentaries on assembled texts, joined with theories that were unconvincing; sickness and death of team members). By 1985 only a small portion of these important fragmentary texts had been released by these scholars to the public domain; then outcries began, becoming vociferous across the world. Eventually, the Israel Antiquities Authority moved in and reconstituted the leadership of the editorial team and expanded it. In the 1990s, volumes of DJD began to appear regularly, with the vast majority of the Cave 4 texts being officially published by 2001.

Dating of scrolls. Once the scrolls were recognized as genuinely ancient documents, scholars began to work out a way of dating them palaeographically (according to the handwriting). In general, four stages are recognized:(a) Archaic, 250150 b.c.; (b) Hasmonean, 15030 b.c.;(c) Herodian, 30 b.c.a.d. 70; (d) Post-Herodian/Ornamental, after a.d. 70. Some of the biblical texts were written in archaic script, but the vast majority of the QS were inscribed in either Hasmonean or Herodian scripts. Palaeographers often further distinguish both cursive and formal hands within these classes. Palaeographical dates always have to be understood as within 50 years. To some critics, this mode of palaeographical dating seemed subjective and suspect, but no one would have expected the confirmation of the dates, which came with the use of radiocarbon dating. In 1991 fourteen documents (QS and texts from Murabbaât, Seiyal, and Mird) were subjected in Zurich, Switzerland, to radiocarbon dating, which likewise has its own range. To the surprise of all, it confirmed the palaeographical dating, with one exception, to which it gave an even earlier dating. Again in 1995, still other texts were subjected to this testing in Tucson, Arizona, and the result was no different.

Sigla of Scrolls. Because the titles of QS are often lengthy and there are multiple copies of them, sometimes coming from different caves, a system of sigla (abbreviated signs) was worked out for them. The usual scheme follows this order: material (often omitted), place of discovery, title, copy, and language. Thus pap = papyrus; cu = copper; o = ostracon; 1Q = Cave 1 of Qumran; 4Q = Cave 4 of Qumran; Hev = Hever; Mas = Masada; Mur = Murabbaât; C = Cairo (Genizah texts). Titles of OT books are those usually used; those of nonbiblical books have to be learned (e.g. S = Serek Hayyah ad [Community Rule]; D = Damascus Document; M = Milhamah [War Scroll]). Before such titles one uses other notations that must be learned: p = pesher (commentary); ap = apocryphon. A superscript letter denotes the copy of a given text:a, b, c. Finally, the language of the text is given: heb = Hebrew (usually omitted); ar = Aramaic; nab = Nabatean; gr = Greek. Thus 1QIsaa = first copy of Isaiah from Qumran Cave 1; CD = Damascus Document from Cairo Genizah; 4QDa = first copy of same from Qumran Cave 4. Instead of a title, many nonbiblical texts are referred to by number (all texts published in DJD have a number). Thus cu3Q15 = copper text numbered 15 from Qumran Cave 3 (= so-called Copper Scroll). After such sigla one usually finds numbers: 9.11, which can mean fragment 9, line 11, or (in continuous texts) column 9, line 11. When a lower-case roman numeral appears between two arabic numbers, then the first number = fragment, the roman numeral = column, and the last number = line (s). Thus 4QpNah 34 ii 510 = pesher (commentary) on Nahum from Qumran Cave 4, joined fragments 34, column ii, lines 510.

Lists of Scrolls. The complete list of the DSS is too long to reproduce here, but the reader will find lists in the following (see bibliography below): Encyclopedia of the DSS, 2.10131049 (Qumran, Masada, Murabbaât, H ever-Seiyal, Mishmar-Nar, Mird); F. García Martínez, Dead Sea Scrolls Translated, 465519 (Qumran only); García Martínez and Tigchelaar, DSS: Study Edition,2.13111361.

Biblical Texts. Of the 820 QS, about a quarter are copies of OT books. Among the 127 biblical texts from Cave 4 alone, every protocanonical book is represented except Esther and Nehemiah. Since in antiquity Ezra and Nehemiah formed one book (as in the Septuagint, called Esdras B ) and since Ezra is represented by a fragment, Esther is the only one missing. No one knows why; it may be sheer chance that no fragment has survived. All 66 chapters of Isaiah are preserved in 1QIsaa, which is dated both palaeographically and by radiocarbon to 125100 b.c. Prior to its discovery the oldest known copy of Isaiah was dated a.d. 895 (in M. ben Asher Codex of the Prophets). Consequently, this Qumran Isaiah text takes one back over 1000 years and testifies in general to the care with which Jewish scribes copied this book throughout the centuries. Some biblical fragments are even older, dated to the end of the third century b.c. Such texts would not have been copied in the community scriptorium; rather, they had been brought to Qumran by sectarians who came there.

The Qumran biblical texts, however, brought some surprises. One is that fragments of 1 Samuel and Jeremiah reveal a Hebrew form of those books that differs from the medieval Masoretic text, but agrees with the Septuagint. Sometimes it had been thought that the Septuagint of such a book was a poor translation that deliberately abridged the Hebrew text. The Septuagint of Jeremiah is about 1/8 shorter than the Hebrew text. 4QJerb, however, having a Hebrew text that corresponds to the Greek of the Septuagint, has a form of Jer 10:311 without vv. 68, 10 of the Hebrew. It thus shows that the Septuagint was an accurate translation of a different Hebrew recension of Jeremiah, which coexisted in Palestinian Judaism along with the Masoretic recension. The same is true of 4QSama, which has a form of 1 Samuel 17 with only 33 verses of the 58 in the Masoretic Hebrew.

Another surprise is that 4QExodm, dating from the early 2nd century b.c., contains the repetitious, expanded form of Exodus, previously known from the Samaritan Pentateuch. Hence such discoveries show that some OT books did not have a fixed text tradition such as we have been assuming on the basis of the known Hebrew text of the Masoretic tradition. Qumran phylacteries and mezuzot also contain OT passages that have noteworthy variants (DJD 6.3185).

Semitic forms of certain deuterocanonical books of the OT have turned up in the QS. For centuries Catholic Bibles depended on the Greek and Latin versions of Sirach, until 1896 when Hebrew fragments of Sirach were recovered in the Cairo Genizah. In addition to these six texts, older Hebrew fragments of Sirach were retrieved from Qumran Cave 2 (2Q18 [= Sir 6.1415;6.2031]), Cave 11 (11QPsa [11Q15] 21.1117; 22.1 [= Sir 51.1320b; 51.30b]), and Masada (Mas1h [= Sir 39.2743.30]). Similarly, Catholic Bibles used the Book of Tobit in the short Latin form of Jerome's Vulgate, which corresponded somewhat to the short Greek recension of Tobit (MSS Vaticanus and Alexandrinus). In 1844 Constantin von Tischendorf discovered Codex Sinaiticus with its long Greek recension of Tobit, remarkably close to the neglected Vetus Latina. Now from Cave 4 have come four fragmentary Aramaic texts of Tobit (4QToba-d ar [4Q1964Q199]) and one Hebrew (4QTobe[4Q200]; see DJD 19.180). These fragments supply about 1/5 of Tobit not only in the original Aramaic form, but also in a Hebrew translation. This Semitic form of the story is sometimes longer than the so-called long form.

Because copies of such non-protocanonical writings have turned up at Qumran, they raise the question about the canon among such Jews. "Canon," however, is a Christian term, which would have meant nothing to ancient Jews; a Christian anachronism is involved. Yet the Jews of Qumran considered the Law and the Prophets to be God's commands given to them "through Moses and all his servants the Prophets" (1QS 1.2). Whether other writings (such as Sirach, Tobit, 11QTemple) would have had the same authority for this community as the Law and the Prophets is a question no one can answer.

Finally, three ancient targums have been recovered from Qumran. A fairly extensive Aramaic translation of the Book of Job is found in the fragments of 11Qtg Job (11Q10), and a tiny fragment of it is 4Qtg Job (4Q157 [= Job 3.59; 4.165.4]). Two small fragments of an Aramaic translation of Leviticus 16 are found in 4Qtg Lev (4Q156 [= Lev 16.1215; 16.1821]; in DJD 6. 8690).

Sectarian Texts. As important as the biblical texts are among the QS, the sectarian texts may be even more important, because they supply us with so much evidence about the history of ancient Palestinian Judaism that was unknown prior to 1947. These sectarian texts were composed explicitly for use by members of the Qumran community: 1QS (Community Rule [often called "Manual of Discipline"] and its ten 4Qcopies [4QSa-j], and 5QS [5Q11]); CD (Damascus Document and its eight 4Q copies [4QDa-h], possibly composed for community members not living at Qumran); the various pesharim (commentaries on OT prophets and psalms) from different caves; 1QHa (Thanksgiving Psalms); 1QM (War Scroll), 4QMMT (Miqat Ma'ăśê hat-Tôrāh, "Some Deeds of the Law" [4Q394399]); and possibly 11QTemplea-b (11Q1920). Whereas previously we knew a little about such Jews from information supplied by Pliny, Josephus, Philo, and Hippolytus (see qumran community), now we have not only the biblical texts that they read, but also the rulebooks and theological treatises that guided their way of life.

The sectarian literature gives firsthand evidence of the regulations governing their communal ascetic life and reveals how they dealt with purity and defilement in ways different from later regulations formulated in the Mishnah and rabbinic writings. Although they deal with some of the same problems, they often supply a slightly different solution to them, based on this community's esoteric interpretation of Scripture.

This category of writings is striking in that practically all of it is composed in Hebrew, which reflects an important aspect of the Jews of Qumran, who made an effort to use the "language of the sanctuary" in their communal life, when the vast majority of their contemporaries were speaking Aramaic.

Intertestamental Jewish Literary Texts. "Intertesta-mental" is a Christian misnomer for the third kind of documents found among the QS, but it is the conventional term. It refers to Qumran copies of writings composed in the time between the final redaction of Daniel, the latest OT book, and the first of the NT compositions. It includes such writings as Jubilees, 1 Enoch, and the forerunners of the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs. To these well-known writings one must add many other literary, liturgical, and sapiential texts previously unknown, especially the Aramaic writings, which Qumran Jews read, but undoubtedly did not compose.

DSS and Early Christianity. In the DSS there is no mention of John the Baptist, Jesus of Nazareth, his apostles and disciples, or anything Christian. In the early 1970s, José O'Callaghan attempted to identify Greek fragments of Cave 7 as bits of NT writings. He has, however, convinced no more than a half-dozen followers. More recently 7Q5, which he claimed was a fragment of Mark 6.5253, has been shown to be a fragment of Enoch in Greek. Although the Australian Barbara Thiering and American Robert H. Eisenman have maintained that the DSS are Jewish Christian writings, their claims have fallen on deaf ears among scholars.

Nevertheless, there is no doubt that the discovery of the QS has shed much light on the Palestinian Jewish matrix of early Christianity. Anyone who studies the QS and the NT cannot help but detect familiar parallels and literary contacts. How does one account for the mysterious silence in the NT about the Jews of Qumran? Did Jesus of Nazareth know of them? Presumably he did, but the Gospels never depict him in controversy with them, as they do with Pharisees, Sadducees, and Jewish leaders. Does Jesus ever refer indirectly to Qumran Jews? Perhaps in the Sermon on the Mount, when he mentions what has been said to people of old, "You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy" (Mt 5.43). Love of the neighbor is found in Lv 19.18, but one looks in vain for hatred of enemies in the OT. From QS, however, we learn that members of the Qumran community were "to love all the sons of lightand hate all the sons of darkness" (1QS 1.910). "Sons of light" is a designation for fellow members, whereas all others were "sons of darkness." Moreover, Jesus' prohibition of divorce (Mk 10.29) may echo the prohibition of it among the Jews of Qumran (11QTemple 57.1719; CD 4.12b5.14a). So such Jews may not be mentioned in the NT because they never figured as Jesus' important opponents; and the similarity one finds in NT writings to some of their tenets may explain that mysterious silence.

Some of that similarity is seen in the Pauline teaching about justification and the NT use of significant christological titles. Paul speaks of "the righteousness of God" (dikaiosynē theou, Rom 1:17). That phrase is not found verbatim in the OT, which otherwise calls God "righteous" and mentions his "righteousness." The phrase, however, has turned up verbatim as edeq ēl (1QM 4.6) or ideq ēl (1QS 10.25; 11.12). Paul's idea of justification is derived from the OT, but he insists that one cannot be justified by doing "works of the law" (Gal2.16). Again, that phrase is found in neither the OT nor rabbinic literature, but it occurs in a significant context discussing "righteousness" in 4QMMT C 2632: "We have written to you (about) some of the works of the law, which we consider for your welfare and that of your peopleit will be reckoned to you as righteousness." This shows that Paul knew whereof he was speaking when he wrote about this matter. The Jews of Qumran similarly wrote about human righteousness: "As for me, I know that righteousness belongs not to a human being, nor perfection of way to a son of man. To God Most High belong all the deeds of righteousness. I have based myself on Your graces and on the abundance of Your mercy. For You expiate iniquity to clean[se a human be]ing from guilt by Your righteousness" (1QHa4.3038).

Moreover, the use of titles such as "Lord," "Son of God," and "Messiah," in the QS sheds light on the NT usage of them. Rudolf Bultmann once maintained that it was "unthinkable" for a Palestinian Jew to speak of God as "(the) Lord" (without any modifiers). Hence the title Kyrios, as used of Christ in the NT, could not have imitated Jewish usage, but would have emerged when Christian heralds carried the gospel outside of Judea and borrowed it from the eastern Mediterranean Hellenistic world, where Kyrios was often used of gods or Roman rulers. Now, however, the absolute use of "Lord" has turned up in Aramaic texts of Qumran. In the Hebrew text of Job 34:12, Elihu says to Job, "God indeed will not act wickedly; the Almighty will not pervert justice!" That statement becomes a question in the targum of Job: "Now will God really prove faithless, and [will] the Lord [distort justice]?" Here Aramaic mārê', "Lord," stands in parallelism to 'ělāhā', "God." (See also māryā in 4QEnochb 1 iv 5.) Still more striking is the Qumran use of "Son of God" for a human being. The first extrabiblical attestation of this title is found in 4Q246 1.72.1, which speaks of an unnamed coming royal figure thus: "[X] shall be great upon the earth, [O King! All sha]ll make [peace], and all shall serve [him, and he] shall be called [son of] the [gr]eat [God], and by his name shall he be named. He shall be hailed the Son of God, and they shall call him Son of the Most High." No one who reads those lines fails to see how Lk 1.32, 35 echoes such contemporary Jewish terminology. The NT often calls Jesus "Messiah" (Christos ). Hebrew māšîa in the sense of an expected Anointed One occurs in the OT only in Dn 9.25; but the QS reveal how lively was the expectation of a Messiah or Messiahs among the Qumran Jews: "until the coming of a prophet and the Messiahs of Aaron and Israel" (1QS 9.11).

Many more items in the QS could be mentioned here, but it will suffice to conclude with the dualistic references: Christians are called "sons of light" (Jn 12.36; Lk 16.8; 1 Thes 5.5; Eph 5.8), using a phrase never found in the OT, but now abundantly attested in Qumran sectarian writings (1QS 1.910; 1QM 1.1). "Sons of darkness," used in QS, is not found in the NT, but rather "sons of disobedience" (Eph 2.2; 5.6) and "son of perdition" (Jn 17.12; 2 Thes 2.3); compare Qumran běnê 'awel (1QS 3.21); běnê ašmāh (1QH 5.7; 6.30). This dualism is especially prominent in John's Gospel (1:45; 3:1921; 12:3536); the struggle between them is also found in QS (e.g. 1QS 3:2025; 1QM 13.5,10).

Bibliography: Archaeology. r. de vaux, Archaeology and the Dead Sea Scrolls (Schweich Lectures of the British Academy 1959; London 1973). j.-b. humbert and a. chambon, Fouilles de Khirbet Qumran et de Ain Feshkha (Novum Testamentum et Orbis Antiquus, Series archaeologica 1; Fribourg/Göttingen 1994). j. magness, "Qumran Archaeology: Past Perspectives and Future Prospects," Dead Sea Scrolls after Fifty Years: A Comprehensive Statement (see below), 1. 4777. Scrolls and Translations. Discoveries in the Judaean Desert (35 vols.; Oxford 1955). f. garcÍa martÍnez and w. g. e. watson, The Dead Sea Scrolls Translated: The Qumran Texts in English (2d ed.; Leiden/Grand Rapids, MI 1996). f. garcÍa martÍnez and e. j. c. tigchelaar, The Dead Sea Scrolls: Study Edition (2 vols.; Leiden/Grand Rapids, MI 1997,1998). m. abegg, p. flint, and e. ulrich, The Dead Sea Scrolls Bible: The Oldest Known Bible Translated for the First Time into English (San Francisco 1999). g. vermes, The Complete Dead Sea Scrolls in English (London/New York 1997). Secondary Literature. l. h. schiffman and j. c. vanderkam, eds., Encyclopedia of the Dead Sea Scrolls (2 v.; Oxford/New York 2000). j. a. fitzmyer, The Dead Sea Scrolls: Major Publications and Tools for Study: Revised Edition (SBL Resources for Biblical Study 20; Atlanta, GA 1990); Responses to 101 Questions on the Dead Sea Scrolls (New York/Mahwah, NJ 1992). f. m. cross, The Ancient Library of Qumran: Third Edition (Minneapolis 1995). p. w. flint and j. c. vanderkam, eds., The Dead Sea Scrolls after Fifty Years: A Comprehensive Assessment, 2 v. (Leiden 1998, 1999).

[j. a. fitzmyer]

Dead Sea Scrolls

views updated May 18 2018


DEAD SEA SCROLLS . The manuscripts unearthed between 1947 and 1956 in the Judean desert, in caves along the coast of the Dead Sea, have come to be known collectively as the Dead Sea Scrolls. The main body of materials comes from Qumran, near the northern end of the Dead Sea, 8.5 miles (13.7 km) south of Jericho. Other texts, including the Masada scrolls and the Bar Kokhba texts, are occasionally also referred to as Dead Sea Scrolls, but this article will pertain only to the Qumran scrolls themselves. These scrolls constituted the library of a sect of Jews in the Greco-Roman period that has been identified by most scholars as the Essenes.


In the second half of the nineteenth century, Hebrew manuscripts discovered in the genizah ("storehouse") of the Ben Ezra synagogue in Cairo began circulating in Europe. Much of this collection, known as the Cairo Genizah, was acquired for the University of Cambridge by Solomon Schechter in 1896. Among these texts was a strange composition, known as the Zadokite Fragments or the Damascus Document, that outlined the life and teachings of a Jewish sect. Eventually, this same text was found at Qumran.

There, in 1947, a young bedouin entered what is now designated Cave I and found a group of pottery jars containing leather scrolls wrapped in linen cloths. These scrolls, the first finds, were sold to Athanasius Samuel, the Syrian metropolitan of Jerusalem, and to Eliezer Sukenik, a professor representing the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The scrolls in the possession of the Syrian metropolitan were purchased in 1954 by Yigael Yadin, Sukenik's son, on behalf of the Hebrew University.

Scientific exploration of the cave in 1949 by G. Lankester Harding and Roland de Vaux uncovered additional fragments and many broken jars. From 1951 on, a steady stream of manuscripts has been provided by bedouin and archaeologists. Some of these manuscripts are held in the Archaeological (Rockefeller) Museum in East Jerusalem. Many are displayed in the beautiful Shrine of the Book, a part of the Israel Museum built especially for the display and preservation of the scrolls.


From the beginning, the dating of the scrolls was a matter of controversy. Some saw the new texts as documents of the medieval Jewish sect of the Karaites. Others believed they dated from the Roman period, and some even thought they were of Christian origin.

Of primary importance for dating the scrolls was the excavation of the building complex immediately below the caves on the plateau. In the view of most scholars, those who lived in the complex copied many of the scrolls and were part of the sect described in some of the texts. Numismatic evidence has shown that the complex flourished from circa 135 bce to 68 ce, interrupted only by the earthquake of 31 bce.

Similar conclusions resulted from carbon dating of the cloth wrappings in which the scrolls were found. Study of the paleography (the form of the Hebrew letters) in which the texts are written has also supported a similar dating. It is certain, then, that the scrolls once constituted the library of a sect that occupied the Qumran area from after the Maccabean Revolt of 166164 bce until the great revolt against Rome of 6674 ce.

The Scrolls

The many scrolls that were found in the Qumran caves can be divided into three main categories: biblical manuscripts, apocryphal compositions, and sectarian documents.

Fragments of every book of the Hebrew scriptures have been unearthed at Qumran, with the sole exception of the Book of Esther. Among the more important biblical scrolls are the two Isaiah scrolls (one is complete) and the fragments of Leviticus and Samuel (dated to the third century bce). William Albright and Frank Moore Cross have detected three recensional traditions among the scrolls at Qumran: (1) a Palestinian, from which the Samaritan Pentateuch is ultimately descended, (2) an Alexandrian, upon which the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Bible) is based, and (3) a Babylonian, which serves as the basis of the Masoretic (received and authoritative) text fixed by rabbis in the late first century bce.

The apocryphal and pseudepigraphical writings were known until recently only in Greek and Latin translation. The Cairo Genizah yielded Hebrew and Aramaic fragments of medieval recensions. Among the important fragments found at Qumran are Ben Sira, Jubilees, Aramaic fragments of the Enoch books, the Testament of Levi, and additions to Daniel.

By far the most interesting materials are the writings of the sect that inhabited Qumran. The pesharim are the sect's biblical commentaries, which seek to show how the present premessianic age is the fulfillment of the words of the prophets. Prominent among these texts are the pesharim to Habakkuk, Nahum, and Psalms, and the florilegia, which are chains of verses and comments. The commentaries allow us a glimpse of the sect's self-image and allude to actual historical figures who lived at the time during which Qumran was occupied.

The Damascus Document describes the history of the sect and its attitudes toward its enemies. It also contains a series of legal tracts dealing with various topics of Jewish law, including the Sabbath, courts and testimony, relations with non-Jews, oaths and vows, and so forth.

Admission into the sect, the conduct of daily affairs, and the penalties for violating the sect's laws are the subjects of the Manual of Discipline. This text makes clear the role of ritual purity and impurity in defining membership in the sect as well as detailing the annual mustering ceremony of covenant renewal. Appended to it are the Rule of the Community, which describes the community in the End of Days, and the Rule of Benedictions, which contains praises of the sect's leaders.

The Thanksgiving Scroll contains a series of poems describing the "anthropology" and theology of the sect. Many scholars see its author as the "teacher of righteousness" (or "correct teacher") who led the sect in its early years.

The Scroll of the War of the Sons of Light against the Sons of Darkness describes the eschatological war. The sect and the angels fight against the nations and the evildoers of Israel for forty years, thereby ushering in the End of Days. This scroll is notable for its information on the art of warfare in the Greco-Roman period.

Unique is the Temple Scroll, which is an idealized description of the Jerusalem Temple, its cult, and other aspects of Jewish law. This text is the subject of debate as to whether it is actually a sectarian scroll or simply part of the sect's library.

The Sect and Its Beliefs

The Qumran sect saw itself as the sole possessor of the correct interpretation of the Bible, the exegesis of which was the key to the discovery of God's word in the present premessianic age. Like other apocalyptic movements of the day, the sect believed that the messianic era was about to dawn. Only those who had lived according to sectarian ways and had been predestined to share in the End of Days would fight the final battle against the forces of evil. In order to prepare for the coming age, the sect lived a life of purity and holiness at its center on the shore of the Dead Sea.

According to the sect's own description of its history, it had come into existence when its earliest members, apparently Zadokite priests, decided to separate themselves from the corrupt Judaism of Jerusalem and left to set up a refuge at Qumran. The sect was organized along rigid lines. There was an elaborate initiation procedure, lasting several years, during which members were progressively received at the ritually pure banquets of the sect. All legal decisions of the sect were made by the sectarian assembly, and its own system of courts dealt with violations and punishments of the sectarian interpretation of Jewish law. New laws were derived by ongoing inspired biblical exegesis.

Annual covenant renewal ceremonies took place in which the members of the sect were called to assemble in order of their status. Similar mustering was part of the sect's preparations for the eschatological battle. The Qumran sect believed that in the End of Days, two messiahs would appear, a Davidic messiah who was to be the temporal authority, and a priestly messiah of Aaron, who was to take charge of the restored sacrificial cult. They were both to preside over a great messianic banquet. Meals of the sect were periodically eaten in ritual purity in imitation of this final banquet.

The sect maintained a strictly solar calendar rather than the solar-lunar calendar utilized by the rest of the Jewish community. The sect was further distinguished by its principle of communal use of property. Although private ownership was maintained, members of the sect could freely use each other's possessions. The scrolls themselves refute the widespread view that the sectarians of Qumran were celibate.

Identification of the Sect

Dominant scholarly opinion has identified the Dead Sea sect as the Essenes described in the writings of Philo Judaeus and Josephus Flavius of the first century ce. Indeed, there are many similarities between this group and the sect described by the scrolls.

In many details, however, the Dead Sea Scrolls do not agree with these accounts of the Essenes. Josephus himself calls the Essenes a "philosophy" and makes clear that it was composed of various groups. If, indeed, the Dead Sea community was an Essene sect, perhaps it represented an offshoot of the Essenes who themselves differ in many ways from those described by Philo and Josephus. A further difficulty stems from the fact that the word essene never appears in the scrolls and that it is of unknown meaning and etymology.

Scholars have noted as well the points of similarity between the Qumran writings and aspects of the Pharisaic tradition. Louis Ginzberg has called the authors of these texts "an unknown Jewish sect." Indeed, many groups and sects dotted the spiritual and political landscape of Judaea in the Greco-Roman period, and the Dead Sea sect, previously unknown from any other sources, may have been one of these groups.

Qumran and the History of Religions

The Dead Sea Scrolls have illuminated the background of the emergence of rabbinic Judaism and of Christianity. In the years leading up to the great revolt of 6674, Judaism was moving toward a consensus that would carry it through the Middle Ages. As Talmudic Judaism emerged from the ashes of the destruction, other groups, like the Dead Sea sect, fell by the wayside. Nonetheless, the scrolls allow us an important glimpse into the nature of Jewish law, theology, and eschatology as understood by one of these sects.

The scrolls show us that Jews in the Second Temple period were engaged in a vibrant religious life based on study of the scriptures, interpretation of Jewish law, practice of ritual purity, and messianic aspirations. Some Jewish practices known from later texts, such as phylacteries, thrice-daily prayer, and blessings before and after meals, were regularly practiced. Rituals were seen as a preparation for the soon-to-dawn End of Days that would usher in a life of purity and perfection.

The scrolls, therefore, have shown us that Jewish life and law were already considerably developed in this period. Although we cannot see a linear development between the Judaism of the scrolls and that of the later rabbis, since the rabbis were heirs to the tradition of the Pharisees, we can still derive great advantage from the scrolls in our understanding of the early history of Jewish law. Here, for the first time, we have a fully developed system of postbiblical law and ritual.

The Dead Sea sect, and, for that matter, all the known Jewish sects from the Second Temple period, were strict adherents to Jewish law as they interpreted it. At the same time, with their emphasis on the apocalyptic visions of the prophets, the sects provide us an understanding of the emerging Christian claims of messiahship for Jesus. Only against the background of the Dead Sea Scrolls can the worldview of early Christianity be understood.

The contribution of the biblical scrolls to our understanding of the history of the biblical text and versions is profound. We now know of the fluid state of the Hebrew scriptures in the last years of the Second Temple. With the help of the biblical scrolls from Masada and the Bar Kokhba caves, we can now understand the role of local texts, the sources of the different ancient translations of the Bible, and the process of standardization of the scriptures that resulted in the Masoretic text.

In the years spanned by the Dead Sea Scrolls, the text of the Hebrew scriptures was coming into its final form, the background of the New Testament was in evidence, and the great traditions that would constitute rabbinic Judaism were taking shape. The scrolls have opened a small window on these developments the analysis of which will reshape our knowledge of this crucial, formative period in the history of Western religion.

See Also



An excellent introduction is Yigael Yadin's The Message of the Scrolls (New York, 1957). The archaeological aspect is discussed thoroughly in Roland de Vaux's Schweich Lectures of 1959, Archaeology and the Dead Sea Scrolls (London, 1973). Important scholarly studies are Frank Moore Cross's The Ancient Library of Qumran and Modern Biblical Studies, rev. ed. (Garden City, N.Y., 1961), and Géza Vermès's The Dead Sea Scrolls: Qumran in Perspective (Philadelphia, 1981). The theology of the Qumran sect is studied in Helmer Ringgren's The Faith of Qumran, translated by Emilie T. Sander (Philadelphia, 1963). On the relationship to Christianity, see Matthew Black's The Scrolls and Christian Origins (London, 1961) and William S. LaSor's The Dead Sea Scrolls and the New Testament (Grand Rapids, Mich., 1972). Two studies of the importance of the scrolls for the history of Jewish law are my books The Halakhah at Qumran (Leiden, 1975) and Sectarian Law in the Dead Sea Scrolls (Chico, Calif., 1983).

New Sources

Charlesworth, James H. The Pesharim and Qumran History: Chaos or Consensus? Grand Rapids, Mich., 2002.

Davies, Philip R., George J. Brooke, and Philip R. Callaway. The Complete World of the Dead Sea Scrolls. London, 2002.

Orion Center for the Study of the Dead Sea Scrolls and Associated Literature. 5th International Symposium, 2000. Liturgical Perspectives: Prayer and Poetry in Light of the Dead Sea Scrolls: Proceedings of the Fifth International Symposium of the Orion Center for the Study of the Dead Sea Scrolls and Associated Literature, 1923, January, 2000. Edited by Esther G. Chazon with the collaboration of Ruth Clements and Avital Pinnick. Leiden and Boston, 2003.

VanderKam, James C. The Meaning of the Dead Sea Scrolls: Their Significance for Understanding the Bible, Judaism, Jesus, and Christianity. [San Francisco], 2002.

Vermès, Géza. An Introduction to the Complete Dead Sea Scrolls. Minneapolis, MN, 2000.

Lawrence H. Schiffman (1987)

Revised Bibliography

Dead Sea Scrolls

views updated May 08 2018


Ancient religious documents.

The Dead Sea Scrolls are ancient manuscripts found at Khirbat Qumran, in caves in the Judean desert near the Dead Sea, 7.5 miles (12 km) from Jericho. The scrolls were uncovered in 1947. Archaeologists later discovered a cemetery of over one thousand graves, a central building, and central caves containing fragments of old documents. The area was apparently destroyed by an earthquake in 31 b.c.e. and then rebuilt. The authors of the scrolls lived there until 68 c.e. The contents of the scrolls and other evidence show that the authors belonged to a Jewish sect. The scrolls or fragments include two complete copies of Isaiah and fragments of nearly every other book of the Bible. Their discovery advanced the study of the Hebrew Bible, since the earliest versions before the scrolls were discovered dated to the Middle Ages. Fragments of the Apocrypha and the Pseudepigrapha and other unknown books were also found, including the Book of Tobit, the Hebrew version of Jubilees, and the Aramaic version of the Book of Enoch. The scrolls include sectarian books as well, including a commentary on Habakkuk, parts of a commentary on Micah and Nahum, and others. These commentaries explain the prophetic writings in relation to the history of the sect. Other scrolls deal with the sect's organization and theological doctrines. They also contain fragments of the Zadokite documents that were found in Cairo. The Temple scroll minutely details the Temple. The sect responsible for the scrolls was assumed to have been the Essenes, but recent scholarship has placed this thesis in doubt. They beheld the power of good ruling in a world in opposition to the power of evil, and they saw themselves as the chosen "sons of light."

Their apocalyptic circles, among whom Enoch was composed, probably influenced the beginnings of Christianity, especially those close to Paul and John the Evangelist.

Some of the scrolls came into the possession of Hebrew University through E. L. Sukenik, who was responsible for the first publication of selections. Others went to the United States where they were published by Burrows, Brownlee and were subsequently purchased for the government of Israel through the agency of Sukenik's son, Yigael Yadin. They are housed in the Shrine of the Book in the Israel Museum. The publication of the many fragments was entrusted to a group of scholars whose slow progress generated international controversy. In 1991, the system was overhauled to ensure speedy publication. The Huntington Library in San Marino, California, in the interim, published photographs of the collection and made them available without restrictions.

See also Yadin, Yigael.


Charlesworth, James, ed. The Dead Sea Scrolls: Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek Texts with English Translations: Pseudepigraphic and Non-Masoretic Psalms and Prayers (Dead Sea Scrolls, No. 4, Part A). Louisville, KY: Westminster/John Knox Press, 1998.

Davies, Philip R. The Complete World of the Dead Sea Scrolls. New York: Thames and Hudson, 2002.

Garcia, Florentíno Martínez, and Tigchelaar, Eibert, eds. The Dead Sea Scrolls Study Edition. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2000.

Reed, Stephen A. The Dead Sea Scrolls Catalogue: Documents, Photographs and Museum Inventory Numbers. Atlanta, GA: Scholars, 1994.

mia bloom

Dead Sea Scrolls

views updated Jun 08 2018


In April 1947, Mohammed el-Dib, a young Bedouin from the Ta'amireh tribe, by chance discovered a number of manuscript scrolls in a grotto near the Qumran ruins, an Essenian site around 30 kilometers from Bethlehem and Jerusalem. Three of these scrolls were purchased by Professor E. L. Sukenik on behalf of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and four others by the Syrian Jacobite Convent of Saint Mark, also in Jerusalem. The latter were transported to the United States. In February 1949, Count Lippens, United Nations observer in Israel, opened the way to the exploration of the Qumran site. Father Roland de Vaux, head of the French Biblical and Archeological School of Jerusalem, and G. Lankester Harding, in charge of Jordanian antiquities, were named to direct the digs. Between 1949 and 1958, nearly 800 manuscripts were exhumed, and Jordanian authorities appealed to the international community to finance a study of the documents. On its side, the Vatican entrusted Father de Vaux with deciphering the documents, which were placed in the Rockefeller Museum in East Jerusalem, under Jordanian control. In 1961, the Jordanian state declared all the manuscripts in the Palestinian Archeological Museum of Jerusalem to be national property. Five years later, the entire museum became national property of Jordan.

In the 1967 Arab-Israel War, the Israeli army occupied East Jerusalem, taking over the museum and its holdings. From then on, Israeli authorities administered the Palestinian Archeological Museum. The team of Father de Vaux was authorized to continue its research but limited other scholars' access to the manuscripts, provoking ire in the international scientific community. Photos of original documents were sent to the United States (Claremont and Cincinnati) and to Great Britain. Ten years later, a portion of the documents kept at Claremont were entrusted to the Huntington Library in Virginia, where they remained for years without being studied seriously. There was some conjecture that access to the manuscripts was being limited because they contained information on Jesus and his adherence to the sect of Essenians, which would raise questions about his divine nature. For Father de Vaux, however, the "Master of Justice" described in these manuscripts had nothing to do with Jesus.

The international scientific community was shocked that translations of the texts, whose study had been underway for many years, had not yet been published. According to a former member of the committee, John Marco Allegro, some of the manuscripts, particularly the Copper Scroll, intimated the existence of a fabulous treasure, that of the Temple of Solomon, the Ark of the Covenant, and the Tables of the Law, which would lead to censure on the part of Israeli authorities. On 22 September 1991, the Huntington Library, in Virginia, decided to make all the copies of the manuscripts in its keeping available to the public and to publish a photocopy edition. During the following October, Israeli authorities permitted access to all manuscripts in its collections, including the unpublished ones.

SEE ALSO Arab-Israel War (1967);Essenes;Jesus.

Dead Sea Scrolls

views updated Jun 08 2018

Dead Sea Scrolls. Collection of manuscripts found in caves near the Dead Sea. The scrolls, discovered between 1947 and 1956, date mainly between c.150 BCE and 68 CE. They seem to have belonged to a succession of communities based at Qumran, the last of which was destroyed by the Romans in the first Jewish revolt. They include manuscripts which seem to relate to a community or communities based in Qumran: the Manual of Discipline, the Damascus Document, the Thanksgiving Psalms, and the War Scroll.

The identification of those who produced the sectarian documents has been much disputed. Scholarly consensus favours a group closely related to the Essenes. However, it is at least equally likely that Qumran, because of its remoteness, was a haven of refuge for conservative groups in more than one period, who disapproved of (or were persecuted by) those who were running the Temple in Jerusalem.

Dead Sea Scrolls

views updated May 21 2018

Dead Sea Scrolls Ancient manuscripts discovered from 1947 in caves at Qumran near the Dead Sea. Written in Hebrew or Aramaic, they date from between the 1st century bc and the 1st century ad. They include versions of much of the Old Testament and other types of religious literature. Some are a thousand years older than any other biblical manuscript.