Mag. Claudia R. Wintoch
Hebrew Culture & Perspective
World Revival School of Ministry
Fall Trimester 2001
2. The Discovery & Scholarship
3. The Scrolls
3.1. Biblical Texts
3.4. Other Texts
3.4.1. The Damascus Document
3.4.2. The Manual of Discipline
3.4.3. The War Scroll (1QM)
3.4.4. The Copper Scroll (3Q15)
4. The Scrolls’ Authors
The Dead Sea Scrolls are a subject that has widely been talked about, even in the secular media, with little facts really being known and then only to a select few. Cook (1994:41) states that “the Dead Sea Scrolls were from the beginning accompanied by avarice, ego, and prejudice, as well as courage, curiosity, and the thirst for knowledge”. Their discovery was followed by high hopes from many scholars, secular and religious alike. Their prominence was and is not only due to the fact that they provided the only written documents for their period of time, but that the world thought they represented a threat to Christianity and the Bible. However, due to few publications and restricted access to the material, as well as the unfortunate human weaknesses described by Cook above surfacing, it soon became quiet around the scrolls, until many of them were made available to the public in the 90s. This renaissance has led to a new interest and revived hopes of what the scrolls can contribute to our understanding of Judaism at the time and biblical studies.
2. The Discovery & Scholarship
There are several versions of how the first scroll was found. In early 1947, or even late 1946, a young Bedouin shepherd, Muhammad ed-Dhib, was looking for a lost sheep when he threw a stone into a cave and, instead of the sheep’s response, heard the cracking of pots. This took place in the Judean wilderness near the northern shore of the Dead Sea. He and other members of his tribe returned to the cave and found ten jars of clay, each about two feet high, some of which contained leather scrolls with writing on them. Knowing that Western scholars valued ancient objects, they removed some scrolls and tried to sell them. Through an antiquities dealer in
Qumran Caves (Vermes 1999:xxii)
Bethlehem called Kando, the scrolls ended up with Mar Samuel, the Syrian Orthodox Archbishop of Jerusalem in 1947, since the language was assumed to be Syriac. Mar Samuel recognized that it was actually Hebrew and strived to also buy the other scrolls found. While Samuel tried to find scholars to look at the scrolls – who were mostly skeptical –, some scrolls got into the hands of E.L. Sukenik, professor of archeology at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He describes his first look at the scrolls:
“Strangely enough, as I gazed at the parchment, the letters began to become familiar, though I could make no immediate sense of the writing. […] I had seen such letters scratched, carved and, in a few cases, painted on stone. But not until this week had I seen this particular kind of Hebrew lettering written with a pen on leather.” (Cook 1994:15)
Sukenik soon became convinced of the scrolls’ authenticity and on the very night, when the United Nations passed the resolution to create the state of Israel, he secretly traveled deep into Arab territory to acquire more scrolls. He felt “it was divinely ordained that the scrolls should come to light at the very moment of the birth of Israel” (Cook 1994:16).
Samuel took his scrolls to the United States where he tried to sell them. Finally an undercover agent from the state of Israel purchased them and returned them to Israel, where they were reunited with Sukenik’s scrolls at the American School of Oriental Research.
By 1956, another ten caves had been discovered in the vicinity of Qumran. Scholars could identify scrolls or pieces from about 870 separate scrolls, the fourth cave holding the biggest quantity. A team of eight foreign scholars was formed who should undertake the big task of working on the scrolls and publishing them. Yet, those few men could not cope with the vast amount of the material. While a few publications came out in the first decade, it soon became rather quiet. G.L. Harding from the Jordanian Department of Antiquities wrote back then, “It may well be a few years before the series can be completed.” (Wise 1996:6).
However, nearly half a century later the work is still not done. In addition to the factors mentioned, personal ambitions, other commitments of the team members, resistance to the simple publication of the scrolls and pro-Arab convictions interfering after the Six-Day War of 1967, all delayed the work and its potential benefits to the world. In 1977, Vermes states that “the greatest Hebrew manuscript discovery [is] fast becoming ‘the academic scandal par excellence of the twentieth century’.” (1999:6).
In 1990, Israeli scholars were put in charge of the project after surfacing anti-Semitism and in 1991 the yet-unreleased scrolls were published after their reconstruction with the help of a computer. That same year the official decision was finally made that ”all scholars would have free and unconditional access to all the photographs of the Dead Sea Scrolls” (Wise 1996:8). A new era of the study of the scrolls has started.
3. The Scrolls
All scrolls are Jewish religious texts, most of them written in Hebrew, some in Aramaic and Greek. Different dating methods conclude that they are from the time of Jesus, from about 200 B.C. to 100 A.D.. They can be divided into two groups: Biblical (one quarter) and non-Biblical texts. The Biblical texts (202) include all books of the Hebrew Bible, except Esther. Most of those were found in Cave 4 (137). Copies of the book of Psalms were found most often (36), then Deuteronomy (29), Isaiah (21), Exodus (17), Genesis (15) and Leviticus (13). Those books reflect where the importance of that Jewish community lay. VanderKam (1994:32) states, “Perhaps it is not strange that the three books that appear on the largest number of copies at Qumran are also the three that are quoted most frequently in the New Testament”. The significance of those Biblical books is that they are the oldest Old Testament manuscripts ever found. Before their discovery, Hebrew texts from the Middle Ages and the Septuagint were the basis for all Bible translation. It is significant therefore, that the Dead Sea Scrolls do not differ considerably from the texts known before.
The non-Biblical texts can be divided into Apocrypha (Tobit, Sirach, Baruch 6, Psalms), Pseudepigrapha (Enoch, Jubilees, Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs) and other texts (commentaries, legal texts, writings for worship, eschatological works, wisdom texts, the copper scroll, documentary texts).
3.1. Biblical Texts
The Isaiah scroll was one of the seven original scrolls found. It is the “oldest complete manuscript of a biblical book” (Cook 1994:24), having been dated to the late second or early first century B.C.. It is extremely close to the Masoretic text of Isaiah, the oldest preserved one being the “Cairo Codex of the Prophets copied by Moses ben Asher in 895” A.D. (Vermes 1999:171).
Fragments of five commentaries on Isaiah (4Q161-165) were also found, in Cave 4. Some of them could be reconstructed.
The psalms can be divided into Biblical (chapters 101-150) and apocryphal psalms. The following psalms have been discovered:
“Forty-one canonical Psalms, a poem identical with II Samuel 23.1-7, four apocryphal Psalms previously known from Greek, Latin and Syriac translations, and in addition three new compositions and a prose supplement.” (Vermes 1999:47)
For more on the apocryphal psalms see 3.2.1..
Targums are Aramaic translations of the Hebrew Bible, often expanded by explanations and comments. Even though only a small part of the scrolls are in Aramaic, scholars have been quick to use that discovery as a proof that Hebrew had been replaced by Aramaic as the vernacular language:
“After the scriptural passage was read in Hebrew, it was immediately translated orally into Aramaic, the language that most Jewish people in Palestine spoke. These translations into Aramaic were eventually written down, and a number of them have survived.” (VanderKam 1994:32)
However, several questions arise: Why would another semitic language, which was very similar to Hebrew, replace it? If that is supposed to be a proof, could we not assume the same for the few Greek texts found? Bivin & Blizzard (2001:30) give a more reasonable explanation:
“The Aramaic translation interpreted the Hebrew text. For religious reasons, the Hebrew original could not be even slightly altered or expanded, but its Aramaic translation could, wherever necessary, comment on and explain hard-to-understand passages.”
Psalm 151 is the most significant of the apocryphal Psalms because of its appearance in the Psalms Scroll from Cave 11 (11QPsa) as well as the Septuagint. It is strongly Davidic, talking
From the Psalms Scroll (http://www.ibiblio.org/expo/deadsea.scrolls.exhibit/full-images/psalm-b.gif)
about the election of David. Psalm 154, which also exists in Syriac, praises God’s wisdom, Psalm 155 is a supplication. There were also a number of previously unknown psalms, e.g. the following one addressed to the Creator (11QPsa 26.9-15):
Great and holy is YHWH, the holiest for all generations.
Majesty goes before Him, and behind Him the roar of many waters.
Grace and truth surround His face, truth, judgment and justice support His throne.
In the first cave, the Thanksgiving Scroll was found, including about 20 psalms of thanksgiving and praise, with “the repeated introductory phrase, ‘I give thanks to You, O Lord’. A secondary formula, ‘Blessed are You, O Lord,’ appears as a variant.” (Wise 1996:85). Wise theorizes that they “may have enjoyed a ‘canonical’ status among some readers” (ibidem) because of their large number of copies with few differences.
It is important to note that commentaries on the Psalms have also been found. It is interesting what the first Psalms scroll from Cave 11 (11QPsa 27.4-11) says about David:
“YHWH gave him an intelligent and brilliant spirit, and he wrote 3,600 psalms and 364 songs to sing before the altar for the daily perpetual sacrifice, for all the days of the year; and 52 songs for the Sabbath offerings; and 30 songs for the New Moons, for Feast days and for the Day of Atonement. In all, the songs which he uttered were 446, and 4 songs to make music on behalf of those stricken (by evil spirits). In all, they were 4,050. All these he uttered through prophecy which was given him from before the Most High.” (VanderKam 1994:45f)
The book of Tobit, included in the Catholic Bible, tells the story of Tobit and his son Tobias, assumed to having taken place in the third century B.C.. Four Aramaic and one Hebrew copy were found in the fourth cave (4Q196-200). Previously, only a Greek version has been known. This is significant:
“We would have an early instance of a book that was translated or perhaps an example of a work that circulated in two languages. The Aramaic copies have been important for textual criticism of the book: all of them agree with the longer Greek text of the book and thus make it likely that it is the more original form.” (VanderKam 1994:35)
The full text of the 108 chapters of Enoch is preserved “in an Ethiopic translation of a Greek rendering of the Semitic original (written in Hebrew or Aramaic)” (VanderKam 1994:37). In Cave 4, a large number of Aramaic manuscripts of Enoch have appeared. To the scholars’ surprise, none of the eleven manuscripts contains anything from the ‘Similitudes’ of Enoch (chapters 37-71), which have been of special interest to them, because of the phrase ‘the son of man’. They concluded that those chapters must be a later composition, removing their grounds for assuming that “this concept of a superhuman son of man who will be involved in the final judgment may have been a source from which the writers of the New Testament Gospels drew in elaborating their pictures of Jesus as the son of man.” (VanderKam 1994:38).
The impressive number of 16 copies of the book of Jubilees have been found in various caves, indicating its high importance. Jubilees is a retelling of the Biblical stores from creation until Moses receives the Law, written around 160 B.C.. Prior to this discovery, only translations made from Greek had survived, in Ethiopian and Latin.
3.4. Other Texts
3.4.1. The Damascus Document
The Damascus Document, one of the original seven findings, was already known since 1896, when two copies from the tenth and twelfth centuries A.D. were found (then published under the name Zadokite Fragments). The one from Cave 4 dates from about 75-50 B.C..
“It includes two elements. The first is an admonition that implores the congregation to remain faithful to the covenant of those who retreated from Judea to the ‘Land of Damascus.’” (Library of Congress 1993:http://www.ibiblio.org/expo/deadsea.scrolls.exhibit/ Library/damasc.html)
The second covers laws like “the purity of priests and sacrifices, diseases, marriage, agriculture, tithes, relations with non-Jews, entry into the covenant community and the oaths involved, life within the community, Sabbath, and communal organization.” (VanderKam 1994:56). The Damascus Document gives detailed insight into the community at Qumran and is an important manuscript for the determination of the community’s identity (see 4. The Scroll’s Authors). According to Wise, it was “the group’s most important texts, containing clues to its history, theology, and conception of its role in history.” (1996:49).
3.4.2. The Manual of Discipline
The Manual of Discipline is “a collection of rules and regulations for the ordering of a Jewish religious commune, along with some psalms and theological instruction.” (Cook 1994:26). It is also part of the original seven scrolls, with more fragments having been found in Cave 4 and 5. One aspect of particular interest is “the division of humanity into two camps – one of light and one of darkness” (VanderKam 1994:58), that is also found in other documents (see 3.4.3. The War Scroll), and gives clues to the community’s identity.
3.4.3. The War Scroll (1QM)
The War Scroll, also called the Rule of War, and the most famous of the eschatological compositions, is also a collection of “rules, regulations, and hymns, but has to do with the holy war of the ‘Sons of Light’ – who may be the members of the commune described in the Manual of Discipline – against the ‘Sons of Darkness’ in the last days.” (Cook 1994:26). It describes the last battle “in gory detail as righteousness is fully victorious and evil is forever destroyed” (Wise 1996:150).
3.4.4. The Copper Scroll (3Q15)
The Copper Scroll, found in Cave 3, is the only text not written on leather or papyrus and it is the most mysterious finding, since “no one really knows what it is or, rather, what the author meant to convey” (VanderKam 1994:68). It contains the name of places were treasures were supposed to be hidden. The Polish scholar Milik dates the scroll to about 100 A.D., which would mean it was placed there after the destruction of the community. However, in the last few years other scholars have dated it to the time before 70 B.C., assuming that the scroll is a temple inventory, listing genuine treasures. At the time, copper was used for “safekeeping of nonliterary records” and was a “common medium of choice for the archival records of temples in the Roman period” (Wise 1996:190). The conclusion is that it is an administrative document of Herod’s Temple in Jerusalem.
4. The Scrolls’ Authors
One of the purposes of studying the Dead Sea Scrolls is to learn more about the time they were written in. The previously unknown texts give us a unique insight into the culture, theology and life-style of the authors. For this reason, scholars have been trying to identify the scrolls’ authors’ identity, with the help of Josephus and other historians’ writings, comparing facts and theorizing who the group at Qumran was. While most scholars today assume, the writings can be attributed to the Essenes, there is no general consensus, and other theories have been created that will be discussed in short, before looking at the Essene hypothesis. Cook (1994:178) summarizes it well:
“If they are Essenes, they are not standard-issue Essenes, but something different. Perhaps they are just “Essenic”. If they are Pharisees, they are early Pharisees or extreme Pharisees. If they are Sadducees, they must be breakaway Sadducees. If they were Zealots, they were unusually monkish and scholarly Zealots. If they were Christians, they were heretics (or else every other Christian group was heretical). Perhaps they were some little-known or altogether unknown group.”
We know little about the Pharisees, except what the New Testament and Josephus tell us. There are resemblances between them and the Manual of Discipline and the Damascus Document. The Manual of Disciplines describes the entrance into the group in stages, as was the custom with Pharisee groups that formed themselves into closed fellowships. The Damascus Document, as described in 3.4.1., contains laws and religious regulations – the Pharisees’ main occupation. However, the differences outnumber the resemblances, e.g. the group’s law forbidding polygamy, or the common ownership of property. Another major difference is that the Qumran group had priests in their midst, while the Pharisees were a lay party.
Other scholars have believed the Qumran community to be one of Sadducees. From the New Testament and Josephus we know that they did not believe in life after death, the resurrection of the dead, angels or spirits, and they only regarded the Pentateuch as Scripture. While the Qumran scrolls abound of other Scripture and references to angels and spirits, this hypothesis has even been gaining ground. One of the reasons is the mention of the “sons of Zakod” as the group’s leaders, in the Damascus Document as well as the Manual of Discipline. “The word Sadducees (Greek: Saddoukaioi) is apparently derived from this proper name Zadok: ‘Sadducee’ means ‘Zadokite’.” (Cook 1994:113). Adherents of this hypothesis concede that the Qumran Zadokites cannot be identical with the Sadducees, assuming that they are group of Sadducees that split off from the mainstream priests. The Temple Scroll seems to support this view, while the arguments mentioned in the beginning clearly contradict this hypothesis. “It is safe enough to therefore assert that the Qumran sectaries were emphatically not Sadducees.” (Vermes 1999:116f).
Some Zealots separated themselves from the pollution of the Gentiles and lived in caves. Those scholars supporting the believe they were the residents of Qumran, point out “the hatred expressed in some of the scrolls for Gentiles or ‘outsider’ Jews. The scrolls’ obsessive concern with the purity of nation and temple reminds one of the ‘zeal’ of the extremists. The martial fervor of the War Scroll […] fits well with what we know about the Zealots.” (Cook 1994:107). We also know that the Qumran settlers died a violent death, which could be a hint that the Romans attacked a Zealot outpost. Milik, who is a proponent of the Essene hypothesis, theorizes that the Qumran group of Essenes was infected with Zealotism towards the end.
Most scholars today do not believe they were Zealots, as the beliefs and practices in the scrolls are not those of the Zealots or even contradict them.
One of the more exotic theories is that the Qumran settlers were Christians (at a time when Jesus wasn’t born yet!). Two distinct beliefs are held: One group claims that characteristic Christian beliefs were conceived at Qumran, becoming the birth-ground for Christianity. Dupont-Sommer explains Christianity as being “successful Essenism” (Cook 1994:130). The other group sees the Qumran settlers as being identical with the early church. Robert Eisenmann interprets the prominent figures of the scrolls the following way:
“James the Just, the brother of Jesus, is the Teacher of Righteousness, while the Teacher’s opponents, the Man of the Lie and the Wicked Priest are, respectively, the apostle Paul and the high priest Ananus, who presided over the execution of James in A.D. 62.” (Cook 1994:137f)
The Spanish Jesuit Jose O’Callaghan even claims to have found a part of Mark in Cave 7, reconstructing Mark 6:52-53 from the words “… he … and w… nne …ed” (Cook 1994:147).
There is no ground whatsoever that supports this theory.
The Essene hypothesis is the one most widely accepted today. The Essenes were one of the three principal Jewish sects, besides the Pharisees and Sadducees. There are many similarities between them, as described by Josephus and Pliny, and the Qumran settlers – chronologically, geographically and content-wise:
“both favoured the common ownership of property, both refused to participate in Temple worship, both had purificatory baths, both partook of a sacred meal blessed by a priest. Both furthermore were opposed to taking vows apart from the vow of entrty, and both appear to have been interested in healing” (Vermes 1999:124)
Todd Beall counted 27 parallels between Josephus and the scrolls, 21 probably parallels and 6 apparent discrepancies. Among the latter is the different entry procedures. Josephus’s initiatory procedure was longer and the entry vow at the end. The Essenes were believed to be celibate by Pliny, while the scrolls do mention marriage within their community. Philo described them as being peaceful without any weapons, while the War Scroll describes equipment and military tactics. Philo and Josephus agree that the Essenes rejected slavery, while the Damascus Document gives instructions for the holding of slaves. The Qumran community attributed high important to their priests, descendants of Israel and Aaron. However, Josephus, a priest himself, does not mention any priests at all. Lastly, another argument against the Essene hypothesis is the absence of that name from the scrolls. Vermes (1999:126) explains that “the title ‘Pharisee’ is likewise generally avoided in rabbinic sources. Both names appear to have been coined and used by outsiders”. Campbell (1998:104) concludes, “By fitting most of the pieces of the jigsaw, as it were, into a broad coherent whole, some form of Essene hypothesis remains the best option.”
Cook (1994:101) puts it more bluntly, finishing Cross’s statement, “‘If the people of the scrolls were not the Essenes […] they were a similar sect, living in the same center, in the same era’ – so why not just call them Essenes and be done with it?”
This paper has given a basic overview of the main scrolls and the people who wrote them. However, because of the vast extent of the subject, many aspects were left untouched, like the identities of the figures mentioned and their historic parallels or eschatological interpretations. The Dead Sea Scrolls have created a whole new field of study, biblically as well as linguistically. Hebrew manuscripts from the same time Jesus lived in gave new insight into Hebrew phrases and expressions, the language He spoke, and therefore enlightened our understanding of the New Testament, contrary to those scholars having hoped to discredit Christianity. Cook (Cook 1994:186f) summarizes the achievements of the Qumran discovery:
“The confirmation of a true Hebrew text underlying the Septuagint, sanctioning the wider use of that translation in textual criticism; the verification of the antiquity of the Masoretic text; and the suggestion of a greater tolerance for diversity between texts than later became the case.”
While the fifty-year delay of the scrolls’ publishing has been rather unfortunate, the public’s access to them has aroused new interest and studies, so that we can expect further exciting insight into the Qumran settlers two thousand years ago in the near future. Hopes of finding New Testament scrolls have been disappointed. However, we can very well assume that more undiscovered scrolls are buried in the caves of Qumran, which have partly been closed by earthquakes, waiting to be undug, deciphered and studied.
Bivin, David and Roy Blizzard, Understanding the Difficult Words of Jesus, Destiny Image Publishers: Shippensburg, PA, 2001
Campbell, Jonathan G., Dead Sea Scrolls. The Complete Story, Ulysses Press: Berkely, CA, 1998
Cook, Edward M., Solving the Mysteries of the Dead Sea Scrolls. New Light on the Bible, Zondervan: Grand Rapids, MI, 1994
Library of Congress, Scrolls From The Dead Sea, George Braziller, Inc.: New York 1993
Library of Congress, Scrolls From The Dead Sea. The Ancient Library of Qumran and Modern Scholarship, http://www.ibiblio.org/expo/deadsea.scrolls.exhibit/intro.html
Pate, C. Marvin, Communities of the Last Days. The Dead Sea Scrolls, the New Testament & the Story of Israel, InterVarsity Press: Downers Grove, IL, 2000
Shanks, Hershel, The Mystery and Meaning of the Dead Sea Scrolls, Biblical Archaeology Society: New York 1998
VanderKam, James C., The Dead Sea Scrolls Today, Eerdmans Publishing Co: Grand Rapids, MI, 1994
Vermes, Geza, An Introduction to the Complete Dead Sea Scrolls, Fortress Press: Minneapolis, MN, 1999
Wise, Michael, et al., The Dead Sea Scrolls. A New Translation, Harper Collins: New York 1996
 Wise 1996:5
 All numbers are from VanderKam 1994:30f.
 While liberal scholars would often like to claim so, trying to discredit the Bible and Christianity. However, we have to concede, that additional ‘Biblical’ texts were found, e.g. unknown Psalms of David. Yet, as evangelical Christians we can be sure that God included those books and chapters in the canon of the Bible He wanted there.
 Books that are included in the Catholic OT, but not the Protestant OT or the Hebrew Bible.
 Jewish religious books written between 200 B.C. and 100 A.D.
 The other six were another copy of Isaiah, the Manual of Discipline, the War Scroll, the Thanksgiving Scroll, the Commentary on Habakkuk and the Damascus Document.
 See Wise 1996:209ff for the retrieved text.
 VanderKam 1996:68
 The Pharisees allowed polygamy.
 Zadok was a Levite and high priest under David and Solomon.
 Cook 1994:108
 VanderKam 1994:87
 Josephus: 3 years and then the vow; Scrolls: the vow and then 2 years.
 For example, the prominent figure of the Teacher of Righteousness or the Wicked Priest.