The first seven Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered by chance in 1947 by Bedouin of the Ta'amra tribe, in a cave, given the name "Cave 1", near Khirbet Qumran on the northwest shore of the Dead Sea. Three of the scrolls were immediately purchased by archaeologist Eliezer Lipa Sukenik on behalf of the Hebrew University; the others were bought by the Metropolitan of the Syrian Orthodox Church in Jerusalem, Mar Athanasius Samuel. In 1948 Samuel smuggled the four scrolls in his possession to the United States; it was only in 1954 that Sukenik's son, Yigael Yadin, also an archaeologist, was able to return them to Israel, and they were ultimately entrusted to The Shrine of the Book Foundation. They have been on display in
The Shrine of the Book at The Israel Museum , Jerusalem , since 1965.
Over the next few years, from 1949 to 1956, additional fragments of some 950 different scrolls were discovered in ten nearby caves, both by Bedouins and by a joint archaeological expedition of the École Biblique et Archéologique Française and the Rockefeller Museum, under the direction of Professor Father Roland de Vaux. The richest yield, from Cave 4, just opposite the site of Qumran, consisted of some 15,000 fragments. The last cave, Cave 11, was discovered in 1956, and the scrolls found there were in a reasonable state of preservation. Since then, only a few small scraps of parchment have been found in the Judean Desert,
though not in the close vicinity of Qumran.
Apart from the first seven scrolls, which are entrusted to the Israel Museum, the majority of the fragments found by archaeologists and Bedouin are property of the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA). Others are in the possession of institutions outside of Israel, such as the Jordan Archaeological Museum in Amman and Bibliothèque Nationale de France in Paris,
or in private hands in the Schøyen Collection, Norway.
The scrolls discovered in the vicinity of Qumran have all been ascribed to the Hellenistic-Roman Period, from the third century BCE to the first century CE. Various dating methods were employed, among them paleography, the study of ancient scripts and radiocarbon carbon-14 dating, a chemical test used for organic materials. Most of the scrolls are written on parchment, specially prepared animal skins, thicker if inscribed on the outer, "hairy" side, thinner if inscribed on the inner side. A smaller number are written on papyrus, a kind of paper made from the papyrus plant. Majority of the scrolls are poorly preserved:
fewer than a dozen were found in a satisfactory state.
Hebrew is the most common language, though a small number of scrolls are written in Aramaic, and a few in Greek. The most common script is the Jewish script, also called the "Assyrian" or "square" script, which was widely used from the sixth century BCE on. However, about 14 biblical scrolls are written in the ancient Hebrew script, and many texts use a cryptographic script, combining mirror writing and a mixture of Jewish, ancient Hebrew, and Greek scripts.
These manuscripts constitute the oldest evidence for the text of the Hebrew Bible. Approximately two hundred copies of biblical books, most of them very fragmentary, were found at Qumran, encompassing almost all the books of the Hebrew Bible, with the exception of Nehemiah and Esther. Copies of non-canonical, apocryphal and pseudepigraphical works were discoveredas well ; some of these had previously been known only in ancient translations, for example, Tobit, Jubilees, and 1 Enoch, while others were completely new to us such as the Genesis Apocryphon or the Temple Scroll. The scrolls also include copies of original works, such as the Community Rule or the Habakkuk Commentary, composed by members of an isolated sectarian community.
The archaeological site of Khirbet Qumran is situated at the northwest corner of the Dead Sea, some 35 km east of Jerusalem. Most scholars believe that the site was home to a reclusive Jewish sect, probably a group of Essenes, which along with Pharisees, Sadducees, Samaritans, Zealots, followers of Jesus and John the Baptist, and others, constituted the fabric of Jewish society in the Land of Israel, from the rise of the Hasmoneans (166 BCE)
until the destruction of the Second Temple (70 CE).
This sect, referred to in the scrolls as adat hayahad,(the "Council of the Community", apparently formed as a result of profound controversies on various Temple matters that broke out in Jerusalem, such as the calendar, laws of ritual purity, and tithes. These disputes seem to have prompted the founder of the sect, known in the scrolls as the "Teacher of Righteousness," to abandon what he and his followers regarded as the "defiled" Temple, withdraw from the Jewish community at large, and, at a certain stage, establish an isolated settlement near the Dead Sea .
The members of the sect were extremely reclusive and entertained messianic expectations. They hated their foes with a passion. Their ultimate aim was to return to Jerusalem and restore divine worship in a future, entirely pure Temple, which they believed would be built by God Himself when Redemption came. These hopes were finally dashed in 68 CE when the Roman army destroyed the settlement on its way to Jerusalem to suppress the Jewish Revolt.
Most scholars have argued that the scrolls originally formed part of a sectarian library located in the community center at Qumran. They were hidden in the caves by the sectarians themselves, who left their home in the face of an advancing Roman army, hoping that in the near future they would be able to retrieve the sacred documents from their hiding places. An alternative theory, however, has been raised, according to which some or all the scrolls were placed in the caves by Jewish rebels fleeing from Jerusalem, thus redefining or even negating the former hypothesis regarding the Qumran-Essene origin of the scrolls.
The Great Isaiah Scroll - Digital Online
The Great Isaiah Scroll (1QIsaa) • Qumran Cave 1 • 1st century BCE
• Parchment • H: 22-25, L: 734 cm • Government of Israel • Accession number: HU 95.57/27
The Great Isaiah Scroll (1QIsaa) is one of the original seven Dead Sea Scrolls discovered in Qumran in 1947. It is the largest (734 mm) and best preserved of all the biblical scrolls, and the only one that is almost complete. The 54 columns contain all 66 chapters of the Hebrew version of the biblical Book of Isaiah. Dating from ca. 125 BCE, it is also one of the oldest of the Dead Sea Scrolls, some one thousand years older than the oldest manuscripts of
the Hebrew Bible known to us before the scrolls' discovery.
The version of the text is generally in agreement with the Masoretic or traditional version codified in medieval codices, such as the Aleppo Codex, but it contains many variant readings, alternative spellings, scribal errors, and corrections. Unlike most of the biblical scrolls from Qumran, it exhibits a very full orthography spelling, revealing how Hebrew was pronounced in the Second Temple Period. Around twenty additional copies of the Book of Isaiah were also found at Qumran, one more copy was discovered further south at Wadi Muraba'at, as well as six pesharim commentaries based on the book; Isaiah is also frequently quoted in other scrolls, a literary and religious phenomenon also present in New Testament writings. The authoritative and scriptural status of the Book of Isaiah is consistent with the messianic beliefs of the community living at Qumran, since Isaiah is known for his prophecies of judgment and consolation, his visions of the End of Days and the coming of the Kingdom of God.
Modern scholarship considers the Book of Isaiah to be an anthology, the two principal compositions of which are the Book of Isaiah proper (chapters 139, with some exceptions), containing the words of the prophet Isaiah himself, dating from the time of the First Temple, around 700 BCE, and Second Isaiah (Deutero-Isaiah, chapters 4066), comprising the words of an anonymous prophet, who lived some one hundred and fifty years later, around the time of the Babylonian exile and the restoration of the Temple in the Persian Period. By the time our Isaiah Scroll was copied (the last third of the second century BCE),
the book was already regarded as a single composition.
Several prophesies appearing in the Book of Isaiah have become cornerstones of Judeo-Christian civilization. Perhaps the most renowned of these is Isaiah's vision of universal peace at the End of Days: "And they shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks: Nation shall not take up sword against nation; they shall never again know war" (2:4).
* The War Scroll *
The War Scroll - Digital Online
The War of the Sons of Light against the Sons of Darkness Scroll (1QM)
• Qumran, Cave 1 • 1st century BCE - 1st century CE • Parchment • H: 15-16; L: 279 cm
• The Hebrew University of Jerusalem • Accession number: 96.84/21
The War Scroll (1QM), popularly known as"The War of the Sons of Light Against the Sons of Darkness" is one of the seven original Dead Sea Scrolls discovered in Qumran in 1947. It contains 19 columns (originally there were at least twenty), of which the first 14–19 lines (out of at least 21–22) are preserved. The work is written in Hebrew in a square Herodian script and is dated to the late first century BCE or early first century CE. Seven additional fragments (4Q491-497) with similar contents have also been found, but the relationship between these texts to 1QM is not entirely clear; they may represent an earlier version of the War Scroll,
or source materials on which the War Scroll was based.
Against the backdrop of a long biblical tradition concerning a final war at the End of Days (Ezekiel 38–39; Daniel 7–12), this scroll describes a seven stage, dualistic confrontation between the "Sons of Light", the term used by Community members to refer to themselves, under the leadership of the "Prince of Light", also called Michael, the Archangel – and the "Sons of Darkness", a nickname for the enemies of the Community, Jews and non-Jews alike, aided by a nation called the Kittim, Romans?, headed by Belial. The confrontation would last 49 years, terminating in the victory of the "Sons of Light" and the restoration of the Temple service and sacrifices. The War Scroll describes battle arrays, weaponry, the ages of the participants,
and military maneuvers, recalling Hellenistic and Roman military manuals.
This work is not, strictly speaking, an apocalypse, namely, a heavenly revelation, and it lacks a "messianic" figure. Certain details, such as the advanced age of the combatants and the leadership of the priests, point to the idealistic nature of the war described in the work and impart a fictional quality to the treatise. Nonetheless, the War Scroll may indeed reflect genuine political tension in Judea between Romans and Jews, which would culminate in the outbreak of revolt in 66 CE. The scroll also sheds light on the New Testament Book of Revelation,
in which a final war is also described between earthly and heavenly force.
These scrolls contain an apocalyptic prophecy of a war between the Sons of Light and the Sons of Darkness. The war is first described as an attack by the Sons of Light, consisting of the sons of Levi, the sons of Judah, and the sons of Benjamin, and the exiled of the desert, against Edom, Moab, the sons of Ammon, the Amalekites, Philistia, and the Kittim of Asshur (referred to as the army of Belial), and those who assist them from among the wicked who "violate the covenant." In the end, all of Darkness is to be destroyed and Light will live in peace for all eternity. The war is then described again as a conflict between the congregation of God and the congregation of men. The rest of the document is a detailed description of the events of the war and the ways in which it should be conducted. Yigael Yadin and Géza Vermes have argued that the descriptions of the armament, equipment, and formation of the Sons of Light suggest a basis in Roman methods of warfare.1QM consists of 19 columns, of which the first 14-19 lines of each have been preserved.i. Summarizes the war between the “Sons of Light” and “Sons of Darkness.” ii-ix. Deals with the battles between the tribes in greater detail, telling of a total forty years of combat. Columns iii-iv deal almost exclusively with the inscriptions meant to be displays on banners, trumpets, darts, etc. x-xiv. A number of liturgical pieces. xv-xix. Describes the seven-stage battle, led by the priests, between Light and Darkness. The battle is finally won by divine intervention. Because xv-xix is believed to describe the war which took place in the first seven years of the forty year war, many scholars feel that, at one time, more columns existed.
* The Temple Scroll *
The Temple Scroll - Digital Online
The Temple Scroll (11Q20) • Qumran Cave 11 • Late 1st century BCE - early 1st century CE
• Parchment • H: 24-26; L: 814 cm • Purchased for Shrine of the Book with aid of a grant from the Wolfson Foundation • Accession number: H95.57.25, H95.57.23, H95.82.12
The Temple Scrolla (11Q19) was almost certainly discovered in 1956 in Cave 11, located about two kilometers north of Khirbet Qumran. The manuscript is written in Hebrew in the square Herodian script of the late Second Temple Period (the first half of the first century CE), on extremely thin animal skin (one-tenth of a millimeter), making it the thinnest parchment scroll ever found in the caves of Qumran. Two other copies of the same composition have also come to light: one in Cave 11 (Temple Scrollb [11Q20]), and another (possibly a fragmentary copy of the last part of the work) in Cave 4 (4QTemple Scrollb [4Q524]). Most scholars believe that all three manuscripts are copies of an original work composed in the Land of Israel in the second half of the second century BCE (after 120 BCE, perhaps during the rule of John Hyrcanus I).
The Temple Scrolla consists of 18 sheets of parchment, each of which has three or four columns of text. The scroll's total length is 8.146 meters; it is thus the largest scroll ever discovered in the Qumran caves. Its second half – the inner portion of the scroll
– is better preserved than the first.
The work claims to provide the details of God's instructions (to Moses?) in regard to the construction and operation of the Temple. It was evidently supposed to be a kind of "new Book of Moses," which systematically combines the laws of the Temple and the sacrifices (mainly from the books of Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers) with a new version of these laws
as articulated in Deuteronomy chapters 12–23.
The Temple compound, as described in the scroll, was to be arranged in three concentric square courts, meant to resemble the camp of the Israelites in the desert. Just as the Tabernacle stood at the center of the Israelite camp, so too the utopian Temple was to stand at the center of the inner court, with the altar for burnt offerings and other objects near it, radiating its holiness to the whole of the Jewish People and the Land of Israel, as the Tabernacle did
in the time of the Israelites' wandering in the desert.
A central question relates to the social provenance of this work: While the scroll shares many features in common with the other sectarian works discovered in the caves near Qumran, several representative expressions, such as the phrase "Sons of Light," and concepts, such as the belief in predestination, are lacking. Many scholars still attribute the Temple Scroll to the isolated community living at Qumran. But others reject any connection with the Qumran community, affirming that the work originated in certain priestly (possible Zadokite) circles, and that the scroll was hidden in the cave by priestly Zealots during their flight from Jerusalem,
before its destruction by Romans in 70 CE.
* Commentary Habakkuk Scroll *
The Commentary on Habakkuk - Online
The Commentary on Habakkuk Scroll (1QpHab) • Qumran, Cave 1 • 1st century CE
• Parchment • H: 14; L: 148 cm • Government of Israel • Accession number: 95.57/28
The Commentary on Habakkuk (Pesher Habakkuk, 1QpHab), is a relative complete scroll (1.48 m long) and one of the seven original Dead Sea Scrolls discovered in caves of Qumran in 1947. It interprets the first two chapters of the biblical book of the prophet Habakkuk and comprises 13 columns written in Hebrew, in a clear, square Herodian script. However, the tetragrammaton, the four-letter, ineffable name of God, is written in ancient Hebrew characters, unlike the rest of the text. Scroll has been dated to the second half of the first century BCE.
In this work, the verses of the biblical book are copied paragraph by paragraph, in their original order. The scriptural text of Habakkuk on which the commentary is based, however, appears to be at variance from time to time with the Masoretic text. Each paragraph is accompanied by a commentary, introduced by the Hebrew word pishro, "its meaning," or pesher hadavar al,
"the meaning of the matter is in regard to." The commentary uses a prophetic style
to address events of the author's time.
Two major subjects are treated in this composition. One relates to the internal religious politics of Jerusalem and the Temple priesthood, and the other – to the repercussions of the appearance of the Romans (called in the work Chaldeans or Kittim) on the historical scene. As in most of works of this genre, no historical personages are mentioned by name, but there are allusions to such individuals as "the Teacher of Righteousness," "the Wicked Priest," "the Man of Lies,"
and others, whose exact identities have yet to be established.
This exceptionally well-preserved scroll is a key source of our knowledge of the spiritual life of the secluded Qumran community. It sheds light on the community's perception of itself and serves as paradigm against which other examples of this genre
(such as Pesher Nahum or Pesher Micah) are evaluated.
The Community Rule - Digital Online
Rule of Community Scroll (1QS) • Qumran, Cave 1 • 1st century BCE - 1st century CE
• Parchment • H: 24, L: 250 cm • Government of Israel • Accession number: 96.83/208A-B
The Community Rule Scroll (Serekh Hayahad, 1QS), formerly called the "Manual of Discipline" is the major section of one of the first seven scrolls discovered in Cave 1 at Qumran in 1947. Written in Hebrew in a square Hasmonean script, it was copied between 100 -75 BCE. In addition to this manuscript, fragments of no less than ten additional copies of the work were found in Cave 4 (4Q255-264), and two tiny fragments of another copy came to light in Cave 5 (5Q11). The copy from Cave 1 is the best preserved and contains the longest version of the text known to us. On the basis of comparison with the fragments from Cave 4, however,
scholars have concluded that the manuscript from Cave 1 represents
a late stage in the evolution of the composition.
The Community Rule is a sectarian work, crucial for understanding the Community's way of life. It deals with such subjects as the admission of new members, conduct at communal meals, and even theological doctrines (such as the belief in cosmic dualism and in predestination). The picture that emerges from the scroll is one of a communal, ascetic life governed by rigorous rules, which transformed the members of the Community into "priests in spirit," who lived sacred lives in a "spiritual temple." The Community members patterned their daily lives in symbolic imitation of the lives of the priests serving in the Temple by praying and performing ritual ablutions, thereby acting in blatant opposition to the "defiled" physical Temple in Jerusalem.
At this time, rule literature was a new genre, which would later become part of the Christian monastic tradition (for example, the sixth-century Rule of Saint Benedict). The discovery of the Community Rule at Qumran is the earliest evidence for the existence of the genre in Western civilization. The importance of this work lies in the fact that it provides a rare opportunity to learn about the lives of the sectarians, whom we assume to be Essenes, through their own rule literature. Prior to the discovery of the scrolls, little was known about the Essenes apart from the evidence of classical sources (Flavius Josephus, Philo, and Pliny the Elder),
as well as a few hints in rabbinic literature.
The Copper Scroll (3Q15) is one of the Dead Sea Scrolls found in Cave 3 near Khirbet Qumran, but differs significantly from the others. Whereas the other scrolls are written on parchment or papyrus, this scroll is written on metal: copper mixed with about 1 percent tin. Unlike the others, it is not a literary work, but a list of locations at which various items of gold and silver are buried or hidden. It differs from the other scrolls in its Hebrew (closer to the language of the Mishnah than to the literary Hebrew of the other scrolls, though 4QMMT shares some language characteristics), its orthography (i.e., its spelling), palaeography (forms of letters) and date (c.50-100 AD, possibly overlapping the latest of the other Qumran manuscripts).
The text is an inventory of 64 locations; 63 of which are treasures of gold and silver, which have been estimated in the tons. Tithing vessels are also listed among the entries, along with other vessels, and three locations featured scrolls. One entry apparently mentions priestly vestments. The final listing points to a duplicate document with additional details.
That other document has not been found.
History and Origin
The majority of what we call the Dead Sea Scrolls were found by Bedouins, the same group that made the original discovery. However, the Copper Scroll was discovered by an archaeologist. The scroll, on two rolls of copper, was found on March 14, 1952 at the back of Cave 3 at Qumran. It was the last of 15 scrolls discovered in the cave, and is thus referred to as 3Q15. The corroded metal could not be unrolled by conventional means, and John Marco Allegro arranged for Professor H. Wright Baker, of the College of Technology at Manchester, England, to cut the sheets into 23 strips in 1955 and 1956. It then became clear that the rolls were part of the same document. Allegro, who supervised opening of the scroll, transcribed its contents immediately.
The original editor Józef Milik first believed that the scroll was a product of the Essene. However he noted that it was likely not an official work of the Essenes. At first Milik believed that the scroll was not an actual historical account; he believed it was that of folklore. Later however, Milik's view took a turn. Since there was no indication that the scroll was a product of the Essenes from the Qumran community, he changed his identification of the scroll. He now believe that the scroll was separate from the community, although it was found at Qumran in Cave 3, it was found further back in the cave, away from the other scrolls. As a result he suggested the Copper Scroll was a separate deposit, separated by a "lapse in time." Although the text was assigned to Józef Milik, the Jordanian Director of Antiquities approached Allegro in 1957 to publish the text.
After a second approach by a new director of Jordanian Antiquities, Allegro, who had waited for signs of Milik of moving to publish, took up the second request and published an edition with translation and hand-drawn transcriptions from the original copper segments in 1960. Milik published his official edition in 1962, also with hand-drawn transcriptions, though the accompanying black-and-white photographs were "virtually illegible". The scroll was re-photographed in 1988 with greater precision. From 1994 to 1996 extensive conservation efforts by Electricité de France (EDF) included evaluation of corrosion, photography, x-rays, cleaning, making a facsimile and drawing of the letters. Emile Puech's edition had the benefit of results.
Dating - Time Line
Scholarly estimates of the probable date range of The Copper Scroll vary. F.M. Cross proposed the period of 25-75 CE on paleographical grounds, while W.F. Albright suggested 70-135 CE and Manfred Lehmann put forward a similar date range, arguing that the treasure was principally the money accumulated between the First Jewish War and the Bar Kochba War, while the temple lay in ruins. P. Kyle McCarter Jr., Albert M. Wolters, David Wilmot and Judah Lefkovits all agree that the scroll originated around 70 CE. Whereas, Emile Puech argued that the deposit of the Copper Scroll behind 40 jars could not have been placed after the jars, so the scroll "predates 68 CE." Józef Milik proposed that the scroll was written around 100 CE, nearly a "generation after the destruction of Jerusalem." If Milik's dating of the scroll is correct, it would mean that the scroll did not come from the Qumran community because his dating puts the scroll
"well after the Qumran settlement was destroyed."
Language and Writing style
The style of writing is unusual, different from the other scrolls. It is written in a style similar to MishnaicHebrew. While Hebrew is a well known language, the majority of ancient Hebrew text in which the language is studied is generally biblical in nature, which of course the Copper Scroll is not. As a result, "most of the vocabulary is simply not found in the Bible or anything else we have from ancient times." There is an unusual orthography, and the script has the features which would result from someone writing on the copper with a hammer and chisels. There is also the anomaly that seven of the location names are followed by a group of two or three Greek letters. Also, the "clauses" within the scroll mark intriguing parallels to that of Greek inventories, from the Greek temple of Apollo. This similarity to the Greek inventories, would suggest that scroll is in fact an authentic "temple inventory." Some scholars believe that the difficulty in deciphering the text is perhaps due to it having been copied from another original document by an illiterate scribe who did not speak the language in which the scroll was written, or at least was not well familiar. As Milik puts it, the scribe "uses the forms and ligature of the cursive script along with formal letters, and often confuses graphically several letters of the formal hand."
As a result, it has made translation and understanding of the text difficult.
* Angel Hill Sanctuary *