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Dead Sea Scrolls

DEAD SEA SCROLLS. These were discovered, probably in a.d. 1947, by a Bedouin and brought to the attention of the scholarly world late that year and early in 1948. The discoveries were made in caves located in the marly cliffs a mile or so (1.6 km.) west of the NW corner of the Dead Sea, at a place known by the modern Arabic name of Qumran, which is near a copious spring of fresh water known as Ain Feshkha. This location is at the eastern edge of the Wilderness of Judah. Accordingly, alternate names for the discoveries include “Qumran,” “Ain Feshkha,” or “Wilderness of Judah.”

The scrolls were seen by several scholars in the latter part of 1947, some of whom have admitted that they passed them up as forgeries. One of the scholars who recognized the antiquity of the scrolls was the late Professor Eleazar L. Sukenik of Hebrew University, who was subsequently successful in purchasing some of them. Other scrolls were taken to the American School of Oriental Research in Jerusalem, where the acting director, Dr. John C. Trever, was convinced of their value and arranged to photograph the portions that were brought to him. One of his photographs was sent to Professor William F. Albright, who promptly declared that this was “the most important discovery ever made in OT manuscripts.”

The scrolls that were purchased by the Hebrew University included the Hebrew University Isaiah Scroll (1QIsb), which is a partial scroll of the book; the Order of Warfare, also known as the War of the Sons of Light against the Sons of Darkness (1QM); and the Thanksgiving Hymns, or Hodayot (1QH). The scrolls purchased by the Syrian archbishop and published by the American Schools of Oriental Research included the St. Mark’s Isaiah Scroll (1QIsa), which is a complete scroll of the book, the Habakkuk Commentary (1QpHab) which contains the text of chapters 1 and 2 of Habakkuk with a running commentary; and the Manual of Discipline (1QS), which contains the rules for the members of the Qumran community. These all have subsequently come into the possession of the State of Israel and are housed in a shrine in the Hebrew University, Jerusalem, Israel. They have been published in numerous editions and translated into many languages, and are readily available for anyone who wishes to study them either in translation or in facsimile.

Following the discovery of these important scrolls, which are now all but unanimously accepted as having come from the last century b.c. and the first century a.d., the region from which they came was systematically explored. Numerous caves were found, and so far eleven caves have yielded materials from the same period as the original scrolls. Most of these materials have come from the fourth cave explored (known as Cave Four or 4Q); others of significance come from caves Two, Five, and Six. According to recent reports the most significant discoveries are those from Cave Eleven (11Q).

At least 382 manuscripts are represented by the fragments of Cave Four alone, about 100 of which are biblical manuscripts. These include fragments of every book of the Hebrew Bible except Esther. Some of the books are represented in many copies; e.g., 14 different manuscripts of Deuteronomy, 12 manuscripts of Isaiah, and 10 manuscripts of Psalms are represented in Cave Four; other fragments of these same books have been found in other caves. Almost complete scrolls of Psalms and Leviticus have been found in Cave Eleven, but these have not yet been published. One of the significant finds, which may turn out to have important bearing on the theories of date and authorship, concerns the Book of Daniel, fragments of which have been found with the change from Hebrew to Aramaic in Dan.2.4 and from Aramaic to Hebrew in Dan.7.28-Dan.8.1, exactly as in our modern texts of Daniel.

In addition to biblical books, fragments of deuterocanonical writings have been found, specifically Tobit and Ecclesiasticus, as well as fragments of several noncanonical writings. Some of these latter were already known, such as Jubilees, Enoch, and the Testament of Levi; others were not previously known, such as the peculiarly Qumranian documents: the Thanksgiving Psalms, the Book of Warfare, and the commentaries on portions of Scripture. These last give us insights into the nature and beliefs of the community at Qumran.

Near the cliffs on an alluvial plateau overlooking the shore of the Dead Sea is the site of an ancient building complex often referred to as the “Monastery.” This was thoroughly excavated over several seasons and has yielded important data about the nature, size, and date of the Qumran community. From coins found there, together with other remains, the community has been dated within the limits of 140 b.c. and a.d. 67. The members were almost all male, although the literature contains provisions for the admission of women and children. The number of people living there at any one time was in the neighborhood of two to four hundred. A mile or so (1.6 km.) south at Ain Feshkha the remains of other buildings were found, the nature of which is not exactly clear. The fresh water of the spring probably was used for the growing of crops and other needs of the community.

From the sect’s literature we know that the people of Qumran were Jews who had split off from the Jerusalem (or main) stream of Judaism, and indeed were quite critical of and even hostile toward the priests at Jerusalem. The fact that they used the name “The Sons of Zadok,” has suggested to some scholars that they should be connected with the Zadokites or Sadducees; other scholars believe that they are rather to be identified with the Essenes, a third sect of Judaism described by Josephus and Philo. It is not impossible that elements of truth are to be found in both of these theories and that there was originally a split in the priestly or Sadducean line that first joined the movement known as the Hasidim, the forerunners of the Pharisees, ultimately to split again and form a narrow separatist group, part of which located at Qumran. We must await further discoveries before we attempt to give a final answer to this entire problem.

The community devoted itself to the study of the Bible. The life of the community was largely ascetic, and their practices included ritual bathing, sometimes referred to as baptism. This has been understood by some to be the origin of the baptism of John the Baptist. A study of John’s baptism alongside that of the Qumranians shows, however, that the two practices were quite distinct: hence, if John did come from this community (which is not yet proven and may never be), he must have developed important distinctions in his own doctrine and practice of baptism.

Some scholars believe that Zoroastrian elements are to be found in the Qumran writings, particularly with reference to dualism and angelology. The problem is extremely complex. Zoroastrian dualism developed greatly in post-Christian times, and therefore it is precarious to assume that the Zoroastrian beliefs as we know them represent the beliefs a century or two before the time of Christ.

The discoveries of Qumran are important for biblical studies in general. The matter of the canon is not necessarily affected, since the group at Qumran was a schismatic group in the first place; and, moreover, the absence of Esther does not necessarily imply that they rejected this book from the canon. In the matter of the text of the OT, however, the Dead Sea Scrolls are of great importance. The text of the Greek OT (or the Septuagint), as well as the quotations of the OT in the NT, indicate that there were other texts besides the one that has come down to us (the Masoretic Text). The study of the Dead Sea Scrolls makes it clear that at the time of their production, which would be about the time of the production of the Scriptures used by the NT authors, there were at least three texts in existence: one we might call the ancestor of the Masoretic Text; the second was a text closely related to that used by the translators of the Septuagint; the third was a text differing from both of these other texts. The differences are not great and at no point do they involve doctrinal matters; but for careful textual study of the OT it is important that we free ourselves from the notion that the Masoretic Text is the only authentic text. As a matter of fact, the quotations of the OT found in the NT rather imply that it was not the Masoretic Text that was most commonly in use by NT authors. These statements should be qualified by pointing out that the quality of the text varies from book to book in the OT, and that there is much more uniformity in the text of the Pentateuch than in some of the other portions of the Hebrew Bible. The Dead Sea Scrolls have particularly made great contributions to the study of the text of Samuel.

In relation to the NT, the Dead Sea Scrolls are likewise of importance. There are no NT texts in the discoveries at Qumran, obviously, since the earliest book of the NT had been written only very shortly before the destruction of the Qumran community. Moreover, there was no reason why any of the NT writings should have reached Qumran. On the other hand, there are certain references and presuppositions found in the NT, particularly in the preaching of John the Baptist and Jesus Christ and in the writings of Paul and John, that are placed against a background now recognizably similar to that furnished by the documents from Qumran. Thus, for example, the Gnostic background found in certain Pauline writings and formerly thought to be second- century Greek Gnosticism—thus requiring a late date for the composition of Colossians—is now recognized as a Jewish Gnosticism of the first century or earlier. Similarly the fourth Gospel is shown to be Palestinian and not Hellenistic.

A great deal has been written concerning the relationship of Jesus Christ to the Qumran community. There is no evidence in the Qumran documents that Jesus was a member of the sect, and nothing in the NT requires such a position. Rather, the outlook of Jesus with reference to the world and particularly toward his own people is diametrically opposite that of Qumran, and it can be safely asserted that he was not a member of that group at any time. He may have had some disciples who had come out of that background, particularly those who were formerly disciples of John the Baptist—though this is far from proven. The attempt to show that the Qumran Teacher of Righteousness was the pattern for the gospel protrayal of Jesus cannot be established on the basis of the Dead Sea Scrolls. The Teacher of Righteousness was a fine young man with high ideals who died untimely; there is, however, no clear statement that he was put to death, certainly no indication that he was crucified or rose from the dead or that the Qumranians expected him to return. The difference between Jesus and the Teacher of Righteousness stands out clearly at several points: the Teacher of Righteousness was never referred to as the Son of God or God Incarnate; his death was not sacrificial in its nature; the sacramental meal (if such it was indeed) was not viewed as a memorial of his death or a pledge of his return in any way connected with the forgiveness of sin. Obviously in the case of Jesus Christ, all of these things are clearly asserted, not once but repeatedly in the NT, and indeed form a necessary basis without which there is no Christian faith.——WSLS

Discovered in 1947 and subsequently in caves near the northwestern end of the Dead Sea, the scrolls are the outstanding find of the century. They have posed and continue to pose many problems, particularly in regard to date and connection with the Essenes* already known from the writings of Philo, Josephus, and the elder Pliny. But intensive work on the scrolls and on the site of their discovery has made certain conclusions reasonably assured.

The scrolls are the work of a community of Jews who after a violent quarrel with the priesthood of Jerusalem made a home for themselves in the torrid region adjoining the Dead Sea. The settlement began probably at the time Jonathan, brother and successor to Judas Maccabaeus, became high priest in 153 b.c., and continued (save for a break of about thirty or forty years in the time of Herod the Great) until the war with Rome of a.d. 66- 73. The scrolls are probably from between 20 b.c. and a.d. 70.

All the scrolls have suffered damage to some extent, and many are reduced to small fragments. The story of how the copper scroll was unrolled illustrates the drama which surrounds the scrolls generally. Those scrolls so far discovered and deciphered can be classified thus:

(1) Interpretation. There is a whole series of commentaries on the books of the OT. They interpret the text as fulfilled in the events surrounding the founding of the community. One of the two Isaiah scrolls found in cave 1 contains the complete Hebrew text of Isaiah. It indicates that the Massoretic text was substantially fixed by Christian times, which few scholars would previously have dared to assert with any confidence. The work on Habakkuk, useful for its information on the history of the sect, follows a phrase-by-phrase type of commentary (pesher) peculiar to Qumran. The fact that this scroll has nothing on the third chapter of Habakkuk is taken to support the long-held view of some scholars that this chapter was part of the original Habakkuk. Fragments of other pesherim on Nahum and Psalm 37 have been found. A looser sort of commentary is the midrashim. The best example is the Genesis Apocryphon. It eulogizes the patriarchs as examples to be followed, emphasizing the beauty of Noah and Sarah. A new literary genre found only in Qumran is the florilegia, or collections of biblical texts. Some of these are interesting for their Messianic allusions.

(2) Discipline. Very influential in the life of the community was the so-called Manual of Discipline. Fragments of no less than eleven MSS have been found. This scroll contains very valuable information on rules for membership of the community, beliefs held, directions on admission, discipline, the holy life, and the praise of God.

(3) Praise. The scrolls known as the Psalms of Thanksgiving are moving compositions. Written on the lines of the OT Psalms, they are intended as individual prayers more than for community worship. Some of these compositions appear to reflect the experiences of the teacher of the sect and may in fact have been written by him. Fragments of hymns, prayers, and blessings for public worship have also been discovered.

(4) Hope. In all the scrolls there is a strong eschatological hope. These Jews believed they would one day resume the worship of God at Jerusalem. This explains the “New Jerusalem” texts which are based on the vision of Ezekiel 40-48. A dramatic description of the battle whereby the Children of Light will overcome their enemies and establish themselves at Jerusalem is found in the War Scroll.

The scrolls are invaluable for the study of the text of the OT and its transmission. The fragments of the Pseudepigrapha and Apocrypha provide specimens of what these texts were like in the original, and thus enable scholars for the first time to assess the fidelity of our translated versions. Most important of all is the invaluable information which the scrolls have to give on Jewish life and thought at the time of Jesus Christ and the beginning of the Christian Church. Compared with the rigidity and ultraconservatism of Qumran, Orthodox Judaism is seen to be flexible and progressive, and compared with both, Christianity is unique and inspired.

Material on the subject is considerable, and includes M. Burrows, The Dead Sea Scrolls (1955); T.H. Gaster, The Scriptures of the Dead Sea Sect in English Translation (1956); E. Wilson, The Scrolls from the Dead Sea (1957).

DEAD SEA SCROLLS. The popular name given to a collection of MS material belonging originally to an ancient religious community living near the Dead Sea.


Early discoveries.

The exact date when the material was found is uncertain, but is thought to have been early in 1947. A Bedouin goatherd searching for lost animals entered one of the caves high in the marly cliffs of the Wadi Qumran, a m. or so W of the NW corner of the Dead Sea and a little over eight m. S of Jericho. There he stumbled upon several jars somewhat over two ft. in height and almost ten inches wide, containing leather scrolls wrapped in linen cloth. They were removed from the cave and subsequently smuggled to an antique dealer in Bethlehem, who bought some of them, while the rest came into the possession of the archbishop of the Syrian Orthodox monastery in Jerusalem.

Several scholars examined the scrolls during 1947, some of whom discredited the MSS as forgeries. But the late E. L. Sukenik of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem recognized the antiquity of the scrolls and was able to purchase three of them. Other MSS were taken to the American Schools of Oriental Research, where the acting Director, J. C. Trever, realized their value and promptly photographed them, sending some prints to W. F. Albright, the eminent Biblical archeologist. The opinion of the latter that the scrolls represented the most important discovery ever made in OT MSS has been amply confirmed by subsequent researches.

By the time the value of the scrolls had become apparent, the Arab-Israeli war of 1948 made it impossible for the original cave (1Q) to be located and explored scientifically. However, this was accomplished in 1949 by G. L. Harding of the Jordanian Department of Antiquities and R. de Vaux of the École Biblique in Jerusalem who recovered several hundred fragments of Biblical, non-Biblical and apocryphal writings, some of which were unknown previously. The cave had formed the repository of a library comprising about 200 scrolls, and may have been discovered on an earlier occasion if a report of Eusebius is correct that Origen (a.d. 185-254) had employed a Gr. tr. of the Psalms, recovered from a cave near Jericho. This may also have been the same library as the “little house of books” which a shepherd found near Jericho about a.d. 800, and which was subsequently reported to the Nestorian Patriarch Timothy I.

The Palestinian conflict made it desirable for the scrolls in possession of the Syrian archbishop to be brought to the U.S. in 1948, where they were published by M. Burrows, J. C. Trever and W. H. Brownlee. They included a complete scroll of the prophecy of Isaiah (1QIsa), a commentary on the Book of Habakkuk (1QpHab), and a document which Burrows styled the “Manual of Discipline” (1QS), because it contained the rules for community life at Qumran. One scroll, at first believed to be an apocalypse of Lamech, could not be opened at the time, and it was only in 1956 that the MS was unrolled and found to comprise an Aram. paraphrase of early chs. of the Book of Genesis. It was published in 1956 under the title, A Genesis Apocryphon.

The scrolls acquired by E. L. Sukenik included a fragmentary scroll of Isaiah (1QIsb), a War Scroll (1QM) and four portions of a collection of Thanksgiving Hymns or Hodayoth (1QH). The entire group was published in 1954 after Sukenik’s death by his son, Y. Yadin, under the title Osar Hammegilloth Haggenuzoth or “treasury of the hidden scrolls.” The fragments recovered from the first Qumran cave were published in 1955 by D. Barthélemy and J. T. Milik under the designation, Qumran Cave I.

Further explorations.

Toward the end of 1951 some new MS fragments were found by Bedouins in two caves of the Wadi Murabba’at, about eleven m. S of 1Q and two m. W of the Dead Sea. Clandestine investigators anticipated the official excavation of the caves in 1952, but despite this, several Biblical MSS of the Masoretic textual variety were found, including a scroll of the minor prophets, potsherds inscribed in Gr. and Heb., two Gr. literary papyri in fragmentary condition, coins from the Second Jewish Revolt (a.d. 132-135) which dated the occupational level accurately in the Rom. period, and other less significant artifacts. Important sources for a study of the Second Jewish Revolt against Rome were some papyrus letters in Heb., two of which were signed by Simon Bar-Kokhba and addressed to a certain Joshua ben Galgola, apparently the commander of the military outpost at the Wadi Murabba’at.

Another MS discovery was made in 1952 in the ruins of a monastery about eight m. NE of Bethlehem at a site known as Khirbet Mird. These documents were much later in date than those recovered from other sites, being assigned to a period between the 5th and 9th centuries a.d. The Biblical MSS were of Christian origin, written in both Greek and Palestinian Syriac. The literary material from the Wadi Murabba’at and Khirbet Mird, though interesting and important archeologically, is not directly related to the scrolls and fragments from Qumran.

From 1952, serious attempts were made to locate and explore other caves in the rugged terrain near the Wadi Qumran, the result of which has been that eleven caves have been discovered in the vicinity and have yielded a varied assortment of MSS, fragments, pottery and the like. The second Qumran cave (2Q), discovered in 1952, had already been looted by Ta’amireh Bedouin tribesmen before the official party arrived, and only a few tiny fragments of MSS were found at the site. The third cave (3Q), located about one m. N of 1Q, contained 274 Heb. and Aram. fragments as well as two copper scrolls. The latter had become oxidized, and great technical difficulties confronted those attempting to unroll them. Early in 1956 the rolls were specially treated and cut into strips at the Manchester College of Technology. A textual loss of under five percent occurred in the process, and when tr. the rolls were found to contain information relating to the locations of treasure hoards.

Cave four (4Q), located just W of Khirbet Qumran was discovered in 1952 and contained a wealth of fragments of nearly all the Biblical books (except, apparently, Esther), many familiar and unknown apocryphal writings, commentaries, liturgical texts and other literary works. Caves five to ten, in the vicinity of Qumran yielded less significant material, but cave eleven (11Q), discovered in 1956, contained several relatively complete scrolls. All the fragments recovered from the various sites are at the time of writing being cleaned, classisified and published by an international team of scholars, but it will be many years before the task is completed. In 1955 it was announced that the MSS originally in possession of the Syrian monastery had been acquired by the State of Israel, and the Dead Sea Scrolls are now housed with other ancient documents in the Heb. University of Jerusalem in an edifice known as the “Shrine of the Book.”

Dating the scrolls.

When reports were circulated concerning the antiquity of the scrolls and the early date assigned to those in the possession of Sukenik, many scholars were frankly incredulous, and almost immediately an acrimonious debate arose on the matter. Unfortunately it was conducted for the most part by those who only knew of the discoveries at second hand, and who were unaware of corroborating archeological evidence. Sukenik had assigned a date not later than a.d. 70 for the scrolls which he had studied, and if this was correct it meant that the textual evidence for the Heb. OT had been advanced by at least a millennium. They would thus be by far the oldest surviving Heb. MSS, and of priceless value for the textual critic.

Many who were skeptical were aware that literary hoaxes had been foisted previously on unsuspecting Biblical scholars, particularly in the 19th cent. When it was announced that the original cave (1Q) had been rediscovered and excavated officially, the whole matter appeared in very different perspective. The problem of dating is basically fourfold in nature, involving the date of composition of the literary works, the period when copies of the documents were made, the date to be assigned to the linen in which some scrolls were wrapped, and finally, the actual time when the jars were deposited in the caves.

It is almost impossible to answer the first question satisfactorily with respect to most of the Biblical material, with the exception of pesharim, or “Commentaries.” Thus in the case of the Book of Isaiah, the earliest extant MS is now 1QIsa, assigned by Burrows to about 100 b.c., and is at the most some 600 years subsequent to the draft form entrusted by Isaiah to his disciples (Isa 8:16). The Habakkuk commentary presents a twofold problem, since the pesher is obviously later in date than the book itself. If the commentary portion of 1QpHab is to be dated before 100 b.c., this then becomes the earliest external evidence for the text of the canonical book. The date of the pesher depends partly on the identification of the militant Kittim, with which the sect was concerned, and which have been identified variously with the Seleucid forces of Antiochus IV Epiphanes (175-164 b.c.), the military might of Alexander Janneus (103-76 b.c.), the occupation forces of the Rom. period in Pal., particularly during the first Jewish War (a.d. 66-70), and even the Christian Crusaders of the medieval period.

The date of composition of 1QS, 1QH and 1QM has encountered as wide a range of scholarly opinion as that of the Biblical documents. To what extent the contents of 1QH had been in circulation before the Christian era is hard to say, but it seems evident that the document was a copy of an earlier MS, and not the original autograph. The Qumran scrolls, whether copies or originals came from a general historical period beginning about 250 b.c. and ending with the abandonment of the Qumran site in a.d. 68. Burrows has dated 1QS and 1QIsa about 100 b.c., while assigning 1QM, 1QH and 1QIsb along with the Genesis Apocryphon to the first quarter of the 1st cent. b.c. He has also maintained that 1QpHab was written during the last quarter of the 1st cent. b.c., and these estimates, based primarily upon paleographic evidence, were shown to be remarkably close when correlated with subsequent archeological discoveries.

The potsherds excavated from 1Q belonged either to the Hel. period and were dated from the 1st cent. b.c., or to the Rom. period from about the 3rd cent. a.d. The pieces of cloth removed from 1Q proved to be linen of local manufacture, and were dated by means of the radiocarbon method of computation. This is based on the fact that every living organism contains a proportion of radioactive carbon-14, which is unstable and begins to degenerate when the species dies. The half life of a radioactive carbon atom is 5,500 years and computation of the age of organic material can be achieved by reducing it to carbon through burning, and then measuring the carbon-14 residue by means of a highly-sensitive radiation counter. There is naturally a small margin of error, and the present range of measurement does not exceed 30,000 years. W. F. Libby of Chicago, who had pioneered this method of dating, tested the flax from Qumran and announced that it had ceased to absorb carbon-14 in a.d. 33, with a plus or minus margin of 200 years, furnishing a complete range of from 168 b.c. to a.d. 233. The median date thus obtained confirmed the antiquity of the scrolls, and needed only to be corroborated by archeological discoveries at Khirbet Qumran.

The actual time when the jars and their contents were placed in the caves of Qumran for safety is less easy to establish. R. de Vaux maintained that the caves had formed an emergency storage place for the lit. of the sectaries, and if this is so the jars could have been deposited on several occasions during the troubled period in which the Qumran sectaries lived. On paleographic grounds it seems clear that all copies of the scrolls in 1Q had been made by a.d. 70 at the latest, and it is most probable that the MSS were hidden locally just before community life at Qumran ended in a.d. 68.

Contents of manuscripts.

The contents of the major scrolls can now be surveyed briefly, beginning with the large Isaiah MS (1QIsa). In surprisingly good condition, it comprised fifty-four columns of clear Heb. script written on seventeen sheets of leather stitched end to end. It measured twenty-four ft. in length and was about a ft. wide. The text averaged twenty-nine lines to each column, and was set out in clearly marked paragraphs and sections. Despite considerable handling in antiquity there were only ten lacunae in the MS and about a dozen small holes, making restoration of the text comparatively easy. The activity of several different hands in the MS was evident, and scribal errors had been corrected in numerous ways. Certain curious marginal symbols were present in the MS, and may have served to divide up the prophecy for liturgical reading. The fairly numerous transcriptional errors in 1QIsa could have arisen from the MS being dictated, but aside from these the scroll lends impressive support to the Masoretic textual tradition. The orthography of 1QIsa exhibits certain phonetic characteristics which are less prominent in the MT, and which comprise in part a contemporary phonetic spelling designed to facilitate reading without changing the traditional pronounciation. This particular deviation is valuable in enabling scholars to know the way in which Heb. was enunciated with regard to long vowel sounds just before the Christian era, and in showing that Hebrew persisted as a living language after the 2nd cent. b.c.

The fragmentary Sukenik scroll (1QIsb) consisted of one large portion and several smaller sections, most of the script of which could be deciphered only by infra-red photography. When assembled into four sheets the two smaller ones, containing material from the earlier chs. of the prophecy, averaged ten inches by six inches, while the larger section, comprising the last third of the prophecy, measured eighteen inches by eight inches. The text approximated closely indeed to the Masoretic tradition, using the older form of spelling current after the Exile.

The most clearly written scroll of all was the Habakkuk commentary (1QpHab), which consisted of two parchment strips stitched together and measuring five ft. by seven inches approximately. As with the other scrolls, the letters were suspended from faintly ruled lines and the text was grouped in columns. Deterioration of the leather resulted in several lines being lost from the bottom of each column. Only the first two chs. of the canonical Habakkuk had survived in the scroll, prob. because the third, a poem, was unsuited to the exegetical aims of the sect. The commentator cited short sections of Habakkuk and then explained them eschatologically or allegorically in terms of the history of the Qumran brotherhood. Interpretative principles of the Jewish midrashim, or expositions, were present in the text, including cryptic and eschatological references, the mechanical rearrangement of letters in a word, the interchanging of similar letters and the shortening or division of similar words. The commentary did not explain the meaning of the canonical prophecy, but instead pointed out the existence of certain conditions within the sect from which the scroll originated. The opposition of a wicked priest and the ruthless Kittim were dominant concerns, for these two powers represented the spiritual and temporal opponents of the sectaries. Needless to say, their identification has provoked a good deal of contemporary discussion.

The so-called Manual of Discipline (1QS) or Community Rule was recovered in two separate sections, which when joined formed a document about six ft. by nine and a half inches. Originally the scroll had been at least seven ft. long, but the beginning has not survived. The script was remarkably clear, and the style of writing was similar to that of the scribe who copied out 1QIsa. The text comprised eleven columns with about twenty-six lines to each column, the precise number being uncertain because of the damage sustained by the scroll. This work is by far the most important source of information concerning the religious sect at Qumran. It began with a statement of requirements from those aspiring to “enter into the Covenant,” and this was followed by the liturgical form of initiation. A section of the text dealt with the Qumran doctrine of man, and this was followed by a list of community rules occupying five columns, the MS concluding with a devotional psalm.

When Sukenik acquired the Thanksgiving Hymns they were in four separate portions, one of which was very difficult to unroll. Parts of the collection were badly decayed and needed infrared photography before becoming legible. The original document had comprised fifteen columns of about twelve inches in height with up to thirty-nine lines of script per column. The overall length was prob. seven and a half ft. The calligraphy showed the activities of two scribes, and the collection of hymns numbered about twenty. They reflected two distinctive pre-Christian types of liturgical writing, namely “thanksgiving” hymns commencing with an act of praise to God and “benedictory” compositions in which a formula of blessing opened the psalm. The collection showed many points of contact with Hebrew and Ugaritic traditions, and in the matter of the personal relationship existing between God and the worshiper they were particularly close to the thought of the Psalter. These poetic writings were prob. the most original of the spiritual expressions to emerge from Qumran.

The last of the four scrolls originally acquired by the Syrian Metropolitan defied many attempts at unrolling, but its contents were finally revealed in 1954. The badly deteriorated state of the work suggested prolonged exposure to unfavorable climatic conditions, and reconstruction of the text was extremely difficult. Preliminary scrutiny had suggested that the scroll was the long lost apocryphal Book of Lamech, but it proved to be an Aram. VS of several chs. from Genesis, dealing in paraphrase form and midrashic insertions with the lives of the patriarchs. The original scroll had prob. measured nine ft. in length and about a ft. in width. The text had been inscribed in a clear hand, but the ink had apparently reacted on the leather to produce holes in the scroll, a situation which would suggest a hurried or careless preparation of the material.

The scroll sometimes known as the Rule of War (1QM) was originally issued by Sukenik under the title of “The War of the Sons of Light with the Sons of Darkness.” It was preserved in good condition, and when unrolled it was nine ft. in length and almost seven inches in width. The text had been written on four sheets in eighteen columns, with the remains of another column from a fifth sheet completing the scroll. It dealt in an eschatological manner with the prosecution of a war between Levi, Benjamin and Judah as the “Sons of Light” and those enemies of Israel which included the Greeks, Philistines, Moabites and Edomites as the “Sons of Darkness.” The forthcoming conflict was introduced by means of a short prologue, followed by a detailed series of directions for the conduct of the battle and several prayers to be uttered at different times by the “Sons of Light.” Precisely what the sectaries had in mind when this material was written has been the subject of much debate, and it is, at the time of writing, uncertain whether they were thinking in terms of an actual military engagement or an apocalyptic Armageddon.

Three fragments of Daniel recovered from 1Q were found to have come from two different scrolls. Two of them were related palaeographically to the large Isaiah scroll, while the other was very similar to the script of 1QpHab. Two pieces preserved portions of the same ch. of Daniel, while the third included the point where the Aram. section of Daniel began. The text was in essence that of the Masoretes, and the chief differences had to do, like those of 1QIsa, with the spelling of words.

Other fragments from Qumran included some 200 scraps found in the second cave (2Q), among which were portions of the Torah, the Psalter, Jeremiah and Ruth. Non-Biblical texts seemed to predominate, however, and were mainly apocalyptic or Messianic in nature. From 3Q, about a m. N of 1Q, came several hundred mixed MS scraps of Biblical and non-Biblical writings. The most significant discovery in this cave was that of two copper scrolls which had escaped destruction when the cave roof collapsed in antiquity. One scroll was in two sections, and originally the strips may have been fastened together to form a sheet of metal about eight ft. long and a ft. wide. The complete oxidization of the metal made unrolling almost impossible, and it was only in 1956 that it was decided to cut the metal into strips, a process which fortunately was executed with little textual loss. The rolls contained a list of about sixty treasure caches, and described their locations in various parts of ancient Judea, some of which cannot be identified. The lettering in the metal had been punched out hurriedly and the finished work rolled up quickly by unskilled hands, suggesting that the treasure had been disposed of and the list compiled in a time of emergency, perhaps about a.d. 68.

An estimate of the value of the items detailed in the copper scroll has placed it as high as six thousand talents, or about two hundred tons of gold and silver. Such a vast hoard of wealth seems out of character with a sect which had a renunciation of riches and communal living as two of its most important regulative factors, and a satisfactory explanation of the situation has not been forthcoming to date. Quite aside from the historical nature of this catalog, the text itself is of great importance since it was written in a colloquial dialect of the 1st cent. a.d. rather than in standard literary Heb. Prior to the discovery of the copper scrolls, the only extant representatives of this dialect were some Jewish religious treatises of which the Mishnah (2nd cent. a.d.) was the oldest.

Manuscript scraps.

A great many fragments were recovered in 1952 from another cave (4Q) located near Khirbet Qumran. Probably over 300 books had been stored there originally, about one-third of which were canonical in nature. Fragments of every OT book with the exception of Esther were represented in the cache, along with such extra-Biblical compositions as the Book of Enoch, the Damascus Document, the Testament of Levi, and others. A section of Numbers (4QNumb) exhibited a type of Heb. text midway between the LXX and Samaritan varieties, while a portion of Samuel (4QSama) contained a text which was not only close to that underlying the LXX, but also was nearer to the text of Samuel employed by the Chronicler than was the MT. Yet another fragment of Samuel (4QSamb) is thought to exhibit a text type which is superior alike to the LXX and the Masoretic tradition.

The fifth cave contained some almost completely decomposed fragments including portions of Kings, Lamentations and Deuteronomy, as well as an Aram. eschatological work entitled Description of the New Jerusalem, which was also represented in other caves. 6Q contained several hundred papyrus and leather fragments including small portions of Genesis and Leviticus written in palaeo-Heb. script, sections of Kings and five fragments of Daniel. Non-Biblical books were represented by some apocalyptic writings and a number of Aram. compositions. Five other caches were subsequently found in the Qumran area, the latest of which (11Q), discovered in 1956, yielded several scrolls in a very good state of preservation, including two MSS of Daniel and a damaged Book of Psalms. Equally notable was the recovery from the same cave of an Aram. targum of Job, which was prob. composed in the 1st cent. b.c.

The fragments found in the Murabba’at area in 1952 came almost entirely from the second cave (2Mu), and comprised 2nd cent. a.d. documents written in Gr., Heb. and Aram. Of these, prob. the most important was a papyrus palimpsest inscribed in an archaic hand which appears earlier than the 6th cent. b.c. script of the Lachish ostraca, and which was assigned by J. T. Milik to the 8th cent. b.c. It contains a short list of masculine names. Fragments of the Pentateuch and the Book of Isaiah from 2Mu exhibited minute agreement with the MT, and have been dated in the 2nd cent. a.d. Some additional light was thrown on the latter period with the recovery of a few Heb. papyri written by Simon Ben-Kokhba, the leader of the ill-starred Second Jewish Revolt against Rome (a.d. 132-135) to his forces positioned in the Wadi Murabba’at region. Other material of the same period, written in cursive Lat., showed that the fortified post at Murabba’at had been occupied by the Romans later. The fact that the letters from 2Mu had been written in Heb. is further proof of the fact that it had survived into the Christian era as a living tongue.

In 1953 Belgian archeologists found further MSS fragments at Khirbet Mird, N of Bethlehem which included Arab., Gr., Syr. and Christo-Palestinian material. All the documents recovered were of later date than those from either Qumran or Murabba’at. At a place still unidentified at the time of writing there was found in 1952 a fragmentary Gr. text of the minor prophets, written on leather in a beautiful uncial hand and containing portions of Micah, Jonah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah and Zechariah. It was dated by Barthélemy in the 1st cent. a.d., and is of great value for the textual critic in supporting the claim of the LXX to be a reliable witness to an early textual tradition. The fragments comprise a VS which is a revision of the LXX, and which was most prob. the text which influenced the VSS made from the Heb. original in the 2nd cent. a.d. by Aquila, Theodotion and Symmachus.

The Qumran settlement.

While the Qumran area was being excavated officially in 1949, the attention of the archeologists was drawn to some ruins on a rocky plateau about one m. S of 1Q. After preliminary soundings the excavation of the ruin or khirbeh was undertaken thoroughly in 1952, revealing the presence of a large complex of rooms, one of which contained broken plaster benches. There was also a large water cistern joined in antiquity by means of an aqueduct to some natural reservoirs further along the escarpment. Of particular significance was the discovery of an intact jar, identical in size and shape with the pieces recovered from 1Q, and this established beyond question an immediate link between the occupants of the ruin (known as Khirbet Qumran) and the MSS from 1Q. It became evident that a religious community had once lived at the site and had been responsible for the documents deposited in the nearby caves. A cemetery was found adjoining the khirbeh containing male and female skeletons, and this made the connection all the more sure. Subsequent campaigns at the site uncovered the entire community complex. On the NW corner of the main structure was a large fortified tower, which had apparently been buttressed following a severe earthquake in 31 b.c. when it was damaged on the E side and on the SE corner. The principal community building of an area of about 120 ft. square was located N of the refectory and kitchen. To the SW were four or five rooms which may have served as places of study and prayer. One of these, the scriptorium, contained the remains of plaster benches where in all probability some of the Qumran scrolls had been copied. Two inkwells of the Rom. period, one made of earthenware and the other of brass, helped to date the deposit accurately.

At the SE corner of the complex the excavators unearthed the remains of a workshop containing the tools used by the community members. A pottery kiln was also discovered nearby, indicating that the community was virtually self-supporting. Latrines, conduits and cisterns were in considerable evidence in the well-planned community settlement. From the abundance of cisterns and reservoirs it has been supposed that the religious sect placed a good deal of emphasis upon rites involving ceremonial washings. It is also true that the sheer physical needs of a community of perhaps 500 persons would require the provision of ample supplies of water. It is thought that the community derived its principal staple commodities such as grain, vegetables and meat from 'Ain Feshka, a date palm oasis lying about two m. S of the khirbeh, on the W coast of the Dead Sea.

The potsherds and coins recovered during the excavations helped further to determine the connection between the religious sect and the Qumran scrolls. The potsherds came from three occupational levels, c. 110-31 b.c., a.d. 1-68 and a.d. 66-100 respectively. During the third season (1954) a cylindrical jar of the same shape and pattern as those from 1Q was found in a storeroom S of the principal building, reinforcing the connection between the sect and the cave deposits.

Many coins were recovered from the khirbeh but none from the Qumran caves, indicating that all monetary dealings took place within the settlement alone. The coin deposits have enabled an accurate dating of the various occupational levels to be made, and indicate that the first such period began during the time of John Hyrcanus (135-104 b.c.) and continued without interruption till the reign of Mattathias (40-37 b.c.), the last of the Hasmoneans. Only one coin came from the period of Herod the Great (37-4 b.c.) in contrast to the series belonging to his son Herod Archelaus (4 b.c.-a.d. 6). Other deposits represented the period of the Rom. procurators of Judaea, along with twenty-three coins of the reign of Herod Agrippa I (a.d. 37-44). Some coins came from the period following the fall of Jerusalem in a.d. 70, while about a dozen from Level III were dated in the Second Jewish Revolt.

The Qumran brotherhood


The general character of the Qumran sect has become evident through the MSS discoveries, and particularly from the contents of the Community Rule (1QS), although not all problems relating to the nature of the brotherhood have been solved. The sect comprised a group of priests and laymen pursuing a communal life of strict dedication to God. The mysteries of prophecy had been revealed to the founder, a priest described as the Righteous Teacher; an important feature of community life was the interpretation of Scripture in terms of the witness of the sect and the end of the age. The Righteous Teacher had been sent by God to announce the punishment which was to come upon Israel. According to the Habakkuk commentary, the Righteous Teacher knew even more of the eschatological implications of this than did the prophet himself. Though ostensibly delayed, the end would come, but a remnant would survive. This latter was the Qumran community, which had pleased God because of its fidelity to the Torah and its trust in the Righteous Teacher.

This general message was rejected flatly by the Wicked Priest and his followers, whose concerns were apparently with things other than the spirituality of the Torah. The reference to the Wicked Priest was evidently to the office of High Priest in Jerusalem, since the incumbent was spoken of as “ruling in Israel” and bearing the “true name.” While a broad allusion to the High Priesthood was doubtless intended it seems clear that a specific clash between the Righteous Teacher and the Jerusalem High Priesthood had occurred at some point in the early history of the sect, for the pesher spoke of the Wicked Priest persecuting the Righteous Teacher and doing the latter physical harm. The issue reached a climax on the Day of Atonement, when the Wicked Priest “consumed” the Righteous Teacher and made his followers stumble, presumably a reference to the death of the leader and the dispersion of the sectaries.

However, the persecuting Wicked Priest was himself overtaken by his enemies, and in company with the “last priests of Jerusalem” he was delivered into the power of his enemies. The commentary thought in even broader terms of the destruction of the whole nation by those valiant and proud agents of divine anger in the last days, who were described as the Kittim. In the OT this name was used of the people of Cyprus (Gen 10:4 RSV; Isa 23:1, 12 ASV; Jer 2:10; Ezek 27:6, et al.), and in the Apoc. as a designation of the Greeks (1 Macc 1:1; 8:5 [tr. Macedonians]; mg.). In later Jewish authors the name was applied cryptically to any victorious power regardless of the particular epoch, and this tradition may be reflected in 1QM, where the Kittim of Assyria were mentioned. However, the Kittim of 1QpHab can only be either the Greeks or the Romans. While the conquering armies of Alexander were partially maritime in origin, those of his successors, the Seleucids and Ptolemies, came from Syria and Egypt, not from the “coastlands of the sea.” Furthermore, the Seleucid and Ptolemaic forces do not correspond fully to certain other aspects of the Kittim as outlined in the commentary.

A more probable identification is with the Rom. armies, who accord with the description of the Kittim better than any other earlier imperial power. They came from distant maritime places, were under the command of a “guilty house,” sacrificed to their standards, and venerated their weapons of war. This latter form of cult worship was apparently common in the 1st cent. b.c., when the Romans regarded the “eagles” as sacred objects and offered worship to them accordingly. Josephus recorded that this custom was still in existence in the 1st cent. a.d., for he described the way in which the Rom. legions erected their standards near the E Gate of the Temple compound and offered sacrifices to them prior to storming the Temple in a.d. 70.

If the Kittim can be identified with the Romans it may be that 1QpHab described the occupation of Judaea under Pompey in 63 b.c. In that event, the Wicked Priest may have been either Alexander Jannaeus or Aristobulus II, although assured identification is difficult. Precisely who the Righteous Teacher was is also uncertain, particularly since some of the allusions prob. referred to an office rather than an individual. Two fragmentary pesharim also mentioned the struggle between the Righteous Teacher and the Wicked Priest. The pesher of Psalm 37 described the divine mission of the Righteous Teacher and his task of occupying the Holy City and its Temple. The text of this fragment said that the Wicked Priest had been sent to kill the Righteous Teacher and to slay “the upright of the way.” In portions of a Nahum pesher were mentioned a certain Antiochus and also a man named Demetrius, “king of Javan,” presumably Demetrius III of Damascus who aided the Pharisees against their despotic ruler Alexander Jannaeus (103-76 b.c.). It is possible that the reference in the pesher to the Lion of Wrath “hanging up men alive” refers to the revenge of Jannaeus after a victory by Demetrius, but the cryptic use of terms in the pesharim makes this uncertain. Against this background the sect would seem to have been a splinter group within Judaism, originating most prob. in the days of Antiochus IV Epiphanes (175-163 b.c.), and organized as an orthodox theological group under the Righteous Teacher in the Judaean settlement at various times between 175 b.c. and a.d. 70.

Community life.

For this the Community Rule is an invaluable guide to the organization of the sect, which comprised a group of priests and laymen following a communal existence in dedication to God. According to 1QS, those desirous of “entering into the Covenant” had to comply with certain preliminary procedures, after which they were initiated on a probationary basis, reaching full membership after three years. Each member was subsequently required to renew his pledge of obedience annually, when he was also reminded of those faults which could result in his expulsion from the brotherhood. The fifth column of 1QS supplied the rules for community government, from which it is evident that the sect was controlled by elders and priests for the purpose of engaging in Biblical study and participating in a sacramental type of worship.

The sect clearly regarded itself as the true Israel, awaiting the establishment of divine rule on earth. The expectation of the Messianic advent loomed large in the thought of the brotherhood, partly because the sectaries were required to follow their pattern of living according to the Torah until the coming of a prophet and two Messianic figures styled “the anointed ones of Aaron and Israel.” In a document entitled the Zadokite Work, a religious group known as the Covenanters of Damascus, which has striking affinities with the Qumran fellowship and with which it has been identified by many scholars, there occurred the designation “the Messiah of Aaron and Israel,” pointing to the expectation of a single individual. The Messianic concepts of the sect were summarized in a document from 4Q containing a series of Biblical texts. Beginning with the promise to Moses that a prophet would arise (Deut 18:18) it continued with a citation from the Balaam oracles (Num 24:15ff.) and ended with the blessing of Moses (Deut 33:8ff.), along with a quotation from a hitherto unknown pseudepigraphical work.

The Community Rule depicted the Messiah participating in a banquet in the New Age. Those present were assembled in order of seniority, and the presiding priest blessed the bread and wine. After this the Messiah, who was evidently occupying a subordinate position, blessed the food also. The banquet was clearly apocalyptic in nature, yet at the same time had definite sacramental qualities. The ritual could be followed at any time by variant numbers of participants from those laid down, and the sense of expectation of the events ushering in the divine kingdom was a prominent feature of the ceremony. For the sectaries, the kingdom would emerge after the Kittim of various countries had been conquered and Israel had emerged triumphant. It would be characterized by a theocratic system with a sacrificial order and a priesthood which had much in common with the thought of Ezekiel.

Ritual lustrations occupied a large place in the practices of the sect, and adequate amounts of water were provided for these purposes. The spiritual implications of such rites were stressed, making it clear that true repentance and submission to God alone determined whether or not a person was cleansed as a result of these ceremonies. The Torah was studied day and night at Qumran, and sacred festivals were strictly observed. Theologically, the covenanters are believed to have held to a dualistic view of the universe in which the spirits of light and darkness, God and evil, were placed in ethical opposition in a Zoroastrian fashion. The struggle between them would be resolved only on the Day of Judgment, a theme elaborated in 1QM in the description of the apocalyptic battle between the offspring of light and darkness and for which the sect had to prepare. Despite their tendency toward dualism, the members stressed truth, justice, humility and devotion, seeking by their disciplined life to acquire such virtues.

Relation to Essenes.

The fellowship at Qumran has often been described as Essene, but despite such similarities as the monastic life, manual labor, spiritual devotion and the like, there are certain striking differences between them. Unlike most Essenes, the Qumran sectaries practiced marriage, indulged in animal sacrifices, were non-pacifists, and avoided all contact with the outside world. Although, as Josephus has made clear, the term “Essene” was of an elastic nature in antiquity, it seems unwise at present to regard the Qumran group as typically Essene, since they may well be more closely related instead to the cave-dwelling Magharian sect of the early Christian era.

Qumran and Christianity.

Some scholars have attempted to see in the Qumran brotherhood a distinct anticipation of Christianity, the most important areas being that of the Righteous Teacher as Messiah and the organizational and quasi-sacramental life of the group. The sectaries nowhere regarded their founder as the Messiah however, while their monastic life has few parallels with early Christianity. The gospel sacraments have different theological bases from those in use at Qumran, and entertain concepts of sin and atonement which were foreign to the thought of the sectaries. Suggestions that John the Baptist and even Jesus may have received some training at the settlement are entirely speculative, for in actual fact there are serious differences between the theology and practices of the Qumran group and the lives and doctrines of the Baptist and Christ, making any serious contact between them improbable. Despite the common background of divine revelation in the OT upon which both Christ and the sectaries drew, the parallels between Qumran teachings and the doctrines of Jesus are almost entirely restricted to the fifth ch. of Matthew. Echoes of Qumran diction in the NT writings include such phrases as “children of light,” “life eternal,” “the light of life,” “the works of God” and “that they may be one.” Such expressions set the NT material firmly against a 1st cent. a.d. Palestinian Jewish milieu, making unnecessary a 2nd cent. date for 2 Peter and the fourth gospel.

The Scrolls and the Bible.

While the Qumran discoveries are extremely valuable for the intertestamentary period and for Biblical studies generally, they are particularly important for the text of the OT. A study of various MSS shows that in the immediate pre-Christian period there were at least three text types in existence, one of which was the precursor of the MT, another being a text closely allied to that used by the LXX trs., while a third was one which differed from both of these. The fragments of Samuel recovered from 4Q have shown that the text of that book which circulated before the present extant recensions was considerably longer than either the MT or the Heb. underlying the LXX VS, and that it differed in significant areas from both of them. This fact has struck a mortal blow at the idea so long cherished in critical circles of a fixed Heb. text which could be used as an assured basis for literary analysis. Perhaps most important of all is the formidable witness which the scrolls have borne in favor of the reliability of the MT and the scrupulous care with which it was transmitted. This has also reflected positively upon the LXX and Samaritan Pentateuch studies, both of which have received considerable stimulus from the Qumran discoveries.

It is now clear that no OT book can be assigned any longer to the Maccabean period, since all such books at Qumran were copies, making the originals antecedent to the sect itself, which originated in the Maccabean era. Indeed, many psalms previously deemed late have now been assigned to the Pers. period. The Maccabean dating for Daniel, long advocated by liberal scholars, now needs to be adjusted upward, whether the relationship between some scraps of Daniel from 1Q and the scrolls of Isaiah and Habakkuk is demonstrable or not. Light has been thrown by 1QIsa on the composition of Isaiah by the realization that the break at the end of ch. 33 in the scroll was intended to show that the book had been compiled in the ancient bifid fashion. This involved the composing of a literary work in terms of two balanced halves which complemented and paralleled each other in important areas, and often involved a good deal of skill and artistry. The concept of Isaiah as a literary bifid is compatible with a date of composition during or shortly after the death of the prophet himself. In any event, the original written prophecy antedated by several centuries the scroll found at Qumran, thereby precluding the late date assigned to some of its sections by critical scholars.

While much study of the Qumran material is still needed, it is quite clear that the MSS present no threat whatever to the Christian faith as was rumored when the discoveries first came to light. They have confirmed much that was previously known about the Scriptures, but have also shown the desirability of radical revision of certain theories cherished by some scholars. Not the least benefit is the stimulus given to the task of reconstructing as accurate a pre-Christian OT text as possible.


M. Burrows, The Dead Sea Scrolls (1955); J. M. Allegro, The Dead Sea Scrolls (1956); F. F. Bruce, Second Thoughts on the Dead Sea Scrolls (1956); T. H. Gaster, The Scriptures of the Dead Sea Sect (1957); J. T. Milik, Ten Years of Discovery in the Wilderness of Judaea (1959); J. M. Allegro, The Treasure of the Copper Scroll (1960); R. K. Harrison, The Dead Sea Scrolls (1961); F. M. Cross, The Ancient Library of Qumran (1961); G. Vermes, The Dead Sea Scrolls in English (1962).

SCROLLS, DEAD SEA. See Dead Sea Scrolls.