Location of Cave 1 at Qumran


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Available in the Bookstore:

The Dead Sea Scrolls, in several different editions

The Dead Sea Scrolls  by M. Wise


The Dead Sea Scrolls Translated  by F. Martinez


The Complete Dead Sea Scrolls,  by G. Vermes

The Gnostic Society Library

A segment of The Copper Scroll -- containing a list of buried treasures, perhaps from the Temple in Jerusalem.


The Dead Sea Scrolls with Rachel Kohn
Interviews with
Geza Vermes, Lawrence Schiffman and Emanuel Tov


The Dead Sea Scrolls with Rachel Kohn -- This site has disappeared from the internet, but we have been able to an active some of this historically important material.

Audio lectures (along with print transcripts) from a 2000 seminar hosted by Australian Broadcasting, with Geza Vermes, Lawrence Schiffman and Emanuel Tov -- principal representatives of the traditional Qumran-Essene story of the Scrolls. This interview is interesting in part because it occurs historically at about the same time a majority of scholars were beginning to reject the Qumran Hypothesis forwarded by the speakers during the many influencial decades of their academic careers.

Six scroll fragments are specifically discuss: 4Q22 (Exodus 6:25-7:19), 11Q5 (41 Biblical & Apocryphal psalms), 4Q169 (Nahum Commentary), 4Q260 (Community Rule), 4Q394 (Acts of Torah), 11Q14 (War Rule). 


Lecture Transcript

Seminar Transcript Part 1

Rachael Kohn: Hello, and welcome to ‘The Fragments’ Seminar on the Dead Sea Scrolls at the Art Gallery of New South Wales. Welcome also to those who are joining us on the web.

Our Seminar is in two parts. The first half is sub-titled ‘Scrolls and Scribes’ and will be a 40 minute discussion. There will be a 15-minute break and, then the second part of the seminar is called ‘Stories from Six Fragments’. That will be a 30-35 minute discussion. And then we will throw the floor open to you, our audience here, for questions.

Leaning about our past is all about piecing together the fragments of the historical record. With the Dead Sea Scrolls, the fragments are literally pieces of texts which for more than 40 years scholars have pored over and pieced together in order to bring us a clearer picture of our common heritage.

Our three guests are today amongst the most eminent scholars who have been doing this for all of their professional lives. Professor Geza Vermes, of Oxford University, has been identified with the Scrolls right from the beginning. He has produced many publications on the Dead Sea Scrolls and his Complete Dead Sea Scrolls in English, recently revised and reprinted, has become a classic.

Emanuel Tov, Professor of Biblical Studies at Hebrew University, has, he once told me in an interview, the dubious distinction of being the Editor-in-Chief of the Dead Sea Scrolls publishing project. Of course he had his tongue firmly in his cheek, because since his appointment in 1991 he greatly expanded the editorial team to about 30 and then to about 50 scholars and now the complete publishing of the Dead Sea Scrolls in a series of critical editions is in sight.

Lawrence Schiffman, Professor of Judaic and Hebrew Studies at New York University, is among the younger scholars who have shifted the direction of Dead Sea Scrolls research to reflect more fully the Jewish nature of the texts, and his work on prayer and legal (Halakhic) texts have even affected the way we might identify the sect itself, pointing to a connection to the priestly group, the Sadducees, in the period of Second Temple Judaism. Welcome again.

Well Emanuel, everyone’s heard the story about the Bedouin goat-boy who tossed a stone and heard a hollow sound. What did that first discovery reveal to us?

Emanuel Tov: The first discovery pertained to texts which we now call Cave 1, and they are among the most beautiful texts actually, that have been found. We are very happy with the exhibit here in Sydney, but I should say that the more beautiful examples are still in the Shrine of the Book, where we have the more complete Scrolls, and it’s also important if you think about the physical shape of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Rachael Kohn: Well they were actually protected, were they not? in clay jars and even with cloth bindings?

Emanuel Tov: Well we presume that several of the Scrolls found in Cave 1 were indeed protected first of all, by wrappings, by linen wrappings, and afterwards in jars. We don’t know several things for sure, because no archaeologist I believe has seen a Scroll in a jar, but the big texts from Cave 1 could not have survived so beautifully if they would not have been in one of the jars which have been found in the same cave.

Rachael Kohn: And what were the main texts that were revealed there?

Emanuel Tov: The main texts in Cave 1 are two long Isaiah texts; the one-time called Manual of Discipline, now called The Community Rule, the explanation of Habbakuk or so-called Pesher Habbakuk the War Scroll, the Hodayot or Thanksgiving Songs, the Genesis Apocryphon these are some of the more important long texts from Cave No.1.

Rachael Kohn: Now that was in 1947, but the actual discovery of the Scrolls goes on for almost a decade. To reveal almost 800 documents. Now these are in copies and in originals.

Emanuel Tov: We now count the number of texts that were once found at Qumran as 900 actually different texts, but they are between very small pieces you might say, a square centimetre, to Scrolls that are 8-9 metres long. But most of them are somewhere in the middle, say 50-centimetres, or 60 or 70. And they were found in what we consider to be eleven different caves, the most major ones of which are Cave 1 which we just mentioned, Cave 4 and Cave 11. But really the most major one is Cave 4, in which of the 900 different texts, we have found 600 what we call Scrolls, but they’re really fragments of Scrolls, just as the name of the Seminar is a Fragment Seminar, which is really a very good name because if we think about the word ‘Scroll’, we are going a little bit too far.

Rachael Kohn: Indeed. Geza, I think you were amongst the very first to see these actual tiny fragments brought in, was it in matchboxes?

Geza Vermes: Those were the days. This happened in the autumn of 1952 when I managed to spend about four weeks in Jordanian Jerusalem at the French Biblical and Archaeological School, which was then the only centre of the Scrolls industry, mainly in Jordan, namely the place where the Bedouin, who kept on ferreting the Judean desert for Scrolls and fragments, who managed to find these fragments and who brought them one by one as Rachael just mentioned in matchboxes to the Ecole Biblique where Father de Vaux the head of the institution, obtained enough money to purchase them one by one. And when these Arabs realised that the bigger fragment the larger the sum they would receive, they tried to stick them together, very often using detached bits of postage stamps to make their fragments larger, and of course damaging them almost irreparably. Mind you, not only them, but even the first scholars used sellotape to put the fragments together, which obviously nowadays with the progress of preservation, we would consider completely unacceptable.

Rachael Kohn: Geza, just briefly, when those tiny fragments were brought and had not been cleaned, were they discernible, decipherable?

Geza Vermes: Well some of them were, some of them weren’t, but of course as we all know, very often the photographs of these fragments produced by modern techniques, are much more legible than the originals, although the originals are extremely important when we have to put the jigsaw puzzle together, without doing it with the originals you wouldn’t get anywhere.

Rachael Kohn: Lawrence, I wonder if I can ask you about the distribution of the manuscripts found; so often I’ve heard people say, ‘Oh, the Dead Sea Scrolls, well I think it’s just the Old Testament there and some sectarian documents.’

Lawrence Schiffman: Basically you have in the Scrolls, three different types of material. Approximately one-third each one, these numbers are not exact because there’s some unidentified material, but basically about one-third. You have about one-third representing the Books of the Hebrew Bible or what is known generally as the Old Testament, and you have there a piece, we always say, of every single book except Esther. In fact it’s a little more complicated, because Ezra and Nehemiah is really represented if I don’t make a mistake, just by one little piece of Nehemiah, but they were considered to be one book, but at any rate -

Rachael Kohn: A little fudgy?

Lawrence Schiffman: Yes, really a little fudgy - Esther is the only really missing book. Then the second group is what we loosely call apocryphal, by which we mean not some organised group of texts, such as the Apocrypha that appear in the Catholic Bibles, but we mean books that relate to the Hebrew Bible, or imitate the Hebrew Bible, or in general, represent books, (and here admittedly, I’m giving an opinion that not everyone shares, but I think most people do,) that represent books that were not particular only to the sectarians of Qumran, because the first two groups I’ve given, Biblical material, and also the second type of material which is the apocryphal literature, was shared by Jews throughout the country.

The third type of literature is what we generally call the literature of the sectarian group, and most scholars of course I think everyone knows, have identified this group with the Essenes as described in Philo Josephus and a variety of other sources, and this essentially is the people we call the Qumran Sect or the Dead Sea Sect. So it’s a possibly one-third each. And this also reflects on the question that people always ask in simplistic terms, ‘Who wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls?’ or ‘What is the dating of the Dead Sea Scrolls?’. And of course here you have to distinguish between copying and composing, because the texts were composed from whatever the earliest period of the Biblical text says, until about the turn of the era. Whereas of course they were copied much later, so that’s an important distinction.

Rachael Kohn: Well with all these copies, are we talking about the first lending library in the Judean desert?

Lawrence Schiffman: Well I don’t know if I would say that it’s a lending library. There are a lot of different approaches to take to this. I do believe, I follow the view that it was a library. Now by a library though, we don’t mean a library the way we mean a library today. By library, we mean a collection of texts that was in use by a particular group that occupied the site, immersed in its ritual baths, ate in a dining room, worked in that area. We don’t know by the way, exactly, they seem to have lived either in caves or in tents, some people think maybe on the second story of the building which doesn’t survive in what we see today, but in any case, they apparently lived at this place and they used these books as part of their regular processes of study etc., which would mean it’s a library but a selected collection that reflects the ideas and beliefs and values of those people who collected them in a much narrower way than in modern libraries in which you might have in your library, books that you completely disagree with and have connection to.

Rachael Kohn: That’s pretty interesting for a sect, they don’t always think of them as stocking the views of others, and certainly their enemies, but that’s a whole other question. Just in terms of the documents that we will be looking at later, do they more or less represent those categories?

Lawrence Schiffman: Well if you take a look at the documents we’re going to be looking at, we’ll be looking at the Exodus material, which is indeed obviously a Biblical fragment from the second of the five books of Moses, and then we are going to be looking at the Apostrophe to Zion from the Psalm Scroll, which I would personally at least, judge to be in Group 2, namely the type of apocryphal-like literature and certainly the other so-called apocryphal Psalms fit that category, and then the Torah Precepts, Community Rule, the Nahum Commentary, these certainly are, as far as I can see, fitting very closely into the sectarian type of literature, I think probably no-one would disagree with that.

Rachael Kohn: We’ve been talking about fragments of course, and Geza, I wonder, in fact all of you, Emanuel, Lawrence, Geza, if you can reflect on the notion of fragment; I mean what really is a fragment, and what is a text?

Geza Vermes: Well as the Editor of a scholarly journal called The Journal of Jewish Studies, I was asked once to consider and publish an article entitled ‘What is a Fragment?’ Well, the fact is that very often you can put together say, five bits which constitute one complete part of a manuscript. Now is this one fragment or five fragments? And so on, and so forth. But in any case you may consider a fragment which is say, half a page, or a fragment which is smaller than a quarter of a square centimetre, these are fragments, and on the other hand some of the texts which you may have already seen in the exhibition, they are fragments too. So it is a very flexible notion.

Rachael Kohn: Right, it’s physical as well as conceptual, I mean.

Geza Vermes: Absolutely so.

Emanuel Tov: We might expand this question, What is a Fragment? to the question, What is a Scroll? First of all, we talk about the Dead Sea Scrolls, and when we say ‘Scroll’ we refer to a unit which is obviously different from what we now call a book, or in ancient times, a codex. A scroll is something which is composed of different pieces of leather, hides of leather, what we call sheets, connected usually by sewing them together, and we can still see that, and you have small scrolls, small dimensions, that’s to say maybe six, seven, eight lines, and we have large scrolls which go up to 40, 50, 60 lines, and we have small scrolls which may be let’s say one metre, and longer scrolls of the ones which we have found, which are 9 metres, and others reconstructed to 25 metres, if indeed the whole of the Pentateuch, the Torah was once found in several compositions.

Now the point I want to make is that when we talk about 900 Scrolls, we really don’t mean 900 Scrolls, we mean remnants of 900 Scrolls. Very few Scrolls have been preserved in their entirety. The Isaiah Scroll, the large Isaiah Scroll, is complete, with all its 66 chapters, but that’s an exception. There are a few smaller compositions which are also complete, but even the Temple Scroll with its 9 metres, is incomplete. Now when we refer to let’s say 12 Scrolls of Genesis, what we mean is that we can identify the handwriting as different handwritings on different fragments, and we say this is handwriting a), and we call this 4Q, which would mean Qumran, Cave 4, Genesis No.A. And then we have a different handwriting then we have Genesis B etc. But each of those Scrolls, which we call a Scroll, may be just a little more than maybe 4 or 5 centimetres, and in other cases it could be a metre. So the whole concept of what we call Scrolls, has to be taken with a grain of salt, many grains of salt.

Rachael Kohn: Lawrence?

Lawrence Schiffman: Well first I just want to add one point to what Emanuel was saying, and that is that we need to emphasise when we say a Scroll, we mean what was a Scroll in antiquity. If you had walked into Cave 4 however the shelves might have been arranged, or whatever, you would have in fact a whole Scroll, and we know that even some of these texts were repaired. And that indicates that there was an attempt to keep scrolls whole at that time.

I do want to address one other point here, which is the conceptual problem of dealing with fragments. People are always asking these questions. You have this little piece, you’ve got all this stuff in brackets that you restored, how do we know what this text is really about? And I want to address that also because when you look at the exhibition, you see a fragment of this and a fragment of that. It’s important to realise that for every text which is on exhibition here, the fragment will be one of a number of fragments of that text. Which means to say that you might be looking at one fragment here, say, out of seven, or out of twelve, or out of 50. Of course of those 50, you might have 30 of them that have two letters on them, which have been sorted because of the handwriting.

Now the next job that the scholar would have, would be to look at each fragment and try to figure out what might be restored in the fragment, and try to figure out how the fragments that he or she has, would cohere into what in ancient times was a composition, usually one composition is on one Scroll, but not always. Now once you do this, you have at that point the question of how you’re going to operate. There are here kind of minimalists and maximalists. The maximalist is a creative person who rewrites the Scroll and knows exactly what it means. And you can get into very dangerous mistakes. For example, I worked on a text which, when it came to us was called the Apocryphon of Zedekiah. Zedekiah was the last king of Judea before it was destroyed in 586 BCE. Now we looked at this and said ‘This is absolutely crazy; how do we know that this text is an Apocryphon of Zedekiah, because there’s one little piece preserved? Maybe if I had,’ let’s put it, the whole 9 yards, as they say, even though I must say here 9 metres, (but I think that’s a movie that was playing on the plane on the way over), so ‘if we had the whole 9 yards of the Scroll, as we have in the Temple Scroll where we have 9 metres, we would be able to realise that this isn’t the Apocryphon of Zedekiah, it was a list of all the kings of Israel and I happen to have one of the columns close to the end.’ So this happens very often, they call it a Samuel Apocryphon, something like this, and so the scholar has to set up a bunch of models, of what could be the whole text, what are the possibilities. Then you have to ask Can I make a decision? Maybe you can’t, and so you have to then describe the thing within a framework of a number of options. On the other hand you could get lucky.

Geza worked on the manuscripts of the Rule of the Community, and there, since there was, in differing recensions, but nonetheless different versions, there was a whole Scroll that was known before, so at least there was a sense of what this text was. And so they knew, these fragments belong essentially to this particular document. But that might not happen. So the point that people should realise when they look at a small fragment and its translation and its interpretation, is that if we did our job right, we didn’t over-interpret, but then again, we come to conferences and sometimes accuse each other of having over-interpreted.

Rachael Kohn: It’s an occupational hazard of scholars, is it not? to come up with the final and right conclusion.

Geza Vermes: I would like to add one more point. So far, both Emanuel and Larry have spoken only about leather Scrolls. In addition to the leather Scrolls there are also a fair number, but obviously a smaller number than the leather Scrolls, of texts written on papyrus. For instance, among those manuscripts of the Community Rule to which reference has just been made, out of ten manuscripts found in Qumran Cave 4, two are written on papyrus, and eight on leather. Now the papyrus was clearly cheaper writing material, but also it was less lasting than the leather.

Rachael Kohn: How much can those materials such as papyrus and the particular kind of hide, tell us about the provenance of that particular document, where it came from? Does the material itself tell us a hidden tale?

Emanuel Tov: No.

Geza Vermes: That’s the short answer.

Emanuel Tov: It’s very hard to know and I think even DNA wouldn’t help us. The DNA has helped us insofar that I believe when the leather of the animals of 2,000 years was compared with animals that are now grazing, (well grazing is not the right word) roaming around in that area, they probably are of the same kind, but I don’t know enough about it. But more in general, with regard to your question, we know very little. We know a little bit about the types of animals from which the leather was made, and with regard to papyrus, what we know is first of all there’s about of the 900, about 100 papyri. Often they are assumed to be taken as personal copies as opposed to more commonly used copies. And in the case of the Hebrew Bible, in the Torah it has said that papyrus should not be used for the writing of the Bible.

Rachael Kohn: Why was that? Was it thought to be temporary?

Emanuel Tov: It was considered probably less durable, and could fall apart more easily than the animals, which incidentally should be kosher animals, of course. And among the Qumran fragments we only have two or three or maybe four certain pieces of Biblical text, written on papyrus, and these must be copies made by people who didn’t adhere to the rules that later became the rules of the rabbis.

Rachael Kohn: I see, so in terms of the hides, I’ve heard sheep were used, calves were used.

Emanuel Tov: Ibex.

Rachael Kohn: Ibex?

Emanuel Tov: And goat. But we don’t know, as we don’t have enough research. We don’t know the quantities of these different animals as reflected by the fragments found at Qumran and elsewhere.

Rachael Kohn: Just finally, I want to just create a picture of how these Scrolls were made. Are we imagining indeed a Scriptorium, a room where a number of the sectarians were copying different parts of the books which would then be sewn together into a Scroll.

Lawrence Schiffman: Well let me make some comments initially about the Scriptorium. Because when you go to Qumran you see a sign that says ‘Scriptorium’, and a Scriptorium in the classical world, is a place where somebody would sit and read out loud, and a whole bunch of people would copy it, and it was sort of like a printing house for someone who wanted to sell books. Now the so-called Qumran Scriptorium is dependent for its identification on a group of benches and tables, at least as they’ve been reconstructed, about which there’s been a lot of controversy as to exactly how they would be used, and also some inkwells, which there’s also been controversy about, because of course people use inkwells for many different purposes.

Now I think what we have to conclude one way or another is, that whether this room is or is not a Scriptorium, or just for a technical second, whether the floor above it, because as I understand it, the particular materials were found on the level that had fallen on top of the ceiling of the preserved room, but in any case, right? if this was a Scriptorium or was not a Scriptorium, it’s also clear that many of the texts, probably most of the texts, were copied elsewhere and brought to Qumran. In the Biblical area, Emanuel has actually shown this and as well his researchers indicated similar things I would say about the other materials, and also the dating indicates this, because some of the materials have been dated by both palaeography, the script shapes, and also carbon 14 dating, to before the area was in use, and that would indicate the texts were brought there. So I think we have to assume that the majority probably of what’s there was copied elsewhere, that some of the sectarian text, perhaps some other text, may have been copied there, and we have to get away from the idea that everybody was writing every text there, something like that, and I know I’ve seen a few books which sort of show you exactly how all the scribes were making the hides and all that kind of thing, it’s much more complex.

Now there was, we were talking before about DNA, a crazy idea put forward, that if you could do DNA testing that you could determine if the Scrolls all came from Qumran, whatever that means, because of the fact that you would find that they came from related herds, and this is an assumption also which is false, because it’s like assuming that your right shoe and your left shoe come from related animals, because in ancient times there was also very complex market in hides and the preparation of hides and the selling, getting them ready for writing and all this kind of thing. And so this actually will turn out to be completely irrelevant to the question we’re talking about. But in general terms, we’ve moved away, I think, from the sense that the Scrolls that you’re seeing here were somehow all manufactured at this site. But I would protest very strongly against anyone who says that all of the Scrolls came from outside, or that no-one could have written Scrolls in Qumran, and that would be true even if the so-called Scriptorium wasn’t the Scriptorium, because you could write a Scroll anywhere you want, just by sitting down on the floor, cross-legged as apparently they used to do, and taking out your equipment and beginning to copy.

Rachael Kohn: Sounds like a very painful way to actually write. But I do want to ask about the one Scroll which is not made from hides or from papyrus, but is probably the most enigmatic of the Scrolls, and that’s the Copper Scroll. Geza, what do we know about where this might have been produced, and for what purpose?

Geza Vermes: This is totally uncertain and debated. There is only a single text found in all the eleven Qumran caves which was embossed on copper. I mean obviously it was engraved, embossed on copper. When originally found, they were unable to open it, it was so oxidised that it became totally fragile, and finally they had to be cut into sheets. And of course the writing was inside not outside. And it turned out that to be a clear document, also totally unique in that sense so that these contents are the list of I think 64 hiding places, cryptically described in which gold, silver, precious stones and such materials were deposited, and with the totally annoying remark that when you find hiding place I think No.64, it will contain also another copy of this document, in which instead of cryptic hints, you have the clear and detailed description of the place.

Rachael Kohn: "Thanks a lot." A little bit late!

Geza Vermes: I daresay there have been a number of people who were trying to find these Scrolls, John Allegro in the 1960s was one of them, and there is at present another writer in England who believes that in fact he knows where all these hidden documents are. He believes they are not hidden any longer, they are in various museums, and they were all found in Egypt. I would say that we are still uncertain whether this list represents reality, that is to say there were all those precious materials hidden in these various places, or whether this is ancient fiction, or whether the figures are real or exaggerated. Very often in ancient writings the figures are multiplied by ten or a hundred or a thousand. And in other words, we still have those people who think that this refers to the hidden treasure of the Jerusalem Temple, and why they would deposit this text in a godforsaken cave close to the Dead Sea I wouldn’t know. Or that this is not reality at all, in which case the big problem is why on earth would they have written it on copper and not on papyrus or on leather?

Rachael Kohn: Well I had a phone call yesterday afternoon from someone who claimed he did have information that no-one else yet has about the Dead Sea Scrolls and I gave him short shrift, and now I’m thinking I should have taken his number down.

But Emanuel, I know you have a comment about the Copper Scroll. Do we understand that it was actually displayed open originally, that it was so flexible, that it was actually open?

Emanuel Tov: As far as I recall there are holes on either side and so it may have hung somewhere for public display. But what I wanted to add to our description of the copper Scroll, is that the whole connection between this Scroll and the Qumran community is unclear. Yes, it was found at Qumran in Cave No. 3, but there’s nothing in the Scroll that gives any indication of a connection to the Qumran community, that’s called them Essenes, with regard to either ideas or language, and this underlines a very general feeling which goes beyond the copper scrolls, that we actually do not know much at all about the nature of the collection found at Qumran. Just to add a little bit of controversy, because by saying so I deviate from what Larry Schiffman said earlier describing the Qumran collection as the Qumran Library, but maybe we can go into that later on. For me, it is a depository of texts rather than a Library.

Rachael Kohn: Larry?

Lawrence Schiffman: Yes I just wanted to say about the copper scroll that I have the distinction of having a student, Judah Lefkovitz who wrote a 1400 page dissertation on a Scroll, which is reduced to a 650 page book. And so what I would like to say is that if you read that book you’ll find out what the real treasure of the copper Scroll is. It’s not some metal deposited somewhere in the desert that we’re never going to find. It’s the Hebrew language in that Scroll, which is moving us in a kind of transition which is complex, and I realise I’m over simplifying, but from the earliest stages of Hebrew towards the Hebrew which we find in Rabbinic texts, the Mishnah and Talmud later on, and there is a tremendous wealth of information in this text about terminology and language and I think that for us as scholars today, and certainly for the average person who would look at this Scroll in the original, this is the treasure, and when you read it in a translation you don’t get that obviously and you somehow just focus on that gold and silver, which you wish you could find somewhere, and which I think is probably never going to be found.

Rachael Kohn: Well Larry, the other treasure is obviously a great number of doctorates that still wait to be written.… or is this the final one?

Lawrence Schiffman: There’s another doctorate on this now.

Rachael Kohn: Well one of the questions that finally we come to when we consider the fact that in this cache of documents there are many copies of the Hebrew Bible, sometimes they are in variations in variant forms, and I was asked recently, ‘What does that mean for one’s faith?’ and indeed I just would like to throw open to all of you the question of what does this group of documents tell us about the notion of a fixed canon, and also the relationship that Jews had to the Bible at that time. Geza?

Geza Vermes: Well before the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls the oldest Hebrew manuscripts of the Bible dated to the Middle Ages. In fact the ancient translations of the Hebrew Bible into Greek and into Latin existed in older manuscripts than the Hebrew Bible itself. So at that time, we had to rely exclusively on the traditional Hebrew form of the Bible in which the text was almost totally unified and uniform. There were no variations so the only differences apart from possible Scribal errors, were differences in spelling. Now some with the Dead Sea Scrolls we are faced with a large mass of Biblical texts which are roughly 1,000 years older than the previously known manuscripts of the Hebrew Bible, and which have one thing in common, that they represent continuous small variations. These variations may consist simply in different forms of the same word, in synonyms used instead of the word which we find in the traditional text. Sometimes we have a text that is somewhat longer than our traditional text, sometimes we have a text which is shorter than our traditional text. What we have in fact is a totally fluid and flexible form of the text which however does not seem to contain anything that substantially affects the message of the Bible. So those people who are mainly interested in the question ‘Are our present-day Bibles reliable?’ the answer is Yes, but if you want somebody to say ‘Are our present-day Bibles absolutely word for word, letter for letter the same as these ancient manuscripts?’ the answer is No.

But on the other hand, we must bear in mind that even these much older manuscripts represented by the Dead Sea Scrolls are hundreds of years younger than the text of the Law of Moses or the Book of Isaiah or Jeremiah or the Psalms. So that in fact even these things are still far away from what people imagine the original text may have been.

Rachael Kohn: Emanuel? You know, we know though that the sect did develop commentaries and respond to the Bible in a way interpreted, elaborated, extended a bit, what were they doing? Why were they taking such liberties with the Bible?

Emanuel Tov: The community that lived at Qumran lived the Bible literally. They considered themselves to be more or less the last generation reliving and living the Bible. Therefore they made an enormous effort to collect the various copies of the Hebrew Scripture, and it cannot be a coincidence that we found so many copies at Qumran, some brought from the outside and some written on the spot. They studied the Hebrew Bible, or the Torah in particular, as we read in the Community Rule, one third of the night they studies, and the Bible guided them in their daily life. At the same time, they didn’t really care so much about small differences and even large differences between the various manuscripts of the Bible. I mean things which areour daily bread for us as scholars now, and the topics of dissertations, you might say for most of the people in ancient Israel, this was not an issue and I believe that only in the Temple circles they adhered stringently to one single if not text, then one textual family, the text which we now call the Masoretic text. But the Qumran Community had an open mind for all this, and among other things they also interpreted the books of the Bible, and I presume we will talk about that more later. But they wanted to see to what extent to show to what extent Hebrew Scripture reflects their own views.

The Bible was very central, Hebrew Scripture was very central for the Qumran Community and that’s why also even if we say that 200 copies of the Hebrew Bible were found at Qumran, 200 out of 900 Scrolls found at Qumran, that is not the complete picture, because there’s so many other compositions explaining the Bible, retelling the Bible, that were also found there. And mind you might I just add that our conversation so far has focused on Qumran. We should actually look a little bit beyond Qumran, and when we use this strange term, ‘the Dead Sea Scrolls’ it’s a term which we ourselves try to avoid. When we use this strange term, we refer to all the sites in the Judean desert, north of Qumran and south of Qumran, and also in those other places copies of the Hebrew Bible were found, and very interestingly in all the sites beyond Qumran, the Bible which was found there is the Masoretic text, you might say just the same text as we have here today. So it’s only in Qumran itself that there was this openness, deliberate or not, towards different forms of Hebrew Scripture.

Rachael Kohn: Larry, I just want to ask you finally before we have a break for 15 minutes, about the canon, whether we can say that it was open, whether it was actually going towards a fixed state, and I’d also like you to comment on the appearance of small portions of the Greek translation which was also found there. What does that say about the relationship to that Greek text?

Lawrence Schiffman: Let me just begin by making sure that everybody understands that a canon is a fixed collection of materials, and in the case of Biblical studies, a group of texts that are usually understood to be authoritative, which is a kind of synonym for saying somehow inspired divinely. At least let the person who put it into the collection believe that. And I can best answer this question by telling a story about what happened when we were organising the Encyclopaedia of the Dead Sea Scrolls published by Oxford. And one of our colleagues actually went so far as to suggest that there should be no article on Bible, because Bible means canon, and he claimed that the canon was open. We sort of beat him into submission when we convinced him that calling it Scriptures was just calling it the same thing anyhow, and so there is a controversy about this amongst scholars.

I am in what I think one has to admit is a minority. I believe it was a closed canon. It doesn’t have to be exactly the same as ours, it might have included the Testament of Levi and the Book of Jubilees, maybe a few other things, but I believe there really was a canon, and I think that the so-called MMT document, the Torah Precepts that we will refer to later, actually refers to this tripartite, three-part collection such as was found in later Rabbinic understanding and which I believe is parallel with the New Testament as well. But I will openly admit that most scholars in our field believe that the collection of the Bible had not yet been defined in any close to finished manner, and that some of the books themselves were still not defined as to what their contents were. So this is a matter of continued debate.

On the subject of the Greek translation, we have a peculiar thing at Qumran. That Cave 7 has in it, it’s the only cave in which Greek texts were found and if I remember correctly it has only Greek texts. Now there’s been a lot of debate about what these texts are in a few cases, there’s even been the spurious claim that some of them might be New Testament, which they cannot be, but nonetheless, there are a few fragments of the Greek translation. Now these fragments indicate that some Jews or some materials, and here Emanuel’s point about a depository may be important, some people somehow or another brought to this place some manuscripts of a Greek translation, which presumes that they or whoever wrote them, was already in need of such a translation either because they came from outside the land of Israel, or because Hellenistic influence for some Jews were sufficient that they actually needed such a translation.

What’s very interesting is the comment, picking up on what Emanuel said before, that among the later documents from the collections from the Bar Kochba period of 132-5, that is materials that were hidden at that time of our era, you have there this text which actually Emanuel published in which you see this tendency to revise translations in accord with the standardised Masoretic text. So again these texts also show that there was a degree of fluidity among this group, or I would say also at this time which as we progress chronologically begins to be closed down. But it is really interesting because these people don’t use Greek in their Hebrew, they seem to eschew Hellenistic influence and yet you’ve got in their collection some Greek texts of the Pentateuch.

Rachael Kohn: One of the many mysteries of the Dead Sea Scrolls and this brings to an end the first part of our Fragments Seminar. Please join me in thanking our guests, Lawrence Schiffman, Emanuel Tov, Geza Vermes.

Seminar Transcript Part 2

Rachael Kohn: Hello, and welcome back to the second part of our ‘Fragments’ Seminar on the Dead Sea Scrolls. And also welcome to our web audience, who is I hope fully plugged in and clicking on to the right images so that they can follow this next part, in which we will take a closer look at the texts themselves.

Also please welcome back our guests, Geza Vermes, Emanuel Tov, and Lawrence Schiffman.


Rachael Kohn: Emanuel, I think it is fitting that I start with you, the Editor-in-Chief of The Dead Sea Scrolls Publishing Project. With the first fragment, Exodus, now Exodus is probably one of the most important books of the Bible for Jews. How many copies were found at Qumran?

Emanuel Tov: Now you have me. I don’t remember how many copies that were found, but it’s about ten or fifteen of Exodus. The number of copies of the different books of the Bible is indeed interesting. Some are represented by a single copy, such as the Book of Chronicles, while others are represented with a very large number, the Book of Deuteronomy was probably the most popular, together with Isaiah and the Book of Psalms. And I can say a few words about this Scroll.

Rachael Kohn: Yes, it seems to me when one compares this to the Hebrew Bible that we have today, it’s a very faithful rescention, at least the fragments we have here. Is that the case generally with the entire book?

Emanuel Tov: Well this is a very interesting copy. You can find it on your catalogues on pages 34 and 35, and those of you know how to read Hebrew, find all of a sudden that they can’t read this, because it’s not written in the regular Hebrew script, which we call the square or Aramaic script, but it’s written in an older script which we call the Ancient Hebrew script or now in modern scholarship, paleo-Hebrew script. This was an earlier stage of the script and at another page in this catalogue you will find that it’s called 8th century. Now that’s a little bit misleading because this copy is not from the 8th century before the Common Era, but it’s as it says here, around 100 before the Common Era, and at that time, or a little earlier actually, we see a revival of this ancient script. And it’s very interesting that at Qumran we have about 14 different copies of Biblical texts that were written in this ancient script. But that’s a technicality, the script. We really don’t know exactly what it means, that these particular copies were written in this script. I have my own theory on this, but it remains guesswork.

But now as far as the content is concerned, and the shape, in my view this is a kind of a luxury Scroll, a large Scroll with large margins, so it must have been important. And the type of text reflected in this particular copy of the Hebrew Bible of Exodus is different, quite different from what we see in our Bibles (Masoretic Bibles) today. If we call the copies of the Bible that we know today from the printed editions and from the Biblical translation, we call those the Masoretic text, the transmitted text. And this copy is quite different, and it is very similar to a certain form of the Torah, of the Pentateuch which the Samaratins have in their midst, and the Samaratins is a group which split off from Judaism in antiquity, and they exist until today. And we might call their text a sectarian text, which indeed it is, but it goes back to early copies, and this is one of the great novelties of Qumran, that we have found this and several similar Bible texts which we might call them the precursors of the text that later became the Samaratin text. And even if we don’t remember those details, the major point that we should make is that this is a text that is much different from the Biblical text as we know it.

Rachael Kohn: How? What are the variations, for example?

Emanuel Tov: The points in which it is different really is that it repeats certain sections. It will repeat, if there is a difference in our story between Exodus and Deuteronomy, it will repeat a section of Deuteronomy, which is the fifth book of the Pentateuch, and replace that in Exodus. And if you have a situation whereby the Bible text says ‘God said to Moses, do so-and-so’ in the story of the Exodus, and then our copies don’t say exactly what he did, then in this particular copy there was a repetition of the command, which is then repeated in a way that it was also fulfilled.

Rachael Kohn: Emanuel, can I just ask you, can you give us some idea of what are the distinctive features of this paleo-Hebrew script; why is it so hard to discern?

Emanuel Tov: Well it’s simply a different script.

Rachael Kohn: I realise that the actual image that we have up there is a little fuzzy, but on first glance it looks very close, I think.

Emanuel Tov: No, it is a different script, like the "taf" for example is like a cross, and the letters are different, and you have to learn two different scripts if you want to read this text as well. And it is the same script, although with significant differences, as the one that is used in the so-called Samaratin Pentateuch. And you will also find it interesting that we will find a few cases of this script in the other Biblical Scrolls, written in the regular Hebrew script, namely the Name of God, the so-called Tetagrammatron is in many texts and one of the texts with which we will deal later on is written in those texts also in the ancient Hebrew script.

Rachael Kohn: Now because of time I think perhaps we should move along to the Psalms Scroll, and that’s No.2. And hopefully we will have that up there on the screen. It’s certainly one of the most beautiful Scrolls, and the most beautiful one in this show. And you can see very clearly, perhaps it’s not so clear on this projection but on each side where it was stitched together. The Psalms I understand were really one of the most treasured of Biblical texts, and the Psalms are found in many, many copies. But this particular Psalms Scroll has some variations, doesn’t it? Lawrence, would you like to speak to that?

Lawrence Schiffman: Well this particular text from the beginning of its discovery and publication, has been under some controversy and it’s clear also that there are other manuscripts of the Psalms at Qumran that share the particular characteristics that led to this controversy, namely, this Psalms Scrolls. The Psalms Scroll, preserves a group of Psalms from primarily the end of the book, in order which differs from the so-called Masoretic, that is to say the received Hebrew text that we’re used to. It also contains some additional compositions interspersed in it which include the particular one which is provided in our catalogue, the beautiful Psalm, if you want to call it that, which has come to be known as the Apostrophe to Zion and it also includes some previously known compositions which in one case appears as the Psalm 151 in the Septuagint, and some other texts previously known in Syriac, and Aramaic translation which was common in Eastern Christian circles.

Now the debate that took place when this text was first made known and then published, basically ran as follows: On one side was the view that it indicated that the Book of Psalms had still not crystallised in the time in which these manuscripts were copied, and that among the Qumran sectarians, the book was still open. And therefore that these additional compositions were thought by some to be real Psalms, and others maybe not to be, and then the second position was that this is a liturgical, a prayer text, and that as a prayer text, it was a collection of hymns and therefore included some non-Biblical Psalms.

Now this issue has, up until today, not really been decided, even though one of our colleagues who has worked on this extensively on this, thinks it has been, and it’s just very easy to sort of put out your own book and say, ‘Well now it’s decided that because I write the book on this.’ But actually, even as regards my books, that is unfortunately not true, i.e. that once you write the book, it’s decided. So this is a still-controversial point in Dead Sea Scrolls studies, but I want to say one thing: However you look at this, it give us some very, very beautiful poetry, which falls into this kind of class of apocryphal type compositions from this period.

Rachael Kohn: It certainly is beautiful, but Lawrence, you have focused very much on the liturgical life of the sect; surely the Psalms and this very beautiful Psalm, which seems to presuppose that a congregation is exclaiming to Zion, do you think that this was used in a liturgical way by the group?

Lawrence Schiffman: Well I think that there’s no question that elements of this text were liturgically used, because in the representation of Psalm 145, which is a very common Psalm in Jewish liturgy until today, you have here liturgical responses being aired in the text which must have indicated that that was its function. On the other hand we have a whole series of daily prayers from Qumran, and festival prayers, which are not in this text. And there is a whole liturgy that seems to have been recited among the sectarians, I should add by the way, that the poem at the end of the Rule of the Community, at least as I would accept this notion, does also refer to the recital of the Shma Deuteronomy 6,5 etc., morning and evening, as part of the liturgical system, and to some regular prayers of which I would assume that those other prayers are the regular prayers, which leaves us with really a question of let’s call it, sort of, the extent to which we’re willing to retroject. We know that historically the Psalms have been a book that people have read in personal worship and in public worship, this of course is clear in the Jewish community, the Christian community, and can we make the assumption, which I would make, but I admit it’s an assumption, that back at Qumran the songs were actually being read for liturgical purposes, because I don’t have a text which tells me that these texts are going to be read for that purpose. I do have in the Psalms Scroll, we have this amazing thing called David’s Compositions, which indicates that the Psalms were apportioned for variety of occasions, and they do include there, for example, the Sabbaths and festivals and New Moons, which seems to indicate what we would call liturgical, that is, public worship purposes. But I don’t have an account which says ‘They said this’, and so it still remains a matter of continued debate.

Rachael Kohn: Yes, Emanuel?

Emanuel Tov: I just want to sharpen one point: Indeed in this Scroll the Psalms that we know from the Masoretic text, occur in a different sequence, a completely different sequence, and this has been interpreted by some scholars as the Scroll reflecting a liturgical collection, but those scholars who believe that this is an ancient form of the Book of Psalms, make a very important and interesting point, because if their view is correct, I consider this to be the most important Scroll from Qumran for the study of the Hebrew Bible. It would show a Psalter completely different from what we have. I believe this view is incorrect, but I want to stress the enormous revolutionary aspect of this view which nowadays is espoused by, I guess, some four or five scholars.

Rachael Kohn: I’m just wondering though if a Psalter is used liturgically whether it would naturally undergo some shifts and re-ordering according to the congregation. But Geza, can you comment on the Psalms Scroll.

Geza Vermes: Yes, well let’s try to clarify one point. I imagine that most of our audience and the people who are listening to us on the Internet, think that there are 150 Psalms. This is the figure that you find in your ordinary Bibles. According to the Psalms Scroll from Cave 11 from Qumran, David (and I’m looking at the text so that I’m not misleading you) David wrote 3,600 Psalms and 364 songs for the daily sacrifice., and 52 songs for the Sabbath sacrifice, and 30 songs for the New Moons and feast days. In all, the songs which he uttered were 446, and four songs to make music on behalf of all those who were possessed by evil spirits. In all they were 4,050 Psalms. Now that’s a bit different from the 150 to which we are used.

Rachael Kohn: Now is this part of the exaggeration you talked about earlier, that some of the scribes might have been inclined to?

Geza Vermes: I’m not sure, because we have something very similar in flavour in the 1st century Jewish historian Flavius Josephus, in connection with King Solomon, to whom certain wisdom books of the Bible are attributed. And according to Josephus, Solomon wrote a much larger number of works than those which we know from the Bible. But in any case, what is fascinating in this list is that it represents something very peculiar to the Qumran community, namely that they believed there were 52 Sabbaths in the year, that they followed a certain calendar which we will call the Solar Calendar instead of the traditional Jewish calendar, which is a combination between Lunar and Solar, time reckoning. But since we have 364 songs, which is the number of days according to the Solar Calendar of David, of the Qumran Sect, and 52 songs are for the Sabbath, that shows that we have hear at least in this addition to the Psalms Scroll, something very typical to the sectarian outlook of the Qumran Community.

Rachael Kohn: Well the Solar Calendar is one of the things that often distinguishes the sect from the rest of the Jewish community. But in the actual ritual practices of the sect, we also find differences, and this has been an interest that you Lawrence Schiffman have had and most especially as can be seen in the Torah Precepts fragment, and that is the No.3, the third fragment. So there it is. It’s not so brightly coloured as the ones we’ve had before. But I’d love you to talk about how this particular Precept fragment not only radicalised scholarship but also perhaps shows something of a radical departure of the group itself.

Lawrence Schiffman: Let me just point out that this is a fragment, or we should better say it’s one fragment out of a group of six very fragmentary manuscripts, that has a story to it that illustrates, well I guess one could say, the problematical side of this field, because in 1984 at the International Conference on Biblical Archaeology, Elisha Qimrongot up and revealed to us that this text which had been only quoted in three lines previously, in some scholarly work, existed, and he proceeded to explain that this was basically a foundation document of the Qumran Sect, and eventually the New York Times would editorialise that it was this text that needed to be brought to light, and therefore the times demanded before publication and release of the Scrolls during that era in which there was so much controversy.

Rachael Kohn: You must have had some connection with The New York Times!

Lawrence Schiffman: Well I don’t know whether I had a connection with The New York Times, but I can tell you that this story didn’t end, because Hershel Shanks of the Biblical Archaeology Review published an edition of this text which he attributed to John Strugnell who’s one of the two editors, and Elisha Qimron was ascribed there simply as a junior scholar, and this to say the least, resulted in controversy in a law suit, in which the Israeli Court found Shanks guilty of $55,000 worth of damages, which sounds like a lot of money, but actually it’s zero, because it means that there was no damage, only moral damage to Kimrowan, and then the suit was appealed by Shanks and it’s still not yet been decided. And so the fact is that this document had a tremendous effect. For many of us though, the effect of this document really was to indicate how important the still unpublished materials were. And in different ways, many of us were involved in I guess what one might call more peaceful attempts to get the Scrolls out to everybody than our friend Hershel Shanks.

Now having talked about that story, let me talk about the ancient story. This is a document which has four parts, as we look at it now. Or actually we have it preserved three parts; there would have been some kind of introduction if it truly was one document, then you have a Solar Calendar which concluded with the statement that there were 364 days in the Solar year, which I always say would have left quite a bit of trouble if you tried to use the calendar, so, a little bit of a problem with that, because of course there are 365-1/4 days. Then would come a sort of introduction and a list of about 22 laws, some of which clearly indicate that our sectarian friends here were espousing a form of Jewish law similar to the sect of the Sadducees, the priestly sect of the Sadducees. And then a kind of homilectical conclusion, which was quite a beautiful conclusion, calling on the sect’s opponents to return to the ways which the sectarians were advocating. And this document is a polemical document in which it actually says ‘Well you know that we’re right because’ this kind of stuff. And this text has caused quite a stir over time, also because it’s circulated and it’s private circulation originally -

Rachael Kohn: Larry, it’s actually a letter, isn’t it?

Lawrence Schiffman: Well it’s a letter, or an epistle of some kind, at least we call it that. It isn’t really a letter in the real sense, but it certainly addresses a document meant to be sent to somebody, and we don’t know if it really was sent. We may be dealing simply with some assumptions on the part of the Qumran Community, but it’s written as if it’s sent to I would say two groups, the controlling priests in Jerusalem and the leader in Jerusalem. There must have been one of the Hasmonean, that is to say the Maccabean High Priests sometime soon after 152 BCE I would say, quite soon after.

Now I just want to make two last comments about this. I want to divide between what I think has been established, and what I theorised her. I think it’s been established without any question, that some of the laws here do prove some Sadducee priestly connection in the legal tradition, which the sectarians follow. What I have then gone on to theorise, and some people accept this and some people don’t, is that whether the sect is Essene or not, or whoever they are, they derive from a group of these Sadducee priests that left the Temple in protest over the Maccabean Hasmoneans having followed the way of the Pharisees in Jewish law, those forerunners of Talmudic rabbis, and here I’ve really been picking up on something Frank Cross said, because he had very early noted that the Qumran sect could have come into existence in the aftermath of the kind of political religious issues that resulted from the Maccabean takeover in the priesthood.

But the second point is of course admittedly controversial, and some people agree, some people don’t agree. But I think this notion of the legal parallels here is really unquestioned. I should also mention, since one of the people associated very clearly with the catalogue, Ayala Sussman, it’s her husband, Jacob Sussman at the Hebrew University, who argued very strongly for the point of this kind of Bothusian/Sadduceean/priestly trend the Jewish law being represented in the Scrolls.

Rachael Kohn: I just wonder whether Emanuel or Larry could just reflect on the actual content of the Scroll, which is about liquid streams and how they can carry impurity.

Lawrence Schiffman: Well this is actually one of my favourite passages. I’ve used it in many lectures because you can pick up the water on a table and you can pour it like this, if you don’t spill it, and you can explain what’s going on is that if the vessel on the top is pure and the one at the bottom is impure, so the group that presented this text exactly as is described for the Sadducees in the Mishna, the early rabbinic code, right? This group argued that the impurity could go backwards up the stream rendering the top vessel impure if the bottom was impure, whereas the Pharisees, the forerunners of the Talmudic rabbis, argued that the flow of the water, right? could only transmit impurity in the direction of the flow, and not in the opposite direction. Now some people I see are smirking about this, and I want to point out you have to understand that the types of Jewish law debates that went on in antiquity and separated the groups, were to a great extent about things that for us will appear minor, to them were major because they were linked to Biblical interpretation, and you have only to look at the so-called old believers and new believers in the Russian Orthodox church over whether you baptise with two or three fingers, to understand the way in which things that to outsiders appear minor, may truly have all types of major significance to those who follow the particular religious tradition.

Rachael Kohn: Well certainly the sect in question was not disinclined to take extreme views, and the Community Rule, the example of that we have here, Fragment 4, is one such document, where it’s quite obvious that this sect has taken very strong negative views towards those other Jews who have not followed the way according to the Torah. And Geza Vermes is the most familiar with this text. So if you can just comment on how this particular fragment reveals the attitude that the sect had towards the rest of Jewry.

Geza Vermes: Well this particular fragment is perhaps not the best to explain the issue. It is part of a hymn, of a Psalm, or a poem, in which a teacher, the head the community, explains that he will behave in a friendly and open way towards those who repented and accepted the rules of the community, and will keep all the secrets away from those who refuse to join this community of penitents. But otherwise, the Community Rule, that is to say the largest part of this document, deals not with prayers but with the rules and regulations relating to the organisation of a specific sectarian group.

The position is quite unique in this connection, because in addition to ten fragmentary texts which were found in Qumran Cave 4, there is also a complete Scroll of the Community Rule, originating from Qumran Cave 1, a text which was one of the first of those published. It came to light in 1951, nearly 50 years ago. And from it, we discover that we are dealing here with a community which for religious reasons in order to follow the path leading to God, separated themselves from the community of the Jews and took the way to the wilderness in order to study there the law, and prepare for the coming of the Kingdom of God. And in order to do this, they followed certain strict rules of legal and religious behaviour, which are given in detail in the middle part of this Scroll.

Rachael Kohn: Now is this Scroll - I understand that most of the sectarian documents are written in Aramaic. Would this Community Rule be written in Aramaic?

Geza Vermes: No rather most of the sectarian documents are written in Hebrew, and the Community Rule also is written in Hebrew. The Aramaic documents, most of them seem to be rather early and some of them, perhaps the majority of them, may be pre-sectarian. The Community Rule is definitely in Hebrew.

Rachael Kohn: And what form of Hebrew?

Geza Vermes: Imitation Biblical Hebrew.

Rachael Kohn: Imitation Biblical.

Geza Vermes: But it’s clearly not someone who - I don’t think that these people were actually speaking Hebrew among themselves, so that their natural, ordinary, everyday language was Aramaic, but Hebrew was considered to be the sacred language, and they tried to write all their religious works in that language. Which is roughly that of the latest books of the Hebrew Bible.

Rachael Kohn: One of the features of the Comunity Rule, and we see it even in this prayer or Psalm, which it starts ‘We will have no compassion on any who deviate from the way’ is not only a fairly strict attitude to those outside the group but very much to those inside the group who stumble in any way.

Geza Vermes: That’s perfectly correct. First of all, this was a sectarian group. That is to say, a minority group which cut itself off from the main body of Judaism, of the Jews living at that time, and they considered those Jews to be in impurity and unless they converted to the sect’s point of view, they would be thrown out. And within the sect itself, people had to obey the rules with absolute rigour. First of all, every single commandment of the Biblical law had to be observed. Any deliberate transgression of our Biblical law entailed immediate and definitive expulsion from the community.

Rachael Kohn: Even accidental infractions, such as saying the name of God?

Geza Vermes: The accidental disobedience to the law did not demand expulsion but they had to completely or partly restart their initiation process which lasted two years. In other words, if you did one of these mistakes by error, by inadvertence, you were excluded from the ordinary common life, and you had start all over again your initiation into the community.

Rachael Kohn: Well at this point I think we can open out the discussion to the audience. We have still two more fragments that perhaps you can ask questions about, the Nahum Commentary and the War Rule. The Nahum Commentary is quite interesting, because it seems to have some historical allusions in it. Now let me just remind you that there are microphones, there are four of them, and when you ask a question, it must be in front of the microphone so that not only all of us can hear it, but those at home in front of their computers can hear it as well. So if you’d like to take a moment and pull your thoughts together, and come to the microphone.

Man: I have a question. Do you have any measure of how many sectarians there were, say by the number of plates or anything like that, a measure of how many there were? And as far as the War Scroll is concerned, is there any evidence that the sectarians prepared for war?

Geza Vermes: I’m not sure about the number of plates, I imagine somebody counted them, but there is another way of estimating the number of people who lived there, and this is by the number of graves that lie not far away from the building, and that’s roughly 1100, and if it is correct that the site was occupied for something like 150 or 200 years, by dividing this it is estimated that the number of occupants has never exceeded something like 50 or thereabouts. I may be subject there to correction.

Emanuel Tov: The same number has also been given by archaeologists who simply measured the space available in a large community room where supposedly they convened for prayer, and I think the archaeologist who wrote about that compared that with the size of living in cells in prisons. And so the different measures are there also, between 60 the lowest number, and 200 the highest number, which you will have to multiply by the number of generations of occupants.

Rachael Kohn: And just briefly, can any of you comment on whether the War Scroll was actually a manual of how to go about it?

Lawrence Schiffman: Well wait, that’s not exactly what the question was. The War Scroll is an actual manual how to go about it, in that it details all types of very specific weapons to be used in certain ways and there’s a long-standing debate to what extent it represents more a Hellenistic form and what extent a Roman form of warfare, the real question is whether these people, other than preparing in a literary sense, were preparing in a military sense. We have reference to mustering ceremonies that looked military. In the Rule of the Community, but when it comes to weaponry, there is none. Now there are two possible interpretations of this: 1) they weren’t for real, and the other is that they went off into the rebellion against the Romans with their weapons. So we know that Qumran seems to have been conquered by the Romans in 68, and there were arrowheads etc. so there must have been somebody opposing the Romans on the other side shooting back, but we really don’t have any more evidence.

Also just to clarify one point: these names War Rule, War Scroll are confusing. In the exhibition here, we are seeing a piece of a War Rule, which is a text related to the thing we call the War Scroll, but actually it’s even worse, because the thing we call the War Scroll comes in two versions anyhow. But in any case, just so people should realise it’s a different Scroll.

Rachael Kohn: Well we would have expected that! The next question?

Man: OK, we’ve spoken of three different groups of Scrolls, including the Apocryphal material. My question concerns how we are persuaded of the use of that material in wider Judaism before the sect settled at Qumran, and beyond the sect. What evidence do we have of that usage, particularly of something like Enoch.

Rachael Kohn: Enoch?

Geza Vermes: I’m not sure I understood the question.

Rachael Kohn: Can you repeat the question?

Man: OK. We have a number of works, like the Aramaic Enoch documents, Jubilees, Genesis Apocryphon, other material that’s been listed as non-sectarian. The question is, if it’s non-sectarian, where did it come from, and what use do we know of it in Judaism prior to Qumran? Otherwise, is it sectarian? Is it just their material?

Rachael Kohn: Are you suggesting that perhaps the sect themselves may have composed the apocryphal material?

Man: My question really is I’m not aware of anywhere else that it would have occurred prior to that.

Lawrence Schiffman: Let me try to clarify a few of the points here. From my point of view, based on the inter-relation of some of these texts, that is to say how some are dependent on others, plus the fact that they seem to represent a widespread kind of a tradition if you read them, and also from the fact that texts like this but admittedly in very small numbers were found at Madsada, also from the fact that the later rabbinic literature makes reference to the existence of such texts, in fact opposes such texts and the use of such texts, I would think that this was very widespread literature and that what we’re getting in these materials are the types of texts that were being read by many, many Jews throughout the land and they are similar in turn to certain texts which we know existed in Greek that were being read by other Jews, although obviously we expect and find larger Hellenistic influence in those Greek texts, some of which may even have been written in the places of the Greek speaking world outside of the land of Israel.
So I personally feel that the Scrolls have opened up to us a much better sense of the wider literature and the nature of Judaism. This in turn has therefore explained why we find some of these ideas reflected in the later rabbinic literature and some of them reflected in Christianity because they were much widespread in this period, and should not be seen from my point of view as the literature of these strange people who went off in the desert.

Rachael Kohn: So it’s actually part of the Jewish heritage that the sect inherited.

Lawrence Schiffman: And they have preserved for us, but which we can use to help understand elements on a much wider scale, within Judaism and within Christianity later on.

Rachael Kohn: Next question.

Emanuel Tov: That’s why in fact if we used the very term The Dead Sea Scrolls of the Qumran Scrolls we are perpetuating a misconception because we now know that so many of the Scrolls that were found at Qumran were not actually written at Qumran. There’s no reason to believe the Greek texts are not sectarian, the Mesusoth that were found there are not sectarian, and various of the Psalms that were found at Qumran, some of the Western literature, and many other types of literature that were found there were not sectarian, so we have to open our minds.

Rachael Kohn: So Emanuel have you come up with a new term that we might use, because I think all of these galleries are going to need to know.

Emanuel Tov: We have been struggling for 20 or so years against the term Dead Sea Scrolls and we’re using it every day.

Geza Vermes: Its quite simple really, if Dead Sea Scrolls mean texts which were found there, that is perfectly correct as a description but then what the nature of these texts is, is a totally different issue, and I agree there with my colleagues here that a good many of those texts either pre-existed and were inherited by the first members of that sectarian community or were brought in from outside, partly because the people who lived there were interested, and partly, whether this view of mine is shared by many I don’t know, I think they made a living out of copying manuscripts and selling them.

Rachael Kohn: Oh, very interesting. The first publishing house. Next question up there.

Man: Traditional publishing for this sort of material is absolutely unaffordable by the vast majority of the public. Even I think, libraries would have great difficulty in buying such limited editions, full of photographs and detailed commentaries and so forth. What are the chances of using the web properly, including things like colour coding so that one could have the photographs, then various forms of transliteration in pointed and unpointed modern Hebrew, transliterated into Roman alphabet and translated into English? Much of this material could be made available to everybody for free, and also the publisher would earn more money for certain of the material on such a site, than it ever could hope to earn from such exorbitant traditional publishing. Basically it’s a loser if you do it traditionally.

Emanuel Tov: What shall I say? The web is a very nice invention and we are using it every day, but it does not solve problems of copyright. More and more specifically, we are now working on the idea, on several ideas. The main place where the Dead Sea Scrolls are being published is our series DJD (Discoveries in the Judean Desert.) That will soon be also on CD and we’re working on the idea of making that available on the web, with or without photographs. In addition to this there will be a one-volume edition, an abbreviated edition of all the texts published, indeed of discoveries in the Judean desert both Biblical and non-Biblical texts, but without all the commentaries. Once again, with regard to the web, everyone asks this question, ‘Are the Dead Sea Scrolls on the web world or not?’ and it has to do mainly with problems of copyright, but sooner or later this will be solved.

Rachael Kohn: We have time actually for just one very short question. So to you, down here.

Woman: Just as briefly as I can. It relates to a statement that Rachael Kohn made, and just to clarify very quickly, I’m a non-academic, I’m a scientific poet, if this makes sense. I will draw your attention to words like ‘space time’, ‘relationship’, and ‘literature’. Rachael Kohn said ‘Liturgy might go through some shifts and movements in time,’ and I will draw your attention to words, just quickly.

Rachael Kohn: Do you have a question?

Woman: Yes, I do, but I’ll have to draw your attention, because this is context. ‘Epistle’, ‘psalter’, ‘Scriptorium’, ‘firmanent’, ‘direction of flow’. Now as a poet, and coming out of the ‘60s and now in the ‘70s, my mind goes to someone like Cat Stevens who was of a community culture, a ‘60s poet, he then became maybe a Sufi. Now the question, yes, now very, very quickly my question is in relation to these fragments, in relation to a sect working on these fragments, if you could equate the sect to say like a colony of artists, if the shape and form of the script looks very much like, you use the terminology I’ve written it down here and I just can’t think of the word - Sans script, without script, a sans script, so it was like the original skrit images, so I put to you, is it possible for a sect to evolve a language which speaks to an artist like myself, a poet, in a scientific way.

Rachael Kohn: Thank you. Thank you for that.

Emanuel Tov: I have a quick answer. Yes.

Rachael Kohn: And on that note I’d like to thank you all very much for coming here and participating in the Fragments Seminar on the Dead Sea Scrolls. You can hear all of this on the website, the ABC website, the Gateway to Religion, abc.net.au/religion. So I thank you all for being here. Please give a hand to our guests.


The Dead Sea Scrolls Collection at The Gnostic Society Library

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