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The Dead Sea Scrolls 4

24 Jul

The Impact of the Dead Sea Scrolls

Joseph A. Fitzmyer, S.J. (2009). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.

Introduction:

We are going to start at chapter 3 and spare our readers what we have had to endure almost every time we read a book or article on these Scrolls. That means that we will not be placing the story of their discovery on this page.

It has become beyond annoying over the years to pick up different works by many different authors, all who felt the need to repeat the story as if no one had ever heard about it in the past 70 years (approx.).

We will try to place the most pertinent information here and encourage you to purchase this book in order to get all the information that author provides.

III. THE PALESTINIAN JEWISH SECT OF THE ESSENES:

The Jews who wrote or used the collection of documents known today as the Qumran Scrolls are not easy to identify. Their origin in pre-Christian times is certain, as the archaeological evidence from Khirbet Qumran, ‘Ain Feshkha, and the caves in which the texts were found makes clear.

Unfortunately, there is nothing in any of the documents that reveals who they were; the members of the sect do not reveal their name(s), except by indirect appellations, such as yaḥad, “community” (literally, “unit”), which occurs in the title of its rule book (DJD 1. 107; p1. XXII); bĕnê Ṣādôq, “sons of Zadoq” (1QS 5:2, 9); ’anšê hayyaḥad, “men of the community” (1QS 5:1); bĕnê ’ôr, “sons of light” (1QS 1:9; 1QM 1:1); bĕrît haḥădāšāh, “the new covenant” (1QpHab 2:3; CD 6:19 [name derived from Jer 31:31]); bā’ê habbĕrît, “those who enter the covenant” (1QS 2:18); ‘ēdāh, “congregation” (1QSa 1:6); ‘ădat hā-’ebyônîm, “congregation of the poor” (4QpPsa [4Q171] 2:10); šābê Yiśrā’ēl, “the returnees of Israel” (CD 4:2); ḥibbûr Yiśrā’ēl, “the company of Israel” (CD 12:8); or qāhāl, “assembly” (1QSa 1:25). None of these symbolic titles, however, tells us anything about their historical name.

Consequently, many attempts have been made by modern scholars to identify the inhabitants, using names derived from other historical documents that have revealed the different kinds of Jews who lived in ancient Palestine or Judea…

The historical name “Essene” is passed on in various spellings in Greek and Latin sources. One finds the Greek spelling Essēnoi in some manuscripts of Josephus’s writings, and Essaioi in others. Writers of the patristic period (e.g., Epiphanius) sometimes have the Greek spelling Ossēnoi or Ossaioi (a copyist’s confusion of Ɛ with O?). In Latin, the name is given as Esseni (so Pliny the Elder [Nat. Hist. 5.15.73]). Even though this name is used for Jews, no one has ever found such a name in Hebrew or Aramaic texts. Some scholars have tried to explain Essēnoi as an adjective (with the common Greek gentilic ending -ēnos) derived either from the Hebrew root ‘sy, “do, make” (hence “Doers” [i.e., those that do the will of God]), or “heal” (hence “Healers”), or ḥasayyā’, “pious ones” (Aramaic). None of these explanations is really convincing.

The reason why most scholars prefer to identify the Qumran sect as Essene is the testimony of the Latin writer Pliny the Elder (Gaius Plinius Secundus, A.D. 23–79)…

Two main explanations are current about the origin of the Jewish sect of the Essenes: one traces them to a Palestinian or Judean setting, and the other to a Babylonian background…

The Jews who belonged to the Essene movement were of four sorts: (1) the cenobitic Jews of the Qumran area; (2) those who lived in Jerusalem and other towns and villages of Judea; (3) those still in the camps of “the land of Damascus” (= Babylon); (4) the Therapeutae in Egypt, related to the Essenes of Judea. Here I shall concentrate mainly on the cenobites of the Qumran area.

From the archaeological evidence at Khirbet Qumran, it is clear that the Essenes began to occupy the community center in Phase Ib, about the time that John Hyrcanus I was king and high priest in Judea (134–104 B.C.). Prior to that time, when they withdrew to Qumran, they were a disorganized group, such as described in the Damascus Document, “In the period of wrath, three hundred and ninety years after He delivered them into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, He visited them and made a shoot of planting sprout from Israel and Aaron to take possession of His land” (CD 1:5–8)…

IV THE LANGUAGES OF THE SCROLLS

Being documents of ancient Jews living in Judea in the last pre-Christian centuries and during the first century A.D., the Qumran Scrolls were written in three languages, Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. Each of these languages appears in forms that were little known prior to the discovery of the scrolls.

(1) Hebrew. The vast majority of the texts retrieved from the Qumran caves were written in Hebrew. The various biblical texts discovered there were copied in the consonantal form of Biblical Hebrew that was characteristic of the given book, either preexilic or postexilic Biblical Hebrew. At times, however, these copies display the fuller spelling found in many other Qumran Hebrew texts, for example, qwdš (= qôdeš) instead of merely qdš (pronounced in the same way). That fuller spelling is called scriptio plena, which means the use of certain consonants to indicate vowels (e.g., aleph or hē for a; waw for u or ô; yodh for i); such consonants were called matres lectionis (lit., “mothers of a reading”).

The nonbiblical Qumran texts, however, were written in a consonantal form of Hebrew that is later than the postexilic biblical form but not identical to what was used in the earliest of the rabbinical writings, known as Mishnaic Hebrew, which is a form of the language that appears about A.D. 200–220. Many of the sectarian and parabiblical literary writings used by the Essenes were composed in Qumran Hebrew.1 This is strange, because at that time most of the Jews in Judea would have been speaking Aramaic. It is often thought that the Essenes resuscitated the use of spoken Hebrew because it was regarded by them as lĕšôn haqqōdeš, “the language of the Sanctuary.”…

2) Aramaic. Aramaic is a sister language of Hebrew, using the very same consonants but vocalizing them differently. For instance, “the king” would be hammélek in Hebrew, but malkā́ in Aramaic, having the same three consonants, mlk, the root of the verb “to rule, reign.” Qumran Aramaic, however, is a form of the language later than Biblical Aramaic but not identical to the form that appears later in rabbinic writings of the fourth century A.D. Some fragments of Daniel and Ezra from the Qumran caves preserve the Biblical Aramaic form of those biblical books, but often with fuller spelling..

(3) Greek. Although most of the writings found in the Qumran caves were composed in a Semitic language, either Hebrew or Aramaic, some were discovered that were written in Greek These include texts of the Septuagint, that is, the translation of the Hebrew OT into Hellenistic Greek

V THE SCRIPTURES IN THE SCROLLS

The discovery of copies of the Hebrew Scriptures in the Qumran caves gives concrete evidence of what Josephus wrote about the Essenes’ esteem for Moses and his writings: “After God, they hold most in esteem the name of their lawgiver, any blasphemer of whom is put to death” (J.W. 2.8.9 §145). Moreover, the Qumran copies have revolutionized not only the critical study of those biblical writings (i.e., textual criticism), but also the study of the canon and ancient translations (in Aramaic, Greek, and Latin). They have proved to be so important because, before they were discovered, the oldest manuscript of a Hebrew biblical text, the Ben Asher Codex of the Prophets, was dated to A.D. 895.1 The manuscript of Isaiah from Qumran Cave 1 (1QIsaa) is dated 125–100 B.C. and is roughly a thousand years older than the Ben Asher Codex.

Most of the biblical texts have been inscribed on animal skin (of a lamb or a kid), which was prepared for writing in the basins of ‘Ain Feshkha. Some texts of Kings, Daniel, and Tobit are found on papyrus, which may have come from reeds grown locally or from Lake Huleh in Galilee. The skin was inscribed usually on the hair side…

The majority of the biblical books written in Hebrew were found in Qumran Cave 4, but Caves 1–3, 5–8, and 11 also yielded a goodly number of them. All told, they number about 202, a little less than a quarter of all the texts retrieved from the 11 Qumran caves. Almost 20 more come from other sites, such as Murabba‘at and Masada. Most of the documents are fragmentary, but a complete copy of all 66 chapters of the Book of Isaiah was among the seven big texts from Qumran Cave 1 (1QIsaa), from which another sizable, but not complete, copy was retrieved (1QIsab). The only books not represented among the fragments are Esther and Nehemiah. There is, however, a fragmentary text of Ezra (4QEzra [4Q117]), which may offset the loss of Nehemiah, because in antiquity Ezra and Nehemiah were considered at times as one writing…

Many of these biblical texts were copied by Essene scribes at Qumran, and often they can be detected by the distinctive mode of writing and spelling. Some texts are dated palaeographically to a time before the Essene community began to live at Qumran; they show that they were copied elsewhere and were brought to the desert retreat when the Essenes came there. Thus, the oldest text, 4QExodf is dated 250 B.C. …

The chapters of the Book of Daniel and of Ezra that are preserved in Aramaic in the Masoretic Text in use today are represented in fragmentary texts from Qumran…

A few fragments of the Greek translation of the Pentateuch, commonly known as the Old Greek or Septuagint version, have turned up in Qumran Cave 4…

Emanuel Tov has summarized the contribution that the Qumran texts have made to biblical research.9 For instance, he has emphasized readings previously unknown, which now enable one to understand better details in the traditional Masoretic Text that had been obscured by omissions…

Tov has also shown how some of the Qumran biblical texts reveal the reliability of ancient translations, such as the Old Greek (or Septuagint), because some copies of the Hebrew text agree more with the Septuagint than with the traditional Masoretic Text…

This is a difficult topic to discuss, because “canon” is a Greek word (kanōn) that came to be used of authoritative biblical writings in the early Christian church. In the later rabbinical tradition, the idea of such writings was expressed by the formula, “writings that render the hands unclean”: “The [Aramaic] version that is in Ezra and Daniel renders the hands unclean. If an [Aramaic] version [contained in the Scriptures] was written in Hebrew, or if [Scripture that is in] Hebrew was written in an [Aramaic] version, or in [paleo-] Hebrew script, it does not render the hands unclean” (m. Yadaim 4:5).

It is not known, however, whether there were such authoritative writings (or a canon of Scripture) in pre-Christian times or even how the Qumran Essenes then regarded such writings, which we call today apocryphal, deuterocanonical, or protocanonical writings…

VI THE USE AND INTERPRETATION OF SCRIPTURE IN THE SECT

The Essenes differed from the Pharisees in that they did not have an oral tradition governing their understanding of the written Word of God. The Pharisaic oral tradition came to be called tôrāh šebĕ‘al peh, “the Law according to the mouth,” and differed from the tôrāh šebiktāb, “the Law that is in writing.” The oral tradition of the Pharisees was written down eventually in the rabbinic period, about A.D. 200–220, under R. Judah Han-Naśi’ (or Judah the Prince). That tradition thus began with the Mishnah and ended with the Talmuds, Palestinian and Babylonian. Lacking such an oral tradition, the Essenes resorted rather to a variety of ways of biblical exegesis or interpretation, among which the most important were written commentaries that they called pĕšārîm…

In most instances, the Essene interpretation of Scripture assumes the form of literal exegesis, which is unlike that of Philo and other Alexandrian interpreters, whose interpretation is often allegorical, figurative, or symbolic. The Essene interpretation was known as “the exact interpretation of the Law” (pĕrûš hattôrāh, CD 4:8) and “the study of the Law” (midraš hattôrāh). The passage in the Manual of Discipline that explains why the Essenes were in their desert retreat says, “When these have become a community in Israel … and walk to the desert to open there His path, as it stands written, ‘In the desert prepare the way of ••••, make straight a path for our God’ (Isa 40:3). This is the study of the Law, which He ordered through Moses” (1QS 8:12–15). The Essenes considered such study a way of discerning the will of God: what God had hidden from Israel of old, but was discovered by “the Interpreter of the Law” (dôrēš hattôrāh, 1QS 8:11–12), who may have been the Teacher of Righteousness…

VIII BELIEFS AND PRACTICES OF THE SECT:

In the eschatological writings that were discussed toward the end of the preceding chapter, it was found that the Essenes of Qumran believed that they were already living in the end-time. Such a belief not only called for a mode of conduct or behavior that was appropriate to it but also set them apart from other contemporary Jews such as the Pharisees and the Sadducees. The life and conduct of the Essenes relied very much on the data of the Scriptures, which they interpreted exactly and strictly, but they were governed also by their eschatological convictions.

On the one hand, the belief of the Essenes did not differ from the teachings of other Jews, in that they too affirmed monotheism and the observance of the Mosaic Law and the writings of the Prophets. The Essenes likewise uttered, “Hear, O Israel, Yahweh, is our God, Yahweh alone” (Deut 6:4), and pledged “to seek God with all one’s heart and with all one’s soul and to do what is good and upright before Him, as He ordered through Moses and all His servants, the Prophets” (1QS 1:1–3). So they expressed their reverence and respect for “the God of Israel” (1QS 3:24), the God of their ancestors. In the Psalms Scroll of Qumran Cave 11, which was like a prayer book of the community, the Essenes sang to God with many of the psalms of the canonical psalter. Yet it contains also a “Hymn to the Creator” and uses phrases from Jer 10:12–13 and Ps 135:7…

These different ways of writing the name of God not only reveal the reverence the Essenes had for the Creator, but also show the way they tended to avoid pronouncing His sacred name as Yahweh. The common vocalization of the four consonants is known from Origen’s Hexapla, where he transcribed the pronunciation of the Hebrew in Greek as IAB€. The tetragrammaton, written in Hebrew characters, was employed even in Greek translations of OT books, when those translations were made by Jewish scribes. Christian scribes, however, translated the tetragrammaton in the Septuagint as ho Kyrios, “the Lord,” and that became the common practice for centuries….

Besides the main theological tenets that have been singled out in §§1–3 above, the Essenes cherished various other convictions about angels, the holy Spirit, justification by grace, the New Jerusalem, and astrology.

(a) Angels. The main word in Hebrew for “angels” is mal’ākîm (lit., “messengers,” who bring God’s word to human beings); but other names are used too: qĕdôšîm, “holy ones,” rûḥôt, “spirits,” ’ēlîm, “divinities,” and even ’ĕlôhîm, “gods.” In Aramaic, one finds mal’ākîn, “messengers,” ‘îrîn, “watchers,” and qaddîšîn, “holy ones.” Many of the Hebrew titles can be found in a text that is called sometimes “The Angelic Liturgy,” or more usually 11QShirShabb (11Q17), cols. 1–5.

Besides the angels mentioned in the OT, Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael (1QM 9:15–16; 4QEna 1 iv 6), the Essenes venerated also Sariel (1QM 9:16) and other angels, whose names are listed in 4QEna 1 iv 1–4: Shemiḥazah, Ḥermoni, Baraq’el, Kokab’el, Ziqi’el, Aratteqoph, Shimsṓḥi’el, Sahri’el, Asa’el. Another list of twenty angels is provided in 4QEna 1 iii 5–12.3 Not all the angels were good, however, since Belial also had his mal’ākîm, “angels” (1QM 1:15)…

The Holy Spirit. Borrowing from the OT, especially from the Book of Ezekiel, the idea of “the Spirit of the Lord” (37:1), the Essenes used it often to express their awareness of God’s presence among them: “You have spread over me Your holy Spirit so that I may not stumble” (1QHa 15 [old 7]:7); “You have delighted me with Your holy Spirit” (1QHa 17 [old 9]:32); “I have heeded faithfully Your wondrous secret through Your holy Spirit” (1QHa 20 [old 17]:12)…

IX THE SCROLLS AND CHRISTIANITY

In approaching this topic, I must issue a warning at the outset. This topic is not being discussed in any apologetic sense, as if it were more or less important than it really is. There is, first of all, a need to be aware of a Christian tendency, often subconscious, to color details in these thoroughly Jewish scrolls or magnify them unduly in a Christian sense. Second, some years ago, shortly after the publication of the first scrolls from Cave 1, the Jewish scholar Samuel Sandmel warned those who were studying them about “Parallelomania.”1 Parallels there are indeed; but perhaps the comment should be, “So what?” The parallels may be sheer coincidence. Third, one often sees quoted the dictum of E. R. Goodenough about parallels: A parallel by definition consists of straight lines in the same plane that never meet, however far they are extended in any direction. That definition, however, is derived from mathematics and is being applied to literature. To repeat the dictum as if it closes all discussion or absolves one from investigating the literary relationship of authors to some sources is only a form of obscurantism—something little better than parallelomania or pan-Qumranism. It also enables one to avoid asking the question, when a literary parallel might cease to be such and prove actually to be a contact…

John, the son of the priest Zechariah and Elizabeth (Luke 1:5), is mentioned nowhere in any of Qumran Scrolls or in any of the Dead Sea Scrolls (in the broad sense), even though he is known to have been a contemporary of the Qumran Essenes. The Jewish historian Josephus knew of John and reported that some Jews claimed that God had destroyed the army of Herod Antipas, the tetrarch of Galilee, “because of the execution of John, called the Baptist” (Ant. 18.5.2 §§116–19; see Mark 6:16–29, the Gospel account of John’s death)…

There is no mention of Jesus of Nazareth anywhere in the QL. Since most of the scrolls date from the first century B.C., it is not surprising that he is not named in any of them. Those that are dated palaeographically to the first century A.D. come usually from such an early time in that century that there is little likelihood that they would say anything about him.

That Jesus knew of the Essenes of Qumran is not unlikely. That he taught some of the same things that they espoused is not impossible, but there is no way of being certain about either question, mainly because the Essenes are not mentioned in the NT…

One of the names found in the NT for the primitive Christian community is “the Way” (hē hodos), in Acts 9:2; 19:9, 23; 22:4; 24:14, 23. Commentators on Acts have said either that they could not find out where this name came from or that it was a shortening of “the way of the Lord/God,” as in Acts 18:25–26. Hadderek, “the Way,” however, occurs a number of times at the designation of the Essene community at Qumran: tikkûnê hadderek, “the regulations of the Way” (1QS 9:21); lĕbôḥôrê derek, “those who choose the Way” (1QS 9:17–18); sōrĕrê derek, “those who turn aside from the Way” (CD 2:6). This evidence might suggest that early Christians, in using “the Way” as a name for their members, were imitating the Essene designation of their community…

In Qumran Cave 7, nineteen fragments were found, all written in Greek; two were biblical texts (7Q1: Exod 28:4–7; 7Q2: Epistle of Jeremy [Baruch 6]:43–44) and the rest (7Q3–19) remained unidentified. In 1972, José O’Callaghan published an article in which he claimed to identify eight of the fragments (7Q4–10, 15) as quotations of NT verses. He considered 7Q4 to be part of 1 Tim 3:16; 4:1, 3; 7Q5 as Mark 6:52–53; 7Q6/l as Mark 4:28; 7Q6/2 as Acts 27:38; 7Q7 as Mark 12:17; 7Q8 as Jas 1:23–24; 7Q9 as Rom 5:11–12; 7Q10 as 2 Pet 1:15; and 7Q15 as Mark 6:48.3

If O’Callaghan had been right, one would have had to change the interpretation of many of the finds at Qumran and revise the dating of many NT writings: for example, Christians would have been among the people resident at Qumran; 2 Peter would have been written before the fall of Jerusalem.

Many scholars and students of the Qumran scrolls, however, remained quite skeptical about his identification, because most of the 7Q fragments are so small and contain so few letters that they almost defy identification. O’Callaghan continued to insist on the NT identification until his death…

X THE SCROLLS AND THE WRITINGS OF PAUL OF TARSUS

The chief difference between the QL and the NT lies in the Christian gospel, the good news of what Jesus of Nazareth achieved for humanity in his life, passion, death, and resurrection. There is nothing like that news in the QL. An important secondary difference, however, is the eschatology of the two groups. The Essenes, who seem to have been convinced that they were living already in the end-time, were looking forward predominantly to the end of that period, to the coming of a Prophet and the Messiahs of Aaron and Israel and to the final battle of the sons of light against the sons of darkness. The early Christians, however, who also may be thought of as already living in the end-time, predominantly looked backward to Jesus of Nazareth as the Messiah who has already come.

The earliest NT writer who wrote about Jesus was not one of the evangelists, but Paul of Tarsus. Even before any of the Gospels, the narratives of what Jesus did and said, were composed, Paul was interpreting the meaning of what Jesus did and said. So the interpretation preceded the narrative. Paul is known to Christians of a later date from his letters and the account of his ministry that Luke later composed in the Acts of the Apostles…

Various features of Pauline theology have been detected as similar to that of the Essenes: justification by grace, interpretation of Hab 2:4, curse of the law, lists of vices and virtues, and dualism…

XI THE SCROLLS AND JOHANNINE WRITINGS

By “Johannine Writings” I mean the Gospel according to John and the three Johannine Epistles. Even though the Apocalypse (or Book of Revelation) is attributed to John, I shall treat that writing in the next chapter, along with other Christian writings of the NT.

The Gospel according to John, the fourth of the canonical Gospels, was hardly a second-century composition, as has been maintained at times. The Rylands Papyrus (P52), containing parts of John 18:31–33, 37–38, is dated palaeographically to A.D. 100–125, which shows that the Gospel was already in existence at the end of the first Christian century. It is dated commonly to the last decade, A.D. 90–95, and not earlier. The Fourth Gospel is not a reformulation of the Christian good news in philosophical terms, despite its emphasis in the prologue on the Logos and its allegedly Platonic view of the world (“above … below,” ideal vs. real). It contains rather a heavily Jewish Christian formulation that has embedded a primitive tradition about Jesus of Nazareth, along with a clear dependence on OT ideas, customs, and feasts. Hence, it is a late first-century meditative reminiscence of what Jesus once did and said…

As will be seen below, the Johannine Gospel and Epistles manifest contacts with Essene writings that are not just random parallels. It is not known, however, where or how such a contact took place. Ephesus has been regarded traditionally as the place of composition of the Fourth Gospel, and because the Acts of the Apostles speaks of disciples of John the Baptist in Ephesus (Acts 18:25–19:5), it has been suggested that the contact was made through such disciples in Ephesus. A recent commentator on the Gospel, however, has proposed rather that its author “was more likely to have been an Essene,” who was converted…

XII THE SCROLLS AND OTHER CHRISTIAN WRITINGS

The Beatitudes. A beatitude or macarism is a saying that begins, “Blessed is/are.… The beatitude as a literary form is found often in the OT (e.g., Ps 1:1; Jer 17:7); sometimes beatitudes are paired (e.g., Ps 32:1–2). There are thirteen beatitudes in the Matthean Gospel, and fifteen in the Lucan. They appear on the lips of Jesus, scattered throughout his teaching. A collection of beatitudes is found in Matt 5:3–10 (eight of them) and in Luke 6:20–22 (four of them, parallel to four woes).

Beatitudes are scattered throughout QL, especially in its Wisdom texts. Thus, “Blessed is the man to whom she [Wisdom] has been given” (4QWisText [4Q185] 1–2 ii 8); “Blessed is the man who makes(?) her [Wisdom], does not deceive her, does not slander against her …” (ibid., 13)…

The NT writing that is so named is recognized today as neither a Pauline composition, nor an epistle, nor addressed to the Hebrews, despite the long tradition that so regarded it. It is an anonymous homily or word of exhortation (logos paraklēseōs, so named in Heb 13:22) with an epistolary conclusion, addressed to a Christian community and seeking to get it to renew its loyalty after considerable backsliding. It contains extensive exhortations, with elaborate interpretations of OT passages.

The Jewish scholar Y. Yadin, in an early article written in 1958, maintained that the Epistle to the Hebrews was addressed to a “group of Jews originally belonging to the DSS Sect who were converted to Christianity, carrying with them some of their previous beliefs.”2 His opinion was adopted by some Christian scholars…

This distinctive book of the NT is called properly by the Greek title, “The Apocalypse” (Apokalypsis), because it is the only complete book in the NT written in the literary genre called “apocalyptic.” This genre designates writings of a revelatory character that were born in ancient Judaism, especially in times when Israel was struggling with occupying powers that were persecuting the Israelites. The purpose of such a writing was to console the Israelites, assuring them that God was still in control of their destiny and history. Examples of such apocalyptic writing can be found in Isaiah 24–27, 56–66; Zechariah 9–14; Daniel 7–12; and in noncanonical Jewish literature such as Jubilees, 1 Enoch, and 4 Ezra…

XIII THE COPPER SCROLL

In Qumran Cave 3, the archaeologists who were scouring the cliffs that line the northwest shore of the Dead Sea in the spring of 1952 as they looked for further caves after the discovery of Cave 2 found a strange object. It turned out to be two copper rolls, each about 12 inches long, which had lain in the cave for about 2,000 years. The copper rolls could not be unrolled because the metal had become oxidized and brittle. They have often been called “the Copper Scroll,” the title used in this chapter. They are not really a scroll, but rather two parts of a plaque. It soon became clear that the plaque contained some writing, because some of the letters of the inscribed text showed through on the reverse. A German scholar, Karl Georg Kuhn, who studied the unrolled plaque, determined from the inverse letters that the text had something to do with “digging,” “cubits,” and “gold.” From this he concluded that it probably said something about hidden treasure…

Allegro made a facsimile of the Hebrew letters to accompany the photographs of the columns; the photographs were difficult to read because of the curvature of the strips, and so the facsimile became all important. Allegro finally brought the facsimile, the photographs, and unrolled plaque back to Jerusalem. Then J. T. Milik was assigned to make the official publication of it, which he finally did in 1962, seven years after it was opened…

When the text of 3Q15 was studied, it revealed that it was indeed a list of 64 places were treasure had been buried, as Kuhn had suggested from his study of it in its unopened state. For instance, the first entry of column 1 reads, “At Harubah, which is in the Vale of Achor, under the steps that face eastward, 40 cubits: a box of silver weighing 17 talents. KɛN.” In this entry, the details are somewhat clear, but in many of the 64 entries they are not. The Hebrew text of the first entry just quoted ends with three Greek letters, and nobody has been able to say what they (and a few other instances like them) really mean. What is evident, however, is that the whole text records the hiding places of many precious metals: gold, silver, and other items…

The opened plaque, however, has raised many questions. Does it record places where real treasure has been buried? Was it the treasure of the Qumran community? Or did the treasure belong to someone else? Possibly to the Temple in Jerusalem? Who stored the plaque in Cave 3? Or was it merely a fictional record of “buried treasure”? There are other ancient examples of imaginary buried treasure, but none on a copper plaque. But if it is a fictional record, why would anyone inscribe it on a copper plaque?

Whatever the answers to such questions may be, the text inscribed on the plaque is important for the study of the Hebrew dialect in which it was composed. It is written in a form of Hebrew that is intermediate between the late postexilic Biblical Hebrew (and even Qumran Hebrew) and Mishnaic Hebrew. Milik dated the script palaeographically to A.D. 100. If he is correct, that would mean that the plaque was deposited in Cave 3 after the destruction of the Essene community center at Qumran in A.D. 68 and the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. It is far from certain that the plaque had anything to do with the Essene community, because its text contains no sectarian terminology and mentions no one or anything connected with the Essenes…

XIV THE END OF THE QUMRAN COMMUNITY

From the archaeological evidence at Khirbet Qumran, it is known that the site was destroyed by fire, and in the ashes created by it were found coins dated to the second and third year of the First Jewish Revolt against Rome, along with numerous arrowheads.1 This means that the buildings were destroyed by military action, that is, by the Roman troops that were in the Jordan Valley prior to their advance to the siege of Jerusalem. Hence, the site of Qumran became ruins (a khirbeh) in A.D. 68, and the Essenes had to move on from there. The Romans left a small squadron of soldiers at Qumran, who used part of the site as military post to guard the shore of the Dead Sea and the area around the mouth of the Jordan River.

Some of the Essenes from Qumran must have gone to Masada, a Herodian fortress situated about 25 miles to the south-southwest of Qumran, because copies of some of the same texts that were found in Qumran Cave 4 were also found there, written in the same script. The fortress of Masada fell to the Roman siege of it in A.D. 73–74, and what Essenes from Qumran were there must have either perished or fled elsewhere…

It is not impossible that some of the Qumran community became Christian monks, because from the Manual of Discipline and other sectarian writings we know that the Essenes lived a common life, pooled their earnings, and conducted themselves in obedience to an Overseer (mĕbaqqēr); and some of them lived as celibates. That form of life was thus a Jewish precedent of the life of poverty, chastity, and obedience that characterized monasticism in the Christian church of later days.

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