Scrolls From the Dead Sea: The Ancient Library of Qumran and Modern Scholarship

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THE QUMRAN COMMUNITY:
SCROLLS


These scroll fragments were displayed in the exhibit at the Library of Congress, May - August 1993. They were provided courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority. The exhibit captions and translations (below) provide background on the fragments and their relationships with the other Dead Sea Scrolls, the Qumran Community, and its Library.


The Phylactery Scroll

The Phylactery Scroll

The Phylactery Scroll
Translation of the Phylactery Scroll

Tefillin
Mur 4 Phyl
Parchment
Copied first century-early second century C.E.
Fragment A: height 17.7 cm (7 in.), length 3 cm (1 3/16 in.)
Fragment B: height 3.8 cm (1 1/2 in.), length 2.8 cm (1 1/8 in.)
Courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority (3)

The command "And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thy hand, and they shall be for frontlets between thine eyes" (Deut. 6:8) was practiced by Jews from early times. In the Second Temple period the sages established that "tefillin" (phylacteries; amulets in Greek) would include four scriptural passages inscribed on parchment placed in box-like containers made of black leather. One of the phylacteries was worn one on the left arm and the other on the forehead. These served "as a sign upon your hand and as a symbol on your forehead that with a mighty hand the Lord freed us from Egypt" (Exodus 13:9, 16).

The Dead Sea region has now yielded the earliest phylactery remains, both of the leather containers and the inscribed strips of parchment. As a rule, phylacteries include the same four selections, two from the book of Exodus (Exod. 13:1-10; 13:11-16) and two from Deuteronomy (Deut. 6:4-9; 11:13-21). The scriptural verses were penned in clear minuscule characters on the elongated writing material, which was folded over to fit the minute compartments stamped into the containers.

References:
Milik, J. T. "Textes Hebraux et Arameens." In Les Grottes de Murabba`at, Discoveries in the Judaean Desert, II, pp. 80- 85. Oxford, 1961.

Yadin, Y. "Tefillin (Phylacteries) from Qumran [XQ Phyl 1-4])" (in Hebrew),

Eretz-Israel 9 (1969):60-83 and plates.

The Community Rule Scroll

The Community Rule Scroll
Translation of the Community Rule Scroll

Serekh ha-Yahad
4Q258 (S[superscript]d)
Parchment
Copied late first century B.C.E. - early first century C.E.
Height 8.8 cm (3 7/16 in.), length 21.5 cm (8 7/16 in.)
Courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority (7)

Community Rule Scroll

Originally known as The Manual of Discipline, the Community Rule contains a set of regulations ordering the life of the members of the "yahad," the group within the Judean Desert sect who chose to live communally and whose members accepted strict rules of conduct. This fragment cites the admonitions and punishments to be imposed on violators of the rules, the method of joining the group, the relations between the members, their way of life, and their beliefs. The sect divided humanity between the righteous and the wicked and asserted that human nature and everything that happens in the world are irrevocably predestined. The scroll ends with songs of praise to God.

A complete copy of the scroll, eleven columns in length, was found in Cave 1. Ten fragmentary copies were recovered in Cave 4, and a small section was found in Cave 5. The large number of manuscript copies attests to the importance of this text for the sect. This particular fragment is the longest of the versions of this text found in Cave 4.

Reference:
Qimron, E. "A Preliminary Publication of 4QS[superscript]d Columns VII-VIII" (in Hebrew). Tarbiz 60 (1991):435-37.

The Calendrical Document Scroll

 

The Calendrical Document Scroll

The Calendrical Document Scroll
Translation of the Calendrical Document Scroll

Mishmarot
4Q321 (Mishmarot B[superscript]a)
Parchment
Copied ca. 50-25 B.C.E.
Height 13.4 cm (5 1/4 in.), length 21.1 cm (8 1/4 in.)
Courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority (10)

 

A significant feature of the community was its calendar, which was based on a solar system of 364 days, unlike the common Jewish lunar calendar, which consisted of 354 days. The calendar played a weighty role in the schism of the community from the rest of Judaism, as the festivals and fast days of the group were ordinary work days for the mainstream community and vice versa.

According to the calendar, the new year always began on a Wednesday, the day on which God created the heavenly bodies. The year consisted of fifty-two weeks, divided into four seasons of thirteen weeks each, and the festivals consistently fell on the same days of the week. It appears that these rosters were intended to provide the members of the "New Covenant" with a time-table for abstaining from important activities on the days before the dark phases of the moon's waning and eclipse (duqah).

References:
Jaubert, A. "Le Calendrier de Jubiles et de la Secte de Qumran: Ses origines Bibliques," Vetus Testamentum 3 (1953):250-64.

Talmon, S. "The Calendar of the Judean Covenanteers." In The World of Qumran from Within: Collected Studies, pp. 147-85. Jerusalem, 1989.

Talmon, S. and I. Knohl. "A Calendrical Scroll from Qumran Cave IV -- Miž Ba (4Q321)" (in Hebrew), Tarbiz 60 (1991):505-21.


The Torah Precepts Scroll

 

The Torah Precepts Scroll
Translation of the Torah Precepts Scroll

Miqsat Ma`ase ha-Torah
4Q396(MMT[superscript]c)
Parchment
Copied late first century B.C.E.-early first century C.E.
Fragment A: height 8 cm (3 1/8 in.), length 12.9 cm (5 in.)
Fragment B: height 4.3 cm (1 11/16 in.), length 7 cm (2 3/4 in.)
Fragment C: height 9.1 cm (3 9/16 in.), length 17.4 cm (6 7/8 in.)
Courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority (8)

The Torah Precepts Scroll

This scroll, apparently in the form of a letter, is unique in language, style, and content. Using linguistic and theological analysis, the original text has been dated as one of the earliest works of the Qumran sect. This sectarian polemical document, of which six incomplete manuscripts have been discovered, is commonly referred to as MMT, an abbreviation of its Hebrew name, Miqsat Ma`ase ha-Torah. Together the six fragments provide a composite text of about 130 lines, which probably cover about two-thirds of the original. The initial part of the text is completely missing.

Apparently it consisted of four sections: (1) the opening formula, now lost; (2) a calendar of 364 days; (3) a list of more than twenty rulings in religious law (Halakhot), most of which are peculiar to the sect; and (4) an epilogue that deals with the separation of the sect from the multitude of the people and attempts to persuade the addressee to adopt the sect's legal views. The "halakhot," or religious laws, form the core of the letter; the remainder of the text is merely the framework. The calendar, although a separate section, was probably also related to the sphere of "halakhah." These "halakhot" deal chiefly with the Temple and its ritual. The author states that disagreement on these matters caused the sect to secede from Israel.

References:
Strugnell, J., and E. Qimron. Discoveries in the Judaean Desert, X. Oxford, forthcoming.

Sussman, Y. "The History of `Halakha' and the Dead Sea Scrolls -- Preliminary Observations on Miqsat Ma`ase Ha-Torah (4QMMT)" (in Hebrew), Tarbiz 59 (1990):11-76.

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