Qumran and Jerusalem: Studies in the Dead Sea Scrolls and the History of Judaism

Qumran and Jerusalem: Studies in the Dead Sea Scrolls and the History of Judaism

by Lawrence H. Schiffman

View All Available Formats & Editions

Major changes are occurring in our understanding of the fascinating texts of the Dead Sea Scrolls and their significance for the study of the history of Judaism and Christianity. One of the most significant changes — that one cannot study Qumran without Jerusalem nor Jerusalem without Qumran — is explored in this important volume.


Major changes are occurring in our understanding of the fascinating texts of the Dead Sea Scrolls and their significance for the study of the history of Judaism and Christianity. One of the most significant changes — that one cannot study Qumran without Jerusalem nor Jerusalem without Qumran — is explored in this important volume.

Although the Scrolls preserve the peculiar ideology of the Qumran sect, much of the material also represents the common beliefs and practices of the Judaism of the time. Here Lawrence Schiff man mines these incredible documents to reveal their significance for the reconstruction of the history of Judaism. His investigation brings to life a period of immense significance for the history of the Western world.

Though many of the essays here have been previously published, all have been substantially revised. The resulting volume offers a comprehensive study that is understandable to a far wider audience than are many works on the Scrolls.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
James VanderKam
— University of Notre Dame
"Here are updated treatments of a variety of topics — from law to religion to media coverage of the Dead Sea Scrolls — by one of the world's leading scholars of the Qumran literature. These chapters highlight the value of studying the Qumran texts not only for themselves but also in comparison with what is known of other kinds of Judaism at the time — hence the title Qumran and Jerusalem. I very much appreciate having these impressive studies conveniently available in one place."

John J. Collins
— Yale University
"Over the last three decades Larry Schiffman has been the leading authority on Jewish law in the Scrolls and more broadly on the light shed by the Scrolls on the prehistory of rabbinic Judaism. This valuable collection brings together a broad representative sampling of his work and complements his classic book Reclaiming the Dead Sea Scrolls. An indispensable resource for any serious student of ancient Judaism."

James H. Charlesworth
— Princeton Theological Seminary
"A celebrated specialist on the Dead Sea Scrolls and early Judaism, Lawrence Schiffman demonstrates that while some of the Qumran Scrolls reflect the unique thoughts of the Qumranites, others reveal the beliefs and laws of many nonsectarian Jews, including those who controlled the Jerusalem cult. In fact, the Qumranites defined themselves in contrast to the reigning priests and leaders in Jerusalem. Thus, as Schiffman demonstrates, Qumran and Jerusalem should be studied together. These essays are requisite reading for anyone interested in early Judaism and Christian origins."

Product Details

Eerdmans, William B. Publishing Company
Publication date:
Edition description:
New Edition
Product dimensions:
6.20(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.10(d)

Read an Excerpt


Studies in the Dead Sea Scrolls and the History of Judaism
By Lawrence H. Schiffman

William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company

Copyright © 2010 Lawrence H. Schiffman
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-8028-4976-2

Chapter One

The Many "Battles of the Scrolls"

The study of the Dead Sea Scrolls is undergoing a virtual revolution. Scholarly interest has risen sharply in the past few years and has been manifested in a plethora of books, articles, and colloquia. Most importantly, the reorganization of the scrolls publication project has led to the rapid publication of the entire corpus, and, as a result, major changes in our view of this collection of texts and its significance for the study of the history of Judaism and Christianity have also taken place. Yet for the most part, these new ideas have percolated only among a small group of scholars who dedicate themselves to the study of the scrolls. In what follows I hope to introduce readers to some of these new ideas, placing emphasis to some extent on the results of my own research.

In the early days of Dead Sea Scrolls research, in the early 1950s, it was customary to speak of "the battle of the scrolls." This phrase referred to the heated public debates that swarmed over the importance of the scrolls and the identity and dating of their authors. Later on, in the '70s and '80s we again witnessed a battle of the scrolls, this time over the publication of the texts and access to them for scholarly research. Now that the scrolls are published in their entirety, it is time to turn our attention to the important contribution that the scrolls make to our knowledge of Second Temple Judaism.

What is in these scrolls, why are they important, and is anything new likely to come out of the study of the newly published material? Indeed, has anything changed in the last sixty years of research? These questions will turn out to be complex, and the answers reveal much about the fascinating discipline of Dead Sea Scroll or Qumran studies, the field that has now occupied me almost full time for forty years.

History of Research

The field of Qumran studies really began long before the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls by Bedouin in 1947. In 1896, Solomon Schechter, then Reader in Rabbinic (sic) at Cambridge University in England, a talmudic scholar (later president of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America), traveled to Egypt to locate and purchase the remains of the Cairo Genizah, a vast treasure trove of Hebrew manuscripts from the storehouse of the synagogue in Fustat, Old Cairo. Even before his trip, Schechter had acquired for Cambridge Genizah manuscripts of the apocryphal Ben Sira, previously known only in Greek and Syriac (Eastern Aramaic) translations. Later, Hebrew copies would be found at Qumran and Masada. Manuscripts from the Genizah had already been purchased by various collectors and eventually ended up in libraries in Europe, Russia, the U.S., and Israel. Among the materials Schechter brought back to Cambridge was another text of particular significance for what would become Qumran studies, two medieval manuscripts of part of a hitherto unknown work, entitled by Schechter, Fragments of a Zadokite Work. (Many scholars now term this text the Damascus Document.)

This work, later found in several manuscripts in the Qumran collection, consisted of two parts, a section termed the "admonition," a sort of historical and homiletical discourse, and a body of laws. Schechter immediately realized that these overlapping manuscripts represented the texts of an ancient Jewish sect that he identified with the Dosithean sect of the Samaritans whom he saw as closely linked with the Sadducees.

It was Louis Ginzberg, an even more important talmudic scholar (who later joined Schechter at JTSA), who in a series of articles on these texts was able to outline the nature of the Qumran sect even before the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered. He realized that this document represented the remnant of a sect of Jews who had separated from the dominant patterns of Second Temple Judaism, and he described their laws, theology, and even aspects of their history. Only in regard to his emphasis on the closeness of these sectarians to Pharisaism do we now know Ginzberg to have missed the mark.

Besides Ginzberg's analysis, the new text sparked numerous other theories, identifying the sect as early Jewish Christians, medieval Karaites, Sadducees, and practically any other imaginable Jewish group. The only true unanimity was in the rejection of Schechter's claim of Samaritan provenance. All these theories would emerge again when the Qumran scrolls were later discovered. The furious debates about this text had only briefly died down, quieted as they were by the interruption of scholarly discourse that resulted from World War II and the effects of the Holocaust on Judaic scholarship, when the discoveries in the Judean Desert reignited them.

In 1947, Bedouin shepherds wandered into a cave on the cliffs near Wadi Qumran, overlooking the Dead Sea just south of Jericho, and discovered the first scrolls. This cache of seven scrolls was eventually sold, in two lots, to the Hebrew University and the new State of Israel and is housed today in the Shrine of the Book of the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. Yet as the British mandate over Palestine drew to a close and the State of Israel was proclaimed, action shifted to the Kingdom of Jordan, which, as a result of the military action of the Israel War of Independence, now controlled the rocky area from which the scrolls had emerged.

While archaeologists attempted to search for additional scrolls, the Bedouin were quick to uncover enormous numbers of fragments and some complete scrolls, leaving the archaeologists and the Jordanian Department of Antiquities to follow in their wake. In the 1950s, vast numbers of fragments, now known to be the remnants of some nine hundred manuscripts, were collected at the Palestine Archaeological Museum (now the Rockefeller Museum) in East Jerusalem, then under Jordanian control. These manuscripts eventually included the Samaria papyri from Wadi Daliyeh dating to the fifth and fourth centuries B.C.E. and some materials from the period of the Bar Kokhba revolt against Rome (132-135 C.E.) as well.

These manuscripts were carefully sorted by an international team of scholars assembled primarily from the American Schools of Oriental Research and the École Biblique, the French Catholic biblical and archaeological school in Jerusalem. The initial achievements of this group, including assembling the fragments into larger columns (stored in "plates"), transcription of the texts, and the preparation of a concordance, were remarkable. It was only later, when funds ran out and other factors, personal and political, intervened, that work came to a virtual standstill for almost twenty years.

In the meantime, in Israel, the work of publishing the complete scrolls that Israel had acquired proceeded fast apace. Three of the scrolls had already been published by the American Schools of Oriental Research before Israeli acquisition. The remainder, with the exception of parts of the Genesis Apocryphon (a retelling of the book of Genesis), were speedily published. The late Israeli archaeologist Yigael Yadin recovered texts from Masada and from the Bar Kokhba caves, and these have now all been published. Three volumes of Masada texts have appeared as well as the Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic materials from the Bar Kokhba caves at Nahal Hever and the Nahal Hever texts that had been misidentified as originating in Nahal SÒe'elim.

The five legible columns of the Genesis Apocryphon, the last of the Israeli scroll acquisitions to be published, appeared in the edition of Yigael Yadin and Nahman Avigad in the fall of 1956.11 Thus, Israeli scholars had completed their obligation to publish the scrolls in their possession.

Research on the scrolls was sufficiently advanced so that in July of 1957 International Team members Joseph Fitzmyer and later Raymond Brown and Willard G. Oxtoby began to compile a concordance on index cards. This concordance was eventually used by Ben Zion Wacholder and Martin G. Abegg to produce the multivolume computer-reconstructed text, the first volume of which effectively broke the monopoly of the International Team in 1991.

In July of 1958 the last of the Cave 4 texts were purchased from the Bethlehem-based antiquities dealer Khalil Iskander Shahin, known as Kando. He had single-handedly served as the agent for purchase of all materials found by the Bedouin, on behalf of the Palestine Archaeological Museum. This brought to a close an important stage in the history of Qumran research. These fragments, however, would wait years before seeing the light of day and, indeed, were finally published only in 2001.

Throughout this period, Israeli archaeologists had watched with great interest as Bedouin continuously unearthed scrolls in the Jordanian-controlled part of the Judean Desert. In March 1955 the first season of an archaeological survey was carried out at Masada, the Herodian fortress further south on the shore of the Dead Sea. Masada had been the last stand of the rebels in the Jewish revolt against Rome in 66-73 C.E. Some of the same texts found at Qumran were also found at Masada.

In the spring of 1960, the appearance of John M. Allegro's edition of the Copper Scroll caused great friction amongst the scholars. Allegro, as a member of the International Team, had gained access to the scroll while it was in Manchester being unrolled. The Copper Scroll was assigned to Josef T. Milik for publication, and he, indeed, had published a preliminary edition in Revue Biblique in 1959. Allegro's book was the first major rival edition of a text to be published by a team member—and he was never forgiven for this, perhaps especially because of his view that the treasure purportedly described in the scroll was real. In the early 1960s, Allegro conducted two expeditions to try to find the treasure. None was ever found, but the quest continues even to the present day.

In June 1960, funding by the Rockefeller family came to an end. The members of the International Team scattered to their various universities. By this time the work of sorting the entire collection had been basically completed, and almost all the texts had been transcribed in preliminary fashion. Had publication ensued quickly, the International Team would have emerged as heroes for their expert and speedy work. But the various delays that took place after they left Jerusalem, coupled with the denial of access to other scholars, eventually led to the controversy of recent years.

When the International Team disbanded, 511 manuscripts of Cave 4 had been identified and arranged on 620 museum plates, with 25 plates of material still unidentified. The final series of photographs was also completed then.

As early as 1955, the Israeli government planned to build a permanent home for the scrolls and to put them on display. With the help of the Gottesman family, who had purchased the four scrolls in 1954, the Shrine of the Book of the Israel Museum was completed and dedicated in 1965 to house those four scrolls amongst more recent purchases. The Shrine of the Book in West Jerusalem remains one of the most distinctive landmarks of the city today, located opposite the Knesset, Israel's parliament.

In November of 1966, the Jordanian government nationalized the Palestine Archaeological Museum. This step became significant when Israel conquered East Jerusalem in the 1967 Six Day War, for the Israel Department of Antiquities would come to control this important collection of unpublished Dead Sea Scrolls in the renamed Rockefeller Museum. A few scrolls that had been on exhibit at Amman during the war, as well as several of the fragmentary Cave 1 manuscripts, still remain in Jordan along with the Copper Scroll, recently conserved by the French Electric Company (EDF).

But the crown of Israeli achievement in this area was the recovery of the Temple Scroll in the aftermath of the Six Day War in 1967. This was the end of a story that had begun in 1960. A certain Reverend Joseph Uhrig showed Yadin a small sample of a scroll in return for a deposit of $10,000, but the deal never materialized. By 1967 Yadin was apparently aware that the scroll was in Kando's hands. In the early days of the war, he sent intelligence officers to Kando's house in Bethlehem where they seized the scroll, thereby saving it from rotting under Kando's floorboards. Later Kando was compensated with a payment of $108,000. The subsequent publication of the Temple Scroll by Yadin in Hebrew and English editions made this important text available to scholars. Other texts began to appear in the late 1970s from the original Jordanian lot, now in Israeli hands after the war. Along with Enoch fragments published by Milik and important liturgical texts published by Maurice Baillet, the Temple Scroll sparked renewed interest in the field.

The physical location of the scrolls and the politics of the Middle East affected the publication process as well. One result of these factors was the exclusion of Jews, and certainly of Israelis, from Roland de Vaux's editorial team in the 1950s through the mid-1980s.

So why were the scrolls kept secret for so long? The answers are in reality prosaic. Those who were supposed to publish them failed for a variety of reasons. Funding was insufficient. Some lost interest, some died, and some were stricken with alcoholism. Some lacked sufficient linguistic skills to get the job done in a reasonable amount of time. Some believed that only they could do the job correctly and that they and the students they chose had rights to the material in perpetuity. The Israeli conquest of East Jerusalem would set off a chain of events that ultimately led to the release of the entire corpus and to a wider understanding of the nature of the ancient library. But this was a delayed reaction lasting well into the 1990s.

Immediately after the war, Israeli officials agreed to let the existing International Team continue their work, expecting that it would soon be completed. In retrospect, the allotments of texts to each editor were simply too large for publication within a reasonable time.

Yadin's revelation of the Temple Scroll, first in a series of public lectures and then in his edition of 1977, capped a process already observable earlier of seeing Qumran materials in a Jewish context. Now a scroll entirely of Jewish law, the same size as the book of Isaiah, was on the reader's table.

Furthermore, Yadin had identified the authors of the Temple Scroll with the Qumran sectarians. Therefore, his new scroll led to full recognition of the halakhic character of that group, that is, their grounding in Jewish law. In September 1971, Pierre Benoit succeeded de Vaux as editor-in-chief of the International Team and the Discoveries in the Judaean Desert (DJD) series. Although several publications did appear, much of the work, especially on the Cave 4 texts, was not really proceeding at all. These problems were already clear in September 1984 when Benoit retired and the Israeli Department of Antiquities confirmed John Strugnell of Harvard as editor-in-chief of the scrolls publication project. Strugnell expanded the team to include some twenty members, amongst whom were a number of Israelis &mdsah; Devorah Dimant, Elisha Qimron, and Emanuel Tov. He also furnished a timetable to the Israeli Department of Antiquities (that in the meantime had become the Israel Antiquities Authority), but the deadlines he specified there were not kept and could not be enforced.


Excerpted from QUMRAN AND JERUSALEM by Lawrence H. Schiffman Copyright © 2010 by Lawrence H. Schiffman. Excerpted by permission of William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Lawrence H. Schiffman is Ethel and Irvin A. Edelman Professor of Hebrew and Judaic Studies and Chairman of the Skirball Department of Hebrew and Judaic Studies at New York University. His previous books include Reclaiming the Dead Sea Scrolls and From Tex

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >