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Deconstructing What We’ve Always Been Told About Qumran




It is misleading to speak of a single “main period of habitation” of a single group or community at Qumran which ended at the time of the First Revolt. Analyses of pottery, language, women, dining, animal bone deposits, and scroll deposits surprisingly converge in suggesting a different picture: the true “main period” of activity at Qumran was mid- and late-first century BCE.



[The following is excerpted from Gregory L. Doudna, “Deconstructing the Continuity of Qumran IB and II with Implications for Stabilizing the Biblical Texts”, in I. Hjelm and T.L. Thompson, eds., Interpretation Beyond Historicity. Changing Perspectives 7, ed. I. Hjelm and T.L. Thompson (New York: Routledge, 2016), 130-154. See full article for bibliography.]



By Gregory Doudna
June 2017


Click here for article.





Comments (18)


Re p 17: dining rooms above L77 and L111 as per Magness 2002; 122-126. The claim that the flimsy pillar in L35 (Humbert and Chambon Pls 76, 77) could support a circular staircase is not credible. Compare it with the substantial structures at Masada in the Western and the Northern Palaces (for latter see Yadin's 'Masada' 1966; 58) and in Jericho (Jericho vol I Ills 238-9 on pp 168-9).
A floor above L111 is, according to Magness (Magness 2002 126), 'attested by a staircase in L113' For that supposed staircase see 'Although de Vaux was a Divine...' elsewhere on this site.
#1 - David Stacey - 06/15/2017 - 11:51



DeVaux dated the animal bone deposits to Ib and II; the latter and later "covered with sherds from Period II and associated with coins from the same period" (Archaeology and the DSS, page 27). Magen and Peleg--from a very different viewpoint--also reported Period II animal bone deposits. The lack of full publication would not warrant nor justify bracketing off and ignoring the evidence of the continuation of this distinctive practice.

Dennis Mizzi and JodI Magness make a good case that Qumran was probably not abandoned between Period Ib and II, but that the inhabitants continued in both periods. (I would caution even more strongly than they wrote that an effort to date the silver coin hoard(s) later than 9/8 BCE was mistaken, based on mixing of other coins with Qumran coins in Amman.
Was Qumran Abandoned at the End of the First Century BCE? Recommended: Journal of Biblical Literature 135.2 (2016) 301-320.

Qumran and Massada mss survived differently, which one might do well to take into account when comparing them.
#2 - Stephen Goranson - 06/16/2017 - 15:36



Perhaps rephrased, my article raises the question: what archaeological or textual evidence is there that 1st century CE activity at Qumran known as "Period II" can defensibly be characterized as "sectarian" (as opposed to unrelated to the "sectarian"-character activity at the site, just as "Period III" is commonly understood)?

The picture that emerges from this article is that the following: (a) animal bone deposit activity; (b) distinctive Qumran-manufacture pottery types; (c) use of solely Hebrew/Aramaic language; (d) male-only; (e) large quantities of dining pottery; (f) dates of compositions of Qumran texts; and finally--consistent with the preceding points--(g) dates of scribal copies of Qumran texts and deposit activity in caves ... all seem to be 1st BCE (="Period I").

In the 2016 article of Mizzi and Magness in Journal of Biblical Literature, Mizzi and Magness take up without credit the argument I set forth in 1999 that there is no evidence in de Vaux's data for a destructive end of Ib ... then conclude from that that there was seamless continuity of 1st BCE people and activities through 1st CE, when that conclusion is not at all necessitated nor does it logically follow. In fact I believe a reasonable reader of the present article will consider that such a conclusion is counterindicated on the several lines of reasoning developed, albeit in cursory and summary form--or at least must be questioned and cannot be assumed even though archaeologists of the stature of Mizzi and Magness say that it is so.

Notably, of those several lines of reasoning, only the last one, "g" above, is not compatible with existing discussion considered credible and current in mainstream Qumran scholarly discourse. Yet if the others ("a" through "f") are accepted, the question is raised, "why not" consider "g"? What is it that blocks consideration of "g"? What is the obstacle?

I cannot see any religious or political larger issue at stake on the scroll dating issue. Therefore, I believe this makes a good sociological test case where the only variable is the phenomenon of scholarly conservatism itself--the momentum of "what we have always thought" and "what everyone else thinks", in the face of absence of actual positive evidence and strong circumstantial evidence pointing to something else.
#3 - Greg Doudna - 06/17/2017 - 18:46



Reply to #2, Stephen Goranson. Thank you for your comment, though here is where I disagree. As brought out in my article, the claims you cite from de Vaux concerning animal bone deposits in II at L130 and L132 in the northern enclosure (at the reference you cite) are obsolete and, since 2016, now recognized as such by essentially every major archaeologist who works with Qumran, i.e. that de Vaux was in error. De Vaux's error on that was thoroughly corrected by R. Donceel's monograph in 2005 building on his 1998, again by Humbert in 2003, and now and extensively--after I sent an unpublished version of my present article to Mizzi--by Mizzi and Magness in the very 2016 JBL article that you cite (e.g. p. 319 n. 26, "The pottery in L130 is all first century BCE in date").

Your comment does illustrate the truth of what I wrote in my article, accurate at the time it was published in 2016: "Yet to the present day Donceel's detailed correction of the dating of the animal bone deposits remains almost completely unacknowledged and unaddressed in relevant secondary literature as if it were unknown". This is not meant as a criticism of you but rather of the authors of secondary literature that you may have relied upon prior to Mizzi and Magness 2016, none of whom took notice of the highly detailed Donceel monograph, despite the Donceel monograph having published hitherto unknown primary materials such as line drawings and a map from de Vaux's excavations of the northern enclosure (L130, L132, L135). Magness, for example, seems unaware of the Donceel monograph in any of her publications prior to 2016, including publications prior to 2016 directly dealing with the animal bone deposits. Magen and Peleg's preliminary report of 2007 of their excavations at Qumran shows no awareness of Donceel's work. Other familiar names writing on Qumran archaeology showed no awareness of it. It was as if this significant publication, the Donceel 2005 monograph, which was about as state-of-the-art informative and based on primary excavation materials of de Vaux as it could be, was unknown or invisible in Qumran scholarly discourse. However both Mizzi and Magness as of 2016, following my calling attention to the Donceel monograph in my article, do now know of Donceel's work and discuss the issues raised at some length, arriving at much the same analysis as Donceel and Humbert regarding interpretation of the northern enclosure, all agreeing that de Vaux was in error.

I am not certain which coins de Vaux meant in the reference you quote but I suspect they are the same two coins associated with a L132 animal bone deposit thought by de Vaux to be from II but now recognized to be from I. Those two coins associated with the animal bone deposit of L132 have subsequently (post-de Vaux 1973) been identified (with question marks) as coins of Hyrcanus and Alexander Jannaeus, that is 1st BCE. There are no coins at all reported found by de Vaux in any non-northern enclosure animal bone deposit attributed by de Vaux to Period II (I checked); therefore I do not know what other coins de Vaux might have meant than those. De Vaux did not himself make identifications of the coins he uncovered as I understand it but relied upon identifications made by others at the time, some of which have changed over time in the light of further review; I assume that may have been the case here.
#4 - Greg Doudna - 06/18/2017 - 01:05



Reply to Greg Doudna #4. Perhaps one could reconsider animal bone deposits of first centuries BCE and CE while reading Jodi Magness, "Were Sacrifices Offered at Qumran?" Journal of Ancient Judaism 7.1 (2016) 5-34 and in the same journal issue (with other related contributions), Dennis Mizzi,"The Animal Bone Deposits at Qumran," pages 51-70, including the Magen and Peleg as well as the Randall Price animal bone deposits loci. Mizzi, pages 53-4: "As far as can be ascertained at present, it appears that the Qumranites deposited animal bones in this manner during both the first centuries B.C.E. and C. E....."
By 1973 de Vaux had the coin identifications by experts Henri Seyrig and Augustus Spijkerman (Bruno Callegher in SBFLA 2014 and the Caves of Qumran 2016).
While here, another question, if I may.
Joan Taylor (who in her 2012 Essenes ... book allows possible scroll deposits until 135 CE) in her Brown Qumran conference paper, in a footnote (I don't have it at hand, but perhaps you know it or I could get it) thanks you for information on an additional inkwell find from a specific Qumran locus. What's that? A misprint or a mixup with the Gunneweg mentioned inkwell or...?
#5 - Stephen Goranson - 06/19/2017 - 09:35



Also #2, on the caution not to bracket off evidence, if evidence is understood in terms of that which is published and verified, by that standard no evidence of animal bone deposits in II exists capable of being bracketed off.

The claim of Magen and Peleg 2007 that they found animal bone deposits in II as well as in I at the site not only remains unpublished and unverified, but after all this time--13 years after those excavations were completed—there remains still no hint of explanation from the excavators of the claim, still no knowledge even of locus or area of the site of the claim, let alone publication of the animal bone deposit itself and relevant data. Peleg’s death means he cannot say. Will Magen?

I doubt Magen and Peleg found animal bone deposits from II, given that not a single other specific animal bone deposit at Qumran from II has been established going on now 70 years from when Qumran was first excavated. Perhaps Magen and Peleg thought they had something from II but were mistaken?

In a case I see as bearing possible parallels with respect to claims of far-reaching conclusions on the basis of argument from unpublished evidence, it was repeatedly claimed, for years, that there were unpublished scroll jars of the Qumran type found at Masada in “Zealot Occupation” contexts ca. 66-73 CE. This was widely cited as evidence that the scroll jars at Qumran, and the scroll deposits with them, also were at the time of the First Revolt.

In 2006 Bar-Nathan’s pottery volume of Masada appeared, and sure enough, there were several cylindrical “scroll jar” types as well as other big jars published from contexts used by the people of 66-73 CE. However there was no pottery-making happening on-site at that time, and many other big jars found in Zealot Occupation contexts were interpreted by Bar-Nathan as reuses from the stores of Herod at the site. David Stacey has separately argued that Bar-Nathan’s explanation for the other big jars is the most likely explanation for the presence of the cylindrical jars or scroll jars used in Zealot Occupation contexts at Masada as well—reuses from the stores of Herod, found and used opportunistically.

Turning to Qumran, Mizzi and Magness (2016: 315) have now embraced (without acknowledgement) David Stacey’s (2013: 45-47) dating of a pre-First Revolt floor level ca. the time of Agrippa I above the lowest floor of Locus 2 in which the first “scroll jar” was found sunk in 1951. That particular scroll jar of Locus 2 is what convinced the relevant archaeologists, and the world, of the the First Revolt scroll deposits idea in the first place. But the analysis of Stacey, and now Mizzi and Magness, means that that L2 scroll jar went out of use before the time of the First Revolt. It appears that the L2 scroll jar was probably installed in the floor in the time of Herod, at the same time the scroll jars found in the caves were likely manufactured at Qumran, the time of Herod. The L2 scroll jar remained installed in that floor which was in use until some unknown time prior to the new floor installation in Locus 2 ca. Agrippa I (40s CE).

The huge numbers of scroll jars found in the caves, numbering in the ca. 150 range, and the smaller numbers of identical scroll jars found at the site, numbering in the ca. 10 range, may have been manufactured in the time of Herod, and went out of manufacture at Qumran in that form--as distinguished from use/reuse--at the same time and perhaps for the same reason the “Qumran lamps” went out of manufacture at Qumran. There is continuity in morphology and type with similar, but not identical, later wide-mouthed cylindrical jars of mid/late 1st CE at Jericho (in the Jericho V volume of 2013, pp. 11-12; No. 691 pictured at p. 65). The scroll jars in the Qumran caves match exactly the jar found at Locus 2. They do not match exactly the later, ca. First Revolt-era wide-mouthed cylindrical jar type of Jericho. The later ones, although wide-mouthed, are less wide-mouthed than the Qumran “scroll jars"; also, unlike the absolutely cylindrical/vertical-sided Qumran scroll jars of the caves and Locus 2, the later 1st CE Jericho type exemplar published in Jericho V is noticeably a little wider at the shoulders than at the base, with a slight slope. This later type—similar and showing development and continuity from but not identical to the earlier Qumran scroll jars—is the likely true ca. First Revolt type of cylindrical jars being made in the Dead Sea region. The scroll jars found in such massive numbers in the caves of Qumran, all in likely ancient association with scroll deposits, are not identical to this later type. They are all from earlier manufacture, manufactured in the time of Herod. This is what I discern as the more correct picture.
#6 - Greg Doudna - 06/19/2017 - 13:04



Re #5 Stephen Goranson, taking your last question first, I looked up Joan Taylor's article in the 2006 Galor et al Brown conference volume, and the reference on p. 141 indeed is a misprint which should be Locus 31 (not L36), de Vaux's find of an inkwell identified by de Vaux as from Period III. So nothing new there that you did not already know.

On the animal bone deposits, I have read all of the articles in the 2016 special issue of Journal of Ancient Judaism to which you refer. While they discuss many interesting issues I know of nothing there that adds information regarding the dating issue. The quotation you cite from Mizzi relies upon the unpublished Magen and Peleg 2007 claim that they found animal bone deposits dating from 1st CE somewhere "elsewhere" at Qumran than the southern dump. Instead of saying where that was located, they disclosed only a place it was not located. Mizzi's supporting footnote to the sentence you quote at pp. 6-7, n. 7, cites: de Vaux, who has been repudiated on that point; Magness, who although discussing the animal bone deposits says nothing whatever about 1st century CE dating of that activity in the reference cited; and Magen and Peleg. I discussed this in person with friend Mizzi at the 2014 Caves of Qumran conference in Lugano. I mentioned that de Vaux's animal bone deposits in II have been shown insubstantial. Mizzi kept coming back with "but Magen and Peleg found such deposits in 1st CE", from their claim in their 2007 report. So it depends on how one assesses an unverified claim, with no context or information known about it, which has no verified precedent. Mizzi considers the unpublished Magen and Peleg claim to establish that the phenomenon of animal bone deposits "is attested for both Periods I and II" and that this therefore "strongly identifies the inhabitants of both phases with each other" (Mizzi, "Qumran Period I Reconsidered", DSD 2014, p. 41). In my opinion that is too slender of a reed upon which to rest such conclusions.
#7 - Greg Doudna - 06/19/2017 - 20:13



Re #6 Re "Scroll" jars:- 'later 1st CE Jericho type'. Note that type J-SJ17, two examples of which were found in the Roman VIlla (70-112 CE) is nearly identical to KhQ 1404 found in Qumran in L61, which I date to c. Agrippa I - 68 CE. Although I suggest that the several 'scroll' jars from the SE Annex may have been 'looted' from near by caves there is here, however, a suggestion of continuity and thus, of a manufacturing centre(s) near by. A small pottery kiln, L F128, was built into the corner of room L F138 (J'o Vol II p 85) in which was found a complete example of a J-SJ7B1 jar, so it was large enough to have produced 'scroll' type jars. Similarly, in QUmran, the kiln L64/84, should be dated to Agrippa I (pace Humbert). I believe there was another pottery kiln in L13/14 (see Qumran Pls 87-9 where a later tabun is built against the exterior of the kiln. Beneath the late -Period III? - tabun, the wall of the kiln which must be built on the Agrippa floor, was partially built from three cylindrical 'scroll' jars (Pls 104-7). As one of these was not complete when it was built into the kiln wall the jars may well have come from a cave nearby. De V. notes a lot of ash around this kiln which may have been used for ceramics.
#8 - David Stacey - 06/20/2017 - 13:59



Re David Stacey #8-- thanks for this, and makes sense. In this reconstruction the picture that emerges is there was the uncontroversial extensive pottery-making at Qumran of I of late 1st BCE, and then, as you are reconstructing against Humbert who dates the reactivation of the Qumran kiln in the southeastern annex only to Period III, you have pottery production at Qumran resumed ca. Agrippa I (ca. 40s/mid-1st CE). The distinctive "Qumran lamps" and the huge inventory of dining ware of L86/89 are all, largely uncontroversially, exclusively from the first and not the second era of pottery production at Qumran. What I referred to as the later Jericho types of scroll jars in the Jericho V volume may be better termed, in light of what you bring out, "later Qumran types" of scroll jars. (The term “scroll jar” itself being a misnomer but it has stuck, since it is not assumed that all jars described by this term were used to store scrolls.) As you have noted to me privately, "scroll jar" is actually an umbrella term for a type of shape of jar which included a number of minor variations, and these minor variations become of interest in analyzing and dating the jars in the outlying caves actually used to store scrolls (thus giving the name to the umbrella category of jars of similar shape).

For example, were the 50-plus scroll jars of Cave 1Q contemporary with the two "Qumran lamps" of undisputed date of Herod found with those jars and scrolls in Cave 1Q (as understood by every archaeologist prior to the adoption of the First Revolt deposits idea, and as I am proposing)? Or were those 50-plus scroll jars of Cave 1Q not contemporary with the “Qumran lamps” with which they were found, and instead the product of the later pottery manufacture at Qumran, as widely assumed? If the latter, is that known or assumed?
#9 - Greg Doudna - 06/20/2017 - 16:31



Re Greg #9. Has anyone tried successfully to differentiate the "scroll" jars typologically? Divide them into 'families' and then consider what their original function was?
#10 - David Stacey - 06/20/2017 - 18:34



All mainstream Qumran scholars accept that the animal bone deposit activity was at least significantly reduced in scale in 1st CE, for no known reason, and that there is no actual publication yet of even one.

The same accept that "the sect" at Qumran stopped composing new texts, without a single exception, for no known reason, after Period I.

The same accept without any problem Cross's and Yardeni's assessment that all scribal copying of texts in semicursive hands ceased, without exception, after the end of 1st BCE, again for no known reason.

All of these things, and more, are regarded as "just the way it was", without major sense of anomaly.

What then is it about the idea that the scroll deposits themselves also ceased at the end of this same era by the end of the 1st BCE, at the time these other changes are acknowledged, that makes that unthinkable to consider, to the scholars who without problem accept the others?
#11 - Greg Doudna - 06/20/2017 - 18:39



David #10, no, not in print that I know of, though DJD 3 (1962), 3-17, has some attempt at classification/description of subtypes of the cave finds.

The original 1951-1952 assumption that all of the ca. 150+ scroll jars in the Qumran caves were First Revolt, every single one of them (the conclusion of the excavators following the 1951 find of the Locus 2 scroll jar, represented in DJD 1 in 1955), was maintained throughout all of de Vaux's preliminary excavation reports of the 1950s despite the excavators’ discoveries in succeeding excavation seasons of 1953-1956 of extensive pre-1st CE activity at the site. De Vaux finally tweaked that view in his Schweich lectures of 1959 and in DJD 3 in 1962 to allow for the existence of some never-specified scroll jar activity from earlier as well as First Revolt. But that earlier scroll jar activity was never explained and by default was always assumed to be minor in scale and certainly not to affect the intact notion that most of the cave scroll jars were First Revolt.

In other words, throughout the 1950s there was no point seen by anyone in tracing typological development of scroll jars from First Revolt (believed to begin) to First Revolt (believed to end). A relic of that original 1950s interpretation is Bar-Nathan's interpretation in the Galor et al 2006 Brown U. conference volume that all scroll jars in the caves of Qumran are First Revolt, reinforced by her interpretation that the scroll jars found in First Revolt contexts at Masada were brought to the site from outside (presumably Qumran) at that time, instead of found and opportunistically used at the site of Masada from the stores of Herod in keeping with the way Bar-Nathan interprets other big jars found in First Revolt use at Masada, as you have suggested.

The 1959 de Vaux first concession in print as to the existence of earlier scroll jars in the caves as well as from later did not change much in basic perception. De Vaux never proposed to identify or distinguish or quantify which cave scroll jars he thought were earlier, and I am not aware of any published attempt by anyone else to do so either. It was as if such a question did not occur as meriting attention. Even though later Qumran text scholars and archaeologists accepted de Vaux on this, the assumption generally always was that most of the scroll jars were still First Revolt, with no one capable of pointing to any specific scroll jar in a Qumran cave that was actually identified as earlier. The hypothetical earlier scroll jars in the caves were like ghost jars—believed by every Qumran scholar to exist except no one could point to any specific one in corporeal form.

I believe this is the background to why investigation of typological development based on small differences has not been undertaken in the case of the scroll jars—otherwise on its face a surprising lacuna in investigation. No investigation of typological development was done on the scroll jars because the dominant First Revolt dating of most of them was never considered in question in mainstream discourse.

But if it is no longer considered a firmly settled question not open for discussion that the scroll jars in the caves were First Revolt, then the issue of small typological differences and potential reconstruction of development over time in these jars with comparisons between such jars found in the Qumran caves, Qumran buildings, at Jericho and at Masada, becomes very much a live issue meriting investigation.
#12 - Greg Doudna - 06/21/2017 - 07:04



I consider the present article, excerpted here on Bible and Interpretation, in the Changing Perspectives 7 Copenhagen 2016 volume, to be my second most important article concerning the redating of the Qumran text deposits. I consider the most important to be G. Doudna, "Dating the Scroll Deposits of the Qumran Caves: A Question of Evidence", in The Caves of Qumran. Proceedings of the International Conference, Lugano 2014, ed. M. Fidanzio (Leiden: Brill, 2017), 238-246.

Here is the conclusion to that article in the Caves of Qumran volume (p. 246).

"I started this paper with attention to the striking drop in historical allusions in the Qumran texts, from flourishing numbers in the first two-thirds of the first century BCE to flat-line zero thereafter. I closed with the systematic differences between the biblical texts of Qumran, none exact-MT, and the biblical texts of the other Judean Desert sites, all exact-MT. Both of these descriptions, each independently established on the basis of aggregate, large-scale data analyses, are simply stunning in impact if one takes a step back and looks at them with fresh eyes. Like flashing beacons these are signals in the data that the First Revolt endpoint for the Qumran cave texts is not correct. When all is said and done, these two signals are the argument and the evidence for the earlier dating.

"The principal reason these signals have not registered in common scholarly consciousness seems to be the palaeographic dates which are assumed to establish the existence of first-century CE dates of text copies found in the caves. But the absolute dates of the 'late Herodian formal' and 'post-Herodian formal’ scribal hands defined by Cross 1961 are derivative from the flawed 1951 archaeological redating of the scroll deposits discussed earlier. The flawed archaeological redating of 1951 provided the framework or template within which Cross labored to accurately reconstruct the development of the scribal hands. The absolute datings of the 'Herodian formal' hands reconstructed by Cross no doubt are close to correct but for this question which devolves to issues of small numbers of decades that is not good enough. It is no disrespect to Cross's formidable study of 1961 if today there is some critical engagement or nuancing or departure from what sometimes seems to have become a scholarly doctrine of inerrancy concerning the absolute datings of Cross 1961. The scribal hands must be reassessed free of presupposition that the Qumran cave texts continued to the time of the First Revolt.

A shift in understanding in which the dates of the latest formal hands in the Qumran caves are situated perhaps in the time of Herod will not create a gap in typological development in the first century CE. The gap is filled by 'late Herodian formal' developing in the first half of the first century CE. Once this is realized, no longer will the saying of Matt. 5:18 referring to iotas and keraias in the writing of scribes scrupulously copying the books of Moses with letter-perfect accuracy, and alluding to the decorative keraias of the most developed formal hands, be regarded as anachronistic. Matt. 5:18 may become recognized as a realistic allusion to scribal practice and ideology before the destruction of the temple, yet postdating the latest texts of Qumran.

"In this picture the waves of people who were at Qumran in the first century CE disturbed, opened, looted, and possibly read the scrolls they encountered in the caves by accident, thus accounting for the anciently disturbed conditions in the caves closest to the site, with remains of anciently-opened scrolls such as the torn-off leather tabs and strings left on the floors of Caves 4Q and 8Q. There has as yet been no positive evidence set forth that first-century CE people at Qumran added any new literary texts to the ones they encountered in the caves--texts which may have seemed to them, as to us, as if they were from another world and time."
#13 - Greg Doudna - 06/21/2017 - 07:47



It is not the case that De Vaux's conclusions are all accepted. Doubts have been raised, for example, about his proposed Period 1a and about his later proposed abandonment.
It is not the case that first century CE Qumran texts are generally acknowledged to be totally absent: the Cave 3 Copper Scroll may be one example; many others so proposed are listed in DJD XXXIX; the ostracon "deed of gift" in year two [of initiation?--as I suggested and as noted by Cross and Eshel in IEJ 1997] may be another--regardless of whether one prefers the edition of Cross & E. Eshel or Yardeni or Puech.
It is at least possible that mostly older mss were deposited in Qumran caves and that mostly newer copies were taken away from Qumran or lost to the elements. It may be worth recalling that texts in Qumran Caves survived for somewhat different reasons than Masada mss did (for one thing, rainfall runoff would affect the two sites differently; casemate wall; tannin) before taking both as commensurate representative sets and assuming a lot about scripture stabilization more broadly. There are scant agreed-upon historical mentions in any case. G. Doudna's proposal that Hyrcanus II was the "Teacher of Righteousness" may be too late and too Pharisee-connected. I consider Hyrcanus II too late because of confluent evidence that the Teacher was earlier and someone else:
"Jannaeus, His Brother Absalom, and Judah the Essene":
http://people.duke.edu/~goranson/jannaeus.pdf

By the way, concerning the so-called "Cave 12," with no text (at least not announced), I have read differing accounts. If anyone knows: were fragments of papyrus found there also, or was that misreporting?
#14 - Stephen Goranson - 06/21/2017 - 13:54



With apologies, a correction of a typo at #13 in my transcription of the conclusion of my article in the Lugano Caves of Qumran volume.

Where the relevant sentence above reads (incorrectly), "The gap is filled by 'late Herodian formal' developing in the first half of the first century CE", that should read (correctly, as in the Lugano volume), "The gap is filled by 'late Herodian formal' developing in the time of Herod and 'post-Herodian formal' developing in the first half of the first century CE."

Incidentally, for trivia interest, this illustrates what I believe likely to have been the most common ancient mechanism of scribal copying errors. I proofread the above before posting it at #13 but missed that one, because, by accident, that particular error in copying read grammatically and coherently, even though it was incorrectly copied. Ancient scribes of Qumran texts also proofread their finished work and made corrections, but if a word was misspelled or wrongly transcribed in copying such that it produced a different word which also read grammatically and sensibly, it would be easy to miss in ancient proofreading, on analogy with the way modern spell-checkers miss incorrect spellings which correctly spell different words. The copies of Masoretic text (MT)-type biblical texts among the Qumran biblical texts (roughly half or a little more than half of the total Qumran biblical mss according to current estimates) all however show a systematically higher incidence of scribal error than found in what Tov calls the "carefully-copied” MT biblical texts from the 1st century CE at other Dead Sea sites such as Masada, Nahal Hever, and Murabba'at, with drop in scribal error rate to near-zero or zero, identical to the near-zero or zero error rate of the Masoretic scribes of the Middle Ages as Tov has brought out and as confirmed in Ian Young’s data tables.

How was such a systematic across-the-board increase in accuracy in scribal copying accomplished? If you were in charge of quality control of a team of scribes, how would you accomplish a systematic reduction to near-zero or zero of scribal copying error in all of the work going out the door from your scribes?

I believe one method by which this could have been accomplished may have been very simple: in addition to proofreading, which already was being done, I hypothesize they may now have begun to COUNT the total number of letters in each copy upon completion (perhaps column by column), to see if they matched the same number of letters in the exemplar from which they had copied. If the numbers did not agree, they could then simply keep proofreading until they found and resolved the discrepancy. It would be labor-intensive, but would be effective in dropping the error rate to the virtually-zero rate of the medieval MT scribes going back to the identical virtually-zero of the 1st CE Judean biblical mss.

This would be the kind of "best practices" reform that could result in the clear systematic drop in error seen in the non-Qumran, 1st CE, Judean biblical mss, perhaps a reform implemented in association with a standardization of the biblical text and a higher standard of professionalism in copying thereof in the new temple of Herod. Later rabbinic traditions refer to such scrupulous copying in the days of the standing temple of Herod, before the destruction. Yet none of the Qumran texts show this. Why? Because they all preceded this “best practices” reform. That is the simplest, and at some point may become recognized in retrospect as the most obvious, explanation.
#15 - Greg Doudna - 06/21/2017 - 17:33



Re Stephen Goranson #14, thank you for your comment. While you are correct that the Copper Scroll indeed is widely supposed, as distinguished from proven or known, to have been composed 1st CE (as opposed to e.g. end of 1st BCE), as you know there is ongoing disagreement as to whether the Copper Scroll was deposited at the same time as the literary texts, and the nature of its relationship to the literary texts or even if there was one. To clarify, I meant that mainstream scholars hold that none of the close to one thousand literary texts found in the caves of Qumran were later than 1st BCE in composition. The Copper Scroll is an economic not literary text, and is a separate set of issues which continue to elude scholarly consensus.

When you say "many others are listed in DJD XXXIX", I believe you may be confusing palaeographic datings or perceived dates of scribal copying (many Qumran texts are widely believed to date 1st CE in date of scribal copying), with "dates of composition or authorship" (not one of the literary texts found in the caves of Qumran is believed by mainstream scholars to have been composed 1st CE). DJD 39 has extensive tables gathering together and cataloguing previously-published palaeographic datings for all of the Dead Sea texts, but to my knowledge makes no proposal that any Qumran cave literary text was composed or authored later than 1st BCE. If I am mistaken on that (I do not think so but if I am) I would be grateful to know specific instance and page number.

On the "deed of gift" ostracon, that is an economic text on a potsherd found next to the buildings of Qumran, and is not a literary text or in the caves, which is what I am referring to and discussing relevant to the issue of dating the scroll deposit activity in the caves. Also, with respect, I do not think it is quite correct to say that that ostracon may have been 1st CE "regardless of whether one prefers the edition of Cross & Eshel or Yardeni or Puech." Are you aware that two out of those three--Yardeni, and Puech--palaeographically date the writing of that ostracon to late 1st BCE, not 1st CE? (See endnote 6 in the present B and I article on that.)
#16 - Greg Doudna - 06/21/2017 - 18:46



Doudna proposed a hypothesis that at Qumran "scroll deposits...ceased...by the end of the 1st BCE." (His words from #11 above, where one can check whether my elisions are fair.)
But all the deposited mss are not only new composition autographs, but, by necessity, in his scenario, also must include mss that are text copies. Therefore, the numerous mss listed in DJD XXXIX as dating (by C14 and/or paleography) from the first century CE are entirely relevant here, as evidence against the hypothesis.
The Copper Scroll--widely dated first century CE--was deposited in Cave 3 along with sectarian mss. If you had a list of deposits, would you deposit it in a cave that contained unrelated texts from another group?
So the numerous mss dating from the first century speak against the hypothesis.
Changing the rules by redefining the question and bracketing off and ignoring evidence will not do.
#17 - Stephen Goranson - 06/22/2017 - 15:35



Yes, I am arguing that the palaeographic datings of Qumran texts to 1st CE dates, and the views of those scholars who date the Copper Scroll to 1st CE, are mistaken, for reasons argued.
#18 - Greg Doudna - 06/22/2017 - 16:43






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