Confused or Intrigued with Second Temple Hermeneutics?

Second Temple interpretations of Scripture often look very odd to modern readers. That’s because modern readers are missing these interpreters’ worldview context.

Sacred Texts and Paradigmatic Revolutions illustrates how modern readers can work to recover this context.

The volume works with the case studies of the Qumran community and the apostle Paul to illustrate how to recover this context in a way that can be applied in other texts as well.

Daily Gleanings: Community Rule (31 December 2019)

Now available from SBL Press is Sarianna Metso’s critical edition of the Community Rule.

According to the Press,

The Community Rule serves to illuminate the religious beliefs and practices as well as the organizational rules of the group behind the Dead Sea Scrolls. However, there is no single, unified text of the Community Rule; rather, multiple manuscripts of the Community Rule show considerable variation and highlight the work of ancient Jewish scribes and their intentional literary development of the text. In this volume, Sarianna Metso brings together the surviving evidence in a new edition that presents a critically established Hebrew text with an introduction and an English translation.

The edition addresses all surviving witnesses for the Rule and includes a critical apparatus.

The chemistry of studying the Dead Sea Scrolls

This Decoded Science article has an interesting treatment of some of the chemical elements of the study of the Dead Sea Scrolls, particularly the Copper Scroll. The article’s conclusion provides the reminder that

Archaeology allows us to look into the past. However, in order for scientists to properly examine and maintain artifacts, it’s necessary to preserve them. In many cases, chemistry makes that possible.

For the full article, see Decoded Science. HT: Jim Davila.

Qumran Cave 12: Update 3

Discussion of the recent Qumran-vicinity cave finds since the previous post tracking the story here includes:

  • Ami Magazine (HT: Lawrence Schiffman): Information about the new cave find with a fuller discussion of matters related to earlier Qumran-vicinity finds. In the cave’s apparently blank parchment fragment, Schiffman also suggests we find evidence for how demonstrably later forgeries could still carbon date to the turn of the eras.
  • Bible History Daily (HT: Craig Evans and Jim Davila):  Discussion of the propriety of designating the new find as “Cave 12,” given that current reports indicate no scrolls have been recovered.
  • Christian Science Monitor (HT: Craig Evans) and Trinity Western University (HT: Craig Evans): Similar information to that found elsewhere.
  • National Geographic (HT: Craig Evans): Reports an estimate from Randall Price of “probably another 50 sites that merit investigating in the near future,” as well as comments like those summarized above from Lawrence Schiffman on how recent forgeries might appear on old material. In a humorous turn, Schiffman “shockingly” dispels hope of “find[ing] the diary of the three wise men” in possible further Judean Desert discoveries.
  • theLAB: Primarily reflections on the significance of previous Dead Sea Scroll finds with a couple comments on the new find similar to those provided elsewhere.

What seems to be shaping up as the key question about the status of this new find’s designation as “Cave 12” is the question “What makes a cave worthy of inclusion inside the numbering?”—actual textual finds tied to the location or simply a strong possibility that ancient texts were once located in the cave? Barring additional news about thus-far undisclosed contents from this cave, the apparently blank parchment showing text under multispectral examination, or known texts’ being re-provenanced to this cave, it seems more in keeping with the criteria applied to derive the existing 11-cave scheme not to include this new cave as a twelfth in that sequence. But, of course, the new find remains quite significant and reopens important questions about possible issues of provenance for texts currently classified as deriving from the standard 11 caves.

For further background and discussion, see Qumran Cave 12, Qumran Cave 12: Update, and Qumran Cave 12: Update 2.

Qumran Cave 12: Update 2

James VanderKam, via University of Notre Dame

In a short interview published by the University of Notre Dame, James VanderKam urges caution about labeling the recent Dead Sea find as “Cave 12.” Comparisons have previously been drawn between the new find and Cave 8, which comes inside the numbering but contained no scrolls.

VanderKam comments,

In 1952, after the earliest scrolls finds, archaeologists made a survey of hundreds of caves and openings in the general vicinity of Khirbet Qumran…. Some 230 of them contained nothing of interest, but 26 housed pottery like that found in the first scrolls cave…. [G]iven the fact that other caves in the district, besides the 11 that held the Dead Sea Scrolls, contained pottery of the same sort as Qumran Cave 1, it seems a bit premature to call [the new find] Qumran Cave 12.

Whether the new find should indeed come inside the numbering of the scrolls caves would apparently depend on how things settle out regarding: (a) material apparently blank on visual inspection but needing to be subjected to multispectral analysis, (b) any contents that can be linked chemically or otherwise to other finds in other caves where texts have been recovered, or (c) other texts previously thought to have come from other caves but that might be demonstrated to have come from the new find.

Incidentally, the point about the comparison with Cave 8 (e.g., Hebrew University of Jerusalem) is the absence of scroll-type texts in what was recovered from that cave. Although not scroll-type texts, five fragmentary texts were recovered from Cave 8 (cf. The Dead Sea Scrolls). On this basis, all caves in the customary 11-fold accounting would share in common the fact that texts were (identified as) recovered from them—something that it can’t yet be said for the new find—rather than simply that texts had likely been stored there at some point.

(N.B.: My earliest post on the new cave find initially commented imprecisely that “no texts were found in [Cave 8].” I’ve now corrected this statement to reflect more properly that “no scroll-type texts were found in [Cave 8].”)

HT: Jim Davila. For the full text of piece containing VanderKam’s reflections, see the Notre Dame website. For previous discussion and further links about the new Qumran find, see Qumran Cave 12Qumran Cave 12: Update, and LogosTalk.