The Dead Sea Scrolls

Written on September 8, 2022 – 12:24 pm | by dave |

As a scholar with a myriad of historical interests, I have begun studying the Dead Sea Scrolls via a course available on Wondrium (previously The Great Courses Plus). It is led by a scholar who studies Jewish history and is currently one of the most well versed in these documents and their origins.

The First Scrolls

Found by Bedouin farmers, the first batch of scrolls were found in a cave in Qumran. Of these scrolls, three of them were obtained by Professor Sukenik from the Israeli University and the latter four were obtained and translated by the ASOR (American Society of Oriental Research).

Professor Sukenik’s Scrolls:

  • An incomplete manuscript of the book of Isaiah – resembling very closely the medieval copies of the book of Isaiah (1QIsab)
  • The Thanksgiving Hymns – a collection of hymns in praise of God, similar to the book of Psalms.
  • The War Scroll – describing the conflict between the “Sons of Light” and the “Sons of Darkness” – a very Armageddon like story of the ultimate fight between good and evil. It was written with military language and style.

The ASOR Scrolls:

  • A complete manuscript of the book of Isaiah that differs remarkably from the medieval copies (1QIsaa)
  • The Community Rule – the basic theological underpinnings and organization of the Qumran sect. (Also translated as The Discipline Rule).
  • Pesher Habakkuk – a commentary on the biblical book of Habakkuk
  • Genesis Apocryphon (Aramaic) – expansive retelling of portions of the book of Genesis.

Understanding the Naming System of Scrolls

There is an agreed upon nomenclature to help define the exiting documents for further studies. For example: 1QIsaa can be understood as:

  • 1 – Found in Qumran Cave 1
  • Q – Found in Qumran
  • Isa – Based on the biblical book of Isaiah
  • a the first iteration of the book of Isaiah in the 1QIsa grouping.

However, there are many sources wherein the fragments cannot be organized into a single book or biblical reference. In this case, you may find something like 4Q396 which means:

  • 4 – Found in Qumran Cave 4
  • Q – Found in Qumran
  • 396 – This is the 396th text organized.

Even so, there are some texts that have become so well known that they gave been assigned a name that correlates them to a particular agreed upon document. An example here would be 1QS (the designation of the Community Rule):

  • 1 – Found in Qumran Cave 1
  • Q – Found in Qumran
  • S – Serekh (1Qs essentially is titled “Serekh ha-Yahad” or “Rule of the Community”)
Next (The Community Rule 1QS)