Looking at history

The Dead Sea Scrolls are now available online. You can search by language, by content, by site the scroll was found… how freaking cool is that?

I love technology. I love the internet.

THIS is why the internet was born. Go ahead, amateur Torah students. Read a Torah scroll from 2,300 years ago.

About 230 manuscripts are referred to as “biblical Scrolls”. These are copies of works that are now part of the Hebrew Bible. They already held a special status in the Second Temple period, and were considered to be vessels of divine communication. Evidence suggests that the Scrolls’ contemporary communities did not have a unified conception of an authoritative collection of scriptural works. The idea of a closed biblical “canon” only emerged later in the history of these sacred writings.

Among the Scrolls are partial or complete copies of every book in the Hebrew Bible (except the book of Esther). About a dozen copies of some of these holy books were written in ancient paleo-Hebrew (the script of the First Temple era, not the standard script of the time).

Many biblical manuscripts closely resemble the Masoretic Text, the accepted text of the Hebrew Bible from the second half of the first millennium ce until today. This similarity is quite remarkable, considering that the Qumran Scrolls are over a thousand years older than previously identified biblical manuscripts.

By the way, these are the scrolls that the Palestinians are trying to claim are their heritage–because they were found in a cave in the West Bank. Right. Their heritage. Because the Palestinians are Jews that follow Jewish law. Oh. Wait. No, that would be Israelis. Yeah, go ahead and sue Israel in the ICC for them. That and a dollar….

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2 Responses to Looking at history

  1. Michael Lonie says:

    One of the most interesting things about the scrolls, I think, is the absence of the Book of Esther. The late historian Cecil Roth wrote a book in the late 1950s, “The Dead Sea Scrolls: A New Historical Interpretation,” in which he proposed that the scrolls found at Qumran were the library of the Zealots. He cited similarities bewtween what we know of the Zealots’ beliefs and what can be deduced from the scrolls about the beliefs of those who wrote them (particularly using the non-canonical scrolls). One of the tenets of the Zealots was that only The Lord should be sovereign over Israel. Esther is the only book in the canonical Bible that recognizes the sovereignty of a pagan king, the Persian King of Kings, over Israel. When the same range of scrolls, including both Biblical canon and non-canonical scrolls, was found at Masada, and still excluding Esther, Roth thought his thesis had received strong support. Personally, I think he was correct.

  2. BobW says:

    Esther is also the only canonical Hebrew book that doesn’t contain the Tetragrammaton (the four-letter name of God usually translated as LORD in English, ore referred to as HA SHEM in Hebrew [respecting the Third Commandment]). I wonder if the absence of that name from Esther also played into the Essenes’ excluding it from their library.

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