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 (41)

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":

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 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

Before either affirming or denying Essene presence at Qumran it may be helpful to know the etymology and Hebrew spelling of "Essenes." A good etymology of Essenes explains not only the origin of the name before its Greek versions (Essaioi, Essenoi, Ossaioi, Ossenoi). A good etymology of Essenes also explains why, later, the true etymology of the term became, to many, forgotten.
Since at least 1532 scholars in every century proposed the Hebrew root 'asah. Philo wrote that Essenes preferred deeds over words. (Compare 4QMMT.)And Qumtan mss include the self-designation 'osey hatorah. Naturally, the Sadducees and Pharisees and Rabbis would not agree to call them the observers of Torah (nor call Samaritans keepers of Torah, even if the latter is a folk etymythology). (It is somewhat analogous to some Christians being taken aback in the 1500s when a group designated itself the Society of Jesus.)One scholar a few years ago declared that no Jewish group would ever call themselves 'osey hatorah. Yet, there it is, they did, in ancient ink, in Hebrew, in sectarian pesharim, found at Qumran. More details at:

Here is some of the pre-1947 bibliography relevant to 'asah:

1532 Ph. Melanchthon in J. Carion, Chronica. Wittenberg, 1532. f68v:
Essei / das ist / Operarii / vom wort Assa / das ist wircken.
1548 Paul Eber, Populi Iudaici Historia.
1550 The Thre Bokes of Cronicles... London. declare the
straitnesse and severitie of lyfe with the dede, and would be called
Essey, that is workers or doers, for Assa, whence the name commeth,
sygnifieth to worke...
1557 David Chytraeus [Kochhafe], Onomasticon.
1559 M. Flacius Illyricus et al. Ecclesiastica Hist., Magdeburg
Centuries. Basel.
1560 Cooper's Chronicle, London.
?1566 M. Victorinum ed, Jerome Opera. Rome, Ep. 22 note.
[1573-75 Azariah dei Rossi. Me'or Enayim. Mantua.]
1583 J. Scaliger, De Emendatione Temporum. on hallucination.
1605 Scaliger, Elenchus Trihaeresii. different view.
1619 Sixtinus Amama ed. De Sectis Iudaicis..., Arnheim.
1674 J. Lightfoot, Horae Hebraicae et Talmudicae, on Lk. xv, 7.
1680 Johann H. Willemer. Dissertatio...Essenis....
1699 J. Leusden. Philologus.
1703 J. Triglandius ed., Trium Scriptorum...Judaeorum Sectis...Delft.
107: factores legis.
1743-4 J.C. Happach. De Essaeorum Nomine. Coburg.
1745 J. U. Tresenreuter, program 50, De Essaeorum Nomine, p. 535ff
1748 Joh. Carpzov.
1839 Isaak Jost, Die Essaer..., Israelitische Annalen 19, 145-7.
1858 S. Cohn; David Oppenheim, MGWJ 7, 270-1; 272-3.
1862 L. Landsberg, Allgemeine Zeitung des Judenthum 26/33, 459.
1864 C. D. Ginsburg, The Essenes [& Cyclopedia arts.].
1875 J. Lightfoot, Saint Paul's Epistles to the Colossians...appendix.
1881 A. B. Gottlober, ...B$M KT H(SS(N(R )W (SS((R HaBoker Or [Warsaw]
1881 Rev. Et. J. 3, 295.
1894 Kruger, Theologische Quartalschrift 76 [&1887, 69]
1938 H.M.J. Loewe in Encyclopedia Britannica (14th) 718. (includes 'asah as a possible etymology, soon before the Qumran discoveries).

#19 - Stephen Goranson - 06/23/2017 - 10:02

About 95% of published palaeographic datings of Qumran texts are based on scholars applying the system of the late Professor Frank M. Cross to individual texts, by carefully studying typological characteristics of letters and then looking up the date on Cross's script charts. The other 5% stem from others in the 1950s before palaeographic dating was stabilized by Cross in 1961 in charts which were then used by all thereafter. These other 5% were based on the same assumptions held by Cross so not in significant disagreement. The later Yardeni, so brilliant in description and sharp eye for detail, has followed Cross's absolute dates, such that in the occasional instances in which Yardeni has differed from Cross on the date of a specific text it is always a disagreement over application of Cross's own system.

No matter how many names are quoted who have assigned 1st century CE palaeographic dates to Qumran texts, it is all based on a single system, that of Cross 1961. There is no alternative dating system in use.

This palaeographic dating system was driven by what was believed at the outset to be a foundational point established archaeologically: a belief that the Qumran scrolls were deposited in the caves at the time of the First Revolt. The archaeologists came to this conclusion, first announced in 1952, based on the find of the scroll jar in Qumran Locus 2. That Locus 2 scroll jar overturned the then-existing archaeological consensus that the jars and scrolls in Cave 1Q had ended 1st BCE. The Locus 2 scroll jar convinced the archaeologists and text scholars that the scroll jars in Cave 1Q instead were all 1st century CE ending at the First Revolt. This was the same Locus 2 scroll jar that as of 2016, even Mizzi and Magness agree went out of use prior to the time of Agrippa I, the same Locus 2 scroll jar which very likely, and with no reason to suppose otherwise, was both manufactured and installed in the floor at Qumran in the time of Herod.

As I wrote in the present article: "The origin of the dating of 'late Herodian formal' script [the name given to the latest type of writing of the Qumran texts] has been lost in collective scholarly memory to such an extent that such palaeographic datings are today often regarded as evidence that Qumran texts were produced as late as ca. 50 CE and that the interpretation which had created those dates is therefore confirmed, without awareness of the circularity in the reasoning."

An illustrative example is Cross's dating, on palaeographic grounds, of writing on a bowl found in Qumran's Locus 86/89, inscribed on that bowl before it was fired, to "first century CE". Although Cross wavered after de Vaux insisted to him that the L86/89 bowls were 1st BCE on archaeological grounds, Cross's final edition of "The Ancient Library of Qumran" reverted to his original instinct that the writing on that bowl was certainly 1st CE in date. The Bar-Nathan Jericho pottery volume of 2002 resolved that question decisively in favor of de Vaux: identical bowls in huge numbers at Jericho were found dating to the second half of the 1st century BCE. The only correction to de Vaux was that those bowls went a little later than de Vaux thought into early Herod or HR1 at Jericho—but not 1st CE (“absence of this bowl from first-century C.E. contexts at Jericho”, Bar-Nathan Jericho III, 2006, p. 89). Where had Cross gone wrong? It was not that Cross was mistaken in this particular instance in application of his own system. No, Cross was certain based ON correct application of his system--it was the SYSTEM of absolute dating in use that was systematically offset, illusorily putting the date of that item—and the dates of who knows how many texts (maybe all Qumran texts with 1st CE dates?)—erroneously into the 1st century CE.

The view of mainstream scholarship is that (i) none of the literary texts found in the Qumran caves were authored later than 1st BCE, but (ii) scribal copying of old texts continued for another seventy years without even one scribe making even one copy of a text authored in the 1st century CE, and (iii) the scrolls were then collected and put into the caves of Qumran in 68 CE.

Point “ii” makes absolutely no sense, but is firmly believed to be true by practically every current mainstream Qumran text scholar.

In contrast, I am saying the dates of authorship, dates of scribal copies, and dates of deposits in the Qumran caves all appear to have ended by the end of 1st BCE.

The question of whether the palaeographic dating system in use for Qumran texts is accurate down to the level of decades ... is not to be answered by quoting those dates themselves as proving their own accuracy.

Further discussion of these issues can be seen here (…) and here (

#20 - Greg Doudna - 06/23/2017 - 12:55

Copper Scroll. Re #17. On the Copper Scroll, I too think the Copper Scroll is likely associated with the same people associated with the rest of the scrolls though I am not certain it was deposited simultaneously with the other scrolls. I think a possible context for the Copper Scroll could be ca. 4 BCE, understanding it as a hiding of wealth associated with the Temple.

I think the question should be asked whether the hoard of silver coins of latest date 9/8 BCE found at Qumran's Locus 120 was one of the Copper Scroll caches. This possibility has not previously been considered because the date differs from when Qumran scholars have been "sure" the Copper Scroll was dated, at the time of the First Revolt or even later.

Against a First Revolt dating of the Copper Scroll it has been objected that Josephus never mentions a hiding of Temple wealth at the First Revolt; that there are logistical objections to how it would have worked; and that the wealth of the Temple was captured in the sack of Jerusalem and displayed in Vespasian's triumph in Rome. Against these criticisms there is no positive indication internal to the Copper Scroll linking it to the time of the First Revolt.

But in the runup to the War of Varus of ca. 4 BCE, there was means, motive, and opportunity for a hiding of Temple wealth in advance of Roman response to a Jewish insurrection. There was advance warning of Roman arrival in force and Josephus speaks prominently of concerns over potential Roman appropriation of Jewish national wealth (Ant 17.206-298).

A large number of the Copper Scroll's 64 hidings of buried wealth are said to be silver. Many if not most of the locations of the Copper Scroll hidings appear to be in the Jericho region including Qumran. In my opinion only the discrepancy between perceived date of the Copper Scroll (the First Revolt fixation) and actual date of the silver hoard of L120 (ca. 9/8 BCE) has prevented this question from having been considered.

The correspondence between a text inscribed on metal, found in a cave of Qumran, listing details of multiple buried hoards of silver in the Jericho and Qumran region, and the actual buried hoard of silver of ca. 9/8 BCE found at Qumran L120, seems to me too close of a match in genre not to be striking and of interest.

If the L120 silver coin hoard was one of the Copper Scroll hidings, this would recall Milik's idea that Qumran was uninhabited at the time of the Copper Scroll, since Milik believed that several of the Copper Scroll’s hiding places were at the physical site of Qumran. Was Qumran uninhabited by ca. 9/8 BCE or soon thereafter (prior to later activity at the site in 1st CE)?

This possibility differs from David Stacey's suggestion that the L120 hoard may have been hidden by Simon the slave of Herod who burnt down and looted Herod's palace in Jericho. Reconstruction of the true circumstances of the L120 hoard's hiding may forever elude certainty.

I have separately suggested, also speculatively, that a different item described in the Copper Scroll, that of the 64th and final hiding, has been found and is well known to scholars without anyone having realized it, namely the Copper Scroll itself. I suggested that the Copper Scroll is the copy of itself described in that 64th hiding (not the original which has not survived), and that the 64th hiding place might be a description of Cave 3Q (Doudna, at Stacey and Doudna 2013, pp. 123-124).

A Copper Scroll of ca. 4 BCE would be 30 years earlier than Cross's palaeographic dating of 25-75 CE for the Copper Scroll. Could Cross have been mistaken by thirty years? (See comment #20 above on the Locus 86/89 bowl.) That discrepancy is less than the discrepancy between Cross's First Revolt palaeographic dating of the KhQ1 ostracon—which Cross believed was of the same kind of writing as and contemporary to the Copper Scroll—and the separate late 1st century BCE palaeographic datings of the KhQ1 ostracon of Yardeni and Puech.

#21 - Greg Doudna - 06/24/2017 - 05:57

Some history of scholarship claims in this exchange may be questionable. To give one example: the question whether the Copper Scroll and the silver coins of locus 120 might be somehow related is not new. I am not inclined to attempt to provide bibliography for every history of scholarship claim that I question. But I will note that the paper under discussion claims that there were at Qumran "...the non Greek users of Ib and the heavy Greek users of II...." And it then proposes that the 3QCopper Scroll (3Q15) nonetheless dates to Ib. This, even though the Copper Scroll includes Greek letters as well as Greek loan words.
García Martínez, Florentino. “Greek Loanwords in the Copper Scroll.” In Qumranica Minora II: Thematic Studies on the Dead Sea Scrolls. Ed. by Tigchelaar, Eibert J. C. Pages 145-170. Studies on the Texts from the Desert of Judah 64. Leiden: Brill, 2007. (Reprinted from the A. Hilhorst FS, 2003)

#22 - Stephen Goranson - 06/25/2017 - 13:03

James Davila's blog "Paleojudaica" (6/17/2017, 11:43 am), reporting on the present article comments: "Dr. Doudna's theories which so far have not found much acceptance among Qumranologists".

That is accurate with respect to the present discussion concerning the dating of the scroll deposits. But Davila may be unaware that in two other matters of interpretation of the archaeology of Qumran, archaeologists and text scholars have embraced arguments I originated. Namely:

(1) No Quman Ib fire (Doudna 1999). At the time I published this it was believed—always had been believed by archaeologists and text scholars, unanimously—that there had been a destruction of the site of Qumran by fire late 1st century BCE. My argument, published in 1999 on the basis of close and exhaustive personal study of de Vaux's field notes, was adopted and developed by Humbert (2003), Hirschfeld (2004), and now Mizzi & Magness (2016). Today I am aware of no one, archaeologist or text scholar, who any longer is actively defending the 1st BCE fire at Qumran, such that the thinking on this in the field has changed completely, following my argument and due to my argument. I handed my 1999 publication to Humbert in person at the time, who read it. The rest is history and a simple matter of record. I not only rejected the Ib fire but did so for the right reasons. My priority on this was not acknowledged in these later publications, and therefore is not well known.

(2) Jewish, not Roman, Period III (Doudna 2001). I introduced this idea and the argument for it, so commonly discussed today by archaeologists and text scholars who work with Qumran. This idea was embraced and developed by Torleif (2002), Taylor (2006, 2012), and archaeologists of Qumran Magen and Peleg (2006, 2007). Dennis Mizzi's careful, detailed publications on the de Vaux finds from Qumran do not take a position on this issue explicitly but seem to lean toward an interpretation of continuity, certainly in glassware and other material finds, between the ethnicity of the people of II and III, i.e. Jewish. Although Magness has appeared to defend de Vaux’s interpretation of a Roman Period III as recently as 2014 (in Marginalia, quoting de Vaux’s traditional view favorably), apart from that there does not seem to be much active defense of a Roman III at present, though this discussion is still in flux.

#23 - Greg Doudna - 06/25/2017 - 16:18

Re #22, Copper Scroll. Possibly there may have been some suggestion somewhere in the history of scholarship that the L120 hoard of latest dated coins 9/8 BCE was hidden at the time of the First Revolt, 70 years later, as part of a First Revolt Copper Scroll hiding, though I do not know of any and would be grateful if it does come to mind to you where you may have seen that and can say.

But I do not think—and perhaps should have clarified that this is what I actually meant—that there has ever been consideration of the L120 hoard, understood as a ca. 9/8 BCE burial, as part of the Copper Scroll hidings, and the reason for that absence of consideration is for the reason I gave (the discrepancy between perceived date of the Copper Scroll and actual date of the L120 hoard). I believe that to be accurate description. If you are aware of something otherwise on this point I would be extremely grateful if you could provide the bibliographic reference.

On the Greek letters and loan-words of the Copper Scroll, and my description of "the non Greek users of Ib and the heavy Greek users of II" in the article, I noted that there are 1st BCE Qumran texts in Greek. I did not claim that there was no use of Greek in 1st BCE Judea, or that no one at the physical site of Qumran knew Greek, or that there were scruples against using Greek, but rather that the inscriptional finds “suggest that Greek was not much in use by the people of Qumran in Ib. It heightens the question of whether the non-Greek users of Ib and the heavy Greek users of II were the same group as commonly supposed" (p. 10 [p. 138]). I noted Hamidovic's 2009 study of 93 total Qumran inscriptions which reported "none of the Greek inscriptions dates from Period I".

Is that a counterargument against a dating of the Copper Scroll to ca. 4 BCE? Not to me, because it is not denied that there was some Greek use in Judea at all times and especially increasing late Herod, and especially in urban centers. The use of Greek is generally understood to have increased throughout Judea in the 1st century CE, perhaps associated with the “Romanization” building activity of Herod in the later part of Herod’s reign. The Qumran inscriptional analysis deals specifically with finds at Qumran but it does not mean Greek was not in use at the time of Qumran’s Period I in urban centers such as Jerusalem or elsewhere, as in fact is attested in the Greek literary text copies, likely all imported to Qumran 1st BCE, among the cave finds. But I regard the small percentage of copies of scrolls in Greek among those cave finds—only 3%, compared to 97% Hebrew and Aramaic—as consistent with those scroll deposits being 1st BCE, at a time when little or no Greek was in use at the site and less Greek was in use throughout Judea, compared to the significantly greater degree of Greek in use both at Qumran and throughout Judea in the 1st century CE.

Furthermore, I am not certain that the Copper Scroll was deposited in Cave 3Q at the same time as, as distinguished from postdating by a little, the deposits of the other scrolls in that cave, even though I presume a relationship with the people of the other scrolls is likely, based on use of the same cave (i.e. Cave 3Q was used because it was already a known hiding place with the other scrolls already there). The Copper Scroll itself of course is written in Hebrew. But there are the unexplained Greek letters—initials of names? numerical codes? code of some other kind? who knows—that follow 6 out of the 64 hiding-descriptions otherwise in Hebrew. There is no certainty that those Greek letters were inscribed or authored by people at the physical site of Qumran. But it would not disturb me in the least if those Greek letters, from the end of the reign of Herod, were inscribed on the Copper Scroll at the physical site of Qumran, at the point when the metal copy was being made from the original, if that was the case. Most importantly, I would not assume that the ones who wrote the Copper Scroll were necessarily the on-site staff at Qumran of preceding time, as if the hired staff at Qumran themselves had come upon the vast wealth of the Copper Scroll and on their own initiative were hiding it.

So I am not sure whether your objection is meant to argue against the descriptive assessment of an apparent I/II language difference in daily life at the site of Qumran, or is meant as an actual argument against a ca. 4 BCE Copper Scroll date. If the latter, I do not see the Greek letters or influence of Greek seen in the loan-words for technical terms as an argument against a ca. 4 BCE dating. I would see it as a possible argument in favor of a Jerusalem or other urban origin for the original of which I believe the Copper Scroll was a contemporary copy.

#24 - Greg Doudna - 06/25/2017 - 20:02

Qumran scholarship has a herd mentality in which a few senior figures give permission to embrace alternative proposals as legitimate. At that point it is safe for younger, bright scholars to also go in certain directions, have their journal articles published instead of shot down in peer review, be part of the club, praise each others work, etc.

Once the first senior kingpin Qumran text scholar realizes that all of the published 1st century CE paleographic dates for Qumran texts are not proven correct by means of quoting themselves, and says this publicly and in print giving permission for younger scholars to think this too, it will be essentially over.

In my opinion it is a simple matter of accident that this has not already happened.

An opening up of the question of a correction in the dating of the Qumran scroll deposits is simply called for on the basis of an overview of the facts. Two strong large-scale, independent arguments in favor of all-earlier (end 1st BCE), and no good reason to assume later, is the actual state of the question.

If de Vaux was wrong on the Ib fire, the L2 scroll jar, the 1st CE animal bone deposits, and so on, he could have been wrong on the dating of the scroll deposits too.

Yet those of us who say, like voices in the Qumran scholarly wilderness, that it looks like there may have been a mistake here, are marginalized for raising this question, as if the question itself is deemed impermissible.

#25 - Greg Doudna - 06/26/2017 - 18:31

Qumran scholarship has a herd mentality in which a few senior figures give permission to embrace alternative proposals as legitimate. At that point it is safe for younger, bright scholars to also go in certain directions, have their journal articles published instead of shot down in peer review, be part of the club, praise each other’s work, etc.

Once the first kingpin Qumran text scholar realizes that the published 1st century CE paleographic dates for Qumran texts are not proven accurate to the 1st century CE by means of quoting themselves, and says this publicly and in print thereby giving permission for younger scholars to think so too, it will be over.

In my opinion it is a simple matter of accident that this has not happened already.

A serious discussion of the dating of the scroll deposits is called for on the basis of simple facts: two large-scale data distributions independently suggest an earlier date (late 1st BCE), against no compelling grounds to assume later (First Revolt). Those are the facts.

De Vaux was mistaken on the Ib fire; the dating of the animal bone deposits; the dating of the start of Ia, and the end of Ib; the dating of the Locus 2 scroll jar. Each of those mistakes was adhered to by Qumran scholars for decades, presented in thousands of publications and to thousands of world audiences as facts. Today each is recognized to have been in error. In one of those cases (the non-existent Ib fire) I was the one who brought that particular error to light, with Mizzi and Magness 2016 closing the case on that question in agreement with what I published seventeen years earlier. It should therefore not be an existential shock if it turns out de Vaux erred on the dating of the scroll deposits too.

Yet raising this question can result in marginalization in the world of Qumran scholarship. I have repeatedly in recent years had article submissions discussing aspects of this question, to journals which function as gatekeepers for Qumran scholarship, rejected without opportunity for rewrite and resubmission, based on editors and peer reviewers saying that my articles failed to prove that the scroll deposits could not have happened at the First Revolt, and therefore, I was given to understand, the question was not publishable or of interest in any form.

As my M.A. thesis advisor at Cornell, the late Martin Bernal, and guiding light at Copenhagen, the courageous Thomas Thompson, used to tell me, each with knowledge whereof they spoke: never underestimate the power of scholarly conservatism.

Yet it is a scholarly conservatism which can and I suspect surely will be broken, just as has happened innumerable times on different matters throughout the humanities, when a first senior figure gives permission to younger scholars to consider the heretofore unthinkable … that there never were any First Revolt Qumran scroll deposits … that it was all a myth … that that story was fiction, all along.

When that happens, an exciting era of Qumran studies will open up, for a new question, fruitful and productive and not previously considered, will be front and center: what then was the true story behind the scrolls found in the caves of Qumran and the circumstances by which they came to an end in those caves anciently? It will be an end of an era, and a beginning of another, in the modern history of scholarship concerned with these ancient texts.

#26 - Greg Doudna - 06/28/2017 - 07:29

Re #5 & #7:- Most of these deposits were recovered from open areas outside buildings, many of which were deliberately covered by fill connected in some way with the introduction of the 'main aqueduct' and its related water pools. L130 was originally part of the area which gathered rain water and steered it into the Hasmonean channel beneath floors of L115/6 that fed the original L110, L117/8 This system may have included the long rain collecting channel that stretches north over the marl terrace as far as the cliffs. When more water was wanted/required a fill, L130, was poured behind a low, curved retaining wall, to steer water gathered by the new dam into the new 'main aqueduct' and to prevent water damage to the walls north of L120. Both L73 and L80 were raised with fill at time of construction of L71 - still within the time of Herod but slightly later than the fill in L130. A necessary part of the construction of L71 was the 'long wall' to the SE beneath which were found bone deposits by Randall Price. The deposits found in L90 by Magen and Peleg were probably buried beneath a fill following the introduction of L91 when a fill covered part of a paved open area (see Magen and Peleg Figs 17 & 52, where can be seen a channel originally draining the paved area towards L71 being replaced by a channel at a higher elevation taking water from L91 to irrigate the southern plateau). This sould also be dated to the time of Herod but slightly later than L71. So IMO a progression of bone deposits of Has/early Herod in L130, to early Herod in L73 & L80, to mid/?late? Herod in L90.
I note that one of the locations in which Magen and Peleg recovered bone deposits was the 'Eastern' dump in which was found pottery from the Iron age up to the time of the Revolt. COuld this be the location in which deposits were found "elsewhere from later periods, up to the site's destruction" (Magen and Peleg p. 43) i.e. mixed with later material but not necessarily to be dated 'late'?

#27 - David Stacey - 06/28/2017 - 08:57

Re #27 animal bone deposits. Thanks David, makes sense. With your analysis of the remaining animal bone deposits of L73 and L80 identified by de Vaux as 1st CE, this completes the removal of credibility to de Vaux’s interpretation of 1st CE dated bone deposits found by the early excavators anywhere at the site.

What you bring out also could well be the solution to the mystery of where Magen and Peleg claimed to have found 1st CE animal bone deposits: the eastern dump. If so, as you note the question would be whether such found in that dump were 1st CE or secondarily mixed with pottery which was 1st CE. Only publication of the Magen and Peleg excavations, stratigraphy and pottery will allow their date interpretation to be assessed by others.

I noted in the present article and above that the important monograph of Donceel 2005 on the northern enclosure (L130, 132, 135), dealing with de Vaux's large-scale finds of animal bone deposits in that location which de Vaux mistakenly thought were part 1st CE at L130 and entirely 1st CE at L132 ... surprisingly seemed practically unknown in secondary literature prior to my bringing it to attention in my present article of 2016 which I sent to Mizzi in 2015. The content of Donceel 2005 is discussed and accepted by Mizzi and Magness in articles from 2016 forward.

The casual way in which Magen and Peleg said they found animal bone deposits up to the time of the First Revolt, without evident awareness of how unprecedented that claim has now become in terms of prior evidence, supports this. If they had been aware of Donceel 2005 I believe their claim of 1st CE animal bone deposits would have been noted more carefully. They seem unaware of saying anything remarkable when they say in their article of 2006 and IAA report of 2007:

“De Vaux dated the burial bones to periods IB and II. In our renewed excavations, vessels containing bones dating from the Hasmonaean period were found in the southern dump, and elsewhere from later periods, up to the site’s destruction. The disposal of bones within the site was thus a permanent feature.”

p.s. in an earlier reference I mistakenly cited “Torleif (2002)”; that should have read “Elgvin (2002)”, my apologies.

#28 - Greg Doudna - 06/28/2017 - 23:56

Three ink wells were found at Qumran, in locus 30 and 31, with the one of locus 30 being made out of clay from Jerusalem. (Magness, The Archaeology of Qumran and the Dead Sea Scrolls, 2002)...

I do not really intend to enter the discussion here because I truly believe that unfortunately, the site of Qumran has been turned into an "archaeological mess". de Vaux being the first responsible with his particular agenda and twisted methodology. This being as it may, since the site of Qumran is now corrupted and one can only endlessly speculate about it, I entirely agree with Greg's statement made in comment #3: "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"). 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?"...
It is time to free ourselves from the “consensus de convention” as I call it in French, the one associating the Qumran phenomenon strictly with the so called “Essenes community”. Indeed as I stated in my article published here in May and on which we had a lengthy discussion, I believe that the caves are the key to the Qumran enigma. It is totally legitimate to revisit the issue of the dating of the scrolls deposits. Even though, as I argued, I disagree with Greg's main argument for restricting the dating of the deposits to the Herodian period. Furthermore it is also important to understand where these scrolls originated from. It is by focusing on these issues that we will at last set ourselves free from the “Essenes-hypothesis”.

#29 - Claude Cohen-Matlofsky - 07/04/2017 - 18:20

A still more concise way of expressing the redating argument is this heading of the concluding section of my article in the Brill 2017 Caves of Conference volume cited at #13 above. Here it is in two sentences:

"Albright’s original interpretation of Cave 1Q of 1949 ironically appears to have been correct after all, and the date correction following 1951 was the mistake, not vice versa. The scrolls of the caves of Qumran in their entirety take their rightful place as the remains of a lost textual world before the first century CE."

In other words, not really so radical. It was what all of the archaeologists once thought.

And there is also a test concerning how the scrolls of Qumran would have been dated paleographically if it had not been for the influence of the First Revolt assumption. Solomon Birnbaum was the world’s leading authority on the palaeographic dating of Jewish texts. He concluded on the basis of all comparative data available, and prior to the excavation of Cave 1Q in 1949 which reported archaeological confirmation, that all of the scrolls then known, including 1QHymns, went to mid-1st BCE and no later. Albright also independently thought the scrolls went no later palaeographically than ca. 50-25 BCE.

In other words, not so complicated. I am arguing that the original conclusion was correct, and the date correction announced by de Vaux in 1952 and believed by Qumran scholars ever since, was mistaken.

The redating following the excavation of Qumran in 1951 was an honest mistake. De Vaux famously publicly announced, "je me suis trompe," "I was wrong", concerning his advocacy of the original consensus, as he announced the correction.

The French text scholar Andre Dupont-Sommer had already been pushing the First Revolt date scenario, but until that first excavation of Qumran Dupont-Sommer had been dismissed on the grounds of archaeology and palaeography.

The 1951 excavation, to everyone’s surprise, seemed at the time to vindicate the text scholar (Dupont-Sommer) against what until then had been characterized as exclusion of his First Revolt date theory on the combined grounds of both archaeology and palaeography.

But, it was de Vaux's honorably-intended "je me suis trompe" that was what was actually wrong. It was the correction announced by the archaeologists following 1951 that was the mistake. De Vaux’s and colleagues' interpretation of the Locus 2 scroll jar was what was in error.

There is a scientific literature on what is called the “continued influence effect”. In such studies, subjects informed of false facts leading to a wrong conclusion (e.g. in a mock jury murder trial) are then informed of specific fact corrections and asked to reconsider on the basis of the true remaining facts. Researchers repeatedly find that bias remains toward the baseless conclusion even after the underlying facts supporting the unfounded conclusion are consciously acknowledged to have been mistaken and repudiated. These studies found that only when the research subjects were informed not only of the fact correction but also the existence of the “continued influence effect” phenomenon, was the effect eliminated.

Qumran text scholars' consensus dating of the scroll deposits to the First Revolt is a case of this--a belief which continues even though the specific reasons in archaeological interpretation in 1951 that gave rise to that belief are now acknowledged to be non-existent.

Like a zombie scholarly belief, central to an accepted foundation story, the First Revolt Qumran scrolls story continues to live on, subsisting on its own air, in which every Qumran scholar can comfortably quote other Qumran scholars holding the same belief, carrying forward the momentum of a thousand incidental points of perceived plausibility and confirmation picked up by accretion over the past six decades reinforcing the narrative, none substantial.

#30 - Greg Doudna - 07/05/2017 - 13:53

When E. L. Sukenik saw some 1Q mss in November 1947 the script reminded him of writing on late second temple period ossuaries, in "the period before the Roman destruction of the city [Jerusalem]" (W. Fields, The DSS: A Full History, v. 1, p. 41; Yadin, The Message of the Scrolls, 17-18)

#31 - Stephen Goranson - 07/06/2017 - 11:14

Re #29 Claude Cohen-Matlofsky, this is a breath of fresh air. "It is totally legitimate to revisit the issue of the dating of the scrolls deposits." Thank you.

Interestingly, I do not see the redating as affecting the Essene hypothesis debate directly, which is a distinct issue. Mainstream thinking sees Essenes no longer at the site post-68 CE, and if that were moved earlier to post-4 BCE, what significantly is different? Nothing that I can see. Either way, the site of Qumran ends up non-Essene at some point in conventional thinking, no real difference on that score. The Essene question with respect to the era of actual activity of interest at Qumran at the time of the scrolls still remains with all of its issues and questions.

Questions to which you are offering very interesting discussion in your own work. I just read your good 2012 monograph, "Flavius Josephe. Les ambitions d'un homme". You make an intriguing argument--convincing to me--that Josephus had ambitions of being a restored Hasmonean king by the Romans, even though that did not happen. You bring out that Josephus may have been a descendant of John Hyrcanus I or Hyrcanus II, since Josephus named his own son "Hyrcanus".

As I reflect on your discussion on that, I wonder if it was not just the earlier Judas Maccabaeus installation by the Romans which Josephus framed as his historical analogue (as you argue), but perhaps also--or even more directly--Josephus's portrayal of Hyrcanus II's cooperation with the Roman conquest of Jerusalem at the time of Pompey and then installation as high priest by Pompey. Is Josephus's portrayal of Hyrcanus II partly an attempt to show that Josephus's relationship to the Romans repeats what happened with Pompey and Hyrcanus II? Was Josephus's portrayal of Hyrcanus II shaped by Josephus's interests?

Also, I think there may be a contemporary negative portrayal of Josephus in Revelation in the figure of the "false prophet", the second beast of Rev 13 who causes the world to worship the Roman emperor. It is not that Josephus ever fulfilled an expectation that he would become a miracle-working regional high priest for the emperor cult (he did not). But that could well be Josephus's projected future as imagined by his opponents in a ca. 70 CE context.

The possible scrolls connection in this, from my point of view, is I separately see Hyrcanus II as the leading candidate for identity of the high-priest-like "Teacher of Righteousness" figure of the late-end, late-1st BCE sectarian texts of the Qumran caves which were both composed and came to an end in the era of the final demise of Hyrcanus II and rise of Herod to unchallenged power. I suspect the "Liar" figure of the Damascus Document, the arch-opponent of the Teacher, may be Herod from the perspective of the authors. These are of course other discussions, distinct from the issue of the dating of the scroll deposits which is an archaeological question. But a corrected dating of the scroll deposits allows new questions to be asked otherwise not considered, one of the beneficial side effects of error corrections, not always obvious at the time. Thank you for your comment.

#32 - Greg Doudna - 07/06/2017 - 14:41

Re #31, you are right Stephen that although Birnbaum and Albright, the two biggest guns in palaeography, each thought the scrolls did not postdate 1st BCE, there was some thinking of others at the time, such as Sukenik as you name, and also Albright's student Trever, who were suggesting 1st CE palaeographic dates, prior to the 1951 excavation of Qumran. Trever in fact published a bit on that in those early years. So you are right, there was some pluralism or differences of opinion in those early years, on the palaeographic datings.

There was not any corresponding original pluralism among archaeologists however. After the 1949 excavations of Cave 1Q all archaeologists believed the scroll deposits in Cave 1Q, the only scroll-bearing cave then known, were dated 1st BCE, hands down, debate over, without a single known archaeologist at that time believing later was possible.

Crucial to that perception of the archaeologists was the dating of two of what then were called "hellenistic" lamps, a type not previously known, now called "Qumran lamps", found with the scroll jars and scrolls. On typological grounds those lamps were dated 1st BCE at high confidence by ceramicists such as Albright. Those lamp datings to 1st BCE, subsequently verified in excavations at Qumran, Jericho, and Masada, remain intact today, though now known to have had a date of floruit more accurately in the time of Herod, not pre-Herod, but still 1st BCE, no finds 1st CE, and also believed plausibly to all (every single one found at all sites) have been manufactured exclusively at and derived from Qumran.

When de Vaux and Harding announced that all of the Qumran cave scroll deposits were changed in date in toto to First Revolt following 1951, oddly no one much talked about the two Qumran lamps of undisputed 1st BCE date which had been found in Cave 1Q with the scroll jars and scrolls. De Vaux's comment addressing this rather important detail was simply to mention it, leave it as an unanswered question, and move on.

De Vaux raised two possibilities concerning the point: first, he asked, did those lamps maybe continue into 1st CE/First Revolt? [subsequent clear answer: no.]

Or second, de Vaux asked, were those lamps from earlier visitors to Cave 1Q unconnected to the scroll jars and scrolls?

No one considered that maybe neither of those two possibilities suggested by de Vaux was correct and that the truth might be a third possibility, not on the map of consideration: the original interpretation of the archaeologists, in which the Qumran lamps and scrolls deposits of Cave 1Q were dated together at the same time, 1st BCE.

To the present day, text scholars and archaeologists who deal with Qumran do not really know what to do with those 1st BCE lamps found with the scroll jars and scrolls in Cave 1Q. Basically this is dealt with by acknowledging those lamps' existence and their 1st BCE dating in passing and then offering no real comment, "nothing to see here, let's move along". It is like a relic of cognitive dissonance to the new interpretation that would not go away and cannot be denied, so is basically briefly noted then passed over without much comment, such that it remains in a sense simultaneously both seen yet unseen, to the present day.

I would like also to make explicit that the argument for the 1st BCE scroll deposit dating is not founded on citing the beliefs of the early palaeographers and archaeologists in favor of that dating. The argument for the earlier dating is instead fundamentally from the two independent large-scale empirical data observations which confirmed the original view as correct, even though neither of these data distributions was known to the early archaeologists and palaeographers, namely: (1) no text compositions in the Qumran caves after late 1st BCE; and (2) all Qumran cave biblical texts are pre-carefully-copied prior to stabilization of the biblical text in the form of carefully-copied exact-MT biblical texts found in all cases at the other Judean sites.

Again, all of the early archaeologists, on the archaeology side, and Birnbaum and Albright (but not Sukenik and Trever), on the palaeography side, who originally thought there was a 1st BCE terminus of the Qumran scrolls and cave deposits, were correct. But the devastating evidence corroborating that they were correct was not known at that time and only came to light later.

The fact that these two indicators of the true dating of the scroll deposits are in agreement with the original pre-1951 datings of all of the archaeologists and the two leading authorities in palaeography at the time, is irony. The two data distributions, subsequently brought to light, are the actual argument. They show that Albright in 1949 was right at the beginning. The scrolls of Qumran take their rightful place as the remains of a lost textual world before the 1st century CE.

#33 - Greg Doudna - 07/06/2017 - 18:25

To Stephen # 31 the secondary burials in ossuaries is a herodian phenomenon. See especially Hachlili, Kloner and Zissu's numerouspublications on the issue as well as my own. So no wonder that the script of the inscriptions are of the herodian period. That allows us to establish a comparison with that of some DSS and helps us dating the later. However herodian script could have been used much after Herod's death. So we still have to remain careful while using the epigraphic data.

#34 - Claude Cohen-Matlofsky - 07/06/2017 - 18:33

1st CE ossuaries and scripts of the Qumran cave scrolls.

In the scrolls there are cursive/semicursive, and formal/semiformal, as the two basic categories of writing classification, in the systems of Cross and Yardeni.

On the one hand, there is no dated formal scribal hand in Hebrew in Judea in a 300-year period from ca. 150 BCE to 134 CE. There is a dated contract at Murabba'at in a Hebrew formal hand dated 134 CE and there are texts in formal hands found at Masada of terminus ad quem ca. 73 CE. The formal hands were dated by Cross (followed by Yardeni, on the assumption that Cross's dates were archaeologically grounded) in terms of each other, in a sequence ending in the case of the Qumran texts ca. 70 CE, and in the case of the Murabba'at texts ca. 135 CE.

It is difficult to date formal hands by direct comparison with the inscriptions and ossuaries because those ossuaries are generally written in what is called "vulgar semiformal", which is different from the professional formal hands of most Qumran texts.

There is a fundamental error, not speculated, in the dating of vulgar semiformal in Cross's system. Cross 1961 considered Vulgar Semiformal to be a subset of Herodian formal all of which he dated to the Herodian period starting ca. 30 BCE. BUT, dated coins of Alexander Jannaeus of 78 BCE written in vulgar semiformal were found subsequent to Cross's publication of 1961. Vulgar semiformal was therefore in routine use decades before the Herodian period began. However, it has made no dent in continued dating according to Cross 1961, including of Qumran texts written in Vulgar semiformal. It is as if publication of a mere fact is incapable of altering a subjective palaeographic dating system in use so long.

On the cursive/semicursive side of things, there is better information from the 1st CE ossuaries and other inscriptional data. That is exactly WHY Cross overturned his own and others' assumptions prior to 1961 and said in his 1961 study that there are NO semicursive/cursive scribal hands post-1st BCE in any Qumran text, with the kind of cursive and semicursive writing of the 1st century CE ossuaries, even though semicursive is in use in Qumran texts 1st BCE.

In other words, where there IS good comparative data for 1st CE from the ossuaries (semicursive/cursive), Cross reported those scripts are systematically missing from the Qumran texts.

In palaeography no one departs from Cross 1961, including as noted, even when there are published contrary facts. Even Cross himself late in life proved incapable of changing the system in use by Qumran text scholars, which was his own system. In 2005 Cross published a redating of MurXII, formerly dated early-2nd CE, to (Cross now said) ca. 50-70 CE, before the First Revolt. This was no minor change--that text was fundamental to a notion that many Murabba'at biblical texts postdate 70 CE in their dates of scribal copying. MurXII was used in Cross 1961 to define "post-herodian" or post-70 CE writing. Now Cross moved this pivotal Murabba'at text, long said to postdate the latest Qumran texts, to pre-70 CE. Yet two articles in the current 2017 Lugano Caves of Qumran conference volume, one by Puech on palaeography, and another by Mladen Popovic on activity in the caves, each state the old dating of MurXII as fact, unaware of Cross's 2005 redating. Both Puech and Popovic rely on the old Cross-repudiated dating as part of larger argument, in their respective articles.

The traditional notion of Qumran scholars is that the biblical texts of Nahal Hever and of Murabba'at were post-70 CE in date and the Qumran texts go to 70 CE. However, a Greek biblical text at Nahal Hever, 8HevXII, was dated on Greek palaeography grounds to late 1st BCE (using a different system than Cross 1961 for Hebrew texts), way earlier than any of the Hebrew text palaeographic datings from the same site. Why the great difference? Perhaps it is because the Hebrew datings are offset systematically too late. In fact the Nahal Hever Hebrew biblical texts and the Murabba'at biblical texts very plausibly are all pre-70 CE in dates of scribal copies.

Michael Wise has convincingly argued, in Language and Literacy in Roman Judaea, 2015, that a large number of the documentary texts at Murabba'at, long thought to be from the time of Bar Kokhba, are actually from the time of the First Revolt, not the Second. According to Wise refugees from First Revolt Jerusalem escaped and brought their documentary texts with them to the caves of Murabba'at. Although Wise does not say so, those same refugees could easily have brought the Murabba'at biblical texts with them too, i.e. pre-First Revolt dates of production.

It is possible that Nahal Hever or Murabba'at could have a biblical text produced later than 70 CE, but that cannot be assumed in the absence of evidence, which is the situation now in the world of Qumran scholarship, i.e. it is assumed without evidence.

#35 - Greg Doudna - 07/06/2017 - 23:48

Re #32 First of all thank you Greg for taking the time to write thorough comments (especially #35) on every issue raised after you article here. Regarding the "Essenes" issue I truly believe that it has been restraining scholars thus far when it comes to dating or interpreting the Qumran phenomenon as a whole: the site, the caves and the archaeological artifacts including the scrolls. Very often in my seminar I tell my participants : "Please forget the so-called "community" for once and you will see how much freedom of interpretation you will get". Thank you also for commenting on my Flavius Josephus' prosopographic study. You might want to read the more elaborated english version of it here:
Indeed it is a prosopographic study of Josephus, a "rework" of the one in my published doctoral dissertation: Les Laïcs en Palestine d'Auguste à Hadrien: étude prosopographique (2001). In my thesis I was able to identify, among other customs, the papponymy (naming after the grand-father) and patronymy (naming after the father) custom among the Jews of greco-roman Palestine. So one of the points I am making in my study, Josephus naming his sons Hyrcanus following papponymy, would signify that he was himself a descendant of Hyrcanus, a name otherwise rarely attested among the Jews of that period (See my chart at the end of my book above mentioned). Besides, what I tried to do in this study is to rehabilitate (retrospectively) Josephus in the eyes of his compatriots. I do believe that he was a visionary and that he understood the the Maccabean Revolt had been a successful one and that the Hasmonean dynasty, as opposed to the Herodian, had been a wise way of governing the Jews. He then most probably wanted to restore this golden age and one can decrypt this ambition in his works, with the methodology of prosopography.
At the time I wrote my Josephus study I did not think of linking it historically to the DSS. Probably because Josephus is totally silent on the Qumran phenomenon. But thank you for opening the field for me I (we) shall expand in that direction.

#36 - Claude Cohen-Matlofsky - 07/07/2017 - 07:31

Re #36 Claude Cohen-Matlofsky, Essenes, prosopography.

I certainly agree that a scholarly narrative of what it is assumed Essenes were, almost certainly deeply flawed, has been overlaid upon and shaped interpretation of scrolls and archaeology in gargoyle-like ways. For example, a careful reading of 1QS shows no basis for assuming separation of the authors from the Temple or its priests, contrary to longstanding scholarly assumption. The classical Essene descriptions also reveal no adversarial relationship between Essenes and regimes in Jerusalem, but rather portray all rulers as treating Essenes favorably, no different than the actual picture in 1QS.

Kratz and Steudel have shown that the Damascus Document (D) rewrites from and postdates S. Unlike S, the Damascus Document does assume an adversarial relationship with the power center, which the earlier S does not. Composition of S therefore appears to predate the rift of authors from the power center in the worlds of D and the pesharim at the tail end of text compositions found in the Qumran caves. A dating of the rift that late is however not considered within mainstream Qumran scholarly perception due to the hegemony of the overarching Essene narrative.

In this and other ways the Essene narrative has distorted interpretation of texts and of Qumran, a site with population level reasonably estimated by Humbert as perhaps 10-15. Better to examine texts and site free of presupposition, separately deconstruct the Essene classical descriptions, and only at a late stage explore possible relationships between the two.

On the prosopographic study, thank you for the link to your English article which I read with interest. I am convinced there is a very good chance Josephus was the son of the high priest at the time of the Revolt, Matthias ben Theophilus. To my knowledge this argument has been developed only in Joseph Raymond, Herodian Messiah (2010), which despite some mistakes makes the argument. The argument is: (a) at least four other of the nine original Revolt commanders, of which Josephus was one, listed at War 2.562-568 were former high priests or sons of such; (b) in War, Josephus speaks of his father Matthias but not of the high priest Matthias ben Theophilus, whereas in Antiquities Josephus speaks of the high priest Matthias ben Theophilus but not of his father Matthias; the two figures read as the same. (c) Josephus's description of his genealogical ancestry seems to be missing names.

I reconstruct the genealogy of Josephus as: Simon Psellus, Matthias Ephlus, Matthias Curtis, , , Joseph, Seth, Annas b. Seth (high priest), Theophilus b. Annas (high priest), Matthias b. Theophilus (high priest), Josephus. Josephus’s genealogy in the Greek text of Vita improbably has Matthias Curtis fathering Joseph when Matthias Curtis was 67, and Joseph fathering Matthias, Josephus’s father, when Joseph was age 72. Those ages do not seem reasonable. I believe it more likely that Josephus was the son of the high priest at the start of the revolt, even though Josephus does not advertise that fact directly for some reason.

On the other hand, Josephus's claim to be of Hasmonean descent seems questionable. There is the historical claim of Herod's extermination of the Hasmonean dynasty plus the temple genealogical records were destroyed. Josephus's claim is therefore about as credible as a European pretender's unverified claim to royal descent today, i.e. it could be a convenient fiction or invented truth. As Shaye Cohen, Josephus in Galilee and Rome (1979), p. 108n33: “Josephus’s Hasmonean ties are probably bogus. When he wrote BJ he claimed only priesthood, but in AJ 16.187 and V we suddenly discover his Hasmonean forebears…” Yet this is of no consequence to your argument as I understand it, which is concerned with analysis of Josephus making the claim, not whether the claim was true. Josephus does seem to portray Hyrcanus II sympathetically and positively and very well may have claimed his Hasmonean ancestry through Hyrcanus II; this merits further study.

As a further prosopographic detail, my present article suggests an identification of the "Joseph" in Greek on a seal stamp uncovered by de Vaux at Qumran Locus 30 in a First Revolt date context. I have suggested that is Joseph son of Simon, commander of Jericho at the time of the First Revolt, of War 2.567, to be identified with Joseph Cabi b. Simon, high priest of the Jerusalem temple ca. 62 CE, of Ant. 20.196. This becomes a fifth case among the original nine Revolt commanders of a high priest or son of a high priest, in addition to the four explicitly named as such by Josephus. If Josephus himself is added that makes six out of the nine. I am not aware of a reaction yet from scholarly colleagues to this proposal. If correct this would be the first historical identification of a name in the ostraca and inscriptions found at Qumran.

#37 - Greg Doudna - 07/10/2017 - 02:35

This is the conclusion of my 2006 article, "The Legacy of an Error in Archaeological Interpretation: The Dating of the Qumran Cave Scroll Deposits", in The Site of the Dead Sea Scrolls: Archaeological Interpretations and Debates. Proceedings of a Conference Held at Brown University, November 17-19, 2002, ed. K. Galor et al (Leiden: Brill, 2006), 147-57.

"It is a curious paradox that scholarly constructions often retain momentum after the original reasons which created them are acknowledged to be mistaken. There was no actual basis in the data for de Vaux's confidence when in 1952 he announced the first findings of Qumran and declared that the scrolls of Cave 1 were deposited as late as the first century C.E., since the dating of the locus 2 scroll jar was uncertain. But, de Vaux did not know this, because at the time he found the locus 2 jar he knew of only one occupation period at Qumran, in the first century C.E. The discovery of the distinct, earlier first century B.C.E. occupation at Qumran, including locus 2, was reported by de Vaux after the next excavation season, in 1953. Yet, the perception of certainty surrounding the First Revolt for the scroll deposits remained uncorrected down to the present day. The first century C.E. dating of the Qumran texts is a classic example of a mistaken scholarly paradigm filtering subsequent perception of data (archaeological, paleographic, and radiocarbon), creating illusions of independent corroboration. In fact, it has never been soundly established that texts found in the Qumran caves were composed, copied, or deposited in the caves later than the time of Qumran's Period Ib. Once this is acknowledged, the question is raised whether there is a sound basis to suppose first century C.E. Qumran text deposits in the absence of evidence.

"A significant difference between Qumran Periods Ib and II with respect to the texts is already accepted: the texts in the caves reflect flourishing authorial activity during the time of Qumran's Period Ib, but, strangely, none at all in Period II. According to the prevailing scholarly construction, the inhabitants of Qumran switched over to copying old texts, without authoring a single new one, through the entirety of the first century C.E. until the First Revolt. No reason is given. However odd this may seem, it has been regarded as a necessary interpretation in light of what has been assumed to be 'archaeological fact' (the First Revolt deposit date).

"In light of the foregoing analysis, a different possibility suggests itself. The complete absence of even one allusion to a figure, circumstance, or event in the first century C.E. in a corpus of texts on the scale of the finds at Qumran--compared to dozens of such allusions from the first century B.C.E.--is well explained if the text deposits themselves ended in the first century B.C.E.

"In the same way, the fluid, pre-stabilization character of the biblical texts found at Qumran, compared to the post-stabilization character of the biblical texts found at Masada, also is well explained if the Qumran text deposits ended earlier than commonly supposed [citing I. Young, DSD 9 (2002): 364-90]. These phenomena are less easily explicable in terms of the existing date paradigm.

"And so this paper can be brought to a close with these questions addressed to those involved in the archaeology of Qumran: Is it legitimate to speak of first century C.E. text deposits at Qumran as an established fact? Or is this date construction another 'received truth' of de Vaux that also needs to be reexamined?"

Note the wording of the closing question: "Is it legitimate to continue to speak of first century C.E. text deposits at Qumran as an established fact?" (The question is not asking which scenario a scholar thinks is most likely.)

No one involved with the archaeology of Qumran has addressed and answered that 2006 question with an explicit “yes” on archaeological grounds which other archaeologists would consider credible.

A non-explicit “yes” was offered by Bar-Nathan in the 2006 Brown University conference volume. Bar-Nathan embraced the view of the original excavators of Qumran following the first season of 1951, repudiated by de Vaux after 1959: a claim that 100% of the scroll jars both in the buildings of Qumran and in the caves were First Revolt in date, with none predating the First Revolt (p. 275).

That view of Bar-Nathan is not held by any other known archaeologist and is counterindicated, not only at Qumran, but in Bar-Nathan’s own 2002 Jericho pottery volume, where Bar-Nathan reported the only instance of a jar of the classic Qumran scroll jar type found at Jericho was found in an HR1 context, in the reign of Herod.

On the other hand, at least one archaeologist, David Stacey, has stated that he finds it very reasonable that most of the scrolls of the Qumran caves could have been put there in the time of Herod (2013: 63).

#38 - Greg Doudna - 07/18/2017 - 06:28

Re #37
To your first 3 paragraphs, assuming that a group named Essenes really existed (which I am not certain it did), may I refer you to the recently posted study of Joan Taylor's here:

This study that is matching Steve Mason's : "Josephus on the Essenes", corroborates what your are saying. Although Joan is still convinced that the Essenes are to be identified with the Herodians of the NT.

I remember writing on this site a comment after one of your articles: "Probing the Essenes question". Here it is:

"I totally agree with Reeves' view. I contend that the description of the "Essenes" in the ancient authors writings is nothing but a sublimation. Furthermore, the reason why the "Essenes" were given such a privileged attention, as opposed to the other barbarian utopian communities, is to be found in the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls at its earliest stage. Indeed in the fifties, scholars like Eleazar Sukenik followed by Roland de Vaux and Dupont-Sommer were quick to develop the thesis according to which the Essenes are to be identified with the Qumran sect i.e. the Yahad of the Serekh document. In my judgement, the Yahad of the Serekh Hayahad of Qumran and the Edah of the Damascus Document, all refer to diverse communities/associations of hellenistic and roman Palestine. For more on the issue please see my forthcoming article "RÉFLEXIONS SUR QUMRÂN : LES MANUSCRITS, LE SITE ET LES ORIGINES DE LA MYSTIQUE DANS L’ANTIQUITE" in The Qumran Chronicle of January 2015.
Claude Cohen-Matlofsky
#3 - Claude Cohen-Matlofsky - 12/07/2014 - 10:15

I did not change my mind since then.....

Therefore you and I agree that "deconstructing" or "bracketing" the controversy around both the "Essenes and counter Essenes hypothesis" gives us not only more freedom of interpretation but actually allows us to more logically understand and date some of the DSS.

On the prosopographic note I appreciate your input and shall look further into Josephus's genealogy. Indeed whilst I had looked at his descendants and his parents' background as he claims it to be because it served my purpose for shedding light on his hidden ambitions, you suggest that we investigate further upstream his ascendants. Moreover, a Sorbonne student defended his doctoral thesis two years ago, a prosopographic study of Judea strictly according to the works of Flavius Josephus, while I had used a much wider spectrum of sources of all kinds for my thesis published in 2001. Nevertheless, I must confess I have yet to take a look at his dissertation.

As for the greek inscription of the name JOSEPH found at Qumran. Did you check what Lemaire had to say on it ? (A. Lemaire, “Inscriptions du Khirbeh, des grottes et de ‘Aïn Feshkha” in J-B Humbert and J. Gunneweg (eds.), Khirbet Qumrân et ‘Aïn Feshkha II, Études d’anthropologie, de physique et de chimie, (Novum Testamentum et Orbis Antiquus, Series Archaeologica 3; Fribourg: Academy Press, 2003) 341-388). If I am not mistaken the name JOSEPH in greek is penned inscribed in ink on a "sceau à pain" according to KQ 439 of Lemaire's catalogue. I believe that it is it the one you are referring to?.....

#39 - Claude Cohen-Matlofsky - 07/18/2017 - 12:24

Re Claude Cohen-Matlofsky #39, thank you for further interesting comments. On the Qumran L30 "Joseph" stamp KhQ439, I cannot see that Lemaire's suggestion that it may have been a bread seal can be correct, based on this article: Randa Kakish, "Ancient Bread Stamps from Jordan," Mediterranean Archaeology and Archaeometry 14 (2014): 19-31. This article has photographs of twelve ancient bread stamps from different museums, and all have geometric designs and are larger in size than non-bread stamps. KhQ439, the Qumran L30 stamp, has no geometric design and seems in the class of smaller, non-bread stamps.

Since inkwells also were found in L30, apparently contemporary with the stamp, would this suggest the stamp was used to authenticate documents or written orders issued by this Joseph, at the very time that Josephus says the commander of Jericho at the time of the Revolt was one Joseph b. Simon?

Michael Wise, in Language and Literacy in Roman Judaea, 2015, pp. 82-88, argues for identification of this same individual in a reading of a name in a date formula at 4Q348, line 13. This text is one of the disputed-provenance documentary texts with 4Q numbers. Hanan Eshel argued the name in the date formula at 4Q348, line 13, was that of Joseph b. Camydus, high priest 46-47 CE. Eshel argued that 4Q348 was authored in Jerusalem, then conveyed to Murabba'at where it was found in modern times. Wise, while agreeing with Eshel on the Jerusalem origin and Murabba’at provenance, suggests that the high priest of 4Q348, line 13 would be better identified as Joseph Cabi b. Simon, high priest ca. 62 CE, which would give a date of writing of 4Q348 more in keeping with the dates of other Murabba’at documents argued by Wise to belong together as an ancient family legal document archive. That high priest is the same Joseph b. Simon who turns up four years later as commander of Jericho at the outset of the Revolt, with seal stamp suggesting his presence at Qumran.

Another detail of interest in 4Q348 is Wise’s suggestion that the name “Eleazar ben Simon”, which appears on that document as one of the signing witnesses, is none other than Eleazar ben Simon, the famous leader of the Zealots of the Revolt a few years later.

The plastered furniture of L30, meanwhile, interpreted by de Vaux as the furniture of a “scriptorium”, is likely 1st BCE in date of building and installation. That dating appears indicated based on R. Donceel’s observation concerning a plastered furniture debris item, No. 2465, never published by de Vaux, found by de Vaux in the sediment of L130 of 1st BCE context: “il s’agit en realite d’un element d’ameublement fixe de meme apparence que le mobilier tombe de l’etage du locus 30” (Donceel 2005: 36, Fig. 45) (noted in fn 7 of my present article). The piece is stated to be 138 cm height and 94 cm width and the shape of the piece in the Fig. 45 drawing published by Donceel seems strikingly similar to the shape of the plastered benches of L30. Donceel suggests the No. 2465 furniture piece may have been from a wall console or credenza, perhaps originally from L121. The suggestion is not that No. 2465 came from L30, but that the same kind of furniture was installed contemporaneously at the two parts of the site. If the L30 plastered furniture is from 1st BCE, and if the inkwells of L30 are associated with the much later non-scroll activity of Joseph b. Simon the commander of First Revolt Jericho, then there is no necessary relationship between the two, and no positive reason to suppose 1st century CE production of scrolls at Qumran, as de Vaux assumed.

There remains the still debated issue of the provenance of the 4Q series of documentary texts, 4Q342-361 of DJD 27, so unlike the literary scrolls found in the Qumran caves--not only in genre but also in those documentary texts being written in 1st century CE cursive writing which is unattested palaeographically in any Qumran cave literary text. Not one literary text found in the caves of Qumran is written in cursive or semicursive as late as the 1st century CE according to Cross 1961 and Yardeni also, who follows Cross 1961. None of the 4Q-sigla series documentary texts were verified of Qumran cave provenance in the form of matching fragments found by excavators.

You mention a dissertation at Sorbonne on prosopography in Josephus. Would you be able to give the bibliographic information on that? I would like to track that down if possible.

#40 - Greg Doudna - 07/21/2017 - 17:56

Regarding the Qumran L30 "Joseph" stamp KhQ439 thank you for the reference, I shall raise the issue of bread stamps with André Lemaire as he is scheduled to present all the Qumran inscriptions at our "Séminaire Qumrân de Paris" this year in December.

I believe that is is premature to try to link the ink wells and this JOSEPH stamp as 1- it will be based on the assumption that Qumran is truly an extension of Jericho as David Stacey is suggesting 2-unlike in the other Judean Desert caves there were no signed documents (if I am not mistaken) found at Qumran. 3-do we have any indication that Joseph ben Simon ended up in Qumran at the time of the revolt? I have him as #311 in my book Les laïcs en Palestine d'Auguste à Hadrien: étude prospographique", (2001) with the reference in Flavius Josephus War 2, 567 that mentions him as commander in Jericho.

As for the 4Q348 I would rather not deal with "unprovenanced" or rather documents with "controversial provenance". Therefore Wise and Eshel's suggestion at this point seems far fetched to me.

Here is a link to the unpublished Sorbonne doctoral dissertation I was referring to:

#41 - Claude Cohen-Matlofsky - 07/26/2017 - 06:37

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