Article

Dead Sea Scrolls

Lawrence H. Schiffman and Marlene Schiffman

in Jewish Studies

ISBN: 9780199840731
Published online August 2012 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780199840731-0044
Dead Sea Scrolls

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The Dead Sea Scrolls are ancient Jewish manuscripts that have been discovered around the shore of the Dead Sea. They range in size from large scrolls and nearly complete documents to fragmentary scraps of just a few letters. They have been located in eleven caves at Qumran, at Masada, and in caves from the Bar Kokhba era. Chronologically they span the last several centuries bce to the second century ce and so have profound value for the study of ancient Judaism and the background of early Christianity. (This bibliography does not include the material from Wadi el-Daliyeh and Khirbet Mird.) The most extensive collection of documents was found at Qumran on the western shore of the Dead Sea, south of Jerusalem. Most of the more than nine hundred separate manuscripts from this site are actually only fragmentary remains of ancient books that can be divided into three, roughly equal categories: (1) Bible manuscripts of all books of the Hebrew Bible, except for the book of Esther, have been identified at Qumran, (2) apocrypha and pseudepigrapha, books known to have circulated in the Second Temple period among all Jewish groups, and (3) sectarian materials peculiar to the Jewish inhabitants of Qumran, who separated themselves from the mainstream Jewish groups and from the Jerusalem Temple. Their texts outline their beliefs, rules on how to enter their closed sect, and their regimens and rituals. Adjacent to the caves are remains of a Jewish site inhabited for several centuries, until its destruction by the Romans in 68 ce. The scrolls in the caves have been regarded by most scholars as the library of those who occupied that site. Masada was a fortress south of En Gedi on the Dead Sea and was used as a rebel stronghold during the Great Revolt against the Romans (66–73 ce), until destroyed by the Roman legions. The scrolls recovered from this site include parts of fifteen biblical and apocryphal books widely known during Second Temple times. The Judaean Desert climate also has preserved documents from the Bar Kokhba Revolt (132–135 ce) in refuge caves for victims of the war, located primarily north of Masada and south of Qumran, at Wadi Murabba’at, Naḥal Ḥever, and other sites. The documents include letters from Bar Kokhba to his military commanders, and archives of people who fled to the caves with their personal effects.

Article.  17085 words. 

Subjects: Judaism and Jewish Studies

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