Sunday, August 29, 2004

MORE SCROLLS DEBATE: Newsweek has an article, "Archeology: Questions in Qumran," (more of a blurb, really) on the more recent excavations at Qumran and their implications. Excerpt:
The scrolls, which contain the oldest known version of the Old Testament, are the work of ascetic Jews called Essenes, who were poor by choice. Archeologists have always assumed they lived at Qumran, a site revered by Jews and Christians alike. The problem is that whoever lived at Qumran wasn't poor. Peleg and Magen have dug up jewelry, perfume bottles, combs and other trinkets that aren't consistent with the Essenes' way of life. That may mean the scrolls weren't written in Qumran at all�which makes the barren plateau suddenly look a lot less holy.

The last sentence is not as revolutionary as it may sound. It was pointed out some time ago (I think Norman Golb, who is also mentioned in the article, may have been the first to make an issue of it) that of the 800-1000 scrolls from Qumran, scarely any two on them are written by the same scribe. They couldn't all have been written at Qumran unless nearly everyone who lived there was a scribe. But the new material culture certainly adds something interesting to the debate. I hope it's published soon.

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