Friday, July 25, 2008

STILL MORE THOUGHTS on the new Deuteronomy (?) fragment that contains a Samaritan reading (background here and here). Mladen Popovic has e-mailed to note Shemaryahu Talmon's article "A Masada Fragment of Samaritan Origin," Israel Exploration Journal 47 (1997): 220-32, which argues that a hymnic fragment from Masada which mentions Mount Gerizi[m], writing the name as one word, and which is written in the paleo-Hebrew script, is of Samaritan origin. (This seems plausible enough and it would not be too surprising if both Samaritan and Jewish refugees ended up on Masada late in the Great Revolt.) Talmon mentions one additional piece of evidence which seems relevant: Josephus uses the Greek form of the name and it comes down to us in the manuscripts written continuously (Jewish War 1 §63), which comfirms that Jews sometimes, not always, wrote it that way.

Also, David Stacey e-mails:
" If it is a Samaritan fragment, this raises the question of whether the reported Qumran provenance is correct and, if it is, what the Qumran sectarians were doing with a Samaritan manuscript. Given their exclusivist sectarian worldview, it doesn't seem likely that they would have had cordial relations with the Samaritans.

Again, this whole discussion depends on the fragment being genuine, which remains to be demonstrated." -
I, as you know, approach Qumran as an archaeologist not as a textual scholar. Even if the fragment is genuine and the provenance is correct what evidence is there to suggest that Qumran was a sectarian settlement? As an archaeologist I can not directly connect the people who inhabited the site with the scrolls beyond the fact that at least some of those inhabitants were aware of the existence of the scrolls. Even most textual scholars now accept, do they not, that some of the scrolls must have come from elsewhere? And surely the scrolls could have arrived in Qumran at different times, from different places, and for different reasons? In my DSD article (vol.14.2 - 2007) I explained why some of the accepted dating was wrong and showed that some of the identifications of areas which were supposed to 'prove' sectarianism were wrong, and, indeed, that throughout the 70 years of Hasmonean occupation the site was probably only capable of sustaining limited, seasonal industrialists. Surely the insistence that Qumran was a high-class sectarian society, despite considerable indications to the contrary, muddies the whole issue?
I approach Qumran as a specialist in the texts, so when I said "Qumran provenance," that was shorthand for "coming from the Qumran library found in those caves around the site." And it is my position, and that of most specialists in the Dead Sea Scrolls (Norman Golb is an exception), that it is a sectarian library. This has been argued repeatedly and at length elsewhere and I'm not going to rehearse those arguments here. (I have addressed the issue online here, here, here, and here.) I am not an archaeologist and I hold no particular position about the use of the site and that question doesn't much matter for the point I was making. (For some discussion on this blog see here, here, here, here ,here, here, here, here, and here.) But the consensus position that the library is sectarian does raise the question of how a Samaritan biblical fragment got into it, if that's what happened. It's not impossible, but it's striking and worthy of further exploration.