Friday, March 27, 2015

Has Dig been reading The Treatise of the Vessels?

TELEVISION: TV’s ‘Dig’ unrolls a Dead Sea Scroll to unravel a conspiracy (Kimberly Winston, Religion News Service).
Key to the advancing of the already complicated “Dig” plot is something referred to as the “war tablet.” Supposedly written by the Essenes, the tablet is supposed to be stored at Jerusalem’s Israeli Museum and is said to contain a code that will reveal the hiding places of 12 precious stones.
That's "Israel Museum," as given correctly later in the article. And as Ms. Winston also says, the account of the Essene "war tablet" looks, at least initially, like a combination of the Qumran War Scroll and the Qumran Copper Scroll. But I think something more is going on. In 2013 I published a translation of a Hebrew text of uncertain date called The Treatise of the Vessels in Old Testament Pseudepigrapha: More Noncanonical Scriptures, volume 1, pp. 393-409. This text is a collection of entertaining legends about how and where the treasures of the First Temple were hidden by "Shimmur the Levite and his companions" before the Babylonians destroyed the Temple in 586/87 BCE. The Treatise says that the list of treasures was written down on a "tablet" (not a scroll), and one version adds "of bronze" (II 11). The Qumran Copper Scroll does not mention any specific collection of twelve precious stones, but The Treatise of the Vessels does:
(XII) And in addition twelve fine stones were transmitted by the hand of Heleq son of Shimmur the Levite, by his hand to preserve them and to return them to the tribes, those on which the names of the tribes were engraved, which used to shine over the heads of the tribes, increasingly outstanding and precious in their value, vying with one another. And no king or prophet or man knew in which place these were hidden, except Heleq son of Shimmur the Levite.
It looks to me as though the writers of Dig have read this and have incorporated it into their storyline. This should be fun to follow.

More on Dig is here and link. More on the Copper Scroll is here and links. My translation of The Treatise of the Vessels received some media attention early in 2014 when someone noticed that it claimed to tell the hiding place of the Ark of the Covenant. You can read about that and lots of additional background on the text here and links.