Thursday, November 08, 2012

Ancient Scribe Links Qumran Scrolls to Masada

Ada Yardeni identified the same ancient scribe’s unique handwriting on this Hosea commentary and many other Qumran scrolls.

There has been a great deal written about the community of scribes that penned the Qumran scrolls. These studies rarely focus on an individual ancient scribe; they generally consider the religious orientation and scholarship of the broader community. Israeli paleographer Ada Yardeni recently identified over 50 Qumran scrolls penned by the same scribe; moreover, she identified a manuscript from the desert fortress at Masada written by the same scribe. In the November/December 2012 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review, Sidnie White Crawford discusses the implications of the important paleographic discoveries made by Ada Yardeni.

Ada Yardeni identified the handwriting of a single ancient scribe on Qumran scrolls found in six different caves. According to Sidnie White Crawford, the discovery of a single scribal hand in multiple caves suggests that “the scribe was a member of that sect who also copied Jewish scriptural scrolls, countering the idea that the Qumran collection was a non-sectarian ‘general Jewish’ library.” Moreover, she argues that a single scribe’s penmanship in multiple caves counters the idea that each cave reflects a separate collection belonging to a different Jewish group.

Ada Yardeni noticed that the ancient scribe who penned these Qumran scrolls also penned an apocryphon woven on the Book of Joshua that was discovered at Masada. The text bears resemblance to certain Qumran scrolls, and even before Yardeni’s handwriting analysis, scholars suggested that the manuscript may have been the product of a Qumran scribe.

Sidnie White Crawford establishes a second scribal connection between Masada and the Qumran scrolls. Nine copies of the sectarian Songs of the Sabbath Sacrifice manuscript were discovered in two caves at Qumran, and another was discovered at Masada in the same locus as the Joshua Apocryphon. Sidnie White Crawford posits that “it seems likely that some manuscripts from Qumran were carried south by refugees fleeing the Roman destruction of Qumran in 68 C.E. But that’s only a best guess.”