r m p

REVIEWS

 

 

Norman Golb, Who Wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls? NY: Simon & Schuster, 1995.

Reviewed by Robert M. Price.

Was Qumran a monastery? Norman Golb says no! The treasures listed on the Copper Scroll could not conceivably have been the property of an ascetic brotherhood of Essenes. Various other factors refuse to square with the Essene monastery hypothesis. For instance, archaeological digging shows that the Romans occupied the structure after a hard battle in which they undermined the walls and set it on fire. This implies Qumran was an armed camp. Classical sources, however, tell us that the Essenes were pacifists.

Our sources tell us the Essenes were celibate, at least monastic ones. And yet there graves of women at the settlement. Nor do any of the Dead Sea Scrolls espouse strict celibacy. Golb admits they are the product of "an Essene-like sect," perhaps more than one, since even the Manual of Discipline and the Damascus Covenant have serious contradictions and thus probably do not stem from a single sect. Did such different groups live together at the same monastery? No, they must have come from elsewhere.

The pesher-like identification of Qumran with the Damascus mentioned in the text seems arbitrary. Why not take to refer to the real Damascus?

Other caches of Qumran-like scrolls have been found all over the region. Ca. 800 AD, the Nestorian Patriarch Timotheus I of Seleucia refers in a letter to a recent discovery of Hebrew MSS in a cave near Jericho. They included canonical and noncanonical manuscripts, including over two hundred psalms. Origen said the Greek Bible version filling the sixth column of the Hexapla was found with other Hebrew and Greek books in a jar near Jericho during the reign of Caracalla fifty years earlier.

This would imply Qumran was merely one of several hiding places for scrolls brought there from elsewhere, presumably from the Jerusalem Temple, since it must be the Temple treasure recorded in the Copper Scroll. To avoid this last conclusion, scholars had dismissed the Copper Scroll as a deranged fantasy or as a collection of local folk traditions on buried treasure!

The room identified as a scriptorium at Qumran does not justify the designation: the type of table there could have been used for copying only with great difficulty. Ancient depictions of scribes do not show them sitting at such tables. Debris does not contain a trace of parchment, papyrus, scribal tools like styluses or line markers. Unlike medieval scriptoria, nothing indicates that this room was situated amid chambers or halls dedicated to academic or meditative use. Instead it is adjacent to a defensive tower. No evidence suggests that we have a single autograph manuscript, nor personal letter, nor documentary writing pertaining to the sect. This is odd if the Scrolls were produced at the Qumran site. It is more consistent with their having been moved there from a library. All copies of everything seem to be just that: copies.

Golb concludes that the scrolls represent the writings of the Jewish people as a whole, and that the utter absence of any trace of Rabbinic Judaism or of Palestinian Christianity in the Scrolls indicates that these movements did not exist in Jerusalem before 70 AD or were just then coming into being

 

 

Copyrightę2007 by Robert M Price
Spirit of Carolina Web Design