Dead Sea Scrolls

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The Dead Sea Scrolls is the universal name used to describe various documents that were found in the Caves of Qumran. They contain a wide variety of materials ranging from historical documents about the Qumran Community, historical guidelines, commentary on biblical books, and countless other documents. What makes these documents significant is that they are some of the oldest documents from Jewish Late Antiquity and date back farther than the medieval documents that were the basis of most modern biblical translations.

Finding the Scrolls[edit]

The scrolls were spread across 11 different caves near the Qumran Community. The first ones were found by a Bedouin farmer when he was chasing a goat in the desert. The scrolls found in the first cave will carry the designate of 1Q* meaning they were found in the first cave at Qumran.

Naming the Scrolls[edit]

Though each scroll has its own material, it was important to find an agreed-upon nomenclature for scholars to share identifiers.

The agreed-upon nomenclature is as follows:

  • The cave number where the scroll was found
  • The name of the geographic location
  • The name of the material being covered
  • The number of the iteration of the source grouping.

For example, 1QIsaa would be broken down this way:

  • 1 = it was found in Qumran Cave 1
  • Q = Found in Qumran
  • Isa = based on the biblical book of Isaiah.
  • a = the first iteration of book of Isaiah found in the 1QSIsa grouping.

Fragmented Scrolls[edit]

Because not all of the scrolls were kept in a secure location away from the elements, some of the scrolls exist only in fragments. Usually, these fragments are so small that it is very challenging to assemble them into any readable text. In a case such as this, the scroll will contain a number that designates which number of text was organized.

An example of this naming system might be 4Q396 which means:

  • 4 = Found in Qumran Cave 4
  • Q = Found in Qumran
  • 396 = This is the 396th text organized.

Named Scrolls[edit]

In some cases, a single scroll is well preserved and is readable in its entirety. If the subject matter is unified, the text will get a specific name based on the text it contains.

One of the most well-known scrolls would be 1QS which is better known as The Community Rule. Its name can be understood like so:

  • 1 = Found in Qumran Cave 1
  • Q = Found in Qumran
  • S = Serekh which is derived from the Hebrew phrase "Serekh ha-Yahad" or "Rule of the Community"