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New “Dead Sea Scroll” Fragments of Leviticus Surfaces

15th July 2005

A post to the Biblical Studies email list by Yitzhak Sapir reports on the discovery of two small fragments of a scroll containing portions of Leviticus 23. Here is the post:

Walla News, apparently reporting an article from Yediot Ahronot, reports that in the past year a small piece of scroll found at Nahal Arugot, near Ein Gedi, was purchased for $3000 by Prof. Hanan Eshel of Bar Ilan. Originally, Prof. Eshel refused to appraise the scroll when he was first asked to do so in August 2004, although he did photograph it at this time. When he came upon it again, it was near crumbling state, and he purchased it and turned it over to Amir Ganor of the Antiquities Authority, who are trying to locate the thieves. It consists of two pieces of deer-hide scroll, about 35 square cms, containing portions of verses from Leviticus 23, dealing with the Feast of Tabernacles, and differing from the MT only in that the scroll misses a single holam. It is dated to the Bar Kokhba revolt days. Prof. Eshel is calling for searching again for more scrolls which may still lay hidden among the caves in the area.

I have not been able to find out anything more on this scroll, but as soon as I have more information I will post an update.

UPDATE: Jim West on Biblical Theology blog also noted this discovery here, and in an update links to the following English-language article from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation Online: “Bedouin wanders across Biblical manuscript.” Here are some excerpts from the article:

Fragments of a Biblical manuscript dating back to the last Jewish revolt against Roman rule in 135 AD Judaea, have been uncovered near the Dead Sea. After four decades with a dearth of new finds, archaeologists had resigned themselves to believing the desert caves in the modern-day West Bank had already yielded all their secrets from the Roman era. “It’s simply sensational, a dream come true,” archaeology professor Hanan Eshel, a Biblical specialist at Israel’s Bar Ilan University, said. For the past 20 years, he has scoured the Judaean desert around the Dead Sea, overturning stone after stone in search of Biblical parchments. He has been trumped by Bedouin, who stumbled across the miniature fragments last August. Only a few centimetres long, the pieces contain extracts in Hebrew from the Biblical Book of Leviticus. Damaged by bat droppings and lying under a film of dirt in a cave near the Ein Gedi oasis, the Bedouin pocketed the manuscripts and began an arduous bidding process with Professor Eshel. “Thanks to this find, we now know a little more about the troubled period that gave rise to the Jewish revolt against the Romans,” the Professor said.
….
The fragments have been further damaged by the Bedouin, who glued them together and stowed the whole thing in aluminium foil. It was in this state that Professor Esher found and bought them for $US3,000, beating down the Bedouins’ original asking price of $US20,000. “Despite all this, we can identify the Hebrew letters,” he said. He points out words from Leviticus that relate to the escape of the Israelites from Egypt and the building of temporary shanty houses in the desert.

UPDATES: See here for more up-to-date blog entries on the Leviticus scroll fragments.

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