My musings on Biblical Studies, Biblical Hebrew, Dead Sea Scrolls, Septuagint, Popular Culture, Religion, Software, and pretty much anything else that interests me!

Old Testament Commentary Survey

  • Searches

Archive for the 'Dead Sea Scrolls' Category

BAR Article on Hanan Eshel

28th July 2006

Dead Sea Scrolls scholar Hanan Eshel is back in the news — well kind of. There is an online article about Hanan Eshel on the Biblical Archaeology Society Webstie that deals with some of the controversy surrounding his purchase of some fragments of a Leviticus Scroll.

Here are some excerpts from the article:

At the behest of the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), a leading Dead Sea Scroll scholar was arrested last year for purchasing four Dead Sea Scroll fragments from Bedouin who claimed to have found them in the Judean Desert. Hanan Eshel of Bar-Ilan University in Israel promptly published the fragments (of the Biblical book of Leviticus) and donated them to the state (the purchase funds had been provided by his university).In an ad in the leading Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz, 59 prominent scholars from around the world protested his arrest, calling the IAA’s action a “vengeful” act. The ad had no effect, however. The case is still under investigation by the police.

Bar-Ilan president Moshe Kaveh called the IAA action a “scandal.” The university stands “fully behind” Eshel.

So why was Hanan Eshel arrested?

Many believe that Eshel is, in the IAA’s view, on the wrong side of an issue that has divided the profession: Should unprovenanced materials, which are often looted, be studied and published by scholars?

One clear consequence of Hanan Eshel’s arrest: No new Dead Sea Scroll fragments will turn up in Israel again, thanks to the IAA. The looters, the smugglers, the underground dealers know that they cannot now find a buyer among or through Israeli scholars. Like Eshel, anyone who makes a purchase will be arrested. Much easier and safer simply to spirit any scrolls out of the country.

Although not widely known, numerous Dead Sea Scroll fragments are in private collections all over the world. The Eshels detect a “trend among collectors and antiquity dealers (perhaps due to economic factors) to share privately held fragments with the scholarly world.” In the opinion of the Eshels, “Qumran scholars should be encouraged to make an effort to publish these fragments, which provide a more complete picture of the Qumran corpus.”

Encouraging the publication of unprovenanced finds—that may well be Hanan Eshel’s real crime.

While I am against looting (what scholar would not be against it?), I tend to side with Eshel and the author of this article on this issue. I think it is far better to publish these finds even if we can’t be sure of their provenance. In addition, (as the full article notes) sometimes by studying these artefacts their provenance can be determined with some certainty.

I have posted quite a bit on the Leviticus Scroll fragments and their discovery, including a step-by-step reconstruction of the scroll and an interview with Hanan Eshel. All of my posts on this subject may be found here. In addition, I have brought together my posts and pictures of the fragments — including some new hi-resolution pictures –at my Resources Relating to the Dead Sea Scrolls pages.

(HT to Jim West)

Posted in Archaeology, Dead Sea Scrolls, Hanan Eshel, Leviticus, Leviticus Scroll, Manuscript, News | Comments Off

Latest in the Dead Sea Discoveries

24th July 2006

Jim Davila over at PaleoJudaica has the table of contents from the latest Dead Sea Discoveries. Among other things, there is an article on the Qumran Psalms Scroll that looks interesting:

  • Vered Noam, “The Origin of the List of David’s Songs in “David’s Compositions” (pp. 134-149)

Posted in Dead Sea Scrolls, DSD, Psalms Scrolls, Reviews & Notices | Comments Off

Hebrew Witnesses to the Text of the Old Testament (TCHB 3)

11th July 2006

One of the first tasks of the textual critic is to collect the variants among the different witnesses to the text of the Hebrew Bible. This post will introduce some of the Hebrew witnesses to this text.

This is the third in a series of posts on the textual criticism of the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament. Other posts include:

All posts in this series may be viewed here.

Witnesses to the Text of the Hebrew Bible

Extant Hebrew manuscripts and the Hebrew Vorlage that can be retroverted from the extant manuscripts of the ancient versions bear witness to the abstract “text of the Old Testament.” (By “text” I am referring to an abstract concept derived from extant data; by “textual witnesses,” I mean the tangibly different forms of the text; and by “manuscripts, scrolls, and/or codices,” I am referring to the uninterpreted, extant exhibitions of the text.)

The Hebrew Witnesses

It perhaps goes without saying that Hebrew manuscripts are the most important witnesses to the text of the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible for they bear direct witness to it, whereas a retroverted Vorlage, i.e., the text “lying before” a scribe or translator, is always a matter of some conjecture.

There are four Hebrew witnesses to the OT text: the Masoretic text, sometimes called the “received text,” the Samaritan Pentateuch, the scrolls from the Judean desert, and a few, minor additional witnesses.

1. The Masoretic Text

Leningrad CodexThe most important witness to the OT text is the Masoretic text (MT). The Masoretes were a group of Jewish scholars who between 600 and 1000 CE developed a system of notes and signs to preserve the Hebrew text and its reading. The oldest complete manuscript (1008 CE) is the Leningrad Codex B19a (L), which served as the base of BHS and the third edition of BHK (The first two editions of BHK were based on Jacob ben Chayyim’s edition of 1524/25).

The standard critical edition of the Masoretic Text of the Hebrew Bible is Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia (BHS). It is available in a variety of formats. I would recommend a hardbound copy if you will be making much use of your Hebrew Bible, though the softbound edition is less expensive and easier to carry around.

  • Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia – Desktop Version (ed. K. Elliger and W. Rudolph; Deutsche Bibelstiftung, 1967, 1990). This is the large hardbound version. While it has a larger typeface, it is quite bulky. Buy from | Buy from
  • Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia – Small Hardcover (ed. K. Elliger and W. Rudolph; Deutsche Bibelstiftung, 1967, 1990). This is a 5″ x 7.5″ hardbound version. It has the benefit of being hardbound, while being a bit smaller than the desk version. Buy from | Buy from
  • BHSBiblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia – Paperback (ed. K. Elliger and W. Rudolph; 5th edition; American Bible Society, 1997). This is a paperback version. It is small and less expensive than the hardbound editions. Buy from | Buy from
  • Biblia Hebraica Leningradensia (ed. Aron Dotan; Hendrickson Publishers, 2001). This is a thoroughly revised, reset, and redesigned — and the most accurate — edition of the Leningrad Codex in print. Buy from | Buy from
  • Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia with Greek New Testament (American Bible Society, 1996). Ideal for those who want a complete Christian Bible with both the Hebrew Old Testament and the Greek New Testament. Buy from | Buy from
  • Hebrew-English Tanakh (Student edition; Jewish Publication Society of America, 2000). While this is not an edition of BHS (and therefore has no critical apparatus), I note it because it may be useful for beginning students. It has the Hebrew text on one side of the page and the Jewish Publication Society’s English translation on the other. Buy from | Buy from
  • BHSDavid Noel Freedman, Astrid B. Beck, James A. Sanders (Eds.), Leningrad Codex: A Facsimile Edition (Eerdmans , 1998). If you want to impress your professor (or students), then this is the Hebrew Bible for you! This is a facsimile version of the Leningrad Codex, the oldest complete copy of the Hebrew Bible (the name is due to the fact that it was in a museum in Leningrad, when it was Leningrad). This photo-plate edition of the entire text (black-and-white high resolution plates, with additional full-colour plates of carpet pages and sample text pages) is beautifully produced and bound. Buy from | Buy from

Another significant witness to the Masoretic text is the Aleppo Codex, which is thought to date earlier than the Leningrad Codex. The codex was written by Shelomo ben Baya’a, but according to its colophon it was pointed by none other than Moses ben Asher (930 CE). It was reported to be destroyed in a fire in 1948; but as it turned out, only the Torah portion was lost while the other books were saved (thus while it is the earliest extant copy of the Masoretic text, it is incomplete). The codex has now been photographed and is the basis for the Hebrew University Bible Project (HUBP), of which the books of Isaiah, Ezekiel, and Jeremiah have been published:

  • H. Goshen-Gottstein, ed., The Book of Isaiah: The Hebrew University Bible [Hebrew University Bible Project; Brill, 1997] Buy from | Buy from
  • C. Rabin, S. Talmon, and E. Tov eds., The Book of Jeremiah: The Hebrew University Bible [Hebrew University Bible Project; Magnes Press: The Hebrew University, Jerusalem, 1997] Buy from | Buy from
  • Moshe H. Goshen-Gottstein and Shemaryahu Talmon, eds., The Book of Ezekiel: The Hebrew University Bible [Hebrew University Bible Project; Magnes Press: The Hebrew University, Jerusalem, 2004 ] Buy from | Buy from

The term “Masoretic text” is an abstract term for the distinctive kind of text these scholars produced. As a rule the term is restricted to the final form of that text, a manuscript produced in the tenth century by Aaron ben Asher, the primary base for the hundreds of medieval manuscripts. It is now known that some of the oldest DSS reflect the essentially same text inherited by the Masoretes, and so called the proto-Masoretic text (proto-MT).

The sequence of books in the MT differs from that of the Septuagint codices on which the order of our English Bibles is based. The former’s tripartite division is: The Torah, the Prophets, and the Writings; while the fourfold division of the latter is: the Law, historical books, poetic and wisdom books, and prophetic books.

The activity of the Masoretes was fourfold. First, the Masoretes “hedged in” the consonantal text they inherited with a Masorah, their scribal notes in the margins around it. Earlier scribes had settled upon that text type by the end of the first century CE. Scribal precision in transmitting the consonants before the activities of the Masoretes is reflected in the Talmud. R. Ishmael said: “My son, be careful, because your work is the work of heaven; should you omit (even) one letter or add (even) one letter, the whole world would be destroyed” (b. Sota 20a). Generations of Masoretes contributed an apparatus of instructions written in the margins around the text. By so hedging the text the Masoretes hoped to assure its precise transmission even to its smallest details.

Second, above and below the inherited consonants the Masoretes added vocalization — vowel points to preserve its accompanying oral tradition. Prior to the Masoretes, scribes more or less sparingly represented important vowels by four Hebrew consonants: ×™ (y), ו (v), ×” (h), and ×? (’) called matres lectiones (“mothers of reading”). Vowels, of course, can be decisive in meaning. Contrast the difference vowels make with the consonants, “fr”: “far,” “fir,” “fire,” “for,” “fore,” and “fur.” A story told in the Talmud illustrates that the scribes recognized the importance of an accurate oral tradition. In the story we are told David reprimanded Joab when he killed only the men of Amalek and not the “remembrance” (zeker) of Amalek. Joab, however, defended himself, noting his teacher taught him to read “to kill all their ‘males’” (zakar). Later, however, Joab drew his sword against his poor teacher who taught him incorrectly (b. B. Bathra 21a-b).

Third, the Masoretes added a system of accentuation to the text. These diacritical accents that signify the melodious chant serve to beautify and to add dignity to the reading of the text, to denote the stress of the word, which can be as meaningful as the difference between the English “pres´-ent” and “pre-sent´”, and to denote the syntactical relation between words as either conjunctive or disjunctive. For instance, it makes some difference where one places the accents in Isaiah 40:3:

The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare… (KJV).
A voice of one calling: “In the desert prepare…” (NIV, cf. the footnote).

Fourth, the Masoretes also preserved various para-textual elements — the verse and paragraph divisions of the text found in the oldest manuscripts and ancient textual corrections. The numbering of the verses and division of the books into chapters, however, was done in the Latin Vulgate, not in Jewish sources. In addition, the Masoretes either preserved and/or added corrections to the received text by marks within the text and within the margin. In the MT one finds inverted nuns (see before and after Num 10:35-36 and Ps 107:23-18), looking something like half-brackets, and extraordinary points, among others signals, to call attention to the received consonants in need of correction. For instance, the Sebirin (סביר) which in about 350 instances introduces a marginal note to an unusual word and proceeds to give the usual form of the expected expression.

The most important corrections are the Ketiv-Qere (K-Q) variants. Ketiv (= “written”) refers to the consonants in the text, for which the reader must guess the vowels, and the Qere (= “read”) to consonants in the margin to which the reader must add the vowels found in the text. In more than 1300 instances there are two readings (one written, the Ketiv; and one read via the vowel points, the Qere) given as at times the text was felt to be unsatisfactory on grammatical, esthetic, doctrinal, or textual grounds. At first the Qere readings were optional corrections of the consonantal text, but by the time of the Masoretes they had become obligatory. Some other interesting changes include the tiqqune sopherim (scribal corrections) and the itture sopherim, scribal omissions. The former include unseemly references to God; the latter include various grammatical omissions (see Gen 18:22 or 1Sam 3:13).

For those interested in learning the basics of the Masorah of BHS (i.e., the Masoretic scribal notes in the margins of the Hebrew Bible), the following works are quite helpful:

  • Page H. Kelley, Daniel S. Mynatt, and Timothy G. Crawford, The Masorah of Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia: Introduction and Annotated Glossary (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998). Buy from | Buy from

2. The Samaritan Pentateuch

sp.jpgThe second major witness to the Hebrew text of the OT is the Samaritan Pentateuch (SP). The Samaritans, once a very large sect, are a now small group still centered at modern Nablus, biblical Shechem/Sychar. Most Christians know this sect from Jesus’ famous conversation with the Samaritan woman (John 4). As that story shows, the Samaritans distinguished themselves from Judaism by their worship on Mount Gerizim, not Jerusalem. They restricted their Bible to the Torah because Moses, its traditional author, only called for a central sanctuary without designating a specific location. In the Prophets, however, David selected Jerusalem as the central sanctuary, and the Hagiographa celebrates that city.

The SP began its own history in the last quarter of the second century BCE, though the sect itself may be centuries older. The SP differs from the MT in some 6000 instances. While it is true that a great number of these variants are merely orthographic and trivial, it is significant that in about 1600 instances the SP agrees with the LXX against the MT. To be sure, some of these variants are tendentious, such as modifications to the ten commandments noted below. Others, however, demonstrate a tendency toward expansion. Basing himself on Gesenius, the first to classify the variants between the SP and the MT in a thorough and convincing way, Waltke demonstrated from recent philological and textual research that the SP, which is written in a special version of the “early” Hebrew script, presents a secondarily modernized, smoothed over, and expanded text (B. K. Waltke, “The Samaritan Pentateuch and the Text of the Old Testament,” in New Perspectives on the Old Testament [ed. J. B. Payne; Waco, TX: Word, 1970] 212-239; Buy from | Buy from

It is now known from the DSS that the Samaritans adapted a pre-Samaritan, Jewish text to their idiosyncratic theology. For example, they were able to make the worship on Mount Gerizim the tenth commandment by combining the first two commandments into one and by adding texts from Deut 11:29a, 27:2b-3a, 28:4-7, and 11:30 after Exod 20:17, numbering the material from Deut 28:4-7; 11:30 as the tenth commandment. (In these roughly added interpolations from Deuteronomy into Exodus, it is instructive to note, the change in divine names, doublets, change of style, and change of vocabulary, are akin to the criteria by which literary critics historically identified sources in the Pentateuch.)

In the light of Qumran, the SP has become a very important witness to a form of the Hebrew text that once enjoyed use, as shown by its agreements with the Qumran texts, the LXX, the NT, and other Hebrew texts. Indeed, because of the sectarian character of the Samaritans, the SP gives us a Hebrew witness independent of the changes that developed in mainline Jewish transmission, at least after about 100 BCE.

3. The Dead Sea Scrolls

Leviticus FragmentThe DSS are copied in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. By the techniques of palaeography, numismatics and archaeology, they are dated from mid-third century BCE to 135 CE. Most manuscripts were found in the eleven caves in the mountains just west of Khirbet Qumran (15 km south of Jericho near the Dead Sea), which ceased to exist after 68 CE. These caves yielded some 800 scrolls of all the books of the Bible, except Esther. The other principal sites, Nahal Hever and Wadi Muraba’at, yielded texts that are somewhat later, all of which belong to the proto-MT. The scrolls found at Masada, which fell to the Romans in 70 CE, are also proto-MT. While there are dangers of reading post-70 CE realities back into these biblical texts, the best classification of these scrolls is that offered by Tov, who divides them into four different text types:

  1. First, there are what is called the Proto-Masoretic texts. As noted, the Masoretes finalized the proto-MT. The great number of Qumran scrolls belonging to this text type, about 47% of them, may reflect their authoritative status.
  2. Second, there are Pre-Samaritan texts (ca. 2.5%). As mentioned above, the Samaritans adopted and adapted an earlier Jewish text type attested at Qumran. These scrolls have the characteristic features of the SP, aside from the thin layer of ideological and phonological changes the Samaritans added. Because of this difference, however, Tov is right in calling this text pre-Samaritan, rather than proto-Samaritan as has been the custom. This text type is at least as old as Chronicles, for where Chronicles (ca. 400 BCE?) is synoptic with Genesis, it displays a text type like these texts, not like the MT. Since this text type was modernized by at least 400 BCE, the archaic proto-MT of the Pentateuch, and so the Pentateuch itself, must be much older.
  3. Third, there are Septuagintal texts among the DSS. The original Greek translations of certain books of the OT were based on a distinctive text type. Some Qumran Hebrew scrolls, most notably 4QJerb, d, bear a strong resemblance to the Septuagint’s Vorlage. The Septuagintal text type comprises about 3.5% of the Qumran biblical texts.
  4. Fourth, a large number of Qumran scrolls (ca. 47%) are not exclusively close to any one of the types mentioned above and therefore classified as non-aligned. Tov explains: “they agree, sometimes significantly, with MT against the other texts, or with SP and/or LXX against the other texts, but the non-aligned texts also disagree with the other texts to the same extent. They furthermore contain readings not known from one of the other texts” (Tov, Textual Criticism, 116).

In addition to these text types, Tov also identifies a group of texts that reflect a distinctive orthography (i.e. spelling, similar to English “favor” versus “favour”), morphology, and free approach to the biblical text visible in content adaptations, in frequent errors, in numerous corrections, and sometimes, also, in negligent script. Tov thinks that only these scrolls were produced in or around Qumran, and therefore describes them as written in the “Qumran Practice.”

For more information on the Dead Sea Scrolls, including a full listing of the Critical Editions of the Dead Sea Scrolls, see my Dead Sea Scrolls Resources page.

Ketef_Hinnom.jpg4. Additional Hebrew Witnesses

The oldest evidence to the Hebrew Bible are two minute silver rolls about the size of cigarette butts that could be worn around the neck found at Ketef Hinnom in Jerusalem. They contain the priestly blessing (Num 6:24-26) in a slightly different formulation than MT and are dated to the seventh or sixth century BCE. Some other witnesses include the so-called Nash Papyrus (second century BCE), containing a liturgical text of the Decalogue (Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5) and the Shema (Deut 6:4-5). There are also many fragments of biblical texts contained in mezuzot, head-tefillin, and arm-tefillin from the second and fist centuries BCE until the first and second centuries CE. These often differ from the MT, possibly because they were written from memory as implied in the Talmud.

Posted in Dead Sea Scrolls, Text Criticism, Textual Criticism of the Hebrew Bible | 5 Comments »

Big Thanks to Jim West

30th June 2006

Ency_DSS.jpgI am sitting on the couch in my family room browsing through my new two-volume Encyclopedia of the Dead Sea Scrolls (Lawrence H. Schiffman and James C. VanderKam, eds.; Oxford, 2000; Buy from | Buy from compliments of Jim West (see here for how I won the set). From the condition the package was in when I picked it up today, it appears Canada Post was practicing their corner kicks with it! Thankfully, the volumes were not damaged.

This is an excellent reference work with over 450 original articles by 100 distinguished scholars from diverse traditions (and I was happy to see many Canadians in the contributor list). Looking through the list of contributors is a virtual who’s who of scrolls scholars, including blogger Jim Davila. It has entries from Aaron to Zoroastrianism and is the most comprehensive critical synthesis of current knowledge about the Dead Sea scrolls, and their historical, archaeological, linguistic and religious contexts. It has an awesome index as well as a provisional list of scrolls, among other things. Most of the articles are written in non-technical language and as such can be recommended to all readers. I recommend it to all — especially if Jim will send it to you! :-)

My only beef is the title; why is Oxford University Press publishing an “Encyclopedia” rather than an “Encyclopaedia“?

Thanks again, Jim!

Posted in Dead Sea Scrolls | 1 Comment »

Thanks, Jim West!

9th June 2006

Jim West held a contest of his own today, and guess what? I actually won something. I don’t win things very often, so I am pleased as punch! (OK, what does that mean, “pleased as punch”? How can a liquid be pleased?).

At any rate, I happened to be Jim’s 170,000th visitor at his site, and because of that I get a free book — to be more accurate, I get free “books.” Jim, who will now be known to me as “Jim the Generous” will be posting me the Encyclopedia of the Dead Sea Scrolls edited by Lawrence H. Schiffman and James C. VanderKam (Oxford, 2000; Buy from | Buy from With 450 articles by an international team of scholars, this two volume work offers the most comprehensive critical synthesis of current knowledge about the Dead Sea Scrolls — and their historical, archaeological, linguistic, and religious contexts. Written in non-technical language this reference work provides authoritative answers and information for all readers. This is a pretty expensive set — at least up here in the Canadian hinterlands. All I can say is, “Sweet!”

Thanks, Jim!

Posted in Blog News, Dead Sea Scrolls, News, Personal | 7 Comments »

New Book: The Dead Sea Scrolls: What Have We Learned?

7th June 2006

DSS_WhatLearned.jpgI am quite excited about this new book on the Dead Sea Scrolls:

The Dead Sea Scrolls: What Have We Learned?, Eileen M. Schuller (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2006; Buy from | Buy from

Dr. Eileen Schuller is Professor of Religious Studies at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. She is a long-time member and former President of the Canadian Society of Biblical Studies and one of the leaders in translating, editing, and publishing the Dead Sea Scrolls. She has published a number of excellent works and was an associate editor of The Encyclopedia of the Dead Sea Scrolls (Oxford University Press, 2000; Buy from | Buy from Most importantly, Schuller is a careful, balanced, scholar.

The blurb from the publisher has this to say about the work:

Beginning with the question, What have we learned from the Dead Sea Scrolls after 50 years of study, this book does not intend to present brand new discoveries, but rather presents a discovery made 50 years ago that everyone has heard at least something about already, and so takes the reader through the past 50 years decade by decade, highlighting key evenets and accomplishments in scrolls scholarship. The core chapters concentrate on a specific area where the scrolls have made a distinctive contribution in how we think about key questions in the development of early Judaism and early Christianity. In each chapter a few specific passages are discussed, so that the reader can become familiar with the actual text of the scrolls themselves.

The only thing I don’t get about the blurb is that it talks about the discovery made 50 years ago; the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in 1947 — doesn’t that make it almost 60 years ago?

Here is the table of contents for the book:

  1. Fifty Years Plus: A Survey Decade-by-Decade
  2. What Have We Learned About Scripture?
  3. What Have We Learned About Prayer and Worship?
  4. What Have We Learned About Women?
  5. Looking to the Future

This would be an excellent companion to one of the standard introductions to the Dead Sea Scrolls (See my “Annotated Guide to the Study of the Dead Sea Scrolls” for more resources).

Oh, yeah, did I happen to mention that Eileen Schuller was my examiner for my doctoral comprehensive on the Dead Sea Scrolls and is on my dissertation committee?

Posted in Dead Sea Scrolls, Reviews & Notices | Comments Off

English Abstract of Eshel’s Article on Leviticus Fragments

15th December 2005

In a previous post I mentioned the publication of an article by Hanan Eshel on the recently recovered Leviticus scroll fragments in volume three of Meghillot: Studies in the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Here is the published English abstract of Eshel’s article:

Fragments of a Biblical Scroll from the Judean Desert

Hanan Eshel, Yosi Barschi, and Roi Porat
In August 2004 Bedouin discovered a number of small biblical fragments — at least four — in a cave in the Judean desert. These fragments, which measured 3.5 cm2, contained verses from Leviticus 23-24. The uncleaned fragments were photographed, first by Roi Porat and Hanan Eshel, and later by Roi Parat and Yosi Baruchi. Recently, these fragments were purchased by the Jeselsohn Epigraphic Center for Jewish History, Bar-Ilan University, and presented to the Israel Antiquities Authority. They were discovered in a small cave an the southern slope, east of the big waterfall (N.T. 1826/09708).

These fragments should be identified as additional fragments of a biblical scroll from the time of the Bar Kokhba revolt. The text of the verses found in the fragments is identical to the MT, with one exception: the word בסכות appears in fragments b and c (Col 1, line 4) with a waw, whereas in the MT (Lev. 23:42) it is written defectively. The ability to complete the lines according to the MT is further evidence of these fragments’ affinity to the MT. Based as they are on partial data and on photographs made under very poor field conditions and before the fragments had been cleaned, our conclusions remain preliminary.

The table of contents and English abstracts of all three volumes are available online at, while the table of contents of all issues (in Modern Hebrew) may be found at Thanks to Devorah Dimant (the journal’s general editor) for the heads up via the Megillot email list.

Posted in Dead Sea Scrolls, Hanan Eshel, Leviticus, Leviticus Scroll, News | Comments Off

Publication of Hanan Eshel’s Reconstruction of Leviticus Fragments

12th December 2005

A quick note to mention that Hanan Eshel’s article on the Leviticus Fragments has been published in the third volume of Meghillot: Studies in the Dead Sea Scrolls. Here is the full bibliographic information:

Hanan Eshel, “שרידי מגילת מקר×? חדשה ממדבר יהודה.” Pages 259-260 in מגילות- מחקרי×? במגילות מדבר יהודה ×’ [Meghillot: Studies in the Dead Sea Scrolls 3]; Moshe Bar-Asher and Devorah Dimant, eds. Jerusalem: Haifa University and Bialik Institute, 2005.

I haven’t had a chance to look at the article yet; so stay tuned for a summary at a later date. Thanks to Shai Heijmans for the heads up.

Posted in Dead Sea Scrolls, Hanan Eshel, Leviticus, Leviticus Scroll, News | 1 Comment »

Eshel Arrest Looming?

8th December 2005

According to a news report from Haaretz (via Biblical Theology), the Israeli police have provided evidence to the Israeli State Prosecutor’s Office to indict archaeologist Professor Hanan Eshel on three criminal counts: bringing an antiquity into Israel illegally, trafficking in stolen property, and not reporting the discovery of an antiquity as required by law.

Hanan’s problems started when he recovered of some fragments of a Leviticus scroll (dated to the Bar Kokhba period) from some Bedouin earlier last summer (see here for more on the scroll; and see here, here and here for coverage into the subsequent investigation into his involvement the purchase).

This recent news is just the tip of the iceberg for the deteriorating relationship between the Israeli Antiquities Authority (IAA) and prominant archaeologists in Israel, as can be seen from this excerpt:

Controversy regarding the investigation of how a fragment of scroll from the Bar Kokhba period came into Eshel’s possession — which he eventually turned over to the Israel Antiquities Authority — has led to an unprecedented flap between Bar Ilan and the IAA over the past few days.The heads of all university archaeology departments have been summoned to an urgent meeting today with IAA director Shuka Dorfman, following Bar Ilan’s decision to postpone indefinitely its upcoming annual archaeological conference in protest against the IAA’s police complaint against Eshel. Dorfman wants to ask another university to host the prestigious conference, at which several IAA archaeologists were scheduled to speak.

There are “problematic aspects in the behavior of both sides,” Professor Itzhak Gilad, head of the archaeology department at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev who was on the roster of speakers, told Haaretz yesterday.

“Dorfman cannot be allowed to treat a senior scholar who did everything he could to save a rare antiquity as if he were a common criminal,” sources at Bar Ilan told Haaretz. “There is no reason to cooperate with the IAA in holding scientific conferences when at the same time the IAA is attacking our scholar, who has done nothing wrong,” the sources added.


Eshel claims that Porat informed the IAA of the discovery, but the latter did not seek to obtain it. Eshel says that when he returned from the U.S, he met again with the dealer, and noticed the fragment had deteriorated severely. He purchased it for a few thousand shekels, financed by the research institute at Bar Ilan where he is employed, and that he then transferred the document to a laboratory in an effort to preserve it.

In February 2005, Eshel transferred the fragment to the IAA without remuneration. The IAA claims that Eshel should have reported the find to them within 15 days and immediately turn it over to them. Bar Ilan has declared its unqualified support for Eshel in the matter.

Posted in Dead Sea Scrolls, Hanan Eshel, Leviticus, Leviticus Scroll, News | Comments Off

The Protest against Dr. Hanan Eshel’s Treatment Continues

7th December 2005

Haaretz has reported that Bar-Ilan University — the university where Dr. Hanan Eshel teaches — has indefinitely postponed its annual archaeology conference as a protest against a police complaint lodged by the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) against Eshel. This continues the saga of the Leviticus Scrolls that Eshel recovered from bedouin early last summer (for more on the scrolls and their discovery see here).

Here are some excerpts from the Haaretz article:

The IAA submitted the complaint after Eshel allegedly failed to turn over a rare artifact in his possession. According to the IAA, an indictment is to be issued shortly against the archaeologist.

The Archaeological Council, Israel’s senior professional body of archaeologists, which advises the IAA, objected to the authority’s move. It said disciplinary procedures might have been opened against Eshel before a police complaint was lodged. Dozens of archaeologists signed a petition recently condemning the IAA action.

The rector of Bar-Ilan University, Prof. Yosef Yeshurun, announced the postponement of the conference, which focuses on new research in the study of Jerusalem and is considered the most prominent scientific conference in the field. The IAA, many of whose staff were to have lectured at the conference, said it was shocked at Bar-Ilan’s decision. “The IAA views gravely any attempt to interfere in its considerations and to influence procedures that are being implemented in accordance with the law,” an IAA spokeswoman said.

Bar-Ilan called its move “delicate and minimal” in light of “the harm the IAA has done to academe in Israel by treating a senior scholar like a common criminal.”

Posted in Dead Sea Scrolls, Hanan Eshel, Leviticus, Leviticus Scroll, News | Comments Off