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Minor Clarification regarding Hanan Eshel

2nd December 2005

I have covered much of the news surrounding Hanan Eshel’s recovery of some scroll fragments of the book of Leviticus (see here) as well as the subsequent investigation into his involvement the purchase (see here and here).

I wanted to clarify that no charges were ever laid against Hanan Eshel, although some news reports suggested otherwise. The reason why Hanan was not able to make it to SBL had nothing to do with the controversy. Hanan had his passport back and a visa was arranged for SBL, though there were some irregularities with his passport and he was advised against traveling.

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

Petition/Advertisement regarding the Treatment of Prof. Hanan Eshel

22nd November 2005

As many of my readers would be aware, I have tried to cover the events surrounding Prof. Hanan Eshel’s recovery of some ancient scroll fragments of the book of Leviticus (for more on the Leviticus fragments see my coverage here).

Eshel’s actions (purchasing the fragments from the bedouin, among other things) led to an investigation by the Israel Antiquities Authority, inlcuding the detention of Hanan Eshel (see my post on the investigation here). After the investigation he was released with all charges dropped.

From the very beginning of this issue — and especially after my interview with Hanan Eshel — I have supported his actions in this matter. Obviously the ideal situation would be to discover ancient artefacts in controlled archaeological digs, this doesn’t always happen. What is most important is that through his actions Hanan was able to preserve the scroll fragments.

As a protest to the way Hanan was treated, a number of scholars placed an advertisement in the Hebrew news paper Haaretz on Friday 18 November 2005. A scan of the Hebrew ad is available here. Below is an English translation of the ad, courtesy of Robert Deutsch via the ANE email list.

The subject:
The proceedings of the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) (i.e. Shuka Dorfman) regarding Prof. Eshel’s Affair

We, archaeologists, historians and researchers in other fields of Humanities, wish to express our protest regarding the actions taken by the IAA against Prof. Eshel. Hanan Eshel and his student, Roy Porat, purchased a scroll fragment from a Bedouin and handed it over to IAA. About this fact there is no dispute. Therefore, blaming the teacher and his student of (illegal) trade with antiquities, is absurd. The police months lasting investigation, search in Eshel’s house, confiscating his passport, delivering misleading statements to the press, and sending TV crews in order to record him leaving the police headquarter – is intolerant. We are convinced that Eshel rescued the scroll fragment, which could otherwise be lost. His treatment as an average criminal is a vengeful act, not wise, unfair, and an unparalleled public institution attitude toward a scientist.

Joseph Aviram – Israel Exploration Society, Jerusalem
Prof. Edna Ulman-Margalit – The Center for Rationalism, Hebrew University, Jerusalem
Prof. Shmuel Ahituv – Bible, Ben Gurion University, Beer Sheba (Emeritus)
Prof. David Ussishkin, Archaeology, Tel Aviv University (Emeritus)
Prof. Eliezer Oren – Archaeology, Ben Gurion University, Beer Sheba (Emeritus)
Dr. Eithan Ayalon, Eretz Israel Museum, Tel Aviv
Prof. Miriam Rosen-Ayalon, – Archaeology, Hebrew University, Jerusalem (Emeritus)
Prof. Israel Ephal – History of the Jewish People, Hebrew University, Jerusalem
Prof. Albert Baumgarten – History of the Jewish People, Bar Ilan University, Ramat-Gan
Prof. Albert Baumgarten – History of the Jewish People, Bar Ilan University, Ramat-Gan
Dr. Adrian Boaz – Archaeology’ University of Haifa
Prof. Anna Balfour-Cohen – Archaeology, Hebrew University, Jerusalem
Prof. Jehoshua Ben-Arie – Geography, Hebrew University, Jerusalem (Emeritus)
Prof. Amnon Ben-Tor, – Archaeology, Hebrew University, Jerusalem (Emeritus)
Dr. Dafna Ben-Tor, – Archaeology, Israel Museum, Jerusalem
Prof. Dan Barag, – Archaeology, Hebrew University, Jerusalem
Na’ama Brosh – Israel Museum, Jerusalem
Magen Broshi – The Shrine of the Book, Israel Museum, Jerusalem (Pensioner)
Prof. Menahem Brinker – Philosophy, Hebrew literature, Hebrew University, Jerusalem
Prof. Bezalel Bar-Kokhba – History of the Jewish People, Tel aviv University
Prof. Moshe Bernstein – Bible, Yeshiva University, New York
Hillel Geva – Israel Exploration Society, Jerusalem
Prof. Ram Gophna, Archaeology, Tel Aviv University (Emeritus)
Haim Gitler, Israel Museum, Jerusalem
Prof. Johanan Gluker, Classic Studies, Tel Aviv University
Prof. Trude Dothan, – Archaeology, Hebrew University, Jerusalem (Emeritus)
Michal Dayagi-Mendels, Archaeology, Israel Museum, Jerusalem
Prof. Shimon Dar – History of the Jewish People, Bar Ilan University, Ramat-Gan
Dr. Ruth Ha-Cohen-Pinchover, Musicology, Hebrew University, Jerusalem
Prof. Beth Halperin – Theology, Vassar College, USA (Emeritus)
Malka Hershcowitz – Hebrew Union College, Jerusalem
Uzza Zevulun – Eretz Israel Museum, Tel Aviv (Pensioner)
Dr. Ester Hazon – Orion Center, Hebrew University, Jerusalem
Yael Israeli – Archaeology, Israel Museum, Jerusalem (Pensioner)
Prof. Moshe Kochavi – Archaeology, Tel Aviv University (Emeritus)
Prof. Israel Levin, – Archaeology, Hebrew University, Jerusalem
Prof. Aren Maeir – History of the Jewish People, Bar Ilan University, Ramat-Gan
David Mevorach – Archaeology, Israel Museum, Jerusalem
Prof. Judy Magness – Archaeology, North Carolina University, USA
Prof. Amihai Mazar – Archaeology, Hebrew University, Jerusalem
Prof. Pinchas Mendel – Hebrew literature, University of Haifa
Dr. Zeev Meshel – Archaeology, Tel Aviv University (Emeritus)
Prof. Nadav Naaman – History of the Jewish People, Tel Aviv University
Prof. Michael Stone – Theology, Hebrew University, Jerusalem
Prof. Daniel Sivan – Hebrew Language, Ben Gurion University, Beer Sheba
Prof. Zeev Safrai – History of the Jewish People, Bar Ilan University, Ramat-Gan
Prof. Israel Finkelstein – Archaeology, Tel Aviv University
Dr. Irit Ziffer – Archaeology, Tel Aviv University
Prof. Elisha Kimron – Hebrew Language, Ben Gurion University, Beer Sheba
Prof. Frank More Cross- Semitic Languages, Harward University, USA (Emeritus)
Dr. Silvia Rosenberg – Archaeology, Israel Museum, Jerusalem
Prof. Abraham Ronen – Archaeology, University of Haifa
Prof. Alexander Rofe – Bible, Hebrew University, Jerusalem
Prof. Ronny Reich – Archaeology, University of Haifa
Prof. Elhanan Reiner – History of the Jewish People, Tel Aviv University
Guy Stibel – Archaeology, Hebrew University, Jerusalem
Prof. Daniel Scwartz – History of the Jewish People, Hebrew University, Jerusalem
Prof. Laurence Shifman – Hebrew and Judaism, University of New York
Dr. Ilan Sharon – Archaeology, Hebrew University, Jerusalem

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

Investigation Surrounding the Purchase of Leviticus Scroll

1st November 2005

The scroll fragments of the book of Leviticus that came to light in July 2005 (see my coverage and analysis of the scroll fragments here), are in the news again, as noted by Jim West at Biblical Theology blog here and here.

On the biblical studies email list Yitzhak Sapir directed our attention to three news articles about a police investigation on the illegal sale of an ancient scroll. The news story in the Jerusalem Post is short and sweet:

Jerusalem police were investigating suspicions that an academic man and his aide were involved in the illegal sale of an ancient scroll worth around $1 million.

According to the allegations, the two purchased the scroll from Bedouins for $3,000.

They were accused of illegal dealing in antiquities, failure to report the find to the proper authorities, and illegal excavations.

Joseph I. Lauer followed up on Sapir’s post with a link to a fuller story in Ha’aretz in Hebrew that identifies Hanan Eshel as the academic involved in the investigation concerning the Leviticus scroll fragment.

UPDATE: Yitzhak Sapir on the ANE list has provided a brief English summary of another fuller article in Hebrew on ynet:

  • The three bedouins, were also interrogated and are under arrest by the IDF/Police. One admitted to selling the scroll to Eshel.
  • Eshel claimed in the interrogation that: he feared the IAA “will steal his credit,” and that the assessment and study of the scroll will take time. He claimed he was not aware of the law requiring him to notify the IAA of the artifact’s existence within two weeks. It’s this claim Noqed was replying to, although the claim itself is not reported in the Haaretz/Walla article.
  • Some other prominent people at Bar Ilan University were interrogated.
  • The man whom Eshel claimed provided the money was also interrogated.
  • Bar Ilan stands behind Eshel in a released statement that states that Eshel goals are prevention of antiquities theft and even destruction.

UPDATE 2: A longer English version of the article has been published on Haaretz.com.
Hebrew language versions of the shorter article are available on ynet and here.

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

Leviticus Scroll Story Picked Up by CanadianChristianity.com

2nd September 2005

In a previous post, I mentioned that my story on the Leviticus Scroll fragments may be picked up by CanadianChristianity.com. Well it has; the story is here.

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

Leviticus Scroll Fragment Article Now Online

24th August 2005

My ChristianWeek article on the Leviticus Scroll fragments is available online here (I have also heard it will be picked up by CanadianChristianity.com).

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.

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

Tendenz and Translation: The Importance of Knowing the Character of a Manuscript for Textual Criticism

20th August 2005

One of the toughest jobs for textual critics is knowing the tendenz or proclivities of the manuscripts or versions they are using for textual reconstruction. This step requires an enormous amount of work that entails an intensive study of a manuscript. Often, I fear, this work is not done and variants are studies in isolation without a sufficient knowledge of the manuscripts themselves. One of the reasons it is not done is that it is a daunting task that few can accomplish. So when someone does this work, it is a great service to the scholarly community (We should thank God for the Kittels, Wevers, Alands, Metzgers of the world!).

This sort of painstaking text critical work has now been done on the Qumran Psalms Scroll (11QPsa). As I mentioned in a previous post, I am working through Ulrich Dahmen’s Psalmen- und Psalter-Rezeption im Fruehjudentum: Rekonstrucktion, Textbestand, Sturktur und Pragmatik der Psalmen Rolle 11QPsa aus Qumran (Brill, 2003; Buy from Amazon.ca or Amazon.com).

In this third chapter, Dahmen works through all of the variants between 11QPsa and the Masoretic Book of Psalms. From this analysis he draws a number of conclusions. First, he concludes that 11QPsa is clearly dependent on and secondary to the proto-Masoretic Psalter (Something which I have been arguing for many years). That is, almost all of the places where 11QPsa has an alternative reading compared to the MT Psalter, the reading in 11QPsa is later. What is more, Dahmen argues that when all of the variants are considered together (and this is the crucial step of gaining the big picture) some patterns begin to appear. While I will not bore you with the details (and Dahmen notes many details), the most important characteristic are the number of features which connect the scroll with the other texts and themes common to the Qumran community. This is one of the things that is meant when taking about a manuscript’s tendenz.

Knowing the tendenz of 11QPsa provides some critical purchase when making text-criticical decisions. What Dahmen’s research means in practical terms is that 11QPsa is of limited use for textual criticism of the MT book of Psalms. That doesn’t mean it is of no value. Dahmen highlights a couple places where 11QPsa preserves a better reading than the MT. The best example is with the missing nun verse in the acrostic Psalm 145 (an acrostic is a poem that is organized according to the alphabet). In the MT tradition the psalm is clearly missing a verse because its acrostic skips from mem to samech (between vv. 13-14). Well, before 11QPsa was discovered scholars knew something was up and often used the LXX to reconstruct the missing verse. When the Psalms Scroll was discovered, lo and behold, the nun verse was recovered. As it turns out, the two texts (LXX and 11QPsa) preserved similar readings:
πιστὸς κύριος ἐν τοῖς λόγοις αὐτοῦ καὶ ὅσιος ἐν πᾶσι τοῖς ἔργοις αὐτοῦ
The Lord is faithful in all his words, and devout in all his deeds

× ×?מן ×?לוהי×? בדבריו וחסיד בכול מעשיו
God is faithful in his words, and gracious in all his deeds

You’ll notice a slight difference between the LXX use of “Lord” while 11QPsa employs “God.” A number of factors suggest that the LXX preserves the better reading. First, when looking at the rest of Psalm, it almost exclusively employs Yahweh. Second, one of the things that Dahmen uncovered in his analysis is that 11QPsa tends to substitute other terms for Yahweh. What evidently happened is that some time in the transmission of the Masoretic text of the book of Psalms, this verse dropped out. The LXX and 11QPsa both preserved the original line, though the LXX preserved the better text in regards to the name used for God.

The moral of this story is that before you can evaluate a textual variant, you need to know the tendenz of the text. Otherwise you’ll miss the forest for the trees.

Posted in Dead Sea Scrolls, Psalms, Reviews & Notices, Septuagint, Text Criticism, Translation Theory | Comments Off

New Story on the Leviticus Scroll Fragments Published

19th August 2005

My story on the recently discovered scroll fragments of the Book of Leviticus has appeared in the print edition ChristianWeek. It actually made the front page. Now that the article is published I will blog a full account of my interview with Hanan Eshel in the near future.

Here is the ChristianWeek article (I have cropped and edited it so only my article appears on the page):

(click for a larger image)

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

Thank God for Worms, Decomposition, and Computers:Reconstructing the Dead Sea Scrolls

18th August 2005

I am currently working through Ulrich Dahmen’s excellent monograph on the so-called Qumran Psalms scroll (11QPsa), Psalmen- und Psalter-Rezeption im Fruehjudentum: Rekonstrucktion, Textbestand, Sturktur und Pragmatik der Psalmen Rolle 11QPsa aus Qumran (Studies on the Texts of the Desert of Judah 49; Leiden: Brill, 2003; Buy from Amazon.ca or Amazon.com).

Dahmen proposes a new reconstruction of the beginning of the Psalms scroll based on the techniques developed by H. Stegemann and others. What I find the most fascinating is the help that worm traces and decomposition patterns — as well as computers — play in the reconstruction. His reconstruction is similar to that of Peter Flint’s in The Dead Sea Psalms Scroll & the Book of Psalms (Leiden: Brill, 1997; Buy from Amazon.ca or Amazon.com), though Dahmen omits Psalm 110 from column 4 since its inclusion would make the line and column lengths too large. That seems quite plausible to me.

Who would have thought that worms, decomposition, and computers would all work together to help us reconstruct and interpret ancient biblical scrolls? I find it all quite fascinating.

Posted in Dead Sea Scrolls, Psalms, Psalms Scrolls | Comments Off

UPDATE: Qumran Fragments on the Market?

1st August 2005

Ed Cook at Ralph the Sacred River has posted a clarification of the quotes and information attributed to him in the story in Dutch newspaper het Parool. His response may be found here; my original blog entry is here. It appears clear that Ed was misrepresented by the story.

In regards to the Leviticus scroll fragments, Ed argues that the fragments ultimately have to be considered unprovenanced since they were not found in situ and no other related fragments were discovered in the alleged cave when Hanan Eshel was able to examine it. While I see his point (and I suspect we’ll never know for sure), I wonder what other Dead Sea Scrolls we would have to declare unprovenanced if held to the same standards?

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

Qumran Fragments on the Market? Discovery and Provenance of the Leviticus Fragments

30th July 2005

Stephen Goranson brought my attention (via the Biblical Studies email list) to the following story by Henk Schutten: “Dead Sea Scrolls in the Trade.” The story was published in Dutch newspaper het Parool (An English Translation is available here). The article discusses four Dead Sea Scroll fragments which were offered for sale by a dealer at the 2003 Maastricht Art Fair, Tefaf. These scrolls were linked to the Kando family. What I found surprising is the linking of these scrolls that were sold on the black market and the recent recovery of the fragments of a Leviticus Scroll (see a list of my blog entries on this subject here). Here is the relevant excerpt:

In March last year, it was revealed that the Kando family had further new fragments from the book of Henoch, a Qumran-manuscript about Judgement Day. The husband and wife team, Esther and Hanan Eshel, announced the discovery of the Henoch fragments last year, as well as last month a further revelation. They had managed to get hold of two Hebrew fragments from the Book of Leviticus, which had just been discovered by Bedouins in a cave in Nahal Arougot, in the desert of Judea. The story goes that Hanan Eshel, as an ancient historian at the University of Bar Ilan, had been approached to assess the authenticity of the parchments, but instead bought them for $3,000, because he was afraid that the find – so he says – would be smuggled out of the country.So many discoveries in so short a period, in an area that has been so exhaustively explored by archaeologists – it cannot be a coincidence – that it is the word among the researchers in the field. The American philologist Edward Cook, a renowned international translator of the Dead Sea Scrolls, and author of ‘Solving the mysteries of the Dead Sea Scrolls’, states that the involvement of the Kando family is a virtual certainty in the new finds. He adds, “More than likely that the Kando family have had the scrolls or fragments for a long time”. “It is known that in the 50s many Bedouins first offered their finds to Kando. There is no guarantee whatsoever that Kando did not keep part of the material for himself. Everything indicates that the family are trying to market the fragments” (Emphasis added).

I guess my question is whether there is any evidence whatsoever that links the Leviticus fragments to the Kando family? From my interview with Hanan Eshel (20 July 2005), it seems unlikely that the Leviticus scroll fragments have anything to do with the Kando family.

The Discovery and Provenance of the Leviticus Fragments

Here is the story of how the Leviticus fragments were discovered and came into the possession of Hanan Eshel based on my interview with him.

The story begins in 2000 when Hanan Eshel was teaching a seminar on the Bar Kokhba revolt. In one of his lectures he was talking about the refuge caves — the places Jews had fled in 135 CE when the Roman army captured Judea and Jews were trying to find shelter — and he pointed out that there were 27 known refuge caves. In the middle of the lecture he noted that it was odd that numerous caves were discovered in the area that was in Israeli hands, but in the area that was in Jordanian hands there was only one place in Waddi Murrrabat identified.

Some of the students in this class decided to survey the area that used to be in Jordanian hands. The survey started in 2001. A total of 350 caves were surveyed with metal detectors. From this five caves were discovered that were used for refuge. Early on in this survey, the survey team’s jeep was broken into and all the equipment was stolen. At that point they decided to hire some Bedouins to look after the vehicle when they were going down the cliffs.

Then later, one day in 2004, one of the Bedouins who had been hired on occasion to look after the vehicle called and said that some Bedouins had found fragments of a scroll and that he wanted to show them to Eshel in order to get an estimation of their worth.

The rest of the story is well-known by now. Hanan Eshel examined the fragments at an abandoned Jordanian police station the night of 23 August 2004 (here is a picture taken that evening), but then had to leave to teach in the United States. While the Bedouin said he had been offered $20,000 for the scroll on the black market, that sale never materialized. When Hanan got back to Israel and discovered that the fragments were still around and that they were being further damaged by the Bedouin, only then did he purchase them for $3000 USD on behalf Bar Ilan University and turn them over to the Antiquities Authority.

What may not be well-known is that after securing the Leviticus fragments, Hanan was taken to the cave where the fragments were purportedly found. From a controlled examination of the cave, Hanan found evidence that the cave had been looted by Bedouin in August of 2004 (e.g., metal poles that they walked into the cave on were still in the walls [I believe], newspapers dated to August 2004 were found in the cave, etc.). He also found pottery and textiles consistent with others from the Bar Kokhba period in the cave. Interestingly, right from the very beginning the Bedouin described the fragments as being from the Bar Kokhba period. This was because, as Eshel later discovered, the Bedouin had found Bar Kokhba coins in the cave where the scroll was found. While Eshel did not find the fragments in situ, I think that it is pretty clear that the proper cave was identified.

Perhaps this whole story is a ruse by the Bedouin to sell fragments of a scroll from the Kando family’s hidden stash of scrolls (which may very likely exist). Perhaps they climbed the cliffs in the Judaean desert to create a fake cave to show Eshel. I personally think that is all highly doubtful.

Hopefully now that more of the story of the Leviticus scroll’s origin is known, it will dispel some of the speculation.

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