Rediscovering the Dead Sea Scrolls: An Assessment of Old and New Approaches and Methods

Rediscovering the Dead Sea Scrolls: An Assessment of Old and New Approaches and Methods

by Maxine L. Grossman (Editor)

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Tools for Our Work introduces readers to a wide range of established and experimental treatments of the Dead Sea Scrolls, including paleography, archaeology, manuscript analysis, and a variety of literary, historical, and social scientific approaches.

Written by experts in Dead Sea Scrolls studies, these essays -- while each able to stand on their own as state-of-the-field discussions -- together provide a vibrant intersectional picture of scrolls studies on the cusp of its seventh decade.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780802840097
Publisher: Eerdmans, William B. Publishing Company
Publication date: 06/28/2010
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 334
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Maxine L. Grossman is associate professor of Jewish studies and religious studies in the Joseph and Rebecca Meyerhoff Center for Jewish Studies at the University of Maryland. Her other work includes Reading for History in the Damascus Document: A Methodol

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Rediscovering the Dead Sea Scrolls

An Assessment of Old and New Approaches and Methods

William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company

Copyright © 2010 Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-8028-4009-7


Tools for Our Work

The study of the Dead Sea Scrolls is, at its most basic, an interdisciplinary endeavor. In identifying, reconstructing, translating, and interpreting the texts from Qumran — not to mention assigning meaning to them in the larger contexts of ancient Judaism, early Christianity, and biblical studies — scrolls scholars range widely through the fields of philology, literary analysis, ancient history, and beyond. The fragmentary state of the evidence makes such interdisciplinary work a necessity. But interdisciplinarity is also an opportunity — to contextualize the evidence in new ways, introduce new modes of analysis, and potentially reconfigure the larger picture of the world of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

The purpose of this volume on methods and theories in the study of these texts is to bring together a range of diverse perspectives on and scholarly approaches to the scrolls, some addressing issues that are foundational to the field, and some exploring avenues that lead in untested or experimental directions. In formulating their contributions, authors were asked to provide not only an introduction to a given approach to the scrolls, but also a more self-reflective assessment of the limits of their approaches and the potential pitfalls associated with them. Contributors were also invited to focus on a single example or a cluster of related examples, in the interest of providing readers with a concrete and vivid sense of how their approaches work in actual practice.

Interest in questions of method has ebbed and flowed over the course of the history of scrolls scholarship, but the current moment — in which full editions of the scrolls and helpful electronic tools are available to students and scholars with diverse backgrounds and areas of expertise — is one in which methodological pursuits are particularly apt. Several conferences have been devoted to the subject of how the scrolls are studied, and these have generated conference volumes that serve as important resources in the field. A number of comprehensive treatments of the scrolls also incorporate discussions of scholarly approaches to the texts, material culture, and contexts of the scrolls, and the fiftieth anniversary of their discovery generated a significant burst of publications a decade ago, reflecting similar interests.

This volume attempts to do something a bit different from these more comprehensive scholarly resources. First, the essays collected here are purposely introductory. Contributors have been careful to define their terms and outline their questions in ways that will be inviting to new readers without being off-putting to those with more scrolls experience. Ideally, these essays will be of use to established scholars and senior graduate students, but they are equally designed to be accessible to serious undergraduate students in courses on the scrolls, and to those whose interest in the scrolls comes out of their work in other areas of study. At the same time, this volume purposely is not an introduction, in the sense of a comprehensive treatment of approaches to the scrolls as such. Although interest in a certain degree of coverage can be seen in the topics addressed here, the real focus of this volume is on the overlap and intersection of interests that reflect the current state of scholarship in the field, as well as its potential for future development. Thus, some topics — scribal practices, Scripture and its transmission, the nature of the rule texts — have necessarily received attention from multiple authors, while other topics — the calendar texts, Josephus's treatment of fate and free will — have received the more focused attention of individual contributors.

There are probably as many definitions of "method" or "methodology" as there are scholars with methodological concerns. My own understanding of method includes attention to particular approaches to scholarship and an awareness of the academic tasks that they entail. Attention to method leads us to the most basic epistemological questions, beginning with our understanding of the evidence. Different fields (or subfields) will have different understandings of what counts as legitimate evidence, how that evidence can be linked together (including what interpretive leaps are, or are not, permissible), and what sort of finished picture the evidence can be made to support. To say that conclusions vary when we move from one approach to another implies not only that different approaches may yield different results but that they may reach entirely different kinds of results, and that they may disagree on the degree of certainty that is desirable or, indeed, possible with respect to any given conclusion.

In the process of describing their chosen methods, the authors of these chapters have also worked at the meta-level, by thinking in explicitly methodological ways. Methodology, the analysis or study of a given approach within a discipline, provides a kind of contextualizing discourse within which an actual method can be understood. The point of methodology is not only to understand the pragmatics of a method or approach, but more fully to make sense of its underlying logics, to identify (and query) its assumptions, and to push for a better understanding of its limitations, biases, and potential contributions to the field. As such, thinking methodologically gives us the opportunity to foreground the process of our work, rather than focusing primarily on its outcome. One consequence of this approach is that it provides a better sense of what we are arguing and why. A perhaps even more significant consequence is that we are better able to communicate that sense, and to understand the arguments of other people, whose assumptions, definitions, and logics may be different from our own.

At least in the contemporary study of religion, "methods" tend to go hand-in-hand with "theories," and it makes sense in a methodological project to think of "methods and theories" together. But this latter term is somewhat ambiguous and deserves attention of its own. A theory, of course, is a particular argument or claim with regard to the subject in question (the Essene Hypothesis, for example, offers a theory of the origins and identity of the community associated with the scrolls). Scientists use the term theory in a different way, to refer to a basic principle or premise that can be used to predict future outcomes. More relevant for our own discussion is a notion of theory as the conceptual underpinning for larger scholarly claims. In this sense, the theory offers the conceptual framing, and the method is the academic practice that takes place in light of it. Theory can also be shorthand for "critical theory," the literary and cultural critiques that form the basis for contemporary cultural studies.

To speak of "methods and theories" in the study of the Dead Sea Scrolls, consequently, is once again to identify a visibly intersectional practice, potentially incorporating everything from the most material carbon 14 analysis of a leather manuscript to the most "high theory" of cultural critiques of the definitions of "history." Not every approach will be mutually compatible with every other, but precisely in the lines of tension between approaches we may find opportunities for new views on familiar topics, as well as a provocation to reconsider our starting assumptions. At stake here is the opportunity to rethink the familiar image from the Damascus Document, in which the leader of the covenant community is imagined as an interpreter of Torah, who "takes out a tool for his work" ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]). In place of one authoritative approach or strategy, a single "tool for our work," this volume offers a variety, some overlapping, and some that stand alone.

The chapters in this volume are the products of a process that has been unusually collaborative, thanks to the enthusiasm and engagement of all those involved. Participants shared drafts with one another, consulted by telephone and email, and met in person (in ways formal and informal) at two successive Annual Meetings of the Society of Biblical Literature. Some of this collaboration is visible in the footnotes of the chapters that follow, but even more of it is present in the basic fabric of the work. As such, these chapters do indeed reflect a collective development of technical tools and collective explorations into their potentialities.

Both within and outside the field of Qumran scholarship, the study of the scrolls is sometimes treated as a rather specialized closed shop. By encouraging interdisciplinary and self-consciously methodological discussions, this volume intends to open that shop and invite new conversations across lines of interest, discipline, and scholarly subfield.

The volume opens with a methodological reflection by Sarianna Metso. Her primary question is one that lies at the starting point of any methodological study: how does new evidence force us to reconsider both our picture of a field and our approach to the study of it? In her exploration of the significance of the scrolls for our study of ancient Judaism, Metso considers three examples that will prove relevant throughout the volume: the concept of biblical texts, the formation of halakhah, again in conceptual terms, and the problem of historical reconstruction on the basis of the evidence of the scrolls.

The next three chapters focus particularly on the material evidence of the manuscripts of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Eibert Tigchelaar begins with the question of how scholars understand the concept of "manuscript" and how they go about grouping fragments and assigning them to their larger manuscript contexts. He discusses the process both in theory and through a single example, that of 4Q184, The Wiles of the Wicked Woman. His assessment of the material evidence and the literary content of the fragments highlights the details of the process, points out a few notable pitfalls, and ultimately provides us with a new interpretation of this significant text.

Martin G. Abegg, Jr., follows with a chapter on Hebrew paleography, orthography, morphology, phonology, and syntax — the basic building-blocks that are necessary for understanding the process of reading the Hebrew of the scrolls. What he describes as a "primer on linguistic analysis" is in fact an explanation not only of the highly technical elements that make up philological study but also of their implications for our understanding of the development of the Hebrew language. The subject of "scribal practice" plays a central role in Abegg's discussions of both biblical and nonbiblical Dead Sea Scrolls, as it will in several of the other chapters that follow.

Bruce Zuckerman completes this cluster of chapters, with a discussion of the "high-tech" options for visual reproduction and manipulation of scrolls fragments. While providing an update of his earlier work on the subject, Zuckerman also deals extensively with the methodological implications of new technology for scrolls preservation and future research. Alternating closely-focused examples with programmatic discussions, he provides both pixel-by-pixel analysis and also a most necessary assessment of the current state of the field.

The three chapters that follow form another cluster, in perhaps unexpected ways. These begin with Jodi Magness's discussion of the archaeology of Qumran, which provides a bridge from material analysis to some rather more theoretical questions of social and historical reconstruction. Magness paints a clear and striking picture of how archaeology is done, from the digging of trenches to the academic "bequeathing" of archaeological finds. Her discussion of theories of archaeology, the practical evidence from Qumran, and the present-day state of the field offers readers insights into what is perhaps the most highly contested aspect of Dead Sea Scrolls studies today. In the process she argues for a particular interpretation of the site of Qumran, one enmeshed with an understanding of the community associated with the site and the purity needs of that community.

Hayim Lapin's discussion of social history provides a nice foil to Jodi Magness's chapter, and indeed the two are in conversation on a number of key points. Lapin addresses not merely the historical claims that can be made in light of the Qumran scrolls, but rather the question of what a social historian would do with the evidence of the scrolls and the site of Qumran. By shifting focus to such material realia as the architectural fragments and coin evidence from the site, the material costs implicit in scrolls production, and the geographic origins of clay jars found at the site and in the scrolls caves, Lapin pushes for a more concrete reading of the historical picture of the scrolls sectarians, and a more radical one as well.

In his own contribution to the reframing of history in the scrolls, James R. Davila introduces the concept of counterfactual history. Long a staple of fantasy and science fiction, and more recently a significant element in contemporary economic theory, counterfactual or alternate history reconsiders our understanding of past events by imagining an alternate framing in which entirely different events took place. Davila's own experiment in this field is to imagine the transmission of a manuscript of the Hodayot, the Qumran Thanksgiving Hymns, through a sequence of translations into first Greek, and then Syriac. He then asks how a modern scholar would interpret the resulting manuscript evidence. His reading both recontextualizes our understanding of the scrolls and serves to underscore some of the problems implicit in contemporary study of Jewish and Christian Pseudepigrapha.

The next cluster of chapters turns again to a textual analysis of the scrolls. Eugene Ulrich explores the methodological issues implicit in modern treatments of ancient Scripture, including modern biases with regard to canon and textual forms. Ulrich begins by defining the key terms of authoritative literature and Scripture, before turning to a discussion of the canonical process. He then addresses some of the key theoretical issues at stake in our treatment of ancient evidence for Scripture, including the problems associated with distinguishing between biblical and "parabiblical" texts, classifying Qumran texts in terms of particular text forms, and otherwise making claims about ancient scriptural traditions in light of modern assumptions.

Charlotte Hempel follows with a chapter on source and redaction criticism in the scrolls. Using biblical studies as a foil, Hempel argues for an approach to the scrolls that acknowledges their ongoing development and recognizes the possibility that some texts were never present in fixed "final" forms. With attention to recent work by Emanuel Tov on scribal practice and George Brooke on the need to break down the divide between source and textual criticism, Hempel examines the Qumran rule texts and finds in them significant evidence for ongoing growth and textual development. Her readings push us to rethink the relationships between these central sectarian texts and, even more so, the dynamics that underlay their production and use.

Steve Delamarter offers another perspective on Qumran scribal practice, this time from an explicitly external and experimental angle. Working comparatively, in light of sociological theory and examples from modern Ethiopian scribal traditions, Delamarter formulates a model of scribal practice as the privilege of priestly "deep insiders" within a religious community. His exploration of the visual cues and "paratextual" aspects of manuscripts leads him to argue that distinct scribal practices are closely associated with particular communities, and that the presence of widely divergent manuscripts most likely indicates a diversity of source communities. His treatment of the Paleo-Hebrew scriptural manuscripts in light of these sociological arguments allows him to argue for a specific social context for the origin of these texts.


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Table of Contents


Introduction: Tools for Our Work....................1
When the Evidence Does Not Fit: Method, Theory, and the Dead Sea Scrolls Sarianna Metso....................11
Constructing, Deconstructing and Reconstructing Fragmentary Manuscripts: Illustrated by a Study of 4Q184 (4QWiles of the Wicked Woman) Eibert Tigchelaar....................26
The Linguistic Analysis of the Dead Sea Scrolls: More Than (Initially) Meets the Eye Martin G. Abegg, Jr....................48
The Dynamics of Change in the Computer Imaging of the Dead Sea Scrolls and Other Ancient Inscriptions Bruce Zuckerman....................69
Methods and Theories in the Archaeology of Qumran Jodi Magness....................89
Dead Sea Scrolls and the Historiography of Ancient Judaism Hayim Lapin....................108
Counterfactual History and the Dead Sea Scrolls James R. Davila....................128
Methodological Reflections on Determining Scriptural Status in First Century Judaism Eugene Ulrich....................145
Sources and Redaction in the Dead Sea Scrolls: The Growth of Ancient Texts Charlotte Hempel....................162
Sociological Models for Understanding the Scribal Practices in the Biblical Dead Sea Scrolls Steve Delamarter....................182
Rhetorical Criticism and the Dead Sea Scrolls Carol A. Newsom....................198
Of Calendars, Community Rules, and Common Knowledge: Understanding 4QSe-4QOtot, with Help from Ritual Studies Robert Kugler....................215
Women and Men in the Rule of the Congregation: A Feminist Critical Assessment Maxine L. Grossman....................229
Social-Scientific Approaches to the Dead Sea Scrolls Jutta Jokiranta....................246
The Dead Sea Scrolls, the Essenes, and the Study of Religious Belief: Determinism and Freedom of Choice Jonathan Klawans....................264
Index of Subjects....................307
Index of Ancient Texts and Manuscripts....................311

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