Tag Archives: Dead Sea Scrolls

12th Dead Sea Scrolls Cave found, but the scrolls are gone

Early this morning, February 8, 2017, I received a press release from Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

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Hebrew University archaeologist Dr. Oren Gutfeld: “This is one of the most exciting archaeological discoveries, and the most important in the last 60 years, in the caves of Qumran.”

Excavations in a cave on the cliffs west of Qumran, near the northwestern shore of the Dead Sea, prove that Dead Sea scrolls from the Second Temple period were hidden in the cave, and were looted by Bedouins in the middle of the last century. With the discovery of this cave, scholars now suggest that it should be numbered as Cave 12.

Fault cliff and entrance to Cave 12 (on left). Photos: Casey L. Olson & Oren Gutfeld.

Fault cliff and entrance to Cave 12 (on left). Photos: Casey L. Olson & Oren Gutfeld.

The surprising discovery, representing a milestone in Dead Sea Scroll research, was made by Dr. Oren Gutfeld and Ahiad Ovadia from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Institute of Archaeology, with the help of Dr. Randall Price and students from Liberty University in Virginia USA.

The excavators are the first in over 60 years to discover a new scroll cave and to properly excavate it.

The excavation was supported by the Civil Administration of Judea and Samaria, by the Israel Nature and Parks Authority, and the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), and is a part of the new “Operation Scroll” launched at the IAA by its Director-General, Mr. Israel Hasson, to undertake systematic surveys and to excavate the caves in the Judean Desert.

Fragments of jars that contained scrolls. Photos: Casey L. Olson & Oren Gutfeld.

Fragments of jars that contained scrolls. Photos: Casey L. Olson & Oren Gutfeld.

Excavation of the cave revealed that at one time it contained Dead Sea scrolls. Numerous storage jars and lids from the Second Temple period were found hidden in niches along the walls of the cave and deep inside a long tunnel at its rear. The jars were all broken and their contents removed, and the discovery towards the end of the excavation of a pair of iron pickaxe heads from the 1950s (stored within the tunnel for later use) proves the cave was looted.

Until now, it was believed that only 11 caves had contained scrolls. With the discovery of this cave, scholars have now suggested that it would be numbered as Cave 12. Like Cave 8, in which scroll jars but no scrolls were found, this cave will receive the designation Q12 (the Q=Qumran standing in front of the number to indicate no scrolls were found).

“This exciting excavation is the closest we’ve come to discovering new Dead Sea scrolls in 60 years. Until now, it was accepted that Dead Sea scrolls were found only in 11 caves at Qumran, but now there is no doubt that this is the 12th cave,” said Dr. Oren Gutfeld, an archaeologist at the Hebrew University’s Institute of Archaeology and director of the excavation. “Although at the end of the day no scroll was found, and instead we ‘only’ found a piece of parchment rolled up in a jug that was being processed for writing, the findings indicate beyond any doubt that the cave contained scrolls that were stolen. The findings include the jars in which the scrolls and their covering were hidden, a leather strap for binding the scroll, a cloth that wrapped the scrolls, tendons and pieces of skin connecting fragments, and more.”

Remnant of scroll found in Cave 12. Photo: Casey L. Olson & Oren Gutfeld.

Remnant of scroll found in Cave 12. Photo: Casey L. Olson & Oren Gutfeld.

The finds from the excavation include not only the storage jars, which held the scrolls, but also fragments of scroll wrappings, a string that tied the scrolls, and a piece of worked leather that was a part of a scroll. The finding of pottery and of numerous flint blades, arrowheads, and a decorated stamp seal made of carnelian, a semi-precious stone, also revealed that this cave was used in the Chalcolithic and the Neolithic periods.

Neolithic flint tools found in the cave. Photos: Casey L. Olson and Oren Gutfeld.

Neolithic flint tools found in the cave. Photos: Casey L. Olson and Oren Gutfeld.

This first excavation to take place in the northern part of the Judean Desert as part of “Operation Scroll” will open the door to further understanding the function of the caves with respect to the scrolls, with the potential of finding new scroll material. The material, when published, will provide important new evidence for scholars of the archaeology of Qumran and the Dead Sea caves.

“The important discovery of another scroll cave attests to the fact that a lot of work remains to be done in the Judean Desert and finds of huge importance are still waiting to be discovered,” said Israel Hasson, Director-General of the Israel Antiquities Authority. “We are in a race against time as antiquities thieves steal heritage assets worldwide for financial gain. The State of Israel needs to mobilize and allocate the necessary resources in order to launch a historic operation, together with the public, to carry out a systematic excavation of all the caves of the Judean Desert.”

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“You could feel the wheels turning”

Obituaries for Frank Moore Cross (1921–2012) are beginning to appear in various sources. William Yardley writes in The New York Times about Cross:

Dr. Cross studied culture, religion and politics of the period in which the Hebrew Bible, or Old Testament, was written and revised, and he traced the ways different nations and cultures had translated its early texts. He also traced the evolution of ancient script and developed expertise in dating documents by the slightest shifts in writing style.

“That we know that a particular scroll comes from 100 B.C. and not 50 A.D. is almost entirely due to the study of the scripts and their development that he worked out,” Mr. Machinist said. “That may seem like a trivial point, but if you don’t have a sense of when these texts are dated, you have no sense of their historical importance.”

Once, several colleagues said, after carbon dating confirmed dates that he had established through script analysis, Dr. Cross joked that he was happy to hear that his script studies had validated the practice of carbon dating.

The article mentions the study habits of Dr. Cross.

Dr. Cross often sequestered himself in his study at home until late into the night.

“He was very intense, and we would just kind of tiptoe by the study,” Ms. Gindele [one of his daughters] recalled. “My mother liked to say you could feel the wheels turning and not to bother him.”

The full article may be read here.

Hershel Shanks, editor of Biblical Archaeology Review, writes here about the life and influence of Cross under the title, “The End of an Era.”

Jim Davila, who wrote a dissertation under Cross, offers some interesting reminiscences here.

HT: Jack Sasson and Joseph Lauer

Dead Sea Scrolls exhibition in Times Square, New York

Are you traveling to New York in the next few months? The Dead Sea Scrolls: Life and Faith in Biblical Times exhibition at the Discovery Times Square building in New York City is worth a visit.

Gordon Franz, a Bible teacher and archaeologist, has written about the exhibition on his Life and Land blog here. Gordon is known to the regular readers of this blog. We have called attention to several of his articles, especially those about “cracked pot archaeology.”

In addition to giving the details about the exhibition and how to get a $5 discount on your ticket, Franz tells you how to access his 39-page guide which he has written specifically from a Christian perspective. Actually, it should be helpful for any serious student of the Bible.

War Scroll displayed at the Discovery Times Square in New York City.

War Scroll displayed at the Discovery Times Square in New York City.

This exhibition is much more than a few fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Artifacts, ossuaries, pottery, lamps, seals, and a stone from the wall build around the Temple Mount are included among the 500 items on display. The exhibition is on loan from the Israel Antiquities Authority. The exhibition runs until April 15, 2012. After that it moves to Philadelphia’s Franklin Institute for a few months beginning in May.

Dead Sea Scrolls - Life and Faith in Biblical Times display

Dead Sea Scrolls - Life and Faith in Biblical Times display.

If you have the opportunity to visit this exhibition, you should read Gordon’s guide written from a Christian perspective. His guide will be helpful to anyone interested in Bible life and times, even if you don’t get to visit the exhibition. The link to the guide is located at his Life and Land website here.

Thanks to Gordon Franz for giving me a heads-up on his guide.

New insights into the clothing of the Qumran inhabitants

The recent edition of Dead Sea Discoveries has an article by Orit Shamir and Naama Sukenik on “Qumran Textiles and the Garments of Qumran’s Inhabitants.” The article costs $35 from Brill. To order click here. Here is the abstract.

Among the Qumran textiles that were kept at the Rockefeller Museum was a group of textiles that were unusual for Qumran. Most of them were made of wool, and some were dyed or decorated. Their marking QCC—Qumran Christmas Cave indicates their origin. In 2007 the cave was investigated by Porat, Eshel, and Frumkin. The cave is located in the bottom section of Kidron valley and doesn’t belong to Qumran caves. It can now be determined that all of the textiles from Qumran are made solely of linen. They were free of any colored decoration, except for scroll wrappers that decorated in blue. This, and the simplicity and whiteness of the textiles from Qumran, is compatible with the literary sources. It appears that the people of Qumran wished to differentiate themselves from the rest of the population also on the basis of their style of garments.

A popular article based on the technical paper appears in LiveScience here. Some speculation about the writers of the scrolls is based on the cloths found with the scrolls. Look also for an Image Album of 8 captioned photos including the textiles from Qumran and the Christmas Cave.

Most of the cloth wrappings found at Qumran were white and made of linen. The wrappings found at Christmas Cave were colorful and made of wool. The Mosaic law was clear about the clothing to be worn by the Israelites.

Do not wear clothes made of both wool and linen. (Deuteronomy 22:11 CSB)

Jodi Magness cites the War Scroll to illustrate that the “Qumran sectarian clothing must be made entirely of linen” (Stone and Dung, Oil and Spit, 116).

Most Bible students probably think of the Kidron valley running north to south between Jerusalem and the Mount of Olives. That is correct, except that the brook joins with the Hinnom valley and continues east to the Dead Sea.

The photo below was made about 4.25 miles south of Qumran along the Dead Sea Road (Hwy. 90) as it crosses the brook Kidron (Qidron). The Christmas Cave mentioned in the article is to the west (left) of the highway as the brook comes down from Jerusalem. (Click on the photo for a larger image.)

Location of the Brook Kidron on Dead Sea Road (view north). Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Crossing Brook Kidron on Dead Sea Road (view northeast). Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

When David fled from Jerusalem at the time of Absalom’s rebellion, he crossed the Kidron “toward the way of the wilderness.”

Everyone in the countryside was weeping loudly while all the people were marching past. As the king was crossing the Kidron Valley, all the people were marching past on the road that leads to the desert. (2 Samuel 15:23 CSB)

HT: Joseph I. Lauer

Dead Sea Scrolls: the French connection

Bloomberg reports on the exhibition of the Dead Sea Scrolls at the National Library (Bibliothèque nationale de France) in Paris with a discussion of the French connection and the problems posed by the scrolls. Jorg von Uthmann says,

The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1947 was, along with the opening of Tutankhamun’s tomb in 1922, the greatest archaeological sensation of the 20th century. An exhibition at Paris’s National Library puts the scrolls in their historical and theological context and questions the mainstream hypothesis about their origin.

It’s the first show of this kind in France. That’s all the more amazing as French scholars were deeply involved in the deciphering of the scrolls and the tens of thousands of fragments on papyrus or parchment.

Most of the work was done at the Ecole Biblique et Archeologique in Jerusalem under the direction of the Dominican archaeologist Father Roland de Vaux.

To fund excavations at Khirbet Qumran on the western shore of the Dead Sea, De Vaux sold, in 1953, 377 fragments to the French government. Presented in airtight cases, they occupy the center of the theatrically staged show.

The complete article may be read here. The link to the National Library in Paris is here. The Bloomberg article includes three nice photos, including this one of a facsimile of the Isaiah scroll.

Facsimile of the Dead Sea Isaiah. National Libary via Bloomberg.com.

Facsimile of the Dead Sea Isaiah. National Library via Bloomberg.com.

About two weeks ago I was at Qumran and tried my eye and hand at making a panorama of the area immediately to the west of Qumran. In this photo, made of three images, you can see the Dead Sea on the left. The Qumran settlement is on the plateau to the right of the sea. As you enter, or leave, the Qumran parking lot you will see a sign pointing to Kalya.  These photo were made from that road. Click the image for a slightly larger photo.

Qumran Panorama by Ferrell Jenkins.

Qumran Panorama. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

About two months ago Todd Bolen identified the caves associated with the Scrolls. For high resolution photos of this same area see here.

HT: Joseph I. Lauer

A beautiful backdrop for a photo

The city of Jerusalem provides a beautiful backdrop for a group photo. We almost always have a photo made of the group from the Mount of Olives with the city of Jerusalem in the background.

Bible Land Tour Group in Jerusalem - May 8, 2010.

Bible Land Tour Group in Jerusalem - May 8, 2010.

At this time of year there are no clouds to be seen, but the sky is clear. Click on the photo of our group of 46 travelers, plus our guide and driver, for a larger image. This will allow you to pick out any of the persons you may know. These folks are from numerous states ranging from the Northwest to Florida and Southern California to the Midwest.

We crossed out of Israel into the region controlled by the Palestinian Authority to visit Bethlehem. There we visited the Church of the Nativity and (one of) the Shepherd’s Fields. Tourists always enjoy shopping in Bethlehem. Specialties include olive wood carvings, mother of pearl, and jewelry. In the past I have enjoyed visiting a store operated by two brothers, but in the years of the Second Intifada they closed the store and moved to the USA where they had gained citizenship.

Today we visited a shop with some history — the Kando Store. One does not have to read very much about the early history of the Dead Sea Scrolls to encounter the name Kando. He was the shopkeeper who bought some of the original scrolls from the bedouin. In those years he operated a store directly across from the American Schools of Oriental Research (now the Albright Institute) in East Jerusalem (then in Jordan). I think it was 1969 (or 1970 or 1971) when Melvin Curry and I went to Kando’s antiquities shop and purchased about $1,000 worth of antiquities for Florida College. Those antiquities are now displayed in the Chatlos Library on the campus in Temple Terrace, FL.  They have been used in the Bible and Archaeology class many times. Today $1,000 would buy only about 4 good Herodian lamps, but we got a nice collection back then.

Kando was a Syrian Christian whose full name was Khalil Iskander Shahin. His name appears many times on the page describing the Dead Sea Scrolls in the Schøyen Collection. His family now operates the Kando Store in Bethlehem. All of the scrolls, and things pertaining to the scrolls, that came to the hands of Kando, have now been disposed of except for the original jar in which the Temple Scrolls was found.

I was pleased to meet Shibly, the grandson of Kando, and have my photo made with him. You can see the original jar in the case between us.

Shibly, grandson of Kando, the Temple Scroll Jar, and Ferrell Jenkins.

Shibly, grandson of Kando, the Temple Scroll Jar, and Ferrell Jenkins.

It was 1956-57 when I began reading about the Dead Sea Scrolls. Being in the Kando Store today was an added excitement to any already great day of touring.

Virtual Qumran Reconstruction

Dr. Robert R. Cargill announced here that images and a movie of Virtual Qumran are available for free download. To view the images go directly to www.VirtualQumran.com. These images will be helpful in any teaching about Qumran and the Dead Sea Scrolls. Cargill is Chief Architect and Designer of the Qumran Visualization Project.

Virtual Qumran. North East View. UCLA Qumran Visualization Project.

Virtual Qumran. North East View. UCLA Qumran Visualization Project.

Here is a photo I made at the reconstructed ruins of Qumran.

View of proposed study room at Qumran. View NE. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

View of proposed study room at Qumran. View NE. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The sign in the room reads,

The members of the Qumran Sect occupied themselves with studying the books of the Bible. Hundreds of pottery lamps were discovered in this room, validating the supposition that it was used for study during the night.

I am not sure this is a valid conclusion.

Qumran Potters Quarter. UCLA Qumran Visualization Project.

Qumran Potters Quarter. UCLA Qumran Visualization Project.

Check our earlier discussion of the Dead Sea Sect here.

Was John the Baptist a member of the Dead Sea Sect?

Identifying the Dead Sea Sect. We are speaking of the Jewish group responsible for preparing and hiding the scrolls that were discovered in and around Qumran on the shores of the Dead Sea beginning in 1947. The sect living here was likely the Essenes. I am aware of the numerous controversies about Qumran, but have not been impressed by the alternative views.

Was John the Baptist an Essene? It has been popular among some scholars to claim that John was an Essene. A suggestion is made that John’s parents died while he was yet a child. The Essenes were known to have cared for orphan children. So, they cared for John. Some comparisons may be drawn concerning John and the Essenes.

  1. John was in the deserts (Luke 1:80). The Essenes were in the desert.
  2. Both John and the Essenes used Isaiah 40:3 to describe themselves as the voice in the wilderness.
  3. The baptism (or washing) practiced by John and the Essenes required a change of heart.

There are significant differences between John and the Essenes.

  1. The Essenes hid themselves away from society in the wilderness. John was a very public figure.
  2. John had a much more strict diet (Luke 7:33) than did the Essenes.
  3. John preached Jesus as the Messiah. The Essenes did not recognize Jesus as Messiah, but they thought that the Teacher of Righteousness would arise from within their group.
  4. There was a strong organization among the Essenes that is missing among John’s disciples.

In the early days of my study about the Dead Sea Scrolls I found the book by F. F. Bruce, Second Thoughts on the Dead Sea Scrolls. I am pleased to inform you that you may download this book free of charge here.

Here is a photo of Cave 4 at Qumran. Many of the important scrolls were located here.

Cave 4 at Qumran. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Cave 4 at Qumran. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

My grandparents went to Israel …

… and all I got was this little Dead Sea Scroll jar. (Of course, anyone acquainted with his grandmother knows differently!) After Grandmother read him the Mystery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, he promptly hid his jar in a secret place [behind the easy chair].

What a wonderful thing to learn about at his age. The Dead Sea Scrolls, discovered in 1947, are of great value to biblical studies.

Below is a photograph of Cave 4 at Qumran, on the shores of the Dead Sea. Numerous fragments of the first five books of the Old Testament (Torah) were found in this cave. Qumran was in Jordan at the time of the initial discovery of the scrolls. Some of the scrolls are now displayed at the Shrine of the Book in Jerusalem.