Palaeographical Analysis of 1QS+ab 5:1 (4Q256 3:1 [olim frag. 4] and 4Q258 1:1): A Blurb about my PhD Thesis

Anyone in the field of Qumran studies will know the scroll of 1QS. For those who are not familiar with all the cryptic, 1Q, 4Q, 5Q, etc., references, 1QS is a shorthand way (or a siglum) to say that the manuscript was discovered in Cave 1 at Qumran, known as Serekh ha-Yaḥad. This is transcription of a Hebrew phrase, which most have translated to mean, The Rule of the Community.

1QS was among the first scrolls discovered in the Judean Desert in the late 1940s. It is a very interesting scroll that has continued to bemuse the scholarly world. In my dissertation, I take up a fresh analysis of this scroll, offer many new interpretations about the scroll’s contents and as well as argue for a new compositional development of the tradition. In this post, I would like to explore one interesting, yet overlooked issue in line 1 of column 5 in 1QS+ab. But, first I need to explain why 1QS+ab and not simply 1QS.

One significant development for which I argue is that the scroll should be redescribed vis-à-vis a material and textual analysis. Millar Burrows was first to publish eleven columns of text under the title, The Sectarian Manual of Discipline.1 Soon after his initial publication, the title was changed to The Rule of the Community. Scholars would acquire two separate lots of fragments that were proposed to come from the same scroll, that is, 1QS. Some scholars were unconvinced about the material relationships and argued there was no material or conceptual relationship, whereas others opined that the fragmentary lots were merely rolled up together with 1QS. The fragmentary lots, therefore, took the name 1QSa and 1QSb.

Thus, we have now three discrete entities with the lingering question of how these relate materially. The three material entities are:

  • 1QS which consists of five parchment sheets and eleven columns of text
  • 1QSa which consists of one sheet and two columns of text
  • 1QSb which consists of at least two parchment sheets and six columns of text

In my thesis, I argue that these were in fact one scroll in material and conceptual form. I have therefore given the scroll a new siglum or shorthand reference of 1QS+ab. In some 80 pages, I discuss how scholars have, for whatever reasons, not factored material features into their reasoning about textuality, and as an alternative I provide an argument from the perspective of scribal and material culture.

In fact, I presented my material reconstruction of the scroll at the International Society of Biblical Literature Meeting, in Helsinki. In my paper titled, “What is the Text, Work, and Composition of Serekh ha-Yaḥad?” I presented a complete reconstruction of 1QS+ab, digitally reconstructed for the first time.

As the title of the above paper suggests, I am addressing both material issues and literary issues. In particular, how modern notions of textuality—a work—are being used to describe ancient scribal practices. In fact, I argue against the idea of “work” based on the issues of compositional development, which I take to mean how scribes would continue to participate in the textual contours and dynamics of written compendia. There are several lines of argument I use to demonstrate my claims, and one involves the interesting issue of palaeography.

In column 5, the scribe makes a very interesting correction in the first line, with the first word. The line can be transcribed as: וזה הסרך לאנשי היחד המתנדבים לשוב מכול רע ולהחזיק בכול אשר צוה לרצונו להבדל מעדת …

Here is an image of the line:

1QS+ab 5:1-2

And here is a close up on the word:

1QS+ab 5:1 וזה

It looks a little strange, eh? The word is וזה, which means, “And this ….” Malachi Martin describes it as such, “וזה The first word in this line stands in a space twice as big as is necessary for it. It obviously was added later. The scribe had originally left the indentation usual for paragraphing division in the Scroll. It seems to be B’s work.”2 Martin thinks it is clear that the word was written later by a second scribe, but this creates some syntactical problems, which I won’t discuss here. Also Martin proposes a second hand, but this too can be disproven. There was one scribe who wrote the manuscript and the same scribe corrected, and even seems to have cared for, the manuscript over some time, retracing characters as the ink would fade.

What Martin was unaware of at the time were additional manuscripts that were discovered in cave 4. These manuscripts were published in 1996 by Philip Alexander and Geza Vermes and also in 1997 by Sarianna Metso; they were given the sigla 4Q255–264, or 4QSa–i respectively. Two manuscripts, 4QSb and 4QSd, read very similarly to 1QS+ab 5:1 above, albeit with some significant differences.

Consider 4Q258 (Sb), line 1 which reads, מדרש למשכיל על אנשי התורה המתנדים להשוב מכל רע ולהחזיק בכל אשר צוה …. Here is an image of the line:

4Q258 1:1

I discussed this palaeographical issue at another presentation, that I presented in Neutestamentlichen Kolloquiums, Evangelisch-Theologische Fakultät Abteilung für neutestamentliche Theologie, München, October 10, 2017. The point I raised in that paper and have maintained is that 1QS+ab 5:1 reading may have been an occasion where scribe had a slip in memory, or was unsure how to begin this section. In the 4Q258 quote above, this is the very beginning of the manuscript, whereas in 1QS+ab the tradents have added an additional four columns of material. The beginning of that material, 1QS+ab 1:1, very likely began with למשכיל. I say very likely, because the line is fragmentary, so we cannot be sure.

1QS+ab 1:1

This is interesting because one wonders whether the scribe of 1QS+ab 5:1 confused the wording from 4Q258 or 4Q256 and 1QS+ab 1:1, and began to write ול, and then caught his error and decided to change it. This accounts for the transformation of the zayin from a lamed, thus accounting for the ink traces between the zayin and heh. I have highlighted the remnants of ink to demonstrate the writing of a lamed:

1QS+ab 5:1 Scribe began to write ול

This would imply then that the scribe stopped after writing ול, realised he either did not want to begin this section this way since the scroll now starts with (possibly) למשכיל, and wrote the heh. Or perhaps, this was the first manuscript to contain the different reading, and the scribe wasn’t sure what to write. But this does not account for the trace of ink—which appears smudged perhaps by wiping once wet ink from the surface—ascending upwards from the top the heh (highlighted with red):

In some sense, we have a better understanding of what is going on here. But, we should not make too much from this one example on account of the uncertainties. With that said, this is but one example among many others where palaeography is showing more about compositional issues and the types of questions we can ask about the development of this very intriguing legal tradition, known first as a מדרש and the later as a סרך.

  1. Burrows, M., ed. The Dead Sea Scrolls of St. Mark’s Monastery. Vol. II, Fasc. 2: Plates and Transcription of the Manual of Discipline. Vol. 2. New Haven: American Schools of Oriental Research, 1951.
  2. Martin S.J., Malachi. The Scribal Character of the Dead Sea Scrolls. 2 vols. Bibliothèque Du Muséon. Louvain: Université de Louvain Institut Orientaliste, 1958.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *