Sidnie White Crawford discusses handwriting discoveries by Ada Yardeni
Ada Yardeni identified the handwriting of a single ancient scribe on Qumran scrolls found in six different caves. According to Sidnie White Crawford, the discovery of a single scribal hand in multiple caves suggests that “the scribe was a member of that sect who also copied Jewish scriptural scrolls, countering the idea that the Qumran collection was a non-sectarian ‘general Jewish’ library.” Moreover, she argues that a single scribe’s penmanship in multiple caves counters the idea that each cave reflects a separate collection belonging to a different Jewish group.
Ada Yardeni noticed that the ancient scribe who penned these Qumran scrolls also penned an apocryphon woven on the Book of Joshua that was discovered at Masada. The text bears resemblance to certain Qumran scrolls, and even before Yardeni’s handwriting analysis, scholars suggested that the manuscript may have been the product of a Qumran scribe.
Sidnie White Crawford establishes a second scribal connection between Masada and the Qumran scrolls. Nine copies of the sectarian Songs of the Sabbath Sacrifice manuscript were discovered in two caves at Qumran, and another was discovered at Masada in the same locus as the Joshua Apocryphon. Sidnie White Crawford posits that “it seems likely that some manuscripts from Qumran were carried south by refugees fleeing the Roman destruction of Qumran in 68 C.E. But that’s only a best guess.”
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Cheek-by-jowl with Herod the Great’s handsomely decorated palace complex at Masada are the tattered remains of the Jewish defenders who, Josephus tells us, committed suicide rather than surrender to the Roman army. Did Masada excavator Yigael Yadin find the lots by which the Jewish rebels decided who would be the last to live? Back to Masada, edited by Hebrew University professor Amnon Ben-Tor, brings the siege of Masada vividly to life.
This Bible History Daily feature was originally published in November 2012.
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