Ben-Zion Wacholder (1924–2011)

Ben-Zion Wacholder

Ben-Zion Wacholder, professor emeritus of Talmud and Rabbinics at Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati who played a critical role in making the Dead Sea Scrolls accessible to everyone, passed away in March at age 86.

In 1989, Wacholder, along with his then-student Martin Abegg (now professor of religious studies at Trinity Western University in British Columbia), obtained a secret concordance of the unpublished Dead Sea Scrolls. The concordance consisted of photocopies of index cards on which every word in the unpublished scrolls was listed, including its location and the few words surrounding it. Using a computer (dubbed by the press “Rabbi Computer”), the two were able to use the concordance to reconstruct the unpublished texts of more than 500 scrolls. The result was Abegg and Wacholder’s A Preliminary Edition of the Unpublished Dead Sea Scrolls in four fascicle volumes, the first of which was published by the Biblical Archaeology Society on September 4, 1991.*

A specialist in the origins and development of Jewish law, Wacholder was well known for his studies of the Dead Sea Scrolls, especially the scrolls’ sectarian writings and commentaries. In 1999, he wrote an article for Bible Review arguing that the Teacher of Righteousness and the Wicked Priest, two of the most important but enigmatic characters mentioned in the scrolls, were not actual historical figures, as many have claimed, but rather eschatological figures who were expected to appear at the End of Days.**


* “BAS Publishes Dead Sea Scrolls,” BAR, September/October 1991.

** Ben-Zion Wacholder, “Who Is the Teacher of Righteousness?” Bible Review, April 1999.

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