Sidnie White Crawford is Willa Cather Professor of Hebrew Bible and Second Temple Judaism emerita at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and a visiting scholar at Princeton Theological Seminary. She is an internationally recognized scholar in the areas of the Dead Sea Scrolls and the textual criticism of the Hebrew Bible. Her latest book is Scribes and Scrolls at Qumran (Eerdmans, 2019), the winner of the Frank Moore Cross Award from the American Society of Overseas Research for 2019.
Bible & Archaeology Fest XXVI, November 17 – 19, 2023
The Library at the Qumran Caves
The 10 Qumran caves in which inscribed material was found constitute a coherent collection of texts, in other words, a library. What was in the Qumran library, and what can we learn about the nature of the community who lived there through the types of texts they collected, copied, and conserved?
BAS Spring Seminar 2022 at Montreat, May 22 – 28, 2022
Beyond the Bible: Writing, Texts, and Collections from the Biblical World
1. Libraries Yesterday and Today
Today we think of libraries as public information hubs, repositories where written and electronic records of all types are kept, with access generally open to all. But what was a “library” in the ancient world? Who owned them, and who had access to them? What were their purposes?
2. Ashurbanipal’s Library
The most famous library in the ancient Near East was the library of the Assyrian king Ashurbanipal. This lecture will tell the story of its discovery and discuss its contents and purpose.
3. From Socrates to Alexandria: Libraries in the Greco-Roman World
Libraries took many forms in ancient Greece and Rome, from the private library belonging to the Greek philosopher Socrates to the famous Ptolemaic library in Alexandria, which collected manuscripts from all over the world. This lecture will survey these libraries, with a particular focus on Alexandria.
4. The Education of Scribes in the Ancient Near East
Libraries were the result of the work of scribes, who were the professional writers of the ancient world. This lecture will examine the elements of a scribe’s education as well as the role of scribes in the ancient world.
5. Ezra: Scribe and Torah Sage
Ezra, the eponymous hero of the Book of Ezra, is described as “a scribe skilled in the law of Moses.” Who was Ezra and what was his role in post-Exilic Judah? And what is meant by “the law of Moses”?
6. Mount Gerizim, the Samaritan Temple, and the Samaritan Pentateuch
Mt. Gerizim was the center of Samaritan culture in Palestine in the Second Temple period. This lecture will explore the archaeology of the Samaritan temple on Mt. Gerizim and its inscriptions. It will also discuss the Samaritan Pentateuch and its importance in understanding the history of the Pentateuch.
7. Qumran and Its Archaeology: What Was There?
We will explore the archaeology of Qumran and what it tells us about the people who lived there and their daily lives.
8. The Qumran Collection as a Scribal Library
The Qumran scrolls, found in 11 caves in the vicinity of Khirbet Qumran, form a distinct literary collection. The lecture will argue that this collection was a scribal library with a prominent sectarian component.
9. Qumran as an Essene Scribal Center
If the Qumran scrolls collection was a scribal library, to whom did it belong and who placed it in the caves where it was found? This lecture will suggest that the people who lived at Qumran and owned its scrolls were Essenes, a Second Temple Jewish movement described by Josephus, Philo, and Pliny the Elder.
10. Scribes and the Hebrew Bible
The Hebrew Bible as we now have it is a product of the work of scribes. Scribes composed, copied, and revised all of the book now part of the Jewish canon of scripture. This lecture will present examples of this scribal activity as found in the Qumran scrolls, with a special focus on the Pentateuch.
Bible & Archaeology Fest XXIII, October 24 – 25, 2020
Caves and Scrolls: The Story of Qumran
The scrolls found in the eleven caves in the vicinity of Khirbet Qumran are both ancient religious texts and archaeological artifacts. Taking into consideration both archaeological and textual evidence, this lecture will give the history of the settlement at Khirbet Qumran, discussing the Qumran caves, the buildings, and the scrolls. We will ask the question: Who owned the scrolls, and why were they put into caves? Join us for an exciting journey into the world of Qumran!
Bible & Archaeology Fest XXI, November 16 – 18, 2018
Scribes and Scrolls at Qumran: A New Synthesis
Since the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in the 1940s and 1950s and the excavation of the site of Qumran in the 1950s scholars have tried to put together the puzzle of the relationship of the scrolls found in the caves to the site of Qumran. Dr. Crawford’s presentation will combine the textual evidence of the scrolls and the archaeology of the caves and the site into a new synthesis, arguing that Qumran was founded by the Essenes to function as their main library and scroll collection location. Qumran was inhabited by scribes and their support staff from the early first century BCE until the site’s destruction by the Romans in 68 CE. The scrolls that were at first stored and finally abandoned in the nearby caves constitute the remnants of an Essene scribal library.
Bible & Archaeology Fest XIV, November 18 – 20, 2011
Plenary Session The Fluidity of Scripture and the Process of Canon in Second Temple Judaism
The Dead Sea Scrolls have revolutionized our understanding of how the Bible came to be. Although previous generations of scholars were able to draw a sharp distinction between “Biblical” and “non-Biblical” Jewish writings—and attempt to recover the “original text” of scripture—we now know that to be impossible. This presentation will examine the new evidence from the Scrolls for how the text of the Biblical books reached its present form, using examples from the Dead Sea Scrolls. It will also guide us through the process of the canonization of Jewish scripture, explaining how the books that make up the Jewish Bible (the Christian Old Testament) were chosen.
Bible & Archaeology Fest XIII, November 19 – 21, 2010
Scripture and Canon in Second Temple Judaism: The Evidence of the Dead Sea Scrolls
The Dead Sea Scrolls have presented scholars with a wealth of information regarding the Jewish Bible (Christian Old Testament), its text, and the process of its canonization. This presentation will discuss the shape of the Scriptures in the Second Temple period and the various scribal approaches to the text of Scriptures, as well as the historical processes that led to the canonization of the books we now call “the Bible.” In addition, we will discuss the evidence in the Qumran Biblical scrolls for relations among various Jewish or related groups in the Second Temple period, such as the Essenes and its subset at Qumran, the priests and scribes controlling the Temple and the Samaritans.