The period 200 BC to 200 CE was a time of history-making changes in Jewish culture and religious and political philosophy. It also harbors the beginnings of the development of Christian philosophy, culture and beliefs. For these reasons events of that period still exerts considerable influence on large segments of Western philosophy and culture today. That is what makes it such an interesting period to study. The relative dearth of original documents from Palestine during that period is what gives the Dead Sea Scrolls, in particular, their special allure. They are also fascinating and important documents from a period that offers too few original documents to satisfy the curiosity of a growing audience of scholars and non-specialists interested in pre-Christian and pre-Rabbinic religion and religious practice of Palestine.
The Dead Sea Scrolls deserve a careful and dispassionate preservation, reconstruction and analysis. Nothing less will satisfy the demands of the diverse interests that seek to examine and understand their contents.
This Glossary includes a wide assortment of terms, references to locations, documents, and books to enable everyone interested in probing the messages and meanings of the Dead Sea Scrolls.
One clear message from the Dead Sea Scrolls is that we have not had a sufficient understanding of the diversity of the currents in religious philosophy that were influencing the daily lives of the citizenry at that time. Contemporary but distant historians writing primarily for a Roman audience had not sufficiently prepared the world’s scholars for the diversity of the ideas and beliefs described in the Dead Sea Scrolls. About one-third of the scrolls seem to have left no other trace of themselves in the historical record and except for this amazing find would still not be known to this day.
The mythic simplicity of most biblical stories has disconnected the Old and New Testaments from the historical events that were known to have taken place in Jerusalem and elsewhere in the region during that time. This makes the Bible an unreliable historical document if one is looking for the roots of Rabbinic Judaism or early Christianity in previously known histories of the period.
It remains to be seen if any of the Dead Sea Scrolls will shed new light of those historical roots. It is already certain that they shed new light on the evolution of Jewish thought and religious practices that preceded the Christian era. In that sense they already provide some insight into the turmoil the eventually produced the early Christian Church. For the same reasons, they should also provide fresh insights into the evolution of Rabbinic Judaism which emerged alongside the Christian Church over several centuries.
In order to use the Dead Sea Scrolls as fruitfully as possible it is first necessary to recognize what they are and what they are not. The shear number of separate scrolls, the diversity of their handwriting, the variety of their philosophies, the complete lack of original autographs (deeds of ownership, correspondence, first hand commentaries by the original author, etc.), and the philosophical incompatibilities among some of the manuscripts all make it seem highly unlikely that these are the exclusive works of one small group of sectarian scribes working in the desert in total isolation from the majority of Jews living in Judaea at that time. Not impossible, just unlikely.
On the other hand, there are many reasons to reasonably suppose that these are not part of the collected works of the Temple. Individual priests and citizens of Jerusalem could possibly have contributed various parts of this library. Manuscripts could have to have been removed from the city and stored in the desert prior to the sack of the city by the Roman Army in 70 CE. This presupposes that Qumran was not taken by the Roman Army until after the fall of Jerusalem, of course. Hiding scrolls in caves in the desert has a long and distinguished history. Origen puts one find (“with other Hebrew and Greek books in a jar near Jericho.”), which he personally examined, between 211 and 217 CE. Clearly, scrolls have been found in caves since at least the third century CE and others have even been discovered since the Dead Sea Scrolls were themselves first announced. There is no reason to assume that this one group of caves holds all the scrolls that were saved from the Roman army during the first Jewish revolt against Rome.
The Dead Sea Scrolls are to be seen as a subset of the collective library of Jewish religious, cultural and philosophical writings extant at the time of the First Jewish Revolt in and around Jerusalem. Only after that is finally understood will we be able to make any worthwhile progress toward sorting out what, if anything, they can tell us about the division of first century Judaism into its Christian and Rabbinic successors. That is a story that many people are waiting to hear.
This Glossary of Terms has been assembled to assist anyone who is interested, in tracing two of the Worlds most influential modern religions to their Biblical roots. Because many of the Dead Sea Scrolls, especially the so-called non-biblical manuscripts, have avoided the intermediate redactors, they are as direct a communication from the intertestamental period as we are likely to get. As such, their importance is difficult to overstate. On the other hand, it is important to consider both the words and the source before attempting to read too much into their messages. This is the point of contention that has developed over what to make of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Who wrote them, why and when are questions that need to be definitively answered before their impact can be fully gauged or appreciated.
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Aaronites, Aaronic priests – Males descended from Aaron, the brother of Moses. According to the Pentateuch, only male descendents of Aaron were entitled to the status of kehunah, i.e., members of the Jewish ritual priesthood.
Acts of the Apostles – Sometimes called the fifth Gospel. Thought to have been composed by Luke, a physician and friend of Paul (Saul of Tarsus).
Acts - ancient manuscripts, other notable Collections of Greek papyri found in Egypt over the last two centuries, over fifteen hundred Greek and Latin scrolls buried under the lava in a private villa in Herculaneum (18th century), the Coptic Gnostic manuscripts from Nag Hammadi (Chenoboskia) in upper Egypt (1945), the Aramaic records of the Judaean military colony on the island of Elephantine, also in upper Egypt, dating from the sixth and fifth centuries BCE (1906), the Cairo Genizah texts consisting of thousands of literary and documentary texts from many lands and stored in the attic of the Palestinian synagogue of Fustat (Old Cairo). Despite their intrinsic importance none of these collections has generated the level of interest created by the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls. The reason is obviously the relationship in time of these documents to the beginnings of the earliest Christian church as well as the beginnings of Rabbinic Judaism, the two major religious underpinnings of western civilization.
AD - Anno Domini, “year of our Lord”; indicates that a time division falls within the Christian era; same as CE.
Apocalyptic - Literature, and associated beliefs, revealing the future, particularly the “End of Days” as revealed in visions, dreams and interpretations; often revealed by angels. See also eschatology.
Apocrypha – Books by, primarily, Jewish authors written between 150 BCE and 100 CE, included in the Septuagint and Vulgate but excluded from Jewish and Protestant canons of the Old Testament. For Catholics the word has a much broader meaning to include all extra biblical books of unknown authorship.
Aramaic - A northwest Semitic language known since before the tenth century BCE until the rise of Islam; still used today in some places in the Near East; official language of the Persian empire; used extensively in southwest Asia and by the Jews after the Babylonian exile; the cursive script replaced the ancient paleo-Hebrew script for secular writing as well as for holy scriptures. One of the languages most widely used by the Jews at the time the scrolls were written or transcribed or translated.
Autograph - A text written by its original author in his own hand, as opposed to a copy, or transcription made later by someone else.
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c - The period of the destruction of the First Temple and exile of the Judaeans to Babylonia between 597 BCE (the fall of King Jehoiachin) and 538 BCE.
Baroque - When referring to an orthography, a revival of an outdated style. Instances of barogue orthography must be carefully distinguished from authentic old style othography, especially if one is trying to data manuscripts paleographically.
BC – Before Christ indicates that a time division that falls before the Christian era; same as BCE.
BCE - Before the Common Era; indicates that a time division falls before the Common/Christian era; same as BC.
Belial - The spirit of evil, equivalent to Satan.
Bethlehem - Reputed birth place of Jesus. Also, Home of Khalil Iskander Shahin (Kando), among others.
Boethusians – A Jewish sect that opposed the Pharisees; sometimes identifies as a group of Sadducees. A recent review holds that the Hebrew term bytwsyn, bytysyn, traditionally rendered as “Boethusians,” in reality were slightly altered forms of byt ‘ysin “House [='school or 'community'] of Essenes.”
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Cairo Genizah manuscripts – Contents of the genizah (storage area) of the Palestinian synagogue of the Jews in medieval Fustat (Old Cairo, Egypt). Includes letters, legal documents and literary texts many of which contain dates and datable historical references. See also genizah.
Canon – A collection of those biblical books accepted as holy scripture. Canonization refers to the process whereby certain books came to be regarded as authoritatively holy while others were excluded.
carbon-14 – A heavy radioactive isotope of carbon, with mass number 14, used in dating archaeological and geological materials. Very useful as a dating method though sometimes its precision and accuracy are not as well correlated as some would like to believe.
CE – Common Era; indicates that a time division falls within the Common/Christian era; same as AD.
Christianity – A religious tradition whose roots reach deeply into the Judaic traditions current in the first century BCE Depending on who one reads, it was in its infancy a mystery-school form of Judaism, a form of revolutionary Judaic nationalism, a sub-sect of the Essenes, emerged from the mainstream of Judaic thought at the time, was an off-shoot of the Zealots, was wrested from its founders by Saul of Tarsus (Paul) whose heresy of preaching to non-Jews forever separates him and it from its Judaic foundation, etc.
All of this cannot be true. In fact, none of it necessarily has to be true. It is clear, however, that it is much easier to define Christianity in terms of its current Canon, complex as that may be, than in terms of its historical roots which are vague at their best, propagandist at their worst, and clouded by the effects of time, mishap and generations of intervening redactors.
Codex (pl. codices) – A group of manuscript pages stitched together on one side to form a book; as opposed to pages sewn together on both sides to form a continuous scroll that had to be rolled up for storage and unrolled to be read. Codices were more compact and easier to read, carry and store and for these reasons largely replaced the scroll in early Christian times.
Colophon – An inscription, usually at the end of a manuscript, giving the name of the work, its author, date and place of composition, and sometimes other information.
“Consensus” – The term used by Robert Eisenman and Robert North to describe and interpret the contents and provenance of the Dead Sea Scrolls as the work of a small group of celibate, extremist, Jewish sectarians, sometimes called the Essenes but without any concrete evidence for that assignment, who lived at Qumran and copied the large library of scrolls that were found in the caves nearby. It is perhaps better to refer to this as the early working hypothesis which some, like Norman Golb, have dubbed the Qumran-Essene hypothesis or the less specific Qumran-Sectarian hypothesis. As Eisenman, Golb and others have long recognized, the overwhelming weight of all the available evidence makes this hypothesis almost totally untenable. It became an ideological agenda for those who controlled the scrolls and has effectively stiffled open and scholarly debate of the contents, meaning, origins and significance of the scrolls for almost 50 years.
At the time of the discovery of the scrolls the available scientific community able to handle the tasks of excavating the caves and the Qumran environs, conserve, translate and publish the scrolls, and interpret their larger significance was limited and, in fact, included no world recognized authorities in any requisite field; not scroll scholarship, not archaeology, not stratigraphy, not Jewish history, not ancient middle eastern languages, not even classical Roman history. Nevertheless, the local group headed by Pere de Vaux determined to keep it a local and to the extent possible a limited and united effort. That group had almost fifty years to generate their consensus while denying any else access to their cache of material.
A well organized and modern attack on the same problem, if it were to be undertaken today, would include many authorities from many disciplines from the very beginning. Instead what the world got was an amateurish and ultimately incompetent effort whose 50 year reign of non-communication is only now coming to an end with the wider dissemination of photographs of the scrolls that for so long have remained hidden.
In spite of that, it is difficult to undo or properly redo the excavations that were undertaken so long ago or even to force the wider community of scholars to rethink the widely promulgated assumptions disguised as scientific discoveries by a lazy band of third rate scholars with an agenda that they do not acknowledge to this day.
Contradictions, Jesus’ - If his message is mostly peaceful and passivist, why are there Zealots in his inner circle? Why did he overturn the table of the money-changers in the Temple? Why did he instruct his followers to arm themselves with swords before going to Gethsemane? Why did Peter lop off the ear of one of the men in the High Priests entourage? If he was as militant as some would have him, why was he so willing to ‘give unto Caesar’ what was Caesar’s (assuming he actually said that)?
crucifixion – A form of execution under Roman law reserved for revolutionary activity.
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Dating the Dead Sea Scrolls – It should always be remembered that there are at least four important dates for each scroll;
- the date the hide was taken, for parchment scrolls, or the date of harvesting, for papyrus scrolls,
- the composition date of the text,
- the transcription date of the scroll, and
- the storage date of the scroll.
The ages of the linen in which some scrolls were wrapped and the ages of the pottery jars in which some were stored have also to be determined. These can affect our understanding of the age and meaning of the scrolls.
There are other interesting items to consider. For example, it is likely though hardly certain,
- that texts were composed over years, if not decades or centuries,
- that the age of the scroll material is younger than the age of the text transcribed onto it, and
- that the age of the linen is younger than the age of the scroll material wrapped inside it.
All of these are mere likelihoods, not certainties. A common date is impossible, a narrow range of dates is unlikely. A diversity of dates is almost a certainty. Until much more is known, however, the question of dates for the scrolls will remain an area of active scholarly interest and speculation.
Questions such as the following may never be answered in a fully satisfactory manner.
How long were the hides cured and stored in the desert before text was transcribed onto them?
Is it possible that some of the parchment is actually older than the composition written on it due to long storage times.
Can the method of storage of the scrolls effect the measured values of their dates, either by contamination with organic matter of a different age, or ages, or by desiccation and loss of organic matter from the parchment due to the aridity of the environment?
How faithfully were the oldest compositions transcribed onto the parchments found in the caves at Qumran?
Dead Sea Scrolls - The first modern recognized discovery was in 1947 by Bedouin herdsmen. The reputed discoverer was a boy at the time named Muhammad ed-Dhib, or Muhammad the Wolf, a member of the Tacâmireh tribe. In another version there were three of them; Khalil Musa, Jumca Muhammad and Mohammadan ed-Dhib. He (they) claimed to be looking for a lost goat.
Most of the scrolls are of leather (parchment) and many were wrapped in linen and stored in earthenware jars with ‘bowl-like’ lids. One scroll on copper was eventually discovered. Some were written on papyrus.
The total number of scrolls collected in this initial round of discovery is uncertain. Various sources claim that from three to seven or eight complete parchment scrolls were eventually taken to a local sheik. He directed the Bedouin to a shopkeeper named Khalil Iskander Shahin (Kando) a member of the Syrian Jacobite Church. Kando contacted another Church member named George Isaiah. Kando and Isaiah then visited the original cave themselves and removed additional scrolls or fragments.
George Isaiah reported the discoveries to his ecclesiastical leader, the Archimandrite of the Syrian-Orthodox Monastery of St. Mark in Jerusalem, Mar Athanasius Yeshua Samuel, the spiritual leader of the Syrian Jacobite Church in Jerusalem. Just when this occurred is not clear, although April 1947 has been suggested.
Part of the Bedouin’s share of the Scrolls was sold to the Muslim sheik of Bethlehem. Kando purchased the remaining scrolls and in turn sold them to Mar Athanasius Yeshua Samuel for £24. This consisted of four scrolls originally thought to be five, but one of them was merely broken in half. These four scrolls consist of one twenty-four foot long copy of the book of Isaiah, the “Genesis Apocryphon’, a commentary on the “Book of Habakkuk’, and the so-called ‘Community Rule’.
Other subsequent discoveries by bedouin and others are also included under this rubric, whether on parchment, papyrus or copper. Most of the known scrolls are now housed either in the Shrine of the Book or in the Rockefeller Museum in East Jerusalem.
Rumors of an underground scroll market for private collectors cannot be discounted and it is entirely possible that the entire library from the West Bank caves, if it could be collected together, would exceed the size of the known library by a wide margin. How the privately held scrolls might be located and purchased remains an interesting dilemma for modern scholars and presumably for the ‘investors’ who originally purchased them.
Denarii - Roman Republican coins, originally cast in silver and worth 10 asses; known as a “penny” in the New Testament. The Library of Congress exhibition includes coins from the mid-first century BCE.
Desert – This always refers to the Judaean wilderness, south of Jerusalem and west of the Dead Sea. It is an arid region with some springs and a fair amount of rain in the winter.
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Ecole Biblique et Archeologique -Academic home of Pere Roland de Vaux and most of the other original members of the editorial board for the largest cache of Dead Sea Scrolls, especially those that like him were Catholic clerics. Located in East Jerusalem and under the control of Transjordan and then Jordan until the Six Day War in 1967 when Israel took control of Jerusalem and the West Bank of the Dead Sea.
edito princeps - The first edition of a manuscript. This is not necessarily the final word on either the text or the translation of the text. Additional science may supplement or revise the former while almost any translator can produce a different version of the latter. In principle, if not in practice, this should be the first reference used to describe any manuscript. F. García Martínez includes an extensive listing of all the available edito princeps for the Dead Sea Scrolls as of the date of publication of his book. The edito princeps was intended to be the first work by the individual or group who worked most directly with the original document and thus were in the best position to make the most of the available science to clean, restore, reconstruct, perserve and ultimately to read the original. This work should reflect the effort that goes into all of those additional steps and the benefit, in terms of the clearest possible reading, that derives from them. Most subsequent translators will, of necessity, be working with photographs, or digital files of photographs, rather than with the original manuscript.
Elephantine – Island in upper Egypt, near Aswan, where a Judaean military colony was located in the fifth century BCE. Approximately forty Aramaic autograph texts, written by or to the inhabitants of the colony, and some legal documents were discovered there in 1906. The precise geological references contained therein show that they were written locally.
elephants – They were an important part of the Seleucid army though not native to Syria or the Middle East. Seleucus I, founder of the dynasty, imported 500 of the from India in about 300 BCE. Descendents of that original herd appear from time to time in military accounts through many centuries.
En Gedi – An ancient city less than 10 miles north of Masada. The hills above En Gedi are the location of the Essene community described by Pliny according to some readings of this Natural History. The consensus view is that Qumran is the Essene community and the “above” in Pliny should be read as north, about 20 miles north, in fact. Of course, it is also possible that Pliny made it up. He was never there and the identity and reliability of his sources is uncertain.
eschatology – That branch of religious literature and belief having to do with various aspects of the afterlife, the Final Judgement, bodily resurrection, immortality of the soul, etc.
Essenes (“Judah“ and “Yahad” in some Qumran writings) - One of the three orders of Jews during the Second Temple Period; a separatist group that formed an ascetic and esoteric, monastic communal society which, in response to apocalyptic visions, or unique sacrificial or purity requirements retreated to the wilderness.
As described by Josephus, Philo and Pliny the Elder they are noted for their communal way of life, their ascetic conduct, and their ideas about fate and immortality. Only Pliny the Elder among these three mentions that a group of Essenes lived near the Dead Sea. The smallest of the three main Jewish sects during the first century CE, numbering about four thousand according to both Josephus and Philo. They were very strict in avoidance of every form of commerce, owned no slaves, observed a strict Sabbath, avoided all oaths and maintained ritual purity.
Ethnarch – A Greek term meaning ‘ruler of a nation’, a less prestigious title than ‘king’, but still implying a degree of independence under an overlord.
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First Revolt – The Jewish rebellion against the Roman rule that began in 66 CE and ended in 74 CE with the capture of the Jewish held fortress at Masada by the Romans. Its climax occurs with the destruction of Jerusalem and the Second Temple in 70 CE.
First Temple Period ca. 950 – 586 BCE – The period of Jewish history from the construction of Solomon’s temple to the destruction of the First Temple and exile of the Hebrews to Babylonia.
Five Cities of the Plain – The five cities are Sodom, Gomorrah, Zoar, Admah, and Zeboiim. Some modern scholarship suggests but has yet to prove that these five cities sit at or near the mouths of five of the six major wadis that feed into the southeastern corner of the Dead Sea. All five wadis feed into the region above the Gohr which in earlier days may have been above water; thus the plain associated with these particular cities.
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Galilee – Northern region of ancient Palestine. Like Judaea it was an area of dense Jewish settlement during the intertestamental period.
genizah – (Hebrew: “storage room’) A designated place, often in a synagogue, for storing worn out, damaged or defective Hebrew writings and ritual articles which cannot be destroyed because of their holiness.
gloss – A marginal or interliner passage introduced into a text, usually by a glossator; i.e. someone other than the original author. During ancient and medieval times the glosses incorporated or blended into the the original text by later copyists. The glosses may sometimes be retrieved by careful textual analysis (e.g., by examining the logic and flow of the ideas being expressed).
gnosticism – A form of religious thinking widespread in the Roman Empire, and adopted in various forms by Jewish and Christian heretics. Taking its name from the Greek word for “knowledge,” it taught that its adherents could receive secret knowledge from the deity. Its most characteristic belief was a “dualism” emphasizing that the world and matter were evil and that the spirit alone was good. This lead some Gnostics to extreme asceticism and others to moral license.
Gospels - Apparently first hand accounts of the events taking place during and following the time of Jesus. Attributed to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Extended by some to include the Acts of the Apostles, attributed to Luke.
Great Revolt – See First Revolt.
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halakhah (pl. halakhot, adj. halakhic ) – Terms for Jewish ritual and civil law (e.g., Sabbath observance, tithing, contracts, etc.) and the texts concerned with them (as opposed to haggadic texts, which are concerned with theological or devotional matters); disagreement on these matters are thought by some to have caused the Judaean Desert sect to secede from Israel, although this presupposes such a sect actually existed.
Hasidim, Assidaeans, Hasidaeans – “Pietists”, “pious ones”; a religious sect of Jews devoted to strict observance of the law and opposed to the adoption of aspects of Greek culture by other Jews. They were the forerunners of both the Pharisees and the Essenes. They are first supported the Maccabean movement, but subsequently opposed it, regarding it as too political. It arose before the outbreak of the persecution by Antiochus Epiphanes (167 BCE), and continued to exist well into the time of the Hasmonaean dynasty.
Hasmonean - A family (a dynasty) of Jewish patriots to which the Maccabees belonged; period of Jewish history from the Maccabean Revolt (ca.167 BCE) to the Roman conquest of Judaea (ca. 67 BCE). Sometimes the period is extended as 167-30 BCE. The dynasty included Judas Maccabaeus, Jonathan, Simon, John Hyrcanus, Aristobolus I, Alexander Jannaeus, Alexandra Salome, Hyrcanus II, and Aristobolus II.
Hekhalot – Mystical Jewish writings composed during the first few centuries after the destruction of the Second Temple, and characterized by descriptions of the “palaces” or “halls” (Hebrew, hekhalot) to be encountered by those (mystics) worthy of beholding the “Divine Chariot” (merkabah) of the Lord described in the Book of Ezekiel.
Hellenistic – That mixture of Greek and Near Eastern culture that began to develop after the conquests of Alexander the Great. (ca. 332 BCE). This movement was still very device at the time of Jewish Revolt in 66 CE.
heresiographers – Religious scholars specializing in the study of heresies. They collected the works, and wrote detailed descriptions of the beliefs, of sectarians primarily to refute them.
herodian – Associated especially with Herod the Great’s reign 37-4BCE; a period of Jewish history from 30 BCE – 70 CE
Herodium - Another Jewish fortress of ancient Palestine, built in the style of Masada and Machaerus, located southeast of Bethlehem and approximately 20 kilometers march from Qumran.
heterodoxy – Departure, in the eyes of later analysts, from the normative beliefs and practices of a religion. With respect to Judaism of the intertestamental period and Christianity of the early New Testament period, “orthodoxy” is difficult to define because of the state of fluctuation of Judaism during the earlier period, and the lack of the primary, unedited Christian documents from the latter.
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Idumaeans – The inhabitants of Idumaea (Edom), who during intertestamental times continued to inhabit a large area east and south of the Dead Sea.
intercalation - The addition of an extra month to the lunar year in order to adjust it more closely to the solar year. The lunar year is 11 days shorter than the solar year. To partially compensate for this difference, the rabbis would intercalate a month at the end of the year twice in every seven years. This was necessary to keep the various holidays falling in their proper seasons.
intertestamental - The period between the end of the time described in the latest books of the Hebrew Bible and the opening of the New Testament.
Iron Age II – Archaeological term for the period, particularly for Palestine, from the beginning of the United Monarchy (ca. 1200 – 1000 BCE) to the Babylonian Exile , 586 BCE, corresponding roughly to the First Temple period. Some modern scholars bring the Bronze Age forward to include the reign of Solomon so that the Iron Age starts closer to 900 BCE than to 1000 BCE. This is reasonable because the later part of the Bronze Age was a time of relative prosperity and that is more in accordance with the state of the court of Solomon than the rather austere style of the later Iron Age sites that have been excavated.
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Jericho – Ancient city on the plain north of the Dead Sea and due north of Qumran.
Jerusalem – Ancient city, center of Palestinian and Judaean history and culture. City of the Temple of Solomon and many other well known structures. Center of Jewish, Islamic and Christian religious history and culture.
Judaea - Southern region of ancient Palestine. Like Galilee is was a region of dense Jewish settlement during the intertestamental period. Qumran lies in a barren area within the Judaean Desert known as the Judaean Wilderness.
Judaean wilderness or desert – The low-lying steppeland of Judaea west of the Dead Sea and east of the Central hill country, or simply south of Jerusalem and west of the Dead Sea. It is an arid region with some springs and a fair amount of rain in the winter.
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Khirbet (Arabic) – A ruin or destroyed place; Khirbet Qumran = “ruin of Qumran.”
Kittim - The name referred originally to inhabitants of Kiti, capital of the isle of Cyprus, then to any Cypriots, later to Greeks, in general, and eventually even to Romans.
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laura - A monastery consisting of separate rooms, huts, cells or caves for early Christian monks who only came together for meals and communal worship.
Levites – Members of the Israelite tribe of Levi (one of the twelve ancient tribes of Israel) or their descendents. The Levites were responsible for the maintenance of the Temple and sacrificial system, and it was to this tribe that the Aaronic priests belonged.
Leviticus - Third book of Jewish and Christian scripture consisting mainly of priestly legislation. Scroll fragments are included in the Library of Congress exhibition.
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Maccabaeans/Maccabees – A priestly Jewish family which ruled Palestine in the second and first centuries BCE (164 – 67 BCE) and wrested Judaea from the rule of the Seleucids and their Greek practices. The Jewish holiday Hanukkah commemorates the Maccabees’ recapture of Jerusalem and re-consecration of the Temple in December 164 BCE A name often used for the Hasmonaeans. The term derives from the surname of Judas Maccabeus, the early leader of the revolt against Antiochus Epiphanes.
Machaerus - Another Jewish fortress of ancient Palestine lying southeast of Qumran across the Dead Sea at a distance of only twenty kilometers. Qumran lies almost halfway, as the crow flies, between Jerusalem and Machaerus. This fortress was built or at least strengthened by the Hasmonaean Alexander Jannaeus after he subjugated Moab to the east of the Dead Sea sometime before 90 BCE. It was designated as a bulwark to fend off attacks by the Aramaic-speaking Nabataeans who occupied Petra and areas to the south. Destroyed by Gabinius, the governor of Syria, circa 60 BCE, it was rebuilt by Herod the Great, and his son Antipas murdered John the Baptist there.
Manual of Discipline – One of the original seven scrolls recovered from Cave 1 near Qumran.
Madaba map – A sixth century CE map of Palestine, forming the mosaic floor of a Byzantine church located in the ancient town of Madaba (Medeba) modern al-’Asimah, in what is now west-central Jordan. It preserves many important details of the geography of Roman and Byzantine Palestine.
Masada – Important Jewish fortress of ancient Palestine situated on a butte west of the Dead Sea; last stronghold of the 960 Jewish Zealots, including their wives and children, who volunteered to be killed or committed suicide, rather than surrender to the besieging Roman army at the end of the final battle of the revolt that marks the end of the Second Temple Period. Located thirty-three miles South of Qumran.
Massoretic - Relating to the Massorah, or “tradition,” that body of early medieval notes on the textual traditions about the proper reading of the Hebrew Bible and to versions of it based on these traditions. The so-called “Masoretic Text”, the standard version that appears in today’s Hebrew Bible, is the version transmitted by the medieval Jewish scholars known as the Masoretes. They standardized the Hebrew text’s punctuation, accentuation, and consonantal divisions. In the Middle Ages, the Ben Ezra Synagogue in Old Cairo (Fustat), also the former home of the now famous genizah archive collection obtained by Solomon Schechter, was the home of a Masoretic Bible manuscript vocalized by the tenth-century Masorete Aharon Ben Asher. The great Jewish scholar Maimonides declared it superior to the vocalizations of other Masoretes. So powerful was Maimonide’s influence that Ben Asher’s version became the standard text as it appears in today’s Hebrew Bible. Ultimately Ben Asher’s manuscript ended up in the possession of the Jewish community of Aleppo, Syria; today it is known as the Aleppe Codex and is kept in Jerusalem.
The oldest known Massoretic biblical texts are:
- the Aleppo Codex (dating from 915 CE), which was smuggled out of Syria into Jerusalem by fleeing Jews. Parts of it were destroyed during a pogrom against the Jews of Aleppo in 1947.
- Leningradensis (the Leningrad Codex), dating to 1005 CE; the second oldest Massoretic text of the Hebrew Bible, it is used as the standard for critical editions of the Hebrew Bible, was, and may still be, stored in the Leningrad State Library.
The Massoretes did three things to stabilize the biblical text: they inserted vowels according to the oral readings of the time; inserted accent marks (te’amim) and cantillation marks (in the case of poetic sections) so the lector knows how to parse and where to pause while reading out loud; and they included Masorot in the lateral, top and bottom margins to indicate to scribes of later generations how to accurately copy the text at hand. For example, they highlite each unique word in the bible so that every scribe will know not to repeat it. Similarly, they highlight each word that only appears twice in the bible, and they indicated the passage where the other examplar appears (without using chapter and verse references since that came later – they relied on the fact that all scribes knew the entire text by heart and referred to the exact passage with a few select words). When nearly identical passages are different, there is a note to retain the difference. There are other warnings to avoid scribal errors of many varieties.
midrash (pl. midrashim) – (Hebrew, “expounding”) A method of rabbinic biblical interpretation in which a passage of Scripture is quoted and then a meaning or various meanings are drawn from the text. Midrashists employed a variety of techniques, including allegories, word plays, and gematria (assigning numerical values to words) in order to determine the meaning of text. Midrashim are divided into two categories: halakhic midrashim, which comment primarily on biblical laws, and haggadic midrashim, which expound mainly on theological and devotional aspects of the biblical text.
mikva’ot - Ritual baths, of which there are four or five at Qumran.
Mishnah – The central legal collection of early rabbinic (= Tannaitic) Judaism. Based on rabbinic traditions compiled about 200 CE, it contains ordinances on such matters as marriage, Sabbath observance, sacrifices, ritual purification, civil law, etc; part of the Talmud. See also Tannaitic and Tosephta.
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Nag Hammadi – Site in the Egyptian desert where other ancient texts, the so called ‘Gnostic Gospels’, were discovered in 1945. By 1948 they were purchased by the Cairo Coptic Museum. An international team of, mostly French, scholars made no progress at all in publishing these works, and was replaced in 1956. This effort was interrupted by the Suez crisis and other matters intervened. In 1966 a new international team of scholars was formed, headed by James M. Robinson of the Institute for Antiquity and Christianity at the Claremont Graduate School, California. By 1973 the entire Library of documents was in draft English translation and circulating among interested scholars for criticism and review. In 1977 the entire body of the Nag Hammadi codices was published, in facsimile and a popular edition. This occupied a total of forth-six books plus fragments.
nahal - (Hebrew) A seasonal brook or stream together with its riverbed; see wâdi.
Nazorenes (Nazerines) One of the names for the original Christians in Judaea; also known as Jesseans according to Epiphanius, an early Christian writer.
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Oriental Institute – A part of the University of Chicago. Director: Professor William Sumner; he also helped establish the Institute’s Dead Sea Scrolls Research Project. Voting member: Professor Norman Golb, Rosenberger Chair in Jewish History and Civilization, member of the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations of the University of Chicago. Sponsored: December 14-17 1992 with the New York Academy of Sciences, a conference on The Methods of Investigation of the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Khirbet Qumran Site: Present Realities and Future Prospects.
orthography – A term referring to the way the words are spelled in a manuscript or printed text.
ostraca - Pieces of ancient broken pottery inscribed with names or messages.
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palaeo- or paleo- pref. Ancient or prehistoric.
palaeo-Hebrew – Ancient Hebrew script; one of the offshoots of the Phoenician script; used exclusively in the First Temple period and in priestly circles and as a symbol of nationalistic revival in the Second Temple Period. Some of the oldest Dead Sea Scrolls are written in this script. In other scrolls the Tetragrammaton was written in palaeo-Hebrew script as a sign of reverence. It was gradually replaced by the so-called Aramaic square script that remains the script of Hebrew texts today. A version of this script is still used today by the Samaritans.
palaeography – Relating to the study of ancient writings and inscriptions or to an ancient manner of writing. Its techniques were used to support the consensus interpretation that most of the important Dead Sea Scrolls date from about 100 BCE
parchment – Prepared animal skin on which text is written.
Pentateuch - The first five books of scripture (the Books of Moses): Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy; the first of three major divisions of the Hebrew Bible. See Torah.
pesher – (Hebrew, “interpretation”) In the scrolls, “Pesher” particularly refers to a method of interpreting prophetic texts that relates their verses to events in their authors’ recent past or near future.
Pharisees (“Ephraim” in some Qumran writings) – One of the three orders or sects of Jews described by Josephus and other ancient sources during the Second Temple period. Originally, an essentially lay group formed from one of the branches of the Hasidim of the Maccabaean age. By the time of John Hyrcanus I there was Pharisaic objection to his usurpation, as a non-Zadokite, of the high priesthood, though they were willing to accept him as the national leader. Eight hundred Pharisees were accused by Alexander Jannaeus of collusion with the Syrian Seleucid king Demetrius III Eucaerus and condemned by Jannaeus to die on the cross. By the time of Josephus they were the largest of the various groups and had the popular support of the people. They were characterized by their “free” interpretation of the Bible, adherence to oral traditions, strict observance of rites and interpretation, belief in future retribution, belief in angels and other spiritual beings, divine providence cooperating with free will, the immortality of the soul, the bodily resurrection of the dead, and a coming Messiah. Some commentators suggest that Jesus was from a Pharisee family and background. Similarities between his teachings, especially the Sermon on the Mount, and those of Pharisee teachers, such as Hillel, seem to support the contention that Jesus ‘was himself a Pharisee’.
phylacteries (from the Greek; Hebrew tefillin) – Two small leather boxes or capsules which in modern times contain three scriptural passages of the Pentateuch in Hebrew; Exodus 13.1-16, Deuteronomy 6.4-9 and Deuteronomy 11.13-21. Traditionally, worn on the left arm and on the forehead by observant Jews during morning prayers. Worn in literal fulfillment of the precept to “bind these words that I command you this day upon your hand, and they shall be for frontlets between your eyes” (Deut. 6.8). Samples found in the caves with the Dead Sea Scrolls show a variety of scripture selections unlike more modern examples which all contain the same verses of scripture.
priests – See Aaronites
proto- or prot- pref. Earliest. prototype. In the context of studies of the Dead Sea Scrolls it is usually ued to indicate the most primative version of a specific language; e.g. proto-Hebrew, proto-Samarian, proto-Aramaic, etc. Also, in some cases it is used to refer to earliest or most primative, or possibly the last previous, version of some school of text producers; e.g. proto-Rabbinic; primative Rabbinic or the latest predecessor to the Rabbinic text.
Psalms (tehillim) – Collection of Biblical hymns, i.e. sacred songs or poems used in worship and non-canonical passages.
Pseudepigrapha – Pseudonymous or anonymous Jewish and early Christian religious writings of the period 200 BCE to 200 CE, especially those attributed to ancient biblical figures, often giving imaginative retellings of biblical stories or professing to tell the future, that were included among the apocryphal writings (see Apocrypha) in the Septuagint.
pseudo- pref. False, deceptive. In the context of the Dead Sea Scrolls, this prefix is used to indicate that a manuscript, while not part of the normal Canon, is “like” a book that is part of the Canon. Thus, pseudo-Daniel is a book or part of a book of Daniel that is not part of the Book of Daniel as found in the Jewish Canon.
purity, “the purity” – Items of clothing, food and drink that are ritually pure (see ritual purity); in the case of the Manual of Discipline, usually believed to refer to the consecrated food eaten in the ritual meals of the Yahad group. See Yahad.
purity-brethren – Groups found throughout the Greco-Roman world who separated themselves from the greater society and vowed to live according to strict rules of ritual purity (q.v.). The Dead Sea Scrolls Yahad group was such an association.
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Qidron, Brook (known later as Nahal Qidron and the Wâdi al-Nar) – The beginning of the stream system leading southeast out of Jerusalem that is a likely route for anyone moving scrolls or other treasures out of the city ahead of the advancing Roman Army if the aim was to hide them in the Judaean Wilderness anywhere in the direction of Qumran and the caves that contained the Dead Sea Scrolls.
Qumran (Khirbet Qumran) – Northern Dead Sea desert plain, part of Jordan (1949-1967); region of the eleven caves yielding Hebrew biblical, sectarian, and literary scrolls. It is the habitation site where excavations have uncovered what some have interpreted to be a complex of communal structures though it has only generated non-sectarian artifacts, except for some fraction of the Dead Sea Scrolls; others have interpreted this site as initially the location of a fortress of the type dating to at least as early, if not earlier than, the destruction of the First Temple ca. 586 BCE. and possibly as early as the seventh or eighth century BCE; the site was apparently abandoned for centuries and then reoccupied, probably by the Hasmonaean state (circa 140-130 BCE) that reestablished and strengthened all the fortresses of the region and probably added the tower. At later times it was occupied by Roman military forces during and after the First Revolt during which Jerusalem and the Second Temple were destroyed in 70 CE and which ended with the capture of Masada in 74 CE.
It lies thirty-three miles north of Masada, twenty miles from Jerusalem, about 8 miles from Jericho and a mile and a quarter from the current Western shoreline of the Dead Sea. A cemetery of some 1,200 graves, oriented North/South, lie on the Eastern side of the fortress plateau.
Gustav Dalman observed as early as 1914 that the site was “exceptionally well suited for a fortress.” Michael Avi-Yonah observed in 1940 that it was a fortress, situating it among a large number of known military sites in the Judaean Wilderness whose purpose during biblical and intertestamental times was the defense of Jerusalem against incursions from beyond the Jordan River and the Dead Sea. He is responsible for the site’s designation on early maps.
Qumran-Essene hypothesis or Qumran-Sectarian hypothesis – see consensus.
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rabbinic Judaism – The form of Judaism that became most widely accepted from the second century CE on. It espouses various teachings of the rabbis (“masters” or “great ones”) or hakhamim (“sages”) as binding for Jewish thought and practice. Rabbinic Judaism harks back to the earlier Pharisaic Judaism; like the Pharisees, the rabbinic Jews accept the validity of oral tradition, beliefs in angels and spirits, and the resurrection of the dead.
recension, recentional – n., adj.
ritual purity – In the case of the Jews, the special state of cleanness required of those who would observe the laws of the Pentateuch relating to the pure and impure and take part in various religious ceremonies. Ritual purity involved both the avoidance of certain people (e.g., lepers), items (e.g., a corpse), or animals (e.g., mice) considered as defiling, and the performance of certain kinds of washings and other rituals in order to purify oneself after coming into contact with things considered defiling.
Rockefeller Museum – Home of the cache of scrolls located in Cave 4 near the ruins of Qumran in 1952. The ‘Scrollery’ is the site inside the Rockefeller Museum where the assembled fragments actually reside for use by the few original scholars (later expanded to over 100) who are allowed official access. The Museum itself is in East Jerusalem and passed from Jordanian into Israeli hands at the conclusion of the Six Day War in 1967.
The museum was opened in 1938 during the British mandate and was built with funds donated by John D. Rockefeller. Long an independently endowed institute, it was nationalized by the Jordanian Government in 1966 and captured by the Israelis in 1967.
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sacerdotal – Referring to the Temple or priesthood.
Sadducees (“Menasseh” in some Qumran writings) – One of the three religious parties or sects of Jews, first mentioned under Jonathan Maccabaeus, during the Second Temple Period; priestly and aristocratic Jewish families, and regular allies of the government, who interpreted the law more literally than the Pharisees and rejected the oral traditions, belief in angels, spirits, divine providence and the resurrection of the dead. Because of their links to the aristocracy and the Temple establishment they were reduced to an increasingly minor sect soon after the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE.
Samaria - Central region of ancient Palestine. Unlike Judaea and Galilee it was not an area of dense Jewish settlement during the intertestamental period.
Samaritans - Inhabitants of the region of Samaria in Palestine who were not exiled with the Judaeans to Babylonia. They maintained belief in the holiness of the Pentateuch to the exclusion of other writings deemed holy by the Jews and included in the Hebrew Bible. Their center was Neapolis (Nablus), and they offered sacrifices not on the Temple Mount but on Mt. Gerizim, a few hundred still survive today.
Sanhedrin – The Jewish council of state, with political and judicial functions, meeting under the presidency of the high priest. While still in debate, many scholars hold that there were two sanhedrins; the primarily Sadducaean political council (to which Josephus often refers) and the primarily Pharisaean Great Sanhedrin of seventy members, with religious and legislative functions, under rabbinic control.
scriptorium - A room in which texts are copied, especially in mediaeval monasteries. The lack of evidence for a scriptorium at the Qumran site are the obvious missing tools to be expected in place where scrolls were being transcribed; parchment, tools for smoothing it, needles and thread for binding parchment sheets together, line markers for making straight rows of script, pens, inkwells and styluses. Only three plaster tables and a couple of inkwells were discovered. The slabs called tables were later identified as benches. The evidence is more consistent with a small military office than with a large scriptorium where the wholesale copying of hundreds is not thousands of scrolls took place. Even at Masada, which everyone agrees was strictly a military site, parchment fragments were found in the rubble. Why then not at Qumran?
scroll - A roll of parchment, papyrus, or other material containing written texts, with the sheets being sewn or otherwise fastened together one next to the other so as to facilitate the rolling up of the joined text. In biblical times, the Hebrew term sefer designated no a codex but a scroll, which preceded the codex throughout the Mediterranean world.
‘Scrollery’ - The room at the Rockefeller Museum where the scroll material from Cave 4, mainly, and elsewhere are housed and studied by members of the international team, their students and their selected associates.
Second Jewish Commonwealth – Narrowly speaking, the Jewish state at the time of the kingdom of the Hasmonaeans, who ruled in Judaea from ca. 160 BCE to 67 BCE; more broadly, the same state until the destruction of the Second Temple and Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 CE.
Second Temple Period ca. 520 BCE – 70 CE – A time of crucial development for monotheistic religions; ended with the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in 70 CE Period in which the Dead Sea Scrolls were composed, transcribed and/or copied. The period from the rebuilding of the Jewish Temple at Jerusalem to the victory of the Romans over the Jews during the First Revolt.
sectarian – Having the characteristics of a sect, i.e., a dissenting religious group adhering to a distinctive doctrine, body of beliefs and practices.
Seleucid Empire – Created out of part of Macedonian Empire after the death of Alexander the Great (323 BCE) and, at its height, extended from the southern coast of modern Turkey south through Palestine and east to India’s border; spanned the period 312 – 64 BCE
Septuagint - The Greek translation of the Jewish (Old Testament) scriptures, but including also the Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha, that was in use among the Jews of Alexandria. Translated by Jewish scholars in the third to second centuries BCE; the first vernacular translation of the Bible and still used in the Eastern Orthodox Church.
Shrine of the Book – A building of the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, in which are located some of the Dead Sea Scrolls.
Sicarii - The assassins or “daggermen” lead by Menahem b. Jair, Eliezer b. Jair, and Simeon bar Giora, who took the leading role in the First Revolt against Roman rule. It remains a matter of debate whether or not they were a cadre recruited from among the Zealots.
stratigraphy – The method of dating and ordering layers of soils and rock formations based on the compositions of the soil, rocks and lavas throughout a vertical column under study. As used by archaeologists, positions of artifacts embedded within the layers are used to estimate the age, or the relative age, of the artifacts.
Synoptic Gospels – The first three Gospels, i.e., Matthew, Mark and Luke-so called because of the similarity of their contents, statements, and order. The Acts of the Apostles is also attributed to Luke, usually acknowledged to be the same Luke who composed the Gospel. Like the Gospel it was also written in Greek and addressed to the same recipient. Sometimes Acts is referred to as the second half of the Gospel according to Luke, though it is not usually referred to as one of the Synoptic Gospels.
Syriac – A dialect of Aramaic that became widely used in Syria and Mesopotamia from the late pre-Christian antiquity until it was largely displaced by Arabic. It continues in use in some Eastern Orthodox Christian churches to this day.
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Tacâmireh – Tribe of Bedouins credited, or accused, of finding, or looting, several of the caves at Qumran and elsewhere in the Judaean Desert.
Talmud - (Babylonian; Palestinian) The authoritative body of Rabbinic Judaism, consisting of the Hebrew Mishnah and Aramaic Gemara or commentary. The Babylonian Talmud, eventually considered to be the most authoritative of the two Talmuds, consists of the Mishnah and commentary by rabbinic teachers mainly of Babylonia; the Palestinian (or Jerusalem) Talmud consists of the Mishnah and commentary mainly by Palestinian rabbinic teachers. Developed during the first to the fifth centuries CE
Tannaitic – Referring to the Tannaim (tannaites), or early generations of rabbinic teachers. The actual period of rabbinic Judaism is generally held to span the period from 70 CE to about 220 CE, the traditional time of compilation of the Mishnah.
targum - (Hebrew, “translation”) Any of numerous Aramaic translations of portions of the Hebrew Bible. “The Targum” usually refers to the so-called Targum Onqelos of the Pentateuch.
tefillin – See phylacteries.
terminus a quo (ante quem) – The earliest possible date for a manuscript, event, etc.
terminus ad quem (post quem) – The date after which an event, etc. could not have occurred.
tetradrachms – Ancient Greek silver coins. The Library of Congress exhibition includes coins minted in Tyre about 136 – 126 BCE
Tetragrammaton – The four Hebrew letters that represent the divine name of God, usually transliterated YHWH or JHVH in many parts of the Bible. The name was regarded as too holy to be pronounced and out of reverence, Jews ceased to pronounce the word aloud about the third century BCE It was vocalized in mediaeval manuscripts of the Hebrew Bible with the vowels of the Hebrew word adonai, an epithet signifying “God”.
tetrarch – A Greek term originally meaning the ruler of a quarter of a piece of territory, but by the first century BCE meaning a dependent prince of fairly low rank and status.
toparchy – A small territorial unit comprising a town, from which it took its name, and a number of villages. Palestine was divided into toparchies for local administration.
Torah – Hebrew (“the Law” or “the Teaching”) particularly designates the first five books of the Bible, otherwise known as the Pentateuch or Five Books of Moses (to whom they are traditionally attributed). Among the rabbis, the term became used more generally for Jewish law, both oral and written.
Tosephta – Literally, “The Addition,” i.e., to the Mishnah. A large collection of laws and legal and ritual opinion of early rabbinic Judaism (early third century CE), very similar to the Mishnah in style and contents. The legal rulings of the Tosephta were not granted the same authority by the rabbis as those in the Mishnah, although historically they are of equal importance and derive from the same original corpus of early rabbinic and social views.
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unicum - A unique thing; esp., a text that exists only in a single manuscript without necessarily being the author’s own autograph.
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wâdi - (Arabic) A seasonal river or stream; Hebrew, nahal.
Wâdi Murabbacat – A valley on the western side of the Dead Sea that leads down and eastward to the Dead Sea. Its outlet to the Dead Sea is about half way between Qumran and Masada, somewhat north of En Gedi. Location of the four caves and scrolls found by Joseph Saad’s expedition in October 1951. Scrolls in these caves date from the Simeon bar Kochba revolt of 132 to 135 CE.
Wâdi Qumran – Valley leading from Qumran westward up into the hills above the Dead Sea. An aqueduct from this seasonal stream fed water into the Khirbet Qumran cisterns and water system with sufficient capacity to satisfy the needs of about 800 troops through the eight month long dry season in a normal year.
War Scroll – One of the original seven scrolls found in Cave 1 at Qumran.
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Yahad - (Hebrew, “Unity,” “Oneness”) A term appearing in several of the Dead Sea Scrolls that designates a particularly pious group of purity-loving brethren within the Judaean Desert sect who chose to live communally and composed some of the scrolls. The sect, as revealed in its writings divided humanity between the righteous and the wicked and asserted that human nature and everything that happens in the world are irrevocably predestined.
Zadokite – A descendant of Zadok, from whose lineage the High Priests of Judah had been selected since the time of King Solomon. The Zadokites were deposed by Antiochus Epiphanes in exchange for a bribe. The Hasmonaeans, who later assumed the High Priesthood, were not of the Zadokite line, and were therefore (in the opinion of some) unqualified to assume the office.
Zealots – Not so much a religious sect, according to conventional interpretations,as adherents of a political and military movement, who were the prime instigators of the First Revolt. Josephus seems to regard the Zealots as a well-defined group that came into existence during the revolt; however, there is evidence that the term (which primarily means “one zealous for the Law of the Lord”) may have widely used before and even after the Revolt for any who violently opposed Roman rule. The <I.SICARII, who may have been recruited from among the zealots, were the defenders of Masada, who in 74 CE committed mass suicide rather than be taken alive by the attacking Roman army. Noted examples are Simon the Zealot, one of the twelve Apostles and possibly even Judas Iscariot, whose name may derive from the Sicarii.
Zoroaster - Persian religious leader (also called Zarathustra), lived ca. 600 BCE. (?) founded Zoroastrianism, a religion whose central belief is the eternal struggle between Good and Evil, or Truth and Falsehood.