Fr Stephen Smuts

Posts Tagged ‘Dead Sea Scrolls

Nine Unopened Dead Sea Scrolls Found In Israel Antiquities Authority Storeroom

leave a comment »

Great find!

Nine tiny but mighty Dead Sea Scrolls have been discovered — or more accurately, re-discovered — within the vaults of at the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), The Times of Israel reported.


The rolled scrolls (in the second row) and their empty cases from Cave 4.While searching through the Israel Antiquities Authority storerooms one day in May 2013, Dr. Yonatan Adler, a lecturer at Ariel University and post-doctoral researcher at Hebrew University, came across an unmarked phylactery case.

He had the case scanned on the suspicion that it might contain an undocumented scroll and in December continued investigating for unopened scrolls while on a visit to the IAA Dead Sea Scrolls labs. There he found two scrolls inside a tefillin case that had been documented after the original 1952 discovery but never examined.

Adler eventually found seven more previously unopened scrolls, all of which are believed to have been included in the discoveries in Qumran Cave 4. Phylacteries, also called tefillin in Hebrew, are pairs of leather cases containing biblical passages and traditionally worn by Jews during prayer.


A phylactery case from Cave 5.These newly re-discovered scrolls are among more than two dozen tefillin scroll fragments discovered in the Qumran caves, and among thousands of scrolls and scroll fragments found containing biblical and secular texts.

Due to the scope of the scrolls’ initial discovery, curator and director of the IAA’s Dead Sea Scrolls Projects Pnina Shor told The Huffington Post, it is reasonable to assume these nine “new” finds will not be the last.

“With the progress of research on the one hand and our digitization project on the other we hope ‘new’ finds will keep ‘popping up’,” Shor said. “Since we intend to image and eventually treat and preserve every single fragment/item, we hope to find many more such treasures, that have gone unnoticed and have not been deciphered yet.”

Although no major revelations are anticipated form the new scrolls, some of the tefillin cases from the Qumran caves that have been opened have revealed fascinating insights into Jewish life in that era (roughly the 2nd century BCE to the 1st century AD), Shor told HuffPost.

“These parchment slips, folded and placed in capsules, are understood to be the “frontlets between your eyes.” mentioned in the Book of Deuteronomy (6:8). The texts are in principle the same as those required by later Rabbinic Halakha and those in use today. Since these tefillin – phylacteries from the Judean Desert caves are the only examples we have from the Second Temple period, we do not know whether their distinctive features reflect the traditions of a specific community or whether they represent a more widespread tradition. Perhaps these “new” ones will shed more light on this matter.”


A phylactery scroll after it was opened and preserved.Professor Hindy Najman of Yale University also commented to The Times of Israel:

“We have to be prepared for surprises. On the one hand there’s tremendous continuity between what we have found among the Dead Sea Scrolls — liturgically, ritually and textually — and contemporaneous and later forms of Judaism. But there’s also tremendous possibility for variegated practices and a complex constellation of different practices, different influences, different ways of thinking about tefillin.”

Shor will oversee the task of opening and reading these new scrolls, but it will take time and patience, she said. “We need to do a lot of research before we start doing this,” Shor told The Times.

Shor is simultaneously spearheading a project to digitize the entire Dead Sea Scrolls archive for access to a mass audience. She expects IAA to complete the imaging within the next two years, and these nine new scrolls may very well be included in the database


Written by Fr Stephen Smuts

March 19, 2014 at 18:02

Dead Sea Scrolls Fragments for Sale

leave a comment »


Parts of the Dead Sea Scrolls are up for sale—in tiny pieces. Nearly 70 years after the discovery of the world’s oldest biblical manuscripts, the Palestinian family who originally sold them to scholars and institutions is now quietly marketing the leftovers—fragments the family says it has kept in a Swiss safe deposit box all these years. Most of these scraps are barely the size of postage stamps, and some are blank. But in the last few years, evangelical Christian collectors and institutions in the US have forked over millions of dollars for a chunk of this archaeological treasure.

This angers Israel’s government antiquities authority, which holds most of the scrolls and threatens to seize any more pieces that hit the market. But William Kando, a member of the family that first sold the scrolls, isn’t worried. “If anyone is interested, we are ready to sell,” he says. Written mostly on animal skin parchment about 2,000 years ago, the manuscripts are the earliest copies of the Hebrew Bible ever found, and the oldest written evidence of the roots of Judaism and Christianity in the Holy Land.

Dead Sea Scrolls are currently located in the following collections:

— Israel Antiquities Authority (More than 10,000 scroll fragments)

— Shrine of the Book at the Israel Museum (Seven of the most complete Dead Sea Scrolls)

— France National Library (377 scroll fragments representing 18 scrolls)

— Amman Museum (fragments of 20 scrolls, including the Copper Scroll)

— Heidelberg University in Germany (four phylactery pieces)

— Franciscan private museum in Jerusalem’s Old City (two fragments)

— Terre Sainte Bible Museum in Paris (two scroll fragments)

— University of Chicago (one fragment)

— McGill University in Montreal (a few fragments)

— St. Mark’s Syrian Orthodox Cathedral in Teaneck, N.J. (fragments of three scrolls)

— Schoyen Collection in Oslo, Norway (115 fragments)

— Asuza Pacific University in Asuza, Ca. (5 fragments)

— Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Tx. (3 fragments)

— Green Collection in Oklahoma City, Ok. (12 fragments)

— Private collection of Spaer family, Jerusalem (2 fragments)

— Private collection of Kando family in Bethlehem, West Bank (the family does not reveal how many fragments remain in its collection, but estimates range between 20 and 40.)

Some fragments have gone missing, including three large fragments of the Book of Samuel and two pieces from the Book of Daniel which were stolen from the Rockefeller Archaeological Museum in 1966 during a tour of international diplomats. Their whereabouts are still unknown.

The Dead Sea Scrolls main collection is online here.


Written by Fr Stephen Smuts

May 25, 2013 at 21:22

Qumran and the Dead Sea Scrolls Month

with one comment

Over at the American Schools of Oriental Research (ASOR) blog. How exciting!

We are pleased to announce that September will be Qumran and the Dead Sea Scrolls month here on the ASOR blog. Starting Tuesday, September 4th, we will be posting contributions from leading scholars on Qumran and the scrolls. Check back often to see the latest updates!

It’ll be well worth following. Updates will be made here.


Written by Fr Stephen Smuts

September 1, 2012 at 09:56

Introduction to the Dead Sea Scrolls

leave a comment »

‘Judaism, Christianity and the Dead Sea Scrolls’ by Prof Lawrence Schiffman is well worth a watch.



Written by Fr Stephen Smuts

August 13, 2012 at 15:29

Tour of the Dead Sea Scroll Exhibit

leave a comment »

At the New York ‘Dead Sea Scrolls’ exhibition with Dr Lawrence Schiffman:


Written by Fr Stephen Smuts

January 8, 2012 at 12:56

Free E-Book, ‘Dead Sea Scrolls: Discovery and Meaning’

leave a comment »

The Biblical Archaeology Society has released a free e-book, ‘Dead Sea Scrolls: Discovery and Meaning’.

Details here.

Written by Fr Stephen Smuts

December 17, 2011 at 18:21

Mystery of Dead Sea Scroll Authors Possibly Solved

with one comment

Orit Shamir (Israel Antiquities Authority) and Naama Sukenik (Bar-Ilan University) have studied the plain, linen textiles that were found in the Qumran caves so as to determine who the authors of the Dead Sea Scrolls were. Lives Science has the article:

The Dead Sea Scrolls may have been written, at least in part, by a sectarian group called the Essenes, according to nearly 200 textiles discovered in caves at Qumran, in the West Bank, where the religious texts had been stored.

Scholars are divided about who authored the Dead Sea Scrolls and how the texts got to Qumran, and so the new finding could help clear up this long-standing mystery.

The research reveals that all the textiles were made of linen, rather than wool, which was the preferred textile used in ancient Israel. Also they lack decoration,  some actually being bleached white, even though fabrics from the period often have vivid colours. Altogether, researchers say these finds suggest that the Essenes, an ancient Jewish sect, “penned” some of the scrolls.

Not everyone agrees with this interpretation. An archaeologist who has excavated at Qumran told LiveScience that the linen could have come from people fleeing the Roman army after the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, and that they are in fact responsible for putting the scrolls into caves.

Iconic scrolls

The Dead Sea Scrolls consist of nearly 900 texts, the first batch of which were discovered by a Bedouin shepherd in 1947. They date from before A.D. 70, and some may go back to as early as the third century B.C. The scrolls contain a wide variety of writings including early copies of the Hebrew Bible, along with hymns, calendars and psalms, among other works.

Nearly 200 textiles were found in the same caves, along with a few examples from Qumran, the archaeological site close to the caves where the scrolls were hidden.

Orit Shamir, curator of organic materials at the Israel Antiquities Authority, and Naama Sukenik, a graduate student at Bar-Ilan University, compared the white-linen textiles found in the11 caves to examples found elsewhere in ancient Israel, publishing their results in the most recent issue of the journal Dead Sea Discoveries…

Do read on here.

It’s a good article.

Written by Fr Stephen Smuts

November 22, 2011 at 20:34


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 937 other followers