Dead Sea Scrolls — All Well Before Christ and the First Jewish War

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by Neil Godfrey

A paper presented last the Caves of Qumran 2014 conference at Lugano, Switzerland, by Gregory L. Doudna argues that

the traditional dating of the scroll deposits of the caves of Qumran to as late as the time of the First Revolt [66-70 CE] is supported by neither evidence nor plausibility. (Doudna 2017, p.238)

Doudna’s paper makes its case through the following steps:

  1. All historical references within the Dead Sea Scrolls pertain to the second and first centuries BCE; there are no allusions to any persons or events after Herod’s taking of Jerusalem in 38 BCE.
  2. The common view that on the basis of palaeography that the scrolls date up to the time of the first Jewish revolt against Rome has been based on circularity and flawed assumptions.
  3. Flawed assumptions about the contemporaneity of two classes of phenomena: “scroll jars and scroll deposits on the one hand, and first-century CE refugees or fugitives’ fleeting use of caves on the other.”
  4. Jars of the type that contained scrolls and palaeographic dates “provide no basis for confidence that those texts were first century CE.”
  5. Biblical texts found at sites other than Qumran, between Herod and the Jewish revolt, all contain carefully copied exact-Masoretic text type (i.e. were carefully and exactly copied in agreement with the basis of our Old Testament books) yet the Qumran biblical texts are varied in their copying (i.e. they followed no standard text). The simplest explanation is that the Qumran texts represent a pre-Herodian time when the text was not standardized.
Matthew 5:18 For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. (NIV)

That last (fifth) point surprised this amateur. I had not been aware of the evidence that the Masoretic (Hebrew) text of the “Old Testament” was stabilised so early. As Doudna remarks, on the assumption that the Gospel of Matthew was composed in the first century,

Once this is realised, no longer will the saying of Matt. 5:18 referring to iotas and keraias in the writing of scribes scrupulously copying the books of Moses with letter-perfect accuracy, and, alluding to the decorative keraias of the most developed formal hands, be regarded as anachronistic. Matt. 5:18 may become recognised as a realistic allusion to scribal practice and ideology before the destruction of the temple, yet postdating the latest texts of Qumran. (Doudna, p. 246)

Doudna suggests that the I would like to revisit some of my recent thoughts and posts arising from Eva Mroczek’s The Literary Imagination in Jewish Antiquity to consider whether this data has implications for some aspects of just how loose were the concepts of “sacred scriptures” and “canon” in the Second Temple era.

In this post I would like to take time to grasp Doudna’s first point about the historical references and allusions in the scrolls all pertaining to the pre-Christian era. With new ideas I’m a slow and painstaking learner so to help me grasp the point I followed up the following in Doudna’s paper:

A 2003 study of Michael Wise remains the most comprehensive attempt to inventory the historical allusions in the Qumran texts. Wise counted what he defined as “first-order” allusions, and not “second order” allusions (allusions that depend on the correctness of a prior allusion identification), which Wise suggested would have increased — perhaps doubled — the numbers if that were done. Wise counted 6 allusions in the second century BCE, rising dramatically to 25 in the first century BCE ending at 37 BCE. Then, 0 for the first century CE, 0 for second century CE, etc. Other studies have found this same pattern of distribution. (Doudna, p. 239)

Off to JSTOR to locate Wise’s article, then: “Dating the Teacher of Righteousness and the Floruit of his Movement,” JBL 122 (2003): 53-87.

Wise demonstrates the history of uncertain and contradictory results from paleographic dating and writes:

Paleographic dating is imprecise because it is inherently subjective. (Wise, p. 57)

There’s an entire post there just to draw out the substance of that claim. Wise further points out the evidence against the once popular idea that there was a single community of scribes responsible for the copying of all of the scrolls.

The presence of hundreds of different hands seems inexplicable unless the majority of the scrolls originated elsewhere than at Qumran. (Wise, p. 59)

The following table is a précis of Wise’s more detailed data:dead

 # Historical References Date Manuscript Translation Notes


The high priesthood of Onias III

174 B.C.E.

Pseudo-Daniel (4Q245) i 9, in an apparent list of high priests

“and Onias”

Onias IV is also possible


he taking of Jerusalem by Antiochus IV Epiphanes

170/169 B.C.E.

Pesher on Nahum (4QpNah; 4Q169) 3-4 i 3

“and God did not give Jerusalem] into the power of the kings of Greece from (the time of) Antiochus until the rulers of the Kittim arose.


The high priesthood of Jonathan Maccabee

161-143/2 B.C.E

4Q245 i 10, in the same list of high priests noted above (no. 1)



The high priesthood of Simon Maccabee

143/2-135/4 B.C.E.

4Q245 i 10, in the list of high priests (no. 1)



One or more events involving John Hyrcanus I

135/4-104 B.C.E. 

4QpapHistorical Text C (4Q331) 1 i 7

“Yohanan to bring to [”

Also possibly referring to John Hycanus II


John Hyrcanus I as a false prophet

135/4-104 B.C.E.

4QList of False Prophets (4Q339) frg. 1 line 9

“[Yohanan son of Sim]on”


The reign of Alexander Jannaeus

103-76 B.C.E.

4QApocryphal Psalm and Prayer (4Q448) ii 2 and iii 842

“over Jonathan the king” and “for Jonathan the king”

Two distinct allusions here.


One or more events of the reign of Alexander Jannaeus

103-76 B.C.E.

4QJonathan (4Q523) frgs. 1-2 line 2 (

translation very uncertain

This manuscript is so fragmentary that any ideas about it are perforce extremely tentative.”


The coming of Demetrius III Eucaerus to invade Jerusalem at Pharisee invitation

88 B.C.E.

Pesher on Nahum (4QpNah; 4Q169) 3-4 i 2

the true interpretation concerns Deme]trius, king of Greece, who sought to enter Jerusalem on the counsel of the Seekers of Accommodation”


The crucifixion of Pharisee supporters of Demetrius III by Alexander Jannaeus

88 B.C.E. (

Pesher on Nahum (4QpNah; 4Q169) 3-4 i 7-8

“ven]geance against the Seekers of Accommodation; for he used to hang men [from a tree while] (still) alive, [as it was done] in Israel of old.”


The crucifixion of Pharisee supporters of Demetrius III by Alexander Jannaeus

88 B.C.E.

Pesher on Hosea (4QpHosb; 4Q167) frg. 2 lines 1-7

the true interpretation con]cerns the final priest, who will stretch out his hand to smite Ephraim”

Ephraim is elsewhere a cipher for the Pharisees.”


An unidentifiable event involving the Hasmonean queen, Alexandra (Hebrew name Shelamzion)

Presumably during her reign, 76-67 B.C.E.

4QHistorical Text D (4Q332) ii 4

foundation/secret counsel (?), Shelamzion came … “


A second unidentifiable event involving Alexandra

Presumably 76-67 B.C.E.

4QpapHistorical Text C (4Q331) 1 ii 7



Shift of control of temple ritual activities from Jannaeus’s faction to the Pharisees

During the reign of Alexandra, 76-67 B.C.E.

Pesher on Nahum (4QpNah; 4Q169) 3-4 ii 4-6

The true interpretation concerns the rule of the Seekers of Accommodation; never absent from their company will be the sword of the Gentiles, captivity, looting, internal strife, exile for fear of enemies. A mass of criminal carcasses will fall in their days, with no limit to the total of their slain-indeed, because of their criminal purpose they will stumble on the flesh of their corpses!”

That these lines describe Pharisaic dominion in Jerusalem in the days of Alexandra is generally acknowledged by scholars. Dominance in the political realm equated with control over the temple rituals. The Phar-isees were now able to begin enforcing their interpretations of dis-puted passages of biblical law.”


Hyrcanus II flees to the Nabateans for asylum and to seek support for a planned rebellion against Aristobulus II

67 B.C.E.

4QHistorical Text D (4Q332) frg. 2 line 1

to] give him honor among the Arab[s”

Hyrcanus II rebels against Aristobulus II

67 B.C.E.

4QHistorical Text D (4Q332) frg. 2 line 6

“…. Hyrcanus rebelled [against Aristobulus”

The reading of [-rnr] is uncertain, but even if it is mistaken, the line rep-resents an allusion to the time of a “Hyrcanus,” presumably Hyrca-nus II, since the related 4Q331 elsewhere refers to Hyrcanus I as “Yohanan” (see on no. 5 above).”


Civil war breaks out between Aristobulus II and Hyrcanus II

67 B.C.E.

4Q183 i 2 1-3

“their enemies, and they defiled their sanctuary [. . .] from them, and they advanced to battles, each man [against his brother . .. those who were faithful] to his covenant, God delivered and [they] escaped [to the land of the north.”

The war arose as a result of certain practices in the Jerusalem temple; the text’s description might easily apply to the situation in 67 B.C.E., or, as Kister believes, that of Jannaeus’s time, 94-88 B.C.E.”


An action-presumably of a hostile sort-taken against Aristobulus II

67-63 B.C.E.

Olim 4Q323 frg. 3 line 6

“and against Ari[stobulus”


The coming of the Romans to Palestine under Pompey the Great

63 B.C.E.

CD 8:11-12

“‘The poison of vipers’ is the head of the kings of Greece, who came to wreak vengeance on them.”

Since arguably it can be deduced that the cipher “kings of Greece” was used by the pesharists as a broad rubric that might embrace the Romans (see no. 20 below), the allusion is reasonably understood as a reference to Pompey. He marched on Jerusalem in 63 B.C.E. with auxiliary troops furnished by, among others, the Seleucid “Greeks” (Josephus, Ant. 14.48). He was thus a “king of the Greeks.” The pesharist saw Pompey’s attack as God’s vengeance upon the powers in Jerusalem for their treatment of the Teacher and his followers in the preceding years.”


The fall of Jerusalem to Pompey’s Roman army

63 B.C.E.

Pesher on Nahum (4QpNah; 4Q169) 3-4 i 3

“but God did not give Jerusalem] into the power of the kings of Greece from (the time) of Antiochus until the rulers of the Kittim arose”

. . . . the correlative grammatical construction […], which makes the Romans “kings of the Greeks” just as much as Anti-ochus was one.”


The defeat of Aristobulus II and his faction at the hands of Hyrcanus II, his faction (including the Pharisees), and his Roman allies

63 B.C.E.

Pesher on Nahum (4QpNah; 4Q169) 3-4 iv 3

“The true inter-pretation concerns Manasseh in the final era, for his kingdom shall be brought low in Is[rael.”

“Manasseh” in the pesharim is often understood to refer to the Sad-ducees, but this construction is too narrow. The reference is rather to the entire faction of Aristobulus II, as no. 22 makes clear. This faction doubtless included some Sadducees, but other groups as well.”


The exile of Aristobulus II, his family, and selected followers to Rome, and the execution of many of the leaders of his faction by the Romans

63 B.C.E.

Pesher on Nahum (4QpNah; 4Q169) 3-4 iv 4

his women [sc. Manasseh], his infants, and his children shall go into captivity; his war-riors and his nobles [shall perish] by the sword.”


A massacre of Jews involving a Roman general who served under Pompey, M. Aemilius Scaurus

63-61 B.C.E.

4QHistorical Text E (4Q333) frg. 1 lines 3-4

“[On the first (or, the second; or, the third) day of (the service of the priestly course of) J]ehezkel, which is [the twenty-ninth (or, the thirtieth; or, the thirty-first) day of the sixth month, the Day] of the Massacre of Aemilius.”


A second murder or massacre involving Scaurus

63-61 B.C.E

4QHistorical Text E (4Q333) frg. 1 lines 7-8

“the fourth day of (the service of the priestly course of) Gamul, whi]ch is [the fifteenth day of the seventh month, is the Festival of Booths; on that day,] Aemilius murdered …”


Exaction of tribute by the Romans beginning in the period after the war

63 B.C.E. onward

Pesher on Habakkuk (1QpHab) 6:6-7

“the true interpretation is that they impose the yoke of their taxes-this is ‘their food’-on all the peoples yearly”


The establishment of Roman soldiers in Jerusalem after the war

63-57 B.C.E.

Pesher on Nahum (4QpNah; 4Q169) 3-4 i 1

the true interpretation concerns Jerusalem, which has become] a dwelling place for the wicked of the Gentiles”


The rule of the Jews by a succession of rapacious Roman governors

63-40 B.C.E.

Pesher on Habakkuk (1QpHab) 4:10-13

“the true interpretation [con]cerns the rulers of the Kittim, who pass-by the counsel of a guil[ty] faction-one after the other; [their] rulers come, [ea]ch in his turn, to destroy the la[nd”


A massacre or battle involving Peitholaus

55-51 B.C.E.

4QHistorical Text F (4Q468e) 2-3

to kill the multitude of me[n] … Peitholaus”

This tiny fragment of three lines seems to allude to violent actions taken by Peitholaus, a Jewish general who was a party to warfare and massacres in the mid-first century B.C.E. Peitholaus at first allied him-self with the Romans and helped punish Jewish rebels who supported Aristobulus’s wing of the Hasmoneans (Josephus, Ant. 14.84-85; J. W 1.162-63). Later, he switched sides and became an ally of those same partisans. In this role he was involved in a battle with the Romans wherein, again, many Jews lost their lives (Ant. 14.93-95; J.W 1.172). Shortly thereafter he himself suffered execution at Roman hands (Ant. 14.120; J.W 1.180). “


Hyrcanus II taken prisoner by the Parthians

40 B.C.E.

Pesher on Habakkuk (1QpHab 9:9-12)

the true interpretation refers to the Wicked Priest. Because of the crime he committed against the Teacher of Righteousness and the members of his party, God handed him over to his enemies, humiliating him with a consuming affliction with despair, because he had done wrong to his chosen.”

The identity of the “Wicked Priest” has long been a vexed issue in Dead Sea Scrolls research, but as Andrd Dupont-Sommer first observed, Hyrcanus II is certainly one of the viable candidates.72 Indeed, given the first-century time frame evident elsewhere in the pesharim, he seems the best candidate. When the Parthians invaded Judea in 40 B.C.E. and supported Antigonus as king, Hyrcanus was put at their disposal as one of the backers of the failed Herod. His ears were cropped to render him permanently unfit to serve as high priest (a possible interpretation of the “consuming affliction”), and he was taken back to Parthia as a prisoner. When he was released several years later, Herod, by now installed as Roman client king, arranged his murder.”


Hyrcanus II taken prisoner by the Parthians

40 B.C.E.

Pesher on Psalms (4QpPsa; 4Q171) 1-10 iv 9-10

but as for [him (sc. the Wicked Priest), God will] recompense him by giving him into the power of violent Gentiles, to work [vengeance] upon him.”


The plunder of Jerusalem by the Roman army under Sosius

37 B.C.E.

Pesher on Habakkuk (1QpHab) 9:4-7

the true interpretation con-cerns the later priests of Jerusalem, who will gather ill-gotten riches from the plunder of the peoples, but in the Last Days their riches and plunder alike will be handed over to the army of the Kittim”

After the city of Jerusalem fell to Herod and his Roman allies in 37 B.C.E., the Roman army was unusually violent and unrestrained in their plundering of the city. Josephus attributes this attitude to their anger at the five-month length of the siege.”

Wise’s conclusion from the above data is worth quoting at length:

But what can one say of the period after 30 B.C.E.? The writers of the Dead Sea Scrolls, whether sectarian or nonsectarian, seem to have nothing to say about the years 30 B.C.E.-70 C.E. Surely this puzzle requires explanation.

From a modem standpoint these years represent perhaps the most tumultuous and significant century in ancient Jewish history — all passed over in silence. The scrolls contain no recognizable reference to any of the signal events of Herod the Great’s reign, although Josephus portrayed that period as a watershed in his people’s history.

  • Herod’s building of a Greek theater and amphitheater in Jerusalem finds no mention anywhere.
  • Neither is there any allusion to Herod’s rebuilding of Samaria.
  • Nor do the scrolls concern themselves, even by a passing reference, with Herod’s dismantling of the Hasmonean temple in Jerusalem in order to replace it with his own.

Indeed, consider a few of the other matters of the years 30 B.C.E. to 70 C.E. that go unmentioned:

  • the War of Varus;
  • appointment and dismissal of high priests at will;
  • planned installation of the image of Caligula in the temple at Jerusalem;
  • the reign of Herod Agrippa I, a follower of the Pharisees;
  • various freedom fighters, prophets, and millenarian leaders who appear in Josephus, including John the Baptist;
  • high priestly families battling in the streets of Jerusalem in the years 62-64 C.E.;
  • the outbreak and events of the First Revolt itself.

These are the same kinds of events — involving temple purity and political leadership, war and foreign invasion — about which the writers of the scrolls were downright voluble for the first century B.C.E. . . . . 

. . . .

One possible explanation is that the apparent absence of new writings is merely that-apparent, fortuitous. On this view, the Teacher’s movement did continue to produce literature, but by sheer bad luck no identifiable portion of those later writings survived. This is a kind of argument from silence, useful to potential advocates to counter what they would, no doubt, brand as itself an argument from silence. Although conceivably correct, the problem with their approach is that it amounts to saying that the best argument is no argument. In fact, historians dealing with antiquity always face the problem that only a small percentage of the evidence has survived. The usual practice-and few would dispute that it is the best practice-is to draw provisional conclusions on the basis of what has survived.

In any case, we are in a better situation here than such advocates would have one believe. To draw an inference from the total absence of allusions to the first century C.E. in the Dead Sea Scrolls is really not an argument from silence. The situation is rather akin to that of the hound in the Sherlock Holmes story “Silver Blaze”: this is a dog that should have barked. The most natural conclusion from the silence is that the dog could not bark: it was either sick, or it was dead. By the beginning of the common era, it seems, the Teacher’s movement had lost vitality, perhaps even ceased to exist. No more than a rivulet survived to flow into the first century C.E.8

(Wise, pp. 85-6, my bolding and formatting)

Hope to post more as opportunity permits.

Doudna, G.L. 2017. “Dating the Scroll Deposits of the Qumran Caves: A Question of Evidence.” In The Caves of Qumran: Proceedings of the International Conference, Lugano 2014, edited by Marcello Fidanzio, 238-246. Leiden, Boston: Brill.

Wise, M.O. 2003. “Dating the Teacher of Righteousness and the Floruit of his Movement,” JBL 122 (2003): 53-87.


  • R Pence
    2017-02-12 16:15:43 UTC - 16:15 | Permalink

    So much for Eisenman.

    • Neil Godfrey
      2017-02-13 07:23:23 UTC - 07:23 | Permalink

      Eisenman’s reconstruction came across to me as very clever but very tenuous — making links that were tenuous at best and building an ever higher house of cards, to mix metaphors.

      • R Pence
        2017-02-13 07:58:45 UTC - 07:58 | Permalink

        I’ve always felt the same way. His scenario of Paul as ambitious Herodian and traitor, James the Just as teacher of righteousness, etc., in and around his ascribing a jihad-like mentality and zealotry to the period, etc., etc., all seems politically very plausible – more so than the sort of strangely anemic vision of the period and place one usually gets from New Testament scholars. But it’s all very tenuous, to use your word. Moreover, I could never quite get the talking point of Eisenman that to understand Jesus you have to understand James, the brother of Jesus. Because after he deals with Paul, James, etc., there’s no real place for any Jesus. That is, adding Jesus to his scenario is like adding zero to a sum.

    • Matt Cavanaugh
      2017-02-13 18:27:08 UTC - 18:27 | Permalink

      If output at Qumran can be shown to have desisted prior to the 1st Century AD, then Eisenman’s hypothesis must fall. Otherwise, he puts forth numerous propositions that are highly plausible, are consilient with other hypotheses, and offer explanations for several perplexing questions.

  • John Roth
    2017-02-13 04:41:02 UTC - 04:41 | Permalink

    So a plausible hypothesis for the origin of the Dead Sea Scrolls is that they were hidden away to prevent destruction by the winners in a religious power struggle, and then the winners won for long enough that nobody came back to rescue them? Nothing to do with the Essenes?

    I wonder if those fragments from between Herod (37 BCE) and the first revolt contain the same t’amin that the Masoretic Text contains, which Suzanne Haïk-Vantoura claims are musical notation for which the verses were supposed to be sung, and which Bob McDonald is assiduously translating into English that can be sung to that melody. If so, that might be a quite interesting discovery.

    • Neil Godfrey
      2017-02-13 07:21:56 UTC - 07:21 | Permalink

      I will be posting more on this topic with the same theme. Most of the literature I am reading is clear that the evidence is against the scrolls being the responsibility of a single sectarian group such as the Essenes. I know nothing about musical notation in this connection or Bob McDonald’s work, sorry.

  • Booker
    2017-02-13 17:49:39 UTC - 17:49 | Permalink

    When I was a freshman in college (around 25 years ago) one of my assigned history texts was a collection of papers and included one on the Dead Sea Scrolls, making an argument against the mainstream view that attributed authorship of the scrolls to the Essenes and linked them both to the ruins at Qumran. I remember the article pointed out a number of findings among the archaeological evidence from the ruins and the scrolls that were inconsistent with what was known of the Essenes. I don’t recall the author attempting to attribute the scrolls to any group or another, only that the ruins appeared to be more of a fort than a monastery and that the proximity of the ruins and the scrolls was probably just coincidental.

    Over the years, whenever I would come across something discussing the scrolls, I’ve remained curious as to whether authorship was still authoritatively attributed to the Essenes, so I find it very interesting to see evidence such as this, suggesting that the scrolls are a century older than previously believed, that would seem to further that argument against that theory.

  • Pingback: Vridar » Qumran was Not a Sectarian Community (Essene or Otherwise): Argument from Archaeology – #1

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  • Greg Doudna
    2017-02-15 22:32:43 UTC - 22:32 | Permalink

    I appreciate the clear, incisive summary of the key points at issue. The quotation from Michael Wise’s article is particularly powerful. Ironically I had the same lengthy quotation from the Wise article you independently homed in on, in my original article submission to the Fidanzio conference volume, but I had to cut it due to word-length limits.

    Wise brought out brilliantly and eloquently that the absence of first-century CE allusions in any Qumran text–the dog that is not barking–calls for explanation. But Wise assumed, in keeping with virtually all existing Qumran text-scholarly discourse, that the First Revolt endpoint is a fact, a starting-point for further analysis. Wise therefore sought an explanation for the absence of post-37 BCE allusions (Wise’s latest dated allusion) while not challenging the premise of a First Revolt endpoint for the scroll copies and deposits in the caves. Wise concluded that the only reasonable explanation was that the sect must have ceased to exist at about the time the text compositions ended–otherwise, Wise reasoned, there would have been later texts represented in the scrolls assumed to have continued until 68 CE.

    But while that is one possible explanation, it is not the only conceivable one, in explanation of the absence of post-late-1st BCE allusions. Another possibility would be that the sect continued and it continued to produce texts but the sect no longer used the site of Qumran for permanent disposals of scrolls after a certain point for whatever reason.

    I think the earlier dating of the endpoint of the scrolls deposits is correct but I do not think it follows from that in itself that either (a) the Essene connection is thereby falsified, or (b) the core of Eisenman’s first-century CE argument and names-analysis is necessarily falsified. Both propositions just named may or may not be ultimately correct or incorrect but the earlier dating of the scrolls deposits does not in my opinion decisively answer those questions one way or the other.

    As for Essenes, there is not simply a binary choice between the sect of the Qumran texts was or was not the Essenes. A third alternative is there was a relationship but not necessarily in the way assumed, i.e. a deconstructed and then reconstructed interpretation of a relationship, real but perhaps in a different way than has been assumed. For example, Eyal Regev has argued that the Essenes do not match the Qumran texts directly but the Essenes are a later development from the Qumran texts–a development which in Regev’s opinion accounts for both the similarities and differences in the two classes of phenomena. Whether that is correct or not is not for me to say, but cited only to illustrate that there are more than just two narrowly-defined binary explanatory options. I myself suspect some form of a “third alternative”, in which there is a differently-understood, not necessarily obvious, relationship between the Qumran texts and the Essenes, still to be explained and understood. These questions are distinct from the issue of dating the Qumran scroll deposits.

    On impact on Eisenman’s theory, the earlier scroll deposits dating removes the Liar/Teacher identifications of Paul and James in particular, and the larger thesis that the Qumran texts constitute primary first-century CE texts giving firsthand the other side of the story to the letters of Paul and the Paul-influenced Gospels. That is a dent in Eisenman’s argument in the form he has presented it but is it a fatal blow? First-century CE phenomena still have to have come from somewhere and have had antecedents. The Eisenman arguments of Josephus/New Testament/early patristic texts’ names and themes’ connections remain up for discussion, just as a number of current books and studies pursue various related lines of inquiry not dependent on a particular dating of the Qumran texts.

    • Matt Cavanaugh
      2017-02-16 02:00:20 UTC - 02:00 | Permalink

      IIRC, Eisenman identifies marriage to nieces as a concern of the DSS writers that can only refer to the Herodians of the 1st Century AD. Do you see that concern as unique to that period?

    • Neil Godfrey
      2017-02-16 02:51:44 UTC - 02:51 | Permalink

      Thanks for adding that point about Wise’s view. And I am very sorry for leaving your name misspelled in the post — darn spellcheck was driving me crazy by always turning it into something else!

    • Greg Doudna
      2017-02-16 04:04:22 UTC - 04:04 | Permalink

      No worries on the misspelling Neil–one (apocryphal) family legend was that “Doudna” was an original misspelling of our original ancestor John Doudna’s arrival to the US and being asked his name and answering “Don’t Know”!

      Matt C., I have wondered based on the polemic against niece marriage in the Damascus Document (D) if that text could be as late as the end of the reign of Herod the Great and indeed allude to the niece marriages and polygamy of Herod and his extended family, and if: the figure of the Liar is none other than Herod himself; and the destruction of the congregation of the Liar, and of the Men of War who betrayed the Teacher and followed the Liar in D, and Pesher Nahum with its crucifixions, date as late as Varus of ca. 4 BCE. The “head of Greek kings” of D who exercises wrath upon the congregation of the Liar would become Roman emperor Augustus Caesar, ruler of the world, via his agent Varus who would become the Lion of Wrath of Pesher Nahum. The fact that first century CE Herodians continued to practice niece marriage would be true but irrelevant. In this reconstruction the final composition of the Damascus Document and the latest pesharim would postdate the death of the Teacher by a little, which on independent grounds I believe was Hyrcanus II, executed by Herod in 30 BCE. Earlier halakhic texts among the Qumran finds have strictures against niece marriage such that the stricture itself appears ancient, but the Damascus Document applying that stricture in such a prominent and polemical manner may be directed against its polemical target, the Liar figure and regime, a regime situated contemporary with the end of the Qumran texts.

    • R Pence
      2017-02-16 08:09:02 UTC - 08:09 | Permalink

      I can’t say at this early hour – barely one cup of coffee in – that I can summon up a complete and detailed picture of Eisenman’s work. But I find it rather hard to believe that this kind of wholesale reconstruction of what Qumran was wouldn’t prove ‘fatal’ to his effort. Sure, it wouldn’t negate every single association or assertion made in his work. But there is nonetheless a core argument in ‘James the Brother of Jesus’ that hinges on the Herodian Paul as Liar, James the Brother of Jesus as Teacher of Righteousness, and so on. Perhaps a distinction should be made: I’m not saying that a Qumran reconstruction such as the one under discussion would necessarily render Eisenman’s core scenario false; but it seems like it would certainly take away his primary evidence.

      • Matt Cavanaugh
        2017-02-20 11:58:37 UTC - 11:58 | Permalink

        Considering Eisenman devotes 3,000-odd pages to the subject, with much repetition and endless digressions, it can be hard to distill his points.

        He does connect certain ‘zealous’ concerns in the DSS to the Herodian period, and so identifies:
        Spouter of Lies = Paul
        Wicked Priest = Ananus
        Teacher of Righteousness = James.

        He also considers ‘Damascus’ code for the Qumran community*. This would go far to explain an otherwise impossible scenario of Paul’s punitive mission the city of that name. (Though Eisenman’s “cup of blood” deciphering seems a stretch.)

        If the relevant DSS were produced prior to the Herodian era, then Eisenman’s character identifications cannot be correct. Still possible, however, is for that sect – or an offshoot – to still be in existence, for those concerns to still be current, and for Paul, James, and the Herodian high priests to be running over the same ground. But as you, point out, without the hard evidence Eisenman sees in the DSS.

        * Given the proposition put forth in this series of posts, it might be more useful to treat this as whatever sect, located wherever, active whenever, which produced the scrolls that were deposited at Qumran.

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  • Stuart
    2017-02-19 21:06:25 UTC - 21:06 | Permalink

    I have no issues with the analysis, except the dating of Matthew in the 1st century CE. Some of the same types of assumptions that dated DSS in the 1st century are at play with dating Matthew and the NT in general (in this case taking the narratives are historically in close proximity to authorship). However Matthew’s direct refutation of several Marcionite positions point to a mid-2nd century origin. Verse 5:18 works just as well in 150 CE as 70 CE. The point of standardization of the text Masoretic remains valid. However on a similar note, in the LXX, κυρίου as tetragrammaton has no 1st century foundation, appearing in copies only from the 2nd century onward. (One wonders if this is related to some of the Aquila of Pontus mythology Eusubius gossips concerning translation of the Hebrew to Greek in the 2nd century, as a basis for Christian scripture source.)

    This is simply an aside. Just pointing out that Christian writers used a form LXX that is from even later than the standardized Hebrew text. And Matthew’s commentary in verse 5:18 is probably better seen in the context of the antinomian controversies of the mid-2nd century. The effect is merely to weaken Matthew as evidence of 1st century demarcation.

    • Greg Doudna
      2017-02-20 14:02:55 UTC - 14:02 | Permalink

      Thank you for the informative comment Stuart. Just to clarify, I have no problem with your analysis of the dating of Matthew. I am not a New Testament scholar, but as I understand it the saying of Jesus of Matt. 5:18/Luke 16:17 is considered part of “Q”. The context in which I brought this in at the conclusion of my article was an interesting additional observation after the argument had been made on other grounds. I was suggesting that that saying is historically realistic for pre-70, not that the Gospel is 1st century CE. It is analogous to rabbinic traditions also speak of scrupulous copying of biblical texts in the time of the pre-destruction standing temple. Pre-70 CE Hebrew biblical texts from Dead Sea sites other than Qumran confirm that tradition, but the rabbinic writings themselves are dated much later. Here is from the conclusion of my article to see the context [p. 246]:

      “When all is said and done, these two signals [absence of 1st CE text compositions; absence of carefully-copied exact-MT biblical texts] are the argument and the evidence for the earlier dating. The principal reason these signals have not registered in common scholarly consciousness seems to be the palaeographic dates which are assumed to establish the existence of first-century CE dates of text copies found in the caves. But the absolute dates of the ‘late Herodian formal’ and ‘post-Herodian formal’ scribal hands defined by Cross 1961 are derivative from the flawed 1951 archaeological redating of the scroll deposits discussed earlier. The flawed archaeological redating of 1951 provided the framework or template within which Cross labored to accurately reconstruct the development of the scribal hands. The absolute datings of the ‘Herodian formal’ hands reconstructed by Cross no doubt are close to correct but for this question which devolves to issues of small numbers of decades that is not good enough. It is no disrespect to Cross’s formidable study of 1961 if today there is some critical engagement or nuancing or departure from what sometimes seems to have become a scholarly doctrine of inerrancy concerning the absolute datings of Cross 1961. The scribal hands must be reassessed free of presupposition that the Qumran cave texts continued to the time of the First Revolt.

      “A shift in understanding in which the dates of the latest formal hands in the Qumran caves are situated perhaps in the time of Herod will not create a gap in typological development in the first century CE. The gap is filled by ‘late Herodian formal’ developing in the time of Herod and ‘post-Herodian formal’ developing in the first half of the first century CE. Once this is realized, no longer will the saying of Matt. 5:18 referring to iotas and kereias in the writing of scribes scrupulously copying the books of Moses with letter-perfect accuracy, and alluding to the decorative kereias of the most developed formal hands, be regarded as anachronistic. Matt. 5:18 may become recognized as a realistic allusion to scribal practice and ideology before the destruction of the temple, yet postdating the latest texts of Qumran.

      “In this picture the various waves of people who were at Qumran in the first century CE disturbed, opened, looted, and possibly read the scrolls they encountered in the caves by accident, thus accounting for the anciently disturbed conditions in the caves closest to the site, with remains of anciently-opened scrolls such as the torn-off leather tabs and strings left on the floors of Caves 4Q and 8Q. There has as yet been no positive evidence set forth that first-century CE people at Qumran added any new literary texts to the ones they encountered in the caves–texts which may have seemed to them, as to us, as if they were from another world and time.”

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