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A Day At Qmran. The Dead Sea Sect and it’s Scrolls. Introduction. 2000-year-old scrolls discovered in 1947 Near Dead Sea at Qumran Jewish Sect lived there Many scholars think they were Essenes. Jewish Society Second Temple Period 167 BCE – 70 CE. Many Judaisms Pharisees Saducees

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A day at qmran

A Day At Qmran

The Dead Sea Sect and it’s Scrolls


  • 2000-year-old scrolls discovered in 1947

  • Near Dead Sea at Qumran

  • Jewish Sect lived there

  • Many scholars think they were Essenes

Jewish society second temple period 167 bce 70 ce
Jewish SocietySecond Temple Period167 BCE – 70 CE

  • Many Judaisms

  • Pharisees

  • Saducees

  • Essenes

  • Early Christians

  • Other sects

How do we know sources
How do we know?Sources:

  • Flavius Josephus –Jewish Historian

  • Philo of Alexandria

  • Information from Scrolls themselves

  • Archaeological data

Sectarians way of life
Sectarians Way of Life

  • Concept of Separation – they lived apart

  • Disapproved of Temple Priesthood

  • “The body is corruptible and its constituent matter impermanent, but the soul is immortal and imperishable

Why did they separate
Why did they separate?

  • Disapproved of Temple priesthood

  • Maccabees (Jonathan) usurped priesthood from Zadoc priestly family

  • Jewish rulers kings as well as high priests

  • Protesters eliminated – sometimes crucified

New sects in protest
New Sects in Protest

  • New sects sprang up

  • Thought they were the true worshipers of God

  • Prayed for Messiah who would restore purity to temple

  • Essenes were such a sect

Concept of time
Concept of Time

  • Believed God revealed calendar to them

  • We know this from the scrolls, sundial

  • Solar Calendar – 364 day year

  • Other Jews – till today use the Lunar Calendar

  • Celebrated festivals on different days from other Jews

  • Festivals always fell on same day of week

Beliefs that differed
Beliefs that differed

  • Predestination rather than choice

  • Dualism

  • Sons of Light and Sons of Darkness


  • Main building at Qmran not a dwelling

  • Center of activities during day

  • Inhabitants slept nearby in caves, tents, huts

  • Combs, mezuzot, oil lamps, pottery found

  • Network of paths

  • Nails from sandals on path between caves and main building


  • Lived in desert

  • Desert a symbol of Purity

  • Cut off from rest of world

  • Believed the End of Days was near

  • They would then go to Jerusalem and get the Temple back from the Wicked Priest

Morning prayer
Morning Prayer

  • Rise, wash, dress in linen – go to main center

  • Observe together mitzvah of daily prayer

  • Wore tefillin – oldest were found on site

  • Similar to today’s though some content different – e.g. Ten Commandments added


  • Weekdays all members work

  • Functioned as a self-sufficient unit

  • Most members young unmarried men

  • Used areas natural resources to live

Farming and animal husbandry
Farming and Animal Husbandry

  • Ran a farm near Ain Feshka - 1mile away

  • Ain Feshka an abundant source of water

  • Grew date palms

  • Farming implements found

  • Grew grain – mainly barley

  • Hunted gazelle possibly bred fish and kept herds


  • Crafts and industries

  • Probably prepared own parchment

  • Made pottery – workshop and kiln, pots found

  • Evidence of textiles and weaving

  • Some products sold in markets nearby

First kibbutz
First Kibbutz?

  • Communal property and labor

  • Hoard of silver coins found

  • Money given to bursar by sects new members?

  • Ostracon found –a deed of gift

  • Transfer of ownership of new member’s property to sect


  • Before noon stopped work for purification

  • Ritual immersion necessary before communal meal

  • Elaborate water system – 3 cisterns, mikvaot

  • Mikvaot created near refectory

  • Not uncommon then but sect had different rules

Ritual immersion
Ritual Immersion

  • Only permitted to members of the sect to immerse

  • Just like priests immersed before serving in sanctuary at Temple in Jerusalem

  • Sect replaced temple rituals of sacrifice

  • Sign of repentance and spiritual purity – like John the Baptist

Communal meal
Communal Meal

  • Ate communal meal in large refectory

  • More than 1000 utensils found most intact

  • Ate on mats

  • Diet – bread, dates, honey, olives, pomegranites, dairy products, some meat

Community replaced temple
Community replaced Temple

  • Daily communal meals spiritual substitute for sacrifices

  • Would explain mikvah before each meal

  • Only full members of sect participated

  • Women, children not allowed into Qmran


  • Returned to tasks after meal

  • Some studied sacred texts – Torah and Prophets

  • New members brought scrolls with them

  • Some were copied in the “scriptorium” or written by sectarians themselves

Scriptorium and library
Scriptorium and Library

  • Scriptorium perhaps on upper floor

  • Inkwells found

  • Mainly written on parchment – a few papyrus

  • Reading room (benches along walls)

  • Perhaps library also upstairs


  • Scrolls – parchment sheaths sewn together

  • Scribe would mark columns and lines with sharp instrument

  • Wrote with sharpened reeds or metal

  • Used black ink – soot, resin, oil, water

  • Pottery shards to practice writing


  • About 900 scrolls found

  • Mostly written in Hebrew

  • Some in Aramaic – a very few in Greek

  • Some written in cryptographic script – not all decoded yet


  • Purification repeated in evening after chores

  • Another communal meal

  • Nights used for

    • Rest

    • Study

    • Judgement of members

    • Communal Prayer


  • Devoted entirely to worship study and prayer

  • Very strict

  • People punished if they yawned or spat

  • Thought their shabat songs were also sung by angels while they sang


  • Websites on the Dead Sea Scrolls

  • http://www.abc.net.au/religion/features/scrolls/more.htm

  • http://www.cnn.com/WORLD/9707/26/dead.sea.scrolls/Good overview article with some excellent related sites

  • http://orion.mscc.huji.ac.il/index.htmlExcellent site of the Orion Centre for the Study of the Dead Sea Scrolls and Related Literature, at Hebrew University, replete with cave tour. Excellent links to latest research.

  • http://www.judaica.org/deadsea/index.htmlProject Judaica Foundation together with the Israel Antiquities Authority and the Library of Congress - a description of the issues involved in exhibiting the Scrolls at the Library.

  • http://www.judaica.org/deadsea/index.htmlDiscussion board about the scholarly disagreements and alignments in Scrolls research.

  • http://home.flash.net/~hoselton/deadsea/profile.htmSome thumbnail descriptions of principal figures (historical and otherwise) who come up in DeadSeaScroll research. Not complete.