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The New Jerusalem Text from Qumran

The New Jerusalem Text (4Q554), composed in the first third of the second century BCE in Aramaic, conveys in minute detail an architectural plan of a city of huge proportions. The city has twelve gates named after the twelve tribes of Israel. Although the city is not named, the descriptions are usually taken as referring to the New Jerusalem. It is similar in many ways to the description of the temple in the Temple Scroll, but there are no direct literary links between the two texts. Further images of the New Jerusalem text and most other Dead Sea Scrolls can be seen in the Leon Levy Dead Sea Scrolls Digital Library.

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Songs of the Sabbath Sacrifice from Qumran

The Songs of the Sabbath Sacrifice are a group of liturgical songs to be used on each of the first thirteen Sabbaths of the year, dating by the solar calendar. The copies found at Qumran are not generally understood as sectarian in nature. That is, they do not appear to reflect practices particular to the Qumran community. Eight manuscripts of the work were found in Qumran Cave 4 (4Q400 through 4Q407), with a further copy in Cave 11 (11Q17). The manuscripts date to the late Hasmonean and Herodian periods, from the middle of the second century BCE to the middle of the first century CE. The Songs focus on the angels and their worship and service of God in the heavenly Temple / palace, depicting the celestial sanctuary as a living temple comprised of a vast array of angelic beings.

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The Temple Scroll from Qumran

The Temple Scroll is the largest single preserved composition found in the Qumran caves near the Dead Sea. A small portion of the scroll, columns 41–44, is shown here. This work has been called the most important halakhic (Jewish legal) composition known from the Second Temple period. It is generally considered to have been compiled no later than the last quarter of the second-century BCE, describing systems that served as forerunners to the wider Qumran communities. As it precedes the Qumran community, it was not written by them, but its presence among other texts belonging to the community indicates that it was copied by and likely significant to them. The most well preserved copy of the Temple Scroll is 11QTemple Scroll a (11Q19), which was found in Cave 2 and is about eight metres long, with 65 extant columns (2-66). The copy is written in two hands, with one scribe writing columns 1-5 at the end of the first-century BCE and another scribe writing the remainder of the Scroll probably at the beginning of the first-century CE. The main purpose of the Temple Scroll is to envisage an idealised version of Jewish everyday life and religion that should be lived and maintained in the present, rather than a state which should be implemented in the later days.

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Ezekiel 41:3–6 from Qumran

Ezekiel 40-48 paints a vivid picture of a restored Jerusalem Temple, depicting the return of Yhwh’s kabod (glory), regulations for the Temple, and the division of land surrounding the temple and city. Ezekiel’s plan is not just of a temple building, but of a clear structure for the proper worship of Yhwh in the renewed community.These fragments (4Q73/4QEzek a, frgs. 4-5), preserved among the scrolls at Qumran near the Dead Sea, preserve part of a copy of Ezekiel 41:3–6. The text tells of Yhwh’s triumphant arrival in the restored Jerusalem, the undoing of the disaster brought on when Yhwh left the Temple at the end of Ezekiel 11. The preservation of this text, possibly for a scroll of biblical excerpts, suggests that later Jewish communities valued the temple vision, whether or not they considered it a realistic expectation. 

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Lamentations 1:6-10 from Qumran

The destruction of Jerusalem in 586 BCE changed everything. Few texts express the sense of loss and longing that resulted from this as poignantly as the Book of Lamentations. The five laments in the book give voice to an emotional response to the destruction of the city, blaming the sins of a personified Jerusalem for the horrors her citizens now face. The fragment shown is from 4QLam (also known as 4Q111), the largest of the Lamentations scrolls from the Qumran texts discovered in the Judean desert. The text in this extract is Lamentations 1:6–10 (albeit with some important differences between the readings given in this scroll and the traditional Hebrew text, the Masoretic text). Lamentations 1:6–10 speaks of Jerusalem’s sin and the punishments bestowed upon the city in colourful terms, with imagery whose shock value is exacerbated by the portrayal of Jerusalem as female: Jerusalem 'has become an impurity—all who honoured her make light of her, because they have seen her nakedness' (v. 8). Laying issues of gendered violence momentarily aside, this text points to some of the key questions raised in the aftermath of exile: what caused this, and what does this mean? For the author(s) of Lamentations, the answers are that Jerusalem’s own transgressions brought about its downfall, and the result is that the city and people have been abandoned by Yhwh. The lament tradition was a longstanding one and may be seen also in the Lament for the City of Ur.

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Lika Tov's 'Writing the Temple Scroll'

Lika Tov, a Holland-born Israeli artist, has used the Temple Scroll in this collograph work to re-imagine the scribe at work on the Temple Scroll manuscript at Qumran. The scribe occupies the right half of the image, while the left side depicts his imaginings about what the future Temple may look like. A menorah forms the basis of this future Temple, which is guarded or protected by angelic beings.