Classics and Religious Studies


Date of this Version

January 1999


Published in Eretz-Israel: Archaeological, Historical and Geographical Studies, Volume 26 (Frank Moore Cross Volume), edited by Baruch A. Levine, Philip J. King, Joseph Naveh, and Ephraim Stern. Jerusalem: Israel Exploration Society, 1999. Pages 1–8. Copyright © 1999 Israel Exploration Society . Used by permission.


Since the discovery of the Qumran scrolls in the late 1940s and 1950s, certain manuscripts of the collection have been described by the term “Rewritten Bible." This grouping has been rather loosely defined, but the criteria for membership in this category include a close attachment, either through narrative or themes, to some book contained in the present Jewish canon of Scripture, and some type of reworking, whether through rearrangement, conflation, or supplementation, of the present canonical biblical text. Thus, works such as Pseudo-Ezekiel or Pseudo-Daniel would be excluded from the category, since, although thematically related to a biblical text (Ezekiel, Daniel), they do not reuse the actual biblical text. However, the three texts under consideration here, 4QReworked Pentateuch, the Temple Scroll and Jubilees, do fit this rather loose definition. All three are closely attached to the text of the Pentateuch, or Torah, and all three contain a more or less extensive reworking of the present canonical text of the Pentateuch. Thus it would seem that the designation “Rewritten Bible” is a suitable one for these texts.

Before continuing, however, it would be worth while to consider whether this category of “Rewritten Bible” is correct when describing part of the Qumran corpus. Both elements in the designation can be called into question. First, the term “Bible” is anachronistic at Qumran. A bible, in the sense of a fixed collection of sacred books regarded as authoritative by a particular religious tradition, did not exist during the time in which the Qumran corpus was copied (roughly 250 BCE to 68 CE). For instance, the number of books regarded as authoritative was not fixed. Strong, if not definitive, cases can be made for the books of the Torah, at least some of the Prophets, and the Psalms, but the case for books such as Chronicles is ambiguous at best. In the other direction, strong cases can be made for books not now considered canonical, such as Enoch and Jubilees (see below). Second, as the work of Cross, Talmon, Ulrich, Tov and others has shown, the text of the books we now term “biblical” was not fixed in this period, but pluriform. The term “rewritten,” then, can be called into question as well, for if a fixed text does not exist, can it be rewritten? In light of these considerations, the category itself appears slippery, since at Qumran there is no easy dividing line between biblical and non-biblical, authoritative and non-authoritative texts. Therefore, the best procedure would be to consider each text separately as part of a range of texts found at Qumran representing in some way the text of the Pentateuch, and to try to determine each text’s function and status within that range. First, I will give a brief survey of the manuscripts of Genesis through Deuteronomy commonly classified as “biblical.”

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