Classics and Religious Studies


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Published in THE HEBREW BIBLE AND QUMRAN, edited by James H. Charlesworth (Bibal Press, 1998), pp. 173-195. Copyright (c) 1998 James H. Charlesworth.


Since the discovery of the scrolls from the Qumran caves in the late 1940s and early-to-mid 50s, the process of sorting, identifying, and editing the fragmentary manuscripts has occupied the attention of scholars. Now, as that period in the history of scrolls scholarship draws to a close, more and more attention has turned to the contents of the texts from the eleven caves in the vicinity of Khirbet Qumran as a collection. Several things may be said about this collection. First, the majority of the texts are written in Hebrew, thus pointing to Hebrew as a living language (at least in literature) in the Second Temple Period. Second, a large percentage of the texts found in the caves (about 25 percent) are copies of books later considered part of the canon of the Hebrew Bible; there are also copies of books that were later grouped into the Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha. Third, of the "previously unknown" works unearthed from the caves, the vast majority of them bear some relationship to the books that later became known as the Hebrew Bible. It is with classifying and understanding these manuscripts, both individually and in relation to one another, that scholarship is now occupied.

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