Sukenik and the Dead Sea Scrolls Part V Sekirah Bet

Great Isaiah Scroll

Great Isaiah Scroll, photo by Ardon Bar-Hama for the Israel Museum

A long section of Sekirah Bet is also devoted to Isaiah, and here also he concentrated on the more unusual Isaiah A.  He again discussed the text and its large size and more or less complete preservation.  He also noted that there had originally been a handle sheet at the beginning of the scroll, no longer preserved. He argued that the damage it evidenced was there before the scroll was placed in the cave, in accord with his genizah theory of the corpus.  Here he was aided in his argument by the various repairs that had been made to the scroll.  In Sekirah Bet, his discussion of the script was more exact.  The scribe did sometimes try to distinguish waw and yud, final mem and nun were usually consistently used, but only one form was used for צפ”ק- similar to the script of 1QS.  He also called attention to the numerous supralinear corrections by the scribe to fill in omitted letters, as well as such corrections by a second hand, dots were used for erasure.  He cautioned about making judgements about the Vorlage of the MS, because of the many errors.  Also to be noted are the marginal scribal works, also found in 1QS.  He then published a selection of text, with parallel NT texts.  For some chapters he included notes comparing NT and the ancient versions. Then he presented pages of lists of variants with MT, then 1QIsaa, then his comments.

Only then did he turn in Sekirah Bet to Isab which was in Israeli possession.  He had not used it at all in his earlier discussion of the text of 1QIsa.  He explains that the difficulty in opening it caused him to delay working on it.  At this writing he knew that the main part of the text included chapter 41-66.  He had already identified fragments of 16,19,22-23,38-39.  He claimed that the text was already damaged before its hiding in the genizah.

The script had been beautifully written. Yud and waw were distinguished and final letters were consistently used.  This manuscript, like a Lev. Text is in paleo-Hebrew script, and also like some corrections to Isaa, was in Masoretic Hebrew, not in the so-called Qumran orthography.  Sukenik concluded that in the last years before the destruction they were using ? spelling and that even biblical texts could be copied in this way for ease of writing.  The proto-Masoretic Text was also common and it was chosen by the sages as authoritative due to its antiquity.  He also assumed that the Qumran forms reflected the production of the period.  He then published a few fragments with parallel variants from Masoretic Text.

He also dealt with the Hodayot Scroll in Sekirah Bet.  He reported on his progress in reading the scroll, offered better editions of two extracts, and published some new material, all with commentary.  He also observed the writing of the word El in the old scripts in the scroll.

In the early published sections, Sukenik observed that the author spoke of himself as expecting special divine enlistment, and as one who, despite the opposition to him, had many followers.  This led Sukenik to conclude – and I think he was the first – that the author is the Teacher of Righteousness mentioned in the Qumran scrolls (the few that he had) and in the Damascus Document.  He had complained of being forced to leave his land and this matched what was said in the Habakkuk Pesher that the Wicked Priest had made the Teacher of Righteousness go into exile (1QpHab 11:6).  Sukenik concluded that this text gave us a glimpse of the Teacher in his prayers and also taught us much about beliefs of the sect.

Sukenik had also investigated two other important texts regarding the sect’s beliefs and structure.  We will deal first with the Serech Ha-Yachad, 1QS.  It had been brought by the Bedoins in two pieces and he maintained that it was separated already in antiquity.  Often providing a technical description, he commented on its good state of preservation.  Here Sukenik skirts the issue of why such a text would have found its way to a genizah since it was so well preserved.  The letters, in his view, were not written that well, but are clear nonetheless, although waw and yud are not distinguished.  The text differentiates final letters for מנ”ך, but not for צ”פ.  He also discusses the strange marks in the margins that defy all explanation.

He described the texts by laws of a religious sect, fixing the obligations in religious and moral matters, and in relations between members.  He mentions the then published material (which he republished) added to which was a formal introduction, as well as the case of punishments he had seen when he had the text for a short time.  Following C.H. Yakov he called the text Serech HaYachad based on the first line of the first column, noting the use of Serech, “custom, rite,” in the War Scroll and other source, such as Damascus Covenant, Rabbinic sources, and the Cairo Genizah text of the Aramaic Levi Document.  He also noted the use of Yachad in the scroll as a noun.  He realized that it was a central sectarian term.  He emphasized the closeness of the language of 1QS to the Damascus Covenant as well as their similarity in content.

Sukenik dealt with one more sectarian text, the Pesher Habakkuk.  After a physical description he noted the use of paragraph spaces in the manuscript.  An attempt is made to distinguish waw and yud and X’s appear sometimes at the end of lines.  The tetragrammaton is written here in the old script, but the name El is not.  He then described the form of the exegesis of Habakkuk 1-2 and the use of the root pesher, as well as the contemporizing nature of the interpretation.  A reworked author uses expressions found in the other texts from this “genizah.”  He correctly understood that pesher differed greatly from both plain source commentary and from midrash.  He realized that the subject was the event, of the author’s day, not the actual prophecies of Habakkuk.  He went so far as to term it a “political pamphlet,” dealing with the life of the sect, its leader and its opponents.  He also says that he chose the title Pesher Habakkuk since it was already used by the author.

(Sukenik also dealt with a few smaller fragments.  There were a Jubilee fragment and the Book of Mysteries (1Q27), but no discussion was included.)  Some attention was given to the Lev. Fragments in the old script.  Despite the script, these texts were proto-masoretic without Qumran forms.  De Vaux had incorrectly dated these manuscripts to the 5-6 centuries B.C.E.  Lankaster-Harding had suggested the 4th century B.C.E.

Sukenik pointed to Hellenistic sources to the effect that there still were biblical manuscripts in the old script in late Second Temple times.  This script was used on Maccabean coins.  He concluded that there is no reason to date these texts earlier than the manuscripts written in the square script.

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