In a trajectory mirroring the scholarly study of the Bible, research on the Dead Sea Scrolls is moving away from a reading of the texts as offering unmediated access to personalities, history, and day-to-day life of a community resident at the site of Khirbet Qumran.
Pioneering studies approached many of these texts almost as products of a candid camera producing ‘reality literature.’ Recent scholarship is increasingly aware of the manuscripts as complex literary artefacts whose own claims need to be treated with caution. Close study of this material offers ancient case studies to illustrate many processes presupposed hypothetically by generations of biblical exegetes. The outputs of ancient scribes and legal scholars such as those responsible for the Dead Sea Scrolls lie at the heart of the emergence of Christianity and rabbinic Judaism, shaping our history and culture to this day.
Close analysis of ancient manuscripts fortuitously preserved in eleven caves by the shore of the Dead Sea allow us first hand access to this process. This project examines the significance of the Community Rule alongside eleven shorter compositions for our understanding of the practices and mindset of ancient Palestinian scribes and legal scholars.
Research by Dr Charlotte Hempel