Beautiful Bookhands and Careless Characters – Report and Video from the 8th Annual Rabbi Tann Memorial Lecture

On Wednesday 24 January 2018, the Department of Theology & Religion hosted the 8th Annual Rabbi Tann Memorial Lecture, in honour of one of Birmingham’s most eminent faith leaders, Rabbi Leonard Tann.

This year’s lecture was delivered by Professor Eibert Tigchelaar (KU Leuven), an international authority on the Dead Sea Scrolls and early Judaism. The lecture, titled Beautiful Bookhands and Careless Characters: An Alternative Approach to the Dead Sea Scrolls, focused on his recent work on the scribal hands of the scrolls and what they might reveal about who wrote the scrolls, particularly in light of several 20th and 21st century suspected forgeries.

Were the scribes skilled or unskilled? Do unskilled scribes make more spelling and grammatical mistakes? Are biblical scrolls written in a more formal hand than non-biblical ones? Are we ascribing modern aesthetic judgements to ancient writing?

These are all questions Professor Tigchelaar attempted to grapple with in his engaging, informative and often entertaining lecture. He was particularly adept at explaining complex ideas in an accessible way to the diverse audience, which consisted of University of Birmingham staff and students, staff and students from other universities, and members of the public, particularly from Birmingham’s Jewish community.