>Who Wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls?

>Until recently, most scholars would say that the Essenes wrote the documents known as the Dead Sea Scrolls. This view was first proposed by Roland de Vaux, the archaeologist who found the scrolls. However, another theory has been proposed for the authorship of the scrolls.

In an article published in The Wall Street Journal, these two theories are discussed in detail. The article describes the two theories as follows:

There are two competing theories about the scrolls. The first is that they belonged to a single religious sect living nearby the caves, most likely the Essenes. The second theory is that the scrolls are a random collection of texts reflecting the beliefs of many Jewish groups of the period; the caves, under this theory, are a repository for sacred texts from various Jewish communities fleeing the Romans during the Jewish revolt of A.D. 68.

The debate continues. Norman Golb, Professor of History and Civilization at the University of Chicago is a leading proponent of the second theory. The article in The Wall Street Journal provides some of the arguments in defense of the second theory.

Claude Mariottini
Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary

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8 Responses to >Who Wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls?

  1. Anonymous says:

    >The Wall Street Journal Opinion piece by Jordana Horn borrows its title from that of Norman Golb’s book, “Who Wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls?” Golb claims that allthe Qumran mss came, suddenly, from Jerusalem. Golb has not yet provided evidence sufficient to prove this claim, nor to address adequately counterindications, but he goes on to make further bold assertions.Golb reportedly said of all Scroll exhibits in the US: “I think all of them have been in the nature of efforts to brainwash the public about the significance of the scrolls.” Well, I attended the exhibit in Raleigh two daysago. That exhibit bent over backwards–in other words, if anything, given some weak proposals, excessively–to present a variety of views. The article states that “there are two competing theories about the scrolls”–a bigoversimplification. The scrolls have been vigorously debated for six decades.The Raleigh exhibit, e.g., quotes, in large type, prominently on the wall, Yuval Peleg: “It was the most important thing ever found at Qumran: the bottom of the pool has some three tons of high quality clay. We started to understandthe site–there were no Essenes.” One could question whether clay (ofscientifically-untested quality and debatable date of entry) was really a more important find than 900 to a thousand ancient scroll remains. One could question whether presence of clay logically leads to absence of Essenes. Butone would not rationally claim that the exhibit was a case of brainwashing.The article claims of de Vaux that “After reading the scrolls, he announced with pride that they had been authored by an Essene sect and asserted that the sect was the forebear of his own Dominican movement.” Oh, when and where was such an putative announcement? Let’s quote, not myth and hearsay, but de Vaux in NTS 1966 (p. 99 n.1 [cf RB 1966 p.229]) review of G. R. Driver’s Scrollszealot-theory book: “…Driver often speaks of the ‘monastery’ of Qumran: thus in ‘quotes’. I am keeping the ‘quotes’, because I have never used the word whenwhen writing about the excavations of Qumran….”De Vaux concluded an Essene connection after some excavation and communal evidence; he was actually a relative late-commer to the Essene identity, yearsafter Sukenik, after Sowmy, after Brownlee, after Dupont-Sommer and others. In RB 1959 p, 300 he cautioned *against* Bagatti’s view that Dominus Flevit ossuary inscriptions were Christian. Most Christian historians think Christian monasticism started later, though scholarly discussion would need to include debates about Eusebius’ comments on Philo’s De Vita Contemplativa, whichincludes the two earliest known uses of the Greek word monasterion (25, 30).Golb has misrepresented the history of scholarship on scrolls and the scrolls themselves, many, e.g., according to Ada Yardeni, written by a single sectarianscribe. Golb, and a many-named related online sockpuppet, offered scroll misinformation.Stephen GoransonFor evidence of Qumran-Essene association:http://www.duke.edu/~goranson


  2. >Dear Friend,Thank you for your comments. I agree with your conclusions. To make your comments available to more readers, I am planning to make your comments available in an upcoming post. If this is not OK with you, let me know.Claude Mariottini


  3. Anonymous says:

    >The above comment by Stephen Goranson contains a number of arguably inaccurate and tendentious assertions, and hence merits a reply.To begin with, Stephen states that Ms. Horn’s statement that there are “two competing theories” about the scrolls is a “big oversimplification.” Stephen, of course, is here not simply contradicting Ms. Horn — he is contradicting the Jewish Museum of New York, which in its press release announcing its exhibit explained that “Scholars have two basic theories” about the scrolls (see http://biblicalnewyork.wordpress.com/2008/07/28/new-yorks-jewish-museum-announces-dead-sea-scrolls-exhibit-recognizes-lack-of-consensus-on-scrolls-origins/ for further details). What is not clear here, is whether Stephen wishes to criticize the Jewish Museum, the way others have been criticizing the exhibits in San Diego and Raleigh. Does he, for example, wish to argue that the presentation by the museum in Raleigh is actually superior to the presentation at the Jewish Museum? See this website for quotes from criticism of the Raleigh exhibit: http://timothyfishbane.wordpress.com/2008/07/09/scandal-criticism-follows-scrolls-exhibit-to-raleigh-info-and-links/Regardless of the Jewish Museum’s position, however, Stephen’s statement can hardly fail to strike a neutral-minded reader as tendentious, because with the addition of the word “salient” (i.e., “two salient theories”), Ms. Horn’s statement is entirely accurate, as indicated by treatment of this topic in the Cambridge History of Judaism, the New York Times (see the series of articles on the scrolls controversy by Pulitzer laureate John Noble Wilford), and various Associated Press articles as well.(This being said, one also wonders why Stephen did not correct the Wall Street Journal’s erroneous description of Golb as being a representative of the view that the scrolls came from “many different places,” rather than Jerusalem.)Next, Stephen opines that Norman Golb “has not yet provided evidence to prove” his theory that the scrolls are the remains of libraries from the Jerusalem region, brought down to the Judaean desert for hiding during the siege and sacking of that city by the Romans in 70 A.D. But this can be turned around, for not only Golb, but many other scholars as well have concluded that no one has provided any proof whatsoever that Essenes or any other religious sect lived at Qumran or wrote scrolls there. Stephen is entitled to his opinion, but the question here is whether this fascinating debate is being presented in an appropriately neutral fashion by museums and other institutions.Stephen states that Golb makes “bold assertions” against the museum exhibits, and defends the Raleigh exhibit by saying that it “bent over backwards … to present a variety of views.” That, however, is not what we have been reading in Raleigh-area news articles. Here is what author Brian Howe says in one of them: “The [Raleigh] exhibition, while paying lip service to the controversy over the nature of Qumran, gives the secular interpretation short shrift… Around [a] fleeting allusion to other theories, we learn quite a lot about the Essenes. Whether this owes to a bias in the museum’s administration or to an inherent weakness in the opposition’s argument depends on whom you ask…” (See the rest of Mr. Howe’s article at http://www.indyweek.com/gyrobase/Content?oid=oid%3A262024.)Yes indeed, these things do depend on who you ask. In this instance, what is “lip service” for Mr. Howe, is “bending over backwards” for Stephen Goranson. As an example of the Raleigh exhibitors’ “bending over backwards,” Stephen quotes a wall text in the exhibit about a statement by Israeli archaeologist Yuval Peleg on clay found at Qumran. But the point that needed to be made here, was not that the exhibitors magnanimously quoted Peleg concerning clay. Rather, the question should have been asked, why the exhibitors chose to take this single statement of Peleg’s out of context and quote it in a misleading manner, without clearly informing visitors of Magen and Peleg’s conclusion that the scrolls came from the Jerusalem area, and without helping visitors comprehend how this conclusion was reached — not simply on the basis of “clay,” but as the result of a thorough reexamination of all the evidence, following ten years of renewed digs at Qumran. This is the current state of archaeology on Qumran, but the Raleigh museum chose to obscure the matter with a misleading show of “lip service.”When, in addition, one considers that the museum carefully excluded Golb, Magen, Peleg and other historians and archaeologists who argue for the Jerusalem theory from participating in its lecture series, and instead invited several figures who have never published anything at all on the scrolls or Qumran, then Golb’s description of this and other exhibits as a form of “brainwashing” is certainly intelligible, even if, from the perspective of a traditional scrolls scholar, it will necessarily appear to be an irrational exaggeration.Stephen accuses Golb of “misrepresenting history of scholarship on the scrolls and the scrolls themselves” (how so? he doesn’t say) and speaks of “counterindications” to Golb’s theory. As an example of such a “counterindication,” he asserts that “many of the scrolls themselves [were] according to Ada Yardeni, written by a single sectarianscribe.” This statement by Stephen egregiously confuses scrolls and fragments of scrolls. Approximately 15,000 fragments were found in the caves near Qumran; of these fragments, Dr. Yardeni identified 60 as bearing the handwriting of a single scribe — one who, according to her, also copied one of the texts found at Masada (where, incidentally, Jews are known to have fled from Jerusalem).Unfortunately, Stephen has already once before issued false claims about the number of fragments found in the caves near Qumran — see, e.g., the discussion at http://www.newsobserver.com/news/v-all_comments/story/1123440.html , where he appears to be suggesting that only 900 fragments were found there. If we cannot get our basic facts straight, then how can we have a reasoned discussion about the origins of the scrolls?This might also be a good opportunity for Stephen to clarify his position on the matter of the famous Qumran ostracon. Years ago, Stephen vigorously argued that the word “Yahad” had been found in this text. Does Stephen continue to believe the word is there, even though Father Puech has now sided with Golb and Yardeni in rejecting that reading? So far we have only silence from Stephen on this matter; it would be good to know his opinion.Finally, Stephen accuses (as he has done elsewhere) other internet bloggers of being “sockpuppets,” even though he himself, along with a Chicago-area actor who frequently writes on these topics, has been accused of doing the same thing. British author Ross Sargent (on the “View from 80” blog) has, in my view appropriately, commented on these accusations as follows: “Once again appears the … accusation that those who question the ‘traditional’ interpretation are all facets of some master mind — the term ‘sock puppet’ is used, a term that has been aimed at 80 before by these Scrolls partisans. These somewhat paranoid accusations certainly achieve one thing — they demonstrate the poverty of the arguments of these ‘traditional’ supporters. To launch into ad hominem attacks … is surely a sign of intellectual inadequacy verging on infantilism … Such petulant behavior and name-calling has no place in a serious discussion and betrays an emotional rather than intellectual involvement.” See the rest of Mr. Sargent’s comment at http://www.number80.co.uk/ (scroll down to “A Sock Puppet Speaks”).In the hope that these remarks will be of use in clarifying the nature of the different attitudes of traditional scrolls scholars and their opponents, and with best wishes to Dr. Mariottini and to Stephen,Jeffery Appelbaum


  4. Anonymous says:

    >As I and others have already pointed out on the News Observer site linked in Jeffery Appelbaum’s comment above,(1) Stephen Goranson is an employee in “stacks maintenance” at the Duke University library (a job that apparently gives him the right to have a Duke University website even though he doesn’t have a teaching position);(2) Goranson is one of a group of characters who have been posting odious remarks about Golb (and now apparently members of his family) all over the internet for a long time. In some cases it is not known who they are, but they are all clearly motivated by deep resentment at Golb for having both authoritatively refuted the Essene theory and played a central role in breaking down the old Dead Sea Scrolls monopoly; several of these individuals appear to be associated with scholars teaching in the Duke department of religion and in one case at UCLA; and (3) Goranson has been booted off at least one internet chatroom on account of his offensive behavior. The moderator explained: “This forum is intended to be a place where scholars may discuss the scrolls without fearing ad hominem attacks. Stephen Goranson made himself unwelcome on Megillot by his repeated personal attacks, despite moderator warnings. He is no longer a member of Megillot.” See http://www.mail-archive.com/g-megillot@mcmaster.ca/msg00118.htmlPerhaps Prof. Eric Meyers and his colleagues at Duke should ask themselves whether it’s appropriate for one of their former students to avail himself of Duke resources and conduct himself in this manner.Brad H


  5. Anonymous says:

    >It’s interesting to see an experienced curator at the Jewish Museum in New York doing her job and avoiding the offensive, “not-really-Jewish-texts” discourse we saw in San Diego from a student of David Noel Freedman who falsely presented herself as a “Dead Sea Scrolls scholar.” Let’s hope the public doesn’t get too “confused” by “so many different theories” — we wouldn’t want to have to call in Risa Levitt Kohn to repair the damage!P.s. Contrary to Dr. Stacks-Maintenance’s claim, Ada Yardeni did not identify 60 fragments as the work product of a “sectarian” scribe. Stephen Goranson likes to help out by adding a “sectarian” word here and there, when it suits his aims. Shouldn’t someone who accuses others of making “bold assertions” know better than to twist the facts when citing scholarly literature?Fish-Sniffer


  6. Anonymous says:

    >With respect to the social (and unfortunately very public) problems Dr. Goranson has experienced with the community of scholars, see this link:https://listhost.uchicago.edu/pipermail/ane/2005-February/017851.htmlI quote in part:”I introduced myself to Lawrence Schiffman who commented that I must be the person that Stephen Goranson had tried to stop from speaking at SBL. Shocked, I went to register and the fellow who was running the organizing remarked that I had to be the person who Stephen Goranson had written to him about in an effort to stop me from speaking at the conference. The process was repeated when I spoke to Philip Davies, who was the person who had asked me to speak: he told me that not only had Stephen contacted him, but that he had also contacted the SBL directorship, in his effort to stop me from speaking. Fortunately, Stephen’s efforts were in vain and I don’t think that the audience was too offended by my paper… I’m not the only one he attacks. You see him presently trolling [about] a longtime poster at Orion and on ANE on matters relating to the Dead Sea Scrolls and who has published a number of useful articles in the field. Numerous scholars have found themselves being attacked by Stephen. He frequently goes on tirades against Norman Golb on mailing lists where Golb is not present to defend himself… I’m sure I could construct a long list of other scholars who have been gratuitously attacked by Stephen upon request.”There is absolutely no excuse for this type of conduct, and it should be sharply rebuked and resisted by anyone who Dr. Goranson seeks to use for his polemic purposes.


  7. Maria says:

    >Interesting topic you have there. Thanks for sharing this kind of information. Im looking forward to your new topics


  8. >Maria,Thank you for visiting my blog. I am glad to know that you enjoyed my post. I am sure you will find many more posts that will be of interest to you. Have you read my new post today?Claude Mariottini


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