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Between Text and Archaeology 1

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Abstract Historical research on the Qumran manuscripts, despite being provided with archaeological and external literary evidence, has generally suffered from a lack of discussion and application of methodology, which could easily have been instructed from the scholarship in biblical history. Despite the fact that the Qumran caves and their contents form part of the site of Khirbet Qumran, archaeology has very little to contribute to understanding the manuscripts, while the manuscripts make no reference to the settlement. External sources relate mainly to the possible identification of the authors and the site as Essene—an important consideration. But the scrolls’ authors exhibit little or no interest in the contemporary world outside their sectarian boundaries. The historian is able only to retrieve information about the movement’s own memories of its past, which will have been shaped by its own processes of identity formation and maintenance. But even to do this, it is indispensable to engage with the history of the documents themselves through detailed literary-historical exegesis, and this has yet to be realized by many Qumran scholars who seek history from the scrolls.


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