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Methodological Issues concerning the Astronomy of Qumran

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image of Dead Sea Discoveries

In the 21st issue of Dead Sea Discoveries, Dennis Duke and Matthew Goff offered their collaboration as physicist and Dead Sea Scrolls scholar in order to study the lunar theory of the Aramaic Astronomical Book (aab). They use the astronomical model of lunar elongation—the angular distance between the moon and the sun on the observed heavenly sphere—to compute the times of the moon’s visibility and invisibility. They conclude that the times written on the Aramaic fragments are closer to reality than the times written in the Babylonian sources of the aab. This paper concludes that lunar elongation is not the best explanation of the astronomical data of the aab, and Duke and Goff’s computations should be refined according to some astronomical, cosmological, textual, and historical considerations.

Affiliations: 1: The Cohn Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Ideas, Tel Aviv


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