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Qumran as Scroll Storehouse in Times of Crisis? A Comparative Perspective on Judaean Desert Manuscript Collections 1

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Abstract This article takes a material and comparative approach to the Qumran collection. Distinctive features set the Qumran manuscripts apart from other Judaean Desert collections, suggesting a scholarly, school-like collection of predominantly literary texts. The few literary texts from other Judaean Desert sites reflect the valuable copies owned by wealthy individuals or families and are illustrative of the spread of these texts within various strata of ancient Jewish society. The historical context of most manuscript depositions in the Judaean Desert is characterized by violence and conflict, and such a context probably also typified the deposition of the Qumran manuscripts. In contrast to at least some of the other Judaean Desert sites where refugees hid with their manuscripts, the deposition evidence at Qumran may suggest an anticipation of such violence. The movement behind the Dead Sea Scrolls can be characterized as a textual community, reflecting a milieu of Jewish intellectuals who were engaged on various levels with their ancestral traditions. The collection of texts attracted people and shaped their thinking, while at the same time people shaped the collection, producing and gathering more texts. In this sense, the site of Qumran and its surrounding caves functioned like a storehouse for scrolls.

Affiliations: 1: University of Groningen Qumran Institute, University of Groningen, Oude Boteringestraat 38, 9712 GK Groningen. Netherlands Netherlands


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