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On the Jerusalem origin of the Dead Sea Scrolls

Norman Golb

Oriental Institute, University of Chicago

Following upon the first discoveries of Scrolls in the Judaean Wilderness (1947/1948), Prof. Eliezer Sukenik proposed, primarily on the basis of his reading of the Serekh Hayahad (Discipline Scroll of the Unity Brotherhood), that they were writings of the Essene sect. Pliny the Elder, after all, had described that sect as having settled in the Judaean Wilderness as refugees from the destruction of Jerusalem, and as being near the settlement of En Gedi. During that same early period of discoveries, the Dominican scholar-priest Roland de Vaux expressed the opinion that these Essenes (whom Pliny had described as celibates) had lived near the area where the original Scroll cave and others being discovered nearby, for a total number of eleven were located. On this basis de Vaux began exploring and excavating the nearest place of habitation, namely Khirbet Qumran, and eventually announced that he had uncovered the very settlement of the Essenes described by Pliny; he went on to offer specific interpretations of structures within the settlement, such as The Scriptorium, the Essenes Refectory, and Ritual Baths that facilitated the claimed Essenes purification interpretations that appeared to justify his designation of the settlement in its entirety as the Laura, or monastery, of the Essenes.

Revised: August 18, 2009

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