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METHODS OF INVESTIGATION OF THE DEAD SEA SCROLLS AND THE KHIRBET QUMRAN SITE

A Conference Report

By Michael O. Wise, Assistant Professor,
The Oriental Institute and the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations
The University of Chicago

(This article originally appeared in The Oriental Institute News and Notes, No. 137, Spring 1993, and is made available electronically with the permission of the editor.)


The New York Academy of Sciences and the Oriental Institute co-sponsored a conference on the Dead Sea Scrolls, "Methods of Investigation of the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Khirbet Qumran Site: Present Realities and Future Prospects," held at the Murray Sargent Auditorium of the New York Blood Center from December 14 through 17. Numerous participants, including thirty speakers from a dozen nations, met for four days of papers and discussions. The University of Chicago was represented by John J. Collins (Divinity School), Norman Golb and Dennis G. Pardee (Oriental Institute and Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations), and Michael Wise (Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations), the actual organizers of the conference. William Sumner, Director of the Oriental Institute, delivered the opening remarks in which he emphasized the significance of a conference on the Dead Sea Scrolls that was sponsored by organizations of a scientific nature.

This was the first major international meeting devoted to the Dead Sea Scrolls since full scholarly access to all related materials became the rule late in 1991. It was hoped that many new texts, as well as some that were already available, would be analyzed. This was indeed the case. Three papers, delivered by Al Wolters, P. Kyle McCarter and Peter Muchowski, focused on the Copper Scroll, a Qumran "treasure map" inscribed on metal. Describing places in the Judaean Wilderness where various treasures as well as scrolls were buried, it is a text of great importance for an understanding of the nature of the scroll cache, but its study has been unfortunately neglected.

James Charlesworth brought new insights to the study of the Discipline Scroll, one of the first texts discovered at Qumran. Sidnie White read a paper about a text that expands on some of the laws of the Pentateuch and its use of extra-biblical materials. Michael Knibb and Samuel Iwry spoke on the Damascus Document, a text which speaks of the migration of a group of Jews to Damascus. Many scholars claim that "Damascus" should be taken as a metaphor for Qumran, and this was the central issue of debate in both papers. Torlief Elgvin delivered a paper on new "wisdom"-type texts, similar in style to the biblical book of Proverbs. Moshe Bernstein considered methods in which biblical texts are cited in the Qumran biblical commentaries.

Revised: February 7, 2007

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