The Bible in the Dead Sea Scrolls
Until the discovery in the Judean Desert, near the Dead Sea, of more than 200 scrolls containing various parts of the Bible, historical and textual analysis of the biblical text relied on ancient translations and medieval manuscripts. The Judean Desert discoveries brought to light Hebrew manuscripts older by 1,000 years than the ones previously known, and document a period of pluriformity in the biblical text. Although no original copy of any biblical text has survived, these manuscripts not only greatly enhance our knowledge of textual features in general but also have a significant impact on central issues in biblical scholarship.
Before proceeding to a discussion of their effect on biblical scholarship, a brief aside to explain the conventional scholarly signs or sigla commonly used for Qumran and Judean Desert scrolls is in order. The elements included comprise the number of the cave (for Qumran, 1–11); identification of the site (Q = Qumran, Mas = Masada, Ḥev = Naḥal Ḥever); an abbreviated name of the biblical book (e.g., Gen = Genesis); number of the copy (in superscript; the first copy is a , the second is b , etc.). Other details sometimes indicated include the material on which the scroll is written (pap = papyrus), the language (gr = Greek; ar = Aramaic), the script (paleo = Paleo‐Hebrew [the ancient Hebrew script]), or the literary genre (p = pesher). For example, 11QPs is a scroll from Qumran Cave 11 and contains material from the book of Psalms. A provisional list of documents from the Judean Desert, containing text numbers, sigla, and names is found in the Encyclopedia of the Dead Sea Scrolls (Oxford, 2000). For a categorized list of the biblical texts and an index list of all passages preserved in biblical manuscripts from the Judaean Desert, see The Texts from the Judaean Desert: Indices (DJD 39; Oxford 2002).