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The Temple Scroll Naidu, Abigail


The Temple Scroll is the longest of the Dead Sea Scrolls, with its prime exemplar, 11QTemplea (11Q19), extending to just over eight metres long. For eleven years after its discovery, the manuscript lay hidden beneath the floorboards of an antiquities dealer in Bethlehem, before being acquired by Israeli archaeologist Yigael Yadin in 1967 and eventually published in 1977. 11Q19 is dated paleographically to the end of the first century BCE or beginning of the first century CE. A further five manuscripts associated with the Temple Scroll have been subsequently identified and published. The oldest extant manuscript, 4QRouleau du Temple (4Q524) shows considerable overlap with 11Q19 and was dated by its editor, Émile Puech, to c. 150–125 BCE in the early Hasmonean period. Also found in Cave 4 was 4QTemple? (4Q365a), dated to 125–75 BCE. There are significant differences between the fragments which comprise 4Q365a and 11Q19, and it was therefore more likely a source for the Temple Scroll than a copy. Two further manuscripts from Cave 11 have been identified with the Temple Scroll, 11QTempleb (11Q20) and 11QTemplec (11Q21). They have been dated to the first half of the first century CE, and whilst it is clear that 11Q20 is a copy of the Temple Scroll, 11Q21 is too fragmentary to allow for certainty. In 2015, several small fragments from Cave 5 were identified as a further copy of the Temple Scroll and labelled 5QTemplea (5Q21). 5Q21 was dated paleographically to 75–50 BCE by its editor, Alexei Yuditsky. Various dates have been proposed for the Temple Scroll’s composition, ranging from the fifth century BCE to the early first century BCE. The discovery and identification of 4Q524 gave a latest possible date of the end of the second century BCE. Though Yadin identified the composition with the community at Qumran, 4Q524 pre-dates the Qumran settlement. This, combined with the absence of key sectarian terminology, suggests that the Temple Scroll’s origins should be located in a broader social milieu. The contents of the Temple Scroll indicate an interest in the Temple, cultic practices, and an elevated status for the High Priest. It may therefore have emerged from priestly circles. The author/redactor presents the composition as a new Torah, beginning with material from the covenant renewal ceremony in Exodus 34 and continuing through to laws from Deuteronomy. Biblical law is “rewritten” according to the interpretation of the author/redactor and their community, often as first-person speech direct from the mouth of God himself. At the heart of the composition is the description of a plan for a new Temple and its courts (cols. 3–13; 30–45). Alongside the Temple plan are prescriptions for religious festivals and Temple worship (cols. 13–29), purity laws (cols. 45–51), and the Deuteronomic Paraphrase (cols. 51–66), which is an elaboration on a series of Deuteronomic laws. The latter includes the Law of the King (cols. 56–59), which offers a distinctive treatment of kingship. The Scroll is likely composed of several sources, some of which may have circulated independently prior to their incorporation into the scroll by a redactor.

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