Original Research - Special Collection: Qumran Texts

The material variance of the Dead Sea Scrolls: On texts and artefacts

Eibert Tigchelaar
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 72, No 4 | a3281 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v72i4.3281 | © 2016 Eibert Tigchelaar | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 07 December 2015 | Published: 10 June 2016

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Eibert Tigchelaar, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies, Belgium; Research Associate, University of Pretoria, South Africa

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What does a sacred text look like? Are religious books materially different from other books? Does materiality matter? This article deals with three different aspects of material variance attested amongst the Dead Sea Scrolls, Ancient Jewish religious text fragments, of which were found in the Judean Desert. I suggest that the substitution of the ancient Hebrew script by the everyday Aramaic script, also for Torah and other religious texts, was intentional and programmatic: it enabled the broader diffusion of scriptures in Hellenistic and Roman Judea. The preponderant use of parchment for religious texts rather than papyrus may be a marker of identity. The many small scrolls which contained only small parts of specific religious books (Genesis, Psalms) may have been produced as religious artefacts which express identity in the period when Judaism developed into a religion of the book.


Keywords: Dead Sea Scrolls; Judaism; Manuscripts


Dead Sea Scrolls; Judaism; Manuscripts


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