Writings, Ruins, and Their Reading: The Dead Sea Discoveries as a Case Study in Theory Formation and Scientific Interpretation

Writings, Ruins, and Their Reading: The Dead Sea Discoveries as a Case Study in Theory Formation and Scientific Interpretation – )

Edna Ullmann-Margalit


SCIENTIFIC research in various disciplines is itself often the object of study by philosophers and others. This essay takes up a case study from the field of research, known as Qumran studies, that has arisen as a result of the discovery of the Dead Sea scrolls some fifty years ago. It brings together in a rather unique way the study of ancient texts on the one hand, and archaeological research on the other. This scientific field was born in drama, it is constantly infused with controversy, and it commands unusual popular attention and interest.

I shall focus mostly on the central theory in this field, which relates to the enigmatic origins of the scrolls. This theory, dominant in the field since its inception, is known as the Qumran-Essene hypothesis. It asserts that the scrolls found in the caves belonged to the sect of the Essenes whose center, or “mother-house,” was at the nearby site of Qumran. There they lived for some two centuries, spanning the beginning of the Christian era (roughly, 160 BCE to 68 CE), leading a strict, ritualized, celibate, communal life, and there they wrote and copied the scrolls. My concerns with this theory will be its formation, its logic, and its resilience.

In tracing the logic of this theory, an intriguing interplay comes to light between the textual interpretation of the scrolls on the one hand and the interpretation of material archaeological finds on the other. This interplay is shown to form a thick hermeneutic circle where texts are used to interpret and are in turn interpreted by material finds. The remarkable resilience of the theory, in spite of numerous attempts to refute it, is shown to derive in the first place from the strength of the hermeneutic circle itself. It is also shown to be due to the elasticity of the theory, which is expressed in its peculiar ability to co-opt some of the hypotheses contesting it. The interest in this case study, then, is intrinsic, coming from its many special features and idiosyncracies, at the same time as it comes from the general theoretic and methodological issues, relating to interpretative circles and to the notion of resilience, that this study exemplifies.

Since general familiarity with the story of the scrolls cannot be assumed, I shall start by laying out the background facts.

Setting the Stage

In the spring of 1947, some Bedouin shepherds made the first discovery of scrolls in a cave in the Judaean desert, by the site of Qumran, at the northwestern shore of the Dead Sea. This find soon led to a “scroll rush”(1) by both Bedouins and archaeologists. By the time it ended in 1956, ten more manuscript caves were found. Altogether they yielded a number of full-length scrolls (up to twenty-three feet long) and tens of thousands of fragments. The manuscripts are mostly on thin parchment, written in ink on the hairy side, miraculously preserved by the dry desert air, but varying greatly in their degree of preservation as well as in their length. They represent some eight hundred different texts, many of them present in more than one copy. Of these texts, roughly two hundred are biblical–predating the earliest previously known Hebrew biblical texts by at least one thousand years–and six hundred are nonbiblical, most of them in Hebrew, a sizable group in Aramaic, and a few in Greek. The majority of these texts were not known to the world before.

Prominent among them are those scrolls that were the first to be discovered in cave 1, which, as it happens, are among the longest and most intact. Their contents, from which there emerges a picture of a radical community, were immediately conjectured to be of a striking sectarian nature. Thus, the Manual of Discipline contains descriptions of the initiation rite into the covenant of the community, of its penal code, of its rules for communal life, for the assembly of members, and for the admission of candidates. It also contains the theological tenets of the community, for example, its doctrine about the two spirits, the spirit of truth and the spirit of iniquity, which God has created to govern human life. The War Scroll contains instructions for an eschatological war of forty years that the community, referred to as “the sons of light,” was planning to wage against its enemies, “the sons of darkness,” at “the end of time.” It describes the military equipment, army formations, plans for battle, and the prayers .and battle-liturgy exhortations to be pronounced by the high priest. The scroll of scriptural commentary known as Pesher Habakkuk, also found in cave 1, exemplifies a kind of Jewish writing that came to light for the first time with the discovery of the Dead Sea scrolls. As a literary form, the Peshe, which means interpretation, quotes an Old Testament text verse by verse and then comments on it by relating the words of the prophet (Habakkuk, in this case) to the history or theological tenets of the Qumran community.

It is thus a very definite sectarian composition, which would not be

current even in Jewish circles outside of this community. The commentary is

composed with the conviction that what the prophet of old wrote had

pertinence not only to his own times, but also to the life of this

community (Fitzmeyer, 1992, p. 33; see also pp. 27, 30).

It is hard to overstate the excitement with which the discovery was hailed. It became standard to refer to it as the most important (or, “the most sensational”–Frank, 1992, p. 3; see also Y. Sussmann, 1994, pp. 179-200) archaeological find of the twentieth century. Its description is always dramatic:

The discovery of those momentous documents sent shock waves throughout the

world of biblical and historical scholarship. It was as though a miraculous

tele-time-scope had suddenly zoomed through a two-thousand-year screen to

provide a dramatic close-up of the scenes in the Holy Land during the final

centuries of Jewish independence and the birth of Christianity (Yadin,

1983, p. 8).

The expectations created by the discovery were equally great. The documents held out the promise of shedding a uniquely direct light on a historical period of particular interest and importance in the history of the West, namely the period leading up to the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple by the Romans in 70 CE. This is the formative period in the development of the two major religious movements of the Western world, Christianity as well as so-called normative (or rabbinic) Judaism. But of course, amid the excitement and expectations, some pressing questions had to be addressed: Were these manuscripts authentic, when were they written, who wrote them, and what do they tell us?

The decade following the discovery of the seven major scrolls in the first cave was a decade of intense scholarly activity. In addition to the scholars who set out to work on the documents, however, a parallel effort began by archaeologists. In 1951, some pottery was found in the site of Khirbet Qumran that struck the excavators as significantly similar to the pottery found in the nearby cave 1. As a result, between 1951 and 1956, an almost complete excavation of the Qumran ruins was undertaken, headed by Pere Roland de Vaux, director of the Ecole Biblique et Archaeologique in (Jordanian) Jerusalem. De Vaux himself acknowledges that it was “justifiable” that the enormous interest aroused by the Dead Sea discoveries “should be concentrated above all on the texts.” But, he adds, “the archaeologist can make a contribution to the understanding of the texts by indicating the nature of the setting in which they were discovered and so perhaps making it possible to reconstruct the character of the human group from which they emerged” (de Vaux, 1973 [1960], p. viii). This statement establishes a close link between the study and interpretation of the writings, and the study and interpretation of the ruins. At the same time, this statement is rife with presuppositions: not only are the site of Qumran, the caves, and the scrolls closely linked, but the scrolls emerge from the group of people occupying the site. These presuppositions reflect–at the same time as they helped shape–the view, or theory, that very soon established itself as dominant among the scrolls researchers.

By the end of the first decade (summed up, for example, in Milik, 1959), the initial questions assumed sharper contours. As many of the fragments were being pieced together and interpreted, scholars began addressing diverse issues of an increasingly complex nature. The problem of dating the scrolls broke up into three or four distinct questions Yadin, 1958 [1956], p. 189; Schiffman, 1994, p. 31): When and in which relative order were the texts of the scrolls composed? When were the scrolls that were found actually copied? When were they gathered together and deposited in the caves? Further questions concerned the identity of the group (or groups) of people who composed the texts, as well as the identities of their leaders and opponents; the differences between the versions of the biblical scrolls and the earliest so-called Masoretic (or traditional) versions of the Bible–and the implications of these differences regarding the evolution of the canonical Hebrew Bible; the connections, if any, between the scrolls and the New Testament, or, more generally, the connections, if any, between the scroll community and early Christianity; the light thrown by the scrolls on the historical events of the Intertestamental period; the nature of the Halakha (that is, the body of Jewish ritual and law) governing the life of the scrolls community; the significance of the archaeological finds at the site of Qumran and their relationship to the owners of the scrolls; and more.

As can readily be seen, there is much disciplinary diversity among these issues. This means that in talking about the research generated by the discovery of the Dead Sea scrolls one is talking about, among others, historians of the Intertestamental period in Palestine, Bible scholars, New Testament and early Christianity scholars, students and historians of the Halakha, paleographers, linguists, philologists–and archaeologists. In addition to these, experts in such specialized areas as heresiography and the sociology of religious sects, early Gnosis, the Apocrypha and Pseudoepigrapha, Jewish liturgy, and others, also contribute. All of this interdisciplinary research is subsumed for convenience under the title of the Dead Sea scrolls studies (DSS), or Qumran studies (or, as Krister Stendahl is fond of referring to it, “the field of Qumraniana”; Stendahl, 1992, p. x).

The field of Qumran studies, then, is a highly diverse field of scholarly research and activity. It is known to be a field abounding with scholarly debate and controversy. It is also a field that is infused with energy. Scores of books and hundreds of scholarly papers are published every year, international seminars and conferences are held amid much commotion and attract wide audiences, busy websites gush with action. Moreover, interest in this field is not confined to its practitioners. News about fresh discoveries related to the scrolls or to the latest controversies surrounding them often appear in major newspapers, sometimes making front page news.(2)

Why should this be so? Two kinds explanations might be pursued. One is internal, having to do with contents, that is, with the curricular record of the field. The other is external, having to do with the extracurricular record of the field. The first draws on the fact, already mentioned, that from the start there were intense expectations that the contents of the scrolls may bear directly on the inception of Christianity and that material contained in them may touch the sensitive issue of the Jewish roots of Christianity. The second refers to the external circumstances of seemingly endless intrigue, conspiracy, and scandal surrounding the scrolls. These start with the cloak-and-dagger stories about the details of the discovery as well as the acquisition of the first scrolls; they continue with the impact of international politics and the effects on the scrolls research of two Arab-Israeli wars (1948 and 1967); they include some charged religious and denominational issues, like the alleged suppression of scroll-related material by the Vatican or the exclusion of Jewish scholars from the international committee entrusted with the publication of the scrolls; and they stretch to the highly publicized crises involving the issue of monopoly over the scrolls and the changes concerning delays in their publication. An additional external circumstance that surely contributed to the public relations success of the field is the charisma of some of its early scholars, notably Sukenik, Yadin, and de Vaux. To this list one must also add Edmund Wilson, the influence of whose early best-selling and inspired book on the scrolls cannot be overestimated. Such a mix of Christianity, collusion, and charisma is evidently highly potent; it has proven irresistible to scholars and to the general public alike.(3)

The Problem of Identification

From the start, one of the major questions in the field of scroll research, if not the major one,(4) has been the question of identification: Who are the authors of the scrolls? Ideally, of course, to identify an author is to be able to say who he or she is, to name names. To be sure, the problem here concerns ancient manuscripts, but even with regard to ancient manuscripts this is not an altogether unreasonable expectation. With the scrolls, however, it was immediately clear that this expectation was to be thwarted. It seemed also immediately clear from the texts of the major scrolls that were the first ones to be discovered in cave 1 that they belonged to an esoteric group, to a sect. So the problem was to identify the sect.

What does it mean, to identify a sect? I shall put aside the pertinent question of why we should wish to identify a group as a sect, rather than, say, as a party or movement.(5) In principle it could mean one of two things. You may identify a sect by listing its distinct characteristics, by describing its beliefs and its way of life. Having done this, you may proceed to give it a name, for example, the Qumran Community or the Dead Sea Sect. Alternatively, you may identify a sect by identifying it with an already known one, for example, the Essenes. To identify in the first sense is to define, to identify in the second sense is to equate.

In the case of the Dead Sea scrolls, as it happens, there seemed initially to have been no hesitation between these options. With remarkable speed, on the strength of the first scrutiny of just a few columns of the scroll that later came to be referred to as the Manual of Discipline, the document was conjectured to be Essene. (The appelation Essene occurs nowhere in that document, however, nor in any of the other scrolls.) And this equating hypothesis was instantly received as an authoritative pronouncement applying to all of the documents from cave 1, thus forming the hard core of the so-called Qumran-Essene theory that was to dominate the field of scrolls research ever since.

One of the factors contributing to the instant entrenchment of this hypothesis was no doubt the authority of its author, the scholar-archaeologist E. L. Sukenik.(6) Also, the prima facie evidence for this identification is striking. There are indeed strong surface similarities between the descriptions of the Essenes known to us from the literary sources of the period and the material contained in the Manual of Discipline. The similarities have to do with the organized way of life, doctrines, and practices of the community to which this document belonged. But scholarly reputation and strong prima facie textual evidence by themselves do not suffice to account for the hold that the dominant theory was to exert. There was an important additional factor at work here. It was the irresistible allure of the notion that those miraculously preserved scrolls may offer us an unmediated link to the fabled Essenes. This ignited at once both scholarly and popular imagination. Already Josephus Flavius, the first-century historian from whom we know most of what we know about the Essenes, was apparently aware of their potential appeal to the Hellenistic audience of his own time. He indulges in lengthy descriptions of the Essenes, describing them as peace-loving, ascetic, celibate people, strict in their observance of purity laws, sharing their property and leading a communal life. Indeed, these descriptions are lengthier and more detailed than his descriptions of the other two major, and much larger, Jewish parties (or “philosophies,” as he refers to them) of Pharisees and Sadducees. The Qumran-Essene hypothesis, then, was bolstered by a powerful combination of factors not often encountered in the history of science: seemingly strong textual evidence supporting it, a reputable scientist pronouncing it, and a widespread eagerness to believe it.

Thus it came about that the complex scientific enigma of the Dead Sea scrolls was thrust upon the world packaged from the start with a solution. The bare initial facts of the discovery of cloth-wrapped manuscript scrolls inside jars in a cave in the Judaean desert, the bare initial facts of their biblical and nonbiblical contents, and the preliminary archaeological finds at the site of Khirbet Qumran were all woven together from the start into an explanatory narrative. And a compelling and attractive one it was. The essential elements of the story, as they emerged, were these: the scrolls found in the caves belonged to a library of a single group of people identified as the Essenes known to us from the writings of three first-century authors: Josephus Flavius, Philo of Alexandria, and Pliny the Elder. The Essenes’ center for some two hundred years was the compound of Qumran, where they wrote and copied their scrolls until they hid them away in the nearby caves at the approach of the Roman Tenth Legion in 68 CE.(7)

To be sure, the identification of the Qumran sect with the Essenes, which is the centerpiece of the reigning theory, was not left unchallenged in the early years. Neither is it left unchallenged today. But there are important differences between the nature of the challenges then and now. Mostly they have to do with the observation that during the first decade of scroll research the proposed alternatives to the Qumran-Essene hypothesis. They consisted, basically, of a long series of alternative equating identifications for the Qumran sect. There is in fact no group, movement, party, or sect known from antiquity with which the Qumran sect has not been identified by one scholar or another. “[E]very conceivable–and inconceivable–sect, sub-sect and combination of sects has been suggested to identify the Dead Sea sect” (Y. Sussmann, 1994, p. 192; see also Yadin, 1958, p. 205)–Sadducees, Pharisees, Hasidim (a pietist group), Zealots, Ebionites, Karaites, early Christians, and more. These hypotheses had to be dealt with,(8) but they were not considered threatening. Nowadays, in contrast, some of the challenges to the dominant theory come from within the mainstream. These challenges, based as they are on the cumulative results of five decades of research, are of a more subtle nature, and they have the effect of putting the proponents of the dominant theory somewhat on the defensive. In what follows, I aim to expose in detail the nature of the reasoning behind the dominant theory. As it turns out, this will yield a neat grid within which all the challenges to the theory can be located in their proper place and can be accorded their relative weight.

The Emergence of the Qumran-Essene Hypothesis

One of the first book-length expositions about the scrolls was written by Sukenik’s charismatic son, Yigael Yadin,(9) who, like his father, was a scholar-archaeologist, but was also an Israeli military general and politician. Yadin, a prominent proponent of the Qumran-Essene hypothesis, puts off discussing the “major problem” of identifying the authors of the scrolls until the last section of his book. “Who were these people who lived near Khirbet Qumran, used the communal building in the ruins, wrote the scrolls and hid them in the caves?” (Yadin, 1958, p. 205). He duly mentions the fact that researchers disagree about the solution to the problem of identification, implicitly accepting it as an equating problem: “there is in fact no sect or group of people in Judaism, or in early Christianity, which has not been ‘identified’ with the sect of the scrolls” (ibid.). He proceeds, however, to elicit from the texts of the scrolls themselves a list of distinctive items regarding the beliefs and the social organization of the Qumran sect, thus seemingly changing his strategy from equatingidentification to defining-identification. But he then continues to juxtapose to this list an enumeration of the characteristics of the Essenes drawn from the three classical sources. The point of the exercise is, purportedly, to let the readers draw their own independent, objective, equating conclusion on the basis of this comparison. But not without a little help from the author:

From all the above one may draw one of two possible conclusions: either the

sect of the Dead Sea Scrolls is no other than the sect of the Essenes, or

else it is a sect resembling the Essenes to the utmost–in its dwelling

place, in its organization, in its customs, and so on (p. 223).

And if one seems to detect ever so slight a note of irony in this formulation, here is how Frank Moore Cross, another major pillar of the dominant theory, put the very same point many years later:

The scholar who would “exercise caution” in identifying the sect of Qumran

with the Essenes places himself in as astonishing position. He must suggest

seriously that two major parties formed communalistic religious communities

in the same district of the Dead Sea and lived together in effect for two

centuries, holding similar bizarre views, performing similar or rather

identical illustrations, ritual meals, and ceremonies. He must suppose that

one [the Essenes], carefully described by classical authors, disappeared

without leaving building remains or even potsherds behind; the other [the

inhabitants of Qumran], systematically ignored by the classical authors,

left extensive ruins, and indeed a great library. I prefer to be reckless

and flatly identify the men of Qumran with their perennial houseguests, the

Essenes (Cross, 1971, p. 25; see also Golb, 1995, pp. 89-90, with a

reference to VanderKam).

In this remarkable and often-quoted passage, Cross, like Yadin, presupposes as a matter of course that the site of Qumran was indeed inhabited by a communal religious sect and that the library deposited in the caves belonged to it. He heaps scorn on the very idea that the identity between this sect and the Essenes can be doubted. Let us turn our attention now to an indisputable locus classicus where this web of assumptions and identifications is argued for, rather than sarcastically presupposed, or condescendingly intimated.

Roland de Vaux, the archaeologist of Qumran, died in 1971 before ever. publishing the definitive report of his five seasons of excavations at Qumran. The full-length exposition of his finds and of his views is in his book Archaeology and the Dead Sea Scrolls (1973 [1960]), which is a somewhat expanded version of his 1959 Schweich Lectures at the British Academy. His remarks about the interplay between the study of writings and the study of ruins merit close consideration.

[I] n the study of the Qumran documents archaeology plays only a secondary

role. But it has the advantage of supplying dates and bringing to bear

certain material facts, the interpretation of which can be more objective

than that of the texts, which are so often enigmatic or incomplete (p.


As we shall soon see, the underlying assumption regarding the purportedly impeccable objectivity of the archaeologists’ interpretation of material artifacts, as compared with the purportedly flawed objectivity of the scholars’ interpretation of texts, should be seriously questioned. Indeed this to me is one of the most intriguing question to emerge from this study. On the specific question of identification de Vaux says, in the same vein, that “lack of certitude hangs over all the archaeological evidence which we might be tempted to invoke in order to establish that the Qumran community was Essene in character.” And he continues:

There is nothing in the evidence to contradict such an hypothesis, but this

is the only assured conclusion that we can arrive at on the basis of this

evidence, and the only one which we can justifiably demand of it. The

solution to the question is to be sought from the study of the texts, and

not from that of the archaeological remains (p. 133).

The tenor of de Vaux’s voice is scientific, measured, cautious. He explicitly says that the onus of solving the identity riddle is on the interpreters of the texts rather than on the archaeologists, and that the most the archaeologists can do is ascertain whether or not their material finds are compatible with the conjectures of the text scholars. But he does not stop here. Rather, he himself embarks upon a detailed exegesis of Pliny the Elder’s text about the Essenes (Natural History, Book 5, 15.73, written c. 74 CE). In this text, Pliny famously describes the Essenes as a “solitary tribe” (gens sola) that dwells on the west side of the Dead Sea and that “is remarkable beyond all other tribes in the whole world, as it has no women and has renounced all sexual desire, has no money, and has only palm-trees for company.” De Vaux deals at some length with the various discrepancies between the description of the Essenes in the Pliny text and the portrait of the community that emerges from the writings and ruins of Qumran. And then he reaches his conclusion:

[I]t must be recognized that this particular passage in Pliny is not in

itself decisive. But if the writings of Qumran exhibit certain points of

resemblance to what is known from other sources about the Essenes, and if

the ruins of Qumran correspond to what Pliny tells us about the

dwelling-place of the Essenes, his evidence can be accepted as true. And

this evidence in its turn serves to confirm that the community was Essene

in character. This is no vicious circle, but rather an argument by

convergence, culminating in that kind of certitude with which the historian

of ancient times often has to contend himself (p. 137).

De Vaux asserts that this argument, which he calls “the argument by convergence,” involves no vicious circle. But can he really defend his assertion? Consider this: “Scholars used the material from Philo, Josephus, and Pliny as a means of interpreting the scrolls and vice versa, thus giving rise to a circular process” (Schiffman, 1994, p. 17). Moreover, some write as if the three ancient sources can be “both supplemented and corrected by recourse to the texts discovered in the Qumran caves” (Golb, 1995, p. 50). The situation, Alice-in-Wonderland-like, seems to be this: first, given the acknowledged surface similarities between the contents of the scrolls and the writings of the three ancient authors who tell of the Essenes, the scrolls are conjectured to be Essene; then, given the apparent discrepancies between the texts of the three ancient writers and the scrolls, the three writers are deemed inaccurate and not very well informed. Questions of circularity abound: Has a boundary been crossed between a benign, or legitimate circle and a possibly vicious, or illegitimate one? Let me proceed to examine in detail the logic of de Vaux’s “argument by convergence.” As it turns out, the circle here encountered is embedded in a yet larger and thicker one.

The Linkage Argument

In the quoted passage, de Vaux starts with two separate observations: first, the resemblance between the Qumran writings and the three ancient writers’ descriptions of the Essenes, and second, the correspondence between the Qumran site and Pliny’s location of the Essenes. Taking these observations as two premises of an inference, he draws from them the conclusion that Pliny’s evidence is true. And given his belief that he has indeed validly deduced this conclusion, he takes the conjunction of premises and conclusion to further establish, or “confirm,” that the Qumran community was Essene.

Let us not be detained by the dubious logic of this argument.(10) Let us remind ourselves, instead, of the point, often stressed by teachers of elementary logic, that to expose an argument as invalid is not thereby to prove its conclusion false. The tenuousness of the argument notwithstanding, we may still charitably try to follow the spirit of de Vaux’s argument rather than his actual reasoning, and come up with a more interesting and perhaps a more coherent product. The starting point of the argument remains de Vaux’s two observations–about the writings on the one hand and about the ruins on the other. The first one notes that there is broad compatibility, indeed sometimes a striking resemblance, between the contents of the scrolls found, in the caves and the descriptions of the Essenes contained in the classical sources. The second one notes a putative compatibility between the physical location of the ruins of Qumran and Pliny’s placement of the Essene settlement.

At this point, the reconstructed reasoning diverges from de Vaux’s original one. Instead of taking these two observations as premises of an (unsuccessful) inference, let us think of them as the beginnings of two chains. And let us now elongate each chain by following its own logic through. The first chain, connecting the scrolls with the three ancient authors, is presumably prolonged by drawing the prima facie conclusion that the scrolls found in the caves belonged to the Essenes. And the second chain, connecting the location of the site of Qumran with Pliny’s location of the Essenes, is presumably prolonged by drawing the prima facie conclusion that the Essenes lived at Qumran. What is missing now is a link connecting these two separate chains. And this conceptual link is presumably provided by the physical proximity of the scroll caves to the site of Qumran. Consider this: “Unless there is a very strong argument against it, archaeological evidence must be interpreted within the context of the place where it was discovered.”(11) That is to say, since the caves in which the scrolls were found are close to the site of Qumran, it is possible to assert the hypothesis that Qumran was a center of the Essenes, whose descriptions come to us from Pliny, Josephus, and Philo, and that the Essenes were the authors of (at least some of) the scrolls found in the nearby caves.

It would seem, then, that this is what there is and this is what it takes to clinch the (prima facie) web of identifications forming the core of the Qumran-Essene hypothesis. Here is a schematic presentation of this argument–call it the linkage argument: Note that this linkage argument makes no reference whatsoever to any of the archaeological finds, let alone to their interpretation. It relates merely to the location of the Qumran site, not to anything that was excavated there. “[A]ll that archaeology can contribute,” says de Vaux in the last sentence of his book, “is to provide a yardstick by which to test the conclusions arrived at from the documents. But inconclusive though it may be in this role, its evidence must still not be disregarded” (p. 138).

One should not be misled, however, by these (and other) modest claims de Vaux makes on behalf of archaeology. True, in conformity with his own strictures, de Vaux examines and criticizes various theories, purportedly based on the evidence from the documents, in light of the archaeological finds.(12) But at the same time his very portrayal of the archaeological finds themselves is strongly influenced by the contents of the literary documents–as well as, one suspects, by his wishful preconceptions. In other words, the use de Vaux makes of his material finds far outstrips that of providing an objective yardstick against which the textual evidence is to be measured. His material finds are not raw material, they are material under interpretive description. It is to de Vaux, after all, the strikingly anachronistic interpretation of the site of Qumran as the first monastery in the Western world is attributed. And it is de Vaux who put forward the anachronistic and suggestive designations of two of its loci as a “scriptorium” (that is, a scribes’ copying room in a monastery) and a “refectory” (that is, a dining hall of a religious order). That is to say, an interpretative fit is being negotiated by de Vaux in two directions simultaneously. Not only are text-based theories required to fit within the parameters set by the archaeological finds, but the very terms in which the archaeological data are couched are slanted by the texts. Would the terms monastery, scriptorium, and refectory have been suggested by archaeologists in characterizing the site of Qumran had its excavation taken place before, and not after, the discovery of the scrolls in the nearby caves? This remains one of the most intriguing hypothetical questions in Qumran studies.(13)

I am now in a position to present the point of de Vaux’s book as an attempt to supply one more crucial link to the linkage argument. Quite simply, de Vaux’s archaeology characterizes the site of Qumran as a “motherhouse” of a religious sect, thereby supplying the link between the scrolls on the one hand and the ruins of Qumran on the other. While independently of the archaeological excavations the linkage argument for the Qumran-Essene hypothesis consisted of two chains interlinked at one end by the proximity consideration, the contribution of archaeology as presented by de Vaux is in connecting the chains at their other end as well. This connection is achieved, minimally, by virtue of the fact that the physical installations in the ruins of Qumran are compatible with what we learn from the texts about the way of life of the scrolls community. In his more ambitious mode, though, de Vaux revealingly offers a strong thesis, according to which it is from the archaeological findings that we learn that the site was inhabited by a monastic sect leading a communal life. It is, he says at one point, the archaeological evidence itself that “suggests to us that this group was a religious community [that] was organized, disciplined, and observed special rites” (p. 110).

The linkage argument has now become a closed circle. It is indeed a choice specimen of a hermeneutic circle. Quite generally, by a hermeneutic circle, or a “circle of understanding,” one refers to a situation in which in order to understand A (a text, a form of life, an archaeological find, or whatever), it is necessary first to understand B, but the understanding of B in turn requires a prior understanding of A. For some, like Heidegger, a hermeneutic circle is charmed rather than vicious. For others, it is vicious if its diameter is too small. It may indeed feel uncomfortably small if, say, from the finding of the scrolls it is inferred directly that the ink-wells found at Qumran belonged to scribes who used them to copy scrolls, and from the finding of the inkwells it is inferred directly that the site was a scribal center. What we have here however is a circle that connects an understanding of texts, which in this case include the entire corpus of the scrolls as well as the writings of the three ancient authors, and an understanding of an overall archaeological site. It is a situation in which the interpretation of material evidence is made possible by–at the same time as it helps illuminate–the interpretation of texts.

Here is a schematic representation of the argument (the numbers are for ease of reference in what follows):


The Strength of the Linkage Argument

How strong is this argument? It does, admittedly, look compelling. And its seemingly compelling nature no doubt owes much to its gestalt, to its being a closed chain in which each individual link appears to gain strength from the fact that it is part of a whole circle: the chain curiously appears to be stronger than any of its links. And not only is it a whole circle, but it is a thick circle in that it manages to tie together three independent types of sources: textual, archaeological, and literary. The mere prima facie, or presumptive, force possessed by the separate links seems as if by a sleight of hand to turn conclusive, as the links clink into this tightly interlocking closed chain.

Still, in considering the strength of the argument we may want to assess the strength of each of its links. After all, there would seem to be some validity to the suggestion that a chain, whether open or closed, is only as strong as its weakest link. And, as the history of Qumran studies shows, no link in this argument has been left unchallenged. One payoff of the analysis suggested thus far is that it imposes a neat structure on much of this huge body of scholarship, making it possible to classify it according to which particular link of the linkage argument it is addressing.

A link whose potential weakness was noted from the start is the one that takes Pliny’s description of the dwelling-place of the Essenes to be referring to Qumran (link 2). After all, Pliny says “infra hos Engada,” meaning “under them, Engedi,” or, in Rackham’s translation (Loeb Classical Library, London, 1942, Vol. 2, p. 277), “lying below the Essenes was formerly the town of Engedi.” This description, taken literally, does not comfortably fit the site of Qumran: if “below” is taken to mean “lower than,” “underneath,” then the problem is that the site of Qumran is more or less on the level of the Dead Sea and thus not higher than Engedi; and if it is taken to mean “to the south of,” then the problem is that while Engedi is truly located to the south of Qumran, it is very much further south, with at least one site lying in between. It is also plausible to question the strength of the link pointing to the proximity of the caves to the ruins of Qumran (link 3). To begin with, “proximate” is a relative notion of evaluation. And in addition, the argument from physical proximity to causal connection is recognized to be merely presumptive. This means that as soon as independent reasons to doubt the connection are brought forth, the presumption may be rebutted.

The target of numerous recent challenges to the linkage argument is the link supplied by de Vaux’s archaeological work. As we saw, it is de Vaux’s archaeological work that interprets the site of Qumran as the motherhouse of a communal, celibate, ascetic religious sect (link 4). Many aspects of the site were subjected to scrutiny in recent years. Let me briefly mention the more outstanding ones. The fortification of the Qumran tower and the signs of a battle being fought there (Was not Qumran possibly a military outpost?); the complex system of cisterns and water channels at Qumran (Are not some of them just installations for water storage, rather than facilities for ritual bathing as claimed by de Vaux?); the furniture of the so-called scriptorium (Are not the plastered structures found in this room perhaps the remains of dining couches running along the walls of a triclinium fit for a relatively luxurious villa, rather than the remains of low writing tables used by scrolls-copying scribes, as suggested by de Vaux?); the pottery assemblage (Is it as distinctive as it is claimed to be?); the finds of precious glass (While ignored by de Vaux, might it not be indicative of some affluence incompatible with the ascetic character of the Essene community?); the composition of the cemetery (How are the remains of females found there to be squared with the postulated celibacy of the community?); the nature of the industrial workshops (What do they tell us about the nature of the Qumran settlement?); and more. As a result of these challenges, alternative theories for the interpretation of the Qumran settlement have been offered, such as a fortress, a country villa (“villa rustica”), an industrial plant, and an inn (“caravanserai”).(14) Some of these alternative interpretations explicitly claim to sever altogether the connection between the Qumran site and the scrolls.

There are also significant challenges to the linkage argument that focus on the compatibility of, or the similarities between, the texts of the caves and the writings of the three classical authors (link 1). One initial problem arises from the observation that the accounts of the Essenes given by Josephus, Philo, and Pliny, despite surface similarities, are not entirely compatible with one another, and that there are several significant discrepancies among them. If the ancient descriptions of the Essenes are themselves incompatible, this would seem to complicate and to weaken the link asserting compatibility between the ancient sources taken as a whole and the texts of the caves. But quite apart from this problem, the thrust of some scholarship over the years has been to question the Essene authorship of the scrolls and to offer alternative views. Early on the focus of research was on trying to identify “the Dead Sea sect” with one or another of the movements, parties, or sects known or presumed to exist in the Intertestamental period in Palestine. More recently, however, given that the bulk of the scrolls and fragments have by now been published, more scholars are open to the view that the documents hidden in the caves represent a wider variety of religious movements of that period and are not the product of a single sect. Indeed, just as inconsistencies among the three ancient literary sources are pointed out, so also are numerous inconsistencies, differences, and discrepancies pointed out among the various cave texts themselves. This makes it possible to argue, for example, that the texts found in the caves are the remains of various libraries, belonging to various groups, possibly even from Jerusalem, which were brought in haste to the Judaean desert to be hidden in the caves in time of great danger from the approaching Romans–without there being any indigenous connection between the texts and the Qumran settlement.

Resilience and Consilience

No link of the linkage argument, then, remains intact. At the same time, though, no link has decidedly been broken. Pliny’s reference remains inconclusive (link 2); none of the alternative archaeological interpretations offered for the site of Qumran, imaginative and partially persuasive as they may be, is accepted as compelling by the community of scholars (link 4); the Essene authorship of the scrolls is a matter of an ongoing controversy (link 1); the consideration in favor of there being a causal connection between the site and the scrolls prevails in the absence of weightier considerations to the contrary (link 3). The linkage argument, while battered as regards its individual links, shows remarkable resilience as regards the chain taken as a whole.

Two concepts ot3 truth seem to be at work here. With regard to each individual link, the tendency is to apply the standards of a correspondence theory of truth: each link is confronted in isolation with the available evidence and data, and, as we saw, it is found wanting. With regard to the closed chain as a whole, however, we tend to apply the standards of a coherence theory of truth: we are impressed with the fact that it is a tightly interlocking interpretative circle, which manages to pool together the textual material from the scrolls, the ancient literary sources, and the archaeological data.

From a methodological point of view, what we seem to have here is a situation similar to what W. Whewell refers to as consilience of inductions. Suppose two independent conjectures, each supported by its own set of evidence, are shown to be derivable from an overarching hypothesis. The point about consilience is that each of the two conjectures is now judged more probable than it was before, because qua consequences of the same overarching hypothesis, each of them derives support indirectly from the evidence in favor of the other (See Kneale, 1963, pp. 106-10). If we attempt a “logical reconstruction” of the case in hand to fit with this understanding of consilience, what we get, somewhat artificially, is the following. The two conjectures are, first, that the scrolls belong to, and reflect the way of life of, an active religious sect, and, second, that Qumran was a center in which a communal and ritualized way of life was practiced. The evidence for the first conjecture comes from the contents of the scrolls, and the evidence for the second comes from the excavation of the site (or, at any rate, from the excavation of the site as interpreted by de Vaux). The overarching hypothesis from which both conjectures follow is that the site of Qumran was a center of an Essene community and that the Essenes wrote the scrolls. Now, according to the doctrine of consilience, given that each of the two conjectures is derivable from the overarching hypothesis, each of these conjectures gains in strength even without any additional evidence being adduced in favor of either. It thus comes about that evidence which initially was merely compatible with a certain conjecture is turned into supportive evidence, due to the existence of the overarching hypothesis.

Elasticity and Cooptation

In commenting about the resilience of the Qumran-Essene hypothesis, there is an additional aspect worth paying attention to: the aspect of elasticity. While the linkage argument was never shown to break, the constant attacks on the Qumran-Essene theory that it supports, as well as the various alternatives proposed to it, have not failed to make an impact on it. This theory has, in other words, undergone transformations over the years, invisible perhaps to some, quite noticeable to others. It is thus somewhat misleading to say about the Qumran-Essene theory that it has retained its dominance throughout these five decades, because the “it” that has retained its dominance has not quite retained its identity. It may not be entirely tongue-in-cheek to suggest that, quite apart from the issue of the sectarian nature of the Qumran dwellers, there is an issue of the sectarian nature of the Qumran researchers. The ideological, religious, and emotional stakes in the scrolls seem to be so high that, in the eyes of the mainstream scholars, any scholar who thinks differently is an “other” who is not just wrong but a deviant, if not a heretic. The sociology of Qumran research thus influences its methodology. Instead of adhering to the procedures of confirmation and refutation, the mainstream scholars seem to be engaged in cooptation: while not quite admitting it, their favorite hypothesis coopts into it elements from the various challenges to it. Their insistence on its being “the same hypothesis” exemplifies a phenomenon that has its parallels in the history of religion and that may be referred to as phonetic fanaticism: the stubborn belief that by fanatically adhering to the same phonetic name of the hypothesis you may go on refusing to acknowledge the changes it has undergone. Indeed, to be able to list the conditions of identity of a scientific hypothesis that is subtly being redescribed may turn out to be a tricky task. It may be an even trickier task than to be able to list the conditions of identity of, say, a sectarian group–such as the Essenes.

The claim about the theory being subtly redescribed needs to be substantiated. I shall end with a brief sketch of the contours of two such substantiations that relate to two major components of the Qumran-Essene theory. The first instance concerns the identity of the Essenes, and the second instance concerns the composition of the Qumran library. With regard to the identity of the Essenes, much recent research has focussed on the latest major scroll to be published, 4QMMT (Qimron and Strugnell, 1994). This scroll has a large Halakhic component, and it turns out that the Jewish law contained in it is generally recognized as Sadducean, that is, it accords with the Halakha explicitly described by the rabbinic sources as Sadducean. Does this observation mean that the Dead Sea sectarians were Sadducees? Can this observation still be reconciled with the conviction that the Dead Sea sectarians were Essenes?

In his authoritative study on this scroll, Y. Sussmann (1994)(15) relates this puzzle to another, well-known puzzle, which is what to make of the total absence of the term Essenes in rabbinic literature. Sussmann embarks upon an extensive scholarly study of the major religious parties of the Intertestamental period. In it, he attempts to pursue the implications of the suggestion that the divisions between Pharisees and Sadducees had not only religious dimensions, but sociopolitical dimensions as well. He also premises his inferences on the observation that ultimately the Halakhic writings known to us today reflect a Pharisaic bias, which tends to license the lumping together of all sects considered deviant by the Pharisees, and referring to them collectively as Sadducees. In the end, he comes up with a solution that does, once again, identify the group whose sectarian writings were found in the Qumran caves with the Essenes. But this identification now comes closer to the defining sense of identifying than to its equating sense, as this hypothesis is now backed by a new understanding of the sect of the Essenes, from Halakhic, religious, social, and political points of view.(16) Consequently, the Qumran-Essene hypothesis, as annunciated by present-day scholars, cannot be taken to be the same as the same-sounding hypothesis of some four decades ago. Whether or not it commands the adherence of all scholars in the field, the present-day theory is the product of a different understanding of what the term Essenes stands for.

Turning to the second instance, we recall that one strand of arguments against the Qumran-Essene hypothesis denies the connection between the ruins of Qumran and the texts found in the caves. Furthermore, it denies that the scrolls were the product of a single sect. Based on a variety of considerations, these arguments contend that the scrolls originated in Jerusalem: one variant has it that the corpus of writings found in the caves formed part of the temple library (Rengstorf, 1963), and another that it was the remnant of a large number of private Jerusalem libraries (Golb, 1995).

Now, in recent years, as the task of deciphering and publishing the entire Qumran library is nearing its completion, the recognition is gradually growing that the sectarian texts form a smaller proportion of the entire corpus than had initially been assumed, and that they exhibit much more diversity than had initially been realized. It also is becoming increasingly evident that many of the fragments belong to texts whose initial relegation to the sectarian group of texts can no longer be sustained. Consequently, the consensus view regarding the composition of the Qumran library is nowadays subject to an almost imperceptible process of redescription.

Thus, a recent, large scale, semipopular book by a mainstream scroll scholar describes the library as comprising three categories of documents: biblical manuscripts, sectarian manuscripts, and a heterogenous third category of “nonsectarian” manuscripts.(17) The latter “were part of the literary heritage of those who formed the sect or that were composed by similar groups. They were composed outside the sectarian center and brought there, although some of them may have been copied there” (Schiffman, 1994, p. 33). This formulation neatly illustrates the elasticity of the consensus view. It retains the old notion of a sectarian center, it even echoes the controversial notion of a scriptorium for the copying of scrolls, and at the same time it seamlessly weaves these together with the newer, challenging notion of a heterogenous literary heritage brought from the outside.(18) Similarly, in the official catalog of the scrolls exhibition that traveled in the United States in 1993, there is an endorsement of the view that “a great many documents found in the caves of Qumran came from other places.” That is to say, it is now no longer a sharp matter of either/or: either all the documents found in the caves belonged to–and possibly were even composed and copied by–the sect living at Qumran, or else Qumran was no sectarian center at all, and all the documents found in the caves were brought to them from Jerusalem for hiding.

The linkage argument, then, and the Qumran-Essene theory it supports, have been and still are being subjected to manifold challenges. They may have lost the heady air of obviousness they had in the early years, but none of the challenges is generally recognized to have broken any of the links of the argument. At the same time, however, the theory has gradually found its ingenious ways of coopting some of these challenges. And so, redescribed, it endures. In one version or another, the Qumran-Essene hypothesis retains its status as the reigning consensus in Qumran studies. The Essene connection, whose appeal was already appreciated by the first-century writer Josephus, seems capable of casting a powerful spell–a religious, romantic, and social-utopian spell–to this day. Irrespective of the cognitive questions relating to the strength of the hermeneutic circle involved, or to the elasticity of the dominant theory, the emotive point remains that none of the alternatives to the Qumran-Essene theory can rival it in attractiveness. It turns out that in science, too, cognitive merit is not everything; emotive value counts as well.


(1) The expression is Stendahl’s, 1992[1957], p. 1

(2) On September 22, 1991, a three-column heading declared from the top of the front page of the Sunday New York Times, “Monopoly Over Dead Sea Scrolls Is Ended.” Around that time, in the summer and fall of 1991, articles and letters appeared in the Times of London, the New York Times, the Chicago Tribune, the Los Angeles Times, Liberation, Le Figaro, Haaretz, and more (see Golb, 1995, esp. notes to chapters 8 and 10). These are salient examples, but there are many more.

(3) Edmund Wilson quotes the eminent scholar David Flusser’s “terrific pun” on megillot, the Hebrew word for scrolls: “Tout le monde est megillotmane!” (Wilson, 1969, p. 83).

(4) Clearly, the other major question was that of dating the scrolls. After the original suspicions of forgery were laid to rest, initial challenges to the consensus view (which dates the sect between roughly 150 BCE and 68 CE, that is, in the Second Temple period comprising the Hasmonean and the early Roman periods) came from two or three quarters. Some scholars maintained a late first century date, to allow for identifying the Qumran sect with the Zealots (Roth, Driver) or with early Christians (Teicher). Others maintained that the scrolls belong to the medieval Karaites (Zeitlin). The consensus on the dating seems secured by the combination of archaeological evidence, carbon-14 tests, and paleography.

(5) I take up this question in “The Sectarian Character of the Dead Sea Sect” (unpublished manuscript).

(6) Sukenik, 1948, reports, diary style, his very first impressions from glancing at a scroll, obviously the Manual, which at that time (before the 1948 Arab-Jewish war broke out) was one of four still in the possession of the Syrian Metropolitan in Jerusalem: “I found in [it] a kind of book of regulations for the conduct of members of a brotherhood or sect. I incline to conjecture that this cache of manuscripts belonged originally to the sect of the Essenes” (see Golb, 1995, p. 66: his translation). The four scrolls eventually made their way to New York, where they were purchased in 1954 by Sukenik’s son, Yigael Yadin, on behalf of the State of Israel.

(7) The influential, mainstream exponents of this view during the 1950s included (apart from Sukenik, de Vaux, and Yadin) Frank M. Cross (1958), Millar Burrows (1956), and Andre Dupont-Sommer (1959). (Golb disputes de Vaux’s reasoning in favor of 68 CE: he puts the capture of Qumran later, after the fall of Jerusalem, possibly at 73 CE; see Golb, 1995, at pp. 12-13.)

(8) For example, see de Vaux’s lengthy treatment (1973, pp. 117-26) of the Zealot hypotheses put forward by Roth and Driver–as well as his summary dismissal of Teicher’s Judaeo-Christian hypothesis, North’s Sadducees, and Rabin’s Pharisees (pp. 126-28).

(9) Yadin, 1958. Other writers whose books about the scrolls appeared in the 1950s include Wilson, Burrows, Dupont-Sommer, Allegro, and Vermes.

(10) Roughly, the reconstruction of this argument as an inference is this:

1. There is resemblance between the descriptions of the community contained in the Qumran writings and the descriptions of the Essenes contained in the three classical sources.

2. There is correspondence between the location of the ruins of Qumran and Pliny’s description of the dwelling-place of the Essenes.


3. Pliny’s evidence is true.


4. There is identity between the Qumran community and the Essenes.

Consider, for comparison, the following argument, to be offered by archaeologists of a site on the outskirts of Moscow some two millennia from now:

1. There is resemblance between the (only surviving) descriptions of an ill-fated winter invasion by Napoleon and the (only surviving) descriptions of an ill-fated winter invasion by Hitler.

2. There is correspondence between the location of the ruins outside of Moscow and Tolstoy’s description of the location of the Napoleonic battle.


3. Tolstoy’s evidence is true.


4. There is identity between Napoleon and Hitler. Does de Vaux’s assertion, that his argument culminates in “that kind of certitude” with which scholars have to be content, apply in this case too?

(11) Roth, 1964-66, pp. 81-87. Roth refers to this as one of the “accepted canons of scholarship.” And he goes on to explain: “if this rule is not observed, a scholar will always be at liberty to disregard as extraneous any object or ancient record which runs contrary to his preconception.” (This “canon of scholarship,” incidentally, was put to an interesting use in the case of the Nag Hamadi Gnostic finds.) This passage by Roth is quoted approvingly by Golb (1995, p. 135) in the context of the question of how to interpret the fact that a distinctly sectarian Qumran text, the Songs of the Sabbath Sacrifice, was found at Masada as well as at Qumran. Ironically, the very same canon of scholarship can be put to work’against Golb’s own hypothesis according to which the scrolls found in the caves have no relation to the nearby site of Qumran (but were brought there from Jerusalem for safekeeping).

(12) For example, he examines various proposals for identifying the central scrolls figures of the Teacher of Righteousness and the Wicked Priest in light of what emerges from the archaeological evidence regarding the time frame of the establishment of the Qumran community. “It seems, therefore, that archaeology rules out any attempt to identify the Wicked Priest with Alexander Jannaeus” (p. 116), since the first installation of the site, the so-called Period Ia, is earlier than Jannaeus (103-76 BCE). Similarly, see his refutations (pp. 118-26) of Cecil Roth’s and of G. R. Driver’s theories that identify the occupants of Qumran as Zealots (“Driver’s historical conclusions are incompatible with the most solidly established of the archaeological data” [p. 124]).

(13) I deal with this question, and others like it, in “A Hard Look at the Hard Facts of Archaeology” (unpublished manuscript).

(14) Fortress: Golb, 1995; country villa: Donceel and Donceel-Voute, 1994; industrial plant: Patrich, 1994; inn: Crown and Cansdale, 1994. In some of these cases, the theory remains supported by its originator[s] alone.

(15) This paper was originally read in 1987 at a symposium in Jerusalem, and was published in its (Hebrew) proceedings. It then appeared, with extensive documentation, in Tarbiz 59 (1989-90) (Hebrew), and was subsequently reproduced in English (without the extensive documentation) as Appendix 1 in Qimron and Strugnell, 1994.

(16) According to Sussmann the Dead Sea sect is a spiritual, separatist, Essene (Boethian?) sect that adhered to Sadducean Halakha. This sect, he says, “waged a dual battle: a religious-political struggle (ethical and social) against the priestly Sadducean aristocracy, on the one hand, and a religious-halakhic struggle against the opponents of the strict Sadducean tradition (i.e., the Pharisees), on the other” (p. 194). They found themselves “compelled to separate both from the temple and the majority of the people” (p. 199), and turn to the desert. Ultimately, however, these fanatics “could not withstand the test of time, and like their Sadducean brethren–they vanished from the stage of history” (p. 199).

(17) The documents were previously taken to divide into the following three categories: (1) Biblical texts (covering some part of every book of the Hebrew Old Testament except Esther); (2) Sectarian writings, which describe the teachings, beliefs, rules, and way of life of the Qumran community; and (3) Apocryphal and pseudo-epigraphic writings, that is, noncanonical Jewish writings composed between mid-second century BCE and the end of first century CE (some of which are included in the Septuagint). Bolstering this division was the fortuitous fact that the first seven scrolls found at cave I constituted a brilliant sample of these three groups of texts: two central biblical scrolls (Isaiah 1 and 2), one apocryphal work (the Aramaic Genesis Apocryphon), and four major sectarian works (Rule of the Community, also referred to as the Manual of Discipline; the War Scroll, also referred to as the Scroll of the War of the Sons of Light against the Sons of Darkness; the Thanksgiving Hymns, and the scriptural commentary known as Pesher Habakkuk). What would the nature of Qumran studies have been like had cave 4, with its many thousands of little fragments, rather than cave 1 been discovered first? What would the leading hypothesis about the origin of the scrolls have looked like? These remain hypothetical questions that invite imaginative speculation but cannot be settled.

(18) Revealingly, Golb’s name is never mentioned in Schiffman’s book, neither in the text nor even in the bibliography. (Is this not sectarianism among Qumran scholars?)


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Crown, A., and L. Cansdale, “Qumran: Was It an Essene Settlement?” Biblical Archaeology Review 20 (1994): 24-26, 73-78.

Donceel, R., and P. Donceel-Voute, “The Archaeology of Khirbet Qumran,” in M. O. Wise et al., eds., Methods of Investigation of the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Khirbet Qumran Site: Present Realities and Future Prospects (New York: Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1994), pp. 1-38.

Fitzmyer, Joseph A., Responses to I01 Questions on the Dead Sea Scrolls (New York: Paulist Press, 1992).

Frank, Harry Thomas, “Discovering the Scrolls,” in Hershel Shanks, ed., Understanding the Dead Sea Scrolls (New York: Random House, 1992), pp. 3-19.

Golb, Norman, Who Wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls? (New York: Scribner, 1995).

Kneal, William, Probability and Induction (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 196311949]).

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Patrich, J. “Khirbet Qumran in Light of New Archaeological Explorations in the Qumran Caves,” in M. O. Wise et al., eds., Methods of Investigation of the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Khirbet Qumran Site: Present Realities and Future Prospects (New York: Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1994), pp. 73-95.

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Stendahl, Krister, ed., The Scrolls and the New Testament (New York: Crossroad, 199211957]).

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(*) The research leading to this essay was conducted in part at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton and in part at the Center for Rationality and Interactive Decision Theory at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. I am grateful to these institutions and to the participants in their seminars for comments on earlier versions of the paper. I wish to thank the Qumran researchers E. Chazon, H. Eshel, I. Knohl, and D. R. Schwartz, who were generous to me with their time. I profited from conversations with Pauline Donceel-Voute, Norman Golb, Oleg Grabar, and Peter Schafer. My main debt of gratitude, however, I owe to the scrolls man Magen Broshi, and–as always–to Avishai Margalit.

Edna Ullmann-Margalit is associate professor of philosophy and a member of the Center for Rationality and Interactive Decision Theory at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. She is the editor of Reasoning Practically (forthcoming, 1999).

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