In the Beginning: A Short History of the Hebrew Language

By Joel M. Hoffman | Go to book overview

Chapter 7

The Dead Sea Scrolls

Background

When we looked at the Leningrad Codex (page 76) we noted that it dates from the end of 1st millennium C.E., that it is the oldest surviving complete copy of the Bible as we know it, and that modern printed Bibles are usually based on its text. But during the past century, documents twice that old were discovered in the Judean Desert near the Dead Sea. These are the Dead Sea Scrolls (or “DSS”).

In addition to offering new information about the state of Judaism around the turn of the era, the DSS have provided invaluable evidence about the state of Hebrew 2,000 years ago. We will see that the DSS confirm some of the Masoretes' work, contradict other parts of their work, and contradict one very important part of Origen's Secunda. Unlike the indirect evidence that we can glean from the LXX (as discussed on page 90) or the Secunda (page 102), or the secondhand information provided in more modern manuscripts, the Hebrew in the DSS that has survived intact from two millennia ago offers direct evidence about the Hebrew of the time.

The DSS contain parts of the Bible as we know it, “para-Biblical” literature that looks like Biblical material but is not included in any current religious version of the Bible, commentaries, prayers, calendars, and a host of other writings.

Before looking at the contents of the DSS, we'll take a lengthy but intriguing detour to learn how they were found. It started with a goat.

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In the Beginning: A Short History of the Hebrew Language
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • List of Tables xi
  • List of Figures xiii
  • Acknowledgments xv
  • Part I - Getting Started 1
  • Chapter 1 - Introduction 3
  • Chapter 2 - Rules of the Game 7
  • Part II - Antiquity 13
  • Chapter 3 - Writing 15
  • Chapter 4 - Magic Letters and the Name of God 39
  • Chapter 5 - The Masoretes 49
  • Chapter 6 - Pronunciation 81
  • Part III - Moving On 119
  • Chapter 7 - The Dead Sea Scrolls 121
  • Chapter 8 - Dialects in the Bible 149
  • Chapter 9 - Post-Biblical Hebrew 165
  • Part IV - Now 185
  • Chapter 10 - Modern Hebrew 187
  • Chapter 11 - Keep Your Voice from Weeping 211
  • Part V - Appendices 215
  • Appendix A - More About the Rules of the Game 217
  • Appendix B - Further Reading 229
  • Bibliography 245
  • Index 251
  • About the Author 263
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