Since the first Dead Sea Scrolls were found in a Qumran cave in 1947, most have been restored and published. But two researchers at the University of Haifa just deciphered one of the last remaining unpublished scrolls – and they uncovered some surprises.
Eshbal Ratson and Jonathan Ben-Dov reassembled around 60 fragments – some smaller than 0.155 square inches – that an earlier researcher said had come from different scrolls in a period of over one year. The University of Haifa researchers found these pieces “actually constitute a single scroll,” according to the university, and discovered for the first time that the name given to “special days marking the transitions between the four seasons” by the Judean Desert sect is Tekufah. This word in today’s Hebrew means ‘period.’
The researchers also obtained new insight into the 364-day calendar the sect used. They said in a statement, “The lunar calendar, which Judaism follows to this day, requires a large number of human decisions. People must look at the stars and moon and report on their observations, and someone must be empowered to decide on the new month and the application of leap years. By contrast, the 364-day calendar was perfect. Because this number can be divided into four and seven, special occasions always fall on the same day…The Qumran calendar is unchanging, and it appears to have embodied the beliefs of the members of this community regarding perfection and holiness.”
Another finding was that a scribe corrected errors made by the person who wrote the scroll. The researchers said the author “made a number of mistakes” and another scribe added in “missing dates in the margins between the columns of text.”
The Journal of Biblical Literature published the work, and the researchers now plan to decipher the last remaining scroll.