Fifty four years after the first scrolls were found on the western shore of the Dead Sea, Professor Emmanuel Tov of the Hebrew University, editor of the Dead Sea Scrolls publication project, announced that all the scrolls are finally all published.
The Dead Sea Scrolls shed valuable light on the life of Jews in provincial Judea in the first century CE. This was the era in which Jewish culture reached its height, the temple was completed on a grand scale, and Jerusalem reached its largest size in antiquity. This was also the era of Jesus from Nazareth, who spread a belief that the “end of days” was near.
The scrolls reveal that Jesus was not the only one with such views. The scrolls were created by a Jewish sect that refrained from the normative Jewish worship in the temple in Jerusalem. At the isolated site of Qumran, they set up a celibate community with strict codes of behavior, conceptually similar to the later Christian monasteries. Both the celibates from Qumran and Jesus were right—the end of days arrived for Judea in 70 CE. Following the Jewish rebellion against the Roman empire, general Vespasian and his son Titus (both later to be emperors) led a military campaign to suppress the revolt, culminating in the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple. Probably in anticipation of the Roman invasion, the leaders of the Qumran community hid their library in
nearby caves. Qumran was destroyed, but the scrolls were left undisturbed until the mid-20th century. Following the discovery of the first scrolls in the 1950s, a small committee of scholars took responsibility for their publication. It was clear that the task would take time, but by the late 1980s it was taking too much time. Some have even argued that in collaboration with the Catholic Church some scrolls were deliberately unpublished because they shed new, perhaps negative, light on the early church, and Jesus himself. One thing was true—the publication was going too slowly. In 1990, after public pressure, Amir Drori, then the head of the Israel Antiquities Authority, decided to change the rules. The committee was enlarged from 9 members to 98. They were given a mandate of rights over the publication, but only if they adhered to a given tight schedule. Prof Emmanuel Tov was nominated as the new editor-in-chief. The results were announced recently in New York. Up until 1990 only eight volumes of the publication series were published, but in the last 11 years another 28 volumes have been published, and more will be published soon. The announcement of the project’s completion in New York was not a coincidence. During the press conference, Professor Tov also made a public statement in which he dedicated the volume of the “Thanksgiving scroll” to New York Mayor Rudolph Guiliani and the people of New York. Mr Richard Sheirer, director of the city’s emergency management, was honored in accepting the dedication.
Herod’s Palace Found
My colleague and friend, Amit Re’em, recently announced the ad hoc results of his ongoing excavation near the Jaffa gate in the Old City of Jerusalem. The dig revealed what seem to be the remains of Herod’s palace. Re’em’s team revealed foundations of massive walls, which are dated to the first century BCE. It has been speculated that the palace was in this area, but these are the first finds that could be associated with the lost palace. Although so far the remains are just foundation walls, Re’em hopes further excavations might expose remains of the palace itself.
By Christian tradition (from the Byzantine period) Herod’s palace was the place of the trial of Jesus. Perhaps because the palace disappeared during the Middle Ages, this traditional site moved to the fortress of old Jerusalem— the Antonia. The new excavations may shed new light on the validity of these traditions.