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Dead Sea Scrolls › Origins

Definition and Origins

by Justin King
published on 22 May 2012
Dead Sea Scrolls (Ken & Nyetta)
The Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS) are a collection of scrolls found in the desert east of Jerusalem on the shore of the Dead Sea.They represent the largest manuscript collections of texts from the Second Temple Period found in the area of Judah, an area notorious for its lack of manuscripts. Around 930 texts were found in 11 caves in the hills surrounding Khirbet (=ruins of) Qumran. The texts are the product of a community of Essenes who lived in the nearby ruins of Qumran and were composed between the 3rd century BCE and the 1st century CE. They are significant because they shed considerable light on the religious and political world of late Second Temple Judaism and on the text of the Hebrew Bible.


The DSS have been given a standardized numbering system illustrated as follows:
There is a commentary (known as a pesher, see below) on Nahum. The text is numbered as 4Q169. It was the 169th manuscript found in cave 4. All manuscripts follow this standardized number system. There are a few exceptions. For example, the Great Isaiah Scroll, one of the first manuscripts found, is numbered as 1QIsa a. Note that it is still given the numbering 1Q (meaning it was found Cave 1).
Biblical Scrolls
The term “biblical” is inappropriate when applied to the DSS because “the Bible” as we know it today did not exist in Second Temple Judaism (515 BCE-70 CE). Rather than denoting a set of texts with a special level of authority, “biblical scrolls” refers to those texts found in the Tanakh/Hebrew Bible/Protestant Old Testament. This is a classification imposed upon the DSS by later scholars.
Among the DSS, every book of the Hebrew Bible has been found except for Esther. However, not all books are equally attested. The Psalms (34 different scrolls), Deuteronomy (30), Isaiah (21), and Genesis (20) are the four most prevalent biblical scrolls. Eccleasties has only two different scrolls, and Ezra, Nehmiah, and Chronicles only have one scroll each.


The biblical scrolls found among the DSS represented a significant opportunity to study the text of the standard Hebrew Bible, the Masoretic Text. For example, the version of Jeremiah found in the Septuagint (the Greek Translation of the Hebrew Bible) is one eighth shorter than that found in the Masoretic Text. It was initially thought that the Septuagint represented a poor translation. However, Hebrew versions of both the longer and shorter versions have been found among the DSS. Contrary to the claims of some, no single New Testament manuscript has been found among the DSS.
Targumim (plural of targum ) are special Aramaic translations and interpretations (targum in Hebrew for “translation). A highly fragmentary targum of Leviticus and two targumim of Job (one, 11Q10, is one of the most complete manuscripts) have been found among the DSS. These finds are significant because they reframed the debate regarding how early the targumim were written down. Until 1947, we had no evidence of a targum written down before the Common Era.
Apocryphal and Pseudepigraphical Scrolls
Like “biblical” this classification is anachronistic, but useful. It designates works that were not biblical in the sense of becoming part of the Hebrew Bible nor are unique to the Qumran community. This group of texts includes things such as the Psalm 151, a psalm only appearing in Greek until its discovery among the Dead Sea Scrolls (11QPsa), Jewish apocalyptic (on apocalypticism see the definition on the Qumran Essenes) works such as 1 Enoch and Jubilees (both of which outnumber individual biblical scrolls).
Pesherim (plural of pesher ) are special running commentaries on various prophetic texts and the Psalms of the Hebrew Bible.In contrast to the targumim, these commentaries are written in Hebrew and are aimed specifically at the Qumran community and are written in Hebrew.
Thematic Commentaries
While the pesharim are running commentaries, these commentaries draw on the various texts of the Hebrew Bible and are focused on a specific theme or themes, particularly the end of the current age.
Dead Sea Scrolls - The War Scroll

Dead Sea Scrolls - The War Scroll

A number of paraphrases were found among the DSS, mostly on the Torah (eg 4Q127, a Greek paraphrase of Exodus) and the Historical Books (eg 4Q382, a paraphrase of Kings).
Legal Scrolls
Several legal texts have been found among the DSS. These are among the most important texts for understanding not only the Qumran Community, but also Jewish legal interpretation of the Second Temple Period in general. Some of the texts (eg The Temple Scroll [11Q19 is the best-preserved copy] and the Rule of the Community [1QS is the best-preserved copy]) are specifically for the Qumran community. Others are meant not only for a sectarian community, but also for Essenes living in the towns and cities of Judea (eg the Damascus Document).
Scrolls for use in Worship
While books like the Psalms functioned as resources used in worship, a number of original works, some of which were clearly meant to resemble the Psalms.
Eschatological Scrolls
The Qumran Essenes were an eschatological community. Briefly described, eschatology is a belief that the end of the current age is near. Eschatological communities would order their beliefs and practices. In addition to popular Jewish eschatological texts as 1 Enoch and Jubilees, the Qumran community produced a number of works regarding the final days. Some works focus on the days running up to the end (eg the War Scroll [1QM]). Others are concerned with the new age, particularly with the new Jerusalem and a newly rebuilt temple (eg 1Q32, 2Q24, 4Q232, 4Q554).
Wisdom Scrolls
A number of works are reminiscent of canonical wisdom works such as Psalms and Proverbs. Though these works are closely related to wisdom literature, they are still eschatological in nature, focusing on the end times and right actions for the community.
The Copper Scroll (3Q15)
This final scroll is an enigma. No scholar is certain what it is, what it means, or how it functioned in the community. First of all, it is engraved on copper suggesting that this was originally not meant as a scroll. Second, though it was found in cave three, it was found apart from the rest of the scrolls, suggesting it might have been a separate deposit in the cave. Third, once it was finally unrolled and translated, the text appeared to be a treasure map written in Hebrew, but with random Greek letters placed throughout the text. John Marco Allegro, an early scrolls scholar, thought it was a literal treasure map and attempted to find what he thought was the hidden riches of the Qumran community. However, due to the fact that a number of the locations in the text are unknown, he was unsuccessful. Some scholars continue to maintain that it is still a literal treasure map. Others think it is a work of fiction. The Copper Scroll remains an enigma with no consensus forming about its interpretation or function in the Qumran community.
Qumram Caves

Qumram Caves


The discovery of the scrolls is a convoluted story which must be presented in a very brief manner here.
In late 1946 or 1947 CE, three Bedouin (a nomadic Arab ethnic group) wandering in the desert along the Northwest shore of the Dead Sea along the Wadi Qumran stumbled across a cave containing ten jars. All but two of which were empty. One contained dirt, but the other contained what later proved to be the Great Isaiah Scroll, a rule book called The Manual of Discipline (or the Rule of the Community), and a commentary on the biblical book of Habakkuk. Later four other scrolls were found by the Bedouin. It took nearly a year before the scholarly world was made aware of the existence of these seven manuscripts, though the original seven would remain in two separate collections until 1954 CE.
Once the Bedouin realized the value of the manuscripts they began combing the hills around Khirbet Qumran in search of other caves. The next cave was not found until February 1952 CE (Cave 2). Archeologists found their first cave in March (Cave3). The most spectacular find came in September 1952 when two archaeologists, following the tip of some Bedouin, excavated Cave 4. Cave 4 yielded around 100 different manuscripts. Following Cave 4, another seven caves were found. The final cave (Cave 11) was found in 1956 CE. There were subsequent attempts by archaeologists to find more caves containing manuscripts but none have been found.
With the flurry of manuscript discoveries, included a number of finds dating from the Bar Kokhba Rebellion (132-136 CE), it is only natural that with it came an interest in the ruins near the caves. Six seasons of excavations took place at Khirbet Qumran between 1951 and 1958 CE.

Decius › Who Was

Definition and Origins

by Donald L. Wasson
published on 12 February 2014
Decius (Egisto Sani (used with permission))
Decius was Roman emperor from 249 to 251 CE. In 249 CE Roman emperor Philip the Arab sent senator Decius to be the governor of the troubled provinces of Moesia and Pannonia. Roman legions under the ineffective command of the governor there were deserting to the invading Goths who were angry because Philip had cut indemnity payments. After repelling the Goths and restoring stability to the region, Decius's legions, already tiring of Philip's rule, declared him emperor. With the return of the deserting legions and the encouragement of his troops, Decius advanced towards Rome in September of 249 CE. Although some historians believe Decius was reluctant to battle Philip, the armies of the two emperors met at Beroea in Macedonia where Decius defeated and killed Philip. Shortly afterwards, Philip's young son and heir was killed at the Praetorian camp in Rome. Rome officially had a new emperor. He would be the first in a long line of emperors from the Balkans.


Quintus Decius Valerinus was born around 190 CE to a large landowning family in the small village of Budalia located in the Balkan province of Pannonia. The young aspiring Decius married into a respectable Etruscan family - Herennia Cupressenia Etruscilla - they would have two sons, Herennius and Hestilianus. Unlike several of his predecessors - Macrinus, Maximinus and Philip - who had gained renown in the military, Decius had little, if any experience in the army, serving as a distinguished member of the Roman Senate and even as consul in 232 CE. From 235 to 238 CE he was the governor of Lower Germany and later Hispania Tarraconensis. During the reign of Philip, before he was sent to Moesia and Pannonia, he was the urban prefect of Rome. In an odd turn of events, when Philip offered to step down as emperor, it was Decius who stopped his resignation, saying it was unnecessary.



After defeating Philip and consolidating his power in Rome, the emperor focused on a number of building projects including a repair of the aging Colosseum and the construction of the Baths of Decius. In 250 CE he returned to military service when he led forces to the Balkans to confront the resurging Goths who had crossed the Danube into the province of Thrace and attacked the city of Philippopolis. It was there that the Goths would ally themselves with the provincial governor Titus Julius Priscus. With the support of the Goths, Priscus wasted little time, declaring himself emperor. Unfortunately for Priscus, although the exact date in unknown, he was killed by his new allies before he could enjoy the benefits of the imperial office. In 251 CE while still fighting away from Rome, Decius received news of a second usurper to the throne, a senator, one Iulius Valens Licinianus. Unlike Priscus, he had some support in Rome both in the senate and withh the populace, but his rebellion and he would soon be put down by Publius Licinius Valerianus (a future emperor 253 - 260 CE) who had been appointed by Decius to attend to the administrative duties while he was gone.
Decius could not be bothered with these would-be emperors. His major concern was the leader of the Goths, Kniva. Despite being repelled by Decius' forces, the invading “barbarian” continued eastward where he was joined by the Carpi who had crossed into the Roman province of Dacia. With the hope of stopping Kniva, the emperor sent his oldest son Herennius to Moesia and Decius soon followed. Unfortunately, both Decius and his son (who had been appointed co-emperor) were unable to repel Kniva and his combined forces. They both fled to Oescus where they joined with the governor of Upper and Lower Moesia Trebonianus Gallus. Despite early success, Decius and his son (as well as most of their army) became entrapped in a swamp and died at the Battle of Abrittus. Decius was the first Roman emperor to die in battle against a foreign enemy.Trebonianus Gallus assumed the imperial title (251-253 CE) and quickly made peace with the Goths. Upon his return to Rome, he made Decius' youngest son his co-emperor but the boy would die shortly afterwards.
Roman Empire 271 AD

Roman Empire 271 AD

Unfortunately for Emperor Decius, he is remembered more for his persecution of the Christians than his military campaigns.Although Christians were not specifically named in any of the imperial edicts, it was evident for whom they were intended.Some historians speculate that his dislike of the Christians stemmed from Philip's less aggressive policies - the persistent rumor that Philip was a Christian. Decius declared that all citizens had to not only sacrifice to the Roman gods but also observe pagan rituals, something that both Jews and Christians, since the reign of Nero, had always refused to do. While Christians were not ordered to give up their faith, torture and execution were common for those who refused to demonstrate allegiance - even Pope Fabianus of Rome was not spared. This allegiance extended not only to the Roman gods but also to the emperor via the imperial cult. Decius had a fascination with many of those who had preceded him, and in an attempt to reaffirm their divinity, he issued coins to honor each of them. In addition, in order to associate himself with the Roman emperor Trajan, Decius even adopted the name of Trajanus. After the emperor's death, the persecutions ceased, only to be reborn under Emperor Diocletian fifty years later.

The Roman Hoxne Hoard › Origins

Ancient Civilizations

by Brian Haughton
published on 23 August 2016
The Hoxne Hoard is the largest cache of late Roman gold found anywhere in the Roman Empire. Discovered by a metal detectorist in Suffolk, in the east of England in 1992 CE, the incredible collection contains 14,865 late-4th and early-5th century CE Roman gold, silver and bronze coins, and 200 items of silver tableware and gold jewelery. The hoard amounts to a total of 7.7lb of gold and 52.4 lb of silver, and its current value is estimated at around $4.3 million. As the finder reported his discovery immediately, the cache was professionally excavated by archaeologists and conserved soon afterward so the vital context of the objects and their condition were preserved. Thanks to the coins in the hoard, we know that the items were deposited in the early-5th century CE, right at the end of the Roman occupation of Britain, which tells us a great deal about an important period in the history of the country when Roman rule was breaking down and a new age was approaching.
Hoxne Hoard Pepper Pot

Hoxne Hoard Pepper Pot


On November 16, 1992 CE, retired gardener and amateur metal detectorist Eric Lawes was scanning a field southwest of the village of Hoxne in Suffolk, England, on the lookout for a hammer which the local tenant farmer Peter Whatling had lost. Whilst searching for the hammer Lawes stumbled upon a cache of metal objects including gold chains, silver spoons and coins, some of which he dug out and packed into two carrier bags, before notifying Whatling of his spectacular find. Lawes and Whatling decided to report the discovery to the landowners, Suffolk County Council, who due to the importance of the finds, promptly organized an excavation of the site. The excavation, undertaken by Suffolk County Council Archaeology Service (SCCAS), took place the next day in secret in case the location of the hoard became known and the site looted.


Somehow, though, the story got out and on November 19 the British tabloid newspaper The Sun splashed the story across its front page along with a picture of Lawes and his metal detector and a claim that the treasure was worth £10 million. In characteristically obtuse fashion the paper also announced the prize of a metal detector to anyone who could answer the question 'who built Hadrian ’s Wall ? Hadrian, Barretts or Wimpey?'. Meanwhile the excavated treasure from Hoxne, along with Peter Whatling's missing hammer, was taken to the British Museum in London. The unwanted publicity surrounding the find forced the British Museum to hold a press conference on November 20 announcing the discovery, which served to dampen the interest of the newspapers and permitted the curators at the museum to begin to categorize and clean the artifacts from the hoard. Further excavations in and around the findspot took place in September 1993, and also in 1994 due to illegal metal detecting around the site.
On September 3, 1993, a Coroner's inquest declared the Hoxne Hoard a treasure trove, in other words, the treasure was deemed to be of unknown ownership and to have been hidden with the intention of being recovered later. In November the Treasure Trove Reviewing Committee valued the hoard at £1.75 million (today £2.66 million or $4.3 million), which was paid to Eric Lawes as finder of the treasure. Lawes generously shared his reward with farmer Peter Whatling (which it is now a legal requirement to do). The Hoxne Hoard is now in the British Museum and the most important items are on display in a perspex reconstruction of the oak chest and inner boxes in which they were originally deposited.
Hoxne Hoard

Hoxne Hoard

The excavations at Hoxne found that the hoard had been contained inside a rectilinear feature, interpreted as being the decayed remains of a wooden chest that once held the objects. Other fragments recovered by the archaeologists, including box fittings such as hinges and locks, showed that the finds had been carefully organized into separate wooden boxes and fabric containers inside the larger oak chest. Such meticulous packing was one of the reasons why the objects were so well preserved when recovered. Archaeologists also uncovered an undated post hole, which may once have held a wooden post which served as a marker for the burial spot of the hoard.


The fabulously rich contents of the Hoxne Hoard include 569 gold coins,14,191 silver coins and 24 bronze coins. The gold coins (all solidi of about 4.5 grams of gold per coin ) date to the reigns of eight different emperors between Valentinian I (reigned 364–75 CE) and Honorius (reigned 395–423 CE). Most of the coins in the hoard were silver siliquae (small, thin, Roman silver coins produced from 4th century CE onwards) of which there were a staggering 14,212. There were also 60 silver miliarenses (large silver coins introduced by Constantine I ) and 24 bronze nummi (low value coins).
The coins from the Hoxne Hoard provide extremely helpful dating evidence for its deposition, the oldest coin in the collection is a well-worn miliarensis of Constantine II ( Roman Emperor from 337 - 340 CE) and the latest two siliquae of the usurper Constantine III (reigned 407-8 CE). Thus the hoard must have been buried some time after 407-408 CE, and although we do not know how long existing coins remained in circulation it is unlikely to have been for more than perhaps 30 years, giving a probable date for the deposit of the hoard of not later than 450 CE. Just as important for giving us information about the Hoxne Hoard are the mint marks stamped on many of the coins, which identify where in the Roman Empire they were minted. 14 different mints are represented in the Hoxne Hoard :Trier, Arles and Lyon (in Gaul - modern France), Aquileia, Milan, Ravenna, and Rome ( Italy ); Siscia (modern Croatia), Sirmium (modern Serbia), Thessaloniki ( Greece ), Constantinople, Nicomedia, Cyzicus, and Antioch (modern Turkey ).
Gold Bangle, Hoxne Hoard

Gold Bangle, Hoxne Hoard

The hoard contains 29 pieces of stunning gold jewelry: a gold body chain, six chain necklaces, three finger rings and 19 bracelets. One of the bracelets bears the inscription, VTERE FELIX DOMINA IVLIANE ("Use [this] happily lady Juliane"), which obviously indicates the name of the owner Juliane. The body chain from the hoard is a fascinatingly rare object, which would have been passed over the shoulders and under the arms of the wearer, to be fixed in place by two clasps. There are two decorative clasps where the chains join, on the front one there is an amethyst surrounded by four garnets and four empty settings which once probably held pearls (which have since decayed), and on the back a gold coin of Emperor Gratian (reigned 375-383 CE) set into a gold frame. The small size of the Hoxne body chain suggest it would only fit a very slim young woman or an adolescent girl. Interestingly, the gold frame of the coin was a reused pendant, perhaps a century old when incorporated into the elaborate body chain, suggesting a family heirloom.
The collection of magnificent silver objects from the hoard consist of 78 exquisitely crafted spoons, 20 gilded and decorated ladles, four extremely rare pepper-pots, five bowls, two vases, nine toilet implements (toothpicks and ear-cleaners), and two padlocks from now decayed small wooden caskets. A number of the spoons are decorated with a Christian monogram cross or Chi-Rho symbol, and one is engraved with the common Christian phrase, VIVAS IN DEO ("May you live in God"). One of the gold necklaces also bears a Chi-Rho symbol. Such inscriptions must certainly attest to the Christian beliefs of their owners and add important evidence for Christianity in late Roman Britain.
Silver Ladle, Hoxne Hoard

Silver Ladle, Hoxne Hoard

One set of ten silver spoons from the hoard are inscribed with the personal name 'Aurelius Ursicinus', but although this is the most common name in the hoard there is no evidence that this was the name of the owner of the objects. One of the most spectacular of the silver items is the handle in the form of a prancing tigress with niello stripes and a long tail, which seems to have been purposely detached from a large vessel before deposition.
Perhaps the most celebrated item in the whole hoard is known as the 'Empress' pepper pot, a silver pepper or spice container of about 7.5 cm (3 inches) in height in the form of a hollow female half-figure. The figure's clothing, jewelry and intricate hairstyle are gilded and beautifully crafted. There is an internal disc in the base of the figure which can be rotated to be completely open for filling with pepper or other spices, partially open for sprinkling on food, or completely closed. Although initially believed to represent a Roman Empress, specialists now believe that the 'Empress' pepper-pot depicts a wealthy Roman aristocrat, perhaps even the Lady Juliane who owned the inscribed gold bracelet from the hoard. Pepper was an incredibly rare but popular commodity to the Romans, it was not grown anywhere in their Empire, so had to be imported from India across the Indian Ocean and up the Red Sea to Egypt, and then across the Mediterranean to Italy and Rome.
Body Chain Detail, Hoxne Hoard

Body Chain Detail, Hoxne Hoard


As with the Staffordshire Hoard there is no evidence for contemporary buildings and certainly no rich Roman villas in the immediate vicinity of the location of the Hoxne Hoard. The closest Roman occupation in the area is at Scole, where a Roman Road known as Pye Road (the modern A140) crosses the River Waveney, about 3.2 km (2 miles) to the north-west of the find spot. 8 km (5 miles) south-west of the location of the Hoxne Hoard there is evidence for a Roman settlement at Stoke Ash, also located on the Pye Road. Both Scole and Stoke Ash have been suggested as the location of the Villa Faustini, a site mentioned in the Antonine Itinerary, a written description began in the 3rd century CE describing the Roman Empire's major roads and stations upon them, which includes 15 routes in Britain. The Villa Faustini was obviously an estate owned by a man named Faustinus, but where exactly it was located and who Faustinus was is unknown.
However, the Hoxne Hoard is not a completely isolated find. In 1781 CE laborers discovered a lead box close to the River Dove in Eye, about 3 km to the south west of Hoxne. The box contained about 600 Roman gold coins dating between the reigns of Valens and Valentinian I (reigned 364–375 CE) and Honorius (393–423 CE). Unfortunately, the coins have long since been scattered amongst various private collectors and are almost impossible to trace. Whether this hoard was related to the Hoxne cache or not it does perhaps suggest something else. Dr. Peter Guest, Senior Lecturer in Roman Archaeology at Cardiff University, and author of The late Roman Gold and Silver Coins from the Hoxne Treasure (see bibliography) has noted the concentration of late Roman hoards in East Anglia and suggests in the book 'an entrenched cultural tradition of deliberately and permanently abandoning precious metal in the ground'. In this hypothesis hoards in the area would have been votive deposits, although Guest has also suggested an alternative theory that argues that the Hoxne hoard was deposited because the objects in it were used as part of a gift-exchange system, which broke down when the Romans left Britain.
Another possibility is that the Hoxne Hoard represents the loot from a robbery, concealed by the thief who was, for whatever reason, unable to return to recover it. However, the simplest explanation for the presence of the Hoxne Hoard is that it was deposited by a wealthy family in an isolated spot for safekeeping after 407 CE in uncertain, even dangerous times as Roman soldiers were departing from Britain. Perhaps the family had to leave Britain in a hurry during this turbulent period, which is why they were not able to retrieve their treasure. Or at least not all of it. Researchers have noted that some common types of Roman jewelery are absent from the hoard, and the types of large silver tableware objects found in the Mildenhall Treasure, which a wealthy Roman family would surely have owned, were also missing. Fabulously rich as it is, the Hoxne Hoard may only represent part of an even greater treasure.


Article based on information obtained from these sources:
with permission from the Website Ancient History Encyclopedia
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