The Spectre of Qumran Cave 1: What If Cave 1 Had Not Been Discovered First?
Stephen J. Pfann, Ph.D.
University of the Holy Land, Jerusalem
In 2007, a conference is duly devoting itself to the 60th Anniversary of the discovery of Cave 1. In 2006, the 50th Anniversary of the discovery of Cave 11 slipped by almost unnoticed. Why the disparity?
Most would agree that Cave 1 was the “Scroll Cave” par excellence. It had it all. Biblical scrolls, sectarian compositions; commentaries, hymns, calendars and rule books; eschatological battles and pseudepigraphic works in the original languages. Cave 1 was the pacesetter and became the standard against which every subsequently discovered cave was compared.
This paper seeks to examine the effect on Dead Sea Scrolls scholarship of this accidental discovery. It will explore the ramifications that the finding of Cave 1 first has had on shaping scholarly assumptions and reconstructions of the world of the Dead Sea Scrolls and Second Temple Period Judaism. The paper will suggest other paradigms that might have been created, had Caves 2, 3, 11 and Masada been found first, for example. In doing so, it intends to scrutinizing the underlying assumption that the caves present a network of manuscript holdings belonging to a single group. The paper will also explore the reasons why scholars initially accepted such a unified picture of the caves (e.g., the presence of 364 day calendars), as well as the reasons that scholars are increasingly questioning such a picture (e.g., differing eschatologies and halakhot).
Finally, it will present a new paradigm for viewing the corpora of the scroll caves, based on the contents of the manuscripts, coupled with data concerning the archeological contents of the caves and the site of Qumran itself. Had not Cave 1 been discovered first, scholars would have seen a multifaceted picture of not a single sectarian library but an apparent multiplicity of libraries and the groups that collected them.