The Age of the Scrolls

From the number of bases and covers of jars found in the Cave de Vaux concludes that there must have been at least 50 jars in the Cave and [Israeli archaeologist Eleazar Sukenik] supposes that in these jars 150-200 scrolls may have been found, besides a great mass of little fragments.

In the quote presented above, Kahle speaks of the discovery and excavation of ancient scrolls. Of course, the containers in which these scrolls were held have mostly deteriorated, but it is clear to them that the scrolls were stored in some sort of hard-shelled container.

Kahle goes on to say:

In order to form an opinion of the original condition of the Cave we have to depend on the best preserved pieces, and we must suppose that all the fragments belonged originally to scrolls which were complete at the time of the deposit, enveloped in linen, impregnated with wax and asphalt and deposited into the covered jars.

Here, Kahle briefly explains the processes of how scrolls were stored to be preserved in ancient times. It’s such a distinct contrast considering how scrolls have evolved to bound books, thus evolving the manner of storing these pieces of writing. Of course as technology has steadily developed, the need for scrolls in modern culture is nearly obsolete; they are now merely associated with ancient civilizations.

Another topic Kahle mentions in his essay is Sukenik’s theories about the cave being a Geniza. He proves this theory false, but the idea of the Geniza was what mainly caught my eye. The Encyclopedia Britannica tells me that a Geniza is a type of cellar or attic of a synagogue where sacred manuscripts and ritual objects were brought not to be stored, but left to eventually perish or be destroyed. Would anyone deliberately destroy their collection of books today? The level of sacredness has diminished in light of books (and education) being available to the a wider audience, but I still can’t seem to find any reason why the sacred documents were purposely left to disintegrate.

Kahle believed that the discovered scrolls were placed in the cave to be hidden as a “comparatively large library.” Clearly, the owners of the scrolls intended to preserve them with the encasing, to a certain extent. Did they need to be hidden for a particular reason? Why weren’t they preserved properly in a sacred place like a synagogue, but rather stored away in a cave?

Vetus Testamentum , Vol. 1, Fasc. 1 (Jan., 1951), pp. 38-48

1 comment
  1. Diana, this is such an intriguing line of thought based on your find! It made me think of a few things as well. There is a scene in the movie “The Day After Tomorrow” where a group is surviving in the city library and they are freezing to death. They have an interesting discussion about wether or not to burn the books, and which ones to start with. I also recall moments in Ray Bradburry’s “Fahrenheit 451” where reading books is outlawed and in Ayn Rand’s “Anthem” where the main character discover’s the meaning of the word “I” by reading an outlawed ancient book.

    I’m currently moving most of my teaching materials to digital format and have very little hard copies of anything. I continue to wonder what would happen if the digital fails me somehow. As you mentioned, it seems to me that the Kindal, the i-pad, and others in addition to the internet drastically effect books and their storage in ways similar to the death of scrolls, stone tablets, and the like. How odd it is that we have come full circle from stone tablets to i-tablets.

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