The Early History of OT Textual Criticism

This post provides some reading notes on chapter 1 of on Dominique Barthélemy’s Studies in the Text of the Old Testament: An Introduction to the Hebrew Old Testament Text Project, trans. Stephen Pisano et al., Textual Criticism and the Translator 3 (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 2012).

An earlier post provides notes on the Introduction.

Chapter 1 surveys the history of OT textual criticism from its origin in the Early Middle Ages to J. D. Michaelis. Barthélemy states that most scholars know hardly anything about textual criticism prior to the advent of modern critical studies. The chapter is intended to fill this information gap.

The status of the vowel points in the 16th–17th centuries

Barthélemy begins by surveying the debates among sixteenth and seventeenth century scholars concerning the antiquity of the vowel points. Two works were at the center of the debate: Louis Cappel’s Arcanum and Critica Sacra, both of which argued against to J. Buxtorf’s Tiberias. Buxtorf argued that the accents preceded the Masoretes. In Aracanum Cappel argued that the Masorah was a highly composite work compiled over the centuries and the vowel points were a relatively recent addition. Concerning the validity of Cappel’s arguments, Barthélemy states, “They reveal a well-informed and quasi-prophetic understanding for his time of the progressive development of vocalization” (16). According to Cappel, the vowel points were not necessary to maintain a stable text.

Though Buxtorf read Cappel’s work, neither he nor anyone else responded to Cappel for nearly 20 years. After Buxtorf died, his son wrote a response to Cappel, but at this point Cappel’s arguments had won the day. Cappel further developed his approach to the text of the Old Testament, when in 1650 he published his Critica Sacra. Barthélemy writes, “This work definitively established the legitimacy and necessity of submitting the Hebrew test of the Old Testament to a criticism analogous to that used for any ancient secular literature.”

At the end of the seventeenth century critics were in agreement on two things:

1. The available Hebrew witnesses to the text of the Old Testament were remarkably unified.

2. If the autographs of the biblical books were accessible, these would have been considered normative (29).

Kennicott and de Rossi

The first conviction was tested and proven true by work of Benjamin Kennicott and Giovanni Bernardo de Rossi. Kennicott raised funds and organized a team of 315 people throughout Great Britain to collate hundreds of medieval Hebrew manuscripts. The project even gained financial support from King George III. The second and last volume was published in 1780. The methodology and execution of the work was criticized by J. D. Michaelis and many others, but all were, nonetheless, supportive of Kennicott’s massive endeavor.

De Rossi was a wealthy priest who was able to greatly enhance Kennicott’s collations, and unlike Kennicott, de Rossi did all of his additional collations himself. The final verdict on the work of Kennicott and de Rossi was less then sensational: The medieval manuscripts contain variants attributable almost exclusively to scribal error. The status of the Hebrew text of the Old Testament was not further developed until the work of Paul Kahle in the middle of the twentieth century.

… With regard to [MT] manuscripts, it is often stated that there are this many Kennicott manuscripts and that many de Rossi manuscripts, even though serious confusion exists regarding the identification of these manuscripts. What, in fact, was Kennicott’s work and what was de Rossi’s? It seems that much is obscure when one attempts to look back before the end of the eighteenth century outside of Germany (2).


The second conviction of seventeenth century critics was taken to task by the work of Spinoza. The stage was set by Thomas Hobbes and Isaac de La Peyrère. These authors demonstrated that portions of the Pentateuch showed signs of editorial activity that could not be attributed to Moses. Spinoza’s Tractatus developed this stream of thought into a systematic approach to biblical criticism. In order to properly interpret Scripture, one must first understand the Hebrew language and have a proper understanding of the situation in which each biblical book was originally written. Neither of these these are completely attainable therefore, according to Spinoza, the “author’s intention” concerning every detail is beyond our grasp. Spinoza believed that the big ideas concerning morality and salvation are plain enough in the text itself; the deficiency in our knowledge of Hebrew and the history of the biblical books only called into question “matters beyond normal comprehension, which can merely be imagined.”[1]

Spinoza was excommunicated and his views denounced, but his ideas were carried forward by Richard Simon. Simon took Spinoza’s questions seriously and attempted to write the literary history of the Old Testament Spinoza required. In 1678 Simon published Histoire Critique du Vieux Testament. Barthélemy Argues persuasively that Richard Simon was dependent on Spinoza in the first nine chapters of his Histoire Critique, the portion that proved to be foundational for the development of higher criticism. Simon deliberately concealed his dependence on Spinoza because  he wanted to avoid being criticized simply for his work’s association with Spinoza (60–62).

Spinoza’s argument that the Old Testament as we have it is not equal to the autographs made a lasting impact.  Simon argued that Jesus’ and the apostles’ interpretation of the Old Testament was in line with Jewish hermeneutics. Barthélemy notes that Simon “had no idea that pesharim of Qumran would one day provide us with re-readings in an eschatological vein which clearly predated our own era” (74).

Simon considered a prophet “any person appointed by the leaders of the ‘Hebrew Republic’ who carries out a redactional role with regard to the sacred books and who, because of that, possesses an inspired authority which enables him to fulfill it…” (75). He called them “public scribes.” Because these public scribes were inspired, it is a waste of time to search for the “authors” of each book. Regarding the Pentateuch, Simon considered Moses the author, but he recognized that changes and additions had been made to the book after the time of Moses. The historical books are summaries and compilations of ancient memoirs. The people who compiled these memoirs sometimes left in their composite products discrepancies found in their sources. They left these discrepancies because they were insignificant — for example discrepancies in the lists found in Nehemiah 7 and Ezra 2 (78). This perspective opens the door for Jean Astruc and the development of source and redaction criticism.

The “final form”

The only valid response to Spinoza’s sharp criticism is the one which Simon’s hermeneutic contributes to orienting prophecy … Spinoza, in fact, made the possibility or impossibility of interpreting prophecy authentically entirely dependent upon our capacity or incapacity to reconstitute the contents of the prophet’s thought, and to identify the circumstances and hearers  of his word. For Simon, none of that was of any importance … The most important thing is to be able to arrive at the second meaning principally intended by the prophetic Spirit, beyond the historical meaning which criticism helps to determine … Thus the contemporaries of the fulfillment as opposed to those of the prophet, find themselves in a privileged position for interpreting the prophecies. It is clear that this revolution had important consequences for the textual criticism of the Old Testament. The textual form which must serve as a point of reference is not the one constituted by ‘the autographs of Moses and the Prophets,’ but is constituted rather by the state of divinely guided maturation in which the books of Scripture are found at the time of the fulfillment, that is, at the time when the Messiah reveals himself in order to renew all things (80–81).

  1. 57, taken from Barthélemy’s quotation of Spinoza’s Tractatus in his Complete Works pp. 465–467.  

Overview of the Hebrew Old Testament Text Project

This post is some reading notes on the introductory essay in Dominique Barthélemy’s Studies in the Text of the Old Testament: An Introduction to the Hebrew Old Testament Text Project, trans. Stephen Pisano et al., Textual Criticism and the Translator 3 (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 2012).

The volume opens with an essay from James Sanders introducing Dominique Barthélemy and the work of the Hebrew Old Testament Text Project (HOTTP). Sanders highlights how Barthélemy’s Devanciers paved the way for a new understanding of the history of the Hebrew Bible (Les devanciers d’Aquila: première publication intégrale du texte des fragments du Dodécaprophéton trouvés dans le désert de Juda [Leiden: Brill, 1963]).

According to Barthélemy the text developed in four stages:

  1. The early literary forms of various blocks of texts in the hands of editors and schools before they became community texts; oral or written literary products as close as possible to those originally produced
  2. The rather fluid pre-Masoretic texts evidenced in the Qumran biblical scrolls and in the LXX; the earliest form or forms of text which can be determined by the application of techniuques of textual analysis to existing textual evidence
  3. The proto-Masoretic text evidenced in the Hebrew texts from Murabbaʿat, Masada and elsewhere (than Qumran) and in the second-century Greek translations (Aquila and Theodotion; cf. Symmachus and the Vulgate); the consonantal text as authorized by Jewish scholars shortly after AD 70
  4. The Masoretic Text (MT) of the tenth and eleventh centuries (the classical, Tiberian codices). (xvi, 87)

Eugene Nida, of the United Bible Society (UBS), formed the HOTTP to provide translators with “the most critically responsible text” (xxiii). Sanders explains that in the mid-twentieth century the most recent Western translations varied widely in how they handled text-critical problems. These translations were often consulted by UBS translators in the field; the variations in the Western translations were, therefore, unsystematically influencing the translations sponsored by the Bible society. Furthermore, the field had yet to thoroughly and systematically assess the text critical impact of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Sanders explains that the committee often debated the period into which a certain reading should be assigned. For the purposes of determining the “most critically responsible text,” however, “the crucial point was that we needed to find the juncture at which literary activity had basically ceased, indeed the point at which the history of the formation of a text ceased and the history of transmission of that text began. The two overlapped in some cases, as we have noted, but the distinction was important” (xxiii).

John A. Thompson, of the American Bible Society, provided a list of the passages most difficult for UBS translators. Eugene Nida invited six scholars to work on the project:

  • Hans-Peter Rüger (Tübingen) provided the committee with the readings of the ancient witnesses for each textual problem
  • James Sanders provided all of the readings from the Judaean Desert Scrolls
  • Norbert Lohfink (Frankfort) would research and report on modern critical studies for each passage
  • Barthélemy researched the history of interpretation up to the modern critical period
  • A. R. Hulst (Ultrecht) and W. D. McHardy (Oxford) “brought their long experience in the work of translation to the discussions” (xxiv).

The committee met annually and considered, in total, almost 6,000 of the most difficult Old Testament text critical problems. Sanders writes, “It was Barthélemy’s findings in the pre-critical literature that were basically new to modern textual criticism … It became clear that the medieval exegetes’ knowledge of Hebrew grammar and syntax derived from their thorough acquaintance with Arabic grammar and syntax and was superior to modern grammars of Hebrew, which are largely based on the structure of classical languages” (xxiv). During the course of their study, the committee “came to realize that ancient tridents, both scribes and translators, were less prone to ‘scribal errors’ than the field had thought, precisely because in the early history of transmission of the text there was more freedom than scholarship had realized to alter the text slightly to make it understandable to the communities the ancient tridents served. These then were not ‘errors’ in the usual sense but purposeful changes done in service to the communities that accepted the text as ‘canonical’ or authoritative” (xxv).

Freedman and Kuhlken on Canon


The people who put together the Bible as we know it were very concerned with completeness. Their decisions were not random or haphazard. I believe that the Bible was put together around 400 B.C., well before the time of the Essenes at Qumrân, and that we can glimpse the compilers’ intentions by examining the Bible’s structure.

If we do that, and we find meaningful patterns that are simply too intricate to be coincidental, then we can say that “the Bible” already existed as a concept by the time of Qumrân, and that the non-biblical works found at Qumrân never had a serious chance of becoming Scripture.

David Noel Freedman & Pam Fox Kuhlken, What are the Dead Sea Scrolls and Why Do They Matter? (Eerdmans, 2007), 63. Print, Digital

More Vermes on the Canon

There is an overwhelming consensus in the most recent scholarship that there was no such thing as “Bible” or “canon” in the Second Temple period, and that is why I find it so entertaining how boldly and shamelessly Vermes says things like this:

Some colleagues found the phrase, “Rewritten Bible” anachronistic. It is maintained  by Dead Sea Scrolls scholars that Second Temple Judaism had no clear idea of either “Bible” or “canon.” These concepts, they claim, were not determined before the age of the Mishnah. For this reason rewritten or reworked “Scripture” has been suggested as a more suitable substitute. Frankly, replacing “Bible” by Scripture” strikes me as a mere quibble. The issue at stake is, however, more than verbal subtlety.

Academic scepticism concerning the existence of a Bible canon in the Second Temple period fails to pay sufficient attention to the ‘canon’ of Josephus. In Against Apion (1.38-41) he firmly states that among the Jews twenty-two books, no more, no less, enjoyed special respect and authority. Without citing individual titles, Josephus lists the five books of Moses, thirteen books of the Prophets and four books of hymns and wisdom. According to St Jerome, too, the figure of twenty-two was commonly held by Jews to represent the number of books in the biblical canon. So it can be assumed that the traditional Palestinian Hebrew canon of the Bible was already in existence in the late first century CE, or maybe even in the first century BCE.

I suggest therefore that we stick with the “Rewritten Bible” and let the music of the argument begin.

These are the closing words to the first essay in the book Rewritten Bible after Fifty Years: Texts, Terms, or Techniques? A Last Dialogue with Geza Vermes (Brill, 2014). I posted another quote from Vermes on the canon issue a while back.

He knew the primary and secondary literature as well as anyone, and he was not one to skew the data in favor of religious tradition, as far as I know. So what gives? How do we understand his firm resistance to the consensus?

Martin G. Abegg on Electronic Dead Sea Scrolls

One person stands behind all electronic versions of the Dead Sea Scrolls: Martin G. Abegg, professor and co-director of the Dead Sea Scrolls Institute at Trinity Western University.

His name and infamous Mac computer are mentioned in almost every history of the Dead Sea Scrolls, but we wanted to give him the opportunity to tell a little of his story in his own words.

Ken Penner: When did you first start creating a database of Dead Sea Scrolls texts?

Martin G. Abegg: The database began in the Spring of 1988 when I took Prof. Ben Zion Wacholder’s Qumran Sectarian Literature course at Hebrew Union College. I had typed several extended passages into MS Word in order to more conveniently search them and realized that I should find a way to collect these and future additions. Apple’s Hypercard became my first search engine.

KP: What kind of computer equipment and software did you initially use and why?

MA: I started my grad studies in the fall of 1984 at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. It was sometime early in that first semester that Steve Pfann took me down to the new computer labs on the Mt. Scopus campus. The PC and Mac rooms were next door to one another. The PC room was nearly empty but the Mac room was a buzz of activity. So armed with Steve’s home-made Masora font (see the first and second fascicles of the Preliminary Editions) I dove in. In the fall of 1987 I purchased my own Mac SE as part of a ploy launched by my Mom to entice me to move back from Israel and continue my studies in the States.

KP: What kinds of controversies did this project land you in?

MA: Nothing at this early stage. The events leading up to access to the Preliminary Concordance and the September 1991 publication with Prof. Wacholder brought a bit of controversy and have been well documented by Ed Cook (Solving the Mysteries of the Dead Sea Scrolls: New Light on the Bible, Zondervan, 1993) and Jason Kalman (Hebrew Union College and the Dead Sea Scrolls, HUC Press, 2012).

KP: How did you connect with Accordance to bring these texts to that platform?

MA: I met Dr. Roy Brown (creator of Accordance) in Nov. of 1991 at a Mexican restaurant in Kansas City while there for SBL. I had known of his “Perfect Word,” and “Mac Bible” and he was in the early stages of writing new software to take advantage of the morphologically tagged Hebrew databases that were just then becoming available. I began “tagging” my text files and working with Roy to use Accordance to search them. It was several years before we released my data. Roy invested 100s of hours as we both worked out the bugs in both my data and Accordance itself.

KP: How and when did other Bible software makers begin to publish your database?

MA: I believe Olive Tree was the first software—aside from Accordance–to license the data for the “Sectarian” data base. Followed by Logos and BibleWorks. Eventually this data became the basis for Brill’s Electronic Library publication (the second edition shepherded by BYU). And of course the DSS Concordance vol. i.

KP: What are some examples of discoveries made possible by such databases?

MA: Wow, this could be a lengthy research project in and of itself. Emanuel Tov’s work has leaned heavily on my data (e.g. Scribal Practices and Approaches). His queries about how to search for various phenomena in the data have also improved various functions within Accordance itself.  Ebert Tigchelaar sends me regular corrections, so I know the tagged data is an important part of his arsenal of tools. The folk at ThWQ have indicated that I have made their work much easier. Lange and Wiegold’s recent Biblical Quotations and Allusions in Second Temple Jewish Literature used the Accordance infer function and my data to produce the Qumran lists.

KP: What has improved over the years since your database was first released?

MA: The database itself was updated rather dramatically after the publication of the first concordance to accord with DJD. Aside from that the main updatings have come on the side of the search software and the speed of computers. And of course we have moved on to the DSS Biblical mss (Accordance modules DSSB-C/M), the refuge caves (Accordance JUDEAN), and Hebrew Ben Sira (Accordance SIRA-C/M).

KP: What are the next developments you foresee in electronic DSS research?

MA: Rob Holmstedt (University of Toronto) and I developed a tagging scheme for syntactic analysis and with the help of Roy Brown have been working the bugs out of an Accordance syntax search function. With a group of TWU students I have syntactically tagged some 20 major Qumran documents. I read my first paper describing the project and initial results at IOQS in Munich this past summer. This means of searching the text promises to replace the “cherry-picking” approach to Qumran grammar and to provide us with a detailed and scientific description of Second Temple Hebrew.

Thanks for taking the time to give us the short version of this story; I’m sure you could write a book about it! We know recognition for this kind of tedious and meticulous work can be hard to come by (as you say, there’s “no honour in databases”), yet we all are the beneficiaries of this passion of yours.

Vermes on the Canon Issue

What did Geza Vermes think about the distinction between “Bible” (i.e. “canon”) and “Scripture”?
The Spring 2013 issue of the Journal of Jewish Studies includes his review of Molly Zahn’s Rethinking Rewritten Scripture. At the beginning of this review, Vermes notes that he coined the term “Rewritten Bible” in 1961 in his Scripture and Tradition in Judaism.

For a quarter of a century, the idea made little impact, but in the 1980s the ‘Rewritten Bible’ was rediscovered and during the last decades it has become an academic hot potato. (p. 194)

A few sentences later, as something of an aside, he bluntly states his thoughts on the Bible/Scripture distinction:

Another pedantic peculiarity adopted by many trans-Atlantic scholars is to reject the phrase ‘Rewritten Bible’ and substitute for it (guess!) ‘Rewritten Scripture’ because in their view the notion of ‘Bible’ was still in a state of flux before the second century CE. In my view, however, Josephus’s statement that in his time twenty-two books counted as authoritative among Jews shows that what became to be known as the canon existed by then, or perhaps even in the first century BCE. As for the textual variations that students of the Bible encountered in those days, they were probably not greater than those readers in England  or in America face when they look at the great variety of the current English translations of the Holy Writ. (p. 195)

Straightforward statement from an important scholar in a place you would’t think to look.

DSS Software: Available Texts

This is the second post of a series in which I am reviewing the four major options for electronically accessing the Dead Sea Scrolls. The plan for this series is posted here

LogosBibleWorks, and Accordance all offer electronic Dead Sea Scrolls in the original languages and in translation. Brill also sells the Dead Sea Scrolls Electronic Library, vol 3. The DSS resources offered by these companies, however, are not all created equal—the coverage of the Scrolls in each platform varies, as well as the quality of the products.

In this post I will describe exactly which Dead Sea Scrolls are available on each platform. Along the way, I will also note instances where the product pages include typos or are unclear. At the end of the post I have included a table that summarizes which texts are available in each program.


BibleWorks does not have an electronic edition of the biblical DSS in the original languages. Here is what they do have:

Original Languages:

Qumran Sectarian Manuscripts (morphologically tagged)

Originally designed for Accordance, this module contains all the Hebrew/Aramaic non-biblical texts from Qumran. Non-biblical texts from other sites are not included. The description on the product page could, therefore, be a bit misleading:

The QSM contains all non-biblical manuscripts from what are commonly known as the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Here, “Dead Sea Scrolls” is being used in the narrow sense, referring only to Qumran scrolls. Granted, the most important non-biblical texts are from Qumran, but the description could be more clear.

English Translations:

Dead Sea Scrolls English Translation Bundle: Biblical and Sectarian Texts

This bundle includes two modules: (1) a translation of the biblical DSS and (2) a translation of the Hebrew/Aramaic non-biblical texts from Qumran.

Both of these translations have been published in print, as well. The translation of the non-biblical texts is that of Wise, Abegg, and Cook (print edition). This is probably the most popular English translation of the non-biblical Qumran scrolls. The translation of the biblical DSS is Eugene Ulrich’s (et al.) The Dead Sea Scrolls Bible (print edition), the only available English translation of all the biblical DSS.


Logos offers three original languages DSS resources, including all the biblical DSS, and a few English translations.

Original Languages:

Qumran Sectarian Manuscripts (morphologically tagged)

Originally designed for Accordance, this module Includes all the Hebrew/Aramaic non-biblical texts from Qumran.

The Dead Sea Scrolls Study Edition (not tagged)

This is an electronic version of the second edition of The Dead Sea Scrolls: Study Edition (print version). It includes all the Hebrew/Aramaic non-biblical DSS from Qumran and an English translation. This product is not morphologically tagged, but one can set the transcriptions so that they scroll side by side with an updated edition of Florentíno García Martínez’s highly respected The Dead Sea Scrolls Translated.

Qumran Biblical Dead Sea Scrolls (morphologically tagged)

Despite the title, this database consists of fresh transcriptions by Stephen Pfann of all the biblical Dead Sea Scrolls, including Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek from, presumably, every site (i.e., Qumran and the other sites mentioned in this post). The implementation of this database is a bit unique and will be more fully discussed in the next post. This database also comes with a “Bible Reference Index,” a separate resource that lists which DSS are extant for each verse of the Bible. From the product page:

Fresh transcriptions of every biblical Dead Sea Scroll, including Greek fragments. The Logos transcriptions are substantially the same as those found in the DJD volumes, but are the result of a fresh, expert analysis that takes into account scholarly work done on the scrolls since the DJD volumes were published

As I see it, there are two issues with the description of this database on Logos’ product page:

  1. It would be helpful to know exactly which sites are included. Scrolling through the Bible Reference Index, I see that there links to DSS from at least Qumran, Naḥal Ḥever, Wadi Sdeir, and Wadi Murabaʿat.
  2. The product is mislabeled. It includes more than just the Qumran biblical DSS.

English Translations:

The Dead Sea Scrolls: A New Translation

A popular translation of the Hebrew/Aramaic non-biblical DSS from Qumran by Wise, Abegg, and Cook (print edition), also available in BibleWorks, and Accordance.

The Dead Sea Scrolls Study Edition

This product is listed in the “Original Languages” section and the “Translations” section because it includes both. The translation is an updated edition of Florentíno García Martínez’s highly respected The Dead Sea Scrolls Translated.

The Dead Sea Scrolls in English

This is the 4th edition (1995) of Geza Vermes’ translation of the Hebrew/Aramaic non-biblical Qumran scrolls. First published in 1962, Vermes’ translation has become a classic. In fact, in subsequent editions it was incorporated into the Penguin Classics series. The most recent edition is the 7th, published in 2011.

The Dead Sea Scrolls Bible

A translation of all the biblical DSS by Eugene Ulrich (et al.). The Dead Sea Scrolls Bible (also in print) is the only available English translation of all the biblical DSS.


Accordance offers all the Dead Sea Scrolls in the original languages, as well as English translations of all the biblical DSS and the non-biblical scrolls from Qumran. Accordance sells these resources individually and in various combinations. So I have included an extra “Combinations” here.

Original Languages:

Qumran Non-Biblical Manuscripts (morphologically tagged)

This module, available on each of the four platforms, was originally designed for Accordance and includes all the Hebrew/Aramaic non-Biblical texts from Qumran. Accessing this module in Accordance, one is sure to have the latest edition of these texts.

Dead Sea Scrolls Biblical Manuscripts (morphologically tagged)

All the biblical Hebrew/Aramaic Dead Sea Scrolls are included—from Qumran, Masada, Naḥal Ḥever, Murabbaʿat, etc. Two modules are included: one allows the user to display the biblical DSS in canonical order (DSSB-C), the other according to the manuscript numbers (DSSB-M).

You can read more about this product, including a glowing endorsement from Emanuel Tov, in The Dead Sea Scrolls Biblical Manuscript article.

Dead Sea Scrolls Greek Bible (morphologically tagged)

All the Greek biblical Dead Sea Scrolls are included. Like the Hebrew/Aramaic database, the DSS Greek Bible includes two modules: one that allows the user to display the text in canonical order (DSSGB-C), the other in manuscript order (DSSGB-M).

Judean Desert Corpus (morphologically tagged)

This module completes Accordance’s exhaustive DSS offerings, as it includes all the non-biblical, non-Qumran texts. Accordance’s Dead Sea Scrolls Resources page says that the texts can be displayed in canonical and manuscript order, but this is a typo by nature of the fact that the texts included are non-biblical.

Index of Dead Sea Scrolls Manuscripts

I could have listed this resource in a later post on secondary resources, but because Logos includes an index with their biblical DSS, I thought it only fair to include Accordance’s index here, too. From the product page:

An Index of Qumran and other DSS manuscripts, with description, paleography, dating, and bibliography, edited by Dr. Martin G. Abegg, Jr.

[UPDATE 9.16.14 to include the DSS Variant Database]

Biblical DSS Manuscript Variants

This module notes significant variants between MT and the biblical Dead Sea Scrolls. You can link it the module your biblical texts and have it follow you as you move throughout the Bible. There is nothing like this in another software. In this post, they explain:

The DSSB Variants Tool is not just intended to provide a list of variants, but a dynamic searchable database that is useful for scholarly research. This tool can be used in conjunction with biblical modules such as HMT-W4 and DSSB-C or any text that follows canonical order giving the user an immediate view of differences between the MT and the ‘biblical’ DSS. As a user scrolls through the biblical texts this tool will reveal true variations between these corpora for each verse in a separate pane or window.


Qumran Non-Biblical Manuscripts: A New Translation

This is Wise, Abegg, and Cook’s translation of all the Hebrew/Aramaic non-biblical Qumran scrolls, also available in BibleWorks and Logos.

The Dead Sea Scrolls Bible

The translation of all biblical DSS by Eugene Ulrich (et al.), also available in BibleWorks and Logos.


Dead Sea Scrolls Original Texts add-on with DSS Index

This package includes all the resources listed above in the “Original Languages” section, as well as the Index of Dead Sea Scrolls Manuscripts.

Dead Sea Scrolls English Translations add-on with DSS Index

This package includes all the resources listed above in the “Translations” section, as well as the Index of Dead Sea Scrolls Manuscripts.

Dead Sea Scrolls Non-Biblical add-on

This package is a combination of the non-biblical DSS resources in the original languages and in English translation.

Dead Sea Scrolls Biblical add-on

This package is a combination of the biblical DSS resources in the original languages and English translation.

Dead Sea Scrolls Complete add-on

This package includes all of Accordance’s DSS texts in the original languages and English translation, as well as a collection of monographs on the DSS that will be discussed in a future post on secondary resources.

Dead Sea Scrolls Electronic Library, vol. 3

Unlike the products listed above this is not an DSS add-on to a Bible software program. This is an integrated collection of electronic texts that runs within version 7 of WordCruncher software.

The first two volumes of this series are no longer sold by Brill. Volume 1 (1997) included images of all the biblical and non-biblical DSS available at the time. Volume 2 (1999) included all the Hebrew, Aramaic, Nabatean, and Greek texts from Qumran and a selection of texts from Wadi Murabbaʿat and Naḥal Ḥever. Volume 3 replaces and updates volume 2 with a couple additions and subtractions.

Volume 3 includes all the Hebrew/Aramaic non-biblical Qumran scrolls in the original languages with full morphological tagging and search capabilities, high-resolution images of all the texts included, as well as an inventory of Qumran texts that is a 2005 revision of Emanuel Tov’s original publication in DJD 39 (2002) 27–114. The transcriptions are, for the most part, from DJD. An English translation of each text is included from either DJD, Martínez, or Wise, Abegg, and Cook. In addition, a morphologically tagged Hebrew Bible is included, as well as a module that combines the Qumran non-biblical DSS with the Hebrew Bible for morphological searches across both corpuses.

According to both the editor of volume 3 and a WordCruncher representative, the biblical Qumran scrolls (texts and images) are being prepared now and will seamlessly integrate with the non-biblical scrolls. I got the impression from the WordCruncher representative that the biblical Qumran scrolls might be ready to go by November at SBL.


Note: On certain platforms the packages that include these texts come with additional resources that are not listed in this table—Logos’ biblical DSS includes an index of extant DSS for each verse of the Bible; some Accordance combinations include a very robust index of all the DSS with description, paleography, dating, and bibliography; the DSSEL includes high-res images, an index, and more.

In the next post, I will discuss how each platform allows users to display the texts, and I will comment on the quality with which each database has been implemented.

Peter W. Flint on Greek at Qumran

In a previous post, I summarized Matthew Richey’s answer to the question, “Was Greek spoken at Qumran?” He looked at 4Q350, Qumran epigraphy, and the Copper Scroll and concluded,

Taken together, these pieces of evidence suggest that Greek was used by the sect when they engaged in both affairs releated to trade and treasure hiding and seeking, a closely related activity.

I came across essentially the same conclusion tonight at the end of Peter W. Flint’s chapter on the non-biblical Qumran Scrolls in The Dead Sea Scrolls (Abingdon Press, 2013). In his discussion of “Other Documentary Texts” he states,

These scrolls shed light on daily life among the Yahad Essenes, as well as the community’s economic practices and organization… One Account is in Greek ([4Q]350), which underscores the importance of this language for everyday business, and for maintaining economic contact with outside communities. (p. 126)

DSS Software: Necessary Background Information

This is the first post of a series in which I will review the Dead Sea Scrolls resources available in Logos, BibleWorks, Accordance, and in Brill’s Dead Sea Scrolls Electronic Library. I posted my plan for the series, but if you have any questions or suggestions, feel free to let me know in the comments. A little background information is necessary in order to understand the differences between the products offered by each company.


In the broad sense of the term, “Dead Sea Scrolls” is not synonymous with “Qumran Scrolls.”  Many of the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered at Qumran, but not all of them. In fact, fragments of scrolls were found in at least eighteen locations: Qumran, Wadi Daliyeh, Ketef Jericho, Khirbet Mird, Ain Feshka, Wadi Nar, Wadi Ghweir, Wadi Murabbaʿat, Wadi Sdeir, Naḥal Arugot, Ein-gedi, Naḥal Ḥever, Naḥal Ḥever/Seiyal, Naḥal Mishmar, Naḥal Ṣeʾelim, Masada, and Khirbet Qazone (Ken M. Penner, “Dead Sea Scrolls” in The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Books of the Bible, Oxford, 2011, pp. 173-192).

The number of scrolls found at the four main locations are as follows:

  • Qumran: about 1,050 scrolls
  • Wadi Murabbaʿat: 120 scrolls
  • Naḥal Ḥever: over 70 scrolls
  • Masada: 15 scrolls

(Peter W. Flint, The Dead Sea Scrolls, Abingdon Press, 2013, p. XX)


Most of the scrolls were written in Hebrew, about 130 in Aramaic, and 27 in Greek (Penner, 174).

Two Categories

Scrolls are typically categorized as biblical or “non-biblical.” Peter W. Flint explains,

The number of biblical scrolls available to scholars is 270, comprising 252 from Qumran and 18 from other sites… The grand total of biblical scrolls is 318, of which about 300 were most likely found at Qumran. About 48 (perhaps a few less scrolls are held by private parties and will most likely be ‘on the market’ in future years. (p. 74)

About 750 of the 1,050 Qumran scrolls are non-biblical. The scrolls discovered at Wadi Murabbaʿat are mixed bag, most of those at Naḥal Ḥever are “letters and legal documents of the second century,” and at Masada 8 of the 15 scroll fragments are non-biblical (see Flint, p. 9).

“Sectarian Scrolls”

The non-biblical scrolls are sometimes further divided into sectarian and non-sectarian scrolls. Flint states,

At least half of the nonbiblical scrolls, probably more, represent texts composed by the Essene (Yahad) movement. Containing the movement’s ideology or distinctive language, these are known as the sectarian scrolls… It is tempting to neatly divide the nonbiblical scrolls into sectarian and nonsectarian groupings, but in many cases this proves unworkable since identifying sectarian content and language is often not possible. (p. 105)

With this background in mind, the next post will look at which DSS texts are available in each platform.

Review of DSS Software

I have begun posting a multi-part comparative review of Dead Sea Scrolls resources in Logos, BibleWorks, Accordance, and Brill’s Dead Sea Scrolls Electronic Library. The current plan is to do 7 posts, one on each of these topics:

  1. Necessary background information
  2. Available DSS texts
  3. Interview: Ken Penner talks with Martin Abegg, the person behind all electronic DSS
  4. Displaying the texts
  5. Searching
  6. Lexica and Secondary Resources
  7. Final Thoughts and Critique

If you have any questions, suggests, or particular things you would like to see covered, feel free to let me know in the comments.