I discussed the statements in ancient writings about scrolls stored in the Jerusalem temple and what these statements might mean for the canon of scripture. I encourage you to look at the comments to that post as John Meade has pointed us to another couple of passages (Letter of Aristeas
49; Josephus, Against Apion
1.29-42) that also seem to attest the view that scripture was stored in the temple.
Besides these ancient testimonia
, there is another line of evidence that might point to a temple collection of scripture. Emanuel Tov's analysis of the texts from the Judean Desert leads him to guess that there must have been a standard scroll that served as the Vorlage
for some of the scrolls discovered in the desert, and the rabbinic evidence (see previous post), along with common sense, I suppose, encourages Tov to suggest that this standard scroll was stored in the temple (see esp. pp. 8-15 of this article
This post will, as briefly as possible, summarize Tov's argument. A subsequent post will offer an evaluation and reflections.
This is how Tov arrives at his suggestion:
The many biblical scrolls found in the Judean Desert during the mid-twentieth century may be divided into those that were found in the eleven caves around Qumran and those that were found elsewhere. There are 25 texts in the latter group, and they all reflect the consonantal framework of the medieval Masoretic text exactly.
All the texts that were found at sites in the Judean Desert other than Qumran display identity with the medieval tradition of MT. [...] This group of twenty-five texts from the Judean Desert includes both the earlier site of Masada (texts written between 50 B.C.E. and 30 C.E.) and the later sides of Wade Murabba'at, Wadi Sdei, Nahal Hever, Nahal Arugot, and Nahal Se'elim dating to the period of the Bar-Kochba revolt in 132-135 C.E. (texts written between 20 C.E. and 115 C.E.). (Tov in HB in Light of the DSS, p. 42; similiar passage at TCHB p. 29).
Tov includes this important note.
All the texts copied from the beginning of the first century C.E. until 65 C.E. from Qumran are of a varied nature, with only very few reflecting MT while the texts from the same period (until 115 C.E.) from Judean Desert sites other than Qumran only reflect MT. (ibid., p. 42 n. 4)
Tov is well-known for updating his views and his statistics. Only a few years ago (2008), he was still giving the figure 23 as the number of texts found in the Judean Desert at sites other than Qumran (here
, p. 6; here
, pp. 3, 10). The above quotation, however, is from 2012, and seems to represent Tov's latest statistics. He also gives the number 25 in the 3rd ed. of his TCHB
(2012, p. 29).
These 25 fragments include the following:
- Wadi Murabba'at (DJD 2): Genesis (Mur 1), Exodus (Mur 1), Numbers (Mur 1), Deuteronomy (Mur 2), Isaiah (Mur 3), Minor Prophets (Mur 88)
- Nahal Hever (DJD 38): Numbers (5/6HevNum-a; XHev/SeNum-b), Deuteronomy (XHev/SeDeut), Psalms (5/6HevPsalms)
- Nahal Se'elim (DJD 38): Numbers (34SeNum)
- Masada (Masada VI): Genesis (MasGen), Leviticus (MasLev-a; MasLev-b), Deuteronomy (MasDeut), Ezekiel (MasEzek), Psalms (MasPs-a; MasPs-b)
- Wadi Sdeir (DJD 38): Genesis (SdeirGen)
- Nahal Arugot (DSD 13, 2006, pp. 55-60): Leviticus
- X: Joshua (DJD 38: XJoshua)
- X: Judges (DSD 14, 2007, pp. 354-58)
- X: Biblical Text (DJD 28: XBiblical Text?)
This list combines those in Tov's article in HB in Light of the DSS
(pp. 42-43) and this article
(p. 9). I'll be honest, I haven't figured out how Tov arrives at the number 25. I've been working with his Revised Lists
(pp. 126-28, with more than 25 texts), and the various editions he references in his notes in his various articles. Anyway, I'll take his word for it that they add up to 25 and they include these books.
In terms of books of the Bible, here's what we're talking about:
- Torah (each book represented)
- The Twelve
According to Tov: "Thus the 23 [actually, now 25] texts that were found at these sites agree with L [= Leningrad Codex
, 1009 C.E.] to such an extent that they are actually identical with that manuscript" (here
, p. 6). What he means is not that these scrolls are actually identical
with L, but they are as close to L as any Masoretic manuscript is.
The differences between these scrolls and L are negligible, and in fact their nature resembles the internal differences between the medieval manuscripts themselves. Accordingly, the small degree of divergence between L and texts from the Judean Desert, mainly texts outside Qumran, allows us to regard these texts as belonging to the same group, or in our terminology, the inner circle of proto-rabbinic texts. This inner circle contained the consonantal framework of MT one thousand years or more before the time of the Masorah codices. This applies also to the second circle of Masoretic texts [found at Qumran]. (here, pp. 6-7).
This identity relates not just to which words are present on the scroll, but even to the orthography (TCHB
, p. 29 n. 8), the stichographic arrangement of poetic sections, and the sense divisions of the text (HB in Light of the DSS
, pp. 44-45). (Not everyone would articulate the matter in this way, e.g., Ulrich
For Tov's definitions of the inner circle of texts (identical to L) and the second circle (closely resembling L but not identical to it), see p. 6 here
. Though Tov's statement quoted above (cf. also earlier on p. 6) implies that Qumran itself yielded a few manuscripts of the "inner circle," other passages in Tov's writings clarifies that he does not generally accept this view, but rather at Qumran all of the MT-like texts--except for one (4QGen-b; TCHB
, p. 31)--were merely "close" to L and not identical to it (see p. 11 of the same article; p. 22 of this article
, p. 179 of TCHB
, etc.). Note that in HB in Light of the DSS
, p. 44, he describes some of the minor differences between the proto-MT Qumran scrolls and L, specifically referring to orthographical and linguistic differences from L contained in 1QIsa-b and 4QJer-a.
Of course, at Qumran there was a variety of textual forms, usually classified as proto-MT (the majority), pre-Samaritan, texts close to the presumed Vorlage
of the LXX, and non-aligned (see, e.g., Tov
, pp. 22-26; or his TCHB
, pp. 107-10).
So, why does Qumran exhibit this textual plurality while simultaneously, in the Judean Desert outside Qumran, textual uniformity--both internally and with the medieval text--was the order of the day?
What the earlier site of Masada (texts written between 50 B.C.E. and 30 C.E.) and the Bar-Kochba sites [= Nahal Hever, Wadi Murabba'at, etc.] (texts written between 20 C.E. and 115 C.E.) have in common, in contradistinction to the Qumran scrolls, is that the people who left the scrolls behind at these sites (the Masada rebels and the freedom fighters of Bar Kochba) closely followed the guidance of the Jerusalem spiritual center in religious matters. (Tov in HB in Light of the DSS, p. 46)
Tov's answer is that non-Qumran Judean Desert biblical scrolls are tied in some way to the spiritual leadership of Jerusalem, they derive from there. Tov admits that this is a guess, but it is a reasonable guess.
Next, Tov considers the rabbinic evidence regarding Torah scrolls kept in the temple and used for adjudicating among variant readings (see previous post for some references). He also mentions Lieberman's argument that depositing a scroll in a temple was one way of 'publishing' a literary work in the ANE (Hellenism
If the non-Qumran Judean Desert texts reflect exclusively MT and if those who used these scrolls can be reasonably considered to have recognized the authority of the Jerusalem temple and its leaders--and to have obtained their biblical texts in reliance on this Jerusalem leadership--and if rabbinic writings testify to the existence within the temple of a scroll of the Torah and possibly other biblical books used for corrections, then perhaps the manuscript evidence confirms these rabbinic statements and we should connect the non-Qumran textual uniformity to the temple.
It seems to us that identity between two or more texts could have been achieved only if all of them were copied from a single source, in this case (a) master copy (copies) located in a central place, until 70 CE probably in the temple, and subsequently in another central place (Jamnia?). The textual unity described above has to start somewhere and the assumption of master copies is therefore necessary.
This is a mere hypothesis [...]. [...] [The rabbinic statements about master scrolls kept in the temple] probably referred only to the Torah, but it stands to reason that the other Scripture books were also found in the temple. [...] These Scripture books, together with the master copy of the Torah were probably part of a temple library. It should be admitted that the evidence for the existence of the books of the Prophets and Hagiographa in the temple is based on limited evidence, more so on inference relating to the unified textual tradition of these books. [...] We suggest that the internal identity of this group of texts, subsequently perpetuated in the medieval tradition, was created because they were copied from or revised according to the master copies in the temple. (Tov, here, pp. 8-10; very similar argumentation in HB in Light of the DSS, pp. 47-49, and TCHB p. 30 with notes.)
Tov goes on to suggest that the "second circle" of MT-like texts at Qumran may have been copied not from the master copies in the temple but from the "inner circle" of copies made from the master copies (same article, p. 12; TCHB
, p. 108; more firmly worded here
, p. 25).
When could we date this temple collection of scripture?
One possibility would be that as late as the early Hasmonean period a master copy was instituted in the temple court because of the extant textual plurality, but neither an early nor a late date can be supported convincingly. (here, p. 12).
This seems to be Tov's latest possible date. Elsewhere he affirms that we have manuscripts of MT-like texts from the third century BCE (HB in Light of the DSS
, pp. 50, 53).
[MT] was a firm text throughout the period that is known to us, from c. 250 BCE onwards, so shaped because of conservative textual transmission, and not because of any form of stabilization of the Bible text. (TCHB p. 180).
Since we have "second circle" texts dating back to the third century, and since these "second circle" texts are obviously typologically secondary in comparison to the "inner circle" (as Tov says at HB in Light of the DSS
, p. 51), presumably the "inner circle," and thus also the master copy, must predate the third century.
What to make of all this?
Tov has certainly given us a lot to think about. I believe the first time Tov published his argument on this issue was in 2003, and since that time I'm not aware of further scholarly discussion outside of Tov's own writings, except that Ulrich has responded a little bit. Tov himself says that this is an issue on which few scholars have expressed themselves. I hope I have accurately summarized his position.
Later I'll offer some reflections on these arguments and on what all this might mean in terms of the biblical canon.
UPDATE: I put in an email to Emanuel Tov to see if he would clarify for me how he arrived at his number of "25" biblical texts from Judean Desert sites other then Qumran. Prof. Tov responded by saying that he counted all the provenanced texts plus the unprovenanced ones (preceded by an X) that had been published at the time, but that really we should count all of the unprovenanced texts. He would now count all of the scrolls listed in his Revised Lists
(Brill, 2010), pp. 126-29, equalling 41 texts. He also advised that other texts are known about but are not in the hands of scholars, and the unprovenanced texts may derive from Qumran, making problematic the distinction between Qumran texts and non-Qumran texts. So the statistics will always be approximate.