Sunday, February 5, 2023

Craig Evans on the DSS-Like Fragments

Craig Evans recently posted a video interview suggesting that the post-2002 DSS-like fragments now generally supposed to be forgeries are in fact likely authentic. He bases this on reported claims by Weston Fields that these fragments really did come from the Kandos' vault and that the phenomena that are used to justify rejecting the authenticity of the fragments are common in genuine DSS. For those who are interested, here was my brief (spoiler: skeptical) response to his Facebook post.

Thanks for posting your thoughts on the topic. Surely no one will object to a closer examination of authentic DSS to provide comparanda, but someone would have to pay for it, and I wouldn't expect very positive results. In my own experience (and quickly double checking some of the better preserved scrolls), minor cracks and delamination are almost always secondary when they co-occur with ink. You can often see clearly how the ink cracks with the skin and leaves the lighter interior exposed. When layers of the skin separate, you can see that the ink on the surface flakes off with it, and you would be very hard pressed to find a compelling example (let alone multiple) where an ancient scribe wrote over such an already partially-delaminated surface. The better preserved scrolls demonstrate that the DSS were generally quite smooth when inscribed. When there were issues with the preparation of the skin (holes, cracks, or even rough patches), the scribes usually avoided writing over these spots. So I find it very unlikely that we would find such a high proportion of these sorts of irregularities in the contested fragments if an ancient writer was writing on the skin. And this is in addition to the observation that most of the DSS were not even written on the type of coarse-rubbery leather found in the contested fragments, but were rather stretched, dried, and carefully prepared for writing. The two types of skin preparation are so fundamentally different that I cannot believe most of the contested fragments were ever intended for writing in the first place. So I don’t think this speculation really explains the suspicious phenomena in the contested fragments or warrants further speculations about hypothetical purity rituals. Add to that the many suspicious paleographic and textual features that have been noted, and I think you will have a very hard time convincing many specialists of the authenticity of most of the contested fragments today.

Saturday, February 4, 2023

Morag Kersel on Publishing Unprovenanced Manuscripts

Morag Kersel has a great, balanced article on publishing unprovenanced manuscripts entitled To Publish or Not to Publish? This is No Longer the Question. While she is not in favor of publishing such manuscripts, she recognizes that some scholars will continue to do so. Therefore, she argues that these scholars should at least pay conscious attention to issues of provenance and explicitly address it in publications.

Sunday, January 8, 2023

Smithsonian Magazine on Michael Langlois

The Smithsonian Magazine has an interesting scholar profile of Michael Langlois with lots of personal and professional details, for those who are interested.

Solid Rock Hebrew Bible

Stephen Brown has published a freely available complete eclectic edition of the Hebrew Bible on GitHub. The edition is based on the Leningrad Codex, but incorporates changes suggested by Brown. It is not a scientific edition with collations, source citations, or textual commentary, but it is nice to see lay people interested in some of the more challenging questions of the field and dedicating time to the critical study of the scriptures.

MIKRA Interview

Tim Mahoney has published a two-part interview with Brian Rickett and me about the work of MIKRA Research Laboratory. In part 1 we discuss the work of MIKRA and our soon-to-be-released app. In part 2, we talk more generally about the work of Hebrew paleography and the history of the Bible. Hopefully this gives some insight into the kind of work we do for those who may be interested.

Wednesday, December 21, 2022

What Color Was Papyrus?

According to a recent study, quality ancient papyrus sheets were usually white. According to the authors, modern commercial papyrus is treated with lye, which turns the papyrus pith from its natural white to yellow, presumably in order to imitate the appearance of aged papyrus. But they argue that papyrus sheets when they were produced in antiquity were probably white.

A New Identification of a Psalm Manuscript from Qumran: 4Q85 + 4Q98c

I just got news that an article I co-authored with Brent Strawn has now been published as an advance article in Dead Sea Discoveries:

Drew Longacre and Brent Strawn, "A New Identification of a Psalm Manuscript from Qumran: 4Q85 + 4Q98c." DSD Advanced Articles (2022): 1-8.


This brief note proposes a new identification for a fragment of one of the Psalm manuscripts from Qumran. On the basis of material conditions—but above all else, the distinctive paleography of the script—4Q98c (4QP st) should be considered as part of the same manuscript known as 4Q85 (4QP sc). If this identification is correct, the latter now contains material known from the second half of the (proto-)MT Psalter, increasing the plausibility that it once contained the entire book of Psalms.