Sabbatical Year coins of Alexander Jannaeus

Posted by shoshiepfann on April 14, 2008

Alexander Jannaeus (103–76 BCE); Sabbatical years of his reign: 100/101, 93/92, 86/85, 79/78

Unlike his predecessors who asserted themselves on coins to be "High Priest" and ethnarchs, Alexander Jannaeus proclaimed himself to be both High Priest and King. The title "King" was not allowed for Judean rulers since the days Zerubbabel. Yet on coins issued early in his reign he laid claim to both titles. After the Pharisees took serious issue with the arrogance of this Hasmonean ruler, he overstruck most of those coins, and, at the same time, minted additional coins, with the more modest titles, like his predecessors: "High Priest and (head of) the council of the Jews" (i.e., ethnarch).





This act did not satisfy the Pharisees. After six years of civil war (93–87 BCE) between Alexander Jannaeus with the Sadducees against the Pharisees, he finally and severely asserted his position as King. The Pharisees had invited the Greeks to come to take Jerusalem. For this act of "treason" Alexander Jannaeus crucified 800 Pharisees in Jerusalem's city center. His self proclamation of kingship was again signified by minting coins with the title “King Alexander” in Greek and “Yehonatan, the king” in Hebrew. Also the symbol of the star encircled by a royal diadem (see below, right) provides two emblems of the priestly and royal Messiahs (cf. Balaam's prophecy of the Scepter and the Star, popular symbols of the coming Messiahs during the first and second centuries BCE).



“King Alexander” in Greek and “Yehonatan, the king” in Hebrew


79/78 BCE: On the twenty-fifth anniversary of his rule, he minted dated coins on the Sabbatical Year. Year 25 prutot and leptas known as “widow’s mites”, by far the most abundant Jewish coin in antiquity, were minted during a sabbatical year: 79/78 BCE. In this case the star and the diadem are on opposite sides of the coin.



“King Alexander, Year 25” (in Greek) and “Yehohanan, the king, Year 25” (in Hebrew)

(No known exemplars preserve the entire inscription)




New Stuff: Coins that bear witness to Sabbatical Years

Posted by admin on April 13, 2008

After reviewing the cycle of dated coins, it became apparent that numerous bronze issues of coins that were produced by Jewish leaders happened to coincide with Sabbatical years. These tended to be small bronze coins, prutot and lepta (half prutot) and were produced in unusually large numbers. The emblems upon the coins tend to be connected with grains and fruits which were scarce or lacking during those years, due to prohibitions on harvesting grains and fruit during those years due to prohibitions on harvesting. Even for similar denominations of coins that did not bear dates, it became apparent that during the early years from the years of John Hyrcanus I until the early part of the reign of Archelaus the double cornucopia was used almost exclusively for the smaller bronze issues. From the last years of Archelaus’ reign onward various grains and fruits connected with the various feasts, especially the feast of booths, were used. These coins may also have been produced in particular during sabbatical years.

Why were these coins prevalent during Sabbatical Years? One must first consider the nature of the economy during these years. Since the normal means of barter by kind, produce, was hampered, coinage became the primary means of commerce during these difficult years. Here, the ethnarch/king apparently flooded the economy with small denomination bronze coins in order to bolster the economy and alleviate the financial crisis brought on by shortages of produce during the Shmitta when bartering in kind proved difficult. To a certain extent the king was improving his image as a redeemer before his people by paying a debt to society during a year of severe hardships and potential financial reversals.

During the revolts, when messianic expectation was a key rallying point, the coins used the more unusual term (hlag instead of hfimu) for the sabbatical year which was used to bolster the messianic expectation of the period. The Messiah as the GOEL/Redeemer would arrive during as Sabbatical year or in a Jubilee year to redeem his people from debt, slavery and oppression and to atone for their sins before God. During other, non-sabbatical, years the term “freedom of Zion/Jerusalem” was used instead. During the first year of the second revolt, a sabbatical year, the term hlag was not limited to the bronze denominations but was added to silver coins as well.

There is evidence from dated coins that this practice of flooding the economy with small bronzes during the sabbatical years took place especially during the reigns of "kings"such as Alexander Jannaeus, Herod the Great, Agrippa I and during both Jewish Revolts (only "Geulat" issues) against Rome. This suggests that the case may be the same for many non–dated issues as well. The following list enumerates some of these coins whose dates (or dates with significant inscriptions) coincide with sabbatical years:

79/78 BCE: year 25 of Alexander Jannaeus

37/6 BCE: year 3 of Herod the Great

41/42 CE: year 6 of Agrippa I

69/70 CE: year 4 of the First Revolt, “geulat Tsion

132/133 CE: year 1 of the Second Revolt, “geulat Yisrael


S. Pfann, ‘Dated Bronze Coinage of the Sabbatical years of Release and the First Jewish City Coin’. Bulletin of the Anglo-Israel Archaeological Society 24 (2006) 101-113.

Historically Documented Sabbatical Years

Posted by admin on April 12, 2008

Historically Documented Sabbatical Years

702/1 BCE 2 Kgs 19:29//Isa 37:30 Assyrian siege of Jerusalem during Sabbatical Year

457/456 Neh. 10:32(31) Nehemiah’s reading of the Law

331/330 Josephus AJ 11:347 Alexander the Great exempts Jews on Sabbatical Year

163/162 I Macc. 6:49, 53 Judas Maccabeus defeated due to Sabbatical Year

135/134 Josephus AJ 13:234 Seleucid siege of Jerusalem during Sabbatical Year

37/6 Josephus AJ 14:475 Herod’s siege of Jerusalem during Sabbatical Year

41/2 CE mSotah 7:8 Agrippa I recites Deut 7:15 after Sabbatical Year

55/6 Mur 18 personal document citing the Sabbatical Year

69/70 Seder Olam Rabbah 30 Year before the Temple’s destruction was Sabbatical Year

132/3 Mur 24 Land Leases during Sabbatical Year

Sunday, April 6th, began the month of Nisan and the Biblical New Year. According to the present Jewish calendar, the current Sabbatical Year began this past fall, at Rosh HaShanah. But in what month did the Sabbatical Year begin during the First and Second Temple periods? And, to what extent were its regulations observed? Does the Biblical Sabbatical Year actually begin now?

The Sabbatical Year during the First Temple Period

Leviticus 25 provides the instructions that one year in seven is to be set aside as a fallow year, when the land will not be worked and when the fields will remain unsown and unharvested.

In the Pentateuch, the New Year, the first day of "the first month of the year" was linked to the Exodus and the first feast of unleavened bread. Exod 12:1-2: "The LORD said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, 'This month shall be for you the beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year for you.'" Also see in Deut. 16:1-2 where this first month is called "Aviv".

The oldest legislation involving the Sabbatical Year is found in Exod 23:10-11:

“You shall sow your land for six years and gather in its yield, but in the seventh year you shall let it rest and lie fallow.”

From the Holiness Code, what grows of itself in the following year may not be harvested:

Lev 25:3: "Six years you shall sow your field, and six years you shall prune your vineyard, and gather in its fruits; but in the seventh year there shall be a sabbath of solemn rest for the land, a sabbath to the LORD; you shall not sow your field or prune your vineyard."

Also from the Holiness Code, it is evident that the harvest was suspended for two years in a row. Once, since harvesting was prohibited during the Sabbatical Year, and once again during the following year because no crop was sown and no vines were trimmed. It is also clear that what grows of itself in the following year may not be harvested. ("Eating old produce", e.g., from the sixth year, here means produce drawn from storage.)

Lev 25:3-5: "Six years you shall sow your field, and six years you shall prune your vineyard, and gather in its fruits; but in the seventh year there shall be a sabbath of solemn rest for the land, a sabbath to the LORD; you shall not sow your field or prune your vineyard. What grows of itself in your harvest you shall not reap, and the grapes of your undressed vine you shall not gather; it shall be a year of solemn rest for the land."

Lev. 25:20-22: "And if you say, ‘What shall we eat in the seventh year, if we may not sow or gather in our crop?’ I will command my blessing upon you in the sixth year, so that it will bring forth fruit for three years. When you sow in the eighth year, you will be eating old produce; until the ninth year, when its produce comes in, you shall eat the old."

In the Deuteronomic History, Isaiah and the first "prosbol":The legislation concerning the seventh year or "Shmitta" in Deuteronomy (Deut. 15:1-18) ignores the year's agricultural requirements but instead focuses on the release from debt and slavery that is required in that year. However in the book of 2 Kings, at the time of the Assyrian siege of Jerusalem in 702, which apparently took place during a sabbatical year, although the plowing and sowing was suspended for two years in a row, the people were exceptionally allowed to eat what grew of itself. This may have been a permissive setting aside of one requirement during difficult times. In a way this might be considered the first prosbol, (originally applied by Hillel to allowing continued lending in spite of the Shmitta year to keep the economy from breaking down). The following verse was likely used for the continued allowance of the gathering of what grows wild, "of itself" for sabbatical years during the Second Temple Period.

“And this shall be the sign for you: you will eat this year what grows of itself, in the second year what springs from the same, and in the third year sow, reap, plant vineyards, and eat their fruit.” (2 Kgs 19:29; the corresponding verse in Isa 37:30 varies slightly.)


Two-lined barley and mustard growing wild: ready to be picked in Jerusalem during the Sabbatical Year (2008)

The beginning and observance of the Sabbatical Year during the Second Temple Period

Following the "sign" of 2 Kings 19:29 as a rule, and not an exception, the observance of the Sabbatical year during the Second Temple Period allowed for the general public to freely gather produce from both wild areas and fallow farm plots. In this case, the fruit was considered then to be owned by no one as long as the fruit was picked for personal use (Safrai, pp. 825-827).

It does appear that the beginning of the agricultural calendar, especially with respect to the Sabbatical year, changed at some stage during the Second Temple Period. This was introduced some time after the time of Alexander the Great as Hellenism and the Macedonian calendar influenced the entire Near East.

"The Macedonian Calendar was a luni-solar calendar. The only difference from the rest of the Greek calendars consisted in the date of the new year celebration. The Macedonian Calendar started after the first new moon following the autumnal equinox during the month Dios and included 12 months of either 30 or 29 days, with the last decade of either ten or nine days, giving a total of 354 days for one year. To bring the Macedonian year in accordance with the solar tropical year a 13th month had to be periodically inserted into the year. Some of the months from Macedonian Calendar can be found in the calendars of other Doric cities. After Alexander the Great the influence of the Macedonian Calendar extended also to Asia and Egypt." (Theodossiou, E. et al)

This change may well have taken place during the calendrical reforms which took place during the reign of Antiochus Epiphanes (Dan. 7:25), which tended to conform to the Syrian (Macedonian) Lunar Calendar beginning in the fall, with the introduction of a 19-year lunar cycle (in which an offering on the behalf of the emperor was to be observed on his monthly birthday celebration, 2 Macc. 6:7). Although certain parts of the practice were revoked after the events of 167 BCE, the 19-year Lunar Calendar continued to be observed (for this discussion see Vanderkam, pp. 113-116).

The Beginning of the Agricultural Year and the Sabbatical Year according to Rabbinic Sources

It is generally understood from Rabbinic sources that a new year starting with Nisan provided a calendar for most societal needs, and that another new year was a Tishre-based year, which functioned with regard to agricultural practices and the rules of shmitta during sabbatical years. In fact, the Mishnah speaks of not two but four "New Years" per calendrical year.

Rosh Hoshanah 1:1 "There are four new years: (1) the first day of Nisan is the new year for kings and festivals; (2) the first day of Elul is the new year for tithing cattle. R. Eleazar and R. Simeon say, 'It is on the first day of Tishre'. (3) The first day of Tishre is the new year for the reckoning of years, for Sabbatical years, and for Jubilees, for planting [trees] and for vegetables; (4) the first day of Shebat is the new year for trees, in accord with the opinion of the House of Shammai. The House of Hillel say, 'On the fifteenth day of that month [is the new year for trees)'.” (Neusner translation)

The Implications of Shifting the Beginning of the Year to the Fall

The implications of whether one counts the Sabbatical Year from the fall, Tishre, or spring, Nisan, is quite significant since the latter calendar would demand that the farmer and his clients would lose not one, but two years of crops in a row. The spring grain harvests would be lost in either calendar. However, in the case of the Nisan-based calendar: (1) the previous year's period of plowing and sowing would not be carried out since the projected crop could not be harvested during the actual sabbatical year. (2) Since the period of pruning, plowing and sowing is prohibited during the latter half of the Nisan-based sabbatical year, no crops would be produced during the following year (nor could the grapes be harvested on vines which had not been trimmed.)

Shifting the beginning of the Sabbatical Year to the fall would allow the early sowing period (which begins in December) to be included as part of the same fallow year as the harvest, and at the same time, allow the following sowing period to proceed for the first year of the next sabbatical cycle. However, this only imperfectly resolves the issue, since the beginning of the Tishre-based year still precedes the end of the harvesting of certain summer fruits including grapes, dates and, especially, the olive harvest, which take place in the final two months of the previous agricultural year. This would mean that the fruit of those first two months of the first year would be gathered from trees and vines that were unplowed and unpruned (which is actually forbidden in the laws of Leviticus 25).

The Natural Agricultural Year

Logically the agricultural and Sabbatical Year and calendar should coincide with the duration of one natural agricultural year. The natural agricultural year in Israel covers the period from December/January, when wheat and barley are sown, to the end of the following November, when olives and dates are harvested.

A quandary arises when neither calendar year, whether the Fall Equinox/Tishre-based year (e.g., the Gezer/Canaanite calendar and Rabbinic calendar) nor the Spring Equinox/Nisan-based year (e.g., the Bible and Qumran) actually contains a single agricultural year from beginning to end. On the one hand, the Nisan-based calendar contains the full sequence of harvests that are associated with a single agricultural year (while the Tishre-based calendar contains harvests connected with two separate agricultural years starting with the olive harvest). On the other hand, the Tishre-based calendar includes the initial process of sowing in the sequence “six years you shall sow, six years you shall prune and gather” (while the Nisan-based calendar includes the period of sowing, but primarily from the following agricultural year; barley, wheat, oats, peas, chickpeas, lentils, vetch, flax and certain vegetables were sown primarily in the period between December and February, while millet, sesame and other vegetables were sown between March and April; on this, see O. Borowski, Agriculture in Iron Age Israel).


Borowski, O. Agriculture in Iron Age Israel (ASOR, Boston, 2002)


Pfann, S. "Dated Bronze Coinage of the Sabbatical years of Release and the First Jewish City Coin". Bulletin of the Anglo-Israel Archaeological Society 24 (2006) 101-113.

Safrai, S. The Jewish People in the First Century: Historical Geography, Political History, Social, Cultural and Religious Life and Institutions. Volume 2 (VanGorcum, 1987)

Theodossiou, E.; Danezis, E.; Grammenos, Th.; Stathopoulou, M. "The Macedonian Calendar in Macedonia" Joint European and National Astronomical Meeting, JENAM-97. 6th European and 3rd Hellenic Astronomical Conference, held in Thessaloniki, Greece, 2-5 July, 1997, Meeting Abstract, p. 341.

Vanderkam, J. Calendars in the Dead Sea Scrolls: Measuring Time. (Routledge, 1998)

Cave 7Q-9Q dispute

Posted by shoshiepfann on March 31, 2008


A publication by H. Eshel and M. Broshi makes a claim that Cave 7Q is east of the location marked, and caves 8Q and 9Q have been switched.

This statement is incorrect. I have based the identifications of the caves on de Vaux’s descriptions. The actual location of these three caves with respect to the site and with respect to one another can be deduced from de Vaux’s early publications. The most useful are Revue Biblique 63 (1956), pp. 572–73 and DJD III (Oxford: 1962), pp. 27–31. (Access to his notebooks, I believe, is unnecessary to determine the exact location of these caves.)

Beginning first with the location of cave 8Q, it is “Au sud-ouest de la grotte 7Q” (DJD III, p. 30). It is also “à côte de la précédente” (i.e., cave 7Q; RB 63 (1956), p. 572). Combining these two descriptions, we should understand that cave 8Q is “to the southwest of cave 7Q and (immediately) beside it”. Therefore, cave 7Q cannot be east of the location marked on the photograph since it must be adjacent to 8Q.

Cave 9Q is “un peu nord de la grotte 8Q, sur le versant ouest de l’éperon” (DJD III, p. 31). It is also “communiquant avec la précédent (i.e., cave 8Q) à un niveau un peu plus élevé” (RB 63 [1956] p. 573). Combined and in translation these statements indicate that cave 9Q is “interconnected with cave 8Q at a little higher level and a little to its north, on the western slope of the spur.” (9Q is not to the south of 8Q, as the reader contends, but the opposite according to de Vaux). From this description, the three caves form a rather tight triangle with respect to one another.

Regarding the location of cave 7Q, and thus all three interrelated caves, de Vaux writes that it is “à l’extrémité de la platforme qui s’etend au sud du Khirbeh. C’était une chambre arrondie dont tout le toit, toute la partie sud et une partie du sol se sont effondrés dans le Wady Qumrân. On y accédait par un escalier partant du bord de la plateforme, au nor-ouest de la chambre; les marches inférieures de l’escalier sont seules conservées” (DJD III, p. 27). “A l’extrémité de l’esplanade qui s’etend au sud du Khirbet [spelling: sic] et dominant le Wady Qumrân” (RB 63 [1956] p. 572). Combined and translated: “At the end of the platform/esplanade that extends to the south from the khirbeh and overlooks the Wadi Qumran, there exists a round chamber whose entire roof, entire southern part and a portion of the floor had collapsed into the Wadi Qumran. One reached it by a staircase which started from the edge of the platform, to the northwest of the room; only the lower steps of the staircase are preserved.” Therefore the identifying criteria for cave 7Q are: (a) The form of cave 7Q must be round. (b) Only its southern side wall, which overlooks the wadi is entirely missing. (c) Its roof must be entirely missing. (d) Its floor must be partially missing. All these features indeed fit the cave identified as 7Q, and no other cave, in the photograph.

Some confusion derives from problem that the present staircase which leads to this cave from the edge of the platform descends from the northeast and not the “northwest”. Since the actual cluster of caves can only be the three which have been identified in the photo, (with floors and doors of each nicely highlighted by the sun), there are only two possible explanations for this apparent discrepancy. (1) The described “original staircase” truly descended from the northwest but is no longer visible. (2) The word “northwest” is in error and should be corrected to “northeast.” I prefer the latter explanation since “the last steps” of the present stairway, which follows a sensible course from the edge of the platform, can be identified in most photos.

Perhaps I should include these paragraphs in the discussion, since recent publications indicate that there is still some confusion as to the location of these and other caves. Indeed, the official French volume of de Vaux, Humbert and Chambon, unfortunately may be, at least in part, the source of this confusion. Their publication exhibits inexactitudes in the artist’s drawing of the features of the marl formation resulting in erroneous identifications of caves 4Q (a and b), 5Q, 7Q, and 10Q (cf. R. de Vaux, J.-B. Humbert and A. Chambon, Fouilles de Khirbet Qumran et de Ain Feshkhah, Vol. 1 NTOA Series Archeologica 1, University Press Fribourg, Switzerland/Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen, 1994: plate II). In the Foreword to the English Annotated edition, acknowledgment was made by Humbert of my aid in the correct identification of the caves in the marl formation (The Excavations of Qumran and Ein Feshkha (Revised English Edition), NTOA Series Archeologica 1B, 2003: p. xv). This identification is based on the real features that exist, as evident from the photographs. Unfortunately, the NTOA series has not yet corrected the inexact drawings. Other scholars have tried their hand at identifying the location of these caves but have evidently built upon the erroneous identifications of the earlier publications (e.g., Broshi and Eshel, “Three Seasons of Excavations at Qumran,” Journal of Roman Archaeology. p. 322, fig.1) There the authors, without explanation, have re-identified cave 7Q as cave “H” and moved 7Q further to the east.


Humbert/Chambon: left; Broshi/ Eshel: center; Pfann, according to de Vaux’s description: right

If another collapsed cave does indeed exist to the east of the cluster 7Q-9Q, it was overlooked by de Vaux and his team, since they wrote nothing about it. If the new cave contains ancient material remains, then it comprises a new discovery worthy of being added to the list of Qumran caves. (This is not to ignore the valuable contributions of Broshi and Eshel’s work as a whole).

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Caves 7Q-10Q

Posted by admin on March 31, 2008

Cave 7Q

Figures: II, XXXI

In 1955 a team of workers undertook the task to examine the entire perimeter of the marl terrace which supports the khirbeh in order to determine if there were other caves that had been into the marl as was the case for caves 4 and 5.

This laborious task led to the recognition of a cave whose excavation was not carried out since the layers were too loose in that location and four caves which had been inhabited but whose major part had collapsed into the ravine: of which all that remained is the access stairway or part of the chamber. Just the same some things survived, including some potsherds and the remnants of baskets, of cloth or of leather, some remains, occasionally ... , inscribed documents. The caves received the sigla for caves which contain manuscripts in the region of Qumran: 7Q through 10Q.

7Q – At the far end of the esplanade that extends southward from the Khirbeh and rises above the Wadi Qumran. The pottery is connected with period 1b; a jar carries the name amor twice painted in black ink. We collected Greek papyrus fragments of the the Book of Exodus and of the Letter of Jeremiah and a small leather fragment written in Hebrew.

M. BAILLET, J. T. MILIK and R. DE VAUX, The ‘Small Caves of Qumran’, DJD III Texts (Oxford, 1962) p. 27.

Objects of cave 7Q.

Gr 7Q-1: inscribed potsherd. Gr 7Q-2: bowl. Gr. 7 Q-3: bowl. Gr 7Q-4: lid. Gr 7Q-5: jar. Gr 7Q-6: inscribed jar. Gr 7Q-7: inscribed potsherd. Gr 7Q-8: jar.

Cave 8Q

Figures: II, XXXI

8Q – Adjacent to the preceding cave. Some fragments of a molded lamp of the 1st century CE. Two phylactery holder with four compartments an one holder with only one case. One fragment of a phylactery and numerous small rolled documents bearing a very fine script.

M. BAILLET, J. T. MILIK and R. DE VAUX, The ‘Small Caves of Qumran’, DJD III Texts (Oxford, 1962) p. 30.

Objects of cave 8Q.

Gr 8Q-1: dates. Gr 8Q-2: box and leather objects. Gr 8Q-3: hide. Gr 8Q-4: fabric twine. Gr 8Q-5: two phylactery cases. Gr 8Q-6: phylactery case. Gr 8Q-7: lid. Gr 8Q-8: plate. Gr 8Q-9: lid. Gr 8Q-10: sole of leather sandal. Gr 8Q-11: lid. Gr 8Q-12: lamp. Gr 8Q-13. lid. Gr 8Q-14: upper part of jar.

Cave 9Q

Photograph of 9Q in the album: 435

Figures: II, XXXI

M. BAILLET, J. T. MILIK AND R. DE VAUX, The ‘Small Caves of Qumran’, DJD III Texts (Oxford, 1962) p. 31.

9Q – Connected with the preceding cave at a slightly higher level. A single papyrus fragment with a few Hebrew leters.

Objects of cave 9Q.

Gr 9Q-1: dates and pits. Gr 9Q-2: three fragments of cord.

Cave 10Q

Figures: II, XXXI

10Q – To the west of Qumran on the western face of the promentory into which cave 4 is cut. Some potsherds, fragments of a mat. An ostracon carries two Hebrew letters.

Objects of cave 10Q.

Gr 10Q-1: inscribed potsherd. Gr 10Q-2: fragment of a large mat. Gr 10Q-3: fragment of a lamp.

The research therefore has been somewhat productive. At the very least we have ascertained that the immediate vicinity of the khirbeh doesn’t conceal more caves that might contain stores of manuscripts comparable to those preserved in cave 4. We have also learned that there were other caves than caves 5 and 4 which were hewn into the marl terrace and which had contained manuscripts. These caves had collapsed down into the ravine. The pottery of cave 7 suggests that it collapsed at the time of the earthquake, but the lamp from cave 8 indicates that it was still inhabited during period II. We will still have to be left in suspense; the destruction may also have been due to later collapses or simply a process of gradual erosion.

Cave Identity Crisis?

Posted by shoshiepfann on March 29, 2008

Caves 7, 8 and 9 VR

Posted by admin on March 29, 2008

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The Profiles of Caves 4Q and 5Q

Posted by shoshiepfann on March 26, 2008


Cave 4 (4Q) (map ref. 1934.1276)

In the first half of September 1952, close to the site of Kh. Qumran, Bedouin discovered three new caves bearing manuscript fragments. These became known as caves 4 (4a and 4b) and 6. Caves 4a and 4b were situated only seven meters apart from one another. Unfortunately, the Bedouin mixed the manuscripts coming from these two caves and, accordingly, de Vaux decided to record all fragments coming from both caves as "4Q". The Bedouin offered some of the fragments for sale in Jerusalem on Sept. 20 before they had finished emptying the caves. The authorities quickly found the caves and stopped the digging. Within two days de Vaux and Harding arrived with a team to excavate the cave. Of the approximately 730 fragmentary manuscripts which have been identified as having come from cave 4, fragments of about one-fourth of these were identified among those found in the excavation dubbed "the 'E' series" (PAM 40.962-985). Also derived from excavation: an ink-inscribed jar (PAM 42.865).

Fragments of various manuscripts excavated by the team include: 4Q1, 22, 24, 26, 27, 30, 34, 37, 51, 52, 62, 63, 68, 72, 74, 80, 84, 109, 111, 114, 115, 121, 163, 179, 204, 217, 227, 249, 257, 258, 270, 276, 289, 302, 321, 324c, 334, 364, 365, 367, 379, 381, 384, 387, 391, 395, 412, 418, 422, 423a, 432, 440, 481, 487, 489, 497, 499, 503, 506, 509, 512, 518, 519, 525, 529, 545, 558, “M pap Hod-like,” “M127a,” “M47b,” “M49,” “SL19.” Most of these date to the first two centuries BCE and came primarily from recesses in the floor of cave 4a. These excavated fragments remain the only sure means for identifying which manuscripts actually derived from the cave since 90% of the fragments came to the museum through Bedouin sources which cannot be confirmed beyond doubt.

Of the 718 manuscripts presently ascribed to Cave 4Q approximately 578 are of defineable and of literary character. Of these: 143 (25%) are Biblical books, approximately 175 (30%) can be considered as Yahad/Sectarian, 28 Phylacteries/Mezuzot, approx. 110 (19%) parabiblical/legendary (including 9 Jubilees, 7 Enoch, 6 Giants, 2 New Jerusalem); 7 War Rule (M), 1 Temple Scroll; the remainder include calendars, liturgies, eschatological texts and private documents (About 140 others were poorly defined).

The corpus of manuscripts of Caves 4a and 4b is highly diverse in content and spans a broad range of time from the mid 3rd century BCE to the last half of first century CE. Although the Biblical and sectarian content of the cave, in many respects is similar to that of Cave 1Q, it also contains a large number of works which might seem atypical to be produced or propagated by such a group as the Yahad/Essenes. In many ways the collection is more of a general nature like that of a “National Library” representing an exhaustive collection of the national literature providing access to all pertinent literature, in all of its diversity, at a single location. Just the same, in spite of its diversity, the collection doesn’t treat the national literature produced by other groups of equal interest. It emphasizes the Bible and especially the Books of Moses as being of fundamental importance as all groups of the day did. Of similar value seems to have been the books of Jubilees, Enoch and Giants. However, it emphasizes the literature of one specific group (the Yahad) and noticeably lacking various compositions (including most of the Apocrypha and Pseusepigrapha, notably Ben Sira and I–IV Maccabees as well as works which might characterize Pharisaic and Saduceen teachings), which makes it more limited in scope.

The tattered form of the scrolls from these caves, along with the fact that no effort seems to have been made to preserve them, either to store them in jars or in cloth seems to indicate that this was not an “in use” library, nor a hiding place nor an archive for usable scrolls. This collection is rather a “geniza” or burial place for sacred texts which were to be put away to deteriorate naturally and not to be disposed of as refuse.

Excavation: Sept. 22-29, 1952. Final excavation report: de Vaux, DJD VI, pp. 3-22.

Objects of cave 4Q.

Gr 4Q-1: inscribed jar. Gr 4Q-2 through 4: jars. Gr 4Q-5: jar lid. Gr 4Q-6: lid. Gr 4Q-7: jug. Gr 4Q-8: bowl. Gr 4Q-9: bowl. Gr 4Q-10: bowl. Gr 4Q-11 and 12: plates. Gr 4Q-13: cooking pot. Gr 4Q-14: jug. Gr 4Q-15: lid. Gr 4Q-16: jar. Gr 4Q-17: juglet. Gr 4Q-18: plate. Gr 4Q-19 through 21: bowls. Gr 4Q-22: lamp. Textiles.

4Q manuscripts:


In summary, "Cave 4" (actually Caves 4a and 4b) should likely be considered the tattered remains of a mixed geniza, resembling the remains of a “National Library” or more correctly “Institutional Library” since it does not contain what would be considered objectionable or heretical materials (lacking many apocrypha, pseudepigrapha and non-Jewish philosophical works which might be considered objectionable).

Cave 5 (5Q) (map ref. 1934.1276)

A partially collapsed cave discovered by the excavation team about 25 meters to the north of cave 4a during the excavation of cave 4. At least 25 manuscripts were recovered in the excavation carried out by J. T. Milik (PAM 41.033-037; 42.316-323).

Excavation: Sept. 25-28, 1952. Final excavation report: de Vaux, DJD III, p. 26.

Objects of cave 5Q.

None. Textiles: None recorded.

5Q manuscripts:



25 Mss –7 Biblical (incl. 1 paleoHebrew: Leviticus), 1 phylactery, 0 Jub, 1 Giants, 1 New Jerusalem; 4 Yahad/Sectarian: 1 Biblical commentary, S, D, 1 sectarian document. Others, 1 apocryphon, 0 apocryphal Prophecy, 0 Calendar; 1 curses (6 poorly defined); [NB, all parchment]. Sectarian (NonYahad?)

Although the number of extant manuscripts in this cave is comparatively much smaller it may have served as a third, somewhat later repository within the 4Q geniza complex. It similarly includes relatively old manuscripts even though the copies of the scrolls are, in general, more recent. The cave similarly includes both Yahad (including a copy of the Community Rule) and lay Essene (including a copy of the Damascus Covenant) texts.

Cave 4Q and 5Q VR

Posted by admin on March 25, 2008

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Gethsemane VR

Posted by admin on March 22, 2008



In the light of the occasion a slight detour from Qumran but not so far from the Temple Mount.

A Reflective Stroll around the Garden of Gethsemane 

(Click here for a VR Tour of The Garden of Gethsemane)


And again he went away and prayed, saying the same words. And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were very heavy; and they did not know what to answer him. And he came the third time, and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? It is enough; the hour has come; the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.”

And immediately, while he was still speaking, Judas came, one of the twelve, and with him a crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the scribes and the elders. Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “The one I shall kiss is the man; seize him and lead him away under guard.” And when he came, he went up to him at once, and said, “Master!” And he kissed him. And they laid hands on him and seized him. But one of those who stood by drew his sword, and struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his ear. And Jesus said to them, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs to capture me? Day after day I was with you in the temple teaching, and you did not seize me. But let the scriptures be fulfilled.” And they all forsook him, and fled. (Mark 14:39-52)


The Garden of Gethsemane and The Church of All Nations

Nearly two thousand years ago here, or somewhere in the vicinity, a dramatic scene of historic proportions took place and a decision of all decisions was finalized. A Jewish man, prophet, savior and proclaimed Messiah stood at the brink of making a step, which only he could take. He was torn, he was sweating blood in his intense turmoil, wrestling with his ironic destiny as Messiah and Son of God: instead of triumphantly creating an eternal kingdom from Jerusalem, he was first to suffer and be executed. A decision to withdraw would be a wise choice if he wanted to survive. And so did he implore his Father: “Take this cup (of suffering) from me.” Nevertheless, his final decision was to relent and surrender to the seemingly absurd and disastrous higher way with irreversible but eternal consequences as he said, “Nevertheless, let not my will be done but yours instead.” If he were to cross the narrow Kidron Brook, which separates the Garden from the city of Jerusalem, there would be no going back. It was the Rubicon of Jesus’ life: A destiny which would lead to profound and, at that time, incredible consequences for the lives of billions of people worldwide for the next two millennia. By this step one Jew would fulfill the calling of Abraham and his children to become a light to all nations, so that countless new people would share the same God and same Biblical path that, until then, only one nation had access to.


Today, a section of exposed limestone bedrock marks the spot traditionally held to be the place of Jesus’ deeply troubled prayer. It lays beneath the central apse of a church built by many of the nations whose religion and character were molded as a consequence of the person, the words, and the deeds of this one man Jesus, the Christ. The Basilica has twelve beautiful mosaic domes, tiled to evoke the heavens, one dome for each of the twelve main nations responsible for its construction. However, not limiting the scope of the devoted act of its construction, the structure is called the “Church of All Nations.” Outside, on its grounds stands the oldest surviving grove on the Mt. Of Olives, with some of the trees being hundreds (some would say, thousands!) of years old. Are these not the very trees, or at least the offspring of the very trees, among which Jesus and his disciples prayed that night? It is here where the pilgrim can come to participate meditatively in the event.

Tonight on Maundy Thursday or Holy Thursday, those of many nations conjoin for a moment of prayer and scripture reading. This is evident by the mix of languages, fashion, perfumes and demeanor. Around the rock, under the church’s central apse stands a circle of clergy, headed by Pierbatista Pizzaballa, the recently appointed Custos of the Franciscan order, who are the official custodians of the Christian holy sites in the Holy Land. With him are attendants and readers who are prepared to read and pray in seven languages: Arabic, Hebrew, Italian, English, German, French, and Spanish.

The church is filled to capacity with more than 900 local and international clergy, laity, and news media personnel looking on from seated (for those who came early enough to find a chair!) or standing positions. At least 150 more pilgrims crowd the steps outside.

Are they all connecting in? Of those inside, only a fraction have a view of the events around the rock. Many can only see the back of a column or the back of the person standing in front of them. With dozens of nations at hand, only a portion can understand even one of the speakers. Those outside can hardly hear what is being said inside. The barking dogs, the exhaust from the trucks and cars, and the stench of a blocked sewage line hardly seems noticeable. The melancholy whining of a peacock comes from an olive grove in the Kidron below separates the church from the wall of the ancient temple mount with the Golden Gate facing us above.

Some how each in their own way seems aware that they are participating in a once historical, and now timeless, event. We cannot question the pilgirim’s heart and whether there is a spiritual connection happening. We do not know to what extent there is actual participation or spiritual transformation in any given individual, and in what way this will influence their life in the future. But one thing is sure, this is a very personal quest, which can be observed in truth only by the all seeing eye of God, or perhaps the truth may be reflected in the tear that drops from the pilgrim’s eye.

The Garden of Gethsemane and the Church of All Nations are open to people of all faiths, Mondays-Saturdays, from 8:00 am to 12:00 p.m. and from 2:30 to 6:00 p.m. (2:30 to 5:00 September to March), free of charge.

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Cave 6Q on its own

Posted by shoshiepfann on March 21, 2008

Cave 6Q (a.k.a. Survey Cave-GQ 26 [olim D 14]) (map ref. 1932.1276)

M. BAILLET, J. T. MILIK AND R. DE VAUX, The ‘Small Caves of Qumran’, DJD III Texts (Oxford, 1962) pp. 10 and 26, as follows (translated from the French):

At the same time as cave 4Q or a little earlier, the Bedouins noticed and emptied a hole in the rock at the bottom of the cliff. This is north of the entrance to the gorge of Wady Qumran, below the path that runs along the ancient aqueduct and lower than the marl terrace, which is deeply eroded at this location. The Bedouin have produced a jar and a bowl and inscribed fragments the main part of the which was given to the Palestine Archeological Museum since September 13, 1952. However, since the deposit had been identified by us after those of 4Q and 5Q caves, this cave received the name "6Q". A search in the rubble of the illegal excavation provided some insignificant pieces of leather and papyrus. Because this cave is located in the rocky area , it was included in the inventory of the archaeological caves of the cliff, as No. 26, above, p. 10. The texts are published by M. Baillet, DJD III, pp. 105-41.

Profile of Paleographic dates for the 6Q manuscripts:


<>This collection of manuscripts mainly range from the early 1st cent BCE to mid 1st cent CE. (This is with the exception of 4 older, well kept? Biblical mss). ) Of special interest this collection is mainly papyrus (18 papyrus, 13 parchment}.

Altogether there were 31 Mss –6 to 9 Biblical (incl. 2 paleoHebrew: Gen & Leviticus), 1 Giants,; 2 Yahad/Sectarian: Damascus Document, Alegory of the Vine. Others, 1 apocryphon, 3 apocryphal Prophecies, 1 Sapiential or Hymnic?, 1 Calendar. (However, no Jubilees, no New Jerusalem).

Whose Library?

Cave 6Q contains books that typify it as a lay library. It contains the Damascus Document whose message is known to apply to lay members of the group. Cave 6Q has a poket megillah of the Song of Songs, which like other Biblical pocket scrolls (e.g., Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes) is associated with lay participation in one of the yearly festivals. It also has legendary texts/apocryphas which are often found in lay contexts, presumably since they bolster lay participation in the divine plan. The Book of Giants provides the story of the fall of the Angels, and all mankind, including lay people. (There are also no liturgical scrolls which would normally be connected with priestly libraries.)

Cave 6Q also contains no other doctrinal book but the Damascus Document which is patently linked to the Moreh HaTsedeq (Teacher of Rightousness). Thus Cave 6Q would best fit the profile of an Essene Library.

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