If we would allow Cave 2 to speak for itself …

Cave 2 (2Q; a.k.a. Survey Cave 19) (map ref. 1933.1284)

In February of 1952 Bedouin discovered that this cave contained numerous scroll fragments and offered them for sale. At that time deVaux was excavating the caves at Wadi Murabba‘at and was notified that a new cave was discovered “in the vicinity of the first cave” at Qumran. The Bedouin, realizing by now that even the smallest manuscript fragment might be valuable, left nothing but pieces of 3 jars for deVaux and his team to find when they arrived at the cave. The scroll fragments that the Bedouin discovered were fewer than in the first cave (1Q) and no complete scrolls were found. However it was the discovery of this new cave that alerted the authorities to the possibility that more caves containing manuscripts might exist in the cliffs of the Qumran area. This led to the cave survey of March 1952. Thirty-three manuscripts were recovered from cave 2Q. These include: 17 Biblical (incl. 1 paleoHebrew: Leviticus), 0 phylactery, 1 Ben Sira, 2 Jubilees, 1 Giants, 1 New Jerusalem; 0 Yahad/Sectarian. Others, 2 apocryphons, 1 apocryphal Prophecy, 0 Calendar; 1 Juridical text (7 poorly defined); (PAM 40.553-558; 639-641; 41.390-391; 42.554-555, 595, 948, 952, 954, 957-960, 964-965; 43.755).

Paleographic history of the 2Q collection:


The paleographic dates of this library range from c125 BCE to c70 CE. The prime period of collecting ranges from 50 BCE to 50 CE with spikes at two points. There is a general consistency in scribal technique and material found among the manuscripts of this cave that would support the view of a rather consistent care in building this library over time, more so than in many of the other caves. (This type of consistency is only more pronounced among the manuscripts of cave 11Q, however, in that case, the period of collecting was much shorter.)

Remarkable characteristics of the collection:

Of special interest is that all were of parchment (no papyrus). Of 25 definable mss 17 are of Biblical books. This is by far, the highest percentage (68%) of Biblical manuscripts from any of the caves. As in other caves, the Books of Moses are present but there are twelve copies of the five books which represents nearly half of all definable manuscripts. Of the Prophets only Jeremiah was found. Of the writings: the Psalms, Job and two copies of the Book of Ruth were found. In common with other caves the ever popular trio, Jubilees (2 copies), Giants and New Jerusalem was present.

However there are a number of distinctive traits:

It is notable that the cave contained no sectarian documents, no liturgies and no rule books. Of the four copies of the Book of Ruth extant at Qumran two of these were found in this cave. (These are pocket scrolls “megillot“, 7 to 10 lines per column, carried and read by lay people during festivals.) This may underly a more non priestly nature of the group that hid the scrolls where apocryphal stories or legends are retold. The Davidic dynasty is upheld (apocryphon of David). The fact that the Messianic line’s progenitoress was a gentile woman was not considered scandalous but was rather confirmed by the 2 copies of the Book of Ruth. The solar calendar that unites the other caves was not found. On the contrary, in this cave was found the only copy of the book of Ben Sirah from the caves of Qumran, a text that upholds the lunar calendar.

If anything can be gained from studying the prophetic materials of the cave, a prophetic apocryphon was found. This, along with the book of Jeremiah, a prophet and priest of the disenfranchised family of Abiathar, could, not unlike other movements of the time, support the leanings of a counter movement to the administration and temple authorities in Jerusalem.


Whose “library”?

Is there a first century group that best suits the contents of this collection or library? This is perhaps the least idiosyncratic of all of the caves and sites producing scrolls from the Judean Desert. However, after a process of elimination, there is one group in particular that this fragmentary library seems to best fit based upon the following features: 1) It should be a sufficiently large group which harbours a strong ideology. 2) probably not Essene/Yahad sectarians since no such scrolls were found (on the contrary Ben Sira was found). 2) Not likely the Sicarii since after 66 they were limited to Masada. 3) Not John of Gischala since he was limited to Jerusalem after his arrival in 67. 4) Not the Zealots since they were limited to the Jerusalem temple until 70. However, by default, it could potentially suit a group like that of Simon Bar Giora which had 1) a strong Biblically based ideology 2) his group spread throughout the Judean wilderness according to Josephus (especially in adjacent Acrabatene) to the north of Qumran 3) library contains books fitting for a lay movement (legendary texts including parts of Ben Sira and no priestly themes) 4) with potentially lay and proselyte background (two pocket copies, megillot, of the Book of Ruth); N.B.,the name “bar Giora” literally means “son of a proselyte” 5) Davidic themes as this Shimon was likened to by Josephus (David apocryphon? and Ruth).

Based upon these features, as limited in scope as they are, I would tentatively put forward a group like, or to be identified with, that of Simon bar Giora’s. The time of the collection’s deposition might then coincide with the abandonment and destruction of the site of Qumran by rebels during the summer of 68. About which read the new Encyclopedia Judaica article on “Qumran”:

“Period IIb: During the last years of Period II (ca. 66–68 CE), during a period of social upheaval, political strife and war, Qumran was taken over by another group, likely revolutionaries. Hoards of Revolt coins, stoneware, new pottery forms (differing in form and proportions from the communal pantries of loci 89 and 114), and light weapons (including knives and arrow heads) were recovered from this period, which preceded the Roman occupation of the site.”

Excavation: March 12-14, 1952. Final excavation report: de Vaux, DJD III, pp. 10-12.

Objects of cave 2Q: Only broken fragments of Qumran type pottery, including jars, were found but in the dumps of the clandestine diggers. Textiles: none were recorded (in spite of suggestions otherwise). Manuscripts: 33 Mss – [NB, all parchment; of 25 definable mss 17 are Biblical but no sectarian documents; Ben Sira & 2 Ruth]

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