The Setting of the Mould: the connection between Cave 1 and Khirbet Qumran

In December 1951, four years after the discovery of Cave 1, Roland de Vaux connected its manuscript remains to the nearby site of Khirbet Qumran when he found one of the unique cylindrical jars, typical of Cave 1, embedded in the floor of the site.

The power of this suggestion was such that, from that point on, as each successive Judean Desert cave containing first century scrolls was discovered, they, too, were assumed to have originated from the site of Qumran. Excavations at the site of Qumran appeared to confirm the communal and religious nature of the inhabitants, with its revelation of numerous immersion pools, large community pantries, and abundant scribal implements, accompanied by a virtually all male cemetery. All of this was considered compelling evidence for connecting this site not only with the scrolls from the caves but also with the Essenes described by Josephus, Philo and Pliny the Elder.

For us scholars, Cave 1 was the pace setter. It became the cave against which every subsequently discovered cave was to be compared. But what if Cave 1 had not been the first to be discovered?

During the first three months of 1952 more scrolls were discovered in what are known now as Caves 2 and 3.

If these alone had been discovered:

1) these two caves, containing three pocket-sized megillot (lay pocket scrolls) between them and no liturgies (associated with priests), the manuscript collection would then have appeared to have more of a lay character than a priestly one.

2) With no scrolls that contained the key “Yahad” terms “Teacher of Righteousness”, “Wicked Priest”, “Man of Lies”, “Sons of Light”/”Sons of Darkness”, “El” (for God), “Belial” (for “Satan”) etc., these cave would have a rather unremarkable character (with the exception of the Copper Scroll).

3) No case could have been made for these caves to be connected with the Essenes of Philo, Josephus and Pliny the Elder.


Cave 2Q at the top

Cave 2 produced more than 30 mss. Notably more than half were Biblical books including, surprisingly, 2 megillot of the Book of Ruth. And, as we shall see, like Cave 11 and Masada, it contained significant parts of Ben Sira. Nothing, however, seemed out of the ordinary except that no Yahad documents were found there. The scrolls of that cave merely added to the expanding library.


Outside Cave 3Q

Cave 3, with only 15 identifiable scrolls, provided various Biblical Books, in particular a megilla of Lamentations. Although there were no obvious scrolls of the Yahad, there was what appeared to be the beginning of a commentary on the book of Isaiah, which was enough to convince many that this was another pesher on the prophets, and the Book of Jubilees, creating a direct link to Cave 1. In addition, Cave 3 contained an odd copper treasure map whose contents would remain concealed for several years.

We still had no compelling reason to believe anything other than that the scrolls from all three caves were somehow closely linked, with the unusual scrolls being simply anomalies which would serve to further enlighten us on the character of the group (and not yet groups who produced them.)

Six months later, the relative scarcity of links between these two cave with respect to the Yahad, was soon dismissed with the discovery of four additional caves which provided strong links with Cave 1 and the Yahad

Caves 4, 5, 6….

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