This file should eventually contain a list of all the known manuscripts from the eleven original caves excavated at Qumran and about which information is presently available. The list has been compiled from three readily available paperback sources 1, 2, 3. (see the Abbreviations and Sigla page for more information about the numerous abbreviations used at this site and in the Qumran and scroll literature, more generally. See the Glossary page for definitions of most of the more obscure terms used at this site and in the Qumran and scroll literature, more generally.) The other references most frequently cited here are from the serial work in progress Discoveries in the Judaean Desert (of Jordan) (Oxford; Clarendon Press, 1955-), the individual numbers of which are designated herein as DJD I, DJD II, DJD III, etc.
Check the Bibliography for an extensive list of relevant references, including all those consulted while constructing this web site.
The series numbers, names and official abbreviations assigned to the various manuscripts have been changed in the past and may be changed in the future. They remain under the control, primarily, of the Israel Antiquities Authority and the various editors selected to publish the official editions of the scholarly work on the scrolls. These definitive sources should be consulted by anyone working seriously in this field. This list is intended mostly to satisfy amateur scholars, like me, who are very curious but still have a lot to learn.
The state of preservation of the manuscripts varies from almost complete to almost non-existent. Many of the manuscripts are made up of more than one fragment. Once the fragments had been reassembled into manuscripts, each manuscript was given the series designation provided in this list. Some manuscripts consist of a single small fragment. Others contain nearly the entire text of the original. Many unclassified fragments remain unidentified; neither a part of one of the larger scrolls nor a part of any known text. These fragments were each assigned their own unique series designations.
(In general, the task has been to assemble smaller fragments into larger fragments wherever joins can be identified. The jigsaw puzzle aspect of the assembly ends when all the available joins have been identified. The assembled larger fragments have typically been collected together based on other evidence into larger manuscripts even when no common joins existed. Such evidence includes language, letter shapes, spacing between rows and columns, widths of the columns, the color of the scroll material, the nature of the damage to the scroll material, the nature of the text [especially if it is from a known text for which a more complete version exists, etc.] Some of this is straightforward and some of it is not. There is the chance that future scholarship will force a revision in some of these assignments, however, everyone seems to agree that the job done to date was done very thoroughly and with a high degree of care, skill and precision.)
Some of these manuscripts are copies of the same, or nearly the same text. Each manuscript copy received its own distinct series designation. But for many of these copies the same official abbreviations and/or names are often used. To distinguish among the copies, superscript letters are often used when referring to them by name.
Most of the early manuscripts and a high percentage of the Cave 4 manuscripts were not acquired through personal excavation by the official archaeological expeditions. They were purchased from the Bedouin who found them. The buyers were primarily the representatives of Jordan and Israel. This makes it impossible to assign specific fragments and documents to specific caves with complete confidence (chain of custody and provenance are undocumented). It is not even entirely certain that all manuscripts discovered by the Bedouin have been accounted for. Comments about the distribution of documents among the various caves and discussions of why certain manuscripts were stored in certain caves must include the implicit proviso that it is all subject to change should more data or manuscripts become available. (Note that finding a fragment of a purchased manuscript in one cave does not necessarily prove, only improves the likelihood, that the purchased manuscript was originally taken from that same cave.)
Initially, de Vaux and Milik divided the texts into biblical (included in the Hebrew Bible) and non-biblical categories before parsing them among the members of the editorial group. The following superscripts are used here to identify individual manuscripts in each category according to that original classification:1
The term "non-biblical" should not be understood as non-religious. Almost all the works in the Qumran library are religious in some sense. "Non-biblical" simply means not currently part of the accepted Jewish Canon. In other words, these are among the texts that did not make it into the Bible.
Over time the editors have occasionally chosen to renumber and rename certain of the manuscripts. This seems to have been due in part to their evolving understanding of how the fragments and manuscripts fit together. Furthermore, not all scholars who have studied the texts agree on how each of them should be reassembled from the available fragments. For these, and perhaps other, reasons, there are occasional missing numbers.
It is important to remember that these series designations are intended to refer to individual manuscripts. There are many techniques that can be used to determine if two fragments of one text are from the same or separate manuscripts. These include the color and texture of the parchment or papyrus on which it is written, and the handwriting, language and idiomatic usages of the scribe(s) who wrote it (them). It should be obvious that if even a single part of the two fragments overlap, then two separate manuscripts are, almost certainly, required.
On the other hand, many fragments with no overlaps and no contiguous edges with the other fragments, have been assigned to specific larger documents. The techniques used in making these assignments are not infallible, and it is always possible that future scholarship and/or investigative techniques will require reassignment of some fragments.
Manuscripts or fragments, now numbered separately, may turn out to be parts of other numbered manuscripts. While most of the details of this jigsaw puzzle were worked out long ago, it is still possible that some of the unidentified individual fragments, currently carrying their own unique manuscript designations, may yet be identified and, possibly, incorporated into other manuscripts. This would possibly create additional gaps in the series numbering. It is also possible that a fragment now assigned to one document might turn out to be part of another copy of the same text or even part of an unrelated text. Such a fragment could, in the latter case, require its own new number.
The biblical and non-biblical texts are intermixed here in the order of their current numerical series designations. In general, the biblical manuscripts have lower numbers than the non-biblical manuscripts, but not always. I have, after the example of F. García Martínez1, appended to the numerical series designation, the official abbreviation (in parentheses), and one or more commonly used titles. Manuscripts with non-numerical official designations (such as the first seven manuscripts) appear at the beginning of the list for the appropriate cave (Cave 1 for those first seven manuscripts).
Some famous or notorious manuscripts have become better known by their official abbreviations or one of the common names than by their numerical series designation. These I have also chosen to list at the beginning of the entries for the appropriate caves. Note that those entries appear again in their numerical sequence in the list of the cave's manuscripts ONLY to refer you back to the beginning of the list. The intent is that each individual manuscript should have only one entry in the list. Putting well known named manuscripts at the beginning of each Cave's list merely speeds up the process of checking on certain specific manuscript references.
In a few special cases, one manuscript consumes two numerical series designations. This occurred because parts of the manuscript ended up in Israel and part of it ended up in the Rockefeller Museum basement in East Jerusalem. Given the temper of the times and of some of the individuals involved, there was no way to reunite the separate parts. Today, it should be possible, but there are no signs that such reunions have actually occurred under the auspices of the Israel Antiquities Authority.
Two non-Qumran manuscripts are also listed here because they are so closely related to the various copies of the Damascus Document (4QD) discovered in Cave 4; fragments of this document have also been discovered in other caves at Qumran. These two non-Qumran manuscripts are copies of the Damascus Document discovered in the Cairo Genizah (the CD-A and CD-B documents). These manuscripts along with copies from Qumran Cave 4 are all listed together at the beginning of the Cave 4 list. Other fragments, presumably from separate copies, of the Damascus Document found in other caves are also listed at the beginning of the lists for their appropriate caves.
An original DJD reference, or an alternate reference, for each manuscript is usually provided, along with a brief description or identification of its contents, as currently understood. See F. García Martínez1, R. Eisenman and M. Wise2, and Geza Vermes3 for more complete sets of references and descriptions.
The biblical texts have not, so far as I know, ever been considered controversial. They were to a large extent translated and published early. They are of interest to many biblical scholars, not least because they offer insights into the evolution of Old Testament scriptures. Copying errors, misunderstandings, redactions, insertions (glosses), and biblical commentaries, among other effects, have all served to modify these texts over time.
These changes are of undoubted interest to scholars whose research focuses the evolution of such biblical texts prior to the time they were edited into their final forms in the modern Christian and Jewish Canons. This work has a long history, and unlike scholars interested in the non-biblical texts, biblical scholars were not unduly hindered in their investigations of the Dead Sea Scrolls by the inactions of some of the original editors.
Until recently most of the non-biblical texts have been only partially published or not published at all. These texts are potentially more interesting than the biblical texts, in part, because they are among the lost religious texts of the intertestamental period. What is even more interesting, they were lost without leaving us any trace that they ever existed; at least, not until the late 1940's.
As the Damascus Document discoveries in the Cairo Genizah demonstrate, however, some of these may have been lost more recently than might be suspected. Still, it is always most interesting to stumble across the totally unexpected. The newly won availability of these texts now offers scholars an opportunity to start digging for the surprises.
English translations of most of the non-biblical texts from Qumran have recently become available in economical paperback editions suitable for general readership. The paperback edition containing the earliest widely available English translation(s) for individual scrolls is indicated using superscripts to provide the source and page numbers as follows:
1 [pp] F. García
Martínez, The Dead Sea Scrolls Translated - The
Qumran Texts in English, 2nd ed., trans. W. G. E. Watson,
(Leiden; E. J. Brill, 1995).
(This is the most extensive translation of the 270 most important non-biblical texts available into English. Its major shortcoming is the limited amount of discussion provided for the texts; although this is scheduled to be rectified in a companion volume due out soon, we are assured.)
(I have corrected a small number of typographical errors while examining specific entries from the otherwise excellent list of manuscripts provided at the end of this work. These have been primarily numerical errors in page or volume numbers and, occasionally, in the series number of a specific manuscript. I expect that these will be corrected in a later edition, but in the interim, the corrected entries are available here . These small errors do not detract in any way from the overall stunning impact of the translations themselves.)
2 [pp] R. Eisenman and M. Wise,
Dead Sea Scrolls Uncovered,
(New York; Penguin, 1993).
3 [pp] Geza Vermes,
Dead Sea Scrolls in English -
Revised and Extended Fourth Edition,
(London; Penguin, 1995).
(It has a most instructive introductory section including a history of the entire scroll fiasco and interesting reportage about most of the principle players. It is not as forthcoming about Professor Vermes own role in most of that history, but other sources can be consulted for those details. It is worth having just for the introduction.)
(It also has some commentary about the texts that it covers, but this is hardly extensive. It includes seemingly all of the largest extant manuscripts and as such is a worthy acquisition. It is also interesting to compare, where possible, these translations with those of F. García Martínez. The later it should be remembered, were first translated into Spanish and then into English by Wilfred G. E, Watson. This might be expected to produce some interesting differences in the final texts.)
- 1QapGen, 1QHab, 1QH, 1QIsa, 1QIsb, 1QM, 1QS, 1Q1-1Q27 and 1Q28a-1Q72
- Copper Scroll and 3Q1-3Q14
- (under construction)
- 6Q1-6Q4 and 6Q6-6Q31
- A single unidentified papyrus fragment
- A single ostracon