[Previous] [Next]

Scrolls From the Dead Sea:
The Ancient Library of Qumran and Modern Scholarship



These scroll fragments were displayed in the exhibit at the Library of Congress, May - August 1993. They were provided courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority. The exhibit captions and translations (below) provide background on the fragments and their relationships with the other Dead Sea Scrolls, the Qumran Community, and its Library.


The Damascus Document Scroll

The Damascus Document Scroll (black & white)
The Damascus Document Scroll (color)
Translation of the Damascus Document Scroll

Brit Damesek
Copied late first century B.C.E. 
Height 10.9 cm (4 1/4 in.), length 9.3 cm (3 5/8 in.)
Courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority (1)

The Damascus Document is a collection of rules and instructions reflecting the practices of a sectarian community. It includes two elements. The first is an admonition that implores the congregation to remain faithful to the covenant of those who retreated from Judea to the "Land of Damascus." The second lists statutes dealing with vows and oaths, the tribunal, witnesses and judges, purification of water, Sabbath laws, and ritual cleanliness. The right-hand margin is incomplete. The left-hand margin was sewn to another piece of parchment, as evidenced by the remaining stitches.

In 1896, noted Talmud scholar and educator Solomon Schechter discovered sectarian compositions which later were found to be medieval versions of the Damascus Document. Schechter's find in a synagogue storeroom near Cairo, almost fifty years before the Qumran discoveries, may be regarded as the true starting point of modern scroll research.


Baumgarten, J. "The Laws of the Damascus Document in Current Research." In The Damascus Document Reconsidered. Edited by M. Broshi. Jerusalem, 1992.

Rabin, C. The Zadokite Documents. Oxford, 1958.

Schechter, S. Fragments of a Zadokite Work: Documents of Jewish Sectaries, vol. 1. Cambridge, England, 1910.


The War Rule Scroll

The War Rule Scroll
Translation of the War Rule Scroll

Serekh ha-Milhamah
4Q285 (SM)
Copied early first century C.E.
Height 4 cm (1 1/2 in.), length 5 cm (2 in.)
Courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority (12)

This six-line fragment, commonly referred to as the "Pierced Messiah" text, is written in a Herodian script of the first half of the first century C.E. and refers to a Messiah from the Branch of David, to a judgement, and to a killing.

Hebrew is comprised primarily of consonants; vowels must be supplied by the reader. The appropriate vowels depend on the context. Thus, the text (line 4) may be translated as "and the Prince of the Congregation, the Branch of David, will kill him," or alternately read as "and they killed the Prince." Because of the second reading, the text was dubbed the "Pierced Messiah." The transcription and translation presented here support the "killing Messiah" interpretation, alluding to a triumphant Messiah (Isaiah 11:4).


Tabor, J. "A Pierced or Piercing Messiah?--The Verdict Is Still Out," Biblical Archaeology Review 18 (1992):58-59.

Vermes, G. "The Oxford Forum for Qumran Research: Seminar on the Rule of the War from Cave 4 (4Q285)," Journal of Jewish Studies 43 (Spring 1992):85-90.

Back to Contents