The Department of Old Testament and Hebrew Scriptures in the Faculty of Theology and Religion hosted an international virtual Qumran conference between 11 and 13 May 2021. Qumran Studies are still scarce in South Africa and this was the first time that the Dead Sea Scrolls received exclusive attention in an international conference at the University of Pretoria; it was also the first exclusively international Qumran conference hosted from South Africa.
The theme of this conference was ‘The Origin of the Sectarian Movement in the Dead Sea Scrolls’. This is a much-debated topic that led to a lively conversation. The renowned archaeologist, William Albright, said in 1948 after the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in Israel in 1947 that the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls was the most important archaeological find in our time. More than 900 manuscripts (including variants of the same document, and many fragments) relating to 445 different literary compositions, were found, most of which are in Hebrew and some in Aramaic. It was discovered in eleven caves near Qumran between 1947 and 1956. Most manuscripts came from Cave 4. Except for the Book of Esther, at least one copy of each of the books of the traditional Hebrew canon was found among these manuscripts. The scrolls contain religious manifests, manual of Jewish rules, communal regulations, and biblical exegetical writings.
Prof John J. Collins, the Holmes Professor of Old Testament Criticism and Interpretation at Yale Divinity School, who is appointed as an honorary professor at the University of Pretoria in the Faculty of Theology and Religion, Department of Old Testament and Hebrew Scriptures, was the co-host of the conference with Prof Ananda Geyser-Fouche. Prof Collins is a world-renowned Qumran scholar and his research focuses on Apocalyptic Literature and Old Testament criticism.
Qumran studies contribute immensely to the understanding of early Judaism. These studies provide the source of important information regarding the different sects that existed in Israel, also during the time of Jesus, as there are many references to the Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes, and Zadokites. The Dead Sea Scrolls contribute to our understanding of the canonical and deutero-canonical gospels and enhance our understanding of quotes from the Hebrew Scriptures in the New Testament, some of which were previously inexplicable.
This conference was an excellent opportunity for internationalisation. More than a hundred persons attended this conference virtually, which included esteemed and renowned international scholars like Profs George Brooke, Eileen Schuller, Albert Baumgarten, Carol Newsom, Juta Jokiranta, David Hamidovic, Kenneth Atkinson, Jean Duhaime, Jonathan Ben-Dov, Henryk Drawnel, Bill Schniedewind, Alexander Rofe, Rob Kugler, Gert Steyn, Marcello Fidanzio, Fabry Heinz-Josef, and Jörg Frey, to name but a few.
Esteemed international Dead Sea Scrolls’ scholars also participated in this conference. They were inter alia Prof Esther Chazon (Associate Professor of Hebrew Literature and Director of the Orion Center for the Study of the Dead Sea Scrolls & Associated Literature at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem), Prof Charlotte Hempel (Professor of Hebrew Bible and Second Temple Judaism and Head of the School of Philosophy, Theology and Religion at the University of Birmingham, UK), and Prof Timothy Lim (Professor of Hebrew Bible & Second Temple Judaism at the University of Edinburgh).
Other international scholars were participants from the USA, UK, Switzerland, Israel, Malta, the Netherlands and Australia, which included specialists in the Scrolls, in Second Temple Judaism and literature, but also in archaeology and curating.
There were national scholars from the University of the Free State, the University of North West and from our own university.
Eighteen papers were delivered during the Qumran conference and the reaction was astonishing. The programme with the titles of the presentations, as well as links to the recordings are listed hereunder:
11 May 2021 Sectarian Formation
Link to recording
The debate on the Sectarian movement in the Dead Sea Scrolls: An Overview
4QMMT between D and S
Was the Calendar a Cornerstone in the Sectarian Disputes?
Compassion, righteousness, and truth at Qumran: 4QTobit aramaic and 4Q Songs of the Sabbath Sacrifice
The Transmission of Greek Translations in Judea and the Origin of the Qumran Sectarian Movement
Community Formation in the Dead Sea Scrolls: Beyond the Watershed Paradigm
12 May 2021 Pesher Habakkuk
Link to recording
Why did Paul cite Hab 2:4b
The Wicked Priest and the Romans: Reading Pesher Habakkuk as a Unified Text
Retelling the Past, Reimagining the Future: Perspectives from the Pesher Habakkuk (1QpHab)
12 May 2021 The Teacher
Link to recording
“Look Who’s Talking: Reconsidering the Speaker in the ‘Teacher Hymns’”
The Persona of the Teacher and the Mediatorial Framework of 1QHa 12:6–30
The Teacher of Righteousness Revisited
13 May 2021 Sectarian/non-sectarian, DSS Language and Archaeology
Link to recording
The Origins of Sectarian Boundary Marking and the ‘Shifters of the Boundary’: The Damascus Document and Cultural Memory
Sectarian and Non-sectarian Literature: What Does It Mean and How Does this Distinction Work Today? With a Short Case Study on the Songs of the Sabbath Sacrifice
“Sectarian or Not – What is the Question?”
Cynthia Miller-Naude & Jacobus Naude
Qumran Hebrew and the Diachrony of Quantification: Implications for the Linguistic History of the Qumran Community
Unfortunately, this session was recorded with the next session – ends at 42.25minutes
Hannes van Deventer
Purity and the Sabbath: A Spatial reading of the Damascus Document
Unfortunately, this session was recorded with the previous session – starts at 42.30minutes
Qumran in the Late Hellenistic Period: An Archaeological Reassessment
Wrap-up and Closing
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