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Introduction to the Glossary of Terms

Go to Glossary

Quick Index

A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, L, M, N, O, P, Q, R, S, T, U, V, W, XYZ,

This Glossary contains specialized terms for both scroll scholarship and Eastern Mediterranean archaeology. Its technical contents are based on at least four specific sources (I have rewritten and reinterpreted the information in these sources as I deemed necessary. Any errors I have introduced into these definitions are my own and the authors listed here bear no responsibility for my errors.);

1) The Glossary available in the on-line exhibit of the Dead Sea Scrolls sponsored by the Library of Congress. (LoC Glossary on-line–the Library of Congress’ contribution is limited to artifacts and topics covered in the exhibit it hosted for the Israel Antiquities Authority.) For a criticique of this exhibition by a well respected scroll scholar with no connection to the Israel Antiquities Authority or the current International Team of Editors, see Norman Golb’s Letter, dated January 14, 1994, to Ms. Melissa Leventon, the Curator of the Exhibit, and Mr. Harry S. Parker III, the Director of the de Young Museum in San Francisco, the third stop on the Exhibit’s United States tour. The letter was reprinted in The Aspin Institute Quarterly, v6#2 (Spring 1994) pp 79-98.]

2) Norman Golb, “Who Wrote the Dead Scrolls? The Search for the Secret of Qumran” (New York; Touchstone, 1995). (His Glossary is very comprehensive in its coverage of numerous terms relevant to broad aspects of Judaism and the specialized language of scroll scholarship, in general, as well as to Dead Sea Scroll scholarship, in particular.)

3) W. Harold Mare, “The Archaeology of the Jerusalem Area” (Grand Rapids, 1987), which contains a good sampling of the specialized archaeological terminology applicable to sites in the Eastern Mediterranean dating to the Old Testament and intertestamental periods.

4) Josephus, “The Jewish War”, G. A. Williamson (trans. 1959 & 1970), E. Mary Smallwood (revised with a new introduction, notes and appendixes) (London; Penguin, 1981).

In addition I have liberally interpreted information from a variety of sources to create new entries for this glossary. These are simply my own first attempts to catalog an evolving understanding of the underlying topic. All of it is subject to change without notice, of course. None of these authors are in any way responsible for my own additions, omissions, and errors or for my inability to understand their meaning or the contents of their works. Constructing this Glossary was one of the simpler exercises which I felt was necessary in order to make any headway along the steep learning curve for this topic. I still refer to it often and continue to find it useful on a regular basis.

Note: There is another interesting glossary on the University of Notre Dame web site constructed by Notre Dame undergraduates. While I have not consulted this glossary very often, and many of its entries are not strictly within the limits set for this site, it may well be of interest to those interested in biblical history from a christian perspective.

The Intertestamental Period

Go to Glossary

The period 200 BC to 200 CE was a time of history-making changes in Jewish culture and religious and political philosophy. It also harbors the beginnings of the development of Christian philosophy, culture and beliefs. For these reasons events of that period still exerts considerable influence on large segments of Western philosophy and culture today. That is what makes it such an interesting period to study. The relative dearth of original documents from Palestine during that period is what gives the Dead Sea Scrolls, in particular, their special allure. They are also fascinating and important documents from a period that offers too few original documents to satisfy the curiosity of a growing audience of scholars and non-specialists interested in pre-Christian and pre-Rabbinic religion and religious practice of Palestine.

The Dead Sea Scrolls deserve a careful and dispassionate preservation, reconstruction and analysis. Nothing less will satisfy the demands of the diverse interests that seek to examine and understand their contents.

This Glossary includes a wide assortment of terms, references to locations, documents, and books to enable everyone interested in probing the messages and meanings of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

One clear message from the Dead Sea Scrolls is that we have not had a sufficient understanding of the diversity of the currents in religious philosophy that were influencing the daily lives of the citizenry at that time. Contemporary but distant historians writing primarily for a Roman audience had not sufficiently prepared the world’s scholars for the diversity of the ideas and beliefs described in the Dead Sea Scrolls. About one-third of the scrolls seem to have left no other trace of themselves in the historical record and except for this amazing find would still not be known to this day.

The mythic simplicity of most biblical stories has disconnected the Old and New Testaments from the historical events that were known to have taken place in Jerusalem and elsewhere in the region during that time. This makes the Bible an unreliable historical document if one is looking for the roots of Rabbinic Judaism or early Christianity in previously known histories of the period.

It remains to be seen if any of the Dead Sea Scrolls will shed new light of those historical roots. It is already certain that they shed new light on the evolution of Jewish thought and religious practices that preceded the Christian era. In that sense they already provide some insight into the turmoil the eventually produced the early Christian Church. For the same reasons, they should also provide fresh insights into the evolution of Rabbinic Judaism which emerged alongside the Christian Church over several centuries.

In order to use the Dead Sea Scrolls as fruitfully as possible it is first necessary to recognize what they are and what they are not. The shear number of separate scrolls, the diversity of their handwriting, the variety of their philosophies, the complete lack of original autographs (deeds of ownership, correspondence, first hand commentaries by the original author, etc.), and the philosophical incompatibilities among some of the manuscripts all make it seem highly unlikely that these are the exclusive works of one small group of sectarian scribes working in the desert in total isolation from the majority of Jews living in Judaea at that time. Not impossible, just unlikely.

On the other hand, there are many reasons to reasonably suppose that these are not part of the collected works of the Temple. Individual priests and citizens of Jerusalem could possibly have contributed various parts of this library. Manuscripts could have to have been removed from the city and stored in the desert prior to the sack of the city by the Roman Army in 70 CE. This presupposes that Qumran was not taken by the Roman Army until after the fall of Jerusalem, of course. Hiding scrolls in caves in the desert has a long and distinguished history. Origen puts one find (”with other Hebrew and Greek books in a jar near Jericho.”), which he personally examined, between 211 and 217 CE. Clearly, scrolls have been found in caves since at least the third century CE and others have even been discovered since the Dead Sea Scrolls were themselves first announced. There is no reason to assume that this one group of caves holds all the scrolls that were saved from the Roman army during the first Jewish revolt against Rome.

The Dead Sea Scrolls are to be seen as a subset of the collective library of Jewish religious, cultural and philosophical writings extant at the time of the First Jewish Revolt in and around Jerusalem. Only after that is finally understood will we be able to make any worthwhile progress toward sorting out what, if anything, they can tell us about the division of first century Judaism into its Christian and Rabbinic successors. That is a story that many people are waiting to hear.

This Glossary of Terms has been assembled to assist me, and anyone who is interested, in tracing two of the Worlds most influential modern religions to their Biblical roots. Because many of the Dead Sea Scrolls, especially the so-called non-biblical manuscripts, have avoided the intermediate redactors, they are as direct a communication from the intertestamental period as we are likely to get. As such, their importance is difficult to overstate. On the other hand, it is important to consider both the words and the source before attempting to read too much into their messages. This is the point of contention that has developed over what to make of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Who wrote them, why and when are questions that need to be definitively answered before their impact can be fully gauged or appreciated.

——————————————————————————–

Glossary of Terms

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Quick Index

A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, L, M, N, O, P, Q, R, S, T, U, V, W, XYZ,

- A -

Aaronites, Aaronic priests

Males descended from Aaron, the brother of Moses. According to the Pentateuch, only male descendents of Aaron were entitled to the status of kehunah, i.e., members of the Jewish ritual priesthood.

Acts of the Apostles

Sometimes called the fifth Gospel. Thought to have been composed by Luke, a physician and friend of Paul (Saul of Tarsus).

ancient manuscripts, other notable

Collections of Greek papyri found in Egypt over the last two centuries, over fifteen hundred Greek and Latin scrolls buried under the lava in a private villa in Herculaneum (18th century) , the Coptic Gnostic manuscripts from Nag Hammadi (Chenoboskia) in upper Egypt (1945), the Aramaic records of the Judaean military colony on the island of Elephantine, also in upper Egypt, dating from the sixth and fifth centuries BCE (1906), the Cairo Genizah texts consisting of thousands of literary and documentary texts from many lands and stored in the attic of the Palestinian synagogue of Fustat (Old Cairo). Despite their intrinsic importance none of these collections has generated the level of interest created by the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls. The reason is obviously the relationship in time of these documents to the beginnings of the earliest Christian church as well as the beginnings of Rabbinic Judaism, the two major religious underpinnings of western civilization.

Apocrypha

and

Missing Books of the Bible

Missing Books listed among the Apocrypha

There are many books mentioned in the Bible which are not found in the current biblical canon. Some of them are known in various languages and versions today, but most are not. They are usually classed with the Apocrypha, implying that they were written by someone pretending to be the ancient and more famous author of the title. The adopted persona was intended to add authority to the text. It is not clear that such was always the case. Early Church councils were clearly interested in clarifying and systematizing the Biblical Canon. That meant removing any untidy or inconsistent writings which contradicted any of the more prestegious books, which clearly could not be removed from the Bible or significantly emended.

Among the extra-Biblical Books included among the Apocrypha, along with the relevant references, are the following:

The Book of the Covenant (Ex. 24:7);

The Book of the Wars of the Lord (Num. 21: 14);

THe Book of Jasher (Josh. 10: 13);

The Book of the Statutes (1 Sam. 10:25);

The Book of Enoch (Jude 14);

The Book of the Acts of Solomon (1 Kgs. 11:41);

The Book of Nathan the Prophet (1 Chr. 29:29);

The Book of Gad the Seer (1 Chr. 29:29);

The Book of Ahijah the Shilonite (2 Chr. 9:29)

Visions of Iddo the Seer (2 Chr. 9:29);

The Book of Shemaiah (2 Chr. 12:15);

The Story of the Prophet Iddo (2 Chr. 13:22);

The Book of Jehu (2 Chr. 20:34);

Acts of Uzziah, by Isaiah, the son of Amoz (2 Chr. 26:22);

Sayings of the Seers (2 Chr. 33:19);

a missing epistle of Paul to the Corinthians (1 Cor. 5:9);

a missing epistle to the Ephesians (Eph. 3:3);

a missing epistle to the Colossians, written from Laodicea (Col. 4:16);

a missing epistle of Jude (Jude 3).

——————————————————————————–

The Apocrypha Defined

The Apocrypha is a name applied to one or more books missing from the Hebrew scriptural canon. The Greek version of the canon of early Christianity, however, has some of these “extra-biblical” books in it. Apocrypha is applied to all quasi-scriptural books which are excluded from Holy Writ. For Protestants, Apocrypha refers specifically to those fourteen books included in the Septuagint (Greek canon), the Bible of the early Christian church, but excluded from the Hebrew canon. The name Apocrypha was given to these books by St. Jerome, whose Latin version of the Bible is known as the Vulgate.

The Apocrypha has been part of English Bibles since 1382. They were also included in the King James Version of 1611. The Septuagint (Greek version of the Jewish Bible), contained these books, and from the Septuagint they found their way into the Latin Vulgate of St. Jerome.

Catholics gave the name of Apocrypha to all books of uncertain date and unknown authorship. Some of the books exist only in fragments, and some have entirely disappeared and are known only through references in other works.

Among the Old Testament Apocrypha are included:

The Sibylline Books,

The Book of Moses

The Book of Enoch,

From the account in the Book of Moses, Enoch performed one of the greatest and most spectacular works of any prophet. (Moses 6; 7.) How much the Book of Enoch contains about his teachings no one knows. It appears from Paul’s writings that he had information about Enoch which is not contained in the Old Testament as that document appears today (Heb. 11:5.). Jude recorded in his epistle a prophecy made by Enoch, thus indicating that some of Enoch’s writings may have been extant in New Testament times. (Jude 14:15.)

The Assumption of Moses,

The Syriac Apocalypse of Baruch,

The Greek Apocalypse of Baruch,

The Book of Jubilees,

The Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs,

The Martyrdom of Isaiah,

The Testament of Job, and some writings about Adam and Eve, etc.

Among the New Testament Apocrypha are a number of gospels, including

The Gospel of Nicodemus,

The Gospel of Thomas,

The Gospel of Phillip

The Protevangel of James,

The Gospel According to the Egyptians,

The Gospel According to the Hebrews;

Acts, including those of

John,

Thomas, and

Paul,

the Didache, books on the teachings of the Twelve Apostles;

various epistles ascribed to

Clement,

Ignatius,

Polycarp,

Paul, and others;

a large body of apocalyptic writings, including:

the Christian portions of the Sibylline Books,

The Shepherd of Hermas,

The Apocalypse of Peter,

The Apocalypse of Paul, and

The Testament of Abraham.

AD

Anno Domini, “year of our Lord”; indicates that a time division falls within the Christian era; same as CE.

apocalyptic

Literature, and associated beliefs, revealing the future, particularly the “End of Days” as revealed in visions, dreams and interpretations; often revealed by angels. See also eschatology.

Apocrypha

Books by, primarily, Jewish authors written between 150 BCE and 100 CE, included in the Septuagint and Vulgate but excluded from Jewish and Protestant canons of the Old Testament. For Catholics the word has a much broader meaning to include all extra biblical books of unknown authorship.

Aramaic

A northwest Semitic language known since before the tenth century BCE until the rise of Islam; still used today in some places in the Near East; official language of the Persian empire; used extensively in southwest Asia and by the Jews after the Babylonian exile; the cursive script replaced the ancient paleo-Hebrew script for secular writing as well as for holy scriptures. One of the languages most widely used by the Jews at the time the scrolls were written or transcribed or translated.

autograph

A text written by its original author in his own hand, as opposed to a copy, or transcription made later by someone else. Top of Page

Quick Index

- B -

Babylonian captivity

The period of the destruction of the First Temple and exile of the Judaeans to Babylonia between 597 BCE (the fall of King Jehoiachin) and 538 BCE.

baroque

When referring to an orthography, a revival of an outdated style. Instances of barogue orthography must be carefully distinguished from authentic old style othography, especially if one is trying to data manuscripts paleographically.

BC

Before Christ; indicates that a time division that falls before the Christian era; same as BCE.

BCE

Before the Common Era; indicates that a time division falls before the Common/Christian era; same as BC.

Belial

The spirit of evil, equivalent to Satan.

Bethlehem

Home of Khalil Iskander Shahin (Kando), among others. Reputed birth place of Jesus.

Boethusians

A Jewish sect that opposed the Pharisees; sometimes identifies as a group of Sadducees. A recent review holds that the Hebrew term bytwsyn, bytysyn, traditionally rendered as “Boethusians,” in reality were slightly altered forms of byt ‘ysin “House [='school or 'community'] of Essenes.” Top of Page

Quick Index

- C –

Cairo Genizah manuscripts



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