Translating the Dead Sea Scrolls

Have you every wondered what is involved with translating the Dead Sea Scrolls (aka Qumran)?  Is it exciting?  Is it boring?

A few years ago, I had the opportunity to find out for myself, as I was asked to help with the translation of a few scrolls for what was then known as the Open Scrolls Project.  Even though I did not have a lot of time to commit to the process, I was able to work on a few of them.  And yes, it was fun!  🙂

One of the fragments I worked on was identified as “4Q168”, and it was a commentary on the Old Testament book of Micah.  The “4Q” means that it was found in the 4th cave at Qumran, and the “168” means that it was fragment number 168.  I have included below both a copy of the reconstructed Hebrew text (rather than the fragment itself), and also my translation:

(a commentary on Micah 4:8-12)

  1. … of the daughter of Jerusalem.  Now, why do you cry out?  Do you not have a king among you?  Have you lost your advisor?
  2. Have labour pains gripped you like a women giving birth?  Have labour pains, daughter of Zion, like a women giving birth, for
  3. now you will come out of the city and settle in open fields, and you will go to Babylon.  There you will be saved.  There
  4. the Lord will deliver you from the hand of your enemies.  Now, many nations will assemble against you,
  5. saying, let her be defiled and let us set our eyes upon Zion.  They do not know the thoughts
  6. of the Lord, and they do not understand his plan …

It was a pretty interesting process, and was tedious at times, but it was a lot of fun too.  Now of course, discovering the scrolls would have been even more amazing!

In an age where books, manuscripts, and scriptural texts are often seen as (and experienced as) disposable, it was pretty meaningful to temporarily step back in time to a different world and work at a different pace.  Perhaps faster isn’t always better …


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One Reply to “Translating the Dead Sea Scrolls”

  1. Hi! Can someone tell me if I can start atnhoer post rather than comment on someone else’s post? If so, how do I do that? I would like to discuss the question of Holy Ghost tongues and whether we should pray in an unknown language as Christians or if it was simply something that was used as a sign in the early church for the unbelieving gentiles; and also the question of whether tithe is a new testament commandment or not.

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