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Florentino García Martínez

The content of Qumran manuscripts URL:

The conference will attempt presenting the general view on the content of the Qumran scrolls, starting from the problems posed by the current classification of the different scrolls. A comparison of the organization of the materials translated from the scrolls of Qumran by Florentino García Martínez published in Spanish in 1992, with the bilingual (Hebrew-Aramaic and English) Study Edition also from Florentino García Martínez published in 2000, should allow us to understand how naming one way or another a literary work, or changing its name, is far from being bland and innocuous activity, but can condition dramatically the way we understand it.

The truth is that very few scrolls have been found in the caves surrounding Qumran that still preserve in a way or another the title of the compositions they contain. As a consequence, the first generation researchers were obliged to give them a title and classify them with the knowledge they possessed, and their knowledge depended on the canonical view of the known religious literature. This explains the basic tripartite division we find in the official publication of the scrolls from the beginning: Biblical texts (those included in the canon), apocryphal or pseudo-epigraphic texts (of less value and authority than the Bible), and essenian or sectarian texts (unknown compositions attributed to those who put together the collection). Nevertheless, once all scrolls have been published it has become very clear that this canonical view is completely anachronistic in the period in which the scroll collection was built. In Qumran we cannot speak about the Bible yet in regards to a fixed number of volumes and to an equally fixed textual shape of each of its books. Qumran proves the presence of writings that were certainly authoritative for those who made the collection, but these writings were not identical to the writings that ultimately would be part of the Bible (the Samaritan Bible, the Jew Bible, or the Christian Bible), and among those authoritative writings we find both compositions classified as apocryphal, and compositions classified as essenian or sectarian. Dividing the texts found between biblical and non-biblical has no sense in the case of the collection from Qumran as there is no Bible in Qumran, but there are authoritative works that end up being considered as revelations. Another fundamental element of the classification of the texts was the relationship with literary genres known from the biblical literature (sapiential, legal, apocalyptic, hymnic, etc., literature) or from the posterior Christian literature (florilegium, catena, testimonium, etc.), while we are now aware about the enormous textual fluency and plurality that can be found in the different copies of the same composition, which sometimes can have different shapes, and even different titles.

A review of the different ways to label the contentes of the different scrolls in the official editions allow acquiring a knowledge on those contents in agreement with the historical reality of the collection.

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